§ Sir R. Peel,
in rising to move the Second Reading of the Jewish Disabilities Removal Bill, said—Mr. Speaker, I am now about to call the attention of the House to a Bill which has been sent down to this House from the other branch of the Legislature, and which has for its object the removal of all obstacles to the admission of members of the Jewish persuasion to municipal offices. The Bill has received the almost unanimous support of the other branch of the Legislature; and I do trust that I shall be enabled to give such an explanation of the objects of the Bill, and the reasons upon which it is founded, as will induce the House to receive with equal favour the measure which has been sent for our concurrence by the other House of Parliament. The object of the Bill is to remove every impediment whatever, of every kind, to the admission of Jews to municipal offices—to any office of magistrate, of trust, and of emolument, connected with municipal corporations. I will first state what is the great impediment which at present exists to the admission of Jews to these corporate offices. It exists in consequence of the enactment which was passed through Parliament in 1828, for the purpose of repealing the Acts called the Test and Corporation Acts, and of substituting in their room a declaration in lieu of a Sacramental 623 Test, and other declarations previously required. With respect to appointments generally, that declaration is to be made subsequent to the appointment to office; and consequently the passing of the Annual Indemnity Act enables those who might have been previously disqualified, by their compliance with a certain condition, to become eligible to fill these corporate offices. The enactment which was passed in 1828, was then a substitute for the Test and Corporation Acts, and was this—that the declaration which was substituted for the Sacramental Test was to be taken in respect to municipal offices either within a month before the admission or upon the admission of persons to office. Serious doubts have from time to time arisen as to the proper construction of these words. It was held by the Court of Queen's Bench, that there was nothing in the law which prevented a Jew from taking the oaths of office previously to or upon his admission, and that the law would be satisfied if the declaration were subsequent. That was ruled by the Court of Queen's Bench; but upon an appeal to the Judges in the Exchequer Chamber, the judgment of the Court of Queen's Bench in that respect was reversed, and the law was laid down that the declaration to be made in the case of a municipal office must be made either previously to or upon admission to office. Consequently it rests with the authorities in a municipal corporation, if they think fit, to require the Jew to make the declaration either previously to or at the time of his acceptance of office. Now the practice of requiring the declaration has not been universal throughout this country. In the case of several corporations, the law, as laid down by the Court of Queen's Bench, though reversed by the Judges sitting in the Court of Appeal, has been practically acted upon. In the borough of Portsmouth there is now a Jew a member of that body, because the corporation have not felt themselves precluded from contenting themselves with the omission of the oaths of office, on admission to office, leaving the party to make the declaration at a subsequent period. The party has not made the declaration at a subsequent period; but the annual Indemnity Act has covered the omission. In the case of Birmingham and of Southampton, there is also a Jew a member of the corporation. The practice, therefore, having varied, the object of the present Bill is to render it 624 uniform, and to remove impediments which, at the discretion of the municipal body, may be opposed to the admission of Jews. How stand the Jews at the present moment with respect to other offices, with functions not dissimilar to those of municipal offices? In respect to the county magistracy, there is no legal impediment to the admission of Jews. In respect to the still higher office of deputy lieutenant of a county, there is at the present moment no practical difficulty; and within the last three or four years several most respectable Gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion have actually been appointed deputy lieutenants. One of the Messrs. Rothschild is a deputy lieutenant. Sir Moses Montefiore is a deputy lieutenant. He was appointed by the Duke of Wellington to be a magistrate of the Cinque Ports. In Devon there is a magistrate of the Jewish persuasion. In Surrey Mr. Cohen is a magistrate. How stands the case as to the sheriffs of the county, the immediate representatives of the Sovereign? To that high office, next to that of Lord Lieutenant, the Jew is eligible by law; nay, more, the Jew is compelled to serve the office of sheriff. The Jew is not enabled to make an excuse to relieve himself from the duty of performing the onerous and sometimes expensive functions of the office of sheriff. The Judges going the circuit return the name of the Jew to the Privy Council; the Privy Council certify the return to Her Majesty, and Her Majesty approves, speaking generally, the appointment of the gentleman who stands first upon the list to the office of sheriff; and within the last two or three years Her Majesty's prerogative has been exercised in favour of the appointment of a Jew to be sheriff of a county; and not only has the Jew been appointed, but his attempt to excuse himself on account of private avocations has been refused. You impose, therefore, upon the Jew the burden of the acceptance of that office. There was a doubt whether a Jew would be eligible for the office of sheriff of a county, of a city, or borough. What course did Parliament take? Mr. Salomons was elected by the free choice of the citizens of London to the office of sheriff of Middlesex. The doubt arose in that case whether the declaration must not be made, as it must be considered a municipal office, either previously to or upon the acceptance of office; and in the year 1835 Parliament altered the law in that 625 respect, expressly exempted the office of sheriff from the operation of the Act of 1828, and made the sheriff to perform the duties of sheriff of a county without requiring that he should take the declaration upon the acceptance of office. Parliament gave to the sheriff of a county a period of six months for the purpose of making the declaration. Mr. Salomons, therefore, did perform the duties of sheriff. Having performed those duties in a manner which entitled him to the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens, he was subsequently elected to the office of alderman; and then this impediment arising out of the Statute took effect, and he who had served the office of sheriff, and had entitled himself to general respect and confidence, was precluded from holding the office of alderman, because he was required to make this declaration previously to or upon the acceptance of office. I submit to the House that the statement of that fact alone is almost sufficient to justify the interposition of Parliament. But I must refer, in order to remove any doubt upon the subject, to the history of this declaration. In the year 1828, the noble Lord brought in a Bill for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, and having failed, at the outset, in resisting the measure, I lent him my co-operation in carrying the Bill through the House. I suggested a form of declaration to be inserted in the Bill, and to be substituted for the Sacramental Test, and that form of declaration which I suggested and which the noble Lord adopted was this:—Every person elected to the office of mayor, alderman, or any office of magistracy or trust in any municipal corporation, is required within one calendar month next before his admission to make and sub scribe the following declaration:—'I, A.B., do solemnly declare that I will never exercise any power, authority, or influence which I may possess by virtue of the office—to injure or weaken the Protestant Church, as it is by law established within this realm, or to disturb it in the possession of any rights or privileges to which it is by law entitled.That was the declaration which I suggested, and which the noble Lord saw no difficulty in inserting, and so the Bill went to the House of Lords. The declaration was required to be made within one month before admission to office, but then it was a declaration to which the Jew would not have objected. In the House of Lords, words were inserted which constitute the 626 whole impediment in the way of the admission of the Jew. In lieu of a simple declaration, the words were: "I, A.B., do solemnly and sincerely, in the presence of God, profess, testify, and declare, on the true faith of a Christian." The insertion of those words "on the true faith of a Christian," constitute the impediment to the acceptance of office by the Jew. The House of Lords, the authority which inserted these words, now sends us down a Bill which removes the difficulty, and permits the acceptance of office by the Jew. I submit to the House, that we who had not insisted on the insertion of those words can hardly reject the proposition now voluntarily made by the House of Lords, that the words which constitute the difficulty should be omitted. No one objected in the House of Commons to the declaration as originally proposed by me, on account of its permitting the Jew to accept office. The noble Lord thought it unwise to reject the Bill on account of the insertion of those words; but I very much doubt whether the words were inserted with a view to disqualify the Jew. The House of Lords now make the proposal to us to restore the Bill to the state in which it was originally sent from the House of Commons; and I do hope that the House of Commons will receive the proposition which has been made. Observe what was the effect of the Act of 1828. It clearly was intended to relieve the Dissenters from the Church of England. It repealed the Test and Corporation Acts, partly because it was thought a sacramental test was a bad test—that there was a tendency to degrade a most important religious ceremony, and partly because it went to exclude Dissenters. Parliament, therefore, passed an Act, the manifest object and intention of which was to relieve the Dissenter from the disability under which he previously laboured; but, as far as the Jew is concerned, unless we alter the law, he will be in a worse state than he would have been in if the Test and Corporation Acts had not been repealed. Before that time there was nothing to disqualify a Jew from serving in a municipal office, because the sacramental and other tests were to be taken subsequent to the acceptance of office, and an annual Indemnity Act was passed; whereas the impediment to the admission of the Jew now arises solely from the obligation to take the new declaration previously to or upon the acceptance 627 of office. We have taken the same course as to other classes of our fellow subjects who dissent from the Church. The Moravians, Separatists, and Quakers, could not reconcile it to their conscientious convictions to make the declaration, and they have been admitted to municipal offices without subscribing the declaration. The Bill proposes to take the same course with respect to the Jew, and enable him to make the same declaration in substance, only relieving him from the necessity of declaring that he makes it on the true faith of a Christian. You will have from him the same security you have from others, that he will not exercise any privilege that he may possess to the detriment of the Church of England. Under these circumstances, I submit, it is but just and reasonable to pass this Bill. I am aware that it is a measure of a limited character; at the same time it is one which will be acceptable to the feelings of a very large portion of the Jews themselves. I think I have proved that sufficiently, by the petition which I have presented in the course of this evening, signed by a considerable body of the most respectable members of the Jewish persuasion, who are willing to accept this measure, not as entirely satisfactory, but as gratifying to their feelings. I have great gratification in proposing that which is acceptable to the feelings of a large and powerful body, the members of which are entitled to our respect. I need only mention the names of Rothschild, Salomons, and Montefiore, to induce the House to look favourably at a measure which they, as the representatives of a great body of the Jews, say will be acceptable. When I consider what is the benevolence of that people—that it is not restricted by any sectarian views—when I look at the patronage they give—when I look at the rewards and distinctions they have received when they have entered into the honourable career of academical competition—when I see the prizes gained at the University of London by members of the Jewish persuasion, I must say it is a matter of personal gratification to me to propose a measure which shall give to them unrestricted admission to municipal offices, and shall, at the same time, be acceptable to the feelings of so great and powerful a portion of my fellow countrymen. I therefore move "That this Bill be now read a second time."
§ Sir R. Inglis
said, that the speech of his 628 right hon. Friend—able and clear as all his speeches were—was not more conclusive to his mind than similar arguments addressed from the opposite side of the House; and if he were unconvinced by the arguments and eloquence of his noble Friend the Member for the city of London, his right hon. Friend the Member for the city of Edinburgh, and by him whom all would admit to be most worthily ranked with them in any competition of talent in the House—viz., his late lamented Friend Sir Robert Grant, to whom the advocacy of this measure was first entrusted, he hoped his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government would not consider it disrespectful if he owned that he was not convinced by the address which he had just heard. In the first place, his right hon. Friend had fallen into a great historical and legal error in leading the House to believe, as it was his object to do, that the disabilities of which the Jews complained, and of which it was the purpose of the present Bill, in a certain degree, to relieve them, were created by the Act of 1828, and by the declaration, as modified in the House of Lords, inserted in that Act. He apprehended that nothing was more clear than that at no period in the history of England, up to the year 1828, was any Jew ever admitted to any municipal office whatever in any city or borough in England. The reason was this:—In no instance could any individual be admitted except upon oath; and the oath was always administered upon some Christian symbol, such as the Cross, or on the Book of the Gospel, or on some relic which was holy and revered in the sight of a Christian; but conveyed no sanctity to the mind of a Jew. He therefore held that it was not correct, legally or historically, to allege, that that disability was created against the Jew by the Act to relieve any other member of the community dissenting from the Church of England. His right hon. Friend then proceeded to state that the law was uncertain. He could understand that when a decision upon privilege or any other point had proceeded from the Court of Queen's Bench, any gentleman was at liberty to argue that the law was uncertain, because the extreme resources of the law had not been finally exhausted by an appeal to a higher court; but he defied the Attorney General to say that the law was at this moment uncertain, when you had the decision of the Court of Queen's Bench on one side, and that decision reversed by a writ of 629 error. From the right hon. Baronet's statement of the way in which the declaration had been drawn up, and thrown over the Table, any one would conclude that the alteration made by the House of Lords in introducing the words, the "true faith of a Christian," was made almost per saltum, and without consideration, and not advisedly and with special reference to a particular purpose. His impression was directly the reverse. Whether the House of Lords did right or wrong, they advisedly made the alteration for the very purpose to which it had been applied—viz., to exclude Her Majesty's Jewish subjects from municipal offices: the law up to 1828 not having permitted Jews to hold municipal offices. The phrase, "Jewish subjects of Her Majesty," reminded him of the singular expansion which this Bill had gradually attained. When it was first introduced by Sir R. Grant in 1830, it was a Bill "to relieve British-born subjects of His Majesty;" it was afterwards changed to "subjects of His Majesty professing the Jewish religion;" but now the terms of the Bill were extended, not to Sir Moses Monte-fiore or Mr. Salomons, and other gentlemen, whose petition had been presented tonight, but to every portion of the professors of the Jewish religion. The Bill was, in fact, a measure for naturalizing a whole nation. Let the House pass it, and there would be nothing in the law to prevent any German Jew from arriving at any dignity in the city of London without taking any oath whatever, either of loyalty to the Queen, or giving any security that he would be a good subject in all the relations of life. He did not think there was anything in the circumstances of the Jews to entitle them to the special exemption in their favour which was proposed by the present Bill. He would not refuse to any man what was his right, and what was due to him, however weak; but he was not disposed to make concessions in favour of any, however high and powerful, when those concessions might be opposed to duty; and in the present case they should take care that they were not hazarding, in favour of such persons, those high considerations on which the integrity of the Christian constitution hitherto depended. Up to the last sixteen years no person would have thought of making such concessions. The Jews could never be spoken of as a merely religious sect; in every sense of the word they were a nation; it was as a nation they stood out as a miraculous spectacle to the world; and if 630 they were relieved they would be relieved as a nation. They could not put forward any claim of right either under the Common or under the Statute law; they came to England for their own purposes, and it was their duty to conform to the law of the country into which they introduced themselves. Dr. Arnold drew a strong distinction between the Christian, and him who was not a Christian; in fact between the Christian and the Jew. He said, "The Jews are strangers in England; and they have no more claim to legislate for us than a lodger has to interfere in the concerns of his landlord. They are voluntary strangers here, and have no right to legislate, unless they acquiesce in our moral law, which is the Gospel." Such was the view taken by Dr. Arnold of this subject, from whom, indeed, he differed in his views of church government; but with whom the majority of the supporters of the present measure as certainly agreed. He did not think that for the sake of a handful of men they should declare that they no longer regarded Christianity as an element in the administration of the affairs of England. He believed that for the sake of those Jews they were going to destroy that identification of the institutions of England with Christianity which heretofore subsisted, and which constituted her glory, and, he might say, her defence. His right hon. Friend stated that in Southampton, Birmingham, and other towns, Jews had been admitted to municipal offices. If, in point of fact, such appointments were contrary to the existing law; he thought it was a bad recommendation to the present Bill to state that the Jews having successfully violated the law, we should give them perfect indemnity for the past, and impunity for the future. It was said that in other countries Jews were admitted to all civil rights—that it was so in France, America, Holland, and Belgium. Now, upon inquiry, he found that Jews in those countries were admissible, but they were not admitted. In France a Jew might be a deputy, a member of the Administration, or a judge; but the fact was, that there was no instance of a Jew ever having held either office. Even if it were otherwise, not one of the offices in the countries he referred to, was of the same importance, for instance, as that of the Lord Mayor of the city of London. It was quite clear that the object of this Bill was to allow Mr. Salomons and Sir M. Montefiore to hold the office of Lord Mayor. But even if the precedents of other coun- 631 tries were analogous with respect to the offices to be filled, they were not analogous as to the circumstances and character of the persons who were called on to fill such offices. Those persons were in many cases under despotic Governments, and were deemed eligible because they exhibited a disposition which his right hon. Friend, he was sure, would be the last to encourage. In some instances where the Jews had been admitted to civil rights, they had pursued a line of conduct which could not be acceptable to a Christian people. He referred to the case where Governor Hammond, of Charleston, had felt it necessary to call upon the people to exhibit public gratitude to the Almighty. He did so in a proclamation, in which he recommended the people to meet in their houses of worship and offer up thanksgiving to the Divine Saviour of the world. He believed no hon. Gentleman in that House would object to such a proclamation; but the Jews of Charleston thought proper to do so. They assembled at a public meeting, at which Michael Lazarus was in the chair, and denounced the proclamation. They said that the laws of all nations ought to be administered without discrimination or preference. Governor Hammond properly and truly replied, that he issued the proclamation upon the broad grounds that he was administering the laws of a Christian community; and he asked triumphantly, why did their laws prohibit labour on the Sabbath? He mentioned this circumstance to show that the Jews would not be satisfied with admission to municipal offices. They would push their views much farther. If placed in a situation to do so with effect, they might complain of our laws for the observance of the Lord's Day. With respect to the present Bill, he conceived it to be morally impossible that Jews could exercise the judicial functions to the performance of which it would render them eligible, even to their own satisfaction. Suppose the Bill were passed, and that many Jews were elected to municipal office, and eventually were preferred to the heads of corporations, would there be no danger in respect of Sunday trading? Or, suppose a man brought before a Jew magistrate for blaspheming the name of the Holy Redeemer, how could a Jew consistently administer the law against one whom he was bound to consider so far a co-religionist? He objected to this measure, especially, because it was undoubtedly intended to introduce a much larger measure at a future period; 632 for to be consistent, the Legislature, if it passed this Bill, ought to go much further, and admit persons of all denominations whatever. Admitting the benevolence of the Jews in this country as a body, and admitting that their charity was not confined to their own people, still he could not allow his admiration for those qualities to induce him to do that which he believed would be injurious to the welfare of the kingdom, and incompatible with our duties as a Christian people. He would never consent to introduce into our Constitution an element which would render the working of a Christian Constitution impossible. Believing that the law of the land was a Christian law, intended to be administered by Christian men, he could not consent to the measure, much less to any ulterior measure, for bringing the Jews, not only into the seat of justice where the law was adminstered, but for giving them the power of making the law. He, therefore, moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ Mr. Plumptre
seconded the Amendment. If the Members of that House were not Christian men, it signified little with whom they were associated in their legislation; but if they professed to be Christians, it behoved them to avoid the admission of any principle which was opposed to the interests of Christianity. He was persuaded that this measure would not be approved of by the great mass of the people of this country, and he regretted to find that not only in this measure, but also in others which had been passed in the course of this Session, the Government had proposed, and the House sanctioned, a course which was inconsistent with the honour and glory of God, and opposed to the true principles of religion. Any man who had a sense, or at least a lively sense, of what we all owe the Divine Author of Christianity, would be cautious how he gave his support to any measure not in strict accordance with its dictates; and he feared that if the House countenanced this proposition, they would be forfeiting the favour of Almighty God. If we incurred that fatal penalty, where would be the strength, the security, or the lasting prosperity of this nation? The House was now called upon to take a step which in his conscience he believed would provoke the Divine displeasure; and if they acceded to it, they would be deserting the duty which it became them as 633 reasonable men, but much more as Christian men, to discharge. The right hon. the Home Secretary had said, that theological discussions ought not to be introduced in a political assembly; but he could not admit that when theological subjects were brought before the House in its legislative capacity, they ought to be discussed on any but their proper grounds; and he was sure that if the House attempted to discuss them upon any other grounds, they would not decide them properly, satisfactorily, or conclusively to the minds of the Christian people of this country. He had not made these remarks out of any invidious feeling to the Members of the Jewish persuasion. He knew that many of them were highly estimable. The individual who filled the office of sheriff in his own county was a Jew, and he could testify that he was a gentleman most respectable in all the relations of life. He was, therefore, actuated by no feeling of hostility to the Jewish people; but feeling strongly that this measure was calculated to lead to the pernicious consequences which he had endeavoured, though very inadequately, to depict, he felt bound to second the Amendment.
§ Lord John Russell
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has put the question before the House on grounds which I find it impossible to avoid noticing. The hon. Member informs us that it is his opinion that it is inconsistent with our duties as Christians to assent to the second reading of the Bill before us, and thereby incur the displeasure of the Most High. Those are, no doubt, his sincere sentiments; but if the hon. Gentleman considers the subject a little, he will see that he ought not to be satisfied with the rejection of this Bill alone. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the second reading of the Bill showed that various offices were filled in this country by Jews—that Jews hold the office of magistrate—an office which I consider of very great importance, as partaking of the administration of justice, and approaching thereby to the sovereign power. That office is held by Jews; and the hon. Gentleman himself referred to an instance in his own county of a Jew having been high sheriff. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that, by pemitting that, we incur the displeasure of the Most High, and that we are acting inconsistently with our duty as Christians, he should not have suffered years to 634 elapse, during which these things have been in existence, but should have proposed a Bill by which Jews should have been excluded from these offices. If his principle be at all a correct one, that should have been the conduct of the hon. Gentleman. But I am afraid that, even if the hon. Gentleman had introduced such a Bill and carried it, he would not have been satisfied with that. In fact, the principle upon which he proceeds is this—that political power should be confined to those who hold the same opinions as are held by the majority of the two Houses of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman himself, as regards measures passed during the present Session, measures not in favour of the Jews, not in favour of those who deny the divine authority of Christ, but in favour of other Christians who differ from the Church of England, clearly showed that, in his opinion, all political power should be narrowed and confined to the members of the Church of England. In so doing, he has taken the narrowest ground of intolerance—a ground to which I never can assent: and, therefore, in recording my vote for this Bill, I do so upon a principle directly the opposite of that of the hon. Gentleman. And when he tells me that, by assenting to measures of this kind, we incur the Divine displeasure, I really cannot deny that such is his conscientious opinion, but can only oppose to him my own conviction—as deep as is his—that by communicating all the privileges and powers of the Constitution to other subjects of Her Majesty than our Christian selves, by communicating these rights and privileges as widely as possible, by extending the charity and doing away with the rancours and animosities of religious sects, as far as lies in our power, we thereby do something to bring down upon this House, upon this country and its Legislature, the blessings of the Most High. The hon. Gentleman's conviction is, I have no doubt, a sincere one; but I likewise claim to myself the right, as a Member of this House, to a thorough conviction, on the other side, as to what our religious duties should be. I do not deny that we should invoke the blessing of Almighty God upon all our proceedings, and that, in all our proceedings, we should endeavour to conform ourselves to that which we have reason to believe is in accordance with his will My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) has 635 again stated his objections to this Bill. In stating them, he attempted to meet the case made by the right hon. Baronet opposite; but I do not think that he has in any degree weakened the case which the right hon. Baronet made. My hon. Friend stated that it was the intention of the House of Lords, in 1828, to insert certain words into the Bill for the removal of the Test and Corporation Act; and (hat it was the intention of the House of Lords, in inserting those words, to exclude Jews. But to that the answer, by anticipation, of his right hon. Friend was quite conclusive. The House of Lords themselves propose to do away with that exclusion. They themselves are now of the opinion that no such exclusion should exist. Therefore, it matters not what was their opinion in 1828, when we have, in 1845, the solemn decision of the House of Lords that Jews may be admitted to these offices. My hon. Friend stated that we should not, merely out of respect for the Jews, on account of acts of benevolence and charity done by them, act in a manner contrary to the welfare of the nation, and inconsistent with our duty as Christians. I quite admit that; but think, with respect to the privileges proposed to be granted by this Bill, and all other privileges and powers, that the Jews have a right to claim them. When they are born in this country, and perform all the duties of subjects of the Queen, and as loyal as any other class of Her Majesty's subjects — when they contribute to the wealth of the country—when they are neither disaffected nor in any way disobedient to the laws—when, on the contrary, as is admitted by the statement of my hon. Friend, they are liberal and charitable beyond most classes of Christians, in their contributions for the relief of the needy and the indigent who are not of their own persuasion—I say, when such is the case, they have a right to claim all the privileges of their fellow subjects at our hands, and it is an injustice in us to withhold them. My hon. Friend says that the Bill is so drawn that aliens might enjoy the privileges which it designs to confer. But as to aliens, the matter is left, and properly left, to the general law of the country. This Bill will give no more right to a German Jew than to a German Christian, and the law of the country, which excludes these Jews from offices of trust and profit, will be equally cogent and efficacious after the passing of 636 this Bill. But Jews, the subjects of Her Majesty, may fairly claim the rights and privileges of British subjects. The hon. Baronet the Member for Oxford, says, that the Jews are a nation, and that they value themselves upon being a nation. But, at the same time, whether they are a nation or not, do they not perform all their duties as individuals in this country? and, if so, it matters not whether they are or are not called a nation, or whether they are so or not, so long as they are found living under obedience to the laws. What had it to do with this matter whether the gentleman who held the office of high sheriff of Kent called the people to whom he belonged a nation, a sect, or a persuasion? Do they not constitute a part of the wealth and of the power of this country, as much as do the people of Wales or of Scotland? And suppose that any one of these Jews came under the provisions of any of the laws, suppose that he was subjected to any civil action or criminal indictment, it would not benefit him to say that he was not one of the English nation; and as he would fall, like others in such circumstances, under the penalties of the law, you should, therefore, extend to him their privileges and their benefits. On this occasion, as happened, if I recollect rightly, before, my hon. Friend reminds me of a comparison, somewhat relevant, which Dugald Stewart makes of the University which my hon. Friend has the honour to represent, to a ship or barge moored in the stream, and which serves to measure the rapidity of the current. Dugald Stewart said that the University of Oxford, not making any great progress in science and knowledge, as science and knowledge progressed, reminded him of a ship, which being moored in the stream, one could always measure by it the rapidity of the current. So am I happy to find that, not unfrequently, while my hon. Friend remains moored in the stream, we belong rather to the current, and are passing rapidly by him as he remains fixed in his position. I believe that when this question was last discussed it had not the same chance of passing into a law as it now has. It was finally defeated by a majority of the other House of Parliament; and my hon. Friend had then an assistance in his opposition, which I am glad to think he is not likely in the present instance to obtain. Knowledge upon this subject has since greatly increased, and it is now fast 637 outstripping my hon. Friend in its course. I am glad of this, because there was a great admission made during the time when the Bill to which I have referred was under discussion in Parliament. The Bishop of London is reported to have said on that occasion, in the other House, that he did not object to the Bill, because it led to the admission of Jews to offices of trust in the State, and to seats in Parliament. He objected to it because it took away from the Constitution of this country its distinctive character of Christianity. Of a similar kind were the objections made to the Bill in this House. The right hon. Gentleman who favoured us the other night with a most able speech on another subject, but whom I do not now see in his place assisting my hon. Friend—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark (Mr. Gladstone)—made this statement:—If it was possible to draw a broad line of principle between a Bill to admit Jews to municipal offices, and one to permit them to hold other offices, including seats in Parliament, the subject wouid be different from that which they had now to discuss: but he was satisfied that such a line could not be drawn; and the advocates of this measure must, to be consistent, follow it up with another, throwing open to Jews seats in Parliament, and all other offices which might be held by Christians…. His reason for opposing the Bill was this—that the profession of the Jews was of itself in the nature of a disqualification for legislative office in a country where Christianity was interwoven with the institutions of the State.Such was the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. I know how well qualified he is to maintain his opinion, and I conclude, from his absence to-day, that he no longer maintains that opinion; and I am happy to conclude that he is of opinion that the admission of Jews to municipal offices will lead to their admission to offices of trust in the State, and to seats in Parliament. He was not the only Gentleman who held that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman—a far greater authority, as holding high office in Her Majesty's Councils—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—made the same objection. In answering my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Macaulay), he said, that—The right hon. Gentleman complained that this particular measure was opposed, as if it involved the admission of Jews to all privileges 638 whatever. But did the right hon. Gentleman really mean to deny that this measure was not viewed as a stepping stone to ulterior objects? Did the right hon. Gentleman expect that any Member of the House who had witnessed antecedent proceedings would be so credulous as to suppose that those who urged the present measure aimed at nothing beyond throwing open corporate privileges?So spoke the right hon. Gentleman in 1841. Now, Sir, I am not one of those who are so credulous as to suppose that the Jews will not aim at greater privileges than those contemplated to be conferred upon them by this Bill. I myself, some time ago, presented a petition, in which many Jews, belonging to London, and to other places in this country, stated very frankly, that, while they would be glad to have this measure passed, they did not abate one jot of their claim to higher and greater privileges. Why, Sir, I agree with them—I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark, and with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the only principle upon which I can agree to this Bill is, that it will lead to the admission of Jews to higher privileges. I did not conceal, in 1841, that if they came and asked for these privileges, I should be ready to grant them. Although there may be times when religious questions may interfere with the performance of duties of this kind, yet, in the great majority of instances, I should be perfectly ready to trust a Jew, having a firm confidence in his own belief, with all the functions which, as holding a political office, he would have to discharge. His religious belief would not, in my opinion, in the slightest degree interfere with the faithful and sufficient discharge of his political functions. My hon. Friend (Sir R. H. Inglis) maintains the opposite doctrine, and brings rather a singular authority—not singular for me, or for any other Gentleman on this side of the House to quote; but certainly so, as quoted by my hon. Friend—I mean the late Dr. Arnold. Every one knows that Dr. Arnold entertained the opinion, which I think was a benevolent but a visionary theory, that, by uniting in one the religious and political communities, you could have a State with a large comprehension of religious differences, which would be animated by one general religious belief, and one religious hope. But for this purpose he proposed that all Christians, Roman Catholics and Dissenters of every 639 kind, should be admited into his notion of the community, political and religious, which he proposed should supersede our present imperfect institutions. Is that the notion of my hon. Friend? I can conceive a person, who has so large and comprehensive a scheme as that, holding that it would not suit with that scheme to admit Jews into it. I can conceive the author of such a scheme thinking that he could establish no sympathy between Jews and Christians, and that, as a religious man, he must hold himself separate from the Jews, whom he could not admit into his republic. But my hon. Friend holds no such enlarged or comprehensive opinions. He is not willing to extend the bounds of the political community. He has, therefore, no right to this exclusion. He has no right to say that he would forbid Christians who differ from the Church of England to hold certain offices—the office of Lord Chancellor, for instance—and, at the same time, coolly take the benefit of Dr. Arnold's opinions as to the Jews. Either let him take the whole of Dr. Arnold's theory, which I conceive an unsubstantial theory, or let him not quote Dr. Arnold. I am sure that nothing could be more repugnant to Dr. Arnold's opinions than to have these opinions quoted solely in behalf of the exclusion of the Jews, while, at the same time, all that is liberal and comprehensive in these opinions is either withheld or unacknowledged. For these reasons I shall give my hearty assent to the present Bill. I do not even find fault with it on the score that it is not so comprehensive as I could wish it to be. It is in strict conformity with the privileges already granted to the Jews, and I hail it as a step to further measures, thinking it will lend to extend the charitable feeling by which the members of this community should become united together; and I not only heartily give my vole to this measure, but promise it to that further measure which the Chancellor of the Exchequer expects, by which Jews will be admitted to all the offices in the State.
§ Mr. Trelawny
said, that he must appeal to the patience of the House, under the circumstances in which he was placed, although there was evidently a desire to divide as soon as possible. He had put a Notice of Motion on the Books last year on the subject before the House, and had then given way in deference to a wish of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of 640 the Government, who desired the discussion, on that occasion, of another measure. He would at different times have travelled a thousand miles to support the claims of the Jews, and this was his claim to be heard. He considered this Bill as an instalment; as such it should be received, and he would not throw impediments in the way of reforms, by sneering at the inconsistency of those who, for the first time, gave them support. It was said Jews were a nation sui generis, that their habitual feeling incapacitated them from taking such an interest in the welfare and happiness of countries in which they lived, as could be alone said to confer a good title to a full participation of political rights. This the Jews deny. They refer to the Report of the Sanhedrim called by Napoleon in 1806, a Sanhedrim which consisted of eighty of the most intelligent Jews of France and Italy, of whom it was required that they should state what were the principles of the Hebrew religion in relation to social and political affairs. They stated that it was the duty of Jews to love and regard as their brethren and co-religionists all who afforded them, not merely the advantages of civil society, but even hospitality and protection. It might be said, however, that Jews did not deserve belief when laying claim to the highest privileges attainable by human beings. This was most unfair and unworthy of Christian charity, when it was recollected that nothing but a few words namely—"on the true faith of a Christian"—excluded Jews from that House. He would ask whether conscientious scruples were so cheap, that the House could afford to despise them? Those who maintained the doctrine that promises were literally binding, and thereby denied themselves great advantages accessible to others, were especially worthy of credit. Why not then be content with a promise from Jews on taking office, that they would never, in the exercise of their duties, come to any decision at variance with the interests of the community at large? The House might as well trust them, making that promise, as trust them as it now does, that they will not get within its walls by using the necessary form of oath for admission, whilst they remain, in fact, in their secret souls Jews. The hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) had said Christianity was part of the common law of the land. Now, he would ask, what was Christianity? Was a belief in the Trinity 641 essential to the idea? Then, if so, Socinians were not Christians, and they ought to be excluded from all offices which they may now hold, but which are not accessible to Jews. The opinions of Dr. Arnold had been mentioned. His principle was embodied in the dictum, "comprehension without compromise." But all the arguments by which he advocated the inclusion of all Christians within the pale of the law, would go equally to the inclusion of all religionists whatever. The Jews had been shamefully treated. In times past it had been criminal to suckle or nurse a Jew's child. Proclamations had been offered by Sovereigns of this country, conferring treacherous favour on this persecuted sect, that it might be pampered for future extortion. One Jew was compelled to give up his gold by suffering the loss of a tooth daily till he discovered where he kept it. They had been called usurers. What wonder that they sought the acquisition of gold, when they couldn't hold land by law, and were daily liable to expatriation? Then it was said it would be impious to emancipate Jews, because the will of the Deity was expressed in Scripture that they should never hold offices in the countries in which they lived. He would ask which was most impious, to affirm that something prophesied had not come to pass, or to attempt to bring about an effect apparently contrary to prophecy? The latter might result from mere misconception of language. The former deliberately affirmed that what was prophesied had not come to pass. For he could prove that in some instances Jews had held all offices in the State as well as other citizens. Then the hon. Baronet (Sir R. Inglis) maintained that if Jews were admitted, Hindoos, Parsees, and so forth, might claim admission. Well, if any large number of the people turned Mahomedans (not a very probable hypothesis), it would be but right they should be represented. The electors ought to decide on the qualifications of a candidate. Nor let it be said that his choice was already restricted by the requisition of an income of 300l. a year. That was not their question. The question was, ought a man (being a Jew) to be rejected if he had 300l. a year? Considering, then, that there were no good reasons for depriving Jews of the benefit of the general principle, that religious opinions ought to be no bar to office, considering their high intelligence and great general integrity as citizens, he thought the time was come 642 when their disabilities should be withdrawn, and when they should be placed in as favourable a position as regards civil rights as persons of other persuasions.
§ Mr. Monckton Milnes
said he should support the measure, and regretted that any prejudice against admitting the Jews to civil privileges should exist. He had lately witnessed in the Government of Prussia a most dangerous and immoral effect, arising from the encouragement given to those prejudices against the Jewish nation. He had there seen, in the midst of a highly civilized community, an animosity against this race hardly surpassed in the United States by that existing between the black and white races. He was sure this measure, and every other the House could pass of a similar tendency, would be productive of useful and beneficial effects, not only to the Jews of this country, but to those of every other nation where they were at present so cruelly persecuted. He was sure that the disabilities to which the Jews were subjected were injurious to those who imposed them; while the pride thus fostered, and the principles encouraged, were totally opposite to the spirit of Christian charity. He was convinced that civil rights and privileges should be extended as far as was consistent with the safety and security of the Christian religion. He congratulated the Jews on their present position. On a former occasion only two Members supported a similar attempt to remove their disabilities, and he himself was then held up to obloquy for so doing. He was gratified to find that in supporting their claims now, he was only going with the stream. He did not question the motives which induced hon. Members who formerly opposed the claims of the Jews now to support them; but he should look with great curiosity at their names in the division.
§ An hon. Member, whose name we could not ascertain, briefly supported the Bill.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 91; Noes 11: Majority 80.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Barnard, E. G.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Benbow, J.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Bowles, Adm.|
|Baillie, Col.||Broadwood, H.|
|Baine, W.||Brotherton, J.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Cardwell, E.|
|Baring, T.||Christie, W. D.|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B. Y||Cockburn, rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Morrison, G.|
|Corry, right hon. H.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Denison, J. E.||Murphy, F. S.|
|Divett, E.||Nicholl, rt. hon. J.|
|Duncan, Visct.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Duncan, G.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Duncombe, T.||Pattison, J.|
|Dundas, F.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Fielden, J.||Peel, rt. hn. Sir R.|
|Forster, M.||Peel, J.|
|Fremantle, rt. hn. Sir T.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|French, F.||Polhill, F.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Protheroe, E.|
|Gibson, T. M.||Roche, E. B.|
|Gill, T.||Rous, hon. Capt.|
|Gordon, hon. Capt.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Greene, T.||Smith, J. A.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Hamilton, C. J. B.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Stewart, P. M.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Hawes, B.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Thornely, T.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Hope, G. W.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Irving, J.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Warburton, H.|
|Jones, Capt.||Ward, H. G.|
|Lennox, Lord A.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Lowther, Sir J. H.||Williams, W.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Wood, Col. T.|
|M'Neill, D.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Mangles, R. D.|
|Milnes, R. M.||TELLERS.|
|Moffatt, G.||Young, J.|
|Morris, D.||Baring, H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Dickinson, F. H.||Pringle, A.|
|Estcourt, T. G. B.||Richards, R.|
|Goring, C.||Spooner, R.|
|Lefroy, A.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Lockhart, W.||Plumptre, J. P.|
§ Bill read a second time.