HC Deb 28 July 1851 vol 118 cc1574-94

Order for Consideration of Petitions from Greenwich [presented 25th July] read.


said, that before submitting to the House the Motion of which he had given notice, he must, in the first instance, offer his own and the thanks of those whose interests he was about to advocate, to the noble Lord at the head of the Government for having permitted him to bring this subject before the House at that early period of the evening, and also as a substantive Motion instead of as an Amendment upon the Resolutions of which he (Lord John Russell) had himself given notice. It might, perhaps, be convenient to the House that he should state that in case any objection were offered to the Resolution which he should propose, he should divide the House upon it. The proposition which he had to submit to them was simple in its character, and was based upon justice and equity, and he hoped, therefore, that the House would assent to hearing the electors of Greenwich at the bar, rather than that they should be deprived of what they considered their just right and privilege. The facts of the case were simply these:—In 1832 the House determined that the borough of Greenwich was of so great and material importance that it ought to be inserted in the schedule amongst the places which were to return two Members to Parliament; and from that time to the present it had, of course, exercised its functions with which it was invested by the Reform Act; and it was a remarkable feature with reference to this borough, that although there had been contested elections whenever an opportunity was offered for the electors to record their votes, there was hardly an instance in which a gentleman entertaining other than what were called liberal opinions had been elected to the representation of the borough of Greenwich. Its population was about 80,000. At the last general election, in 1847, the seat was contested by three gentlemen, all entertaining the same, or nearly the same, political opinions. Admiral Dundas, who was at the head of the poll, had 2,409 votes; Mr. Barnard, 1,511; and Mr. Alderman Salomons l,236; so that at this election, when he came very late into the field, Mr. Alderman Salomans was defeated by only 275 votes. When, therefore, a few weeks ago a vacancy in the representation of this borough arose, Mr. Alderman Salomons felt that he had a fair right again to test the opinions of the electoral body, and he accordingly again presented himself to them. The circumstances of the election which ensued were rather singular. Both candidates entertained the same political opinions, and both were well known in the City of London, of which each was an alderman and a deputy lieutenant; but there was this difference between them, that the one was a Jew and the other was a Christian; and the inhabitants of Greenwich, actuated by the same feelings as those which had influenced the electors of the City of London, determined to test the question, and to advocate the rights of civil and religious liberty by returning a Jew to Parliament in preference to a Christian. Alderman Salomons was accordingly returned by a majority of 887 votes, having polled 2,165 votes, while his opponent had only 1,278. The hon. Member subsequently presented himself at the table of that House, and took the first two oaths. Previous to doing so, however, he demanded to be sworn upon the Old Testament; and the Speaker, acting under the Orders of the House, as conveyed in a Resolution of the House of last Session, declared without a dissentient voice that he should be so sworn, and therefore admitted him as a Jew to the table of the House. But when he came to the last words of the oath, the House determined he should be a Christian, and because he would not swear "on the true faith of a Christian" (the House having previously determined that he should be sworn as a Jew), he was ordered to withdraw. That was the absurd position in which they were placed; and they might rest assured that in these times of political inquiry, when the people were informed of everything that transpired in that assembly, that their proceedings were anxiously watched; and although many might differ with them, and censure their proceedings, let them not allow those proceedings to appear ludicrous in the eyes of the people, because, if they did, that assembly would become contemptible. After the hon. Gen- tleman was ordered to withdraw, he came into the House and voted three times; and the right hon. Gentleman in the chair had that evening read to them a letter, in which he stated that in consequence of his exercising that privilege, he was now threatened with actions. The House must also recollect that he addressed them; and every one who heard him must at all events have admired the determination which he had evinced to take his seat in that House, and the temperate and deferential manner in which he had addressed the House. A resolution was then submitted to the House by the hon. and learned Gentleman near him (Mr. Anstey), who, together with the Solicitor General, said that Mr. Alderman Salomons had taken the oath, and therefore should sit; while, on the other hand, the Attorney General and the noble Lord negatived the resolution; and a Motion now stood on the paper which would be brought on if he should not succeed in his Motion, declaring that, because the hon. Gentleman had not taken the oaths according to a law which was perfectly undefinable if they consulted the law officers of the Crown, he must be excluded that assembly. One party on this question contended that, though the law as it now stood was never intended to apply to the present case, yet, inasmuch as it was not repealed, it must apply; on the other side it was said, that the law was never intended to apply, and that so far was it from applying, that the Act of 1838 overruled its applicability. The one party said to the hon. Member, "You were never intended to be a Popish recusant convict; but you are one, and shall be so, although we admit you to be a Jew;" the other party said, "You are a Jew, and we do not want you to declare yourself a Papist." And, according to the Attorney General, although the hon. Member for Greenwich could not take his seat as a Member of that House, he had nevertheless taken the oaths at the table in so substantive a form, that if he foreswore himself, he would be amenable to a prosecution in a court of law. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, as far as he could understand, intended to oppose the Resolution which he was about to move, taking for his precedent the Resolution of last year. Now he thought that that Resolution was most hastily concocted, and most unadvisedly passed, and at whatever decision the noble Lord might arrive, he trusted that he would not again put a similar reso- lution on record, because he might depend upon it that the time would come when they would be obliged to rescind it, as they had the resolution which was passed in the case of Wilkes. Wilkes having published what was called an outrageous libel upon the King, and a most flagrantly immoral Essay on Woman, he was, on the 17th February, 1769, expelled the House. He was immediately re-elected by the electors, but the House nevertheless seated Colonel Luttrel by resolution, entering into a contest with the electors of Middlesex, similar to that on which they were about to embark with the electors of Greenwich. The result was, that in 1781 they had to pass a Resolution, declaring that the Resolution of the "17th of February, 1769, declaring that John Wilkes having been expelled the House, was and is incapable of being elected to serve in the present Parliament, be expunged from the Journals of this House, as being subversive of the rights of the whole body of the electors of this United Kingdom." Now he contended that if they passed the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord, they would pass one which would be subversive of the rights of the whole body of the electors of the United Kingdom; and he hoped that the noble Lord would not press it, because he did not wish they should stultify themselves by passing a resolution one clay, and rescinding it the next. The electors of Greenwich, knowing that such a resolution was about to be proposed by the noble Lord, had petitioned that they might be heard at the bar in support of what they believed to be their rights; and they set forth in that petition that they believed that their Member was under no legal disability, but was well qualified to serve them in Parliament. When he (Sir B. Hall) suggested the possibility of a petition being presented from the electors of Greenwich, praying to be heard by counsel, the noble Lord said that he would give no opinion at that time, but that he would search for precedents if any existed. He (Sir B. Hall) was at that time aware, and he was still further fortified in that opinion by searching the Journals, that there was no precedent for such a proceeding as this, because he was happy to say there had never before been a ground for it; the House had never before allowed a man to come to the table to be sworn on the Old Testament; and after thus admitting him to be a Jew, sent him away because he would not swear he was a Christian. But he had found a precedent for the course which the noble Lord now proposed to pursue in the only unreformed and irresponsible corporation in England—that of the city of London. In 1835, Mr. Alderman Salomons was elected alderman of the ward of Aldgate; but the election was annulled by the Court of Aldermen, who ordered a new election, when Mr. Humphery was returned. He (Sir B. Hall) did not object to Mr. Humphery holding that office; on the contrary, his hon. Friend was the beau ideal of aldermanic representation. In 1844, Mr. Alderman Salomons was elected for Portsoken Ward; but the election was again annulled, and a gentleman named Moon was appointed. In 1847 he was again elected alderman for Cordwainers' Ward; and the election then received the assent of the Court of Aldermen. He would say, let them rather follow the course taken by the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger), than adopt the course that was proposed by the Government. Let them order a new writ to issue, but let them not pass a resolution that a man must take a certain oath according to law, when the law is undefined. Let them take a manly course, as suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and put themselves at once in collision with the electoral body, and let them give the electors an opportunity of fighting the battle and asserting their rights in the same way that the House asserted theirs. The petition presented from the electors stated, that David Salomons had been duly returned, and had qualified himself to be a Member of the House. They believed that their Member laboured under no legal difficulty that would disqualify him to sit and vote, and they humbly prayed the House to permit them to be heard by counsel at the bar in defence of their right to elect their own representatives. He hoped, as there could be no precedent for the proceeding, the noble Lord would not put that forward as an obstacle for resisting the Motion which he (Sir Benjamin Hall) now brought forward. The electors of Greenwich had chosen Mr. Salomons for their representative for the purpose of trying this great and constitutional question. Let them be heard in support of their rights at the bar of the House, and let them employ the best advocacy they can to support their claims. That privilege they were fairly entitled to in the present undefined state of the law—a law which was never meant to apply to a case of this kind, and which one of the law officers of the Government had said did not apply. Let the House not refuse the electors of Greenwich the privilege to which they were entitled—hear what they had to say, and then come to a calm decision on the subject.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That the Electors of the Borough of Greenwich he heard by Counsel at the Bar of this House, in pursuance of the prayer of their said Petitions.


seconded the Motion.


considered that the Motion which had been submitted to the House by his hon. Friend was one that ought not to be agreed to. He hoped the House would be of opinion that the subject was one on which no further light could, by possibility, be thrown. It had been discussed on two separate occasions in this Session of Parliament as well as in the last. In the last Session the House had come to a solemn resolution on the subject, and the matter had been most fully and most elaborately discussed, not only by the Members generally of the House, but by the Members of the legal profession who have seats in the House. He could not think that counsel out of the House could throw any additional light upon it, nor persuade himself that any additional information or precedents could be brought before the House, or any additional Acts of Parliament, and therefore it would be a wasting of the time of the House to go further into the subject. The hon. Member who brought forward the question should have given the House some reason for believing that additional light would be thrown on the subject if counsel were heard at the bar; but he would put it to the House whether the hon. Gentleman could persuade them that any new light would bet hrown on the question? He (the Attorney General) would ask whether any person could suppose that this Motion was made for any other purpose than delay, and for keeping up excitement on the subject?


said, that if, as suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the electors of Greenwich had told them in their petition they had further arguments to urge, and new topics to touch upon, which could not have been brought forward before, the House would not receive the petition, for it would be said that, in referring to debates which had taken place in that House, they had committed a breach of privilege. The leader of the English Bar, however, must know that the House could collect more from a well-considered speech delivered by a Member of the Bar acting in his professional capacity, than from the speeches of thirty or forty Gentlemen, each anxious to forestall his colleagues, and avoid trespassing on his neighbour's arguments, yet not able to command the attention of the House. When the hon. and learned Gentleman said the subject had been well considered, would he also say it had been always well considered, or that an attentive hearing was given to the question on Monday last, until the hon. Member for Greenwich himself addressed the House? Were not hon. Members up to that period in a frame of mind which rendered it impossible to make an impression upon them by any argument? If they would not hear the arguments of counsel on the question, let them not proceed on it at all, but leave it to be decided by the courts of law. Instead of taking that course, they were determined to do the case as much damage as they could before it reached a court of law. That was the consistent, honourable, manly course that the Gentlemen who had cheered the Attorney General wished to pursue. However, if the hon. Gentlemen who are friends of the cause were true to themselves, it was their duty to prevent the House from coming to a hasty decision, which would prevent a British jury from doing justice, and a British Judge from correctly expounding the law. He (Mr. Anstey) was astonished that the Attorney I General did not hear the letter that had; been read from the Chair before this debate. In that letter the hon. Member for Greenwich told the House that actions for penalties had been commenced, and were now actually pending, against him. He further apprised the House that he had been advised by his counsel that it was his 1 duty to inform the House of that; and he I also told the House, that he was further advised that any resolution whatever, which I the House might adopt on the Motion of I the noble Lord, could be given in evidence; thus any resolution of the House would be applied to influence the decision of those two actions. And why? Because the whole question was one of construction, and it was a question on which two jurisdictions were competent to pronounce—namely, the Parliamentary tribu- nal—he would not call it a judicial tribunal—which he had the honour to address, and a court of law to which the case was about to be submitted. He spoke in the presence of lawyers, and he asked any of them to contradict him if he could, when he asserted that there was a species of comity (not to say obligation) that bound one court of competent jurisdiction to respect the decision of another court of competent jurisdiction, pronounced upon the same, or upon an analogous case. It would be the duty of a Judge before whom the resolution of that House might be produced, if germane to the matter—it would be the duty of that Judge to inform the jury that, whatever might be their own private opinions, it was their duty, as it was his, to pay great respect and attach great weight to what was a decision of that House. The question they were going to try was the right of the electors of Greenwich to elect a Jew to represent them in Parliament. The House did not deny their right to elect, or his eligibility to be elected, but they obstructed and prevented him when he came to take his seat. The electors asked to be heard by counsel against that decision—they said the privileges of the House did not reach so far—that the House could not set itself above the law of the land—and that the law was on their side. Speaking from his recollection of former precedents, the House should not be permitted to do this injustice without going through the decent form of hearing the parties aggrieved. In 1759 and in 1760 were, he believed, the two last occasions on which the House had attempted to use its privileges in obstruction of proceedings in courts of justice; but on those occasions they heard the parties, or made an order to hear them by counsel. He did not think that hearing counsel would change their purpose; but by hearing him they would observe the forms of justice, and present their resolution in a decent shape to the country that was going to examine, and he thought to reverse, their acts. The Members of that House had no power at all over constituencies except indirectly, and for the purpose of determining the eligibility of its own Members. The point which belonged to that House was the eligibility of Members; the point which was not theirs was the right of the electors, of which they could not be divested except by Act of Parliament. But that House took away the right of the electors when it adopted a resolution not having the effect of law which prevented a Member whose eligibility was confessed, whose legal possession of the seat was undenied, from voting and attending to his Parliamentary duties. It was for the sake of the House more than for the sake of the prejudged constituency of Greenwich, that he asked them to hear counsel at the bar. In the case of Aylesbury, when a similar point had been raised, the House came to a resolution that, according to the known laws and usages of Parliament, it was the sole right of the Commons of England in Parliament assembled, to examine and determine all matters relating to the election of their own Members, except in cases specially provided for by Act of Parliament. But the privilege thus asserted was examined in a court of law, and was found to be excessive, and the House of Commons had to recede from it, and they had no right to interfere with the electors of the country, except in cases specially provided for by Act of Parliament. He (Mr. Anstey) asked them to show him an Act of Parliament that gave to the House the right to set aside the election of the hon. Member for Greenwich, by an ex post facto resolution. Was there ever so moderate, reasonable, and just a request as that of the electors of Greenwich? A general election was approaching, and the great liberal constituencies would act so that the House of Commons would have to deal, not with the two seats for London and Greenwich only, but the House seemed labouring blindly to bring itself at once into a position of hostility with the people of England, and the courts of justice: if they did, they would have (as had been done in Stockdale v. Hansard) to retrace their proceedings. It was to save the House from a dilemma that the Motion was pressed on its adoption. It was with difficulty the hon. and learned Member for Aylesbury had been enabled to obtain a hearing for the few pregnant words he addressed to the House on the subject; an attempt was made to put him down, and to put down almost every Member who took the same side. Their statements were received with inattention or disregard. But the House would be bound to listen to counsel at the bar. The Government might desire to proceed to what they called more important business; but he denied that any business could be more important than what was now before them. Instead of the Government gaining time by the course they adopted, they would lose time, because they had rendered it incumbent on the friends of civil and religious freedom in that House to use against them all those constitutional forms of delay which Members of the House were empowered to use.


hoped that, in discussing this question, hon. Gentlemen would follow the advice which had been given by an honoured and lamented friend of his—a Chief Justice, who, at the close of a long circuit, recommended the Bar to put themselves on a short allowance of speech for the rest of the assizes: and the best way of acting on that advice would be to adhere closely to the subject. In his opinion the hon. and learned Member for Youghal bad entirely mistaken the argument of the Attorney General. His hon. and learned Friend never said it was necessary that persons who petitioned the House to be heard by counsel at the bar, should point out some new matter which they intended to bring before the House for consideration; but what he said was this, that they knew to what extent the discussion had gone; they knew that every point that could be urged had been raised and considered; and they could not believe that anything new would be brought before them to induce them to come to a different determination from that to which they had come in the last Session, when there was a solemn resolution on the very point now submitted to the House. The hon. Member had complained, and perhaps justly complained, that lawyers had differed on the subject before them; but he should like to know if there was any difficulty or embarrassment in consequence of that difference amongst the lawyers, how would they he assisted, not by hearing the question solemnly discussed on both sides, but by having counsel specially employed to take one particular view of it, and one view only? That was what he apprehended the Attorney General meant to convey, and did convey, in the observations he had made. It appeared to him that it really would be idle—that it would be trifling—if they were now, after all that had taken place on the subject, to allow the prayer of the petitioners to he heard at the bar, even though it was not objectionable in other respects. There was another question that arose upon the petition itself, which appeared to him entirely to remove the petitioners from any ground they might so urge upon them to be heard by counsel. The prayer of the petition was, "We humbly and earnestly pray that your hon. House will permit us to be heard by counsel at the bar in defence of our undoubted right to return our representatives." Who had ever disputed the right of the electors of Greenwich to elect their representatives? How would the principle involved in the question they had decided, and were called upon to decide, affect the right of the electors to choose their own representatives? The electors of Greenwich might, if they pleased, elect an alien, or they might elect a clergyman; but that House was not bound to admit a clergyman or an alien to take his seat. The question was not one as to the election of representatives, but whether the representative chosen had qualified himself to take his seat in the House. It appeared to him that, independently of the absurdity of hearing a one-sided argument on a question discussed so fully several times before, the petition did not contain any prayer on which they could possibly act, because they had never endeavoured to interfere, or claimed the right to interfere, with the electors of Greenwich in their choice of representatives.


said, that the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken was the last man who ought to object to the prayer of the electors of Greenwich, on the ground that the House did not wish to interfere with their right te elect whom they pleased; for the learned Member was precisely the Member who had wished to interfere with that right, for he it was who proposed to issue a new writ for Greenwich, because they had chosen Mr. Salomons; he made the same Motion last year, in the case of Baron Rothschild; and, had he succeeded, he might, by continually disputing the right of the electors, compel them to yield, and abandon the Members of their choice. It was probable that if that new writ issued, the electors would again return Alderman Salomons; but the hon. and learned Member might again move for the issue of a new writ; and though Alderman Salomons was returned a third time, the hon. and learned Gentleman might go on making Motions for new writs until the electors of Greenwich became tired of electing Alderman Salomons, and they might be forced to admit themselves beaten by the hon. and learned Member for Abingdon. The other objection of the hon. and learned Member was equally invalid—namely, that it was not right to hear counsel for the petitioners, because they could not hear counsel on the other side; but the learned Member forgot while, on the one hand, he admitted the importance of counsel being heard—for the argument admitted the possibility that the reasons alleged by counsel might influence the decision of the majority of that House—he was one of a majority who had decided the point to their own satisfaction, and who pretend that no more information was required. He should remember that the electors of Greenwich were the victims of that decision, and before final judgment was passed by the House, they asked to be heard. He thought the electors of Greenwich had great reason in their request, and he agreed with them in its propriety. He thought the electors and the Alderman had both been very unjustly reproached for the attempt that they had made lately to procure emancipation for persons of the Jewish persuasion, after the resolution to which the House had come last year; but there was a very great distinction between the two cases. He begged the House to remember, that when they were discussing this measure last year, they did it in a very slovenly and careless manner, owing to the assurance that was then given that a Bill would be introduced this Session at once to remove all doubts with respect to the law; and that when the seat was vacated the other day, the Bill had not been discussed in the other House, and the electors might well have supposed that such an act of relief at this day at least would have passed. Mr. Salomons, far from showing any disrespect to that House, was careful in not presenting himself to take his seat till the fate of that measure was known. He (Mr. Villiers) considered, looking at the majority by which that measure was rejected, looking to the arguments then used, which were entirely religious in their character, and with the view to exclude the Jews as Jews, that this House and the constituency were in a very different position in consequence, and they were bound to consider, looking at the utter hopelessness now of ever getting a Bill through the other House to emancipate the Jews, whether they were not themselves straining the law for the purpose of exclusion, and were not availing themselves of the spirit and intention of a recent statute passed purposely to relieve the scruples of persons of different reli- gions for the object of excluding the Jews. This was a novel position in which they were placed this year, and quite recently, and it became them to consider the thing afresh, and gravely to ascertain what was within their own power and privilege in accomplishing this object. He said it was hopeless for the Jews to expect a better fate in the other House, because he observed that those who voted against the Jews were not only those who generally opposed concessions of this sort, but persons who considered themselves peculiar champions of religious liberty, and who had put themselves prominently forward to defend that principle this year—a most extraordinary view certainly of religious liberty which should sanction in its name the persecution of the Jews; for, in truth, this was literally the only matter in this country in which religious liberty, properly understood, was in question—


said, if the hon. Gentleman had not actually transgressed the rule of the House in the allusion he had made, he had so nearly done so as to justify him (Sir R. H. Inglis) in calling attention to the circumstance.


admitted that, if he had referred to the other branch of the Legislature he was out of order. He thought he had used the other conventional phrase to express the same idea, but he would say "another place" in future, though he would not add, to please the hon. Member, a "better place." He was contending that the arguments used, and the particular persons voting against the Jews in "another place," made it impossible for them ever to expect a measure to pass that House, and he therefore was anxious that they should more deliberately apply themselves to the law as it now stood, to see if the Jews were now really excluded by it. For this reason he should wish to hear a short, calm, careful statement made at the bar by some responsible and learned person, retained and prepared for the purpose, so that they should be left in no doubt as to the statutes in existence, and the legal operation, as near as they could apprehend them, of their provisions. He thought the House would, by that means, have clearer information than they now possessed; for what was still left undetermined was what the law did really require on the part of persons taking the oath in question. He objected to the resolutions that had been proposed, beecause they only stated the thing in question, and did no- thing to decide it. The House was unanimous about the law being observed, but what it wanted to know was, what the law was that they were to observe? Expecting, therefore, information would be obtained and impressed more upon the House by hearing counsel, he should vote for the Motion.


said, that the real point before the House seemed to be lost sight of. The electors of Greenwich had changed their minds. They elected Alderman Salomons in order that he might appeal to the courts of law, after he had distinctly pledged himself to do so. Alderman Salomons appealed to the electors to elect him, in order that be might incur the penalties, that he might go before a jury and try the case at law. The electors returned him for that purpose; but now they asked to be allowed to change the issue, and bring to the bar the one-sided statement of their counsel, in order to induce the House to settle the question in their favour without appealing to the law. There was another important point. A great deal had been made of the election for Greenwich; but he (Mr. Newdegate) had stated before, and he now repeated the statement, that a very large number of the electors, from 1,500 to 2,000 abstained from voting, because they did not think that the contest between Alderman Salomons and Alderman Wire was a bonâ fide contest. Alderman Wire was taunted on the hustings with having received 2,000l. from a Jewish fund for advocating the cause of the Jews abroad; and although Alderman Salomons absolved him from having taken that sum, he said that he who was then his opponent as a candidate for the vacant seat for Greenwich, had been well remunerated. The question of principle was never raised at that election at all. The fact was, the question having already been decided by the House, the electors who voted for Mr. Salomons only did so that the question might be taken into the courts of law. Why should the Alderman have any preference over Baron Rothschild? The one represented London, and the other Greenwich; and was the latter of so much more consequence than the former, that the House should now depart from the precedent it had established? Greenwich, in his opinion, had nothing to recommend itself to that House. The expenditure at the last election had been enormous—the treating notorious; the porter pot seemed to be the symbol of the election; and upon the very hustings Alderman Salomons entertained the electors, by drinking porter himself, and by thrusting it upon his opponent. He could not believe that the House would stultify its decision in favour of such a constituency, and reverse the opinion so solemnly recorded last Session?


said, reference had been made to what took place on the election of Mr. Salomons to an aldermanic chair in the City of London; but, if the facts were fully stated, they would be found to operate against the proposal now before the House. Mr. Salomons was twice elected Alderman; but it was on both occasions declared by the Court of Aldermen that he was unable to take his seat. After the second election Lord Lyndhurst brought a Bill into Parliament; legislation took place on the subject, and, when Mr. Salomons was elected a third time, he was enabled to take his seat. Alderman Salomons took his seat among the aldermanic body, however, not by dint of any forced exposition of law, but by an Act of Parliament. That was precisely the course now recommended by the noble Lord; and in his opinion it was a just and constitutional course. He had always given his vote in favour of the admission of the Jews, and should rejoice to see Baron Rothschild and Alderman Salomons taking their seats in that House; but he should always resist any attempt to remove the disabilities under which they laboured, except by an Act of Parliament.


wished to explain that he interrupted the hon. and learned Member for Wolverhampton, because he thought that in the remarks he had made, the independent action of the other branch of the Legislature was interfered with, and that it did not arise from any captious feeling on his part. There was a great deal of verbiage in the petition of the electors of Greenwich about limiting electors in the choice of their representatives. Did that House limit them in that choice? On the contrary, was it not the law of the land that did so? Suppose the electors of Greenwich had elected one of the distinguished foreigners now in this country. Did the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Youghal (Mr. Anstey) mean to say that such a person would have been eligible to take his seat in that House as the representative of Greenwich? ["No, no!"] Why, surely a Christian Frenchman had as good a right to sit in that House as an English Jew. The law proscribed aliens, and the law proscribed Jews. The law of the land proscribed an alien as well as a woman or a lunatic from sitting in that House. The House of Commons was the exponent of the law; and Mr. Speaker, no doubt, was the exponent of the House of Commons when he directed Alderman Salomons to withdraw. That law laid it down, that before a person could take his seat in that House he must be of full age—that he must not be an alien—and, next, that he was to be possessed of a certain amount of annual income. In all those particulars, the choice of the electors of Greenwich must be limited. In every instance the choice of representatives to Parliament by the people of England must be limited by those considerations. They never had the right to elect a Member to Parliament, unless he fulfilled those conditions of the constitution. The law had declared that Alderman Salomons was ineligible to sit in that House. The whole point of the issue was, whether a man who was in such a condition of mind that he could not take the oaths required by law, was eligible to take his seat in that House? The electors of Greenwich would do well to consider that they might as well have chosen a woman, a minor, or a lunatic for their representative, as one who would not fulfil the conditions on which, and on which only, the law of England allowed a man to take his seat in that House.


rose amid cries of "Divide!" He thought it was not respectful to the petitioners to be so impatient for a division; and he hoped before the debate concluded, that some Member of the Government beside the Attorney General would address them upon the question. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) objected to the electors of Greenwich being heard at the bar, on the ground that they sought to change the issue; but what they said was, that Alderman Salomons had fully fulfilled the pledge he had given, and what they complained of was, that that House was prejudging the question before it could be brought into a court of law, and they prayed to be heard in defence of their rights. It had been said that it would be anomalous to hear one party at the bar, and not another; but there was nothing in the constitution or the practice of Parliament opposed to hearing both sides by counsel at the bar. He apprehened there was nothing in the practice of Parliament to prevent the Speaker appointing counsel to be heard at the bar in defence of the liberties of the House of Commons. The hon. and learned Member for Abingdon based his opposition on a mere quibble of words, for he said the electors did not pray that Alderman Salomons should be allowed to take his seat, but that they should be heard in defence of their right to elect their representatives. Now, where would be the use of electing a representative if he was not permitted to take his seat? On the other hand, the hon. Baronet (Sir R. H. Inglis) said they might as well have elected a woman or an alien. The difference, however, was, that an alien and a woman were excluded by law, whereas a Jew was not. The Attorney General met the statement of the hon. Baronet, who presented the petition, by saying that the object was delay, and that no new light was likely to be thrown upon the question by hearing counsel at the bar. The last observation of the Attorney General might be very true, and their continued advocacy of the matter might only make it more intricate. They had all heard the lines— Counsellor Parker, Made that darker Which was dark enough before; and, so far as legal doubts went, it was possible they might be made darker than ever; but at any rate he would beg the House to remember that it was the declared opinion of many hon. Members that the legal question was clearly and without doubt in favour of the seat being taken. With reference to the remark of the Attorney General, that the object was delay, he must say that he thought the very best thing the Government and the House could do was to grant delay. Did the letter which had been that day addressed to the Speaker, and read by him, not suggest a ground for delay? Two writs had been served upon Alderman Salomons; the question must be disposed of in a court of law, and probably would be decided before the House met next Session; and the House should remember that they might be called upon to produce their decision as evidence before that court of law. They were often told in that House not to proceed with certain matters because they were before the legal tribunals; and now, when they were informed that this case was before the competent tribunals, he called upon them not to prejudice the question by coming to a premature vote.


in obedience to the wish expressed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, that some Member of the Government, besides the Attorney General, should address the House, was quite ready to state his opinions. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that undoubtedly the electors of Greenwich had a locus standi upon this question; but it appeared to him that they had not, because he saw that in their petition they stated that the House contemplated some measure by which their undoubted right of electing representatives to the House of Commons might be interfered with. Now, there was no Motion before the House by which the rights of the electors were interfered with. The House was pursuing a sacred duty, which it was necessary for them to discharge when a Member came to their table to be sworn, namely, to see that he was sworn according to what they believed to be the law. Whether they were right in their interpretation of the law, was another question; but undoubtedly it was their duty to see that a Member, before he took his seat, took the oaths appointed bylaw. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that this case was not similar to that which was put by the hon. Member for the University of Oxford—that it was not like the case of the election of a woman, a lunatic, or an alien, as those parties had a legal disqualification; but it was similar to that of a person coming to the table and refusing to take the oath of allegiance. It was quite obvious that if a person came to the table of the House and refused to take that oath, he could not say that the privileges of the electors gave him a title to take his seat, notwithstanding his refusal to accept the oath; yet the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman went that length. His hon. and learned Friend asked what Was the use of having the power of electing a Member unless they had also the power of securing that he should take his seat. That was no doubt true; but in order to take his seat in the House he must comply with the rules and conditions which the constitution and the law require. This was not a question for the electors of Greenwich alone; it was a matter in which the whole kingdom was concerned, and in regard to which that House had a duty to perform in insisting upon the laws being respected and enforced. They might be mistaken as to the law, or the law might require to be altered. That was another point; but it was not a question on which they could hear the electors of Greenwich at the bar. As to the question of law, all they could do was to interpret it according to the best of their ability, and accordingly he had, for that purpose, submitted a Resolution to the consideration of the House.


said, it was because the electors of Greenwich considered that their Member had taken the oaths according to law, that they petitioned to be heard by counsel at the bar. He could not pretend to argue the question of law with the ability of the hon. and learned Members who had addressed the House; but he did undertake to say that, according to his feelings and judgment in construing the law, the hon. Member for Greenwich had really taken the oaths according to law. He rose principally to disabuse the minds of hon. Members with regard to an imputation which had been thrown out by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who had stated that the last election for Greenwich was characterised by intemperance beyond all former precedent. The hon. Member instanced the scene which had taken place during the nomination of the candidates. Now, on that particular day the sun shone remarkably bright, and his hon. Friend Mr. Alderman Salomons unquestionably felt its power, and having partaken of some refreshment, handed the porter to his opponent. It was from that circumstance alone that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire assumed that the whole electors of Greenwich on that occasion had been contaminated by the use of intoxicating liquors. On behalf of the electors of Greenwich, he (Alderman Sidney) altogether denied it. He denied also that the last election was not a manifestation of the public opinion of the electors of Greenwich. He could tell the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) that at the general election of 1847 not more than 3,000 persons voted in the borough of Greenwich, whilst at the last election not less than 3,443 electors registered their votes. They decided by an immense majority that Mr. Alderman Salomons should be their representative; and whatever might be the legal quibbles introduced into the discussion of this question, the common-sense view of it out of doors was that Alderman Salomons had taken the oath required by the Legislature in a way which was binding on his conscience, and had qualified himself in every respect to sit as the representative of the borough of Greenwich. He (Mr. Alderman Sidney) asked the House whether they were now prepared to declare as null and void the solemn act of the electors of Greenwich? If Mr. Alderman Salomons was again sent back to his constituents, they would again return him triumphantly as their Member. This struggle might be prolonged, but he could not doubt for a moment that the common-sense understanding of the people of England would settle this question, whether or not the Legislature felt disposed to settle it. He believed the Jews, as Jews, were not popular in this country; but if it was intended that the Legislature was to be permitted to construe an Act of Parliament in a manner to mock the understandings of the people of England, he believed the Jews would become the most popular candidates at every election throughout the country. He believed in his conscience that Baron Rothschild and Mr. Alderman Salomons had taken the oath of abjuration in a legal and constitutional manner; and it was on that ground that he should vote in favour of the electors of Greenwich being heard at the bar.


rose amid loud cries of "Divide!" The question at issue was one which came fairly within the jurisdiction of that House. It was of much more importance than hon. Members seemed to be aware of; it did not concern merely the electors of Greenwich and of the City of London, for it was a question bearing upon the rights of constituencies, and on the cause of civil and religious liberty in general. The intolerants who opposed the admission of the Jews, had not made themselves acquainted either with ecclesiastical or political history. That House had no right to step in between those electors and the exercise of their undoubted constitutional privilege to select whom they pleased to represent them in the Commons House of Parliament. A general election was not far distant, and that House might take his word for it, that those Members who were now endeavouring to prevent the electors of Greenwich and London from exercising their constitutional privilege, would find to their cost that they had committed a most fatal blunder. They might call themselves Christians; but in acting with so little charity to their Jewish brethren, they were acting more like Pagans than Christians, and were pursuing a course at variance with the precepts of our Saviour, as promulgated in the sermon on the mount.

The House divided:—Ayes 75; Noes 135: Majority 60.

List of the AYES.
Adair, H. E. Mangles, R. D.
Aglionby, H. A. Martin, J.
Alcock, T. Mitchell, T. A.
Anderson, A. Moffatt, G.
Anstey, T. C. Morris, D.
Armstrong, R. B. Murphy, F. S.
Barron, Sir H. W. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Bass, M. T. O'Connell, M. J.
Bell, J. Ogle, S. C. H.
Bethell, R. Pechell, Sir G. B.
Bright, J. Pinney, W.
Brocklehurst, J. Power, Dr.
Brotherton, J. Robartes, T. J. A.
Brown, W. Salwey, Col.
Clay, J. Scobell, Capt.
Cobden, R. Scully, F.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Seymour, H. D.
Dawes, E. Sidney, Ald.
Dawson, hon. T. V. Smith, rt. hon. R. V.
D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.T. Smith, J. B.
Duncan, G. Spearman, H. J.
Ellis, J. Stuart, Lord J.
Evans, Sir De L. Sutton, J. H. M.
Evans, J. Tennent, R. J.
Ewart, W. Thompson, Col.
Ferguson, Col. Thompson, G.
Forster, M. Thornely, T.
Fox, W. J. Tollemache, hon F. J.
Geach, C. Villiers, hon. C.
Heathcoat, J. Wakley, T.
Heywood, J. Walmsley, Sir J.
Hindley, C. Wawn, J. T.
Hobhouse, T. B. Westhead, J. P. B.
Keating, R. Willcox, B. M.
Lacy, H. C. Willyams, H.
Locke, J. Wilson, M.
Lushington, C. TELLERS.
M'Gregor, J. Hall, Sir B.
Mahon, The O'Gorman Smith, J. A.
List of the NOES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Carew, W. H. P.
Baines, rt. hon. M. T. Carter, J. B.
Baldock, E. H. Chichester, Lord J. L.
Bankes, G. Child, S.
Baring, rt. hn. Sir F. T. Clements, hon. C. S.
Barrow, W. H. Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.
Bellew, R. M. Cockburn, Sir A. J. E.
Berkeley, Adm. Cocks, T. S.
Berkeley, hon. H. F. Coles, H. B.
Birch, Sir T. B. Collins, T.
Blackstone, W. S. Conolly, T.
Blandford, Marq. of Cowper, hon. W. F.
Boldero, H. G. Craig, Sir W. G.
Booth, Sir R. G. Cubitt, W.
Bowles, Adm. Currie, H.
Bramston, T. W. Denison, E.
Brisco, M. Denison, J. E.
Broadley, H. Disraeli, B.
Brooke, Lord Divett, E.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Dod, G.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.
Cabbell, B. B. Dundas, Adm.
Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D. Mackinnon, W. A.
East, Sir J. B. Maunsell, T. P.
Edwards, H. Maxwell, hon. J. P.
Egerton, W. T. Mullings, J. R.
Estcourt, J. B. B. Naas, Lord
Fergus, J. Newdegate, C. N.
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Packe, C. W.
Forester, hon. G. W. C. Palmer, R.
Fox, S. W. L. Palmer, R.
Freestun, Col. Palmerston, Visct.
Freshfield, J. W. Parker, J.
Fuller, A. E. Peel, Col.
Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E. Plowden, W. H. C.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Portal, M.
Graham, rt. hon. Sir J. Pusey, P.
Greene, T. Reid, Col.
Grenfell, C. P. Ricardo, O.
Grenfell, C. W. Richards, R.
Grosvenor, Earl Russell, Lord J.
Gwyn, H. Sandars, G.
Hale, R. B. Seymour, Sir H.
Hall, Col. Seymour, Lord
Hallewell, E. G. Shelburne, Earl of
Hanmer, Sir J. Sibthorp, Col.
Hawes, B. Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.
Headlam, T. E. Spooner, R.
Heald, J. Stafford, A.
Henley, J. W. Taylor, Col.
Hervey, Lord A. Thesiger, Sir F.
Hodges, T. L. Thornhill, G.
Hodgson, W. N. Towneley, J.
Hogg, Sir J. W. Tyrell, Sir J. T.
Hotham, Lord Verner, Sir W.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Vyvyan, Sir R. R.
Jermyn, Earl Vyse, R. H. R. H.
Johnstone, J. Waddington, H. S.
Knightley, Sir C. Walpole, S. H.
Knox, Col. Watkins, Col. L.
Knox, hon. W. S. Wigram, L. T.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H. Williams, T. P.
Langston, J. H. Wilson, J.
Legh, G. C. Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.
Lemon, Sir C. Wynn, H. W. W.
Lindsay, hon. Col. Young, G. F.
Lockhart, A. E. TELLERS.
Lowther, hon. Col. Hayter, W. G.
Lygon, hon. Gen. Hill, Lord M.