§ [Progress18th February."]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ MR. MURPHY
I have to move, Sir, that you do now leave the Chair. It will be in the recollection of the House—or, at all events, of those hon. Members who take an interest in this important subject—that the second reading of this Bill came on at an advanced hour of the night—the second or third of the Session—when there were very few Members present. Under those circumstances, it was agreed that the discussion upon both the principle and the merits of the measure should be postponed until the Order for going into Committee on the Bill. Upon the day when that Order came on—which was a Wednesday—there were five Orders on the Paper, four of which preceded the Order for the committal of this measure; but, owing to unexpected circumstances—the unexpected, they say, is always sure to take place—all those Orders fell through, two of them being of such a character that the discussion of them was calculated to take up all the time of a Wednesday's Sitting. The consequence was that, the opponents of the measure not expecting it, only 12 Members being present, the Speaker left the Chair, and the House at once went into Committee on the Bill, and the Preamble was postponed, and the Business of the House was over at five minutes past 1 o'clock. Thus the discussion fell through. We are, therefore, in this position—that we have not had any discussion either upon the principle or the merits of the Bill since 1876, when the House, no doubt, confirmed the abstract principle, by affirming the Resolution then brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Derry. Since that time a Select Committee has been appointed to inquire into how far it was expedient that certain towns should be exempted 300 from the operation of the measure. Before that Select Committee there was a large amount of evidence taken, and very many startling facts were brought to light; but in this House nothing but a mere statement took place after the receipt of the Report of that Select Committee. I had to occupy a considerable portion of the day when I made that statement, as the subject was a large and an intricate one, and as I had to explain new facts and figures arising out of the evidence taken, before the Committee. When I made that statement the promoters of the Bill walked out of the House; but, be that as it may, no discussion took place upon the subject of a nature calling for a division. Therefore, we now stand in this position. In 1876 the House, as I have said, affirmed the principle of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth). In the next year the Select Committee supplied new facts and new evidence, which totally changed the position of affairs; and, therefore, it is now my duty to lay these facts and this evidence before the Committee, to enable them to form an opinion upon the state of things now existing, and which did not exist at the time the House came to that decision. My point of departure would naturally be 1876; but it will be necessary for me to state what was the position of affairs for some time before that date, and I shall do so in as few words as possible. In 1868 a Select Committee was appointed to inquire into and report on the entire question. Witnesses were examined from every part of Ireland, amongst them the late Archbishop Leahy, and even from America, and Mr. Cyrus Meld gave ample evidence of the working of the system in Brooklyn and New York; and, notwithstanding everything that was placed before that Committee in favour of the measure, they unanimously reported against total Sunday closing, and urged that the hours, which were then 11 o'clock on Sunday nights, should be reduced to 9 in towns above 5,000 inhabitants, and to 7 o'clock in towns of under 5,000. The question was discussed in the subsequent years without any effect; and in 1872 the Government of the day brought in a Licensing Bill, which affected both England and Ireland, and they adopted, as a settled measure, the Resolution of 301 the Committee of 1868, in which the hours were limited to 9 and 7 o'clock respectively, and these were the hours fixed by the Bill of 1872, and were considered to be a final settlement of the question. Since that time no statistics have been produced, and no reason has been given why that final settlement should be departed from. Those who invested their capital in the business took the Bill of 1872 as a regular settlement; and why it was that so soon after that year an effort was made to revive the question I am at a loss to understand, save and except it was the motive which actuated Gentlemen who formed themselves into an Association for obtaining Sunday closing in Ireland. The ink was scarcely dry on the Statute Book when an Association was formed in Ireland for closing public-houses on Sundays, almost contemporaneously with the formation of the United Kingdom Alliance in this country; when, at a meeting held in Lancashire, £250,000 was subscribed for the purpose—as alleged in their resolution and prospectus—of securing the ultimate suppression of all liquor traffic, the promotion of the Permissive Bill, and, of course, the Sunday closing of public-houses. After the Resolution of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth) had been passed by a majority of 57 on the 12th May, 1876, he brought in his Bill, and in July following it came on for second reading. On that occasion the late Chief Secretary for Ireland stated that, having regard to the decision of the House upon the abstract Resolution, and feeling that the Government were constitutionally bound to accept that as the opinion of the House in favour of the measure, they could not, and would not, oppose the second reading of the Bill, but that they would reserve to themselves full right and ample powers to make such Amendments in Committee as to them seemed proper. The Chief Secretary at that time stated that certain towns in Ireland—not limiting the number to five—having a population exceeding a certain number should, in his judgment, be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Nothing more was done that Session; but when, in 1877, the Bill was again brought in, the Chief Secretary, having assented to its second reading—which I then protested agains—moved for a Select Committee, which, was subsequently ap- 302 pointed,and their inquiry was restricted to five towns—namely, Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Waterford, and Limerick. How far it was consistent with the principles of the Bill, which affirmed total Sunday closing for the entire of Ireland, to propose that five important towns should be exempted from that principle I fail to understand. In those very places which it was proposed to exempt, the promoters of the Bill say there was probably greater occasion for Sunday closing than in the country districts. I am opposed altogether to the total closing of public-houses on Sundays; but I have never been averse to a further restriction of hours, if necessary; and moreover, I am not opposed to giving greater limitation of hours in some districts than in others. I shall now proceed, with the permission of the Committee, to lay before you my views upon what I consider the misapprehensions and erroneous opinions upon which the House came to the decision to affirm the principle of the Bill in 1876. I believe it to be admitted that when a Bill is brought into Parliament, it is essential that its promoters should show some reason for its introduction. When a Bill of this kind is brought in for the purpose of closing public-houses on Sundays—with a view, as it is alleged, to repress intemperance—one would think it would be necessary for the promoters to prove that intemperance did exist on Sundays before they brought in a measure for the repression of that which, non constat, did not exist at all; and to prove also that it existed in such a degree as to justify the Legislature in interfering by an exceptional law—a law which is an infraction of the principle of personal liberty. The fact is, that the promoters of this Bill never even condescended to prove the existence of intemperance in Ireland on Sundays, much less to prove that, if it did exist, the remedy proposed would be efficacious. Both those points were taken for granted. There is another thing which it is for the promoters of the Bill to prove to the satisfaction of the House. The Committee will recollect that this is a measure which is not generally applicable to all classes; and, further, that it is peculiarly directed against one particular class, or several kindred strata of classes, in Ireland. It does not affect the rich man or any man who is not in the habit of using 303 public-houses; and, therefore, although the opinion of men of influence, weight, and character—the opinion of Prelates, Peers, Squires, Poor Law Guardians, and Town Councillors—may be taken upon this subject, it is the opinion of men whom the measure will not affect; and I say it is a most intolerable presumption of one class, who are not to be affected by a measure like this, to assume to legislate for another class who are to be affected by it, and that against the will and determination of that class, or without the trouble to inquire whether they wish for it or not. The promoters are bound to show that the demand for closing public-houses on Sundays comes from those who use them, and that might be some justification for asking the House of Commons to pass such a measure. Well, if I can show to the satisfaction of the Committee—first, that there is not that amount of intemperance and disorder in Ireland on Sundays which would justify the interference of this House—if I can show, moreover, by indisputable and incontrovertible evidence, that the remedy proposed, even if the evil did exist, would not be efficacious, but would aggravate and intensify that evil—and if I can show, further, as I hope to show, that the presumed expression of public opinion in Ireland of those classes who will be affected by this Bill is a myth, and not a reality, and that a counterfeit presentiment of the reality has been put before this House by Petitions which, when examined and analyzed, will be found to be not an expression of opinion from the masses whom they affect—I think, if I show these things, the Committee will at least pause before they allow this Bill to proceed further. Now, it has been alleged that Sunday in Ireland is a day of exceptional intemperance—a day of public scandal and disorder. I will proceed to lay before the Committee official Returns, which were given before the Select Committee of last year, with regard to the five towns which it is proposed to exempt from the Bill. The first is Belfast. The population of that town is 210,000. Between 1869 and 1876 the average number of daily arrests for drunkenness in each year was 7,962, or 22 per day; whilst the average arrests on Sundays only amounted to eight persons. In the metropolitan district of Dublin the popula- 304 tion is 337,000. The number of arrests in 1875 and 1876 was 13,346 and 12,702 respectively, giving an average daily arrest of 32 persons for each year. A Return was also made of the number of arrests on Thursdays and Saturdays. The number of arrests on Saturdays for three months was 919, on Thursdays for the same period 453, and the total number on Sundays was 308—that is to say, 50 per cent less on Sundays than on Thursdays, and 300 per cent less on Sundays than on Saturdays. As 300 is to 900, so is the proportion of arrests on Sundays as against Saturdays. And, again, the daily average was 23 arrests on Sundays as against 70 on Saturdays, and 34 on the intermediate Thursdays. Now, the city of Cork, which I have the honour to represent, has a population within the limited area of its borough of 80,000. A Return was presented to the Select Committee for the years 1869, 1870, and 1871—three years before the passing of the Licensing Act of 1872—and for 1874, 1875, and 1876, three years subsequent to the passing of that Act. I will remind the Committee that the Act of 1872–4 conferred much more stringent powers on the police with regard to arrests for drunkenness than had existed before—nay, more obligatory powers were placed upon them; they were absolutely bound by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Louth, which was brought forward in this House, to arrest people whom they conceived to be intoxicated. During the three years 1869, 1870, and 1871, the average number of arrests on Sundays was five persons, or just half of the average arrests on Saturdays. In 1874, 1875, and 1876, the number of arrests was about five and a-half persons for each Sunday in the year, as against 12 on Saturdays. The resident magistrate furnished the Committee with a Return taken out for the five years ending in 1876, and that Return was not confined to Saturdays, but embraced Thursdays also. The result showed that on the Sundays in the five years, there were 1,411 persons arrested; on the Saturdays, 3,281; and on the Thursdays, 1,672; or, in the words of Mr. M'Leod, the resident magistrate—"Five arrests on Sundays, against six on Thursdays, and 12 on Saturdays." Now, Sir, we come to Limerick, with a population of 35,000; and in Limerick the Returns 305 for eight years show that the average of arrests per day is nine, and on Sundays five and a-half, thus giving the same results as the other three towns which I have mentioned. In the year 1875 the number of arrests in Limerick was 3,235, and in 1876 3,672. On Sundays 307 persons were arrested in 1875, and 269 in 1876. Waterford has a population of 29,000, and the total number of arrests in 1876 was 1,459, showing a daily average of four; whereas the total number of arrests on Sundays is 134; showing, on an average, two and a-half persons on each Sunday arrested for drunkenness in Water-ford. These results were not before the House in 1876, when it affirmed the principle of this Bill; but now that these figures are before us, I ask, would the House in 1876 have hesitated in rejecting the Bill if it had had the information which is now laid on the Table? But then, Sir, the Members of the Committee were limited to an inquiry as to the amount of drunkenness in the towns of Ireland on Sundays; they could not go beyond that, and hon. Members may now say—"These results are very good so far as the towns are concerned; but how are we to know what goes on in the country districts?" Now, Sir, we fortunately have before us an official Return from the whole of Ireland, which was laid on the Table of the House last year, and this Return shows that out of a population of 5,400,000, the total number of arrests during the year was 95,684. In addition, we have a Return of the total number of arrests on the Sundays during the year, and we find that in 1876, 9,490 were so arrested, being less than one-tenth of the entire arrests for drunkenness for the year. If the Sundays bore their fair proportion, then the number of arrests should have been one-seventh of the whole, or about 14,000; whereas it was only 9,490; therefore, as I have already said, so far as experience is concerned, the promoters of this Bill have failed to make out a case—in fact, the proof, so far as it goes, is against them. I will give a brief recapitulation of the figures which I have brought before the Committee affecting the seven towns in Ireland to which I have referred. In these seven towns, having a population of 691,000, the number of arrests for drunkenness during the year was 28,915, giving an 306 average of 79 arrests per diem. On Sundays the arrests were 2,453, or only an average of 49½, against 79 on the other days of the week. Put it another way. In 1876 the population of Ireland—I quote from the last Census—was 5,400,000, and the proportion of arrests per diem throughout the whole country for drunkenness was 262, but on Sundays only 182; that is to say, in a population of 5,400,000 only 182 persons were arrested on each Sunday of the year for drunkenness; and these figures I bring forward as conclusive evidence against the objects which the framers of this Bill seek to promote in Ireland. The Return of 1871–2, which has been presented to this House, is rather a curious one, illustrating, as it does, how far the number of convictions for drunkenness agrees with the number of persons committing the offence. And here a great fallacy often prevails. People when they look at Returns are apt to say—"There were 100,000 convictions, and therefore there must have been 100,000 persons convicted." But it is no such thing. In 1871–2 the number of convictions was 92,295; the number of persons convicted a second time, 11,099; the number of persons convicted a third time, 7,648; the number of persons convicted more than three times was 16,911—making a total of persons convicted two or three, or more than three times, of 35,658, and leaving as the number of persons convicted a first time 56,000 instead of 92,000. But I have a more remarkable Return still, and I will refer to it, as I think the Committee should be put in possession of all the facts of the case. I have the Return from the Governor of Cork Gaol for the years 1872–3–4–5, showing the total number of distinct committals of individuals during those four years, and the Returns are—Males, 1,674; females, 1,125—total number of persons, 2,799. Will the Committee guess what was the number of convictions? It was 5,189, thus showing that, on the average, each of the persons committed was committed twice; but any ordinary person, looking at the number of committals and finding that they were 5,189, would suppose that 5,189 persons had been committed; whereas only 2,799 individuals had been committed! What I have said clearly proves that in Ireland there is the least drunkenness on 307 Sunday of any day in the week, and therefore there is no justification for bringing this Bill before the House; and I shall, Sir, now proceed to give the House the benefit of the opinions of those best competent to judge of the effects of Sunday closing. I regret very much that my Scotch Friends are not present to hear my remarks. More especially do I regret the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), for some of the opinions which I shall quote are very pertinent to the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, and somewhat affecting the reputation of the good city of Glasgow. I do not desire to drag Scotch towns into this discussion; but I am compelled to do so in consequence of the flourish which the advocates of Sunday closing make about the good which the Forbes-Mackenzie Act has worked for Scotland. Since 1854, say they, great advantages have accrued to Scotland by the working of this Act; and they ask—"Why do you object to Ireland having the same advantages? There is a precedent for you, and there is a beneficial course before you." First of all, I will lay before the Committee a few of the opinions of Mr. Badenoch Nicholson, Secretary to the Lord Advocate of Scotland. Mr. Nicholson was examined upstairs before the Committee with regard to the working of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act, and the effects which it has produced upon the Scotch people. He was asked—As to the effects of Sunday closing on the working classes, and on their habits in large towns. Do you consider that the people abstain from drinking spirits or other excisable liquors on Sunday, or do they lay up a store on hand, or do they go to illicit stores?The witness replied—It is exceedingly difficult to say whether the result of the Act has been in any considerable degree to make the Scotch people more temperate. I am afraid that I could not represent it strongly in that light. I think that the motive in passing that Act was more to promote order than to prevent intemperance.Question—Do you consider that the effect of the Act is to promote public order, but not to diminish drunkenness on Sundays?—Answer—I am afraid that I must admit that there is still very great room for improvement in Scotland.In reply to further questions, Mr. Nicholson said that one effect of the Act had been very greatly to increase the illicit sale of spirits on Sundays; and 308 if any person desired to obtain spirits on Sunday in Glasgow no doubt he would be able to get it from illicit vendors. I will now read a few lines from the Report of the Committee "On the Grocer's Licences in Scotland," which has been published only five days, and it will be seen by the Returns therein published that, the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act notwithstanding, drunkenness has increased in a greater ratio in Scotland than the increase of population in that country. The Report says that drunkenness has increased in districts where the population has decreased, or increased only in a slight proportion. On the other hand—Glasgow," says the Report, "shows a large decrease within the last two years, and that may be accounted for by the dulness of trade and the decrease in the rate of wages.The Returns for 62 burghs or towns in Scotland—excluding Glasgow—show that in 1854, 18,992 persons were convicted as being drunk and incapable; and in 1876, the number had increased to 30,552. In eight counties and burghs taken at random, the numbers in the early years were between 7,000 and 8,000; but in 1876 they had increased to 15,761. In 1854, in Glasgow, out of a population of 360,000, the number of convictions of persons drunk and incapable was 13,616; in 1861 the population was 403,000, and the convictions 21,763; in 1874 the population was 550,000, and the number of convictions 30,606. [An hon. MEMBER: Of what nationality?] All Scotch, I presume. The increase from 1854 to 1874 of persons taken up for drunkenness per diem is somewhat over 300 per cent in some districts. It is, however, somewhat remarkable that there is a falling off in the number of convictions in Glasgow after 1874. In 1875 the convictions had fallen to nearly one-half—namely, to 15,905; and in 1876 to 14,046. But, as the Report says, this must be "owing to the dulness of trade and the falling off in wages." It must be so. Cause and effect here are as clear as anything in the world. The result of the whole Return is this—that there is a natural progression in the number of convictions for the offences of "drunk and incapable" and "drunkand disorderly." I will not say post hoc propter hoc. I will not say that this increase is in consequence of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act; 309 but the increase exists, and the Act is in force. In the county of Mid-Lothian the number of persons, in 1865, who were apprehended for crimes, and who were drunk when apprehended, was 1,381, and in 1876 the number was 1,989; but the population in that period had only increased 2,000—from 72,248, in 1865, to 74,211 in 1876. In Edinburgh, in 1861, the population was 168,121, and the number of persons drunk and incapable returned for that year is 2,952, and in 1876 the number decreased to 2,311; but of those taken up for crimes and who were drunk when apprehended, there were, in 1854, 3,566; in 1861, 3,704; and in 1876, 4,803. Now, Sir, I have read to the Committee statistics which cannot err as to the actual amount, not of intemperance, but of non-intemperance, in Ireland on a Sunday, and I have contrasted them with statistics of a country where the Forbes-Mackenzie Act is in operation. With regard to Ireland, I have proved that Sunday is the day of all others on which there is the least intemperance; and, therefore, there is no necessity for the introduction of such a measure as this. I shall now ask the Committee to listen to opinions as to the effect which the closing of public-houses on Sundays would have in Ireland. Mr. Richard Corr, Chief Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, gave evidence before the Committtee on Sunday Closing (Ireland). He had been in the Force 40 years, and he is asked—In your opinion, is there much drunkenness in Dublin and the metropolitan district on Sundays?—Not so much on Sundays as on other days of the week. My experience could carry me back many, many years, and I find less drunkenness on Sunday than on any other day of the week. What is your opinion as to the interference with the convenience of the public by the total closing on Sundays?—My opinion is that the public would be very much inconvenienced by the total closing of public-houses within the metropolitan police district on Sundays.—Have you any reason, or what is your opinion, as to the reason, why the popular voice has not been raised against Sunday closing in Dublin—can you account for it?—They have not taken any steps, one way or the other, I think, to put forward their views on the subject.—Why have they not done so?—I cannot say; they are under the impression, I think, that the Bill would never be brought in or passed.—Is it your deliberate opinion that, so far from repressing intemperance, the total closing would increase intemperance?—It would in a certain class.—Captain Talbot said that there were 117 known illicit houses now; do you think that they 310 would be increased if the total closing movement was carried?—I am quite sure that there would be treble the amount.I can most emphatically say that that is the reason why the mass of the people of Ireland have not opposed this Bill. The mass of the Irish people never dreamt of the possibility of such a measure passing this House. They have seen the Bill brought in and dropped year after year, and so they never troubled themselves about it. And then, the masses of Ireland are politically inarticulate; they have no means of making themselves heard, and they have no system of organization. It is, therefore, absurd and ridiculous for the promoters of the Bill to come to the House and say—"Why have not the masses of the people complained of it?" Superintendent Corr is then asked whether Sunday closing would not increase intemperance? and he answers—Yes, we have already many illicit houses, and I am quite sure that if such a measure was passed, they would be trebled in Ireland.I now come to Belfast, and the evidence is that Sunday is a very orderly day, and except in the back lanes it is a rare thing to see a drunken man on that day. One witness says that if the public-houses were totally closed on Sunday, it would lead to an immense deal of evil. The fact of closing the public-houses will increase the evil that does exist, and teach men to evade the law by going to illicit houses. The same witness says that now the people do not abuse the privilege of being able to get a glass of drink on Sundays, and to close the houses would very much dissatisfy thousands of people. That is direct evidence; and now, probably, it may be as well if the Committee is put into possession of the evidence of two men of high position in Dublin—men of the highest character and intelligence. The first I shall allude to is the Recorder of Dublin, who is an enthusiastic admirer of this movement for Sunday closing, and certainly one whose opinion on that side of the question ought to have weight and consideration. I must apologize to the Committee for detaining them at such length; but the subject is of great importance, and, after the statements which have been made, requires to be opened out. Indeed, after the numerous charges made by the promoters of 311 this Bill, it is impossible to go into the matter without taking up a good deal of time. Mr. Falkiner, the Recorder of Dublin, said he should not have come forward to give evidence if the principle of the Bill had not been approved by this House. He recognized the fact that the measure must be of a speculative character, and he says—I am aware there is less drinking on Sunday, and I do not say that there is a necessity for this Bill because there is less drinking. I only support this measure for social reasons.Then I ask him—There being less drunkenness on Sunday than any other day, therefore the Bill should be passed?—Answer. Not at all. That is not the reason—that would be absurd—that is not my opinion. I stated all through that my reasons were warranted on social grounds.That is the evidence of the Recorder of Dublin. Then there was another witness examined who is a public officer, a divisional magistrate of Dublin, and he was asked what he thought of this measure. He said—I must say, after fully considering the question as carefully as I can, and after 11 years' experience as a magistrate of Dublin, that I am opposed to total closing on Sunday. It is a very large question, involving a great many views. It is, as it were, a sort of jump in the dark; in trying the measure for the first time none of us can see how it will turn out. It is desirable to judge of what would happen by what has happened in the past. In Dublin the houses are closed for half the day on Sunday, and, therefore, we may find some clue to guide us in noting how the closing system acts in the first half of the day. My experience is this—that during the first portion of the day there is as bad drinking, as much in extent, and more demoralizing to the people than the drinking that goes on afterwards. That has been clearly proved. I only became aware at the licensing sessions of the enormous extent of illicit drinking—in the squalid streets there were known houses where during illegal hours crowds of people congregated.I then asked this gentleman what effect this Bill would have if it became law? and he gave his opinion decidedly that great evil would result, and that it would create an illicit traffic. It is impossible that I could pass over this passage, as it supports my arguments so strongly—Supposing the houses were shut up, what would become of the people who wanted refreshment? "Would they be like good little boys at school?—Men with plenty of money in their pockets, and earning good wages, if they have a desire for drink, are not to be restrained by simply closing the public-houses.312 I have ample evidence here to show that this measure will only produce illicit traffic. The sub-inspector of the Constabulary at Belfast gives as his own personal opinion that such a measure "will do violence to the feelings of respectable people of Belfast." Then we come to Cork. I have read the statistics with regard to Cork, and shown that not more than five persons were arrested on Sunday for drunkenness throughout the year. Now I come to the question, what will be the remedy? There will be no remedy; but it will intensify the evil and drive the people to the shebeens and illicit houses. The feeling of the people of Cork is undoubtedly to limit the hours on Sundays, but not to totally close. I will read a portion of the evidence of Mr. Alderman Daly, who is a large employer of labour, and well acquainted with the middle and lower classes of Cork. I asked him—From your observation of the character of Sundays in Cork, and from the results of your official knowledge on the subject, is it your opinion that Sunday, generally speaking, is the day of all others upon which there is least drunkenness in the city of Cork?—I am of that opinion.—Is it your deliberate opinion that they (the middle and lower classes) are entirely opposed to the total closing of the public-houses on Sunday?—I would not say totally opposed, because a certain minority are not so disposed; but I would consider that minority inconsiderable as compared with the persons who differ from them.—You are of opinion that the vast majority of them are opposed to the total closing of the public-houses on Sunday?—That is my opinion.—Have you had any opportunity of ascertaining the opinions of the clergy of the city of Cork with regard to the subject?—I have. I have consulted clergymen who have held for a long period city ministrations, and have been removed in the ordinary course of promotion to country parishes, and the majority of them—and a large majority, too—have always said to me that they were in favour of restriction on Saturday nights and reasonable hours of opening on Sundays. And those are my own opinions upon the subject, founded on certainly as close observation as was in my power to give it for some seven or eight years.—You were asked a question about the adoption of Sunday closing in certain Roman Catholic dioceses; does it not strike you that voluntary Sunday closing under the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy may be a very different thing to Sunday closing by law?—Yes; because the one you accept in deference to the monition of your clergy, and the other is imposed upon you by a law which you believe to be unjust and unequal.In Limerick the same class of evidence is given. Mr. Gallway was asked— 313Do you think that drunkenness has been on the increase in Limerick?—I would not say so. I think Limerick is wonderful for the little drunkenness that there is in it. I made a calculation, and I find that there is one arrest to every 4,400 of the population every day.Mr. Spaight, a former Member of this House, gave this evidence. He was asked—Do you think that total closing could be adopted in the city of Limerick?—Not, I think, without great public inconvenience, and I think it would not succeed in the purpose for which it is nominally intended.He further says—My experience is sufficient to enable me to say the cases of committals for drunkenness arise rather from the class of habitual drunkards than from the general body of artizans and labourers.He is then asked—Do you, therefore, see any reason for passing a restrictive sumptuary law affecting undoubtedly the majority of the people merely for the experimental purpose or chance of correcting that minority who desire to drink?—I see no reason, and I think it would be unwise to do so.I feel that I am not wasting the time of the Committee in reading this evidence, especially after the articles and letters which have appeared in the daily newspapers, taking it for granted that the evil of drunkenness exists in Ireland to a large extent on Sunday. I will now quote from the evidence of Mr. Hanharan, clerk of the petty sessions at Waterford—What is your view of the matter?—I believe that it will increase the consumption of liquor on Sunday. I believe that on Saturday night, when the working classes are paid, they will go to public-houses, and before the houses are closed they will make provision for their drinking on Sunday, and will bring it home with them on a Saturday night; and then on Sunday, instead of going to a place of worship, my belief is that they would drink it on Sunday with their neighbours. Jack would go to Bill's house, and Bill would go to Joe's, and they would sit there the whole day drinking.—Do you think that any other evil would be caused by total closing on Sundays?—I do. I think that it would tend to demoralize the children of those working men by seeing them drunk in their presence on Sundays.—Have you had any means of ascertaining what the feelings of the people of Waterford would be upon the subject of total Sunday closing?—I believe that the majority are against Sunday closing.—Upon what do you base that opinion?—In the different offices that I hold I come into contact with a great many of the people of Waterford. I do not think that I have heard two dozen speak in favour of it. I have heard a great many speak in favour of shortening the hours.314 Now I come to the question of the supposed demand of public opinion on this subject; and when my hon. Friend (Mr. R. Smyth) moved his Resolution on the 12th of May, 1876, it was considered that the demand of the Irish people for this Bill was unanimous. That was stated to be the case, and was thought to be so by the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone). That distinguished Gentleman thought it his duty to advocate the passing of this measure; but admitted that, in the abstract, there was a cardinal objection to it unless a strong case was made out. These are his words—I dwell upon the language of my noble Friend in stating his general objections to strong restrictive legislation of this kind. I concur in those objections. I think it requires a very strong case to warrant our overlooking them, and the whole question now is whether we have before us that strong case."—[3 Hansard, ccxxix. 571.]On that the right hon. Member for Greenwich, as well as the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), proceeded to argue their case; and, as a proof of the demand from the people of Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman dwelt very much on the very graphic and very powerful statement made in this House by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan). That Gentleman, who is a master—I will not say, of heedless rhetoric, but of a bold style—said he gave to this House a picture of the enthusiasm of the Irish working men in favour of this Bill. With most dramatic effect, he quoted an enormous meeting which had been held in the Phœnix Park just a few days before, and at that meeting he said only 150 people out of from 10,000 to 15,000 held up their hands against the Bill; and that he quoted to this House as an evidence of the absurdity of saying that the people of Ireland did not demand this Bill. That striking passage in his speech captivated and most decidedly struck the imagination of the right hon. Member for Greenwich, who appealed to the extraordinary fact of there being only 150 at such a meeting as that against Sunday closing. Speaking of that same meeting, the hon. and learned Member for Louth said—It consisted of from 10,000 to 15,000 persons, of whom probably 2,000 or 3,000 were present from curiosity. What was the verdict 315 of that meeting? It was this—that, while 8,000 persons held up their hands in favour of Sunday closing, 150 was the highest estimate that was formed by the newspapers of those who were opposed to it. The working classes of Dublin had, therefore, expressed their views on this subject in an unequivocal and decided manner."—[Ibid. 353.]That was Hansard's report of the hon. and learned Member's remarks on that meeting. That statement was made use of by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham as irresistible evidence of the demand of the Irish people for this measure. Now, it so happened that that statement was made on the 12th May, 1876, and the Committee which sat on this subject in 1877 had under examination no less a person than Captain Talbot, the present head of the Dublin police; but who, at the time of the meeting, in May, 1876, was Assistant Commissioner. He was examined on the question of the Phœnix Park meetings, and I shall simply read what Captain Talbot said, and let the Committee judge between the hon. and learned Member for Louth's description of the 15,000 enthusiastic Sunday closing meeting, and what Captain Talbot observed. Captain Talbot, I would observe, is a military man, in the habit of counting numbers; he went there in his official capacity, and he gave his evidence under the strictest sense of responsibility. He was asked with regard to certain meetings held in 1874 and 1875—and this meeting in question took place in May, 1876—Tell the Committee what you observed at this meeting.—The first meeting I was at was in 1874. It was held on August 23rd, in the 15 acres in Phoenix Park. I went there on duty, and should judge there were about 1,000 of the respectable classes—men, women and children—around the mound.That, however, was not the meeting which the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted to this House. Captain Talbot was then asked—Did you attend other meetings?—Yes. On the 7th May, 1876. Placards were issued stating that the meeting would be disturbed by the publicans, and, consequently, arrangements were made to have the police in reserve. I proceeded to the Park myself, and found a meeting there, and a very large number of people walking about. I should say the number of those attending the meeting in the hollow near the Zoological Gardens amounted to about 1,000.316 The witness was asked whether he was acquainted with any other meetings; and he said he was not personally, but that the officers in charge of the police had made reports. I may say there were about 15 meeting sin 1875 and one in 1876, and upon this point the hon. Member for Londonderry asked—All on one side?—All on one side.—All held at the Phoenix Park?—They were held at the same place in the hollow.—How were they attended?—The police reports state that there were from 100 to 200 or 300, and the largest number I find is 500.Oh, where—oh, where—is the 15,000 meeting gone? But, then, here comes the crucial test. The witness was then subjected to the close and rigid cross-examination of the hon. and learned Member for Louth, the chairman of that meeting—As to the kind of demonstration which took place when I presided, you say there were about 1,000 present?—Yes; I said I judged about 1,000.—Do you read The Express sometimes?—Indeed, I do not. I generally read The Irish Times.—Are you not aware that The Daily Express stated that at that meeting there were 10,000 persons present?—I am aware.—Are you aware that The Evening Mail stated there was an enormous gathering?—I believe so.—Are you aware that The Irish Times, which you do read, stated that there were between 6,000 and 7,000?—Yes, I read The Irish Times, but then, having been at the meeting, I formed my Own opinion.—Are you aware that The Freeman put it at a larger figure; and, as a matter of fact, that no one in the city of Dublin, foe or friend, of the movement in the public Press even put down the attendance at that meeting as under the figures which I have given?—That may be prefectly true. I can only say that I formed my opinion, and you are at liberty to form yours.Then comes the question of all others which was to crush and absolutely to discredit his evidence. The hon. and learned Member for Louth—A person on the platform, if he is accustomed to see public meetings, has a better means of judging as to numbers than a person who is not on on the platform?—Yes; but I was on horseback.I think that answer disposes of this monstrous meeting of 15,000—this tremendous inflation, which, at the touch of the spear of truth and common sense, collapses and sinks to its original insignificance.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
MR. MURPHY resumed
I now come to the great point made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, whom I do not see in his place, although the front Opposition Bench has very industriously sent out a Whip. The right hon. Gentleman absolutely made the astounding statement that there was a majority of the publicans in Ireland in favour of Sunday closing. His figures were 1,265 for, and 1,215 against. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman spoke from the brief put into his hand; and he is not, therefore, answerable for any statement handed to him by the secretary and sub-agents of the Sunday Closing Association. Well, Sir, there was a canvass by the sub-agents of the Sunday Closing Association, and I have an approximate return from the lips of the secretary of the Sunday Closing Alliance himself, who was examined before the Select Committee which sat in reference to this question. It has been authoritatively stated that a majority of the publicans of Ireland were in favour of Sunday closing. The return I hold here relates to about 1,500 licensed traders who voted on this question, and they are taken from the five towns in respect of which the inquiry was taken. It is necessary that the Committee should understand that there are two classes of licensed traders—one publicans and the other spirit grocers. When the secretary was asked how many of the voters were spirit grocers and how many were licensed victuallers, he replied—"I do not know;" and I will tell you the reason why. In the city of Dublin there are 1,286 licensed traders, 1,006 public-houses, and 280 spirit grocers; 563 out of 1,286 voted, and of these 341 were for closing and 222 against closing. On that, the astute secretary was asked how many of that 341 were spirit grocers, and he replied he did not know, he took no trouble. For it is well known that in the city of Dublin meetings were called by grocer's assistants, with the approval, no doubt, of their masters, and I can hardly blame the assistants for their desire to get off for recreation on the Sunday. In Belfast there are 134 spirit grocers and 815 licensed traders altogether, and the poll was this—number for closing 232; against, 140; showing a majority of 90 in favour of closing. But, in that 232, it is very reasonable 318 to suppose that a very large number, if not all, of the 134 spirit grocers voted. But, independently, I think, there are in Belfast 74 houses that have no licence for opening on Sunday. In Cork 155 voted, and of that 155, 126 voted against the closing of public-houses on Sunday, and there were only 29 voted for, of which 29, 17 were holders of six-day licences. In Limerick there are 297 public-houses, and of these no less than 65 are only six-day licences; that is owing to the illegal pressure put upon them by the magistrates, who gave them their choice of six-day licences, or no licences at all. In Limerick the polling was 92 for closing and 101 against, including, of course, the six-day licences. In Waterford there are 73 six-day licences by the same illegal acts on the part of the magistrates, and out of 220 total licensed traders, 60 were for closing and 32 against. The total of this is 754 closing and 621 against. So far, therefore, as the mere naked fact was concerned, the right hon. Gentleman was right instating there was a majority; but the impression which was conveyed to him, and which he conveyed to the House, was that a majority of the publicans of Ireland were in favour of closing their houses on Sundays. The total number of licensed traders in these five towns is 3,129, of whom 414 are spirit grocers and 202 have six-day licences; and out of the 3,129 only 1,375 voted. I have not at hand the particulars of the Returns relating to the other towns or places quoted by my right hon. Friend, but those which I have given as to the five towns pretty fairly represent relatively the proportions he referred to; but, considering that there are over 16,000 licensed traders in Ireland, and having regard to the figures so quoted, may I not ask was there ever statement so susceptible of the suppressio veri and suggestio falsi? Then comes the culminating period of 1876, when, what with the pressure put upon hon. Members, what with private solicitation, what with the industry of the secretary of the Sunday Closing Association—for we have it on his own evidence that he employed men at so much a-day to go through the country to obtain signatures to Petitions in favour of the Bill—they obtained their majority of 56. Now, I say that that majority was obtained because 319 of the immense number of signatures which appeared on the Petitions in favour of the measure. I was naturally struck by the fact in, 1876, that there should be 292,337 signatures attached to Petitions in favour of the Bill, and only 52,000 to those which were opposed to it; and, therefore, it appeared to me that it was worth while to go into an examination of those Petitions, and to analyze them as well as I could. I did, Sir, go into that examination. I am not now a young man, and through life have experienced many things which have startled me; but, of all the astounding reflections ever forced upon me, I never experienced any more astounding than that which I derived from that analysis. Here was a statement to show that the people of Ireland were in overwhelming numbers in favour of the measure, and that was the ground on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, who was brought down for the purpose, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham voted in favour of the Bill. I find that up to the 12th of May, 1876, the very day of the debate, 1,926 Petitions had been presented in favour of the Bill, and that up to the same day there were only 88 Petitions presented against it. That, Sir, was to me a surprising statement; but I had some little knowledge of the dodges which hired canvassers and very zealous supporters of the measure resorted to to obtain signatures to the Petitions in favour of it; and, on examination, I found that a large number of the Petitions which did proceed from Ireland emanated from Presbyterian, Wesleyan, or Baptist ministers, and their congregations, or from the lodges of Good Templars—such as the Loyal Orange Lodge, the Royal Standard Lodge, and the Headless Cross Lodge. Now, I just wish the House to believe this—that of the 1,926 Petitions presented in favour of the Bill, no fewer than 361 proceeded from those congregations and lodges, that 157 of them were official Petitions, such as from Poor Law Guardians, Town Commissioners, and other bodies of that kind. But how many of them does the House think came from England? Why, no fewer than 1,027, leaving only 381 genuine Irish Petitions as coming from the masses of the Irish people? If I were to characterize that as a huge imposture 320 upon the House, would I be called to Order? It is an attempt—a gross attempt—to impose upon the House; and I venture to say that there is not a single member of the Committee of the Sunday Closing Association—not a single member of the upper ten thousand, Peers or Prelates, and private gentlemen whose names are so often referred to—who is aware of this gross attempt to mislead the House with respect to the feeling of the Irish people in this matter. This exposure is, I think, sufficient to show the character of the conspiracy. Again, I say, I do not accuse any of those gentlemen with being aware that, included in the 1,926 Petitions in favour of the Bill, 1,027 came from different parts of England, and only 381 from the people of Ireland. No; the whole of this had been the work of the astute secretary of the Association and of the executive. The hon. Members who had presented those Petitions knew nothing about the matter; but the association wished in the furtherance of the good cause that it should pass for a great and glorious manifestation of the feeling of the people of Ireland. In 1877, however, they took alarm, as they found they had gone a little too far, particularly as public attention had been then partially directed to the matter; but they had no doubt got the majority I have already mentioned as a mark of the sense of the House in favour of their measure. Now, I know from my own conversation with several English Members who voted in that majority, that had they been aware of these facts they would as soon have cut off their right hands as vote for this Bill. If the House had been in possession of these facts and figures—which I shall take care shall be published—I very much doubt if it would have come to the decision it did in 1876. As I have already said, however, the promoters of the Bill became in 1877 somewhat alarmed, and drew in their horns. The number of Petitions they presented in that year was only 789; but it is quite clear, judging from the number of those which came from England in 1876, that the United Kingdom Alliance was running hand-in-hand with the Sunday Closing Association, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that their Petitions were duplicates of each other. The natural 321 effect of this was to influence English Members to vote for the Sunday Irish Closing Bill, knowing that the English measure would not come on. In fact, they made a kind of compromise, and agreed to—Compound for sins they were inclined to,By damning those they had no mind to.In 1877, however, as I have before said, they got alarmed, and the number of Petitions dwindled down to 789, and of these 209 proceeded from religious bodies—Presbyterians and Wesleyans— and not from the masses of the people of Ireland. I do not mean to object to those religious bodies petitioning in this matter. I merely wish to show that nine-tenths of the Irish religious Petitions come from Ulster, and that of these fully one-half come from the town of Belfast. Of the remaining Petitions, 134 were official, and 139 English, making altogether 482 Petitions in favour of the measure from outside the masses of the Irish people—leaving only 307 real Irish Petitions. We now come to the present year, and what do we find? I stated, in the debate in 1877, that I had no doubt the House was labouring under a delusion in the matter, and that so soon as the Irish people knew what was the exact object aimed at they would take action, and show that it was a matter in which they were by no means indifferent, and petition largely against it. The Committee of the Sunday Closing Association took up the challenge. The total number of Petitions in favour of the Bill which they have sent in up to the present day is only 851, and of these 217 come from the various religious bodies, 138 are official, and 95 come from England, making in all 450 Petitions outside and beyond the people of Ireland, leaving only 401 genuine Irish Petitions presented in favour of it. Even as regards these, I wish to show how the House may be led astray if we attach any importance to the signatures—as I have it on the oath of two persons who witnessed the transaction, that a man going about with one of those Petitions came up to a woman in a farm-yard, asked her name, put it down with a mark to the Petition, and then asked her the names of eight or nine persons who were in the yard with her, and then put their names down also as signing the Petition. Let us now see the growth of Irish public 322 opinion against the Bill. In 1874 there were no Petitions against; in 1875 there were 56; in 1876 there were 88; in 1877, or last year, there were 230, signed by 104,642 persons; and this year, up to the 22nd of last month, there have been 590 Petitions presented against it, signed by 207,304 persons. Since then I have myself presented three other Petitions against it, signed by at least 10,000 persons; so that, looking to the lists for the present year, I find 277,000 persons—including the congregations, the Templar lodges, and English teetotalers—petitioning in favour of the Bill, and 207,000 against it; so that, on the whole, I say, fearlessly, that the great preponderance of public feeling in Ireland is opposed to the Bill. I have no particular object to gain by occupying the time of the House, and I think it will be acknowledged that I have not said anything which was not germane to the matter. The Committee of Petitions has, I know, reported that two of the signatures to one of the Petitions from Dublin are forgeries; and last week, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), the matter was referred to a Special Committee to report on the subject. I believe the Committee sat to-day, and from what I hear took place——
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS rose to Order. The hon. Member had no right to state to the House what occurred before a Select Committee at present sitting.
said, the hon. Member for Londonderry was perfectly right; but he did not understand the hon. Member for Cork as referring to the proceedings of the Committee.
§ MR. MURPHY
I did not, Sir, wish to refer to the proceedings of the Committee, but to what I myself knew to be facts. I will now proceed to refer to another point made by the promoters of the Bill. They have made a great parade of the number of public meetings which have been held in its favour, and have said that no such public meetings had been held against the Bill. It so happens that two public meetings were held in Cork—one on the 14th December last, and the other on the 28th January—and I will read from this last meeting the opinion of a bonâ fide working man respecting Sunday closing. The resolution he proposed was to the effect that 323 Sunday closing, if agreed to, would militate most injuriously against the moral habits of the Irish people; and he said that, apart from the merits or demerits of the use of stimulants, in justice to themselves they were bound to protest, as sedulously as possible, against this tyrannical measure. The President of the Cork Masons' Society seconded the resolution, and said he would take the opinion of the gentlemen then present before that of those would-be philanthropists of whom they had never heard outside of this question. Some of the people who supported this measure had, he said, advocated Home Rule for Ireland; but had they the audacity to ask for Home Rule for a nation of drunkards, as they had been called? The speaker said—That would be one of the strongest arguments that Sir Michael Hicks-Beach could use in the House of Commons when Mr. A. M. Sullivan stood up in his place and asked for Home Rule.These were the sentiments of a working man, uttered at a meeting composed exclusively of those whom this Bill will affect. I beg to thank the Committee for the patient attention they have given me. I trust they will believe that I have not trespassed upon them unnecessarily; but that I have confined myself to a mere refutation of arguments which have been advanced in favour of the Bill, and to explanations of the causes which led to the Vote of 1876. I hope and trust the discussion which I have raised—and which it is absolutely necessary should be raised, owing to the sudden and unexpected progress of the Bill into Committee—will have the effect of calling real attention to this subject, and that the facts and figures I have advanced will, have such weight that hon. Gentlemen will never allow this Bill to proceed a stage further.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Murphy.)
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he had taken some interest in the progress, or non-progress, of this Bill during the present Session; and as he had placed a Notice on the Paper when it was down for second reading, perhaps he might be allowed to make a remark or two on the subject. The Bill was put on the Paper 324 two days after the House met, and nearly everyone—and he was amongst the number—did not expect it would come before the House on that occasion, and consequently those who took an interest in it were not present. The Government Orders, however, were postponed, and the Bill was read a second time. It was put down for Committee two days afterwards, and if it had been expected that it was likely to come on, he should have opposed it then as he was doing now. The Bill did happen to come on, and the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) got it advanced two stages, first, by moving the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Raikes) into the Chair, and next in getting the Preamble postponed. It had been said that this was an Irish question, and that the Irish people should fight it out. He was one of those who did not believe that it was an Irish question. He looked upon it as a great national question; for he foresaw that if this Bill was passed for Ireland other restrictive measures would soon be proposed for England, and the argument which would be used would be—"You have got this measure for Scotland and Ireland; all that now remains is to get it for England." He hoped he might get hon. Members who sat on that—the Conservative—side of the House to rescind the Vote they gave in 1876, and oppose this Bill on the present occasion. This Bill had had a curious history this Session.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. ONSLOW,
proceeding, said, during the present Session the Bill had been badgered about from pillar to post. It was introduced by the hon. Member for Roscommon, and night after night other hon. Gentlemen took charge of it, and the House really did not know on what occasion it might come on after half-past 12 o'clock. He could honestly say that he had no idea of using any obstructive means of opposing this Bill; but he did say that opportunities should be allowed to hon. Members for expressing their wishes and opinions concerning it. At the meeting of the United Kingdom Alliance, held in the autumn of last year, the hon. Member for Newry was in the chair. The hon. Member was a rather strong teetotaller.
§ MR. W. WHITWORTH
I beg pardon. I am not a teetotaller, and I am not a member of the United Kingdom Alliance.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he meant the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. B. Whitworth), and that hon. Gentleman remarked that the Government were tied hand and foot to the most debasing slavery ever known; but whether that meant the publicans or the spirits, he (Mr. Onslow) could not say. That was not the only strong expression used on that occasion. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, speaking on this Bill, said—One thing is very encouraging, and that is that the House of Commons, by the enormous majority with which it adopted the Sunday Closing Bill, recognizes the principle of the Permissive Bill.He hoped the hon. Baronet would that evening give them his views of the Sunday Closing Bill.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
MR. ONSLOW resumed
The hon. Baronet, on the occasion to which he had referred, told his audience that the reason why this Bill did not pass last Session was owing to the opposition of 11 Irish Gentlemen. He would tell the hon. Baronet that there were English Members who took quite as strong a ground of opposition to this Bill as any Irish Members. Another speaker at the meeting said—A few friends from Ireland interested in the drink traffic talked nonsense until the Bill was talked out. This was the work of a weak and cowardly Government.That was rather strong language, considering that the Government gave up a day on purpose for that discussion. He happened to have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) last Session, and anyone who heard him must admit that the information he gave to the House, so far from being nonsense, was quite to the purpose, and a valuable addition to the discussion of the subject. There had been, he must say, a good deal of nonsense talked by the promoters of this Bill. Dr. Dorian, the Bishop of Down, speaking of the Petitions signed in his diocese, had pointed out that the signatures were 326those of people who would not be affected by the Bill should it pass, and gave no assurance that they would be adherents to the restrictions they would impose.Petitions were easily got up if there were money and whiskey to back them. He believed that the closing of public-houses on Sundays, so far from checking drunkenness, would increase that worst of all forms of intemperance, secret and illicit drinking. Public-houses were, as a rule, orderly and well conducted, both on Sundays and on week days, and they were under the control of the police; whereas the places where illicit drinking went on were subject to no supervision. No doubt, there were some bad cases of drunkenness in Ireland; but when they saw the small number of arrests in that country which were made on Sundays, he thought they might almost say that they might shut up the public-houses on any other day of the week than on Sunday. The passing of Forbes-Mackenzie's Act had not diminished intemperance in Scotland. On the contrary, since it had become law, the consumption of liquor had largely increased in that country, and he believed that if the Bill before the House passed a similar result would follow in Ireland. The Scotch people were somewhat Puritanical; they were stricter and sterner in their views of the Sabbath than many persons either in England or Ireland. Not long ago, when he was at a seaside place in Scotland, he asked several fishermen why they did not let out their boats on the Sunday, and their answer was that they would not mind letting them out, but their minister would not let them do so. He believed that that influence was at the bottom of much of the agitation on this subject, and that many parts of Scotland and Ireland were a good deal priest-ridden. For his own part, he saw no greater reason for closing public-houses, where the working and middle classes got what they wanted on Sunday, than for closing the club-houses, where the upper ten thousand got what they wanted on the same day; and if the principle of that Bill were adopted, he believed they must sooner or later have all their clubs closed on Sundays. It was unreasonable to put restrictions on 200 or 300 sober people in a town—as they were now asked to do—merely because one person there 327 chose to get drunk on the Sabbath. That kind of legislation was not wholly new; because, as long ago as the reign of Edward III., a Bill was passed against over-eating, which in those days was treated as an offence against the State, and people of every rank were forbidden to have more than three courses for dinner or supper. It had been urging that public-houses should be treated as gambling-houses had been; but he would remind the Committee that gambling-houses were places of luxury, while the public-houses were places of necessity for the lower orders on both week days and Sundays. They might as well put confectioners under restriction, because boys went to their shops and made themselves ill by eating too many jam tarts. He objected in toto to this restrictive kind of legislation. They had too much of it already on the Statute Book, and they ought not to pass the present Bill, which would only be the prelude to a similar measure for England. In conclusion, he hoped that the supporters of the Bill would find that, although it was the 1st of April, they had been trying to fool the House in vain. He would support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, it was very desirable, as there was no debate on the second reading of this measure, that it should be fully discussed on the present occasion, and therefore he rose to support the Motion which had been made; but, before entering into the merits of the Bill, he would like to know who was the real parent of it? At one time it was the hon. Member for Londonderry County (Mr. E. Smyth); at another time it was the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don); then the hon. Member for the city of Londonderry (Mr. Charles Lewis) appeared to be sponsor for it. He believed he would not be far out in placing its paternity on Belfast and Londonderry, as those were the strongholds of Sabbatarianism. He supposed it was in Order to show the people of Ireland that the Bill had some Catholic blood in it; that they had gone all the way to Roscommon and Wexford for sponsors, and also that they had engaged two careful nurses from Kildare and Louth. His objection to the measure was, in the first place, that it was class legislation of the very worst kind. It 328 was surely class legislation to deprive the working class of that liberty which they now possessed of obtaining refreshment when they needed it on Sunday. He opposed it, because he believed if it was passed into law it would demoralize the people, as it had done wherever it had been tried to be carried out. It had been said it would lessen intemperance in Ireland; but no argument had been shown to prove it. Their opponents depended more upon force—upon the influence they could bring to bear upon Members. They sat quietly by during the discussion, and treated the opponents of the Bill with silent contempt. They said drunkenness was largely caused by Sunday drinking; but he believed he could prove that there was really less drunkenness in Ireland on Sunday than on any other day in the week, and that drunkenness was most prevalent in those places where they had attempted to carry out the principles of this measure. He found, from a Return which had been ordered by that House, that the number of convictions for drunkenness on Sunday were as follows:—In Antrim, 1 in 17; in Armagh, it was 1 in 20; Clare, 1 in 11; Carlow, 1 in 12; Cavan, 1 in 40; in Fermanagh, only 1 in 30; while in Galway, where they put in force the principle of Sunday closing, it was 1 in 10; in Kildare, it was 1 in 11; in his own county, 1 in 6. [Laughter.] Hon. Members appeared surprised at this; but the fact was in one-fourth of the county the houses were closed on Sundays, and the effect of that closing had led to increased drunkenness. In Longford, it was 1 in 10; in Louth, 1 in 15. His reason for going into all these details was to show that the whole of these Petitions in favour of the Bill were absolutely false; because they stated that drunkenness in Ireland was caused by the public-houses being opened on Sundays, and he wished to show it by evidence which could not be contradicted. In the county of Meath, where they were carrying out the principle of the Bill, the convictions for drunkenness were 1 in 9 of the inhabitants; whereas in Monaghan, where it was not carried out, it was 1 in 40. In King's County it was 1 in 12; in Roscommon, 1 in 12. In Tipperary, where Sunday closing was largely carried out, it was 1 in 12; in Westmeath, 1 in 10. Wexford was the only place where it appeared 329 to have been carried out with anything like success—it was 1 in 34 there. Coming next to the cities—in Belfast there was 1 conviction for every 15 inhabitants; in Carrickfergus, 1 for every 12; in Cork, 1 for every 9; in Drogheda, 1 for every 10. In Galway, where the houses were closed, it was 1 for every 10; Kilkenny, 1 in 9; Limerick, 1 in 12; Londonderry, 1 in 9; Waterford, 1 in 14. How could they, in the face of all these facts, contend that drunkenness was the result of keeping houses open on Sunday? But from these facts, he would present the opinions of those who were well able to judge of the effect of Sunday closing in Ireland. He would first give the House the opinion of a magistrate of 45 years' experience, who, for 12 years, had also been a Member of that House. He stated, in a letter, that statistics showed that the preponderance of opinion in favour of the Bill was on the part of men who did not express the views of those who would be affected by the measure. There could be no question that many of those who signed these Petitions never had occasion to go into a public-house on Sunday. The great mass of convictions for drunkenness arose from drinking at fairs, markets, &c., to which such a measure as the present would not apply. The backbone of the supporters of the measure were of the Sabbatarian element, who would not allow anyone to dress himself on Sunday if they could prevent it. Wherever it had been tried it had increased drunkenness. Only the other day he read in a speech delivered at Glasgow by Canon Farrer that Glasgow was one of the most drunken cities in a country which was one of the most drunken countries in the world. In Limerick, where they had 13 parishes closed and 35 parishes open on Sunday, Lord Emly, at a meeting of the Board of Guardians, had spoken strongly against the measure. In the small towns the result of an examination of the statistics of drunkenness led to exactly the same result as he had showed to exist in the counties and large towns. It was idle to think that people were likely to obtain as good an article in the shebeens, to which the Bill would drive the working man, as they could at present. The highest authority in Dublin—the Commissioner of Police—had stated that 330 there was very little drinking in Dublin on Sunday; and he thought the greatest weight ought to be attached to his opinion, because he had had a great many years' experience. He said he had seen a great deal more drunkenness before 2 o'clock on Sunday than after that hour. He might refer to The Freeman's Journal of the 21st of January last for the statement that out of 87 convictions in one week 70 were the result of Saturday night's drinking, and only 17 of Sunday's. And the comment of that journal upon the fact was, that to close at 9 o'clock on Saturday evening would be much more advantageous than Sunday closing. That was in reference to Dublin, and the opinion was that of a newspaper which did not take the side of the opponents of this Bill. There had never been any argument to show that such a Bill as the present would be a success. It had been a failure wherever it had been tried, with the solitary exception of Wexford. He would now like to refer to some of the Petitions in favour of this Bill. He had just obtained an insight into some of these Petitions. When he referred to that matter before he was shut up very quickly; but he had been able to trace the history of them. Fourteen of these Petitions were from England and Scotland, and six of these from religious societies. Four were from various parts of Ireland. He would like to know how some of the gentlemen who signed these Petitions would like to have the key of their own cellar taken from them? This was, indeed, a poor man's case, and he was speaking then for the non-electors; and he begged to inform the House that he was determined to oppose the Bill at every stage. Amongst these Petitions was one from the inhabitants of Hanley. In what way were they interested in the Irish Sunday closing? Then there was one from an Association of Wesleyan Methodists, next was one from the inhabitants of Mansfield, one from Bath in public meeting assembled—
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN,
proceeding, asked if the opinion of such people ought to be taken on the matter? The fact was that the presentation of these Petitions was 331 a gross conspiracy to deceive the Members of that House, by trying to induce them to believe that the people of Ireland desired this measure. In fact, there had been an unholy alliance of Whigs and Tories and Home Rulers in favour of a Bill which was nothing less than a coercion Bill. He would now give them some information as to the names to the Petitions in favour of the Bill.
called the hon. Member to Order. To read the names on numerous Petitions could hardly be considered as addressing himself to the Motion before the House, which was that the Chairman leave the Chair.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he bowed to the decision of the Chairman; but he must allude to the nature of some of the Petitions, and especially to the absence of the names of working men, who were the parties really affected. And yet the Petitions presented were said to carry the force and weight of Irish opinion. He had been astonished to find that some of his own constituents had asked the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) to present a Petition in favour of the Bill. Now, this Petition contained the names of 242 persons, and of these only 94 could write. Now, by the last Census, there were only 30 per cent of illiterate persons in the parish from whence the Petition came—according to the result of the Petition there were 55 per cent. Now, he desired to mention that 23 names attached to the Petition had never been known in the parish before. The legitimate number of signatures to the Petition was really 55; and of that number 38 had also signed a Petition in favour of the public-houses being kept open. The fact was that the signatures had been obtained from people who did not know what they were signing; and he was surprised that such a document should have been presented to the House. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Louth must be ashamed of his Petition.
said, he was not ashamed of it. The Petitioners were constituents of the hon. Member for Limerick, and he certainly was not ashamed of them.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, the facts he had adduced, and many more which he could show, would prove how valueless were the Petitions in favour of the Bill. 332 This was not an elector's question only; it was one affecting the whole of the people of Ireland, all of whom had the right to go into a public-house if they chose. He had been abused, over and over again, because he was, to a certain extent, interested in the trade. But he begged to state that the bar of his hotel had not been open for 20 years on Sunday; but, at the same time, if there was no other place in the town where refreshment could be obtained, he would see that the bar was opened. Another great objection to the Bill, independently of its injustice, was this—how would they get convictions under it? If the Bill passed, everybody would be able to supply himself with drink, and the police could not stop it. There was in Ireland a class of persons called "walking shebeens," who carried bottles of whiskey about them for sale; and he wanted to know how that traffic would be stopped by the Bill? Nothing could be more ridiculous than to suppose they were going to stop drinking by coercive legislation. They would often find drunken men about in places where no public-house was near. He would now beg to call the attention of the House to a few remarks made on this Bill by some of the best known and most representative papers in Ireland. There was, first of all, The Catholic Times, and it declared that the passing of the Bill would put a premium on the evasion of the law, and induce men to try to get by stealth what the law would prohibit them getting openly. Saunders' News Letter, in a long article on the subject, expressed the opinion that the working of the Bill would necessitate the doubling or the trebling of the police of Dublin—a serious consideration to a city which, for want of funds, left its rivers in so bad a state; and it went on to point out that it was far from certain that drunkenness would be diminished if the Bill passed. The Armagh Guardian further said that, beyond question, the licensed publican had an invested interest in his business, and in honesty was as well entitled to compensation for the loss of it as the planter, the prelate, or the military officer. The temperance party, while advocating temperance themselves, were the most intemperate people, he thought, he ever met with in their writings and in their speeches, thinking they could carry everything before them. He asked 333 the House to say whether it was fair, or just, or right, to say that for the good of the people—admitting that it would be—public-houses must be closed, and that 17,0000 persons must suffer that good should be done to the community? If the community benefited by a measure of that sort, at least it should not object to pay for the benefit. It had been a practice of this country to give compensation for losses, even though investments in which people had sustained those losses were illegal. Take, for instance, the Abolition of Purchase in the Army. Officers were compensated for the loss they had sustained by the Abolition of Purchase, even though they had been acting illegally in their dealings with commissions. Then, again, on the liberation of the slaves in Jamaica and the other British West India Colonies, their owners were compensated, though 19–20ths of the English people had no sympathy with them whatever as slave-owners. But the House, if it passed this Bill, would deprive the trade in Ireland of one-seventh part of their living. It was four years since they had a General Election in Ireland; and when they saw that no Member had spoken for or against the Bill, he asked whether that was not a strong proof that this movement was yet in its infancy, and that no real feeling existed on the subject in Ireland? At the last Election, however, there were two, and only two, candidates who spoke in favour of the Bill—Sir Dominic Corrigan and Mr. Pim—and both of them lost their seats. If they waited till the next Election, he believed they would miss a great many more from the House. But, he repeated, this was a non-electors' question, and it ought so to be viewed by the House. It had been said that all the clergy of Ireland were in favour of the Bill; but they should remember that the question had been put to the Irish clergy in this way. They had been asked—"Are you going to favour intemperance?" But though they could not sign against the Bill, they had not signed for it. Dr. Dorian, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, had, indeed, made some very strong remarks against it. He said—Having alluded to intemperance, we are sorry to observe its prevalence—we are glad we cannot say its increase—and would rejoice 334 if some sensible and efficacious remedy could be devised. We suppose, however, it will continue as long as strong stimulants are chemically provided, and that the beverage in common use in our climates shall be alcoholic. This would suggest closing the vats and prohibiting distillation altogether. Certainly, such a remedy would be logical.He (Mr. O'Sullivan) could understand a Bill which made such a proposal; but, instead of doing that, they attacked the smaller kinds of dealers, who were not represented in that House, leaving the vats and the distillation untouched. The right rev. Prelate continued to say—We wish again to repeat, that Sunday closing is not, and will not, in our opinion, prove a remedy. It will do other mischief, as was abundantly proved by the evidence given before the Committee of the Commons last year. It will lead to illicit consumption, and the worst consequent immorality, from which we are now saved by the responsible and respectable publican. We are not of those who think publicans have no consciences. We know them to be safeguards to the morals of society in most cases and on every day of the week. The evidence of last year shows Sunday to be the most sober day of the seven—there being one-tenth, and not one-seventh, amenable on that day. There may be valid reasons for closing public-houses near to places of worship, or where sham fights take place; but where no abuse occurs, to close them is an act of the veriest tyrrany, and inflicted by those who do not themselves abstain on men their equals in virtue and sobriety.The right rev. Prelate then pointed out that in the year 1876 there were over all Ireland, on every Sunday, 182 out of a population of 5,400,000 amenable for drunkenness, and he asked, somewhat indignantly—Was it patriotic, was it fair, was it religious, because of this fractional percentage of the people, to brand the whole nation as a nation of drunkards?Yet he (Mr. O'Sullivan) was sorry to admit, for the credit of the Home Rule Party, that was precisely what many of its Members seemed to take a peculiar pride in doing—in banding themselves with the Whigs and the Conservatives for the avowed purpose. This was in every case a coercion Bill of the worst description, and he denounced it as such in every way. If the House was not wearied, he would read another extract from Bishop Dorian's Pastoral. The right rev. Prelate said—We met a boy on Thursday morning at 10 o'clock, in a back street, reeling on the pathway, about a month ago. We caught him by the shoulder, and recognizing who it was, he eluded the hold; but, seeing two women at 335 hand, we asked—'What can be wrong with that child?' One of them answered—'He is not in his right mind; he has been taking a drop. I'm his mother, and I broke my pledge yesterday.'Would Sunday closing prevent or cure such a case as that? They said once before—and they repeated it again—if they were to have closing at all, let them try Saturday. They had an opportunity, not long ago, of inquiring in Glasgow about this matter; but the answers were conflicting, the stronger assurances being adverse to the good effects of Sunday closing—one naively suggesting a compromise, that the Government should give a ticket of licence to the consumer as well as to the vendor. Anyhow, the clamour and shrieking in the streets in the early hours proved that the mischief was done before Sunday dawned. He (Mr. O'Sullivan) would not be surprised if the next thing the Sunday closers, with a true Sabbatarian spirit, proposed, was that there should be appointed receivers over the earnings of the working men, and to control their expenditure. Such was the evidence of one of the most popular Bishops in Ireland. Now, it had been said that the majority of the population was in favour of the measure. Dr. Dorian showed the contrary to be the fact, and called in evidence of his view the Memorial which had been signed in favour of Sunday closing. In his own diocese 14 priests had signed out of a total of 120, and some of those with conditions attached. In Dublin 70 signed out of nearly 400; but what was most remarkable was that all the signatories were persons who were to be in no way affected by the law, should it pass, and gave no assurance that they should be adherents at their own hearths to the restriction they would impose. The hon. Member then proceeded to quote the remarks of Canon Griffin in the diocese of Kerry—[Mr. SULLIVAN: One of the greatest old Whigs in Kerry!] Well, he was glad to see they had one Whig against the Bill, as he thought all the Whigs were helping to pass the Bill—who, presiding at a public meeting, declared that the people of the district were sober, religious, and moral, and that no necessity whatever existed for Sunday closing. It was an extraordinary fact that many of the hon. Members who were supporting this Bill 336 were members of the Reform Club; and, according to a report in The Morning Post, a motion to keep the rooms of the club open on Sunday was carried by a large majority. He considered it an extraordinary thing that those hon. Members should come down to the House and say that the poor working men should be deprived of their necessary refreshments on Sunday. It had been said that this was a burning Irish question, and there had been two deputations on the question. One had been composed of two Scotchmen in favour of the Bill, and the other composed of two Irishmen. Taking, therefore, one deputation against the other, they found that two Scotchmen coming from Ireland supported this burning question. It was well-known that this Bill was supported by the pious people from the North of Ireland, and on the Committee were Representatives both from the city and county of Londonderry; so that that county had more Representatives than the whole of Munster. Before going any further, he wished to call attention to the supporters of this Bill and those of the Permissive Bill, and he supposed that those who supported the Permissive Bill would be prepared to support the present measure. Now, this was going a great deal farther, and he would remind the promoters of the Bill that that night no argument had been shown in favour of the Bill. Had they ever heard any argument yet in its favour? He considered this was a Bill which, its supporters contended, did not depend upon argument, but upon votes, although they knew that four-fifths of the Irish people were opposed to it. ["Oh, oh!"] They would see at the next Election. Another ground on which this measure was opposed was that it was a piece of class legislation. The hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had been loud in their praises of this Bill; but they had heard no arguments from either of those hon. Members in its favour, although the latter hon. Gentleman was generally overflowing with arguments in support of any measure he advocated. The last coercion Bill they had which affected Ireland occupied the House for 12 nights; and he would be prepared to spend, at least, six nights in discussing this coercion Bill. 337 He would be glad to see this measure the subject of special consideration at the next General Election, for at the last Election the question was not recognized as a test point. It was a mistake to say that there was a strong feeling in Ireland, either one way or the other, with regard to this Bill. As yet, the question was only in its infancy, and he hoped it would be made a test question at the next Election. If that course were pursued, he had no doubt as to what the result would be. As such a proceeding had not yet taken place, he should feel it his duty to oppose the Bill in every form which the House allowed. [Cries of "Go on!"] He said he would not trouble the House further, but would reserve his best points until he saw if there was any argument brought forward in favour of the Bill.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, that during the last five hours and a-half only three speeches had been made, and that fact alone showed the character of those speeches. His hon. Friend the Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) had began by saying that he did not desire to obstruct the Bill; but, on the contrary, he wished to give the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion regarding it; and he immediately set about proving the sincerity of this wish by occupying the attention of the House for two hours and 40 minutes, on the ground that there had been no discussion on the Bill last Session—totally oblivious to the fact that last year he laid before the House, in a speech of about the same length, almost identically the same facts and arguments as he had that evening. His hon. Friend told them last year, that when the people of Ireland heard of the evidence given before the Committee, a marvellous change would be seen in public opinion on this Bill; but the burden of his speech that evening was not of this change, but simply a repetition of his old speech. He (the O'Conor Don) would ask why the Committee was prevented coming to the conclusion which the hon. Member for Cork said would be against the Bill? That being the state of the case, and it being clear that the opponents of the Bill did not seek to convince the House but to waste time——[" Order!"]
§ MR. ONSLOW rose to Order. He was one of the opponents of the Bill, and that was not his object.338
THE O'CONOR DON
said, it was true that the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Onslow) had disclaimed any intention of wasting time; but he appealed to the common sense of the Committee whether the speeches they had heard were made with a view of the Committee coming to a speedy decision on the Bill? What was the use of such statements when hon. Members who opposed the Bill openly stated in the Lobby that their object was to occupy as much time as possible? The supporters of the Bill were not to be blamed if they did not go into lengthy answers to those speeches. They were perfectly prepared to reply to any real discussion.
§ MR. MURPHY rose to Order. The hon. Member had charged him with making a speech and repeating what he had said last Session. If he had been in the House he would have heard that he (Mr. Murphy) had introduced many new arguments and facts.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he had heard the greater part of his hon. Friend's speech, and the largest part of it was a repetition of his speech of last year, and voluminous extracts from evidence given before the Select Committee last year. He would not dwell upon that point; but what he complained of was that the opponents of the Bill should move that the Chairman should leave the Chair directly the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Raikes) had got into it, without giving the Committee an opportunity of coming to the Amendments on the Paper. Could it be doubted what the object was in taking that course? It was said that no arguments had been given in favour of the Bill; but, on a former occasion, its supporters had adduced strong arguments which had convinced the House. At the second reading he had proved that no change had taken place in the opinion of the country on the subject. Yet it was said that there was no debate on the second reading. They had a very lengthy debate on the second reading this Session, although it was the same Bill that had before been discussed. It had been fought out in previous Sessions, and they had discussed it until they were quite sick of it. The Bill had been lost over and over again by this practice of talking against time, and the supporters of the Bill could not be expected to play into the hands of their opponents by attempting to deal 339 with, arguments which, had been over and over again refuted. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) told them it was a coercion Bill of the worst kind; but, if that was the case, how was it that 20 out of the 27 Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland supported it? The hon. Member had spoken that evening with great force of the one Bishop who was against the Bill, and all that right rev. Gentleman said was to be swallowed, while the opinion of the 20 Bishops who supported it were to be valueless. Why were they to suppose that those 20 Bishops were so much inferior to Dr. Dorian, or more likely to submit to a coercion Bill of the worst character? It was a slander on them to stand up and say that they would support a coercion Bill of the worst description. Ever since 1868 the movement in favour of total Sunday closing had been on foot; and, no matter what opposition the Bill encountered, it would be continually brought forward, until the legislation which was desired by the people of Ireland was enacted. At the commencement of the present Session, the right hon. Baronet the then Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) said, with a view of securing, as far as they were able, a settlement of this question, and not have it delayed as it was last year, for want of time, the Government would afford facilities for its becoming law. Subsequently, the Chancellor of the Exchequer repeated the assurance, but coupled with it the condition that the promoters of the Bill were to accept certain Amendments of which the Government had given Notice. In view of the facilities which the Government had offered for the passing of the Bill if their Amendments were substantially accepted, there was no other course open to there supporters of the Bill but to accept this condition. He, therefore, wished at once to announce that the promoters of the Bill were prepared substantially to accept those Amendments, reserving to themselves the right of trying to modify them in some details; and, if those Amendments were passed, the cities in which many opponents of the Bill were so deeply interested would not be affected by its provisions.
§ MR. STORER
The hon. Member who has just sat down has precisely occupied half-an-hour, in which he has 340 said nothing really in respect of the merits of the Bill; but has referred entirely to the tactics the opponents, whose long speeches he deplored, are pursuing. It may be right that he should be guided ay the opinion of Roman Catholic Prelates; but that does not weigh with all the Members of this House; and I am glad to see that a large number of Irish Members are in the habit of thinking for themselves. The facts brought forward by the opponents of the Bill appear to me to remain unanswerable and unanswered. In saying a few words on this subject, I am not speaking for the sake merely of occupying time; but because I consider this for the moment an Irish question, but one very rapidly becoming an English question. We know very well that this is only a trial horse; and I object particularly to this Bill, not only as being hard and tyrannical, but because it is notoriously the thin end of the Permissive Bill. I object to tyranny of every description, from whatever quarter it may come—from the civil or religious body, from Czar or Pope, from priest or presbyter. Now, many of the labouring classes are entirely dependent on the public-house for their Sunday beer, and why should they be deprived of it because a certain Sabbatarian party choose to come here? With the poet I would say—"Because thou art righteous, shall there be no more cakes and ale?" This Bill, I think, would be likely to create an insurrection in the country. Of two things, one—either the people in whose interest it is asked to pass this Bill do certainly want to be hindered from drinking on Sunday or they do not. If they do, it is quite at their option to pass a public-house; and if they did so forsake the public-house it would very soon be closed; if not, then this agitation is got up in a hypocritical and underhand manner. Are the Irish people so weak that they cannot be trusted? Does it require a law to shut up public-houses so that they can be made sober by Act of Parliament? Has the Roman Catholic Church become so weak that it cannot restrain the working classes from making beasts of themselves? I speak merely on the assumption that drunkenness is so prevalent as alleged. I do not believe it. Where is the authority of the Presbyterian Churches and the lately established Anglo-Catholic Church, if they cannot 341 present to the people convincing arguments to induce them to lead a religious and moral life? Having gone very carefully over the evidence taken by the Committee on this subject, I find that those who have had the greatest experience all come to the same conclusion—that if this Bill were passed it would lead to a much worse state of things and to illicit drinking. I, therefore, oppose the Bill.
§ MR. COLLINS,
while not finding fault with the hon. Gentleman (the O'Conor Don) for his speech in support of the Bill, regretted that the hon. Gentleman should have imputed to the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) objects and intentions which could be regarded in no other sense than a desire to waste the time of the House. On behalf of his hon. Friend, he entirely disclaimed this object or intention, and he was sure the hon. Member, on reflection, would be the first to withdraw the insinuation. One observation made by the hon. Member for Roscommon had reference to the opinion of the Roman Catholic hierarchy on the question, and he stated that 20 out of the 26 Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland were in favour of Sunday closing. On that point he (Mr. Collins) would refer to what had been stated by one of those Bishops on the subject of signatories. He stated that in his own diocese 14 out of 120 priests were in favour of the Bill, and that some of them had signed the Petitions with certain conditions and limitations. In the diocese of Dublin, out of a body of 400 priests, 70, he said, had petitioned in favour of the Bill; and that, inasmuch as not one of these gentlemen would be affected by the measure should it become law, it was no assurance that they would act upon the restraints which they would impose upon others. Public opinion, and the opinion of hon. Members on both sides of the House, had been, he believed, largely influenced by the fact that they were under the impression that the people of Ireland were unanimously in favour of Sunday closing. It was a most important thing that hon. Members should disabuse themselves of that idea; and to aid in that object he would point out that 250,000 bonâ fide signatures, representing a great portion of the adult population of Ireland, had been attached to Petitions against the Bill. Although there might be 300,000 signatures 342 to the Petition in its favour, yet, as had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Cork, they were of a questionable character, and they did not represent the real public opinion of Ireland. No later than that evening a distinguished Member of the House, well known for his practice of temperance, told him he had been influenced by the fact that three-fourths of the Irish Members supported the measure. In a proposal of this severe and exceptional character, Parliament should not attempt to legislate until it had before it the almost universal opinion of those whom it would chiefly affect; but what was the case here? He found the working classes, assembled in public meeting, denouncing this Bill as an attempt at class legislation, which would abridge their rights and liberties. They also denounced it as an insult to their manhood, and as a tyrannical attempt to curtail their rights and privileges as honest and industrious members of society. If they wished to ascertain what was the opinion of the working classes, to whom should they apply for it if not to the working classes themselves? If they had ideas contrary to common sense and reason, he would not take notice of them; but if they could fairly and reasonably agree with those views, he did not see to what better authority the House could bow than to the working men themselves. He could not understand—he never had been able to understand—how Gentlemen professing the same views as he did, sitting on that side of the House, who aimed at the extension of political rights to the lower classes of working men—who contended that they were entitled to those privileges and could exercise them honestly and properly for the interests of the country—he could not understand how those same Gentlemen could come forward in that House, and elsewhere, and say that the same men to whom they would give the most important functions, as citizens, were unworthy of being trusted; and that they were incapable of self-restraint and self-control. Such conduct was absurd, for one idea must be erroneous, or else the other must. If they were incapable of looking after themselves, surely they were incapable of holding the rights which, on that side of the House, they sought for them. There was no Member of the House of Commons, whatever 343 his opinions upon the subject of intemperance, who had taken a larger or more active part in promoting temperance in Ireland than he had done. At an early period of his life, he was the friend and associate of Father Matthew in the great struggle which he made in Ireland against intemperance. He presided at many of the meetings which he held, and he (Mr. Collins) believed he did as much as any man with whom Father Matthew was associated, considering his experience, age, and position. Therefore, he could address the House with some degree of confidence upon the subject of the sobriety or intemperance of the people of Ireland. From his experience and interest in the matter, he must confess that he was horrified at the prospect of the amount of moral contamination which this measure would, if passed into law, bring upon the industrious household, as there could not be any doubt the result of it would be to introduce into the virtuous homes of the Irish people an immense amount of illicit drinking. The effect of the passing of this Bill would be that intoxicating liquors of the most objectionable kind would be introduced into households. Women and children, instead of preparing to enter places of worship, as they did now, in a condition of respectability and self-respect, would see intoxicated men about them—men who had not recovered from the revels of the previous night, and they would be forgetful of the day of rest and of worship. That was a fair and proper picture to draw of the condition of things which would result from the passing of this measure. But there was another, and if anything, a worse evil, and that was that they would promote illicit drinking in unlicensed houses; they would give encouragement to a wretched class of houses, where all manner of improprieties and immorality existed. Drunkards would always find their way to these places; and instead of frequenting houses which were under the sanction of the law, and conducted by men who knew the consequences of violating the law, they would be conducted by profligate scamps who ought to be scouted. He accepted the Bill as inevitable; but he desired to see it modified in such a way as to make it acceptable to the people of Ireland. If they brought a change of this kind suddenly upon them, it must necessarily result in 344 dissatisfaction and discontent; and, it might be, in something worse. That was a condition of things which he was sure they would deplore; and he would say that his object in putting those views as strongly and emphatically as he had, was in no way to interrupt the progress of the measure, but with the object of making it the most tolerable of restrictive measures which the House was capable of doing.
§ MR. ISAAC
thought it would be unwise on his part to allow the Bill to proceed any further without giving his reasons why he should vote against it. He believed such a Bill as this would be one of the greatest blows the temperance societies had ever had. In his opinion, if Parliament legislated, and endeavoured to restrict the rights of the English people, the more they would urge them on to the very acts which they desired to remove them from. He considered that in the last few years they had seen sufficient legislation regarding the liquor traffic; and he hoped, as speedily as possible, that a stop would be put to legislation in that direction. He had in his possession some facts which showed very clearly that this kind of legislation, as regarded Scotland, had proved to a great extent injudicious, and certainly an encouragement to intemperance. They had been told that this measure was one entirely for Ireland to decide upon, but he disagreed with that. It certainly had not been proved to his satisfaction that a majority of the people of Ireland were in favour of this Bill; and he believed that if they were polled at this moment, it would be found that they were decidedly against its becoming law. He would not discuss the question of Petitions—they had already been fully before the House; but he considered the signatures to the Petitions in favour of the Bill, viewed in the light in which they had been exposed that night, had caused some doubt as to the value of public Petitions to Parliament at all. He objected entirely to the whole principle of the Bill, and also to the Amendments. The Bill, to his mind, was an imposition on free trade; and he thought Parliament had no right to pass any measure which would at all interfere with property; and it would be an injustice to traders if that Bill ever passed into law. He desired to quote some figures as to the result of the working 345 of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland taken from a Return made to the House on the Motion of Mr. Henley, the late Member for Oxfordshire. In 1851 the number of persons taken up for drunkenness and disorderly conduct was—in Glasgow, 14,370, and in Edinburgh, 3,793; while, by the Returns of 1871, when there had been 20 years of Sunday closing, the numbers had increased in Glasgow to 49,696, and in Edinburgh to 5,400, showing a very large increase, and something faulty in the system. He admitted that between the years 1871 and 1876 the number of cases in Glasgow decreased, but in Edinburgh they increased; in Dundee they nearly doubled, and in Aberdeen they were greatly on the increase. In the year 1851 the total number of cases in these three places was 27,643, and in 1876 58,630, or they had more than doubled, whilst the population had been increasing only one-third. He asked the Committee to say whether these facts were not conclusive, so far as Sunday closing was concerned, in favour of letting things alone? Then he came to the question, whether this Bill was popular in Ireland? If they went back to the Election before last, they would find that Mr. Pim and Sir Dominic Corrigan were returned to Parliament in the years 1868 and 1870 respectively, when Sunday closing had not yet been thought of, and they were returned by large majorities. But, at the Election of 1874, what was their fate? Sir Dominic Corrigan would not face his constituents again, and Mr. Pim was rejected by the city of Dublin by a majority of two to one in favour of the hon. Gentleman who now sat for Dublin in that House. They could have no better proof, he contended, that the Bill was not popular in Dublin, though it might be with a certain number of people in Ireland. To show what the fact was in Scotland, he would now quote from a Return which he had moved for last Session, and which gave them for the years 1874, 1875, and 1876, the number of persons summoned before various magistrates in the principal cities of Scotland for being found in she beens, and of those dealing with or keeping spirits in unlicensed places. It appeared from the Return that, in the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen, the total number of persons taken into custody 346 in she beens was 492, of whom 423 were convicted, and that the number taken up for selling spirits in unlicensed places was 1,087, of whom 793 were convicted. He maintained that these figures proved the impolicy of interference with this trade; and he believed, in fact, the more they legislated in that way the greater encouragement they gave to infraction of the law. He agreed with what had fallen from many hon. Members in the debate, that this Bill was an interference with the rights of working men, and it was in their interest that he spoke on that occasion. He asked hon. Gentlemen from Ireland, who were promoting and supporting this Bill, whether they had made any reference to this subject in their Election addresses? He doubted very much whether a single man had made it a stalking-horse for the votes of their constituents; for he felt that, if they had done so, they would not have been in that House at that moment. He contended that in this matter there was an attempt on the part of the minority to legislate for the majority, and that they were not justified in any such legislation. If they left the doors of the public-house open, he believed the working men would pass by, except they felt that they fairly and legitimately and with moderation had necessity for using them. It was against the common sense of this country to attempt to legislate as to how a working man should conduct himself. He had a right to spend his time in any public-house, the law saying he should conduct himself properly when there and when he left it. He had been informed that, of the thousands of persons who availed themselves of the privileges of the present law, only one in every 1,000 infringed the law; and he objected to the notion of a law being passed to prevent 999 persons having reasonable refreshment because of the misconduct of one person. The Bill would be an infringement on the rights of the people, and he hoped all who entertained that opinion would use every Constitutional means to prevent its passing.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
desired to say a few words on the merits of the Bill. The leading arguments put forward in favour of the Bill had been that 19 Roman Catholic Bishops had joined with a large number of Protestant Prelates and clergymen in support of it; but he 347 did not approve of the way in which those signatures were obtained. All agreed that drinking to excess was very bad for the individual and for the population; and all agreed that its repression, within fair and reasonable bounds, was desirable. He said deliberately that the signatures of most of the Bishops and clergymen with whom he had communicated had been obtained under the impression that the drinking on Sunday was in excess of that on any other day. Nothing had been more clearly proved by the statistics given by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) than that if there were any day in the week for which the exception could be claimed in favour of temperance it was Sunday. He would admit, that if this fact could be refuted, the whole basis of his argument was gone. His argument was that, it having been proved that the offences with regard to drunkenness on Sunday were as one to ten of the week, instead of one to seven, the fact was a complete answer to this Bill. But they were not dependent upon that, for they had had the opportunity of testing the working of similar legislation to this in other countries. The hon. Members from Scotland, like sensible men, had tried to make the best of their bargain, and would bear with it for a reasonable time, and until they could bear with it no longer. In Scotland the results of the Forbes-Mackenzie Closing Bill spoke volumes. In the preceding Session the last Paper moved for by Mr. Henley was one relating to drunkenness in all the towns of England, Scotland, and Ireland; and on reference to this, he found that the offences owing to drunkenness committed in Ireland exhibited a very satisfactory comparison against those of Scotland. In 1876, the population of all the boroughs in England approximately amounted to about 10,000,000—being, in 1871, 9,115,000. The number of offences for drunkenness during the year 1876 for all England was 104,000. The population of all the borough towns in Ireland amounted only to 800,000, including the population of Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, and the other great towns. For the 800,000 inhabitants, the total number of offences for drunkenness and disorderly conduct in 1876 amounted only to 8,781. That total included the offences not only on Sunday but on 348 every day of the week. On the other hand, in Scotland, the borough population was about 50 per cent greater than in Ireland, being 1,264,000. If the same proportion of convictions for offences occurring from drunkenness held with regard to Scotland as to Ireland, the number ought to be about 13,500 in 1876. But the Return showed that the number of that class of offences was no less than 58,630. Those figures were so astounding that he hoped hon. Members would consult the Return, with a view of testing whether the Forbes-Mackenzie Act might not have contributed to the state of things which existed in Scotland. In his opinion, the Sunday closing enforced by that Act had been instrumental in inducing people to bring home whiskey and strong drink on Saturday, instead of going to the public-house for beer on Sunday. It was important to consider whether the present measure would not have that effect upon the population in Ireland. At present, there was a considerable proportion who drank beer instead of whiskey; but if they were prevented from having beer on Sundays, they would be induced to follow the example shown in Scotland, and take to whiskey. It was not desirable to encourage the people to exchange the comparatively mild drink of beer for ardent spirits. He had never voted against the Bill; but he believed the 19 Bishops who had signed in support of it had done so under an entire misapprehension of the facts underlying the case. No doubt they thought that they were doing what they could for temperance, believing that Sunday was a day made use of for drunkenness to a greater extent than any other day of the week. Therefore, they considered it becoming to them, as Christian Bishops and ministers, to give their support to the measure. Some of them had already found out, he believed, the real facts, and had regretted having supported the Bill. He had had the same experience, and was now opposed to the Bill in common with the great majority of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. ORR-EWING
said, that the hon. Member who had addressed the House in opposition to the Bill had referred to an Act passed some 30 years ago, and he thought it his duty, as a Scotchman, to inform the House of the real state of 349 feeling in Scotland as to the results of that legislation. He believed that no Act ever passed had had a more beneficial effect upon the morals of the people than the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. All the opinions that had come to his knowledge from different sources had been to that effect. If he rightly understood the argument of the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Isaac) it was that they must do away with all interference with public-houses. Surely, the House had for many years acknowledged the necessity of doing something to regulate the liquor traffic. With respect to the statistics that had been quoted, they were open to the observation that if they applied to Sunday they also applied to the whole of the week. From his experience of Scotland, he could say that since the passing of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act great improvement had taken place as to Saturday and Sunday, and he looked back with horror and dismay to the state of things that existed before. The passing of this measure would be a most beneficial thing for Ireland; and he thought the hon. Members for Scotland ought to give Irishmen their hearty support in passing the Bill. It was opposed only by a small minority of Irish Members, who used the Forms of the House to delay its passing.
§ MR. P. J. SMYTH
The Amendments proposed by Her Majesty's Government will lessen the practical evils which are sure to flow from this measure; but all the reasons for exempting the five cities apply with equal, if not greater, force to the rural districts. The Bill is wrong in principle, and, therefore, wholly wrong. The supporters of this Bill appear to think that they establish their case if they can prove that Irish opinion is in favour of it. On that point, I apprehend, we are bound to accept the doctrine enunciated long ago by Edmund Burke, and expressed this Session in his speech on the county franchise by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe)—that it is the duty of this House to legislate, not with the view of meeting the wishes of a section or a locality, but of promoting the public good. The declared wish of the portion of the community affected by any particular measure is an imperative reason for taking the measure into consideration; but the intrinsic merits of the measure itself, having regard to the 350 public weal, must be the basis of legislation. This I take to be the Constitutional doctrine; and I regret to perceive a disposition on the part of the House to ignore it in this particular instance. The consequences, however, of indulging this amiable disposition may prove hereafter excessively inconvenient. If Sunday closing is conceded to an Irish demand, real or supposed, why not fixity of tenure, for example? This Session a Land Bill, supported by an immense majority of the Irish Members, was voted down in the House. I do not impugn the motives which prompted the House to reject that measure; but the fact remains that, if the wishes of the Irish people alone were consulted, it would have passed. I may be told that that Bill affected rights of property. Well, this Bill affects rights of property. It deprives the legitimate trader who has invested his capital in public-houses of the profits accruing from Sunday trading, and it does this without even an allegation that such trader has violated the letter or spirit of the existing law, on the strength of which his investment was made. Is not that man's property affected? Are not his vested interests assailed? And, be it understood, rights of property in the publican are as sacred as rights of property in the squire. But this Bill affects something more sacred still than rights of property. It affects the personal rights of man in society. At present every man in the land has the right to procure refreshment on any day of the week in licensed houses of entertainment. A mere abstract right it may be in the case of the majority—that is their own affair—but, in the case of the minority, it is a concrete right which it were tyranny to take away, unless upon clear and indisputable evidence that its exercise is attended with serious injury to the community at large. Has that evidence been produced? Where is it? It is nowhere; but in its place we have unimpeachable evidence that the day against which we are asked to legislate is of all days in the week the most sober. We are asked to legislate ostensibly against drunkenness, and the day selected for the experiment is noted par excellence for its sobriety. A Bill for total closing would be intelligible—a Bill for Sunday closing is an anachronism and an absurdity. If I could believe 351 that this Bill embodied the sense and will of the Irish people, for my part, so far as they were concerned, I should not take the trouble of opposing it. I would say, let them have it; such a Bill is too good for a people who could come before this House proclaiming that they are incapable of self-control, unfit for self-government, who must have an Act of Parliament and the police to save them from the vices of their own character. But matters have not come to that. The real opinion of the country—the opinion of the classes immediately affected—is opposed to this measure. Knowing, as I do, the difficulty of obtaining an expression of opinion in Ireland on subjects which do not appeal to religious or political passions, I confess I have been agreeably surprised at the manifestation of hostility which this measure has evoked. In rural districts meetings are rarely held on any subject, and vast numbers of Irishmen, for reasons unnecessary to enter into, are totally averse to signing Petitions at all. I ask leave, also, to direct the attention of the House—and especially of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland—to the anomalous fact that, by a peculiar law, the like of which is not to be found in any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions, no person or body can meet there by delegation. It is a matter of extreme difficulty to ascertain, with anything like certainty, the real feeling of Ireland on any subject whatever; and this unsatisfactory state of things is traceable directly to the deadening influence of the law to which I refer. I am aware that copies of a Memorial, numerously and influentially signed, have been placed in the hands of hon. Members. The House will determine what value should be attached to signatures which, however respectable, are those of persons who, because they do not require to use public-houses themselves, magnanimously demand that they shall be closed against those who do. These disinterested philanthropists do not drink, in public—that good thing they do by stealth, and blush to find it fame. No one impugns their right to indulge in that way a reasonable appetite. But I venture to suggest that their philanthropy also might be more appropriately reserved for domestic use. I might apply the same remark, perhaps, to those 352 English petitioners who are so kind as to favour us with their Irish ideas on Irish Sunday closing. There is a certain institution in the United States for reformed persons—a penitents' retreat. On one occasion, an applicant for admission, in answer to some leading questions respecting his or her past life—I forget whether it is a male or female retreat—indignantly disclaimed all knowledge of such things. "Oh, then," said the director, "you must go and qualify." I submit, that persons who do not use, nor require to use, Irish public-houses, are not qualified witnesses; that they do not come into court with clean hands; and that the only testimony really deserving of weight is that of Irish persons who do use, and are compelled to use, public-houses. Some persons support Sunday closing under the delusion that it would remove a temptation. But the world abounds in temptation, and no Legislature can legislate it away. It is there, on the whole, for man's good; and the highest mission of the legislator and the philanthropist is not its removal—which were an impossibility—but to lift a man above it. Why, I would like to ask, if Sunday closing be the will, as alleged, of the Irish people, do they not voluntarily adopt it, instead of applying to this House for a coercive law? There is no law compelling the publican to keep open house on Sunday; no law compelling people to enter the public-house on Sunday; the magistrates are empowered to grant six-day licences—why, then, this demand for an Act which affixes a stigma on a nation? Thirty-five or 40 years ago the population of Ireland was nearly double that which it is at the present day—whiskey was more than one-half as cheap, and intemperance prevailed to an extent now happily unknown. What did Father Matthew, whose memory is revered as that of the Apostle of Temperance, do? Did he petition for an Act of Parliament to save the people from themselves and their weaknesses? Did he found a Sunday Closing Association? Did he, in the face of Europe and America, represent his countrymen to be so degraded that an Act of Parliament alone could rescue them from the mire of bestial indulgence? No, he went amongst the multitude, expounding the doctrines, of Christian, morality, of patriotism, of manhood, and of self-reliance. 353 He appealed to the reason of the people, to their feelings, their sense of pride, and their sense of duty; and, when he ceased to speak, the multitude, as if moved by one common impulse, cast themselves before him, and vowed that, with the blessing of God, from that day forth they would be free men, not slaves, resolved to resist temptation, and triumph over it. That was a noble spectacle—a sublime manifestation of national virtue. The highest possible testimony to the efficacy of Father Mathew's labours was borne by Mr. O'Connell, when he declared that but for them he could not have ventured to hold his monster meetings in 1843. I ask the House, by its vote on this question, to pronounce in favour of the method of Theobald Mathew, who gave us sobriety without the sacrifice of personal liberty, and against that of the latter-day reformers, who pretend to give us sobriety by Act of Parliament and the police. I ask the House to consider this Bill on its merits, dismissing as irrelevant if true, as scandalous if untrue—which I believe it to be—the assertion that it is the will of the Irish people. Will or no will, it is founded on principles which should not receive the sanction of an enlightened Legislature. If passed, it will aggravate the evils it professes to cure, and will prove infallibly a new source of discontent in Ireland.
§ MR. GOLDSMID moved to report Progress. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said the other day that that evening was to be devoted to the discussion of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill. But there was a strong feeling, upon the part of many Irish Members, that the debate should not close in one evening, which had been amply proved by what had taken place.
§ MR. COGAN rose to Order, as there was a Motion already before the Committee.
said, there was a Motion before the Committee—that he should leave the Chair. It was not competent for any other Motion to be brought forward before that was disposed of.
was of opinion that they should not waste any further time discussing a measure like the present while great national questions were pressing, and the Chancellor of 354 the Exchequer had arranged to bring up his Report on Supply that evening. He begged to move to adjourn the debate.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, that during the discussions in the House for the last three or four Sessions he had listened with respectful attention to everything emanating from the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. P. J. Smyth) with respect to this Bill, in the vain hope that he would bring forward some new argument calculated to influence the decision of the Committee. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that the hon. Gentleman endeavoured to influence their opinions by appealing to Constitutional procedure. He would do the same, by showing that the House of Commons had never delayed legislation until it was possible to consult every class in the community which the legislation would affect. Taking the case of the franchise, the House did not wait until the classes to be affected by the enjoyment of the franchise were united in the demand for extension of it. On the contrary, the object of the Legislature was to have regard to the interests of the whole nation, and to legislate just so soon as it was convinced that a certain measure was for the public weal. The classes affected by the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill had been appealed to by numerous public meetings held all over Ireland; and when the House, in 1876, assented, by an overwhelming majority, to the second reading of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman who opposed the Bill asked that the matter might be postponed, in order that the opinion of the classes affected might be brought before the House. He had no doubt that it was within the recollections of hon. Members that that language was adopted. And the same tactics were repeated in 1877, the intervening time having been occupied by a most powerful Association, not in trying to elicit public opinion, but in trying to divide the deliberate expression of that public opinion, which had been manifested for so many years. It had been further asked why, if the 355 people of Ireland were in favour of Sunday closing, did they not close voluntarily? He answered that by saying that the people of Ireland had it not in their power to violate the law; they had not the power to compel the publican to close his doors. The same arguments had been repeated over and over again by the hon. Member for Westmeath and by the hon. Member for the city of Cork (Mr. Murphy). They had declared that Sunday was the most sober day of the week. His answer was that Sunday was the day of the week when the public-houses were least opened. But there was a still stronger and weightier answer. Certain classes found themselves, on Saturday, suddenly possessed of the proceeds of their week's labour, and the temptation to drink was particularly strong. In consequence, many of them, in two or three hours, spent nine-tenths of their money, and as so much had been spent on Saturday there was but little to spend on Sunday. In the statistics so dexterously manipulated by the hon. Member for the city of Cork they were not told the amount of drink consumed on Saturday, and of the number of offences arising from Saturday; but Saturday was bulked with the other days of the week and Sunday, and the House was treated to the result so obtained as the average of each day. That was not a fair way of placing the facts before the House. But he had two other good answers to Sunday being the most sober day of the week. The question of personal liberty had been said to be involved in the Bill; but what had been said with regard to it had been answered by what followed in the speech of the hon. Gentleman. He closed with a splendid panegyric on Father Mathew,—how he spread the sacred gospel of temperance throughout the land. But it was forgotten that every man, in pledging himself to Father Mathew to abandon intemperance, gave up his personal liberty, and declared that he was incapable of self-control. The hon. Member must be content to be impaled on the horns of his own argument. They had had a repetition of the argument brought forward previously by the hon. Member for the city of Cork, who had occupied two hours and a-half in order, as he said, that the House might have an opportunity of again discussing the principle of the Bill. But in 1877 356 the hon. Member spoke for two hours in opposition, and he did the same in 1876. There was thus no justification for the extreme course taken in obstructing the passage of the Bill. The opponents of the measure had referred repeatedly to the opinions of Select Committees; but it must be remembered that they sat a very long time ago, and although public opinion might not then have been in favour of the Bill, it had now changed. It had been further said that, as the result of passing the second reading of the Bill in 1877, the sum of £250,000 had been subscribed in Manchester and the North of England to carry on the agitation in Ireland. But the fact that people could be induced to make so great a sacrifice for the sake of the morals of Ireland could be referred to with pride by the promoters of the Bill, as evidencing the purity of the ends they had in view. With respect to Petitions, the opponents of the Bill had better say nothing. They had resorted to every effort to discredit the Bill and had failed, and the Committee of Petitions had suggested a doubt as to the validity of those presented by them. The hon. Member for the city of Cork undertook to prove three propositions. The first was, that Sunday was the most sober day of the week in Ireland. There were excellent reasons to show why it was; and if they could only lessen the hours during which public-houses were allowed to be opened, they could speak of it in warmer terms than now. His second proposition was, that the Irish people did not want Sunday closing. The challenge thrown out by him had been accepted in previous years, and answered to the satisfaction of the House, by the Petitions that had been laid upon the Table. The third and most important of his propositions he did not succeed in proving. He said that the Bill, if passed, would not diminish intemperance; and he referred to the failure of similar legislation elsewhere. But the denunciation of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act came exclusively from Irish Members, and in no single instance had it been repeated by hon. Gentlemen from Scotland. If any Scotch Member did denounce the Act, he ventured to say he would be in a small minority with the people of Scotland. Taking up the propositions of the other side one by one, they had been answered 357 in and out of the House. There was no other device for the opponents of the Bill but to avail themselves of the privilege of obstruction—the argument for delay. He deplored such tactics should have been initiated, and was sorry to see the sacred name of obstruction brought up. The opposition of the Bill in Committee had come from Irish Members, who had been conspicuous by their absence when other Irish interests were at stake.
§ MR. KING-HARMAN,
speaking upon this question as an Irish Member, who had given it his fullest attention, said, he had studied the habits of the people; and he expressed his belief that he had the welfare of the masses at heart as much as any other Member of the House. He frankly confessed, after considering the whole matter, that he was entirely at a loss to know on which side to give a deliberate vote. He said so, because there were, on one side of the question, many arguments which appeared convincing until he heard the arguments on the other. There were arguments that applied to one part of Ireland which were not applicable to the other; but there was one point which had not been contradicted, and which he thought could not be contradicted—namely, that the request for the passing of the Bill had emanated from a large and influential portion of the community, and had been backed up chiefly through the instrumentality of the clergy of all denominations. He, for one, did not believe that the clergy, of either one or all denominations, were infallible; but in Ireland, no doubt, they had particular and special opportunities of knowing what were the feelings and sentiments of the lower classes. A large majority of the people who had signed Petitions had done so under the impression that they were supporting a measure which would relieve the country from the growing evil of intemperance. The question was a difficult one to deal with, and his opinion was that it could be solved only by a direct experiment. What, therefore, he suggested was that the Bill should be passed, not as a permanent measure in the first instance, but for two or three years. After that time, if the trial proved successful, and the Bill commended itself, not only to the Irish people, but also to their friends on this side of the water, that result would furnish an unanswerable 358 argument for making it a permanent measure. The Amendments proposed by the Government might be inserted in the Bill, which could first be tried in the country places; and then, if it succeeded there, that fact would justify its application in a year or two to the towns. If the promoters believed it was a good Bill, they could have no objection to its being passed as a temporary measure.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING,
who had never before given a vote on this question, said, he represented a county—Cork—to which frequent reference had been made in the course of the discussion. He had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the feelings of his constituents. In the years 1876 and 1877, he was under the impression that the majority of them were in favour of this measure; but, after a most careful investigation of the opinions of the people in the county, he had come to the conclusion that he had been utterly mistaken in the first instance. On that, the former, occasion, he spoke of some Bishops in Ireland who had signed a Memorial in reference to the Bill, and he had since received from them an intimation that, for a considerable time, they had not been able to make up their minds as to whether there was a necessity for a measure of this kind or not. On behalf of one Bishop he could say that, if he had again to exercise his opinion upon the subject, he should withhold his signature from any Petition that was in favour of the Bill. With regard to some observations which had fallen from the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), he did not think they tended to elevate the character of Irish Members. He regretted that, amongst them, were to be found, on almost every occasion, some hon. Gentlemen who took advantage of the opportunity in debate to cast reflections, upon other hon. Members of their own body, which were totally undeserved. For his own part, he could only say that, if he had to depend upon an hon. Member's vote in favour of the independence of the people, he should rely upon the vote of the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) as much, if not more, than upon that of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power). He wished to read to the Committee a letter which had been written to him on this question, without any solicitation on his part. 359 It had been written in consequence of some observations made by him last Session, when he expressed no opinion either for or against the Bill, but held that the wiser course for the Government would have been to introduce a Bill of their own limiting the hours on the Sunday, and also on the Saturday, instead of closing the public-houses entirely on the former day. His opposition to closing them for the whole day was based upon his experience, as a presiding magistrate, and upon the Returns made on the subject, which showed that there was less drunkenness on Sunday than on any other day of the week. That opinion, which he had expressed on the former occasion, he still adhered to. The letter which he had received was a speech in itself upon this question; it was written by a distinguished member of the Catholic Church, holding a high position as a canon, and a man of great experience. The hon. Member then read the letter. In it the writer expressed approval of the course which the hon. Member (Mr. Downing) was taking with respect to the Bill. If it passed into law, he was convinced that it would work mischief: it certainly would not promote respect for English law, nor improve the morals of the people. On the contrary, it would be regarded as a new stroke of coercion, and there would be evasions of the law in every shape and form. Bad whisky would be substituted for nourishing and wholesome drink. The real defects of the measure were that it had no sympathy with the wants and wishes of the working classes. The result of the efforts of the promoters of the Bill, if successful, would be the worst species of class legislation. The writer denied that the majority of the Irish people were in favour of the Bill. If each parish, borough, town, and city were empowered by law to decide for itself on the matter, the opinion of the people would then be respected. The power might be given to the Parliamentary voters in each district, or to the ratepayers, to shut up public-houses on Sunday if they thought proper. Could not, the writer asked, a provision to that effect be introduced into the Bill when it went into Committee? It would bring the matter to the test of public opinion. Those who wished to close on Sundays would then have their way, and there would be no coercion on either 360 side. The hon. Member, in reading the next passage in the letter which he had been quoting, called the particular attention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland to it, as the expressed opinion of a parish priest, in the county of Cork, who occupied a high position. Referring to the exemption of large cities from the prohibition, nothing, he said, could be more mischievous, as it would be drawing the young men from surrounding districts into all the vices of those cities. Besides, it would be necessary to double the number of police to enforce the provisions of the new law, and there would be prosecutions without end. After reading this letter, the hon. Member commended the advice it contained to the consideration of the Committee and of the Government. With reference to the Government, who were, to some extent, supporting the Bill, he did not believe they were giving it sincere support on the present occasion. If they were now to escape from fulfilling their former promise to support it, what, he asked the Committee, would be the result if the Bill became law? Those hon. Members, who were acquainted with the habits of the people, knew the result would be this—if public-houses were closed entirely on the Sunday, the she been houses would increase, where whisky would be sold, without a licence, to people on the Saturday night, who would meet together in a neighbour's house on the Sunday, and there drink with their wives, while the children looked on. Instead of a man going into the public-house and drinking his glass of whisky-and-water quietly, there would be a number of persons assembling together and drinking amidst disorder on the Sunday. He had spoken to many clergymen on this question; and the fact that out of nearly 400, under the jurisdiction of Cardinal Cullen, only 70 had signed the Petition in favour of the Bill, was the strongest proof that could be given that the body of the Catholic clergy of Ireland were opposed to it. The Government would act wisely if they deliberated before allowing this Bill to become law. If they allowed the large towns to be excluded from its operation, injury would be done not only to the residents in those towns, but also to young men and young women who would be encouraged to drink there at night. If the measure passed, his belief 361 was that an agitation would arise greater than the Government at present expected.
§ MR. MURPHY,
in reply, repudiated the imputation, conveyed by more than one hon. Member who had addressed the Committee, with regard to his conduct in moving that the Chairman leave the Chair, and assured the Committee that he had come down to the House sincerely anxious to lay before the Committee evidence, taken by a Select Committee, and Petitions in support of the opinions of the Irish people on this question, which could not have been laid before the House until that evening. The progress of public opinion in opposition to this Bill was summed up thus: in 1876, there were 86 Petitions, with 50,000 signatures, against the Bill; in 1877, 230, with 104,000 signatures; and in the present year, up to the 22nd of March, there had been presented also against the Bill 590 Petitions, with 207,000 signatures—all of them from the people of Ireland. These figures fully answered the challenge he threw out last year.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 170: Majority 120.—(Div. List, No. 83.)
remarked, that both sides would agree to one thing—namely, that they had wasted an evening; and, under these circumstances, he did not think it was necessary to waste any more time. He would, therefore, move to report Progress. He hoped the Government would give the House a hope that they would not hear anything more of this Bill this Session. He was not aware that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy), in his somewhat lengthy speech, had moved that the Chairman should leave the Chair, or he should not have made the Motion he had at an earlier period of the evening.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Goldsmid.)
§ MR. COGAN
agreed that a good deal of time had been wasted; but he trusted the Committee would not allow the opposition to this Bill to be successful, 362 or the system of government by majorities would cease, and government by minorities would take its place. He trusted the Committee would maintain its just rights and privileges.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had been very anxious they should have taken an opportunity that evening really to discuss some of the Amendments that had been put on the Paper. It had been the pleasure of some hon. Gentlemen to raise again the whole principle of the Bill, and they had now reached an hour not very favourable for the discussion of the various Amendments, though in Committee, of course, they might be able to amend some of the details. It would, however, be very difficult to ask the Committee to go on with the Bill now.
THE O'CONOR DON
was sorry to hear those remarks from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would be impossible for him (the O'Conor Don), as partly responsible for this measure, not to press it on till some progress was made. It was true it would be difficult at that time in the morning, under ordinary circumstances, to ask the Committee to enter on new business; but they must remember the peculiar circumstances connected with this case; and they must remember what would be the effect—the necessary effect—of accepting this Amendment. It would be to encourage in the future the same course of conduct which had caused such a waste of that evening. Still, he would hardly feel justified in asking Her Majesty's Government to go through the form of going on every occasion into the Lobby. But this he might say—that unless the Committee determined that the will of the majority should prevail, and that the minority should not overthrow them, they might as well say at once that the minority was to govern. This was a Bill relating exclusively to Ireland. Well, the number of Irish Members against the Bill in the late divisions was 13, or, with the two Tellers, 15, in all. Every single Member that could be possibly got to oppose the Bill was whipped up that evening. These were facts; and he would put it to the Committee, whether they would submit to a small minority of 13 or 15 against the whole House? If they postponed it to another evening, it would be quite possible for the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy) to move 363 that the Chairman leave the Chair, and to deliver again the speech he had delivered that evening; and it would be quite possible for hon. Gentlemen again to enter on the whole subject. Therefore, it was essential for the Committee to show, by making some progress, that the will of the majority must prevail.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, it was the first time he had heard of "tyrant minorities." It was the first time he had not acted in that House on the principle always advocated by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), that when hon. Members were in a minority they were to yield to their opponents. He was now in a minority of 13 Irish Members. He had been in minorities on Irish coercion Bills when the hon. and learned Member for Kildare had been on the other side. The minority of 11 represented, he believed, the feeling of the country; and when the Election came on it would be shown that those 11 did represent the feeling of the country, for every one of the 11 would be returned to that House, and the tyrant majority would be rejected. Twenty minutes to 2 was not the time to proceed with a Bill of that kind, and if hon. Members would suggest terms of compromise they would consider them; but he did not think it would be in accordance with the feeling of the country or the House to proceed with the Bill at that time in the morning.
§ MR. SANDFORD
sympathized with the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) in the position in which he was placed. It was an awkward position for private Members with Bills of this character. He wished Her Majesty's Government would take a more decided course. There were two courses open to the Government to pursue—either they were favourable to this measure or they were not. If they were favourable, let them take the measure into their own hands, and submit it in their own shape to the House. On the other hand, if they opposed this measure, let them oppose it with the united force of the whole Government. In either case they would pursue a straightforward and honourable course; and, at all events, the Committee would know in what position the Bill was placed.
held that the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had hit 364 the right nail on the head. As to the Eleven of all Ireland, he should make no complaint of a minority of that House, who conceived that they were contending for a great principle in using the Forms of that House to oppose a particular measure. Members of that House had a duty cast upon them. When there was a change in the Chief Secretaryship for Ireland there was an evil omen. There was a wonderful deputation waited upon the new Chief Secretary, who, he hoped, was going to follow him and state the intentions of the Government. The story went that he was not aware that there was a reporter present among the respectable publicans and hon. Members, and that he made a speech, with the frankness and candour which always distinguished him, on the obstructionist tendencies of that House. That spread throughout Ireland an unfortunate apprehension that the policy of the Government on this question was to be a Pontius Pilate policy. They would put an end to all responsibility, and would trust to the Eleven of all Ireland, backed, as they had seen that night, by a certain representation of English Members. The Committee had seen what had gone on there that night. It might be un-Parliamentary to call it a farce; it might be too much to call it a tragedy; but he must say that, although he had laughed at much that was said, still it was impossible not to feel something of sorrow, and something of grief and shame, that on an occasion of this character Her Majesty's Government, while aware of the hopes of the nation on this question, should not have the courage of their convictions on the floor of that House. On a question that touched the peace, welfare, and morality of Ireland, Her Majesty's Government would neither say that they would oppose this Bill, nor that they would have their own Amendments passed upon it. He had appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell them what the Government intended to do at this stage. That would only be fair to the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), who said that he intended to meet the Government Amendments fairly. A very fair offer was made by the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. King-Harman), one of the Conservative Home Rulers. What would the Government do on that suggestion? Would they take these Amendments up 365 on the Bill and pass it for four years? Had the Chancellor of the Exchequer made up his mind that he would tell the House candidly what he meant to do? Did he mean to throw the supporters of the Bill on their own resources? The principle of the Bill had been debated before. It presented now an "ancient and fish-like smell." They had heard it all. They had heard hon. Members from Ireland calling this a "coercion Bill" trampling on the liberties of their country. When were the liberties of the country threatened, and the Irish Bishops dumb? Why, then, had the Bishops raised their voice in favour of this Bill? It was impossible for honest Irishmen to have patience in listening to the pretences which Her Majesty's Government had advanced upon this question. Let them state candidly and frankly how the test that was to be applied to ascertain the feeling of the Irish people could be made known, and they would undertake to satisfy them. Would they take a majority of Irish Liberals? would they take a majority of Irish Home Rulers? would they take the Clergy of all denominations? or would they take the middle men? Had the day dawned when the liberties of Ireland were to be destroyed by a conspiracy of Catholic priests? That was a story unworthy of the House of Commons to tolerate. They were told that this Bill would promote Sabbatarianism. The hon. Member for Sligo asked them to see how it worked. There were hon. Members in that House, who represented a whole county, that had tried it for 12 years. He could point to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman) when he said that; and he could point to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wexford (Mr. O'Clery). He remembered when the late Archbishop of Cashel was able to try this experiment, and when the she been bugbear was exploded. For a time he was impressed with the idea that there might be something in the theories that Sunday closing would lead to an increase of drunkenness. But what had been the result in Cashel? Where was the parishioner from the whole of that vast district who was prepared to say that this had been anything but a blessing to his country? Were people of that kind likely to have their liberties trampled under foot? He 366 might point to the feeling in Wexford, and ask whether the people there would submit to have popular freedom "cramped, cabined, and confined?" Not a bit of it! There was no county in Ireland where public feeling was so warm and strong as in the two counties where for 15 years this principle had been tried. It was unworthy of a great Government to shut their eyes to the voice of the Irish people. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] Well, the hon. Member was an honest man, and had the courage to tell them he was interested in this. If others would imitate his candour, there would be a little light thrown on the darkness that flooded the House. It was the voice of Ireland that cried for this Bill. If it was said that no change should be made in Ireland until the classes that consumed the drink could be heard, then why did not the Government, when they introduced the Licensing Bill, wait until the drinking classes were heard? When the hours of closing were changed the working classes were not heard. But it was not in the interests of the working classes—it was in the interests of pocket and of till that this agitation was carried on. He had been through Ireland, and had tried to guage the feeling of the people honestly on this point. He had guaged it at public meetings, where a challenge was thrown out to the people to discuss this question, and there never was a voice raised against it until the publicans of Dublin made up a stock purse of £2,000 against this Bill. Now, he would close by again asking the Government what they intended to do about this question? They were led to believe that the Government Amendments were designed to take this question out of the field of agitation in Ireland. He put it to the Representatives of the Trade in that House, was it for the benefit of the liquor trade in Ireland that this question should be settled or not? Would the Government take the Bill in their hands and pass it?
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he did not rise for the purpose of prolonging this discussion. In fact, he had avoided addressing the Committee during that evening, as so many other hon. Members wished to address it; but the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) had made a reference 367 to him in a manner that called for a few words in reply. The hon. and learned Member had stated to the Committee, on authority he did not mention, that on the occasion of a deputation to him (Mr. J. Lowther) soon after his accession to his present office, the deputation was intended, and was supposed by him, to be private, but that certain gentlemen of the Press, who were uninvited and unnoticed in the room, attended and took a report. The hon. and learned Gentleman was, he believed, an ornament of the Fourth Estate of the Realm; and he was bound to say he was surprised to hear him level so serious an aspersion against members of his Profession as to hold out that they would be guilty of an act of gross impropriety. [Mr. SULLIVAN: I did not say so.] He had understood the hon. and learned Member to say that members of the Press found their way there who were uninvited.
I did not say "found their way." I said I understood the right hon. Gentleman imagined there were no reporters present. I did not say they surreptitiously got in.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that came exactly to the same thing. The hon. and learned Gentleman, according to his correction, intended to convey an impression that, unknown to himself (Mr. J. Lowther), these gentlemen found their way into a Government office. That was no contradiction of what he had stated. It was due to the members of the Profession to which he had referred to say that there was not a shadow of foundation for the statement of the hon. and learned Member. He was asked, before the deputation was introduced, whether he had any objection to reporters being present or not? He said certainly he had no objection whatever. What he stated was, in many newspapers, quite accurately reported, and was what he intended to say. It was essentially what the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had said on another occasion. The only difference between his own statement and that of his Predecessor was not in one single word, but only in a letter. As his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already pointed out, their statements were substantially the same. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for 368 the Colonies was incorrectly understood to promise unlimited time for the consideration of this Bill at the expense of all other Business for which the Government were responsible; and, on the other hand, he had himself said nothing to contradict his right hon. Friend. After that explanation, he hoped the Committee would see that there had been no conflict of opinion on the part of the Government. In accordance with their announcement, the Government had placed on the Paper certain Amendments; in the event of those Amendments being accepted, they would not oppose the further progress of the measure; and, in the event of their being rejected, they would resume their former liberty of action. That was how the matter stood; but they had never at any time pledged themselves to support the Bill in any case whatever.
THE O'CONOR DON
considered that the Chief Secretary's account of the promise given by his Predecessor in office was of a most inaccurate character. He said that if certain Amendments of the Government were carried, the Government would not offer any further opposition to the progress of the Bill; whereas the words used by the right hon. Gentleman's Predecessor were these—If necessary, the Government will be prepared to aid him (the O'Conor Don) in obtaining greater facilities for this purpose—with the view of securing, so far as we are able—that a settlement of the question shall be arrived at this Session, and shall not be delayed, as was the case last year, from want of time."—[3 Hansard, ccxxxvii. 157.]
§ MR. SANDFORD,
referring to the remark that the Government opposed this Bill on a former occasion with their united strength, pointed out that certain Members of the Government were conspicuous by their absence from the division upon the question; and when certain Members of the Government were absent at a division, it was generally understood that the question was, more or less, an open one. Therefore, he did not agree in calling that opposing the measure.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN,
in explanation of his vote, said, he opposed the Bill, because he believed it was a measure directed against the liberties of the humblest classes in Ireland. He disclaimed any personal motive in adopting 369 that course; and, in reply to the implication that he was himself interested in the question, observed that, although it was true that he had a licensed hotel, yet it was equally true that, for the last 20 years, it had not been opened on Sunday, as he preferred giving his employés a rest on that day.
said, there were some points raised which appeared to require some notice from the Government, even at that hour of the morning. He hoped that the Government would feel that there was, at present, some discrepancy in the statements which were before the Committee, as to their intentions with reference to this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had said the declarations made by the Government were in perfect consonance one with the other; but, undoubtedly, the speech which the Committee had just heard from the Chief Secretary for Ireland was not in consonance with the words quoted by his hon. Friend (the O'Conor Don) from some observations made on a former occasion by the right hon. Gentleman's Predecessor in office (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). The speech just made was, that on condition of the acceptance of the Amendments of the Government, the Government, in the ulterior progress of the Bill, would observe neutrality—whereas the words read by his hon. Friend behind him (the O'Conor Don) were to the effect that, on condition of the acceptance of the Amendments of the Government, the Government would give facilities for the further progress of the Bill, with a view of its being settled during the present Session, instead of its being postponed from year to year, as it had been on former occasions. He was sure that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would feel that it was necessary that something should be done to bring these declarations into harmony one with the other; for verbally, at least, they were not consonant as they then stood. With regard to the actual position in which they stood as to this Bill, he could not be surprised that his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be desirous to relieve himself from the task of sitting through the night for the purpose of promoting the progress of the measure. That was a most reasonable demand on his right hon. Friend's 370 part. He did not think the promoters of the Bill could expect from the Members of the Government that they should personally devote further time to the discussion of the question upon that occasion; but he looked in a somewhat different light upon the position of the Members of the House in general, who were under the same burden as Members of the Government during the day. He, therefore, asked himself what was it that they could do equitably in the matter? He apprehended that their position was this—that the Government, having kindly appropriated an evening for the purpose of promoting this Bill, the discussion of it was commenced at 5 o'clock; that was to say, about nine hours had been given, and those nine hours had been occupied in Committee with a discussion upon the principle of the Bill. With that discussion it was not for him to find any fault; but the upshot of it was that, at the close of that discussion on the principle of the Bill, a proposal was made to report Progress, without the Committee having made any progress whatever. If that Motion were acceded to, there would, no doubt, be difficulty, viewing the condition of Public Business, in finding another early day for making further progress with the Bill, even if the more liberal promise of the late Chief Secretary for Ireland were preferred to the somewhat churlish measure proposed by the present Chief Secretary; but when the day had been found—at great cost, no doubt—by the Government, what was to secure the promoters of the Bill against the danger that they might not have the same operation repeated on the next occasion of being asked, at a late hour in the evening, to report Progress without having made the smallest advance towards the disposal of the clauses of the Bill? He did not think it was unreasonable that his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) should desire that, at any rate, some progress should be made. Although he believed his hon. Friend had an enormous majority, both of numbers, intelligence, and authority, in Ireland in his favour, he did not understand his hon. Friend, by any undue tenacity, to provoke opposition either from the Government or from the House. His hon. Friend, he believed, was willing to accede to the Amendments of the Government—probably, he would be wise in so acceding 371 to them—although his hon. Friend did not give them his personal approval. Then, an important suggestion had been made by an hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. King-Harman), who certainly had spoken upon this Bill in a spirit of entire impartiality. He did not understand his hon. Friend to pledge himself against that suggestion, which, he believed, was to the effect that, in the first instance, the operation of the Bill should be limited to two or three years—a mode of proceeding which was very often found to be effectual in settling a difficult question. Under these circumstances, though he was not the youngest Member of the House, he begged to assure his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) that he, for one, was perfectly willing to sit there for some hours to come, if necessary, for the purpose of securing for his hon. Friend, at any rate, that the Committee should be enabled to make some progress with the Bill; and, while he fully allowed that he did not think such a demand ought to be made on the Members of the Government, on the other hand, he was sure they would feel that he was making this proposal to them, not in a spirit of opposition, but simply to further their own view of the question.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished that the position of the Government in this matter should not be misunderstood. It ought to be clearly borne in mind that this measure, introduced two years ago by some unofficial Gentleman, was opposed at the time by the Government. It was quite true, as his hon. Friend (Mr. Sandford) had reminded him, that there were certain Members of the Government who did not vote in the division; but, upon the whole, the Government did not see their way to accept the measure, and they opposed it. Nevertheless, the majority of the House carried it on the second reading. Under these circumstances, the Government had to re-consider their position; and, in considering what was to be done to the Bill, they naturally took into view the question whether it was a Bill which they could themselves introduce on another occasion. They did not see their way to adopt that course, and last Session the Bill was again brought forward; but the Government did not think it necessary to oppose 372 itonits second reading, and the discussion went on. Attempts were made, towards the close of the Session, to give facilities to the promoters of the Bill for having it fairly discussed. Those attempts did not prove successful. In the course of the Recess, his right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), then Chief Secretary for Ireland, received several deputations, and paid a great deal of attention to the Bill in Ireland. The result was that, when the Government were considering the measures which they ought to bring forward this Session, his right hon. Friend reported to the Government what was his general view upon the subject. At that time the Government understood that those who were promoting the Bill were not disposed themselves to accept any compromise, but were advocating the Bill in its entirety. Taking the whole matter into consideration, and having regard to the selection of those measures which they could hope to pass, and the order to be assigned to them, the Government did not see their way to undertake this as a Government Bill. Accordingly, they did not bring the measure before Parliament; but knowing, of course, that it would be introduced by those who were friendly to it, the Government were desirous to grant every facility for dealing with the Bill, and to give it candid consideration. He forgot the precise words used by his right hon. Friend; but, in substance, they were to this effect—when they got into Committee they would be prepared to suggest and propose certain Amendments; and if those Amendments should be carried, the Government would be prepared to give facilities for the further proceeding of the Bill. He ventured to say that the Government had fairly redeemed their promise so far. They had more than redeemed it; because they had not waited to see whether the promoters of the Bill were ready to accept the Amendments of the Government. They would have fulfilled their engagement by allowing the Bill to get into Committee as it could, and then proposing their Amendments; but they had supported it, both on the second reading and on the Motion for the Speaker leaving the Chair; they had given up a whole Government night, postponing measures which were, at that time, of great importance to the 373 country, in order that this Bill might be discussed. He thought it was very hard for the Government to be blamed for the course of the debate, which they had not promoted. They had not thought it necessary to enter upon the discussion, which had turned upon the principle of the Bill. They held to that which they had already promised. The Amendments, in the name of the Attorney General for Ireland, were on the Paper, and, on their being reached, they would be proposed to the Committee. If those Amendments were adopted, and inserted in the Bill, the Government, without putting aside all other Business for the sake of this Bill, would be prepared fairly, honestly, and honourably, to redeem their pledge, whenever they were able to do so, and to give facilities to the measure.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
disclaimed any interest in opposing the Bill, except that which he took in the welfare of his country. He had not heard any answer to the statistics quoted in the course of the discussion, which furnished a fresh argument against the Bill. The Clergy, who had been got to sign Petitions in its favour, did so, he believed, under a false impression that statistics proved that Sunday had been abused with regard to this question of drinking. If the Bill passed into law, he believed it would show that its promoters were under a great mistake.
THE O'CONOR DON
found no fault with the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the course he had pursued; on the contrary, he acknowledged the assistance he had given by placing at the disposal of the promoters of the Bill an early day in the Session for its consideration. His only desire was that the opportunity which had been given should not be wasted and thrown away.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:— Ayes 68; Noes 110: Majority 42.—(Div. List, No. 84.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Major O' Gorman.)
THE O'CONOR DON
said, it was impossible to assent to the Motion, as they knew the consequences would be disastrous to the Bill.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the hour at which they had now arrived made the arguments adduced in favour of suspending the Sitting come with greater force than before. He should like to say a word in answer to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone). The right hon. Gentleman proposed that the Members of the Government should go, and leave the rest of the House to dispose of the Bill. Most of his Colleagues had already availed themselves of the right hon. Gentleman's kind suggestion, he was bound to say, and for this reason-that the Amendments for which he was responsible, and which stood on the Paper in the name of his right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland, he distinctly understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich to undertake to move in their absence. Hon. Gentlemen would see it would be impossible for them, to move the Amendments of the Government at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, and they would have to wait a considerable time before they were reached.
§ MR. MURPHY
said, that after the discussion that had taken place that night, the promoters of the Bill could have no reason to complain of the position in which it stood as compared with that of the previous one. They had had an exceptional run of luck, and had already got their Bill into Committee. They had made an amount of progress with it during the early period of the Session that was quite unexpected, and placed themselves in a far better position than they could have expected to be in at that time. ["Divide!"] Gentlemen were anxious to divide, and he would not long stand in the way; but he must protest against the idea of the possibility that at that hour any progress should be made with that Bill. And he would five them the reasons why he said so. If the Committee proceeded with the Bill now, the first Amendment that stood on the Paper was an Amendment by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick county (Mr. O'Sullivan). That Amendment raised the whole principle of the Bill. It excepted that portion of the Sunday between the hours of 2 and 7 o'clock in the afternoon, and on the discussion of that question that of total Sunday closing necessarily came in; and for that reason all the facts, and all the 375 arguments necessary to sustain them, must be set before the Committee. For himself, he should not shrink from putting before the Committee the new facts, and the mass of Petitions against the Bill which had come into the House that Session, and which never existed before. He thought the tone of the debate in that House would be better, and more elevated, if personal observations were avoided, and the imputation of personal and sordid motives were not made against those who thought it their duty to oppose the measure. In his view, nothing could be more unfair, or more untrue, than to say that they opposed the Bill because they were interested in the trade. Such an assertion implied that they had no solid ground for doing so, and that though in their hearts they agreed with the principle of the Bill, yet from sordid motives they opposed it. If he were disposed to indulge in similar remarks, he could do so against some of the supporters of the Bill—one of them a personal friend of his own—for one of the principal objects of the Bill was to get men to their work earlier after Sundays. An hon. Friend of his had stated publicly that a manufacturer whom he knew advocated the Bill by reason of the business of his own firm suffering, and its profits being so much less, because the men did not come to their work regularly after Sunday. That had been stated publicly; but he (Mr. Murphy) did not impute sordid motives to him in supporting the Bill on that account. He might say he had no pecuniary interests in the question to the value of one farthing; but, as a Member of that House, he felt almost humiliated in being obliged, as it were, to spurn an imputation which never should have been made. He hoped and trusted those imputations would not be thrown out again, and would support the Motion that the Chairman leave the Chair.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not rise to make any remarks respecting the principle of the Bill; but he felt it his duty to take exception to the argument first stated by the hon. Member for Cork. As a master and manufacturer, it surprised him to hear a charge made, or suggested, of sordid motives, against the employers of labour, because they preferred that those whom they employed should not get so drunk on 376 Sunday. He wanted to point out, however, the position they were in at that time of the morning, and that these questions did not affect them. He was not going into the merits of the Bill. It was stated by the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan) that its promoters had taken the most constitutional way of ascertaining the wishes of the Irish people in reference to this Bill; and he certainly sympathized with the views of those hon. Gentlemen, and thought it the duty of the House, if they wished to make the Bill acceptable to the Irish people, and if Irish Business was to be conducted by the Imperial Parliament, to facilitate, as much as they could, the objects of the overwhelming majority of the Irish Representatives, giving them a full opportunity of discussing what they thought ought to be discussed, and of showing that the majority of the Irish Members, representing a similar majority in the Irish people, being in favour of the Bill, it ought to be passed. But, if they participated in that feeling, it was the duty of the Government to assist, as much as possible, in providing for that fulness of discussion; and he must say he was surprised at the position the Chief Secretary for Ireland had put them in that night. He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to state distinctly that he would offer no obstruction to the further continuance of the discussion; and it was with great surprise, therefore, he saw the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland go out with the minority in the last division. They were entitled to ask, therefore, whether the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that no obstruction was to be given to the Bill on the part of the Government, was the statement of the Government, or that for the remainder of the Session they were to have the influence of the Government exerted in favour of the opponents of the Bill?
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he did not think it was from such a quarter as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford that advice should be tendered to the House on the advantages of uniformity of action. He thought he was in the recollection of the Committee when he called to mind what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, which was originally, some hours ago, that he 377 thought the time had arrived when the discussion might be adjourned. Some time afterwards, on its appearing that some Gentlemen wished to continue the discussion, he said he would offer no obstruction to their intentions, and he availed himself of some advice that had been tendered to him, and left the House. He did not know, however, whether the right hon. Gentleman had left it altogether. He (Mr. J. Lowther) denied that he had obstructed in any way the discussion of the Bill. He had merely been carrying out the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, expressed by him some considerable time before, and which he thought most hon. Members must in their hearts really feel to be true. They must feel—they must for a long time have felt—that the time had passed when this discussion could, with profit, be continued. If anything he could say would have weight with the Committee, he would say it was all very well to talk of obstructing the Bill; but it had now been under discussion for a great many hours. A Motion was made which raised the whole principle of the Bill. It was now proposed that the discussion should be adjourned. He thought the adjournment of the discussion of the principal question might well have partaken of the character of obstruction; but they were now asked to enter into a discussion of the principle of the Bill. Well, seeing that there were various Amendments to be considered—on most, or all, of which they must expect discussion—he did not think that either the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), or the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), could seriously ask them to go on with the Bill now: and he would ask the hon. Member for Roscommon, therefore, whether he would undertake to report Progress before the Government Amendments came up for consideration?
THE O'CONOR DON
thought he should be justified in acceding to the proposal of the Chief Secretary; and if the other Amendments which preceded those of the Government were got through, and they came to the Government Amendments, he would then undertake to report Progress. He would also state to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he found any difficulty in remaining in the House longer, he should be happy 378 to move his Amendments for him in his absence.
thought that plan could hardly be carried out. His own Amendment stood first on the Paper, and he might mention that it would take at least five hours to discuss his first Amendment. It would, obviously, be most inconvenient for them to commence such a discussion at such an hour.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
observed, that if the opponents of the Bill were allowed no other alternative but proceeding with the Bill at that hour of the morning, they might as well pass a few hours in exercise as in talk.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
here intimated his intention, seeing no prospect of an agreement, of adopting the recommendations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, and retiring, leaving it to the Committee to proceed with the Bill in his absence.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 45; Noes 102: Majority 57.—(Div. List, No. 85.)
§ MR. ONSLOW
thought there was an inclination on the part of hon. Gentlemen to go, and only the remarks of some speakers had induced them to stick together so long. What had been the case that night? If the state of the benches opposite were to be taken as an indication, no great interest in the matter could be inferred, for, during a considerable portion of the Sitting, the attendance there had been very slight. Now they saw a sprinkling of hon. Members; but he thought that at that late hour it was perfectly useless to attempt to go on. He did not intend to accept the lead of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) in the matter, and he hoped he never should. He moved to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Onslow.)
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
thought this Motion might now be accepted. If it were not, he would pledge himself to 379 stop there, if necessary, for the next seven or eight hours. He did not think it was fair to treat the Committee in that way, by keeping them up long after they ought to have gone home.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, the Speaker had to be examined in a Committee of the House at 12 that day, and he thought hon. Members ought to consider the officers of the House rather than their own views. ["Oh!"] Hon. Members might cry "Oh!" but, in his opinion, it was neither to the honour and dignity of the Committee to stay wrangling there about a Bill of that kind at that hour of the morning. It was clear, that with the determined opposition this Bill had received, it could not, at that hour of the morning, go further. Nobody knew better than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) that a minority could keep the majority there for hours; and he would ask whether, under these circumstances, it was worth while stopping there any longer?
said, he did not intend to take any notice of the remarks of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow); but, as to the appeal of the hon. and gallant Baronet behind him (Sir Walter B. Barttelot), he could only say that it was extremely irksome to be an instrument in any way towards prolonging the labours of the officers of that House; but, at the same time, he did not think the question was between their duty to the officers of the House and their selfish views. He had no selfish views whatever in spending the night in this way. In cases of this kind one side must be wrong, while both sides might be in the wrong; and in such a case the most wise and sensible course was for both to give way, rather than to prolong an unseemly struggle. But this was a very peculiar case with regard to the just claims of Ireland. For several years Ireland, with a preponderance of opinion almost approaching to unanimity such as he had never known before, had asked the passing of this Bill humbly, peaceably, respectfully, at the hands of the House. He must say it appeared to him a case of most extraordinary hardship, and an extraordinary political impropriety, that a handful of the Representatives of Ireland should deliberately set themselves against the voice and judgment of the enormous 380 majority—["No, no!"]—he begged the pardon of the hon. Member—the enormous majority of the Irish Members. The Government formerly fairly and manfully opposed the Bill, and now they had, with perfect justice, changed their course. He thought this opposition was of the most exceptional character. He did not desire to stimulate the courage or the pluck of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don); but, certainly, he would not abandon him as long as he thought it his duty to endeavour to procure justice for Ireland, and to give a fair predominance to the expressed views and wishes of the people, as expressed by them constitutionally.
said, the Bill had been carried by a very large majority against the opposition of one of the most powerful Governments that country had ever seen, and it had been supported by the votes of the vast majority of Irish Representatives of every grade and of both political views, and it was supported by the almost unanimous votes of the Conservative Irish Members. He did not believe the course that was being followed on the present occasion had ever been followed before. It was a course which seemed to him highly impolitic and unwise; because, if ever there was an argument for Home Rule, this was one. What could he say to his constituents if he had to tell them that a Bill supported by Ulster, Leinster, Connaught, and Munster, and carried on the second reading by an immense majority of the House, had failed to pass? He was surprised at the conduct of the Irish minority; and he was also a little surprised at the conduct of the Government. They gave very little encouragement to their Irish supporters; and if the Bill were not carried it would create the greatest dissatisfaction in Ireland. So far as he was concerned, he was extremely glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich was ready to fight; and, as long as there was any number of Members anxious and willing to fight this battle, he would fight them.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he was sorry to hear the complaint of the hon. Gentleman, for he thought the Government had fulfilled all their pledges. He looked with great dread on the discussion that seemed threatening, 381 for though he had been for some time a Member of the House, he had never known such discussions result in anything like dignity or satisfaction. He would appeal to hon. Members opposite whether they ought not to be satisfied with the discussion that they had had, and whether they would not consent, in the interests of peaceful discussion, to report Progress?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
thought if there was any want of dignity in their proceedings it was very much due to the conduct of the Government. He never before had seen the Representative of the Government, to whose Department the Bill under discussion belonged, walk out of the House in a childish pet. If his hon. Friend went to another division he should certainly support him.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
said, when the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Burghs (the Marquess of Hartington) was Chief Secretary he assured the Irish licensed victuallers that as long as the Liberal Government was in Office it would not support any measure which tended to lessen the value of their property. The conduct of that Government when in opposition had been very different, as had also been the conduct now of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone). His attitude that evening would greatly weaken the respect and veneration with which the Irish Party had long regarded him.
said, as soon as it was known that the Government would give but one night for this debate, the Irish Eleven declared that they could easily talk it out. [Cries of "Name!"]
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he was one of the eleven, and asked if the hon. and learned Member was justified in referring to him?
said, that was not the first time the hon. Member had taken to himself a cap not intended for him, and had declared that it fitted him admirably. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Macartney), the greatest credit was due to the Conservative Irishmen, for on this subject they had risen superior to Party, and, by their conduct, had done credit to themselves and honour to their country.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he was appealed to to report Progress. But what progress had they made? He had 382 consented to report Progress as soon as the Government Amendments were reached, understanding that the Government would give their assistance to reach those Amendments; but the instant he said that, the Chief Secretary for Ireland took off his hat and walked out of the House. Hon. Members were teaching a lesson in obstruction which would not soon be forgotten, for they were now practising pure obstruction. He did not wonder that the hon. Members for Meath (Mr. Parnell), Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), and Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), were delighted with these proceedings. If the Government, with all the time at its disposal, was justified in sitting through the whole of one night to pass a Bill last year, it was surely not inconsistent with 'the dignity of the House to do such a thing in the case of a private Member.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
considered it both fair and reasonable to get some idea when these proceedings were likely to come to an end, and when the House would be adjourned. With regard to any control which the Government might have exercised over any of the hon. Members who had taken part in the discussion, he was not aware that the Government could have interfered with a single step that had been taken, and they had not caused discussion upon a single Amendment on the Paper. He failed to see what further control they could have exercised. He thought that the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill (the O'Conor Don) might fairly, at that advanced hour—half-past 3 o'clock—ask himself when the Committee should again sit? and he hoped the hon. Member would give some weight to the fact that the officials had been kept engaged for 11 hours in their duties within the House.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
commented on the peculiar position in which the Committee had been placed by the Government. After an understanding with the hon. Member (the O'Conor Don) that he would proceed, if possible, to the discussion of certain Amendments of importance, the Chief Secretary for Ireland had left the House, without the slightest concern as to what the Committee might decide with regard to those Amendments, and leaving the Government entirely unrepresented. That was 383 a remarkable position, which he did not remember to have occurred at any time during the long period he had been a Member of the House.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
reminded the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) that the position he occupied, as Attorney General, connected him with the Government, so that the right hon. Gentleman could not correctly say that the Government was unrepresented in the Committee.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
pointed out that very little difference of opinion existed between the various sections of the House; for if hon. Members would only look at the Paper they would see that they were all agreed on one point, when they reached the Amendment in the name of the Attorney General for Ireland, that they should then postpone discussion to a future occasion. The only difference of opinion arose on the preceding Amendments; and he therefore suggested that the hon. Members who had given Notice of them should defer them until the Report, when they would, no doubt, have an opportunity of bringing them under the consideration of the House. Nothing would be lost if that arrangement could be arrived at.
§ MR. O'REILLY
expressed his readiness to support his hon. Friend (the O'Conor Don), on the ground that he was opposed to the policy of simple obstruction—come from whatever quarter it might—a policy which was, in his opinion, destructive of free legislative action. The true course was for the minority to bow to the expressed will of the majority. If discussion was to be proceeded with, it must be by adopting the course suggested by the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
expressed surprise that the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), who had received such harsh treatment at the hands of the Government, should have dignified the conduct of the Government by comparing it with the patriotic conduct of himself (Mr. O'Connor Power) and the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) on a former occasion. Such comparisons were misleading to people out-of-doors.
§ MR. PEASE
deprecated repeated Motions for Progress, and the Chairman leaving the Chair, as not calculated to promote the dignity of the House. The hon. Member recalled the Committee to the position in which they had been placed by the departure of the Chief Secretary for Ireland from the House, and asked them to consider whether the facilities offered by the Government to his hon. Friend (the O'Conor Don) had been aided by that extraordinary circumstance? If the Committee adjourned, it should be on the understanding that the Secretary to the Treasury (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) should do his best with the Government to find a suitable day for the next Sitting.
appealed to the supporters of the Bill to withdraw their Amendment, and allow the Committee to adjourn.
§ MR. O'CLERY
hoped the hon. Member (the O'Conor Don) would not cease in his efforts to carry this clause through that night.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, the Government had landed the Committee into that difficulty, and the Government ought to get them out of it. The principle of the Bill had been decided on four occasions, and it was now the duty of the Government to bring in a measure of their own.
§ MR. PARNELL
protested against the comparison which had been made between the opposition offered to the Mutiny Bill and to other Government measures, and the opposition offered to this Bill. If, when the Army Mutiny Bill was going through Committee, he had moved that the Chairman leave the Chair the moment the House had got into Committee, and had spoken for two hours and a-half in support of that Motion, and had been succeeded by other hon. Members, each speaking also for two hours and a-half, he would have been handed over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer into the custody of the Serjeant-at-Arms. The Government had behaved almost shabbily. After promising facilities for passing the Bill, which was desired by the majority of the Irish people, they had run away out of the House and left no Representative on the front bench except the Attorney General for Ireland. The only course open to the House was to pass the Bill, and let the Irish people see how they liked it.
§ MR. MURPHY
justified his remarks on the Motion of the Chairman leaving the Chair upon the ground that no discussion on the principle of the Bill had been taken at the second reading.
§ MR. MELDON
said, the question was really one between the Government and the House. Last Session, with the assistance of the Government, the Bill was read a second time and referred to a Select Committee. After that stage, it was given to be understood that if their Amendments were assented to the Government would take up the Bill and pass it that Session. In Committee, however, the view of the Government was not approved, and the Bill was thereupon lost. At the beginning of the present Session the Government pledged themselves that if their Amendments were yielded to they would facilitate the passing of the Bill. Then came the appointment of a new Chief Secretary for Ireland, and from that time dated the cause of complaint against the Government. The new Chief Secretary gave it clearly to be understood that all the Government would promise was to find one day for the consideration of the Bill, and that unless a pledge was given that their Amendments should be accepted, their obligations would be at an end. The House having expressed their opinion that it was desirable the Bill should become law, an appeal ought really to be made by the promoters to the majority, asking them to carry out the decision which was arrived at in the year 1876. It appeared to him that the Government were trifling with the Resolution of the House in a way which was most unjustifiable, so that the matter was really for the decision of the House. Was it to be tolerated that the Government should continue to treat the Resolution of the House with indifference? Ought such treatment to be tamely submitted to? He contended not. The only chance of carrying the Bill lay in the House sternly resolving to give effect to their former declarations. A Bill which had been asked for by Ireland ought not to be dealt with in such a manner; and it was imperative that steps should be taken to raise a distinct issue between the House and the Government. The more dignified plan would be, not to force on a discussion now, but to raise an issue at the earliest possible opportunity, and abide the result.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 38; Noes 90: Majority 52. —(Div. List, No. 86.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
protested against the comtinued effort of the minority to dictate to the majority, and asked whether the contest had not been carried on long enough? He would readily consent to sit on if any real Progress could be made; but the fact was that the Committee were in the extraordinary position of having no one representing the Government to deal with. The Secretary to the Treasury acknowledged that he was not deputed to watch the Bill, and the Committee knew that the Attorney General for Ireland on this occasion could not speak on the responsibility of the Government. Under those circumstances, he advised his hon. Friends not to push the matter forward; but he thought they had the strongest possible justification for asking the Government to devote another night to the consideration of the Bill. If Irish affairs were to be treated in an Imperial Parliament as matters of importance, the Government ought at once to declare that this agitation should not go over another year. It almost seemed as if the Chief Secretary for Ireland were holding out inducements to the opponents of the Bill to persist in the line of conduct they had adopted; and that, to his mind, was the cause of all the difficulty that had arisen, on the present occasion.
THE O'CONOR DON
was extremely sorry that he could not assent to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. The only way in which he could succeed in passing the Bill was by pressing it upon the House on every possible occasion, and by yielding in no case unless an offer was made him which it was worth his while to accept. He intended to fight this contest to the bitter end-at all events, so long as the majority were with him. He would put the Bill down every evening, and adopt the same course as he had to-night, until the measure was forced on the attention of the Government in such a manner that they could not ignore it. He owed an apology to the hon. Member for Meath 387 (Mr. Parnell) for suggesting that the course adopted on this occasion was analogous to the course he had pursued or other occasions, inasmuch as even during the long Sitting last Session some Progress was actually made; whereas now the Committee were not allowed ever to approach the first really substantial Amendment on the Paper. He repeated that so long as a majority of the Committee would support him, he would persist in the line of action he had adopted.
most heartily thanked the hon. Member for Roscommon for the decision he had announced, as the hon. Gentleman had shown that he was worthy of the noble cause he was leading. He wished that the responsibility of the Government had been confided to the Attorney General for Ireland, as if could not have been in better or more honourable hands. The Government would soon realize that the supporters of the Bill were desperately in earnest. He and those acting with him were determined to save the measure, even if doing so would necessitate their sitting until Christmas.
§ MR. CALLAN
had been considerably edified by the remarks of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who had spoken as if he thought the Government were not strong. He was glad to be able to say that the Government were strong enough to keep the right hon. Gentleman out in the cold for a very long time to come. Whatever had been the conduct of the Government on the present occasion, it had not been so shifty as was the procedure of the late Government on the question of Education in Ireland. The supporters of this Bill were not so much desperately earnest as desperately deep in their method of forcing the measure on a sleepy House. He had been asked for some new facts bearing on the principle of the Bill, and he would comply with the request by citing a fact in relation to the chief town of the county, which his questioner represented. For the last three years Sunday closing had existed in Tipperary, and yet Baron Dowse, at the recent assizes, declared that Tipperary was one of the worst conducted towns in the whole of Ireland.
§ MR. COGAN
appealed to hon. Members who had Amendments on the Paper to act in consonance with the repeated verdict of the Committee, if they had 388 any regard for the dignity and honour of Parliament. If they had any respect for their own reputations in the country they would not continue in a course of obstruction which, in his experience, was utterly unprecedented, and calculated to bring the proceedings of the House into contempt. He asked them seriously to consider whether, after the repeated decisions of the Committee, some of the Amendments could not be postponed until the Report; when, he was sure, the fullest opportunities of debate would be afforded. It was humiliating to be constantly dividing on the same questions; but the matter involved such an important principle—resisting the dictation of the tyranny of a minority—that he would support the hon. Member for Roscommon as long as he remained in the House. The House was deeply indebted to those hon. Gentlemen who, at great personal inconvenience, had courageously fought to sustain the great Constitutional principle—that the minority of the House should be governed by the majority in their proceedings.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he had the first Amendment on the Paper, and as it was an important one it would be quite impossible to discuss it at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. He would remind the Committee that the 1st of April was past, and he would ask them to collect their senses. Those who opposed the Bill were determined that Amendments of vital importance to Ireland should not be passed without being discussed by the Committee. Notwithstanding all the arguments that had been used, he maintained that this was a bad Bill, and they would do all in their power to defeat it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he had not yet taken any part in this discussion, and he would not have done so at the present time; but he did object to the arguments the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Gray) laid down, that this was a coercion Bill against the people of Ireland. The real fact was the parties who opposed this Bill were the publicans of Ireland. The most strenuous opponents of the Bill were gentlemen connected with the liquor trade; and some of the Members most prominent in opposing it were Members who represented borough constituencies where, so far as there was any evidence, the people were in favour 389 of this Bill by a large majority. The real fact was, as far as he could understand, that there was no bonâ fide expression of the people of Ireland against this Bill, but a large expression in its favour.
§ MR. T. DICKSON
, speaking as a Member from the North of Ireland, maintained that this was not a coercion Bill. It would be impossible to pass the Bill if it was regarded as a coercion Bill by men in the North of Ireland. At a meeting of working men of Belfast, it was stated that there was not a respectable working man who would not vote in favour of Sunday closing. It was a Bill upon which the working classes had made up their mind.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
pointed out that there were this Session 220,000 signatures to Petitions against the Bill. It was said the publicans were opposed to the Bill. Well, he supposed the publicans were entitled to be treated fairly. The publicans were opposed to the passing of the Bill unless they were to be compensated for their property, which would be sacrificed in many localities.
§ MR. MELDON
sympathized with the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), and would make one appeal which he thought he would agree to. He felt deeply when the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) went into the Division Lobby at that hour in the morning (20 minutes to 5), and he thought the time had come when the right hon. Gentleman might allow them to fight it out themselves. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to retire and go home.
§ MR. COURTNEY
expressed his sincere respect and admiration for the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), and declared that, though he did not love the Bill, he would give to it all the support in his power. He should do so, because it dealt with a matter of purely local interest, proposing to apply to Ireland what had for 20 years been the law in Scotland; and, having formerly looked carefully into the evidence, he was constrained to see that in Ireland it met with overwhelming support. As long as that was the case Englishmen, although they might dislike the principle of the Bill, were bound to support the Irish Members. He was also thankful to the hon. Member for Roscommon, because he would force the 390 House to consider an important matter in connection with the conduct of Public Business. After the experience of last Session and this Session, there could be no pretence that new arguments, or any new facts had been adduced; and the truth was, that division after division was taken simply for obstruction. The principle that lay at the root of Parliamentary Government—that the majority must prevail, was thus called into question; and when experience proved how easily a minority could defeat this principle, the House of Commons would be driven, however reluctantly, to revise its Rules, so as to secure to the majority their proper authority.
§ MR. MURPHY
remarked, that if he really thought the people of Ireland heartily wished for this Bill, he should have given it his most hearty support. But it was because he believed they did not want it that he opposed it. Three years ago the opponents of the Bill were taunted with the fact that there was no public expression of opinion in Ireland against the Bill. Last year there were 104,000 signatures, and this year there were 220,000 signatures, by the class whom the Bill would affect. That was an emphatic expression of opinion.
Petitions from whom? Bryan Boru—a gentleman a few years deceased. Who else signed the Petition? Aurora Floyd. Who else? Smith O'Brien, who was supposed to have been dead many years. These are the kind of Petitions?
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 85: Majority 53.—(Div. List, No. 87.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Maurice Brooks.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 33; Noes 80: Majority 47.—(Div. List, No. 88.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. O'Sullivan.)
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
invited hon. Members to consider the futility of these proceedings. An Amendment carried at five minutes past 5 in the morning would not commend itself to 391 the country. The hour for repose had long passed, and he doubted the wisdom of advancing the Bill a stage under such extremely disadvantageous circumstances.
§ MR. S. MOORE
, who said he had formerly protested against the Bill, was understood to declare his intention no longer to oppose it.
§ MR. BRIGGS
could not agree with the hon. Member (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) that the time was inopportune for the consideration, of this measure. On the contrary, he thought the cool and calm air of the morning was precisely the time for deliberation upon the Bill, and for arriving at a satisfactory conclusion with regard to it. Some very valuable contributions had been made to the debate since the Chief Secretary for Ireland had quitted the House. By that time, the right hon. Gentleman had probably sufficiently refreshed himself, and he suggested that [...]illes should no longer be allowed to slumber in his tent; but that a hybrid deputation of Home Rulers, Sunday closers [...]ls, and Conservatives, should wait upon him, and represent to him the awkward position in which the Committee were placed without the presence of a Representative of the Government. Let the deputation address him in poetry to this effect—[...] an upland, bare and sere,In the waning of the year,When the golden crops are withered off the broom;Like a picture, when the prideOf its colouring hath died,And faded like a phantom into gloom;Like a ring without a stone,Like a Court without a throne,Seems the widowed-House of Commons bereft of THEE!
§ MR. SHAW
regarded with disfavour the suggestion that the first three Amendments on the Paper should be deferred until the Report, as that was a time when an important question like this could not be so well considered as in Committee. The better plan would be to discuss them as Amendments to the proposal which stood in the name of the Attorney General for Ireland. The question was a most important one, and ought to be discussed on its merits.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 28; Noes 82: Majority 54.—(Div. List, No. 89.)392
§ [At this period (5.25 A.M.) the Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Raikes) retired, his place being occupied by the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbet-son).]
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Callan.)
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 75: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 90.)
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, no very great harm would be done if a suggestion which had been first made to him to go on with the Bill to a certain point was accepted; because, if they agreed to the clause down to line 15, where the Attorney General's Amendment began, his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan) could afterwards move his Amendments. In order that this proposition might be discussed, he begged to move that the Chairman do leave the Chair.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, he thought the hon. Members for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan), Ennis (Mr. Stacpoole), and Kinsale (Mr. Collins), might very well consider whether they could not accept this, and bring on their Amendments afterwards. At line 15, if this were adopted, there should be some words introduced such as "except in all places," so that no Amendment could be moved previously. This would require that those hon. Members should withdraw their Amendments; but he did not think they would suffer any substantial loss.
§ MR. CLARE READ
said, three hours ago he suggested that very course. He did hope hon. Members would settle this, so that he might bring on a little Bill of his own.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, if hon. Members would withdraw their Amendments, they would not suffer any loss, while the House would be enabled to settle the discussion and go home.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, his two Amendments were the most important; 393 and he should like to know what concession the other side were prepared to offer before he accepted the suggestion. He begged to move that the Chairman do leave the Chair.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 26; Noes 81: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 91.)
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN moved to report Progress. He hoped none of his Friends who were opposed to this Bill would make the slightest concession. He begged leave to tell his opponents, moreover, that he was prepared to sit there till next Christmas rather than allow this nefarious Bill, or one clause of it, to pass.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."— (Major O'Gorman.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, he almost hesitated to make any suggestion on the matter after such a declaration; but the course he had sketched out would really involve no practical loss to his Friends at all.
§ MR. MURPHY
would ask the hon. Member for Limerick County to adopt the course pointed out by the Attorney General; but suggested that the Amendments should come not after the word "except," but after the word "Sunday." It was practically the same thing.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
said, his meaning might not have been made quite clear. He merely proposed to add some words after "Sunday" in order that no Amendment should be moved before that.
§ MR. ONSLOW
hoped they would not be troubled with another division, and that at that hour of the morning they would be able to come to an agreement.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, as he would have a subsequent opportunity of moving his Amendment, he would now withdraw it.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, some hours ago he had expressed his readiness to report Progress when the Amendments of the Government were reached, and if the Amendment of the Attorney General for Ireland was put from the Chair he would at once consent to adjourn.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, he would not withdraw his Motion, and he never would. He would make no concession to these people.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. GIBSON)
then moved his Amendment, in order, as he stated, to accomplish the object the Committee had in view, and to carry out the arrangement. In page 1, line 15, at end, add—In all places except the following (that is to say): within the Metropolitan Police District of Dublin Metropolis, and within the cities of Cork, Limerick and Waterford, and the town of Belfast, [...] within the said police district, and within the said cities and town, the said hours or times are hereby extended, and shall be as follows, that is to say, up to the hour of two o'clock in the afternoon, after the hour [of seven o'clock in the evening on Sunday].
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit against—(Mr. Sullivan.)
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.