§ Further Proceeding on administering the Oath of Abjuration to David Salomons, Esq. resumed.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
Sir, it may now, perhaps, be convenient that I should repeat the question which I put to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday evening, and which he requested might be repeated this evening when the noble Lord at the head of the Government should be present. It will be in the recollection of the House that after the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich withdrew from the table, he occupied the seat where the hon. Baronet the Member for Southwark (Sir W. Molesworth) now sits; and that when you, Sir, repeated your desire that the hon. Gentleman should withdraw, he withdrew below the bar of the House. It will also be in the recol- 1145 lection of the House that after the hon. Gentleman had so withdrawn, I stated to the House that it was the anxious desire of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich to take such steps as might be necessary for carrying out not only the wishes of his constituents, but also to take such steps as might be necessary for asserting his own right to occupy the seat in this assembly to which he has been elected; and that the hon. Member did not desire to take any course which might be displeasing or inconvenient to the House, but that he was resolved, so far as lay in his power, to take his seat as a Member of the Legislature. I asked my right hon. Friend on Friday night whether, as the hon. Gentleman had certainly taken a seat within the bar of the House—whether, under such circumstances, if the Government might think that he has became amenable to the law, they would direct the Attorney General to prosecute the hon. Gentleman, in order to bring this question fairly to issue? And I intimated further that, if they did not think that the hon. Gentleman had up to that point become amenable to the law, or that a prosecution would fairly he against him, the hon. Gentleman would take the still further step, if possible, of voting as a Member of the House, and thereby render himself perfectly amenable to any penalties that the statute might impose. The question I have now to put is, Whether the noble Lord will authorise a prosecution at the instance of the Attorney General against the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Sir, I think the hon. Baronet is hardly authorised in asking me what course the Government will or will not pursue in regard to the prosecution of an hon. Gentleman for taking his seat without having taken the oath of abjuration. However, I am ready to say that, reserving to the Government full liberty of action hereafter as we may think proper, we are not at present disposed to think that we ought to prosecute the hon. Member for Greenwich for the offence.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
Then, Sir, I have further to intimate to the House what is the course which I believe the hon. Gentleman intends to pursue. Whatever difference of opinion may exist amongst us, I am sure all can agree upon this point, that, so far as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich has acted, he has acted fairly and honourably towards the House. He has not condescended to any 1146 subterfuge of any sort or kind whatsoever. In consequence of the answer which the noble Lord has now given, I think the only course which the hon. Gentleman can pursue is to come within the House, and take his seat in this assembly to which he has been elected.
Alderman Salomons, who had hitherto occupied a seat below the bar, here entered the House, and took his seat within the bar, on the front Ministerial bench.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
rose, amidst great confusion, and appeared to he about to address the House; but was interrupted by—
§ MR. SPEAKER
who rose, and, silence being restored, said, "That he saw a Member had taken his seat without having taken the oaths required by law; he must therefore desire that the hon. Member do withdraw." [Great cries of "Withdraw!"]
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
rose, but the incessant cries of "Order!" "Chair!" and "Withdraw!" compelled him to resume his seat.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said: An hon. Member (Mr. C. Anstey) has put a Motion into my hand. The question now before the House is a point of order, which has the precedence of every other question.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
again rose, but the continued cries of "Chair!" "Withdraw!" and "Order!" rendered it impossible for him to be heard, and he again sat down.
§ Meanwhile, Mr. Alderman Salomons continued in his seat within the bar.
§ MR. SPEAKER
again rose and said: I ought to explain to the House that if the hon. Member refuses to obey the order of the Speaker, it is for the House to support their Speaker. This order can only be enforced by a vote of the House. [Great cheers.]
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
And, Sir, it was for the purpose of supporting the Chair that I rose. It seems to me, Sir, perfectly clear, and it is a matter on which I will not waste any words, that the House ought to support the Speaker. I do not believe that the Speaker has authority to enforce the order that he has given without a regular Motion before the House; and therefore I now move "that Mr. Alderman Salomons do now withdraw." [Loud cheers from the Protectionists.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,1147
§ "That Mr. Alderman Salomons do now withdraw."
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I rise, Sir, to move an Amendment, the purport of which I have placed in your hands. I beg, Sir, that in order to save the time of the House, you will read that Amendment. I ask to have it read for the convenience of the House.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'David Salomons, esquire, having been returned to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Greenwich, and having taken the Oaths required by Law in the manner most binding on his conscience, is entitled to take his Seat in this House,' instead thereof.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Motion is, that Alderman Salomons do now withdraw. The Amendment is, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in Order to add the words, "David Salomons, Esq., having been returned to serve in this present Parliament for the Borough of Greenwich, and having taken the Oaths required by law, in the manner most binding on his conscience, is entitled to take his Seat in this House," instead thereof. The Question I have to put is, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
Loud cries of "Divide!" followed this announcement, and Mr. Speaker ordered strangers to withdraw.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
, however, rose and attempted to address the House. For some moments he could not proceed owing to the deafening cries of "Oh, oh!" He said, Mr. Speaker—[Cries of "Oh, oh!" and"Order!"] Mr. Speaker, as soon as—[renewed interruption]—as soon as the noisy Members of this Christian House are silent—["Oh, oh!"]—as soon as those who have been characterised as roaring Protestants and roaring Christians—["Oh, oh!" and laughter]—are silent, I will give them an opportunity of answering the case, which they are bound in duty as Members of this House, and bound in honour as gentlemen to attend to. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, because the case on which you are going to vote—yes, because the case is one of a judicial pharaoter—yes, because it is a case which affects the right of an hon. Gentleman who sits beside me to occupy the seat which he has most properly and most constitutionally taken, Sir, it was not ray intention to 1148 offer anything which should have eyen the appearance of putting myself in collision with the Chair; but I wished to draw attention, when the letter of my hon. Friend behind me was read, to what I conceive to be a very material error in the Minute of what passed in this House on Friday last. It was stated there, Sir, that the hon. Member for Greenwich did not take the oath prescribed by law. Sir, I deny that the abjuration oath is an oath prescribed by law. It is also stated that the abjuration oath, assuming its legality, has not been taken in the form prescribed by this House, Sir, I deny that this House has prescribed any form whatever to take that oath. Hon. Gentlemen wish to divide, They wish to unseat the hon. Member for Greenwich without inquiry, I ask hon. Gentlemen, is it seemly, is it decent, is it respectful to themselves, to interrupt, in the manner they are doing, that which they are bound by every consideration to which I have adverted to listen to, and to listen to with all respect? [Marks of impatience continued.] If hon. Gentlemen are in this temper they will not effect their object; for I conclude with the Motion, "That this debate be now adjourned." [Cries of "Oh, oh!"]
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"
§ The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 257: Majority 192.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Before the debate begins, I wish to ask you, Sir, a question. I understood you to say, Sir, on Friday last, and to repeat in substance this afternoon, that the hon. Member for Greenwich must withdraw, because he has not taken the oath in the sense in which the House understands the Act. I believe those were your words exactly on Friday—and in substance tonight. Now, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether you can refer me to any minute of our proceedings in which will appear the sense in which the House understands the Act?—for I desire to proceed with as much information on the question as possible, I wish to know in what form, during the present Session of Parliament, the sense of the House has been taken as to its understanding of the Act, for it is on that our proceedings are now founded.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I made no reference whatever to any decision of the House 1149 during the present Session. I referred to a decision of the House during the last Session of Parliament, made under precisely similar circumstances; when Baron Rothschild, who had been returned to serve for the City of London, took the oaths precisely in the same way as they have been taken by Mr. David Salomons, and the House came to a direct vote that Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was not entitled to vote or to sit in this House until he shall have taken the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law.—. [3 Hansard, cxiii., 771.]
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
I was not here then, Sir; but I wish to ask whether a Resolution of the last Session, relating to one person, under, for aught I know, different circumstances, is binding upon us this Session in reference to another person? I wish to ask, also, whether the words of that Resolution say more than this—that the oath must be taken in the form required by law? Does the Resolution say that the form in which Alderman Salomons proposes to take it is not the form required by law?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
With regard to a point of order—I must say I do not think it is convenient for hon. Members to enter into a debate with the Speaker, or to put to him questions which, though when put to Ministers of the Crown, they may be exceedingly proper, are hardly proper to be put to the Speaker of the House. There was a Resolution passed last year, that Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild was not entitled to vote in this House, or to sit in this House during any debate, until he should take the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law. That is the Resolution of the House, and I conceive that the Speaker went by that Resolution, and did not regard the oath of abjuration as having been taken in the form appointed by law—the usual form in which it is administered in this House. It appears to me, therefore, that the Speaker has acted with perfect propriety.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
rose to make his apologies to the House and to the Speaker, if, in putting the questions he had done, he in the least appeared to wish to draw the Speaker into a debate. He confessed he had been, perhaps, a little betrayed into error, and would take another opportunity of addressing the House.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
said, as his attention, and that of the House, had been, directed by his right hon. Friend 1150 (Mr. Gibson) to the precedent—the supposed precedent, as he must call it—of the return of the hon. Member for the City of London, he would say a few words on that subject. The point brought before them by the right hon. Member for Manchester related to the decision of that House on the question of the return of the hon. Member for the City of London, Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, The noble Lord was perfectly right in saying that the House came on that occasion to the resolution he had read; but he had forgotten that they had previously come to another resolution negativing in a direct and formal manner the proposal pf the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger) to declare the seat of Baron de Rothschild vacant. That Motion was negatived, and by a large majority, the noble Lord, the colleague of Baron Rothschild, voting with the majority go that occasion, It should also have been stated that when the House came to that ambiguous declaration of its opinion, the terms of which had just been read, they also adopted another resolution, to the effect that the previous question demanded the serious attention of Parliament, and should receive that attention early in the next Session of Parliament—a promise which to this day had not been fulfilled. ["Oh, oh!"] He heard hon. Members interrupting, and expressing surprise at that statement; but did they think that the Bill which bad just been rejected with so much contumely elsewhere, was a fitting mode of redeeming the pledge given to Baron Rothschild f It was not the case of the Jews, it was the case of the City of London, with respect to which that pledge was given; and to this hour no Parliamentary inquiry had taken place, no Parliamentary satisfaction had been given, either to the City of London, virtually disfranchised of one-fourth of its representation, or to the Member whom they had, by a singular inconsistency, at one and the same time declared to be the sitting Member for the City of London, and yet had prevented, so far as in them lay, from taking his seat, In the annals of Parliamentary inconsistency there could be found no precedent that would justify the course which at that late period of the Session was taken by that House, Some explanation, no doubt, might be found in the fact which he had just stated that the period of the Session was late, and the House weary, and the Ministerial dinner at Greenwich had been ordered a 1151 fortnight before. But justification there was none; and he should say, were it the precedent of a former Parliament, to whose memory he should owe no respect, and not the precedent of the present Parliament, to which he owed every respect—that on that occasion, and by that double vote, the House had most solemnly and most egregiously stultified itself. If the case rested there, he should refuse to be bound by that supposed precedent, but it did not. Baron Rothschild made a statement at the table which the hon. Member for Greenwich had not made; he stated that he omitted from the abjuration oath the words "on the true faith of a Christian," because he did not esteem those words to be binding upon his conscience. But the hon. Member for Greenwich had not only made no such statement, but he solemnly declared his reason to be, in a statement now upon record, that he had taken the oath in the form he used, inasmuch as he considered it to be the form prescribed by the statute of 1 and 2 Victoria. The question which the House had to decide in the case of the Member for the City of London, was simply, whether he was authorised to omit words merely because they were not binding upon his conscience; but the question which the House had now to decide, and which it would not decide, he trusted, until after grave and anxious deliberation, was, whether a vote of that House was to deprive his hon. Friend (Alderman Salomons) of the seat which he occupied by virtue of an Act of Parliament. ["Divide, divide!"] Hon. Members who expressed such earnestness for an immediate division, only showed that they had prejudged the case. The Act of Parliament to which he alluded was a declaratory Act; and his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Midhurst (Mr. Walpole), and his other hon. and learned Friends who had taken part in the recent debate upon the subject of Ecclesiastical Titles Bill, had so well explained the immense distinction between a declaratory Act and a mere enactment, that it would not be necessary for him to trouble the House with any observations upon that part of the subject. However, this was a declaratory Act, and these were the terms of it:—Be it declared and enacted by the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assem- 1152 bled, and by the authority of the same, That in all cases in which an oath may lawfully be and shall have been administered to any person, either as a juryman or a witness, or a deponent in any proceeding, civil or criminal, in any court of law or equity in the United Kingdom, or on appointment to any office or employment, or on any occasion whatever, such person is bound by the oath administered, provided the same shall have been administered in such form and with such ceremonies as such person may declare to be binding.Now that was the ground on which his hon. Friend near him stated that he had actually taken the oath of abjuration in the form prescribed by law, and the Resolution of the House in the case of Baron de Rothschild required no more than that; it simply stated that Baron Rothschild should not be entitled to take his seat until he had taken the oath in the form prescribed by law. There was not a word about the sense which that House might attach to it; not a word about Parliamentary precedents; not a word about that usage which he should now endeavour to show to the House, had been an erroneous and depraved usage, although sanctioned by Parliament for the long term of about forty years. He went further than his hon. Friend; he maintained that not only had his hon. Friend taken the oath in the form prescribed by law, assuming it to be legal, but he had sworn a great deal that he could not legally be required to swear. He affirmed that the oath in question was one which could not be lawfully administered at that table, or the table of the House of Lords, to any man whatsoever. He said this without fear of being accused of inconsistency; for, being a Roman Catholic, the oath was never administered to him; had it been so, he should have stated at the table, or in his place, or at the bar, his reasons for thinking that, since the death of George III., that oath had ceased to be lawful. Its history was this. It was first enacted by the 13th William III., c. 6, and the form as there set forth was to be found in the Report of the Committee of that House. That oath abjured the right of James III., lately called the Prince of Wales, and bound the person taking it to support and maintain the succession of the Princess Anne of Denmark, and further to maintain the contingent succession, when it should fall in, of the Electress Sophia of Hanover. The unexpected death of William III. made it necessary to alter the oath. It was felt that the oath expired with the dynasty for whose protection it had been enacted; but, 1153 notwithstanding, the two Houses of Parliament took it upon themselves, by a special resolution founded upon the reports of Committees of their respective Houses, to make certain alterations in the wording, leaving out the words "our Lord King William," and inserting the words "our Lady Queen Anne," and substituting the word "Queen" for "King" throughout the oath. In the House of Lords' Journals an entry of the fact appeared, under date March 10, 1701, and the oath was ordered to be engrossed on a roll of parchment; and in the House of Commons' Journals, under date March 24, 1701, it was stated that the Speaker and the Members present took the oath provided by an Act passed in that Session, entitled an ".Act for the further Security of His Majesty's Person," &c, with the variations ordered by the House. So far, hon. Members would see, there was an opportunity of declaring, by a Resolution of the House, the variations which it was fit to make in the wording of the oath. In the same Session of Parliament, the Act of 1st Anne, cap. 22, was passed, entitled, an "Act to declare the alterations in the Oath appointed to be taken by the 13th William III.;" and enacted that for the future the oath, with the alterations made, should be taken by Members of Parliament. Similar alterations were made by the Act 1st George I., cap. 13, the contingent succession of the Electress Sophia of Hanover having fallen in for the benefit of her son the Elector. The last occasion on which this oath was altered was in the beginning of the reign of George III., and the oath, as set forth in the Act then passed (6 George III., c. 53), entitled "An Act for altering the Oath of Abjuration and the Assurance," was in the same form as that now on the table, with the exception of the words "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland" for the words "Great Britain" only; and the name "Victoria" for that of "George III.," and "Queen" for "King;" and the first recital of the preamble of that Act expressly states that, in consequence of the political events which had happened, namely, the death of George II., and of James III., and the accession of Charles Edward to his pretensions to the sovereignty of this realm, it had become necessary to alter the oath. At that time the line of the Stuarts was still in existence, and the oath of abjuration had its appropriate meaning; it was levelled against the de- 1154 scendants of James II., and upon every new demise an alteration in the wording was made. That princely house was now extinct; and he had, therefore, a right to assume that if the question had been again submitted to Parliament, it would have been proposed entirely to repeal the oath of abjuration, those against whose claims it was levelled existing no more, and the Jacobites of this country and Ireland having been absorbed in the ranks of the Tories. It was the object, at that time, to conciliate the sympathies and affections; of the Jacobite interest; and nothing but the conviction that the oath itself had become obsolete, and that there was no occasion to pass an Act repealing an oath which no longer existed, prevented its statutory repeal from being immediately effected on the death of the last survivor of the Stuart line. Two remarkable occurrences had taken place before the final extinction of that line. Upon the death of Charles Edward, Henry Duke of York assumed the style and title of Henry IX. That was an event which would have justified an alteration, but none was made. So also, at the union of Great Britain and Ireland, and the creation of the United Kingdom, no alteration was made. Since the death of George III., in 1820, he maintained that the oath had been taken without authority. But thirty years could not give prescription legal force in a matter that involved popular rights and Parliamentary privilege. The first point, therefore, that those who contested the right of his hon. Friend to remain in the seat which he then occupied, and again to exercise, as he had already once exercised, the right of voting in that House, must begin by proving that the 6th George III. was in force for any purpose, and that any Member of that House was compellable, without an Act of Parliament, or even without a Resolution of that House, to take the oath altered as it was by the caprice or whim of former officers of that House, or to take the oath without those alterations. And when they had proved that, they would still have to argue the question presented to them last year—and he had looked in vain to the lawyers who led the van of what they called Christianity for an answer—whether the words "on the true faith of a Christian" belonged to the oath at all, or were simply part of the ceremonial or solemnity of taking it. Now, if a doubt upon this matter could be shown, the benefit of that 1155 doubt clearly belonged, as a matter of right and privilege, to the individual who was put upon his trial, and whom it was sought to disfranchise and deprive of his privilege, and much more when it was also sought to subject him to vexatious and heavy penalties at law. On the subject of penalties he might state that one part of them were of such a character that that House, and it alone, could apply them, while the other and least grievous portion was capable of being applied only by the Courts of Common Law; but it was the same offence and the same Act which subjected the presumed delinquent to both classes of penalties—so that if that House were to declare his hon. Friend (Mr. Salomons) a Popish recusant convict, he would suffer accordingly, and would be for ever ineligible to sit in Parliament. Now, let the House see what it was about to do if it voted, either on that or any other occasion, that which might be quoted as an authority in a Court of Law. By the Bill of Rights it was for ever conceded to either House of Parliament, that the freedom of speech in debate, or of the proceedings in Parliament, should not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament, so that when that House, by a hasty vote, decided that which in any way impeached the right of his hon. Friend to the seat which he occupied, a Court of law would be obliged to pay the highest respect to their decision; they would not dare to question or impeach it, for the Judge who did so might be questioned at the bar of that, and impeached before the other House. On the other hand, if the noble Lord at the head of the Government had, in his capacity of leader of that House, accepted the invitation of the hon. Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), and had given a promise that the Government would bring this matter before a competent Court of Law for decision, and in the mean time that House had suspended its proceeding, there was no doubt whatever that the judgment of the Court of Law, though not binding on that House, would be entitled to the highest attention within its walls, and that whatever had been the decision of the Court of Law, such would become the decision of Parliament. At present they had no decision of any court to guide them, and they were left dependent upon such statements of the law as were made by hon. and learned Members upon one side or the other. Now 1156 it was well known that there were no questions more wearisome to hon. Members, or which the House was less fit to decide, than legal points; and for that reason it was not fitting that it should become the judge on questions of law involving the rights of individuals and of constituencies, and the constitutional privileges of the people. Such, however, being the decision of the noble Lord, the duty was imposed upon himself and those who thought with him, of explaining to the House the decision at which they had arrived, and of endeavouring to obtain to that decision the assent of the majority. The broad question at issue was, whether a gentleman of the Hebrew persuasion had now, by the common law, or by statute law, or by vote of that House, to take his seat within that House, being elected thereto by a free constituency. That he had that right, he (Mr. Anstey) had no doubt whatever. He had it at common law; for there was no doubt that the Jews born in this realm were, by the common law, natural-born subjects, and not aliens, and were therefore entitled to all those privileges which in later times had been denied them. The authority of Bracton (the highest known in this country upon feudal law) showed that in his time they could hold land, for he said that the cases of the Jews and of monks stood precisely on the same footing with regard to the right to hold land; that land might be given in mortmain, and to the Jews, except in cases where the giver thought himself prevented by some clause in the deed under which he himself claimed; and he went on to use these strong expressions:—Et quod talibus personis dari non poterit sicut aliis, nulla ratio vel necessitas illud inducit, nisi tantum modus donationis. The authority of Coke and Selden was to the same effect; and Madox, in his History of the Exchequer, set forth writs by which it appeared that great part of the land of the country, notwithstanding the feudal laws, was vested in the Jews by name, and that without the intervention of trustees they bought, sold, gave, and received land down to the reign of Edward I. The Jews had therefore the position of freemen in this country; and the same writer, in enumerating the different classes of men in England, thus distinguished them as "barons, vavasours, knights, freemen, and villeins," but made no other distinction; and all the rights belonging to freemen, being Christians, belonged equally to freemen being 1157 Jews. Those communities, or bodies, too, which preceded the constitution of the present High Court of Parliament, and exercised, each in its degree, a part of the functions which now belonged exclusively to Parliament as a whole, were accessible to the Jews. They were members of the tithing, the hundred, and the shire courts; and they sat in the communities of merchants, to whom, before the institution of that House, the Sovereign was obliged to have recourse for the powers to tax his people, or to change the law under which they were governed. Just before the rebellion of Simon de Montfort, a large subsidy was granted to Henry III., by a body called the Community of the Jews, elected in pursuance of the King's writs issued to the bailiffs of every town, or the sheriffs of every county, in which the Jews resided; that body sat by the side of the Convocation of the Clergy and the body of Nobles, and exercised the same powers over those of their own community which these bodies exercised in the realm. The Jews did not appear in the first Parliament, that of Edward I., because in the meantime, by an ordinance emanating from the King, but not sanctioned by the Estates of the realm, every Jew had been forced to go abroad, and the whole of his property had been taken from him, and vested in the King; no Act of exclusion was, however, passed, and if the Jews had thought fit to return to the country, and to trust themselves to that which they had too much right to distrust, the protection of the English law, they might have re-entered upon all the rights of which they had been thus deprived. Coming down to the next period of constitutional history, he found that the question of whether Jews were aliens or not, was raised in the reigns of Charles II., James II., and William III., and, after elaborate argument, it was decided in their favour by the Privy Council, who released them from the payment of alien dues. In the reign of William III., Parliament attempted to impose upon them an exceptional tax, in order to raise a subsidy of 100,000l.; they petitioned against it; it was justified by the assertion that they were aliens, but they proved at the bar of the House that they were not; the Bill was dropped, and they were taxed on the same footing of natural-born subjects, at a rate equal to one moiety of what the nonjuring Protestants and Roman Catholics were taxed at. Such was the decision of a Parliament which for a pe- 1158 riod of twelve years left them eligible to a seat in Parliament; for there was nothing which now prevented them taking their seats, except the 13th William III., which for the first time introduced into what the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) properly called "the fag end" of the abjuration oath, the words, "on the true faith of a Christian." It became, therefore, the question, whether the words thus introduced, constituted an objection to the admission of the Jews into Parliament. Now the very words "abjuration oath," showed significantly enough that it was not intended to guard against any mischief or danger apprehended from the Jews, but that it was passed to guard against those which were likely to arise from Roman Catholics, or from those whom in our modern nomenclature we should call Tractarian Protestants—the High Church party among Anglicans, and the Roman Catholics generally, being then much attached to the cause of the exiled house of Stuart. That oath should be no objection to the admission of the hon. Member if its substance were regarded; it was an abjuration of the exiled line, and a declaration that Queen Victoria was the rightful Queen and Governor of these realms: now in the first two oaths which he had taken, his hon. Friend (Mr. Salomons) had affirmed both these propositions; and he had moreover done, what he (Mr. Anstey) would never do—renounced all ecclesiastical and spiritual jurisdiction within this realm claimable by any person other than Her Majesty; so that he had shown himself, according to those who raised this objection, more loyal and better fitted to sit in Parliament than the Roman Catholics, and still they proposed to exclude him. Then that oath which operated to keep him (Mr. Anstey), and such as him, out of Parliament, so long as the Stuart line lasted, had been repealed so far as they were concerned—that oath was put to them no longer—and that, he thought, proved the justice of what he had said before, that if the attention of Parliament had been deliberately drawn to the subject, in the reign of George III. or George IV., before this question was raised, they would have repealed this senseless oath altogether. But the question still arose—if this oath was a legal oath, as he was persuaded it was not, and not a voluntary and unlawful oath, could Parliament, however alive to the grievance and absurdity of depriving a man of his right by virtue of the fag end of an oath 1159 not intended to apply to him, grant relief unless both Houses concurred. It was a question of the privileges of the House of Commons; and he thought that when that House had most injudiciously asked the concurrence of those in another place, the latter would have shown a better sense of their own dignity, and a greater desire to preserve a good understanding between the two Houses, if they had acquiesced in the decision of that House, and had passed the Bill which the House of Commons had sent up to them, without remonstrance. They had, however, refused to do so, and the House of Commons was therefore thrown back upon its undoubted privileges. The case was further advanced than it was last year. The hon. Member for Greenwich was in his place. He had shown a courage which should have been shown by others. And furthermore there was a claim upon the House of Commons for the performance of the pledge which they had given to the other Member of Parliament who had been prevented from taking his seat—that in conjunction or not in conjunction with the other House of Parliament, they would apply themselves earnestly to remedy the mischief and the grievance of which he so justly complained. Now that House had the exclusive jurisdiction over all questions affecting the seats of their own Members, and it had also the power of removing all obstacles which might be placed in the way of the title of any claimant in whose favour they decided, or of its exercise by him. That was the case of Baron Rothschild. For form's sake they had invited the House of Lords to concur with them in a declaratory Act; they had not chosen to do so, and they were therefore called upon to decide whether they could not do that by a Resolution which they had proposed to do by a declaratory Act. A declaratory Act did not change the law, but only affirmed the law. They did so in the case of Mr. Pease, which was even a stronger case than the present, for he refused to take any oath at all; whereas the hon. Member for Greenwich had taken all three, two without dispute, and the one now under consideration. In the case of Mr. Pease they might have followed the precedent in the case of O'Connell, where they decided that, however willing they were to grant relief, and however much inclined they might have been to allow him to retain his seat, if his objection had taken some other form, they were obliged, in consequence of his distinct refusal being 1160 on record, to declare the seat void, and to order a new writ to issue. But Mr. Pease was allowed to enter the House; his seat was unquestioned, and they seated him by a Resolution, and then asked the House of Lords to agree with them in a declaratory Act, the only utility of which was, that the practice of both Houses might thereby be rendered uniform, and a Quaker might sit in the House of Lords. Why, then, was a different course to be taken now? Why was the House of Commons to begin by asking the House of Lords to qualify any gentleman whom Her Majesty pleased to honour to take his seat in the House of Lords as a condition precedent to the Commons venturing to admit him to a seat which they had declared to be his by law? This was a surrendering of their privileges, of which there was no precedent upon their Journals since the bad days of the Stuarts. He contended, however, that there was really nothing in the oath or in the law to keep the hon. Member out of the House. What was the fag end of it? "Upon the true faith of a Christian, so help me God." Now it was admitted, he supposed, that the words "so help me God" were not material; because, strange to say, if material, they did not appear in the Act George III., and had, therefore, been added either by a vote of the House or by their officer. Now if these words were immaterial, the only words which it was said were material were those "on the true faith of a Christian." Now hon. Gentlemen who pretended that that House had power to change "George III." into "Victoria," "King" into "Queen," make changes of that kind, and continue the whole substance of the oath after the Act intended to preserve it had expired, by a singular inconsistency also contended that Parliament could not omit words of ceremonial and solemnity, because, forsooth, they were contained in this Act of Parliament. Would the Judges of the land allow the course of justice to be obstructed by such miserable sophistry as that? Why those who presided in our Courts, and even in our ecclesiastical courts, changed the simple form of abjuration into what many hon. Members would consider to be blasphemous, idolatrous, and almost obscene attestations, in accordance with the faith of heathen witnesses. If they had power to do this, they would have had the power, and would have exercised it, to qualify the Jew by omitting the words which were not binding upon his conscience. A believer in Buddha 1161 was sworn in the form he believed binding; he declared, as in the presence of Buddha, that he was unprejudiced, and he continued—"If what I have spoken shall prove to be false, or if, by colouring the truth, others shall be led astray, then may the three holy existences, namely, Buddha, and D'hamma (Dhurma, or the sacred Bali writ, personified), and Phra Sangha (or the hierarchy), in whose sight I now stand, together with the glorious Dev'atas, of the twenty-two firmaments, punish me." The oath went on to invoke vengeance upon the migrating soul. This oath was administered to a Chinese woman by the House of Lords (who were against the admission of the Jews) in a divorce case in July, 1846. The following was what passed:—On calling a Chinese woman servant, with a gentleman who acted as interpreter, Lord Brougham inquired whether it was not required of her to break a saucer before she gave her evidence? The interpreter said that she was very reluctant to be sworn a second time, and that her gods would be very angry with her. Lord Brougham: 'Tell her that her gods will punish us, and not her, if anything wrong is done.' The interpreter endeavoured to induce her to take the oath, but she still declined. Lord Brougham: 'Tell her that no calamity can befall her if she will consent to be sworn.' She still persisted in adhering to her religious opinions. After several ineffectual attempts to have her sworn, Lord Brougham said to the interpreter, 'Tell her that we shall be under the necessity of committing her to prison if she will not be sworn.' She ultimately consented to be sworn.' Next day, 'The female Chinese, whose name was Kowhan, was then called in, and Lord Brougham desired the interpreter to tell her, 'that now she has been sworn (this was done yesterday with the formality of breaking the saucer), if she does not speak the truth her gods will punish her.' The interpreter then made her acquainted with the noble and learned Lord's remark. Lord Brougham: 'Now ask her who are her gods.' In reply, she said, through the interpreter, that the chief was Buddha. Lord Brougham: 'Tell her that Buddha will punish her most severely if she does not speak the truth, and that she will be also punished in this world if she does not speak the truth.' This observation being explained, she replied in Chinese, 'I will speak the truth.' The witness was then examined.This was a very good doctrine to come from a noble and learned Lord, a member of that assembly which had so conscientious an objection to the House of Commons exercising its own privileges in connexion with one of their own members. He was not, however, at all finding fault with Lord Brougham, who had, he thought, acted quite correctly, and who did not participate in the miserable bigotry of which they were now complaining. He would only state in addition to this, that when a 1162 Mahometan was sworn, the oath, according to his own faith, was merely recited to him by the officer of the court, and he said, "Yes." In a case in the Central Criminal Court, 'Regina v. Entrehman and Samut, (Carrington and Marsham, 248), the prosecutor (Assang) was called, and, on getting into the witness-box, immediately knelt down, and a China saucer having been placed in his hand, he struck it against the brass rail in front of the box, and broke it. The crier of the court, who swears the witnesses, then, by direction of the interpreter, administered the oath in these words, which were translated by the interpreter into the Chinese language: "You shall tell the truth and the whole truth; the saucer is cracked; and, if you do not tell the truth, your soul will be cracked like the saucer." The prisoner was found guilty, and sentenced to fourteen days' imprisonment. Now, if that branch of the Legislature forfeited its Christian character by exercising its constitutional privileges in the admission of his hon. Friend by a Resolution, he wished to know whether the Central Criminal Court, or the Privy Council—which continually received and acted upon depositions received from India—or the House of Lords which passed the Divorce Bill on the evidence to which he referred, forfeited their character as Christian courts? He contended that his hon. Friend was entitled to the rights which the constitution gave him, and that his constituents were not, by a vote of that or the other House, to be defrauded of the right which belonged to him. If the seat was full, the House had no power, according to the precedent of last year, to order a new writ to issue, neither had it power to prevent his filling that seat, and exercising the privileges which appertained to it. It was upon these considerations—first, because the Act 1st and 2nd Vict., of which Lord Denman had the immortal honour, had placed the Jew in all respects in a state of perfect equality in the matter of oaths, and entitled him to insist on the dispensation which he claimed; and, secondly, because he thought the oath as it was put was not a lawful oath, and there was no power in the House to impose it upon any Member; and, thirdly, because it was the person who claimed the franchise that ought to have the benefit of the doubt, and not those who challenged the franchise, and would trample it under foot, that he asked the House to do justice by admitting 1163 his hon. Friend to the privileges to which his seat entitled him, and to disregard, as contrary to their own rights, the adverse assumption of the House of Lords.
The gallery was cleared for a division; but Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE rose to reply amidst loud cries, and said, he thought, before they came to a decision, he had a right to address the House. He believed he moved the substantive Motion, and he thought that the Speaker was mistaken in deciding that he could not do so.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I will tell the hon. Member exactly how the question stands. The hon. Member for Greenwich having taken his seat without having taken the oaths, a Motion was made that the hon. Member do now withdraw. That Motion has precedence of all others, being a question of privilege. To that Motion the hon. Member for Middlesex (Mr. B. Osborne) moved an Amendment; and, in doing so, forfeited his right to address the House on that question. The hon. Member put an Amendment without making a speech, and then claimed to have the right to be heard upon it.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
I understand the hon. Member did not make the Motion which you suppose him to have made; so I presume you will retract your judgment, and allow the hon. Member for Middlesex to address the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is mistaken in supposing that no Motion was made. A Motion was made by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, that Alderman Salomans do now withdraw; and on the question being put, an Amendment was put into my hands by the hon. Member for Middlesex; and having put that Amendment into my hands, he has forfeited his right to speak until the Amendment has been disposed of.
§ MR. T. B. HOBHOUSE
said, the judgment of the Chair was indisputable in that House; he bowed with deference to the expression of the Speaker's opinion, and he took it to be the proper decision on the subject; but he believed that he was himself entitled to speak, and being entitled to speak he might suggest to the House that some grave difficulties might arise if they ordered the hon. Member for Greenwich to withdraw from the House. On a former occasion he had heard the hon. and learned Gentlenman (the Solicitor General) express himself with the greatest zeal and judgment, and with the greatest ability and legal acumen, in favour of their breth- 1164 ren the Hebrews; he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would be inclined, on the present occasion, to rise and favour them with his opinion on the subject of this debate. As far as he (Mr. Hobhouse) could examine the subject, his opinion was that a Member elected to that House might sit and vote if he chose to run the risk of incurring the penalties appointed by law if the case were decided against him. He believed that many minors had sat in that House; in the reign of Charles II., Waller, the eminent poet, sat there at the early age of sixteen; and he believed that Charles Fox, an eminent statesman, revered by one side, however he might be perhaps repelled by the other, sat in that House when he was a minor. He did not know that either the one or the other had voted in that House, but he believed that both the one and the other might have voted in the House, provided they were ready to incur the responsibility appointed by law. He believed this was the case of the hon. Member for Greenwich. He (Mr. Hobhouse) believed he might sit and vote, as far as he had heard, and he should like to be enlightened on the subject by the law officers of the Crown, fie believed the hon. Member might sit and vote and incur penalties, and then it was for any Gentleman at the other side of the House to enforce them—no person out of the House could do so, for strangers were excluded on divisions; but any Gentleman at the other side might pursue the hon. Member (by a prosecution) for the penalties. He, (Mr. Hobhouse) would advise the Speaker humbly, and with great respect, not to render himself liable to any penalties. He would advise him to let the subject be taken before a Court of law, which had before overruled the proceedings of that House. He would remind the House of what had taken place in the case of the Sheriffs, where it was virtually determined that they had no power to commit, and they might perhaps now determine and advise the jury that an action for penalties did not lie, and if so, the hon. Member for Greenwich would take his seat in the House; and when he did take it, no person would be more ready than he (Mr. Hobhouse) to shake him by the hand, though he had not the honour of his acquaintance. No person would be more glad to see him place himself at the table of the House; and as he had already sat with the penalties of the law suspended over him, no person would be more desirous to see him take his seat, without the fear 1165 of those penalties, amongst Christians and amongst men willing to discharge their duty to their country. The electors had a right to return the man of their choice, and he thought it was an infraction of their privileges to presume to control their judgment. He respected the decision that had been come to in another place, so far as the decision was worthy of respect, and not one bit further. He thought that the Commons ought not to invade the just rights of the House of Lords, and he believed there was no man in that House who would desire to enter into a collision with their Lordships. It was quite enough to say that a way was proposed by which the difficulty might be avoided. He believed it was proposed to be evaded by the hon. Member for Greenwich taking his seat by law—that was, by the decision of the Judges of the land; and on that ground, and on the arguments urged in favour of this case, he would not be inclined to vote that the hon. Member for Greenwich should withdraw. He would vote that he should take his seat there forthwith; he would vote that the hon. Member should subject himself, if he pleased, to the risk of the penalties. Whether he was ready to do that, he (Mr. Hobhouse) knew not. He was not of the Jewish councils—he had not taken any part in the deliberations on the subject; but of this he was sure, that if many Christians performed their duties as well as some of the Jews, they would have an improved state of society. It mattered nothing to him whether he received applausive cheers or ironical cheers. He was there to do his duty and he would do it. He believed that on a former occasion he had been the means of preventing the noble Lord at the head of the Government from doing wrong, and of saving the House from being misled. The hon. Gentleman had been properly elected Member for Greenwich; no petition was presented against him—no person complained of an undue return for Greenwich. The hon. Gentleman was as much a Member of the House as the right hon. Gentleman who filled the chair. [Cries of "Question!"] The question before the House was the Jewish question, and on that question he was determined to deliver his sentiments. They might be involved in proceedings that would derogate very much from the dignity of the House, and he was anxious to hear several Members on the Treasury bench—he was anxious to hear the law officers of the Crown on the subject. When he saw that 1166 a case of this constitutional magnitude and gravity was to be determined almost like a Turnpike Bill, or a Private Bill—when he saw those things were to be let pass by in that way, like the idle wind which they respected not—he warned the House against the course which they were taking; he warned them that the hon. Gentleman had a right to take his seat—and he warned the right hon. Gentleman in the chair that he had no right to direct him to withdraw. He might as well tell him (Mr. Hobhouse) to withdraw, as the hon. Member for Greenwich. That hon. Gentleman had taken his seat in that House as a Member of it; as a Member, he (Mr. Hobhouse) was determined to support him, and maintain the constitution.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that, in consequence of the appeal which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Hobhouse) to the law advisers of the Crown, he was induced to trouble the House with a few words. To him the question appeared simple and plain. His hon. and learned Friend had just suggested that the hon. Member for Greenwich should be allowed to take his seat and vote in the House, subject only to those penalties that he might incur by doing so, to be enforced elsewhere, before the ordinary tribunals of the country. In that view he (the Attorney General), for one, could not concur. The House had another duty to perform. The Act of Parliament expressly prohibited any Member who did not take certain oaths—amongst them the oath of abjuration—from sitting or voting in that House. [Cries of "No, no!"] Some hon. Gentlemen might say "No;" but he could only say that they must not have read the statute. Nothing could be more plain—the Act of Parliament prohibited it in the most express terms—there could be question about it. [Cries of "Read!"] He would read it in a moment. It was enacted—That from and after the 29th of September, 1715, no person that is now, or hereafter shall be, a Peer of this realm, or Member of the House of Peers, shall vote or make his proxy in the House of Peers; nor any person that now is, or hereafter shall be, a Member of the House of Commons, shall vote in the House of Commons, or shall sit there during any debate in the said House of Commons, after their Speaker is chosen; until such Peer or Member shall, from time to time respectively, take the Abjuration Oath aforesaid, instead of the Oath of Abjuration which before by law ought to have been taken, in such 1167 manner, and together with such other Oaths, and Declaration against Transubstantiation, as the said former Oath of Abjuration ought to have been taken."—1 Geo. I., st. 2, c. 13, sec. 16.[An Hon. MEMBER: Do not go so far back.] The present law refers back to this Act; it said the oath was to be taken in the same way, and this Act of Parliament was still binding on all persons. [Cries of "Read!"] He would read it, and if hon. Members conceived he had read it wrongly, they would have plenty of opportunities of examining it. But he believed he was right; he had not a shadow of doubt that such were the words of the Act of Parliament—that those words were binding—and that no person could sit or vote without taking the oaths. The question was, would the House allow any Member to sit there who had not taken the oaths? It was said that certain penalties were attached, and that it would be sufficient to have them enforced. He (the Attorney General) said No. He said that the House were rather to take cognisance of a question affecting their rights and privileges. Any Member who sat and voted was subject to the cognisance and jurisdiction of Parliament alone. True, they had abandoned the jurisdiction of Parliament in certain cases by statute, but that only related to elections and returns; this was not a question of election and return, but a question that arose after election and return as to certain oaths to be taken by a Member after he is elected to the House. It was a question within the immediate jurisdiction of the House; and when a case had arisen like the present, and a Member had been returned to Parliament who presented himself at the table, and declined to take the oaths in the manner prescribed by law, there was the duty imposed upon the House, not only to obey the law, but to enforce the law. He took that to be the clear duty of the House, from which it could not and dare not shrink. He was aware that certain hon. Members contended that the hon. Member for Greenwich had taken the oaths; but on that question the House had come to a positive and solemn decision last year; in that decision he most solemnly concurred, with the greatest possible reluctance, for none of those Gentlemen who were anxious that the hon. Member for Greenwich should take his seat, could feel a deeper anxiety on the subject than he (the Attorney General) did. He believed that the operation of the existing Acts of Parlia- 1168 ment to the exclusion of the Jews was merely an accident in legislation, and that the law was never intended to apply to them; it was a disgrace to the law that such an accidental operation of the law should be experienced; but while he felt that strongly, and desired the law to be altered, he felt also that the House, acting on a matter within its judicial cognisance and jurisdiction, had but one course to pursue, namely, to administer the law. He felt they had no alternative; and being satisfied that the oath had not been duly taken—partly from his own view of the law, and partly from the Resolution to which the House itself had come last year—he could not for a single moment conceive that the House could hesitate as to the course it ought to pursue. The rule upon which they acted when a petition was presented, did not apply to a case where there was a statutory prohibition against a Member taking his seat; and that was the case here. The hon. Gentleman refused to take the oaths, and they had only one straightforward course to take—that was to obey the law, and to enforce the law, because they were the only tribunal to administer it. As to the notion of this matter being decided by one of the Courts of Law, on the hon. Gentleman sitting and voting and subjecting himself to penalties, that was another question from that which they now had to decide; but that House could not give up their right of jurisdiction over a matter that came within it. And, indeed, if the question of penalties was determined by a Court of Law, that would not determine the question as to whether the hon. Gentleman had a right to sit in that House, nor would it warrant the House in shrinking from he duty they had to perform. Whatever desire there might be on his part to take an opposite view of the question, he would not be discharging his duty if he did not at once boldly declare his opinion, that the hon. Gentleman not having complied with the requirements of the Act of Parliament, and not having taken the oath prescribed by law, there was only one course to pursue, and that was that he should be ordered to withdraw.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, I concur very much in one part of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, namely, that in which he said the House has a jurisdiction of its own, and must decide whether the hon. Member is entitled to sit and vote here or not. But, inasmuch as 1169 the decision to which this House must come ought to be founded on its understanding of the law, as a Member of this House, I feel entitled to say what I believe ought to be the understanding of the law. It is not so very easy a question as might be supposed. Just observe what is our position. First of all, we have an Attorney General of a former Administration (Sir F. Thesiger) who tells us that the swearing upon the Old Testament is illegal. If I understand him right, he tells us he thinks that even if the hon. Member for Greenwich did pronounce the words "on the true faith of a Christian," inasmuch as he would not have been sworn on the Holy Evangelists, the oath would not be a good one, and he could not sit or vote. Thus we have one eminent law officer of the Government who considers the New Testament a sine qua non. There is another, the Attorney General of the present Government (Sir A. Cockburn), who tells us that the hon. Member is at liberty to swear on the Old Testament, provided he will say "on the true faith of a Christian." That is his understanding of the law. He says the oath will have been properly taken by a Jew swearing upon the Old Testament, and using the words "on the true faith of a Christian." Then we have another hon. and learned Gentleman, the Solicitor General. What does he say? He says that if the hon. Member for Greenwich swears upon the Old Testament, though he omits the words "on the true faith of a Christian," he will have complied with the law, and the oath will be a good one. Now, Sir, with the greatest respect for the House, I do say that we are placed in a position of more than ordinary difficulty, when we find the two law officers of the Crown differing entirely from one another, and the chief law officer of a former Government differing from both of them. To suppose that the House must consider this as a clear and obvious matter, would be to entertain an hypothesis which is entirely out of the question. I foresee that there may be great difficulty in this question, and the feeling of my mind is this, that as you are going to impose a penalty, not only on the hon. Member for Greenwich, but also on the constituency which has returned him to this House, it is not an unreasonable idea that in a case so entirely doubtful you should give the benefit of the doubt to the man on whom it is proposed to impose the penalty. Is it not a principle of law in our 1170 courts, that if there be any doubt as to the effect of penal statutes, the benefit of that doubt should be given to the prisoner? So I say, in this case, without going into the question of law myself, that the mere fact of our seeing all these eminent legal Gentlemen at direct issue with each other on this question, should induce the House to entertain a prepossession in favour of the hon. Member for Greenwich, and to say, "Well, after all, if this be really such a very doubtful point, why should the House of Commons identify itself with one side of the question, and put a construction on a difficult point of law which may have the effect of inflicting such grievous injury on the hon. Member for Greenwich, and on those who have sent him here?" Well, now, with regard to the swearing upon the Old Testament, it does appear to me a very strange thing that if you are convinced in your own mind that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" are of the essence and substance of the oath, you should have acted as you have done. If you knew this beforehand, what sense was there in your allowing the hon. Member for Greenwich to be sworn on the Old Testament? Why, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon, that if it be of the essence of the oath to pronounce the words "on the true faith of a Christian," the House ought not to have allowed the oath to be administered on the Old Testament. It is absurd to say that the sign of an oath ought to be one thing, and the words in which you pronounce the oath another. I say that the words of abjuration, and the sign of abjuration, must stand upon the same footing. If you abandon the sign of abjuration, you must allow the words of abjuration to be omitted also. I contend that the argument which was used by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, as to what was done on some former occasion, in the reign of George I., when it was intended to allow Jews to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian," applies in this case. By the 10th of George I., I think, it was intended that Jews should be relieved in a particular case from the necessity of using the words, "on the true faith of a Christian." Well, then, says the noble Lord, "I find that when the Legislature meant these words to be omitted in the abjuration oath, it distinctly enacted it, and, inasmuch as we have no similar enactment for the case before us, we must enforce the words. But just observe what that Act 1171 said. Did it refer merely to the words "on the true faith of a Christian?" No, it went further; it gave permission also for the Jew to be sworn as in a court of justice, on the Old Testament; otherwise he would have had to be sworn on the Evangelists. The Act placed the words and the sign of abjuration on the same footing; for while the Act gives permission to omit the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," it goes on to say, "And the taking the said oath by persons professing the Jewish religion in like manner as Jews are admitted to be sworn and to give evidence in courts of justice, shall be deemed to be a sufficient taking of the abjuration oath." Well, then, if the Act also gave an express permission of the use of the Old Testament only in the particular case, what becomes of the argument of the noble Lord founded on this Act of George I., now that he has agreed to the use of the Old Testament without a statutory permission to do so in the case now before the House? I therefore, Sir, view the matter in a different light altogether, and it appears to me this very Act of George I. that has been quoted against the claim of the hon. Member for Greenwich tells rather in his favour, for it shows the Legislature has dealt with those words of the adjuration and the sign of the adjuration at the same time, and seems to have understood that they should be put on the same footing. Therefore, I say, if you have allowed the Old Testament to be used, you must permit the words "on the true faith of a Christian" to be omitted. I would put it to the House whether that is not the natural inference. I am no lawyer, and on a legal question I speak with all deference; but in considering this question as a Member of this House, I wish to bring common sense and reason to my aid. And when the hon. and learned Attorney General tells us that no man can sit and vote in this House without first taking the oath of abjuration, I want to know what he means—whether he means, without taking the oath as the law stood when the original statute passed, or without taking the oath as the law stands now? I entirely concur with the Resolution of last Session, if I read it properly. I think it is obvious that no man can sit and vote in this House until he has taken the abjuration oath in the form according to law. I admit that; but the question is, what is the form according to law? And with submission I say that the form according to the present law, is not the form according to the law as 1172 it stood when the Act was passed. Then the oath must have been taken on the Evangelists; and as you have yourselves decided it may now be taken on the Old Testament, to what conclusion are we brought? Why, the obvious inference is, that it will satisfy the law, and the oath will be taken within the meaning of the Abjuration Act—if it be taken as the law may require it to be taken from time to time. Then comes the question, how does the law now require the oath to be taken? I say the answer to that question is to be found in the statute of Victoria; and, as has been said by the hon. and learned Member for Youghal, the law now requires that the oath should be taken with that form and with those ceremonies which are the most binding upon the conscience of the person who is about to be sworn. It appears to me that we must read the Abjuration Act as if the statute of Victoria were incorporated with it—as though that statute were one of its provisions; and a person would be taking the oath within the meaning of these statutes so considered, if he took it in that form and with those ceremonies which were binding on his conscience. Take this Act of Victoria. It evidently draws a distinction between forms and ceremonies. Forms and ceremonies could not mean the same thing, or the same words would be repeated. I understand the ceremony to be the kissing of the book, and the particular book used, and I understand the form to be the form of words in which the adjuration is made—whether that form be simply "So help me God," or "On the true faith of a Christian, so help me God." And I contend that the statute of Victoria entitles us to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian" in the case of a person swearing upon whose conscience those words have no effect, as much as it entitles us to change the sign of faith in the particular book on which the oath is taken. I, Sir, can attach no other meaning to the words. Reading the two statutes together, the Abjuration Act and the recent Act of Victoria, and feeling bound to suppose that they are not inconsistent with each other, both being in force at the same time—putting on this state of things the only construction I can, I am bound to come to the conclusion that under the statute of Victoria we are bound not only to permit the use of the Old Testament to the Jew, but to permit him also to omit from the oaths the words "on the true faith of a 1173 Christian." In the case of Mr. Pease, which has been frequently quoted in the course of these discussions, a course perfectly analogous to that for which I am contending was taken, as being the only one which offered a solution to the difficulty that then presented itself. It was clear that Mr. Pease was entitled by the statute to affirm instead of taking the oath; but if it had been contended that though he was entitled to affirm instead of taking the oath, that with regard to the words "on the true faith of a Christian" in the abjuration oath, there was no statute to enable the House to allow their omission; it would have amounted to this—that the Member claiming to substitute the affirmation for the oath, might affirm, provided he used words at the end of the affirmation which were tantamount to the taking of an oath. And it is precisely the same with the Jew. You allow him to take the oath in the form which is binding an his conscience as a Jew—that is, on the Old Testament, provided at the end of the oath he uses words signifying that he is a Christian. The House in the case of Mr. Pease took the reasonable and common-sense course; it omitted the words implying an oath at the end of the affirmation. But there was no express law to entitle Mr. Pease to the privilege; there was no Act of Parliament passed for the purpose; and, though the course then taken might have been in accordance with the Common Law, there was no statute law to say, in so many words, that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" should be omitted; but you acted upon the principle of common sense, and taking into consideration the declaration of the law in former times, and the statutes which had passed since, you allowed the words to be omitted. I cannot now remember the exact words of a late right hon. Member of this House, who was a great authority on such questions, in reference to the case of Mr. Pease; but the substance of what Mr. Wynn said on that occasion was, "drily and technically we are not bound to grant this privilege to Mr. Pease, but it is not clear that we ought to refuse it; therefore, taking a liberal and a generous view of the law, when we have the power of putting our own construction upon it, and passing our own judgment and decision, I think we ought to give the benefit to Mr. Pease." So I say in this case, let us take a liberal and generous view of the law, and give the benefit to the hon. Member for Greenwich. Unfortunately, I am afraid, there 1174 are difficulties that will now arise from our being about (as I am sorry to say I expect) to take an illiberal view of the law. I am afraid that some hon. Members present are about to allow their own personal feelings against allowing Jews to sit in Parliament to influence their judgments in the decision of a judicial question. But that is not the course those who entertain those feelings should adopt. If they are determined that Jews shall not sit in Parliament (and this oath goes to no such extent), let them bring in a Bill declaring that Jews shall not be eligible to sit in this House. That would be the obvious and the legitimate course; but if the hon. Member for Greenwich is entitled to a seat in this House, do not let us allow our own personal feelings, either on the one side or the other, to interfere to prevent his having the benefit of those privileges which the law gives him. I will take the liberty of reading to the House the opinion of a great authority, Lord Denman, on this question, of excluding men from office by means of oaths, when the intention in imposing such oaths was never entertained by the Legislature to exclude them. Lord Denman, when Common Serjeant of the city of London, on the question of admitting Jews to corporate offices, said, in speaking of the oath—The return then states, that by the custom all persons of a certain description are admissible. A second custom is incorporated with the first, that all admitted shall take the freeman's oath. A third custom is superadded, that mat oath shall be administered on the New Testament. The two first customs are clearly unobjectionable; the effect of them is, that all persons of the given description shall be admissible, that is, without exclusion by reason of their religious faith. But I cannot see how the particular mode of swearing can be an essential part of such a custom. The only object of an oath is to bind the conscience of him who takes it, and in any other form it is both nugatory and blasphemous. If, on the other hand, the mode of swearing is considered as a test for detecting and excluding a particular religious class, it would be inconsistent with the custom first set out, which makes all admissible; and, in contravention of one of the first principles of English law, would effect indirectly what cannot be done directly.It appears to me that that opinion conveys, in beautiful and forcible language, the real meaning of the question now before us. If you mean, by excluding Mr. Salomons under this Motion, to give a deliberate opinion that the law is against him, I think we run the risk of doing him a great injustice; while, on the other hand, seeing there is considerable doubt in the case, if we do 1175 not exclude him, but allow him to continue to sit here, you run no risk of any kind. You will have made no authoritative declaration on the one side or the other that can possibly bring the House into collision with the courts of law; and the Judges of the land will have it in their power on the fitting occasion, when an action is tried, to decide whether the hon. Member for Greenwich has taken the oaths within the meaning of the statute or not. I confess I have great difficulty in opposing the Motion of the noble Lord; for, in doing so, I feel I am not only opposing my opinion against his, but may appear to be unwilling to pay due respect to the authority of the right hon. Gentleman in the chair. That, however, is not the sense in which I shall give my vote against the noble Lord's Motion; but merely in this sense, that I do not think the law sufficiently clear upon the point to justify me in pronouncing a deliberate opinion that the hon. Member for Greenwich is not entitled to take his seat in this House; and being called upon to pronounce an opinion one way or the other, I feel I could not reconcile it to my conscience to abstain from giving my vote against the noble Lord's proposition.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
trusted the House would excuse him while he stated, in a few brief sentences, the grounds of the vote he was about to give. He felt he was entitled to explain those grounds, not only on his own account, but also on account of some observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Youghal. With reference to a similar question which arose in the case of Baron Rothschild, the hon. and learned Member had spoken of the want of courage in another hon. Member. [Mr. ANSTEY: On the part of others.] He was glad the hon. and learned Member said, "on the part of others," for he (the Solicitor General) took on himself the whole responsibility of the course which Baron Rothschild adopted in not taking his seat in that House; and the reasons for which he had given that advice, were these. It appeared to him (the Solicitor General) to be absolutely necessary that the House should come to a conclusion one way or another, whether the oath of abjuration had been taken or not. The House did come to a decision on that question, and he did not think, with the hon. Member who had last spoken, that it was desirable to evade that decision, and so leave it uncertain whether 1176 an hon. Member of that House was or was not contravening a statute. He (the Solicitor General) argued the question which was then before the House in the case of Baron Rothschild in the best way he was able, not as a partisan, not as an advocate, and not, he hoped, with an undue degree of political bias. He argued it on what appeared to him to be the law of the case, and he was far from saying the law on the subject was clear. He was supported in the view he then took by the opinion of the late Mr. Wynn, a great authority in that House, and he had not changed his opinion on this subject. The question having been argued befere the House, they came to a decision by, he believed, a majority of seventy-four—That the Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild is not entitled to vote in this House, or to sit in this House, during any debate, until he shall take the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law."—[3 Hansard, cxiii. 770.]At that moment Baron Rothschild had done everything that Mr. Salomons had done. It was the judgment of the House that Baron Rothschild had not taken the oath in the form required by law, and that being a judicial decision, the Speaker had no alternative whatever, as it appeared to him (the Solicitor General), after that decision, and after exactly the same had been gone through, which the House declared to be not consonant with the law, but to see that the law should be enforced. If the oath of abjuration was not taken, it was perfectly clear that no Member had a right to sit and vote in that House; and therefore, when once the Speaker had come to the conclusion that the oath had not been taken, it was perfectly clear that the Member refusing to take it must not sit and vote; and that the Speaker had no other alternative but to direct him to withdraw. Now, the only Motion before the House was, that the Speaker should order the hon. Member for Greenwich to withdraw. Now on that Motion, he (the Solicitor General) was compelled, with however great reluctance, to vote in the affirmative. So long as the decision of the House in the case of Baron Rothschild stood, the oaths had not been been taken by the hon. Member for Greenwich. When that decision was given, he (the Solicitor General) did recommend Baron Rothschild not to take his seat, because it appeared to him that the only point to be determined was, whether the oath had been taken or not; and when the House came to a different con- 1177 clusion, he did not think it proper or decorous to recommend Baron Rothschild to take his seat. Before he had the honour of being connected with the Government, it was no part of his intention to ask the House to rescind that Resolution in the present Session, so recently after such a decision as that had been arrived at. If that decision was, as he conceived it was, at this moment a binding one, there was only one simple corollary which flowed from it—the House could not permit a Member who had not taken the oaths to remain and keep his seat in that House. The House had an imperative duty imposed upon it. There was not only the clause in the Act of Parliament imposing penalties which the hon. Member had chosen to risk; but there was the chief clause which in mandatory terms directed that no Member should sit or vote until the oaths had been taken. The House had got a decision on its Votes, that the oaths had not been taken, and they had got the mandatory clause that no person should sit or vote until those oaths had been taken; and until that decision was reversed, and that clause repealed, he conceived the House had no other course open to it than to affirm the Motion before it.
could not help thinking that this question was virtually settled. They had a Jew sitting among them, one of the most amiable and intelligent of an intelligent and well-conducted class. What was the course which the House had pursued? A majority of that House had endeavoured to procure the admission of Jews to sit in Parliament—not in the right way however, or they never would have consulted any other body. They should have asserted their right to alter, not the substance of the oath, but the mode of abjuration, to suit the case of the Jews, as they had done to suit that of the Quaker or the Moravian. They had not taken that course—they consulted another will, and they had been beaten; and if the Jew were sued for penalties, they would be beaten by the courts of law. In the meantime the Jew would walk into that House, hardly knowing whether he did so in despite of that House, or in accordance with its wishes. They would be beaten on all sides. They would end, indeed, in having their own way, but not in having their own way of having it. He could not believe that was a position in which the dignity of that House would be supported. He believed it would be a better course, even at the 1178 eleventh hour, to declare that they had the power and the will to admit the hon. Member for Greenwich to those rights which his constituents had conferred on him, and to which his courage entitled him.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
thought this was a question of too much importance to be disposed of with anything approaching to levity. He therefore felt grateful to those Gentlemen who had risen to discuss it as a question affecting not only the privileges of that House, but the rights and privileges also of the constituencies. He certainly thought this question was still in a most unsatisfactory state, whether considered in a legal or constitutional point of view; but he conceived there was some mistake as to the decision which Mr. Speaker had given upon the matter, while the readiness which the House had shown to dismiss the question, arose very much from the natural disposition which they had to support the right hon. Gentleman in the chair. In directing the hon. Member for Greenwich to withdraw, he did not understand the Speaker to give any interpretation of the law: he had simply done that which it was his duty to do—viz., to state to the House the nature of the Resolution passed last Session, in the case of Baron Rothschild; and having referred to that Resolution, to desire that the hon. Member for Greenwich should retire from the House. But still that left the case wholly undecided; for, though a Resolution of a particular description was passed last Session relative to the case of another hon. Gentleman, they all knew that a Resolution passed in one Session of Parliament might be rescinded the next. The question, therefore, still remained, what was the law? and was the hon. Member for Greenwich entitled or not to take his seat, having taken the oath according to the form binding upon his conscience? He should certainly like to hear from some of his learned Friends what their opinion was of the words of the 1st and 2nd Victoria, which prescribed oaths to be taken according to the forms and ceremonies binding on the conscience. And he should like to know from them whether the hon. Member for Greenwich, having taken so much of the oath, having taken the whole that was essential in the oath, came under the description of the person referred to in the 1st and 2nd Victoria; and whether, if he violated that oath, he was one that would be regarded as having sworn 1179 falsely, and become liable to the penalties. Supposing, for example, there now existed a royal Stuart dynasty, and the hon. Member for Greenwich were to act publicly in their favour, would he, having taken this oath of abjuration, be liable to an indictment for perjury and to the consequent penalties? He had no hesitation in saying that, if the House of Commons acted upon a principle adverse to the claims of the hon. Member for Greenwich, the country at large would be entitled to charge them with entertaining feelings that were but too common—hating those whom we had persecuted, and indulging a vulgar prejudice against the Hebrew race; and he said that they would feel towards them feelings of scorn and contempt, which they would but too justly deserve. He repeated, that, if the people thought the hon. Member for Greenwich had taken the oath essentially, and was liable to the pains and penalties imposed by the Act for violating that oath, and that because by accident there were words introduced into the oath that were merely formally and not essentially there, he was excluded from taking his seat, then they would unquestionably come to the conclusion that they were acting in that House upon a base sentiment in so excluding him from his place in Parliament.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I don't think that my hon. Friend who has just spoken has really attended to the question now before the House. The state of the matter is this: the hon. Member for Greenwich having appeared at the table, and taken so much of the abjuration oath as had been taken by Baron Lionel de Rothschild, a question was asked of me in this House whether I thought it would be right to prosecute him, if he were to sit here, for the penalties incurred under the Act of Parliament. I said, I thought the Government would not think it their duty so to prosecute, and I was then about to move a Resolution in the very same words as that which was moved in the case of Baron Rothschild. If I had moved that Resolution, the whole question would then have been before the House, either to confirm and repeat the decision we arrived at last year, or to reverse that decision—that is, if we gave an erroneous judgment last year, to come now to an entirely different resolution. But that was not the course which was pursued. Before I could make that Motion, an hon. Gentleman declared that the hon. Member for Greenwich would 1180 come into the House, and sit and vote in this House; and the hon. Gentleman having come into the House accordingly, you, Sir, I think, had no other duty to perform than that which you did; which was, referring to what had been done in the last year, and stating that the hon. Member for Greenwich had not taken the oath of abjuration in the manner in which the House thinks it ought always to be taken, to ask the hon. Member to withdraw. He did not withdraw, and therefore I was compelled to ask this House to agree to the Resolution which is now before it. My hon. Friend who last spoke said this was a question which should not be discussed lightly, and that it should be made matter of very grave deliberation. Now if I had proposed my Motion as I originally intended, the House would have undoubtedly entered into that full discussion which my hon. Friend so much desires. But the question now before the House is simply this, whether or not the House having adopted a Resolution last year to this effect, and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich not having withdrawn, the House will confirm that Resolution. I cannot think that is a question on which the House ought to doubt. The House having come to the resolution that Baron Lionel de Rothschild could not sit, having refused to take the oath of abjuration in the form prescribed by law, that another hon. Member should come and sit in this House without question; and that he should be allowed to sit and vote in this House, although there applied to him the very grounds on which you had determined Baron Rothschild should not sit, does seem seem to me a very monstrous conclusion. It appears to me that even those who maintain that the decision we came to last year was erroneous and contrary to law, must at all events be ready to say, "Let the House respect that Resolution so long as it stands on the Journals of the House, and do not let it be treated as if it were of no value, but, after the hon. Member has withdrawn, let us come to a resolution reversing that decision. But if that is the case, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton is not right in saying that the question before the House is being lightly discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester has hardly stated the proper effect of the Resolution to which the House came last Session. He says the House came to a Resolution that no Member should sit in this House 1181 without taking the oath of abjuration according to law. The Resolution was, after hearing Baron Rothschild at the table, and after having seen the form that he went through there, and the oath that he took, that Baron Rothschild was not entitled to vote in this House, or sit in this House during any debate, until he shall take the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law. What is more clear than that the hon. Member for Greenwich has not taken the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law? Sir, I think there is no other course for the House now to take than to decide that the hon. Member for Greenwich should withdraw from this House. What we shall proceed to do after that decision is another question. The hon. Member has no doubt placed himself in a very different position from that in which Baron Rothschild placed himself, for he has already sat and voted in this House; and I think it is a grave question for this House to consider what difference that will make, if any difference, in the proceedings which they took last year in the case of Baron Rothschild. But, at all events, I cannot agree with what was stated by the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. J. Clay), and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. C. P. Villiers), for they say that all those who are for the admission of Jews into Parliament are therefore bound, whatever may be the words of the law, to declare by a Vote of this House that they are entitled to sit in the House of Commons. I cannot come to that conclusion. I should indeed be very glad if I could come to the opinion that the terms of the Act of Parliament entitled us to come to a decision that every member of the Jewish persuasion was entitled to sit and vote in this House. I think that the present state of the law is most unsatisfactory. When the question is with respect to Quakers, then the Acts of Parliament and the Journals of this House make it plain that the words "on the true faith of a Christian," are considered unnecessary, and are to be treated as mere forms. It has been stated over and over again, that with respect to Quakers, the forms may be changed—that the words may be omitted. Therefore, all Acts of Parliament and proceedings of this House relative to Quakers, are, as I believe, they ought to be, in common sense and common justice, estimated as mere forms. But immediately you come to the question of a Jew, the very game words, "on the true 1182 faith of a Christian," are no longer considered as matter of form, but as part of the substance of the oath. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last asked a question with regard to the Act of Parliament. There was a great difference with regard to the Act of Parliament relating to the Jews and that relating to the Quakers. As to the Act affecting the Quakers, it declared that the person who is required to take the oath, may demand to take it in such and such a form, that it may be administered in such and such a form, and that those who take it in that form are liable to the ordinary penalties, the oath having been taken in the form of affirmation. I do not know that I can state the words correctly, but I am quite sure that I am correct as to the sense. But when we come to the case of the Jews, it does not say that the oath may be taken in a different form; it only says that they shall be liable to perjury if they take it in such a form. There are here no words varying the form of administering the oath as in the case of the Quaker. There is another remarkable difference. There are laws enacted with regard to the Jews in two instances—two particular and special instances—in which they say that these words, "on the true faith of a Christian," may be omitted, and that the one oath may be omitted, and that the oath may be administered on the Old Testament. I infer from these Acts that, as Parliament has made these special exceptions, they meant the exceptions to govern these particular cases only, and that the general case of the Jews is left outside these exceptions; and that therefore neither the House nor any person in it has a right to administer the oaths in such a form as this, except in the courts of common law, or in the cases referred to by the statutes to which I have alluded. I think that that makes a great difference—a difference which it is necessary for us, if we would set an example of obedience to the law, to observe. I think that it is an unjust distinction, a most unsatisfactory state of the law, which states that in the case of a Quaker you should regard a certain part of the oath as of the form, and not of the substance of the oath; that, as such, you can dispense with it; that, in his case, he may leave out the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and that, notwithstanding, his affirmation is to be regarded as complete and satisfactory; and that on the other hand, when you come to the case of a Jew, a contrary 1183 rule is to prevail, and these words are not to he considered as form, but as of the substance and essence of the oath. After what I have said, I think hon. Gentlemen will see that it is with reluctance—that it is with great pain—I assent to an interpretation of the oath which excludes a Jewish Member from this House. But I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, that because you carefully and scrupulously look to the words of the Act of Parliament, and are anxious to obey them, that therefore you will be looked upon with scorn, contempt, and indignation, by the people of England. [Mr. P. VILLIERS: I did not say that] I certainly understood my hon. Friend to say that. My belief is that the people of this country, more than any other people on the face of the globe, are obedient to the law, and carefully scrupulous not to exceed the limits of the law; that they are ever ready to exert their rights if they believed them to be infringed; but, at the same time, that they are willing to render to others everything that the law requires them to do. I believe that they are obedient to the law, and that they will be glad to see the House of Commons, whatever may be our views of policy—whatever may be our views of expediency—whatever may be our views even of natural justice—yet ready to set the first example of a full and exact obedience to the law; and that when the law prescribes a certain course of conduct, no consideration will induce it to depart from so great and salutary a principle.
§ MR. BETHELL
was sorry that he could not agree with the noble Lord who had just sat down; but if he should be so happy as to induce the noble Lord to agree with him in the views he took of this matter, it would relieve him of much of the embarrassment and pain which he felt in taking his present course. Having watched all that had passed in relation to this question, without having hitherto taken any part in it, and having for himself deliberately examined the question, he would venture now with the greatest humility and deference to those who preceded him, to express his opinion as a lawyer that both from the principles of common law and the language of statute law, and even according to the Resolution of this House, the oath in question had been well and legally taken by the hon. Member for Greenwich; that they were bound to admit him to a seat in the House; and that, legally speaking, they had no authority to order him to withdraw. 1184 He begged, in the first place, to state that no one would venture to deny that the hon. Member for Greenwich had a right to come to the House, and demand that the oaths should be administered to him. The next proposition he would affirm was, that they were bound to administer the oaths to him according to law. He would presently point out the ductile character of that oath; that the manner of administering it necessarily altered to suit the changing circumstances of events. But what he called upon the House to do now was, to grant him this first postulate, that they were bound to administer the oaths. The principle of law which controlled the enacting of all oaths—however they might be expressed—was this universal principle, that each man who was under an obligation to take an oath, or who had a right to require that an oath should be administered to him, had this title also to have this oath administered to him in a manner that would be binding upon his conscience. If there was any formula or particular set of words in the oath, that formula must yield to the universally controlling principle, that the oath must be administered to the party in the form that was binding upon his conscience. He did not wish the House now to grant him the opinion that these words, "on the true faith of a Christian," were only the sanction of the oath. His own opinion was that they were; but he was willing to concede to the other side of the House that by Act of Parliament they were made a substantive part of the oath, and not the mere sanction of the oath. But suppose they were part of the oath; if they held the universally controlling principle that every man had a right to have the oath administered to him in the form most binding on his conscience, while, at the same time, they held that they were precluded from making any alteration in the form of the oath, they would be involved in this absurd anomaly and contradiction, which law rejected and repudiated—that two contradictory things were at one and the same time enjoined. He would therefore say, with all humility and deference, that there was no lawyer who was at all versed in the principles of common law, or who was at all acquainted with the manner in which statute law ought to be construed, who would not agree that the formula of the oath in all cases yielded to the principle he had stated; that they were bound to administer the oath according to law; and that the party taking the 1185 oath had a right either to retain or to reject the formula, according as it was binding on his conscience. He would now advance a step further, and he would beg with great submission to point to a circumstance in the statute law, to which he thought sufficient attention had not yet been directed. But he would first of all beg to remind the House, that the oath of abjuration had from time to time received an alteration in its formula, according to the alteration of circumstances. There was a series of Acts of Parliament altering this oath according as an alteration took place in the circumstances of the Pretender; but through all these Acts of Parliament there was no attempt to alter the substance of the oath as it was originally framed. Now let them observe the statute of the 10th George I. cap. 4. It recited the 9th George I. cap. 24., which again referred to the prior statute of the 1st George I., which first rendered it incumbent on Members of Parliament to take the oath in question. In the 10th of George I., there was this express proviso:—Be it declared and enacted, by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal and the Commons in Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That in all cases in which an oath may lawfully be and shall have been administered to any person, either as a juryman or a witness, or a deponent in any proceeding, civil or criminal, in any court of law or equity in the United Kingdom, or on appointment to any office or employment, or on any occasion whatever, such person is bound by the oath administered, provided the same shall have been administered in such form and with such ceremonies as such person may declare to be binding; and every such person in case of wilful false swearing may be convicted of the crime of perjury in the same manner as if the oath had been administered in the form and with the ceremonies most commonly adopted.Now the 1st George I., on which this Act was founded, and to which it referred, was the Act which imposed the oath upon Members of Parliament; and, therefore, what was palpable on the face of this statute was, that here Parliament had come to the aid of the Jew, and had given to him as well as to the Quaker an opportunity of qualifying himself for the enjoyment of the rights of citizenship, and for participation in all the civil rights which the country afforded to every portion of His Majesty's subjects. Now, he would venture to say that according to the principles of the statute, as well as according to the principles of the common law, they had here a direct Parliamentary enactment, the object of which 1186 was to give the Jew all the privileges of citizenship, and which directly stated that the Jew should be held to have qualified himself for the possession of them, if he took the oath without the words in question. It might be said that this Act referred to the oath prescribed by the 1st Geo. I., and that it did not apply to the present oath, which was prescribed by the 6th Geo. III. But he would beg the attention of the House to the language of the 6th Geo. III., which did not affect to impose a new oath, which only altered the terms of an oath already existing, which treated that oath as a thing well known in law—substituting, indeed, new for old terms; but accompanying that substitution with express directions enacting—And that all and every person and persons who are enjoined and required to administer, take, or subscribe the oath of abjuration and the assurance in the said above-mentioned Act contained, shall respectively administer, take, and subscribe the oath of abjuration, and subscribe the assurance according to the form herein set down and prescribed in such courts within such time limited, in such manner and with due observance of the same requisites, and with benefit of the same savings, provisoes, and indemnities as by the said Acts above-mentioned, or by any other Acts, or any part of them now subsisting, are directed and enacted.It appeared to him that this was perfectly conclusive so far as the language of the statute was concerned; and that the 10th Geo. I. threw round the Jew peculiar privileges with reference to this oath of abjuration, which the 6th Geo. III., in altering the form of oath, had taken care to repeat. Now, he begged the House further to observe, that it appeared from the Report of their Committee that the licence which it was contended they possessed to alter and modify the form of the oath, as circumstances might arise, was far less than that which was taken from year to year, and constantly allowed in the inferior officers who were called upon to administer oaths in every petty court in the kingdom. They knew from historical events that the language of the oath was rendered inapplicable from time to time; as when, for instance, the allegiance was required to be altered from the King to the Queen; and they would find, in a part of the Commons' Report, it was stated that, in order to comply with the law, according to the alteration of circumstances, there was not an inferior officer, in the most petty court in the kingdom, who would not take upon himself the authority to make the necessary alteration in the form of the oath. 1187 By the very Act of this House, in permitting the hon. Members to take the oath on the Old Testament, they had expressed their opinion that they had authority to alter the form—that they were bound to administer the oath in the form that was binding on the hon. Member's conscience; and yet; after making that concession, they mocked the hon. Member—they mocked the law—they violated the principle of the law by telling him that though they conceded the principle so far—though they gave him the Old Testament on which to be sworn, and by that very Act rendered it incumbent on themselves to obliterate the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," yet they refused to obliterate them. He said again they mocked the law, and they mocked common sense by insisting on such a course. He submitted, therefore, that if the House had any regard for principle—if they had any regard for statute law—if they had any regard for that universal rule which was recognised by common law, and proofs of which had been collected in the decisions of many eminent Judges—then they were bound to say that the Jew had a right to take the oaths in the form most binding on his conscience, unless there was something in the oath which excluded him. Now, he contended further that there was nothing in all this at variance with the Resolution to which the House had come last year, though, even if there were, that decision was embodied in language which might be rescinded. In that Resolution there was nothing binding them to continue in their present position, though there was much that bound them if they had any regard to their own consistency, intelligence, and common sense to go forward; and when they had once conceded the point that a man might be sworn at the table of the House on the Old Testament, they were under a moral obligation to follow that up by omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian." He could not therefore come to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Greenwich ought to he ordered to withdraw, because he believed that by law the hon. Member was as much a Member of the House as any one now sitting in it.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
said, it certainly required some little courage in any man to rise after the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, who, in express terms, had declared that those who did not agree with him in the views he had taken on this question, were not acquainted 1188 with the force either of the common or of the statute law; and as he (Sir F. Thesiger) took an entirely opposite view from that of the hon. and learned Member, he certainly fell under that description which he had applied to all those who were opposed to him; and he therefore addressed the House under all that embarrasment and diffidence necessarily arising from the position in which his hon. and learned Friend had placed him. He, however, quite agreed with his hon. and learned Friend in one position, that the House had brought itself into a position of inconsistency, by allowing two out of the three oaths which were required to be taken before a Member could take his seat in this House to be taken upon the Old Testament. He resisted that to the best of his ability, for it did appear to him that as all three oaths must necessarily be taken before a Member could sit in the House, and as it was perfectly clear that one at least out of the three could only be taken in a Christian sense, therefore, though it was perfectly clear that, in general cases, a man ought to be allowed to swear in that form which was binding on his conscience, yet that, in this particular case, the Legislature must have intended that all the three oaths should be taken in the same way. The House, however, had come to a different conclusion, and he was bound to bow to the decision to which they had come, though his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General said he did not acquiesce in that decision. That, then, being the position in which they were placed, let them see what it was that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aylesbury had argued on the present occasion, and what was the position that he had assumed. He said, in the first place—and there, of course, every one would agree with him—that any person who took the oath was entitled to take it in the form that was most binding upon his conscience. But then his hon. and learned Friend, in proceeding to consider what was the character of the words of the oath of abjuration "on the true faith of a Christian," used, he presumed designedly, the word "formula" to express his sense of their meaning; and it would be seen that he had indicated an opinion, though he had not boldly stated it, that these words were not a substantial, but only a formal part of the oath. If his hon. and learned Friend had, indeed, been able to satisfy the House that these words really formed 1189 no substantial part of the oath, then there could be no doubt that any person taking the oath in the form most binding upon his conscience would he entitled to omit them. But that was not the argument of his hon. and learned Friend. His argument was that the Legislature had shown, by its having authorised the words "on the true faith of a Christian" to be omitted in certain cases by the Jew when taking the oath of abjuration, that they were intended to be omitted on every occasion; and his hon. and learned Friend had supported this position by reference to the 10th George I., as it was contained in the report made a short time ago by a Committee of their House; and his hon. and learned Friend, with that authority which belonged to his character and station in the profession, told the House that this Act of George I., in his opinion—and that any body who held a different opinion must be utterly ignorant both of common and of statute law—applied in every case, and every circumstance, in which a Jew could be placed, and that it enabled him to take his seat in this House though he omitted these words, "on the true faith of a Christian," from the oath of abjuration. He did not know if his hon. and learned Friend had looked further than the Report; whether he had turned to the Act of Parliament itself. [Mr. BETHELL: I have.] If he had turned his attention to the Act of Parliament itself, he must say he was surprised beyond measure to hear his hon. and learned Friend assert, in the face of this House, that that Act of Parliament, in his opinion, rendered it lawful for a Jew to take the oath of abjuration, on every occasion when it was tendered to him, without using these words. His hon. and learned Friend must know, if he had read the Act, that this was a mere temporary Act for a particular occasion; that certain parties had been required to take the oath of abjuration within a limited time by the 9th of George I., and that the Act in question, the 10th of George I., was introduced for the purpose of enlarging the time during which the oath was to be taken, and that the proviso made with regard to the Jews, which was contained in the Act, was, like the Act itself, of a temporary character, for a particular occasion; and his hon. and learned Friend must either not have turned to the Act in question, or he had not seen the effect of it, or else he must have forgotten it; for, otherwise, he could never have pressed upon the 1190 House, with all the weight that belonged to his opinion, that this was an Act which enabled Jews to take seats ill this House omitting the words in the oath of abjuration, "on the true faith of a Christian." He drew an inference from this Act very different from that of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury; he inferred that the Legislature had declared authoritatively their opinion that those words were of the substance of the oath, and not a mere formula, and that therefore an Act was necessary to omit those words before the Jew could take the oath. There was another Act which bore out this opinion, the 13th of George II. That Act provided—That whenever any person professing the Jewish religion shall present himself to take the said oath of abjuration, in pursuance of this Act, the said words, 'Upon the true faith of a Christian,' shall be omitted out of the said oath, in administering the same to such person, and the taking and subscribing the said oath by such person professing the Jewish religion, without the words aforesaid, and the other oaths appointed by the said Act, in like manner as Jews were permitted to take the oath of abjuration, by an Act made in the 10th year of the reign of his late Majesty King George I., intituled, 'An Act for explaining and amending an Act of the last Session of Parliament, intituled, an Act to oblige all persons being Papists, in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, and all persons in Great Britain refusing or neglecting to take the oaths appointed for the security of his Majesty's person and Government, by several Acts herein mentioned, to register their names and real estates, and for enlarging the time for taking the said oaths, and making such registers, and for allowing further time for the enrolment of deeds or wills made by Papists, which have been omitted to be enrolled, pursuant to an Act of the third year of his Majesty's reign, and also for giving relief to Protestant lessees,' shall be deemed a sufficient taking of the said oaths, in order to entitle such person to the benefit of being naturalised by virtue of this Act.The 10th George I., cap. 4, recites an Act of 9th George I., cap. 24, which requires the oath of abjuration to be taken as there mentioned within a given time, and then after amongst other things, giving further time, and permitting Quakers to declare the effect of it, the Act proceeds to enact as follows in respect of the Jews:—And whereas the following words are contained in the latter part of the oaths of abjuration, namely, 'upon the true faith of a Christian,' be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That whenever any of his Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion shall present himself to take the same oath of abjuration in pursuance of the above recited Act, or of this present Act, the said words 'on the true faith of a Christian' shall be omitted out of the said oath, in administering the same to such person, and the taking the 1191 said oath by such person professing the Jewish religion, without the words aforesaid, in like manner as Jews are admitted to he sworn to give evidence in courts of justice, shall be deemed to he a sufficient taking of the oath of abjuration within the meaning of this and the said recited Act.Well then, they had a legislative decision that this was an essential or substantive part of the oath. Could they get rid of an essential part of the oath merely because it was alleged by some one that it was not binding on his conscience? If such a principle was admitted, where would they stop? The hon. Member for Greenwich objects to the words "on the true faith, of a Christian." He says that they are not binding upon his conscience. Some other person may have conscientious scruples against other portions of the oath. Where then is the limit to the argument that, if any person entertains a scruple, he is to be allowed to satisfy his conscience by the omission of the words on which his scruples are founded; and what becomes of the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman which was to demolish them? Why, it had failed entirely, and failed in a signal and remarkable way. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury could not have prepared himself by a reference to the Act of Parliament, so as to have enabled him to come down to the House and deliver his opinion to the House with all the weight and authority to which it was entitled. His hon. and learned Friend, like many other speakers, had lost sight of what was the question really before the House. The question was, whether Mr. Alderman Salomons be ordered to withdraw or not. Now he confessed he thought that the noble Lord had adopted a very mild form of proceeding on the present occasion. The House would be pleased to recollect what occurred on Friday last. With the entire concurrence of the House, after the hon. Member for Greenwich had refused to take the words "on the true faith of a Christian," he was directed to withdraw. It might be in the memory of the House that the hon. Gentleman having failed to withdraw entirely, he (Sir F. Thesiger) had called their attention to the fact. Again, with the concurrence of the House, he was ordered to withdraw. Now, he thought after this course had been pursued, with the perfect sanction of the House, that the presence of the hon. Member for Greenwich on the present occasion within the walls and precincts of the House, was contumacious; that it was 1192 a disobedience to the orders of the House, and a contempt; and he should have been, quite prepared to have concurred in a vote (which he thought would have been the proper one to have been proposed) that the hon. Member be committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms for that disobedience and contempt. The noble Lord had pursued a milder course: could any one doubt that he was not perfectly justified? Certainly not. But let them consider what it was they were called upon to decide in voting upon this proposition of the noble Lord. There was, as the noble Lord had stated, a clear and distinct Resolution of the House upon the point at issue, which had been passed in the course of last Session upon a state of circumstances which were precisely similar. He could not help thinking that the hon. Member for Greenwich was perfectly familiar with the proceedings of their House upon that occasion, because he observed that the very expressions which were used by Baron Rothschild, when he presented himself at their table, were the very words used by the hon. Alderman. Well, then, they had a Resolution of the House applicable to precisely similar circumstances. As long as that remained an unrescinded Resolution—as long as it remained declared that Baron Rothschild had no right to sit in the House—could they endure that the hon. Member for Greenwich, in defiance of that Resolution, should brave their authority, and should not be required and compelled to withdraw? He was not prepared for the course which the hon. Member had thought fit to adopt. He expected that the noble Lord would have moved a Resolution in terms similar to those carried in the course of last Session. On Friday last, he (Sir F. Thesiger) had intimated his intention to pursue the same course he had adopted last year, and to move a new writ for Greenwich. But after discussing the question with some friends, upon whose opinion he entirely relied, although he entertained still most strongly the opinion that they made a serious mistake in the course which they pursued with regard to the Baron Rothschild, yet still, in deference to the opinions expressed by his friends, and because there might be considerable evil in departing from any course which had been adopted by the House, he had made up his mind to follow the noble Lord, and vote in favour of any Resolution which he might propose. Under these circumstances, he perfectly concurred in the 1193 Motion submitted by the noble Lord, and he thought it impossible that the House could differ with him in the views which he had taken.
§ MR. BETHELL
begged to assure his learned Friend that he had taken pains to refer to the Acts of Parliament to which he referred. The 9th of George I. was not found in the ordinary Statute-book, and he had been at some trouble to obtain it. The 9th of George I. designated the classes of persons to be affected by the Act; and the 10th of George I. showed in what manner the oath should be administered.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
would not enter into a consideration of the legal points at issue. It appeared to him that the able and lucid argument of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury was unanswered, and that it was unanswerable. He wished to guard any vote which he was about to give from being construed into a want of respect for the right hon. Gentleman who presided over their discussions, for he looked upon him as the most able and impartial expounder of the forms of the House who had ever occupied the chair. The hon. Member for Greenwich meant no disrespect to the Speaker in this apparent defiance of his authority. He (Mr. Aglionby) felt sure that when the Speaker ordered Mr. Salomons to withdraw, he did not mean to express an opinion upon the question of privilege, but that he was merely expressing the general opinion of the House. The noble Lord treated the decision of last year as if it were a judicial decision. The nation would laugh to scorn its receiving such an interpretation. Every hon. Member who voted on the Resolution last year, came down to the House with his mind perfectly made up on which side he would vote, quite independent of any arguments they might hear. Did they suppose that any arguments, no matter how forcible, could alter one vote? He was very sceptical upon the point. Why, it was a mockery to call it judicial. It was only a decision which gave expression to their own private feelings. He did not claim any merit as an impartial person—in fact he was not impartial—but he would vote nevertheless. He believed that the Member for Greenwich was as good a Member as any of them, and if time was taken to consider the masterly speech of the Member for Aylesbury, he believed that no lawyer in the kingdom could doubt the fact. Looking upon the concluding portion of the 1194 oath to form no part whatever of its substance, he should give his vote in favour of the hon Member for Greenwich.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, the hon. Member for Cockermouth had avowed an unhesitating deference for the judgment of Mr. Speaker; and he (Sir R. H. Inglis) rose not so much to defend the decision of that right hon. Gentleman, as to support the decision of the House itself, of which their Speaker was the exponent. The case of the last Session was precisely similar to the case now before the House, with the name only changed. The hon. Member for Greenwich came to the table and performed exactly the same part as his predecessor had done twelve months before. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had proved too much in the first part of his speech; in the end, however, he had proved nothing. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) appealed, not to lawyers, but to men of common sense, whether such was not the case, when the hon. and learned Member stated, as an argument in this case, that it was within the competency of the lowest officer of the lowest court of justice in the kingdom to change the form of the oath in question, by the substitution of the name of Victoria for that of William IV.? The alteration, however, which he now supported was much more than the change of the name of the Sovereign. If such a proposition were admitted, it could not be denied that a Resolution of that House was sufficient to override an Act of Parliament. But if that were the case, why was it that four Bills had been passed in that House, and as many rejected by the other House within the last twenty years, with the same object in view as that under discussion, if the power was in their own hands? Could it be reserved for the hon. and learned Member to discover, on the 21st of July, 1851, this secret which had lain so long concealed, not only from the lawyers of his (Sir R. H. Inglis's) side of the House, but also from the piercing vision of the hon. and learned Solicitor General, and from that of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, all whose feelings and principles were engaged in support of the cause which the hon. Member for Greenwich unhappily represented? The course suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon was that most consistent with the dignity of the House. The authority of the House had been defied; the representative of that authority had been dis- 1195 obeyed; and it was the duty of the House to sustain him by an immense majority in enforcing the decision of last year. Did any one contend that the slightest difference existed between the case of the hon. Member for Greenwich, and the case of Baron de Rothschild? Both were elected by large constituencies—both were prepared to take similar oaths, The hon. Member for Greenwich took two of the oaths presented, but he did not take the third, as required by law; but he had, notwithstanding, ventured to take his seat among them. If it were in the discretion of the hon. Member to omit the seven words in question, it would be also in the discretion of other persons to omit any words they chose, and so to cut and carve the oath as they might see fit. It was the animus imponentis that gave to the oath its value; the oath was meant to be taken in its plain and literal sense; it was open to those who objected to any part of it to refuse it altogether, but not to alter it to suit their individual convenience. The hon. Gentleman had, however, omitted the words "on the true faith of a Christian," thereby daring and defying the House. The simple course to have taken was to have done what it was whispered would be done—namely, to move to rescind the Resolution of the last Session; and however stultified the House might have been by a Tote to that effect, the ground would be clear for the hon. Member for Greenwich. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) concurred in the proposition that the hon. Member should withdraw. What was to be done afterwards be should consider; but he certainly did hope that the suggestion of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abingdon would be adopted.
§ MR. BRIGHT
thought the noble Lord at the head of the Government was not aware of the precise question now before the House. The noble Lord spoke as though the only question before the House was whether the hon. Member for Greenwich should withdraw or remain there. If he was not under a mistake, there was before the House a distinct Amendment, equal to the rescinding of the Resolution of last year. The question stood exactly as if the hon. Member for Middlesex moved the Resolution which he intimated it was his intention to do; and if that were so, he thought the Solicitor General was not quite consistent in the course which he adopted. The Motion now before the House, coming after the Motion of last 1196 year, which went to affirm that the oath was not taken within the meaning of the Act, was directly contrary to it, and affirmed that the oath had been duly taken, and that the sitting Member was lawfully entitled to take a part in the discussions of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman voted last year in favour of Baron Rothschild; and how he could reconcile a vote which would be now adverse, he could not possibly see. There were two modes in which the House might look at the question—one as arguing it only as a question of Jaw, the other as a question of precedent. He would not go into the question of law, because he thought that his right hon. Colleague (Mr. M. Gibson) had shown that, as far as law was concerned, they were completely in the dark. The most distinguished lawyers appeared to be very much at sea, and if it had not been for the lucid and masterly speech of the hon. Member for Aylesbury, they might be excused for taking their opinions into consideration at all. But with regard to the question of precedents, the case was wholly different; and it was upon this point that he wished to offer to them a few observations. The Resolution of last year he understood to be taken as a precedent for this Session, and the House having come to the resolution that Baron Rothschild was not to be admitted, they wished to enforce the same regulation against the present Member for Greenwich. If, however, they were to be guided by precedents of this nature, why should they not go further back, and follow a precedent which enlarged the powers and privileges of Parliament, while it at the same time enlarged the freedom and rights of the people? It was that of a gentleman, a friend of his, a member of the same sect to which he belonged; but he did not think that the House had fairly looked at the point involved in that case. He was satisfied beyond all question that the House, in the instance to which he referred, had taken upon itself to do very much more than it was now asked to do. In the case of Mr. Pease, the House not only altered the form and substance of the oath, but left out a most essential portion of it—in point of fact, dispensed with the three oaths, and compressed them into one single declaration. If the House did that in 1832, had it not equally the power to do it in the case of the hon. Member for Greenwich? He held in his band the declaration which he took at the bar of the 1197 House. He wished to point out an essential difference in the declaration which he had taken, and the oath taken by Members when they presented themselves at the table. The declaration which he had taken was nearly identical with that which Mr. Pease had taken before the Act passed which enabled him to take a seat in that House. The general oath began, "And I do swear that I will bear faith and true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and Her will defend to the utmost of my power against all traitorous conspiracies, and attempts whatsoever, which shall be made against Her person, crown, or dignity;" but the declaration framed for Mr. Pease, and all other persons of his sect who might become Members of the House, merely set forth that the person taking it would be faithful to the Crown against all traitorous conspiracies, omitting all mention of defending Her Majesty, because the term "defending" implied "by force of arms," and, therefore, the term was omitted in deference to the peculiar views entertained by the Society of Friends on the subject of peace. They had all sworn to defend the Crown; but he (Mr. Bright) had not declared that he would defend the Crown; The Committee which was appointed on the subject in 1832 did not recommend that Mr. Pease should be compelled to declare that he would defend the Crown; and the House of Lords assented to the alteration in the oath, and the Act was passed into a law. Now he put it to the House whether they did not come with a stronger case than Mr. Pease came with? In the case of Mr. Pease, the House left out the words "on the true faith of a Christian;" he was a Christian, and there was no need for the omission. He did not like to use the words "on the true faith of a Christian," because he understood the expression to be in the nature of an oath—and to oaths of any kind the Society of Friends entertained a conscientious and insurmountable objection—and the House dropped them. But it did more—it did not require him to promise to defend the Crown; and it, moreover, absolved him from taking several oaths, and permitted him to make one affirmation. Why, then, if Members of the Society of Friends, being Christians, were permitted to omit these particular words from their Parliamentary declaration, was Mr. Salomon not being a Christian, to be compelled to repeat these words, he declaring them to 1198 be in no way binding upon his conscience, and offering, at the same time, to take the oath which was binding on his conscience? In the case of Baron Rothschild, they permitted him to take an oath upon the Old Testament, because it was most binding on his conscience; but, having given him half a right, they refused him the other, and they insisted on giving a most unfair and most unjust meaning to those words, which it was not possible could have been attributed to them in the case of Mr. Pease, which meaning operated as a bar to his taking a seat in the House. They were in a difficulty, because they did wrong last year. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was very rash, and his rashness last year had raised one, more barrier against the cause of the Jews. But let the House bear in mind this—the Attorney General had said those words were discreditable to their legislation. The Solicitor General argued last year that the oath was taken according to law; superadded to that, they had the testimony of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, whose opinion would have the greatest weight attached to it throughout the kingdom, that the Member for Greenwich was thoroughly entitled to take his seat. He wished to know whether this' was not an amount of evidence on their side sufficient to warrant them in laying aside the strict interpretation of the law, and acting upon the precedent set in the case of Mr. Pease, in which they omitted these very words, "on the true faith of a Christian?" They did not always act up to the strict letter of the law either in the public or private transactions of life, Let not the noble Lord think that the people would hold him blameless for the difficulties in which he had placed the question. The constituency which he represented had re-elected two or three times a colleague for him of the Jewish persuasion. Another constituency, after all the discussions which had taken place in Parliament on this subject, had returned a Member of the Jewish persuasion; and he would ask the noble Lord, were the opinions of these constituencies to go for nothing? He could only say, that if a gentleman of the Jewish persuasion presented himself to a constituency before this question was settled, he would have a very good chance of being returned. The noble Lord, it appeared, would rather have the elections of these constituencies made null and void, and leave the question to remain as it was, 1199 than fairly grapple with it as a question which had been passed in that House year after year, and as pertinaciously refused by the other House. Two branches of the Legislature were in favour of the admission of the Jews. ["No, no!"] Yes, that House had over and over again declared itself in favour of it; and the Queen, through Her Ministers, was also in favour of it. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Gentleman might not be aware that it was very irregular to use the name of the Queen in debate.
§ MR. BRIGHT
He bowed to the decision of the Chair; but he had only been following a high authority in another place, where it had been used as an argument that the other House and the Crown being both in favour of a measure, they ought not to refuse to pass it. The frequent rejection of this measure by the other House was a strong reason why they should examine narrowly whether it was not in the power of that House to do what was necessary by itself, and to grant to the hon. Gentleman, having taken the oaths as he had, the right of sitting in that House. With regard to the oaths generally, he just wished to say this, that there was nothing more useless or more deserving the condemnation of sensible men, than the oaths taken at that table. They were the result of prejudice, and of long-continued habit; but hon. Members should no longer allow themselves, like children, to be put through the form of taking those oaths. They held no man to loyalty—they held no one to religion. The people of this country were loyal enough without those oaths. No men were sent there who needed to be bound in their allegiance to the Sovereign, or their obedience to the law, by any oaths whatever, especially by such oaths as those passed two or three centuries ago. He should like some clean sweep to be made of these oaths, and that they should regard each other, as he believed they were, as patriotic citizens of their country coming there to do that which was their duty to their country, and not binding themselves in the slightest degree by those antiquated forms of asseveration which our ancestors of old had enacted, and which were totally unsuited to the times in which we lived.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, the hon. Member for Manchester had congratulated himself upon not having taken the oath to defend Her Majesty. He begged to 1200 congratulate the hon. Member upon having escaped that which would have been to him a dilemma; for if there was any Member in that House to whom such an engagement would be embarrassing, it was the hon. Member for Manchester. The hon. Member was the representative of a small religious sect, yet no hon. Member appeared to pay such little consideration to the religious feelings of others. The hon. Member in politics pursued a course as aggressive as in matters of religion; he was a consistent supporter of those who urged that House to grasp in their own hands the legislation of the country, without waiting for the sanction of the Crown, in utter violation of the law of the country, and the declared opinions of the House of Lords. But the point to which he wished to call their particular attention was the manner of this aggression. ["Hear!"] He repeated the words, it was an "aggression." There sits the elected of Greenwich in defiance of the law. They had been frequently reminded of the appearance of Baron Rothschild at that table. There were many painful recollections connected with the appearance of that Gentleman, who left a fictitious qualification paper on that table. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not know whether there was any more such rubbish left upon the table of the House on the present occasion; but they had the opinion of the Speaker that Baron Rothschild's paper, which he supposed was originally intended by its author for the archives of this House, was fictitious and illegal, and the Speaker had most properly directed that fictitious document should be consigned to some rubbish closet. The appearance of Baron Rothschild at the table of the House had been characterised by an attempt to play a trick. What had characterised the appearance of the elected of Greenwich? Why, an audacity unparalleled. He came there, and, setting at defiance the Resolution of that House, and in direct violation of the law as declared by the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, he attempted to take a seat. He agreed with the hon. Member for Cockermouth, that they were proceeding with extraordinary lenity towards him. If they were to have persons sitting in that House in opposition to all law and order, how could order be, in future, preserved? Why should he or any other Member be bound by order, when they saw it so wantonly violated? The elected of Greenwich was returned 1201 under distinct pledges that he would violate both the law and the order of the House. The hon. Elected had been desired to retire, and he did once most unwillingly retire. But at the next meeting of the House, in defiance of their order, he took a seat. If they were to preserve the characteristics of the House of Commons—those characteristics of orderly debate which might well be followed as an example by the constituent assemblies of other countries—it was their bounden duty to maintain the authority of their Speaker, and to insist on the elected of Greenwich quitting this House, and that he should cease to violate that order which they were bound to preserve.
§ MR. J. EVANS
deprecated the discussion of this question under excited feelings. The importance of the question could not be exaggerated. The House was in collision with two large constituencies, and had been so for four years with that of London. He did not remember an instance of the House coming into collision with a constituency without being defeated. He had heard of such a collision with the electors of Middlesex, and the proceedings had to be erased from their Journals. How was this to end? There had been four or five attempts at passing a Bill which was rejected by the other House. In coming to a decision, they ought to take care that it was well founded. Last year they had decided that Baron Rothschild should be sworn on the Old Testament, and immediately afterwards they decided that he could not be admitted because he would not take a Christian oath. Which of these were they to be bound by? Or would they go back to the decision in Mr. Pease's case? They were in a difficulty owing to the Resolution of last year; and the noble Lord ought first to have proposed that it should be rescinded. As he had not done so, the question might be discussed on the Amendment before the House. He had no doubt the opinion of the Solicitor General, that there was nothing whatever in the substance of the oath which required the words "on the true faith of a Christian," was a correct one, and the House ought to be bound by it. Every lawyer knew that an oath consisting of a promise and an adjuration, the latter could be altered, while the former could not, otherwise it would be impossible to bind the conscience of any one. The adjuration did not in the slightest degree affect the substance of the 1202 oath—the oath was finished before the adjuration was arrived at, and it was sworn on the true faith of a Christian if the party was a Christian—on the true faith of a Jew if the party was a Jew. Therefore, he doubted not the oath had been properly taken by the hon. Member for Greenwich. A native-born Jew of this country was entitled to all the privileges of citizenship, unless it could be shown that he was deprived of them by statute.
said: I only wish to justify myself to my constituents, in case they ask whether I listened to any great absurdity without raising a voice in opposition. It was plain there was no evidence whatever to show that the framers of the oath of abjuration ever wished, or intended, or dreamed of doing anything but to find out who would stand by King James, and who would not. Did anybody suppose it was the intention of the framers to leave Jews and Quakers to support King James if they liked? On the contrary, it was plain that whenever a desire arose to have their declarations, the phraseology they objected to was dispensed with. It was a solemn mockery for this House to place the Old Testament in an hon. Member's hands, and thereby call upon the Almighty to attest his asseveration, when they knew all the while they had a quirk lying in wait to baulk him in the middle of it. The responsibility is not on this side of the House, for we own no Deity but one we reverence. It is plain your Deity is not our Deity; is this the way you treat your Jupiter? Religion and the duty of impressing the sanctity of its forms were oftener in the mouths of the other side of the House; but this side practises.
§ MR. CROWDER
observed, that the real question which, as he understood, the House was now called upon to decide was, whether the hon. Member for Greenwich had taken the oath of abjuration or not? He thought it was impossible to come to a decision upon that question without looking at it judicially. It was impossible to decide it except as judges, and deciding it as judges it appeared to him that they ought to do so with calmness and deliberation; but he thought some portions of the discussion had been very unlike the deliberation of judges upon a judicial question. He felt called upon to state his opinion upon the point of law, because this was really a question of law, and he was sorry the lawyers had not agreed in their opinions. 1203 Lawyers on each side had said there was not a shadow of doubt upon the subject; and he must say that he really had no doubt in his own mind. He would have felt the greatest satisfaction if he could have brought himself to the conclusion that the hon. Member for Greenwich could take his seat in that House according to law, because he did not yield to any man in his strong desire to get rid of that exclusion of particular sects which he thought a disgrace to the legislation of this country. But, looking at this as a question of law, the only conclusion he could arrive at was, that the hon. Member for Greenwich had not taken the oath. He was very much surprised at the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Bethell), because he believed no lawyer in that House or in the kingdom entertained the notion that, under the statute 10th George I. chap. 4, if properly construed, any Jew might come to the table without the necesity for any other Act of Parliament, and take the oath of abjuration with the omission of certain words. That statute, among others, was set forth in the Report of the Select Committee which sat upon these oaths, and was open to the inspection and consideration of all those who took part in the disscussion of this question last year; but he was not aware that any one had expressed such an opinion as that to which he had just alluded. He certainly differed altogether from his hon. and learned Friend. He considered that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger) bad taken a right view of this question, and that the 10th George I., cap 4, referred to a particular subject, and had no reference whatever to the oaths taken by Members of Parliament in that House; and he thought this fact furnished one of the strongest arguments to show that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" could not be omitted without legislative interference. He might add that two other statutes bearing upon the same point showed that before these words could legally be omitted, the Legislature must interfere, and pass an Act of Parliament. The 13th George II., cap. 7, referred, among other things, to the naturalisation of certain Jews and foreigners, and it provided that whenever any person professing the Jewish religion should present himself to take the oath of abjuration in pursuance of the Act, the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" might be omitted from the oath, &c., "in like 1204 manner as Jews are permitted to take the oath of abjuration by the Act made in the 10th year of King George I." There was also a subsequent Act, the 8th and 9th Victoria, cap. 52, which was passed for the purpose of relieving Jews in the case of the declaration for the taking of municipal offices, substituted for the sacramental test. That Act referred to a declaration—not an oath, showing that with respect to a declaration equally with an oath the terms must be literally adhered to, and it expressly gave permission to Jews to leave out the words "on the true faith of a Christian." But he must ask the House how they could deal with this case without reference to a case which, under precisely the same circumstances, they had themselves decided after much discussion last year, the decision being recorded in the Journals of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had said, "There is nothing in the language of the Resolution of last year which would impugn your decision at present, that Mr. Salomons has taken the oath of abjuration." There might be nothing, perhaps, in the precise language of the Resolution, if the hon. Gentleman chose to construe it according to a legal sense, but it was well known the circumstances were similar. It would be remembered that on the occasion to which he referred, Baron Rothschild came to the table and took such parts of the oath as had been taken by the hon. Member for Greenwich. What distinction, then, was there here? It was impossible that the House could decide in favour of admitting the hon. Member for Greenwich, without going directly in the teeth of its former decision. It was said that the former decision of the House might be rescinded; but he would ask whether it ought to be rescinded by a side wind in the manner now proposed? It had been said that the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" might undoubtedly be omitted, because this was only a jurat; but he held that such was not the case, and that without an Act passed for the purpose, those words could not be omitted any more than any other of the words from the beginning to the end of the oath. The 2nd Victoria, to which reference had been made, was merely a declaratory statute, declaring what the common law of the kingdom was as to the manner of taking oaths generally; and it was clear that when an oath was directed to be taken, if no form of language was prescribed, every 1205 man might take it according to the ceremonies which hound his conscience. The fallacy of all the arguments of the hon. and learned Solicitor General on this subject was, in construing the word "forms" in that Act as including "forms of words;" to which it clearly had no application. How could it rationally be contended that where a form of words was prescribed, as in the present case, a man might leave out such portion of this long oath as he pleased, provided he adhered to its substance and said, "I abjure the Pretender?" If the House decided that the words might be omitted, they would take upon themselves the functions of the Legislature, because the Legislature had chosen to prescribe a form of language complete in all its parts. He did not advocate the necessity of this oath in this present day, for he agreed with those who thought that there was now no need for the oath of abjuration; but he also agreed with those who considered that they could not erase that oath from the Statute-book except by an Act of Parliament.
§ MR. MUNTZ
had taken no part whatever in the debates on this question, and had contented himself with giving a silent vote for the admission of Jews to Parliament. He never could understand why the question of life and death should be left to the determination of a Jew in the jury-box, or why the office of sheriff should be open to his acceptance, and yet that he should be denied the right to sit in that House, It appeared to him that the House was in a very anomalous position. He (Mr. Muntz) did not take part in the proceeding that recognised the right of the Jew to be sworn on the Old Testament. But it appeared to him that those who voted in favour of the Resolution, either intended to admit the Jew to that House, or to directly insult him, by putting to him an adjuration which he knew to be false. While the Jew did his duty, as well as other citizens, and enjoyed other privileges equally with other members of the community, he could not refuse the claim which was now put forth in his behalf.
MR. J. A. SMITH
said, he had just been requested by his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich to state, that though he voted on the first divison which took 1206 place that evening, yet, as the division to which they were now proceeding involved a question personal to himself, he therefore, in obedience to the custom of the House, would retire without voting. But at the same time his hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich respectfully requested it to be understood that by his retirement he did not abandon one tittle of the right which he came there to maintain.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 229; Noes 81: Majority 148.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Codrington, Sir W.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Coles, H. B.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Collins, T.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Compton, H. C.|
|Bailey, J.||Conolly, T.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Baldock, E. H.||Cotton, hon. W. H. S.|
|Baldwin, C. B.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Bankes, G.||Craig, Sir W. G.|
|Baring, H. B.||Crowder, R. B.|
|Baring, rt. hn. Sir F.T.||Cubitt, W.|
|Baring, T.||Currie, H.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Curteis, H. M.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Denison, E.|
|Beckett, W.||Dick, Q.|
|Bellow, R. M.||Divett, E.|
|Beresford, W.||Drummond, H.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Duncombe, hon. A.|
|Blair, S.||Duncombo, hon. O.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Duncuft, J.|
|Booker, T. W.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Dundas, G.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Dunne, Col.|
|Brisco, M.||East, Sir J. B.|
|Broadley, H.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Edwards, H.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Brown, H.||Elliot, hon. J. E.|
|Buller, Sir J.Y.||Estcourt, J. B. B.|
|Burghley, Lord||Fergus, J.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||FitzPatrick, rt. hon. J.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Fortescue, hon. J. W.|
|Campbell, hon. W.||Fox, S. W. L.|
|Cardwell, E.||Freestun, Col.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Frewen, C. H.|
|Child, S.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Childers, J. W.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Gordon, Adm.|
|Clive, H. B.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Granby, Marq. of|
|Cocks, T. S.||Grey, R. W.|
|Grogan, E.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Palmer, R.|
|Gwyn, H.||Palmer, R.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Hall, Col.||Parker, J.|
|Hallewell, E. G.||Peel, Col.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Peel, F.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Pigott, F.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Ponsonby, hon. C. F.|
|Hatchell, rt. hon. J.||Portal, M.|
|Hawes, B.||Prime, R.|
|Hayes, Sir E.||Pusey, P.|
|Headlam, T. E.||Reid, Col.|
|Henley, J. W.||Renton, J. C.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Ricardo, O.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||Rice, E. R.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Rich, H.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Richards, R.|
|Hildyard, T. B. T.||Romilly, Col.|
|Hindley, C.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Hodges, T. L.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Hornby, J.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Hotham, Lord||Sandars, G.|
|Hudson, G.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Johnstone, J.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.||Somerset, Capt.|
|Jones, Capt.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Knox, Col.||Spooner, R.|
|Knox, hon. W. S.||Stafford, A.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Stanford, J. F.|
|Lacy, H. C.||Stanton, W. H.|
|Langston, J. H.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Langton, W. H. P. G.||Stuart, H.|
|Legh, G. C.||Stuart, J.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Lewis, G. C.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Lindsay, hon. Col.||Taylor, Col.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Lockhart, W.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Thornhill, G.|
|Magan, W. H.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Manners, Lord C. S.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Masterman, J.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Matheson, Col.||Vesey, hon. T.|
|Melgund, Visct.||Vyvyan, Sir R. R.|
|Meux, Sir II.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Moffatt, G.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Monsell, W.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Moody, C. A.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Morgan, O.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Morris, D.||Wegg-Prosser, F. R.|
|Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Mullings, J. R.||Wigram. L. T.|
|Mundy, W.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Naas, Lord||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Wilson, J.|
|Newport, Visct.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|O'Brien, Sir L.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Ogle, S. C. H.||TELLERS.|
|Packe, C.W.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Anstey, T. C.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Armstrong, Sir A.|
|Alcock, T.||Armstrong, R. B.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Bass, M. T.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Bell, J.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Bethell, R.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Bright, J.||Norreys, Lord|
|Brotherton, J.||Norreys, Sir D.|
|Brown, W.||O'Brien, J.|
|Clay, J.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Cobden, R.||Power, Dr.|
|Collins, W.||Reynolds, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Salwey, Col.|
|Currie, R.||Scholefield, W.|
|Dawes, E.||Scobell, Capt.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T.||Scully, F.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Duncan, G.||Sidney, Ald.|
|Ellis, J.||Smith, rt. hon. R. V.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Smith, J. B.|
|Evans, J.||Strickland, Sir. G.|
|Forster, M.||Stuart, Lord D.|
|Fox, W. J.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Sutton, J. H. M.|
|Granger, T. C.||Thompson, Col.|
|Greene, J.||Thompson, G.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Thornely, T.|
|Hastie, A.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Hastie, A.||Villiers, hon. C.|
|Henry, A.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Hodges, T. T.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Horsman, E.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Kershaw, J.||Williams, J.|
|Locke, J.||Williams, W.|
|Lushington, C.||Willyams, H.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.||Wilson, M.|
|Marshall, J. G.||Smith, J. A.|
|Milner, W. M. E.||Osborne, R. B.|
§ After the division, Mr. Alderman Salomons re-entered the House, and took his seat as before.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Alderman Salomons do now withdraw.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
wished hon. Members to consider the importance of the question on which they were now about to come to a division. He was happy to see that the hon. Member for Greenwich had returned to his place; he thought his hon. Friend had been wrong in yielding to an excessive delicacy, and in withdrawing before his question was put. He thought it was his hon. Friend's duty to suppress all feelings of that kind, in consideration of the major question, which he was there to defend. The present question would, in fact, decide the fate of his seat; for, if the House had power to order him to withdraw below the bar, it had power to unseat him, and to order the Speaker to cause a new writ to issue. He was happy to see that this interpretation was adopted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, though there was an ominous silence on the Treasury bench. He hoped that on 1209 the present question, involving the fate of his seat, the hon. Member would consider his constituents more than himself, that he would stay and vote, and leave the responsibility of consequences on those who, whether led by intolerance, or a worse feeling—for he thought concessions to intolerance worse than intolerance itself—would have contributed to swell the majority against him. The question now was, that the hon. Member for Greenwich be ordered to withdraw; and he had to ask the House, when they had carried that Motion, whether it was their intention that the hon. Member should withdraw out of the House, or whether he should withdraw simply from his seat. It was perfectly plain that when the next question came to be put, namely, that for his contumacy in disobeying that order (as he must disobey it, if he was satisfied that the majority had no rightful power over him), he be committed to the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms, when that question came to be put, which hon. Gentlemen anticipated with cheers of frenzy and delight, it would then be for some one to move, and he would himself move it in the absence of any one more qualified to do so, that the hon. Member be heard in person or by counsel against that sentence. The House had now to consider to what part of the House they were going to order him to withdraw; and when the Motion was made, that the hon. Member be heard against the execution of the order, he thought that, even in the present temper of the House, there would not be one Gentleman who would refuse him a hearing. He (Mr. Anstey) should move that the hon. Member be heard in his place; but if there were those present who thought that, in the face of an order directing him to withdraw, the hon. Member could not be so heard, he would ask them if it was their intention that the hon. Member should be heard as a stranger—as one not of them—at the bar of the House? He asked those who relied on that view of the case to point out to him the passage in the so much relied on Act of Parliament which justified them in proceeding to that extreme act of exclusion? He found nothing in the Act depriving the hon. Member of the right to be heard in his place. Were hon. Members prepared without further inquiry, in a case of so much magnitude and importance, to adopt the Resolution of the noble Lord, which, he believed, would not have been moved had the noble Lord waited till that stage of the debate, as the 1210 arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, and others who spoke on that side, must have satisfied him that there must be much graver doubt than, when he moved that Resolution, he might be supposed to believe. He could not but think that great discourtesy had been shown towards the hon. Member for Greenwich: first, in the indisposition of the House to listen to any arguments on the subject; and, next, in the utter silence maintained by the Government, for none of the Ministers appeared to deem the rights of the great constituency of Greenwich of sufficient importance to induce them to address a single word to the House on the subject. To this moment the argument remained unanswered on the main question, namely, the power of that House to administer the abjuration oath in any shape or form—not one word had been said by the Government, by the law officers of the Crown, or by any Gentleman who had spoken in favour of the Resolution. He said, until that question was settled, the House was not ripe for the decision; and he thought the fittest course for the noble Lord to have taken would have been to move for a Committee, and to refer the question to it for consideration. If they feared the arbitration of the Courts of Law they ought to shrink from deciding it in ignorance and haste. The House, last Session, decided that the hon. Member for the City of London was entitled to be sworn at the table as a Jew—that the seat was full—but that he was not entitled to vote until he had taken the oath in the form appointed by law; but what form that was, the House refused to pronounce. If they had proceeded so cautiously in that case, would they not show even greater caution here, when a question of still graver importance—the right of the hon. Member for Greenwich to continue to hold the seat he had assumed—was before them, especially when all the hon. Gentleman asked at their hands was an opportunity to submit himself to the decision of a Court of Law? They denied that the law was against the worthy Alderman, and pointed to former and undisputed precedents. In the form of affirmation permitted to be taken by Quakers, the House had omitted the words declaratory of belief in Christianity, as being words of form and solemnity only, not of substance. In order that they might not decide this question over hastily, that they might have time to consider what was done and promised last 1211 year, and what the dignity of that House required from them in the assertion of its I privileges against the usurpation of the other House, he would move the adjournment of the debate.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I will state in a few words the course which I think the House ought to pursue. I, of course, cannot think of agreeing to the Motion for adjournment, for which the hon. Member who has just addressed the House has not assigned any reason whatever. With respect to the question before the House, I think the House ought at once to come to a decision as to whether the hon. Member for Greenwich ought or ought not to withdraw. It was my intention, as I stated in an early period of the evening, to have made a Motion similar in terms to the Resolution which was adopted last year in the case of Baron Rothschild. I do not wish, however, that the House should come to an immediate decision on that question—and I shall be ready to make that Motion to-morrow, leaving time for hon. Members to consider what course they may think fit to adopt respecting it. But, with respect to the Motion immediately under consideration, I do think the House is in a situation in which it can fairly decide upon it. The hon. and learned Member for Youghal has stated that, in the event of the House adopting the Resolution which I have proposed, the hon. Member for Greenwich will, of course, refuse to withdraw.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The only precedent which I can find upon this subject is one which is more favourable to the hon. Member for Greenwich, than the case of Baron Rothschild. With regard to Sir W. Windham, there were some words of his which were found fault with in this House. He was ordered by the Speaker to withdraw, but refused to do so. I find the transaction thus noticed in the Journals of the House:—"Motion being made, and Question put, that Sir W. Windham do retire, the House divided: Ayes 206; Noes 127." "And thereupon," the Journal says, "the Motion was resolved in the affirmative, and he withdrew accordingly." I believe that, in so acting, he only paid a proper respect to this House. It will be remembered that Sir W. Windham was, at that time, an undoubted Member 1212 of this House, and that he had spoken in debate. He declined to withdraw on the order of the Speaker, but retired at once in deference to a resolution of the House. If the hon. Member for Greenwich will not pay that respect to the House, of course other measures must be taken. But when the authority of the Speaker is confirmed by a resolution of the House, I do hope there will be no hesitation on the part of the hon. Member in withdrawing.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, he saw no practical good that was to result from an adjournment of the debate. They had already had enough of discussion, and he thought that under the circumstances in which the hon. Member for Greenwich was placed, and considering the great difference of opinion which existed amongst the high legal anthorities in this House, the hon. Member had taken a wise and proper course, both as regarded himself and the constituency he represented. He (Sir B. Hall) had no knowledge of the intentions of the hon. Gentleman after this division; but he would take upon himself to recommend the hon. Gentleman to let the House come to some decision now. No good result could accrue from an adjournment; and no further debate could throw greater light upon the subject.
§ MR. HOBHOUSE
rose amidst loud cries for a division. He said he had but one observation to make, and that was that the hon. Member for Greenwich would weaken his own case if he did not rise and state, however briefly, the course he meant to pursue. The hon. Gentleman had sat and voted in the House, and assuming that he had the right to do so, it logically followed that he had also the right to speak. What the hon. Gentleman ought to say it was not for him to declare—but whatever his intention was, he thought it would be better for the hon. Gentleman to state by his own mouth, and not by that of another Member.
§ MR. ALDERMAN SALOMONS
rose to speak, amidst cries of "withdraw;" but the House showing a general desire that he should be heard, the hon. Gentleman spoke as follows:—"Sir, I should not have presumed to address you, or this 1213 House, in the peculiar position in which I am placed, were it not that I have been so pointedly appealed to by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I trust the House will make some allowance for the novelty of my position, and the responsibility that I feel in the unusual course which it may be thought I have adopted. But I beg to assure you, Sir, and the House, that it has been far from my intention to indulge in anything contumacious or presuming towards either. But having been returned to this House by a large constituency, and believing that I labour under no disability whatever, and that I am in a position to fulfil all the requirements of the law, I thought I should not be doing justice to my own position as an Englishman and a gentleman did I not adopt the course which I thought right and proper of maintaining my right to appear on this floor—without thereby meaning any disrespect to you, Sir. I thought I was bound to take this course in defence of my own rights and privileges, and of the rights and privileges of the constituents who have sent me here. In saying this, Sir, I shall state to you that whatever the decision of this House may be, I shall willingly abide by it, provided that just sufficient force be used to make me feel that I am acting under coercion. Having expressed these sentiments, I will not intrude on the time of the House further than to say, that I trust and hope that in the present doubtful state of the law—doubtful, as shown by the different opinions of the most eminent lawyers who have addressed this House—no final order or resolution will be adopted towards me or my constituents without affording me an opportunity of addressing the House, and, stating before the House and the country what I believe to be my rights and privileges, what I believe to be the rights of my constitutents, and what I believe to be the duty of this House. I hope this House will not refuse that which I believe no court in the country ever refuses to the meanest subject of the realm—that it will not refuse to hear me before it comes to a final decision.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, that he had not seconded the Motion of adjournment for any factious or unreasonable end; but he thought that the House, before it came to a decision, should do so when it was less excited that it was at present. It would be admitted that the law question had been more thoroughly sifted that night 1214 than it had been on any former occasion, by the most able men in the House, and he thought there was no Member who must not feel that the law was open to great doubt. He was much mistaken, or the noble Lord would confess that the case presented itself to his mind in a less clear form than when he advised the House to come to a Resolution last year—a resolution which he thought rather increased than diminished the difficulties of the question. He was, therefore, the more anxious that the House should not come to a hasty resolution on the present occasion. He should therefore suggest that the debate be adjourned till to-morrow. In the meantime the noble Lord could consult the law officers of the Crown; and the Members of the House would do well to review the whole of the proceedings. If the majority continued to be of the same opinion, and should still refuse to admit the hon. Gentleman, their decision would then be more respected, and would have more weight in the country. After the temperate, wise, and judicious speech of the hon. Gentleman, he thought it was the more necessary for them to adopt the course he suggested.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
came to the same conclusion as the last speaker, and particularly that the House might have an opportunity of considering the Resolution which the noble Lord had submitted to them. If that was a judicial tribunal, they had not treated the question with the dignity which a judicial tribunal should do. He regretted the course which had been taken by the other branch of the Legislature, who had not treated the respresentatives returned by the people and large constituencies with proper respect. He thought the course pursued by the House of Lords was an improper interference with the rights and liberties of the people. Whoever would take the trouble of looking at the history of the country must be satisfied that the contest would come to a speedy conclusion. Whether the hon. Member for Greenwich would be given into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms or not, the country would entertain a different opinion upon the subject than appeared to prevail in that House, which had treated the hon. Member for Greenwich with something like ridicule. The country would sympathise with the hon. Gentleman, and would acknowledge that it was he who was contending for the just rights of the people, and the House that was disregarding them.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
After the appeal which has been made to me, I must say one word upon the adjournment of the debate. The hon. Member for Greenwich has spoken so temperately on this occasion, that I regret I am not able to comply with any request that may seem favourable to his being fully heard. I have already said, with regard to the question itself, I am quite willing, and it is my intention to postpone its consideration until to-morrow. If the House should think, as I confess I do not, that the law is at all favourable to the hon. Gentleman, and that he should be allowed to take his seat, the House might then come to a Resolution upon that subject, and he would then be fully entitled to come into the House and take his scat according to that Resolution. But I own I do not think it is possible, in any case after Mr. Speaker has ordered him to withdraw, and has, in fact, appealed to the House to support his authority, that in such a case I can consent to the adjournment of the debate. It appears to me that the House must decide on this point, leaving completely untouched the substantive question, whether they shall come to-morrow to a Resolution in conformity with that which they came to in the case of Baron Rothschild; or, having heard the whole, shall reverse that decision.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that he would not do anything which was opposed to the respect due to the right hon. Gentleman in the chair, as a gentleman and as Speaker to that House; but there were rights superior to his, and he would not remain silent when he thought a great injustice was going to be committed, merely because Mr. Speaker had pronounced from the chair that the hon. Gentleman withdraw. The case of Sir William Windham, which the noble Lord had adduced, was materially different from the present one. Sir William Windham had spoken some words which were offensive to Members of that House; but the hon. Member for Greenwich had not said anything that was offensive to any Members of the House. He had been returned by the electors of Greenwich to take his seat in that House; it was not a question of a mere form of words, and the hon. Member could not, in his opinion, leave his seat until he was taken into custody by the Serjeant-at-Arms. He advised the hon. Member to take that course; for however adverse that House might be to him, there was a power 1216 out of doors which would compel them to rescind their Resolutions, and would bring noble Lords in another place to their senses. He thanked the hon. Gentleman for doing that which he thought would mainly conduce to carry this question. If the noble Lord did not make the question a Cabinet question, they might go on, Session after Session, passing Bills, and the House of Lords would reject them. They would reject them until the large constituencies of the country spoke out, and caused the question to be made a Cabinet question. He called upon the hon. Member for Greenwich to retain his seat in that House until he was removed by the Serjeant-at-Arms; and not many months afterwards the House would be compelled to grant full and equal justice to the members of the Jewish persuasion.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 237: Majority 162.
§ Question put, "That Mr. Alderman Salomons do now withdraw:"—Ayes 231; Noes 81; Majority 150.
§ Whereupon Mr. SPEAKER stated, that the hon. Member for Greenwich had heard the decision of the House, and hoped that he was prepared to obey it.
§ Mr. Alderman Salomons continuing to sit in his scat, Mr. SPEAKER directed the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove him below the bar:
§ Whereupon the Serjeant-at-Arms having placed his hand on Mr. Alderman Salomons, he was conducted below the bar.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
wished to ask Mr. Speaker if his attention had been drawn to the language of the Act of Parliament, and whether the hon. Member for Greenwich could stand at the bar in the place appropriated to Peers?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman may take his seat in the place where hon. Gentlemen usually sit before they take the oaths.
§ MR. BRIGHT
begged to ask a question of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. There was some misapprehension as to what the noble Lord had said with respect to the Resolution he intended to move on the next day. Would the Resolution he intended to propose with respect to the hon. Member for Greenwich, be precisely similar to that which was carried last year with respect to the Member for the City of London? Before the House adjourned it would be well to know 1217 precisely what it was they were expected to do next day.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the Resolution he should propose was exactly similar to the Resolution which the House had approved of in the case of Baron Rothschild. He should move that David Salomons is not entitled to sit or vote in the House during any debate, not having taken the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law. He understood that Alderman Salomons had expressed a wish to be heard at the bar, and in that case he would move that he be heard in the same way as Mr. O'Connell had been heard at the bar of the House.
§ LORD DUDLEY STUART
At what hour, to-morrow, will the noble Lord move the Resolution? Is it at twelve o'clock?
§ MR. BRIGHT
begged to ask the noble Lord whether he would make any statement of his intentions to-morrow night on this question? because if that was all the noble Lord proposed to do, which he stated he would do, the House would be just where it was this time last year.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
said, he thought it right to inform the House that he should not now make the Motion which on Friday night he intimated he would make, but should agree to the Resolution which he understood the noble Lord intended to propose.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
begged to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whether he should now feel it his duty to institute a prosecution against the hon. Member for Greenwich?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I should think if the hon. Member for Greenwich wishes to be prosecuted, he will be able to find some person who will do it.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
wished to ask whether on the hon. Member for Greenwich being called on to make his election to-morrow, to be heard at the bar or not, the noble Lord would then consider the propriety of prosecuting him?