HC Deb 14 March 1853 vol 125 cc166-72

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clause 1.


said, that the admission of Jews into Parliament was a subject which must interest all, the history and records of that wonderful people being impressed on our earliest memory. But it was a question of more than mere feeling. Did he consider the Jew simply as a man and a citizen of this free country, he should rejoice to see him enjoy all the rights of the one and all the privileges of the other, and take his seat among those who framed, amended, or abolished the laws which governed or maintained it. But while he viewed him as a legislator, and reflected that these laws not only regulated the foreign and domestic policy of the State, but also the government of the Church, and that one of his most important and gravest duties was to extend to the remotest bound of this vast Empire the knowledge and benefits of Christianity—desirous as he was to speak in a becoming spirit of the religious belief of others—he must protest against the admission into Parliament of one who, however wise, honourable, or benevolent ho might be, unhappily for himself, disbelieved the divine legation of the Eternal Son of God. Justice and truth alike forbade him to aid in promulgating doctrines which he conscientiously believed to be erroneous. There was no fear, it was alleged, of any great influence being exercised by the Members that could be chosen out of a body numbering little more than 40,000 in this country. But, was it a matter of numbers, or a question of principle? What body would they represent? What was their interest in this country? What social standing and position? In what degree of estimation were they held? Whom did the House propose to admit? Men without a country, legally naturalised here, but at heart aliens yearning for their ancient land. How could they legislate for a country which all but they fully regarded, and honoured, and loved as home? They considered themselves as a separate nation in a state of dispersion, and therefore forbidden to identify themselves politically with any State in which they were born or resided. Upon these grounds he was opposed to this measure.


said, he must condemn the mode in which the noble Lord pressed forward this Bill as most unfair. The Canada Clergy Reserves Bill was first on the paper for that evening; and, not being aware of its sudden postponement, hon. Members, who were absent, could not possibly have anticipated that the Jews' Bill would come on so soon, which would account for the thinness of the House at that moment. It also appeared to him that the noble Lord was taking advantage of the fact, that on Friday next, when he understood the third reading would be taken, many Members would have left town for the holidays; and thus a division taken on the third reading would give an impression to the country of a majority in favour of the measure, which was not real. He appealed to the noble Lord to postpone the third reading until after Easter.


said, he had only postponed the Canada Clergy Reserves Bill for the purpose of making alterations in it. The course he had taken would, in his opinion, facilitate public business; for if the third reading of the Jewish Disabilities Bill were postponed till after Easter, it might happen that there would not be enough to occupy the attention of the House for the whole of Friday evening. The subject had been so thoroughly discussed that he could not anticipate any new arguments upon it.


said, he had himself no objection to the Bill passing through Committee to-night, nor to the third reading taking place on Friday; but it would undoubtedly be more satisfactory to his friends around him if it were postponed till after Easter.


said, he could not consent to postpone the Bill, but he would undertake not to bring it on at a late hour on Friday. He would not bring it on after ten o'clock.


said, he did not understand what economy of time there could be in thrusting the Bill through its later stages in the way proposed by the noble Lord; in fact, passing it through three stages within the period of one week. The course now pursued, he contended, was not the ordinary method of dealing with a question of such importance as this; and if the noble Lord would not postpone the third reading until after Easter, his (Mr. Newdegate's) impression would be that the noble Lord regarded the division on the second reading as showing a strength in favour of the measure which did not really exist in that House. As to economy of time, there was plenty of other business before the House, and the noble Lord might rest assured that no time would be lost if he took other business on Friday. He trusted, therefore, the noble Lord would not be guilty of what appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate) a manifest disrespect for the feeling of the country, which, whatever the noble Lord might think, was very deep and intense against this measure—indeed, the more the subject had been discussed, the deeper had that feeling grown. He could declare, from his own personal observation, that that was the fact; and he conceived that nothing was calculated to create greater jealousy with regard to the conduct of the Government than the existence of a wide-spread impression that they were attempting to force the Bill through that House with improper haste.


said, that Easter fell exceedingly early this year, and notice of Motion had been given on the part of the Government that after the recess Orders of the Day should have precedence of Motions on Thursdays; thus the noble Lord would have an additional day for the consideration of the Government business. He appealed to the noble Lord, then, to reconsider the question, and to name as early a day as he pleased after Easter for the discussion on the third reading, in order that hon. Members might have a fair chance of being present to record their votes.


said, he was surprised at this attempt on the part of Gentlemen opposite to postpone the measure, and thought the noble Lord had exercised a wise discretion in determining to press for- ward and get rid of it as early as possible so far as that House was concerned.


said, as representing a large and important constituency, he willingly bore his testimony to what had been stated by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) as to the intensity of feeling which prevailed out of doors in respect of this Bill; and he entreated the noble Lord not to incur the charge of having proceeded with undue haste by taking the course he had indicated, but rather to postpone the measure until after Easter, that the constituencies might have an opportunity of expressing, by petition, their opinions with regard to it.


said, he also represented a large constituency, who formed part of the metropolis. The place he represented numbered 400,000 inhabitants, who were assessed at more than 2,000,000 sterling; and, speaking to some extent their opinions, he must appeal to the noble Lord not to think for one moment of postponing this measure. This was no new topic. It was the most unprofitable discussion that House could have; and surely when it had been so long debated on both sides, it was much better to arrive at a conclusion at once, for he was sure that, whatever eloquence might be displayed, not one single vote would be turned by it.


said, he considered that the request for postponement was a reasonable one. True, the question had been repeatedly discussed; but to assert that the principle of the Bill was not a novel one in its application to the law of England, was what no scholar or statesman would maintain; and he must say he had never heard a more extraordinary statement than that which was made the other night—that the Jews were excluded from this House by accident. He held that it was not unreasonable to request the postponement of the third reading until an early day after Easter; and that was the whole extent of the request which had been made.


said, the pretence for procrastination was to give the country time to consider the question; but for his part he thought time enough had been given for that purpose already. It had been debated in that House in every succeeding Session for many years past; and he remembered that when, five years ago, time was given for consideration, the result was, that instead of the petitioners against the measure being as two to one, the petitioners in its favour were as six to one.


said, that on the occasion to which the noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart) referred, he (Mr. Newdegate) had risen in that House, and asserted that the petitions in favour of the measure were got up by hired parties; that the signatures were in the first instance obtained at the rate of 3s. the hundred; that tables were stationed at different places in the streets for the purpose, and that one person would frequently write a dozen names at a time. That at length 3s. a hundred was not deemed a sufficient sum for the parties employed, and that at last a fixed duty of 5s. per day was afterwards paid to the men who procured the signatures. In this House he had openly declared that the signatures were purchased and paid for, and he offered to the noble Lord himself to prove it before a Select Committee; but the noble Lord dared not to move for that Committee. Twice he (Mr. Newdegate) challenged the noble Lord to do so, but he never dared to accept the challenge; and now, again, if petitions were got up and presented to that House in favour of the Jew Bill, he ventured to predict that the signatures would be bought as they were in 1847. On the other hand, with regard to the petitions against the Bill, he could answer for it, that the large number he had presented were genuine expressions of the opinions of various localities unpurchased and unsolicited. He (Mr. Newdegate) could assure the noble Lord that so little did the agents, employed to obtain the signatures in favour of the Jew Bill in 1847, like the work, that it was from them he had received the information with respect to the transactions to which he had referred.


said, he would also appeal to the noble Lord whether, upon the whole, and seeing the light in which the question was regarded by the religious feeling of the country, and that many Members had already left town, it would not be more satisfactory to let the third reading stand over until after the Easter recess.


said, he had no desire to proceed with unnecessary haste with the Bill; but he would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) that the Bill had been opposed upon its introduction, and also upon its second reading. The House, therefore, had already expressed its opinion twice on the subject, and after that he could not expect that its opinion would be changed. Besides, he had already undertaken not to bring it on at a late hour on Friday. This subject was a constant source of delay, and delay only would be the result if he assented to the suggestion, for, as he was now told that Members had left town, so he would be told the first week after Easter that they had not arrived.


said, the Bill in question was not of an ordinary character, but involved a principle of the utmost importance, and therefore it ought not to be pushed forward with unseemly eagerness, nor treated as an ordinary measure.


begged, in reply to the observation which had fallen from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), to give the statement of that hon. Gentleman the "most positive and absolute denial that courtesy enabled him to give." If, however, the hon. Gentleman really entertained the opinion he had expressed in reference to the subject, he (Mr. J. A. Smith) would be prepared, with the greatest possible readiness, to meet him on any occasion, and to give him an explanation of any accusation he might think proper to make.


said, he could not rest under the imputation of having stated that which was not correct. Now it happened that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was sitting near the noble Lord (Lord D. Stuart) when he (Mr. Newdegate) offered to prove the statement he had made; and if the hon. Gentleman was so confident of the inaccuracy of the charge, why had he not then accepted the opportunity offered him of testing it? Five years had elapsed since that, and he must say it was rather hard, at this distance of time, to be asked to prove it. At the time he made the assertion he intimated his readiness to produce the proof before a Committee of the House; under these circumstances, the hon. Member must forgive him if he did not consent now to retract the assertion, he had made.


Sir, I rise merely to say that, whatever may be the manœuvres of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), I trust that hon. Members on this side of the House, recollecting what they owe to the country, will pursue that course which their constituencies will approve of, and do their duty to the country, and, above all, to their Protestant Queen.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

House resumed.