HC Deb 09 June 1856 vol 142 cc1165-97

Order for Third Reading read; Bill read 3°.


I rise, Sir, to move to leave out all the words from the beginning of line 8 in page 2, and to insert the words of which I have given notice. It is with extreme reluctance I trespass once more upon the attention of the House with reference to this often discussed and all but exhausted subject. If I could bring myself to believe that it was a question of trifling importance—if I could ever feel any indifference to the subject, or permit myself to act upon the suggestions of my own ease and comfort, I should undoubtedly abstain from occupying further time with its consideration. But the more I consider the question, the more I feel the great importance of it, and I am therefore anxious to make one more effort to arrest a step which, according to my view, will be of the most serious detriment to the public interests of this country. I cannot hope to command the attention of the House, for I have nothing of novelty to say to it. All I ask is for its patience and forbearance, of which I have, on former occasions, received a very large share. Sir, it is unnecessary for me to explain to the House the character and nature of the Amendment which I propose; it is sufficiently intelligible. Its object, which must be apparent to every one, is to bring back the oath of abjuration substantially to the form in which it has existed without objection for 150 years, omitting from it those portions which have been objected to upon the ground of having ceased to be of any effect; and I think there are considerations which ought to induce the House to accept the Amendment which I now beg to propose. In considering the question, it may be useful to take a retrospective glance of the circumstances which have brought the question into its present position. From the earliest period of the existence of the Legislature down to the year 1830 it never entered into the imagination of any one that a person not professing the Christian religion could be a Member of the Legislature. In the year 1830, Mr. Grant first brought forward the Motion to relieve the Jews from the disabilities under which they laboured. And I should recommend to Gentlemen who are in the habit of asserting that it is merely by the accidental insertion of certain words in the oath that the Jews are excluded from the Legislature, to read the account of the various disabilities which are described by Mr. Grant to have existed no longer ago than twenty-six years from the present moment; and it will be found that those disabilities extended to their exclusion from almost every civil office and employment. Mr. Grant was not successful in his first attempt, but he renewed it with more success at a later period—namely, in the year 1836. From that year, however, down to the year 1847, there was a cessation in the agitation relative to the question, although in the intervening time various Bills had been passed relieving the Jews from disabilities and admitting them to certain privileges, amongst others to corporate offices. But in the year 1847 the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was returned for the City of London with Baron de Rothschild; and in pursuance of a pledge which the noble Lord gave on the hustings, from that time down to the present almost every year has been marked by some attempt, directly or indirectly, to introduce the Jews into the Legislature. The oath of abjuration was that which furnished what might be called the stumbling-block to the admission of the Jews; and, therefore, in the course of all their discussions it invariably was made the object of attack and animadversion. Undoubtedly there were objections to that oath, arising from a portion of it having become completely obsolete, there being no person in existence to whom it could apply. Unfortunately neither party felt disposed to do that which, I think, ought to have been done—namely, to omit those objections which were patent to all in the oath. Those who were in favour of the exclusion of the Jews from Parliament felt that there was some danger in touching the question at all, for fear of placing that portion of the oath on which they relied in jeopardy. Those, again, who were desirous of admitting the Jews into the House were unwilling to abolish the oath, because by so doing they felt that they would lose a standing argument as to that oath presenting the only impediment for the admission of the Jews. Under these circumstances, neither party was desirous of advancing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) taking advantage of this state of things, to use a familiar expression, made himself master of the position. He, there upon, determined to cut the knot asunder of the difficulties, by proposing a measure to abolish the oath of abjuration altogether. That oath, however, even by those who are in favour of the admission of the Jews to Parliament, is admitted to contain much matter of the highest importance. It is admitted that it contains the recognition of the Protestant religion, as laid down by the Act of Settlement. There were many hon. Members who were startled at the notion of getting rid of the whole of the oath, and of thereby abandoning the important recognition to which I have referred. But, unfortunately, they consented to the second reading of this Bill, under the expectation that they would be enabled to alter it in Committee according to their wish. The noble Lord the Member for London by this movement of the right hon. Gentleman, found himself placed in a subordinate position with regard to this question. The noble Lord was compelled to work under the right hon. Gentleman, he having got possession of the ground, by which the Jew was to be completely relieved from the disability under which he laboured. The noble Lord objected as strongly as any one to getting rid of those words in the oath which recognised the Protestant succession. The noble Lord introduced in Committee a portion of the oath of abjuration, omitting, however, the most important parts of it, as I am prepared to show, and inserting but a small modicum of the oath of abjuration. The question then is, whether we are content to abandon most important portions of the oath which have been taken by all Protestants and Christians without exception for 150 years, and be satisfied with the tame, meagre, lifeless phraseology which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London proposes to substitute.

Now, what is the nature of this oath of abjuration which we are called upon to abandon? A very great mistake appears to exist upon this subject. It has been supposed that the oath of abjuration is only an expansion of the oath of allegiance. Now, this is an entire misapprehension. The oath of allegiance is an oath which may be taken to the Sovereign by persons of all religious denominations; but the oath of abjuration stands upon much higher grounds. The oath of abjuration says:— I do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare on my conscience before God and the world, that our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria is the lawful and rightful Queen of this realm. Is there nothing significant in this oath? Is there nothing in this portion of it which ought to be retained? The title of Her Majesty to the Throne of these realms depended upon the Protestant character of her ancestors and the Act of Settlement. If it depended simply upon a mere abstract hereditary right, we know that a certain Roman Catholic Sovereign would be at this moment, de jure, king of these realms. Now, this is not a mere idle phantom or claim which is assumed, like our claim to the sovereignty of France, and which was continued up to a recent period. It is a vital principle. It is a claim which I shall show you is admitted and acknowledged, and is only not enforced because the time has not as yet arrived when it would be convenient to enforce it. This subject has been introduced to the House before by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), and it becomes peculiarly necessary to press it on the notice of the House in order to enforce the remarks I have made in respect to the existence of a de jure claim to the throne of England. In the year 1841, some years after the accession of our Gracious Sovereign, Archbishop Cullen, now the Pope's legate in Ireland, published a selection from the Papal bulls for the use of the College De Propaganda Fide, and he gave in a preface, which he addressed to Cardinal Fransoni, now I believe at the head of the College, the reasons why he published this selection from the bulls. He stated that it was— That all things may be in readiness which may appertain to the right and expeditious management of affairs. And he added at the end of the letter— That the edition contains all those Apostolic letters which have been promulgated since the first edition down to our own times, and the necessity or opportunity for consulting which may occur in the management of the affairs of the Sacred Council. Amongst those bulls which were selected for the use of the College, are two bulls which were published by Clement XIII., in 1759 and 1760. It is very significant that these two bulls are selected amongst eight in all, out of sixty-six other bulls. These bulls so extracted from the rest, and published for immediate use, were bulls as I have stated of Pope Clement XIII., and addressed to King James, as he calls him, "To our most dear son in Christ Jesus, the illustrious King of Great Britain." In them the Pope informed King James, as he called him, that he had nominated to certain bishoprics in Ireland, and gave his reasons for not mentioning "the King's" name in the letter of appointment. He said— That for reasons which his own prudence would suggest he had not mentioned His Majesty's name in the letter of appointment, but that he addressed the letters to him as a pledge that this omission of his name in these letters should not injure or derogate from his right of nomination, but that his right should remain uninjured. Now, let me ask, why these particular bulls are selected in this extraordinary manner, published, as is stated, for immediate use of the Propaganda, and brought out from the Papal armoury and burnished up by Archbishop Cullen, if this is not intended to be a claim to be brought forward on a fitting occasion? But this is not all. In a book published in Ireland, De Hiberniâ Dominicanâ, the following most remarkable passage is to be found—the more suspicious from its having been erased from several copies:— The heirs of Sophia of Hanover were placed on the British Throne as being the nearest of kin to the family of the Stuarts, who were Protestants. But," added the writer, "there are fifty and more Catholic princes of either sex who enjoy the right of nearer blood to the Stuarts which that most accurate genealogical tree of celebrated lineage which I hold in my hands distinctly exhibits. I will venture to ask whether you do not believe that Bishop Cullen possesses that genealogical tree, and that the selection of these bulls is not some of the fruit of that genealogical tree? This being the case, we are now to consider whether we, as Protestants and Christians, can believe that those words proposed to be omitted from the oath are insignificant or unimportant? I do truly and sincerely acknowledge, protest, testify, and declare, on my conscience, before God and the world, that our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria is the lawful and rightful Queen of this realm. Are you disposed to accept this lifeless phraseology proposed to be substituted for the strong and heartfelt assertions of the right and title of Her Majesty to the Throne of England. I believe that the noble Lord would have been as desirous as any one of retaining these words, if he could have done so consistently with the object which he has in view. We have heard from the noble Lord, on former occasions in this House, a noble declaration as to the sovereignty of Queen Victoria. But the noble Lord is in this situation—he is desirous of getting rid of the words, "On the true faith of a Christian," which constitutes the only impediment to the introduction of the Jew into Parliament; and if the noble Lord introduced all the other words of the oath which I propose, then the noble Lord would have no excuse whatever for not adding those words at the close of it; but, on examining the meagre and unsatisfactory modicum of the oath proposed by the noble Lord, the House will see that it is impossible to adapt those words to it. In like manner there are many hon. Members who, being anxious that the oath should be changed for the purpose of admitting the Jews to Parliament, are willing, for the purpose of accomplishing that end, to abandon all the remainder of the oath, which, nevertheless, they do not deem unimportant.

The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), on a former occasion, taunted me with not bringing in a Bill absolutely to exclude the Jews from Parliament; and the noble Lord at the head of the Government said that I might bring that question before the House on the Motion for the third reading. Now, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, I have only to say that there is no necessity for the introduction of such a measure, inasmuch as the members of the Jewish persuasion are virtually excluded by the oath of abjuration as it stands. In respect to the observation of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). I would remind him that it would be impossible for me to place distinctly before the House, for its consideration whether or not the Jew should be permitted to sit in Parliament, because that question would be entangled and embarrassed with those questions arising out of the important words of the oath proposed to be omitted. And that shows the wisdom of the course proposed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who, as we all know, is as anxious as any one in. this House for the admission of the Jews to Parliament. But my right hon. Friend not only suggested, put proposed, that the two questions should be separated from each other, and he proposed an Amendment, which would have brought the question of the admission of the Jews distinctly before the House, while, at the same time, he would have preserved in its substantial integrity this oath, which had always been taken, without any exception, for 150 years. It is, I maintain, quite impossible to mix up the question of the oaths to be taken by the Christian Members of this House, and that of the admission of the Jews to seats in Parliament. No Member of this House ought to try, by a mere change in the form of an oath to admit the Jews to seats in the Legislature, because the consequences would be, that the Jew would not merely be admitted to a seat in this House, but also to many other offices in the State, which it would be highly objectionable for a Jew to hold. On this particular point I will appeal to the noble Lord the Member for the City of London. In 1847, and also in 1853, the noble Lord sought to guard against danger from the introduction of Jews into that House by certain clauses which would have the effect of excepting certain offices from being held by Jews. These were offices connected with the United Church of England and Ireland—with the Ecclesiastical Courts—with the Universities, our colleges, and our schools. But, even as a Member of the Legislature, hon. Members have not looked sufficiently forward to provide for the duties which would devolve upon the Jew if he were ever admitted into this House. Suppose a Jew were appointed to sit on an Election Committee, which sat de die en diem, with the exception of Good Friday and Christmas Day, both of which days, of course, the Jews regard very lightly; but these Committees frequently sit on Saturdays, a day which the Jew venerates as his sabbath. Now, could the attendance of the Jew be exempted under such circumstances? I merely throw these things out as illustrations of the position in which matters would stand by merely acting upon the supposition that the difficulties of the question could be removed by simply adopting the changes proposed in the oath of abjuration, and without regarding all the circumstances which must be taken into consideration before the Jew, if admitted, could take his proper place in the Legislature. It is absolutely essential that there should be a distinction between the oath of a Jew and that of a Christian. When no objection is made so far as the Christians are concerned, why, I ask you, do you propose to remove all the important and significant parts of the oath which relate to Christians only, and from the obligation of taking which they do not desire to be relieved? Now, I feel that I have a right to expect that the support and the vote of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) will be given in favour of my views, because that right hon. Gentleman, in the course of one of the numerous debates on this subject, made the following statement— He frankly owned that he was glad the noble Lord retained these words in respect to all Christian Members of the House, considering the solemn duties which we are called upon to perform, He thought the noble Lord had acted wisely in declining to reduce that high standard which we had fixed for ourselves. What I ask the House to do is to retain the oaths with the objectionable parts weeded out, and to let the question of the admission of the Jews to Parliament be brought on as a distinct question.

Such is the position in which this question stands; but I am not unprepared to go further with it, if it should become necessary to do so. I am prepared, Sir, to insist on the retention of the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and to contend that there ought to be no thoroughfare into this House for any one but a Christian man. I am desirous of considering fairly the various arguments which have been brought forward in favour of the admission of the Jews into Parliament; but before I do so I would wish to clear the way by removing a misapprehension which appears to prevail in consequence of the expression which was used by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in the course of the debates on this subject, when he called upon the House to complete the edifice of religious liberty by admitting the Jew to sit in Parliament. A general impression seems to prevail that Parliament for a great number of years was gradually widening its doors for the admission of persons of all religious denominations, and that the Jew is the only person now excluded. Many hon. Members will, however, be surprised to hear that there has been no instance in which Parliament has interfered directly to seat amongst them any person of any religions persuasion, with the exception of the case of the Roman Catholic Relief Act, by which our fellow Christians, the Roman Catholics, are admitted to seats in this House. But their admission had been decided rather upon political than theological grounds. It is not, therefore, correct to say that Parliament has been gradually enlarging its doors for the purpose of admitting persons of every religious denomination. The Dissenter has never been excluded. Even during the existence of the Test and Corporation Acts there were members of that body in this House. The Unitarian has never objected to take the oath with the words "On the true faith of a Christian;" and in respect to the Quaker certain Bills were passed in the reign of George II., and without reference to the admission of that body into Parliament, by which they were permitted to make affirmation in all cases in which the oath was required from other religious denominations. When the question arose in the case of Mr. Pease, those Acts of Parliament were considered by the Committee to whom that case was referred, and they reported that the language of those Acts was so comprehensive as to admit the Quaker to a seat in this House. This is the first measure brought into this House since that of 1829 in reference to the admission of Roman Catholics, by which an attempt is made deliberately and distinctly to introduce a person into Parliament who was not of the Protestant religion. There is an argument used which I confess it is irksome to me to advert to, and that is one which has been often made on these occasions, and which has been as often refuted, namely, that it is merely by an accident, by the insertion of certain words at the end of the oath, and which had been introduced with quite a different object, that the Jew had been excluded from a seat in this House. I really was astonished that the acute and original mind of my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond), should have revived this exploded fallacy. If it were not presumptuous to suppose a single combat between the noble Lord the Member for London and myself on this ground, I should say that we have mutually conceded to each other this point, and have brought it to a position in which no argument can arise from the circumstances under which this oath was framed, and that therefore the introduction of such an argument as that to which I have referred is no longer tenable. I have admitted again and again to the noble Lord, that at the time these important words were introduced into the oath, there was no intention by such language to exclude from Parliament members of the Jewish persuasion; inasmuch as at that time there were comparatively speaking no Jews at all in England; and the noble Lord has admitted on his part that no one at that time ever contemplated the possibility of the Jew being entitled to sit in the British Legislature. But unfortunately this argument was urged upon the very last occasion when this Bill was under consideration. With a view of closing this controversy I will trespass upon the patience of the House by reading the judgment of Mr. Baron Parke in the case of Miller v. Salomons, in reference to this point— But it is a fallacy to argue that, because the immediate object of the Legislature was to give a more binding effect to a Christian oath, not to exclude the Jews and others than Christians, therefore they meant all such to be admitted, and consequently that the terms of the oath ought to be modified so as to carry that object into effect, and to permit all not of the Christian faith to take the oath in a form binding on their consciences. Nothing was further from the contemplation of the Legislature. The truth is, they never supposed that any but Christians would form a part of either House of Parliament. The possibility that persons of the Jewish persuasion should be peers, or be elected Members of Parliament, probably entered their contemplation as little as that of Mahomedans or Pagans being placed in cither category. Both of these are, in effect, on precisely the same footing in this respect as the Jews, and the argument applies equally to them all. In enacting a provision aimed at a peculiar class only of Christians, the Legislature have, in the most positive terms, required an oath from every Member of the Legislature which none but a Christian can take; and this enactment must have the effect of closing both Houses of Parliament against every one but a Christian. Now, an hon. Gentleman, in the course of the last discussion on this subject, adverted to the circumstance that between the first and the thirteenth William III. there was no oath containing the words, "on the true faith of a Christian," and he argued that during that period a Jew might have taken his seat in this House. I must, however, remind the hon. Gentleman that the Jews at that time were regarded by this country as aliens, and were charged with an alien duty.

I will now proceed to another class of arguments used by the advocates of this Bill. The first generally brought forward is this—that all the subjects of a free State are entitled to an equality of civil rights. Now, Sir, I am prepared to concede that point in the fullest possible manner. But, then, we must understand what is really meant by the term "civil rights," because if "civil rights" are intended to include political power and office, then I utterly deny the proposition that the subjects of a free State are equally entitled to the enjoyment of civil rights. Every subject of a free State is no doubt entitled to the full enjoyment of property, to the liberty of his person when he does not offend against the law, to civil and religious freedom within the limits of the constitution. He is equal in the sight of the law with all his fellow-subjects. But political power and office are not the natural right of all persons in a free State. They belong to those only to whom the State thinks proper to assign them. If this principle be not correct, all the qualifications for, or disqualifications to, office in this country are utterly unjustifiable. I think it will hardly be denied that it is competent to a Christian community to impose, as a restraint upon the exercise of a certain office, the profession of a certain religion, and that it is also competent to relax the obligation as to certain offices and to retain it as to others. And, therefore, I hardly think that anybody will venture to maintain that the claim of the Jew to a seat in the Legislature can be placed upon the abstract right of all persons in a free State being entitled to equal civil rights. But, then, it is said, "Oh, you have given judgment against yourselves, even admitting you are right in your decision. You have given political power and office to the Jew, and, therefore, you cannot, in justice, withhold from him a right to the higher office in the shape of a seat in the Legislature." Now it is no doubt true that by various Acts of Parliament we have empowered the Jew to fill the offices of Mayor, Sheriff, and Magistrate; but it is argued, and I think with success, that there is a most important distinction between admitting a person to a subordinate office, and making him, in some degree, supreme, by enabling him to sit in the Houses of Legislature, and assist in making our laws. In the subordinate office the magistrate has merely to administer the law that is made by a Christian Parliament. If such a person be guilty of any violation of duty, he is amenable to punishment. But a Member of the Legislature, in that character, is superior to the law. He has nothing to guide him but his moral conscience and responsibility, and how any one can assume, because by admitting the Jews to inferior offices, we are bound to admit them also to seats in this House, I am at a loss to conceive. And, Sir, I cannot help thinking that there may be circumstances which, even in the cases of those subordinate offices to which reference has been made, make the holding of these offices incompatible with the profession of the faith of a Jew. I am sorry to be compelled to advert to this particular subject; I would willingly pass it by; but I feel that I cannot. Sir, I find in the newspapers that on the Thanksgiving Day the Lord Mayor and the Corporation of London went in state to the Cathedral of St. Paul. That was the Lord's-Day, which was selected for the purpose of our "entering into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise,"—thanksgiving and praise offered up in the only name by which our praise can be acceptable to God. There, seated on high, in the midst of that congregation, and in all the pomp of official dignity, sat one to whom those prayers must have been a profanation and a farce. How is it possible not to sympathise with the devout worshipers in that temple on that day? What must their feelings have been? How distressed must they have been; and how disturbed their devotions at such a sight? Sir, the Lord Mayor's presence there was essential to his office or it was not. If it were not necessary, then it was only a gratuitous profanation of his faith. If it were, then that is a striking instance in which the faith of a Jew is incompatible with the holding of even one of those subordinate offices. And give me leave to say—to remind the House that if we do not ourselves guard against the introduction of the Jew into such offices, we may, over and over again, if the Jew be elevated to the judicial bench, see a repetition of this profanation. That, I earnestly hope, the House will take into its serious consideration.

But, Sir, to pass from that to the consideration of those other arguments which I have heard used in debates on this question. One of them is of rather an extraordinary nature. It is said, "Well, but you have virtually admitted the Jew to the Legislature—at least you have admitted him to a share in the legislation of this country by giving him the elective franchise." Now, I know very well what would be said of me—how such an argument as that would have been characterised if I had used it. To argue that the possession of an infinitesimal share in the election of a representative to sit in this assembly and assist in making laws for the country can have the slightest analogy to the giving to the Jew a place in the legislature, and allowing him to take a part in making the laws for this nation, seems to me the most remarkable argument—a most extraordinary—the most subtle argument I ever heard. Theoretically—metaphysically, perhaps, there may be something like a shadow of reason in it; but practically, and to all intents and purposes, it amounts to an utter absurdity. "But then," it is said, "putting aside the question of the Jew being allowed to share in the election of a representative in Parliament, some electors of large constituencies like that of London have chosen to elect a Jew to represent them in Parliament; and their choice ought to be regarded and their wishes fulfilled." Now, this is an argument which has been used by the Archbishop of Dublin, (Archbishop Whately) who has most consistently and most honourably maintained the right of the Jew to sit in Parliament; and who has ultimately narrowed the question to this ground—that the choice of the electors is decisive. I ventured on a former occasion to quote the argument of the most rev. Prelate, and was rather roundly taken to task by my right, hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), who said that I had grossly, though no doubt unintentionally, misunderstood the argument of Archbishop Whately. Now, Sir, I have read as much as most men of the works of that admirable author; and certainly if there be one thing more than another characteristic of his style, it is the transparent clearness of his language. So that, however I may differ with him, it is quite impossible for me to mistake his language. Since then I have found a partial confirmation of what I said in the preface of a work recently published by the Archbishop—The Remains of Bishop Coplestone. In that preface, Archbishop Whately, in referring to different topics on which he agreed or disagreed with the Bishop, says— I never could consent to join issue on the question, the only one usually discussed, whether a Jew, or any one else not professing Christianity, Should sit in the House of Commons, because I regard that as a question which should be left in each particular case to the decision of the electors. Now, if the most rev. author means to say that this matter should be left to the consideration of the electors by the Legislature introducing a law to that effect, undoubtedly he has not expressed himself with his usual felicity. But let that pass; and let us come to the argument. The electors of London say, "We are a powerful and numerous constituency; and we have over and over again deliberately elected a Jew as our representative. You ought to respect our feelings and our wishes, and to accept our choice; and it is highly improper that we should be interfered with by any law of yours which excludes a Jew from Parliament." With great deference to the electors of the City of London, I beg leave to say, that they have put their case on a most erroneous basis. They may be a very powerful constituency; but they are only a minute fraction in the general constituency of the country. They are not to choose for themselves; but for Parliament and for the nation. They have no right to elect any one who is incompetent to sit in Parliament. If they do so, they act precisely as if they did not exercise their right of election at all. If a claim like that made by the City of London were admitted, similar privileges may be claimed by other constituencies, some of whom may think a miner would be a convenient representative, others a tidewaiter or an alien. In that way the law may be broken in upon according to the wishes of the different constituencies, if we listen to the argument upon which the City asks us to seat Baron de Rothschild.

Now, Sir, I believe I have, as shortly as I could, gone over the various arguments which are usually brought forward when this question is discussed in this House; and the House will observe that up to the present time I have not referred to that which is really the important and the vital question in this case. Notwithstanding the various arguments put forward in considering this matter, it is perfectly clear that the strength of our case rests upon sacred ground. I confess that if it were not for the religious element in this question—if we were not to consider the matter in its religious aspect—I should be perfectly indifferent as to whether the Jew sat in Parliament or not. Our opponents have endeavoured to draw us off the high ground on which we base our case, to bring us down to combat with them on a lower theme; but I confess that I can never consent to abandon the vantage ground upon which we must stand as Christians in this case, or not stand at all. Unless the religious part of this case operates to exclude the Jews, it is immaterial to me whether they be unnational in their habits and customs. It is a matter of perfect indifference to me whether they be strangers or sojourners in the nation where their lot is cast, looking forward for an inheritance in another land. All that is to me wholly unimportant. In a civil view of the question I would not oppose the introduction of Jews to the Legislature on such grounds as these. It is not on such grounds, therefore, but upon much higher considerations, that I own I base my opposition to this measure. Now, Sir, it is admitted, I believe, pretty generally that our institutions—the institutions of this country—have Christianity for their foundation, and it has been over and over again emphatically said, that Christianity is a part of the law of the land. In whatever sense those words may be understood every one, I think, will be disposed to admit that it would be rather an anomaly in a Christian country, and where the institutions of the country were Christian, if any person who was not a Christian were permitted to take a part in the making or the altering of those laws which are themselves founded on Christianity. But the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) on a former occasion made use of an argument which I observe is repeated in a leading article this morning in a journal that takes care to give a direction to our debates and tell us the arguments that are to be used. The noble Lord said, "You talk of unchristianising the Legislature. Why, if by admitting the Jew into Parliament you would unchristianise the Legislature, you have, then, by admitting him amongst your people unchristianised the country." With great deference to the noble Lord, I do believe that had such an argument been used against him, he, by his powers of sarcasm, would have instantly withered it into atoms. To suppose that there is the slightest similarity between the case of those people mingling with your people—or, I should rather say, amongst them, for though the Jews live amongst us they are not of us—not concerning themselves with the Christian religion, not interfering in the remotest degree with the religious observances of the country, but enjoying the benefit and the blessings of a Christian Government—I say, Sir, that to argue that there was the slightest resemblance between the case of a people so mixed up in any way with the people of this country, and that of the Jews placed here in the supreme station of Legislators to make laws respecting the religion of this country—to have the power to enact laws to govern a Christian community—does appear to me to be the most extraordinary argument that can possibly be adduced. Now, the noble Lord is obliged to be inconsistent with himself, when he argues as the advocate of the Jews. The noble Lord is deeply impressed with a sense of religion. I am satisfied that the noble Lord is a sincere believer in the Christian religion; but the noble Lord is unfortunately in a false position when, with religious feelings strong in his mind, he is compelled to come forward here as the advocate of the case of the Jew; for, says the noble Lord, in a speech to this House— And I shall state more; when speaking of the Legislature which has to dispose of and to control the various interests, ecclesiastical and secular, of the country, religion ought to influence and control the decisions of its members. May I venture to ask the noble Lord what religion? The answer is obvious. The Christian religion. That is the high standard to which all our laws ought to conform. That ought to be the guide, the controlling principle of all our legislation; but I can scarcely believe that the noble Lord is preserving that principle pure and simple, when he is endeavouring to infuse into it some little of the Mosaic.

Sir, I look with astonishment at the union of parties whom I see banded together for the one common object of carrying this measure. In the first place, I find the advocates of "civil and religious liberty." Now, I believe that those Gentlemen are most sincerely attached to the religion they profess, but those who enlist themselves under the banner upon which those words are inscribed, are usually Dissenters and opposed to the Church Establishment. We have in addition to those, certain Gentlemen who are of opinion it would be desirable to emancipate the Church from the State, and to revive Convocations in all their power. There could be nothing more calculated to advance their object than for Parliament once to pronounce that religion had nothing to do in our deliberations, and that the Jew might be admitted to a seat in this House. But, Sir, if once that proposition is maintained by Parliament, I cannot understand how it will be possible afterwards to defend the Church Establishment in connection with the State. Therefore, those two parties, the advocates of civil and religious liberty and those who desire to emancipate the Church from the State, are bound up together in this alliance, and by different means are pursuing the same end. Associating with those two parties are the Roman Catholics, who, of course, are no friends to the Established Church, and who are, of course, ready to aid in the furtherance of any measure that would promote the object they have in view—namely, the defeat or destruction of that establishment. These, Sir, are the parties to this combination, united together each to advance the particular object it has in view, and all hoping to obtain what they desire by seating the Jew in the Legislature. Now, Sir, I tremble for the consequences of the false step of erasing from the oath "on the true faith of a Christian." You cannot stop there; other demands will be made on you. The infidel—the man not influenced by any religious obligation at all, but who has what he calls a conscience, which is guided by what he calls his morality—he also will desire relief; he will ask to be relieved of the necessity of all oaths. If you take this step you must yield to him, because you cannot stop short on your downward progress; and ultimately, by its own act and its own admission, the Legislature will have been deprived of its Christian character. By the omission of these words, the Legislature will deprive itself of that great character; and at length it will be becoming avowedly irreligious, by requiring no test at all. Sir, I feel most deeply on this occasion. When I was admitted to this House, I solemnly took the oath at this table "on the true faith of a Christian." I took upon myself that part of the duty of a Legislator which required me to assume the badge of a Christian. I took it, not for the purpose of a crusade against the religions professed by other persons; but. Sir, I assumed that badge as a pledge that I would defend the sacred interests of Christianity which were entrusted to my care. Sir, I know perfectly well that I shall be charged with being actuated by a persecuting and intolerant spirit. I am not insensible to that charge. I regret most deeply, if my motive should he misunderstood. I have no personal hostility to any one or to any religion; I have no desire to persecute any one. I do not, by my endeavour to preserve the Christian character of this assembly, in any way show a persecuting spirit, because it is not for the purpose of persecuting the Jew—it is not for the purpose of compelling him to adopt another religion, that I appear here. It is in self-defence. It is in defence of the ark of Christianity before which I stand, and which I shall defend against Jew or any other party by whom I think it is in danger of being assailed. I trust, Sir, that this House will do the same. I hope we shall hold fast to our duty as Christians without wavering in the discharge of the solemn duty that is imposed upon us. I trust we shall not set an example to the people of this country of indifference to Christianity; but that we shall, as their representative, preserve in this House that respect which they outside manifest it for themselves, and which constitutes the glory and happiness of this country.

Amendment proposed, in page 2, to leave out from the beginning of line 8 to the end of line 14, in order to insert the words— I, A.B., do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare in my conscience before God and the world that our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria is lawful and rightful Queen of this Realm, and of all other Her Majesty's dominions and countries thereunto belonging: And I do swear that I will bear faith and true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and Her will defend to the utmost of my power against all traitorous conspiracies and attempts whatsoever which shall be made against Her Person, Crown, or Dignity: And I will do my utmost endeavour to disclose and make known to Her Majesty and Her successors all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which I shall know to be against Her or any of them: And I do faithfully promise to the utmost of my power to maintain, support, and defend the Succession of the Crown against all persons whatsoever, which Succession, by an Act intituled 'An Act for the further limitation of the Crown and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject,' is and stands limited to the Princess Sophia, Electoress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the Heirs of her body being Protestants: And 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, mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever; and I do make this recognition, acknowledgment, and promise, heartily, willingly, and truly, upon the true faith of a Christain. So help me God," instead thereof.


said, he must complain that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had moved the Amendment had, on a former occasion, thrown out imputations of disloyalty against a distinguished Prelate of the Roman Catholic Church, than whom there was no man in the British dominions less obnoxious to such charges. He had accused Archbishop Cullen of publishing a collection of bulls, one or two of which had been promulgated with the intention of asserting the right of the Pretender to the Crown of these realms; and from this act the hon. and learned Gentleman had endeavoured to deduce the inference that Archbishop Cullen, as loyal a man as himself, was disaffected! He (Mr. Bowyer) had been favoured with a letter from the most rev. Prelate, relative to this matter, and would read from it an extract which would place the question in its true light. The accusation, it should be premised, had been made on the authority of Mr. M'Gee:— The work to which Mr. M'Gee and Sir Frederic Thesiger refer, is a collection of bulls and other documents connected with the Propaganda, or found in the archives of the Sacred Congregation. It consists of six volumes—I think in 4to. There are some briefs appointing bishops, at the recommendation of the Pretender, which were inserted merely as historical documents not previously published. It would be absurd to suppose they were published as having reference to our times, when the Stuart family does not exist. There are several similar documents in the Bullarium Magnum. I think Mr. M'Gee can make very little capital out of such publications. Besides, it was a collection which would not have been complete without those documents. That statement of the most rev. Prelate would, he was sure, be accepted by the House as a complete refutation of the charge of disloyalty which had been raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The charge itself was one of those ridiculous mare's nests which the hon. and learned Gentleman and the two hon. Members for North Warwickshire were in the habit of discovering, and which were frequently left unnoticed by the Roman Catholic Members, from a conviction that their Protestant colleagues generally would, of themselves, through their own good sense, perceive the absurdity of such statements.


I am sorry, Sir, to have to trouble the House once more upon this matter, but, as the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Sir F. Thesiger) has made an elaborate vindication of his opinions upon this subject, I do not think it would be respectful to him or dignified in this House to proceed at once to a division without taking any notice of his arguments. Let me first observe, that upon this subject the advocates for the admission of the Jews into Parliament stand in a more advantageous position than they did before. The position is this —the hon. and learned Gentleman abandoning the old oath—giving up that which is usually taken by Members of this House—proposes a new oath and new securities, and also in the new oath proposes to insert specific words in order to exclude the Jews. Now, that, Sir, I consider is a great advantage for those who are arguing for their admission, because it is a concession that the oath as at present framed cannot be maintained. It is, I assert, perfectly absurd to renounce the Stuarts, of whom none exist, as claimants to the Throne. If we are to have a new oath, to be taken by Members of this House, I think that in that oath we should not go beyond that which is necessary, or at least presents an appearance of necessity, and we should not load the oath with superfluous words and superfluous engagements; but we should only ask, when men come to the table on a solemn occasion, to claim a right to sit in this House as Members of the Legislature, that they should enter into engagements which are proper for us to require and for them to undertake. Now, when I look at the oath proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, I find a great deal that is unnecessary. In the oath proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman are these words— I, A. B., do truly and sincerely acknowledge, profess, testify, and declare in my conscience, before God and the world, that our Sovereign Lady Queen Victoria is lawful and rightful Queen of this realm, and of all other Her Majesty's dominions and countries thereunto belonging. Now, Sir, I hold that to be quite unnecessary. A person who has just taken the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty is called upon to repeat an assurance that Queen Victoria is the rightful Sovereign of these realms. I can well understand there was a time when Parliament thought it advisable—whether wisely or not I will not say—that, as there were persons who, admitting William III. as the Sovereign de facto, still regarded James II. as the Sovereign de jure, Members who came to be sworn should testify and declare that William III. was the lawful and rightful King. But, Sir, there is no occasion for such words now that the subject of the controversy has long since disappeared. Therefore, I do not think that we should call on the Members of this House to swear that which there is no occasion to swear. The hon. and learned Gentleman then goes on to say in the oath he proposes— And I will do my utmost to disclose and make known to Her Majesty and successors all treasons and traitorous conspiracies which I shall know against Her or any of them. I do not see what especial propriety there is in a Member of this House taking that oath, any more than any other of Her Majesty's subjects. It is the duty of all persons who take the oath of allegiance—of all loyal subjects—to make known all traitorous conspiracies which shall come to their knowledge. The lowest and poorest of Her Majesty's subjects is equally bound to that duty as the Members of this House. There is no reason why Members of this House should be more likely to come to a knowledge of traitorous conspiracies than any other subject of the Queen, therefore, I do not see that that passage in the oath is necessary. Privy Councilors, and those filling the offices of Secretaries of State, may have means of learning the secrets of traitors, and it would be their duty immediately to take means to counteract the attempts of the traitors; but it is by no means the duty or the business of a Member of this House to make himself peculiarly acquainted with any danger likely to affect the safety of the Crown. But the hon. and learned Gentleman has laid, and properly laid, the greatest stress upon the maintenance in the oath of the words, "on the true faith of a Christian." He adverted—I hardly know for what purpose or to what intent—to the controversy as to whether those words were originally intended to exclude Jews from Parliament. I imagine, whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman may say, that there is no doubt they were not intended for any such purpose. Giving the hon. and learned Gentleman the benefit of the supposition that Jews would have been excluded—if the Jews in the time of James II. had attempted to obtain seats in this House—I think, on the other hand, it must be admitted that the words were not intended for that purpose, but were intended as a more solemn form by which certain Roman Catholics, who were believed not to be loyal to the Protestant Sovereign, would be bound without power of evasion. The words were meant to secure the fidelity of Christians, not to procure the exclusion of the Jews. That is a point of considerable importance, when you attempt to frame a new oath, of which the simple object is to exclude the Jews; but it appears to me the most simple plan is to do what was done under the Common wealth, and as is now done in some of the States of the American Union—to compel the person seeking admission to the House to declare and testify that he professes the Christian faith. Under the British monarchy that has never been required; but it appears to me that, if it be intended to exclude Jews from Parliament, that is the plain and simple mode of doing it. No one will dispute with the hon. and learned Gentleman that there are certain qualifications which the Legislature has a right to impose, whether in regard to the holding of offices or sitting in Parliament. But, on the other hand, unless you have strong grounds of exclusion, it is the common right of every subject to enjoy such offices, to obtain such legislative power as the favour of the Crown or the election of his fellow-countrymen may bestow upon him. Any capricious exclusion may have the effect of excluding Englishmen from the just objects of English ambition, and that, as has been truly said, is one of the greatest hardships you can impose upon them. Therefore, you must not only say, "I choose to have qualifications and exclusions;" but you must show that such exclusions are founded on the strongest grounds of State policy, and even of State necessity. That necessity, as to the Jews, I maintain has utterly and completely failed of proof. I have often had before to say that I do not think mere ground of religious faith is a proper ground of exclusion; and I say, in the second place, with the greatest confidence, that, if it were a ground of exclusion, tests and oaths do not enable you to ascertain the religious opinions of any man. I know of nothing in the faith of the Jew, believing as he does in the Old Testament, which should prevent him from doing his duty as a Member of this Legislature, and, with respect to any political acts in which he may be called on to concur, performing that duty faithfully. The hon. and learned Gentleman has done me the honour to refer to an opinion which I gave—that I do think religious obligation is incumbent on this House in its legislation. He looks to that religious obligation in the form of an oath—in precise words. Well, Sir, I do look to it in the convictions and persuasions of this Christian community. I think that, unless the people of this country do feel that religious obligation, you never can create it by means of an oath. If it were necessary, there is no want of illustrations on this subject. At the present time religious obligation is generally felt, whether by members of the Established Church, by Protestant Dissenters, or by Roman Catholics having seats in this House; but if we look back to the time soon after this oath was imposed, what do we see? A man as distinguished for his talents as, perhaps, any Member of this House ever was—Lord Bolingbroke—sat here as leader of this House. I know not whether he had then adopted the opinions which he afterwards, in the most elaborate work, endeavoured to promote, but we know that, when he had adopted those opinions—when he had written that work, it was the ambition of his life to be a Member of the House of Peers, to be admitted to the table of the House of Peers, where he would have said— I sincerely speak these words, without any equivocation, mental evasion, or secret reservation whatsoever, and I make this recognition of my promise, heartily, willingly, and truly, upon the true faith of a Christian. Now, Sir, Lord Bolingbroke had no difficulty in declaring those words. Mr. Gibbon, who sat in this House, likewise had no difficulty in declaring those words. My hon. and learned Friend, I was happy to hear, acknowledged, on a former occasion, that with respect to men who do not feel this obligation—who do not feel it to be an immoral act to make such a declaration without being persuaded of it—you can have no security whatever. What, then, is the value of the religious test which the hon. and learned Gentleman is desirous to impose, and what is the justice, what the policy, of saying to a Member of this House, who has been duly elected, and comes to the table and says he does not see anything in the oath to which he objects; but, in fairness and honesty, he must tell the House that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" are not binding on his conscience—what are the justice and policy of telling him, "You are really a man who feel religious obligations—you are clearly a man who will not deceive us—you are acting according to your own belief and faith, and you are totally unfit to sit in this House; but if we can find a man who will dissemble in that respect, and whom we know by his own writings to be totally opposed to every Christian sentiment and every Christian belief, that is the man we will trust? "The argument is one which has certainly been well beaten, because it has been discussed not only upon this question but upon the Catholic question, when it was maintained, and at length triumphantly maintained, that religious faith ought not to be a ground of exclusion from this House. I am sorry the hon. and learned Gentleman feels it an imputation upon him, yet I cannot but say the exclusion savours as much of persecution—that is, it savours as much of the principle of punishing a man on account of his religious faith as any other persecution of a cruel description, which has been inflicted in past times. I am sorry to see that in the dominions of the King of Sardinia a man has been sent to prison for six months for reading, in the open marketplace, certain passages of the New Testament, because the effect was said to be to bring the Christian religion into contempt. That is an act of persecution, and your exclusion of the Jew rests on precisely the same principle. I do not enter into a defence of the Lord Mayor—whether he was right or wrong in going to St. Paul's on the Thanksgiving-day. No doubt he meant to say, "As Lord Mayor of this great city I am ready to render homage to God, and to join in the celebration of peace so happily restored to the nation." I have always put this question on the general ground of religious principle. It is rather for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), who, on the peculiar ground of the merit of the Jews, always advocates their cause, and always votes in their favour—it is for him, rather than for me, to show the merits of the Jews. I do not claim their admission to this House as a sort of indulgence, I claim it as a matter of right and justice; and I do trust the smallness of their numbers will not prevent their having that justice granted them which was granted to the Roman Catholics when their claims on the ground of religious liberty were too powerful to be longer resisted. Sir, I entirely oppose the Amendment.


Sir, I should certainly have contented myself with recording my vote this evening, if I had not thought the question before us of such grave importance as to justify a brief statement of the grounds on which that vote will be given; but I feel heavily discouraged while venturing to follow the noble Lord the Member for London in the debate. Sir, the claims of the Jews to sit in our Legislature have, during the last quarter of a century, been repeatedly and earnestly urged, and as resolutely resisted, without reference to party considerations, by the most distinguished men of the age—by as enlightened statesmen and as devoted Christians as ever adorned either House of Parliament—and among the latter I would undoubtedly class the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who has been so prominent an advocate of this measure, and than whom, I believe, no more sincere and earnest Christian sits in this House. The question, therefore, must be one of serious difficulty, and involve considerations of proportionate weight and magnitude. Having always felt a profound interest in that question, I have from time to time read, I believe, everything that has been said on it, in this and the other House, weighing every argument carefully and dispassionately, sincerely anxious to form a right judgment on the matter; for I avow that I cannot bear to see any class of my fellow subjects unjustly denied or deprived of a right, or a trust, (between which there is a fundamental distinction necessary to be borne in mind in these discussions) which they properly regard as one of transcendent importance and value. No true Englishman can look with indifference on persons so situated; and his sympathies will go forth towards them all the more eagerly, if he find the demand for justice preferred with persevering moderation and dignity. He will be disposed to look with a certain sternness upon the reasons relied on as justifying the exclusion of a British-born subject from the British Legislature; and will not yield to them, unless his reason and conscience recognize their overwhelming cogency. That, Sir, is the spirit in which I approach this question to-night. And as for the Jews, so far from entertaining prejudices against them, I regard them with feelings akin to awe, as I watch them-the most marvellous of the dwellers upon earth—intermingling inoffensively, but never identifying themselves, with other nations, and fulfilling, and yearning for the accomplishment of, their own grand and mysterious destiny. I cannot think or speak of them with levity—I would not willingly wrong them in act or word; for if I could, then, while they might be true Jews, I should be no true Christian.

But, Sir, in these few words, I conceive, is to be found the true point—the true pressure—of this great question. If he and I be true to our respective faiths, then I think there is a fatal incompatibility of principles, pretensions, and qualifications for being brother legislators—regard being had to the true nature and objects of legislation for a Christian state. Whatever he could prove to be, in the opinion of a liberal and enlightened people, a wrongful disability has been removed. He is now placed on a level with our best fellow-citizens in point of personal security and social position; he is clothed with rank—even hereditary rank—and dignity; he sits in the chair of magistracy, and at this very moment the highest chair of the magistracy of London is filled by a distinguished friend of mine of the Jewish faith, who discharges his duties in a way to command the respect and admiration of everybody; he wields, at will, a money power that gives him vast influence here, and controls some of the greatest operations of other States; and as for religious freedom, why, "he sits under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none dares to make him afraid."

Emboldened by these concessions, he now demands to become a law-giver for Christian England;—but there I pause, and tell him that "between him and me there is a great gulf fixed." I cannot help it. With "the true faith of a Christian" are bound up all my hopes of happiness here and hereafter; while that faith is to the Jew a stumbling-block, lying ever in his way, when he would act as a legislator for the Christian. What is heavenly truth to me, is gross falsehood and imposture to him; what inspires me, blights him; for he sees in it only impiety and blasphemy. How, then, can we act together, while our sanctions, our impulses, our objects, are different? And how can our Legislature be expected thus to become "a fountain sending forth, at the same place, sweet water and bitter"?

Sir, disguise and blink it though any one may, the Bill before us tends directly to obliterate and repudiate these vital differences—these vital principles—as sources of legislative inspiration and action; to place the Legislature of England on a, footing which it has never occupied before. It seeks to effect an organic change in our political structure, involving its whole character and constitution—it would alter the distinguishing characteristic of our State, and of its sovereignty—by either eliminating from it an essential constituent, or introducing a foreign, incongruous, and destructive element. What is meant by the sovereignty of a State? Its supreme power or authority—in other words, its legislature; for sovereignty and legislation are convertible terms. Where the power of legislation resides, is the seat of sovereignty, and in legislation, you see sovereignty in action. And as a State is as much a moral being as any one of the individuals who constitute it-a moral being, whose voice is its laws; it is guided by certain motives and objects; it has a character, involved in, prescribing, and guaranteeing its course of conduct.

Now, what is the great and glorious characteristic distinguishing our State of England? Christian, essentially and professedly Christian, if there he any meaning in words, and any reality for words to represent. Founded and built up during a long succession of ages, by Christians exclusively, it derives its character from their principles, feelings, and convictions; the holy gospels illuminate every chamber of the building; the Christianity which they enshrine is the very key-stone of the arch of our laws and institutions, supplying vital sanctions; we legislate on its principles, and in its spirit; no one has ever entered the legislative chamber but under an express pledge, or absolutely necessary implication, of Christian belief; we are always summoned to consult concerning the welfare of the Church of Christ; we begin our daily deliberations with prayers offered to, and through, the mediation of the adorable Head of that Church; the prayers of this Christian country daily ascend on our behalf to Him, like incense, and England feels that those prayers have been answered; or how could this nation have become so great and glorious? Again, the Sovereign, on ascending the Throne of these realms, gives the most solemn pledge conceivable, of fidelity to Christianity; kneeling, placing her hands on, and kissing the holy gospels, Queen Victoria swore upon them, as all her ancestors have done, "to maintain, to the utmost of her power, the true profession of the gospel." What would be thought of some future Sovereign wishing that oath to be omitted, as he had no faith in the gospel, but, on the contrary, believed it false? Would he be a Christian King? or allowed to sit on this ancient and glorious Throne of England! Never! And would that be a Christian Legislature of which such an apostate was, in Lord Coke's language, caput, principium, et finis? Well, and how is it with the other two branches of the Legislature? For 150 years no one has ever sat in either House who had not avowed, on his solemn oath, his Christian belief, unless he has been relieved from doing so under circumstances demonstrative of his fidelity to Christianity. About the Roman Catholic there can, of course, be no question; and Quakers, Moravians, and Separatists, are relieved from taking any oath, absolutely for no other reason than their scrupulous and reverent obedience to a supposed command of their Divine Redeemer! In the case of the excellent Mr. Pease, he expressly declared before a Committee of this House, on oath, in 1850, "I agree in matters of faith with the Church of England, though not as regards her discipline and rites." And beyond the 150 years to which I have referred, our earliest records show that Members were sworn on either some symbol of the Christian faith, or the holy Gospels. Having regard to all this, how can I concur with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, who, in his powerful and elaborate speech in 1848, in this House, declared that—simply because we had latterly enlarged our borders, so as to include all classes of persons "calling and professing themselves Christians"—our Legislature is no longer exclusively Christian? Sir, with sincere respect for the right hon. Gentleman, I deny it altogether, and challenge proof of such an assertion. I affirm the contrary, and aver that every existing Member of either House is stopped from denying it, by the oath he has taken. It is true, a man may possibly stand at that table, and in his eagerness to obtain a so greatly coveted seat here, be frightfully guilty of repeating, as true, words which he disbelieves. If he do, I cannot help it; to his own master he standeth or falleth; to Him, his Almighty judge, he must answer in the last day. There is no oath that can be devised or administered which an impious man may not violate or take falsely. But, Sir, look closely into what we are required to do. When challenged to it, we must deliberately and solemnly discard that only visible safeguard of our Christianity, which now keeps out the Jew—and not only him, but the Mahomedan, the pagan, and, worse than all, the avowed apostate infidel—who plainly avows that ours is a false form of religion. Now, Sir, what are all the convulsive struggles of the Jew to get rid of these—to him—excruciating words, "on the true faith of a Christian," but really so many evidences of their inestimable value to us, and of the paramount necessity of retaining them? Surely, surely! if the defenders of a beleagured fortress saw the besiegers steadily concentrating their fire on a particular point, would not that show the immense importance they attached to effecting a breach there, and make the besieged instantly direct their utmost energies to protecting and strengthening the point so seriously menaced? And what would be their joy to discover suddenly that it was, in fact, their strongest point—that there was a secret, and, to themselves, unsuspected means of defence? And, Sir, thus I regard this famous expression, "on the true faith of a Christian," peremptory, stringent, and comprehensive as it is; though, undoubtedly, not originally used expressly for that purpose, it now constitutes a solid buttress, the strength of which has been tested, to the citadel of our Christianity. I thank God that the words are on our Statute-book; I am trying to keep them there; but, after all, they are simply declaratory of what was always there, significant of the essence and spirit of our constitution. It reminds me, in this respect, of Sir Edward Coke's fine observation on the oath of allegiance, which, he says, is but an external profession of what the finger of the law had already written in the heart of every subject.

As we, Sir, area Christian State, if such a thing there can be, let us test the argument on which the present claim is founded, by putting the case of a Jewish State, consisting exclusively of sincere and zealous Jews. Let us imagine an equally sincere and zealous Christian demanding a seat in the Sanhedrim, and that, to enable him to take his seat, an oath pledging its members to "the true faith of a Jew" should be abrogated. What consternation in the Sanhedrim! Would it be done? or regarded as impiously presumptuous? How mightily would they reason out of their ancient scriptures to show that, were they to yield, they would be false to their faith, and abrogating the high and holy law under which, at an awful juncture, the high-priest rent his clothes, saying, "he hath spoken blasphemy!" and he was judged guilty of death. They would say, no; we cannot, we dare not do it; we should cease to be a Jewish State—our purity would be defiled—we should have introduced a new and corrupting element, and be recognising claims which the word of God commands us to hold in abhorrence. Is not this, Sir, an exact parallel to the case at this moment before us?

And, moreover, if it be, what becomes of the favourite argument derived from the small number of Jews who might be introduced? It is nothing—it is an impertinence. Is this, I beg to ask, the way to reason on principle? Admit a solitary Jew, of right, as such, and the exclusive distinguishing principle—the very bond of our being, as a Christian State—is gone; you have surrendered at discretion, and the Jew will proclaim his victory to the uttermost parts of the earth, where you are busied propagating the Christianity over which he has triumphed! And he will presently tell you that you must alter and surrender a good deal more to meet his views!—the prayers, for instance, with which we commence our daily deliberations, and which he will regard as offensive and insulting to his faith. "One of the unavoidable consequences of this measure," said the late Sir Robert Peel, in opposing the first Jew Bill in 1830, "will be, that every one of the forms and ceremonies which give us assurance of Christianity must be abolished." And let me ask with unspeakable anxiety, that you would consider what effect that would hare on public opinion—that public opinion on which, as Mr. Hume truly tells us, all Governments of whatever form are founded. It would probably soon lead to lowering the influence of Christianity on that public opinion, and, once lowered there, how long will it continue as a vital principle in the State?

But, Sir, even this is not all. What a perilous precedent we are called upon to establish! Consider the principle you will be sanctioning: one loosening the very foundation of oaths, which have been in, all ages, and under the express sanction of Scripture, used for the highest and most momentous purposes known among men. Why do you exact an oath from the Sovereign? Why from a legislator? Because, by the act of becoming such, he is incorporated with the sovereignty of the State, and contributes individually to determine its character and action. He is, while acting in that capacity, under only moral sanctions, amenable to the dictates of his conscience, and of God alone. And before investing him with such, comparatively speaking, irresponsible power, it is reasonable and right that we should require—for a guarantee of his character and acts as a legislator, and as evidence against him in case of treachery—that he should publicly and solemnly call God to witness that he holds such and such a belief, and will pursue such and such a course of action. Now, Sir, if a Jew is to be relieved from the Christian's oath, because he says, "I do not believe in him whom you call God," what—I implore you to consider—are you to answer by and by, when your approaches are defiled and darkened by a very different character, who says, holding this Bill in his hand, "Now admit me! and without any oath at all! For, as the Jew does not believe in the God of the Christian, I do not believe in the God of the Jew! I believe in no God at all!" Are you to admit the impious applicant? And yet claim to be deemed a godly—or will you become professedly, a godless Legislature?

Sir, I foresee disastrous consequences dependent on the course we are this night called upon to adopt. I content myself, however, with one, vouched by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, in 1848. After admitting that our having to legislate on matters of religion, and concerning the Church, constituted a real and practical difficulty in the way of admitting Jews to seats in this House, he stated that, undoubtedly, one direct result to which such a step would lead, would be the separation between the Church and the State! Now, Sir, is the House—is the country—prepared for such a result? one which I believe would be a sort of social suicide, and tend to the dissolution of the State itself!

Sir, for these reasons and many others which I could assign, but that I perceive the anxiety of the House to come to a division, I can never bring myself to sanction the admission of the Jewish element into the Christian Legislature. I entreat hon. Members, in conclusion, to consider carefully the consequences, immediate and remote, direct and indirect, of assenting to the Bill as it lies before us, and without the Amendments of my hon. and learned Friend (Sir F. Thesiger) a step which undoubtedly will open the doors of the Legislature of this Christian country to Mahomedans, and pagans, and even professed infidels, as well as Jews, and the effect of which will be, I fear, fatally to affect the national faith, and in so doing sap the foundations of the national greatness.


said, he should support the third rending of the Bill as he considered the effect of the existing oath was to exclude from the House Members of the Jewish persuasion who had been returned by large and important constituencies, and whose conscientious scruples prevented them from taking the oath in its present, although they were ready to take it in a modified, form; while it did not exclude persons who rejected the Scriptures as the revealed word of God, and who, disregarding the solemn obligation of oaths, were ready to subscribe to them.


said, it was admitted on all sides, that all parties were ashamed of the oath of abjuration, and there was no occasion to discuss that question any longer. It was therefore to be hoped that the country would no longer see 654 gentlemen professing to represent the intelligence of the people, and a large number of high and distinguished persons representing the hereditary wisdom of the nation, solemnly calling upon God that they abjured any allegiance to persons who they knew had long ceased to exist. It appeared, however, that Gentlemen opposite admitted that it was not the family of the Stuarts of whom they were apprehensive, but that they had an insurmountable objection to the house of Rothschild. But the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Thesiger) who had moved the Amendment had not told the House how he got over the difficulty of the citizens of London having returned a Jew to Parliament. The citizens of London did not participate in the prejudices of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and they had returned a Jew to represent them in Parliament during nine sessions and two Parliaments. It was degrading to the representative of the city, insulting to the citizens of London, and humiliating to the House of Commons that matters should remain as they were. Suppose that 100 Members of the Jewish persuasion were returned by the constituencies of this country, would the House allow matters to continue in their present state? The hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to the fact that the Lord Mayor of London had attended at St. Paul's on Thanksgiving-day. He was afraid he should shock the hon. and learned Gentleman much more when he told him that Christian congregations in the city sometimes selected churchwardens of the Jewish persuasion to administer the affairs of a Christian Church. Mr. Keeling, a Gentleman of the Jewish persuasion, had been elected churchwarden for two parishes—St. George, Botolph Lane, and St. Magnus the Martyr—on two or three occasions. He wrote for information on the subject, and received a letter from Mr. Keeling, which he would take leave to read to the House:— Dear Sir,—The parishes I have represented are St. George, Botolph Lane, and St. Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge; to the latter I was re-elected on Easter Tuesday last. The duty involves the safe guardianship of the church, and properties connected therewith; the proper observance of the service in conformity with existing laws; to levy rates for its support, and, if necessary, to enforce the payment of them; to report to the bishop of the diocese any neglect of duty on the part of the ministers; and the declaration made before the registrars of the bishop to carry out these regulations is framed in so liberal a spirit that it has been most conscientiously subscribed to by me, in company with my Christian colleague, without the least sacrifice of my religious scruples. I may say I have faithfully performed the duties of the office to the satisfaction of the rectors and the parishioners generally. But that was not all. Two or three Sundays ago the Bishop of Lichfield preached a sermon in the church of St. Magnus the Martyr, on behalf of the education of the children of the parish. The Lord Mayor attended there also, and it was of course the duty of the Hebrew churchwarden to receive the bishop with all the honours of the Church. The Bishop left the church without being un-christianised, a subscription was made and Christian education was aided by the exertions of the Jewish churchwarden. He believed that the cause of religion would not suffer very materially if they allowed some few members of the Jewish persuasion to have seats within the walls of the House of Commons. He was glad upon this occasion to see the noble Lord the Member for the City of London come to the rescue. Last year the noble Lord seemed to despond, but he hoped there was now some reason for believing that this question would be settled during the present Session in the other House of Parliament. It must be remembered that an unreformed Parliament had repealed the Test and Corporation Acts, and had conceded Catholic emancipation. He hoped that a reformed Parliament would not perpetuate the last relic of bigotry and intolerance which prevented the admission of Jews into the British Legislature.

Question put "That the word proposed to be left out, stand part of the Bill."

The House divided:—Ayes 159; Noes 110: Majority 49.

Bill passed.