§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.493
§ The EARL of HARROWBY moved that their Lordships should go into Committee on this Bill, and he proposed to postpone arty statement he might hare to make respecting it till another stage.
said, no man was more anxious for the success of a measure of this kind than himself, and his fear was that if they attempted to do too much—if they held the rein too tight—they would defeat the purpose which they had in view, and render the consecration or the duo observance of the Sabbath what it never ought to be—an unpopular thing. There were many details in the Bill which to him seemed somewhat inconsistent. Why was the operation of the measure to be confined to the metropolis? That was a limitation which he could not understand; for if it was good for London, it would surely be equally beneficial for other towns in the empire. If milk and cream were allowed to be sold, why should tea, coffee, and sugar be prevented? Then, with regard to shaving and hair-dressing, those operations were to be made lawful before ten o'clock in the morning, but after ten they were to be prohibited under a penalty. Why should the sale of newspapers be sanctioned on the Sabbath, while that of Bibles, Prayer Books, &c., was prohibited? Bell's Life in London might be bought, and people might read, to their great admiration, the betting on the Derby and the Oaks—people might buy that and welcome; but if they wanted to buy a Bible or a Prayer Book, to go to church with, they were prohibited. He hoped that these considerations would attract the attention of those who took an interest in these questions, and that they would see the propriety of reconsidering many of those points which appeared to him to have been hitherto very ill-considered, for he must remind their Lordships that this was only the beginning of these innovations. It was only yesterday that he observed, from the Votes of the House—which was incredible, but true—an Address had actually been voted, and by a large majority too, which was most incredible, if anything could be incredible, that all Post Office proceedings should be suspended for twenty-four hours, and that all mails should be stopped during Sunday. ["No, no!"] Yes; that was the object of the Address.
Did the noble Lord suppose he was such an idiot as not 494 to know that? He wondered what was the measure which the noble Lord took o his understanding when he supposed that he did not know that. He knew it was not in this Bill. But his fear was that some measure to that effect would follow this Bill. If a majority of Parliament could be found to pass such a monstrous, such an outrageous, address—he dared to say the noble Lord thought lhs meaning-was that he had the greatest respect for these men. No! What he said was—the utmost possible respect; which meant the utmost respect that it was possible for him to feel for such men; and he believed that was as high as was entertained for them by any one of their Lordships. But if the mails were to be stopped, all ships must be stopped too, he supposed. There would be no occasion for their sailing. They must lay to during Sunday; for some men seemed to think that idleness was the best way of keeping the Sabbath. He must say that if they went on in that course of legislation, instead of keeping the Sabbath-day holy, nothing would tend more to its desecration. He would only state farther, that he had been in many parts of Scotland—he had been in Germany—he had been in many Catholic countries, and he would take upon himself to assert as a fact—after comparing notes with many of his friends who had travelled in these countries, he found they agreed with him—that there was no country in the world where the Sabbath was better kept than in England; and he would do the city where they were met the justice to say, that, except in some of the towns of Scotland, he knew no great city where the Sabbath was less broken than in London.
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
admitted that his noble and learned Friend was anxious to promote the object which he himself had in view, but asserted that his noble and learned Friend would not have used the language which he had used if he had received that information which he (the Earl of Harrowby) had received, and had listened to the complaints made by the tradesmen of the metropolis on this subject to their Lordships' Committee. Many of those who supported his Bill were not engaged in business, and supported it because they wished to go themselves into the country for recreation on Sunday; and because they wished to enable others to have the same opportunity. He could assure his noble and learned Friend, that among the labourers residing in the poorer 495 and lower districts of the metropolis, there was more business done on a Sunday morning than on any other day in the week. Referring to the observations which his noble and learned Friend had offered upon the clause excepting the sale of newspapers and some other matters on the Sunday from the operation of this Bill, he remarked that his desire was to err on the side of indulgence rather than on that of severity. The Bill was intended to put a stop to all that was useless, and to leave room for everything that was necessary. Even the publicans, on whom this Bill appeared to press with some severity by closing their houses till one o'clock on Sunday, had come forward to petition for this Act. He hoped, therefore, that his noble and learned Friend would withdraw his opposition to this Bill, and allow it to rest on its own merits, and not on the merits of another Bill totally unconnected with it. He hoped that his noble and learned Friend would allow him to go into Committee, in order that he might introduce certain clauses to amend the Bill.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, he was most anxious to prevent the desecration of the Sabbath as far as possible, but he was afraid the present measure was calculated to inspire a spirit of resistance that was likely to do considerable harm. He admitted the great grievance caused by these Sunday fairs; but if they passed this Bill, giving an arbitrary power to the police, under which any single policeman could, at his own discretion, seize any booth in one of these crowded fairs or markets, the probability was, that resistance and breaches of the peace would be the consequence. He had no doubt but that the root of all this evil originated in the late payment of wages on Saturday evenings, and, that if an arrangement were established by which workmen would be paid on Friday night, much of the desecration of the Sabbath which now prevailed would be prevented. When a man was allowed to remain in the public-house until twelve o'clock on Saturday night, and was then prevented from purchasing necessaries, it was obvious that breaches of the Sabbath would take place. He was quite sure that if they went into Committee on this Bill, they would find that considerable amendments were necessary, and that the Bill, as it now stood, would be found very defective.
The BISHOP of ST. ASAPH
hoped their Lordships would not suppose that the Bill had been introduced incautiously, and without 496 mature deliberation. It was founded on the Act of Charles IL, the difference between the two Bills being, that the present one was to be carried out by the police, whereas the old Act was entrusted to the parish officers. With regard to the alarm of the noble Earl, lest riots should take place, he had only to say that the matter had been submitted to one of the commissioners of police, who stated that he considered there would be no difficulty whatever in carrying the law into effect. He had himself seen one of these fairs two years ago, and a scene more disgraceful and disreputable he had never witnessed. In some parts of Lambeth, Seymour-place, Camden-town, and other places, the thoroughfares were completely obstructed by Sunday morning traffic. He considered that the Bill would prove a blessing to the country, and it should be considered that it only gave the police the same power with regard to obstructions in these fairs which they already possessed in the case of obstructions in the fields.
§ EARL GREY
said, he was disposed to view legislation of this kind with some suspicion, but he thought that a fair case had been made out for this Bill. The great body of the public appeared to be in favour of the Bill, and it was in evidence that many persons opened their shops against their own inclination. With regard to the dangers to be apprehended from the Bill, he thought they would be considerably diminished by its being placed in the hands of the metropolitan police.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
considered that Parliamentary interposition on this subject was absolutely necessary. At present markets or fairs were regularly held on the Sunday in different parts of the metropolis; and this practice was most detrimental, not only to the comfort but to the health of large numbers of tradesmen. There was no doubt as to the feeling of tradesmen on the subject, for in many parts of the metropolis meetings had been held by persons of that class, at which resolutions had been adopted calling upon Parliament to prevent Sunday trading. He considered that nothing was more likely to lead employers to pay their servants' wages on the Friday night or early on the Saturday than the adoption of a measure of this kind.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
observed, that this Bill had not originated with the noble Earl by whom it was introduced, 497 but had been suggested by the shopkeepers themselves, and that it had met with no opposition, except from a small section of Chartists.
§ Their Lordships then went into Committee, and the first clause was agreed to.
§ On Clause 2,
did not see why, in the list of perishable articles, the sale of which was to be permitted, cream and butter should not be included. Their Lord ships must be aware that Sunday's cream was the produce of Saturday's milk.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
observed, that when he had suggested that the sale of bread and butter should be allowed on the Sunday, he was me* by the objection that those were not perishable articles. Now, he wished to ask the noble Earl who had charge of the Bill whether he considered a periodical newspaper duly stamped a perishable article?
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
said, of all perishable articles a newspaper was the most so, for it died with the day.
§ Clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Report to be received on Monday next.