§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
proceeded: The Motion is this:—That David Salomons, Esq., 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.When we had this question before us last year, the matter was so much debated, that certainly I shall not think it necessary to say so much upon the question of the law of the case. I have stated, more than once, to the House, that it appears to me that the statutes which make it incumbent on us to require that the oath of abjuration shall be taken by a Member before he takes his seat, are the Acts which are found recited in the report of the Committee upon this subject, one being the 10th George I., c. 4, and the other the 13th George II., c. 7. Now, in those Acts there are certain provisions made with respect to Jews taking oaths; and it is stated, in the first 1321 of them, "that whereas the following words are contained in the latter part of the oath of abjuration, namely, 'upon the true faith of a Christian;'" and then it goes on to enact that, in certain cases, those words "on the true faith of a Christian" are to be omitted from the oath. It is to be observed that this is a temporary Act, that it is not of a permanent nature referring to all cases, but referring to certain cases in which the oath of abjuration is to be taken by all persons. The second Act is entitled, An Act for Naturalising such Foreign Protestants, and others therein mentioned, as are settled or shall settle in any of His Majesty's Colonies in America. And then again it says—"And whereas the following words are contained in the latter part of the oath of abjuration, namely, 'upon the true faith of a Christian;' and whereas the people professing the Jewish religion may thereby be prevented from receiving the benefit of this Act," &c. Now, it certainly appears to me, if Parliament thought it necessary, in order to enable Jews in certain cases to take the oath without those words, that an Act of Parliament should be passed for that purpose, that it follows as a consequence that where Parliament has made no such provision, those words must be repeated. I own I have felt, without going into further arguments on the subject, the strength of that to be such that I have been unable to come to the conclusion which I should willingly do, that we can act here as the House did in the case of Mr. Pease, and say that these words may be omitted from the present case. Some hon. Members of this House have asked the question how it was possible that we should have admitted Mr. Pease to take his seat, when we would not allow Baron Rothschild to take his. Certainly I was inclined in the Committee which sat upon this subject to think that the House might have been in error with respect to the admission of Mr. Pease; but I must say that very great distinctions were pointed out between the state of the law as existing with regard to the sect called Quakers when Mr. Pease came to take his seat, and the state of the law with regard to Jews when Baron Rothschild came to take his seat. And there was a question put by Sir Robert Peel in that Committee, which appears to me to contain the argument upon that subject in the form of a recital. Sir Robert Peel asked Mr. Pease—Will you allow me to call your attention to 1322 the enactment which is contained in the 20th George II., chap. 44? The preamble is as follows:—'Whereas a doubt hath arisen, whether the solemn affirmation or declaration of the people called Quakers, prescribed by an Act' made in the eighth year of the reign of his late Majesty George I., entitled,' An Act for granting the people called Quakers such forms of affirmation or declaration as may remove the difficulties which many of them lie under,' can be allowed and taken instead of an oath in any case wherein, by an Act or Acts of Parliament, an oath is required, unless the said affirmation or declaration be by such Act or Acts of Parliament particularly and expressly directed to be allowed and taken, instead of such oath, by reason of which doubt the testimony of the said people called Quakers is frequently refused, whereby the said people and others requiring their evidence are subjected to great inconveniences.' Then it enacts for removing the said doubt, 'That in all cases wherein any Act or Acts of Parliament now in force, or hereafter to be made, an oath is, or shall be allowed, authorised, directed, or required, the solemn affirmation or declaration of any of the people called Quakers in the form prescribed by the said Act, made in the eighth year of his late Majesty's reign, shall be allowed and taken, instead of such oath, although no particular or express provision be made for that purpose in such Act or Acts; and all persons who are or shall be authorised or required to administer such oath, shall be and are hereby authorised and required to administer the said affirmation or declaration; and the said solemn affirmation and declaration so made as aforesaid shall be adjudged and taken, and is thereby enacted and declared to be, of the same force and effect, to all intents and purposes, in all courts of justice and other places where by law an oath is or shall be allowed, authorised, directed, or required, as if such Quaker had taken an oath in the usual form; and if any person making such affirmation or declaration shall be lawfully convicted of having wilfully, falsely, and corruptly affirmed and declared any matter or thing which, if the same had been deposed in the usual form, would have amounted to wilful and corrupt perjury, every person so offending shall become subject to the penalties of perjury.' The Act was passed in the 20th of George II., and was, I apprehend, the law in force at the time you claimed to take your seat in the House of Commons. By that law there are three provisions: first, that in all cases the affirmation or declaration of Quakers should be equivalent to an oath; secondly, that all persons empowered or required to administer an oath should, in the case of Quakers, be empowered and required to administer a declaration; and, thirdly, that the violation of the engagements taken in the declaration should be equivalent to a violation of those taken by the oath. Was it in virtue of this enactment that you claimed your right to take your seat in the House?Now, without going into further arguments upon this subject, I think it very clear that by the Act the 20th of George II., there was a power given to all persons who were authorised to administer oaths, whenever oaths had to be taken, to administer an affirmation to Quakers. There is no such general law with regard to the Jews. I 1323 complain of that state of the law. I think it a very great hardship upon the Jews; but there is a clear difference, as pointed out by Sir Robert Peel, between the state of the law as to Quakers, when Mr. Pease came to take his seat, and the state of the law as to Jews, when Baron Rothschild came to take his seat. I now beg to more the Motion which I have read to the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That David Salomons, esquire, is not entitled to vote in this House, or to sit in this House during any Deflate, until he shall take the Oath of Abjuration in the form appointed by Law.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
said, that the noble Lord said the Act under which the abjuration oath was supposed to be administered (he said "supposed," because there was in reality no Act which required it), had been relaxed in favour of the Quakers before the admission of Mr. Pease to take his seat in that House. If that were so, he wished to know what was the utility of the Resolution under which Mr. Pease was actually admitted? If the Act of Parliament was sufficient, the form was there, and why was not Mr. Pease sworn according to the form in the Act of Parliament? The fact was, that at that time there was no such Act of Parliament. The only Act under which members of the Society of Friends now took their seats in that House, was one passed subsequently to the admission of Mr. Pease. Mr. Pease was seated by a Resolution of that House; the form of affirmation on which he was sworn being submitted to and approved by the Committee of Inquiry which sat upon his case, and being afterwards enacted by an Act of Parliament passed subsequently, not for the purpose of giving validity to Mr. Pease's election and seat in that House, but in order to make the practice of both Houses of Parliament uniform. He now begged to call the attention of the House to a portion of that most important Act to which the noble Lord had referred, the 8th of George I., c. 6, entitled, "An Act for Granting the People called Quakers such forms of Affirmation or Declaration as may remove the Difficulties which many of them lie under," which, he contended, concluded for ever all doubt and difficulty upon the subject. The words were—"Instead of the form prescribed by the said Act, every Quaker shall take the effect thereof in the following words:—'I, A. B., do solemnly, sincerely, and truly 1324 acknowledge, protest, testify, and declare,' &c." Then followed the language of the abjuration oath, down to the close, when these words were substituted;—And all these things I do plainly and sincerely acknowledge, promise, and declare, according to these express words by me spoken, and according to the plain and common sense and understanding of the same words, without any equivocation, mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever; and I do make this recognition, acknowledgment, renunciation, and promise, heartily, willingly, and truly.The effect of the oath of abjuration had, therefore, been declared by an Act of Parliament to be contained in that portion of the oath which followed the words of abjuration at the commencement, and which ended with the words, "willingly and truly," at the conclusion of the oath. He asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether he had marked this significant declaration by Parliament of the meaning and import of the oath of abjuration? It showed that the effect of the oath was alone important in the eyes of the Legislature. The Legislature did not release Quakers from the obligation of taking the effect of the oath; but, as Quakers could not take it in the form of an oath, the Legislature omitted the solemnity. He considered that the Resolution adopted in the case of Mr. Pease was altogether inconsistent with the Resolution which the House was now called upon to pass. The hon. Member for Greenwich asked to have the legal question referred to the proper authority, and the Government refused him the opportunity he sought for; he was forced, by the decision of the House, to withdraw, and leave the case to his (Mr. Anstey's) humble advocacy, and to the advocacy of other hon. Members, who, however great their talent might be, were not so competent to present the case in its true aspect as the hon. Gentleman himself, if the House had agreed to hear him, where alone he ought to be heard, in his place. He (Mr. Anstey) had disposed of one of the arguments of the noble Lord, and there was but one other. The noble Lord had said that if Parliament had on one or two occasions legislated in a specific manner, and for a specific purpose, and went not beyond that, they were bound to conclude that at common law there was no general power of going beyond the letter of the Act of Parliament, and applying it to cases to which such specific legislation 1325 did not directly apply. The noble Lord was mistaken, for, unless the common law was distinctly taken away by an Act of Parliament, the common law and the Act of Parliament went side by side. If Parliament thought fit to pass an Act relating to a case already provided for at common law, the common-law right and the statutory right existed together, unless there were words in the Act which abolished the common-law right. The noble Lord decided the point of law to his own satisfaction, but certainly not to his (Mr. Anstey's). If the noble Lord contended that in consequence of the specific legislation in the reign of George III., a Jew could not now take the oath of abjuration except with all the forms and ceremonies that accompanied the oath when taken by the Christian, he was supporting his case by an argument that was false in fact, and erroneous in law. The House had decided that there was the general right in the case of Mr. Pease, and the Jew was entitled to get the advantage of that decision, unless it were shown that there was some Act of Parliament which took away, in the case of the Jew, the common-law right that existed in the case of the Quakers. The noble Lord at the head of the Government and he (Mr. Anstey) were at issue on this point. As a constitutional or Parliamentary authority, he held the noble Lord in the highest respect; but as a legal authority, the noble Lord not being a lawyer, he held him in no respect at all. Against the noble Lord's opinion was to be placed the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Bethell); and even if the House thought that the noble Lord was a higher authority than his hon. and learned Friend, or an equal authority, or that the authority of the noble Lord could be balanced against that of his hon. and learned Friend, let the House not rashly suppose they were all in error; let them, at all events, suppose it was a case of doubt; let them postpone the decision of the question, for which they were clearly inadequate, and leave it to be decided, with all the help and appliances which a learned Bar could give in a court of competent jurisdiction. With regard to the mode in which the opinion of such a court could be obtained, he thought the course suggested by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall), in the first instance, 1326 was the fittest course. His hon. Friend had stated, on the occasion to which he referred, that it was the wish of the hon. Member for Greenwich that a prosecution should be instituted against him under the authority of the Crown, for the purpose of trying the question at law, he being willing to submit to the penalties—if penalties were inflicted upon him—consequent on the act which was made the subject of prosecution. The noble Lord denied to him that opportunity; and the hon. Member for Greenwich then gave notice, through the hon. Member for Marylebone, that he would take a course that would oblige the House at least to prosecute. The hon. Member had taken that course; he had done more even than the occasion required, or than his pledge bound him to do. No man could say that he had shown any want of courage or skill in the conduct of his own case; he had incurred the penalties for three votes he had given, and for three times he had taken his place in the House; and it was now his (Mr. Anstey's) intention to move, in substitution of the Resolution of the noble Lord, an instruction to the Attorney General of England, to prosecute his hon. Friend, not in the name of the Government, who had refused to prosecute, and deliberately abdicated the right to do so, but in the name of the House, whose dignity was concerned. It would not do to meet this challenge with an idle jest, or with the levity of insinuation with which they had been favoured on the preceding day. It would not do to tell them that, if his hon. Friend desired a prosecution, he might prosecute himself, or get a friend to prosecute him. There was no doubt that a prosecution would be instituted by some person, if the House, unmindful of its dignity, did not interfere. No doubt, the common informer would be set in motion; but would not a prosecution under the authority of the Attorney General be more consonant with the dignity of the House, than to have a prosecution instituted by some person for his own base pecuniary ends? There was no precedent for the course the hon. Member for Greenwich had taken, as there was no precedent for the great injustice that had been done him. Then what was the conduct pursued towards his hon. Friend? He offered a defiance to those who declared they were ready to take it up; but what took place? His hon. Friend was led away to the bar 1327 by the Serjeant-at-Arms, who left him at the door, and did not place him in confinement. His hon. Friend now challenged them to set in motion against him the other tribunal to which the decision of the question was by Act of Parliament referred, but the House would not proceed to do so. The House, if they were to understand the intimation of the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger), would not venture to direct that a new writ should issue; and therefore the House was not to decide the question, but to shove it over to next Session, and leave the consequences to chance. There was, however, another tribunal to which the question might be referred—a court of justice. The 13th William III. enacted, that if any person who then was, or hereafter might be, a Member of the House of Commons, should presume to vote, not having taken and subscribed the oaths, he should thenceforth be deemed and adjudged a Popish recusant convict, to all intents and purposes whatsoever, and should be disabled to hold or execute any office or place of profit or trust, civil or military, in these realms, or to sit or vote in either House of Parliament, &c.; and it was further provided that "he shall forfeit for every wilful offence against this Act the sum of 500l., to be recovered and received by him or them that shall sue for the same, and to be prosecuted by any action of debt, suit, bill, plaint, or information in any of His Majesty's courts at Westminster." He (Mr. Anstey) wished the Attorney General to sue for this penalty, or if he preferred it, let him prosecute by proxy. He (Mr. Anstey) could tell the House that there was, out of doors, among the British public, such a feeling upon this question that they would not sit tamely by and see the rights of the subject, the privileges of constituencies, and the franchises of the realm, voted away, destroyed, and trampled under foot upon no better authority than by a hasty Resolution of one House of Parliament.
To leave out from the word 'esquire' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'Member of Parliament for the Borough of Greenwich, having sat and voted in this House without having taken the Abjuration Oath in the words contained and set forth in the form tendered unto him at the table, the Attorney General of England be ordered to institute proceedings against him at Law for such default,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
begged to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment, more especially in consequence of the answer which had been given by the noble Lord to a question put to him, that he would not take the course which was suggested by the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He asked to have the Amendment withdrawn, for the purpose of having another Amendment brought forward.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
would not, as another Amendment was to be moved, press his proposition against the opinions of the hon. Gentleman near him.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BETHELL
begged to call the attention of the House to another Amendment on the Motion of the noble Lord, in which, he thought, was embodied the real question requiring their deliberate attention. The Amendment which he was about to submit to the House, was this:—That Baron Lionel de Rothschild and Alderman Salomons, having taken the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and also the oath of abjuration, in the manner in which this House is bound by law to administer the same, are entitled to take their seats as Members of this House.The important words of the Amendment, and to which he wished particularly to call the attention of the House, were those declaring that Baron Rothschild and Mr. Salomons had taken the oaths in the manner in which the House was bound by law to administer them. It was his deliberate opinion that the question of law had not been fully discussed, with all the advantages and assistance that could be derived from a more perfect examination of the Statute-book; no opportunity having yet been given of bringing the question in that way under the attention of the House. He must humbly submit that there must be a better reply given to the observations which he had laid before the House, than had been yet offered to them. If any person examined the statutes, they would find this to be the state of the enactments. The 9th Geo. I. threw upon the subjects of the realm, including, of course, the members of the Jewish persuasion, the 1329 obligation to take the oath of abjuration. They had to take the oath of abjuration in the form and manner in which the oath was laid down and worded in that statute; but the Legislature, observing the absurdity, came to the relief of the Jews by the declaratory enactment which was contained in the 10th Geo. I.—a statute that was temporary, certainly, so far as it enlarged a particular meaning in the statute of 9th Geo. I., but a statute that was universal and perpetual, so far as it annexed to the anterior statute of 9th Geo. I. the proviso in favour of the Jews. So long as that obligation existed, or any similar obligation, the legislative declaration of 10th Geo. I. accompanied that obligation, and that declaration was directly in favour of the exemption of the Jews. The noble Lord had, with respect to this statute, arrived at quite a contrary conclusion, and in support of his reasoning had borrowed the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir P. Thesiger), which were made upon a superficial examination of the Statute-book. He said the 10th Geo. I. had expired, and that it was necessary to introduce another enactment; but he (Mr. Bethell) derived from facts an opposite conclusion. The enactment in the 10th Geo. I. was a Parliamentary declaration that the rule already existing in the courts of justice with regard to the administration of any oaths to Jews, should be adopted in every place with reference to the administration of the abjuration oath. The courts of justice had outstripped the Legislature. They had, however, to deal only with judicial oaths, and the oath in question was a political or civil oath. It was an oath imposed, not with reference to judicial proceedings, but with reference to the exercise of political and civil liberties. The Legislature declared that the rule of the court of justice with reference to the administration of oaths for official purposes, should be the rule adopted by the Legislature and other authorities in the administration of the oath of abjuration, which was a political or civil oath. Let them observe the language of the section of the Act of Parliament:—That taking the oath by such persons professing the Jewish religion, without the words aforesaid, in like manner as Jews are admitted to be sworn to give evidence in courts of justice, shall be deemed to be a due taking of the abjuration oath within the meaning of this and the said recited statute.The 1st of Geo. I. made it obligatory upon 1330 Members of Parliament to take the oath, but it was not of universal operation as it respected the community. The statute of 9th Geo. I. made the obligation to take the oath universal—it affected all the members of the community, all the subjects of the realm. It was made the condition of exercising certain political and civil liberties, and the Jew was recognised as a subject that could claim these liberties. The Legislature found the precepts of the common law established with reference to oaths generally in courts of justice; but the oath of abjuration was a creature of the Legislature, and it was not an oath known to the common law. The Legislature, therefore, in this statute took the general common-law principle applicable to oaths generally, and applied it to the oath of abjuration by a declaratory enactment. If, therefore, the oath of abjuration recognised by that statute had an obligation which was universal on all the members of the community, it followed that the exemption which was created by a subsequent statute was coincident with the obligation; and, as far as the Jew was concerned, there was imported into all courts and all places the common-law principle which had been recognised in courts of justice. He humbly submitted, therefore, that instead of the noble Lord being warranted in deriving from the particular words of the enactment anything like a conclusion that the Act had expired, and that a new enactment was necessary, he would have found here, if he had interpreted the words in a liberal spirit (in which all remedial acts should be interpreted), a declaration of an universal principle, a principle known to the common law, and by this enactment recognised and universally introduced; so that this statute was to be accepted as a legislative recognition of the right of the Jews to have the principle that was adopted in courts of justice carried into other places, and the House was bound by this legislative declaration, as well as by general principles, to administer the oath to the Jew in the manner referred to. The same principle was recognised in the 13th Geo. II., and 20th Geo. II. The oath of abjuration was now administered under the 6th Geo. III., the last Parliamentary definition of its form, and that Act accompanied the obligation to take the oath with the proviso that it should be taken "with due observance of the same requisites, and with benefit of the same savings, provisoes, and 1331 indemnities as by the 1st Geo. I., or by any other Acts, or any part of them, then subsisting, were directed and enacted." The noble Lord had again adverted to the case of Mr. Pease, and he had read a part of the examination of that hon. Member by Sir Robert Peel. There was another and a very important part of the evidence given by the hon. Member, which the noble Lord had not read. The House on that occasion took upon itself to alter, and modify, and mould the form of the oath, having no authority to do so except the general authority so to apply the formula that the oath might be administered in the manner binding upon the conscience of the party required to take it, and who had a right to have it administered. The House was bound to administer the oath to the Jew; the Jew was bound to take it. But if the House held itself bound to administer it with the annexation of the particular formula in question, it would confess that the law had placed it in this position, that it was bound to act, and yet unable to act. In short, the House had been reasoning from false premises, and had brought itself into a false position, in which it recognised an obligation, without having the power to perform it; admitted a right, and yet was obliged to negative it—a position into which the House had brought itself by taking up a principle, and then stopping short and refusing to follow it out. It was followed to a certain extent by the admission of the Jew's right to take the oath, and upon the Old Testament; but the position was not followed to its legitimate consequences. Much more might be ascertained upon this subject; and, if Members were not prepared to follow him (Mr. Bethell) to the conclusion to which he believed they ought to come—to which he thought their own proceedings would compel them to come—and to which, in the judgment of all thinking men outside the House, they ought to come—they might consent to refer the matter to a Committee to investigate the law upon the manner in which this oath of abjuration was to be administered. He regretted that the noble Lord, finding the admission of Jew Members opposed only upon technical objections which could be answered in the most triumphant manner upon well-known principles of law, had' shrunk from meeting this petty trifling technicality, and brought forward a declaratory Act—an Act which was superfluous and unnecessary, for the law had been declared already by judicial decision 1332 and by statute. The hon. and learned Member concluded by moving his Amendment.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild and David Salomons, esquire, having taken the Oaths of Allegiance and Supremacy, and also the Oath of Abjuration, in the manner in which this House is bound by Law to administer the same, are entitled to take their Seats as Members of this House,' instead thereof.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
was anxious, as one of those who had all along supported the removal of Jewish disabilities, but who had been charged in the course of the debate with having put an illiberal construction upon the Acts of Parliament relating to the question, and with pursuing an illiberal course in this case, to state briefly his view of the question. He apprehended that the duty which the House was called upon in this case to perform was simply a judicial duty: this was no case of policy or liberality, as some hon. Members seemed to suppose—it was their duty to act judicially, and to protect, as far as possible, the rights of their Members. The Legislature had imposed a certain oath to be taken by every Member of that House, and had done so in a certain form of words, and the only question which they had now to decide was, whether these words were to be regarded merely as part of the formal incidents of the oath, or whether they were intended as the essential part and substance of the obligation: this was a question upon which he had come to a conclusion, though after what the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bethell) had said, he would not say it was a question free from doubt. A careful consideration of the historic circumstances connected with the original introduction of the oath confirmed him in the opinion that the last of these two propositions was the correct one; and he thought that those who contended that the wording of the oath might be moulded and modified from time to time, to suit the circumstances of those by whom it was to be taken, had omitted all reference to the history of the oath, and the objects for which the Legislature originally imposed it. But this was an important element in the consideration of the question. The oath was first introduced in the 3rd James I. That statute was passed immediately after the great Gunpowder Plot, and was described as being "for the better discovering and repressing 1333 of Popish recusants." It was directed against Roman Catholic recusants, and the chief object of the oath directed by that Act to be taken—a combination of the present oaths of abjuration and allegiance—was to afford a test of a man's religious belief. The Jesuits were thought to be the main instigators of the Plot, as would appear evident to any one who would take the trouble of reading the report of the trial of Garnett, a member of the Jesuit order, who was charged as a participator. Sir Edward Coke prosecuted on the occasion, and the greater portion of his interrogations, and of those of the Commissioners who presided, were directed to ascertain whether, according to the Jesuits' doctrines with which that order were supposed to have contaminated the faith of the Roman Catholics, an oath might not be taken by a Roman Catholic with mental reservations and equivocations which would enable the party taking the oath to evade its obligation on his conscience. Garnett frankly avowed that that was his view, and that if a man were to put an oath, if the person putting it was not entitled to put it, and it would operate prejudicially to his religion, he might take the oath with a mental reservation evading it. Hence, the object of the Act being to exclude Popish recusants from power, and to prevent the oath being thus evaded, these words were inserted:—All these things I do plainly and sincerely acknowledge and swear according to these express words by me spoken, and according to the plain and common sense and understanding of the same words, without any equivocation or mental evasion or secret reservation whatsoever; and I do make this recognition and acknowledgment heartily, willingly, and truly, upon the true faith of a Christian; so help me God.
The ATTORNEY GENERAL
It has everything to do with it. The Legislature having passed an Act making it obligatory to take a certain oath, the question is, whether it was the intention of the Legislature that the whole of the oath or any part of it should be taken, and the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were put in to make the test so stringent and binding upon the conscience that it could not be evaded, The next statute on the subject was the 20th of Charles II., which was imposed to exclude Jesuits from Parliament. Next came the Act 13th William III., and they all knew that that was passed for the purpose of keeping Roman 1334 Catholics out of Parliament and out of power—that it was passed at a time when the King's health was declining, and when the King of France had recognised the pretensions of the son of James II., and when men's minds were agitated as to the safety of the Protestant religion. It was under these circumstances that the Act of William III. was passed to exclude Roman Catholics from power, and in passing it Parliament took the Act of James I. as its model, and introduced the same words into the oath, the opinion still prevailing with regard to the doctrine and intentions of the Jesuits. He thought, then, that, regard being had to the circumstances under which these statutes were passed, and to the object they were all along designed to effect, being no other than that of testing a man's religious belief, the House could not resist the conclusion that it was the intention of the Legislature that the whole of the oath, and not a part only, should be taken, and that the case under consideration was distinguished from those which had been referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, where so long as a man took the oath in substance he might mould and modify the form in such a way as should be most binding upon his conscience. The question in this case was whether the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were matter of form or of substance. That was what they had to decide; and he confessed when he looked at the history of the oath, and the object of the statutes by which it was imposed, he could not bring himself to consider other than that the Legislature did intend that the words should form a substantial and essential part of the oath. But it had been said there is a subsequent statute that alters that—the 6th George III., which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bethell) said enabled the oath to be taken with all the immunities and indulgences of the previous statutes then in force. He (the Attorney General) admitted that; but what were the statutes to which his hon. and learned Friend referred? His hon. and learned Friend referred to the two Acts of George I. and George II., as statutes subsisting at the time of the passing of the 6th George III. His hon. and learned Friend had not called the attention of the House to the purpose for which that statute was passed. In the 9th year of the reign of George I. an Act was passed which, reciting that the safety of the Throne and the Government had been 1335 endangered by plots and conspiracies emanating from the Roman Catholic portion of the subjects of the realm, and that it was essential to have the means of ascertaining the number of Roman Catholics, and the property they possessed, enacted that all persons should take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and in default thereof should submit to their property being registered. The Jews at that time were placed in a remarkable position. They were perfectly willing to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; but, as respected the oath of abjuration, the words "on the true faith of a Christian" prevented them taking it. The Legislature offered this indulgence to the Jews, that they should take the oath of abjuration, omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and in the manner taken by them in courts of justice. But if the common law ran concurrently with the statute—if a statutory oath was to be moulded and modified by the freedom of the common law, so as to adapt it to the conscience of the party taking it—what necessity was there for this statute? There was a still stronger argument upon the second statute referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury—he thought, by the way, the hon. Member would not have addressed any similar argument to that which he had addressed to the House, to any court of justice. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury said that the principle established in the Act of the 10th George I. continued in force, and was revived, by the statute of 13th George III. Now, what was the object of this statute? When that statute was passed, it was desired to promote colonisation in the North American Colonies; and an Act was passed giving to all persons who had resided for a certain time in those colonies, and should take the oaths of supremacy and abjuration, the benefit of naturalisation; but it occurred to the Legislature that the Jews would derive no benefit from this Act, and therefore they were permitted to take the oath, omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian." Now, if the common law operated in the manner that had been stated, where was the necessity for this enactment? If the statute 10th George I. was a Parliamentary recognition of the right of the Jew to take the oath, with the omission of these words, what necessity was there for the subsequent statute of George II.? The passing of the second statute was a clear proof that 1336 the operation of the first statute was not that contended for by his hon. and learned Friend. The second statute did not relate to England at all. The first Act was temporary, enabling the Jew to take the oath within a certain time; and the second Act was of a local character, and applied to the North American colonies solely; but the two Acts taken together afforded the strongest argument that the oath prescribed by the statutes of William III. and George I. in the form in which Christians took it, was binding and obligatory, and that nobody could take it in any other form except when enabled so to take it by a special Act of Parliament. Then they were pressed with the 1 & 2 Victoria. What was that Act? Did that Act say that the form of the oath might be altered at pleasure? Certainly not. It said, that if a man took an oath in a particular form, having demanded to take it in that particular form, he should be bound by it, and be liable to the penalties of perjury if he infringed it. This was perfectly right and proper. It was intended as a protection against what might have been a monstrous abuse; because, when you had established the principle that a man might swear in the mode which he declared to be binding on his conscience, it would lead to great abuse if he were allowed to say that such and such a form was binding on his conscience, whereas, according to his religious belief, it was not binding on him. There were men who, by resorting to subterfuges such as these, like witnesses in courts of justice, who kissed their thumb instead of the book, were able to satisfy their consciences. It was to protect the community against such abuses as these that the Act had been passed; but it did not release us, who were bound to see the law properly administered, from the obligation imposed on us to administer the oath in the form required by the statute. Then they were pressed with the precedent of Mr. Pease:—but observe how different was that case from the present. You then had a whole series of Acts of Parliament and legislative provisions, bearing on the whole case of the Quakers, and having especial reference to this oath of abjuration itself, beginning as early as the time of William III. He was ashamed of trespassing on the House with such purely legal arguments, but he felt bound to endeavour to set them right on the question of law. The 7th and 8th William III. enacted, that from and 1337 after the 4th May, 1696, any Quaker who was required to take an oath, should, instead of the usual form, be permitted to make a solemn affirmation. Then came the 1 George I., which made the former statute perpetual, and in reference to the oath of abjuration said, that as several doubts had arisen concerning the effect of that oath, it was enacted, that in all cases where the effect of the oath of abjuration was required, the effect should be produced by the words which were there set out. The words of the declaration the Quaker was to take were repeated in the 8 Geo. I. This case, therefore, stood on a totally different footing, and so the Committee thought, to whom the matter had been referred. It was true that another Act was afterwards passed, but the Committee thought it was wholly unnecessary. Here was a clear legislative enactment, that in lieu of the oath of abjuration, the Quaker might make his affirmation after a prescribed form. Nothing more was required. If you had this in the case of the Jew—if the Acts to which the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had referred, had been universal and permanent, you wanted nothing more. But the whole difficulty in the case of the Jew was that the common law would not operate, because you had an oath prescribed in a given form, containing words not merely formal, but of the essence of the oath. It was impossible, he thought, for any lawyer to come to any other conclusion than that the words were of the essence of the oath. He was sorry to come to this conclusion, and he wished he could come to an opposite opinion. He admitted that the law as it stood was in a most anomalous and unsatisfactory condition. It was originally passed for the sole purpose of excluding the Roman Catholics; but the words were so comprehensive that it would be inconsistent with the duty of the House to endeavour to evade the obvious meaning of the Act. Here was a positive enactment, which, he admitted, was never intended to apply to Jews at all; and the law upon the subject was now in a most disgraceful state. The Legislature had altered the law with reference to those whom it was originally intended to exclude, and maintained it in all its stringency towards the rest of Her Majesty's subjects; and this they did by an oath, the necessity for which had now happily passed away, and in a case in which, if this House were now called on to legislate, you would not continue the disability, 1338 as this branch of the Legislature had repeatedly recorded its opinion that the Jews ought to be admitted into Parliament. But if this law must be altered, this branch of the Legislature could not take upon itself to alter that which had been made law by the Parliament generally. This House had resisted the dispensing power of the Crown on former occasions; and he thought we should be giving the other branches of the Legislature grievous occasion to complain of the course we had adopted, if we dispensed with their sanction of this alteration of the existing law. Anxious as he was to see the Jews admitted into this House, he still thought we must not lose sight, for the end we desired to achieve, of the unconstitutional means to which we resorted in order to achieve it. Therefore he thought the House would do well to adopt the Resolution of the noble Lord, as that of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury would lead us into difficulties greater than those in which we were at present placed, and would lead us into a conflict with the other branches of the Legislature, in which we should certainly be in the wrong.
§ MR. J. EVANS
thought the speech of the hon. and learned Attorney General the most satisfactory he had heard on the subject; for the hon. and learned Gentleman had told the House that the oath did not apply to the Jews, and was never intended to apply. He had gone into the history of the Acts of Parliament to show to whom it was intended to apply. It was intended for Christians, who would not understand an oath secundum animum imponentis without the form "on the true faith of a Christian." The object was to exclude Jesuits, but not any other class, and not a single word of the oath itself was contained in that form. What was the question to be decided? It was whether the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were of the substance of the oath, or whether that was the form in which the oath was to be administered. All the lawyers in the House were agreed that if it were nothing but part of the form of the oath, or part of the adjuration, and if it were not of the substance, it might be altered to suit the consciences of the persons taking the oath. It was not to be supposed that Jewish subjects were not to take the oath of abjuration. The 10th George I. provided that a Jew, when he took the oath of abjuration, should take it omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian." It had been 1339 argued that a Jew was not previously capable of taking the oath without the words, because an Act of Parliament was necessary to allow him to take the oath with the omission. At that time the law respecting oaths was remarkably unsettled. It was not settled till 1745, when Lord Hardwicke, having to issue a commission to India for the examination of Gentoos, the question arose how they were to be sworn; and, with the concurrence of Chief Justice Lee, Chief Justice Willes, and Chief Baron Parker, a judgment was adopted which settled the law, declaring that a man was to be sworn according to the ceremonies binding on his conscience. The old authority of Lord Coke was questioned and destroyed, Chief Justice Willes remarking that the view of Coke, who had said an infidel could not be a witness, meaning thereby a Jew as well as a heathen, or all who were not Christians, was contrary not only to Scripture, but to common sense and common humanity, and declaring, in allusion to an observation of Coke's, that even the devils themselves, whose subjects the heathens were said to be, could not hold a worse principle, and that it was a most impolitic notion, and would destroy all the trade and commerce by which this nation had so benefited. It had finally been declared by 1 & 2 Victoria, that a man must be sworn according to the dictates of his own conscience. That principle the House had acted on, because the hon. Members for Greenwich and London had been allowed to be sworn on the Old Testament. It was said the House was bound by the decision of last Session. On the 29th of July last year it had been decided, by a majority of 74, that a Jew was entitled to take the oath on the Old Testament, and having done so hon. Members insisted that he should swear "on the true faith of a Christian." The House could not have a better opportunity of getting out of its difficulty than it had at present. With all diffidence he should express it as his opinion that the expression was nothing but a formula introduced as a means of detecting a Papist, and although the Attorney General said it was part of the oath, he (Mr. Evans) was satisfied that no portion of what the person taking that oath promised was left out by the omission of the words "on the true faith of a Christian." He should, for these reasons, support the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury.
§ MR. NAPIER
wished to state briefly what were the reasons which induced him 1340 to concur entirely in the view of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, which had been so ably put forward in an unanswerable speech by the hon. and learned Attorney General. The proposition stated on the other side was, that the House was bound by law to administer the oath to the Jews, omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian." He understood the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury to say that the House, in administering the oath, was bound by law to omit those words., He would ask by what law? They had been referred by way of argument to a statute which had expired, which had been passed for a temporary purpose, and it was argued that because the Legislature had interfered to accomplish the change for a temporary purpose, therefore the House of Commons singly was entitled to effect a similar change for the purpose of introducing a Member into that House—an alteration which required formerly the concurrence of both Houses of the Legislature. Would a court of law recognise a Resolution of that House as it would an Act of Parliament? Why, the thing bore its own refutation on its face. What was the use of the Legislature interfering to permit Jews by the omission of these words to obtain civil rights, if the Jews possessed the right by the common law of the land? Why, if that were so, there was no obstacle, no barrier, to prevent them from those civil rights and immunities; but the Legislature did not hold this opinion, and it accordingly interfered. It was no argument to say, because the Legislature interfered for a limited purpose, for which a limited Act of Parliament was necessary, that the House of Commons could now take upon itself the functions of both branches of the Legislature. The argument of the noble Lord at the head of the Government was sound and right, and no argument had been used on the other side to shake his confidence in it. The Act which followed was for a specific purpose. There were two things to be considered in the taking of an oath—the modus jurandi and the juramenta, or the manner of swearing and the matter of the oath. With the matter of this oath the House had no right to interfere; but with respect to the kissing of the book, which was the modus jurandi, the Jew by the common law was sworn on the Old Testament. But the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were by the Legislature itself made part of the juramenta. 1341 There was the matter of the oath to be taken in the same manner as in a court of justice. Mr. Stephens, in his edition of Blackstone, stated that there were some disabilities to which the Jews were still liable, one being that they would not take the oath of abjuration. At the time the Municipal Corporations Bill went up to the House of Lords, the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were omitted, in order to enable the Jews to participate in the full rights of citizenship. The House of Lords restored the words, and a subsequent Act of Parliament had to be passed, in order to remove the words and enable the Jews to enjoy civic right. This would have been quite unnecessary if the words referred to were considered the modus jurandi. The Committee which had drawn up the report upon their table was composed of some of the ablest men in the House. The late Sir Robert Peel, and almost all the lawyers, including Vice-Chancellor Turner, were put upon it, and he quite remembered that Sir Robert Peel, calling his attention to the 7th & 8th William III., which was passed before the time of Archdall, when the House of Commons would not receive that Gentleman's declaration, because Members of Parliament were obliged to take the oaths according to the 22nd of George II., expressed his opinion that this would be an unworthy mode of proceeding if they were to get rid of the difficulty by the course now suggested. The Legislature, by the special provision it had made to meet certain cases, showed that the words formed part of the oath. By the 22nd George II. it was declared that a Quaker could not be permitted to take his affirmation unless there was a specific legitimate substitution of an affirmation for an oath. The words "on the true faith of a Christian" were of substantial and not of casual operation, because the laws under which the oath was to be taken went on the ground that every person was a professing Christian, and was bound by oaths as a Christian. The House was not now engaged on a question of policy, but on one of construction; and he could not find any reason which would enable him to strike out the words "on the true faith of a Christian," which would not entitle him to cut off any other portion of the oath. The Legislature had provided a special form of affirmation for the Quaker; and, therefore, the cause of the Quaker had no application to that of the Jew. There was, he admitted, incon- 1342 sistency in allowing Baron Rothschild to be sworn on the Old Testament; but it was no reason why, supposing he (Mr. Napier) had been a party to that proceeding, he should do wrong again because be had done wrong before.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
did not, though by profession a lawyer, intend to attempt anything like a legal argument. He could not add to those which had been addressed to the House, nor did he wish to repeat them; but he must express his adhesion to the views of those who were of opinion that the hon. Members for Greenwich and London had taken the oaths in the manner prescribed by law. He thought the arguments of the Member for Abingdon not worth a rush, while those of the Member for Aylesbury were entitled to the highest consideration. He believed that the oath taken by the hon. Member for Greenwich was quite sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the Act of Parliament. The Alderman had declared that he had taken the oath in the form most binding on his conscience, and as that was in conformity with the practice of the courts of justice, he thought that was sufficient in that House. The Alderman had stated that he had put the construction on the oath which was most binding on his conscience, and until the courts decided, he thought the Member for Greenwich was entitled to take the oath which he thought the most binding. He congratulated the House on the change of tone in the debate, owing, probably, to the small number present. To-night the House bore some marks of a judicial tribunal. He felt somewhat in a dilemma as to the Motion of the noble Lord. No Gentleman was entitled to sit and vote in that House before he had taken the oaths prescribed by law. He could not negative that Motion without saying that David Salomons was entitled to vote before he had taken the oath; and he had proposed to move the addition of the words, "but that David Salomons having taken the oaths as appointed by law, was entitled to vote." He should not propose that addition, the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury having been moved. The House had more than once declared its own construction of Acts of Parliament; and in the absence of any decision by a court of law in the present instance, he called upon them to say what was their construction of the words used at the close of the abjuration oath—whether they were words of form only, or 1343 words of substance. If the House could not go that length, why had they allowed the oath to he taken on the Old Testament? When they did so, did they intend it as an insult or as a trap? He contended that in the consideration of this question they ought never to have submitted their privileges to the other House of Parliament. They should have given their own construction of them, and he believed a more unwise thing was never done than putting the question of those privileges into the hands of others. It was not too late, however, to retrace their steps. If the proposition of the noble Lord was carried that night, he hoped he would give notice, as he had done on a former occasion, that next Session he would ask the House to proceed at the earliest opportunity to take into serious consideration the form of the oath of abjuration, with the view of relieving Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion, and that, by the words "taking into serious consideration," the noble Lord would mean that the House should take the matter into its own hands. He did not despair of getting a satisfactory settlement of the question, even in that Parliament; but, if otherwise, they might depend upon it that the constituencies who had returned Jews would not retrace their steps, but act upon the principle that they were entitled to re-elect them so long as a court of law did not declare it to be illegal.
MR. HENRY DRUMMOND
said, that if the lawyers only were to decide the question, it would be very presumptuous in him, or any other unlearned Member, to address the House. They had heard a great deal upon this subject from lawyers; but he could not believe it to be law when they were told that it rested with every person who took a statutory oath to omit as many of the words of the oath as he pleased. They had all heard of the old saying—As, by the rule that makes the horse' tail bare, You pluck it year by year, and hair by hair.But nobody ever dreamed that that was a receipt for preserving the horse's tail, though it might bid fair for making it a ragged one. Now, what sort of an oath would they have on their Statute-book at the end of ten years if everybody in every court of justice might omit from it as many words as he pleased? He had endeavoured to take the question out of the legal phraseology, in order to make it intelligible 1344 to the House, and he hoped he had succeeded. Whatever difference might exist among them as to the principle of this question, or as to the proper mode of acting, he thought there was one result upon which they must all be unanimous, and that was that it was impossible to leave it as it was. He had ever objected to the Jews sitting in that House. He had objected upon the principle, and he continued to do so still; but he would not take advantage of a state of the law which never was intended to affect them, to carry into effect a principle which he could not do fairly otherwise. He should like to have this question fairly brought to issue; but it could not be. He very much doubted the force of the argument which said that this House could not interfere in this matter themselves. If there was any force in that argument, it could only increase their embarrassment, and would not at all help them; for how came it that they had suffered that oath to be taken on the Old Testament? Whether they liked it or disliked it—whether they did it unintentionally or from malice aforethought, he did not know, but they had sold the pass. When a Christian came up to this table and swore on the Bible at large, he acted on the well-known principle—Novo testamento veterum patet;Veteri testamento novum latet.But when a Jew asked for the Bible it was in order to reject the New Testament; and that rejection this House had allowed. Now, how they were to get out of this difficulty he did not know. He did not understand how they could now contend that that House could not alter the essential part of the oath. It was admitted on all hands that the words of this oath were never intended to apply to the Jews. It was contained in a series of Acts against the Jacobites; and it was no fault of the Jews that James II. turned Papist. As things had turned out, however, the Jews had to pay the piper. Nobody suffered but them; and if he believed that those doctrines to which the Attorney General had alluded were less rife at this moment than they were at the time of the State Trial to which he had referred—if he did not know that they were ten time more prevalent now than they were then, he would repeal this oath altogether. But, since they could not do that, he wished some one would fairly propose a Motion to exclude Jews from Parliament. For that he would vote; but he did not like to be 1345 compelled to be firing in ambush against the Jews from behind a dyke that was intended to exclude a Sardinian Prince.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
said, that the Act of the 7th & 8th William III., chap. 84, went no further than to exempt Quakers who refused to take the usual oaths in a court of justice from doing so. The Attorney General referred to the 8th George III. as the Act under which Mr. Pease had been admitted to that House. But that Act merely altered the form of affirmation, made legal by previous statutes, and did not say that on making it a Quaker could be admitted to Parliament; it made a change in the affirmation taken in courts of justice, and permitted it to be taken at the election of Peers in Scotland. If Quakers were permitted to give evidence in courts of justice, and permitted to enter that House on making an affirmation, he could not see why the Jews should not be allowed to take the oaths in the manner most binding and agreeable to them. The oath had substantially been taken by Baron Rothschild and Mr. Alderman Salomons, and the only objection to the mode in which they had taken it was a mere matter of ceremony. What was done by that House in the case of Mr. Pease, was done in virtue of their own inherent privilege, and on a true construction of the spirit of the common law: it was not done under the authority of the letter of any Act of Parliament whatever; and the common law sanctioned the administering of the oath in the way most binding on the conscience of the person taking it. Parliament had decided by a resolution of the House that it could dispense with the mere form if it retained the substance of the oath; and therefore he was of opinion that the Members for London and Greenwich had entitled themselves to take their seats. The words "on the true faith of a Christian" were not necessary, and he was supported in that view by the common law. In courts of justice ignorant persons thought they committed no perjury unless they were sworn in a particular manner; but the common law was very different, and that notion was a fallacy. The 1st & 2nd Victoria, which was introduced by Lord Denman, settled the whole question, and established the principle that the oath most binding on the conscience of the person taking it was the proper form; and he apprehended that on that point there could be no doubt. He thought that the two 1346 cases of the hon. Members for London and Greenwich, though they were similar in their results—similar in the silly, idle resolution which had been passed in the onec ase, which the House was invited to repeat in the other—were yet essentially distinct; and that had been well pointed out in the paper which the hon. Member for Greenwich laid yesterday before the House. But no notice had been taken of that paper by the law officers of the Crown. It was evidently their wish to stifle inquiry, to extinguish discussion, and to precipitate a decision. But he hoped that the debates which had taken place last night and tonight, would have all the effect of an appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober; and he did trust that the House would now repent of its folly, and rescind its resolutions.
§ SIR ROBERT H. INGLIS
said, that this was a question upon which lawyers had an especial right to be heard; but he did not think the hon. and learned Member for Youghal was entitled to be an authority without appeal. The hon. and learned Member for Youghal appeared to him to be fighting against an unknown antagonist, when he contended against a doctrine which he (Sir R. H. Inglis) had not heard maintained in the House, namely, that Parliament had not power to alter the oath. Nobody had asserted that proposition. The question was not whether Parliament had power to alter the oath, but whether one branch of the Legislature had power to alter it; and on that point he contended that this House had no more power to alter the oath, than the other House and the Supreme Power in the State had power to make an alteration without the consent of this House. The hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. H. Drummond) had expressed a wish that some hon. Member would bring forward a Motion to settle the question by excluding Jews eo nomine from Parliament. He (Sir R. H. Inglis) should cordially concur in the success of such a proposition; but while he should rejoice in the success of any measure which would re-establish without the shadow of a doubt the Christian character of the Legislature of this country in all its integrity, still he should infinitely prefer that the two hon. Gentlemen who were named in the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury should be introduced into this House by what might be called an accident in their legislation, rather than that the 1347 House should deliberately, and of set purpose, pass an Act which would destroy the Christian character of the House. It was said that previous to the enactment of this Act, there was no law to exclude Jews from Parliament, and that their exclusion by means of this oath was an accident. Now, even if he were, for the sake of argument, to admit it, yet he must repeat again what he had formerly urged—and to which he had never heard an answer—that whether these words "on the true faith of a Christian," were or were not introduced previous to the time of James II., still the oath was administered on some symbol, or some book, or relic, which was closely connected with the Christian religion, so that it would exclude any Member of the Jewish persuasion from taking it. He should be glad to know whether it was any longer in their power to administer the oaths in any form to the hon. Member for Greenwich, after he had distinctly refused to take the three oaths according to the forms prescribed by law, and yet had sat and voted in that House. In his apprehension the hon. Member had, to say the least of it, incurred the forfeiture of his seat in Parliament. It was not only pecuniary penalties which the hon. Member had incurred, though these might be more than even his wealth might be able to meet; but he had also, in his (Sir R. H. Inglis') apprehension, incurred the forfeiture of the dearest hopes of his ambition—a seat in the House. He regretted that the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger) had withdrawn his Motion, and he hoped that some other hon. Member would afford the House an opportunity of deciding whether or not the Speaker should not issue his writ to the Clerk of the Crown for the issue of a new writ for the borough of Greenwich. He would say again, deeply as he should grieve that any one not a Christian should legislate for the Church and realm of England, that had been Christian for the last fifteen centuries—still he would infinitely prefer that that event should happen as the result of an inadvertence, as a mistake, as that which nobody had contemplated as likely to happen, rather than that the House should deliberately abandon its Christian character by expunging from the Statute-book the declaration that all their legislation should be conducted by men who acted on the true faith of a Christian.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 118; Noes 71: Majority 47.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Arbutbnott, hon. H.||Jones, Capt.|
|Arcbdall, Capt. M.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Baird, J.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Lacy, H. C.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Lewis, C. C.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Bellow, R. M.||Lockhart, A. E.|
|Birch, Sir T. B.||Lockhart, W.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Brisco, M.||Masterman, J.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Maxwell, hon. J, P.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Monsell, W.|
|Cardwell, E.||Morris, D.|
|Child, S.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Mundy, W.|
|Christy, S.||Napier, J.|
|Clements, hon. C. S.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Newport, Visct.|
|Clive, H. B.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Coles, H. B.||Packe, C. W.|
|Collins, T.||Palmer, R.|
|Compton, H. C.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Craig, Sir W. G.||Parker, J.|
|Crowder, R. B.||Portal, M.|
|Denison, E.||Prime, R.|
|Denison, J. E.||Pusey, P.|
|Duncuft, J.||Reid, Col.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Renton, J. C.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Ricardo, O.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Richards, R.|
|Elliott, hon. J. E.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Estcourt, J. B. B.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Fergus, J.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir. W.|
|Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.||Spooner, R.|
|Fox, S. W. L.||Stafford, A.|
|Freshfield, J. W.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Stuart, H.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Stuart, J.|
|Goold, W.||Thesiger, Sir F.|
|Gordon, Adm.||Tyler, Sir G.|
|Gore, W. O.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Waddington, D.|
|Grogan, E.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Gwyn, H.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Whiteside, J.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Wigram, L. T.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Hawes, B.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Wilson, J.|
|Herries, rt. hon. J. C.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Hodges, T. L.||TELLERS.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Hayter, W. G.|
|Hotham, Lord||Hill, Lord M.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Anderson, A.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Anstey, T. C|
|Alcock, T.||Armstrong, R B.|
|Bass, M. T.||Norreys, Lord|
|Bell, J.||O'Brien, J.|
|Boyle, hon. Col.||O'Brien, Sir T.|
|Bright, J.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Brotherton, J.||Osborne, R.|
|Brown, W.||Pilkington, J.|
|Butler, P. S.||Power, Dr.|
|Clay, J.||Reynolds, J.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Dashwood, Sir G. H.||Sadleir, J.|
|Dawes, E.||Salwey, Col.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T.||Scholefield, W.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Scobell, Capt.|
|Duncan, G.||Scully, F.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Evans, J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Ewart, W.||Spearman, H. J.|
|Forster, M.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Fox, W. J.||Tennent, R. J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Thompson, Col.|
|Granger, T. C.||Thompson, G.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Thornely, T.|
|Hastie, A.||Tollemache, hon. F. J|
|Henry, A.||Wakley, T.|
|Heywood, J.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Kershaw, J.||Williams, W.|
|Langston, J. H.||Willyams, H.|
|Locke, J.||Wilson, M.|
|Lushington, C.||Wood, Sir W. P.|
|M'Cullagh, W. T.|
|Milnes, R. M.||TELLERS.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Bethell, R.|
|Murphy, F. S.||Smith, J. A.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, at the close of the proceedings last night, stated that, if the hon. Member for Greenwich conceived it would advance his object, or tend to the more fair discussion and settlement of the question in which the hon. Gentleman was so deeply concerned, he (Lord John Russell) would not object to his being heard at the bar of the House, with regard to his claim to a seat therein. Now the hon. Member for Greenwich had not, up to this point, taken the course of asking the House to allow him to be heard either in person or by counsel at the bar; and he (Mr. Bright) was not authorised in any degree to say that the hon. Gentleman, on any occasion, would take any such course. But another course had been taken to-night, which had been productive of considerable advantage to the cause of the hon. Member for Greenwich. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Bethell) had submitted to the House a distinct proposition by way of Amendment, and expressed his opinion that two members of the Jewish persuasion having been elected to that House, and having taken the oaths in such manner as the House was bound by law to administer the same, were entitled to sit 1350 and vote in the House. Upon that Motion and Amendment there had been a debate of several hours; and the House had decided by a not large majority, that the Amendment should not be put, but that they should proceed to decide upon the Motion of the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Ministry. But it might be that after they had proceeded to that point, the hon. Members who were excluded heretofore by the vote of that House, might think it important to their object, in the prosecution of their claim to sit there, to ask the noble Lord and the House that they should be heard themselves or by counsel, as the case might be, in the prosecution of their claim. He had no authority to say that they would make any such request; but still he would request the noble Lord not to press the Resolution which he submitted that night, for he took it for granted that, if once passed, it was the intention of the House that they should not he at liberty to take any further steps in order to enforce their right to a seat in the House. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had made a suggestion, which was well worthy the consideration of the noble Lord and of the House. If the noble Lord, notwithstanding, persevered in the course which he recommended to the House, he thought that every unprejudiced man in the House, and he believed there were many unprejudiced men on both sides, would say that he was taking a course which was not sanctioned by the most distinguished lawyers in the House—a course which, however it might suit the noble Lord and hon. Gentlemen opposite, was, to say the least, open to extreme doubt—a course which would inflict the direst injustice on the hon. Member for Greenwich, and do a great constitutional wrong to the constituency which sent him to that House. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had delivered his sentiments with so much solemnity and earnestness that no person who heard him could doubt but that he was thoroughly convinced of the truth of the position he laid before them. The hon. and learned Member suggested that another Committee should be appointed for the purpose of reconsidering the question, with all the additional light which had been thrown upon it within the last few days. The noble Lord must be aware by this time, from the position in which he stood, that he was not infallible, for he had landed himself upon a nest of difficulties, from which he never could extricate himself un- 1351 less he took the advice of those by whom he was opposed on the present occasion. The appointment of another Committee could not possibly place them in a worse position than they were in at present; for if the Committee reported that the law was so emphatic that they must reject the claim of the hon. Member for London and the hon. Member for Greenwich, they could reject them with some show of authority and reason; but if, on the other hand, they reported, that—taking the precedent of Mr. Pease and the state of the law into their consideration—for both precedent and law should be considered—that these Gentlemen might be admitted to take their seats notwithstanding the omission of these words, then this great difficulty would be solved with perfect honour to the House, and without doing wrong to the Gentlemen who were hitherto rejected, or to the constituencies by whom they were returned. He would only make one further observation, in order to show the difficulty in which the noble Lord had placed himself by the half-way proceeding he had adopted in allowing the two Members to be sworn on the Old Testament, whilst at the same time he would not allow them to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian." In the Bill which the noble Lord drew up with the aid of the legal officers of the Crown, and which consisted of but one clause, the noble Lord thought it necessary not only to allow Jews to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian," but to take the oath on the Old Testament. That was a proof that the law officers of the Crown believed it necessary that there should be an Act of Parliament to enable the Jews to take the oath on the Old Testament; and yet, notwithstanding that belief, the noble Lord and the House allowed these two Gentlemen to take the oath on the Old Testament, whilst he would by no means excuse them from uttering the words "on the true faith of a Christian." That was a complete giving up of the ground on which the noble Lord now attempted to stand. The hon. and learned Member for Abingdon was therefore more logical in the view he took. But having allowed them to be sworn on the Old Testament, he thought they should be dispensed from the requirement of uttering the words "on the true faith of a Christian." That appeared to him to be the reasonable way of getting over the almost insurmountable difficulties of the question. The noble Lord, from a theoretic regard to the constitution, was 1352 practically violating it. They should construe the words of the Act of Parliament in a large and liberal spirit. If the Judges of the land acted on a literal interpretation of the statutes, they would not now be in. possession of half the liberties they enjoyed, and they would be still engaged in disputes about words. In order that the House might have the opportunity of discussing the question on the points he had put, he begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In answer to the first question which has been put to me by the hon. Member for Manchester, I may say that I stated yesterday, if the hon. Member for Greenwich wished to be heard, not by counsel, but by himself, as in the case of Mr. O'Connell, at the bar of the House, I thought leave ought to be given him for that purpose. My Motion to that effect stands on the Votes of the House. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Salomons) must have been well acquainted with what I stated on the subject; and if he had expressed any wish on that subject, he might have been heard at the meeting of the House to-day. I do not think, therefore, that it is now necessary to adjourn the debate, after it has gone on so long, for the purpose of ascertaining whether or no the hon. Gentleman wishes to be heard: and here I must repeat that the only way in which he could be heard would be to be heard by himself, and to be heard at the bar of the House—a proceeding probably to which he objects, or, at least, of which he has not availed himself. The next question of the hon. Member is, whether it would not be desirable to refer this question to a Select Committee. We have had a good deal of debate, both last year and this, upon this subject; and that we have not come to this debate without information, is evident from the fact, that though hon. Gentlemen have taken part in this debate who have not previously addressed the House upon this subject, and more especially the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury, whose authority deservedly stands so high, I do not think any Member has been able to adduce precedents and Acts of Parliament that have not been referred to, and that were not previously known to Members of Parliament who have paid attention to this subject. And 1353 it was only natural that such should be the case: because early in the last Session I said that I thought it was desirable that the House should be fully informed with regard to every point of the subject; and on the 12th March a Committee was appointed, on the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General, in order, not to report opinions certainly, but to bring under the notice of the House the precedents and Acts which bear on this question. The Committee consisted of the Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Lord John Russell, Sir R. Peel, Sir J. Graham, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Goulburn, Mr. W. Wynn, Sir R. H. Inglis, Mr. Attorney General, the Lord Advocate, Sir F. Thesiger, Mr. Cockburn, Mr. Henley, Mr. Hume, Mr. Napier, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Turner, Mr. W. Patten, Mr. Walpole, and Mr. Wood. Now, I think that the House will admit that there could not have been a Committee more competent to the task which was assigned them. It is quite true that the Committee was not empowered, nor did they propose to themselves, to report any opinion on the subject; but the Members of that Committee had their attention turned, during several discussions, to the various Acts of Parliament. A report was drawn up by the Solicitor General, and that draft report was much considered by the Members of the Committee. Several learned Gentlemen belonging to the profession of the law pointed out other precedents and Acts of Parliament, which they thought bore upon the subject; and although the report cannot be said to be without errors, yet it had, upon the whole, brought before the House the general body of Acts and precedents upon the subject. Although the Gentlemen who formed that Committee did not give their opinions on the subject in the form of a Committee, many of them had made known, by their speeches or votes, what were their opinions on the law of the subject; and I think, therefore, that the House has had all the benefit which could be derived from the appointment of a Committee. It was, I believe, the general opinion of the Members of that Committee, as far as I could ascertain it during the discussions that took place there, that Baron Rothschild was not entitled to take his seat in this House. I did not certainly frame any words of my own on this subject; but my right hon. Friend the Master of the Rolls framed a resolution, which he submitted to the House. I have not relied, as the 1354 hon. Member for Manchester seems to suppose, entirely on my own opinions of the law on this subject; but it was after consultation with him and other learned Members of this House, that I adopted and supported the resolution to which we came. I think, therefore, there can be no advantage in appointing another Committee to inquire into the subject. I believe that generally Members accustomed to investigate these subjects, have for themselves, as it was their duty, examined the precedents and Acts of Parliament that bear upon it: in fact, as it had been matter of discussion during last year and the present, those competent to look into Acts of Parliament and the precedents of the House will have neglected their duty if they have not made that examination. My belief, confirmed by the speeches which I have heard, is, that they have made examination, and that every Member has made up his mind on the subject before the House. If it is the general wish of the House that there shall be a Committee, it is not a wish which I shall resist; but as the matter at present stands, I do not see the necessity for it, and I do not believe that it is the general wish of the House that there should be such a Committee.
§ SIR BENJAMIN HALL
said, if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich were to consent to appear at the bar, he would, in his opinion, take a very retrograde course. Within the last twenty-four hours, the hon. Gentleman had voted no less than three times, and had addressed the House as a Member of the Legislature. If he were to attempt, therefore, to address the House at the bar, he would he lowering and injuring the position which he at present occupied. It was possible, however, that the constituency of the borough of Greenwich might desire to be heard at the bar, and if they should present a petition desiring to be heard in support of their Member, they ought to be heard; and he thought that before this resolution was pushed, they ought to have an opportunity of presenting such a petition. With respect to the appointment of a Committee, he thought that the suggestion of the honourable and learned Gentleman who sat below him was a wise one, looking at the difficulties in which the question was now involved. It was true that last year a Committee was appointed, consisting of Gentlemen who were admirably fitted to conduct the investigation com- 1355 mitted to them; but look at the circumstances that had taken place since their report was made. Was it ever contemplated by that Committee that the House of Commons would put themselves in this extraordinary position: that they would first call upon a man to come forward as a Jew, admit him as a Jew, and then tell him to take an oath on the true faith of a Christian? Had not circumstances, too, been brought out in the course of this investigation and discussion, which rendered it clearly necessary that another Committee should be appointed? The noble Lord said, that he would take the same course which he pursued with respect to Baron Rothschild last year; but he (Sir B. Hall) denied that he had taken that course; for the only resolution now before them was one declaring that Mr. Alderman Salomons was not entitled to sit in that House until he should have taken the abjuration oath according to the form provided by law. The noble Lord had, upon this occasion, been altogether silent on the subject of removing the disabilities of the Jews, instead of pledging himself, as he had done on the previous occasion, to bring in a Bill at the earliest possible period after the meeting of Parliament. Why did he not now take the same course? The noble Lord said, "in the form provided by law." But he should like to know what was the law; for the Attorney and Solicitor General were divided in opinion upon the subject; and of six learned Gentlemen who had addressed the House, three were on one side, and three on the other. This "law," which was referred to, might be that of the right hon. Gentleman the Master of the Rolls; but it was clearly impossible that under these circumstances there could be any general definition of the law. If the noble Lord wished to take a course which was at once open and intelligible, he had better at once move the issue of a new writ for the borough of Greenwich. The effect would be that the electors of that borough would immediately return Mr. Salomons again, and that was the reason why this step was not taken. It was quite a mistake to suppose that the people of this country were indifferent to this question; for if they looked at the division list on the previous night, they would see that if the Members who voted at all represented the feelings of their constituents, two-thirds of the voters in the United Kingdom then voted in favour of Mr. Alderman Salomons.
§ MR. G. THOMPSON
said, that he represented the majority of the Hebrew community in the United Kingdom. Hon. Gentlemen opposite met that assertion with derisive and insolent cheers, and in those cheers he found the clue to their position. They looked at the law in this case not as men caring for the law, but colouring the law to suit their own prejudices. It was not a question of law, but of religious liberty on the one side, and religious intolerance on the other, which was before the House. The hon. Member who last addressed the House had pointed out the division of opinion which prevailed on the subject amongst the legal authorities; but of twelve learned Gentlemen in that House, while seven had decided that this question could not be settled without further discussion before a legal tribunal or a Select Committee, five only had given an opinion that there was sufficient information in regard to the law to guide them to a proper equitable settlement of this question. The noble Lord had it in his power to obtain a confirmation of the opinion he had stated so confidently. He might have issued a new writ to try the opinion of the constituency of Greenwich; he might have enforced the penalties which the hon. Member had defied, or he might have moved that he should be taken into custody by the Serjeant-at-Arms. But the course which he had taken proved that i he did not believe in the soundness of his own arguments, and was not prepared to redeem the pledge which he had given more than once in that House. Why, if he were in earnest upon this question, had; he not staked the existence of the Government upon it? The time was come for; liberal Members to demand the admission of the Jews to Parliament as a matter of: simple justice; hon. Members opposite had never conceded anything to justice, but everything to menace. There never was a question on which public opinion out of doors was more unequivocally expressed in accordance with the majority in that House. This was not a question to be trifled with, or which the Government should be permitted to trifle with. An insult had been twice offered to the City of London, and he wished to know what right the noble Lord had to sit there, when his Colleague was refused admittance? While he expressed an opinion that Baron Rothschild should be by his side, he lingered through four Sessions, demonstrating by his acts that his heart was never in the right place 1357 on this matter, and that he was never willing to stake any political power on the result. Viewing the question in a religious light, he believed that many of the Members of that House were below the Jews in point of orthodoxy of faith. Their religious theory was the same as his. He admitted that the Jews did not believe in the same Saviour as he did; but, according to high authority, that was merely a difference between a Saviour who is to come, and a Saviour who has come. The Jew really embraced the same truth. ["Oh, oh!"] As a question of laws the noble Lord ought in fairness to grant a Committee to inquire into it. The eighty-one Members who voted last night, and the seventy-one who voted that night, in favour of the right of the hon. Member to be admitted to that House, had a right to demand that what they believed to be a sound view of the law should he decided by a competent tribunal. He should vote against the main question, but still more willingly for the adjournment of the debate, which was moved by the hon. Member for Manchester.
§ MR. CHISHOLM ANSTEY
reminded the noble Lord of the pledge which be gave when the Committee of last year was appointed, and as a condition of their appointment, that their inquiries should not be so directed as to enable them to lay before the House either their own opinions or the opinions of any other persons whatever upon the question which their report was nevertheless intended to illustrate. They wanted now to know whether the abjuration oath was in existence at all—whether there was a precedent for putting it to any person with the omission of the words "on the true faith of a Christian"—and whether the profession of Christianity was necessary for a Member of Parliament, either by common or statute law, and what was the inherent power of that House to alter its proceedings from time to time, and more especially that now under consideration. But upon these points the Committee was not allowed to report any opinion, or make any observation; it was only appointed to search the Journals, and report precedents and Acts of Parliament relating to the question of the admission of Jews into Parliament without being sworn upon the Holy Gospels; also to report in what manner Mr. Pease was admitted, in what manner Jews and persons not professing the Christian religion were 1358 permitted to take oaths in courts of justice and other places where oaths were taken—questions which they had now got far beyond. They could not get to the end of the discussion of the main question that night, if the debate were allowed to proceed; for the noble Lord must either yield to the strong appeal made to him, and after passing his resolution propose a second, formed upon the model of the resolution of last year, or it would become necessary for some other Member to take upon him the burden the noble Lord was unwilling to bear. In either case, it was his (Mr. Anstey's) intention to move a Resolution, either in an independent form, or by way of Amendment, or addition to the Resolution before them.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 190: Majority 121.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. G. THOMPSON
moved, by way of Amendment, the following addition to the Motion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government:—And that this House, having regard to the religious scruples of the hon. Member for Greenwich, will exercise its undoubted privilege in that behalf, and proceed forthwith to cause such alterations to be made in the form and mode of administering the said Oath, as shall enable the hon. Member to take and subscribe the same.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
MR. J. A. SMITH
wished he could induce the noble Lord to consent to the adjournment of the debate. He made the appeal with the deliberate conviction that the time of the House would be saved by so doing. He was informed that on Thursday next a petition would be presented to the House from the electors of Greenwich, praying to be heard at the bar of the House by counsel in support of the Member returned by them to represent them in Parliament; and he would with confidence, under those circumstances, appeal to the noble Lord to consent to the adjournment of this debate until that petition had been presented, and until counsel had been heard in support of the claim of Alderman Salomons to sit as representative of Greenwich in Parliament.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
declared that to the Jews he owed no political or religious com- 1359 pliment; and he might remind the House that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, upon a very memorable and remarkable occasion, had occupied the chair at a meeting called to protest against Papal aggression; and that upon that and subsequent occasions he had used language anything but complimentary to the creed he (Mr. Reynolds) professed; but still, as a Member of that House, he felt no resentment towards him. He (Mr. Reynolds) objected to the Resolution of the noble Lord, but particularly to the word "abjuration," for it insisted, that unless Alderman Salomons perjured himself he could not sit in that House. What did the hon. Baronet the Member for the University of Oxford (Sir R. H. Inglis) say to that?—he who represented an ecclesiastical corporation—he (Mr. Reynolds) had heard it called the great monastery of this country—the hon. Baronet represented an important section of the Church, and the dignitaries of the Church, the preachers of the Gospel, who were bound to discountenance swearing of every kind. They had permitted Baron Rothschild to be sworn on the Old Testament, and allowed oaths to be taken in different ways. A Chinese witness was sworn, not upon the Old or New Testament, but upon a saucer; and if one of their Asiatic friends declared that they would not consent to be sworn on a saucer, yet was ready to swear upon a teapot, he supposed they would swear him upon the teapot. He begged to call the attention of the House to the words of the oath of abjuration, and he would remind them that Lord Clancarty and Lord Bradford had declined to take their seats in the House of Lords, because they could not swear that oath; and he (Mr. Reynolds) believed that if they did swear it, they would swear a lie. And yet they complained of Alderman Salomons, because he would not take this unpalatable oath. He (Mr. Reynolds) respected the conscience of a Jew, when, even to attain the highest pitch of worldly honour and power, he declined to swear to that which he did not believe. It never was a doctrine of the Catholic Church that princes excommunicated by the Pope could be murdered or deposed by their subjects, and therefore the oath was a living he and an insult. He (Mr. Reynolds) thought the proper course would be to abolish all those oaths; and he was glad to find that the sentiments he (Mr. Reynolds) uttered were re-echoed, not only in that House, but in 1360 another place. He wished to ask the noble Lord at the head of the Government what was the meaning of all the fencing that had taken place on this subject? He would remind the noble Lord that four years had elapsed since he was returned as the colleague of Baron Rothschild for the City of London, and since then Baron Rothschild had been re-elected almost unanimously. And what were they now doing? They were now declaring war to the utmost extent in their power against the electors of the City of London, and also against the electors of Greenwich. There was a great deal of harmony between the proceedings in that House, and the proceedings in another place. While they were forging chains in that House for the Jews, they were forging chains in another place for the Members of his (Mr. Reynolds's) persuasion. The House would soon be entitled to the designation of a second edition of Exeter-ball; it would, if it went on in the same course, become a religious conventicle. The electors of Greenwich might say to that House, "You have disfranchised us; we have elected a gentleman of station and talent to represent us, and you will not permit him to take his seat unless he swears to what he does not believe." Why, it would be much fairer to pass an Act of Parliament obliging the candidates to take the oath of abjuration on the hustings before they were put in nomination, because then, at all events, the electors would not be deceived. The oath of abjuration was as great an absurdity as could be imagined. It required men to swear that they would bear no allegiance to King James III., or any of his descendants, when the fact was that they had all been dead more than fifty years. The person who took this oath further swore that he would bear true allegiance to Her Majesty and to the descendants of the Princess Sophia of Hanover. He (Mr. Reynolds) was ready to observe that oath, and to bear true allegiance to Her Majesty; but how was he to trace all the descendants of the Princess Sophia? Yet this was what was termed one of the bulwarks of the British constitution ! He (Mr. Reynolds) was not in favour of a Committee, bearing in mind that the House could not sit more than a fortnight. He thought the fair and honest course would be to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets.
§ MR. ANSTEY
said, that it would be 1361 absurd to adopt the resolution of the noble Lord without some such words as his hon. Friend (Mr. Thompson) had moved for him, he being incapacitated by having moved an Amendment already; and as the noble Lord preserved a sullen silence, and did not say whether he would propose some words himself, or agree to a Committee, or to an adjournment, to allow the electors to petition, and considering that the question could not be discussed in the present temper of the House, he would move that the debate be adjourned.
§ Motion made, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. BRIGHT
thought the question which the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Anstey) had asked, deserved a fair consideration and a frank answer from the noble Lord. It had been stated that Alderman Salomons was not likely to ask the House to be heard at the bar; that, on the contrary, he insisted he had as good right to be within the bar as any hon. Member in the House. The hon. Member for Greenwich was willing only to defend himself in his place; but there was another party concerned—the constituency who had sent him there; and let the House bear in mind that hon. Members sat there for the sake of the rights of constituencies. The question before the House was one of extreme doubt and difficulty. The noble Lord did not deny it. The only law officer in the House who agreed with the noble Lord at all had admitted to-day that the question was one of extreme doubt, and that the legislation which the noble Lord maintained was a disgraceful legislation. The House had already had warning that the constituency of Greenwich was about to take a perfectly constitutional mode of bringing their case before the House by a petition praying to be heard at the bar. He (Mr. Bright) had the greatest confidence that the noble Lord, regarding his past life, his present opinions, the extreme doubt in which this question was involved, and its bearings on the rights of the electors of Greenwich, would not deny what those electors asked, or urge this question to a premature decision.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In the early part of the evening the question the House really had to consider, was very deliberately, fairly, and learnedly discussed. I had brought forward a Resolution which implies, if it does not say in direct terms, that the hon. Member for Greenwich is not entitled to sit without taking the oath of 1362 abjuration in a form different from that which he had proposed, and in the form in which hon. Members have hitherto taken it. The hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Bethell) proposed a counter resolution, and a very fair resolution, to meet that which I had proposed, namely, that the hon. Member for Loudon, and the hon. Member for Greenwich, having complied with all that the law requires, so far as the oath of abjuration is concerned, and having taken the other oaths, were entitled to sit and vote in this House. There were two propositions, the one contradictory of the other. The Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury was supported in a very able speech by him, and answered in another very able speech by the Attorney General. The debate was conducted in a manner worthy of the occasion. Other hon. Members, some of them learned in the law, spoke to that question, and confined themselves to the question which was really before the House. The House came to a decision that the proposition of the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury could not be put. It then remained for the House to decide whether or not—that restriction having been set aside—the resolution which I proposed could be affirmed. I can see no other course fairly open to the House than to come to a decision upon this question; or that if the debate upon it had been continued to too late an hour, the debate shall be adjourned. But, instead of continuing a discussion on the law—which, after all, is our business—we have since heard nothing but denunciations of this House for going against a liberal body of constituents, for not proceeding at once to affix a sense to this oath, and to authorise a mode of taking the oath, according to which they said Members sent by a numerous body of constituencies would be admitted to sit and vote; and denunciations against my conduct, for what the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) called maintaining legislation against the Jews, forgetting that for a number of years I have been labouring in this House to obtain a repeal of the legislation in existence with respect to Jews, and forgetting that when I was so engaged in the course of this present Session, the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. G. Thompson) was lecturing or travelling in America, and totally neglecting the duties he owed to the numerous body of his constituents of the Hebrew persuasion; and now he comes forward to support a Motion for adjourn- 1363 ment, having refrained from giving his vote I when that vote might have had great influence, and when it might have contributed to a change in the legislation. My belief is, if, instead of this declamation we hear with respect to the impropriety of Gentlemen putting a sense on the oath which we conceive ourselves, in our consciences, bound to do, the sense of this House had been such that we had had a very large; majority in favour of the admission of the Jews by means of a Bill—speaking without authority, but from my general supposition, if that Bill had gone up with a very large majority in its favour—my opinion is that the House of Lords would have been disposed to pass it; and if the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, and other hon. Members who now talk of the cause of religious liberty, had been here then to assist in that vote, they would have contributed something towards that result. My notion of promoting religious liberty is the endeavouring to do away with those laws which interfere with religious liberty, and certainly not, by attempting to strain the law, to put a sense on the law which it will not bear, and then to defend myself by saying I am doing it for the cause of religious liberty. The cause of religious liberty is not to be promoted by those means. For many years the cause of the Roman Catholics was brought forward in this House by eminent men, by Mr. Fox, Mr. Grattan, Mr. Canning, and Mr. Plunkett, who, at different times, warmly advocated the cause; but they never proposed that this House should admit the Roman Catholics by changing the oaths you were bound by law to administer. They thought it was the proper course to endeavour to obtain a change in the law; and I have no doubt I am pursuing the right course in this matter, and that nothing which the hon. Member for Manchester can say, will induce the House or the country to believe that I am one of those who were endeavouring to maintain the exclusion of the Jews from Parliament. The hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. J. A. Smith) has asked me whether I will not consent to the postponement of this debate, in order that the electors of Greenwich may come forward and present a petition to the House, asking to be heard with respect to the construction of the law. Whenever that petition—which I have only heard of to-night for the first time—is presented, praying to be heard on that subject, I think it will be the duty of this House to look to 1364 any precedent in regard to its conduct, and to what the justice of the case may require. But I cannot see there is any reason that the House should not, on its own authority, decide the question which is now before them, as to whether or no Mr. Alderman Salomons is entitled to sit in this House without taking the oath of abjuration in the form appointed by law. It appears to me this House is fully competent to decide that question for itself, and that it is bound to decide that question. I think it will be the duty of myself to bring in some measure which shall relieve the Jews from the disabilities under which they labour. I think it is a matter fairly to be considered whether the Bill to be brought in should be exactly in the shape of that which was introduced during the present year, or whether it should or should not be a Bill which should also affect other oaths, which, as has been remarked by the hon. Member for the city of Dublin (Mr. Reynolds), stand now in a very unsatisfactory state; but this I will say, I do think that the emancipation of the Jews from those disabilities which prevent, their sitting in this House, and holding political office, is a great public question connected with religious liberty, in which I certainly mean to persevere—I mean to persevere in that which is the due and regular course, namely, in asking the assent of this House to a Bill; for I believe that if there be a considerable majority in this House in favour of such a Bill, and if, as hon. Gentlemen say, the voice of the country support that opinion, without any sort of menace or threat to the House of Lords, but looking to what has been their conduct with respect to various measures that have been passed at various times, and presuming their conduct will be guided by the same wisdom and prudence—if they believe that the House and the country desire the abolition of those restrictions, you will not have to wait very long until, in the due course of legislation, such a Bill will be passed. I will do all in my power to obtain the passing of such a Bill in some shape or other; but this I will not do—I will not vote that to be law which I believe in my conscience to be contrary to law.
§ MR. BETHELL
begged the House to observe the miserable truism which was involved in the proposition of the noble Lord. It decided nothing, but left everything undecided, and yet it was to be held out to the country as the conclusion to 1365 which the House had come as the result of these deliberations. The proposition of the noble Lord was merely a piece of bad English, which, if adopted, would make the House supremely ridiculous in the eyes of the country. The courage of the noble Lord had become proverbial; but he (Mr. Bethell) never saw that courage exhibited in such a manner as on that evening, for the noble Lord, unaided and alone, had taken on himself to decide for himself the whole of this legal question. The speeches of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General had shown they were at variance in their opinions of the law affecting this question; and between the two, the noble Lord might say—How happy could I be with either,Were t'other dear charmer away!The very difficulty in which the noble Lord had been placed by those two hon. and learned Gentlemen, required him to assent to some such proposition as that by which he (Mr. Bethell) proposed to rescue him from difficulty. He would suggest to the noble Lord that he should add to his Motion words to the effect that it be referred to a Select Committee of that House to ascertain and report to the House in what form and manner the oath of abjuration ought to be administered.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 59; Noes 207: Majority 148.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. BRIGHT
did not wish to offer any opposition of a factious nature; and it was only because he felt the noble Lord at the head of the Government was running the House into serious difficulties that he recommended him to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and refer the question to a Select Committee. A very important petition was to be presented from the electors of Greenwich, praying to be heard by counsel at the bar of the House. He thought that the noble Lord had made a very unfair and ungenerous attack upon the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, who certainly had not merited it, and who had not transgressed the ordinary rules of debate. If the noble Lord adopted the suggestion thrown out, he would not sacrifice any of his character for consistency.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
could not accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Manchester; but on considering the 1366 acrimony which had been imported into the debate, it did appear advisable that upon a question of a judicial nature, their proceedings should not be marked with such a character. He would not, therefore, object to adjourn the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday.