HC Deb 25 March 1833 vol 16 cc997-9
Sir George Staunton

presented Petitions from the Ministers, Churchwardens, Overseers, and Householders of the parish of Portsea, complaining of the present demoralized state of the population, in consequence of beer-shops, and the non-observance of the Sabbath Day. In supporting the prayer of the petitions, the hon. Baronet observed, that a good deal of misunderstanding prevailed on the subject referred to. The petitioners had no desire to interfere with the innocent recreations of the poor on the Lords' Day. Regulations for such a purpose were unnecessary; all that was sought for was, that the due observance of the Sabbath should not be interrupted by the avarice of one class, or the profligacy and immorality of another. He was anxious that the law, as it now existed, should be so far amended as to enable it effectually to be inforced.

Mr. Cobbett

would not detain the House many minutes; but he felt himself called upon to say a few words, being satisfied that those petitions, in favour of what they called the observance of the Lord's Day, were neither more nor less than a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, and not at all of the Gospel. Perhaps many hon. Members were not aware, that such petitions proceeded from a Society established in London for the purpose of effecting their object. The society circulated its pamphlets, one of which he held in his hand, and to which was appended a copy of a petition, and they recommended the people throughout the different parts of the country to send up petitions to Parliament, in the same manner as the Anti-slavery Committee were accustomed to recommend the people. From that petition it appeared, ostensibly, that it was from a regard to Christian principle that they wished the House to interfere with the present observance of the Sabbath; but from the second paragraph of that pamphlet, it would appear that the Gospel had nothing at all to do with it. The hon. Member read the paragraph in question, which stated, that in consequence of the practice that now existed, those who, from proper motives, were desirous of duly observing the Sabbath, were prevented from so doing in consequence of the unfair competition of another class, who spent that day in trading. In short, he conceived it to be the cry of great tradesmen against little tradesmen, and he hoped the House would consider well before it listened to such Jesuitical and fanatical petitions. Their object was to put down one of the most industrious and well-deserving portions of the lower class of traders—those who sold apples and oranges on Sunday. There was no case made out for the interference of the House between masters and labourers, and mistresses and their servants; and, if such a Bill were passed, the whole state of society would be dissolved.

Sir George Staunton

felt himself called upon to say a few words in justification of the petitioners. He was himself personally acquainted with a great number of them, all of whom he knew to be of the highest respectability. The petitions from Portsmouth and Portsea were signed by a great number of persons of all persuasions—Churchmen, Dissenters, Whigs, and Tories; and he was quite satisfied that their only object in presenting the petition was to preserve the institutions of the country, and give the poor an opportunity of deriving some benefits which were given by these institutions.

An Hon. Member

said, that he believed the real origin of petitions on this subject was a respect for religion. He admitted, however, that there might be some persons actuated by what the hon. member for Oldham called "pounds, shillings, and pence," but he believed that the far greater number were presented from religious motives only.

Lord Sandon

, in presenting similar Petitions from Stone, and two other parishes in Staffordshire, denied that the petitions originated in a combination of the large against the small tradesmen, as stated by the hon. member for Oldham; and he hoped the hon. Gentleman would not favour the House with assertions which might have an effect, if not contradicted, of producing an incorrect impression.

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