§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. R. SMYTH,
in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that this measure had been so amply discussed, as far as its principle was concerned, on the 12th and 13th of May, when several hours were devoted to its consideration, that it would be quite superfluous on his part to occupy the time of the House with any explanation or defence of it. The Bill consisted of four clauses, the general object of which was to forbid the general sale of intoxicating drinks during the whole of Sunday in Ireland. He used the words "general sale" advisedly, because the serving of liquor by public-houses on Sundays was not proposed to be prohibited in the case of lodgers or bonâ fide travellers. When the Resolution on the subject was discussed and 1334 approved by the House on the 13th of May it was said by some hon. Members that the passing of the Resolution would create alarm all over Ireland, and that something in the form of a re-action would take place against the principle of the Bill. There had been no such re-action. Nothing of the kind had occurred. Their prophecies turned out to be without foundation. There was no general movement in Ireland against the Bill, though the people of Ireland must now be aware that the House of Commons was thoroughly in earnest in their desire to pass a Sunday Closing Bill. He admitted that a certain section of the people in Ireland had made, from their point of view, very laudable attempts to get up an agitation on the subject, and subscribed £1,000 for that purpose; but the result of that subscription would be found in the presentation of the two Petitions presented to the House that day; and in all probability it would be found if they were examined that the signatures were those of the same persons who had petitioned the House on a former occasion, and could only be regarded as duplicates of the Petitions formerly presented. Considering that the House, by a large majority, had already expressed approval of the principle of the Bill, it was impossible after the reception accorded to his Motion two months ago that he could refrain from introducing a measure this Session. The question now stood exactly where it stood on the 13th of May, and, that being so, he would content himself with simply moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. R. Smyth.)
§ MR. M. BROOKS
said, that while he had the most sincere admiration for the benevolent motives of the Gentlemen who promoted the Bill, still with all possible respect he must be allowed to say—and with an intimate knowledge of those to whom he was about to allude he did so—that it was not in accordance with either the views or the wishes of the working men of Dublin. Indeed, he felt fully justified in saying—no matter what might be the opinions of 1335 the promoters as to its necessity, that it was a proposal opposed to the deliberate wishes of the majority of the working men. It had been found on inquiry that from 50,000 to 100,000 persons visited public-houses on Sundays in the Irish metropolis, and he desired to learn if those places of public resort were closed to them what was the substitute suggested to be provided? He believed the Bill to be unnecessary, and he hoped it would not become law. He should certainly vote against such legislation, believing that it would be productive of great harm, as any measure must be which debarred, for the future, the working classes of Ireland from obtaining on Sundays the refreshment of which they stood in need.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Perhaps I may say a few words on the course the Government propose to take in regard to this Bill. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth) that, after what has occurred already, we are not called upon to enter into any discussion of the principle of the Bill. A few weeks ago we had a full discussion upon the merits of total Sunday closing in Ireland, and all the arguments for and against it were then adduced. There appeared to be an almost unanimous feeling in the House that there should be some further restriction in regard to the hours during which the public-houses in Ireland were to remain open on Sundays, and I on the part of the Government met the Resolution of the hon. Member for Londonderry with a counter proposal, that instead of the entire closing of public-houses on Sunday, there should be a further restriction of the hours of opening. My proposition, however, was not accepted by the House, who adopted the Resolution of the hon. Member by a considerable majority. No attempt was made to treat the question as a Party question, but the House decided in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Londonderry, and against the proposal of the Government. The Government has since considered the position of the Question, and especially, of course, their own position in connection with it. We thought it was only fair and right that the vote of the House should be taken by us as equivalent to a vote on the second reading of the Bill. The Government, therefore, decided not to oppose the Bill of 1336 the hon. Member either on its introduction or on the Motion for second reading. At the same time, in making that statement, I wish it to be understood that it is not the opinion of the Government that this Bill could become law this Session, or in its present shape. If, therefore, it should be further proceeded with this Session, it will become my duty to submit certain Amendments.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, he was exceedingly glad to hear the announcement just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had voted for the Bill last year, and he was prepared to do so again; but after the statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the part of the Government, he had no doubt the measure would be carried. But his principal object in rising was to protest against the interpretation which had been put upon the speech he delivered last year. He had been told that he was understood to have to some extent impeached the loyalty of the licensed victuallers of Ireland. He could not understand how any speech of his could have produced that impression, for no one could be more convinced of their steadfast loyalty than he was. What he intended to convey was that Sunday drinking in Ireland might lead to meetings of persons who were disaffected; but he did not mean that these meetings were likely to take place in licensed public-houses kept by respectable publicans. He wished to set himself right with the licensed victuallers in Ireland, and to assure them that he intended to make no such reflection or attack on them. If he had said such a thing he should have been stating what he did not believe, and giving them a character which he knew they did not deserve.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
opposed the second reading of the Bill. A grosser fallacy had never been imposed on the House of Commons than was embodied in the statement that it was the wish of the Irish people that this Bill should be passed. It was quite true that the measure was asked for by three classes in Ireland—namely, the extreme teetotallers, the extreme Sabbatarians, and a small section of the wealthier classes; but the working classes—at least 80 per cent of the people—were determinedly opposed to the measure, and he was certain that if the Bill were passed there 1337 would be a strong re-action. The persons who were in favour of the Bill were persons who never entered a public-house at all, but had well-stocked cellars of their own from which they could always procure the necessary refreshment. The Bill was, in point of fact, a piece of class legislation and an attempt to close public-houses to those who had no other place to resort to. There would, no doubt, be found people in Ireland who would say that because there was such a thing as hydrophobia every dog in Ireland ought to be shot; but those gentlemen who took a delight in keeping dogs would take care not to have their favourites stamped out in that way. The working classes ought, for the same reason, to be protected against the loss of their means of pleasure and comfort on Sunday. If the principle of the measure were good, why not extend it to all parts of the United Kingdom? A great deal had been said and much reliance had been placed upon the number of Petitions that had been presented in favour of the measure, and the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Birmingham and Greenwich declared that these Petitions expressed the Irish idea. They were never more mistaken in their lives. There was no greater delusion than to suppose that Petitions were an expression of the Irish idea, and the time would come when those hon. Members who represented Irish constituencies would feel the re-action against the measure by the loss of the Irish vote. He had himself taken the trouble to analyze one of those Petitions which came from a district in his own county, and with which he was well acquainted. He found that it contained the signatures of a number of devout Sabbatarians, of school-girls, and of gentlemen who never went into a public-house in their lives. Were those, he asked, the people who were to dictate to the people of Ireland what they were to do on a question of this kind? This was class legislation and nothing else. He had discussed the subject with several intelligent tradesmen in his locality, and the general opinion might be thus stated—that bad, undoubtedly bad, as the English Government was, they did not believe that it would pass such a coercive measure as the Sunday Liquor Bill. One respectable tradesman addressed him something in this fashion—"You have known 1338 me many years, did you ever see me drunk in your life?"—Never.—"Then, I will tell you a fact; there is scarcely a Sunday in my life when I do not come into town to meet my fellow-tradesmen in a public-house to take a drink, or two, or three with them, to have a chat and a smoke, and then to go quietly home. I never go near the public-house at any other time, and I would think it the greatest cruelty if this little bit of enjoyment were taken from us on Sundays. The result would be that you would drive us into shebeens, where we would get stuff that would sicken us, and the chances are that we would stop away from our work on Monday to go and take what we considered better stuff, so that both time and money would be lost to us." He (Mr. O'Sullivan) believed that the closing of public-houses on Sunday would only have the effect of setting aside another day, or, it might be, days, for drink, so that they would lose more time and money. He was prepared to say, without fear of contradiction, that if the Government were forced into the false position of entirely stopping Sunday drinking there would be riots in large towns which the Government would find it extremely difficult to put down. A short time ago the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) said they tried everything to elicit public opinion on the subject, and asked if the Government desired to wait for an expression of opinion in Ireland until it took the form of raising barricades?—and he (Mr. O'Sullivan) wished to know if that was what they desired now? Did the hon. Member ever try to hold a meeting in favour of this Bill in either Cork or Limerick? If he went down there and told the people that he appeared among them at the bidding of the high priest of Good Templarism, whose disciple he was, and that they were forbidden to drink from Saturday night to Monday morning, not all his popularity would save him from several showers of rotten eggs and flour-bags. The hon. Member proceeded to quote the opinions of Dr. Dorrian, Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, The Cork Examiner, The North British Daily Mail, Mr. Payne, a magistrate of 32 years' standing in the South of Ireland, The Irish Times, and The Dublin Freeman against Sunday closing of public-houses. The Freeman's Journal said— 1339We think the Government has adopted a wise course in declining to give immediate effect in the shape of a Bill to Professor Smyth's successful Resolution on Sunday closing in Ireland. A little more time for calm consideration is most desirable, and we still cherish the hope that it will be turned to useful account by the friends of temperance as contra-distinguished from the advocates of teetotalism and Sabbatarianism….We contend that one glass of drink taken secretly, or in such a way as to make a man ashamed of himself for having taken it, is more demoralizing and more likely to make him a drunkard than half a dozen taken openly….We welcome the action of the Ministry, and commend their courage and good sense in not taking precipitate action on a question full of difficulty and full of danger.And The Irish Times had this passage—We go as far as the most thorough philanthropist—as the most ardent votary of total abstinence—in deploring excessive drinking, and in the desire for such adequate legislation as will deal satisfactorily with what is undoubtedly a national evil. But we do not think that the application of coercive measures, based upon what is after all in some degree a declaration of public feeling artificially obtained, will meet the serious exigencies of the case. Political and social experience in Ireland shows one thing beyond question, and that is, that attempts to restrict the popular liberty of action within spheres where the public have, or deem they have, a legal right, has invariably been attended with more or less disastrous failure. As was well observed during the Parliamentary debate, it by no means follows that, because the population of certain districts in Ireland agreed voluntarily to Sunday closing, the practice would be equally popular if it were imposed by Act of Parliament.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the hon. Member was quite irregular in quoting newspaper articles referring to a debate in that House.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he was not quoting the report of a debate, but referring to a commentary called forth by discussions in that House. However, he at once bowed to the ruling of the Speaker, and would dispense with a number of other authorities which he held in his hand giving the opinions of the leading men and journals in Ireland upon this question. In the county of Limerick, which he represented, there were over 150,000 inhabitants, and it was a singular fact that he had not been asked by a single individual to support the Bill of the hon. Member for Derry, excepting by a magistrate, whom he would back to drink as much as any two Members of that House. He was satisfied that if that gentleman was told that a law was about being passed to prevent 1340 him from drinking from Saturday night until Monday morning, he would look upon it as the greatest possible species of tyranny. Yet he had a well-stocked cellar, and knew well it was only the working men who would suffer under this Bill. Many writers said all men were mad on some subject or other, and on this subject he thought there were two classes in Ireland who were not far removed from that position—namely, those who abused drink by taking too much and depriving themselves of reason first and life afterwards, and those who took none at all, though they much required it. The Government should treat both these extreme classes as harmless lunatics. He opposed the Bill because it was a form of coercive legislation, and not at all in accordance with the wishes of the people; and if the Bill passed on the erroneous supposition that it was an Irish idea, he predicted that a large number of Petitions would be presented against it next Session. There would have been more up to the present time, but the people of Ireland had no faith in Petitions to that House. They believed that no redress was to be got from the House of Commons for the grievances of Ireland, and they looked upon the present Bill as a mild coercive measure against their liberties. He believed himself that the Government would never consent to the total closing of public-houses on Sundays in Ireland, and he opposed the measure because he regarded it as a restriction of the rights and liberties of the people of Ireland.
said, that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down amounted to this—that although the people of Ireland had no faith whatever in that House, or in the effect of any Petitions presented to it, yet in direct contradiction to that statement the hon. Member declared that if the House passed the Bill before them the people of Ireland would hereafter change their minds, and there would be much more numerous Petitions against the Bill. That, in the first place, was simply a prophecy; and in the second place, while it was remarkable that the people of Ireland, having no grievance, should have presented Petitions in favour of the Bill, the hon. Member told them—what was still more remarkable—that the people of Ireland having no confidence 1341 in Parliament, and attaching no value to Petitions, would notwithstanding, at a future date, present much more numerous Petitions against the Bill. He did not think that statements of this nature would interpose any considerable difficulty in the way of the progress of the Bill, and therefore he did not propose to enter into the details of a measure which had already been so fully and largely discussed on a former occasion. He was not aware whether it was the intention of those who were opposed to the Bill to ask for the judgment of the House upon it again, and he had simply risen to express his great satisfaction with the nature of the declaration made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly performed his part on many former occasions with great gallantry, courage, and decision. Those who were opposed to the Bill could not for a moment question either the good faith or the courage and resolution with which the right hon. Gentleman had always stated his objections to any measure before the House—there could, be no possible suspicion of him or of his proceedings; but the House would be convinced that when a Government, having taken its own course in a perfectly manly manner in the resistance to a Bill, accepted the judgment of the House as being in conjunction with the manifestations in Ireland, it afforded sufficient ground for them to abandon their position. He knew that the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman was made in good faith, and there could not be a doubt that it was the intention of the Government to recognize the decision of the House and the wishes of the people of Ireland in their substance. At the same time he fully understood that the right hon. Gentleman, with the apprehensions he had expressed on former occasions, and with the responsibility that rested upon him with regard to the execution of the law and the maintenance of order in Ireland, might desire to introduce into the Bill some provisions which might have the effect of softening and regulating what was undoubtedly an important transition. While recognizing the general feeling of the people of Ireland, he fully admitted that it was an important transition, and taking the interest in the 1342 measure he did on many grounds, he wished to express a hope that his hon. Friend (Mr. R. Smyth) who had conducted the Bill with great ability, would, on his part, show a sincere desire to meet the advances of Her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Gladstone) felt quite certain that his hon. Friend would not allow any attachment to the absolute rigour of a doctrine to lead him to insist on the instant and universal operation of the Bill, provided that the proposal made to him by the Government should be of a reasonable character and substantially in accordance with the construction that he felt justified in putting on the announcement made by the Government. He therefore very sincerely hoped that they were arriving at the time when they might consider the Bill removed from the stage of Party contention, and might address themselves to those other subjects which were unfortunately too numerous, and which still solicited the attention of the House. Everyone must be of opinion that something must be done to bring this controversy to a close. It was a controversy by no means unattended with soreness—sorenessin Ireland on a conflict of interests, though the opposing party might be—as he thought they were—a small minority of the entire people; but he thought it must be felt that the important political principle involved in the Bill consisted in matters of very considerable importance, and he could not doubt that that motive must have weighed on the mind of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and of Her Majesty's Government. Perhaps he might be permitted for one moment to allude to what took place on a previous night in an argumentative sense. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, in resisting the proposal made by a portion of the Irish Members, went over a great number of subjects with the view of showing that there had been no undue resistance to the clearly expressed desire of the people of Ireland on matters peculiarly Irish. But there was a significant omission in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He might now feel that even on political grounds it might be desirable to take out of the mouths of those who might wish to show an obstinate disregard and disrespect on the part of Parliament to the will, interest, and judgment of Ireland in matters properly Irish, any plea such as he 1343 must say had teen to a certain extent afforded, and would, by the continued resistance of Parliament, be much more conclusively afforded, to the effect that they did not give regard to the wishes of the people of Ireland in a matter in which, by our legislation for Scotland, they had shown that they considered to be one that might be fairly regarded as of local and not of Imperial interest. He held most strongly the conviction that, apart even from the mere moral and social objects they had in view, the question was very important indeed, whether in those subjects which they conceived to be of a local character—he meant local as opposed to Imperial—they were to give the same fair play to the people of Ireland, and the same regard to their well-understood wishes, which they would give to the people of England or the people of Scotland. That was the principle which he held to lie at the root of all sound policy and sound procedure in this House; and in truth he should, he owned, even despair of maintaining permanently in a satisfactory manner the connection between the two countries on its present footing unless they sincerely adopted and acted upon that principle. On every ground, therefore, he could not but express a fervent hope that they were now arriving, through the happy announcement of the right hon. Gentleman, at the close of that Parliamentary contest, and he felt sure that as the right hon. Gentleman had been manly and outspoken in the statement of his objections to the Bill, so he would be frankly conciliatory in the endeavour to arrive at an understanding with his hon. Friend the Member for Derry. He had the same confidence in the reciprocal conduct of his hon. Friend, and, therefore, in the happy result which would cause, he believed, great national satisfaction throughout Ireland.
§ MR. HERMON
said he had also to express his satisfaction at the statement made by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. He had, in order to arrive at what were the wishes and feelings of the Irish people on the matter, addressed himself to several hon. Members—those who had given more than usual attention to the matter—and he was bound to say that the result of his inquiry convinced him that there was a deep-felt expectation on the part of the Irish people that this measure should become 1344 law; and therefore it was that he gave it his support. But he hoped the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Smyth) would not be too anxious to pass the Bill as it stood, for in going into the details they might find it necessary to introduce some changes so as to guard against creating such a state of things as took place in this country some years ago, when restrictive legislation was followed by riots, and had to be repealed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had referred to the feeling of the Irish people, and had stated that it was antagonistic to the measure; but either the hon. Gentleman himself was wrong, or else a very large number of the Irish Members were wrong, who had assured them that the Irish people took a very deep interest in it. That, indeed, was corroborated by the hon. Member himself, when he stated that whenever he returned home he would run the risk of being maltreated by the people, because of the expression of his opinion in opposition to the Bill.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
explained. He did not say that he ran the risk of being ill-treated, but that the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) might expect such treatment for advocating the Bill.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he had no doubt the hon. Member for Louth had but spoken his own convictions when he supported the Bill, and he had no reason to be afraid to show himself in any part of Ireland, because of the free expression of his opinions. There seemed to be a general feeling in favour of reading the Bill a second time; and what he would suggest was that it should be made a tentative measure by limiting its operation to a period of two or three years. By that means they would be able to ascertain whether or not it met the wishes of the Irish people. If it did, they could easily retain it on the Statute Book by passing a Continuance Bill.
§ MR. STORER
said, he could not sit still and give a silent vote on this Bill. He might be asked why he interfered in the matter when it was the wish of the Irish people that it should pass? That was an argument which had not any force with him, for the measure was not only an Irish, but also an English one. They all knew that there was a large and influential body of persons who favoured the closing of public-houses in the inte- 1345 rests of temperance. If this Bill passed, their zeal would be so increased that he felt convinced they would be satisfied with nothing less than the total abolition of public-houses, and this measure would then become the groundwork for similar legislation in England. If it really were the opinion of the Irish people that the public-houses should be closed in Ireland all the day on Sundays, it seemed to him a very Irish way of proceeding to ask Parliament to prohibit it. They had the whole thing in their own hands, and could secure all they desired by coming to the resolution not to resort to the public-houses on Sunday. There was nothing to prevent them keeping out of those houses on Sundays. There might be some argument in favour of restricting the hours during which drink might be supplied on Sundays; but there was not any plea whatever to justify the total closing of them on that day. The Bill was nothing else than an attempt on the part of the upper and middle classes to interfere with the personal freedom of the working classes by preventing them from obtaining the refreshment they could only obtain at the public-houses. He could scarcely imagine a state of circumstances in which it could realize the advantages to which its advocates looked forward. In Scotland, where such a law had been for some time in force, the she been houses were in full play and private drinking on the increase. He was perfectly sure that should this Bill become law, they would witness the same state of things in Ireland—and that was not by any means desirable. The Irish were not a drunken people, and he asked if the 99 sober persons should be deprived of the right they possessed of obtaining what refreshment they required, simply because one person was found to abuse that right?
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he had not intended to interpose in this debate, and would not have taken up the time of the House but for a statement made by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The hon. Member was entirely misinformed when he said that the result of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act had been to increase the number of she been houses in Scotland. That was an entire fallacy. They might exist in some numbers in the larger towns, but that they had increased all over the country was 1346 a misstatement. He would assert, on the other hand, that the closing of public-houses in Scotland on Sunday had worked to the entire satisfaction of the inhabitants—and not only to their satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of the keepers of the public-houses themselves, who considered that their trade had benefited in respectability, and that their families had also benefited immensely by the day of rest. He was confident that the people of Scotland would never consent to the re-opening of public-houses on Sunday.
opposed the second reading. No one, he said, regretted more than he did the extent to which intemperance prevailed not merely in Ireland, but in these countries generally—it was certainly a state of things which called for improvement, and he would go as far as the most earnest teetotaller to secure that improvement. But he was bound to say that in his opinion this Bill if it were passed would be attended by results quite the reverse of those which were expected from it by its promoters. It was his opinion that one of the consequences of the Bill becoming law would be that Ireland would bristle with she been-houses, and thus an impetus would be given to secret drinking, which would soon generate a cancerous growth of vice and demoralization. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) denied that the operation of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act had been attended by any such results in Scotland; but he would refer the hon. Gentleman to an article in The Scotsman, written by one who had an intimate knowledge of the working of that Act. That article stated that, so far from there having been a decrease in the number of she been-houses consequent upon the Sunday Closing Act, those establishments had considerably increased; that the Scotch people drank at present as much per head as they had been in the habit of drinking before the passing of that measure; and that, too, notwithstanding the fact that the taxation upon intoxicating drinks was now double what it used to be. He could furnish numerous extracts from the Scotch newspapers to the same intent. It was clear then that up to the present time coercive legislation—a legislation which was hateful to the Irish in whatever guise it came—had failed 1347 to stamp out drunkenness in Scotland. That being so, they might rely upon it such a law would equally prove a failure in Ireland. In that country the public-houses were now open from 2 p.m. till 7 p.m. on Sundays, and yet notwithstanding that that was the case they had a great deal of illicit drinking, and that chiefly early in the morning. It could not be doubted that the total closing of licensed houses would add to that evil. He knew that such was the state of things in Drogheda, and that the police were entirely unable to cope with it. He knew, too, that the publicans were perfectly aware of the existence of these illicit drinking houses; but they would not inform against them for selling drink during the prohibited hours on Sunday, lest their own houses should be deserted on the other days of the week. Another objection he had to the Bill was that it was an attempt at class legislation. To such legislation he could be no party. The public-house was to the artizan and to the labourer what the club was to the upper classes of society. To it they resorted to hold converse with their associates, to exchange views with them, and, perhaps, to talk politics; and he did not see why they should be shut out from indulging themselves in that way on the only day on which they had an opportunity of doing so. If they were to be prevented from doing so, why, then, should they not also close the West-end clubs and place precisely the same restrictions on the enjoyments of the men of wealth and position, who would no doubt be patriotic and philanthropic enough to submit to be deprived of their wines and social enjoyments on Sunday, when they knew that they were thereby setting a good example to the general public? It might perhaps be said in answer to this that the upper classes were not addicted to intemperance; but he was sure he might appeal to the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman), or to his own Colleague, to corroborate his statement that temperate men resorted to public-houses more for society than to indulge in the use of intoxicating drinks. They had been told that the highest dignitaries of the Law had from the Bench of justice deplored the increase of drunkenness in Ireland. He was not prepared to go so far as that, for it was his belief that the Returns on which, the Judges based their 1348 comments were to a great degree fictitious. A new regulation for the remuneration of the clerks at petty sessions was now in force, and the provisions of it were such as to hold out an inducement to those officers to secure as large a number of convictions as possible; and hence it was that he regarded the Reports placed before the Judges as to some extent fictitious. The friends of temperance would, he was convinced, do more to reform the people if they used persuasion instead of coercion.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, he was very anxious, before the Bill went any further, to have, if possible, a clear understanding as to the alterations proposed to be made in it. As he understood the measure, it seemed to him almost an impossibility to alter its principle, and they must not lose sight of the fact that it was upon the question of principle that they were then engaged. The principle of the Bill was to close hermetically all public-houses throughout Ireland on Sundays; and as that was the raison ďêtre of the measure, he must oppose it as strongly as possible. Men might say what they liked; but it was a simple attempt at class legislation; and all the Petitions, and nearly every movement in favour of the Bill, came from the upper classes, who, upon a question of this kind, were the very worst exponents of the feelings of those who would be affected. Whether it was, as they had been told in the course of this discussion, class legislation in its worst form, he would not take upon himself to pronounce; but it was an attempt, not solely by people who merely believed in Sunday closing, but teetotallers, to get in the thin end of the wedge. If this measure passed they would be able to say that the same principle ought to be extended to England; and having closed public-houses all over the Kingdom on Sundays, they would argue that the policy of total abstinence was admitted, and that Parliament was bound therefore to accept the Permissive Bill, or some other similar measure. Let them not hide the fact from themselves that what was now proposed to be done would leave hon. Members of that House the freedom of their own cellars and of their own clubs, and they would have the means of getting a glass of wine or of spirits whenever they pleased; but the man who worked all 1349 day in Limerick or Cork from week's end to week's end would on the only day on which he could go out for enjoyment be deprived thereby of the means of getting reasonable refreshment. It would be most objectionable to him to interfere with the liberty of any manor class of men; especially since if a man chose to abstain from going into a public-house on Sunday or any other day he was at perfect liberty to do so; and if some few required to be guarded against themselves, that was no reason for coercing others. What would be thought if it was proposed at the instance of one creed to shut up the churches and chapels of another?—and still the so-called principle would be the same. Let it be at once honestly stated that it was not on account of any principle, but because there were hundreds of Petitions with thousands of signatures in favour of this proposal, that Parliament was disposed to entertain it, and then let them inquire whose were the signatures, and how their support was obtained. He would infinitely rather take the Petition signed by 12,000 of the wage-class in Dublin than all the Petitions signed by all the Prelates, priests, and others who could get their drink when they liked. If those who lived behind their own park gates and palace walls knew as much as they ought to do of the domestic habits of the wage-earning classes, measures of this kind would receive little favour in Parliament. There could be no doubt that if public-houses were closed, she been-houses, illicit distillation, and illicit drinking would spread in spite of the ordering of Prelates and the teaching of priests, and a re-action would take place which would repress for years to come all sound legislative attempts to promote temperance. It was said that beer, which was the English beverage, would keep, but that whiskey, which was the drink of Ireland, could be got just as well on Saturday night as on Sunday. Possibly, to a certain extent, that reasoning was true; but every sensible man knew that if they were to tell an Irishman that he was not to have the opportunity of obtaining reasonable refreshment on Sunday at a public-house, the chances were that he would not only take the bottle home on the Saturday night certainly, but would take care to have it fuller than he would do if he could get 1350 more next day. The consequence of that would be that almost every private house would be turned more or less into a drinking shop during the Sunday afternoon, and men would go to illicit places to get drink. He was not one who thought Irishmen were more inebriate than the people of any other country; but depend upon it they would not be coerced into abstaining from taking a legitimate amount of drink, notwithstanding all that priests, Prelates, Popes, or anybody else might say to the contrary. Let them not deceive themselves and imagine because some considered it desirable to stop drinking that coercive measures could do anything but bring about a reaction which would compel them to retrace their steps. So far as the principle went of closing all public-houses in Ireland on Sunday, he insisted that there was no necessity whatever for the measure, and he hoped and trusted the House would never be beguiled by the upper ten thousand into legislating in such a manner for the class who alone would be affected. This Bill would receive, both in principle and detail, the most determined opposition he could give it, because he was certain that if once the thin end of the wedge was got in in Ireland, an attempt would be made to close public-houses in England, which were the poor man's clubs, while the upper classes remained free to get whatever drink they wished.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
said, he should support the Bill. In Scotland the measure decried by the hon. Member (Mr. Storer) had been in existence for 23 years, and had, on the whole worked satisfactorily, and no single Member in that House or any constituency had raised a voice against it. He denied that this was class legislation—the measure was demanded by the representatives of all classes in Ireland. All the highest judicial functionaries in Ireland pointed to such a law as this to stop intemperance and crime. The clergy, both Protestants and Roman Catholics, the Town Councils, and society generally in Ireland—including the working classes—all urged the Government to legislate in this direction. It could not then be said that this was class legislation. He believed it would prove as beneficial in Ireland as it had proved in Scotland, and the more so because the Irish were not habitual drinkers. He 1351 would rather that moral suasion were used to remedy the evil complained of, but that having failed it was high time to legislate on the subject.
supported the Bill. The advocates of the measure should thank Her Majesty's Government for the announcement they had made of their intention to support it; and he hoped the clauses they proposed to introduce would provide for its gradual, not too sudden, adoption.
§ MR. GOULDING
urged the House to pass this measure, and to try the experiment. He was certain that if the Bill became law it would be beneficial to Ireland in the prevention of a great deal of crime.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, the House would do well to remember that in the year 1868 a Committee of the House of Commons came to the unanimous conclusion—founded not upon the evidence of philanthropists, but on that of responsible officials who knew the habits and the temptations of the people—that it would be impossible to pass such a law and to carry out such a measure. There was no man more anxious than he to put down intemperance; but he could not submit to the imputation made by the promoters of the Bill that the working classes of Ireland, for whose benefit it was supposed to be introduced, were—or rather that the bulk of the Irish nation were—drunkards. There was no raison ďêtre for this Bill, however, except by assuming that the Legislature were bound to step in and take charge of the people, who were incapable of taking care of themselves, who could not restrain their passions and their impulses, and who ought to be held up to the world as a nation that should be treated rather like children than like men. Since the time when this subject was first ventilated he had never once swerved in the opinion he had held with regard to it. He had never opposed it blindly, however, and he had never been opposed to a reasonable modification of the hours. He had, in fact, advocated the very hours which were adopted in the Bill of 1872. In connection with the present Bill much had been said about the assumed state of public opinion in Ireland. Among other Members who had touched upon the point, he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich base his reason for sup- 1352 porting the Bill on the assumption that the people of Ireland called for it, and that it would be wrong to deny them what they asked for by this Bill, which was one of a purely social character. If he (Mr. Murphy) thought so, he declared he would be the first to assist their views; but it was because he believed the contrary to be the case—because he knew it to be so—he opposed them. There was no proof whatever that the Irish people asked for this measure—at all events, those classes for whose convenience public-houses existed. It was said that the feeling of the Irish people on the question was shown by the numerous Petitions that had been presented in favour of the measure, while scarcely any had been presented against it. Why, what was the case? No later than six weeks ago he himself presented a Petition from Cork signed by 16,500 working men against the Bill, and another with 3,000 or 4,000 signatures from the localities around Cork, also against the Bill; and he asked the supporters of the Bill whether, in the face of that evidence, they would stand up and say that no expression of public opinion adverse to it had come from Ireland? And again, within the last few months they had had a most influential meeting at Cork, convened in pursuance of a requisition signed by 150 of the most respectable residents, including magistrates, deputy-lieutenants, merchants, shopkeepers, and others, praying the Mayor of Cork to call a public meeting for the discussion of this very measure. The Mayor called the meeting, which was advertised in all the Cork papers for 10 days before it was held. It took place in the Court-house, which was filled from floor to ceiling. A thorough discussion of the subject ensued, and a resolution was then proposed by the High Sheriff alleging against the measure the reasons adduced by its opponents—namely, that it was altogether unjust, that it was impolitic, and that if it were passed into law it could not be practically brought into operation. At that meeting there were supporters of the Bill—some eight or ten gentlemen, who were members of the United Kingdom Alliance, or Permissive Bill Alliance, or Sunday Closing Association—they appeared to be all the same—and they opposed the objects of the meeting; but the nature of their opposition was 1353 such that the Mayor, who presided, refused to put their amendment, as being inapplicable. With the exception of those eight or ten gentlemen, who came specially to oppose the meeting, its opinion was unanimous, and that opinion was embodied in the Petition sent up from Cork. Then, how could it be said that there was no opposition to the Bill? What he said was this—that the excellent organization of the Sunday Closing Association—which he believed to be merely a branch of the United Kingdom Alliance, which had large funds at its disposal, and whose ramifications were so extensive that there was no district in Ireland in which its agents were not to be found—that organization, he said, had been used with remarkable energy, and backed up by the clergy of all denominations. He was by no means surprised at the success they appeared to have met with, and that it had been to a very great extent successful seemed to be the case from their having been able to impress the House of Commons with the idea that the people of Ireland were in favour of this Bill. But if the House blindly accepted the idea that the people of Ireland approved of the measure, they would find it would be so far from working out the desired remedy for any evil now existing in that country that it would only intensify it, open the way for an unnatural agitation—perhaps to be conducted by parties interested in getting up a disturbance, who would be sure to endeavour to make the people believe that they were the victims of class legislation. An hon. Member had expressed the hope that the Government would not allow itself to be influenced by the representations of persons acting on behalf of the central organization in Ireland. He hoped so to; and he could not sit down without adverting to the influences that had been used, and to the pressure that had been brought to bear upon Members of that House by persons who supported the Bill; and he also desired to show how, without their knowledge or consent, the signatures of constituents of several hon. Members had been used to represent Petitions sent up in support of the Bill as being the result of the spontaneous action of the public, instead of that of the private representatives of the agents of the organization; those Petitions being really transmitted 1354 to the Members through the agency of the United Kingdom Alliance or of the Sunday Closing Organization, or by whatever name they ought to be called. Now, he said that was not a legitimate practice—and he protested against the action of that well-organized society in getting Petitions forwarded through hon. Members of that House and representing them as the result of the spontaneous action of the public, when in fact they were no such thing. Then it was said this was all pure philanthropy—all for the good of the poor working classes of Ireland, who gave themselves over to drink—that it was for their good, temporally and eternally, that those good philanthropists had formed themselves into an association to promote morals and Christian example. That might be so, but all he could say was that that Society was not above dealing with matters, and using its funds, for very practical purposes. They could show their great over-righteousness, but they could also descend to very practical means of carrying their measures, and making their Members understand what they might gain by aiding them, and what they might lose if they could not quite agree with the measures of the Irish Sunday Closing Association. The House would understand that it was avowed under the hand of an official of that Society that they had funds at their command, and that they used them for the purpose of influencing elections in the various towns; that negotiations had been carried on by the consent of the Association; and that its agents, with the funds of the Association applied for the purpose, had come down to the town, and had treated with individuals in it for the promotion of the ends which the Association had in view. He had a right to mention that, because he held in his hand a letter from the Society in question avowing it. He would not read the whole letter, but he would read an extract from it. It said—The Secretary of the Association came expressly from Dublin in reference to the matter, and after several interviews a special meeting of the local Committee rejected his offer—doing this after they were informed from head-quarters that money would be forthcoming if, in their judgment, it was required, and could be properly expended.The writer added—Murder will out, and you and the people of Cork may judge of the matter for yourselves.1355 This letter was signed, "Scott Anderson, 8, George's-street, June 24th, 1876." All this agitation, and the Bill itself, was, he maintained, nothing but the outcome of a well-organized and well-managed Association, and he denied that it emanated from the spontaneous movement of the working classes of Ireland. He did not suppose that anything he could say would affect a division of the House upon the question, if a division should be taken upon it, or he would most strongly urge the House not to pass such a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when he accepted the Bill, said he would propose modifications in Committee. Now he(Mr. Murphy) could not understand what modifications could be introduced into the Bill that would not conflict with its principle—for its principle was that all public-houses should be closed in Ireland on Sundays. If the right hon. Gentle-was about to say that the Bill would be utterly impracticable in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and other large places, and that therefore he proposed to except them from the operation of the Bill, he could understand the proposition—but it was exemption, not modification. A great number of Members had voted for the measure in the present Session who did not vote for it two years ago, and now the right hon. Gentleman had taken the course of announcing that he would not oppose the Bill. He did not know what precise meaning was to be attached to that statement; but he confessed that, with that statement before him, if the Bill was carried to a division, he could not see that any other course was open to him than to vote against it.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he was very anxious that the grounds of the vote he intended to give on the Motion before the House should not be misunderstood, and therefore he would, with the permission of the House, explain the reasons why he should give that vote. Now, he wished, in the first instance, to state that the Gentlemen who supported this Bill had not a monopoly of the desire to put down intemperance, nor were they the only persons who were alive to the calamities resulting from it; nor could any one be more anxious than himself that they should be put an end to by any means that legislation could supply. But this was a question in which the majority were not the governing body, and he 1356 was wonderfully startled when he heard so great an authority as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich say that because a majority of the people of Ireland were of one opinion on this matter, he therefore supported the Bill. This was not a question on which the majority should govern. This was a sumptuary law, and they knew how, at the commencement of civilization, sumptuary laws had always been adopted by semi-barbarous people, and how as nations advanced in civilization they came to the conclusion that individuals were not to be interfered with in matters that did not actually concern the nation. Society was formed for the purpose of protecting each individual against oppression or coercion, whether from abroad or from home; and for that purpose each individual gave up some part of his personal liberty. But that Government was the best that supplied the greatest amount of security at the least expense of personal liberty, and he was there that day to say that the personal liberty of the individual as regarded his mode of drinking or his mode of eating was not a matter to be decided by legislation. That was what surprised him from so great an authority as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who could not see that it was not the province of legislation to interfere in such matters, and he said they ought not to. What was the real state of the case? It was simply this—A small number of the whole people of Ireland were inclined to intemperance—a very small number—and because that small number could not control themselvesthey—the Legislature and the Government—were asked to step in and say that every individual in that country should be coerced because they could govern themselves. That was the real state of the question, and people should not be deceived by the nature of the apeals made to them. Did anybody suppose that all those Petitions were got up in the real belief that much good was to be done by them? Not at all. Men had crotchets, men had passions, men had interests, and crotchets, passions, and interests had led to this measure. This measure was not proposed upon good grounds, and he was inclined to believe that the Government had done exceedingly unwisely in yielding to the pressure put upon them by a sudden 1357 Vote of the House of Commons. If the House of Commons had been led to think over the circumstances as they ought, they would come to the conclusion, and would rightly come to it, that this was no question for legislation, but that it ought to be left to the various influences which society afforded for bringing people round to morality and good conduct—to the clergy, the magistracy, the schoolmaster, to everybody, in fact, that helped to form the opinion of mankind. We ought to leave the settlement of this question to them, and not ask the Legislature to pass a Bill like the one before the House.
§ MR. O'LEARY
said, that this Bill, if it should become law, would increase Sunday drinking. The result would be this—licensed houses were kept open late on Saturday night, and the persons who frequented them would take home whiskey for consumption on Sunday if the houses were to be closed on that day. The consequence would be that, after taking their usual quantity of drink on Saturday nights, they would not go home perfectly sober—or at least they would have taken sufficient to whet their appetite for more—and when they got home they would take a little of that bought for Sunday; this would induce them to take a little more; and the chances were that they would not go to bed till early in the morning, when all the whiskey had been consumed. Next morning they would not be able to attend mass; and if a man did not attend mass for several Sundays he was considered almost a lost man. The respectable portion of the community would not go into a beer-house on the Sunday—he waited patiently until 2 o'clock; but if this Bill were carried they would have no alternative. He had personally consulted a large number of clergymen and others in Dublin upon this question, and it was the general opinion that this Bill was a mistake, and that to prevent Sunday drinking the great thing would be to deal with the beer-houses. The keeper of a public-house, having embarked several thousands in his property, would not permit drunkenness and risk losing his licence—his interest and aim were to keep his house respectable. Now, the question was between drinking in public-houses and drinking at home. If the respectable tradesman or artizan were driven to drink at home, as he would be 1358 if this Bill passed, the children would be taught to drink also;—the young man of 21 must have his glass of whiskey as strong as his father's, and all because it was passing round the table. In Scotland, the land of Sunday closing, enormous quantities of whiskey were put by on Saturday nights for consumption on Sundays, and by 9 or 10 o'clock on Sunday mornings there was a large amount of drunkenness. Only a few weeks ago a shocking catastrophe occurred in Glasgow, when two little children were killed by whiskey on Sunday morning. Their parents got so drunk through drinking their Saturday night supply for Sunday that the children thought it a good opportunity to imitate their virtuous parents, and they drank themselves to death. Besides these two, there were other cases on the same day from drunkenness. One woman fell into the canal and was drowned, another fell out of a window, and there were altogether six deaths in this land of Sunday closing as the result of Sunday drinking. Lest it might be thought that he was exaggerating what took place in Scotland, he would quote from The North British Mail of June 6th—and this was the reply he gave to the Irish Members; because the English Members would not entertain this question were it not that some of the Irish Members had spoken so strongly about it. The hon. Member for Cork(Mr. Murphy) had detailed the different means which had been adopted to induce them to support this measure against their private convictions. They were told that she beens could be put down immediately. But what was the case in Scotland? He would read what took place at the Greenock Police Court. It was headed—"Alarming Increase of She beens," and went on to say, "A labourer named John O'Neill"—by-the-bye, that was an Irish name—and perhaps it was an argument in his favour, for if, in the face of the canny Scotch, the Irishman could evade the law, what would he not do at home?—John O'Neill was charged with having on Sunday last trafficked in excisable liquors in his house, and he pleaded not guilty. It came out in the course of the trial that for some time, past there has been an increase, which was described as 'most alarming,' in the number of she beens in town; that localities such as the Vennel abound with places where the illicit traffic is carried on; that accused lived in a close into which men in a sober state were seen to enter, and from which they afterwards 1359 emerged intoxicated; and that 'scouts' in the interest of the traffickers were on the look-out for the police, and did duty so well in giving; timely intimation of their neighbourhood or approach that it was an exceedingly difficult matter to surprise the guilty parties, or to obtain evidence which would lead to conviction. The house of accused was suspected to be a she been; and at the early hour of half-past 6 on Sunday morning a policeman, who was off duty and dressed in plain clothes, was instructed to go to the house, accompanied by a companion, not a policeman, and to ask for liquor. The policeman and his companion got admittance, and obtained two supplies of whiskey, for which 8d. in each case was paid, the price being at the rate charged for the best whiskey. The liquor was supplied by the wife of accused, and he himself was present at the time. While the policeman was under examination in the witness-box, the bailie asked the fiscal if it was a right or proper thing that the members of the police force should be employed on such errands as going into shebeens and getting drink for the purpose afterwards of establishing a charge? The fiscal replied that it was almost impossible otherwise to secure evidence of shebeening. Accused, on being asked by the bailie what he had to say for himself, stated that on Saturday evening he had been down the town drinking, and that he had laid in a supply for home consumption on Sunday; but that on Sunday morning, when the two men called, he supposed that his wife had sold some of the whiskey, because he had less need of it than she had of money.That was the state of things existing in the land of Sunday closing, and it represented what would be the effect of Sunday closing in Ireland. He would now read an extract from The Scotsman. Speaking about Mr. Bright's speech, in which he told the Irish agitators to blame the Government for the refusal of their demand by Parliament, that paper said—The insincerity of the demand, and the hopelessness of giving it real effect, were it ostensibly granted, are made plain by looking at the circumstances of Ireland compared with those of the other two kingdoms, in both of which similar experiments have been made. Presbyterian Scotland makes professions, and to some extent has habits, regarding Sunday incomparably more strict than any other Christian country, and it is not surprising to find that there is here a considerable amount of outward observance of the law against the public consumption of liquor on Sunday"—in other words, that hypocrisy was rampant—but what, after all, have been the results on the balance even here? There is not only a great deal of private and illicit drinking on Sunday, but whatever diminution has taken place on that day, must have gone to increase the drinking on other days, for, on the whole, we drink as much as before the law was made, 1360 and that, too, in spite of the price of what we drink having been doubled by additional taxation.The consumption in Scotland, therefore, was absolutely increasing, and we heard from Scotland's own mouth that Sunday drinking and Sunday drunkenness were really matters of fact, notwithstanding the Sunday closing. But there was something beyond that to which he would refer. Ingenious Hibernians on the other side of the Channel sometimes looked for aid from this side; but when they looked for a certain class of aid it was a tolerably good proof that they had a shaky cause. What had the advocates of Sunday closing in Ireland done? They had brought over to Ireland a lady—"Mother Stewart," as she was called—to lecture about Sunday closing, and from what she said he presumed she was a lady of good sense. She said—and she had as large a gathering as Moody and Sankey had—"she did not believe in what they were doing in Scotland. She hoped that in Ireland they would get the Bill without the loopholes there were in Scotland. She was in Dundee last Sabbath week. She was at a prayer meeting. On her return she met thousands—bonâ fide travellers—rolling across the bridge drunk in the middle of the day." This was a matter of absolute fact. It was not his statement. He did not say that thousands were rolling over the bridge drunk, for the simple reason that he did not think a man who was drunk could roll over it. But the lady stated that as a matter of fact. She thought the Scotch law must be made more stringent before it would work. So much for Mother Stewart. Was that the sort of law, then, they were going to have applied to Ireland? He hoped, for the sake of his country, it would never be said that thousands of persons were drunk and rolling over the rickety bridges in the middle of the Sunday; and yet that was what it was said Sunday closing had done for Scotland. It would be incomparably better to let every man get any drink he wanted openly and without deception or trickery than have such a system as that going on. Look at the districts in Ireland where voluntary Sunday closing had been adopted, and what did they find there? Why, only last week the Judge of Assize in Tipperary, speaking in the county 1361 where Sunday closing was held up as a model to the rest of Ireland, told the grand jury that arrests for drunkenness there were enormously on the increase; and in the diocese of Ferns, also under the voluntary closing system, they were told that rowdyism and crime abounded; and if these were characteristic of any district it was always said that they flowed from, and were the natural outcome of, drunkenness. At the Enniscorthy petty sessions the other day several parties were convicted of disorderly conduct and assaults, and he saw from a report in The Irish Times that Mr. Cookman, the presiding magistrate, in alluding to the state of Enniscorthy, said that—If the town was not to be altogether given up to the rowdies, something must he done to put a stop to those disgraceful acts by more stringent measures or the increase of the police force.At the previous petty sessions one of the justices presiding said that the state of Enniscorthy was so bad that the farmers could not bring in their corn without being assaulted by the roughs of the town. What was the cause of this? Why, Sunday closing was at the root of it all. This state of things arose from drink taken secretly on the Sunday, by which the people were demoralized—and yet that was the system which was to be extended to the whole of Ireland. It was said that drunkenness on Sundays was so greatly on the increase that this Bill must be passed at once. Let them see what was the necessity for it. Taking the official Reports published in Thom's Irish Almanac, it would be found that crime had greatly decreased in Ireland of late years. Dividing the 30 years from 1845 to 1874 into decennial periods, he found that in the first 10 years, from 1845 to 1854, the convictions at assizes and quarter sessions averaged per year 12,808. In the second decennial period, from 1855 to 1864, the convictions averaged 3,595 a-year. The third decennial period showed a further improvement, the convictions having fallen to an average of 2,575 per annum. The worst class of crimes had declined in still greater proportions, the averages being 22.7 in the first, 5.4 in the second, and 3 per cent in the third decade. Imprisonment for petty offences summarily dealt with had also fallen off from an 1362 average of 45,050 in the first 10 years to 21,589 in the second, and 19,594 in the third decade; while in the last year for which the Returns were given there was a still further reduction to 18,628. The imprisonments for drunkenness had also fallen off from an average of 15,543 in the first decade to 7,806 in 1874. How in the face of these official statistics it could be contended that Ireland needed a Draconian code to put down intemperance and crime passed his comprehension. He thought the Bill a very bad return for the improved morality of the Irish people, and he called upon the House to reject it. He had occupied the House a considerable time, and he was extremely grateful for the kindness shown to him. There was, however, one other question to which he would refer, and that was the bonâ fide traveller question. Of course the bonâ fide traveller would be protected under this Bill. The consequence would be that, say between Dublin and Kingstown, there would be a general migration every Sunday; friends in Kingstown would visit friends in Dublin on one Sunday, and a return visit would be paid the next, and before long bonâ fide travellers' clubs would be established. The result would be that, as Mother Stewart said of Dundee, thousands of drunken persons would be rolling about the streets, and matters would really be worse than they were at present. Let him say one word in reference to the Petitions in favour of this Bill. It was stated that 1,000 of these Petitions had been signed in England; but in Ireland they did not want Petitions signed in England to tell them they must adopt Sunday closing. That House had no right to take cognisance of Petitions got up in England in support of Sunday closing in Ireland—they might pay more attention to them if they were for Sunday closing in England. It was a remarkable fact that in none of the places where Petitions had been got up against nuns and nunneries had there been a single Petition in favour of Irish Sunday closing. The House might make what they could of that, but it was an actual fact. When a deputation of artizans waited upon him on this question he asked them whether there was not a great deal of Saturday night drinking, and whether it would not be advisable to shorten the hour of closing on Saturdays. The deputation, 1363 representing about 24,000 artizans, said it would decidedly, and they thought 8 o'clock would be a good time to close. He asked if at any time 18,000 or 20,000 men would sign a Petition in favour of early closing on Saturday, and they said they would, but that it was unjust and unfair to close altogether on Sunday. He hoped the House would reject the Bill, which he thought was not only uncalled-for but unjust.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
said, he was placed in a peculiar position with, regard to this Bill, as many of his constituents were in favour of its principle. Notwithstanding that, however, he must say that, in his opinion, neither men nor women could be made moral, sober, or religious by Act of Parliament. He believed, with the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan), that if this Bill passed there would be great disturbances in many districts in Ireland, because the people would not be likely to submit quietly to be deprived of that which they had hitherto enjoyed. He trusted, therefore, that this Bill would not be carried; and he was the more anxious that it should not pass because it was a Bill that would press hardly on the poor, and not in any degree interfere with the comfort and enjoyment of the rich. He would support an Amendment for closing public-houses early on Saturday, as much more drinking took place on that day than on Sunday.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
said, he wished to explain for the first time why he intended to vote for this Bill. It was because the preponderance of opinion in Ireland of all classes and creeds was in favour of Sunday closing. The figures quoted by the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. O'Leary) referred to a period of famine, when petty larcenies and every description of crime prevailed to a large extent and increased the convictions. He believed that drunkenness in Ireland was not on the increase, but on the decrease, and the Judges on circuit made a great mistake in speaking of the increase of drunkenness. They were probably led into this error by the Returns of the County Inspectors. Formerly, up to 1874, a man taken before a magistrate for drunkenness was fined 6d. and dismissed, and no record was kept; but by the Act of 1874, a summons was required, and so every case was recorded. 1364 On the other side, Mr. Baron Dowse at Trim congratulated the Grand Jury on the great decrease of drunkenness, and the learned Judge at Cork said that no district in Ireland was freer from crime than the West Riding of Cork. To show that drunkenness in Ireland was not increasing he would take the last Return with reference to the number of gallons of spirits drunk in a year in the Three Kingdoms. In England the number of gallons was 16,742,000, in Scotland it was 6,872,470, and in Ireland 6,490,000; so that there was more drinking in Scotland than in Ireland by 381,000 gallons, although the population of Ireland was nearly 2,000,000 more than that of Scotland. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Drogheda that the greatest amount of drinking took place on Saturday evenings, and he should certainly prefer to see a Bill brought in to close at 7 o'clock on Saturday evenings than that the public-houses should be closed entirely on Sundays. He thought the houses should be opened at least two hours on Sunday afternoons, as it would be very hard to deprive persons who went out for enjoyment in the country from getting a reasonable amount of refreshment. He would support the second reading of the Bill; but if an Amendment for early closing on Saturdays were proposed, he did not say that it would not receive his support.
§ MR. O'CLERY
considered the argument that Sunday closing would produce disorder was utterly groundless. Twenty years ago the county of Wexford, which he had the honour to represent, undertook voluntarily to close all public-houses on Sundays, and he could assure the House that it was now more anxious that Sunday closing should be continued than it was in the first year. So far from violence and disorder being the natural outcome of that system, he could fearlessly assert that there was no county in Ireland which could show a better record of good order or respect for law in every sense than Wexford. The clergy of all denominations were in favour of this measure, and it might fairly be assumed that they were better judges of what was provocative of violence and disorder and more to be relied upon than the haphazard assertions of newspapers and magistrates with regard to the town of Enniscorthy.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
said, he took a very deep interest in this question, and had urged upon the Prime Minister, as one of a deputation last year, the importance of the Bill being carried in deference to what might be called the almost universal wish of the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman did not assent to the measure as one for total closing on Sundays, and refused to accept the measure in that shape. He (Sir Eardley Wilmot) afterwards suggested to the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the objections to the Bill might be met by allowing the public-houses to be open from 1 to 3 o'clock in the afternoon, which would permit those who required it to obtain all necessary refreshment, and prevent those who were inclined to indulge in evening drinking from doing so, and thus to a large extent, if not wholly, get rid of the evil at which the Bill was aimed. He found, however, that that proposal did not receive the approval of those who had charge of the measure, and therefore he decided on giving his unhesitating and entire support to the Bill as it stood. He had heard with much gratification the declaration of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland that the Government would not oppose the Bill, and he trusted that if a division took place many of its Members would be found in the Lobby with those Members who supported it. It would be unwise and unseemly on his part to detain the House at that late period of the debate by any remarks on the general question. He would only say that after the lengthened discussion which had taken place, and after listening attentively to the speeches of those hon. Members who had opposed the Bill, his sentiments and convictions on the subject were not in the least shaken, and he should give his vote in favour of the expediency of passing this Bill as a response to the voice of the people of Ireland. Much had been said about the operation of a similar Act in Scotland, and upon that point widely different statements had been made. All he would say was that in legislating for Ireland they had different circumstances, and if they were convinced that in that country the measure would be beneficial, they ought to pass it without reference to the consequences which might have been experienced elsewhere. All the working 1366 men in Ireland to whom he had spoken on the subject had expressed themselves strongly as to the many evils which attached to the opening of public-houses for drinking on Sundays, and in their interest he hoped the House would agree to the Bill.
§ MR. YEAMAN
said, as one of the Members for Dundee he could only say, in reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Drogheda (Mr. O'Leary), that he thought "Mother Stewart" was rather inaccurate in her facts, inasmuch as there was no "bridge" at Dundee. A railway bridge was in course of construction, which was expected to be completed in a year and a-half from this time; and there were two ferry-boats, which sailed every half-hour or hour, carrying large numbers of passengers: and he had never heard of such general intoxication about the streets as that alleged. As to the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland, under which public-houses were all shut on Sunday, he had had experience during a great many years—not less than nine or ten years—as a member of the General Licensing Board of Dundee, which had a population of 140,000 people, and he had never known any one complain of the operation of that Act. Everybody was pleased with it, and he believed that if it were attempted to open again the public-houses on Sunday in Dundee the publicans themselves would be the first to throw opposition in the way of that being done. He could also testify to the fact that since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act drunkenness had greatly decreased in Scotland. He was not going to speak of what the effect of such a law might be in the large English manufacturing towns, or in the large towns in Ireland; but from all he could learn, and judging from the unanimity which prevailed amongst the representatives from Ireland in that House, and amongst all classes in that country on the subject, he thought that this was a Bill which ought to be passed. He was very glad, therefore, to find that the Government had waived their opposition, and were willing to allow this Bill to proceed.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
I have already addressed the House on this subject so lately and so fully that I do not now wish to address it at any length. I have thought over the Bill very carefully since 1367 the Resolution was passed on which it is founded, and the more I look into it I must say that I am not more friendly to it than I was before. I have spoken to very many people upon the subject, and I have not heard a single person say he was in favour of it. Reference has been made to the closing of public-houses in Scotland on Sundays. Whatever may have been the result there I would point out that there is a great difference between the two countries; and also that you cannot apply to the rural districts that which may possibly do for the towns. There are many Irish villages in which you will find only one or two public-houses, and I will venture to say that in most cases from Monday morning to Saturday they are left totally unused. The farmers and the peasants are engaged daily with their horses in ploughing the land and carrying on other farming work; they have no time to go to public-houses at night, and they do not do it. They put off their visits there till Sunday. [A laugh.] Well, that is the truth. In every village there is either a Roman Catholic church or a Protestant chapel, and the people go to these villages for the purposes of devotion. There is not a more religious people in the world than the Irish, and neither men nor women will absent themselves from church on Sundays. After their devotions they do not think it any sin to go to the public-house to meet their friends and neighbours and have a little refreshment—consisting generally of a glass of beer or porter. After that they go home without being in the slightest degree intoxicated. I know that from my own experience. I could swear to it, if necessary, upon oath. Hundreds, I might say thousands, thus meet for refreshment and neighbourly intercourse on the only day that is open to them. In the locality with which I am connected there is a little watering place—Tramore—about seven miles from Waterford. It is connected with Waterford by a railway, and the managers of the railway put on two pleasure excursion trains specially on Sundays to Tramore. By these trains hundreds, I may say thousands, every Sunday leave Waterford and other places in the neighbourhood to enjoy the open air and pleasant change, and am Ito be told that when they arrive at Tramore they are to have no refreshment? It might be said that these persons were 1368 bonâ fide travellers, and would therefore be entitled to be served with refreshments. But what was to be done with the persons who served them? Why, if this wretched and abominable Bill passed it would turn everything topsy turvey. Instead of the people of Tramore entertaining their visitors, their visitors would have to entertain them. I never heard of such a thing before. When you are visited you must entertain your visitors, but all that is to be changed by this miserable Bill. But let us see how it will work in a different way. Last year about this time the weather was very wet. I had a great quantity of hay out, and I was apprehensive that I should lose it all through the rotting of the grass on the field. One Sunday came in bright and sunshiny. I went up to the field about 2 o'clock to have a look at the hay, and there to my surprise I found a lot of people turning my hay, making the most of the fine day, and before 8 o'clock it was all dried and turned up into tidy haycocks. My hay was saved, by this timely help; but those people would not take any money reward. Was I to allow them to work from 2 to 8 o'clock without some acknowledgment? No. I sent to the nearest public-house for three barrels of porter, and very soon afterwards the contents disappeared, for the people were perspiring as freely as possible, so that the porter ran out of them as fast as it went in. Is there a man in this House who will get up and say that if he had been in my place he would not have done the same? If so, I can only say that I would have a very low opinion of him. Yet the provisions of this delightful Bill would have prevented my doing it. If this Bill passed, and your hay was in danger of rotting, and if the people who would not accept money could not have a little refreshment after saving it, they would say, "No thank you. Good evening to you. "I cannot understand this Bill. You may drink as much as you like from Monday morning to Saturday night in public-houses, but it does not abolish drinking in private houses on Sundays; but on Saturday a man may buy as much as he pleases for Sunday. This was done in Scotland and assuredly would be done in Ireland. The effect would be to encourage the consumption of drink in people's own houses, and that with very undesirable results. At present only the 1369 head of the family enters a public-house on Sundays—the wife, if she does so, soon leaves; but if the houses are closed the drink will be carried home, and wife and children will thus acquire a liking for it, which, but for this wretched Bill, they never would have had. Another consequence is likely to follow, the increase of houses for the illicit sale of liquors; and so many of the most important social interests of the country are to be sacrificed to the crotchets of the men who bring forward such a measure as this. If English Members vote for it, they may rest assured that a similar Bill will be introduced for England—and I should like to see their treatment of it! Practically, however, this is a coercion Bill, brought forward by Irish Members to coerce their own countrymen. Irish Members—patriots who come from Ireland to denounce coercion which permits the seizure of arms not held by licence—have gone to the Government and asked for the abolition of those restrictions. The Government has told them they have very greatly reduced the amount of coercion, and hope in a short time to be able to do away with it altogether. Oh, say the patriots, if you do that we shall bring in our coercion Bill, imposing pains and penalties on a great mass of our own honest, orderly, and industrious fellow-countrymen, and we shall expect you to help us to pass it. As to the prevention of drinking, you must not think that there will not be plenty of opportunities of drinking if this Bill is passed—the people will get liquor on a Sunday from beer-houses of an illicit description. The mode of giving licences may be improved in favour of Sunday travellers. In my neighbourhood magistrates will not grant seven-days licences, but only six-days licences. I verily believe that the six-days licences sell more liquor than the holders of seven-days licences, because they distribute their liquor for Sunday consumption through houses which the police cannot enter. The natural consequence of the Bill will be that illicit drink-shops will be opened, the police will have to be employed to arrest persons frequenting them and the keepers, and the magistrates will have to punish the offenders, and a very disagreeable duty indeed it will be to the magistrates. I beseech English Members not to vote for this Bill, which if 1370 passed will, from East to West, from North to South, afflict Ireland with a canker of lawlessness, drunkenness, and debauchery.
§ MR. CALLAN
opposed the Bill. He thought that what was required was a further limitation of hours and not a total closing on Sundays. As to the operation of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland, a Committee of that House referring to the scenes which took place on Sunday at Glasgow Green and at Dundee, stated that scenes of the greatest disorder occurred at those places—and this, too, in a country where Sunday drinking was prohibited. He had himself been in Glasgow on a Sunday, and the scenes of demoralization which he witnessed on the Green of the city were of the most disgraceful character, and fully justified the evidence given before the Committee of the House. If such was the effect of the closing of public-houses in Scotland, he should be sorry to see a principle of legislation adopted with respect to Ireland that might have the effect of leading to such results. Referring to the Petitions which had been presented in favour of the Sunday closing in Ireland, he observed that many of them were from the Wesleyan Body. Now, these very persons were the same petitioners who prayed the House to do away with convents and monasteries in England. It was not, therefore, very likely that the arguments of such petitioners could find much favour with the people of Ireland; and he might add that the Members representing the northern counties of Ireland who supported the measure were also the supporters of the proposal to close monastic institutions in this country. The Dublin Royal Society had also petitioned in favour of the Bill; but he could not help remembering the Society had a large grant from the Government; they had an excellent house, a fine library, and other accommodation, all of which was open on Sundays, and he certainly thought it was inconsistent on their part to support such a Bill as this. He hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry would give up his Bill for the present, or send it to a Select Committee, to consider the whole question involved in it, and that next year a new Bill should be introduced, in which permission would be given for public-houses in Ireland to 1371 remain open for a given part of that day.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.