HC Deb 21 May 1834 vol 23 cc1176-9
Mr. Hesketh Fleetwood

moved the second reading of his Lord's Day Observance Bill. The hon. Member said, that as the subject had so recently been discussed on the occasion of another Bill being before the House, it would be unnecessary for him to enter into any lengthened detail of the measure which he had introduced. The principles contained in the Bill, and for which he contended, were simply three,—namely, to prevent all process of manufacture on the Sabbath; the opening of public-houses during certain hours on that day; and lastly, to put a stop to all Sunday trading. The Bill would, however, leave every man to observe the Sabbath in any manner he might think fit; and would not, by any of its provisions, prevent any individual, should he so think fit, from spending it irreligiously. He repeated, that it would permit every man to dispose of the Sunday as suited himself, The objections which had been raised in another place against a Bill having a similar object could only apply to one clause of the present Bill,—a clause regulating the payment of wages, and make such payments void and recoverable by the workman from his master. He did not, however, stand upon that clause, though it contained nothing which would prevent the advance by a master of a trifling sum as a loan to his workman on Sundays, in cases of urgent necessity. The anxiety pervading the public mind for some legislative measure for the promotion of the observance of the Lord's Day was fully evinced by the number of petitions with which the Tables of both Houses of Parliament had been crowded,—a number greater than had ever been presented on any subject, excepting the question of West-India slavery. During the present Session (as we understood) no less than 1,273 petitions, bearing upwards of 277,000 signatures, had been presented on the subject to the House; thus showing a demand by the people which it was the duty of the Legislature to comply with. Under these circumstances, coupled also with the fact, that the Bill contained no provisions of compulsion as to the mode in which the Sabbath was to be observed, he trusted the House would consent to its second reading, after which he was prepared to propose, that it should be referred to a Select Committee should such be the wish of the majority of the House. At the same time, he must say, that the objections to the details of the Bill would be so few, that they could be well disposed of in a Committee of the whole House. He should, however, add, that he did not seek in any degree by this Bill to interfere with travelling or innocent amusements and recreations on the Lord's Day. The hon. Member concluded by moving, that the Bill be now read a second time.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that it appeared to him, that the hon. Member did not really understand his own Bill, which, on the hon. Member's own admission, contained the very Christian principle, that no man need observe the Sabbath at all, though its title was, a Bill for the Better Observance of the Sabbath. A man might, under this Bill, pass the Sabbath in entire idleness, though hitherto it had always been said, that idleness was the mother of all vice, and was consequently mischievous. The hon. Gentleman had stated, that he did not, in his Bill, interfere with travelling. Surely the hon. Gentleman had not read the second and third clauses of his own Bill, which went to prevent every man from doing anything in his ordinary calling, business, and occupation, on the Sabbath Day. So that though it was said travelling was not interfered with, it would be impossible for a coachman to drive his horse without being amenable to punishment under the Bill. He (Mr. O'Connell) deprecated the regulations proposed by this Bill, in respect to the payment of wages, and was surprised, when the hon. Member proposed to repeal a whole mass of existing Statutes in a cluster, he had not afforded the House some explanation, or shown some grounds for the adoption of such a course. This, surely, was the fury of legislation, and not the mode to be pursued by an assembly, which, if not Christian, was, at least, an assembly where common sense ought to prevail. Again, this Bill made, like its predecessors, a distinction between the rich and poor man. The coffee-shops were to be shut up on Sundays, but there was nothing to prevent the club-houses from being open. He wished the hon. Member would postpone the second reading of his Bill till that which was now in progress in the other House came down to them, and then the House might decide at once on the whole batch. He asked the hon. Member, was his Bill necessary? Had the hon. Member not shown himself that it was quite unnecessary? There prevailed a greater feeling of reverence for the Sabbath than had formerly subsisted. The reason was this,—that the more you had of statute law, the less you had of practical observance. The details of the Bill were absurd; the provisions were so framed that a man must go unshaved unless he could shave himself; and if he shaved himself, he must warm his own water. He should, therefore, move, that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

Mr. Poulter

seconded the Amendment. He took it for granted, that the House meant to legislate on this question; and he thought, therefore, it was time to agree on the principle of the measure. But to the principle of this Bill he strongly objected, as by the 4th and 7th clauses it was evident that the hon. Member contemplated an aggravation of penalties. Now, he (Mr. Poulter) proposed to effect the same object by collateral and ancillary means. The mode he would adopt was founded on the great statute of Charles 2nd, and would prevent the gross evasions which were practised in contravention of it. The decision of Lord Mansfield, in the case of "Cripps v. Durden," that there could be but one offence committed on the same day, had annihilated the fair interpretation to be put upon that statute. But it would be idle to attempt to hinder Sunday marketing, unless the poor had secured to them the means of purchasing on a Saturday; otherwise Sunday marketing would be not merely justifiable, but it would be an act of charity to promote it. He believed that there was a great deal of indifference to religion, and a great deal of mistaken religion in the country; but he hoped that, with the extension of education, a feeling of true religion would spring up, equally removed from superstition and fanaticism, indifference and infidelity.

The House divided on the original motion. Ayes 45; Noes 77: Majority 32.

List of the AYES.
Agnew, Sir A. Maxwell, H.
Ashley, Lord Mosley, Sir O.
Baines, E. Nicholl, J.
Blackstone, W. S. Pease, J.
Brocklehurst, J. Perceval, Colonel
Chaytor, Sir W. Peter, W.
Egerton, W. T. Phillpotts, J.
Ewing, J. Plumptre, J. P.
Fenton, J. Rice, Hon. T. S.
Forster, C. S. Richards, J.
Gaskell, J. M. Rotch, B.
Gladstone, W. E. Ryle, J.
Grant, Right Hon. R. Sandon, Viscount
Grey, Sir G. Seale, Colonel
Halcombe, J. Shaw, F.
Hardy, J. Sinclair, G.
Hughes, W. H. Stanley, Hon. H. T.
Jermyn, Earl Stewart, Sir M. S.
Jervis, J. Vyvyan, Sir R.
Lennox, Lord A. Wilbraham, G.
Lincoln, Earl of Wynn, Right Hon. C.
Madocks, J. TELLERS.
Marsland, T. Bateson, Sir R.
Maxwell J. W. Fleetwood, P. H.

Bill put off for six months.