HC Deb 02 June 1874 vol 219 cc854-6

Sir, I observe that there is nothing on the Paper for tomorrow, and I therefore beg to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn until Thursday next.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, at the rising of the House this day, adjourn till Thursday next."—(Mr. Disraeli.)


I have no doubt, Sir, that the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman will be very acceptable to the majority of this House; but I am sorry that the Prime Minister did not favour us with a longer speech in making that Motion. I remember the time when Lord Palmerston on similar occasions used to get up and talk about the Isthmian Games, and even the late Prime Minister, who is not very much addicted to sport, described the race for the Derby as a noble, manly, distinguished, and historical national sport. I should like to have heard the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government upon the subject. I know it is a most unpopular thing to interfere with such a proposal as has just been made. Everybody likes a holiday, and is ready to accept it. We are now in the commencement of the sixth month of the year. We have sat in this House this Session just 40 days, and we have had just 41 divisions, and everyone must be very much exhausted indeed. Besides, during that period we have had only three weeks' holiday, and therefore we must all, especially the new Members, be very glad to have a day at liberty, and I do not think the country will find any great fault with our adjournment to-morrow. Indeed, I think if the right hon. Gentleman had extended his Motion, and instead of moving that this House adjourn over Derby Day, had moved an adjournment to the 1st of February, 1875, the Motion would be received with considerable approbation throughout the country. Now, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to appear as an enemy to you. I should be happy that you should have your holiday if you wish to have it, and that those gentlemen at the Table who attend to the official business of the House, and who are so very useful and kind to us in many ways, should have a holiday too. But the question raised by the Motion is this. Is the day selected the most suitable for the purpose? I venture respectfully to say I do not consider it is. Not long ago a large majority of this House decided that museums and picture-galleries and libraries should remain closed on Sundays. I have no doubt that that majority were influenced by a regard for the interests of religion and morality, for true religion cannot be severed from true morality. What have we decided besides that? We have not passed many Acts of Parliament during this Session, but we have passed one very good one—the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), which is designed to put a stop to betting; and having just passed that Bill, we to-morrow propose to patronize the greatest gambling place in the world. But that is not my strongest assumption against the Motion. I say that this being a national assemblage, we ought not to indulge in this exceptional and extraordinary day's adjournment except the occasion be a national one; and I do not think we can fairly say that this Derby Day is, or at any rate ought to be, a national occasion. Some persons condemn this sport of horse-racing; some persons look with disapprobation on the Derby Day's proceedings. I give no opinion myself on the matter. I shall not even say whether I intend to attend the race, but I will take it for granted that it is improving, and I know it is considered delightful to spend a hot summer's day on a dusty heath, surrounded by fortune-tellers, mountebanks, minstrels, acrobats, blacklegs, betting men, and pickpockets. I do not say it is, but some people do; and when I hear them I am reminded more than ever of the classical expression of Sir Cornewall Lewis, that "life would be tolerable if it were not for its amusements." Sir, there is a large and respectable minority throughout the country who object to these sort of things—so large and so respectable that I am justified in saying the occasion in question is not a national one. I will give you the opinion of a race meeting expressed by a great writer—one who was not a Puritan or a gloomy fanatic, but whose writings are genial and good-humoured and jovial. I allude to Charles Dickens, whose great wish was to promote the rational enjoyment of his fellow-men. What did he say? "I vow," said he, "that I can see nothing on the betting-stand, or outside the betting ring, but ruin, cruelty, covetousness, calculation, insensibility, and low cunning." Now, if that were the opinion of such a man, I ask why should we, as a national assembly, give our sanction to the proceeding now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman made a short speech, but with his usual astuteness he brought forward the best argument that could be adduced in support of his Motion—namely, that there was nothing on the Paper for to-morrow. Well, I will point out a course by which he can get out of the difficulty. Let the Government put down Supply for to-morrow, and I promise the right hon. Gentleman to bring to the House a Radical contingent to help him with the business of the country. He can then take his holiday on some other occasion which will not prove objectionable to any portion of Her Majesty's subjects. I most decidedly shall oppose the Motion, and divide the House.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 243; Noes 69: Majority 174.