§ Order for Committee read.
§ House in Committee.
§ Clause 1.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER,
who had given notice of the following Amendments, namely—In line 14, leave out the words 'and the assurance;'In lines 15 and 16, leave out the words 'or as set forth and prescribed in any previous Act or Acts;'In line 20, leave out the word 'not;'In page 2, line 1, after the word 'be,' insert the following words, 'administered with the omission of the following words, And I do solemnly and sincerely declare, that I do believe in my conscience that not any of the descendants of the person who pretended to be Prince of Wales during the life of the late King James II., and since his decease, pretended to be and took upon himself the style and title of King of England by the name of James III., or of Scotland by the name of James VIII,, or by the style and title of King of Great Britain, hath any right or title whatsoever to the Crown of this Realm, or any other the dominions thereunto belonging, and I do renounce, refuse, and abjure any allegiance or obedience to any of them;' And also, in the part of the said oath as set forth in the said Act, containing the words 'And I do faithfully promise to the utmost of my power to support, maintain, and defend the Succession of the Crown 596 against the descendants of the said James, and against all other persons whatsoever," that the said oath shall be administered with the omission of the words 'against the descendants of the said James,' and of the word 'other' before the word 'persons,' and 'shall not be.In page 2, line 1, leave out the words after the word 'made' to the word 'whatsoever,' and insert the words 'in any other manner and form.'In now moving the first of these Amendments—namely, to omit the words "and the assurances," &c.—said that it was a series of Amendments so connected together, and having one common object, that he thought it would be convenient for him on that occasion at once to explain the view with which he proposed them. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson) in introducing the Bill had argued with considerable force, and with great clearness, upon the absurdity, if not irreverence, of requiring solemn declarations against claims and persons no longer in existence; and he asked assent to this measure principally because part of the oath of abjuration had become entirely obsolete. Those who opposed the Bill concurred in the propriety of making such an alteration, and were ready to concur in any measure for that purpose. But the right hon. Gentleman had another and an ulterior object. Had the right hon. Gentleman no other object his course would have been plain, easy, and simple enough. It would have been merely to have proposed to erase from the oath the words to which his professed objection applied, leaving the remainder of the oath in its integrity. The right hon. Gentleman, however, did not attempt to conceal that he desired to introduce the Jews into Parliament; and with that object it was necessary for him to get rid of another part of the oath; and, therefore, finding that part of the oath which conferred upon the House its Christian character interposed an invincible obstacle in his way, the right hon. Gentleman desired to give the oath its death-blow. Now the course which had been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman was not fair, candid, or convenient. When a measure was professed to be propounded upon one principle and for one purpose, and really there was an ulterior object and an indirect result to be attained, the House was liable to be misled. The House in this case had not been fairly called upon to discuss what was really the principle of the Bill—viz., to get rid of the oath of abjuration. The right hon. Gentleman knew that this was the only oath which 597 recognised the Protestant succession as established by the Act of Settlement; nevertheless, the right hon. Gentleman, in this Bill, would sweep away the oath. Now, many had voted for the second reading of this Bill, not because they approved of this, but because they hoped that the Bill might be modified in Committee, so as to retain the substance of the oath. But that was a most inconvenient and unsatisfactory course to pursue. The second reading of a Bill was the proper period, and the only proper period, for discussing its principle; and he could not understand how hon. Members could vote for the second reading of a Bill without regard to its principle, in the hope that in Committee its principle would be altered. However, his right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli), who on this subject differed from the great majority of his party, had intimated his intention of proposing in Committee certain Amendments, the object of which was to distinguish between that part of the oath which secured the Protestant succession, and that part which excluded the Jews from Parliament by the force of the words "on the true faith of a Christian. That intimation on the part of his right hon. Friend had lost him (Sir F. Thesiger) some votes on the question of the second reading. His right hon. Friend had been as good as his word, and had proposed to introduce words in Committee which would have the effect of leaving the oath in its integrity, and which at the same time raised distinctly and clearly for the consideration of the Committee whether they would get rid of the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and thus relax the oath so as to admit Jews into Parliament. The noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) had on this occasion condescended to play the part of under workman to the right hon. Gentleman the framer of the Bill, and had given notice of an Amendment merely pointing to the recognition of the Protestant succession as established by the Act of Settlement. But the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be to get rid of all the rest of the oath; and thus, not directly, but indirectly and by a side wind, would admit the Jews into that House. Now, the noble Lord had hitherto taken the fair course of raising distinctly the question as to the admission of the Jews. That was the fair, proper, and straightforward course to pursue. But the noble Lord had not adopted that course 598 upon this occasion; and if he (Sir F. Thesiger) were driven to choose between the course proposed by the noble Lord and that pursued by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), he should undoubtedly prefer the latter, as being fairer and more direct, and raising the question of the admission of the Jews into Parliament in a more plain and simple way. The question, first, was whether the House would consent to the Amendments which he (Sir F. Thesiger) now proposed, the result of which would be that the Bill would effect all that its author had originally professed to have in view, and would preserve the oath while getting rid of the obsolete words in it. Why should any further alteration be made in it? This oath had been framed in the thirteenth William III., in the year 1703, and had thus lasted 150 years. It had been from time to time altered to meet the altered circumstances of the times, as in the reign of Anne, in the reign of George II., and in the reign of George III., the last alteration having been so long as ninety years ago. During all that time no class but those who were excluded by it had complained of it. Let the oath remain, and merely be modified to meet the objection as to that part of it which was obsolete. The course he should ultimately pursue in regard to the Bill depended upon the shape it should take in Committee; he would now, however, move the first of his Amendments, namely, to omit the words "and the assurances."
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
said, that if he understood the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, he proposed to omit all the abjuration from the oath of abjuration. Everything to be abjured was to be omitted, and yet members were to continue to take the oath of abjuration. The hon. and learned Gentleman must surely give it a new title, for it would be monstrous, having omitted all the abjuration part of the oath, to continue to call it still the Oath of Abjuration. The course he (Mr. M. Gibson) had taken was strictly in accordance with the precedents in the former Acts, for, whenever a single word of the oath had been altered, the custom had been to repeal the oath altogether, and enact a new oath, which the Act said should be taken in lieu of the oath that had been repealed. That must certainly be the course taken with the oath proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, for it would be impossible to patch 599 up an oath in the way his Amendment proposed. He himself was prepared to do without any oath of abjuration, for he believed that the Constitution and the Protestant Succession to the throne would be quite as safe as they were at present; and he was confirmed in that belief by the fact that there were thousands of cases in which the law was not enforced, and in which the parties were indemnified by an Act which was passed at the end of every Session. In fact, except in the case of Members of Parliament and the holders of a very few offices, the oath was not taken at all; and an oath which was so extensively neglected could not be a very important ingredient in the security of the Crown. He did not see how the words "and the assurance" could be omitted, and for this reason—that the assurance, which was designed especially for the Scotch, contained all the words in the Oath of Abjuration with respect to the descendants of James. The same amount of swearing that sufficed for Englishmen would suffice for Scotchmen. In order to remove some objections which existed to the Bill, he was ready to agree that the oath of which the noble Lord the Member for London had given notice should be substituted for the Oath of Abjuration. As to the admission of Jews into Parliament, that question did not arise out of the present Bill. All that the present Bill did was to abolish an oath which was unnecessary and superfluous, and if any Member had any Motion to make for the exclusion of Jews, it would be competent for him to bring it forward. As far as he was concerned, he was prepared to remove the obstacle against the admission of Jews to Parliament upon other grounds, but his object at present was only to do away with an absurd and superfluous oath. For these reasons he felt compelled to oppose the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ SIR FREDERIC THESIGER
said, he should not propose any more of his Amendments then, as his object was to see what course the Bill would take. He should probably introduce a form of oath to meet the objection he entertained to the change now proposed on the third reading.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2.
LORD J. RUSSELL rose to propose the Clause of which he had given notice.
He thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had exercised a wise discretion in not proposing to maintain the oath of abjuration. It was, he thought, an absurd thing to retain an oath of abjuration when there was no person to abjure, but at the same time it was desirable to have a positive clause containing an oath securing the Protestant succession to the throne. What he (Lord John Russell) proposed was, to abrogate an oath which was absurd and useless, and to substitute for it one by which they would simply bind themselves to maintain the Protestant succession to the Crown, as by law established. In favour of retaining that part of the present oath, there was the fact that it was inserted in the Roman Catholic oath. As he had before said, he considered that the laws which at present existed afforded sufficient security; but he did not think Parliament ought even to appear to have weakened the present securities. It was with the view of diminishing the objections to the Bill that he now proposed this clause. The noble Lord then moved the following clause:—
In lieu of the Oath of Abjuration and of the Assurance set forth and prescribed by the said recited Act, or any other Act, the following Oath shall be substituted, which shall be entitled 'An oath for securing the Protestant Succession to the Crown as by Law established,' and shall be in the words following, that is to say:—
'I, A B, do faithfully promise to maintain, support, and defend, to the utmost of my power, the Succession of the Crown, which Succession, by an Act entitled '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, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants. So help me God.'
And every statutory enactment now in force with respect to the Oath of Abjuration or the Assurance hereby abolished shall henceforth apply to the Oath hereby substituted, in the same manner as if such last-mentioned Oath had been expressly mentioned or referred to in and by such statutory enactments, instead of the Oath of Abjuration and the Assurance hereby abolished.
Every person permitted by the said Act of His late Majesty King William the Fourth to make his Affirmation instead of the Oath of Abjuration and Assurance shall, in lieu of the Oath hereby substituted, and of the Affirmation contained in the last-mentioned Act, make his solemn Affirmation in the following words, that is to say:
I, A B, being one of the people called Quakers [or one of the persuasion of the people called Quakers, or of the United Brethren called Moravians, as the case may be], do solemnly promise that I will be true and faithful to the Succession of the Crown, which Succession, by an Act, intituled, 'An Act for the further limitation of the Crown, and the better securing of the rights and Liberties of the Subject,' is and stands limited
to the Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants.
regretted that he could not support the noble Lord's Amendment. He was quite willing to support any form of oath that would be more consonant with modern ideas, but retaining the words, "on the true faith of a Christian;" thus omitting the passage relating to the Pretender, but reserving the question raised by the other words as to the admission of Jews to seats in Parliament, for subsequent consideration. Many persons who would support the noble Lord in the former part of his proposition disagreed with him on the latter, and would therefore be obliged to vote against him. The noble Lord had, in fact, taken the course which he was now recommending, when he brought forward his Bill for the alteration of the abjuration oath in 1849. He then, while omitting the words relative to the Pretender from the oath, retained the words "on the true faith of a Christian" in the oath to be taken by the Christian Members, omitting the latter words in the oath to be tendered to the Jews. The Jewish question ought to be dealt with separately; he strongly objected to its being mixed up with the question relating to the descendants of James the Second.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the effect of what the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down suggested was, that there should be one form of oath for Christians to take, and another form for those who were not Christians. In the first oath he wished to retain the words "on the true faith of a Christian." These words were not in the oath of allegiance, which must be allowed to be an oath of equal importance with the oath of abjuration. The fact was, that the whole thing from beginning to end was a sham. The oath of allegiance had been taken for centuries, and never objected to. It was impossible to exclude infidels by any oath that could be framed. How could they, by the test of an oath, have excluded Bolingbroke and Gibbon? The words were only introduced for the purpose of exclusion, and whilst hon. Members on the other side of the House were professing to rest their opposition on Christian principles, they were acting in an unchristian manner by attempting to exclude their fellow-subjects from that House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that so far from Members on this side of the House 602 being here to countenance a sham, they were anxious to prevent an imposition being practised. They were anxious to clear the ground. He certainly desired the exclusion from the House of such as were not Christians, as he did not think that men who were not actuated by Christian principles should take part in the making of Christian laws. Thank God, our laws were framed by a Christian legislature. But he distinctly stated, that while he desired the profession of Christianity on the part of its Members, he would not exercise any species of inquisition as to a man's tenets. The first act of a Jew, however, at the Speaker's table, was to reject the Gospel. He rejected the blessed Redeemer, whose morality it was our wish to perpetuate in our laws.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Newdegate) confirmed what he (Mr. Roebuck) had said, that the whole thing was a sham. The whole object of the Opposition was to keep out the Jews. Then, why did they not say so? why not plainly tell the House that such was their object? They thought that by retaining the words "on the true faith of a Christian" in the oath, that they could exclude the Jews, but he (Mr. Roebuck) would tell the Committee, that if he was a Jew he should take the oath. He would repeat the words "on the true faith of a Christian" and would add the words, "these words have no binding effect upon me." After he had repeated the words imposed by the Act of Parliament, he could not be excluded from his seat.
§ MR. DRUMMOND
said, he could not but agree with the hon. and learned Member, that there was a great deal of sham upon this question. It was well known that the words so much talked about secured as much as it was possible to secure the fidelity of those who were expected to be unfaithful without them. He wished the noble Lord, having touched upon this question, to consider another branch of it—the Royal Marriage Act, which interfered most improperly with the rights of the Royal Family, and which was passed at the instance of George III. to spite his two brothers. Upon this clause, he would only add that, if they were to have a Jew question, let it be raised fairly and distinctly, and not in the present indirect manner.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
said, that he and his friends had always expressed their anxiety that the question should be fairly 603 and distincly raised, and this objection to the noble Lord the Member for London's proposal was, that it did not directly raise the question of admitting the Jews to Parliament, while at the same time it indirectly effected that object. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had made use of the word "sham"—a phrase which was becoming almost Parliamentary. [Mr. ROEBUCK: The thing is.] Why those on his side of the House had always resisted the introduction of Jews to Parliament. The hon. and learned Member said, that were he a Jew he would take the words and deny their effect upon him. He (Sir F. Thesiger) would admit, that if a person of no religion at all presented himself at the table, and took the words "on the true faith of a Christian," but which had no binding effect on his conscience, he could not exclude such a person. If an infidel subscribed those words, the blame rested with him. It was impossible to set up barriers which immoral men would not overleap. The Conservative side of the House had always maintained that a Jew ought not to sit in a Christian Parliament. That question it was his intention to raise substantially at a future stage of the Bill. He would admit that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were not originally introduced into the oath for the purpose of excluding Jews from Parliament; but he must be allowed to say, that in framing the Act of Settlement, the great men who were instrumental in bringing it about, adopted the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and thus stamped the Christian character of Parliament and the constitution.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
begged the Committee to observe that the hon. and learned Member said that they could not raise barriers for the exclusion of immoral men, though they could for the exclusion of moral and conscientious men. The former were therefore to be admitted, and the latter excluded from Parliament.
said, that upon the first settlement after the Revolution none of the oaths contained the words "on the true faith of a Christian." It was only in 1701 in consequence of the recognition of the young Pretender by Louis XIV. that a new oath was proposed containing these words, and that oath was carried through Parliament by a majority of only one. He objected to an oath to be taken by only a portion of the House, and approved of the course proposed by the noble 604 Lord, of having an oath which every Member of the House could take; which could be taken by Protestants and Catholics, by Jews and Christians. He desired to see the day when they should all take one simple form of oath.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
With regard to the Motion of my noble Friend I shall give it my cordial support, not that I think the omission of any mention of the Act of Settlement in the oaths taken at this table could have the slightest effect in impairing the force of that law, because the Act of Settlement rests on a foundation much stronger than any oath taken in this House; nevertheless, as we have hitherto acknowledged the Act of Settlement in the oaths taken by us, I think it fitting that that acknowledgment should continue as part of our engagement at this table. With regard to the objection which has been urged, that this is indirectly removing an obstacle which prevents Jews from sitting in this House, I say that obstacle only indirectly and unintentionally accomplished that purpose. It was not at all put in for the purpose of excluding Jews; therefore in removing that obstacle we are in no way running counter to the original intention of Parliament in adding those words to the oaths. But if it is necessary to add to the solemnity of an oath by words declaring that the person taking it took it upon the true faith of a Christian; if it is necessary, in order to add to the binding force of the oath, to adopt those words, why are not those words added to other oaths, why not to the oath of allegiance, which is undoubtedly a much more important oath than that to which these words are now appended? I therefore am quite prepared to agree to the Amendment of my noble Friend. I concur in the removal of those words which interpose an impediment to that which I think is a matter of principle in modern times, namely, that Jews elected to Parliament should be admissible and able to take their seats in this House. So far therefore from feeling any objection to the oath from the circumstance of its omitting words which will enable Jews to sit in this House, that is, among other reasons, a strong recommendation to my regard of this measure. Those who agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman may very easily bring the question under the separate and deliberate consideration of the House by proposing to insert these words in a future stage of the Bill. They might make a 605 distinct proposal to insert the words for the express purpose of excluding Jews from Parliament, and then take the decision of the House upon that question. For the reasons I have stated I with great cordiality give my support to the Motion.
§ MR. WIGRAM
said, he was opposed to the Amendment of his noble Friend, but he did not wish to prolong the discussion, because, as he understood, the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir F. Thesiger) had given a pledge to the House to take that very course which the noble Lord had suggested, as the most convenient for the purpose of giving the House an opportunity to come to a positive vote upon the question.
understood that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford proposed to take the discussion on the third reading. He thought that would be the better course to pursue.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that in giving a vote in favour of that proposition of the noble Lord, he certainly did not look at it as a stepping-stone towards removing the oath taken by Roman Catholics. He believed that was a very necessary oath to be taken.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
then moved to add to the Bill the following clause:Every person permitted by the said Act of His late Majesty King William IV. To make his Affirmation instead of the Oath of Abjuration and Assurance shall, in lieu of the Oath hereby substituted, and of the Affirmation contained in the last mentioned Act, make his solemn Affirmation in the following words, that is to say:—'I, A B, being one of the people called Quakers [or one of the persuasion of the people called Quakers, or of the United Brethren called Moravians, as the case may be], do solemnly promise that I will be true and faithful to the succession of the Crown, which Succession, by an Act intituled, "An Act for the further limitation of the Crown, and the better securing of the Rights and liberties of the subject," is and stands limited to the Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, being Protestants.'
§ Clause agreed to; as were the remaining clauses.
§ House resumed; Bill reported.