HL Deb 08 July 1858 vol 151 cc1070-5

Order of the day for the House to be put into Committee (on recommitment) read.

Moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill."


said, it was of the utmost importance, before going into Committee on this Bill, that the House should understand as precisely as possible what was to be the future course of proceeding with respect to this question. If this Bill were read a third time he understood that it was to be sent down to the other House along with the Bill of the Commons, and it was confidently expected that the House of Commons would pass this and the Oaths Bill. All the advocates of the measure would be perfectly satisfied he was sure with that result; but he would wish to state in a few words what the effect would be. In the first place, the Bill of the Commons would establish it as law that hereafter one oath would be substituted for the three oaths of supremacy, allegiance, and abjuration, certain offensive expressions in the oath of supremacy and all the parts in the oath of abjuration relating to the Pretender being omitted altogether, and farther, that in all cases where a declaration was substituted for the test of a sacrament members of the Jewish religion would have a right to make a declaration omitting the words "on the true faith of a Christian." These would be great advantages gained. In the next place the Bill now before their Lordships would enable Jews—subject to the license, if it might be so called, of either House—by omitting the words objected to, to sit and vote in Parliament, and would place them on the same footing as the rest of Her Majesty's subjects with respect to holding office—certain high offices mentioned in the last clause or the last clause but one of the Commons' Bill only excepted. The advocates of the measure would be perfectly satisfied with these results. He had himself introduced a Bill to their Lordships, but having withdrawn it in deference to the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he was glad to find that the objects aimed at in that Bill would be attained completely by these two Bills. But at the same time he was anxious to direct their Lordships' attention to a point of some importance, arising out of an Amendment which had been made in the Bill now before them. As the Bill originally stood, its effect, if passed into law, would have been to give Members of the Jewish religion a right to sit in Parliament, subject to the license of Parliament—without any reference whatever to the provisions of the Bill of the Commons. Now, however, from an Amendment introduced into the first clause of the Bill, if the other Bill were not passed into law from any accident, the whole measure would fall to the ground; because now this Bill was made to depend entirely on the new oath contained in the Bill which had come up from the Commons. If that Bill did not become law the effect of the second Bill would be entirely destroyed. It would be very easy to amend the alteration made in the second Bill, so as to obviate this inconvenience; but it was scarcely necessary to do so, since, from all be had heard, he could not for a moment doubt that both Bills would pass the other House. [The Earl of DERBY.—Hear, hear!] The noble Earl assented to that, and he took his assent to mean that he was perfectly confident as to the passing of the two Bills. The noble Duke on the cross benches (the Duke of Marlborough) had given notice of an Amendment in the Bill for the purpose of preventing Jews presenting to benefices. That Amendment was copied from a clause in the Roman Catholic Relief Bill. But the position of the Jews differed entirely from that of the Roman Catholics in reference to the subject matter of the clause. By law a Roman Catholic could not exercise the right of presenting to a benefice, and it was only fair, therefore, that the Roman Catholics should be prohibited from presenting in right of any offices they might hold. But the Jews were not in the same position. If they held advowsons they had a perfect right to present to them; they frequently exercised that right, and he had never heard any complaint of the manner in which they had exercised it. He understood, however, from communications which he had had with members of the Jewish religion, that it was not their intention to oppose the clause, and he quite concurred in the prudence of their course. With regard to the other Amendments of which notice had been given, he would reserve his remarks until they came before their Lordships' Committee.


said, he had heard with much regret that the Bill was not in such a form as to enable it to pass without being mixed up with the other Bill—because he was not satisfied with the Oaths Bill and thought a much better Bill might be framed. He thought if the Bill were called a Bill for the alteration of an oath, and it were framed for that purpose, without the adequate materials, it would not be a Bill calculated to give satisfaction in the country. The Bill came before them as a Jew Bill, and the only object of the insertion of the clause as to the oath was to give the Bill a better chance of passing both Houses of the Legislature. Nothing could be more unjust than to compel the Jews to take an oath which the Legislature had declared was an improper oath for other Members of Her Majesty's subjects to take. He heard with regret that this Bill would be useless if it were not accompanied by the other Bill.


said, that the Bill had increased to three times its original length. The original Bill was to relieve the Jews from the conscientious objection they had to taking the present oath. It now contained a clause enabling either House to permit any of Her Majesty's subjects to take the oath without making any declaration; and, thirdly, there was the insertion of this clause from the noble and learned Lord's Bill which had been withdrawn. Now, the noble and learned Lord had frequently asserted that by the common law the Jews were entitled to sit in Parliament—


asked, to what occasion the noble Earl alluded? He had spoken so often on the subject that perhaps the noble Earl would point out the occasion when he had said this.


said, that during the present Session of Parliament the noble and learned Lord had said that the Jews were not excluded from seats in Parliament by the common law, but accidentally by the terms of the oath.


said, that perhaps the noble Earl was alluding to what he said respecting King William III., who was one of the most constitutional of our Sovereigns—that during his reign no measure was passed which had the effect of preventing Jews from sitting in Parliament.


said, the argument mainly dwelt upon by the noble and learned Lord, and those who advocated the Jewish claims, was, that the Jews, prior to the words creeping into the oath "on the true faith of a Christian," had a common law right to sit in Parliament. Previous to that time the Jews might hold these offices, and he wanted to know why they were now to be excluded.


said, he would prefer that the Oaths Bill should drop for this Session, and that they should only repeal the oath of abjuration, leaving the oath of supremacy on the statute book. If the House of Commons should not pass the Oaths Bill as amended and as it now stood, the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl would become a nonentity, because it had reference to the new Oaths Bill. Their Lordships were going to ask the House of Commons to do what they would not do themselves, and therefore he would earnestly advise his noble and learned Friend to propose, as an Amendment, what he had suggested.


said, he had prepared an Amendment to obviate any possible inconvenience from the Oath's Alteration Bill not passing. His Bill, founded upon the suggestions of his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) carried into effect all the o to aimed at in the two Bills which his noble Friend wished to see passed. It was, however, a matter of indifference to him whether the object was attained by two Bills or a single measure.


was somewhat surprised at the speech of the noble and learned Lord Chief Justice. Almost every year for the last ten years a Bill had been sent up from the other House for the Amendment of the oath in question, and their Lordships had been told that it went against the conscience, and next that it was blasphemy, to call upon Members to take the oath in its present form. In fact, a noble Earl, who had always objected to the admission of the Jews, had told them that he felt compelled to vote for the second reading of the Bill for their admission because it was absolutely impossible for him to refuse his consent to a Bill for doing away with such ridiculous oaths. The noble and learned Lord, having now secured the admission of the Jews, came forward and asked them to reject the Oaths Bill sent up by the House of Commons, which had for its object the removal of certain objections to the form in which the oath was taken, for the purpose of inserting it form to which no one had any objection. The noble and learned Lord proposed to do away with all the labours of the House of Commons, and wished to see a Bill introduced simply for the repeal of the oath of abjuration. Now, to the repeal of that oath there were serious objections, inasmuch as that oath was the expression of their adherence to the existing settlement of the Crown and to the reigning family. He had no doubt that if the two Bills were sent down to the other House, they would receive a fair consideration, and this great question would be finally and more or less satisfactorily settled during the present Session. He had postponed the consideration of the Reasons for their Lordships insisting on their Amendments, in the belief that the better mode of proceeding would be to send down both Bills in a way which would ensure the passing of both.

Motion agreed to:

House in Committee.

THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH moved the insertion of a clause prohibiting any person of the Jewish religion from exercising any right of presentation to any ecclesiastical benefice in right of his office; such right of presentation to devolve on the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Clause agreed to.

Report of the Amendment to be received to-morrow.