HL Deb 12 July 1858 vol 151 cc1243-56

On Order of the day for considering the Report of Reasons to be offered to the Commons for the Lords insisting on their Amendments,


said, he had an Amendment to propose on these Reasons; but as he understood that the noble Earl the late President of the Council wished to make some general observations on the Reasons as they stood, he thought the better course would be to postpone his Amendment until the noble Earl had addressed their Lordships.


said, he had some difficulty in understanding the intentions of Her Majsety's Government in this matter. In considering these Reasons it was impossible to put out of sight the course to be taken by their Lordships with regard to the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl opposite (the Earl of Lucan) which was to come on at a later period of the evening. He had ventured to say at the time that he did not think the proposal of the noble and gallant Earl to be the best way of settling the question. He thought it would have been better if, when the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) had made up his mind to settle the question of the admission of the Jews, he had taken the opportunity of settling it upon the second reading of the Oaths Bill, or when another opportunity presented itself by the House of Commons disagreeing to their Lordships' Amendments. At the same time, considering the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack, and the speeches of several independent supporters of the Government, it was impossible not to feel that the noble Earl was placed in great difficulty both in and out of the Cabinet, and that those who desired the admission of the Jews ought not to be hypercritical as to the mode in which that great object was attained. Although he did not think the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl (Earl of Lucan) was the best mode of closing the question, it would no doubt attain the practical object which the friends of the admission of the Jews desired. He had cordially supported it, and both in and out of Parliament had attempted to smooth the difficulties to the passing of the Bill. The Bill had now almost passed through all its stages in their Lordships' House, and except as to one point it closely resembled the Bill of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst). He could not put it out of the question when asked to agree to certain Reasons for previous disagreement with the House of Commons on the Oaths Bill. Although he did not think the first three Reasons either strong or conclusive, and he disagreed as to one fact which was there stated, he deemed the others either offensive to the House of Commons or insulting to those who were now to be admitted into Parliament, and at the same time inconsistent with the course which their Lordships were determined to take. The fourth and fifth Reasons were:— 4. Because in the Prayers with which both Houses daily commence their proceedings they Implore in Christ's name the Divine assistance and guidance in all their undertakings, professing themselves His unworthy servants; and this act of worship will become a mockery when among those who are therein declared to be gathered together in His name are numbered some who deny Him through whose merits alone those prayers can be acceptable. 5. Because when the Commons plead in support of their views, in a matter which equally concerns the constitution of both branches of the Legislature, their repeated recognition of the expediency of removing this disability of the Jews, and admitting them to their Councils, the Lords desire to refer to their equally firm adherence to the principle of retaining those privileges which they believe to be peculiarly and inseparably attached to Parliament as an exclusively Christian assembly. He could not conceive reasons more inconsistent after they had adopted a mode which they were perfectly certain would lead to the admission of the Jews to the other House of Parliament. He knew it was said that Her Majesty's Government intended to omit these two Reasons and to insert some other instead. He thought the House had a right to inquire why, having announced a settlement of the question upon a principle which their Lordships had adopted, the Government were to hold to Reasons elaborately and ingeniously constructed to make their conduct appear perfectly ridiculous in the sight of everybody. The sixth Reason was in these terms,—


The sixth will be omitted.


was glad to hear that the sixth was to be omitted. The Reason which was to be substituted for the fourth was not very judicious. The noble Earl proposed to their Lordships to adopt these words:— 4. Because without imputing any disloyalty or disaffection to Her Majesty's subjects of the Jewish persuasion, the Lords consider that the denial and rejection of that Saviour in whose name each House of Parliament daily offers up its collective prayers for the Divine blessing on its counsels constitutes a moral unfitness to take part in the legislation of a professedly Christian community. His (Earl Granville's) objection applied equally to that Amendment. The only ground upon which it could be supported was that the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl (the Earl of Lucan) was a permissive Bill, and it might be possible by these Reasons to influence the House of Commons not to avail themselves of that permission. It seemed too childish, how- ever dressed up it might be, for any noble Lord to press such an argument upon their Lordships. Would anybody rise up in his place and state that he was not aware the House of Commons had the fullest intention to admit Baron Rothschild if they could do so? Did not every one know that some of the members of Her Majesty's Government were supposed to feel themselves in considerable difficulty because their opinions were more or less favourable to passing such a Resolution as would admit him without an Act of Parliament legalizing it? Did any one really imagine that these very flimsy Reasons, although based on such very high and very sacred ground, were likely to influence the House of Commons in not taking a course which the noble and gallant Earl's Bill would render perfectly easy for them to take? He knew it was no use appealing to Her Majesty's Government. He felt that they would naturally wish to conciliate on so important a point, that large mass of their supporters who still continued to oppose the claims of the Jews. But he could not think that their supporters could be conciliated, when the thing itself was entirely given up, by a few words of this nature, which were offensive to the House of Commons, and he must say insulting to that class of persons to whom they gave, by a legislative act, the right of sitting in Parliament. It was not proposed to prevent the coming in of as large a number of Jews as the constituencies of the kingdom might choose to elect; but, while admitting them, they were to be indelibly branded as different from other Members. It was a sign of weakness, as if it were against their wish and will that they made any concession at all. He could not understand that course. If the House were compelled by a large mob at their doors, or the fear of immediate insurrection, to take some course which they did not approve, he could understand at the same time their protesting against it. But the pressure in this case was of a purely moral character—a wish to settle a difference which unhappily existed between this and the other House of Parliament. Were their Loirdships so anxious to have the last word that they must say what was uncourteous to the House of Commons? And was it quite clear that the House of Commons would allow them to have the last word? Might not the House of Commons retort upon them, that, as to their Reasons, the House of Commons would not advert to them, because the Reasons were against a course which their Lordships had themselves adopted. He really ventured to appeal, not to Her Majesty's Government, but to noble Lords who had consistently and conscientiously opposed the admission of the Jews, not only as statesmen but as men of business, whether, when a majority of that House had determined to make the concession, it should not be made in a frank spirit, and not in a manner which would entirely mar the whole effect of that concession—namely, by giving up the whole substance of that which they wished to retain, and at the same time giving Reasons why they should not pursue the course which they had determined to follow. The noble Earl might well have been content if, instead of giving these argumentative Reasons, he had asked their Lordships to adopt Resolutions of an historical character, stating that, although their Lordships could not agree to admit persons of the Jewish persuasion to seats in the Legislature in the mode proposed by the Bill of the other House, yet that their Lordships had taken measures to settle the question. This would be a much more dignified course for their Lordships to adopt, and would be a much more satisfactory mode of settling this long-disputed question.


said, the noble Earl found fault with the Government for not having adopted their present course at an earlier period; but it must be remembered that the proposition of his noble and gallant Friend (the Earl of Lucan) was entirely of a novel character, and took the House by surprise; and it was universally agreed that it would be more convenient to reserve his proposal for consideration in a separate Bill. When it was said their Lordships ought to postpone their Reasons until they had an opportunity of making the whole arrangement he begged to remind their Lordships that, in deference to the wishes of the noble Lords opposite, he had postponed the consideration of these Reasons until there was no possibility that they would interfere with the consideration of the Bill of his noble and gallant Friend. The noble Earl (Earl Granville) had argued as if their Lordships had altered their opinion on this question. That was so far from being the case, that when the proposal of his noble and gallant Friend was first under the consideration of their Lordships he stated that he and those who had agreed with him on this question had not changed their opinions as to the advisability and expediency of admitting the Jews; but that the Bill had been introduced as a measure of conciliation, for the purpose of settling a longstanding difference between the two Houses of Parliament. It was perfectly consistent with the opinions which their Lordships had always expressed to give a permissive authority to the other House to admit the Jews; but they still retained, and were bound to express, the Reasons why they could not depart from the opinions which they had always held as to the expediency of the course which the other House desired to adopt. If their Lordships had really changed their opinions, and were satisfied of the propriety and expediency of admitting the Jews into the House of Commons, their proper course would have been not to sanction the introduction of the Bill of his noble and gallant Friend, but frankly to have adopted the Bill that came up from the other House. But, as that was not the case—as the majority of their Lordships retained their objections—it was competent to state those objections and to offer Reasons in answer to those given by the other House in objecting to their Lordships' Amendments. He had the misfortune to differ from the noble Earl (Earl Granville) on many points, but he must do him the justice to say, that in bringing forward arguments in support of his views he had never seen any offensiveness or want of due courtesy on the part of the noble Earl, and he trusted that the same might be said with regard to any observations he might have made in answer to the noble Earl. So, in regard to the two Houses, it was perfectly consistent, and with perfect respect and courtesy, that when the other House sent up Reasons for objecting to their Amendments their Lordships should state in return their Reasons why they considered it desirable to insist upon those objections, so far as the Bill of the other House was concerned. The Reasons were so framed as to be a direct answer to those assigned by the Commons for disagreeing to their Amendments, and would meet each separately. In the first of these Reasons the House of Commons stated that they objected to the retention of the words "On the true faith of a Christian," on the ground that they were not introduced to exclude persons of the Jewish persuasion. In answer to that Reason their Lordships proposed to say that— Although the words 'on the true faith of a Christian' were originally introduced into the oath for the immediate purpose of binding certain Roman Catholics, it is unreasonable to assume that the Parliament which so introduced them did not intend that the profession of Christianity should be a necessary qualification for admission to the Legislature when they enacted that a declaration of that faith should form part of the oath required to be taken by every Member of both Houses. And, further, that— The constant intention of the Legislature may be further inferred from the fact that neither at the time of the introduction of these words were they admissible, nor have they at any subsequent period been admitted to sit and vote in either House of Parliament. In their second Reason the House of Commons said that the exclusion of British subjects from seats in Parliament was contrary to the maxims of liberty of conscience, and savoured of persecution. In answer to this their Lordships replied, that— Exclusion from seats in Parliament and offices of the State on the ground of religious opinion, and for other reasons when the general good of the State appears to require it, is a principle recognised in the settlement of the succession to the Crown and in other cases; and has, moreover, been further and, recently sanctioned by the House of Commons in some of the provisions of the present Bill. The House of Commons next alleged that no charge of disloyalty could be alleged against the Jews as a reason why they should not have a fair share of Legislative power; to which their Lordships replied that, without imputing disloyalty or disaffection to the Jews, yet in the minds of the House of Lords the denial and rejection of the Saviour constituted a moral unfitness to take part in Legislation for a Christian country. The House of Commons then alleged that on ten previous occasions they had agreed to votes in favour of admitting the Jews; to which their Lordships replied that as a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature upon a matter affecting both Houses of Parliament they might oppose their consistent opinion that the Jews ought not to be admitted. The sixth Reason he proposed to omit; but with this exception he saw no reason why they should not adopt the Reasons framed by their Lordships. These Reasons afforded no ground for the charge of discourtesy towards the other House. Their Lordships only repeated that they retained their own views; but in deference to the views of the House of Commons, while they claimed their own rights in their own House, they gave to the other House by this Bill a right which they did not now possess, of exercising their own authority in admitting persons of the Jewish persuasion within the walls of the House of Commons. There was nothing inconsistent in this course. He was quite aware that the majority of the House of Commons would certainly adopt a Resolution to admit Baron Rothschild. Their Lordships would still entertain an opinion that the other House would act injudiciously in adopting that Resolution; but while they left the other House to take that course which they might think fit, the House of Commons would still have the option of rescinding that Resolution, and returning to the present state of the law at a future time if a demonstration of opinion on the part of the country should lead them to think they had made an unwise and injudicious decision in admitting the Jews. With regard to the fourth Reason, he confessed he was unable to prevail on himself to adopt the opinion of the presence of a few persons who denied that Being in whose name they offered up their sincere and conscientious prayers, would render that act of worship a mockery. He would therefore propose another Reason in lieu of the fourth, declaring that the rejection of the Saviour, in whose name the Legisture daily offered up its prayers for the Divine blessing, constituted in their opinion a moral unfitness to take part in the Legislature of a Christian community, and this, with the omission of the sixth Reason, he hoped would receive the sanction of their Lordships.


said, he had been a uniform supporter of every measure introduced into their Lordships' House that had for its object the admission of the Jews to Parliament. He had done so from a deep conviction that there was no divine precept which directed that unbelievers should be subjected, on account of their unbelief, to civil incapacities. Had such a precept been laid down by the Divine Author of our religion nothing could have induced him to vote for the removal of those prohibitions by which unbelievers were excluded from the Legislature; and he would add that if they were of Divine authority the Jews ought not to have been admitted to the many offices of trust and dignity which they were now permitted to hold. But he did not believe that the Divine Saviour and Author of our religion prohibited their holding such offices, or their admission to the Legislature, and therefore these measures had received his uniform support. He felt himself called upon to consider the question of the admission of the Jews as one entirely of expediency. He would not inquire into the causes which had prevailed with Her Majesty's Ministers to change in some respects their views upon this question; but they had arrived at the conclusion that it was expedient to relax the law and to admit Sews by the authority of their Lordships' House into the other House of Parliament; for the noble Earl overlooked the question when he said they left it to the other House to determine whether Jews should be admitted or not. If they had left the other House of Parliament to determine that question it would have done so long ago; but they all knew that the House of Commons would not move upon it without the direct sanction and authority of their Lordships' House. He had always opposed the extremely rash opinion entertained by some Members of the other House of Parliament; that it was possible for the House of Commons to admit Jews without the authority which their Lordships were now about to give them. The Jews had long besieged the Legislature. The siege had lasted longer than that of Troy, but now the moment had come when Her Majesty's Government thought it expedient to hang out a flag of truce, and open to them a way by which they might be admitted to a part in the legislation of the country. Various modes of settling this question had been put forward, and he was disposed to give the noble Lord opposite full credit for the plan he had proposed, and which promised to be so far successful. But he must say the course now proposed to be taken was one of the most singular that could be taken. Their Lordships had a Bill on their table that was meant to pave the way for admitting Jews into Parliament, and at the present moment they were asked to give their sanction to reasons why they should not be admitted. He had never known a state of things in which the advice of Lord Mansfield to the colonial Judge was more applicable—"Always give your decisions, but take care and never give your reasons." They were asked to declare that the Jews might be admitted to legislate in the other House, and they were also called on to adopt reasons which said they were morally unfit to legislate. Future generations would find great difficulty in understanding the grounds on which this question had been settled. Future Macaulays and Stanhopes, in endeavouring to discover how this question was dealt with, would be beset with singular difficulties, for they would find on the records of their Lordships' House, in the same paper, and on the same day, a declaration that Jews were morally unfit to legislate and a Bill which would open the way for their admission to legislate in the other House of Parliament. He thought nothing would be more grossly inconsistent than for the Journals of their Lordships' House on the same day to contain a declaration that Jews were morally unfit to sit in Parliament, and, nevertheless, to show that their Lordships had taken the initiative and passed a Bill admitting the very class of persons whom they so solemnly declared to be disqualified to share in the business of legislation.


said, that for no less than fifteen years he had conscientiously and invariably voted against the admission of Jews to Parliament; and he reminded the House that when on a recent occasion he addressed their Lordships on this subject, and admitted that the time had come when some compromise must be made with the view to a settlement of this long-vexed question, he guarded himself by stating that he had not in one tittle altered his opinions on the admission of Jews to Parliament, and that to himself personally that compromise was a subject of great regret. He was anxious that no mistake whatever, now or hereafter, should attach to the Government with respect to their opinions and views on this question, and that it should be known that if a concession had been made, it had been made to a political necessity and not from moral conviction. It was necessary that a reply should be given to the Reasons of the House of Commons, and, according to precedent, that reply had been drawn up by a Committee appointed for the purpose. The Reasons so drawn up in reply were those of a majority of their Lordships' House—not of a minority. Without meaning any disrespect to noble Lords opposite who had addressed their Lordships, he must say he thought it an unusual course, as far as his memory went, that the minority should be discussing and objecting to Reasons which were drawn up by a Committee instructed by a majority of their Lordships' House.


said, he naturally felt great satisfaction that the noble Earl at the head of Her Majesty's Government had sanctioned, or rather made probable, the success of a cause which he (the Earl of Carlisle) himself had espoused eagerly and consistently since it was first mooted in Parliament. He greatly rejoiced at the virtual success and triumph of that cause of which he had been so long a supporter. The noble Earl who had just spoken had taken a technical objection to a minority, which had done its best to give effect to its views, afterwards objecting to Reasons which had been drawn up by a Committee instructed by a majority of the House. It should not be forgotten that, since this measure was first introduced, the majority had rather shifted sides. He cordially rejoiced in the approaching success of a cause which the friends around him had so long advocated; but he certainly wished that it could have been accompanied with a more appropriate act in its present stage; for he thought that, at the same time that they were opening the door for the admission of Jews into Parliament, they proclaimed that they thought the Jews morally unfit for the duties to which they were inviting them. That he regarded as most inconsistent and discreditable on the part of their Lordships.


said, that as one of those whom the noble Marquess had accused of tergiversation on this question, he wished to make one or two observations upon it. He concurred in the Reasons now on the table, but did not think he was guilty of any inconsistency in, at at the same time, agreeing to the Bill of his noble and gallant Friend. He confessed that he had gladly embraced the opportunity of effecting a compromise on a question which had been the cause of strife for fifteen years. The compromise would not debar their resisting the admission of Jews into that House, and he should be ready to oppose in the same way as he had always opposed their admission into their Lordships' House. The Reasons seemed to him to be sound Reasons, and, therefore, he was disposed to agree to them.


thought the motive must be very strong indeed that had influenced the noble Lords opposite in taking their present course on this question. They said that there was a moral unfitness in a Jew to be a Member of the Legislature, and yet they gave their assent to a Bill admitting him to the other House of Parliament. He left them to say whether they thought that moral unfitness only applied to the House of Lords, and not to the House of Commons. That was not the course which Sir Robert Peel and the Duke of Wellington took on the question of Catholic emancipation, for when they saw the necessity of abandoning opposition to Catholic emancipation they admitted that their opinions had been changed by circumstances, and frankly said that they would offer no further opposition. When they made up their minds to make concessions they made them largely, fully, and graciously. But the noble Earl at the head of the Government while he made concessions retained his opinions. He made his concession grudgingly and ungraciously. What would have been said of Sir Robert Peel if, when granting Catholic emancipation, he had said, "Mr. O'Connell may sit in the House of Commons, but he may not sit in the House of Lords?" And yet that would have been the sort of course which the noble Earl would have taken on that question. He would have said, "We shall pass a Resolution to prevent any Roman Catholic Peer from sitting in this House." He (Lord Stanley of Alderley) thought that the course now recommended to their Lordships by the noble Earl was perfectly discreditable and hypocritical.


reminded the noble Lord that the Roman Catholic Relief Bill contained a retrospective clause to prevent Mr. Daniel O'Connell from taking his seat.


had listened to the speech of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley of Alderley) with considerable regret, because during the whole discussion there had been an absence of any acrimonious feeling, or of any reproach towards the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) for the course which he had taken on the question. He was prepared, whenever he saw anything that deserved reproach on the part of the Government, to join with others against them; but he felt that in this matter great allowance was to be made for the course which the Government had thought fit to take. He believed that in taking that course the Government had been actuated by no other than the most patriotic motives. He could easily conceive the amount of opposition which had been brought to bear on the noble Earl and against the proposed concession, and though he admitted that the noble Earl had, in the concession made, done great and good service, he confessed that it was one he did not anticipate from the noble Earl so long as he remained at the head of the Government. With regard to what had been said as to Sir Robert Peel—a man whom he had not only admired, but loved—his character and the course which he bad pursued had been amply justified by the gratitude of the country. As to the question before them, he thought the better course would have been to allow the Bill originally introduced to drop, and to send down, as they would send down, the Bill of the noble and gallant Earl opposite. Had it been possible to introduce a new Bill this Session to amend the oaths, he should have counselled such a course; but rather than pass the Bill in its present crude shape, he would recommend that it be dropped, and a new measure brought in next Session.

Report considered.

Then it was severally moved to agree to the First, Second, and Third Reasons; Objected to; and

On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.

Then it was moved to agree to Reason 4.

THE EARL OF DERBY moved an Amendment— To leave out from ('Because') to the end of the Reason, and insert ('without imputing any Disloyalty or Disaffection to Her Majesty's Subjects of the Jewish Persuasion, the Lords consider that the Denial and Rejection of that Saviour in whose Name each House of Parliament daily offers up its collective Prayers for the Divine Blessing on its Counsels, constitutes a moral Unfitness to take Part in the Legislation of a professedly Christian community.'

Objected to.

On Question whether to agree to the and Reason as amended?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 50; Not-Contents 42: Majority 8.

Resolved in the Affirmative.

Chelmsford, L. (L. Chanceller.) Graham, E. (D. of Montrose.)
Manchester, D. Hardwicke, E.
Harrington, E.
Bath, M. [Teller.] Lanesborough, E.
Exeter, M. Leven and Melville, E.
Salisbury, M. Lucan, E.
Amherst, E. Malmesbury, E.
Bathurst, E. Pomfret, E.
Beauchamp, E. Powis, E.
Cadogan, E. Romney, E.
Carnarvon, E. Shrewsbury and Tabot, E.
Chesterfield, E.
De La Warr, E. Stradbroke, E.
Derby, E. Verulam, E.
Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.) Churchill, L.
Colchester, L.
Combermere, V. Crofton, L.
De Vesci, V. De Ros, L.
Dungannon, V. Dinevor, L.
Hardinge, V. Downes, L.
Melville, V. Level and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Chichester, Bp.
Lichfield, Bp. Ravensworth, L.
Ripon, Bp. Redesdale, L. [Teller.]
Southampton, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.) Stewart of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)
Calthorpe, L. Wynford, L.
Cleveland, D. Camoys, L.
Newcastle, D. Carew, L.
Somerset, D. Chesham, L.
Lansdowne, M. Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin & Clayneboye.)
Abingdon, E. Congleton, L.
Carlisle, E. Cranworth, L.
Clarendon, E. De Manley, L.
Ducie, E. De Tabley, L.
Durham, E. Foley, L. [Teller.]
Essex, E. Hamilton, L. (L. Belhaven and Stenton.)
Fortescue, E.
Granville, E. Ker, L. (M. Lothian,)
Saint Germans, E. Lyndhurst, L.
Wicklow, E. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Eversley, V.
Mostyn, L.
Stratford de Redcliffe, V. Portman, L.
Rivers, L.
Sydney, V. Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)
Bath and Wells, Bp.
Hereford, Bp. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Wedehouse, L.
Ashburton, L. Wycombe, L. (E. Shelburne.)
Audley, L.
Belper, L.

Reason 5 agreed to. Reason 6 disagreed to.

And Bill returned to the Commons with the said Reasons as amended.