HC Deb 02 September 1831 vol 6 cc1025-7
Mr. Littleton

presented three Petitions from bodies of tradesmen in London, on a subject which he conceived to be of considerable importance. The petitioners, who were butchers, bakers, poulterers, undertakers, grocers, tailors—in all, no less than thirty trades, complained, that the law for exacting a due observance of the Lord's day was becoming daily more and more relaxed in its operation. The consequence was, that the petitioners were either obliged to deny themselves the rest which the Sabbath was meant to afford, or to lose a portion of business, which would be carried on by other tradesmen, less scrupulous than themselves. The petitioners wished that the penalties for an infraction of the law should be increased, and they hoped that some means might be devised to compel masters to pay their workmen at an earlier hour than they now did. He gave his support to the petition, and must observe, that if the law as it existed were good, it ought to be enforced, and if bad it ought to be rectified.

Mr. Wilks

supported the petition. If there was no religious injunction on the subject, regard for the health, happiness, and morals of the people would suggest the propriety of keeping holy the Sabbath day. At present the penalty for infraction of the law, was only 2s. 6d., and one penalty only could be recovered, however many times an individual might violate the law in one day. The offence was also very difficult of proof.

Colonel Torrens

supported the petition, not merely on religious, but also on civil grounds. Labour, like every other commodity, bore a value in the proportion of the supply to the demand, and if the people worked for seven days instead of six, the price of labour would fall in proportion, and they would receive no more for their labour. The seventh day, therefore, was a clear and substantial gain to them if they did not work on that day. He hoped some regulation would be adopted for enforcing a more strict observance of the Sabbath.

Mr. Hunt

thought, that the law as it at present stood was quite sufficient for its object. He should resist any increase of penalties, and he objected to any attempt at legislation for the purpose of compelling individuals to pay their workmen at particular times. Tradesmen were often obliged to run half over the town, at one or two o'clock, to get bills discounted, in order to pay those employed by them.

Mr. John Weyland

did not think, that the infliction of larger penalties would produce the desired effect, and cause the Lord's day to be properly respected. All through life he had observed, that in cases of this nature the only remedy was a moral remedy.

Mr. Sadler

said, there were higher considerations than the price of labour to enter into this discussion. Nature required one day's rest in seven; the soil we cultivated demanded repose, which was still more necessary to the human race. Some regulations ought to be enforced to prevent labourers being paid on Saturday. He hoped the hon. Member who had presented the petition, and who had already distinguished himself by his attention to the labouring classes, would consider the subject. He had no desire to enforce the observance of the Sabbath by legislative penalties, but he wished, that it should be really a day of rest and religious observances.

Mr. Littleton

said, in answer to what had fallen from the hon. member for Preston, that he had not stated any intention of legislating on the subject.

Petition to be printed.

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