§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL moved that the Bill be now read a Second Time.
§ SIR F. THESIGER
Sir, it is not my intention to offer any opposition to the second reading of this Bill; but I think it 1085 necessary to state the reasons why I adopt that course lest I should be subject to misconstruction. The Bill which the noble Lord has introduced is avowedly intended to admit the Jews to seats in Parliament, and if I were to allow it to be read a second time without remark it might be supposed that I had abandoned the principle for which I have so long and earnestly contended. It is necessary to understand the nature and character of the Bill to appreciate the motives by which I am actuated on this occasion. The Bill does not, like some former Bills, introduce a form of oath to be indifferently taken by all the Members of this House. To that I entertain the most decided objection. But the noble Lord proposes to amend the oaths of allegiance, of supremacy, and of abjuration, by introducing one form of oath to be taken by the Christian Members of the Legislature, and he also introduces a provision which is especially applicable to the case of the Jews. Now, let me recall to the House that I have invariably been an earnest advocate of a change in the form of the oath of abjuration. I have all along felt that there are parts of that oath which have become obsolete, and to which, therefore, objections might fairly he taken; and I have, therefore, myself, at different times, endeavoured to introduce amendments into the oath. If, therefore, I were to oppose the second reading of this Bill, I should be endeavouring to prevent an alteration in the oath which I think has become obviously necessary. The form of the alteration suggested by the noble Lord is one which I entirely approve. As he has preserved the important and necessary words, "on the true faith of a Christian," it has my entire and hearty assent. I should, therefore, be glad to see our oaths modified and altered in the way proposed by the noble Lord; and if opposition were to he offered, either by myself or others, to the Bill, and if that opposition were successful, to that extent I should be defeating my own object. The noble Lord has brought forward the measure in the most fair and proper manner to raise the very important question of the admission of the Jews to Parliament, which has been so often discussed, and which must be decided. He has made the case of the Jews a special case. He proposes to introduce a special clause, so that a Jew may take the oath without the words "on the true faith of a Christian." That raises the question on the most distinct ground, in 1086 the manner in which I think it ought to be raised; and, therefore, with the perfect understanding that I adhere to the principle for which I have all along contended, that the Christian character of this House ought to be preserved, I feel that I can contend for that principle more fully, and certainly on better grounds, if I confine the contest to that peculiar provision which relates to the Jews alone. I agree, therefore, to the second reading upon the understanding that I concur in the proposition to alter the Christian oaths. I am glad to find that my noble Friend now adheres to the words on which from circumstances I set a high value; and in Committee either myself or some others who agree with me will move the omission of that clause which relates to the Jews, and will thus raise the question distinctly and fairly for the consideration of the House. I think it right to make this statement lest I should be misunderstood in not opposing the second reading.
§ MR. HASSARD
wished the noble Lord would leave out that portion of the oath which he seemed inclined to retain,—That no prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate, hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, or authority, directly or indirectly, within this realm.To a Protestant this declaration was merely superfluous; but, in addition, it related to matters which at best were beyond their knowledge. But the strong objection he had to it was, that in its ordinary meaning it was contrary to facts. That might appear a strong statement to make to those who lived on this side the Channel; but iu Ireland the evidence of it met them every day, and almost every hour. The Pope did exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Ireland, and the Roman Catholic Bishops were now nominated directly by the Pope; the shadow of nomination by the clergy, which used to exist was now set aside, and the Pope appointed his own nominee over their heads. He might also refer to the published declarations of the hierarchy, who objected to the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, on the ground that their statutes had not been approved of by the Pope. Who submitted those statutes to the Pope was another matter. But with these facts before their eyes it was a serious consideration to require Protestants to declare that no foreign potentate had ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the realm. They were not framing an oath at present merely for the Members of that House, but for all 1087 servants of the Crown. He would, therefore, ask the noble Lord to expunge from the oath the words to which he had referred, and not to ask any class of Her Majesty's subjects to make assertions contrary to their conscientious belief.
said, he did not think it was competent for any Member to put his own private construction on the oath proposed. It must be taken secundum sensum imponentis, without any peculiar interpretation to suit the views of those who took it. If the measure was really one for the relief of the Jews, he would admit that it raised that important question in the least objectionable form. He had only to suggest that the word "subscribe" should be inserted in the fifth section, so that it might apply not only to the taking, but also to the subscribing of the oath. It would also raise the distinct question whether, according to the constitution, persons should be admitted into that House who did not profess the Christian faith. As to what his hon. Friend behind him had said on the oath of supremacy he thought that his hon. Friend forgot that the law of the land did not recognize the jurisdiction of the Pope in any matter temporal or ecclesiastical in this country, and the words were the same as were required to be taken in the time of Elizabeth, and were preserved in Lord Plunket's first Relief Bill. They simply denied that any foreign prince or potentate had any authority spiritual or temporal which was enforceable by law. The course pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford was the proper course, and he hoped that in Committee the sense of the House would be fairly taken on the fifth section.
§ MR. AYRTON
thought that the measure had been introduced in its present shape in deference to the prejudices of the hon. Gentleman on the other side. He admitted that the Bill, if passed, would accomplish its main object, but he thought it would be very much improved by the omission of that part of it which perpetuated the prejudices of a by-gone age. When this oath was first imposed it was strictly true, and no Protestant could object to swear to all it contained; but now it was impossible for any one to take the oath of supremacy without some mental reservation, for it stated that which was not the fact; and he regretted that a form of oath should be continued which was open to such an objection. What man could assert 1088 that no foreign prince, power, or potentate had any power or jurisdiction within this realm, knowing that the Pope was the head of the Roman Catholic Church, and that every Roman Catholic in this country acknowledged his authority and felt bound to obey his mandates. The Queen was not the head of the English Church in the same sense as the Pope was the head of the Church of Rome. He was glad that the noble Lord had brought forward the Jewish question in a shape the least objectionable to the House. He hoped hon. Gentlemen opposite had become sufficiently enlightened not to oppose the measure. Though a small, they were a persevering minority, and might be relying on the rejection of the measure in another place. He hoped, however, that the Bill would pass that House with such a majority as would satisfy all persons that the small section who opposed it were in doing so acting contrary to the enlightend public opinion of the nation.
§ MR. COLLINS
regretted very much the imperfect form in which this Bill was brought forward, and that, while altering one set of oaths, it left on the statute-book all the invidious distinctions which were contained in the other oaths. He hoped that, when the Bill got into Committee, some hon. Member would move to insert a form of oath which might be taken by all Members without distinction.
§ MR. BAGWELL
denied that any person had the right of taking the oath with a mental reservation. It must be taken in its plain sense; and nothing could be more contrary to the fact than to say that no foreign prince had any power or jurisdiction in this country. Such a jurisdiction was acknowledged by the law of the land; for, if a Roman Catholic clergyman were to recant, and become a member of the Established Church, he would not have to go to any Bishop for re-ordination, but would become a Protestant clergyman by right of the ordination which he had received from the Pope. He very much regretted that the noble Lord had not introduced a form of oath which would make all Members equal, and which could be taken by all without distinction. He hoped the noble Lord would feel the necessity of taking that course, and so putting an end to this great subject of difference and controversy.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I must certainly disclaim all the credit which has been attributed to me by the hon. and 1089 learned Members opposite for the form of oath in this Bill; for, if my own wishes were to have effect, I should like to see one form of oath adopted for Protestants and Roman Catholics. I have never concealed this wish, nor have I refrained from acting upon it; for, in 1854, I introduced a Bill to this effect; but, unfortunately, the Protestant jealousy was so strong, that it was rejected by this House on the second reading. For my own part, I am afraid the time is still distant when we shall all agree upon this point; therefore, I have endeavoured in this Bill only to do that which I thought was practicable, and which I knew would be useful to the country. I must leave to others to attempt, perhaps some years hence, to do that which has been pointed at by the hon. Member who has just sat down. With regard, however, to the words of this oath which an hon. Member has wished mo to omit, I must say that I do not see any. difficulty in a Protestant declaring that no foreign prince, potentate, or power, has or ought to have any power or jurisdiction, spiritual or temporal, in these realms. I make no reservation when I take that oath. I accept the words as implying the denial, not of any mental influence, but of any authority capable of being enforced in any of our courts. I take them as meaning that the Queen is the supreme head of this nation, and that no laws can be allowed to have any authority in this country, other than the laws to which the Queen and her Parliament have assented. That seems to me to be the plain sense of the oath. For instance, suppose the Pope were to issue orders with regard to the approaching Lent, directing that certain fast-days should be kept. Roman Catholics might be bound by these orders, and the fast-days might be observed accordingly; but if anybody were to point out some person who had not observed it, he could not go into any court and obtain the enforcement of that decree. Therefore, though there may be an authority over the minds of certain persons, there is not that spiritual power or jurisdiction exercised within this realm, the existence of which we deny in the oath in question. If we wore to examine critically every proceeding which takes place, I am not sure that the oath now taken by the Roman Catholics, denying the existence of the civil or temporal jurisdiction of any foreign Power in this country, would not be open to cavils quite as good as are made against this oath. Take 1090 the case of consuls—the Dutch consul, for instance, or the American consul, at Liverpool or any other port. They are nominated by foreign States—they exercise power in this country—they issue certificates, on which certain acts are done here; and it might be said that, so far, authority was exercised in this country by the King of Holland or the President of the United States. It would be a trifling cavil, I admit; but it would be quite as good as many which are made against the oath with regard to spiritual jurisdiction. Although, certainly, I should wish to see one comprehensive oath introduced, I should not wish to see words inserted into it which Protestants could not safely take; and I do think that the words of the oath at present taken by them are words to the meaning of which Protestants can safely agree. They have been defended in the House of Lords, by Lord Grenville and other high authorities, as words plainly conveying the meaning which they were intended to bear, and which might safely be taken by Protestants. These questions, however, are more fitted for the Committee than this present stage, and I hope that any further debate upon them may be reserved for that occasion. With regard to the wish expressed by the hon. Member for a uniform oath, my own opinion is that the time has not come when such an oath could be established. With regard to the Bill itself, I think it will be a very useful one, both as a measure of justice and of relief.
§ MR. M'MAHON
regretted that the noble Lord had not proposed an uniform oath in his Bill, and should have retained words which were, at the least, untrue. It was quite certain that the Pope of Rome had a great deal of spiritual authority within this realm; and when the Bill for establishing diplomatic relations with Rome was brought in, it was at once allowed that the Pope had in this country authority, civil and spiritual, over at least a third of the inhabitants of the country. The proposition made last year by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), that the words "hath not by law" should be omitted, had been rejected by a large majority; and the House insisted on Protestant3 going on swearing what was not the fact. The phraseology retained in the Roman Catholic oath was most insulting to Catholics,—implying, as it did, that they held the atrocious doctrines against which they were obliged to swear. Every form of oath, except that of allegiance, 1091 ought to be abolished. It was unworthy of the noble Lord to say that the time had not yet come to abolish the distinction. If there were a Motion for the rejection of the Bill on the second reading, he would support such a Motion, because the Bill fastened on Roman Catholics odious imputations, and implied that they were capable of conspiring to depose and murder their Sovereign. He had always voted for the admission of Jews into Parliament, but he objected to the present Bill.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, as the discussion has had reference rather to alterations in the clauses of the Bill than to its principle, it ought rather to take place in Committee. Nevertheless, I wish to make one or two observations on points alluded to in the course of it. Sir, the Bill before the House is well defined by its title. It is a Bill for the substitution of one oath for the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, and for what is called the relief of Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion. These are two distinct propositions. I have always been of opinion—and I have always expressed that opinion—since the first commencement of those debates, that our form of oath is entirely inapplicable to the present time, that it is a cumbrous form of oath, and that portions of it have really no bearing upon the circumstances by which we are surrounded. If the oath is to be taken at all, it ought to be taken in the most solemn form; and brevity, in my opinion, is a great part of that solemnity. If the Bill were a Bill simply to improve the law in this respect, nobody would entertain any objection to it, though the mode of alteration would be a legitimate subject for difference of opinion. Before going further, I wish to guard myself against being understood as giving any opinion now upon the second part of the Bill, which is for the relief of Her Majesty's subjects of the Jewish persuasion. When that question comes before us in Committee, I shall be prepared, if necessary, to state my reasons for holding that this is an inexpedient alteration of the law—not upon any ground of intolerance, for I think I can show that intolerance has really nothing to do with it. Having often stated my reasons upon this head, I shall be content to leave to others the general discussion of the question. I will proceed with a few observations on the form of the oath. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just addressed us said, that he objected to the form of the oaths, partly 1092 because it is useless, partly because it is offensive to Roman Catholics, and partly because it affirms a proposition that is not true; and he said that the oath of allegiance was sufficient. But, in my opinion, there are reasons why we should retain the principles of the oaths that have hitherto been taken. One of the characteristics of the free legislation of this country is to deal with matters as they rise. If we find anything which is an aggression upon our law, or a detriment to the subjects of the Crown, we not only remove such grievance and abuse of our legislation, but often record our opinions, and wisely so, in our declarations. The reason why I think it is not useless to have oaths beyond that of the oath of allegiance is, that since it was found by experience that the oath of allegiance was not sufficient to protect us in former times from aggressions upon our liberties and constitution, we are bound to protect our liberties and constitution by an oath which shall contain the principles of the oaths which we had to impose in former times, in addition to the oath of allegiance. I have before said, and have never been answered, nor do I think I ever can be, that there are three principles in these three oaths which you now intend to embody in one form. The first is the oath of allegiance. It simply says that you owe allegiance to Her Majesty, her heirs and successors. When it was found that that oath was not sufficient, that persons who were ready to take that oath advocated claims opposed to the free principles of our constitution, and that they attempted to introduce certain matters to which we could never assent—such as the exercise of a jurisdiction by a power other than that which is supreme in this country—we not merely legislated upon the subject, but embodied the principle of that new Act in a new oath. The principle of the oath of allegiance, then, is not only a principle of allegiance, but also of undivided allegiance to the Sovereign, and that principle you ought to maintain. Next, when you come to the oath of abjuration you find that these claims to sit upon the throne of this country were set up on behalf of a particular family that had once sat thereon, but had forfeited the right to do so. A third oath was consequently imposed, declaring that undivided allegiance ought to be given to the Sovereign and her heirs in a particular line of succession defined by Act of Parliament. I hope, therefore, that the House 1093 will never consent to an alteration of the three principles contained in these three oaths. It appears to me that those who advocate such a course must forget the attempts which were made in former times upon our liberty and constitution. Those principles are retained in the Bill of the noble Lord, and I shall give it my most hearty support. But it is said that certain passages in these oaths are offensive to the Roman Catholics. I hope that nothing which I may say will rake up the differences which in former times existed between Roman Catholics and Protestants. I say that sincerely. I remember that there is a beautiful passage in one of Burke's speeches to the effect, that as upon the spot where once volcanoes existed, but have burnt out, every fruit of the earth may be grown, so when religious differences and animosities have ceased to exist every laudable work has an opportunity of prospering. From the bottom of my heart I say, since the differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics have been settled, let them remain settled. The person who moves the first stone of that settlement will revive those differences. The particular form of the oath to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. M'Mahon) has objected is, I may remind him, the only condition upon which Roman Catholics are admitted to a seat in Parliament. That condition was accepted by the representatives of the Roman Catholic body as a reasonable settlement of the question. No Roman Catholic, therefore, need feel that there is anything offensive in retaining that form of the oath. I now come to the last point,—namely, whether the oath contains, as represented by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield, a falsehood. He has asserted that by the oath we falsely declare that the Pope hath not jurisdiction, power, or authority in this realm—that that declaration is not strictly true. Now upon that point I may in the first place observe, that as that declaration is contained in the oath taken by Protestants only, it is one of which Roman Catholics cannot reasonably complain. The grievance, if it exists, is one to which Protestants, and Protestants only, are subjected. Let no Roman Catholic, then, suppose that in what I am about to say I am arguing at all against him. Give me leave to ask my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield whether he seriously thinks that when he took the oath he made an untrue declaration? [Mr. 1094 ROEBUCK: "Hear, hear!"] My hon. and learned: Friend is a constitutional lawyer of considerable repute. He is also a very shrewd man and a very able reasoner. Now, what do you mean when you solemnly aver that no foreign prince, prelate, or potentate hath any jurisdiction, power, pre-eminence, ecclesiastical or spiritual, in the United Kingdom? These words, which have been in our statute book during the last 300 years, must have a legal meaning. Has everybody who has taken the oath during that period sworn a falsehood? Have all the great constitutional lawyers of both Houses of Parliament during the last three centuries done so? If they have, it would be one of the severest reflections upon my fellow-countrymen that I ever heard. I believe that the history of the origin of the oath clearly shows that no such charge can be maintained. The oath was first framed at the commencement of the reign of Queen Elizabeth for the purpose of defining the prerogative of the Sovereign of these Islands in spiritual matters and excluding any foreign potentate from a share in the prerogative. By an Act passed in the fifth year of Elizabeth it is declared that the oath of supremacy shall be taken and expounded in such form as is set forth in the Royal injunctions, which declared that the Queen's Majesty hath chief power in this realm of England, over her dominions, as well as the chief authority in all matters, whether ecclesiastical or civil, which were not, and ought not to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction. The whole turned upon this, whether during the last years any foreign prince, prelate, or potentate had in this realm exercised any jurisdiction which could be enforced in our courts of law. If you want to alter the oath under the pretence of saying that the courts of this realm are to recognize any jurisdiction, power, or authority other than that which is recognized by the laws of this land, say so at once, and we shall then know what you are driving at. The fact that the oath has been taken by Protestants during the last 300 years shows conclusively that the meaning put upon it by them was that no such foreign jurisdiction was recognized by our laws. The oath was no doubt some years ago objected to by two Protestant Peers, who thought that it contained a falsehood; but these Peers have been subsequently led to take a different view of the subject, and have felt themselves justified in taking the oath. I had not intended 1095 before coming down to the House to have taken any part in that discussion; but have thought it my duty to show that the allegation that the words of the oath are untrue is utterly unfounded, and thus to repel a charge which, if it could he substantiated, might justly be considered a grievous scandal to the English name. I shall support the Bill, because while it is an improvement it will not disturb those great principles which were secured to us by our ancestors.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he could not help differing from the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, with respect to the meaning and truth of those words in the oath taken by Protestants to which he had referred. He thought, indeed, he must have confounded the Queen of England with the Pope of Rome. The Pope of Rome before the Reformation had both temporal and spiritual power in this realm. That power was then done away with in England, and in the place of the Pope was substituted the Sovereign of England. Our forefathers, in order to guard themselves against the consequences of that substitution, said, "Mind, we do not confer upon the Sovereign of England all the power formerly exercised by the Pope. We circumscribe the power of the Sovereign by the canons." The words of the oath, however, applied to the Pope of Rome. Let them have no quibbling about the matter. It was not by lawyers such as the right hon. Gentleman that the oath was to be taken, but by every man whom a constituency might send to that House as its representative. By the oath they had to declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state, or potentate (which words were used expressly to include the Pope of Rome) hath, nor ought to have, any jurisdiction (which was a legal term), power (which was a large, but not a legal term, and meant any dominion over mind or body), superiority, pre-eminence, or authority in this realm. Now, was that true? He maintained that it was not. his right hon. Friend had attempted to argue that the fact of men in this country having taken that oath for the last 300 years proved that the oath was taken in a sense which he himself had attributed to it. But the fact proved nothing of the sort—it only proved how unwise was the legislation which forced men into a false position. Those men had by the legislation of the country been compelled to take the oath. And we could not flatter ourselves that 1096 they had taken the oath in its plain natural meaning, and not with a mental reservation. The oath was framed at a time when it was desired to exclude Roman Catholics from Parliament and public offices, and it contained a substantial truth, but that truth had disappeared since Roman Catholics had been admitted to a seat in the Legislature. When the oath was framed it was a penal offence to be a Roman Catholic. Why, then, should an oath which was framed for the purpose of excluding Roman Catholics from Parliament be retained and imposed upon every Protestant Member at a time when Roman Catholics were admitted to scats in the Legislature? Did Protestants, when taking the oath in these days, mean that the Pope should not exercise any spiritual authority in this country? But the Pope did here exercise that authority. [Mr. WALPOLE intimated dissent.] It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to shake his head; but words ought to be taken in their plain natural meaning, and did any Protestant really believe that he was telling the truth when he declared with the solemnity of an oath that the Pope did not exercise any power in this realm? No Roman Catholic bishop was appointed in this country without the sanction of the Pope. When the noble Lord the Member for London brought in that celebrated Bill against the assumption in this country of ecclesiastical titles by Roman Catholics he (Mr. Roebuck) opposed him. He stated that Act would be a dead letter. Had it not proved itself to be so? Were there not at this moment Roman Catholic bishops in Ireland who openly and avowedly assumed ecclesiastical titles, and who defied the Government to prevent them from doing so? Was there not actually a Cardinal appointed by the Pope exercising spiritual authority in England? And yet the House had been told that the Pope did not exercise spiritual authority in this realm. It might be said that it was very lamentable that Protestants had been obliged to take an oath containing the falsehood that the Pope did not exercise such authority; and so he himself thought. But he also thought that it would have been still more lamentable if Protestants had refused to take that oath. He was not to be frightened by the solemnity of tone assumed by the righ hon. Gentleman. Not a bit of it. It was a fact that they had taken the oath, and that the oath was untrue. It was not the 1097 first time that he had assorted that in that House, and he suspected it would not be the last. An hon. and learned Gentleman on the opposite side of the House had suggested that the Bill should be opposed, not only because it would impose a false oath, but would also be a fresh insult to the Roman Catholics. This Bill, however, would not at all alter the oath with regard to them, while it would do a great act of justice to a portion of our fellow-subjects. Taken as a whole, it would, he believed, ameliorate the condition of the law of England. Would the House at once throw it out because it would not accomplish all that they desired? At the right time he should move that the words "civil or temporal" should be substituted in the oath for "ecclesiastical or spiritual." The great recommendation of the Bill was, that it would relieve the Jews from that exclusion under which they had so long suffered; and he would proceed to state very shortly when he supported a proposal for accomplishing that object. Why, he would ask, should the Jew be excluded from Parliament? Was it because he differed from the rest of his fellow-countrymen in religion? If that were a good reason for his exclusion, Protestants ought to exclude Roman Catholics, and Roman Catholics ought to exclude Protestants. But they had learned from experience that that was an unwise mode of proceeding in case of different Christian sects. And why, then, should it be wise in the case of the Jews? Was there anything in the mental character of the Jew which ought to exclude him from a seat in that House. He (Mr. Roebuck) could understand that religious differences might be used as a ground of exclusion in the case of people whose religious belief unfitted them for the society of their fellow men; and he should on that account be prepared to exclude Mormons from seats in the Legislature. But could Christians who adopted the Bible as the groundwork of their faith extend to the Jews that principle? A Jew did not believe all that a Christian believed, but all that he believed was believed by the Christian: and there was nothing there-fore in his faith which ought to subject him to a civil disability. The Jews were admitted to our houses and to our boards, and we even intermarried with them; and there could, therefore, be no reasons why they should be treated as objects of hostility. It was only by a prejudice that they were so treated; and he (Mr. Roebuck) 1098 wished that the hon. and learned Gentleman who had given notice of his intention to oppose the clause which would admit the Jews to Parliament would descend into the depth of his own mind and ask himself whether his opposition to the admission of the Jews to Parliament was not a mere prejudice. How few out of every million of men had a reason for the faith that was in them! The vast majority were the mere sport of chance, and the religion in which they believed was the religion in which they were educated. There were but very few people who came to a conclusion in that matter from real consideration. The Jew was born to his faith, and so was the Christian; the Roman Catholic was born to his faith, and so was the Protestant; and he did not think there was one man in a million of the professors of any creed who could say that he had carefully instructed himself in the grounds of his belief and that he believed merely because he had satisfied his reasons. He thanked the noble Lord for having introduced that Bill, which, if adapted, would remove the last rag of intolerance that disgraced our statute-book. He believed there were men who would sincerely oppose the measure; and it might not pass into a law this year; but as surely as the sun would rise tomorrow, this nation would live to see the time when the Jews would be allowed to sit in the British Legislature, when all these forms for securing the exclusion of men on account of their religious belief, and which we ought to regard with feelings of indignation and humiliation, would be done away with, and when we should really be what we profess to be, Christians at heart.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Mr. Speaker, I must say I have heard with great regret the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck.) I perfectly grant, however, that he is most consistent in the course he takes, entertaining the peculiar views he does and stating that religious faith exercises no influence over the conduct of men.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I beg that I may not be misrepresented. I should be a fool indeed to suppose that religion has no influence over a man's actions.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
The hon. and learned Gentleman stated, that there were very few persons who were so convinced of the truth of their religion as to be influenced by it in their conduct. Now I cannot understand the meaning of that proposition, if it do, not convey a distinct denial of the 1099 power of religion over the mind of man, and through the mind of man over his actions. ["Hear!" and "No!"] If that doctrine be true then, I readily acknowledge that we, who are defending the Christian character of our Constitution as best calculated to command the reverence and secure the welfare and freedom of the people of this country, are defending a shadow. If Christianity exercises no power over the great mass of the population, if it does not influence their minds and their conduct, this house misrepresents them by retaining the profession of Christianity as a qualification for admission to a seat within its walls. The profession of Christianity is an acknowledgment of that code of morality which each Christian, of the few whom the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield supposes to be sincere, accepts as his guide. The hon. and learned Member said that he believed there were very few persons of any creed who had an intelligent perception of their faith, or were actuated by that faith in the conduct of their lives.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
No, Sir; I never said anything of the sort. That only shows how necessary it is that Gentlemen should keep their ears open. What I said was this—that of the large mass of mankind a very few only had a reason for the faith that was in them. I never said a word about the influence of their faith upon their actions. I said that men came to their belief because they were born in it; that because a man was born a Protestant he grew up to be a Protestant; that because he was born a Jew he grew up to be a Jew. I never said, and I should have been a madman to say, that religion had no influence on the conduct of men.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then I am to understand that what the hon. and learned Member intended to convey is, that religion, with the great mass of mankind, is an hereditary prejudice.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Then I beg the hon. and learned Member's pardon. He certainly conveyed to my mind that it is an hereditary faith—a faith without reason—[Mr. ROEBUCK: "Hear!"]—and that therefore all those who profess themselves Christians, with the exception of a very small minority, are cheated by what he must forgive me for saying he describes as a prejudice. [Mr. ROEBUCK: "Hear, hear!"] I think I have now come to an understanding with the hon. and learned 1100 Member; and I wish to come to an understanding, because I say that he is perfectly consistent, entertaining that view of the feeble hold which religion—which Christianity—has upon the reason of man; I say he is perfectly consistent.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I see it is very difficult to make the hon. Gentleman understand; but I never said that religion has no influence upon men's actions. I said they come to their belief very seldom upon reasoning, and that I reiterate; and if the hon. Gentleman cannot understand the difference, I pity him, but I cannot enlighten him.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not in the least disturbed the proposition which I hold. He says, that the great mass of Christians are not Christians by the action of their reason, but because they have inherited their faith. That is his proposition. Then, I say, that he is perfectly consistent in supporting the exclusion of the recognition of Christianity from the constitution of a deliberative and legislative assembly like this; and I think that he only is consistent in objecting to the recognition of religion in our deliberations. I have heard the able defence which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Dublin, of the Protestant safeguards of our constitution. I have heard the able speech which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge, in favour of the retention and maintenance of those safeguards. And I know that the retention of those safeguards is consistent with what the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton) has been pleased to call the prejudices of the Protestant Christians of this country. I know that well. But I feel this, that if we are to resign the Christian character of the Legislature, it is vain and idle to attempt to defend the Protestant outworks of the constitution. I feel that the noble Lord opposite, when in 1854 he proposed to act in a manner agreeably to the views of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and strike out the words in the oath, which recognize our faith in Christ, acted consistently. But the hon. and learned Member must forgive me for reminding him that he then voted for the exclusion of the words which would restrain the temporal and civil authority of a foreign potentate.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I beg pardon again. I moved, as an Amendment, that for the 1101 words "spiritual and ecclesiastical," the words "civil and temporal" should be substituted.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I was not about to deny that the hon. and learned Member did so; because, in 1854, he did vote for the exclusion of those very words from the Bill proposed by the noble Lord the Member for London, at that time Home Secretary. It is something that the hon. and learned Member should have repented to that extent.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
He proposes that we should now adopt or retain those words for the exclusion of which he voted before.
§ Mr. NEWDEGATE
The hon. and learned Member must forgive me. I followed him in the debate upon a Bill which proposed to exclude those very words. [Mr. ROEBUCK: No!]
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
Yes; upon the second reading. I was about to say, that if you are going to invalidate the Christian securities, the Christian sanctity, the profession and acceptance of Christianity as the guiding rule of your legislation; if you are going to repudiate Christianity as the basis upon which you are to amend the laws which are already founded upon Christianity, Protestantism will be given up in all senses in your legislation, for Protestantism is simply this—Christianity purified from the corruptions and errors of the Church of Rome. I believe that no intelligent Protestant, after the statement of the noble Lord to-day, and after his repeated statements in this House, can expect to see one Protestant security, one Protestant form, one Protestant guarantee retained, if you give up the Christian character of this House. I myself at once accept the condemnation of a Protestantism that is not Christian; and I say that, if you are about to strike down the Christian character of the House, the Roman Catholics have a just ground of complaint if you retain any restrictions whatever upon the propagation of their faith, or the intrusion of the authority of their Church. Sir, I should deprecate such intrusion. No man has struggled against it more 1102 constantly than I have myself, and I will continue to struggle against it. But I do so for what I believe to be a purer Christianity; and I say, that if you proceed upon another doctrine, if you merely object to the Pope's intrusion as a foreign Power, and do not deny his authority as the head of a religion, the Sovereign of the State of Rome is not a Power that it is worth our while to resist at the expense of so much labour, so much ill-feeling, and so much dissension, as undoubtedly it has hitherto cost us to maintain our Protestant freedom in this land. The noble Lord may tell me that he does not propose to strike out the words "upon the true faith of a Christian;" that what he proposes to do is, to admit the Jew under another form of oath, recognising his faith as an equal qualification, for a seat in this House. Sir, I never can believe that the country will be satisfied with a state of things in which Judaism is to be placed upon a par with Christianity. Mr. Speaker, Judaism is not the religion of the Old Testament; it is the religion of the Talmud. It is the religion which our blessed Redeemer told the Jews of his time had made the law of the Old Testament of "none effect." The Jew is not merely the professor of the Old Testament; he is the recipient of a religion which condemned the blessed Author of our faith as an impostor, because he declared that Judaism was not the religion of the Old Testament (which indeed was in him fulfilled), but was the continuation of those traditions which made the law of God of none effect. That is what Judaism is; and it is the constant and lamentable adherence of the Jews, for 1,800 years, to the unhappy delusions of their forefathers which makes them participators in the greatest and most astounding crime that the world has ever known. If, then, you put that religion on a par with Christianity, which it condemns, you will offer such an insult to Christianity that it would be better that we should at once come to the point which the noble Lord is driving at, and which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield is perfectly consistent in desiring, and sweep away all recognition of Christianity as forming a duo qualification for a Member of the Legislature and an appropriate basis for our laws. I hope the House will excuse mo for any display of earnestness on my part; but I speak the deep convictions of my mind. I like not quibbles; I am hopeless of defending outworks when the citadel is 1103 gone; therefore, I rejoice to find—although hon. Members of this House have gone so far as to declare that they have the voice of the people with them, the willing consent of the peaceful, the quiet, the intelligent mass of the community, in this direct attack and innovation upon our laws, our constitution, and our faith—I rejoice in the evidence that the petitions which have been laid upon the table afford, that the public intelligence is not advanced to such a point of indifference as to desire that the Legislature and the State should be freed from the obligation of acting in the same sense and upon the same morality which guides the private actions of every Christian subject of Her Majesty. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield will forgive me if I tell him that, lamenting as I do the opinions which he has enunciated upon this subject, I respect his anxiety to preserve England as the refuge of the exile—the sole remaining house of liberty in Europe. Nothing can be more graphic than his description, his eloquent description, of how England stands amongst the nations of the world. Will the House forgive me if I repeat his own words? The hon. and learned Member said, the other night:—The whole of Europe, with the very insignificant exception of Belgium and Sardinia, is at the present time subject to despotism. The only hope of Europe lies in these two islands of Great Britain and Ireland, in which freedom of language and freedom of action still exist." ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
interposed, and reminded the hon. Gentleman that he was not in order in quoting, from a newspaper, the speech of another Member, delivered in the same Session and referring to a totally different subject.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
If, Sir, you deny me an indulgence which I have seen enjoyed by many hon. Members of this House, of course I bow to your decision. But you will allow me to call to the recollection of the House that they have recently heard, from the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, eloquent words descriptive of the fact that England remains the centre of freedom, and that upon the freedom of England hangs the little of constitutional liberty which is enjoyed upon the Continent. They were words that will have sunk deep into the hearts of many. Well, what is the difference between the constitution of England and the constitutions of those Continental nations which afford so little freedom?— 1104 what is the difference? It is this: the constitutions of those countries are all based upon the Code Napoleon—every one of the countries to which the hon. and learned Member referred.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield himself excepted Sardinia. Well, the constitution of Sardinia is but a modification of the same code. But the difference between the Code Napoleon and the constitution of England is this—that the Code Napoleon is based upon the doctrines of the First French Revolution, whilst the constitution of England is based upon Christianity. Herein rests the great difference between them. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield laments that the constitutions which are based upon the Code Napoleon, have failed to Secure freedom upon the Continent; and neither he nor any man laments it more than I do. But then I say it is the natural consequence of a constitution which is based upon the second commandment of that Code which was given by God for the Government of mankind, but ignores the first; whereas the constitution of England is based upon the First Commandment which God gave for the government of man and recognizes and includes the second. Sir, I earnestly trust that the House of Lords will persevere in their righteous defence of the Christian character of the State, because I am confident that if once this country departs from her Christian constitution thus agreeable to the form which God himself has pointed out for the government of men, her freedom will fall as has fallen the freedom of those nations which have based their liberties on the sandy foundation of the Code Napoleon. Sir, I lament to see the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and other men like him, labouring under the delusion that you can maintain the freedom of this country upon any other basis than that on which it has grown up. I repeat that I lament their being the victims of what I must call a delusion, thus proved delusive throughout the whole of civilized Europe. Sir, I will detain the House but a few moments longer. I fully accept the opinions of those who regard the concessions of the noble Lord as worthy of our consideration. I confess that I attach as little value or importance to them as the noble Lord himself; but I was unwilling to see the House plunged into a debate after the nature of 1105 the Bill has been so well described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stamford. I do not wish to force the House to a division now; but I do look forward to the time, when in Committee the issue may be fairly raised apart from all those minor considerations which have now encumbered our debate, and when we may appeal to the better feelings of those who are pursuing what they think to be a course of liberality, which may assure them that in attacking the religious convictions—the intelligent religious convictions and deep faith of the most intelligent portion of the community, they are pursuing a course of persecution utterly unworthy of the object which the noble Lord seeks to attain. The question thus stands before the country: shall a wealthy person—a wealthy Jew—who, by the command which he has over the constituency of London, and through the influence of his great wealth and foreign connections, has secured his election to a seat in this House, take that seat at the sacrifice of the constitution of this country, which has upheld its freedom for a thousand years, and is deeply endeared to the feelings of the most intelligent, the most loyal and the most truly religious portion of the community, with respect to whom, even if the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield will not admit that the rest of the community share their convictions, he must at least admit that they are safe guides for those whoso intelligence in religion, the hon. and learned Member avows he holds in such light estimation. I will no longer interpose between the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Bowyer) and the house; but I would make one appeal to that hon. and learned Member as a Roman Catholic. If he conscientiously believes that the Church of Rome is a Christian Church and he reverences its Christianity, I entreat him not to join in trampling upon the forms of Christianity which others value, and thus show that his Church is so exclusive that she holds all to be infidels who are not within her pale.
§ MR. BLAND
said, that he had always supported every Bill which had been introduced for the purpose of relieving Her Majesty's Jewish subjects from the disabilities which at present were imposed upon them; and, although in some respects he considered the present Bill objectionable, he should for the same reasons which had actuated him upon previous occasions, give it a hearty support. He wished, indeed, that the noble Lord had 1106 provided some one oath which could be taken without any mental reservation by all classes of Her Majesty's subjects; but, although the oath was not in that form, he did not think that was sufficient to induce him to oppose the Bill. As regarded the oath of supremacy, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had in broad terms stated that it was not true. Now, of course, the hon. and learned Gentleman did not moan that those persons who took it committed perjury, but that the expression that "no foreign prince or potentate hath, or ought to have, any authority, spiritual or ecclesiastical, within this realm" was not literally true, as in the case of Roman Catholics the Pope had authority ecclesiastical; and he for one would have preferred the introduction of some word which would have made that form of words strictly and literally true. He agreed, however, in the explanation that it was the legal, and not the actual power that was meant. As regarded the oath itself it was perfectly unnecessary in the case of a Protestant, for the substance matter of it was, in point of fact, an article of his creed, and it was surely absurd to make a Protestant swear over again to that which. was an article of the very faith upon which he called himself a Protestant. Then, again, with regard to the oaths taken by Roman Catholics, he thought that as long as the oaths taken by other Members of that House remained unchanged the Roman Catholics had perhaps no reason to complain; but now, as the oaths taken by other Members wore to be changed, and that which had become obsolete expunged, they might reasonably demand some alteration also in the oaths which they were called upon to take. As to the argument that to admit Jews into that House would unchristianize its character, it had been so frequently met and answered that he would not again refer to it; but he would only express a hope that, as the Bill was founded upon principles of religious toleration, it would receive the sanction of the House and be passed into law.
§ MR. BOWYER
said, that before entering upon the merits of the Bill, he wished to say a few words upon the arguments which had sometimes been used with regard to what was called the Christian character of that House. It had been said that the House of Commons ought to be a Christian body; and so undoubtedly it would always be, even if Jews were admitted, for the great majority of the House would always be Christians. But it was said by some 1107 that every Member of that House ought to be a Christian. Now, undoubtedly it was desirable that every Member of that House should be a Christian; it was desirable that every one of Her Majesty's subjects, or, indeed, that every one in the world should be a Christian; but such was the condition of the world, that the fact was that many of Her Majesty's subjects were not Christians: and then arose the question whether upon that account they were to be excluded from the management of civil affairs. Now, a man might be a very good Christian and a very bad Member of Parliament. What said a great Christian authority, St. Thomas Aquinas—about the qualifications of men?Si doctus est, doceat nos;Si sapiens est, gubernet nos;Si sanctus est, oret pro nobis.Yet no doubt it was desirable that a Member of Parliament should be a Christian. But to adopt the principle that no one but a Christian should sit in that House led at once to a very considerable difficulty. Hon. Gentlemen who maintained that position were bound to show what a Christian was. What was a Christian? Some held that Unitarians were not Christians. Some persons held that all persons baptized were Christians; but wore Gentlemen before taking their seats in that House to be bound to show that they had been baptized, or, still more, validly baptized? for on that point there might be great difference of opinion. One opinion was, that no one could be a Christian who was not in communion with the Church of Christ. Another was that no one was a Christian who did not believe in Christ. But then came the question, what was the true doctrine about our Lord? There hon. Members would differ considerably. There were certain sects which called themselves Christians who did not use the rite of baptism. What was to be decided in their ease? There were even certain theologians—and theology was quite as difficult a study as law,—who would hold that the hon. Members for North Warwickshire wore not Christians—and, on the other hand, some persons would say that he himself was an idolator. Again, who was to decide? In fact, if the principle were laid down that no one but a Christian ought to sit in that House, a world of difficulty would arise. The way to view the question was, to his mind, plain. England was a country in which there were many different religious persuasions, but the persons holding those different views all paid taxes. They all owed the 1108 same allegiance to the Crown, and in time of war they equally shed their blood for their country, and bore the burdens imposed on them by the law and constitution of the country; and on principles of common sense and justice they all had an equal right to participate in the government of their country. He came, now, to the merits of the Bill. Although he approved the principle of the Bill, he objected to the retention of the Roman Catholic oath. It was not his intention to press his views to a division, but he wished to state that the opposition of Roman Catholics to Bills of a, similar character had not proceeded from illiberalty to the Jews, but because they objected to vote for the retention of an oath which they had submitted to because it was all they could get, but which they had never accepted. He begged the House to consider the circumstances under which the oath had been imposed on Roman Catholics. When the Emancipation Bill was passed there was not a single Roman Catholic in the House, and therefore they had no share in framing that measure—they could only submit to what was done, rather than remain subject to political disabilities. Now, however, they were asked by this Bill to reimpose an oath upon themselves, which hitherto they had only acquiesced in on compulsion, this was the effect of the 7th clause of the Bill. Another ground on which a Roman Catholic could not support this Bill was because it made him impose on another man what would be a sinful act if done by himself. A Roman Catholic believed the Pope to be the vicar of Christ, and that to deny his jurisdiction as such was something like blasphemy and sacrilege. Therefore, for him to join in compelling a Protestant to deny before God that any foreign Prelate had ecclesiastical or spiritual jurisdiction in this country would be analogous to the act of a Christian who should compel a Jew to call the Almighty to witness that he rejected our Lord and Saviour. Every Christian would revolt at any such proceeding. He doubted whether an oath was of any use whatever; because, if a Member of that House would not do his duty without taking an oath, he was not fit to be there at all. On the other hand, if a man were thoroughly unprincipled, he would take any oath, and an oath would afford no security against his misconduct. But if an oath was to be insisted upon it ought to be one to which nobody would object. Now, this Bill proposed to relieve Protestants from taking 1109 an oath which contained many absurdities, and yet it required Roman Catholics to continue to swear to those absurdities. The House was not aware of the full absurdity of the Roman Catholic oath. It was intended to make Roman Catholics deny both the deposing power of the Pope and his power over temporal matters; but the oath which they took in reality denied neither. It did not deny the only power of the Pope over temporal things which the Church of Rome actually admitted. It was an outrage against any man to make him solemnly abjure the opinion that "Princes excommunicate or deprived by the Pope may be murdered by their subjects." As for the supposed opinion that princes excommunicated might be murdered, no recognized writer of the Church of Rome gave any warrant for so wicked and detestable a doctrine. Something had indeed been said with reference to this notion about Mariana and his famous work De Rege. But it should be remembered that that was not a theological, but a purely civil work, the question it dealt with being "whether people had the right to kill tyrants." The doctrine discussed was the doctrine of Brutus—the doctrine of tyrannicide; and Mariana treated it very much as Cicero or any other Pagan would have done. He would therefore pass to the part of the oath regarding the deposing power of the Pope. But, though the Catholic oath denied that princes excommunicated and deprived by the Pope might be deposed by their subjects, or any other person, it did not deny the deposing power of the Pope; but rather admitted that a prince may be deprived by the Pope, and, oddly enough, its effect would have been that if James II. had been so excommunicated he could not have been deposed by his subjects. The oath next denied that the Pope "hath or ought to have any temporal or civil jurisdiction in this realm." But no theologian of the slightest authority in the Church of Rome, and no canonist, ever asserted that the Pope has a temporal or civil jurisdiction beyond the limits of his own temporal dominions. The doctrine which the oath sought to deny, and which actually existed in the Church of Rome, was that the Pope has a spiritual authority over temporal things out of his dominions—an authority over temporal things, "in order to spirituals," as the old phrase ran. And indeed no Church could ever exist without some such power, 1110 for as a great canonist had justly said—the church on earth is composed not only of souls but of bodies also—which are temporal. But the Pope did not claim civil power out of his own dominions. An eminent canonist wrote thus:—Potestas politica ordinaria et directa, ac jurisdictio tam legislativa quam dominativa, est pones imperatorem et alios prineipes sæculares exclusive ad Papam. Ratio est quia Christus solum spiritualem jurisdictionem Petro et successoribus ejusdem tribuit, ut fere omnes colligunt ex verbis 'Tibi dabo claves regni cœlorum.'"—Schmalz-grueber Jus. Eccl., vol. I.And in an other writer, after explaining the spiritual jurisdiction of the Pope came this passage;—Nec prætermittenda potestas temporalis sive politica quam habet in tota ditione ecclesiastica more principorum cæterorum,"—Devoti Inst.; Canon, sec. 21.This showed that civil princes had political power exclusively, and that the power given by our Lord to St. Peter was spiritual, and not civil—though it extended to temporal things. And that power over temporal things—the oath did not deny. As for the supposed restrictions in the Roman Catholic oath they were absurdities, intended to satisfy Lord Eldon and other old women. A Roman Catholic Member of that House, he maintained, was quite as free to vote on any question that came before them as any Protestant. Member; but as a matter of feeling it had been his individual practice to abstain from voting on any matter exclusively affecting the internal affairs of the Church of England. He wished that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would do the same in regard to the college of Maynooth, which exclusively affected the Roman Catholics, and ought therefore to be left entirely to them to deal with. He opposed this Bill, then, because it left Roman Catholic Members under the necessity of taking an oath: which was so highly objectionable, and because it called upon them for the first time to be parties to the imposition of that oath upon themselves, to which he could never consent. He would not now divide the House against the measure, but he reserved to himself the right of taking any course that he thought proper at its subsequent stages. The House had a mode of escaping from its difficulty independently of such a Bill. There was a broad and palpable distinction between the ceremonies and the form of the oath. All through the proceedings in the case of "Miller v. Salomons" the Judges treated 1111 the "form" of the oath as the words of the oath. ["No."] Now, by 1 & 2 Vict. c. 105, persons were allowed to take oaths in the form and with the ceremonies most binding on their consciences, and after enumerating some of the cases in which that privilege might be exercised, the section finished with the words "and every other occasion." Surely those large words extended to the oaths taken in that House. The Act distinguished the ceremonies—kissing the old or new Testament and the like, from the form—that is to say the words of the oath, and provided that both should be such as were most binding on the recipients. He had felt it duo to himself and to those who thought with him to state the grounds on which, in the difficult and anomalous position in which they were placed, they deemed themselves bound to act, and he had only now to thank the House for the patience with which it had listened to them.
§ MR. MELLOR
thought that there was a lamentable confusion of ideas in the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer), both as regarded the case of "Miller v. Salomons" and the Act to which he had referred. The very contrary to that which the hon. and learned Member asserted was the fact in the case of "Miller v. Salomons." The Judges were generally of opinion that the words "On the true faith of a Christian" were part of the substance and not the mere form of the oath. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in referring to the Statute of 1 & 2 Vict., c. 105, argued that the general words empowering the party to take the oath in the form most binding on his concience "or on any occasion whatever" would justify the Jew entering the House by declaring that the words which at present stood in his way were not binding on his conscience. Such a view of the case was wholly untenable. The hon. and learned Gentleman might as well have argued that the words in a statute against cruelty to animals, which prohibited any injury being done to "horse, cow, pig, sheep, or other animal whatever" could be taken to include a man. In no other legitimate way could a Jew be admitted to that House, but by the terms of a new enactment for the purpose. It was an entire mistake to say that this Bill re-enacted the existing restrictions upon Roman Catholics. It distinctly provided that nothing which it contained should be taken in the least to alter or affect the Act im- 1112 posing the Roman Catholic oaths. He was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield say that he as well as other Members had taken the present oath, though they did not believe all of it. He (Mr. Mellor) had taken the oath believing every word of it to be true. The plain and simple meaning of the oath was obvious. It was clear that it was never intended to deny that the Pope had a spiritual influence over Roman Catholics like that which the Wesleyan Conference exercised over the Methodist body. That was an influence entirely springing from the voluntary consent of the members of a religious community. The words of the oath had a distinct and definite meaning, and he believed thorn all to be perfectly true. He was quite sure that the hon. Member for Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), whose sincerity no man could admire more than he did, would agree with him in the opinion that religion, to be at all valuable, should be operative in a man's conduct. He wished, therefore, to point out to the House the strongest argument which he thought could be made in favour of the admission of the Jews. They had heard the declaration of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that he and others had taken the oath though they did not believe it was all true. What, then, kept the Jew out of the House? Because it appeared that his conscience was more delicate, more nice and subtle on the point, for he could not repeat those words in the oath which he did not in his conscience believe to be true. That he (Mr. Mellor) asserted was the strongest reason why he should be admitted to Parliament, because it was thus evident that the fullest reliance might be placed upon his conscientious feelings.
§ MR. SPOONER
Sir, When I came down to the House this morning I had not the smallest intention of saying one word upon the question before us, nor should I now say a word but that I have been appealed to in a peculiar manner by the hon. and learned Gentleman below me (Mr. Bowyer). Before I allude to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Dundalk, I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Mellor) will allow mo to reply to him. The hon. and learned Gentleman has just used the same argument in favour of the admission of Jews to this House as I once heard used by Mr. Canning in favour of the admission of Roman Catholics to Parliament—that men could not be 1113 said to be regardless of a moral obligation who were excluded from Parliament solely by their respect for one. It was, no doubt, a most specious argument, which captivated and deceived a great many persons, amongst others myself. But what has happened since then has shown the great fallacy of it. Mr. Canning's argument was this—Why not admit the Roman Catholics to Parliament? Because you say they do not feel themselves bound by the legal obligation of a oath. What stops them from entering Parliament? Because they do admit the moral obligation of an oath. If then an oath stops them from entering Parliament, why can we not frame an oath which will direct and control their conduct when in Parliament? Now, I believe that it was not the oath that kept the Roman Catholics out of the House, but it was the fear of losing their caste amongst their own people; it was the apprehension of losing that moral character which they found it so essential to maintain, which made them refuse to take the oath that was required to be taken by all Members at that time. That was the real fact of the case. You will find that the same will be the case with the Jews, if you admit them into the House upon such an argument. No, Sir, what stops the Jew from taking the oath at the table of this House is this, he knows at once that by so doing he would be expelled from the whole assembly to which he belongs; he knows, then, that if he dared to take the oath he would be obliged to assume in some degree a Christian character in his capacity of a Member of a Christian legislature. I do not mean to say that by the admission of an individual Jew to this House any danger can arise to our Christian institutions. The danger does not arise in that quarter. But the danger arises to this House in giving up that which, under the blessing of Providence, this land has maintained for so many centuries, namely, the Christian character of its Legislature, the Christian assembly of a Christian people. By surrendering that character we shall be surrendering the only safeguard for the liberties of the people which are true and valuable to British hearts. We cannot at present anticipate the many fearful evils that would follow such a measure, but we must prevent them in the outset, as far as we are able. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Bowyer), said that there were certain theologians who would contend that neither 1114 myself nor my hon. colleague (Mr. Newdegate) were Christians. I do not know to whom the hon. Gentleman alluded, but he certainly will not lead me by such an observation into recrimination; I will not say that the hon. and learned Member and the other Members of his creed are not Christians. I say no such thing. I say they are Christians, but Christians under a great delusion, greatly deceived, and holding tenets which, if carried out, would be destructive of the Protestant constitution and of true religion in this country, and likewise most dangerous to the liberty and freedom of the people. Show me a Roman Catholic country, and I will show you a tyrannical despotism. Show me a Protestant country, and you will find there established the liberty of the subject and the full right of every one to profess any mode of worship they think fitting. I admit that there are, as my hon. Friend has said, many good Christians who are not Members of Parliament; but I will not admit the converse of that proposition that there may be good Members of Parliament who are not good Christians. My hon. and learned Friend then asked, who is a Christian? and he drew a picture of the diversity of opinions amongst Christians. We cannot, however, search men's hearts to ascertain their belief. All we can make them do is, to make them profess that they are Christians. If my hon. and learned Friend's arguments are good you must abolish part of the Coronation Oath, which binds the Sovereign to maintain the Established Church and the true religion. You can only maintain that oath on the same ground on which I say you are bound to exact from Members of the Legislature a profession of Christian principles, principles which are the best safeguard for the happiness and the prosperity of the State. My hon. and learned Friend said that he had refrained from voting on any question in which the Church or its ecclesiastical establishment was under consideration.
§ MR. BOWYER
I abstain from voting on any matters which exclusively concern the internal affairs of the Established Church.
§ MR. SPOONER
And he called on me to abstain from bringing forward the question of Maynooth on the same ground. But have Protestants nothing to do with the support of Maynooth? If he says that we have nothing to do with it, let him bring in a Bill to release us from paying to its support. But I will continue to object as 1115 long as I have a seat in this House that a Protestant country should be bound to pay for teaching doctrines which the Articles of that Church have proclaimed to be idolatrous or blasphemous. Whether successful or unsuccessful, I feel called on by an imperative sense of duty to protest against the inconsistency which Protestants are guilty of in educating priests to teach doctrines so discordant with the Articles of the Church. I shall not follow his advice—I shall not refrain, as he wishes me to do, from again bringing forward the question of Maynooth some time in the course of this Session.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
would, in the first place, deny that the doctrines of the Catholic were inconsistent with the true religion, as the hon. Member for North Warwickshire asserted. For what, in a word, was religion? Was it not that which taught us to love God for his own sake, and our neighbours as ourself? And he defied the hon. Gentleman to put his finger upon any one doctrine or tenet of the Catholic Church inconsistent with the divine word of the Redeemer. It was also asserted that liberty was impossible where Catholicism prevailed—that no Catholic country enjoyed free institutions. He (Mr. Maguire) would point out two countries—Sardinia and Belgium—in which free institutions existed, and liberty prevailed. The Constitution of Sardinia was not very different from that of Protestant England, and yet there were not more than 5,000 Protestants in that country. Then, as for Belgium, which was wholly Catholic, not only did its people enjoy freedom, but no country in Europe exceeded it in manufacturing energy, or in all the elements of material progress. But the hon. Gentleman asserted that Catholics were withheld from taking the oath, before the year 1829, not from a conscientious motive, but through fear of some social inconvenience. This he emphatically denied. For thirty years there was no hindrance to the Catholic but the oath then taken by Members of that House, and yet it alone was sufficient to prevent them from crossing the threshold, simply because it was repugnant to their conscience and insulting to their religion. When Mr. O'Connell was returned by the Clare election, what prevented him from taking his seat? He entered those doors, he stood at that table, but he refused to take the oath, because he could not conscientiously do so. For thirty years 1116 that oath was an insuperable barrier to the rank, the talent, and the ambition of the Catholics of Ireland. With reference to the Bill before the House, he confessed that, as a Roman Catholic, it occasioned him much pain and much embarrassment. No Roman Catholic in this House—no Roman Catholic in this empire—wishes to keep the Jews out of Parliament; on the contrary, Catholics desire to give them the same rights and privileges as any other portion of their fellow-subjects, and they do so on the broadest grounds of civil and religious liberty. No Catholic would refuse to place the Jew on a perfect equality with the Christian in civil matters; hut from the nature of the Bill now before the House, it is made almost impossible for the Catholic to support it. What does it do? It virtually re-imposes the oath to which Catholics so justly object, as offensive and degrading; and it asks the Catholic to sanction, by his vote, the taking of an oath by the Protestant, which is opposed to the fundamental doctrines of the Catholic Church, and which it is impossible that the Protestant can believe to be true. Hon. Gentlemen differed as to the nature of the proviso excluding the Catholic oath from the operation of the Bill, and the majority denied that it was no re-enactment of that oath. But, after all, did not the formal exemption of the Catholic from the relief afforded to all others, amount to a virtual re-imposition of the oath to which they objected? By this Bill the doors of Parliament are thrown open to the Jew, who is placed on a level of equality with the Protestant; but by this Bill the Catholic is still retained in a position of unjust inferiority, for he is compelled to take an oath against which his pride and dignity revolt. If the Jew was entitled to equality with the Protestant was the Catholic? The Jew was a member of a small and comparatively insignificant sect. What was the Catholic? The Catholic belonged not to a mere sect, but formed about one-third of the population of the United Kingdom. It was well for hon. Gentlemen to talk of "toleration" to their Catholic brethren; but that toleration I, as a Catholic, repudiate and despise. I demand, as a right, the fullest equality for the Catholics of this empire. They are entitled to it by their numbers, by their property, by their contributions to the maintenance and defence of the State, by their services in every department of the State, by the blood they have shed, and by 1117 the sacrifices they have made. Who is it that fill up the broken ranks of your army in India? Not Jews, but Catholics; and yet, while you propose to place a Jew on a level with the Protestant, you propose, by your excluding proviso, to retain the Catholic in a position of inferiority. I say, by all means, place the Jew on an equality with the Protestant, but do not refuse the same equality to the Catholic. Then, the oath to be taken by Protestants, calls on mo, as a Catholic, to assert, or permit others to assert, that which I, of my own knowledge, believe to be a downright and palpable falsehood—that the Pope has no spiritual or ecclesiastical power, jurisdiction, or authority in this country. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole) would explain these words by representing them as a mere record of opinion, or declaration of a principle; but surely a distinct statement of fact is not the mere expression of an opinion. I can well understand a Protestant swearing that the Pope "ought not to have" power, authority, or jurisdiction in this country; but how, in the face of the state of things which he knows to exist, can he swear that the Pope "has not" such power, authority, and jurisdiction. Let lawyers quibble or split hairs as to its meaning, I can regard an assertion of the kind in no other light than that of a positive falsehood, stating that to he the fact which is notoriously not the fact. Let mo give a case in point, in order that hon. Gentlemen may understand whether the Pope has, or has not, authority in this empire. A Catholic Bishop dies in Ireland, and in a month after his death, the parish priests of the diocese meet with a view of electing—I use this word in a proper sense—a successor to the deceased prelate; for they in reality only present three names to the Pope. Suppose there are fifty parish priests, and that there are thirty votes given for one, fifteen for a second, and five for a third, the Pope may, if he so please, appoint the priest who has the least number of votes, or he may entirely overlook the three persons so presented to him, and of his own will appoint an entire stranger to the diocese. Now if that does not involve the exercise of ecclesiastical power, authority, and jurisdiction, I would wish to know what does? Is not the authority which the Pope exercises in Ireland, in England, or in Scotland, a power exercised by a foreign potentate over his spiritual subjects of this empire? And yet I who defend the exer- 1118 cise of that power and authority, am to be called upon to say, by my vote, that the Protestant shall swear what I know to be contrary to the fact! Then as to the Catholic oath, it is said that Catholics ought to submit to its degradation, because it was accepted by Catholics at the time of the Emancipation. I deny that they formerly accepted it; or even if they did, how does that acceptance bind us in these days? We did not accept it, and therefore we are entitled to alter it, if we can. But is there any analogy between the time when that oath was imposed and the present? Let any hon. Gentleman glance at the memoirs of the late Sir Robert Peel, and he will understand amidst what confusion and alarm the Emancipation Act was passed. Read the despatches of the Marquess of Anglesea, the then Viceroy, and you may judge of the terror and apprehension of that law. These despatches may be thus summarised—" I hate, abhor, and detest Catholics, their priests, and their religion; but, for God's sake, give them what they ask, or we shall have a civil war on our hands." I admit, Sir, there were the gloomiest apprehensions at that time in this country and this House. I venture to say that North Warwickshire was well represented in that day—that you had a number of male Cassandras who scattered their ominous predictions over the land—that all the venerable old women believed that the result of the Emancipation of the Catholics would be the destruction of the King and Constitution, and even the submerging of this island in the sea. But, Sir, none of these terrible prophecies have been justified by the fact; and the Catholics, who were then regarded with horror and alarm, have proved themselves as loyal to the institutions of the country as any other communion, and as anxious to promote the welfare and the happiness of their fellow-subjects as Dissenters or Protestants could be. Since then Catholics have been as faithful to their bonds, their obligations, and their oaths, and as exemplary in every relation of life, as their more favoured fellow-subjects; therefore, Sir, I contend that they should be placed on an equality with all others, and that this last badge of inferiority should be abolished
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Wednesday, 24th February.
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Four o'clock.