HC Deb 14 July 1835 vol 29 cc562-77
Mr. Buckingham

said, the notice which I have given on the Order Book of the House, embraces three measures—which are so nearly allied to each other in their object though separated under different heads for the better arrangement of their details, that I shall save the time of the House, and promote the general convenience, by speaking of them as one. My present purpose is, to ask the leave of the House merely to introduce those measures, so as to admit of their being printed, if the House should so approve, and by deferring their second reading for a sufficient period to admit of ample time to give them general circulation throughout the country, and thus to obtain the expression of public opinion as to their principles and details. As, however, the Bills undoubtedly contemplate great and important changes, I owe it to the House and to the country, no less than to myself, to explain the grounds on which I ask those changes to be made, and to show that evils will result from things being suffered to remain as they are, and benefits be produced by the amendments that I propose. In doing this, I shall confine myself strictly to the subject, and trouble the House with no more than really appears to me essential to the establishment of my case.

Sir, it is no new opinion of mine, but one of nearly forty years' standing—first suggested by an early opportunity which I had in the very outset of my professional life, when a prisoner of war in Spain and Portugal, and subsequently confirmed by a long course of voyages by sea, and journies by land, in all the four quarters of the globe—that notwithstanding the superiority of the British people in arts and arms, in skill and industry, in patriotism and morality, to most of the other nations of the world, there is yet one vice by which they are especially characterized, and to which they are more addicted than the people of any other country, among whom it has been my lot to reside—I mean the habit of drinking to excess, and interweaving this habit so closely with the ordinary customs and occupations of life, as to make it as deeply rooted as it is extensive, and productive, even among the most moderate, of very serious evils to society. If this impression was strongly made upon my mind in early life, when Europe and America were the only portions of the globe that I had visited, it became greatly strengthened in more mature years, when Africa and Asia had been the scene of my observations; and on returning to England after an absence of ten years in the East, the contrast between the sobriety of the people among whom I had lived during that period, and the intemperance of those to whom I had now returned, was so forcible, that no language of mine could adequately describe it. I will mention, however, one fact alone, a fact which I have often mentioned elsewhere, but which deserves to be repeated, and leave the House to judge for itself as to the inference to be deduced from it. During a course of travels in Africa and Asia, which extended over three years of continuous journeying in time, over many thousand miles in space, and which carried me through cities and towns, the united population of which could not be less than three millions of people, I did not witness half-a-dozen cases of visible intoxication; while I had not been landed in England more than a single hour, nor passed over more than a mile in space, nor come in contact with even three hundred persons, before I saw at least thirty drunk, and this in the broad day, in the open street, including women as well as men, and some of them mothers with infants at the breast. What might have been the number drinking in houses, and therefore concealed from public view, I will not venture to imagine; but if there were not one—though the probability is, that the number concealed from sight greatly exceeded those exposed to public view—I felt that I had seen enough to make me resolve, if ever an opportunity should present itself, to bring this subject of our national degradation, in this respect, before the Legislature of the country, for their reprobation at least, and, if possible, for their cure.

Some hon. Gentlemen will perhaps con- ceive that I drew my impressions from too limited a space, and tell me that I ought not to attribute to the country generally, a vice which I had seen carried to such excess only in a seaport town. But I may remove their doubts as to the extensive spread of this evil, by saying that having, subsequently to that period, resided permanently for about six years in London, and having also, at intervals, passed five years in visiting personally every part of England, from Dover to the Land's End, fo[...]m the Thames to the Tweed, the Humber to the Mersey, the sea-coast and the interior, the agricultural and the manufacturing districts,—having extended my excursions from Edinburgh to Aberdeen in Scotland, and from Dublin to Londonderry in Ireland,—I have had as favourable opportunities as could be enjoyed by any man in the kingdom, for seeing with my own eyes, hearing with my own ears, and judging with my own mind, as to the actual state and condition of the British population generally; and I regret to say, but truth demands the avowal, that I found everywhere too many irresistible and incontrovertible proofs of the large mass of the labouring population being addicted to the use of intoxicating drinks, and using them to such excess, as to consume the greater portion of their substance, and to reduce many of their numbers to want and beggary, and their wives and children to nakedness and starvation. I am free to admit, that among the higher orders of society, with whom drunkenness was hardly regarded as a vice some fifty years ago, I found the habits of intoxication to have greatly declined, so that it was now considered vulgar and ungentlemanly to be seen in that state. Even among the middle classes, there has been also a sensible diminution of those habits of excessive drinking. But on the other hand, among the labouring classes I found the practice had become far more general than at any previous period, while one of the worst features of this change is this, that women, and even children, have become infected by the example of their parents, and are to be seen frequently in the dram-shop and the tavern with as little sense of shame as the rest of the multitude. Having, therefore, in addition to the impressions received in early youth, while imprisoned in a foreign land, and confirmed by subsequent voyages and travels to other portions of the globe, witnessed so much of evil clearly resulting from the habits of drinking to excess, in almost every part of England, Scotland, and Ireland, I felt myself justified in giving notice of a Motion, during the last Session of Parliament, for the appointment of a Select Committee, "to inquire into the extent, causes, and consequences of the prevailing vice of intoxication among the labouring classes of the United Kingdom, in order to ascertain whether any legislative measures could he devised to prevent the further spread of so great a national evil." The entry of this notice on the books was the cause of much mirth to some, who little knew of the sorrows and the sufferings of the unhappy victims whose misery it was my object to arrest and relieve, and a perpetual volley of sarcasm was kept up upon me from both sides of the House, from the day of this notice being entered until the day when the discussion was brought on. The object of this was, no doubt, to deter me from my purpose; but if my assailants had known my history better, they would not have been surprised at my taking up this subject: and if they had considered for a moment to what cause it was owing that I have now the honour of a seat in this House, instead of being in India, they would never have entertained so hopeless an attempt as that of seeking to make me abandon any undertaking on which I had entered from principle and conviction, either by blandishment or sarcasms, by raillery or sneers, to all of which I am happily invulnerable, so long as I retain the conviction of my views being founded in justice and truth.

The discussion at length came on; when the statement which I had the honour to make in favour of my Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee, contained so much of undeniable fact and unanswerable argument, that though the Motion was opposed by the noble Lord who then held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his example followed by those to whom his opinion was an authority, and his character a guarantee for the sincerity and honour of his own conduct, and a shield for that of others, yet on a division, the Motion was carried by a majority of sixty-four to forty-seven; the noble Lord had to walk out of the House at the head of the minority, and the Committee was appointed accordingly. That Committee, including as will be seen by a reference to the list, Gentlemen from both sides of the House, Members who had spoken and voted against, as well as those who had advocated its appointment, did me the honour to place me in their Chair, and assisted me with great zeal and assiduity in prosecuting the inquiry which the House had deputed us to make. The Committee sat from the day of its appointment, which was early in June, till nearly the close of the Session; and during that period examined about sixty witnesses. These embraced persons from various parts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and included individuals of eminence and talent from the following ranks and professions—namely:—physicians, surgeons, county magistrates, sheriffs, metropolitan magistrates, superintendants of police, of bridewells, and lunatic asylums,—clergymen, overseers of the poor, and parish officers,—land-owners, merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen,—officers of the navy and army, keepers of spirit shops, taverns, and eating-houses, and artizans and labourers by land and sea: and I think it may be asserted, without fear of contradiction, that the records of Parliaments do not contain, in any single volume at least, such a mass of varied, authentic, and important information respecting the habits and condition of the labouring classes of the population of this kingdom, as is exhibited in the evidence elicited before that Committee.

The period at length arrived for drawing up our Report,—and, after submitting this to the examination and revision of the Committee in the usual manner, it was presented, received, and printed by order of the House, notwithstanding an opposition to this most, essential duty of every Committee to make known to the whole of the representatives of the people the results of their inquiries—without which, indeed, their labours would be incomplete. At the close of that Report, was the following suggestion, which I will venture to read, in the terms in which it was expressed:— As your Committee are fully aware that one of the most important elements in successful legislation is the obtaining the full sanction and support of public opinion in favour of the laws, and as this is most powerful and most enduring when based on careful investigation and accurate knowledge as the result, they venture still further to recommend the most extensive circulation, during the recess, under the direct sanction of the legislature, of an abstract of the evidence obtained by this inquiry, in a cheap and portable volume, as was done with the Poor-law Report, to which it would form the best auxiliary; the national cost of intoxication and its consequences, being tenfold greater in amount than that of the Poor-rates, and pauperism itself being indeed chiefly caused by habits of intemperance, of which it is but one out of many melancholy and fatal results. This suggestion not having been favourably received, I was willing to show my readiness to do (myself what I had assisted in recommending others to perform; and accordingly as the Government declined to give the extensive publicity proposed, I undertook to publish, at my own risk, and cost a cheap edition of the Evidence and Report, on terms that could leave no profit, however extensive the sale, but such as would barely cover the actual expense of production. The result has been, that of the Evidence in all its voluminous details, two separate editions of several thousand copies each have been already exhausted; and of the Report—founded on that Evidence and embracing a general abstract of the whole—which was comprised within the compass of a single sheet—more than a million of copies have been circulated in this kingdom alone, besides various re-prints of it in America, from which several editions have already reached this country, with commendations that I will not repeat.

I think, then, Sir, the House will allow—that, in drawing its attention to the remedial measures which I am about to ask it to allow me to lay upon their Table, I have not omitted any of the preliminary stages of due investigation and calm inquiry, by which I can fairly establish my claim to their indulgence, if not to their confidence, in a matter of so much importance to the morals and happiness of the community at large. As those remedial measures are founded, however, on the Report, and the Report is founded on the Evidence, they cannot be considered as the exclusive emanation of my own mind. They embrace the united suggestions of the various witnesses examined, and have had the further advantage of having been most extensively circulated in every quarter of the kingdom, and corrected and revised by suggestions transmitted from thence. I do not, by saying this, desire to escape from the full responsibility under which I feel myself as the introducer of these measures. What was not originally my own in the Bills which I shall ask leave to bring in, I have made mine by adoption; and therefore, whether for good or for evil, I am prepared to stand by the measures, and shall not shrink from any censure they may incur:—while whatever merit they may possess, I shall freely share with those to whom a portion of it will justly belong. With the permission of the House, then, I will beg its attention to some passages of the Report as those most essential to be considered: and which I will read from the volume in which that Report has been made public to the world. The hon. Member accordingly quoted the Report at great length to show the evils of drunkenness.

This catalogue continued the hon. Member will appear to the House, no doubt, a fearful and alarming one; and yet I have mentioned only a portion of the evil. If hon. Members could but prevail on themselves to read the Evidence on which the Report is founded, they would find details which would fill them with sorrow for the sufferers—shame for their country—and virtuous resolution to use their best efforts to arrest the evil, and effect its cure. I wish I could count upon the patience of the House while I turned to some of these details; but I fear to trust myself to make the experiment, knowing as I do, the great reluctance of hon. Members to listen to any thing which they do not deem indispensable to the elucidation of the subject under consideration; and fearing, also, that in the multiplicity of passages which would present themselves for extract, the number would be so great as to make the choice or preference difficult and embarrassing, if not almost interminable; for every page of the Evidence deserves to be read. This, however, I will venture to say, that if any hon. Member feels a disposition to examine the Evidence at his leisure, and has not his own copy by him for the purpose, I will most cheerfully furnish him, without cost or trouble, with a volume of the Evidence, which has been printed at my own expense, and shall consider myself his debtor if he will only read it for himself, for then I shall be certain of his co-operation and support. Let me turn, then, to those parts of the Report, in which we ventured to suggest our remedies to the House, for we were not disposed to content ourselves with merely enumerating the evils, without pointing out the mode by which we thought those evils might be cured. Among those remedies there were some which we considered moral, and others legislative. The former we were content to recommend to private societies, and the agency of individual efforts; the latter we thought might be undertaken by the State. Some of our remedies contemplated restraint and punishment; others offered encouragements and rewards; some were purely financial, such as the reduction of duty on wholesome articles of consumption, especially on tea, sugar, coffee, and other unintoxicating drinks; and the duty on newspapers and books. Some were moral and religious, such as the diffusion of useful information—the extension of education and the inculcation of a sense of shame at the crime of obscuring or destroying by poisonous drink, that faculty of reason, and consciousness of responsibility, which chiefly distinguish man from the brute; and which the Almighty, when he created man in his own image, implanted in him to cultivate, to improve, and to refine; and not to corrupt, to brutalize, and to destroy. Others of the remedies suggested, appeared to us so remote, if ever practicable at all, as to be quite beyond our sphere of action, though in justice to those by whom they were suggested, they were included in our Report, but placed apart, under a separate head, and so clearly distinguished from those we had adopted and approved, as to be impossible to be mistaken for suggestions emanating from ourselves, except indeed by some few honourable Members, who never having read the Report at all, but having heard some very imperfect account of its contents from others, committed the strange mistake of declaring that the only remedy we proposed for the evil we had so strongly denounced, was to prevent, at once, all distillation and importation of spirits, though the fact is, that this was the only remedy that was put aside under a separate head, as the suggestions of witnesses in which we did not concur.

Leaving, then, all the moral and financial, as well as the speculative or doubtful, of the remedies proposed to be dealt with by their respective advocates—the first by private agency and associations for moral ends—the second by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and the third, by controversialists and commentators on either side; and adopting only such of the remedies as came under the head of 'immediate and legislative.' I beg to draw the attention of the House to the following passages of the Report, as those on which my three Bills are actually grounded:— The remedies which appear to your Committee to be desirable, and practicable to be put into immediate operation, may be thus enumerated:— The separation of houses in which intoxicating drinks are sold, into four distinct classes:—1. Houses for the sale of beer only, not to be consumed on the premises; 2. Houses for the sale of beer only, to be consumed on the premises, and in which refreshments of food may also be obtained; 3. Houses for the sale of spirits only, not to be consumed on the premises; 4. Houses for the accommodation of strangers and travellers, where bed and board may be obtained, and in which spirits, wine, and beer, may all be sold. The limiting the number of such houses of each class, in proportion to population in towns, and to distance and population in country districts; the licences for each to be annual, and granted by magistrates and municipal authorities, rather than by the excise; to be chargeable with larger sums annually than are now paid for them, especially for the sale of spirits; and the keepers of such houses to be subject to progressively increasing fines for disorderly conduct, and forfeiture of licence, and closing up of the houses, for repeated offences. The closing of all such houses at earlier hours in the evening than at present, and uniformly with each other, excepting only in the last class of houses, for travellers, which may be opened at any hour for persons requiring food or beds in the dwelling. The first and second class of houses, in which beer only is sold, to be closed on the Sabbath-day, except for one hour in the afternoon and one hour in the evening, to admit of families being supplied with beer at those periods; the third class of houses, where spirits only are sold, to be entirely closed during the whole of the Sabbath-day; and the fourth class, as inns or hotels, to be closed to all visitors on that day, excepting only to travellers, and the inmates of the dwelling. The making all retail spirit shops as open to public view as other shops where wholesale provisions are sold, such as those of the baker, the butcher, and the fishmonger; in order that the interior of such spirit shops may be seen from without, and be constantly exposed to public inspection in every part. The refusal of retail spirit licences to all but those who would engage to confine themselves exclusively to dealing in that article, and consequently the entire separation, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, of the retail sale of spirits, from groceries, provisions, wine, or beer; excepting only in the fourth class of houses (as inns or hotels), for travellers and inmates, or lodgers, as before described. The prohibition of the practice of paying the wages of workmen at public houses or any other place where intoxicating drinks are sold: The prohibition of the meetings of all friendly societies, sick clubs, money clubs, masonic lodges, or any other permanent associations of mutual benefit and relief, at public houses or places where intoxicating drinks are sold; as such institutions, when not formed expressly for the benefit of such public houses, and when they are bona fide associations of mutual help in the time of need, can with far more economy, and much greater efficacy, rent and occupy for their periodical meetings equally appropriate rooms in other places. The establishment, by the joint aid of the government and the local authorities, and residents on the spot, of public walks and gardens, or open spaces for athletic and healthy exercises in the open air, in the immediate vicinity of every town, of an extent and character adapted to its population, and of district and parish libraries, museums and reading-rooms, accessible at the lowest rate of charge, so as to admit of one or the other being visited in any weather, and at any time, with the rigid exclusion of all intoxicating drinks of every kind from all such places, whether in the open air or closed. In conformity with these recommendations, I have prepared my Bills, considering them, as in reality I do, but separate parts of one measure, and directed to the same end, though for general convenience divided into three Acts, one of them only, being restrictive, and the other two attractive;—one classifying and regulating existing things, to prevent excess and remove abuse;—the others presenting new combinations of pleasure in other shapes, so that the double experiment may be tried, at the same time, of weaning the population from haunts of intemperance, disease, and crime—and attracting them to occupations of sobriety, health, and innocence—a change which all must desire to see accomplished—a change which cannot be effected without some one taking the pains to attempt it—and a change which, if produced, would do more to improve the health, morals, and happiness of the labouring population of this country, than any other, within the range of legislation to effect, that I can at all conceive or imagine. To fail, even, therefore, in such an attempt, would be no dishonour; to succeed, would, indeed, be a high and noble reward; and with the permission of the House I will briefly run over the heads of both these measures, differing, it is true, in their nature, but devoted to one and the same end, the promotion of temperance health and instruction among the labouring classes of society.

My first object, then, is to draw off, by innocent pleasurable recreation and instruction, all who can be thus weaned from habits of drinking, and in whom those habits may not be so deeply rooted as it resist all attempts at this moral method of cure. But as there will yet remain a large number in whom the vice of drinking to excess is too inveterate to yield to such a mode of treatment, I propose to introduce certain enactments for the better classification and regulation of public houses generally, and for the correction and punishment of disorderly conduct committed in them, as shall even bring the confirmed drunkard within the range of their reforming power.

The first and second of these measures, which I should venture to entitle, "Bills for the promotion of healthy recreation and public instruction among the labouring classes," are such as cannot, I apprehend, excite the slightest opposition, as they proceed upon a principle which leaves the application of their powers in the hands of those only who are to be effected by their exercise, and who may, therefore, be safely intrusted with the management and control of that for which they themselves will alone have to pay the cost. The plan and provisions of these Bills are as follows:—

I propose that in any town in which fifty rate payers may desire to have public walks, gardens, baths, and places of sport and recreation in the open air, it shall be competent for that number to sign a requisition to the Mayor or other chief civil authority of the town, requesting him to call a public meeting of the rate-payers of the town, to whom the question shall be submitted, and if approved by the majority on being put to the vote in the usual way, the ratepayers shall then proceed to elect a Committee of twenty-one persons to whom the execution of the task shall be confided. The Committee would then be empowered to call for plans, designs, and estimates from architects and surveyors, by open competition; and the plan being determined on, and the estimate fixed, they should be empowered to borrow the sum requisite for completing the work,—limiting the amount of capital, however to the ratio of ten shillings for every inhabitant of the town, according to the latest official census of the population, and limiting the assessment on the rental of the town to sixpence in the pound per annum, to provide for the payment of five per cent interest on the capital borrowed, and five per cent for the annual redemption of that amount of capital—so as to pay off the capital in twenty years. The Committee should be chosen after the manner of Councillors under the Municipal Reform Bill, and have full power to make such rules and regulations for the gardens, play-grounds, baths, &c. as might be most conducive to the public accommodation; the check upon them being publicity of proceedings and accounts, and liability to annual re-election of one-third, so as to remove or confirm the whole body every three years.

The machinery I should propose for the second Bill would be exactly the same, on the principle of self-taxation and self-control: though the object would be to provide Public Institutions for the assembling together in the winter—when open air exercises cannot be so well enjoyed—of all classes of the inhabitants who desire social intercourse without the necessity of seeking it at the public house. Such buildings should be erected at the public cost, in the same manner as the gardens, grounds, and baths; and they should contain halls for conversational meetings—rooms for benefit societies, clubs, choral societies and committees of all kinds—a spacious theatre for lectures and scientific experiments—a museum for natural history—another for specimens of manufactures—a gallery of the fine arts for sculpture and paintings—and a library for general use. The building once formed, many of the nobility and neighbouring gentry, as well as the wealthy inhabitants of the town, would, by donation and otherwise, contribute progressively to enrich it in various ways; and a very moderate amount of subscription—when the building was once free—would supply all that could be required. The difficulty of raising funds for a suitable building is the chief reason why such institutions are not more prevalent. The desire exists in many towns, but the means are not forthcoming, and the machinery of this Bill will provide them, so that in the course of a very few years, if these Bills should pass into a law, we shall see as many public walks, gardens, and pleasure grounds in the neighbourhood of all our towns, as are now to be found on the Continent of Europe; and in every place of ten thousand inhabitants, a public institution, embracing a museum, gallery, library, theatre, and places of innocent and instructive enjoyment, accessible to the humblest classes—while in twenty years from their foundation, all will be free of further cost or incumbrance to the funds of the community.

The influence which such changes would produce on the habits, morals, and happiness of the community, may be more easily conceived than described; and for myself, Sir, I think it is hardly possible to overrate the amount of public good which would flow, in a thousand ways, from such fountains of health, and knowledge, and pleasure, as these institutions would prove. For these reasons, therefore, and many more that might be adduced, if time permitted, I can anticipate no possible objection to the introduction of the two measures, which I have thus briefly described.

The third of these measures is intended to classify, regulate and restrict, within certain limits, the number of public houses, generally; to abridge their hours of sale; to close them with certain limitations on the Sabbath; and to subject, all persons found in a state of drunkenness, and the keepers of those disorderly houses in which this drunkenness is chiefly stimulated and encouraged for the sake of gain, to certain punishments proportioned to the frequency and excess of their offences. Even to this Bill I do not, in its present shape, anticipate any very strong objection, because it provides sufficiently for the protection of vested interests, and does not propose to lessen the number of public houses by the suppression of any now actually existing; but rather by suspending the issue of any new licences until the number in each town or district be reduced within a given ratio to population or distance; by which means a gradual extinction will take place of those houses only, the licences of which may fall in by forfeiture for misconduct or other causes; and the numbers thus becoming gradually less and less will make the legitimate business of the remaining houses more extensive as well as respectable, until the beer shop and gin shop shall either wholly disappear, or be merged into the only kind of Establishment necessary for the public convenience, namely, the Licensed Victuallers, at whose houses bed and board may be had by the traveller and inmate who may be absent from their homes.

I shall be prepared at the proper time, whenever the principle of this Bill or its separate details shall come under examination, to shew the grounds upon which every one of the Clauses have been drawn up. But I abstain from doing so at present, as I do not wish to anticipate objections; but will reserve my answers to them till they are actually made. I may say generally, however, that I am as zealous an advocate for the freedom of trade and freedom of action as any hon. Member in this House, and that my only limitation to either is the line beyond which the health, morality, and happiness of the community are endangered or destroyed. I would not permit any man to trade in gunpowder and fire from the same shop, without some limitations and restrictions. I would not allow a maniac to walk the streets unattended, to assault whomsoever he met. I would not sanction the poisoning of brute animals, any more than of human beings,—or the stimulating men, women, and children to crime, and reducing them to beggary and disease; and, therefore, while providing amply for the freest use of all things that persons in possession of their sober faculties could reasonably desire, and furnishing every requisite accommodation for the traveller, the resident, and the labouring man, I would desire only to place such barriers in the way of abuse as could be complained of only by those whose vitiated indulgences were by these means curtailed, and by those whose profits were enhanced in proportion to the immorality which they encouraged.

This, then, is the machinery, simple, practicable, and just, as I believe all will be ready to allow it to be, by which I hope to see a beginning made, at least, in the great work of Temperate Reform:—and when I ask the House to give me leave to introduce those Bills, and lay them on the table, so that they may be printed for general circulation, and the discussion on the second reading deferred till the details shall have been well considered, I hope they will readily accord to me the favour I solicit at their hands; the more especially, as I do not often trespass on their time or patience—that I have never yet done so on any unimportant matter—that I can have no personal or party interests to serve by success—that I have given to the subject all the attention which the most unwearied diligence would permit—that I am willing to respect existing interests and property, and desire no changes but such as carry upon the face of them their own recommendation—that there is nothing in my proposition which trenches on the respect due to constituted authorities, or which will involve either the Government or the people in any increase of expense; and that above all, should my hopes be realized, the majority of the community cannot fail to be benefited themselves. That those who regard the greatest happiness of the greatest number as a sound political maxim will give me their sanction and support I cannot for a moment doubt; and if there be others who, while they ac- knowledge the soundness of this maxim, think there are different modes of arriving at the same ends, I trust they will not deny to me at least the opportunity of having my bills printed, and submitted to the sense of the House after they have been examined in all their details. To all I can offer the most sincere assurance of an earnest desire to advance the happiness of our common country, and improve the condition of our fellow men; and whether I succeed or fail in this attempt so to do, I shall carry with me the consolation of having been animated by no personal motive—of having aimed at no personal end—and, shall await the issue with that calmness and content which a consciousness of rectitude can alone inspire. I now move "for leave to bring in the first Bill, namely, a Bill to facilitate the formation and establishment of public walks, gardens, and places of recreation in the open air in the neighbourhood of all towns, for the use of the population generally."

Mr. Brotherton

said, that nothing could be more worthy the attention of the Legislature than the introduction of measures having for their object the improvement of the habits and the elevation of the character of the labouring population. Anything that tended to promote the comfort and improve the morals of the lower classes deserved the most favourable consideration on the part of that House, inasmuch as the country owed much of its prosperity to the labouring classes, and it was the duty of the Legislature, therefore, to render their condition as happy as possible. As far as Manchester was concerned he was able to bear testimony to the injury sustained by the inhabitants of that town in consequence of the want of public walks and places of innocent recreation in the open air. The labouring population of Manchester exceeded 20,000. They were confined in factories during the week, and resided for the most part in narrow and crowded streets, so that it was a great privation in their case to be without proper places for the enjoyment of healthful exercise in the open air when leisure permitted them to take it. He fully agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield that the lower classes of this country were degraded by the habit of intoxication, which was but too prevalent amongst them. That habit invariably led, not only to poverty and wretchedness, but to crime; and it was because he thought the measures proposed by his hon. Friend would tend to rescue them from the evils resulting from an undue indulgence in the use of ardent spirits that he stood forward to second his Motion.

Mr. Potter

expressed his cordial concurrence in the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield. He begged to refer the House to the following extract from a work lately published by Mr. Bailey, of Sheffield:—"The hostility which has been shown by well-intentioned but mistaken moralists against popular amusements would be pernicious, if it could have any effect. Such amusements are required for the healthy play, both of the moral and of the physical constitution of man; and the propensities which they gratify, if not allowed to take a salutary, will assuredly take a mischievous direction. Amidst the monotonous employments arising out of the extreme division of labour in civilized states, excitement and exhilaration are especially demanded and must be had: if they are not to be got in the active game, the absorbing representation, the animating burst of music, the splendid pageant, the spirit-stirring address, they will be sought and found in the tavern and the gaming-house, or the want of them will people the infirmary and the asylum."

Mr. Wyse

supported the Motion. Their object should be to prevent the commission of crime, and as those Bills seemed to have that tendency, he should vote for having them brought in. There was hardly any country in Europe, from the most to the least civilized, in which there were so few public institutions for the diffusion of knowledge as in Great Britain. This was much to be deplored, and he thought that as such institutions tended to the good of the State, the Government should in all cases be bound to make provision for them.

Mr. William Roche

said, he should also give his support to the Motion, because he knew that the want of public walks and literary and scientific institutions was much felt by the inhabitants of Limerick, the town which he had the honour to represent.

Motion agreed to, and leave was given to bring in the Bill.

Leave was also given to bring in a Bill to authorise the erection of Public Institutions.