HC Deb 29 March 1833 vol 16 cc1231-5
Mr. Beaumont

on some Petitions having been presented for the better observance of the Sabbath said, he had been intrusted with several petitions on the same subject which he had not yet had an opportunity of presenting to the House, and he wished to take this opportunity of informing his constituents that he had not been neglectful of his duty, though he differed from them as to the propriety of passing any Bill for such an object. He would not charge his hon. friend who had brought in a Bill for this purpose with being actuated by any feeling other than a view to the general good, but he was of opinion that cant, humbug, and hypocrisy were the characteristics of many of the petitions which had been presented on the subject. If ever the Bill should proceed so far as to get into Committee, he should certainly move as an amendment that it be entitled "a Bill to promote Cant."

Mr. Hume

wished the hon. Baronet had brought in a Bill to repeal all former laws for the regulation of the Sabbath, and had formed an entirely new measure. He (Mr. Hume) was of opinion that no legislation would compel the people to become pious. He was as anxious as any man that the Sabbath should be observed in this country with that due respect and attention which was observed in Scotland, but he must say he thought the measure which was now before the House would not effect that object.

Sir Andrew Agnew

observed, that there seemed to be a misconception in the House as to the nature of the measure which he had brought forward, and he therefore would beg to state that the principle of the Bill was to recognize a cessation from all labour on the Sabbath Day. It was open to every hon. Member to except to the provisions of the Bill, and also to make suggestions; and without now supporting its details, he would merely add, that between the present time and the second reading of the Bill, he should with pleasure receive the suggestions of any hon. Member on the subject.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

said, that as he had presented several petitions on this subject, he could not allow to pass unnoticed the observations which had fallen from the hon. member for Northumberland (Mr. Beaumont). It was impossible for any man not to condemn the use of such language, either as applied to a proposed measure or to the petitions which were presented in support of it. He could assure the House that the deepest interest on this subject prevailed in Scotland, and that the great majority of the people in that part of the kingdom were sincere in their desire that some legislative measure should pass for the better observance of the Lord's Day. He should reserve his opinion on the measure proposed until the discussion on it properly came before the House, and would content himself now with protesting against the application of the epithets which had been used to any petitions or petitioners.

Sir Alexander Hope

dissented entirely from the statement of the hon. member for Northumberland, which taxed the peti- tioners for a strict observance of the Sabbath with cant and hypocrisy. It was not for him to quarrel with the opinion of any man on that or any other subject, but when the religion of the country, or perhaps he should more properly say, when the religion of the petitioners was called in question, he must protest against the application of such epithets as had been applied on an occasion of such deep interest. He thought the petitioners were right in sending these petitions forward, and that the hon. Members who gave them their support were only doing their duty to themselves and the country in aiding the completion of the wishes of the petitioners. He should abstain from giving any opinion upon the Bill introduced by the hon. Baronet whose conduct had been most candid and fair in leaving it open to all parties to consider the measure and offer such suggestions as would lead to a useful and beneficial end.

Mr. Richard Potter

agreed in what had fallen from the hon. member for Northumberland, and he must add that he thought the hon. Baronet who introduced the measure had hardly dealt fairly by the House. The hon. Baronet had obtained leave to bring in a Bill on the understanding that its chief object would be to prevent Sunday trading, but he had brought in a Bill which, if passed into a law, would disorganize the whole social system in England, and interfere with the most innocent recreations of the people on Sundays. The measure might do for Scotland, but he was convinced it would not answer for the people of England. He trusted that the Bill would not be permitted to pass another stage; for if it went further the House would become the laughing-stock of the country. He should oppose the Bill in all its stages, being convinced that it would do irreparable mischief.

Mr. Andrew Johnstone

deprecated further discussion at present, and thought the attacks of the hon. members for Northumberland and Wigan were extremely unfair. In justification of the hon. Baronet (Sir Andrew Agnew), he must say, that he had never pledged himself to the limit of bringing in a Bill solely to put down Sunday trading, but his intention had been to accomplish the views pointed out by the Committee of last year in their report, now on the Table of the House. He felt assured that the hon. Baronet would not stand forward to support every iota of the Bill, but would withdraw any provisions which might appear objectionable. The hon. member for Middlesex had frequently reiterated the opinion of the Bishop of London, that it was impossible by legislation to make the people pious and religious. In answer, he would say, that there was not a line in the Bill which indicated any such intention on the part of the hon. Baronet, who, in fact, never contemplated that as his object. He (Mr. Johnstone) deprecated further discussion, but hoped that the provisions of the Bill would have the consideration of the House, assuring hon. Members that the hon. Baronet, and those who supported the measure, would not be unwilling to adopt any suggestion that might tend to the improvement of the Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

felt it his duty at once to protest against the Bill which had been introduced. He had no notion that such a Bill was in preparation, and so different was it from that which he had expected, and from any measure which he could support, that, unless it was essentially altered in Committee, he should give it his most decided opposition.

Mr. Richards

said, that he had presented petitions in favour of a better observance of the Sabbath from many of his constituents, than whom none could be more free from cant. The language of the hon. member for Northumberland, if not un-parliamentary, was at least unfair and un-candid, and such as he hoped never to hear again. He had not read the Bill, and therefore would not say more than that he was favourable to its general principle.

Mr. Cobbett

begged to express his thanks to the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Andrew Agnew) for producing such a Bill as that he had brought before the House, for it was so bad a one, and would make such a revolution in the manners of the country, that it never could pass. With respect to what had fallen from the hon. member for Northumberland, he concurred with him in every sentiment he had uttered.

Mr. M'Leod

did not believe that there was any cant, but there was religious and decorous observance of the Sabbath in Scotland, and the people of that country were anxious, as was evident by their numerous petitions, to promote a proper observance of that day. With respect to the Bill which had been introduced, he had read it with the most unqualified astonishment, and was convinced that unless it was essentially altered, it would not pass nor effect any good. If it was pressed in its present form, he should give it his most unqualified opposition.

Mr. Brotherton

said, he did not concur in the opinions expressed by several hon. Members. The Sabbath was a divine institution, and its due observance must be beneficial to society, in a physical, moral, and religious point of view. He was ready to admit that no man could be made religious by Act of Parliament, neither could he be made honest by legislative enactment but as it was necessary to have laws to prevent robbery, why not also have laws to promote the observance of the Sabbath? The Sabbath was not observed as it ought to be, and without giving any opinion upon this Bill, he should support any measure calculated to promote the better observance of that important institution.

The petitions laid on the Table.

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