§ Order of the Day being read for the House to be put into Committee, moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into Committee."
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
It is to me a subject of deep regret—respecting as I do the ability and judgment of my noble Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) by whom the measure has been introduced—to have occasion at any time to act in a manner contrary to what he suggests; but in the present case I cannot but express my hope that your Lordships will not permit the further progress of this Bill. I am ready to admit that if a Bill couched in these terms were sent up to us from the House of Commons, I should be disposed to consider it with a great degree of favour. No one could be more gratified than I should be to be relieved from witnessing and participating in those—he could hardly avoid calling them mummeries—which take place at the table of this House on the occasion of the assembling of a new Parliament. I have no desire to see again repeated, or again to take a part in those confused and inarticulate mumblings in which I am sorry to say these oaths and declarations are necessarily delivered and taken. I see in such mumblings and mummeries no security whatever for the House of Hanover; but in this Bill neither do I see any securities for the House of Hanover. I do see, that by means of this Bill, if it be sent down by us to the House of Commons, some advantage may, perhaps, be obtained by the house of Israel. But although I am not one of those who think that any advantage is derived by the House of Hanover from the oaths as now administered, I certainly think that we have had princes of the House of Hanover, and that, too, at no distant period, who thought that the oath of supremacy and the oath of abjuration were the title deeds of their family to the Throne. I have said, that if a Bill of this kind were sent up to us from the House of Commons, I should consider it with favour; but I am not satisfied with the wording of the oath as now contained in this Bill—I think it liable to all the objections which were stated by my noble Friend on the bench above me (the Earl of Derby). I think nothing can be more objectionable, or more contrary to the rules which we ought to observe in framing-oaths, than to make persons swear as to the contents of an Act of Parliament 1021 which is not bodily given in the oath itself; and especially an Act of Parliament which probably four-fifths—I may even venture to say, which nine-tenths—of the persons who are called upon to take the oath have never read. Our principle in framing an oath should be this—that the oath should contain everything necessary to the proper understanding of it—that it should be perfectly intelligible, and that it should be couched in easy, simple, and popular language; and therefore I undoubtedly think, with my noble Friend the noble Earl, that the new oath, whatever it may be, that shall be adopted by the House, should set forth prominently that the succession to the Crown is in the heirs of the Princess Sophia, being Protestants—that, in short, there should be put prominently forward in the oath both the Christianity of Parliament and the Protestantism of the Crown. But I have another objection to the Bill. I find that the terms of the oath as proposed in this Bill are these:—I, A. B., swear that I will be faithful and hear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and that I will maintain the succession of the Crown as established by an Act, entitled 'An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown, and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject;' and I do make this recognition, declaration, and promise heartily, willingly, and truly, upon the true faith of a Christian. So help me, God!Now, here are three substantives and three adjectives, which appear to me quite unnecessary; for instead of these six words it seems to me that the one word "oath" is the word that should be adopted. I do not like describing the oath as a "recognition, declaration, and promise," lest it should be made to appear less than an oath, and I see no necessity for the words "heartily, willingly, and truly," when there are the words "on the true faith of a Christian." For myself, I should be most willing that the oath should commence with the words "on the true faith of a Christian," in order that the Christianity of Parliament may be put forward at the very beginning of the oath. I am not disposed, by sending this Bill down to the House of Commons, to afford gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion any additional facilities beyond those which they now possess of bringing their case again before this House in the present Session. There is no debate which takes place during the whole Session which is to me so disagreeable as a debate on the Jewish Disabilities. I always give my vote upon that question 1022 with pain, but conscientiously, and I shall always adhere to the vote which I have given upon it. The Jewish gentlemen, it seems to me, come often enough before us without the necessity of our giving them a fresh opportunity of doing so. If we owed them money they could not knock at our doors oftener than they do; and I see no reason why we should afford them new facilities of coming before us on this question. I do not entertain the apprehension which some have expressed, that if this Bill should be sent back to us from the House of Commons so altered as to admit the Jews into Parliament, there would be any desertion of their duty on the part of noble Lords in this House so as to imperil in any degree the present character of the Legislature, and to afford facilities for the admission of the Jews into this or the other House. On the contrary, I trust that I could not entertain such an opinion consistently with my respect for the great majority of your Lordships' House. Whatever may be the inconvenience, I still trust that there would be a sufficient majority to defeat the Bill. At the same time, I cannot conceal from myself that there might be a majority somewhat less than that by which the measure for that purpose has already been defeated. In the discussion upon the Jew Bill, it was said that it was not fit that this House should continuously oppose itself to the wishes of the House of Commons, expressed on many occasions in successive years. Now, if the opinion of the House of Commons had been so expressed in successive years upon any political question, I do think it would have been advisable for the majority of the House to reconsider whether they could not acquiesce in the opinion of the House of Commons. But I have never treated this as a political question. I have never been able to divest my mind of the consideration that we could not admit Jews into Parliament without disparaging Christianity. It is that feeling which ever has led me to oppose their admission, and which for ever will induce me to adhere to the course that I have taken, feeling that it is impossible for me, in consideration of any continued adherence of the majority of the House of Commons to their opinions, to change my own. Therefore it is my Lords, that I now move as an Amendment, that this Bill be committed this day three months.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day three months.")1023
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, he could not have wished for a better speech in favour of the Bill than that which had been delivered by the noble Earl who had just resumed his seat. The noble Earl had called those oaths "mumbling" and "mummery;" and he had expressed his regret that he should be compelled even to witness such proceedings. Now he (the Earl of Wicklow) could not understand how any man who entertained the opinions of the noble Earl upon the subject, could reconcile to his sense of what he owed his country and his God, his opposition to a measure which was intended to remedy the very evil of which he complained. The noble Earl had answered the only feasible objection that had been urged by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) in that case, for he had told them that he had no apprehension that if the Bill should come back from the House of Commons so altered that it would admit Jews into Parliament; a majority of their Lordships would not be found to reject it. He (the Earl of Wicklow) felt no apprehension on that score: indeed it was an insult to their Lordships to suppose that those of them who thought that the Jews should not be admitted into Parliament would be deterred by any consideration of convenience from coming forward and defeating such an attempt. He trusted their Lordships would adopt this measure; and if the oaths, as proposed by the noble and learned Lord, were considered objectionable in point of expression, they could easily be amended in Committee, and made perfectly acceptable to the whole House.
§ The EARL of DERBY
said, that having taken the opportunity of the second reading of this Bill to express the objections he entertained to it, and concurring also in every word of the brief but able statement which had been made by his noble Friend the noble Earl near him (the Earl of Ellenborough) he did not feel it necessary to trouble their Lordships with more than a few words, to express the reasons for which, with very great reluctance, he came to the conclusion that it was his duty to vote in favour of the Amendment. In doing so he begged to assure his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) that he had no doubt whatever in regard to the intention with which he had introduced this measure; and although he could not altogether concur in the terms of the oath which his noble and learned Friend proposed to introduce, although he agreed in some of the objections stated to that 1024 oath by the noble Earl who commenced the discussion, and although he thought there were some omissions in the Bill which ought to have been supplied, yet, if he could look at this measure alone, or if he could have received it as coming up in its present shape from the House of Commons, he should have had no hesitation in consenting to go into Committee upon it, there to consider what amendments should be made in the oath, and, if necessary, in the subsequent clauses. He would only say, with regard to the oath itself, that he thought there was another omission which had not been mentioned by his noble Friend who opened the debate. Although he frankly admitted that the wording of the present oath was not altogether satisfactory, inasmuch as it had led to some differences of opinion and some doubts which they were bound to respect, yet he thought it was not undesirable that the Protestant Members of Parliament should, in the oath upon taking their seats, continue to record their protest against any usurpation of power, spiritual, ecclesiastical, or temporal, within these realms. Now, the oath as proposed by his noble and learned Friend altogether omitted such consideration. He confessed, too, he did not feel so sanguine as his noble Friend behind him appeared to do, in regard to the certainty of such an attendance of their Lordships at a very late period of the Session as would ensure the rejection of such amendments as might be introduced into this measure by the House of Commons. He must be permitted to say that he thought Her Majesty's Government would have done well if they had removed those apprehensions and those doubts, by doing that which he thought they might have done without in the slightest degree compromising their own position, namely, by giving the assurance which he ventured to ask the other night, that, as far as the influence of the Government went, they would not allow the ostensible object of this Bill to be changed by the introduction of words which would give it a totally different effect from that embodied in the measure as it now stood. But in the face of the declaration of the noble Earl opposite, that he did not consider it consistent with his duty to give any assurance to the House with regard to the course which the Government might pursue—knowing the opinions, the recently-formed opinions of some, but still he believed the intelligent and conscientiously enter- 1025 tained opinions of all the Members of Her Majesty's Government with regard to this question, namely, the introduction by a side wind of the Jews into Parliament—knowing that, on the part of the Government, there was a determination to favour those claims—and knowing that the same resolution existed on the part of a majority in the other House, that majority being sanctioned and upheld by the Members of Her Majesty's Government there—knowing all this, could he shut his eyes to the possibility, or rather could he exclude from himself the absolute moral certainty, that such an Amendment as that they deprecated would be made in the other House, and that that Amendment, if so made, would be supported by the whole strength of the Government? If, then, the Bill was to be returned from the House of Commons amended in that manner, and if their Lordships were not even to have so much power as to state their opinions and reject the Amendment, and with it the Bill, what was meant, he asked, by permitting it to go through any further stages, thus introducing a new collision between the House of Commons and their Lordships? He must be permitted again, notwithstanding what fell the other night from the noble Earl opposite, to say that the statement which was made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in the House of Commons, to the deputation which waited upon him on the subject of the Jewish claims, desiring them to wait until they ascertained the nature and result of this Bill, had, as applying to those Jewish claims, no meaning at all, unless it meant that the friends of the Jews should wait until they saw whether the Bill would afford an opportunity of engrafting upon it something favourable to the Jewish claims. The noble Earl said, that the noble Lord made no such promise, but only told the deputation not to pursue their agitation further until they saw what the effect of this Bill would be. But why wait to see what the effect of the Bill would be, if it was not intended in any degree to affect the Jewish claims? If it was not the intention of the noble Lord to hold out an expectation that he would favour the engrafting of some principle upon this Bill favourable to those claims, then it could only be said that he used language calculated very much to mislead those whom he was addressing, and which formed a sufficient warrant for the course which their Lordships were now advised to pursue. But he 1026 must look to the possibility of another and an important Amendment, which might be introduced by the House of Commons into this Bill. Their Lordships would observe that the noble and learned Lord retained in this Bill the terms by which Jews were incidentally—he admitted it—excluded from Parliament, and also the terms of the Roman Catholic oath as settled by the Act 10 Geo. IV.; but the terms introduced into the oath which was proposed to be taken by Protestants were terms to which no reasonable objection could be entertained on the part of the Roman Catholics, and such being the case the House of Commons might think that one oath might do for both, and so exclude from the Bill the clause which contains the substance of the Roman Catholic oath. This was a matter of some importance. If he was not mistaken, the noble Lord to whom he had referred had made a declaration in his place in Parliament, that, in his opinion, it is a matter of great regret that any Roman Catholic should be called upon to take the oath, that by virtue of the position which he holds in the House of Commons he will not seek to destroy or injure the Protestant Church. Now that oath was insisted on as a security in the 10th Geo. IV., and although by several Roman Catholics it had been construed in a sense which he could not reconcile to conscience, he knew there were some who had felt themselves stringently bound to perform that part of the compact under which they were permitted to sit in Parliament, and who felt that it did impose on them a restriction binding on their conscience, which prevented them from interfering in any manner which might be detrimental to the temporal interests of the Protestant Church. The noble Lord at the head of the House of Commons had declared that he viewed that with regret; that he was sorry to see any such declaration made; that the oath is at present vindicated on the ground that the Protestant oath is one that the Catholic cannot conscientiously take. But altering, as this Bill did, the oath to be taken by Roman Catholics, see how it would strengthen the position of the noble Lord, who would say, "Why, there is now nothing in the oath required to be taken by the one which may not be taken by the other; you have a fair opportunity of giving effect to the regret I feel that the destruction of the Protestant Church Establishment may not be, like other matters, the subject of open discussion in Parliament; strike out that excep- 1027 tional oath, and give effect to those views of mine under which I hope to see Roman Catholics exempted from taking that oath, and recognising that obligation which, on the mind of many of them, does act as a stringent and binding restraint." Therefore it was not simply on the ground of the probable admission of the Jewish claims, but because he considered the Bill of considerable importance with regard to the restraints imposed on Roman Catholic consciences, that he objected to send it to a Committee at this period of the Session, knowing the alterations that were certain to be made in it in the House of Commons, with the advice and sanction of Her Majesty's Government; and that it would be sent up again to their Lordships, to be supported and passed by the aid of the Government; or, if rejected by their Lordships, then rendering all their labour vain, and renewing, for the second time, a collision between the two Houses in the course of the present Session. But if a Bill of this tendency should take its origin in the other House of Parliament, or if his noble and learned Friend, at the commencement of the next Session, would undertake to introduce a similar measure, when there would be ample time for the consideration of its details—he had no hesitation in saying that he should upon such an occasion give a different vote from that which he was now about to give; and he would willingly and frankly and rejoicingly consent to co-operate with his noble and learned Friend in placing the Bill on such a footing as would make it sufficient for the purpose for which it was intended—affording every fair and reasonable security, and at the same time couched in such terms as not to violate the most scrupulous and the most delicate conscience. Let the Bill be introduced as a separate measure—as a portion of that reform promised by the Conservative and Radical section of the Government—let it also be introduced at the commencement of the Session, and then it could be fully and fairly considered.
§ The EARL of ABERDEEN
trusted their Lordships would excuse him for saying that this was the first time they had ever been asked to legislate on such grounds as those urged by the noble Earl—grounds which, he would venture to say, were neither respectful to the House of Commons, nor creditable to their Lordships. They had before them a Bill which it was generally considered wise and expedient to adopt. The only objections urged by the noble 1028 Lords opposite were precisely such objections as admitted of amendment in Committee—objections, some of them grammatical, some more or less important, but all capable of complete amendment. And their Lordships were asked to decline to undertake the amendment of the Bill, because, forsooth, it was possible the House of Commons might amend it in a mode of which their Lordships might not approve. It was not respectful to the House of Commons to object to a good measure, from an apprehension that they would exercise their lawful privilege of amending it according to their own views; nor did he think it creditable to their Lordships to reject a measure of which they approved, in consequence of vague apprehensions. With reference to the practical objection made by the noble Earl, that this Bill, if sent down to the House of Commons in the present state of the Session, might be returned at a time when their Lordships would be unable to deal with it, he could only say this, that although he could give no pledge as to what any Member of the House of Commons might think proper to do, he would pledge himself that no delay should take place which it was possible for Her Majesty's Government to avoid. The noble Earl was entirely mistaken in his description of what had taken place between his noble Friend the Member for the City of London, and the deputation of the Jewish body that had waited upon him. His noble Friend was then entirely ignorant of the nature of this Bill. He (the Earl of Aberdeen) was equally ignorant of its nature. His noble Friend asked him to communicate the Bill to him. But the Bill had not been printed; his noble and learned Friend never communicated the nature of the measure to him; and he was under the impression that it was, in some mode or other, a Bill intended directly for the relief of the Jewish body. His noble Friend, therefore, very naturally said, "I must wait until I sec this Bill before I can give any opinion on the subject." What the present intentions of his noble Friend might be, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) was utterly ignorant. It was for him to do as he thought proper; but he (the Earl of Aberdeen) declined to enter into any engagement or pledge on the subject. He looked upon the measure under their consideration as one with which they were bound to deal in the ordinary way. He submitted to their Lordships that they were bound, according to every dictate of 1029 reason, to go into Committee, when they admitted that in Committee all the objections which they entertained to the measure might be removed. That was the simple course which he should recommend them to adopt—a course to which no noble Lord who had spoken had objected, except from an apprehension of what might happen when the Bill had been amended according to the best of their judgment, and submitted to the consideration of the other House of Parliament. So far as he was aware, in the case of those who were friendly to the admission of members of the Jewish persuasion to the House of Commons, no attempt would be made to introduce such amendments as many of their Lordships seemed to apprehend; and he should humbly submit to them that, according to every just and rational mode of proceeding, no valid objection existed to prevent them from going into Committee upon the Bill under their consideration.
§ On Question, That "now" stand part of the Motion, their Lordships divided;—Content 69; Not Content 84; Majority 15.1030
|List of the CONTENT.|
|The Lord Chancellor||VISCOUNTS|
|Scarborough||Say and Sele|
|Sefton||Stanley of Alderley|
|List of the NOT CONTENT.|
|Harewood||Colville of Culross|
§ Resolved in the Negative; and House to be put in Committee on this day Three Months.