HL Deb 03 June 1841 vol 58 cc1048-9
The Marquess of Bute

, in moving the second reading of this bill, said that its object was to enable persons belonging to the Jewish persuasion to hold those municipal offices to which they might be elected by their fellow-citizens. Before the Municipal Corporations Bill, Jews were not excluded from the office of commissioner of lighting, paving, &c, in the different boroughs, but by a clause in that bill they were excluded from all the town council. Now, the duties which a commissioner had to perform were the same as those of a town councillor, and therefore he was quite at a loss to understand why any distinction was made; but he thought he could put the case of the Jews on a higher ground. They were all aware that many of the Dissenters in this country not only refused to pay church rates but also to pay tithes. But the Jews had always behaved in a very different manner towards the Established Church; and, if the question were between the Jews and the Dissenters, he should say that the Jews had on that ground a prior claim to the indulgence of Parliament. The present state of the law was such that it could be evaded by any of these parties at any time, and on those grounds, therefore, he moved that the bill be read a second time.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

said that it was always with pain he opposed any measure the object of which was to relieve any portion of her Majesty's subjects from disabilities under which they laboured. The noble Marquess had made use of one argument to which he (the Archbishop of Canterbury) must say he attached no weight. The noble Marquess said that, whilst many Dissenters were violent in their attacks on the Established Church, no such violence bad been exhibited by the Jews. He fully admitted that. Some Dissenters might have used strong, he might say offensive, expressions towards the Establishment, but they were Christians, and it was not the feelings or character of individuals on a question of this sort to which he would refer, but the opinions which they professedly held. He said nothing against the character of the Jews as a nation—his objection was only to their religion—a religion which was essentially and decidedly hostile to the faith of Christ, and which was founded on the supposition that that faith was a tissue of fraud and imposture. This was a first attempt, but if successful it would tend to the admission of Jews to Parliament, and, if they took part in framing and administering our laws, we should no longer be an exclusively Christian country. He entertained no uncharitable feelings towards the Jews. It would be unchristian in him to do so, and he would be happy to see all the Powers of Europe uniting to ameliorate the condition of both Jews and Christians in the Ottoman dominions. This bill might satisfy the ambitious view of a few individuals, but it could not increase the comfort or happiness of the great portion of the Jewish people. For these reasons he felt himself bound to propose that this bill be read a second time this day six months.

The Marquess of Bute

said that his motive in supporting this measure was certainly not to gratify the ambitious views of any individuals, but from a sincere conviction that the Jewish people ought to be relieved from the stigma now attached to them.

Their Lordships divided:—Contents Present 25; Proxies 23: —48. Not Contents Present 23; Proxies 24:—47. Majority 1.

Bill read a second time.