§ Order of the Day for taking into consideration the Report of the Conference had with the Commons on Tuesday, the 18th instant, upon the subject matter of the Amendments made by this House to the said Bill, read:
§ Said Report and the Amendment made by the Lords omitting Clause 5, to which the Commons disagree, being read, and also t[...] said Clause 5 being read;1139
THE EARL OF LUCAN
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice. The noble Earl said, he felt that some apology was due to their Lordships for asking them to modify a decision to which they had come so frequently and so recently on this subject; but he was compelled by a sense of duty to use his best endeavours to bring about the settlement of this long-agitated question, being deeply impressed with the inconveniences and probable dangers which attended the present position of the two Houses of Parliament; and he therefore felt it to be his duty to offer a suggestion which he thought might lead to a settlement of the question. In doing so he was acting proprio motu, and without any concert with any party in that House, having even abstained from acquainting the noble Earl at the head of the Government with his intention. The first part of the Amendment of which he had given notice was intended simply to remedy an error which, he thought, had been committed by that House in striking out Clause 5; for if they did not wish to relieve the Jews from any disability, at any rate it was not their intention to impose on them any fresh disability. The second portion of the Amendment was, that from and after the passing of the Bill it should be lawful for either House of Parliament so to modify the oath to be taken under it, as to meet the conscientious scruples of persons of the Jewish persuasion. He was aware that objections would be raised to the admission of Members by Resolution of one House; but he could see no reason why that should not be allowed if the proceeding were legalized by Act of Parliament. He was aware that he was asking their Lordships to concede much, but not, he thought, too much, when the object was to restore harmony between the two Houses of Parliament. Every man of reasonable foresight must be aware that this was a question that must be before long disposed of in some way; and, therefore, he hoped the House would consent to concession, and that the compromise which he had offered would be accepted. He would remind their Lordships of the repeated attempts at legislation which had taken place upon this subject. The question of the admission of Jews to Parliament was first brought forward in the House of Commons in 1830. In that year no Bill was sent up to their Lordships House; but since, and including 1833, there had been no less than ten Bills sent 1140 to that House from the other House of Parliament. The majorities in favour of the Bill in the other House had not been large—not exceeding thirty or forty—until the present year, when, being supported by the entire strength of the Government, the Bill was carried by a majority of 140. From 1836 the subject had been allowed to rest until 1848, when Baron Rothschild was returned for the City of London; and since then, repeated attempts had been made to induce their Lordships to consent. Various measures having the same object, and Bills were sent up in 1848, 1849, 1852, 1853, 1856, 1857, and 1858. The House of Commons until last year had been content with sending up Bills; but after the last Bill had been defeated, a proposition was made to admit Jews into Parliament under the provisions of an Act 5 & 6 Will. IV. The question was referred to a Committee, who decided that the provision of the Act did not apply to the case; and indeed it appears to him wonderful how any one could ever have supposed that it was applicable to the admission of Members to the other House, especially looking to the fact that it was passed in 1835, and had been in operation ever since without any one ever thinking that it could be made available for that purpose. Their Lordships all knew what had happened with respect to the Bill of the present year, and how a learned Gentleman had threatened, that if it were eventually thrown out he would, in some mysterious but constitutional way, admit the Jews to Parliament. Such was the present position of the question. In supporting the Amendment which he had to submit to their Lordships' notice he might be accused by his noble and learned Friend on the woolsack with taking his stand upon very low grounds—those of policy and expediency: he could not help thinking that when their Lordships bore in mind that a measure similar to that under their notice had passed the House of Commons twenty-five years ago, and had on ten different occasions come up to their Lordships' House, they would concur with him in the opinion that it was most impolitic and inexpedient to persevere any longer in its absolute rejection. Their Lordships must, he thought, feel that the time for concession had arrived. For his own part, he had scarcely met a single noble Peer, or indeed anybody else, who, in conversation, contended that the exclusion of the Jews from Parliament could permanently be maintained. As a measure of 1141 prudence it was desirable that the question should be settled, and he believed that that object could be best secured by means of a compromise such as that which he proposed. In advocating those views he must not be supposed to shrink for one moment from upholding to their fullest extent the privileges of their Lordships' House, in dealing with questions of great national importance, and he was of opinion that the conduct of the other House of Parliament in appointing a member of the Jewish persuasion to be a party to the Conference which had taken place upon the subject under discussion amounted to something very like an insult. He was not aware whether Baron Rothschild had or had not attended that Conference, or whether he had acted as a Member of the Committee; but he had been informed that in accordance with the advice of the late Attorney General, he had abstained from taking that course. But, be that as it might, it was their Lordships' duty, laying aside all consideration of what had recently taken place in the other House of Parliament, to view the question before them dispassionately, and to pronounce with respect to it a calm and impartial decision. He might be told that in upholding the sentiments which he entertained, he was acting in violation of the religious feeling of the country; but he should wish to know what evidence there was to substantiate that charge. There was no such evidence to be found in the number of petitions which had been presented to that House against the admission of Jews to Parliament, inasmuch as the number of those petitions was extremely small. Neither was it to be discovered in the circumstance, that at the hustings any Member of Parliament had been called to account by his constituents because he happened to have voted in favour of Jewish emancipation; while it was a fact beyond all dispute, that nearly the entire press of the country supported the policy of admitting Jews to a seat in the Legislature. It might, however, be contended that the public out of doors were apathetic upon the subject, because they relied upon the House of Lords to reject any measure which had that object in view. That, however, was not the way in which the country was wont to act, and he felt assured that had the people of England felt so strongly upon the question as some noble Lords seemed to suppose they would, as it was their duty to do, have given unmistakeable expression to the sen- 1142 timents which they entertained. He should now leave his Amendment in their Lordships' hands, in the perfect assurance that, whether it pleased them to adopt or to reject it, they would be guided by the dictates of their own consciences and a due regard to the interests of the country. The noble Earl concluded by moving:—To leave out from ("Act") in line 3 to the end of the Clause, for the purpose of inserting ("on any occasion other than an Application to be admitted to sit and vote in either House of Parliament, the Words 'And I make this Declaration upon the true Faith of a Christian' shall be omitted; and that from and after the passing of this Act it shall be lawful for the House of Lords and for the House of Commons, respectively, by Resolution of tire House, to determine that the Form of the said Oath, so far as such Oath rests upon or refers to the Christian Faith, shall, for the purpose only of such Oath being administered to Persons professing the Jewish Religion, be modified, and to make such modification accordingly in such manner as to each such House shall seem best calculated to adapt the Form of the said Oath to the honest and conscientious scruples of the said Persons professing the Jewish Religion.")
§ EARL STANHOPE
said, he hoped that at this last stage of the Bill before them he might be allowed to make a few observations. Indeed, he felt bound to rise, when he recollected the mark of confidence which he had the honour to receive two years ago. Then he had, at the request of several noble Friends, moved the rejection of a Bill similar to the present, and it was upon his Motion that the decisive vote against the admission of Jews to the Legislature had been taken. Looking, however, to all that had occurred within the last two years, he felt bound to state that, although several of the objections which he had upon the last occasion entertained to any such proposal remained still undiminished, yet that his views with respect to the policy and prudence of the House of Londs continuing to resist the admission of Members of the Jewish persuasion to Parliament were no longer the same. The reasons by which that change had been brought about, as well as those which induced bins to doubt whether the Amendment which had just been proposed furnished the best means of settling the question, and whether it would not be better to accede to the Motion which he understood was about to be made by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst), he would briefly submit to their Lordships. In adverting to the altered circumstances which had arisen, and which affected not so much the abstract merits of the question as the policy 1143 of continued resistance, he must advert to the largely increased majority of the House of Commons in favour of the admission of Jews to Parliament. That majority had more than trebled in two years. Two years ago, upon a clause for admitting the Jews to Parliament, the majority in favour of the clause was forty-nine; this year, upon a similar clause, it was 153. Surely, this was no light point for consideration. He heard it said, indeed, by some that, although the majority of the House of Commons might have increased, there was still a majority in the country against this measure. Now he must submit that an argument of this kind required to be most lightly touched—to be handled with most peculiar care—by all such persons at least as were not in favour of some large radical and sweeping measure of Parliamentary Reform; for see what inferences might readily be drawn from the assertion, if rashly made, that on this question, or on any other, the House of Commons, for many years, and after several general elections, wholly misrepresented the feeling of the people. But what was really this feeling? It was a feeling which, as the noble Earl (the Earl of Lucan) had truly said showed itself in very few petitions to their Lordships, and did not make itself felt at a single election. Let this be compared with the manifestation of feeling in Scotland at the general election which preceded the last, when the constituencies refused to return any representatives who were not opposed to Maynooth, and when the result was that almost every candidate who came forward, whether Whig, Tory, or Radical, declared that at heart he had always been opposed to the grant, and was ready to pledge himself against it. Now, the repugnance shown to the admission of the Jews to Parliament differed very widely in its manifestation from this; it was languid and inert, it evaporated in talk, and it would be difficult to name a single case in which the advocacy of the claims of the Jews by a candidate had in any degree impeded his election. When the opinions of this House were thus languidly supported out of doors, it became very difficult for their Lordships to continue their resistance to the oft-declared wishes of the other House of Parliament. There was another consideration which, in popular apprehension, had very greatly altered the aspect of this question. When the claims of the Jews to sit in Parliament were first mooted, they were supported by 1144 not more than one or two occupants of the episcopal bench. Since that time, however, a considerable number of the right rev. Prelates, among others, had shown themselves favourable to the admission of the Jews. Now, it used to be said of some ultra-politicians in the time of Louis XVIII. that they were plus Royalistes que le Roi; and in the same way he thought that if so large a proportion of the right rev. Bench supported the claims of the Jews while a majority of this House opposed them, the popular apprehension might be that their Lordships, more zealous than the Bishops themselves, set themselves presumptuously forward as being more zealous for Christianity than even the Bishops themselves! Nor could he (Earl Stanhope) be blind to the fact, that within the last two years there had been several conversions on this subject, and that those conversions had uniformly taken place among those who had heretofore been opposed to the principle of the Bill; and in no one instance, so far as he was aware, had there been any conversion the other way. He saw opposite to him the noble Earl (the Earl of Donoughmore), who, although two years ago he had voted with him against the measure, had voted on the last occasion in favour of this Bill. He (Earl Stanhope) had been prevented, by indisposition, from attending the debate that had taken place the other night upon this question; but he understood that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had himself observed that no less than three of his colleagues in the Ministry in the other House of Parliament were favourable to an adjustment of the claims of the Jews. One of those Gentlemen, no doubt, had always been in favour of the measure, but the two other colleagues of the noble Earl had been converts within the last few years. Now, what did all those facts prove? Why, that the current of public opinion, so far as regards statesmen and Members of the Legislature, had been for years running strongly in favour of this measure; and consequently, it became a matter of serious consideration whether that House would be acting with propriety or prudence in resisting any longer the reiterated wishes of the other House of Parliament. Another event had occurred which, though it deserved no weight as an argument on the abstract merits of the question, had an important relation to the ground of policy. A Jewish gentleman had within the last two years 1145 been unanimously elected to occupy the high office of Lord Mayor of London. Now, it was universally admitted by all parties that no man could have discharged those high and important duties in a more dignified and unexceptionable manner. The heads of all the great parties of the State by turns partook of that gentleman's hospitality, and exchanged compliments and courtesies with him. Undoubtedly there was a considerable distinction between the task of administering laws and of framing them; and therefore, he remained still of opinion that you might justly refuse to allow a Jew to legislate while you freely committed to him merely executive functions. Still, however, when a Jewish gentleman had thus, with general concurrence, filled the office of Lord Mayor of London, he doubted whether the argument he had just used was not too abstract and refined for popular apprehension, and whether it did not dissolve away under the influence of such an example. The question abstractedly was, he repeated, not affected by such an argument; but if their Lordships desired to take their stand on public feeling, and to obtain the support of the country, they were bound to consider, not only what was of force as an abstract argument, but what the popular apprehension on the subject would be. Moreover, when this Bill was brought before their Lordships two years ago, it involved the question of the Roman Catholic oaths, and thus raised difficulties which did not now present themselves. Indeed, it was owned in the other House by one of the most conscientious opponents of the admission of the Jews—a right hon. Gentleman whose friendship he (Earl Stanhope) had the pleasure of enjoying (Mr. Walpole)—that this proposal had never yet been put forward in a manner so free from collateral objections as in the present measure. The question having been thus altered, as he conceived, it was no longer to be viewed as it had been hitherto. Reviewing the history of this question, and all those circumstances to which he had referred, he was bound to ask himself whether, as a Member of that House, he would be justified, even while retaining his former objections, in continuing his resistance to this measure. That House had, no doubt, its independent rights and duties; but he conceived it formed no part of those rights and duties to offer a continuous opposition to the repeated and continuously expressed wishes of the people as expressed by their representatives in the other House of Par- 1146 liament. It was the duty of that House, no doubt, not merely to exercise an independent opinion upon all subjects that came before them; but, also, to afford every opportunity for ascertaining the real opinions of the people on any particular question that might be pressed upon their attention, either by an appeal to the country or otherwise. That he maintained to be the constitutional right and duty of that House. He did not, however, think that any statesman would contend that it was the right of that House to offer a perpetual barrier to the will of the other House, year after year expressed in a clearer and a still more forcible and decided tone. If, then, he had rightly defined the rights and duties of the House of Lords, how did such principles accord with the present state of this question? Could it be held that their Lordships should oppose a perpetual barrier to the Jewish claims? Since 1848, when this subject was first brought before Parliament, he believed he might say, without impropriety, that their Lordships had staved off the question. They had staved it off for ten years. In that interval there had been two general elections, and full time had been afforded for the clear expression of popular opinion at elections, by petitions, and by every other constitutional mode. What had been the result? Why a largely increased majority—a majority trebled within two years—in the other House in favour of the measure; and under these circumstances he asked whether in continuing their resistance their Lordships were not exceeding the duty they were entitled to perform? He must say he doubted whether it was expedient that their Lordships should continue the resistance they had hitherto offered to this measure. Was it not desirable that they should husband and reserve their strength for other struggles before them? Would their Lordships, he asked, consent to a complete surrender of the question of church rates? Much as he (Earl Stanhope) deemed a settlement of the question of church rates desirable, especially with reference to the great towns, he should, and he hoped their Lordships also, resolutely refuse its unconditional surrender. Many Members—indeed a majority—of the other House of Parliament had, however, expressed an opinion in favour of the abolition of church rates without providing any substitute. He doubted very much whether with regard to such questions concessions on both sides might not be advantageous. Meanwhile 1147 he deemed it most important that their Lordships should not hazard their authority with regard to questions upon which resistance might be necessary or desirable, by opposing a settlement of these Jewish claims to which any long-continued resistance had become impossible. He was, also, swayed in his opinion by the fact which had been adverted to by the noble Earl who had moved the Amendment—he meant the consideration of what course might be pursued by the House of Commons if their Lordships persevered in rejecting this Bill. They had been reminded by the noble Earl that at the end of the last Session of Parliament a Committee was appointed on the Motion of a statesman of great weight and deserved authority—Lord John Russell; and the noble Earl adverted to some of its proceedings. He (Earl Stanhope) confessed that when he looked at those proceedings he entertained great doubt whether their Lordships, do what they would, could continue to exclude Jews from Parliament. He was afraid that if continued resistance were offered by their Lordships their Lordships' House would be passed over, and Jews would be admitted to Parliament in spite of them. Why did he say that? In the present Session the House of Commons had—not without resistance and discussion—by a very large majority named as a Member of the Committee to conduct the Conference the very Gentleman who had given rise to this controversy—a gentleman who was himself a Jew. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment expressed a doubt whether the gentleman in question could act. He (Earl Stanhope) was told that gentleman had acted—that he had been present at the Conference. The question was, not what we might think right or constitutional, but what the majority of the House of Commons intended to do, and if they did seat this gentleman by Resolution all their Lordships' doubts as to whether such a course was constitutional or legal would be of no avail; but considerable difficulty and controversy would necessarily ensue. The noble Earl had adverted to certain proceedings which took place in the Committee of the other House on the 10th of August last. He (Earl Stanhope) found on reference to the proceedings of the Committee that a Resolution declaring that the House of Commons was within the meaning of the 8th section of the 5 & 6 Will.,IV., c. 62, and was therefore authorized to administer 1148 or receive any oath, received the support of Lord John Russell, and that the Attorney General of the late Government; (Sir Richard Bethell,) and Mr. Disraeli, who was the leader of the present Government in the other House, had voted in its favour. He thought, then, when their Lordships found such names in favour of a proposition of this nature they would see that there was considerable probability of a proposal of that nature receiving the assent of a majority in the other House of Parliament. At the same time he (Earl Stanhope) doubted whether the question could be satisfactorily settled in the manner proposed by the noble Earl. For his own part, he intended, with regard to the Amendment of the noble Earl, to be guided by the advice and example of the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Lyndhurst). If that noble and learned Lord objected to the Amendment, and adhered to the original proposition, he (Earl Stanhope) would give him his support; but if, on the other hand, the noble and learned Lord meant to adopt the Amendment, he would vote with him. His (Earl Stanhope's) desire was to see the question settled, even at the expense of some personal feeling, and he wished to give such a vote as the noble and learned Lord might deem best calculated to effect that object. He (Earl Stanhope) had not taken this course without much anxiety, and it would have been far more agreeable to his own feelings to adhere to the course he had previously pursued; but he did not think he was at all entitled to indulge those feelings of pride in his own consistency, when he believed them to be antagonistic to subjects of great public interest. He was strengthened in his belief of the propriety of the course he was about to pursue, when he remembered the advice so often tendered by one whose memory was regarded with the deepest veneration, not in that House only, which he had so long adorned, but by all persons and all classes—the late Duke of Wellington. For more than twenty years it had been his privilege to live on terms of intimacy and confidence with that great man, and he had heard the Duke of Wellington say that of all his acts in civil life there were none to which he looked back with so much satisfaction, as convincing him that he had not been useless to his country, as when he had raised his warning voice with the view of preventing a collision between that and the other House of Parliament, and ex- 1149 horting their Lordships to concede when the period of resistance had passed. At that time many of their Lordships differed from the Duke of Wellington; but could they now have any doubt, looking back to the matter in an historical point of view, that the noble Duke's counsels were wise? Take the case, for example, of the Reform Bill. No man at first opposed it with greater warmth than the Duke of Wellington: he resisted it until an appeal was made to the country, until Bristol and Nottingham were in flames, and until the current of popular feeling ran too high to be longer opposed with safety. Several of their Lordships continued, nevertheless, to vote against that Bill; but now, looking back to the matter at this distance of time, and being aware of the effects produced, could they doubt that the Duke of Wellington gave good advice in counselling concession, and saved the country at large from great calamities? If the noble Duke were present among them at this moment, could any one doubt what counsel he would give to their Lordships, when he found that, after many years of resistance on the part of their Lordships, the Commons, by great and repeated majorities, still passed the Bill for the admission of the Jews, and in their eagerness to effect the object contemplated a step which appeared to be beyond the bounds of the constitution? He then adjured their Lordships, after the noble Duke's death, to be still guided by his counsels. As for himself, his course was taken, and with reluctance certainly; but sustained by the sense that he was endeavouring to do his duty to his country, he should give his vote with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) for the settlement of this long-agitated question.
THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
My Lords, I am anxious thus early to address your Lordships in consequence of the speeches of the two noble Earls who have opened the discussion, for while they are abandoning a long continued opposition to the Jewish claims, I, on the contrary, from having been formerly in favour of those claims, now entertain opinions adverse to their admission; opinions which governed the vote I gave upon the question in the last Session of Parliament, and upon which I shall feel it my duty to act upon the present occasion. I am, therefore, desirous of explaining a course of conduct so directly the opposite of that of the two noble Earls; but before doing so I would beg to notice briefly the in- 1150 sufficiency of the Reasons which they, especially the noble Earl who has just sat down, have given for the course they now recommend your Lordships to take. They in fact adopt in its fullest sense the fifth of the Reasons sent up by the House of Commons against your Lordships' Amendments to the Bill—namely, that—The Commons having already on ten previous occasions, and in five Parliaments passed Bills for removing the civil disabilities of the Jews, and having of late years agreed to such Bills by constantly increasing majorities, are convinced that the opinion of their constituents and of the country at large has been irrevocably pronounced in favour of the removal of such disabilities.A very sufficient ground is no doubt here given for your Lordships making every concession to the wishes of the Commons that you can make consistently with maintaining the constitution in its essential principles. But I would remind the noble Earl who last addressed you, and has endeavoured to justify his present views by a reference to the course taken by the late Duke of Wellington at the period of the Reform Bill, that that great man did not counsel your Lordships to give way upon the question until public opinion had been loudly and unmistakeably expressed in favour of that measure, and that the concession then made to the popular voice did not involve the violation of any constitutional principle. There has been no such manifestation of public feeling in the present case, on the contrary, the public appear very apathetic respecting the claims of the Jews, and have probably looked little if at all into the question. It is true there have been several new Parliaments called since the Jewish claims were first brought under discussion, but I believe that in very few cases have they been noticed upon the hustings, where subjects interesting to the constituencies are commonly brought forward by the candidates for popular favour; and at the last general election undoubtedly the question exclusively considered by the constituencies was the continuance or non-continuance of the Palmerston Ministry. The Jews found no place in the popular mind. It is worthy also of remark with reference to the importance the House of Commons and the noble Earl attach to the increasing majorities by which the Jew Bills have been carried; that the opinions of the leading liberal Members of that House have been repeatedly expressed that the people of England are not adequately represented, and that a new Reform Bill is necessary. 1151 Such being their opinion, the majorities by which the Jew Bills have passed cannot justly be regarded as evidence "that the opinion of the country at large has been irrevocably pronounced in their favour." But, as the noble Earl has searched the records of Parliamentary history for examples of concession, he must allow me to remind him that there are to be found also encouraging precedents for upholding and persevering in the assertion of right principles against a temporary pressure from the House of Commons. Instances are not wanting where the Commons have been at variance upon important questions with this House, and have in the end recognized the soundness of your Lordships' decisions by the abandonment of measures which they had for some time appeared to insist upon. I will only particularize one which is remarkably analogous to the present case. I mean the celebrated "Appropriation Clause" in the Irish Tithe Bill. This measure was repeatedly sent up to your Lordships, and as frequently rejected by you; eventually it was rejected by the House of Commons itself, its original author, Lord John Russell, being, I believe, among those that voted against it. The same should be the end of the measure now before the House, the author of which is the same noble Lord.
I will now, my Lords, briefly state to your Lordships the grounds of my objection to the Bill. The arguments mainly relied upon by its promoters are stated in the 2nd and 4th Reasons of the Commons which are substantially identical. They say that—The exclusion of British subjects from seats in Parliament and offices in the State on the ground of their religious opinions is contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience.The abstract truth of this, my Lords, I think none will dispute, and when first the question arose of the claims of the Jews to sit in Parliament, it appeared to me, I confess, conclusive in their favour. It is unquestionably a principle of our free constitution that no British subject should, without very sufficient cause, be excluded from participating in its privileges, and at first sight it does not seem reasonable that exceptions should be made in the case of a Jew. This would account for a large amount of public support being given to the Bill, and it would be much more agreeable to me to be now, as I formerly was, in favour of it; but when in the last Session of Parliament it became my 1152 duty to record my vote upon the question, and therefore to examine more closely into its merits, it soon became apparent to me that the proposed concession was fraught with great danger to the future good government of the country and to its very liberties, and that therefore it ought not to be made. It will not be denied that the British constitution, which is the boast of Englishmen, and the envy and object of imitation with every nation struggling for freedom, has grown up and matured under the guardianship of a legislature exclusively Christian. The harmony, mildness, and sufficiency of our laws may be attributed mainly to the Christian principle that pervades them, and the Christian religion has been so intimately interwoven with the whole system of our legislation, that, to use the emphatic words of Blackstone, (no mean authority upon such a subject), "Christianity is part of the laws of England." Surely, then, those who regard Christianity as a system of imposture, are not rightly qualified to make laws for its maintenance. There has been from the earliest period of the monarchy an union of Church and State, and thereby a national acknowledgment of that Divine code of morality which the Gospel prescribes for the government, not of individuals only, but of nations, and for the good of all. Under its salutary influences it is, especially since the Reformation has more fully developed the doctrines and spirit of the Christian religion, that England at the present day affords to persons of every religious denomination residing under the protection of her laws an amount of liberty not enjoyed in any other country; but it is only by a Christian legislature that the Divine rule and precepts of the Gospel can be acknowledged in the work of legislation. It is true that this involves a principle of exclusiveness, while the great community of British subjects includes persons of a great variety of creeds, many of them the most conflicting; it is, however, upon that very account only the more important to provide that our legislation should be carried on upon acknowledged and fixed principles, and that the machinery of government should work harmoniously; and experience fully bears out the assertion that in no way can these objects be better secured, than they are under our present form of government—namely, a Protestant Sovereign and a Christian Parliament. Under these auspices the constant aim and general ten- 1153 dency of legislation has been to render the liberties of British subjects, civil and religious, as perfect as they can be. And let me remind your Lordships that it was to secure the permanence of such a form of government that, when Parliament was opened to persons of the Roman Catholic persuasion, restriction was placed upon them by the terms of an oath the most stringent that human ingenuity could devise, to abstain from doing aught, in a legislative capacity, to weaken or disturb the Protestant religion or Protestant Government of the country. This was proposed and supported by the most liberal statesmen of the day, and opposed by none; it was even assented to by the principal authorities of the Church of Rome resident in the United Kingdom, as the condition upon the Roman Catholic body was to be admissible to Parliament, and it was justified as necessary for the maintenance of Protestantism in the Church and in the spirit of the Government: and this policy you again affirm in this very Bill by providing that nothing therein contained should alter or affect the provisions of the Catholic Relief Bill. But if you admit the Jews, as now proposed to legislate on questions affecting the Established Church as well as the civil interests of the country, you cannot, without great injustice to the Roman Catholics, leave unrepealed a restriction upon their freedom of legislative action. It would be manifestly inconsistent to subject Christian members of the Legislature to restrictions, where the interests of Christianity were involved, which were not also imposed upon the Jews. Let the claims of the latter be admitted upon the principle contended for by the House of Commons in their fourth Reason against your Amendment—namely, that "the infliction of disabilities upon any class of Her Majesty's subjects solely on account of their conscientious adherence to their faith, savours of persecution; and you must admit, also, the Mahomedan, the Hindoo, heathens of every denomination (millions of whom at this moment are dependent upon the kind of government Parliament may impose upon the Indian empire), and the professed infidel, who is commonly quite as bigoted in his own peculiar views as the most superstitious votary of any false system of religion. Religious tests of every kind must be abolished as qualifications for access to the great Council of the Nation, for they could be of no possible value. Nor could you 1154 consistently any longer require the Sovereign to make profession of a particular form of religion: the King has as good an abstract right to hold and profess what religious opinions he pleases, as have the King's counsellors: so that, upon the principle contended for by the Commons, time future government and the guardianship of the rights of a people at present blest with the enjoyment of freedom beyond any other nation in the world, might fall into the hands of a Sovereign of any, or of no religion, and of a godless Parliament. The Jew must be free to assail Christianity and every religious observance connected with it—the, infidel must be at liberty to scoff at religion in every form—and the Roman Catholics—a body numerically more powerful, and from their organization and union under ecclesiastical rule, more formidable, must be free to lay themselves out for the restoration of the Pope's supremacy, so at variance with the independence and liberties of the nation. The House of Commons appears to have fallen into the error of regarding seats in Parliament and offices in the State as the inherent rights of British subjects intended for the individual benefit of the persons holding them. A participation in the government of this great country is, indeed, a great and distinguishing privilege; but it is still more to be regarded as a trust conferred for the benefit of the community, and experience has fully warranted the qualifications at present by law required in those to whom the reins of government are confided: hence the present limitation of the Crown to the reigning Royal Family being Protestants, and hence those tests imposed upon the advisers of the Crown in legislative matters by which to ensure their counsels being in harmony with these views which the Sovereign is, by the Coronation Oath, obliged to hold to. As a trust is also to be regarded the possession of the elective franchise, so that the citizens of London, so far from having any wrong to complain of under the existing law, are themselves wrongdoers, having fallen short of their duty to the country at large and to their unfranchised fellow citizens by sending as their representative to Parliament a person not qualified to act. The objection to the Jew is not that he is disloyal, not that he is incapable of exercising administrative duties: no such charge has or can be urged against him, but that he is net qualified to legislate for a Christian Church, nor can be 1155 reasonably expected to regard with reverence those divine precepts of the Gospel which are sometimes referred to, and which our laws may not contradict. It is, no doubt, historically true that the words in the oath, which stand in the way of Baron Rothschild's taking his seat, were not intended for the express purpose of excluding Jews from Parliament; but it might, with equal truth, be said that when the sovereignty of the country was limited to a Protestant, no intention existed of thereby excluding a Jew from the throne; and for this reason, that at the periods at which those legislative measures were respectively enacted the possibility of the nation ever falling, in any degree, under Jewish government, was never even imagined. The nation was only intent up on guarding its liberties against the encroachments of the Papacy, and the disabilities are owing solely to the laws of the country having ignored the supposition of the country ever being under other than Christian Government. Looking back to Magna Charta the Barons of Runnymede in that, the first charter, of British liberty, notice the Jews only as money-lenders. History does not record their ever having taken arms in the country's defence, or ever having taken part in, or sought admission to the national councils, they have ever been and sought so to keep themselves in every country where they are found, a nation apart, aliens from all around them in blood, in religion, and in social interests. I believe, that the feeling among them generally is still the same, and certainly, but for the wishes and personal popularity of Baron Rothschild, backed by his enormous wealth and the great political weight of his family, we never should to this day have beard of the Jewish claims. I have not the honour of Baron Rothschild's acquaintance, but from all I have heard of him, I do not apprehend that if he should obtain his seat in Parliament his conduct would be other than that becoming a British legislator. He has chosen England as the place of his residence, he has creditably filled the offices of the magistracy, he is respected by all that know him, and has so won upon the esteem of his fellow citizens that, in order to promote his wishes, they have repeatedly elected him with the certainty that he could not take his scat in Parliament. A man so highly esteemed is not likely to do discredit to the choice of his constituents, or 1156 to be disposed to damage that free constitution under the protection of which he has preferred to live; but his admission, as a Jew, to the Councils of the nation would be subversive of the great and essential principle of the constitution which connects the maintenance of the Christian religion with the general government of the country. The Commons urge it as a motive for your Lordships' yielding your opinions that Members of both Houses of Parliament of great weight, though differing upon other matters, have concurred in their support of this Bill; but this argument may be met by the fact that other Members of equal weight, though differing upon other subjects, have united in opposing it. The majority of the Commons have so far the advantage that they have taken the popular side of the question: it would be pleasing to your Lordships also to do the same, if you could be as readily excused for seeking popularity; but you have a higher mission as hereditary legislators—it is more especially your duty to act as guardians of the constitution. The country at large, I believe, does not take much interest in the question before you: the majority would probably, on a first view of the question, be favorable to concession; but those who have given their attention to it—the more thinking and religious portion of the community—are strongly opposed to it. They look with respect to the stand you have made against it, and they confidently look to your maintaining those principles which your reasoning and votes have hitherto vindicated, and I venture to hope that you will not disappoint public expectation by countenancing the proposition now brought forward by my noble and gallant Friend of an untimely surrender.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I think it will conduce somewhat to the perspicacity, and perhaps to the brevity, as well as to the regularity of this debate, if we come to some understanding of what is the real point we are discussing; because it appears to me that we have got into a state of confusion as to the question before us, which may possibly lead, if not to some inconsistency, at least to inconvenience. My noble and gallant Friend who introduced the Amendment before the House stated that he did so without consulting any of those with whom he usually acts politically; and more especially he assured the House that he had had no communication with me with regard to the Amend- 1157 ment. My Lords, I can in the fullest possible manner confirm, so far as I am concerned, the statement of my noble and gallant Friend, for no one was more taken by surprise than I was when, on the last day on which your Lordships sat previous to the Whitsuntide recess, my noble and gallant Friend rose for the purpose of stating that he was about to move an Amendment, when the Commons' Reasons for disagreeing to the Lords' Amendment on the Oaths Bill came to be discussed in this House. In fact, so much was I taken by surprise, that on the Thursday following I wrote to my noble and gallant Friend, suggesting whether he did not think that we should be made acquainted, if not with the precise words, at least with the object of the Amendment. With whom my noble and gallant Friend may have taken counsel I know not; but that Amendment introduces a novel and important principle—one which I think, if it is intended to discuss it in your Lordships' House, should be discussed with full deliberation, after ample notice, and when more opportunity has been given for its consideration by your Lordships than can possibly be the case under the present circumstances, Your Lordships will recollect that it was only on the last day the House sat that my noble and gallant Friend gave notice of his intention to move any Amendment at all, and there are probably a very great number of noble Lords not present in the House who have not the slightest idea of the proposition now for the first time laid before you. Yet it is a proposition which, on constitutional grounds, is of such importance that every Member of your Lordships' House ought to have had time fullest opportunity of considering and making up his mind upon it. With regard to the Reasons that have been advanced by the House of Commons for calling on your Lordships not to insist upon the Amendments which you have made in the Oaths Bill, I can hardly think that any of your Lordships who have on various occasions listened, without being convinced, to the able arguments, to the evident sincerity, to the vigorous and fervid eloquence of my noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Lyndhurst), on whose wonderful powers passing years themselves seem to have no effect whatever—I cannot think that those who have listened to my noble and learned Friend are likely to be materially influenced by the arguments set up, and the Reasons assigned by the House of Commons. 1158 Those who have not been enchanted, nay, not even attracted by the whole body of the case presented to your Lordships—accompanied by all the graces of muscle, flesh, and colour—exhibited by my noble and learned Friend behind me, will hardly he attracted by the dry bones and skeleton form which appears to us from the House of Commons. It is no disparagement to the House of Commons to say that the form which their Reasons have taken possesses nothing particularly attractive, or to say that I have been at a loss to find in those Reasons anything which can be urged upon your Lordships' consideration; for there is nothing in them which has not been stated over and over again, with all the arguments by which they could be enhanced, in the course of the debates which have taken place in reference to this subject. But there is one question, and a very important one, in the Amendment of my noble and gallant Friend which entirely meets the objection contained in the last proposition but one of the Commons. And, my Lords, if the result of this Bill as it now stands would be to impose any fresh disabilities upon persons of the Jewish persuasion beyond those which they now labour under, I am convinced that there is not a single Member of your Lordships' House who would not cordially accept that portion of the Amendment; for certainly an intention to impose such fresh disabilities was totally foreign to your Lordships' desire. But although my noble and gallant Friend has assumed, as stated in the Reasons offered by the Commons, not that the first and third clauses of the Bill do impose new restrictions, but that they are open to the construction that the new oath which the former of them contains would have to he taken, not only in all cases where the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, are now required, but also where the oaths of allegiance and supremacy are at present required, though without the Oath of Abjuration—the result of which construction, if the Bill should pass into law without the 4th clause, would be to impose fresh restrictions; and, although my noble and gallant Friend has stated his concurrence in that Reason assigned by the House of Commons, he has not instanced to your Lordships a single case in which, practically, that result would follow. I know that my noble and learned Friend on the woolsack has given his most earnest attention to this question, and I believe I am stating accurately his view—he will cor- 1159 rect me if I am wrong—when I say that he has arrived at the conclusion that no such result could by any mode of construction be the consequence of the Bill now before the House. I am confirmed in that opinion, not only by my confidence in the great acuteness and in the legal knowledge of my noble and learned Friend on the woolsack, but still more by the omission of any such argument by my noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Lyndhurst), who argued with all the powers of his great intellect against the omission of the 5th clause; and if he had thought that any such consequences would accrue, it would have been impossible that he would have omitted to lay before your Lordships so powerful an argument as that it would impose fresh restrictions which would operate adversely to the liberties of the Jews. But during the whole course of the discussion upon the omission of that clause, my noble and learned Friend—I will not say exhausted his great powers—but he entered on a course of argument which would have exhausted the powers of any other man in a single night, and he said nothing about any additional restrictions being imposed as a consequence of this Bill. If my noble and gallant Friend (the Earl of Lucan), or any of your Lordships can show that such additional restrictions would be imposed upon the Jews by the omission of the 5th clause, I am perfectly ready to concur in the adoption of the first part of my noble and gallant Friend's Amendment, which provides that whenever any of Her Majesty's subjects professing the Jewish religion be required to take the oath appointed by this Act, on any occasion other than an application to be admitted to sit and vote in either House of Parliament, the words "and I make this declaration on the true faith of a Christian," shall be omitted. That, my Lords, covers all possible cases in which additional restrictions can be said to have been created by this Bill. If it can be made to appear that any restrictions are so imposed, I, for one, shall be perfectly ready, and I believe the great majority of your Lordships will be ready, to accede to the insertion of those words of the Amendment of my noble and gallant Friend. What support he may have, or from what side he may expect to obtain it, is unnecessary for me to conjecture; for, singularly enough, in the whole course of this discussion, though we know the general view of the question taken by my noble 1160 and gallant Friend, I have failed to as certain what course is intended to be taken with regard to the Amendments under discussion, either by my noble and gallant Friend, or by the noble Earl on the cross benches (Earl Stanhope). The noble Earl on the cross benches says that he objects to the principle assumed by my noble and gallant Friend; that he has altered, not with respect to the principle of the question, not with respect to the objections which he formerly entertained to the admission of the Jews to sit and vote in Parliament, but that his objection is to the expediency of the course taken by this House; and having made that declaration, and stated that he should vote against my noble and gallant Friend's Amendment, he finishes by saying that, with regard to the vote he shall give on the present question, he places himself entirely in the hands of my noble and learned Friend behind me (Lord Lyndhurst)—and says that he will vote just as my noble and learned Friend advises him—if he advises him to vote for the Motion he will do so, and if against it he will do so. Nothing could be more can did than the statement of the noble Earl on the cross benches, though I was rather sorry to see that his offer was not acceded to, for my noble and learned Friend preserved the most imperturbable gravity, the oracle remained dumb, and politely refused to give a word of advice; so that if we were this moment to go to a division, I should be utterly at a loss to know which way the noble Earl would vote, for he says that he has no preference one way or the other. I understand the noble Earl who has just sat down to maintain altogether the objections which he has formerly expressed to the admission of Jews to Parliament. That is clear enough. But, my Lords, there is a question which has not been materially touched upon by my noble and learned Friend behind me, namely, the difficulty between the two Houses of Parliament. With respect to that question, I should wish to say two or three words, but I can assure your Lordships that I am not about to re-argue the very vexed and wearisome questions which have been so often discussed in your Lordships' House. I will just state what, in addition to the 7th, 8th, and 9th Reasons, are the grounds upon which the House of Commons asks your Lordships to reconsider your decision. The first is,Because the words 'on the true faith of a Christian were originally introduced in the oaths 1161 to be taken by Members of Parliament with a view to bind certain Roman Catholics, and were not intended for the purpose of excluding persons of the Jewish persuasion.That fact has been admitted over and over again, and the answer to it as stereotyped as the fact. It is true the words were not introduced for that purpose, because at that time there was no necessity whatever for introducing any such words, as it was not contemplated by the Legislature that members of the Jewish persuasion should have seats in Parliament. It is only from a comparatively recent period that the Jews have been admitted to the enjoyment of minor privileges in this country, which I for one do not in the slightest degree grudge them; but, in point of fact, up to the present time, the Legislature has uniformly refused to accede to the introduction of members of that persuasion into either this or the other House of Parliament. The second and fourth of these reasons are,Because the exclusion of British subjects from seats in Parliament and offices in the State, on the ground of their religious opinions, is contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience;andBecause the infliction of disabilities upon any class of Her Majesty's subjects, solely on the ground of their conscientious adherence to their faith, savours of persecution, and is totally inconsistent with those principles of religious liberty which, in the case of more powerful communities, have been applied by Parliament with such happy effects.Now, again, the answer to that is, and it has been stated over and over again—that although all civil rights, all securities for property, are the birthright of the people of this country; but that the privilege of sitting in Parliament and filling public employments is not an inherent right to which every individual is entitled, but a right conferred by the Legislature, and with respect to which the Legislature has a perfect right to attach restrictions and conditions. As regards the second Reason—Because the exclusion of British subjects from seats in Parliament and offices in the State, on the ground of their religious opinions, is contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience.It is at variance and inconsistent with the Bill itself, which on the sole ground of their religious opinions excludes the Jews from certain high offices of the State. It is not for me to reconcile these conflicting views of the majority of the House of 1162 Commons, that exclusion from offices of State on the ground of religious opinion is contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience; but nobody can deny that on the face of the Bill there is an exclusion from high offices of the State. Then, it is urged that the House of Commons have on several occasions in late years—Passed Bills for removing the civil disabilities of the Jews, and, having of late years agreed to such Bills by constantly increasing majorities, are convinced that the opinion of their constituents and of the country at large has been irrevocably pronounced in favour of the removal of such disabilities.There is also another Reason stated, namely,The rights of the electors of the United Kingdom have been peculiarly affected by a law which has been construed to prevent the admission to the House of Commons of persons who have been lawfully returned as Members of that House.I confess I must demur to the terms in which that Reason is couched, which, whether intended or not, clearly does convey the idea that it is a hardship, not upon the Jews, who are not able to sit in Parliament, but upon a Christian constituency who think fit to elect a Jew, but who are not at liberty to do so because he cannot sit and vote in the House. In answer to that, the same argument may be used as may be applied to all other disqualifications which have been imposed upon the constituencies in the election of the representatives. If a constituency chooses to elect an alien, a minor, or a man not possessing the proper qualification, you might just as well say that it is an interference with their rights, or that they have just cause of complaint, because a person whom they have elected, not being qualified to sit in the House of Commons, is debarred from doing so. I quite admit that there may be a point raised in favour of the admission of such a person if a majority of the assembly to which he is elected are of opinion that he is perfectly competent to be admitted—nay, more, that it is desirable he should be admitted. I admit that in such a case a constituency may consider itself hardly dealt with by the Legislature, and all the arguments in favour of the admission of Jews on that ground have been ably set forth in the lucid statement of my noble and learned Friend on the present occasion. Then it is urged that for a long term of years the House of 1163 Commons has, by constantly increasing majorities, shown itself in favour of admitting Jews. I am as sensible as any of your Lordships of the inconvenience—I will not say danger—that might result from continued differences between the two Houses of Parliament; and I do not hesitate to say that if, upon this question, without sacrifice of principle, I could conceive a possibility of coming to a reasonable compromise with the House of Commons, I would do so; but I must say that I was rather surprised by one of the arguments used by my noble Friend on the cross benches, who urged you not to press your resistance to the House of Commons, because, he says, it is quite enough to have one subject of difference at a time, and he sees another subject of difference coming up—looming in the distance; therefore, he suggests that it would be better to concede this before you begin to prepare for the other question. My Lords, I cannot but conceive that that is rather a dangerous doctrine. To what does it lead? It is in fact to say to the House of Commons "Persevere long enough, bring forward questions enough, on which to raise differences with the House of Lords, and that House will agree to the principle laid down, and get rid first of one and then another by concession." My Lords, we must never forget that the facilities for bringing forward new questions to be forced on a reluctant House of Lords will be increased just in proportion to the ease with which you yield to the first attempt of the House of Commons, and pass a Bill to which you object. If this were a mere question of policy or expediency, I do not hesitate to say, that after so long a time during which the question has been agitated, and after so determined an expression of the views of the House of Commons, it would be your Lordships' duty—and I believe you would feel it to be your duty—to waive your own opinion of the policy and expediency of the question, and to accept the views so often expressed by the other House. But in saying that I do not at all admit, with the noble Earl on the cross benches, that the increasing majorities of the House of Commons do of necessity indicate an increase of feeling on the part of the country. There have been during the last two years general elections throughout the country; but, by Lords, you will recollect that neither in one nor the other case was 1164 the vexed question, either of the admission or the non-admission of Jews into Parliament ever put forward as a prominent question on the hustings; nor was the attention of the country or of the constituencies ever specially or entirely directed to its consideration. The topics entertained at these elections turned upon quite different political considerations, and upon other questions of public interest and importance, and in the last case considerably and to a very great extent upon questions of personsal and private interest. The fact is, my Lords, that this question has been taken up and dealt with by the House of Commons, not as a religious, but as a political question; and as that particular party that sets itself up for the exclusive vindication of civil and religious liberty has chosen to tack on to the question of the admission of Jews into Parliament the magic words "civil and religious liberty," every man who belongs to that party thinks himself bound to support this Motion; and upon that, and not upon the merits of the question of the admission or non-admission of the Jews to the House of Commons, have the decision of the House of Commons turned, and these increasing majorities been obtained. My Lords, I wish I could say I thought that there was on this subject any very strong or decided political opinion, throughout the community. I believe, on the contrary, that the country is extremely apathetic on the question. No doubt, my Lords, there are a minority, a small number of very zealous persons, and more especially among the clergy, who are earnestly and anxiously sensitive on the question, and who think, and perhaps sincerely so, that it would be the destruction of this country if this principle were to be admitted. On the other hand there were some persons some half dozen gentlemen, who were anxious that they, as professing the Hebrew religion, should not be debarred from sitting in the House of Commons when once elected by the constituencies; but, my Lords, I do not believe myself, on the part of the Jewish body at large, that there is the slightest interest felt for the admission of such persons into the two Houses of Parliament. It is a very remarkable circumstance, my Lords, that from the Jews, as a body, neither to this House, nor to the other House, I will not say that there have not been any, but there have been no very considerable number of petitions, and no very great expression of opinion. No doubt there are several very 1165 estimable gentlemen—gentlemen who discharge all the duties of private and social life, and all the duties of their stations, and those functions they have been called upon by the law to perform, with infinite credit to themselves and advantage to society—gentlemen whose presence—apart from their political or other opinions, could be nothing but an ornament and advantage to the House of Commons—no doubt they and their personal friends are exceedingly anxious on this subject; but, my Lords, with these exceptions, and with regard to that portion of the religious community in this country who are very much interested in the matter in the other sense, I believe that the introduction or non-introduction of the Jews into Parliament is a matter I might almost say of supreme indifference. And now, my Lords, at the same time, as I have already stated, I am not at all indifferent to the inconvenience of a continued or long-protracted difference of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament on this topic. I wish, as I said before, that I could see my way to effectually removing it. I do not think, and I trust the House of Commons never will be so far forgetful of that which they owe the constitution of this country as to venture on the course of proceedings, which has been held out or suggested; I think myself their good sense would prevent them from acting on an unconstitutional and illegal proposition. Should they, however, adopt the course of, by a Resolution of their own, breaking through the law of the land, it will not be with this House that the House of Commons will have to deal. The House of Commons would in that case be brought into a most painful and dangerous collision with the courts of law of this country, and, my Lords, whatever the issue of that collision might be, the consequences would be most vital and injurious to the country. Therefore, my Lords, in persisting in a continued resistance on this question—of longer or of less duration—whether, in fact, you are prepared firmly to maintain your opposition on the ground of principle to the proposition, or whether you incline to any modification, or to make any arrangement with the House of Commons—of this, my Lords, I am firmly persuaded that the House of Commons will never do themselves and the country such an injury as to take a course so unconstitutional and so impolitic. Then, my Lords, the question arises, is there any solution of this ques- 1166 tion to be found. My Lords, my noble and gallant Friend brings forward an Amendment, which although it is open to very grave and serious objection, I should not advise your Lordships absolutely and hastily, or without full and fair consideration, to pass by; but again, upon the other hand, I do advise your Lordships not hastily and without full consideration of the consequences, or looking at it only as an Amendment to the Bill sent up from the House of Commons, to decide a question of the deepest and most vital importance, not only as regards its immediate results, but with regard to the great principles embodied in and calculated to become developed by those results. My Lords, it has been stated, and the noble and learned Lord at the table interrupted the noble and gallant Earl who introduced this question, by stating that the course of proceeding by Resolution was not unconstitutional, provided the Resolution was founded on a previous Act of Parliament; and, my Lords, I am not prepared altogether to differ with the enunciation of the principles so laid down by my noble and learned Friend. At the same time, my Lords, I think that, before you adopt such a proposition, you ought to weigh very seriously and very carefully the precedent you would establish on the subject. It may be, my Lords, and I think that it is a very obvious and very plausible solution of the difficulty, and I do not say that I am prepared to reject it without fuller consideration, because the question is perfectly novel, and I should like to have more time for weighing a proposition of so much importance. The question, my Lords, is, whether this House shall pass an Amendment on this Bill which will give the House of Commons the power of doing that by Resolution which confessedly they have had no power of doing hitherto. But it involves a still further question—it involves a question as to whether it may be expedient to leave to this or to the other House of Parliament this course of proceeding by Resolution, and which might terminate in their coming to two opposite conclusions as regards the admission of their Members. My Lords, there is something plausible in saying—and I do not say that there is not something sound, and I do not say it should not be the basis of some compromise between the two Houses—that, by regulations to be introduced into the Act of Parliament, each House may lay down, within certain limits, restrictions and regulations 1167 upon the strength of which Members may be introduced into either House, each laying down a rule with regard to its own House, and the one not interfering with the other; but then, my Lords, I think that these limits must be very carefully and very closely defined; and however closely and however carefully defined, we cannot shut our eyes to the danger of the precedent that would be introduced by enabling each House to legislate for itself by Resolutions which it might one day pass, and which another day it might rescind, and which might consequently cause it to be constantly altering its policy, organization, and construction. My Lords, my noble and gallant Friend, in his Amendment, goes to a very great extent; because I could have understood far better my noble and gallant Friend's Amendment if he had proposed to provide that it shall be competent for either House, if they shall see fit in the case of any person—for I do not see how it can be fairly restricted to the Jews if you once adopt the principle—who has been duly elected, presenting himself at the table, professing himself willing to take the prescribed oaths, but declaring that the words "upon the true faith of a Christian" would not be binding upon his conscience—and that they should, on such a representation, be empowered to omit the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and to allow a substantive oath to be taken in the form which would be binding on the conscience of the parties. Though I do not pledge myself, my Lords, in support of that opinion, I think that there is much to be said in favour of it, and that it is a plausible and sound argument to be introduced; and if it were possible to come to a conclusion, it would at last, I hope, remove a very painful subject of difference and collision between the two Houses. But my noble and gallant Friend's Amendment goes much further with reference to the words "on the true faith of a Christian," and proposes to make it competent for either House to modify or alter such oath in such manner as may seem fit to either House. Now, my Lords, that is a much more extensive principle. I am not prepared hastily, and at this moment, to adopt even the modified proposition. While I shall undoubtedly vote against the latter part of my noble and learned Friend's Amendment, I shall be quite ready to support the first part of it if it be really thought necessary; but I desire to reserve to myself, and to those with whom I act, full 1168 leisure for mature consideration on a future occasion, and for the purpose of considering, deliberately and carefully, whether any compromise can be entered into, or such a principle adopted, as would have the effect of removing a most unfortunate and, I am afraid, a permanent difference of opinion between the two Houses of the Legislature. I regret that I am compelled now to vote against the latter portion of my noble and gallant Friend's Amendment; but, not having seen any reason to chage the views I expressed upon former occasions, and not feeling myself justified in calling upon your Lordships to sacrifice your deliberate convictions and to allow the constitution of this as well as the other House to be altered at will in this manner, I am with reluctance bound to take that course, and to ask your Lordships to insist upon the Amendment you have introduced into the Bill which was sent to us by the House of Commons.
§ EARL STANHOPE
explained that he had not stated, as attributed to him by the noble Earl, that there was only one subject of difference arising out of this question between the House of Lords and Commons.
§ EARL GREY
said, he felt disappointed at the course which the noble Earl (the Earl of Derby) proposed to take; but at the same time he derived some consolation from one portion of his speech, in which he shadowed forth a mode of arriving at a compromise upon this long-vexed subject. For himself, he (Earl Grey) was so anxious that the question should be settled that he would concur in any compromise, and he would suggest to the noble Earl that, having adopted the views he had expressed, it would be very inconvenient to proceed to an immediate vote upon the Amendment of the noble and gallant Earl, or upon the question of insisting upon their Amendments. He conceived there would be manifest inconvenience in deciding upon those important points by a single vote. If they were to legislate in that manner, then it would, he concurred with the noble Earl, be better to proceed by means of a distinct and separate Bill, upon which they would have an opportunity of arriving at a deliberate judgment. It would, however, he thought, be highly inconvenient that their Lordships should in the meantime come to a premature decision upon the Amendment of the noble and gallant Earl opposite, or should send down the measure under discussion to the House of Commons 1169 with any material alteration. That being the case, he would suggest that the best course for the adoption of the House would be that the consideration of the Reasons given by the other House of Parliament for disagreeing from their Lordships' Amendments in the Bill should be postponed for a fortnight, and that before the expiration of that time the expediency of introducing a Bill founded upon the principle of the Amendment of the noble Earl opposite should be duly weighed; and he should, in the hope that their Lordships would concur with him in approving that course, move that the further consideration of the Reasons of the House of Commons for disagreeing from their Lordships' Amendments be deferred for a fortnight.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, that while he was prepared to admit it was desirable that such a question as that which this House was engaged in discussing should, if brought forward at all, be introduced in the shape of a separate Bill, yet that he deemed the proper course for their Lordships to take upon the present occasion would be to insist on the Amendments which they had made in the measure under their notice, and to send it back again in that shape to the House of Commons, which would thus be afforded an opportunity of suspending its further progress until it had been ascertained what steps could be taken with reference to the introduction of that separate Bill to which the noble Earl opposite alluded. Although, therefore, he was perfectly ready to defer those minor considerations connected with the subject until their Lordships should have more leisure to discuss them, yet he was not prepared to waive their Lordships' right to insist on their Amendments, inasmuch as if they were not insisted upon the Bill admitting Jews to a seat in the Legislature would in effect have passed both Houses of Parliament, and subsequent proceedings in reference to the question would be rendered useless. If, upon the other hand, their Lordships were to insist upon the Amendments and the Bill were sent back to the House of Commons, they would then have an opportunity of judging whether that House looked upon the question of the admission of the Jews to Parliament to be so intimately bound up with the measure as to justify them in rejecting it altogether.
§ EARL GREY
said, he thought the most conciliatory course to adopt, and that which was best calculated to effect the compro- 1170 mise which the noble Earl was anxious to see brought about, would be not to insist upon their Lordships' Amendments—but to allow them to lie over—not for three months, or for any period that would be tantamount to indicating an acquiescence in the Reasons of the House of Commons—but for a fortnight, at the end of which time their Lordships would be in a position to determine whether a separate Bill should or should not be introduced. If such a Bill should be brought in, then the right course to take with respect to the measure before them would, he thought, be to set it aside altogether, and not to send it back to the House of Commons in a shape which could not fail to be objectionable to them, and which could serve no purpose save that of creating a feeling of irritation which it was desirable as far as possible to avoid.
§ The noble EARL then moved "That the further Debate be adjourned to this Day Fortnight."
§ THE EARL OF ELLESMERE
was understood to express his concurrence in the wish that the further consideration of the question should be postponed, and to suggest the introduction of a measure by which, in his opinion, a compromise on the point at issue might be effected. That measure would simply contain a clause enabling Jews to take a seat in the House of Commons, and another which should provide that no one but a person professing Christianity should be entitled to sit in their Lordships' House.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he merely rose to urge upon the Government to accept the course proposed by the noble Earl near him, but with this exception, that he would not contemplate the entire abandonment of the Bill. It should be recollected that it was not a Bill merely providing for the admission of Jews into Parliament, but one revising their whole system of oaths, respecting the revision of which there was a universal concurrence of opinion. Looking at the entire question and the spirit that had been evinced by both sides of the House, he thought the question was, whether some compromise would not be desirable, in order to avoid those serious collisions on the question that had occurred between both Houses, and the still more possibly serious danger of a collision between one house of the Legislature and the courts of law. Let the further consideration of the question be postponed for longer than a fortnight if 1171 required, and he had no doubt that a Bill might be introduced, and the opinion of the House taken, that would lead to a satisfactory adjustment of existing differences of opinion.
said, he had in some measure a personal interest in preventing the probable collision between the House of Commons and the courts of law which it was contended was likely to result from the rejection of the measure before their Lordships; and that, although he should not under those circumstances shrink for a moment from the discharge of his duty, yet he could not help regarding, without the utmost apprehension, the consequences to the public peace which might flow from such a collision. He should, therefore, earnestly appeal to the noble Earl at the head of the Government to assent to the proposed postponement of the question. It had been said that this was a question to be considered with a view to peace and harmony, and if the present opportunity were neglected it might never arise again; and if the Bill was sent down as it was before to the Commons, and they refused to agree to their terms, and if their Lordships continued to insist, seeing the spirit and temper by which the Commons were actuated, there would be commenced a series of intemperate measures on their Amendments, and no one could tell what would be the consequences. He was not surprised at its being asserted that a Resolution of the Houses of Parliament against the law of the land would be a nullity, and that it would be disregarded; but if there should be a Resolution sanctioned by Act of Parliament it would be perfectly constitutional. He would give no opinion on the Amendment of the noble and gallant Earl, but would conclude by saying, in relation to the entire subject, "now is the time for salvation," and he hoped their Lordships would agree to some compromise.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
entirely agreed with the proposal of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey). He begged leave to add, that upon so very difficult and, he would even say, dangerous a question, every step ought to be taken in a spirit of conciliation. He thought they ought to adjourn the discussion for a fortnight, in order to give a full opportunity to carry into effect the object of the noble Earl.
said, there was another reason why he joined heartily in the appeal of his noble Friend opposite, 1172 and that was the power which the House of Commons had, according to the constitution, without in the slightest degree coming into collision with this House or the courts of law, of regulating their own procedure respecting the right of persons to serve on Committees before taking the oaths at the table. Such a power had been exercised in this case, for Baron Rothschild had, by a large majority of the House, and upon the recommendation of a high law officer of the Crown, been appointed a member of the very Committee which had carried on the Conferences between the two Houses. If some solution of the question, therefore, were not now arrived at, the consequence would be, that not merely Jews, but all other persons against whose sitting in Parliament the Legislature had provided—the Catholics without taking the protective oaths—might sit and vote upon Committees of the House, how important soever. He hoped that, meeting the conciliatory disposition of their Lordships, the other House would do what it was his deliberate opinion they ought to do—render it impossible for any person who had not taken the oaths to serve on Committees. Such a conclusion would, he thought, be all the more facilitated by an adjournment.
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
denied that the Amendment of the noble Earl would produce harmony between the two branches of the Legislature. One of two things would ensue. Either the other House of Parliament would have the power to expunge the words "on the true faith of a Christian," or it would not. If it had that power, the Jews would be admitted to the House of Commons, while, if their Lordships retained their opinions, they would be excluded from this House. Would this be harmony? He implored their Lordships to consider that they were now asked to tamper with the constitution of this country. He implored the noble Earl at the head of the Government to stand firm in his resistance to the Amendment. Any such proposal ought to be brought forward in the shape of a Bill, so that there might be ample time to consider it; but at present the House had been taken completely by surprise by the Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF MALMESBURY
My Lords, I have never trespassed on your Lordships' time upon this question, although I have invariably given my vote in accordance with strong opinions which I still entertain. From the moment the 1173 Government was formed, my noble Friend behind me gave his colleagues full permission to vote as they pleased upon this subject. It is therefore not a Cabinet question, and I am as entitled to give my free and honest opinion upon it as if I were an independent Member of this House. Now, I have just said, that I have not altered my opinion with respect to the main point at issue. I object, as I always have objected, to change the constitution and admit the Jews into Parliament, I will not trouble your Lordships with the reasons on which this opinion is grounded—they have been much better explained by others; but I am bound to confess that I have for some time thought we were approaching one of those important and solemn Moments in our political history, when the principle for which we have so long battled is not all we must consider, but that we must look, however low that ground may be, to the facts of the case, and to the circumstances of the time. It is impossible not to feel persuaded that sooner or later—and rather soon than late—this question will be settled by the admission of Jews to Parliament. That is my conviction, although I have not changed my mind as to the principle involved and the merits of the discussion. What course, then, is it my duty as an independent Member of Parliament to take? I desire that the contest which has been carried on for so long a time between the two Houses should close in a manner satisfactory to both. I wish the noble Earl (the Earl of Lucan) had given us more time to consider the question he has raised; but I have heard his proposal to-night with anything but a feeling of opposition. I do not say that I am prepared to vote for it this evening, because I think it is placed before us in a very crude form; but I think his Amendment contains elements of a compromise between the two Houses. While, however, I entertain this view and feel that the circumstances of the time oblige us to look forward to a compromise as something almost inevitable, I cannot help saying, for the sake of my own opinions, and those of many noble Friends with whom I have heretofore had the honour of acting, that we ought to have some more security than appears to be given by the Amendment. I think it is the duty of the House of Lords, having lately so positively declared their opinions by the largest majority which, I believe, has ever been given here on this question, to maintain, and let the country understand plainly that they maintain, their 1174 opinions as to the principle at issue; while at the same time they are not unwilling to come to any reasonable compromise with the House of Commons which may not offend their conscientious convictions. I think I see the element of such a compromise in the Amendment—or in something like it—of my noble and gallant Friend. I think the most straightforward course to adopt, and that most consistent with the dignity and duty of this House, would be to proceed with the question as we at first expected to proceed with it, and that the House seould decide whether it will or will not adhere to the Amendments. When we have decided that point we, on this side of the House, are at least safe so far as our wishes and political intentions are concerned; but that does not prevent us from seeing a reasonable compromise proposed either from the opposite side or from this side of the House—I care not which—in the shape of a Bill which we may entertain as soon as it may suit your Lordships' convenience. For these reasons—believing the course I have suggested would be the most safe, most straightforward, and most honest we can follow—I hope the noble Earl opposite will not press his Motion for the adjournment, and that your Lordships will decide whether you will or will not adhere to the Amendments you sent down to the House of Commons. I only express my own individual opinion, but it is my hope and my earnest expectation that some noble Lord, when he has considered fully and maturely the best mode of compromise, may bring the subject before us in the shape of a Bill.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, I have only to say that I have felt considerable gratification, in common, I believe, with a large majority of your Lordships, at the conciliatory tone of the two noble Earls opposite in treating this subject. All that now remains for the House to consider is, I think, whether it would be better to adjourn the debate until we have had an opportunity of coming to some arrangement with regard to this very important and critical question, or whether we should at once proceed to give a decided opinion upon the Bill, sending it back to the House of Commons in a shape in which they would not accede it. I must say I think the latter course would diminish all the grace of our proceeding, and at the same time might materially risk the object we desire to accomplish. I cordially concur with the noble Lord 1175 opposite in his desire to effect some satisfactory arrangement on this subject; and if you send back two Bills to the House of Commons—negativing that which you disapprove in the present measure, but along with it a Bill embodying the views which you support—you will then pursue a course that will strengthen your position. If, however, you strike a hostile blow now, be assured that the House of Commons will, in their turn, think they strengthen their position, not by compromise, but by pursuing a similarly hostile course. With the view of merely coming to a conclusion satisfactory to the House as well as to the public I appeal to the noble Earl not to force us to a division on this occasion.
§ THE EARL OF POWIS
also recommended an adjournment of the debate. It was of the greatest importance that nothing should occur to mar the compromise at which he hoped they might arrive. It was of the greatest importance that they should, if possible, be unanimous, and that on a religious question of this kind, any measure to which they might agree should have the assent of the right rev. Bench. If the debate was adjourned for a fortnight they would see in what mode the proposed enactments with respect to the Jews were to be carried out; while if they had a division on the question of the adjournment, it would tend very much to embarrass the question and to prevent their coming to an harmonious discussion.
THE EARL OF LUCAN
was understood to express his readiness to withdraw his Amendment, and his hope that a Bill embodying its objects would be introduced by some noble Lord.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I wish I could altogether acquiesce in the proposition of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) for the adjournment of this question for a fortnight. I think, however, that an acquiescence in such adjournment might be liable to great misconstruction and misconception. My opinion is that, in the first instance, we ought, as Members of this House, to declare our adherence to our own views with regard to the merits of the proposition before us, leaving it subsequently to this and the other House of Parliament to consider whether, consistently with the maintenance of those opinions and principles, it would be possible to introduce any other measure. I think if we were to postpone the consideration of the whole question for a fortnight we should leave it in much more difficulty and embarrass- 1176 ment than that in which it is at present involved; whereas, if me now insist upon our Amendments, striking out of the Bill all that relates to the oath proposed to be taken by the Jews, and then leave either House of Parliament perfectly free to introduce a separate measure with regard to the Jews, or to non-Christians—which would extend beyond the Jews—we should entirely separate the two qustions and adhere to our own opinions with respect to the present Bill. If we send the present Bill down to the House of Commons it will be perfectly competent to them to hang it up until they see what further measures may be taken, and what is the result of any Bill that may be—I do not say will be—introduced in this or the other House. On the best consideration I have been able to give to the question—one which has come upon us rather by surprise—I think we should be sacrificing the principles and opinions of this House if we did not insist upon the Amendments we have made, at the same time intimating that we shall be ready to give attentive and dispassionate consideration to any Bill which may hereafter be introduced on the subject.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents 68; Not-Contents 80: Majority 12.
§ Resolved in the Negative.
THE EARL OF LUCAN
said, that as it appeared to be the general feeling of the House that it would be better, in reference to the object of his Amendment, to proceed by way of specific Bill, he begged to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.1177
|Cleveland, D.||Powis, E.|
|Devonshire, D.||Saint Germans, E.|
|Newcastle, D.||Spencer, E.|
|Norfolk, D.||Stanhope, E.|
|Somerset, D.||Wicklow, E.|
|Camden, M.||Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen)|
|Townshend, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)|
|Albemarle, E.||Sydney, V.|
|Belmore, E.||Torrington, V.|
|Carnarvon, E.||Derry and Raphoe, Bp.|
|Chichester, E.||London, Bp.|
|Essex, E.||Arundell of Wardour, L.|
|Fitzwilliam, E.||Audley, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Belper, L.|
|Granville, E.||Bolton, L.|
|Grey, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)|
|Munster, E.||Brougham and Vaux, L.|
|Calthorpe, L.||Monteagle of Brandon, L.|
|Campbell, L.||Overstone, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Panmure, L.|
|Clandeboye, L. (L. Dufferin and Claneboye.)||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) [Teller.]|
|Cranworth, L.||Ravensworth, L.|
|Dartrey, L. (L. Cremorne||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Skene, L. (E. Fife.)|
|De Tabley, L.||Somerhill, L. (M. Clanricarde.)|
|Foley, L. [Teller.]||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Leigh, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Lyndhurst, L.||Suffield, L.|
|Macaulay, L.||Truro, L.|
|Mont Eagle, L. (M. Sligo)||Vivian, L.|
|Canterbury, Achbp.||Lifford, V.|
|Chelmsford, L. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Cashel, &c., Bp.|
|Buckingham and Chandos, D.||Chichester, Bp.|
|Manchester, D. [Teller.]||Ripon, Bp.|
|Marlborough, D.||Rochester, Bp.|
|Northumberland, D.||Abinger, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Bagot, L.|
|Abercorn, M.||Berner's, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Boston, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Braybrooke, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Brodrick, L. (V. Middleton).|
|Amherst, E.||Clements, L. (E. Leitrim.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Clifton, L. (E. Durnley.)|
|Cardigan, E.||Clonbrock, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Colchester, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Colville of Culross, L. [Teller.]|
|Desart, E.||Crewe, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. of Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Crofton, L.|
|De Ros L.|
|Effingham, E.||Feversham, L.|
|Erne, E.||Grantley, L.|
|Graham, E. (D. Montrose.)||Kilmaine, L.|
|Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)|
|Ilchester, E.||Moore, L. (M. Drogheda.)|
|Mayo, E.||Raglan L.|
|Nelson, E.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Orkney, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Romney, F.||Scarsdale, L.|
|Talbot, E.||Sheffield, L. (E. Sheffield.)|
|Wilton, E.||Sondes, L.|
|Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)||Stewart, of Garlies, L. (E. Galloway.)|
|De Vesci, V.||Templemore, L.|
|Dungannon, V.||Tenterden, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Walsingham, L.|
|Hill, V.||Wynford, L.|
§ LORD LYNDHURST
My Lords, I rise to move that your Lordships do not insist on your Amendments to the Oaths Bill, and I will state very shortly the rea- 1178 sons on which I rest that Motion. It must be quite obvious to any noble Lord who adverts to the course which has been taken on this Bill, that the House of Commons never could, consistently with its own conduct, adopt your Lordships' Amendment omitting the fifth clause of the Bill; because the effect of that Amendment is to place the Jews in a situation much more unfavourable than that in which they stand at present. If this fifth clause be struck out of the Bill, and the Bill should so pass into law, that would be effected which never hitherto has been done and has never been attempted to be done—namely, the exclusion of persons of the Jewish religion by a direct act of legislation, intentionally directed against them, from the right to sit and vote in Parliament; whereas at present they are supposed to be excluded—I say, deliberately, supposed to be excluded, for the question has never been finally decided, but is still depending before your Lordships House as a court of appeal,—by a misapplication, as the other House contends, and I also contend, of an enactment which was never intended to be directed against persons of the Jewish religion, but which was intended for a different purpose, and directed against a different class of persons. It is quite obvious, therefore, that the House of Commons never could assent to your Lordships' Amendments. The question that it is by a misapplication of an enactment that persons of the Jewish religion are excluded from Parliament has been repeatedly discussed, and I do not now intend to revive the discussion; but I cannot forbear adverting to the very terms of the Act of Parliament which is made use of for the purpose of excluding those persons from Parliament. The Act is the 1st of George 1., c. 13; and by that Act and by the oaths therein set forth the Jews are excluded from the right to sit and vote in either House of Parliament. But your Lordships will find in that very Act a most extraordinary clause, which is to this effect,—that any two justices of the peace may summon any persons they think proper before them for the purpose of administering the Oath of Abjuration; and if the person so summoned neglect or refuse to attend, then a return is to be made to quarter sessions, and judgment will be pronounced on the person so refusing or neglecting to attend. But what is that judgment? They are to be adjudged as "Popish recusants convict;" so that a 1179 person of the Jewish religion might under that Act be adjudged to be a Christian of the Roman Catholic persuasion, and a bigoted Christian of that persuasion. Can it be contended for a moment that the Act of Parliament was intended to apply to persons of the Jewish persuasion? It is a monstrous and absurd position. Let me go further, and direct your Lordships' attention to the manner in which this Jew, who is converted into a Christian and a Catholic of the most obstinate character, is to be relieved from the penalties to which be is subject. He is to be relieved by attending regularly divine service in the church of the parish in which he lives. So that this Jew is in the first instance converted into a Christian, then into a Roman Catholic of the most obstinate character, and then into a Protestant. Is it possible that any reasonable man can contend that the Act was intended to apply to persons of the Jewish religion? The proposition is too monstrous. I will now make a few observations for the purpose of showing that members of the Jewish religion will, if this Bill passes into law without the fifth clause, be placed in a worse position than that in which they now stand. The construction put by many persons on the first clause (I am not now saying whether it is the right construction or not) is this, that if the new oath, as stated in the first clause, is to be substituted for the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, which are now "respectively required to be taken and subscribed," the effect of the word "respectively," used in the clause and repeated in the third clause, would be that the new oath is not only to be substituted for the old oaths when they are required to be taken conjointly, but is to be substituted for the oaths on occasions when they are separately administered. So that the oath in this Bill must be substituted for the Oath of Allegiance and also for the Oath of Supremacy; and where a party was formerly bound to take only the Oath of Allegiance he will now be bound to take the oath set forth in this Bill. What will be the consequence of such a construction of the Bill? There are many persons holding offices for which they are required only to take the Oath of Allegiance. In order to be admitted to practise as a solicitor or attorney a person need take the Oath of Allegiance only-; and many Jews, having no objection to take the Oath of Allegiance, practise as solicitors and attorneys. But if this new oath is to be substituted for the 1180 Oath of Allegiance, Jews would be debarred from practising in those capacities. I do not say myself that this is a certain construction of the Bill; but it is a construction concurred in by many grave and learned persons; and what injury would be inflicted on persons of the Jewish persuasion by making it doubtful whether they could practise as solicitors and attorneys, or hold offices for which the taking the Oath of Allegiance is alone necessary? Your Lordships will therefore see how impossible it is for the House of Commons to agree to your Lordships' Amendment omitting the fifth clause, if the effect of it is to render the situation of the Jewish people much worse than it is at present. The House of Commons would stultify itself by adopting an Amendment of such a nature. If this Bill is not passed into a law—for it must inevitably be lost if we insist upon our Amendments—where shall we stand? We must revert to the present Oath of Abjuration. Who is there that does not feel the strongest repugnance to taking that oath? Every Member of this and of the other House of Parliament, every candidate for public office, must take this oath. Invoking the Deity in the most solemn manner—speaking in the presence of Almighty God—I declare upon my conscience that no descendant of the Pretender—knowing that there is no such person in existence, or by possibility can ever come into existence—has any right or title to the Crown of these realms. What a solemn mockery! Under the same sanction I abjure and renounce the opinions of non-existing persons; and, thirdly, I declare this according to the ordinary meaning of the words, without qualification or mental reservation, invoking my character as a Christian to the truth of what I have said. What a scandalous proceeding is this! and we are told by the third Commandment not to take unnecessary oaths! I do not say that the party who is compelled by the Legislature to take such an oath is guilty of a sin, but I do say that your Lordships in maintaining the oath when you have the power to abolish it place yourselves in a very grave position. Let us consider the state of this question at the present moment. A gentleman of the Jewish religion is capable of being elected to the House of Commons, and in fact Baron Rothschild has been returned to three successive Parliaments. He is a Member of the House, he has a right to vote in the choice of a Speaker, and he has, I believe, 1181 exercised that right. He is capable of sitting on Committees of the House of Commons; nay, even of acting as chairman. The most important questions of a constitutional and administrative nature may come before such Committees. Baron Rothschild may decide those questions by his casting vote as chairman, and thus exercise great influence upon the Government of the country. But the important functions which he has a right to discharge do not end here. He may come up to this House for the purpose of managing a Conference, and may argue the most important questions with the Members of your Lordships' House; and he may present petitions from his constituents and others. All these important duties may now be performed by a Member of the Jewish persuasion. Well, Baron Rothschild says he is willing to take the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration, either separately or conjointly, in the manner most binding upon his conscience. "No," we say, "you shall not do that; we insist upon your taking the oaths in a form that is not binding upon your conscience—in a form that you cannot accept, because it is inconsistent with the principles of your religion." How is it possible for us to persevere in such a monstrous absurdity? For twenty years and in five different Parliaments the House of Commons has pressed upon us a change of the oaths; but we have invariably rejected the Bills sent up to us for that purpose. How long is this state of things to continue? Where is it to terminate? I feel much anxiety upon that point, and many noble Lords have communicated to me, what has been confirmed to-night, that there is a general desire among your Lordships to put an end to the existing state of things. I beg to state with all submission, deference, and respect to your Lordships, that when you differ continuously from the other House of Parliament with respect to any great measure—particularly where that measure affects the constituencies of the country, where it relates to popular rights, where it is connected with the principles of religious liberty—you must take care that you rest your opposition upon solid grounds, upon grounds which are impregnable, and that reason, argument, and justice are strongly with you. Can your Lordships say as much on the present occasion? Do you think the arguments against the Jews are so strong and overwhelming, and the justice of the case so manifestly in your 1182 favour, that you are safe in persevering in the course you have adopted? Something has been said as to popular opinion. In dealing with a question of this kind we ought not only to be satisfied that reason and authority are with us, but to feel that we are backed by public opinion—meaning not the opinion of the rabble, but the sound understanding and intellect of informed persons, and how are we to ascertain this state of public opinion? The only constitutional mode of ascertaining the state of public opinion is to look at the representatives of the people in the other House of Parliament. The Members of the House of Commons speak the voice of their constituencies, and the constituencies sympathize with the rest of their neighbours. I do not rely upon a single Parliament, which may have been elected under some particular excitement, but when I find Parliament after Parliament, and in this case five successive Parliaments, pushing forward measures of this kind by increasing majorities, I say that you could not have a better test of what public opinion is than what I have now stated. But it may be said that we cannot depart from our course without compromising our dig-pity. If we are to stickle upon our dignity, and the other House is to do the same, legislation must come to a standstill. True dignity must have as its companions reason and prudence—above all, prudence. What is the view foreigners sometimes take of our legislative body? They say we are three independent Powers, and must be in continual conflict with each other, all our proceedings ending in confusion. The argument is fair and plausible; but how are these evils obviated? Why, by our training. We are trained to conciliation, to the necessity of forbearance, to entertain mutual respect for each other; and it is in consequence of acting upon these principles that the machinery works well to a beneficial and happy result. I beg to impress these principles and opinions strongly upon your Lordships. I will not, because it has already been done, direct your Lordships' attention to the particular Reasons assigned by the other House of Parliament for disagreeing with our Amendments. Two of those Reasons have already received considerable discussion. Of the seven remaining Reasons five are statements of facts—facts of the utmost importance, of a very grave character, bearing strongly upon this question, and forcibly pressing 1183 the adoption of this measure. None of these facts can by possibility be disputed; they are decisive in their effect, and in their result. But, my Lords, there are two of these Reasons in point of principle to which my noble Friend near me has adverted. The second Reason is, that to exclude persons from seats in the Legislature, and from offices, on account of their religious opinions, is contrary to the great principles of freedom of conscience. I think "freedom of conscience" are the words used. At all events, that is the substance of the Reason. Now, there are some persons who seem to think that if you tolerate those who differ from you in religion, you do all that can be required. But that is a very narrow view of the subject. It is not the view which I have ever taken, or to which the persons who have advocated the great principles of religious liberty have ever acceded. What I said on a former evening, and what I now repeat, is, that you ought not to exclude persons from offices or from seats in the Legislature on account of their religious opinions, unless those opinions are such as to render them incapable of properly performing the duties incident to the positions to which they aspire, That is the great principle to which I adhere, and the truth which I am persuaded cannot be questioned. The fifth of the Commons' Reasons is, to the effect that to exclude persons from seats in the Legislature or from office, on account of their religious opinions, savours of persecution. My Lords, I adopt that statement. Try it by this test:—If you impose a pecuniary fine on account of religious opinions, every man allows that that is religious persecution; but what is the imposition of a fine in comparison with excluding a man from all the advantages of high position, of office, of opportunities of distinguishing himself, and of pursuing the great objects of lawful ambition? and if a pecuniary fine is to be considered, and fairly considered, a breach of religious freedom, and an instance of religious persecution, far more so are those exclusions to which I have just adverted. I read a few years ago a speech delivered in the other House of Parliament twenty years ago by a learned Friend of mine, in which this argument is stated with a felicity of illustration and a force of argument characteristic of his great genius. He (Lord Macaulay) is now a Member of your Lordships' House, and has been present during this debate. Whether he is now in the 1184 House I cannot say, but if he is I am sure that we should all rejoice to receive on this occasion the first fruits of his advancement, founded on such great, such extraordinary talents. I will not go into the general argument; but when I hear it said, as I have done lately, that those who support this measure are persons of revolutionary principles and character—French revolutionists, as it is called—my answer is simply this—"Look at the list of eminent individuals, distinguished statesmen, men of high character and great constitutional principles, who have for twenty years advocated this cause;" and when I further hear it stated, as it was upon the same occasion and by the same individual, that those who supported this measure must be considered as destitute of religious principle, as persons indifferent to religion, I make precisely the same answer, and appeal, in answer to these allegations, to those pious, religious, and highly moral individuals; and I may add also, to those most Christian members of the right rev. Bench by whom this Bill has been supported. My Lords, I do not regret these charges. They appear to be the last struggles of a desperate and expiring cause, and as such I hail them with pleasure. For these reasons, which I have perhaps stated at too much length, I shall move that we do not insist upon our Amendments, I must, however, observe, which I have omitted to do, that the Amendments to which my Motion refers are twofold—the Amendment which strikes out the fifth, and that which strikes out the eighth and last clause. Now, the latter of these Amendments is of a singular character, because, owing to the clause, no person of the Jewish religion could hold any of the high offices which are mentioned in it; that section is now struck out by my noble Friend; and what is the result? That members of the Jewish persuasion may be lawfully and constitutionally placed in almost every one of those high offices. One of them is that of Commissioner of the Great Seal. A Commissioner of the Great Seal may sit upon the woolsack where my noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor) is now sitting; and thus an eminent lawyer may, as such a Commissioner, occupy that seat. So inconsistent is the course of the Amendments which have been adopted by your Lordships. Another extraordinary fact is, that although by these Amendments you place the members of the Jewish persuasion in a worse situation than 1185 that in which they now stand, you have declared this to be "a Bill for the relief of persons professing the Jewish religion," not condescending to go through the Bill for the purpose of rendering all its parts reconcilable. For these reasons, therefore, I move that this House do not insist upon the Amendments to the Bill which has been sent up by the Commons.
§ Moved, Not to insist on the Amendments made by this House to which the Commons disagree.
LORD DE ROS
asked whether on any great emergencies the Jews had ever appeared in arms for the defence of this country? Why, when England was menaced with invasion, did not the Jews imitate the example of the lawyers and other professions and establish volunteer or fencible corps among themselves? Why were they not to be found in Her Majesty's ships and in her army? The fact was that the Jew always looked upon himself as an alien in the country in which he dwelt, and that was a good reason why he should not be admitted to Parliament.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, having proposed the Amendments with which the Commons have disagreed, your Lordships will naturally expect that I should offer a few observations in answer to the Reasons advanced by that House to induce your Lordships not to insist upon them. I most deeply regret that I am directly opposed to my noble and learned Friend who has supported the Reasons of the Commons with that weight and eloquence with which he always commands the attention of your Lordships, and I certainly must join to that of my noble Friend at the head of the Government my praise of the wonderful intellect the exhibition of which your Lordships have heard with so much admiration and delight, and which is now setting in unclouded brightness, almost excelling the splendour of its noontide. When I heard that the Commons had appointed managers to confer with your Lordships upon the Amendments which you have made in the Bill, I certainly entertained very considerable apprehension that the Reasons which would be assigned by them, being the result of political tact, of professional acuteness, and of personal interest, would be so forcible that it would be quite impossible for your Lordships to resist them. I speak of "personal interest" having been concerned in framing these Reasons, because, as has been already communicated to your Lordships, 1186 the Commons thought proper to appoint as one of the managers of the Conference with your Lordships the gentleman who is most immediately interested in the result of these discussions. If the Commons meant this as a piece of practical pleasantry, I am sure your Lordships will not grudge them any harmless amusement they may have derived from it; but if they intended to make an impression on your Lordships, and produce a startling effect, I must say that your Lordships have received it with provoking composure. When I heard of the united wisdom of those who had been selected by a majority of the House of Commons to manage this Conference having been deliberately preparing Reasons why they should not agree to your Lordships' Amendments, I anticipated that they would have ascended to the height of this great argument, and I hardly expected that the Reasons they would put forward would have been so deficient both in grammatical accuracy and in logical sequence. The Commons begin by stating that they "disagree to the Amendments made by the Lords to the Oaths Bill (those Amendments being the omission of Clauses 5 and 8) for the following reasons;" but they don't begin with any reason at all. On the contrary, they commence with a fact. They say,Because the words 'on the true faith of a Christian,' were originally introduced into the oaths to be taken by Members of Parliament with a view to bind certain Roman Catholics, and were not intended for the purpose of excluding persons of the Jewish persuasion.We have conceded that over and over again: we admit there was no intention whatever of excluding the Jew from Parliament by the use of these words in the oath. But while that concession is accepted by the advocates of the Jews, they do not take the consequence with it,—that by the insertion of these words in the oath which all Members of Parliament are compelled to take there was a legislative declaration that every Member of Parliament should be a Christian. When that fact is stated, and put forth as a reason, the Commons can hardly mean to say that because the Act was not originally intended to exclude the Jews, therefore, the Jews ought to be admitted. Then we come to the second reason, namely:—Because the exclusion of British subjects from seats in Parliament and officers of the State, on the ground of their religious opinions, is contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience.1187 Now, with great deference to the Commons, I do not quite understand that paragraph. I cannot understand what is meant by the expression "contrary to the general maxims of freedom of conscience." How, I would ask, does the exclusion of persons from Parliament or from office violate conscience? It may hold out temptations to persons to conceal their religious opinions or profess those which they do not entertain; but that is not a violation of "freedom of conscience." I apprehend your Lordships will not feel any great sympathy with persons who entertained such ideas respecting "freedom of conscience," and it is really extraordinary that after careful deliberation the managers of this Conference should have fallen into the inconsistency pointed out by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), and that they should actually have sent you up a Bill in which they have excluded the Jews from certain offices, that exclusion entirely resting on the ground of their religious opinions. As to the omissions of the 8th clause, my noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst) says, the consequence of that will be that gentlemen of the Jewish persuasion might hold high offices and even sit on the woolsack as Lord Chancellor or Commissioner of the Great Seal—my noble and learned Friend being aware that those offices necessarily involved the taking the Oath of Abjuration, which Oath of Abjuration excludes the Jews from Parliament as well as from these offices. Well, then, the Commons go on to say:—3. Because no charge of disloyalty or unfitness for public employment and a fair share of legislative power has been alleged, or can be alleged, against the Jewish community.I don't know what hidden mystery there may be in the word "fair." No one has ever supposed that the advocates of the Jews wished them to have an unfair share of legislative power. The argument involved in this Reason is, that any person who is not disloyal or unfit—I suppose meaning mentally unfit—for public employment is entitled to what is called "a fair share of legislative power." That has been already answered by my noble Friend at the head of the Government. All persons in a free country are entitled to all civil rights, but they are not entitled to a share of political rights, except on such conditions as the Legislature which confers that power may attach to its exercise; and therefore, the argument is illogical and ill-founded that because the Jews are loyal 1188 and not unfit for employment they are therefore entitled to it. The fourth Reason, as has been well remarked by my noble Friend, might very well form part of the second and the two be read together; but the expression is a little singular.Because the infliction of disabilities upon any class of her Majesty's subjects solely on the ground of their conscientious adherence to their faith savours of persecution, and is totally inconsistent with those principles of religious liberty which, in the case of more powerful communities, have been applied by Parliament with such happy effects.I am prepared to go a little further, and will say that the infliction of disabilities upon any class of Her Majesty's subjects solely on the ground of their conscientious adherence to their faith is persecution. But the word "solely" in that clause is a somewhat emphatic word. If I were to say to a Jew, "in consequence of my abhorrence of your religion, I will exclude you from all civil and religious rights," that would most undoubtedly be persecution, because it would be "solely" on the ground of his adherence to his faith. But if I were to say to a Jew, "Your religious opinions are hostile to the constitution—the Parliament is a Christian Parliament—the admission of a person of the Jewish persuasion would be an invasion of the principle," that would not be an exclusion of Jews "solely" upon the ground of his adherence to his faith; it would be an exclusion on the ground of self-protection and self-defence; and there is no reason that can be urged, or has ever been heard, why Parliament should not protect itself in that way against the intrusion of persons hostile to the principles on which it is founded. The clause states that it "is totally inconsistent with those principles of religious liberty which in the case of more powerful communities have been applied by Parliament with such happy effects." I know only one instance in which Parliament has interfered with a powerful community with reference to its power to sit in Parliament, and that is in the case of the Roman Catholics. What is the meaning of the words "more powerful communities," I am therefore unable to say. I now cone to the ground on which the Commons place the most reliance.Because the Commons having already on ten previous occasions and in five Parliaments passed Bills for removing the civil disabilities of the Jews, and having of late years agreed to such Bills by constantly increasing majorities, are 1189 convinced that the opinion of their constituents and of the country at large has been irrevocably pronounced in favour of the removal of such disabilities.I think there is a considerable amount of fallacy lurking in that argument. Let us bring the question to the test and see whether it is a fair conclusion from the nature of the proposition, that because the Commons "have already on ten previous occasions passed Bills for removing the civil disabilities of the Jews," therefore "the opinion of their constituents and of the country at large has been irrevocably pronounced in favour of the removal of such disabilities." I am afraid that if this test is always to be applied when a Bill of the Commons is rejected by your Lordships, it will become a precedent which will be very much followed and abused. Take for instance the case of church rates. I know perfectly well that in many large towns the public feeling is in favour of the abolition of church rates; but I also know that the great majority of the country is against that abolition. Bills on that subject have been sent up over and over again by the Commons. Probably they passed that House by increasing majorities, and the Commons might say that was a convincing proof that the "irrevocable" judgment of the country is in favour of the measure; and if your Lordships give way on the present occasion, that argument may be urged with still greater force than it now possesses. I will take another question on which your Lordships will soon hear—the painful and distressing question of legalising marriage with a deceased wife's sister. That measure has passed the Commons by considerable majorities, and may it not be argued, if this precedent should be established, that public opinion is "irrevocably" in its favour. I consider the conclusion of the Commons a most illogical one. I can understand perfectly well how a majority of the House believing that the principles of civil and religious liberty are involved in the question, without very nicely defining the term, might be disposed to give in their adhesion. But I do not believe there is any opinion in the country in favour of the measure. On the contrary, I believe that a feeling of great apathy and indifference exists, and that if there is any repugnance it is one of an inert and languid kind. The question has never been submitted to the constituencies, and I believe that if it were brought under their consideration, it would be found that the great majority of the 1190 country are against the admission of the Jews to Parliament. If we are to judge by the petitions which are sometimes accepted as an indication of public feeling, we find that one side may be counted by hundreds and the other by thousands. The next argument urged by the House of Commons, is—Because such Bills have been supported by many of the most eminent Members of both Houses of Parliament, who while differing upon other political questions, have concurred in the justice and expediency of measures for the relief of the Jews,The argument was a most extraordinary one. If the House is to be pressed by the weight of authority, I may venture to call your Lordships' attention to a great number of eminent men who have been consistent in their opposition to the Jewish claims, and who have not heard anything to induce them to change their opinions. But surely the House ought not to be pressed with the authority of great names. It ought to deal with arguments; and I am astonished that the Commons should have thought proper deliberately to place this amongst their Reasons and present it as ground for inducing their Lordships to give way. The seventh Reason assigned by the Commons is—Because the rights of the electors of the United Kingdom have been peculiarly affected by a law which has been construed to prevent the admission to the House of Commons of persons who have been lawfully returned as Members of that House.I have read that Reason over and over again, and cannot understand whether the objection is to the law or to the construction of the law. If to the latter, I may appeal to a noble and learned Friend near me, one of the Judges, who decided that the words, "upon the true faith of a Christian" are a substantial and essential part of the oath, and cannot be dispensed with. If they mean to object to the law, they admit the law to exist; and then I want to know what they mean by talking about "the rights of the electors;" because electors can have no rights which are in contravention of the law. They may, perhaps, say that electors are restricted in their rights; but to speak of the rights of electors in a Reason in which they point out the law as the ground of exclusion, is an inconsistency which I could hardly have expected from a grave body selected to represent the wisdom of the House of Commons. I now come to the eighth and ninth Reasons, and here I will encounter 1191 my noble and learned Friend on his own ground. It is true we agree entirely on the ninth Reason, supposing the effect of the omission of the two clauses should be to prevent the Jews from holding those offices to which they might otherwise be entitled. My noble and learned Friend has directed your Lordships' attention to the 1st Geo. III., c. 13, stating that it was absurd to suppose that it would apply to the Jews, because the oath was to be administered by two justices of the peace; and persons who refused to take the oath were to be treated as Popish recusants. I am not going to justify all the provisions of an old Act of Parliament, but if the Jew is required to take the Oath of Abjuration, which he clearly is, before he can be admitted to Parliament or be qualified for certain offices, undoubtedly that Act of Parliament applies to the Jew as to every other person who desires to sit in Parliament or to hold those offices. My noble and learned Friend adopts the Reasons of the Commons:—Because the first and third clauses of the Bill are open to the construction that the new oath which the former of them contains should be taken, not only in all cases where the oaths of allegiance, supremacy, and abjuration are now required, but also where the oaths of allegiance and supremacy are at present required, though without the oath of abjuration; the result of which construction, if the Bill should pass into law without the fifth clause, would be to exclude the Jews from practising as solicitors and barristers, and from offices under the Crown, to which employments and offices they are now admitted. Because such result would be contrary to the intention of the two Houses of Parliament, appearing from the sixth clause and from the title of the Bill under consideration.I am anxious to hear from my noble and learned Friend what are the offices under the Crown which required only the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy to be taken, and not the Oath of Abjuration.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
The Oath of Allegiance only is required to be taken under the 6 & 7 Vict. by parties accepting office, but they are afterwards obliged to take all the oaths, including the Oath of Abjuration. They are exempt from the penalty of taking the three oaths by the operation of the Act of Indemnity. A magistrate of the Jewish persuasion does not take the oaths at all.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
observed, that by the Act of George I., attorneys, solicitors, and barristers were compelled to take the three oaths of Allegiance, Supremacy, and Abjuration, before they were entitled to practice.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
said, they were compelled to take the Oath of Allegiance on accepting office, but it was not necessary for them to take the other oaths until three months afterwards.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
They are only required to take the Oath of Allegiance, and it is only when they are required to take the Oath of Abjuration that they need the protection of the new oath which is sought to be provided, and he must say—with all deference to my noble and learned Friend—that the House of Commons was a little careless in saying in their eighth Reason that the passing of the Bill without the fifth clause would prevent a Jew from practising as a barrister or solicitor. The Reasons are not founded on fact; and although I have endeavoured to ascertain whether there are any offices under the Crown which require the Oath of Allegiance without the Oath of Abjuration, I have not been able to find any such. In deference to my noble and learned Friend and the managers of the Conference on the part of the House of Commons I have thought it my duty to go seriatim through the various Reasons which they have assigned for disagreeing to your Lordships' Amendments; and I must say I felt considerably relieved when I found that those which they have brought forward are the best which after careful deliberation their united wisdom could adduce. It is evident that no stronger arguments can be urged in support of their views, and I now very confidently submit that the arguments which have been laid before you furnish no good grounds why you should depart from that conclusion at which you but the other night arrived by a large majority.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, he should not enter into the various arguments which had been addressed to their Lordships by the noble and learned Lord who had just spoken; but in abstaining from doing so, lie must not be supposed to be of opinion that those arguments might not be easily answered. His object in rising was simply to appeal to his noble and learned Friend opposite (Lord Lyndhurst) to consider whether it was desirable that he should put their Lordships to the trouble of dividing upon the present occasion. The question of Jewish emancipation had that evening made an immense advance in their Lordships' House, and he for one was sufficiently sanguine to think that it was virtually settled. It was nevertheless clear, notwith- 1193 standing that such a satisfactory state of things had been brought about, that the advocates of the cause of the Jews were not so strong as to be in a position to carry that evening the proposition of his noble and learned Friend. He trusted, however, that, taking into account the very conciliatory declaration which had been made by two leading members of the Government in that House, his noble and learned Friend would perceive the expediency—particularly if he himself would undertake to use the weight of his authority in endeavouring to frame some such measure, in conjunction with the noble Earl opposite, as had been hinted at in the course of the discussion, and which would settle for ever the embarrassing question with which they were dealing—of not proceeding to a division. Should the noble and learned Lord not assent to the adoption of that course, he should certainly vote with him.
made a similar appeal to the noble and learned Lord, and expressed a hope that everything in the proceedings of that evening should be forgotten, except that which was favourable, to conciliation.
§ LORD LYNDHURST
said, he had no hesitation in at once adopting the suggestion which had been thrown out by the noble Earl opposite. He had no wish to put the House to the trouble of dividing, and was equally anxious, with his noble and learned Friend, that the spirit of conciliation should survive these proceedings, and that everything should pass off as smoothly as possible, thus affording the best introduction to that future measure to which allusion had been made.
§ On Question, whether to insist?
§ Resolved in the affirmative; and a Committee appointed to prepare Reasons to be offered to the Commons for the Lords insisting on their Amendments to the said Bill, to which the Commons disagree.