HC Deb 23 March 1847 vol 91 cc335-7

moved, that the House, at its rising, do adjourn to Thursday next; which Motion was put and agreed to. He then went on to observe, that it was the intention of the Speaker to be in the House at a quarter before Eleven o'clock to-morrow to meet such Members as wished to accompany him to attend divine worship. With respect to the proposed adjournment to Thursday, he regretted to be obliged to ask the House to meet at Twelve o'clock, and he should not have done so if public business of importance did not render it necessary.


presumed that the House would adjourn precisely at Twelve o'clock.


said, a quarter before Twelve.


wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, whether that statement was correct in which they were told that the number of labourers employed upon the public works was 700,000? He should also like to know whether he was right in supposing that those labourers had earned, and were earning, at the rate of 1s. per day, the money so received by them, raised by the taxation of the people of England? He wished also to know whether those persons were to work upon the fast-day, or whe- ther they were to be considered entitled to receive payment from the country for not working upon the fast-day?


said, that, if his recollection served him right, they had, upon a former period, a fast-day in Ireland, when similar public works were going on. The question raised by the hon. Gentleman was then maturely considered, and it was thought right that these labourers should continue to work upon the fast-day, and of course to be paid for so working. They were of opinion, considering that it was the public money, and the money of the counties and the baronies of Ireland, that paid for these works, that it would be, on the one hand, an improper thing to pay these persons without receiving some equivalent from them in the shape of labour; and on the other, that it would be inconsistent with the principle of humanity and religion to allow them to starve upon this one particular day.


was glad to hear the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman, because it would otherwise appear to the working classes here that the fast to be imposed upon them was not to be maintained in other parts of the kingdom, or that they were to be placed in a different position to that of the labouring classes of Ireland. Although he did not see any of the law officers of the Crown present, he wished now to ask whether the working classes of this country, in case they followed their ordinary avocations to-morrow, would, under the peculiar circumstances of the general fast, be subject to any penalty, or be considered guilty of any infringement of the statute law of the country?

No reply was given to the hon. Member's question.


said, he would be the last person in the House to say anything against those religious observances which appeared to meet the views of the people; but with respect to the fast of to-morrow, he believed the order for observing it would have no effect on a large portion of the people of England—he meant those who did not assemble for worship in the Established Churches. It would have no effect on the people of Scotland, nor on the people of Ireland, according to what had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere). He (Mr. Bright) thought the Government might, had they not regarded old precedents, have drawn up the proclamation more wisely. Instead of doing honour to the Deity, the document was an insult to religion, and calculated to engender, on the one hand, gross superstition, and gross infidelity on the other. He had, since that proclamation appeared, spoken on the subject to persons of almost all religious persuasions, and did not see anything like a feeling that the affirmations in the proclamation were proved, or that there was any reasonable ground, from Scriptural authority, for believing that any advantage could come to this country from a fast ordered by the civil power. He regarded the fast as a useless ceremony which reminded him of days gone by, but which was not in accordance with the enlightened opinions of the present day.


hoped the House would not go into a discussion upon the subject. His opinion was, that the fast ordered was in accordance with the opinions of the present day.


thought that the Government had, in ordering this fast, acted in accordance with the feelings of a large portion of the people. He belonged to a religious persuasion that did not admit Her Majesty to be the head of the Church; but they admitted that the fast was sanctioned by Holy Writ, in which repeated instances were found of national humiliation. The bishops of his Church had sanctioned the fast, though they did not recommend it as coming from regal authority, and recommended to-morrow as a day of special religious observance. They had so far acceded to the national wish, as to recommend that the "Miserere" for more special strictness should be observed to-morrow.

Motion for the adjournment agreed to.