HC Deb 22 June 1857 vol 146 cc143-8

Bill, as amended, considered.


said, that on a former occasion he had expressed his opinion, on the ground both of justice and of propriety, that the clauses which it was now his duty to propose should be inserted in the Bill. At that time he understood, in common, he believed, with all the hon. Members on his side of the House, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government intended to resist these clauses whenever they were proposed. Since he had come down to the House, however, he had been informed that Her Majesty's Government had abandoned that Resolution, and did not now mean to offer any opposition to the adoption of the clauses. That being the case, it became quite unnecessary for him to trouble the House with those observations which it would have otherwise been his duty to offer. He could only congratulate hon. Members near him that it was from the Opposition side of the House that a Motion proceeded which had compelled the Government to do that which all parties appeared to agree in thinking to be right and just. He could also say that, had this Motion been opposed, and had a division been taken upon it, he believed, judging from the assurances he had received from many independent Members, as well as from those who generally sup- ported the noble Lord, that although the Government might have succeeded in their opposition, the result of the division would not have been altogether satisfactory to them. In the present instance, therefore, discretion was the better part of valour as far as they were concerned. As he understood that the Government consented to the introduction of the clauses which stood in his name on the Notice Paper, it would merely be necessary for him now to move their insertion.


seconded the Motion. Clause, "Provided always, and be it enacted, that nothing herein contained shall extend, or be construed to extend, to enable any person or persons professing the Jewish religion to hold or exercise the office of guardians and justices of the United Kingdom, or of regents of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted, or to enable any person to hold or enjoy the office of Lord High Chancellor, Lord Keeper, or Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal of Great Britain or Ireland, or the office of Lord Lieutenant, or Deputy, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, or Her Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, or any place or office whatever of, in, or belonging to any of the Ecclesiastical Courts of Judicature in England or Ireland respectively, or in any Courts of Appeal, or review of the sentence of such Courts, or of, in, or belonging to the Commissary Court of Edinburgh.

Brought up and read 1°.

On Motion that the Clause be read 2a,


When, Sir, upon a former stage of this Bill, I was asked whether it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government themselves to propose to put into the Bill provisions resembling those which the hon. and learned Member has moved, I stated that it was not our intention to make such a proposition; and the reason was that the contingency which these provisions were intended to guard against appeared to me to be so very unlikely to happen that it was scarcely worth while to make special provision in an Act of Parliament for these assumed cases. But, Sir, we are exceedingly anxious that this Bill should pass. We think it would be a very advantageous measure, both as regards hon. Members who have to take the oaths now, and persons who are at present excluded from this House. If, therefore, as we are led to believe, the adoption of the clauses proposed by the hon. and learned Member would tend in any degree to render more likely the passage of this Bill into a law, we should hold ourselves deeply responsible if, from any fancied objection, we raised any opposition to that which we felt was so desirable. Therefore, Sir, upon that ground—not ourselves attaching any great importance to the provisions, but thinking them wholly unobjectionable, and believing that by their adoption we may render more probable the successful issue of this Bill—I am happy to give my support to the clauses of the hon. and learned Gentleman.


said, he did not know what the result of this extraordinary unanimity would be. Of course, if the clauses were agreed to, there would be an end of the question; but he begged to say, that if any hon. Member divided the House, he did not mean to vote upon the question, because he would not be supposed to sanction in any way the principle of admitting the Jews to Parliament.


said, the Lord Advocate had suggested an Amendment by striking out that part in this clause, which referred to a Court (the Commissary Court of Edinburgh) which now no longer existed. It would be necessary, therefore, to omit the words "or of, in, or belonging to the Commissary Court of Edinburgh."


observed, that he had certainly compared the clause with those in the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, but he had taken the words pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman from a Bill, on the back of which he found the names of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, and the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. If, therefore, he had been led into error, it was attributable to that Bill.


said, that that Bill had been prepared some seven years ago, and that the Commissary Court of Scotland had been abolished since.

Amendment agreed to; words struck out.

Clause, as amended, read 2°, and added to the Bill.

On the Motion of Mr. SEYMOUR FITZGERALD the following clauses were brought up and read 1°. And be it enacted, that where any right of presentation to any ecclesiastical benefice shall belong to any office in the gift or appointment of Her Majesty, her heirs or successors, and such office shall be held by a person professing the Jewish religion, the right of presentation shall devolve upon and be exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury for the time being. And be it enacted that it shall not be lawful for any person professing the Jewish religion directly or indirectly to advise Her Majesty, her heirs or successors, or any person or persons holding or exercising the office of guardians of the United Kingdom, or of regent of the United Kingdom, under whatever name, style, or title such office may be constituted, or the Lord Lieutenant or Lord Deputy, or other Chief Governor or Governors of Ireland, touching or concerning the appointment to or disposal of any office or preferment in the United Church of England and Ireland or in the Church of Scotland.

On Motion that the said clauses be read 2°.


considered that the Oaths Bill, with the proposed clauses, would be a Bill in the nature of a Bill of pains and penalties, and he should protest against it.


said, that the proposed clauses provided that Jews should not obtain certain distinctions which he did not believe any hon. Member in that House ever objected to Jews, as Jews, arriving at. What hon. Members who made objections to the Oaths Bill wanted was, to make the profession of Christianity one of the qualifications for Members of that House; but instead of that, they were bound by the clauses now before the House to distinctly exclude Jews and Jews only from certain privileges, whereas, if there was any class of the non-professors of Christianity to which he would accord those privileges, it was to the Jews. He certainly should prefer Jews to Hindoos, Mahomedans, and especially to Deists. He really thought they were going to send the Bill to the House of Lords in as absurd a shape as it could well assume.


said that, although he gave the highest credit to his hon. and learned Friend for his intentions in having introduced these clauses, his opinion with respect to the measure remained unchanged, and he therefore felt himself bound to persevere in taking the sense of the House upon the third reading.


would remind the House that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, eight years ago, abandoned clauses similar to those now proposed, because he felt that they furnished the most apt illustration of the objections to this Bill which could be afforded. What was the House now about to declare? Why, that the Jew was competent in his legislative capacity, to create or dispose of offices which he could not fill. They were electing him as law-maker, but in the same breath they were voting that he was not fit to administer the law. He begged that he might not be understood to be one of those who had considered that the insertion of those clauses was a removal of the objections to the Bill; but he again repeated that he viewed them as an illustration of the objections to the Bill, an illustration so striking that all attempts to introduce those clauses had been abandoned for eight years.


quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire that the clauses about to be inserted in the Bill showed the absurdity of the whole measure. In fact, there could not be a stronger illustration of that absurdity. He now wished to observe that whatever might be the result of the attempt to pass the Oaths Bill, there was no hon. Member of that House who was a sincere and determined opponent of the proposition to admit Jews into Parliament, but owed a deep debt of gratitude to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger) for the ability and determination which he had shown in combating the measure. To him they had looked on this occasion, to him they owed their thanks. He believed that that opinion was not confined to that House, but was shared in by the country. The noble Lord had said that he was anxious the Bill should pass, but he (Mr. Bentinck) did not think that the country shared that anxiety: on the contrary, he believed that the country generally was opposed to the measure, and that the approval of it given by the House of Commons was owing to the fact that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had pledged himself to the constant agitation of the question of the exclusion of the Jews from Parliament.


said, that his experience led him to a very different conclusion from that which had been arrived at by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down; for wherever he had gone he had seen a feeling evinced in favour of this Bill, arising not so much from a consideration for the Jew, as from an earnest and hearty desire to abolish that portion of intolerance which yet remained upon our statute-book—that rag of intolerance about which zealots still howled while they talked so glibly of Christian charity. For himself, he looked upon it that one act of mercy, one deed of liberality, was worth whole cartloads of such arguments as they had heard from Gentlemen opposite, from the prophetic denunciations of the hon. and learned Member for Stamford to the ponderous denunciations of the junior Member for North Warwickshire.

Motion agreed to; Clauses read 2° and added to the Bill.

Bill to be read 3° on Thursday.