§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ EARL GRANVILLE moved, "That the Oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration be read by the Clerk."
§ The same accordingly read by the Clerk.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I now venture to ask the indulgence of the House while I assign my reasons for requesting your Lordships to assent to the second reading of this Bill. At different times when it has been my duty to submit measures to your Lordships, I have felt some difficulty lest I should imperfectly state the objects of the measures I was about to propose. My difficulty to-night is of a different description; for the arguments which I shall have to urge in favour of this Bill cannot be of a very novel character, and I fear 1210 lest I should weary your Lordships in attempting the performance of a duty which has frequently been discharged most efficiently by others in this House—I will, however, endeavour to state them as briefly as possible. I feel also that some of your Lordships may think I am somewhat presumptuous, after your opinion has been previously given on a principal part of this measure, in again venturing to bring the subject under your consideration; but I trust that in the course of the observations I am about to make I shall be able to bring forward some reasons which may induce your Lordships to change your former opinion. I can only promise to go as speedily as possible over what is certainly a pretty well-trodden path. The object of this Bill is to amend the oaths which are now required to be taken by Members of both Houses of Parliament. All of your Lordship have so recently taken those oaths that it is unnecessary I should explain their nature. They have just been read by the Clerk at the table, and it is impossible to have heard them without being struck by their anomalous and incongruous character. The object of the Bill is to amend and simplify these oaths, and by so doing to remove some of the evils which, as we consider, at present exist. I have always believed—I trust it is not an unjust prejudice—that there is no nation which attaches greater importance than does our own to the sanctity of oaths, and that not merely as a matter of religious principle, but also as a question of feeling and good taste among the educated classes of this country, whom these oaths most particularly concern. I believe there is no country where so much horror and disgust are felt at anything like taking in vain the name of God; and I think it is impossible not to feel that you are taking in vain that holy name when you make the most solemn appeals with regard to things which are in themselves utterly useless and entirely ridiculous. I think it was Cicero who said he could not understand how two augurs could meet in the streets of Rome without laughing in one another's faces; and I can hardly conceive what would be the opinion of that great pagan if he could see the representatives of the people of this country in another place, and the hereditary legislators who possess seats in this House—the men who have gained their seats in this assembly by their administration of the law in the highest courts of the country, together with Chris- 1211 tian Prelates, calling upon the name of that God to whom they ascribe such high and important attributes, to witness anything so puerile as their belief that the descendants of a family which does not exist have no right to the Crown of this realm; or, on the other hand, calling upon Protestants to declare that they do not hold a doctrine which I believe is denied by Catholics, who do not take the oath relating to such doctrine, although Protestants are obliged to go through this most ridiculous mummery. I really think it would be wasting your Lordships' time to dilate upon the very great objections to the three oaths which you are now called upon, to take. Different attempts have been made on both sides of this House to amend the oaths, and although those oaths have not been amended, no one has ventured to assert, in his place in Parliament, that he thinks there is anything in them which renders it desirable that they should be retained in their present form. Some of our Parliamentary usages, such as the mode in which the Sovereign gives her assent to Bills which have been sanctioned by Parliament, are of an anomalous and almost ridiculous character, but in them an unbroken antiquity is preserved, and there is a sort of tacit homage to our institutions in maintaining them, which I believe your Lordships and others would be most unwilling to withhold. But, with respect to the form of these oaths no such considerations exist. They have not been handed down from great antiquity. They have been added to, altered, and patched up by various Acts of Parliament, which I have failed in an attempt to count—and they have absolutely fallen into contempt. I therefore think that the Bill, which seeks to effect an alteration in these oaths, is not open to any of the objections which might be supposed to exist in the case of those Parliamentary usages to, which I have just adverted. We who introduce this Bill, it is true, aim to effect under its operation the admission to a seat in the Legislature of members of the Jewish persuasion, who, owing to certain words which exist in the oaths as they at present stand, are prevented, in consequence of their religious belief and a conscientious adherence to the truth, from becoming Members of the other House of Parliament. From that disability, my Lords, we propose to relieve them, upon the ground of toleration, and upon the ground of right. We believe it to be directly opposed to the principles of 1212 our constitution that any class of men should be debarred from the enjoyment of civil rights on account of the religion which they may happen to profess. We entertain this opinion the more strongly in the case of men with respect to whom there exists no special Act of Parliament prohibiting them from becoming members of the Legislature. To my great surprise I have learnt that some doubt has been expressed as to whether the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were not originally meant to apply to the case of the Jews. I shall not trouble your Lordships by quoting the opinions of our greatest statesmen upon that point; neither shall I quote from the works of any of our great historians to prove how erroneous is that view. I shall not refer to the sentiments of our most eminent Judges, delivered from the judicial bench, in refutation of the supposition; I shall merely appeal to your own good sense upon the subject. Looking to the date of the oath in which the words which I have mentioned appear—bearing in mind that it was framed at the commencement of the eighteenth century, when the object sought to be attained was to protect the House of Hanover from aggression on the part of the House of Stuart—at a period, too, when the Jews had absolutely no political significance whatever—I contend that it is impossible seriously to maintain that the introduction of the words in question into the oath had for its object the exclusion from Parliament of members of that persuasion. If I am right in taking that view, then I say that they are unjustly excluded from the exercise of a civil right, and that it is nothing less than persecution upon our parts to continue the disability, Persecution, my Lords, is a word with reference to which very plausible arguments have been advanced—arguments so plausible as to have produced a considerable influence, not in the case of our country alone, but upon other nations, in the progress of history; arguments which we find influence at the present moment a Government and a people of a character not altogether uncivilized. I am happy, however, my Lords, to think that in the justice of persecution those whom I have the honour to address in no sense acquiesce. I for one hold that, whether you simply deprive a man of his civil rights, or go further, and take from him his property or his life, you are in both cases equally guilty of persecution. In confirmation of 1213 the justice of that opinion I have upon my side not alone the sentiments of laymen of the highest eminence, but of some of the most illustrious Prelates by whom our Church has been adorned. Noble Lords opposite think that it is not persecution to preclude a Jew, who may be otherwise well qualified to take his seat in Parliament, from doing so because of the religion which he professes. I think I have a right to ask those noble Lords to define the line where persecution begins and where it ends. I will ask them whether it was persecution some quarter of a century ago to prohibit Jews from being the chief magistrates of that great commercial city which has for many years past returned a Jew as its representative? I will ask them whether it was persecution to prevent a Jew from enjoying the freedom of that city—from being a schoolmaster or a lawyer, and from exercising a retail trade even in this great metropolis? I ask whether the enforcement of any or of all of these disabilities can be regarded as persecution? If the answer be in the affirmative, then point out to me a single instance where to grant relief from such persecution and from the disabilities which it entailed has resulted in the slightest disadvantage to the Christian community of this country. If to maintain those disabilities be not persecution, I ask whether to inflict upon natural-born subjects of this kingdom, as was done far back in our history, the grievance of confiscating their property, and after the exercise in this regard of unexampled cruelty to drive 15,000 of them from the country, comes under the head of persecution or not? The word is one of the true meaning and scope of which we have a right to expect that some explanation should be given. We who advocate the passing of this Bill are desirous that the existing disabilties of the Jews should be removed, and I shall, with your Lordships' permission, proceed to answer the objections which are urged against the adoption of that course. In doing so, I trust your Lordships will attribute rather to a want of understanding upon my part, than to any want of respect for those distinguished men who have spoken both in this House and elsewhere upon the subject, the assurance of my inability, after having given the question careful consideration, to comprehend the exact principles upon which the objections to this measure are based. I, as well as your Lordships generally, have 1214 heard most eloquent appeals made to everything of sentiment, of feeling, or of prejudice that may be supposed to exist in a Christian community in opposition to the claims of the Jews to a seat in the Legislature; but I am bound to say, that I have been unable to discover in those appeals any clear or logical principle in support of the views which their authors have advanced. The nearest approach to anything like principle which I have been able to find in them, is the doctrine that, by the admission of Jews to a seat in Parliament, we should be unchristianizing the Legislature. Now, I can conceive no cry which is more calculated to fill with horror everybody who does not reflect upon its true nature than the assurance that the step which we wish you to take would have that result. I venture, however, to give expression to a hope that my noble Friend opposite, who will follow me this evening, will not rest satisfied with shadowing out the horrors which an Act tending to unchristianize the Legislature would produce, but that he will, with that clearness of diction which he, more than any other man in your Lordships' House possesses, explain in exact terms to your Lordships how that result would be brought about by the passing of the measure now under discussion. We ought, I think, to be informed in the first place, whether the country at large is now to be considered as a Christian nation or not. If the preposterous notion be entertained that this is not a Christian State, then I ask, whether it is not clearly chimerical to attempt to maintain for the Legislature a character which the country at large does not possess? If upon the other hand, this nation—as I feel confident she is—be a Christian nation, I think we ought to have some reason assigned as to how it is possible that we can retain our Christian character while Jews are allowed to vote for Members of Parliament, while they are permitted to reside and to hold land in the country, to fulfil all the duties of magistrates, and while Unitarians, as well as infidels of all shades, are allowed to sit and vote in the Imperial Legislature—I should wish, I say, to know how a country is to remain Christian under these circumstances, while the mere admission of a few men of the Jewish persuasion would tend to deprive it of that Christian character? The argument is one which I think none of your Lordships will be disposed to push too far. It would be well to consider, whether in using it you do not 1215 derogate from the dignity of Christianity itself. I would confidently ask you, whether Christianity owes its spread in the world to laws, whether intentionally or unintentionally, framed by man, and whether by the adoption of the course to which the argument I have mentioned must legitimately lead, you would not be maintaining rather the outward semblance than the inner and truer substance of Christianity? I have seen it recorded that among the early Christians there were men who, although they were ready to sacrifice their lives and property for conscience sake, yet did not hesitate to take part in the deliberations of the Roman Senate. Now, I cannot understand how a Christian of that stamp could hold himself justified in associating with the worshippers of Venus and Jupiter and other pagan deities in connection with matters of a temporal character, while we, who constitute an enormous majority of a Christian assembly, in which, not matters of religion, but questions affecting the temporal welfare of millions of our fellow-subjects of every form of religious belief are the subjects of deliberation, imagine that we should lose our Christian character by the admission into the Legislature of a few men professing particular religious tenets-tenets, be it remembered, which cannot be said to endanger others, and which they do not seek to propagate? In my opinion, much greater danger to Christianity lies in the unchristian sentiment by which such a doctrine as that is sought to be upheld. For these reasons, my Lords, I think you will come to the conclusion that this argument with respect to unchristianizing the Legislature is one which cannot be fairly maintained. My Lords, it has long been a matter of national pride that this country has appreciated more widely than any other the blessings of civil and religious liberty. Now, for the course in which noble Lords opposite ask us to persevere, it is quite true that precedents can, be found in Russia, in Prussia, and in some parts of Italy. In those countries, I admit, the Jews are subjected to civil disabilities. But, if you turn to the great Catholic empire of France, or to the Catholic kingdom of Belgium, to the Protestant kingdom of Holland, or to the dominions of our brethren beyond the Atlantic, you will find that they are in advance of us in the appreciation of that which constitutes in reality religious toleration; for in none of these countries are the Jews debarred of their civil rights. I 1216 would ask you even to contrast our own country with itself. Do any disabilities in the case of the Jews exist in India, in Jamaica, in Barbadoes, in our extensive Australian colonies? You will find the contrary to be the fact; while in Canada, I am happy to say, owing to the zealous exertions of clergymen of the Church of England, the disability to hold a seat in the Legislature, under which Jews at one time laboured, has been removed. It may be said, that in the United States there is no Established Church, and that the question has not been mooted there. I think that the existence of an Established Church makes no difference whatever. The existence of an Established Church might have been a good and logical reason for excluding Dissenters, Roman Catholics—every person who did not belong to the Church; but, having admitted these, it is idle to state that for the established church it is of importance that we should exclude Jews. If it were, nothing could be easier than to demand from Jews the same sort of declaration as is now extorted from Roman Catholics. I can see no objection to that, except the fact that it would be utterly ridiculous in itself, and would be tantamount to saying that the Established Church possesses less strength than I am happy to say it has. Nor is the statement true that the question has not been mooted in the United States. In Massachusetts, that purely Protestant State, embued, even to the present day with something of a puritanical spirit, there existed until very recently a relic of the old feeling, the Governor being obliged to take an oath professing himself to be a Christian. A full discussion took place upon the point, and in that most Protestant State of America it was agreed to sweep from their statute-book everything that bore the appearance of a useless and impractical piece of intolerance. There are some other objections to which I can hardly venture to allude, because I think your Lordships cannot seriously entertain them, such as that the Jews, being a separate people and expecting an eventual restoration to Palestine, will not make good citizens here. I believe that to be contrary to all the principles of human nature. If the Jews confidently believed that at some definite period—say five or ten years hence—they would be restored to Palestine, that might influence their conduct; but to suppose that because they expect a miraculous restoration at some 1217 very indefinite time, which they themselves think may occur one or two thousand years hence—feeling, too, that the interests of their sons and grandsons are locked up in the prosperity of the country which they now inhabit—they would not make good citizens, would be as childish as to imagine that those who believe in the more definite event of an approaching millennium, or even the whole body of Christians who believe in a future life, making of little importance what takes place here below, must of necessity be bad subjects. Some other objections have entirely vanished, as, for example, the objection that the Jews are unfit for intellectual pursuits. I shall not go into their history in other countries to show the vigour of their mental powers, but I defy you to point to any profession or intellectual pursuit in which they have not distinguished themselves in England. Jews are to be found among the best teachers in the different departments of science, and I may say with some pride, being myself connected with the University of London, where Jews are now permitted to compete with others, that they have taken, at least, their full share of the honours of that institution. There is another and a different class of objections to which I wish to call the attention of your Lordships. I am told that some of the Roman Catholic Members of this House feel a difficulty in voting for the second reading of this Bill. I entirely appreciate their motives, and am sure they are influenced by the same sentiments which I dare say many of your Lordships heard expressed with such eloquence by one of their ablest advocates in another place. It was immediately after the passing of the Emancipation Act, and the Gentleman to whom I allude said, that as a Catholic he gloried in having an opportunity of voting for the admission of Jews to Parliament, and of thus refuting the calumnies which had been heaped upon his co-religionists by those who wished to maintain their disabilities. With the same justifiable feeling of pride he cried out, "We have been accused of bigotry; where are the bigots now?" I am sure that the same sentiments are entertained by the Roman Catholic Members of this House, and I know that their objections to the Bill are of a very different nature from those to which I have referred. They think that in the amended form of the oath which we propose, there are details which they do not feel themselves justified in imposing upon their fellow-subjects. If 1218 the Bill should go into Committee—and I earnestly hope it will—I shall be prepared to state the reasons why it is desirable to retain the words objected to, and what inconveniences would arise from their omission. It will be open to them, in the same manner, to propose any alterations which they may think advisable, and to show to your Lordships that means might be taken to remove their objections without, at the same time, weakening any of those securities which as Protestants we must take. Any such proposal made by them will, I am sure, be carefully and deliberately considered by your Lordships; but, considering that the object of the Bill is to amend an oath which they think defective, and that it collaterally secures the admission of Jews, whom they wish to relieve in the same manner as they have been relieved themselves, and as the nation was relieved from the disgrace of inflicting penalties on account of religious distinctions, I do expect to find them voting for the second reading, whatever course they may take in the subsequent stages of the Bill. I believe that a noble Earl who is not a Roman Catholic entertains the same objection, but I earnestly hope that he and all those who approve the great object of the Bill, will not attempt to defeat it merely because the details are not in every respect such as they would recommend. There is an objection of another kind which I do not think will be heard in this House. It is rumoured abroad, but I hope is without foundatiou, that your Lordships ought to seize with avidity the present opportunity of showing your independence of the other House of Parliament upon a question of some importance, especially since you may do so with perfect impunity, inasmuch as that, notwithstanding the very large majority by which this Bill passed the House of Commons, that majority is not supported by any excited feeling on the part of the people at large. I cannot believe that your Lordships entertain any such intention. Such fictitious means of strengthening your power would be altogether unworthy of you. The substance of your power is great. You exercise great influence; first, by the effect which your debates have in forming public opinion—the real lever by which everything is done in this country; secondly by the personal position and high character of some of your number; thirdly, by preventing any one, whether belonging to the Government or not, from, bringing forward a measure in opposition 1219 to the known wishes of your Lordships. That any notion, therefore, should be entertained that your Lordships would strengthen your position by a fictitious assertion of independence, only requires to be stated to be refuted. There are occasions on which your Lordships may usefully interfere to prevent the passing of measures which have been sanctioned by the other House of Parliament. When a Bill is the result of a temporary enthusiasm on the part of the people, I admit—although it is not wise for any branch of the Legislature to place itself in permanent opposition to the wishes of the country—that you may do infinite good by giving time for that calm consideration which delay sometimes induces. But the present is not a case of that kind. The present case is exactly the reverse. There is, it is true, no passionate feeling or excitement upon this subject out of doors; but I say with the same truth that the cool and deliberate judgment of the people of England is in favour of the measure now before your Lordships. I shall not refer to the petitions which have been presented even this evening, although some of them are indicative of a remarkable change of opinion, and one was signed by the whole of the corporation and by 3000 of the inhabitants of Birmingham. I put aside the test of the public press. I pass by the fact, that two of the largest constituencies in England have returned Jews to Parliament; but I take what I believe to be the real and constitutional test of public opinion in this country—I refer to the enormous majority—enormous not only in itself, but as compared with the majorities which approved the Bill in the last Parliament—of Members just returned from the constituencies by which the measure was passed through the other House. Nor do I think the fact unworthy the attention of your Lordships that eminent men, of all shades of politics, both here and elsewhere, unite in support of this Bill, which has also the sanction of two influential Members of the party of the noble Earl opposite—one an exemplification of how far Jewish ability can be made available for the purposes of the State, and the other a gentleman whom nothing but strong and sincere conviction, the result of long and serious study, could induce to separate from his friends, who we all know exercise such a powerful influence upon a party man. Even the opposition of some noble Lords on the other side of the table does not produce 1220 that effect upon me which it might be expected to do, because, whatever may be the conclusion to which subsequent reflection has brought them, they have not always been of opinion that it was a matter of vital importance to exclude Jews from the privileges which we now propose to give them. I, therefore, appeal to your Lordships to act in a judicial spirit—judicial to the extent of putting away all fancies, all prejudices, all improper feelings, and resolving to do what is right between man and man; to do what is in accordance with the principles of political truth; to give a second reading to a Bill which will relieve a deserving part of the community from restrictions, which they feel the more seeing that they have been removed from all other portions of the community; to do an act—I will not call it of grace—but of justice to a most useful, most industrious, most peaceable, and most orderly portion of the nation.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I apprehend that there are before your Lordships this night two distinct questions, which, nevertheless, it has suited the convenience of Her Majesty's Government to bind up incorporate in one measure. One question is as to the propriety, the expediency, and the justice of admitting into the Legislature of this Christian country—for so I shall take the liberty still to call it—the members of the Jewish nation—for as a nation I shall still take the liberty Of speaking of them; the other, the question of the alteration of oaths which are Undoubtedly obsolete, and for the maintenance of which in their present form, abstractedly considered, no one would, I apprehend, be disposed to contend. My noble Friend who has introduced this measure, has treated of the first of these questions as a collateral advantage which he apprehends may, in all probability, be derived from the passing of this measure, and which he thinks should be an additional inducement to your Lordships to pass the Bill which mainly on account of the alteration of the oaths, he submits to you. I venture to think that that is not the process of reasoning which has led Her Majesty's Government to introduce this Bill. I venture to think that that which my noble Friend speaks of as an incidental and collateral advantage has been, in fact, the paramount motive and inducement to this measure, and that the other, of which he speaks as the primary object of the Bill, 1221 is one which they have found it Very advantageous to include by way of screw upon your Lordships, to induce you, by the desire which you must entertain to amend objectionable oaths—for such I admit them to be—to force your own consciences, and the consciences of many of your fellow-subjects, by the adoption of that which they insist upon attaching to the improvement of these oaths. I hope that I shall not be considered wanting in courtesy to my noble Friend, or in respect to your Lordships' House, or to the importance of the question which is before us, if I abstain from following my noble Friend at any great length in the arguments by which he supported the proposition that it is right and just to admit the members of the Jewish nation, and of the Jewish persuasion, to legislate for this country. This mention of the Jewish nation reminds me of a portion of my noble Friend's speech, in which he said that he hoped he should not, on the present occasion, hear the argument that the Jews are, by their expectation of a future restoration to their own land, disqualified from acting as citizens, and useful and meritorious citizens of this country. I am not going to say a single word to disparage the Jews either in this or any other country. I admit the undoubtedly high antiquity of their nation. I admit that they have been, and may in some future time again be, the most favoured of all the nations of the world. I admit that, in point of eminent abilities, of natural qualifications, and of talents of various descriptions, they stand as high as any nation in the world; but I am not prepared to deny to them that which I am sure they themselves would be the last to abjure—namely, their nationality, and their character as a nation. Although they are scattered by Divine decree over the whole face of the earth, they retain unbroken the chain of their nationality, and they do look forward to that period when, as a nation, they shall have restored to them their national rights and their national territory. The peculiar position of the Jews was pointed out in the earliest days by their great lawgiver, Moses; for, referring to history, even before his time, he asked, "When it had happened that God had essayed to take a nation from the midst of another nation as he had taken the Israelites out of the laud of Egypt." My Lords, the Jews were in Egypt, they are in England, and in every other coun- 1222 try to which the decrees of Divine Providence have driven them, a nation within a nation. No doubt, they submit to the laws, and discharge the duties of citizens. In this country they are entrusted to the highest possible degree with the carrying out of the laws, with functions of trust, and with the administration of justice. That which alone is withheld from them is a voice in making the laws, and that is withheld because those laws are to regulate a Christian community. My Lords, I say that the Jews do look forward to a period when another and a greater exodus shall collect them from all the countries of the World over which they are dispersed, and shall bring them back into their own country, and to the enjoyment of their own privileges. They retain their laws; they retain their peculiar customs. Though among us, they are not of us. They do not generally associate freely with their fellow-subjects; they have interests wholly apart. Between them and us there is an impassable gulf; their most important interests, their highest principles, their greatest views are altogether alien and foreign from ours. It may truly be said of them as was said by a noble and learned Friend behind me (against whom the expression excited considerable obloquy) of another people, that they are "aliens in blood, aliens in religion, and aliens in language."
My Lords, as I have already said, I shall not enter into many of the arguments by which this question of the admissibility of the Jews has been supported, because, as my noble Friend has truly observed, the subject is one which has in it nothing of novelty, and I am quite confident that I cannot hope to advance anything to convince any of your Lordships which has not been over and over again urged in opposition to measures similar to the present. Most of your Lordships are men of mature age, who have had ample time to consider and reflect upon the views which you entertain upon this subject. It is a matter the principle of which lies in a nutshell, and I can hardly believe that any of your Lordships who have had an opportunity of reflecting upon and deciding the question now before you are likely to alter your views or change your votes in consequence of any eloquence on the part either of my noble Friend opposite or of myself. But there was one argument which was urged to-night—although no 1223 great stress was laid upon it by my noble Friend—which I did not expect to hear urged in favour of the introduction of this Bill. I mean the argument that it is the undoubted right of every citizen to enjoy by an indefeasible title all the rights and all the privileges—for my noble Friend, I think, added the word "privileges," and if he did not he ought to have done so—of citizenship. But in saying that the withholding of any of these rights, the depriving them of, or rather not conferring upon them, any of these privileges, is a remnant of persecution, my noble Friend altogether begged the question as to what are the rights and what are the privileges of citizenship. There are undoubtedly rights which are indefeasibly attached to every citizen of a free country. He has undoubtedly a perfect right to claim security for his person, security for his property, and the free enjoyment of the rites of his religion; and from none of these is the Jew in this country in the slightest degree debarred. But he cannot claim as a right—it is conferred upon him as a privilege—the power of legislating for the community at large—which you do not give to every man, but which you confide to certain individuals selected from the community as properly entitled to exercise these privileges. Certain duties, certain obligations, certain restrictions, have at all times been imposed upon the privilege of sitting and voting in Parliament. Again, I did not expect to hear from my noble Friend that the words of the oath by which the Jews are excluded from sitting and voting in Parliament was a mere accident. If my noble Friend means that the precise terms of the oath, the words "on the true faith of a Christian," were not directed in the first instance—which, by-the-by, I must remind my noble Friend was long before the time of the House of Hanover, being in the 7th year of the reign of James I.—if he means to say that these words were introduced, not with reference to the Jews, but with reference to the Jesuits, I am perfectly ready to admit that that was the object with which these specific words were inserted. But let us look at the time and the circumstances under which these words were introduced, as my noble Friend says, not against the Jews. Why, for two centuries and a-half previous the Jews were not entitled to live in this country. They were banished from the country in the year 1290, and at the time this Act was passed, 1224 in the 7th of James I., they were, and for many years afterwards remained, in that condition of absolute banishment. Why, to talk of introducing an Act of Parliament to prevent persons from sitting and voting in Parliament who could not even enter the kingdom, and to say that because words prohibiting them to sit and vote in Parliament were not directly pointed against the persons who could not enter the country, therefore it was not the intention of the Legislature to exclude them, is as much begging the question as if it were to be said that because in the oath of supremacy we declare that no foreign prince or potentate hath any power, ecclesiastical or spiritual, in this kingdom; therefore, because we do not introduce the word "temporal," we admit that foreign potentates have temporal jurisdiction in this country. My noble Friend must recollect that even in the time of Cromwell there was presented to the Government a very humble petition on the part of the Jews. It was assigned, I think, by Menasseh Ben Israel, Rabbi of Amsterdam, and prayed they might have their ancient banishment withdrawn, and might be permitted to return to this country. What are the terms of the petition? The first they ask is that the Hebrew nation may be received and admitted into the commonwealth under the countenance and protection of his Highness, as the natives themselves. Then they ask that they may have leave to open public synagogues; that they may be permitted to traffic and import merchandise; and, to the end that their coming in might be of utility to this nation, and that they might live without prejudice to any, they prayed his Highness to appoint persons of quality to receive their passports on their arrival, and to certify their having taken the oath of fealty to the Government. There was a conference on the 7th of December to take the petition into consideration—I take this from the Parliamentary History of England—and further conferences on the 12th, 14th, and 18th of the same month, on which last day the conference broke up without coming to any resolution, or even agreeing to a further adjournment. The authoritative narrative declares that the reason why his Highness did not take any active steps to a settlement of this matter was, that he acted, as in all other matters, with good advice and mature deliberation. But in the following year 1225 there was the memorable protest, by Prynne, against even this moderate proposal; and in 1657 appeared the "humble advice and petition," which contained, among other things, the oath which was required to be taken in future by all persons who sat in Parliament. That oath was as follows:—I, A B, do, in the presence and in the name of God Almighty, promise and swear that to the utmost of my power in my place I will maintain the true Reformed Protestant religion in the purity thereof as contained in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and will encourage the profession and professors of the same.Let us see what are the terms of that Act, and what was the view taken by the Legislature at that period of the right of the Jew to sit in Parliament; if, indeed, it ever entered into their contemplation that the Jew would claim such a right. Every person taking that oath swore to uphold and maintain the Protestant religion as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and to support the profession and professors of the same. It may be that the words of the Act of James I., taken literally, were not directed specially to the exclusion of the Jew; but, considering that immediately after the application of the Jews to Cromwell to return to this country and to be permitted to enjoy in it the rights of other citizens, which was not acceded to on the objection raised by Prynne, there came a new declaration of what was to be required of all persons sitting in Parliament, in which was contained a promise to maintain the Protestant religion according to the Old and New Testament. I ask my noble Friend to tell me whether this is not overwhelming evidence that at that time and for many years afterwards it was the deliberate intention of the Legislature to make Christianity a necessary condition of admission to the Legislature? It is quite true that this oath was altered subsequently—indeed, it was altered upon many occasions. I do not know, indeed, that there was any Parliamentary enactment providing that the Jews should not sit in Parliament, for up to a very recent period they were treated as aliens. In 1670, there was a Bill introduced to relieve them from the payment to which, as aliens, they were subjected; but the next year there was so much stir about it, that it was repealed, and the character of aliens was again affixed to them. But when you come to speak of the right of the Jew to sit in Parliament, let me remind you that up to a recent period persons who 1226 sat and voted in Parliament were required to hold a landed property qualification, and Jews, at that time, could not hold landed property. My noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Lyndhurst) will remember that so late as 1846 he supported a Bill introduced by Lord John Russell, to remove doubts which existed as to whether Jews were capable of holding landed property. When, therefore, the Jews were considered to be aliens, and, therefore, disqualified from a seat in Parliament; when they were unable to hold landed property, which was an indispensable qualification for a seat there—is it at all wonderful that there should be no special clause excluding Jews from that from which they were already sufficiently excluded by the circumstances of their case and by the common law? Not only, therefore, in the time of James I. and of Cromwell, but in, all succeeding times, their alienism subsisted, their disqualification subsisted, and there have always been words in the Acts of the Legislature, not introduced specially for the purpose, but which practically, and to the knowledge of all men, did exclude the Jews from Parliament. My noble Friend says he is unable to quote any one single instance of a Jew being admitted to sit and vote in Parliament, and he will be equally unable to show me any one single time or period of our history when his so sitting and voting was not repugnant to the law of England. The Test and Corporation Act was passed in 1828. I remember my noble and learned Friend behind me took part in that discussion, and I have the authority of the Lord Chief Justice of England for saying, that the words "On the true faith of a Christian" were retained in that Act for the avowed and express object of continuing the exclusion of the Jews. And yet, in the face of the facts I have mentioned—in the face of this declaration, that in 1828 words were kept in that Act for the avowed object of excluding the Jews from participating in its benefits, am I to be told that the exclusion of the Jews is a mere accident which ought to be permitted to exclude them no longer? I say, so far from it being an accident, it has been the consistent and uninterrupted determination of the Legislature, and that this Bill, if it unhappily receives your lordships' assent, will, for the first time, remove a restriction which has ever been looked upon as part of the constitution of the country. I said I was surprised to hear the argument of accident, and also of 1227 the indefeasible right of the Jew to all the privileges of every citizen in the community, because, if that is a sound argument, how happens it, my Lords, that Her Majesty's Government have found it convenient, if not necessary, to continue in this Bill some little spice of what I perceive is called persecution? If it is persecution to say that a man shall not be a Member of Parliament, is it not persecution to say that he shall not be Lord Chancellor? I do not admit that it is persecution, for I think that the Legislature has a perfect right to exercise its discretion and to impose such conditions as it pleases; but if the Government do wish to get rid of what they and some of the petitioners call the last link of bigotry and persecution, I think they have laid by a nice little nest-egg of agitation for the future by imposing this exclusion. I should really be glad to know what was the history—not the public and ostensible, but the private history—of the introduction of these clauses. Perhaps my noble Friend opposite, or some other Member of the Government, will give us the secret history of this retention of the very "last link of persecution" by which the Jews are excluded from certain high offices to which a Parliamentary career can lead. I do not complain of the selection which has been made. There are other offices which certainly might have been inserted in the clause; but besides those from which the Jew is still excluded by this Bill, there are some other offices left open to him for which he may possess peculiar facilities and peculiar advantages. Now, I do not think, on the whole, that I should feel comfortable if a Jew were made Chancellor of the Exchequer. He may very possibly have some natural sympathies which would interfere with a due discharge of the duties of his office. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may be a Jew under this Bill, and very possibly will be. If the hon. Member for the City of London should succeed in obtaining his seat under this Bill, he would make a very efficient, and undoubtedly he would be a very influential Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is one provision in this Bill which I do not understand. It says, that it shall not be lawful for any person of the Jewish religion to advise Her Majesty, the Lord Lieutenant, or the Lords Deputies in any matter concerning the appointment to any office or preferment in the united Churches of England and Ireland. That is very right. But, supposing a Jew, by great 1228 Parliamentary influence and various other means should happen to reach the high distinction of being First Lord of the Treasury, he is debarred from advising Her Majesty as to appointments in the Church; then, I want to know, who is to advise Her Majesty in these circumstances? With respect to benefices, the Archbishop of Canterbury is to present to all which are in the patronage of a Jew holding certain offices. I have such an opinion of the Most rev. Prelate the Archbishop of Canterbury as to believe that he would not be led even by the prospect of so much patronage to give his support to this Bill. But, supposing it is intended by the Bill that the Archbishop of Canterbury is to appoint the Bishops, or to fill up vacant benefices, or to advise the Crown in such cases, at all events he cannot give advice as to who shall be his own successor after his decease. No Jew can advise Her Majesty as to appointments in the Church; but who, I again ask, is to be the adviser in such circumstances—for according to the constitution, Her Majesty cannot act without responsible advisers? I should really very much like to know what was the object and purport of the introduction of these clauses. My Lords, this was not a very long entertained proposition on the part of the Government, nor was it the result of very long deliberation, because, if I am not much mistaken, in the course of the discussions in Committee in the other House the absurdity of Jews exercising ecclesiastical patronage and holding certain offices was brought under the notice of the Government, and they were asked if they would consent to the introduction of a clause of this kind; on which the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, in that offhand way which distinguishes him, said, "this is not a Bill of pains and penalties or of exclusion from offices; this is a liberal measure for striking off the last rag of intolerance, and putting an end for ever to those disgraceful restrictions which have hitherto existed; therefore I will have no such clause introduced into the Bill." Well, some forty-eight hours or thereabouts elapse, and one day at the end of the week the First Lord of the Treasury comes down, and says, with reference to this well-considered measure—which had been announced almost on the first day of the Session, and of which on the second reading and in Committee Government had 1229 declared it should tolerate no exclusions or restrictions—he comes down and states that after consideration it was intended to introduce a clause imposing those very restrictions which had been previously denounced. Now, my Lords, I say that in a question of this kind that is not the mode in which the Government of this country should demean itself. That is not the way to impress on Parliament and the country a high idea of the capacity of the Government. It is trifling with a great question; it is playing fast and loose, and laying Government open to the suspicion of having consented to this alteration for the purpose of gaining some ulterior purpose. My Lords, I believe that a deputation of Roman Catholic gentlemen intimated to the First Lord of the Treasury, that they felt aggrieved at the idea of having to take an oath different from that of other Members of Parliament, and one which they construed in a manner offensive to their feelings. I am sorry they should think so. They prayed that one oath should he prescribed for all classes of Her Majesty's subjects, irrespective of all religious considerations whatever; and that they should not be required to take a separate oath which placed them in a more unfavourable position than the Jews. I must say, I do not think that to be an unreasonable proposition. I should be sorry to place the Roman Catholics on the same level with the Jews. We are closely connected and identified with the Roman Catholics in regard to all the high interests and principles of our religion; and although we make a distinction between them and ourselves, in order to guard against certain dangers which we apprehend may arise from some of the principles they hold, in all the great truths of our religion, in the great leading principles of Christianity, we and the Roman Catholics are at one. We agree as to the Divine origin of our religion, and as to the authority of the founder of that religion there is no difference between us. As regards the moral doctrines inculcated in the New Testament—which, no doubt, are an extension of the principles laid down in the Old—we are at one, and therefore we have a common faith, common principles, and a common morality, all sanctioned by a common authority. But if the Jew maintain the same moral duties with ourselves, he renounces the principles, the motives, and the authority by which those duties are enforced by our common Christianity; and 1230 he therefore stands in a very different and much more alienated position than the separate communities of the Catholic body at large stand in respect to each other. I am not prepared, then, to say that because I can admit into our Christian Legislature all denominations of Christians—placing certain restrictions on Roman Catholics in respect to points where their hostility might be apprehended—I am therefore compelled by analogy, and as a necessary consequence, to put all those who do not profess Christianity on the same footing. My noble Friend alluded to the argument that this Bill, if carried, would have the effect of unchristianizing the Legislature, and he said he hoped we would not deal in generalities, but would state distinctly what we meant by unchristianizing the Legislature. I do not recollect having used that word; but, at the same time, I think I understand the meaning of it. I do not understand by it that the introduction of two or three Jews into Parliament would make the remainder of the Legislature less Christian than it had hitherto been. I will not say that the influence, even, of those Jews would have any injurious effect; but I will not be so certain on that point. I give every credit to the Jews for possessing all the qualities necessary to render them good citizens and loyal subjects. I cannot, however, forbear mentioning a remarkable circumstance, in which the peculiar principles of the Jews operated in a somewhat extraordinary and peculiar manner. I recollect that some years ago there was a public subscription raised in favour of some case of general distress, the nature of which I do not at this moment recollect. A general programme was prepared to be sent forth, in which there was an appeal—an appeal never lost on a Christian country—to the Christian sympathies of the people. A Jew, however, said, I object to the word "Christian" in that appeal—strike it out, for it is not merely Christian sympathy you wish to call forth, and Jews cannot respond to that word; do not, therefore, offend us by putting that into your programme, seeing we disclaim what you call Christian sympathy. In consequence of that remonstrance of a Jew, the appeal to the Christian sympathy of the country was struck out of the programme—the liberality of the Jew was accepted—but it was at the expense of those words. Now, I say the same thing might occur in the House of Commons,—nay, I may say it would 1231 occur there every day, in reference to the commencement of their proceedings by prayer in the name of the Saviour of the world, for no Jew can join in offering up that prayer. I do not know whether it is intended that the Jew should take a seat in this House—if it be so intended, his religious scruples would be much more severely tried. But, my Lords, I was proceeding to say in what sense the Legislature might be considered unchristianized by the admission of Jews to Parliament. The sense in which I understand that word is this—that by that admission you take from the Legislature that which it has had in all times—namely, the character of an exclusively Christian body. You will disclaim on the part of the Legislature any connection with the religion of the country. In this Bill you call on the Legislature to do that in the most emphatic way by striking out words that give solemnity to the oath in the minds of all Christians—namely, that they make this declaration and promise without any mental reservation, and that on the true faith of a, Christian. By striking out those words you take away from the Legislature its profession of Christianity by an act of legislation, and that is what I call un-christianizing the Legislature. The noble Earl has said, what has been often said before, that you exclude the sincere and conscientious Jew, but admit persons of all religious persuasions or of no religious persuasion. Undoubtedly, if a man chooses to forswear himself, the Legislature can do nothing to prevent it. We cannot look into the heart and mind of a man. All we can do is to say that this is a Christian country, and that its Legistature shall bear the impress of Christianity—that no man shall be entitled to legislate for us and take a part in ruling over us who does not, at all events, profess himself a believer in Christianity. Further than that human legislation cannot go, nor would it be wise to go further if it could. But if it is a right and wise thing to introduce Jews to Parliament, is it essential to that object that the conscience of Christians should be offended by excluding from the oath to be taken by them words of such solemn import and such deep and sacred obligation as these—"on the true faith of a Christian." Why strike out those words for the relief of the Jew when you have it equally in your power to meet the case—if you desire to meet it fairly and honestly—by permitting the oath to be 1232 taken in its present form by all persons who desire so to take it, and that the Jews be exempted from using the words "on the true faith of a Christian"? That, my Lords, was the course that was pursued with regard to the Quakers and the Moravians, who were unwilling to take any oath. Exceptions were made in their favour by allowing them to make solemn affirmations in lieu of oaths. If the Jews were to claim a similar dispensation from words which to them appear to be offensive, they might undoubtedly claim to be admitted by virtue of a special clause in their favour, permitting them to take oaths in a manner which they might deem to be binding upon their consciences. But that course would not have answered the purpose of Her Majesty's Government. It would have given them an opportunity of settling the question which they now say is the primary object they have in view; the oaths would have been separately considered by this House, and the Bill would have been sent down to the other House amended according to your Lordships' views, and it would then have been for the House of Commons to decide whether they would consent to the amended oath which all were willing to adopt, or whether they would prefer an indefinite postponement of any Amendment on the oath until they could force the House of Lords to accept a proposition which a majority of your Lordships feel to be opposed to your conscientious opinions. Her Majesty's Government have chosen to take a course which they, no doubt, knew would be embarrassing to some hesitating, undecided Members of this House. They have attached a condition the objections to which are all but insuperable to that alteration in the oath which all of your Lordships agree to be desirable. I need not remind your Lordships that in the last Session of the late Parliament, after the Jew Bill had been rejected by this House, I took the liberty of introducing a Bill to amend the oath, in which undoubtedly the particular words in question would have been retained, but which would have got rid of all the objectionable and obsolete portions of the oath, which my noble Friend seems to think not only ludicrous, but blasphemous. However, I was told that to send down that Bill to the House of Commons would be only inviting a renewal of the conflict upon the Jew question which had been already decided, and that that House would not 1233 agree to an amendment of the oath, which all admit to be desirable, unless it was coupled with a condition which your Lordships had several times declared your inability to accept. However, this year we have this Bill, and I confess I approve it so far as it relates to the amendment of the oath that I would have been content to have assented to the second reading and to have dealt with the secondary and collateral question of the Jews by moving for the reinstatement of these words by way of Amendment in Committee. But what has taken place? The addition of the words "on the true faith of a Christian" has already been proposed in the House of Commons, and the proposition has been rejected by that House by a large majority. Thus they have debarred us from taking a course which might have reconciled us to this Bill. They have rejected an Amendment which alone would enable us to concur with them in the passing of this Bill. I have, however, been somewhat diverted from the history of this clause. I am told that a deputation of Roman Catholic noblemen and gentlemen waited on the First Lord of the Treasury to state their objections to the present oath; and what is the answer which the noble Viscount is reported to have made? I am told that he said, of his own part he had not the slightest objection to any alteration; that he did not wish to retain any restrictions on the oath; that he did not see much merit in the present oath; but that there were some gentlemen with ultra-Protestant views in the House of Commons strongly attached to the Established Church; and that if any Amendment such as the deputation required should be made it would increase the difficulty of passing the Bill; therefore, he was very sorry he could not yield to the wishes of the Roman Catholic gentlemen. But the noble Viscount added that, although he could not place the Roman Catholics in a better position, he would willingly consent to place the Jews in a worse. [The Duke of NORFOLK: No, no!] I do not mean to say that statement was actually made to the deputation, but it was the line of argument adopted by the noble Viscount. The noble Duke was present and I am happy to have him here to confirm the truth of my statement. The noble Viscount said that he had no objection to alter the Roman Catholic oath, but that would give rise to inconvenient opposition in the 1234 House of Commons. I appeal to the noble Duke who headed the deputation whether such was not the case? [The Duke of NORFOLK: Something very like that.] Now, I appeal to your Lordships whether that is very statesmanlike conduct—whether it indicates any fixed opinions on the part of the head of the Government, who not many months ago went to the country as the exclusive protector of Protestantism? I do not say I have given the exact language of the noble Viscount, but the result of the deputation was that the Roman Catholics did not get what they asked, and the Jews did get what they did not ask for,—namely, a clause disqualifying them from filling certain offices, and perpetuating what the noble Viscount indignantly denounced as the last remnant of religious intolerance. That, my Lords, is the history of this clause. If Her Majesty's Government had been really desirous of settling this question, they might have amended the oath in a manner perfectly unobjectionable; they might have retained for all Christian legislators these words of solemn significance, and they would then have avoided shocking the consciences of a large portion of the religious community, and they might have submitted openly and avowedly the question of whether an exceptional oath should be made to enable Jews to sit in Parliament. That would have settled the question as to the oath, and it would have left the question as to the Jews perfectly open; but, instead of that, we are told that we shall not amend what we are all willing to amend, unless we will also agree to that which to many of your Lordships is most objectionable. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) said he hoped he should not hear used this evening the argument that this was a favourable opportunity for asserting the independence of your Lordships' House—to assert what he styled a fictitious independence. [Earl GRANVILLE was understood to deny having used the expression.] If the noble Earl retracts the expression I shall say nothing more about it; but he did express a hope that this would not be deemed an opportunity for the assertion of the independence of this House. Now, my Lords, I hope that upon this and upon all occasions the House of Lords, upon matters where principle is involved, will assert their independence. If I do not state at greater length my reasons for objecting to the admission of Jews to the Legislature 1235 of this country, it is because I believe your Lordships have fully made up your minds upon the subject. It is a question of principle—not of expediency. It is a question not determinable or to be influenced, by the operation of temporary causes or changing circumstances; it is a question upon which we must act from principle, apart from all extraneous circumstances, and it is a question upon which I believe the majority of your Lordships have made up your minds long ago. I do not deny that there are times (and when they do occur they are much to be regretted) when the Legislature of this country may be disposed to sacrifice their own firm convictions, when great and fatal danger would attend an unflinching adherence to those convictions. That principle has been acted upon in former times, and it has guided the conduct of some of our most eminent statesmen, and among them the late Sir Robert Peel and the illustrious Duke of Wellington. I admit there are cases in which a sense of justice and right has been overborne by apprehended dangers from a persistence in our convictions; when there has been danger of collision between the two Houses of Parliament—of universal anarchy—of internal commotion likely to ensue upon a determined adherence to our own opinion, then we have yielded. That feeling influenced the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel upon the occasion of the Roman Catholic Relief Bill, when they acted, not according to what they considered to be right, but in consequence of the formidable dangers with which the country was threatened had a different course been pursued. I say the same thing of your Lordships in the case of the Reform Bill, and of a large portion of your Lordships upon the question of the abolition, of the Corn Laws. Upon those occasions your Lordships gave up your opinions, which you considered to be abstractedly right, in consequence of the formidable dangers which were threatened by your persisting in acting upon them. But I venture to ask your Lordships what is the formidable danger or inconvenience which my noble Friend expects will follow upon a persistence of this House in their repeatedly expressed views upon this question. [Earl GRANVILLE intimated that he had not referred to any such danger or inconvenience.] I thank my noble Friend for the admission that in case we should persist in the course adopted by a majority 1236 of your Lordships on former occasions there will be no danger of a collision with the other House, no disturbance of the public peace, no political or social conflict. The noble Earl said he hoped he should not hear the argument used that opposition to the measure would vindicate the independence of the House. He will not hear that argument from me, but I do say that the absence of any of those causes of hesitation, doubt, or difficulty to which I have referred will prevent us from being called upon to sacrifice our own convictions for the sake of avoiding possible public inconvenience. I repeat I believe your Lordships have long ago made up your minds upon this subject. I hope you will pursue the same course as on former occasions, and that you will adhere to your determination to maintain and uphold the Christian character of a Christian country, and I trust your Lordships will not be led even by the bait which is held out of the alteration of an objectionable oath to accept that which the Government has attached to it as a screw upon your Lordships' consciences; but that, regretting that the Government should have conjoined the two matters so closely that you cannot accept one without the other, your Lordships will reject the compromise and combination, and, as you cannot concur in what the House of Commons insists upon including in the Bill, you will not sanction even that which intrinsically you approve, but which you cannot separate in this measure from the other subject. I regret having detained your Lordships longer than I could have wished. I have only expressed my own opinions, and the opinions of a large body of those with whom I have the honour of acting; but upon the grounds which I have stated I now venture to move that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.
§ Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this day six months").
§ LORD LYNDHURST
My Lords: I could have wished that some other noble Lord should have followed my noble Friend who has just sat down, but I felt, and I feel at this moment, that unless I were to avail myself of this early opportunity of offering my opinion on this subject—which I deem myself bound to do—I might not be able to address you at a later period of the night. My Lords, no one can admire more sincerely than I do the eloquence of 1237 my noble Friend; and if beautiful and felicitous language, sprightly sallies of wit, and splendid declamation can determine a question of this kind, then I feel satisfied that we have no chance of reading this Bill a second time. But I have been so long familiar with your Lordships' House, I know its mode of proceeding so well, that I entertain no apprehension whatever of the question being decided on any such ground. I have, while my noble Friend was addressing your Lordships, been considering what course it would best become me to pursue; and. from the confidence I place in your judgment, your independence of thought, and impartiality,—above all, from the confidence I place in the soundness of the principle on which this Bill is founded—I think that I cannot do better than point out distinctly and precisely the facts of this case, upon which so much of the question now at issue depends, and to advert to the arguments which are relied on on the one side and on the other, and among others, to the arguments that have just been urged by my noble Friend. The facts of the case may be stated in a very short time, and in very few words. In the first instance, I must refer to the period of the Revolution of 1688. When that event was accomplished, by which our constitution was settled, it was determined, at the very commencement of the reign of King William III., to revise the oaths now under consideration. The oaths in existence at that time were the oath of allegiance, which was most cumbrous in its form, and the oath of supremacy. This oath of allegiance was originally adopted in the reign of James I., and it contained, for the first time, the words referred to by my noble Friend—namely, "without equivocation, and upon the true faith of a Christian. "This oath, however, after much careful deliberation, was directly and distinctly repealed, every part of it was abolished, and in lieu of it the simple oath of allegiance, in the concise form in which we now have to take it, was introduced. So much as to the form of the oath of allegiance then adopted. I now come to the other remaining oath—namely, the oath of supremacy. This oath at that period consisted of two parts—the one affirmative, the other negative. The affirmative part asserted the supremacy of the Crown—the negative part asserted that no foreign prince, prelate, or potentate has, or ought to have, any jurisdiction, spiritual or temporal, within this realm. The Par- 1238 liament of that day abrogated the former portion of the oath, and retained only the latter. Therefore, during the whole of the reign of William III., the only oaths required to be taken were the simple oath of allegiance, which we now take, and the oath of supremacy, which we also now take. In addition to these oaths, it was deemed important at that time that a re-settlement of the Crown should be made; and, accordingly, in the first year of William III,, the Crown was again settled by Act of Parliament. But, my Lords, no oath was imposed to confirm or support that settlement. The great men of that day did not think it requisite to do so. Thus matters proceeded until the 12th year of the reign of William III,, when another change took place. In consequence of the death of Queen Mary, and in consequence, also, of the death of the Duke of Gloucester, a new settlement of the Crown became necessary. The Crown was then settled by Act of Parliament upon the Electress Dowager of Hanover and the heirs of her body, being Protestants. This, in substance, was the settlement of the Crown which now exists. No oath, however, was required by the Legislature of that day to confirm this settlement. Therefore the only two oaths which had to be taken during the first twelve years of the reign of William III. —your Lordships will see the bearing of this presently—were the short oath of allegiance, and the negative oath of supremacy. Now, what happened in the last year of the reign of King William? The death of James II. then occurred, and his son assumed the title of King of England. He was supported in that character by the French Monarch, he was proclaimed in France as King of England, and steps were taken to enforce that claim. Then it was, my Lords, that this oath of abjuration—the subject of our preset discussion—was introduced. It was designed to meet that contingency—to guard against that danger—and to uphold the Crown of Great Britain against the combination between France and the descendants of James II. This oath of abjuration, with the other oaths imposed in the reign of King William, has come down to our times. But the objects of this oath have long ceased—the descendants of the Pretender have long been extinct. What, then, is the course which every man of common sense would expect under these circumstances to be pursued? Simply to repeal the oath that had been framed for a 1239 particular purpose, and the utility of which is now at an end. And the effect of this would be to leave only two oaths, as in the reign of William III.,—namely, the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. That is the natural and rational course to take—to repeal the enactments passed for a special purpose now that that purpose has been fully accomplished, and then to leave the oaths as they previously stood. That, my lords, is the whole matter in dispute. By this Bill the oath of allegiance and the oath of supremacy, as they were framed in the time of William III., are re—enacted. But there is one addition made to these two oaths to which I beg your attention—an addition which did not exist in the reign of William III.; and it is this—an oath confirming the succession of the Crown. If I were asked whether I thought such an oath to be necessary, I should answer in the negative. If it was not held to be necessary in the comparatively troublous times of William III., how can it be necessary in the tranquil days in which we live? But in deference to the opinions of some persons this oath has been added to the others, and the whole have been combined into one form. What possible object can there be in such a proceeding? What is the difference between our position and the position of the country in the reign of William III. that an additional oath should be called for? But it is said that we are taking away something from these oaths. I deny that we are taking anything away. Why should the words "without equivocation" and "upon the true faith of a Christian" be added? For what purpose were they originally introduced? They were introduced, as everybody knows, to meet a particular contingency, in consequence of the conduct of the Roman Catholics at that time; they were introduced in consequence of the discovery of some correspondence under the hand of Garnet the Jesuit, who was concerned in treasonable plots, because it was believed they would be binding upon Roman Catholics. Why, then, is it wished to add these words to the oath now proposed? They were formerly inserted with a particular object. Do you wish to insert them in this oath in order to carry out that object? Why, that object no longer exists, for Roman Catholics are not required to take the oath. They have an oath peculiar to themselves, from which these words are omitted. This is not a question of omitting words; it is a question of inserting words; and I say it is a folly to insert 1240 words which have no application to the present time. It may, however, be said, "We wish to insert these words for the purpose of excluding Jews from Parliament." Well, is it proper that Jews should be excluded from Parliament? Let us consider what position Jews occupy. It has been said that Jews are aliens. I assert that under the law they are not aliens. I say, that to call them aliens is contrary to the law of England. Undoubtedly those Jews who came over with Charles II. in 1660 were aliens. They were born abroad, and probably all the Jews in this country in the reign of Charles II. were aliens; but can it be maintained that under our law any Jew born in England is an alien? It is equally untrue to say, that Jews cannot hold real property in England. My Lords, in consequence of some doubts having arisen on these points many years ago, a case was stated and laid before Lord Talbot, one of the most distinguished lawyers of his time, and it was put to him distinctly whether or not the Jews were aliens. The answer was distinct, uniform, and precise—that they were not aliens, that there was no pretence for treating them as aliens, but that they were entitled to hold land and to enjoy equal rights and liberties with all other of Her Majesty's natural born subjects. If, then, although they are natural born subjects of this realm, you exclude them from the privileges of natural born subjects, you pursue an improper and unconstitutional course. You ought to exclude them by Act of Parliament. Introduce a Bill for the purpose. It is the right of a natural born subject to have his case considered by both Houses of Parliament and by his Sovereign, and unless he is excluded from privileges by their joint voices, he has the same rights as any other natural born subject. What are, you now doing? You are endeavouring to deprive the Jews of their rights by a side wind—by the voice of one branch of the Legislature only, and that not the representative—or, at least, not the direct representative—of the people. I say, my Lords, this is an unconstitutional course of proceeding, and one which cannot be justified. I am not merely expressing my own opinion upon this subject. When a question as to the construction of this oath was brought under the consideration of the Court of Exchequer, two of the most learned Judges of that Court—one of them now no more, but who was equally distin- 1241 guished for his acquaintance with every branch of science and for his profound legal knowledge and erudition (the late Baron Alderson)—stated distinctly, that if the Jews were to be excluded from Parliament they ought not to be excluded by a side wind, but by a direct Act of the Legislature. In what position, then, do we stand? What objection is there to the admission of Jews to Parliament? I cannot understand upon what ground your Lordships would be justified in inserting the words "upon the true faith of a Christian." You cannot insert them with the view of providing any security against Catholics. You cannot insert them with the view of excluding natural born subjects— the Jews—from sitting in Parliament, for you have constitutionally no right to do so. If you wish to exclude the Jews—I repeat it again—exclude them by a direct Act of Legislation. Unless you do so you cannot, according to law and constitutional principles, effect that object. It is said, that the Jews were constructively excluded from Parliament in former times; but I do not believe they were ever considered. My noble Friend says, however, "If it had not been supposed that they were excluded, they would have been excluded." The argument then comes to this—you did not exclude them by law; if you had thought of it, you would have excluded them; and you would consider them excluded, although, in fact, you never have excluded them. My Lords, I think most of the arguments on the other side are answered by a correct statement of the facts, which in my view are conclusive. I remember that a noble Friend of mine who generally sits on the cross bench, but whom I do not now see in his place (Earl Stanhope), started an argument which has been repeated by the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) to-night, and said, "You will unchristianize the Legislature, if you do not retain these words in the oath." I would ask my noble Friends to consider the opinions of the great men of the reign of William III. by whom the Revolution was effected, and to whom I have referred. It is said, that by striking out the words "without equivocation" and "on the true faith of a Christian," you will unchristianize the Legislature. I ask my noble Friend what reception he supposes such an argument would have met with from Lord Somers, from Lord Halifax, or any of the other great men, of that 1242 day? Would they not have turned their backs upon a conception so weak and so ridiculous? It is said that, by striking out the words "on the true faith of a Christian," we are unchristianizing Parliament; but was the Parliament of William III., during whose reign these words were omitted from the oath, less a Christian Parliament than the Parliament of the succeeding reign, which was influenced and directed by Lord Bolingbroke, a professed disbeliever in Christianity? But, my Lords, when you talk of these words being so essential to keeping up the Christian character of the Legislature, let me go a little further. Let me ask, was the Parliament in the reign of William III. less Christian than the corrupt Parliament of the reign of Charles II., under a profligate King and a base and corrupt Ministry? Was the Parliament of James I.—when the oath was first introduced and these words were originally inserted—a more Christian Parliament than the Parliaments in the long and splendid reign of Elizabeth and in the brief reign of Edward VI.? Now, when you come to consider the view of the case to which I have just adverted, you cannot fail, I am sure, to regard it in the light of a mere mockery, and as having been resorted to by the opponents of the Bill in a moment of exigency, in order that they might have something wearing an air of plausibility to urge in support of their opinions. My noble Friend has also touched, although somewhat lightly, upon another argument, to which, with your Lordships' permission, I shall now proceed to address myself. By whom that argument was originally advanced I do not recollect, but it is to the effect that, if you admit Jews into Parliament, you will unchristianize the Legislature. There would, it is urged, be an inconsistency between the designation of a Christian Parliament and the admission of Jews to membership in such an assembly. Now, let us for one moment analyze that argument, and see whether it is worth anything. What, let me ask, is the meaning of calling Parliament a Christian Legislature? It is, I suppose, designated by that appellation, because it represents a Christian country. But what is the country itself? Does it consist wholly of a Christian population or not? It does not, inasmuch as the Jews form an essential part of that population. Are they not British subjects? Now, if this nation is composed of Jews as well 1243 as of Christians—the latter being, I admit, largely in the majority—what inconsistency is there in having a Legislature in which Jewish and Christian members may hold seats in a similar proportion as that which I have indicated as subsisting between them as members of one community? Jews have a voice in the return of Members of Parliament; what inconsistency, I repeat, is there in maintaining that the representative should, in the same degree, reflect the character of the constituent body? But this is not all. Are not your courts of justice Christian? Are not your municipal corporations Christian? Is either the one or the other, let me ask, to be looked upon as the less Christian, because members of the Jewish persuasion are admitted to a share in the functions which they exercise? A Christian tribunal may be presided over by a member of the Jewish persuasion. The Christian corporation of this great metropolis has, in fact, had a Jew at its head—a gentleman distinguished for his character and for the admirable manner in which the duties of his high office have been performed. We have been warned, my Lords, how we play fast and loose with principles. But if this be the principle for which my noble Friend contends, that, although Jews may fairly be admitted to discharge the civil functions, yet that they must not be allowed to form part of a Christian Legislature—if that be his principle, let me beg your Lordships to consider how it has hitherto been carried into effect. A case which involves a great principle is one in which my noble Friend cannot be permitted to play "fast and loose." What has been the course pursued in reference to the maintenance of my noble Friend's principle since I have been in Parliament? The constitution of Canada has within that period undergone alteration. We have assisted in framing the new constitution. Was that a work which was carelessly executed? On the contrary, the Legislature of Canada was one which was constructed with due deliberation. Were any of the right rev. Prelates present in this House during the debates upon the subject? Many of them were—they were necessarily present, because questions arose in which the separate interests of Protestants and Roman Catholics were involved. Did they—did we, my Lords—seek upon that occasion to enact that from a seat in the Canadian Legislature Jews should be excluded? No; and yet is not the Legis- 1244 lature of Canada as much a Christian Legislature as the Parliament of this country? I have been told by a friend of mine that a member of the Jewish persuasion sat in the Legislature of Canada for many years, and that that gentleman was distinguished for his high character, extensive attainments, and great general information. How are these facts to be reconciled with the views of which my noble Friend is to-night the advocate? But it may be said that it was by an oversight that we omitted to make provision against the admission of the Jews into the Legislature of Canada. That statement will not avail my noble Friend. Let us look to Australia. Is not that a Christian country as much as any other portion of the dominions of England? If so, are we to set less value upon the existence of Christianity in one part of this great empire than in another? We framed a constitution for Australia, and upon that occasion nobody came forward to say, "Oh, you must not allow Jews to sit in the legislative assembly of Australia." Nobody ventured to make any such proposition. My noble Friend has waited for the introduction of a measure such as that under our notice, to urge upon your Lordships the adoption of the principle for which he so zealously contends. But I may go further. I may allude to New Zealand, to the Cape of Good Hope, with respect to both of which colonies a course similar to that which I have just been describing was adopted. No attempt was made to exclude Jews from a seat in the Legislature of thos countries. It may be said, "Oh, we could not have provided for their exclusion. Parliament would not have consented to such a proposal." Well, if you, the opponents of the present Bill, make that admission, does it not furnish one of the strongest arguments against the course which you are now pursuing which it is possible to advance? You dared not venture to propose a clause in any of those instances which I have mentioned to effect that boldly and broadly the accomplishment of which has been effected in this country by a side wind, through the medium of an oath, which you seek for that reason to uphold. There is another topic in connection with this question which has been introduced by a learned Friend of mine elsewhere, and which has been adopted by my noble Friend, to which I wish briefly to advert. The proposition which 1245 it embodies was, it appears, received with loud cheers, and it is as follows. Alluding to the object which the authors of this Bill desire to promote, the learned Gentleman to whom I refer said,—"This is not a question of religious liberty, it is a question of power." Now, my Lords, let us analyze that proposition, and see what it means. What is the meaning of the term "religious liberty" in the sense in winch my hon. and learned Friend used those words? It means nothing more than religious toleration. But will any man tell me now-a-days that is the full and true interpretation of the phrase? Has not the doctrine which would attach to it simply that meaning been long since exploded? Religious liberty, as the term is now understood, means that no man's religious opinions, unless they happen to be fraught with danger to the State, or some other paramount cause, ought to affect his right to eligibility to fill any civil office. That I conceive to be the true doctrine, and that doctrine involves the question of power, so that my hon. and learned Friend, able and upright as he is, has, I think, taken a somewhat erroneous view upon the subject. I may now remind my noble and learned Friend on the woolsack that he two years ago introduced a Bill, the object of which was to strike out of the Statute-book several penal enactments upon the subject of religion. The preamble of that Bill set forth in the most distinct terms the doctrine which I have just submitted to your Lordships' consideration. It was read a second time, and no objection whatever was urged against it. It did not, however, pass into a law, because, in consequence of the great prolixity of its details, it was deemed advisable to refer it, not to a Select Committee, but to a tribunal of an entirely different character—I mean the Statute Law Commission, a body composed of men of the highest legal attainments, by whom some of its enacting clauses were amended. They, however, returned the Bill with its preamble unaltered. I have another case, infinitely stronger—a case in which the Government, the country, and the Parliament concurred in establishing the principle which I have stated, and which will be fresh in the recollection of my noble Friend, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Aberdeen). It is well known that at one time Christians were not allowed to hold office in the Turkish dominions. Our Ministers argued with the Government of Turkey, and stated to 1246 them what was the true principle of religious freedom. The Turkish Government yielded to these arguments, and pronounced a decree—the celebrated hatti sheriff—putting Christians precisely upon the same footing as Turks with respect to all civil offices. That measure was not only sanctioned by our Government, but was approved by Parliament, and I will undertake to say was regarded with satisfaction by the whole country. Can there be a stronger sanction of a great principle than that approval. If we lay down particular rules to foreign States, especially to States imperial in power, and if they find that we do not act upon the same principles ourselves, but allow our prejudices or our interests to interfere, they will lose all their respect for us and stamp our conduct with their disapprobation. Again, nobody now pretends to say that Jews are not in point of information and intellectual power upon a footing of perfect equality with their Christian fellow-countrymen. We have put them upon their trial. During the last thirty years they have acted as magistrates and members of municipal councils, and they have not been found wanting. It is said, however, that such is not the best school in which to train and form those who are to do the work of legislation. Nevertheless, it is by acting as magistrates and members of municipal councils that a large proportion of the national representatives acquire that knowledge and experience which fit them for the discharge of their Parliamentary duties. The question has been asked, how could a member of the Jewish persuasion speak or vote in Parliament upon religious questions? I answer, in the first place, that, of course, he would not interfere in any question of doctrine; but I can give a much more complete and satisfactory reply. When the Roman Catholic Relief Bill was before Parliament it was urged with much ability and some degree of force that the Roman Catholics were hostile to our Church, regarding us as the wrongful possessors of their property; that it was a passion with them to make proselytes, and that they professed allegiance to a foreign Sovereign, who might at any time declare war against England. These were weighty arguments, and I recollect the impression they made, having myself taken part in the discussion; but what was the result? We all felt that there might be some inconvenience and even danger in the course recommended to us, but we said 1247 that the great principle of reason and of justice ought to triumph, and accordingly it did triumph, the Bill was passed, and those evils that were anticipated turn out now to have been greatly exaggerated. That was the case with respect to the Roman Catholic Church. What is the case with respect to the Jews? They have no hostility to us or to our religion; they do not desire to make converts; they always treat our religion with respect, they owe no allegiance to any foreign Sovereign, they have always been peaceable and loyal subjects. My Lords, there are several other points to which I intended to advert, but I am afraid I cannot proceed any further. My strength is exhausted; I cannot bear the fatigue any longer. It is twenty-five years since a measure similar to the present—at least, similar in its tendencies—was introduced in a speech of great ability by a late learned Friend of mine, upon whom, my Lords, I passed some words of eulogium when addressing your Lordships on this subject during the late Parliament. Those words I will not now repeat—I will content myself with saying that there never was a sincerer Christian or a man of sounder judgment. In successive Sessions of Parliament and in successive Parliaments the measure has been brought forward and carried by large majorities. I find among those majorities men of all parties and of high attainments, statesmen of the first character, philosophers, and men of profound learning—men whose example is worthy of all imitation. During the late elections the subject was presented to the different constituencies of the country, and in the metropolis itself, the chief seat of the Government, a member of the Jewish persuasion was returned, for the third or fourth time, by a majority larger than that which polled for a noble Lord who had fought the battle of religious freedom, and had long deserved well of the country. I do not suppose that the noble Lord objected to the circumstance, but, on the contrary, regarded it as a mark of the strength of the feeling which the constituency of London entertained upon this important subject. When the present Bill was brought before the new House of Commons, it received the support of a majority nearly double that by which it was carried upon any former occasion. Now, my Lords, I think that these facts are not to be disregarded or lightly considered. I have sometimes ventured to state my opinion as to the 1248 relative duties of the two Houses of Parliament, the one representing the great mass of the constituencies, the other not representing the people, but rather what may be termed the Conservative influences of the constitution. My Lords, I have always considered the duty of this House to be to mature all plans of sound legislation—to serve as a check against the rash, hasty, and unwise proceedings of the other House, and to give time for consideration, and even for the abandonment of improper measures. I have never thought, however, that this House ought to be a perpetual barrier against sound and progressive legislation. No wise or prudent man can approve such a course. It must lead to a conflict with the other House, and in that conflict, unless we are supported by a great majority of the people, we must succumb. It is with great submission that I have ventured to make these observations. I hope that in doing so, I have not said anything inconsistent with the respect which I feel for your Lordships. I have been now for more than thirty years a Member of this House. I have taken an active part in all those measures which have been brought forward during that time for the purpose of extending the principle of religious freedom. I have myself been the originator of some of them, and I hope I may be allowed to say, that I feel a just pride in the course I have taken. My Lords, we have now arrived at the last stage in our progress towards full and perfect religious liberty. Let us not halt in our career. Let us not lag behind, on this subject, the other Protestant States of Europe. Let us maintain our old position in the van of the nations, and let us now make our last and crowning effort in the great cause of civil and religious liberty.
THE EARL OF WINCHILSEA
My Lords, in 1829 we abandoned the Protestant character of our constitution; but I did not think I should live to see the day when it should be proposed to banish Christianity from the Legislature. If this Bill had merely contemplated the abolition of obsolete portions of an oath, I should have given it my cordial support. I regard it, however, as a side wind by which to remove from the Statute—book that Christian oath which no man can enter this Christian Legislature without taking, for it proposes to admit to it Jews, who deny the authenticity of the New Testament, who look upon our religion as an empty pageant, 1249 and upon its Divine author as a base impostor, and I must therefore give it my most decided and uncompromising opposition. Christianity is the great protection of the throne and of the laws of this country, and God grant that, by the firmness of your Lordships, it may long continue so. Towards the Jews I entertain a Christian feeling, and if any remaining disabilities were to be removed—if they were at all impeded in the enjoyment of their religious liberty or in the possession of their property, I would vote for the removal of all such restrictions; but, my Lords, I consider that the Jews have had conceded to them every civil privilege which they are entitled to ask. The Legislature has only stopped short in concession when the Jews have sought to enter Parliament, because your Lordships have declared the perfect absurdity of admitting men to frame laws who deny the very foundation of them. This is not merely a civil question—it exceeds in the deep religious interest involved in it any other question that has ever come before your Lordships. If your Lordships pass this measure, which is opposed to the deeplyseated feelings of the people of this country, beware how you court that heavy judgment which has befallen the Jews. Although 1900 years have nearly elapsed, the Jews still stand out as a living monument of the Divine wrath. From the moment that you banish Christianity from the Legislature, you may not unreasonably date the decline of England's prosperity; for prosperity does not depend on the acts of great and leading men in the country, but upon the mercy of the Divine Disposer of Events. There is much, my Lords, to make us apprehensive with respect to our prosperity as a nation. In the East events are lowering, and those colonies which were once an element of strength to us may become an element of discord. I trust that your Lordships will stand between the Lower House of Parliament and the passing of this measure, and that, independently of all other feelings but a sense of duty to God and your country, you will reject this Bill.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that their Lordships would remember so many occasions on which the noble Earl who had just sat down had predicted the ruin of the country—all of which predictions had been followed by a large increase of national prosperity—that he did not imagine they would be much alarmed at the prophecies 1250 which he had uttered on this occasion. He should therefore address himself to making a few observations on some of the remarks which fell from the noble Earl who had moved the Amendment, and, in doing so, should principally confine himself to that which was, in the mind of the noble Earl and of most other noble Lords, the main question—namely, the question of the admission of the Jews to Parliament. The first position which the noble Earl laid down was that the Jews were a different nation. Why, then, did we make them magistrates, why put them into our municipal corporations? Why, above all, make them sheriffs of counties, the immediate representatives of the Queen in Council? Nay, not only might a Jew be a sheriff, but if he refused to act in that capacity, saying that he was of another nation, he was fined or compelled to serve. The noble Earl was willing that the Jew should exercise all these important functions, but when he knocked at the door of Parliament, and asked for his fair share of political rights, the noble Earl turned round and said, "No! you shall not come here; you are of another nation." Then the noble Earl said that the Jews were not persecuted. When the Roman Catholics laboured under disabilities, the noble Earl himself called it persecution; why, then, was it not persecution in the case of the Jews? The noble Earl also said that there was no danger now. There was danger in the time of the Catholics,—6,000,000 of them thundered at the doors of their Lordships' House, and then they yielded; but in the case of the Jews there was nothing but the claims of justice, so they were told not to yield. Was that generous; nay, was it safe? There was danger in injustice, although it was injustice to only a small number of persons. It was said that the adoption of this Bill would un-christianize the Legislature; yet for nearly twenty-five years this measure had continually been carried through the House of Commons, and during all that time that House had been more distinguished for its attention to disseminate Christianity and to promote the religious education of the people than at any previous period of its history. But more than this, when the noble Earl opposite, who now said that the effect of this Bill would be to unchristianize the Legislature, wanted to form a Government, this notion about maintaining the Christianity of the Legislature was thrown 1251 over immediately. It was in no way insisted upon by the noble Earl as one of the principles upon which his Government was to be formed, for his leader in the other House was an unflinching advocate of this measure. The noble Earl, too, on such occasions, had sought the assistance of men of different parties, and Lord Palmerston's support of this measure was no impediment to his being asked by the noble Earl to take a seat in his Cabinet. A great deal more would be said about foreign affairs than the Christianity of the Legislature in the conversation which took place between them. Was it wise, he would ask, thus to make Christianity a party watchword, to be shouted out at one time, and to be cast away at another, just as it suited the political convenience of the noble Earl? He had heard it said, though he could scarcely believe it, that some Roman Catholic Peers were about to vote against the measure. He remembered sitting on the steps of the Throne, and listening to the first speech which Lord Plunket made in that House on the Catholic question—"Shall I," said that noble Lord, "who have been raised to the Peerage, put my shoulder to the door to prevent the Duke of Norfolk from coming into this House?—I would rather throw it open wide." He hoped the Roman Catholics would follow the example of Lord Plunket on that occasion, and assist in throwing open the doors of the Legislature to the Jews. The country was now well prepared for the measure; it had been discussed for the last twenty-five years, and he hoped the time was come when it would pass into law.
§ THE DUKE OF NORFOLK
My Lords, it may be convenient, after the allusion which the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) has made to my name, for me to state the course which I am prepared to pursue upon the present occasion.
My Lords the Bill before us, however it may be endorsed, I consider simply as embodying the principle of the admission of the Jews into Parliament. It has been so treated in another place—it has been so treated throughout the discussion this evening. My Lords, of that principle I completely approve. I cannot conceive how, in a country where a diversity of religions is permitted by law, and where the electors also are permitted to profess a diversity of religions, it is fair to prevent them from electing any person whom they consider a proper and fit person to represent them in the Government of the country.
1252 My Lords, I consider that it is an act of justice to admit the Jews into Parliament, and I consider that it is also an act of expediency; for I can conceive of nothing more unseemly, if I may be permitted the use of that word, than a constant difference of opinion between this House and the other House upon the question whether a few Members may be admitted into that House. I am aware that it is treated as a question of principle, but I cannot but conceive that the question of justice and expediency is to be considered in the matter; and, advocating the question as a matter of justice and expediency, I cannot forget that it is owing to the principle which I advocate that I have the honour of addressing your Lordships upon the present occasion.
But, my Lords, while approving of the principle of the Bill now before your Lordships, I must state that that Bill possesses, in my mind, many objections. There are, to me, insuperable objections to that Bill. I shall, if it goes into Committee, be prepared either to accept or propose Amendments to the measure. As it at present stands I confess I cannot support it, but must oppose it if it goes to a third reading. My Lords, I trust, and I cannot help hoping, that there may be some chance of so altering the Bill as to induce me to assent to the third reading; but as it at present stands, I could not do so.
I have abstained purposely from saying anything which should introduce into your Lordships' discussion theological or irrelevant matter, and I have confined myself to that little which I felt obliged to say, or I could not have voted for the second reading.
said, he looked upon this measure as being nothing less than the unchristianizing of the country. He did not apprehend any evil effects from the few Jews who might be admitted to Parliament under this Bill; it was the moral effect in the country of the passing of such a measure to which he looked. From the moment that this Bill passed into law the foundation of our Christian faith would be destroyed. They were about to introduce into the other House of Parliament those who denied the great Mediator, and he dreaded lest such a course should draw down upon this country great and merited evils, for we never could hope to prosper if we abandoned the very foundations of that faith on which all our hopes rested. His noble Friend behind him said that the time would come 1253 when Christianity would be disavowed by the Legislature, and he feared that the success of this Bill would be a first step in that direction.
§ LORD CAMOYS
said: If I were to consult my own convenience, and still more the convenience of your Lordships, I should not now rise to address you. As it is, I do not rise for the purpose of taking part in the general debate, but for the purpose of making some observations on the course pursued by the Roman Catholics in reference to this Bill, and in connection with the Catholic oath. And first of all, let me put myself right with the House with regard to the position that the Roman Catholics stand in, in relation to their own oath. There are many in your Lordships' House, and in the other House of Parliament, who say, that a settlement was come to upon this subject in 1829, and that that settlement ought not to be disturbed. My Lords, I fully admit that a settlement was come to in 1829, but I do not admit that settlement must necessarily be permanent. On the contrary, I maintain that the Roman Catholics are fully justified, on every fit and proper opportunity, to solicit from Parliament an alteration of their oath; and having stated their case, to leave the decision of the question to the wisdom and justice of the imperial Parliament. It is also said that the Roman Catholics were parties to the oath of 1829, and that, therefore, they have no right to quarrel with its details. My Lords, there are many of the Roman Catholics who strongly deny this statement; they say they were not in Parliament at the time, and therefore were no parties to that oath. I must candidly acknowledge that I differ from those Roman Catholics in that view, and must confess that we were parties, by consent at least, to that oath. That oath received the sanction of the Catholic Prelates; that oath received the sanction of the great leader of Emancipation, Mr. O'Connell; that oath was gladly taken by us at the time of the Emancipation Act, and that oath has been taken by us ever since; and though here and there some member may be found who had felt some doubt as to the interpretation of some passages in it, when questions affecting the Established Church have come before Parliament; yet, on the whole, that oath has been no bar to the full discharge of our parliamentary and other public duties. But then, again, I come to the same conclusion, that though we were parties to 1254 that oath, there is nothing to prevent us, at any proper moment, from soliciting from the Legislature a reconsideration of the oath, and leaving the decision of the question to the wisdom and liberality of Parliament. Now, my Lords, if ever the Roman Catholics were justified in seeking for an improvement of their oath it is now. The Bill before you affords them their best justification. Why, what does it propose to do? It proposes to strike out from the Protestant oaths two sentences, which occur also in the Catholic oath. It proposes to strike them out for the most solid and irresistible reasons; reasons so conclusive that there is scarcely any opposition to this part of the Bill. The same reasons, equally cogent, equally irresistible, apply to the same sentences in the Catholic oath. But then the answer is that we stand upon different ground; that the settlement of 1829 ought not to be broke in upon. My Lords, I will not stop to inquire into the wisdom or logic of such an answer. I am obliged to take that answer. I am obliged to take Parliament as it is, not as I wish it to be. I wish, indeed, that these unnecessary and irritating distinctions should cease, and that I might never again witness what I have lately seen, two Peers standing at the table taking different oaths, those Peers being, by the Constitution, on a perfect equality, as they are also on a perfect equality in their allegiance to the Crown, and in their devotion to their country. Now, my Lords, a word or two upon this Bill. This Bill proposes two objects; one, the improvement of the Protestant oath; the other, the admission of the Jews to Parliament. It proposes to effect the first by striking out certain sentences which are a disgrace to your oath; and it proposes to effect this second by striking out the words that keep a Jew from Parliament; and it further provides that the Roman Catholics shall not be included in its operation. Now, my Lords, that is a fair description of the Bill, and if so, judge of my astonishment when I heard this Bill described by some of the most influential Roman Catholics, as an insult, an injury, and as re-enacting the Catholic oath; and, therefore, that the Members of both Houses of Parliament were requested either to oppose this Bill, or, at all events, not to support it. Why, my Lords, by this Bill there was no insult offered or intended; there was no injury inflicted, and as to re-enacting the Catholic oath, it did nothing of the kind. It excepted the Catho- 1255 lics from the operation of the Bill, and left us precisely as we were before. My Lords, if this interpretation on their part astonished me, I was still more astonished as to their policy. One would naturally have thought that this was a step in the right direction, and that the example you were setting for yourselves, you could not refuse to apply to us when the proper time might arrive when we could ask that favour from you; but now our language must be this, when we ask you to alter our oath, we must induce you to comply with our request, by reminding you that in 1857 we refused to be parties to the improvement of yours. My Lords, I do not know which to condemn most, the inaccuracy of their interpretation, or the want of wisdom that characterised their policy. Subsequently, my Lords, another objection was started, which, I am ready to admit, contained the semblance of an argument. It was stated that this was a new enactment; and as it introduced a new oath, asserting that the Pope has no spiritual power in this kingdom, no Roman Catholic could vote in favour of the Bill. My Lords, if this Bill had said, "Whereas, the Pope has no spiritual power in this country;" or, "be it enacted, that the Pope has no spiritual power in this country;" or, if it asserted the sentence in question for the first time, then I freely admit that no Roman Catholic could vote for this Bill. But so far from this Bill being a new enactment, it merely continues that sentence of the oath of supremacy. This Bill consists of taking away sentences, not making new ones; so that, even if technically speaking it can be called a new enactment, in a moral sense, and in every other sense, it is a mere continuation; so much so, that vote how you will, reject this Bill or carry it, that same sentence will form a part of the oath of supremacy as it does now. My Lords, I have given every attention to every objection that has been urged by the Roman Catholics against this Bill, but after every consideration that I could give to those objections, I cannot see any reason why I, as a Roman Catholic, should not give my cordial support to this Bill. Before I sit down, let me do an act of justice to the Roman Catholic Peers. I have stated the interpretation put upon this Bill by some influential Roman Catholics, and their consequent advice upon it; now I am happy to say that I did not hear that interpretation, nor that advice proceed from the Catholic Peers. In, conclusion then, 1256 my Lords, let me say, that I will vote for this Bill, for though it does me no good, it does a benefit to you; I will vote for this Bill, for though it does not remove the theoretical grievance which I have a right to complain of, it removes the practical grievance that the Jew has a right to complain of; I will vote for this Bill, because I have always voted for Jewish Emancipation in deference to those great principles of civil and religious liberty to which I owe my own emancipation; and I will vote for this Bill, because it extends that emancipation to others, that I was once in want of, and that I am now in the enjoyment of.
§ LORD STUART DE DECIES
said, they were all agreed on this, that the expediency of admitting the Jews to Parlialiament resolved itself exclusively into a question of religious feeling, and that it was clear no political evils or inconveniences could arise from the measure now before the House. Their Lordships had been warned of the inexpediency of tampering with the Christian character of this country. He did not believe that the Christian character of the country depended upon any particular form of oath which the Legislature might prescribe for its members, but upon the Christian character of the Sovereign and the electors by whom the two branches of the Legislature were constituted. So long as they continued to be Christian there could be no doubt that the Legislature would be Christian, and if ever the nation should cease to be Christian, all tests and oaths for the maintenance of Christianity would speedily disappear. Any attempt to regulate the Legislature by a religious oath was superfluous, and the necessities of the State; would be completely provided for by an exclusively political oath. He also believed that the safety of the Established Church depended not upon the oaths required of Roman Catholics, but upon the attachment of the great mass of the people to the principles of the Reformation. With respect to the Jews themselves, he could not agree that there were any peculiar reasons for excluding them from the Legislature; for although that people might be now undergoing the decrees of the Almighty, it had never been maintained that men were called upon to endorse the judgments of Heaven. On the contrary, he considered the Jews had peculiar claims upon our sympathy and forbearance; and, regarding the Bill as one of justice towards 1257 them, he would give his vote in favour of the second reading.
EARL ST. VINCENT
then addressed their Lordships, but was totally inaudible, that he could only be understood to oppose the second reading of the Bill.
said, he regarded the Bill as another step in the direction of perfect religious freedom, and upon that ground he should support it. He regarded it as a gross and palpable injustice to exclude any class of our fellow subjects from civil privileges on account of their religious convictions.
THE BISHOP OF LONDON
said, that he was unwilling to give a silent vote on the question before their Lordships, as he had for ten years held on this subject the opinions which he still professed. From the appeals which had been made to the right rev. Bench, he was afraid that there was not only in that House, but amongst persons out of it, for many of whose opinions he had the highest respect, a strong feeling that the religious character of the Legislature was concerned in this measure; but he confessed that, having looked into the measure with, all the attention which he could command, and having for many years considered the question with which it proposed to deal, he could not regard it as at all affecting their religious position. He fully concurred with those noble Lords who had said that the religious character of that House and of the Legislature in general did not depend upon the maintenance of those oaths by which any of their fellow-countrymen were excluded from the enjoyment of their civil rights, but depended on the religious feeling which, he was proud to say, existed throughout the country, and which certainly had a strong echo within that assembly. So long as appeals might be made to the Christianity and the religious feeling of that branch of the Legislature, and those appeals were responded to as they now were, so long might their Lordships feel perfectly confident that they were preserving the religious character of their House. It was alleged that it would be impossible to retain in the Legislature those solemn prayers with which its proceedings were now commenced if they admitted the Jews to Parliament. Now, he had never heard that those Members of the Legislature who conscientiously abstained from joining in the prayers, believing them to be the prayers of a heretical body, had ever thought it desirable that those prayers should be discontinued, or had ever sought to destroy their Protestant character. He was quite 1258 sure, from the tone adopted by Roman Catholic Members of their Lordships' House in the course of that debate, that they would be the last to propose that because they were not themselves Protestants the Protestant character of the House should be entirely destroyed. When no bad consequences, as regarded the Protestant character of the Legislature, had resulted from the admission of so influential a body as the Roman Catholic Peers, he was sure that the apprehension that danger would result from the introduction of one or two persons of the Jewish persuasion was wholly chimerical. If the Legislature was to be unchristianized in the manner described that night, the process of unchristianizing it must be one which had been going on for a great number of years; for were their Lordships to suppose that all those changes by which the Jews had been admitted to civil rights of citizenship had been one after another steps to unchristianize the country? Were they to be told that this country was less Christian now than it was twenty-five years ago, because those changes had within that period taken place? It was his deliberate conviction, and he thought the conviction of all who had attentively considered the social position of this country, that our Christianity had been gradually deepening, and that the country was more Christian now than when those, and other restrictions of the same kind, were in full force; and therefore he could not apprehend that by the proposed change, following as it did a series of others spread over twenty-five years, their Lordships would run any danger of unchristianizing the Legislature, the evil consequences of which change, if unhappily it were by any means introduced, none would be more ready to deplore than the strongest supporters of this measure. It was a striking fact, which had been mentioned by a noble and learned Lord that evening, that the man who first mooted this question of Jewish emancipation was one whose Christian character was above all suspicion—one of the most religious public men that had ever adorned this country. Another argument used against the measure was that the Jews were aliens—people of another nation—who did not desire to make common cause with the people of this country; that they kept themselves as much separate from us as their forefathers from the Egyptians when in the Egyptian bondage, and that they were only looking for another exodus 1259 to deliver them from their position in this country. But was it true that the Jews stood so wholly aloof from us—that they had no desire to make common cause with the people of this country or join in their civil deliberations? How could their Lordships possibly think this when they saw the number of petitions sent by the Jews to the table of their Lordships' House, all expressing the desire of the Jews residing in this country to be amalgamated in citizenship with its people? The petitions under which their Lordships' table now groaned in favour of this measure, afforded a palpable proof that the Jews were not looking to a foreign land, but had a fellow feeling with their Christian countrymen, wishing to be regarded, in all respects, as their fellow citizens. The simple ground on which he gave his vote for the second reading was the ground of justice. If the thing was just, it ought to be done; and it was just, unless they could prove that the presence of those people in their Legislative Assemblies would be injurious to their Christian character. It was not enough to allege by way of objection that they would be altering the oath which was a declaration of Christianity; they must prove that the presence of the Jews would prevent them from expressing themselves and acting as Christians in their capacity as legislators. If they failed in that proof, it appeared that the admission of the Jews came before them as a claim of justice which could not be set aside. The Jew had a stake in the country; he discharged important magisterial and civic duties; he was actuated by patriotic and loyal feelings; and surely, therefore, he was entitled to his full rights, unless it was made clear that his presence in Parliament would do real and obvious harm.
THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My right rev. Brother who has just sat down has given to your Lordships, with the ability which belongs to him, the reasons of the vote which he is about to give, It would be a great relief to my mind if I could take the same view of the subject as he does—first, because I should be spared the pain of differing from him, which I do with great regret; and further, I should be relieved from the necessity of giving vote which I have never given without extreme reluctance. My Lords, in giving that vote I am not conscious of being actuated by any of the unworthy motive which have been alluded to in the debate I am not actuated by a spirit of persecu- 1260 tion; neither am I actuated by any feelings of bigotry against the Jewish nation. On the contrary, I hold in much esteem an individual of that nation to whom allusion has been already made, who filled last year the office of chief magistrate of this city with so much credit to himself. With that gentleman, in his official capacity, I had much friendly intercourse; and it cost me real uneasiness on the last occasion when this subject was agitated in this House that I should be obliged to record a vote against a cause in which I knew that he was interested. But, my Lords, the question before us involves a principle which I cannot consent to forego, notwithstanding the low value set upon that principle by the noble and learned Lord who so deservedly obtains so much influence in this House—the principle that a Christian nation ought to be governed by a Christian Legislature, or, in other words, that the profession of Christianity ought to be the qualification of the Legislators of a Christian nation. This principle, my Lords, is avowedly and solemnly renounced if you admit the form of oath proposed in the present Bill. We are told, indeed, that the words which affirm the faith of a Christian are often very lightly spoken; that the qualification may be taken by persons who are as little in earnest in their Christian profession as the Jews themselves. This may be so, though I hope and trust the contrary; but, at all events, the profession of the Christian faith is a homage paid to Christianity; whereas, on the other hand, I cannot but consider the rejection of that profession from the qualification of a Member of the Legislature as a reproach cast upon our holy religion. Nothing, I am sure, was further from the intentions, either of those who framed the Bill, or of those of your Lordships who support it; but I am sure that it will bear that appearance to the public out of doors; such will be the opinion of the public generally; and it will tend to lower the respect which ought to be entertained towards the Legislature if Parliament should seem to reckon it of no consequence of what Members it is composed. For these reasons, my Lords, I must adhere to the opinion which I have before, maintained on this question, and support the Amendment of the noble Earl.
§ THE EARL OF ALBEMARLE
observed, that the kingdom of Bavaria had, in common with ourselves, adopted a system of proscription against persons of the Jewish religion, and he found, on comparing 1261 the census of 1800 with that of 1850, that Bavaria had lost nearly one-half of its Jewish population, who had emigrated to America, where they enjoyed the advantage of civil equality. He would ask their Lordships to consider the benefits which had resulted to America from the adoption of a tolerant policy. He understood that there was scarcely a great town in the United States without a synagogue, and it was stated by the American Geographical and Statistical Society that the city of New York alone contained a greater number of Jews than the whole United Kingdom. A century ago, when Lord Chesterfield proposed a Bill for the correction of the calendar by substituting the Gregorian style for the old and erroneous system, he stated that the only nation of Europe which had not adopted the plan he proposed were the Muscovites, and he said, "It were not well that we were found in such company." So with regard to the question under discussion, he (Lord Albemarle) would say, "It is not well that we should be found in company with the petty and intolerant State of Bavaria.''
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
said, he had always been opposed to the admission of Jews to Parliament; but he could not, by giving his vote against the second reading of this Bill, declare that the Members' oath of abjuration ought to remain in its present form upon the Statute-book. That oath was one which everybody disliked and which many persons took with derision, and which all wished to get rid of. The oath specified a number of things which had existed, but which existed no longer. The first part of it was laughable, and when they came to invoke Almighty God to attest that which had no existence, it appeared to him almost blasphemy. He would vote for the second reading of this Bill, rather than be a party to imposing on himself and on generations to come the necessity of taking an oath which was so repugnant to common sense and to the spirit of religion. He was speaking only for himself. He could perfectly understand that other Peers had taken a different view, most conscientiously, but his own feeling was so strong that he was ready to run any hazard rather than give his vote in opposition to the second reading of this Bill, and thereby to declare that this oath should remain unchanged. Should the Bill go into Committee, he concurred with his noble Friend, who opposed the second 1262 reading, that the oath in the Bill was very objectionable, and required to be amended. But although he was opposed to the admission of Jews into Parliament, he must vote for the second reading of this Bill, and thereby affirm that this oath ought to be changed.
My Lords, it will not be necessary for me to trouble your Lordships at any length, after the able and satisfactory manner in which the subject has been treated by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) who has been, unhappily, compelled by indisposition to leave the House. My Lords, the noble Earl who last spoke (the Earl of Shaftesbury), is more admirable in his consistency than my noble Friend who has moved the Amendment; for while the noble Earl fully concurs with my noble Friend in utterly repudiating the oath of abjuration, and in regretting its retention on the statute-book—and I entirely agree that the oath is utterly offensive to common sense and decorum, and think that it is almost blasphemous—my noble Friend, I regret to say, while evidently approving of nine-tenths of the present measure, has moved an Amendment, which will, if adopted, lead to its entire rejection. I think that the far better course would have been, that my noble Friend should have assented to the second reading of the Bill, and then in Committee have proposed such changes as he wished to effect in the details of the measure. Now, as to the question of intolerance; I say it is intolerance when we refuse access to the honors of the State, to the powers of the State, and to the various functions and offices of the State, to any body of our fellow citizens, upon the ground of their religious opinions or their religious faith. My noble Friend, in moving the Amendment, seemed to argue that the Jews could not fairly complain of the disability under which they labour, because, he contended, no person or class in the State had any inherent right to hold office—that office was necessarily confined to a few, and therefore that there was no deprivation of a natural right. But what we complain of—what I complain of—is, that whereas all persons have a right to be considered equally eligible to hold office in the State, either when selected by the favour of the Crown, or when selected by the choice of their fellow-citizens, a particular class are excluded, on the ground of their religious tenets, from being eligible in any way for certain offices 1263 in the public service. And why are they ineligible? It is because of their honesty—because they conscientiously hold certain opinions on matters of religion, and will not give them up, or pretend not to hold them. If they were not only Jews but hypocrites, they would be admitted.
My Lords, your Lordships have heard a great deal of the effects of this measure if it should pass. We are told that it will unchristianize the Legislature. If that be really its effect, in what an unhappy state is the Legislature of this country whether it should pass or not. If your Lordships reject this Bill, you will preserve your Christian character unimpaired; but, alas! what will become of your colleagues in legislation, the Members of the other House of Parliament? What will be the position of the unhappy Commons? Your Lordships' estate is, no doubt, comfortable and gracious; but the wretched Commons have passed the Bill by a large majority, and have surely reduced themselves to a state—I will not say of absolute perdition—Heaven forbid that I should suppose any portion of our Legislature could reduce themselves to a condition so lamentable!—but surely their estate must be most ungracious. They are, by this argument, no longer a Christian assembly, for they have—by no narrow majority, but by a large and overwhelming majority—declared in favour of a course which we are told will unchristianize their House, and if adopted by us will unchristianize the whole Legislature.
Passing, however, from a view of the case fraught with such unpleasant considerations, I will remind my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) there is not, in reality, at this moment even that security for the Christian character of the Legislature which is supposed to be obtained by the insertion of the words "on the true faith of a Christian." The oath taken by a Roman Catholic, whether Peer or Commoner, does not contain these words; and my noble Friend opposite (the Duke of Norfolk) did not, before he took his seat in this assembly, declare that he was a Catholic or a Christian at all.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that the Clerk at the Table might have called upon the noble Duke to make a declaration to that effect.
My noble Friend has made that statement I will not say with his usual accuracy—nor yet will I say with more than his usual inaccuracy 1264 when heated by controversy. The Clerk at the Table has no right to administer or to offer to the noble Duke, or to any other Roman Catholic Peer, any other form of oath than that which the Roman Catholic Relief Act provides shall be taken by the members of that persuasion; and that oath I maintain does not contain the slightest security that the taker is a Roman Catholic or a member of any Christian community whatever. In the instance, then, of the Roman Catholic Relief Act, no precaution was taken by those who framed the oath to preserve that Christian character to the Legislature for which the opponents of this Bill are now so zealous. My noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) replying to the argument that the exclusion of the Jews had arisen from accident, argued that this was not the case, because, he says, when this oath was first framed, no Jews were permitted even to live in England, and that therefore the whole policy of the realm negatived their admission into the Legislature. But the real test was what would have happened before the 12 Will. III., when these words were reinserted into the oath, and if at that time the subject had been brought under discussion, would any one have proposed an Act with the preamble that, "whereas the number of Jews has lately increased within this realm, and it is desirable to exclude them from sitting in Parliament," and then going on to enact this test? I venture to say that no one would have dreamt of proposing so preposterous an enactment. But if the argument is good that a Legislature which does not insist upon the presence of these words in the oath is unchristian, the consequence is inevitable that the Parliaments of Charles II. were Christian Parliaments, and the Parliament of the first twelve years of William III. were unchristian Parliaments. But I think few will say that the Parliaments of that period were less Christian than they have been since, or even than in the time of Charles II. Does any one think with more veneration of the Parliaments in which sat men with the morals of Sedley and Rochester, and the religion of Shaftesbury and Lauderdale, than of the Parliaments which were adorned by the pure morality of Somers, the learning and piety of Tillotson and South and Burnet? I will avow my preference for the Legislature which did not insist on the words "On the true faith of a Christian," over those in which they were taken without shame 1265 or scruple. There seems to me, my Lords, something not only repugnant to principle but singularly inconsistent and impractical in every provision we make in the nature of a test. The moment we attempt to impose a test we involve ourselves in inextricable contradictions. One instance I have already given—the Roman Catholic oath. We have abolished the sacramental test, than which nothing could be more profane, nothing more tending to desecrate the sanctity of religion—and have substituted a declaration. The present form of sanction is open to the same objection—the same in principle though not, perhaps, the same in degree—while the character which we seek to secure to the Legislature in no way depends on their retention. True, this is a Christian Legislature; but it is a Christian Legislature because it is elected by a Christian people. And then it is not more Christian than it is Protestant; and who believes that Parliament has lost its Protestantism since 1829? Notwithstanding the Act then passed, I am glad to believe that during the last quarter of a century, not only has the Christian character been retained, but that great progress has been made even in advancing the Christian character of the Legislature. But in producing this result, tests and restrictions have exercised no influence whatever.
My Lords, when I hear such extravagant professions of zeal to prevent our religion from suffering by a very small extension of toleration, I cannot help reflecting upon the course pursued in matters affecting the Christian Church by some of the largest dealers in such professions. I do not express the least doubt touching the consistency of the preaching on this subject with the practices of my right rev. Friend (the Bishop of Oxford), whose opposition I much fear this measure will have again to encounter, and who bears a name towards which affection and veneration strive for the mastery in my bosom. Neither can I for a moment suspect the most rev. Primate who has declared himself against us, but whose arguments have availed little in comparison with those so ably urged on our side by my right rev. Friend near his Grace (the Bishop of London.) But how was it with such vehement asserters of the same doctrines and promulgators of the like alarms, and the like tender care of our Christian character, when an attempt, haply successful, was made to free the constitution—the prac- 1266 tice of the constitution at least—from the crying scandal of the Sacramental Test—that intolerable desecration of the holiest service of our Church, which had actually led to an aged Lord of the Bedchamber, when made to go through, the ceremony, as, he believed, but on returning home and describing what had passed, it was found that he had been involved in the service of churching a woman after child-bearing. But this Sacramental Test so desecrated was proclaimed to be absolutely necessary for preventing the Legislature from being unchristianized. The most zealous supporter of this, once filling the office now held by my noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor), contended that the declaration substituted for it gave no kind of security because it contained no asseveration of the party being a Christian—and his Lordship told the right rev. Prelates, who supported the Bill, that they were pulling down the Church about their ears—the Church of which he professed being a pillar. One of these Prelates on that occasion asked how it happened that his Lordship never was by any chance seen inside any church—"Oh," said he, "I am a buttress, an outside pillar." But it was not in that repartee only, nor in the undoubted fact to which it related, that his practical indifference was shown. I well remember that when the prayers were said in this House, no sooner did the Bishop begin than the noble and zealous Christian put on his spectacles, drew his letters from his pocket and read them during the whole time of the service. Such is the coldness towards sound religious observances of those whose intolerance, inflamed by their zeal, makes them terrified at the risk which we run of becoming unchristian, the moment we cease to make men's religious belief the test of their fitness to sit in Parliament—in the House where such scenes as I have described daily occurred.
My Lords, nothing has been more satisfactory to me, in one respect at least, than the turn this debate has taken. There has been a total abstinence from allusion to that greatest of all crimes, the death of our Saviour, and to the irreverent and offensive expressions used towards him—offences in which only a small part of the Jews were concerned, and from which the great body of the nation stood apart. The crucifixion was, in fact, the deed not of the great bulk of the Hebrew people, but of a comparatively 1267 small portion, the Western Jews, the Eastern remaining wholly aloof from it; and no one ever hears expressions of irreverence, much less of insult, from the Jews of the present day.
My Lords, I am ashamed to have trespassed so long on your Lordships' attention. I must, however, before I sit down, add one further remark. Who doubts—who can doubt—that the Jews have failed in obtaining access to the constitution, not on account of their own demerits—not on account of any rational principle—but because, unhappily for them, and unhappily for us, they are small in numbers compared with those to whom justice has already been done;—unhappily for them, because it has led to so long an exclusion from their rights; unhappily for us, unhappily for our character—because I fear there can be but one explanation of this diversity—that we are prone not only to spare but truckle to the haughty, and to trample upon the humble.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
(who rose amid cries for a division) said, it would be very inconsistent in him to detain their Lordships for any length of time at that period of the debate, because he was one of those who joined in the cry of "Question" before his noble and learned Friend who had just sat down addressed them, and right glad should he have been had they then divided. But after the new wind, so to speak, which the debate had taken, and after the totally new aspect in which it had been presented to their Lordships by his noble and learned Friend, he should not be altogether satisfied to vote without saying a word upon the subject. It did seem to him to require all the consummate abilities as an advocate which still so signally marked the great powers of his noble and learned Friend, when at this stage of the discussion he ventured even to persuade himself that he could make any of their Lordships believe that they were really discussing the merits of the oath of abjuration, and not the admission of the Jews. The noble Earl who preceded his noble and learned Friend, not so practised in the great histrionic art, manfully laboured in pain and sorrow under the awful task which he had undertaken; because he must have felt, and he (the Bishop of Oxford) saw in every word that he spoke that he did feel, that his soul was so possessed with the exceeding wickedness of this oath of abjuration, a wickedness trembling on the very edge of the 1268 great sin of blasphemy, that it was difficult for himself and for others, knowing his principles, to understand how he had remained for many years a Member of both Houses of Parliament, repeatedly taking this almost blasphemous oath, and yet never endeavouring by a single argument, by a single protest, by a single vote to remove from his own conscience, or from the consciences of other Members of the two Houses of Parliament, this great sin which was being by them so perpetually repeated. The noble and learned Lord who followed him, however, boldly facing this great difficulty, endeavoured in the most practised manner to lead their Lordships away on an altogether false scent, giving them the cry of the field that the game was in that direction, when every one of their Lordships had seen it break cover in the other. He really thought that their Lordships might altogether dismiss from their minds the great apprehensions which had been conjured up at the very moment of a division. The very worst that could be said of this oath was, that it was superfluous and unnecessary. There was in it nothing approaching falsehood. Every one did deny that there was in the branch of the Royal family mentioned in it any one who could claim against Her Most Gracious Majesty the right to the Royal throne of England, and called God to witness that he avowed his belief and was prepared to act upon it. It might be superfluous; it might be an oath which circumstances no longer rendered necessary; but when they were told that if they acted in a straightforward manner they would, instead of moving or supporting the Amendment before the House, endeavour to insert the words which they believed to be necessary in the other oath, was not that really a false pretence? Did they not know that in a place which he must not mention that attempt was made, and if there had been in that place any bonâ fide intention to suffer this question to be debated those words would have been inserted? Therefore must they not all understand that the meaning of this proposition was simply that they should pass the Bill, putting in these words, that the words should be struck out in another place, and the Bill sent back to them so late that it would pass without these words, and they should fall into the plainest and most undisguised of traps? He would only say, surely the trap was set in vain in the sight of any bird, even although it were one of the anserine order. 1269 He thought he might also dismiss another large part of his noble and learned Friend's oration, in which he pointed out the great danger which was incurred, because the clerk at the table could not interrogate the noble Duke (the Duke of Norfolk) as to whether he was or was not a Roman Catholic. The words of the Act of Parliament imposing the oath to which his noble and learned Friend had referred, distinctly stated that any Peer professing the Roman Catholic religion should take such an oath, and the act of stepping forward to take it was in itself a profession that he was of the Roman Catholic religion; therefore he thought that all this argument of his noble and learned Friend might be swept to the wind, and that they need not be at all afraid of any Jewish potentate sneaking into their Lordships' House and taking the Roman Catholic oath. From this, as it seemed to him, false pursuit, he turned to the great question before them. It had been argued by a right rev. Friend of his that this was a claim of justice, and therefore, as religious men, they were bound to grant it. If it were so, he, for one, would say, "Come what may, be there what danger there may behind, if you can make out a claim of justice, let everything else in this world perish and let justice be done!" But he altogether denied that this was a claim of justice. On what ground could that proposition be maintained? His noble and learned Friend tried with the utmost subtlety of his most subtle intellect to set aside the plain and common sense doctrine which the most rev. Prelate behind him (the Archbishop of Canterbury) so distinctly enunciated. If the noble and learned Lord's argument were sound, the Statute-book was full of rank injustice Why were the clergy of the Established Church excluded? Why were the Roman Catholic priesthood excluded? If the statement of the noble and learned Lord were correct, it was the greatest injustice to exclude them. But it was not an in justice, because the right to sit in Parliament was not granted to a man as a benefit to himself, but as a trust for the nation; and the question was not whether a man would be benefited by receiving the right but whether the State would be benefited by the exercise of it. The noble and learned Lord maintained that it was contrary to the principle of toleration that men's religious principles should be the 1270 ground upon which this privilege was refused to them. But this was a misrepresentation of the principle of religious toleration. This principle was, that where there was a conscientious opinion that the religious principles professed by those who come forward to claim the privilege were not such as to make it improper that they should be intrusted with the privilege of sitting in Parliament, then they ought to rant it and not capriciously to refuse it merely because they differed from them in religious belief. In the direction of a common Christianity he thought the line had been, carried as far as was possible in allowing men to aspire to the duties of a senator in a Christian Legislature. But it was adopting quite a new line to say that they would let into the Legislature those who were not Christians. He repeated, this was not the same line, but a new line altogether. The promoters of this Bill ridiculed the idea that it would unchristianize the Legislature; but to his mind it was a natural and unavoidable result. The noble and learned Lord had expressed an almost dangerous amount of self-satisfaction at the progress in virtue and excellence made by the Legislature within the last few years but that, after all, was not the question. He was quite willing to take the noble and learned Lord's word for his own improvement; he was quite willing to believe that the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, the noble and learned Lord himself, and other ex-Chancellors, were better than their predecessors—that they were inside pillars, whereas the others were nothing but outside buttresses—that they did not read their letters while the junior Prelate was reading prayers—but that, after all, did not constitute the great question whether the Legislature was or was not a Christian Parliament. The meaning of a body being a Christian body was this—Did its members profess to be governed by a Christian standard and Christian doctrine in the judgment which they formed on all matters which came before them? Of course they could not undertake to say what a man's private opinions might be. There might be good and bad men, hypocrites and true men among them—that it was impossible to avoid; but the point was, what was the professed ground upon which they legislated? If men were admitted into the Legislature who professed that the faith of a Christian was to be the great principle 1271 which was to dictate all the conclusions to which they were to come as legislators, they might be deceivers, but if they were, it was in the teeth of their professions, because they professed to be Christian members of a Christian Legislature, whereas they were unchristian members of a Legislature which continued to be Christian all the same. There was a time when the Legislature was a Protestant Legislature, but it was so no longer, otherwise no noble Lord could rise in his place and claim to take part in their legislation, denying that he was a Protestant. In the same manner if this Bill were adopted, and if men were suffered to enter Parliament and take part in legislation who denied that they were Christians, even though it were only one man, the whole standard of the legislative body was altered to the profession of that one man. It would be idle to appeal any longer to Christian principle when there sat in the Legislature, in perfect equality with the rest of its Members, a man who denied that it was in any way bound by Christian principle. It was that which the nation had settled should be for it the principle upon which its representatives should be elected which made the Legislature either Christian or unchristian. The argument of the noble and learned Lord went indeed so far as to say, that if toleration were carried to a proper extent no man could be excluded from the Legislature because of his religious belief. Were their Lordships prepared to admit all the consequence of this argument? Were they prepared to open the doors of the Legislature to a man professing the doctrines of Mormonism, who might come into Parliament for the avowed purpose of propagating Mormon doctrines and the practices of Utah? There must be a limit somewhere, and the limit which had hitherto been taken was the profession of the faith of a Christian: but now Parliament was asked to remove that limit, and lay down a principle, which, if it admitted our Jewish fellow-subject, must also admit our Mahomedan and Hindoo fellow-subjects, and even those who denied the existence of any God and of a future state of rewards and punishments. But their Lordships, he was sure, were not prepared to take such a step; they would not consent, he felt convinced, to sanction the introduction of such a pestilent imposture under the shadow of the great truth of religious toleration. Then, it was argued 1272 that it was too late to refuse to the Jew a share in making laws when we had allowed him to administer them. No two things could be more widely different. The administration of the law might be entrusted to any man of sufficient education, whose honesty, principles, and integrity, could be relied on, whatever his religious belief might be, without danger; but when they came to give the same man a right to make laws for a great community, the whole matter was changed at once; because, if he was an honest man, both in making and changing laws, he would square his conduct according to what was with him, the great master truth—his religious belief. It was, therefore, impossible, in a country where all laws were made in accordance with the truth of Christianity to bring men into Parliament whose first principle was a denial in the most emphatic form of that truth. The difference between the two things was, therefore, so wide, that they could not argue from the one to the other. The conscientious Jew, because he was a conscientious Jew, would administer honestly a Christian code; but the conscientious Jew could not honestly make Christian laws. This was essentially bound up in the great truth that the centre of all Christianity was not the laying down of any philosophical system, but the trust in and love of the person of our Lord, and it was impossible to combine in legislation with men who denied emphatically that central point of our faith. He would not cast on these men any of the reproaches to which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had referred, but it remained a fact, nevertheless, that they believed that He who died for us, and whom we believed to be God as well as man, was an impious blaspheming malefactor, justly put to an ignominious death. He asked them, could any one believe that two such opposite classes could act together in the mingled work of legislation for a Christian community? Though they had been told by the noble Earl (Earl Granville) that they had not to do with questions of doctrine or matters of religious belief within the walls of Parliament, yet he must remind their Lordships that it was not possible in ninety cases out of 100 that arose in a Christian land to shut out the consideration and influence of Christian motives. What were all those questions they had been debating lately, but questions touching the foundations of family life—what 1273 the law of Christ, rightly understood was— and how a Christian nation could continue to enjoy His blessing. Look at the questions of peace and war—the questions of morals that were raised in that House, and all the other matters to which their attention was called, and what did one and all of them reflect but those great doctrinal truths that underlaid and formed the true foundation of all their legislative acts on those important subjects? Therefore it was, that he was ready to bear the imputation of intolerance, believing that truth was of greater moment than everything besides, and that they could not as a Christian people suffer men who denied Christ, to make their laws without the most culpable inconsistency, and the most abundant danger.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, he would confine the few observations he intended to make entirely to an, explanation of the course which the Government had taken with reference to this matter. He complained of the unfair imputations cast upon the Government by the right rev. Prelate who had just sat down, and by the noble Earl who had moved the rejection of the Bill. So far from the Government having raised before the House a false issue, they had no less than three or four times brought under the consideration of Parliament a Bill bearing directly and not indirectly on the admission of the Jews to Parliament. They had been unsuccessful in all those efforts, and was it not right and fair on the part of the Government to bring the question before their Lordships in another form? In doing so, they raised no false issue, for they did not deny that one of the main objects of the Bill was to admit the Jews to Parliament, and the Government were only desirous of presenting it in a form which would render it acceptable to their Lordships. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment said they ought not to have mixed up those two subjects—the Amendment of the oaths, and the admission of the Jews; but it was utterly impossible in the present condition of affairs to invent any amendment of the oaths that would not raise the question of the admission of the Jews. It was admitted that the words "on the true faith of a Christian" were, as regarded the Jews, a matter of accident, and surely no one could expect that the House of Commons would consent in any new oath to re-enact those words, considering the large majori- 1274 ties by which they had adopted the principle that the Jews ought to be admitted. It had been said they were acting inconsistently with themselves when they admitted the Jews to Parliament and excluded them from certain offices; but there was no inconsistency in the matter, for there was a great distinction between admitting Jews to Parliament, where there was no religious duty to perform, and to those offices in which they would have to deal with matters of religion and the offices of the Church. As for the remonstrances of the Roman Catholic Peers, so far as he could see, the noble Viscount had not by that interview exposed himself to blame. Had not the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) himself had experience of the difficulties which the head of a Government had in dealing with such questions? Was it fair for the noble Earl to find fault with Viscount Palmerston when he himself had, when Prime Minister, played fast and loose upon a question which had formed the whole principle of the Opposition? The accusation of the noble Earl was untrue and unfair. The remonstrance of the Roman Catholic Peers had reference to some words in the oath set out in the Bill, relating to the supremacy of the Pope. His own opinion was that those words were useless. The question which had been raised respecting the revision of the oaths framed at the period of the passing of the Catholic Emancipation Act was a very different and a very difficult question to deal with. The right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Oxford) had referred to the change which would be made in the Legislature, and had asked whether Mormonites were to be admitted. The fact was, that under the present law there was nothing to prevent Brigham Young, or any Mormon who might be elected by a constituency, from taking his seat in Parliament, because they would take the oath, professing and calling themselves Christians. Could it then be said, consistently with reason and common sense, that the continuance of the present formula was necessary to secure the Christianity of the Legislature?
§ THE EARL OF GALLOWAY
considered that the omission of the words "on the true faith of a Christian" from the proposed oath, showed that the principle of the Bill was abjuration of Christianity, and he should therefore support the Amendment of the noble Earl.
§ Resolved in the negative; and Bill to be read 2a on this Day Three Months.1278
|Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Byron, L.|
|Cleveland, D.||Carew, L.|
|Newcastle, D.||Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)|
|Somerset, D.||Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)|
|Wellington, D.||Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye. )|
|Ailesbury, M.||Congleton, L.|
|Breadalbane, M.||Dacre, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne)|
|Westminster, M.||De Mauley, L.|
|Foley, L. [Teller]|
|Abingdon, E.||Glenelg, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Chichester, E.||Hamilton, L. (L. Belhaven and Stenton. )|
|Cottenham, E.||Hatherton, L.|
|Craven, E.||Hunsdon, L. (V. Falkland.)|
|Essex, E.||Ker, L. (M. Lothian.)|
|Fortescue, E.||Kingston, L. (E. Kingston.)|
|Lovelace, E.||Leigh, L.|
|Morley, E.||Londesborough, L.|
|Munster, E.||Lovat, L.|
|Portsmouth, E.||Manners, L.|
|Saint Germans, E.||Minster, L. (M. Conyngham.)|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Zetland, E.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen)||Mostyn, L.|
|Oriel, L.(V. Massereene.)|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Sydney, V.||Petre, L.|
|Torrington, V.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller]|
|Hereford, Bp.||Portman, L.|
|London, Bp.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Manchester, Bp.||Rivers, L.|
|Rossie, L. (L. Kinnaird.)|
|Belper, L.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Sefton, L. (E. Sefton.)|
|Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Brougham and vaux, L.|
|Broughton, L.||Stafford, L.|
|Stanley of Alderley, L.||Talbot de Malahide, L.|
|Strafford, L. (V. Enfield).||Truro, L.|
|Stuart de Decies, L.||Vernon, L.|
|Suffield, L.||Wrottesley, L.|
|Sundridge, L.(D. Argyll.)||Wycombe, L. (E. Shelburne.)|
|Bedford, D.||Bolton, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Carrington, L.|
|Grafton, D.||De Freyne, L.|
|Portland, D.||Denman, L.|
|Sutherland, D.||Dorchester, L.|
|Bristol, M.||Erskine, L.|
|Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegal.)|
|Carlisle, E.||Fitzgibbon, L. (E. Clare.)|
|Ducie, E.||Godolphin, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Howard de Walden, L.|
|Gainsborough, E.||Kenlis, L. (M. Headfart.)|
|Grey, E.||Lismore, L. (V, Lismore.)|
|Innes, E (D. Roxburghe.)||Lurgan, L.|
|Lindsey, E,||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)|
|Minto, E.||Mendip, L. (V. Clifden.)|
|Radnor, E.||Monson, L.|
|Suffolk and Berkshire, E.||Penshurst, L. (V. Strangford.)|
|Roseberry, L. (E. Rosebery.)|
|Leinster, V. (D. Leinster.)||Stewart of Stewart's Court, L. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Bath and Wells, Bp.||Sudeley, L.|
|Carlisle, Bp.||Vivian, L.|
|Chester, Bp.||Wharncliffe, L.|
|Worcester, Bp.||Worlingham, L. (E. Gosford.)|
|Canterbury, Abp.||Doncaster, E. (D. of Buccleuch and Queensberry.)|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.|
|Manchester, D.||Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)|
|Bath, M. [Teller]||Howe, E.|
|Exeter, M.||Lanesborough, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Leven and Melville, E.|
|Winchester, M.||Lonsdale, E.|
|Abergavenny, E.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Mansfield, E.|
|Bantry, E.||Mayo, E.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Morton, E.|
|Belmore, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Bradford, E.||Pomfret, E.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Romney, E.|
|Cadogan, E.||Sandwich, E.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Selkirk, E.|
|Cawdor, E.||Strathmore, E.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Talbot, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Vane, E.|
|Derby, E.||Verulam, E,|
|Desart, E.||Wilton, E.|
|Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.||Clarina, L.|
|Clifton, L. (E. Darnley.)|
|Bolingbroke and St. John, V.||Cloncurry, L.|
|Canterbury, V.||Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Crofton, L.|
|Combermere, V.||De L' Isle and Dudley, L.|
|Dungannon, V.||De Ros, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Dinevor, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Downes, L.|
|Hill, V.||Farnham, L.|
|Melville, V.||Feversham, L.|
|Sidmouth, V.||Forester, L.|
|St. Vincent, V.||Kenyon, L.|
|Strathallan, V.||Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Chichester, Bp.||Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)|
|Kilmore, &c., Bp.|
|Lincoln, Bp.||Polwarth, L.|
|Oxford, Bp.||Raglan, L.|
|Ripon, Bp.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Rochester, Bp.||Redesdale, L.|
|Salisbury, Bp.||Scarsdale, L.|
|Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)|
|Ardrossan, L. (E. Eglintoun.)||Sondes, L.|
|Bagot, L.||Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|Bayniug, L.||St. John of Bletso, L.|
|Berners, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Blayney, L.||Tenterden, L.|
|Boston, L.||Walsingham, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Churchill, L.||Wynford, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Lifford, V.|
|Richmond, D.||Maynard, V.|
|Ailsa, M.||Bangor, Bp.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Durham, Bp.|
|Tweeddale, M.||Exeter, Bp.|
|Aylesford, E.||Llandaff, Bp.|
|Beverley, E.||Meath, Bp.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||St. Asaph, Bp.|
|Cathcart, E.||Winchester, Bp.|
|Denbigh, E.||Braybrooke, L.|
|Erne, E.||Brodrick, L. (V, Midleton)|
|Guilford, E.||Castlemaine, L.|
|Harewood, E.||Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden)|
|Hillsborough, E. (M. Downshire.)||Clanwilliam, L.(E. Clanwilliam.)|
|Macclesfield, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.)|
|Nelson, E.||Clinton, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Dunsandle and Clanconal, L.|
|Portarlington, E.||Foxford, L. (E. Limerick.)|
|Rosse, E.||Grantley, L.|
|Seafield, E.||Gray, L.|
|Stamford and Warrington, E.||Kilmaine, L.|
|Wicklow, E.||Plunket, L. (Bp. Tuam, &c.)|
|Bangor, V.||Ranfurly, L. (E. Ranfurly.)|
|Saltersford, L. (E. Courtown.)||Saint Leonards, L. Tyrone, L.(M. Waterford.)|
|Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)||Wemyss, L. (E. Wemyss.)|
|Sinclair, L.||Wigan, L. (M. Crawford and Balcarres.)|
§ House adjourned at a quarter to Twelve o'clock, till Monday next, Eleven o'clock,