HC Deb 16 February 1832 vol 10 cc437-41

The House in Committee on this Bill.

An Amendment was proposed in the second clause, to the effect that the Privy Council might appoint certain persons to act as deputies under the Act.

Mr. James E. Gordon

thought, that considerable caution should be exercised as to giving authority to persons to act under this Bill; be begged to suggest, that the appointment should be confined to the known authorities of the respective places.

The Lord Advocate

said, it would be impossible to confine the appointments to such persons, as the numbers were too limited to allow them to act with energy; but the nominations should consist of persons of all parties, who were most likely to act with effect.

Clause agreed to.

On reading the preamble of the Bill, it was proposed to insert the words, "whereas it has pleased Almighty God to visit these kingdoms," &c.

Mr. Hume

said, he could not help objecting to the insertion of these words, as uncalled for by any particular feature of the present Bill. He thought it was all cant, humbug, and hypocrisy.

Sir Robert Inglis

was happy to find that the words relating to the "interposition of Providence," which had been omitted in the English, had been inserted in the present Bill. It was to be deeply lamented, that, in a Christian country, any hon. Member of that House should have given utterance to the expression of the hon. member for Middlesex—namely, that the reference to Providence was a "humbug."

Mr. Hume,

in answer to the right hon. Baronet, had only to say, that so far from retracting the words, he regretted that the hon. Baronet did not, in addition to the word "humbug," quote also his opinion that the whole thing was mere cant and hypocrisy. He repeated, that the whole of this particular reference to Providence, in the present instance, was mere cant and hypocrisy; and had, moreover, to assure the hon. Baronet, that he considered the conduct of those who had evinced so much zeal with respect to the present phraseology, as like that of the Pharisees in Scripture, who were proverbial for their ostentatious sanctity, and the display of their religious tenets. Why, the emperor Alexander, after butchering the Poles, made use of the same language. There were many people who made the shew of sanctity the stalking horse to injustice, and, if he had no other reason, he should protest against using those words on this occasion.

Mr. Gillon

was astonished at the warmth displayed by the hon. member for the University of Oxford, and he thought the Scotch Members had some reason lo complain that these words were introduced into the Scotch Bill, after being rejected from the English Bill.

Lord Althorp

objected last night to a division taking place on the subject, but he had no objection to the insertion of the words.

Colonel Lindsay

highly approved of the introduction of the words, as he looked upon the malady as an "interposition of Providence." It was but rarely that he agreed with the noble Lord, and he had, therefore, great pleasure in doing it on this occasion.

Mr. Hunt

could not, for the soul of him, see on what ground the Scotch should monopolize Providence to the exclusion of the English, and, therefore, knew not why the words should be introduced into the Scotch Bill, and not into the English one. He hoped that the Lord Advocate would withdraw them.

Sir George Clerk

did not think such subjects unfit for the House of Commons, though he regretted to see them introduced, because they were but too often treated with derision by some Members. It might be proper to omit the words "Divine Providence" in Political Unions, but in a public document, such as that which was to prevent or check the progress of such a great calamity as that with which the country was threatened, he thought the words were properly introduced, and he returned his thanks to the learned Lord for the Amendment.

Mr. Warburton

regretted the use of the words by his hon. friend the member for Middlesex, because they imputed motives, and such imputations ought always to be avoided. If the object of the words proposed in the Amendment was to arm the people with courage to resist the impending evil, he should not object to them, but that was only a human motive for introducing them. He should object to the introduction of the name of Providence as connected with impending evils, for it ought rather to be connected with the blessings which we received from it. He should object to the name of Providence being held out on every occasion of alarm, when it was not equally held out on every occasion of advantage, as he knew no better way to sow the seeds of the most destructive irreligion than thus to repre- sent Providence as the author only of calamities.

The Lord Advocate

hoped, after the call that had been made on him by this discussion, that the House would allow him to say a few words in explanation. He had introduced the Bill somewhat in haste last night, and had since proposed the addition of the words now objected to, without having observed what was the preamble of the English Bill. However, he felt convinced, that the words would be agreeable to the people of Scotland, for, in all the letters he had received from that country, the infliction of the Cholera was spoken of as an infliction of Divine Providence, and one which was only to be removed by his aid. As to the wish expressed, that the Amendment might be withdrawn, he certainly could not consent to withdraw it. If, therefore, it could not be introduced without a division, there must be a division, for other Members (even should he consent to the withdrawal) would propose the same words. Having said this, he should leave the question to be disposed of as the House might think fit.

Mr. James E. Gordon

hoped, that the question would be pressed to a division, that the names of those who thought fit to venture to reject such an Amendment might be put on record, and the names of those who stood up to vindicate their principles might equally be known.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that a speech so calculated to sow dissension as that of the hon. member for Dundalk, he had never heard, and if it was possible that his mind could be biassed, that speech would have the contrary effect to what the hon. Member intended.

Mr. Briscoe

rejoiced at the Amendment now introduced by the learned Lord, and he was sure it would be received with the approbation of the country. Whenever the Ministers of the Crown ceased to lend the influence of their high station to support religion, from that hour the sun of the country's prosperity was set for ever.

Mr. James

said, that if that House was to be occupied with religious discussions, he thought a separate day ought to be appointed for them, and no day fitter than Sunday; and, as it would be out of the question to ask the Speaker, after the labours of the week, to take the Chair, they ought to apply to the Chaplain to preside over them. He objected to the useless, and, therefore, irreverent introduction of the name of God into any instrument, and should, therefore, vote with the hon. member for Middlesex.

Mr. John Wood

said, that he was one of those who stigmatized as cant and hypocrisy the irreverent use of God's holy name on improper occasions, and should, therefore, vote with the hon. member for Middlesex on this question, as he thought the present was not an occasion that justified its use.

Mr. Hume

said, that as he had been dared to press this question to a division, he should certainly show that he was not afraid of doing so, and he knew that the motives which led him to oppose the introduction of these words would not be mistaken by his countrymen.

Sir Robert Inglis

hoped, that no division would be taken on this subject, for he wished for his own sake that no man should have on his conscience the responsibility of having negatived such an Amendment.

The Committee divided on the Amendment—when there appeared:—Ayes 55; Noes 10—Majority 45.

House resumed.

List of the NOES.
Calcraft, G. Ruthven, E. S.
Gillon, W. D. Walrond, B
Hunt, H. Warburton, H.
James, W. Wood, J.
Moreton, Hon. H. TELLERS.
O'Farrel, R. M. Hume, J.