HC Deb 20 March 1855 vol 137 cc915-40

in moving the following Resolution— That, in the opinion of this House, it would promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the Working Classes of this Metropolis if the collections of Natural History and of Art, in the British Museum and the National Gallery, were open to the public inspection after Morning Service on Sundays, observed, that the Motion was on the table of the House, during the greater part of the last Session, in the name of His late lamented friend the then Member for Montrose, but who was unable to find an open day for its discussion: he felt it to be his duty to bring forward the Motion as an eminently practical one, and one which he had promised his friend Mr. Hume to support. It was not intended to advance any speculative opinions, to interfere with the observance of the Sabbath, or militate against religious feelings in any way, but was introduced at the earnest request of numerous bodies of workmen in the metropolis and young men in offices, who, in the petitions which they had presented to the House, had stated that it would be of great benefit that the British Museum and National Gallery should be thrown open upon Sundays after divine service. They looked upon those collections as public property, and thought they ought to be thrown open to the great bulk of the community on those days upon which alone they had leisure to examine them. No one could deny that it was most desirable that the working classes should be furnished with abundant means of recreation and improvement, in which their wives and their families might freely participate. Nothing could have a more humanising tendency, be better calculated to draw closer the ties of mutual affection, or more effectually lessen those degrading and brutal scenes of which our police reports gave such ample evidence. In these galleries they would find objects of interest to wean them from other and less desirable pursuits: it might be from Vice to virtue. The study of the works of creation would lead their minds to the love and veneration of the Creator, and, therefore, he thought that throwing open such exhibitions as the British Museum, so far from injuring the morals and bringing religion into disrespect, would raise the people in the scale of human beings, render them thoughtful and observant, and, by leading them to the contemplation of the wonderful power, skill, and adaptation shown in the works of the Creator, would tend to the improvement of their moral and religious condition. Those most interested and most anxious for the success of the Motion, declared they were actuated by no spirit of irreligion, no contempt for established forms of worship, or the sacred expression of private devotion, but by the firm belief that the proper study and contemplation of the creations of nature and works of Art, powerfully enlarge the mind, and open it to a true perception of the Deity. Apart from the religious consideration of the question, there were many reasons why we should give to the workman the means of improving his knowledge, his science, or his taste. Why, he asked, were the ornamental productions of other countries so sought after in England but from the fact that the workman of the Continent, having more opportunities of improving his taste by the contemplation of the public collections, was able to produce designs of a more elegant character than our own workmen, with whom the struggle of life was so incessant that no other day but Sunday afforded them the least leisure to improve themselves. He admitted that considerable diversity of opinion might exist upon the religious view of the question, still he assured the House that it was from no indifference to religion, but because he believed it would promote the welfare and lead to the regeneration of the large class whose cause he was advocating that he had brought forward the Motion. He would venture to urge upon those who enforced upon others the pharisaical observance of the Sabbath the divine doctrine of Him who taught that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. He was persuaded that great numbers of those who upon Sundays pursued a course of vice and dissipation might be saved from such degradation if fitting opportunities were afforded them. The proposal which be made involved in a very slight degree the attendance of the officials upon the Sabbath. A few police officers would be ample for the purpose, and not one individual would be deterred from attending divine service. Having quoted the opinion of Dr. Gray in 1841 in favour of this view, he reminded the House that the Committee of last Session upon public-house licences had urged the opening of these nurseries of science as calculated in a great degree to mitigate the evils of immorality, intemperance, and crime; and he contended that the throwing open of Kew Gardens, Hampton Court Palace, and the Painted Hall at Greenwich afforded evidence of the wisdom of that. He contended that such a recommendation, deliberately reported to the House, should not be lightly regarded, especially when they remembered the highly intelligent and practical character of the men who sat on that Committee, and agreed to that report. Many good, and wise, and pious ministers of the Gospel had declared their opinion that, so far from desecrating the Sabbath, such a measure as he proposed would hallow that day; and many most eminent living Statesmen, of all views of politics, had recorded their opinions in favour of innocent recreation upon the Sabbath. He had supplied himself with a great number of authorities upon this branch of the case, but he would only trouble the House with a few brief extracts. That excellent man Dr. Arnold, in reference to railway travelling on the Sunday, which sonic regard as desecration, said— That it should be a day of greater leisure than other days, and of the suspension, so fir as may be, of the common business of life, I quite allow; but then, I believe that I should have much greater indulgence for recreation on a Sunday than you might have; and if the railway enables the people in the great towns to get out into the country on the Sunday, I should think it a very great good. A great authority on this subject, the Rev. Mr. Holden, says— No express permission is found in the law of Moses, but that they were at least allowable, to a certain extent, may be inferred from several considerations; as a total abstinence from all amusement would render it a day of gloom and sadness, productive of melancholy rather than of religious comfort, no such enactment, it may be presumed, would be promulgated by a benevolent Deity. Again, he says— Many writers and preachers condemn without restriction, all secular pleasures on this sacred day: but, that amusements arc, to a certain extent, permitted, is implied in the sabbatical command; for the injunction to remit the accustomed toils of life, not only is, but must have been intended to be a source of delight, and it is in perfect harmony with this design, to allot some portion of the day to proper recreation and refreshment. That astute and learned man, one of the truly enlightened dignitaries of the Church, Archbishop Whately, says— There are two volumes, as it were, both by the same divine Author, spread out before us for our instruction and benefit, from each of which we may learn something of his dealings, so as to apply what we learn to our own practical advantage. One of these may be called the book of Nature, the system of the Created Universe; the other, the Record of Inspiration, And, elsewhere, the same distinguished divine and scholar, says— Other things being equal, you will find that those who have had the best general mental training are the best prepared for a correct and profitable reception of religious instruction, and that those who have been taught little or nothing, beside what are called the general principles of religion and morality, not only do not embrace those principles so well as those of more cultivated understanding, but will be still more deficient in the right application of such principles. He would only trouble the House with one more, although he might well read such evidence as he believed likely to carry conviction to those who would fairly reason on the question. The Rev. John Griffith, vicar of Aberdaire, in addressing his own flock on the general question, said— I have spoken my mind honestly on the subject; I think it is time the clergy should speak; I will yield to none, in doing all and everything to keep holy the Sabbath-day, and I am quite sure my parishioners will bear me witness in this; but there is a vast difference between keeping this day holy, and that rigid Sabbatarianism which has nigh threatened more than once to bring back the vapid emptiness of the days of the Roundheads: the question is not one of desecration of the Sabbath, but the enlightening, the recreation, the rest, and the elevation of the working man. Lord Derby has done a noble act, and I trust he will be supported therein. I fear nothing of continental desecration, I fear nothing for religion or the Church; open people's minds, and let us, the Clergy, pray God to open ours as well, and the City that is set on a hill can never be hid. It might have been observed that in some of the petitions which had been presented it was forcibly remarked, that a constant familiarity with beautiful forms was one of the readiest means of acquiring all that was graceful and most applicable to art, since it was through the eye amt the perceptive and moral faculties were the most easily reached. Doubtless there were Gentlemen in that House who would bear wit- ness to the moral and religious influence which had been produced upon the minds of many who had flocked to witness the glories of the late Crystal Palace. Among them were men, who, sullen from suffering, were so ignorant as to confound order with oppression, and wealth with injustice; but yet those men, whose minds religious teaching had never softened, were subdued at the grandeur of the sights which they there beheld, and, for the first time, they learnt to reverence genius, intellect, and property. This question was one of high and growing importance, and whether the present Motion succeeded or was rejected he had no doubt of its ultimate success. He asked the House, however, fairly to consider this question, and to decide in favour of a course which he believed would promote the moral, the intellectual, and the religious character of the people.


seconded the Motion. He considered that the course advocated by his hon. Friend was one which would tend to raise the condition, moral as well as physical, of the lower classes of this country, and ultimately to benefit them in a religious view. Notwithstanding this he was well aware that the chief opposition to the Resolution would be based on religious grounds. The House would doubtless be told that the course proposed would lead to a desecration of the Sabbath. But this statement assumed that the Sabbath of the Christians was like that of the Jews. That was entirely a false idea. He would remind the House that upon the Continent, Sunday was observed in a far different manner to what it was here, and even in this country its observance was very different from what it had been. In Catholic times it had been a day of rational devotion and amusement. But unfortunately for us in this respect the Scottish feeling had penetrated here, bringing in its train religious fanaticism. He did not deny but that in other respects we had received advantages from Scotland. With reference to the question as to the manner in which the Sabbath should be observed, he would quote the opinion of Dr. Arnold, of Rugby. That rev. gentleman said, upon being asked whether he objected to Sunday travelling, that it was a question of degree, and that he for one would never use his influence to put a stop to all railway trains upon a Sunday, although upon many accounts he should wish to see their number diminished upon that day. For the satisfaction of his Scotch friends he might mention that Mr. George Coombe gave a similar opinion upon the question. After a most careful perusal of the Scriptures, he found with pain and regret that there was no written Christian injunction or command to keep the first day of the week as a Jewish Sabbath at all. All their Beer Acts and other similar legislation were founded on the fallacious idea that there was some such written injunction. But he would surprise the House still more. There was no written Christian injunction or command to keep sacred the first day of the week at all. There was the same reason for keeping Wednesday or Thursday as a Jewish Sabbath as Sunday. The only rule for observing the first day of the week as a Sabbath was the universal custom of the Church for 1,800 years, and the custom had been to devote the morning to worship and the afternoon to recreation or even amusement. This observance was founded on a knowledge of human nature. To that statement he defied contradiction. He was stating that fact in a spirit of seriousness and as the result of his own inquiry into the subject, and as it was necessary to come to close quarters, he would again state that the obligation upon Protestants to keep holy the first day of the week rested entirely upon the universal custom of the Christian Church. He did not wish to be understood as in any way undervaluing the Sabbath; so far from doing so, he thought that if it were even a human institution it was founded upon sound and wise principles, but at the same time he did not consider that that day was set apart for gloom and fanaticism, but rather for devotion and enjoyment. The Roman Catholic Church in respect to the Sabbath acted upon a much better judgment of human nature; for, in his opinion, millions of the working people of this country were repelled from the Protestant Church by the ill-judged asperity it displayed with regard to the observance of that day. It was not right, nor was it, he believed, in accordance with Holy Writ to deprive the working man of rational means of enjoyment and instruction on the only day of the week which was at his own disposal. He hoped that he should not be answered by vulgar declamation, but that the House would approach this subject with the desire of doing all that could be done to elevate the minds of the lower class, and to raise them from the state of wretchedness and debauchery in which too many of them were plunged.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, in the opinion of this House, it would promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the Working Classes of this Metropolis, if the collections of Natural History and of Art, in the British Museum and the National Gallery, were open to the public inspection after Morning Service on Sundays.


said, he must ask the courtesy of the House, as a new Member, to bear with him while he read a letter from a Welsh clergyman, surrounded by a primitive congregation, whose habits, thank God! had not yet been corrupted by too much admixture with the world, but who still devoutly followed the observances taught them in youth. That rev, gentleman said he viewed this proposition as part of the great scheme of Sabbath desecration, which tended, in his opinion, to bring the divine vengeance upon us as a nation. He could not avoid expressing his apprehension lest the pious injunctions the people might have received in church should be soon destroyed by their going in crowds to a place of amusement. He said this Motion, so rashly brought forward and so feebly sustained with declamation, but without argument in support of it, had no claim to be adopted.


Sir, an expression fell from an hon. Gentleman—I do not know whether accidentally or by design—which marked the spirit in which this question is brought forward. For the first time in my life did I hear that which has been by universal consent of all Christians up to this hour called the Lord's day, designated, in the most extraordinary way, the "people's day." Now, Sir, I am going to speak of it as a question of the Lord's day. I have always been as much convinced as any man of the impropriety of the puritanical way in which the Lord's day has been observed in Protestant countries—that is to say, that whereas it was held in the universal Christian Church as a festival, since the Reformation it has been considered as a fast. But, of course, it was not called the Sabbath, because Sabbaths is the seventh; and it would have been a mere misnomer to call the first day of the week the seventh. The principle remained the same. It is of no use hunting for texts about it. Texts, Sir, are very much like precedents, and precedents are very much like quotations, of which Payne Knight said, that they are "the remembrancer of the scholar and the oracle of the dunce." Whatever texts may be cited, the principle is that the seventh part of every man's time and the tenth part of his substance, is due to God. [Suppressed laughter.] Oh, Sir, I have not the least doubt that the derisive smile—suppressed out of good breeding rather than from any sense of truth—is connected with the question of the "people's day." There is a thorough contempt for tithes as an institution of' God. It may be, or may not be, a convenient way of paying parsons. That is the people's affair, however. The religious aspect of the question is rejected altogether. Sir, I have great difficulty on this question—not as to what I myself think right, but in saying what ought to be the determination of the House; for when I see them constantly entertaining questions for refusing support to the national churches—those churches which are for the benefit, almost exclusively, of the poor—and then seeking a substitute for the churches which they will not give—going to the British Museum to see the gentlemen just arrived from Nineveh—those red men with green beards—when I see them, by way of improving the morality of the nation, encouraging incestuous marriages—when I see them year after year, bringing in Bills to rob the Church of her property, and, I am ashamed to say, those who are the trustees of that property defending it on the ground that it is private property—I am at a great loss to know what an assembly which recognises such principles ought to do on this occasion. But still I think there is a very great distinction between what an individual feels in his conscience it may be right to do on the Sunday, and what is public desecration. There is a distinction between that and his uniting as a member of a national assembly in a measure for opening public institutions on the Lord's day, and thus aiding in its public desecration.


said, he was not desirous of imputing any unworthy motives to the hon. Gentlemen who had thought it their duty to bring forward a Motion of this nature, but of all the arguments used for the promotion of this measure certainly the last which should have been resorted to by its supporters (though no doubt their ideas, which were peculiar, might be sincere) was the reliIgions argument. Their attempt to resort to such an argument he considered most extraordinary; and he considered this as an underhand, circuitous, and subtle mode of introducing the "thin end of the wedge," with a view to the desecration and destruction of an institution the pride, the treasure, and the glory of every Christian nation. He felt that it was an important matter to consider in this case whether their acts would be in conformity with that religion they professed, and that Word of God they reverenced. It had been endeavoured to show that the Sabbath was a part of the Jewish law which had been repealed by the Christian dispensation. That he entirely denied. The word "Sabbath" did not mean the "seventh day," but was the Hebrew word for "rest:" the substance of the Divine institution was a day of rest, and the fourth commandment mentioned it in that manner. That commandment was in the midst of others, which, it was admitted, belonged to the moral law of God—binding on men in all ages and countries, as much so as the command to honour parents or the prohibition of murder. The hon. Member who had denied that there was any passage in the New Testament recognising or reaffirming the obligation to observe the Lord's day, had forgotten that solemn text, "Whoever shall break one of the least of these commandments"—of the moral law—"and shall teach men so, the same shall be called least in the kingdom of God." It was quite true that the "Sabbath was made for man," but in what sense? Not as a mere day of amusement and entertainment; in a higher, and holier, and more sacred sense—as a day of rest and nourishment for the soul; the six days being for the sustenance and support of the body, the seventh was for the rest, and nourishment, and refreshment of the soul—for its exercise, for its spiritual support and sustentation. The question might also be argued upon social grounds. The House must not forget the views of the Legislature, formed for a long period by a series of Acts of Parliament, passed for promoting the observance of the Sabbath, from the age of Edward III. to the present time. Those Acts related to a variety of subjects, and though in terms they might be obsolete, yet in principle they were not effete, for they were passed to put down abuses of the Sabbath which had arisen at different periods, and proved the anxiety of the Legislature to preserve its due observance. A great part of the question related to public-houses and the Report of the Committee on the subject, which had shown the grievous evils arising therefrom. There had been a similar Committee in 1832, another in 1847, and a Committee of the House of Lords in 1851. Their Reports showed how necessary was legislation on the subject, in order to restrain the vices which were rampant in public-houses, and the great abuses which especially arose from their being open on Sundays. It also appeared that the opening of places of amusement did not diminish the attendance at public-houses on Sunday. It was said that the Zoological Gardens had been opened on Sundays at Dublin, but it had not appeared that the public-houses had been less frequented in consequence. On the contrary, it had been proved, that when the Crystal Palace was being built, and there was a great resort to it on Sundays, the public-houses in the neighbourhood were much frequented. Nor was there ever a more irrational conclusion than that come to by some Members of the Committee, that when the Crystal Palace was completed, its being opened on Sundays would not lead to similar results. If before the opening of the Crystal Palace such was the state of things, what might not be expected when, after its completion, greater crowds still would be attracted? With regard to the opening of Kew Gardens on Sundays, a gentleman who had taken the trouble to observe the visitors remarked that they consisted of persons above the lower classes of life, who, tired with walking all the afternoon, refreshed themselves in the numerous public-houses of Brentford, and often remained in them all the evening. [Cries of "Divide!"] There was only one other subject to which he would call attention. Last Session an important Act was passed for the closing of public-houses for a greater number of hours on Sunday, and the effect in the metropolis had been an immense decrease in the number of drunken cases brought before the police magistrates on Monday morning. The effect in Scotland of closing public-houses on Sunday, under the Forbes Mackenzie Act, had been most extraordinary, and had shown how remarkable a connection existed between crime and drunkenness. The sanctity of the Sabbath was the ground on which the Legislature interfered to close public-houses on Sunday, but if the British Museum and the National Gallery opened their doors, every other place of amusement would follow their example, and the sanctity of the day would be entirely destroyed, and the ground on which the legislature would interfere removed. The Motion before the House was specious in its appearance, but fatal in its results. He trusted that Parliament would never sanction such a measure, but would pursue the policy of sanctifying the Sunday as a day of rest, believing that such a policy would bring its abundant reward, according to the promise. "Them that honour me I will honour."


said, he should regret exceedingly if this Resolution, candidly brought forward and peculiarly seconded as it had been, should diminish in the minds of the working classes that reverence for the sanctity of the Sabbath, which was the honour of this country. He had mixed a great deal with the working classes, and was of opinion that opening the British Museum and other places on Sundays was taking the wrong course in order to enlighten their minds. What was wanted was, that such places should be open in the evening, and on Saturdays and Mondays, but particularly on Saturday afternoons. A movement for early closing in the City was in progress, and another movement was gaining ground for half-a-holiday on Saturday afternoon. Unhappy should he be if we lowered ourselves to the standard of France and Germany in the reverence of the Lord's Day, and happy should he be if we could raise them to our standard. There was at present a movement in Paris to lessen the amount of Sunday trading, which he was gratified to find was regarded with favour by the French Government. As a proof that the opinion of the country was opposed to propositions similar to that which was brought forward, he would refer to the fact that the number of petitions against the opening of the Crystal Palace on the Sabbath amounted to 835, which were signed by 186,048 persons, while the number of petitions in favour of opening it were 127, to which were attached only 24,249 signatures. He would, therefore, move an Amendment to the Motion in furtherance of his views on the subject.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the National Gallery and the British Museum should remain closed on Sundays as heretofore, and that they should be opened every day in the week except Sundays; but, at all events, they should be open on Saturdays and Mondays, those days being most convenient for the Working Classes;" instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he had persuaded his late Friend (Mr. Hume) not to bring forward this Motion last Session. He was glad he had done so, because the question in the hands of the present Mover and Seconder had received a blow from which it would not now recover. He would read to the House a few lines from The Times, which set this question at rest, and was perfectly satisfactory to his mind. The Times said— The opening of museums on Sundays would preclude the possibility of closing other exhibitions equally innocent and attractive. Why should private collectors be debarred the licence assumed by the nation? If Sunday visitors are able and willing to spend a shilling of their weekly earnings in the purchase of a harmless gratification, why should they not be as free to do so as to avail themselves of a gratuitous exhibition? Why should not Madame Tussaud's be open? Why not Vauxhall? The line of demarcation would grow more and more difficult to draw. Under our present institutions we can very justly close the theatres on a Sunday, but after the proposed infraction of them we should be in a strange dilemma even on this point. If scenic representations are abstractedly innocent, why proscribe them on a Sunday? If abstractedly otherwise, why encourage them on the other six days of the week? But each of these exhibitions would entail a proportionate extension of traffic and trade, till at last a closed shop on a Sunday would be a rarity resulting from the circumstances of the district or the position of the individual. Let these hon. Members look at Paris. He had been there during two Sundays, on both of which the building of the new streets was going on. This was a question for the working men, and the result would be that they would have to give seven days' labour for six days' wages. This result might be seen carried out in Paris, for there the working classes laboured every day in the week, and the same effect would follow here if the Government withdrew its protecting arm from the rapacity of individuals. When the marriage question was under discussion, an opponent of the Bill asked the supporters of it why they did not act like men, and propose at once that men should be enabled to marry their grandmother; and he (Mr. Kinnaird) would say with respect to thus question let them act like men, and look its full bearing in the face. He believed the object of the promoters of this scheme was to cause people to work on the Sabbath day, for it was supported principally by those who had resisted every effort to protect the poor people employed in factories; and he, consequently, distrusted their professions of attachment to the labouring classes. He hoped his hon. Friend (Sir J. Walmsley) would not withdraw his Motion, after having kept Members waiting, week after week, in expectation of it, but that he would allow the House at once to express a straightforward English opinion upon a question which was of vital importance to the country.


said, he thought he was entitled to infer, from the last two speeches which had been delivered, that whatever considerations might be involved in this question it was entirely removed from considerations of a party nature. He was anxious to say a word or two upon it, because, if they came to a division, his would be a vote unpopular, he believed, in that House, and, perhaps, still more unpopular in the country; because he conceived that a Member of that House had no more important or sacred duty to perform than that of combating what he thought was a prejudice, although it might be entertained by persons for whom he had the sincerest respect and might be grounded upon the most conscientious motives. All the arguments he had heard or read against the proposition of the hon. Gentleman (Sir J. Walmsley) might be summed up under two heads—first, the abstract argument of the sanctity of the Sabbath; and next, the argument, that by opening these institutions unnecessary labour would be thrown upon Government officers. The most important of these questions was, of course, that which related to the desecration of the Sabbath, or, as it was called, Sabbath breaking; and, with respect to that question, he thought something too much had been conceded by the mover and seconder of the Resolutions. Those hon. Members had argued the question as if it was in fact a question of the desecration of the Sabbath, and the dispute was whether that institution was binding upon us, and whether that desecration was permissible or not. He thought that idea belonged to a theory utterly false and unfounded, although not uncommon in this country—he meant the theory which attempted to establish a kind of antagonism between things secular and things sacred. He did not mean to say that a man would learn in a museum or a picture gallery that which would be so important or so valuable to him as what he could learn in church, but he said that, taking it for what it was worth, intellectual and moral improvement was itself a part of religion. When he was told of the sanctity of the Sabbath, he would admit that he regarded that institution as, perhaps, the most venerable and valuable which had come down to us from past ages; but why was it so venerable and so valuable? No institution, however sacred, could be in itself an end; it must be a means to an end, and the end for which that sacred day was to be reverenced was the moral and intellectual improvement of those who observed it. What was the leisure of the working man upon a week-day? Out of the 168 hours which composed the week about sixty hours were employed by him in work, and at least two-thirds of his entire time would therefore be taken up by the necessities of that labour by which he earned his bread, and by the repose necessary to recruit his strength after it, and enable him to undergo the succeeding day's labour. When it was said that the working man ought to educate himself upon a weekday, let those who thus argue make the case their own, and ask themselves what would be their capacities for self-education and self-improvement after ten hours of manual labour? It was perfectly true that mechanical improvements might in the progress of time operate to diminish the amount of human labour. That was a consideration for the future, as up to the present time they had certainly not operated in that direction, and he believed the amount of manual labour now performed was as great, or greater, than it had been at any previous period. Neither the labourer nor the employer had any option as to reducing the hours of labour; both were driven on by that competition which urged us all forward, man against man, in this country, nation against nation in the markets of the world. As matters now stood, if they were to lay down the principle which lay at the bottom of all argument about the sanctity of the Sabbath, namely, that the whole of the day of rest was necessarily to be appropriated to subjects and studies of a theological character, they were thereby deciding that the education of the working man should virtually terminate in his youth, which was equivalent to saying that his intelligence and knowledge should in future remain very much upon their present footing. He believed that this exclusive appropriation of the day of rest, in popular opinion, to subjects exclusively theological, lay infinitely more than the want of an Education Bill, or the want of proper schools, at the bottom of that ignorance which they all lamented; and he believed that, unless they applied some remedy in this direction, all educational measures, even such as that which his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington) had lately introduced, would be comparatively useless. Was it asserted that the objects proposed by this Resolution would necessarily interfere with the performance of any religious duties? Did it follow that the opening of a picture gallery or a museum upon a Sunday afternoon would take away from the attendance of churches? What was done now? They allowed Hampton Court and Kew Gardens to be opened on the Sunday, they encouraged, by allowing excursion trains to run, the inhabitants of the town upon their only holiday to breathe the fresh air of the country; but the argument of desecration on the Sabbath applied much more strongly in these cases, for an expedition into the country generally occupied an entire day. This was not, however, a mere question of what had been permitted by previous legislation. Did hon. Gentlemen mean to apply to themselves the same rules which they applied to working men? If any Gentlemen would say that they passed the Sabbath in such a manner that they should regard it as a comparatively profane occupation to visit a museum or to look at pictures, he would not dispute the question with them; although even in that case he might observe, that there was a wide difference between doing that which we ourselves thought right, between obeying the dictates of our own consciences, and endeavouring to force others to obey them. But to force on other persons, especially if they belonged to a class not represented in that House, the rules of a morality more strict than we ourselves practised, did not appear to him to be conduct which had in it much of religion or of honesty. And who were to be the real gainers by the prohibition it was sought to enforce? Was it the belief of hon. Gentlemen that they would either send to church or keep at church any man who would not be there if these institutions were opened? A man who went to a place of worship, simply because he had no other place to go to, was not likely to profit much by what he heard there. An attempt had been made to close the public-houses upon Sundays, but he believed that the practical difficulty of the question of what con- stituted a traveller would be an obstacle in the way of such preventive legislation, and would compel them, whether they would or no, to keep the public-houses open during a certain portion of the day. It was his belief, that where the proposed measure would have the effect of taking one person from the church, it would take ten from the public-house. If he wanted proof of this, he found it in the nature of the opposition made to this Resolution. This opposition came from perfectly opposite quarters. There were those who were anxious for the interests of religion, and on that ground voted against the Resolution; and he had nothing to say against their sincerity; but there was also a large class who opposed this and similar Resolutions, and though he did not regard their opposition with the same respect as he did that of the first class he had mentioned, yet he thought they were more correct in the results which they apprehended from these Resolutions—he meant the publicans. A circular had also been issued by a society for the due observance of the Sabbath which had threatened all persons who voted for this measure with public exposure. He was not acquainted with the working of this society, but if this was the way in which they carried on their proceedings, he thought that they should change their name and call themselves a society for the promotion and encouragement of intemperance. He had endeavoured to speak on this matter without exaggeration, because he knew that in every part of England, especially in the manufacturing districts, if they asked a sensible man what was the great social evil of the time, ninety-nine out of every hundred would give the same answer, "It is drunkenness." He knew from returns that in a single town in Lancashire, with between 70,000 and 80,000 inhabitants, 1,000l. was daily spent in intoxicating drink. If they asked the Judges what was the cause of the greatest amount of crime, they would answer, "Drunkenness." If they asked medical men what was the cause, directly or indirectly, of disease and of more than one-half of the cases of insanity in our hospitals and asylums, they would give the same answer, "Drunkenness." He believed that the trouble of finding the cure for this evil was the great problem of our time. How were they to do this? Not by restrictive laws, though, perhaps, they were useful enough in their way; but prohibitory legis- lation would assuredly not effect the cure. In order to apply the remedy, they must first find the cause, and he believed that, more than anything else, the great cause was the want of right intellectual occupation for the working classes. It was hardly possible for hon. Gentlemen, leading the lives they did, engaged as they were in intellectual pursuits, to conceive the intense, the utter weariness that came over a man without any intellectual pursuit—who was engaged in an unending and unvarying routine of bodily labour, The first requirement they ought to have in view ought to be to afford some means of recreation and self-instruction to the people; he said, and he asserted it without fear of contradiction, that for such improvement and self-instruction time was not given in any week-day. As regards the question of desecration, he did sincerely and earnestly say, with deep respect for the feelings of those who desired to see the Sabbath kept holy, that the purpose for which that clay was intended was carried out when it was applied to any purpose of moral and mental improvement. As to the labour question, he thought that he could easily show that the opening of a museum or picture gallery required the employment of a very limited number of persons. All experience as to the conduct of the people in such instances always proved that they conducted themselves admirably, and that little mischief was ever done. The presence, therefore, of curators and managers would not be wanted; they would require no skilled superintendence, only the supervision, as in all places of public resort, of a limited number of police. He was quite ready to allow that they had no more right to do an injustice to a few than they had to a many; but, after all, this was only a question of degree; the police, under existing laws, had duties to discharge on Sunday as well as on other days: the same persons would not be employed week after week, and relays could easily be obtained for the limited number that would be required for such a purpose. He did not know on what ground hon. Gentlemen could argue against the employment of attendants in a national institution to wait on the public, because there was not a family or household in the country that altogether dispensed with domestic services on that day; even those who advocated the strictest observance of the Sabbath did not hesitate to employ a domestic ser- vant; and if a family of eight or ten persons did not scruple to give employment to some one domestic servant during a part of that day, he did not see on what general ground or principle it could be contended that, perhaps, more than 20,000 persons who entered a museum or picture gallery had not a right to command the services of the limited number of servants they required, as this would probably not amount to more than one attendant to every 500 persons, or not more than one-tenth of the labour, proportionate to the advantages and conveniences derived, which is required in every ordinary family. He could only say that he should vote for this Resolution, believing it to be, educationally and morally, a most important measure; believing it would be a precedent which would be applied not only to this metropolis, but to all the great towns of the country, and believing that the line of demarkation which an hon. Gentleman had told them it was so difficult to draw between places of an innocent and improving recreation and those of a wholly opposite nature, would be easily defined by those who were not wilfully blind to it.


said, this was one of the most important questions that could engage the attention of that House, because it concerned the due observance of the Sabbath. The hon. Mover of the Motion had claimed the advocacy of Dr. Arnold, on the ground that the doctor was not averse to the running of mail trains on Sunday; but Dr. Arnold had never said or done anything to justify a violation of the Sabbath, and therefore he considered that an unfair use had been made of his name. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion had reminded them that originally the Sabbath was held on Saturday, but the hon. Member forgot that the original Sabbath was held in commemoration of the creation of the world, while the Christians changed the day—not the purpose of the day—in honour of the salvation of the world. Therefore, the one day was just as sacred as the other. He was admonished by the clock that they were rapidly advancing upon the fast day, and it seemed somewhat strange to him to find the House on the eve of a fast day discussing the question of a due observance of the Sabbath. The speech, however, of the noble Lord who had just addressed them he had listened to with so much sorrow and pain, that he felt constrained to continue the discussion, if it was only for the sake of exposing the evil tendency of that speech. It advanced principles which he considered to be adverse to all good government, which were opposed to all true religion, and which he believed to be detrimental to the best interests of the community at large. The noble Lord argued that the poor man, being engaged in work for six days, could not afford sufficient time for instruction. What, then, was the natural inference? Why, that the seventh day should be devoted to instruction, and what better places could they resort to for instruction than those where they were taught the best things for their eternal interest? Spite of all the secular knowledge they might obtain at your British Museums and National Galleries, much better would it be for them to go to church or to chapel, where they would learn how to obtain everlasting salvation. The noble Lord's notions of teaching were akin to that of the Athenians and Corinthians, who excelled in all the polite arts of life, but whose proficiency in those intellectual acquirements did not tend to the advancement of their morals and religious feeling. This was a most important question, and he hoped the hon. Mover of the Motion would have the courage to bring it to the test of a division.


said, it was his fortune to be connected with one of the institutions referred to in this Motion, and perhaps, therefore, he might be permitted to offer a few observations, not only with regard to this institution, but also upon the general question. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Southwark (Mr. A. Pellatt) proposed, as an Amendment to the original Motion, that the British Museum should be opened every day in the week except Sunday; but that at all events it should be opened on Saturday and Monday evenings. Now, as a trustee of that institution, he could honestly say that it had been the desire of that body that the Museum should be opened on the day most convenient to the working classes, and upon examination of those most competent to give an opinion, it was determined that Monday was the day which, generally speaking, the working classes devoted to such purposes as visiting these institutions. The hon. Member for Southwark could hardly be aware, judging from his Amendment, that the British Museum was opened to the general public on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; Tuesdays and Thurs- days were appropriated to artists, and if Saturdays were not allotted to the working classes it was because one day in the week was required for the purpose of cleansing the building. If, however, such an arrangement could be made, as to give Saturday evenings to the working classes, he was sure the trustees would reconsider the question of opening; and although he could not promise what the result would be, he would yet undertake that the matter should be duly considered. But hon. Members would form a very erroneous opinion if they thought this Motion was confined simply to opening the British Museum on Sundays; it involved, upon the showing of those who advocated the Motion, the great principle of allowing public amusements to be part of the business of the Lord's day; and if hon. Gentlemen advocated the Motion so far as the metropolis was concerned, how could they refuse a similar concession to Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, and other large towns, where the places of public resort might not be of the same intellectual and moral character as the British Museum? Dr. Gray, of the Museum, had well remarked, if they allowed people to inspect inanimate representations of wild animals on Sundays, how could they refuse them the right of witnessing, on the same day, the living forms as they were carried about in caravans to different places? He looked, therefore, upon this measure as the first step towards the authorised desecration of the Sabbath. He had been surprised to hear the noble Lord opposite declare his intention to vote for a resolution which called on the House to express an opinion at variance with the existing law. The law required the Sabbath to be observed, and that no works should be done on that day but those of necessity, piety, or charity. The resolution was in direct collision with the law, and before they adopted it, they were bound to fix the limits to which public amusements should be allowed to run on Sundays. It was a mistake to argue this question upon the ground that it was better to allow people to visit the British Museum than to frequent public-houses, because the due observance or the desecration of the Sabbath was not to be determined by any comparison of that nature. The question at issue was simply this—would the opening of the British Museum in the manner proposed by the Resolution be conformable or not to the will of Him who framed the Sabbath? It was a violation of the divine law, and in the violation of the divine law there could be no degree. All experience proved that the breach of one divine law was only the forerunner of more aggravated guilt. If they disregarded the little sin, they would soon come to commit the greater sin. Could it believed that by the mere insertion of the words, that these places of amusement should be opened after the hours of divine service, they would promote the attendance of the people at their respective places of worship? The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Biggs) who seconded the Motion appeared to be of opinion that the British Museum was intended for the benefit of those who resided in its immediate neighbourhood. Such was not, however, the case; indeed, the greater number of those who visited that institution were in the habit of coming from Whitechapel, Kensington, and the more distant quarters of the metropolis; and if, as the Motion proposed, the Museum were to be open after the hours of divine service, the consequence would be that attendance at church would to a great extent be precluded in the case of those visitors from the more remote quarters of London. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) had stated that Sunday was the only day upon which the poorer classes could enjoy the privilege of visiting the Museum; and supposing that to be the case, it would follow, if it were thrown open on the Sabbath, that parties would be formed by the inhabitants of the more distant portions of the metropolie to visit it, and that those persons, instead of attending at the churches of their respective districts, would pass the greater portion of the Sunday either in travelling to and from their homes, or in those places of refreshment contiguous to the Museum. In the evening, then, they would return tired and weary, and he was afraid but little improved in a moral or intellectual, and still less, in all probability, in a religious point of view. But passing from that topic he would ask the House what right they had, by passing a Resolution which was in opposition to the existing law, to enjoin the necessity of the attendance of a certain number of individuals at such institutions as the British Museum upon a Sunday? Let them suppose that some of the parties refused to obey, what then would be the consequence? Why, the House must, under those circumstances, either enforce the orders or remove from their situations the individuals who declined to obey it. It could hardly be supposed that the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Lord Chancellor, who were trustees of the Museum, would aid the House in enforcing an order which was contrary to law; and if the latter alternative were urged, and the person refusing to obey the order should be dismissed, the result would be that he would be regarded as a martyr, and a feeling of opposition to the Legislature would be excited throughout the country generally, which would tend to bring upon it the contempt of the public at large. These being his sentiments upon the subject, he should vote against the Resolution.


said, that after the admirable speech of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, he would not have intruded upon the attention of the House at that late hour, but that he considered some remarks had been made in the course of the debate which ought not to go forth to the world unanswered. The supporters of this Motion had been represented as being animated by a sordid desire to extend the hours of labour and grind down the operative classes; but surely when the hon. Seconder of the Motion had been distinguished for his liberal treatment of those in his employment, and when other advocates of the Resolution had only the other night recorded their votes in favour of the protection of the working classes from excessive labour to a degree which the majority of the House thought too far for legislative enactment to go, accusations of this kind were the last that should be preferred against them. The right hon. Gentleman who spoke last told them of the generous intentions of the trustees of the British Museum for the accommodation of the working classes; but the proposer of the Amendment argued upon an assumption which was both a fallacy and a mockery—namely, that Saturday and Monday would be convenient days for this portion of the people to visit that institution. Why, this Motion was only brought forward after repeated attempts had been unsuccessfully made to have the Museum opened in the evening, that those whose occupations prevented them from frequenting it in the daytime might enjoy that privilege during their only hour of leisure. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (the Marquess of Blandford) rested his argument on the experience already acquired of the working of the Beer Bill, but if he had examined the returns from the Duchy of Lancaster he would have found that, although the amount of Sunday drunkenness might, perhaps, have diminished there under the operation of that measure, yet that the aggregate amount of drunkenness spread over the whole week had rather increased. Moreover, that Bill checked the disposition of the people to make Sunday excursions, because it told them that if they went into the country on that day they could not obtain the refreshments they required; but surely if they were to be precluded from enjoying the grand and lovely scenes of nature, they ought not to be denied the other alternative of access to those marvels of antiquity and of art which they could find at home. It was greatly to be regretted that the debate had taken so much of a theological turn—a thing totally unnecessary and very undesirable, because the first four or five speeches that had been made had developed as many different theories relative to the due observance of the Lord's day. An assembly like that, embodying so great a diversity of religious doctrine and opinion, was not a fit body to argue a question on peculiarly theological grounds. The Motion did not necessarily involve such a discussion—indeed, it was only introduced to assert the assumed right of one man to impose his own theology upon another. The real question was chiefly one of property. The British Museum and the National Gallery were national institutions, and enriched by liberal donations of the public money—they were the people's collections and the people's treasuries of art, and yet they locked their doors against their rightful owners and contributors on the Sunday. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goulburn) said that the people of Manchester and Liverpool could not be prevented from going to see collections of living animals if this Motion were adopted for London; but did he forget that a man might now see as many living specimens of wild beasts of different countries as he pleased in that metropolis on a Sunday, if he were only rich enough to pay twenty guineas as an entrance fee and a five guinea annual subscription. It was contended that there was no gradation in the desecration of the Sabbath; but what must be said of this general practice, which was now tolerated and patronised by the aristocracy? It had been continually assumed in the discussion of this question that there was some divine law enjoining the strict observance of the Sabbath, which was contended for. That, however, was a matter of opinion. Sabbatarianism, in the modern sense of the word, never had been a doctrine of the universal Christian Church. It was never a doctrine of the early Christians, of the Roman Catholic Church, or of the first Protestants. Luther exhorted—nay, even commanded his followers, if any one attempted to impose such a law on them, to walk, to ride, to dance, and to hunt, and to do anything on the Sabbath. Calvin, Cranmer, and most of the celebrated teachers of the early Protestant Church, condemned the doctrine. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had spoken of the natural tendency of the objects which it was now sought to admit the working classes to visit on the Sabbath, to elevate the religious feelings and associations of the people; and that it was so was evident from the fact that all religious bodies to the extent of their ability had availed themselves of associations similar to those produced by the great works of art and the curiosities of nature to awaken and keep alive religious feelings in the minds of their congregations. What Church was there which had not availed itself, so far as it could, of the splendours of sublime architecture, and the power of statuary, painting, or music? He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, that it would be well if some law could be passed to define what could and what could not be done on a Sunday. At present, the strict observance of the Sabbath, as contended for by the extreme party, was notoriously set at nought in all classes of the community, and perhaps most of all by the rich. They were asked what would be the outcry through the country, if a porter of the British Museum suffered martyrdom for refusing to do his work on the Sunday. But it was forgotten that, even at the present time, if such dismissal could be called martyrdom, the porter of a gentleman's house might suffer martyrdom for not working on a Sunday. A rich man, by his Sunday wants, set at least ten persons to work, and the British Museum could be opened without imposing labour on any greater number, and that not for the enjoyment and accommodation of one man, but for the recreation and instruction of thousands. It certainly was discreditable to see useful reforms of this nature opposed and defeated by prejudice, ignorance, and intolerance, acting under the disguise of religious feeling.


The House, I think, Sir, has pretty well made up its mind how to vote upon these two Motions, but I wish shortly to state the grounds upon which I shall feel it necessary to vote against both. In the first place, this mode of putting questions before the House, of proposing Motions in the shape of abstract Resolutions (though certainly in this case there might have been a difficulty in placing the question directly before the House), is not one which it is desirable should be generally adopted. Without, however, entering into the theological discussion which has been raised to-night, we must all agree that the respectful observance of the Sabbath is a principle which it is highly desirable and necessary to encourage. We must all admit, too, that in proportion as that observance prevails, we may expect to see the people of a country moral and well educated, and in proportion, on the contrary, as it is treated with disrespect, we may expect to see the conduct of the people such as we should not desire it to be. My opinion is that Sunday ought to be a day of rest, of devotion, and of cheerful and innocent recreation. To enforce that strict observance of Sunday for which some persons contend is obviously impossible. That no work should be done on Sunday would stop the whole movement of social existence; but it is impossible for any law to define—and I think it would be inexpedient for Parliament to attempt to pass such a law—the precise degree to which that principle may properly be carried. That must be left to the conscience of each individual. Each man must be left to determine, according to his own position and circumstances, to what degree he can combine the ordinary and necessary occupations of life with what he considers the proper observance of Sunday. But when a matter is brought before Parliament in regard to which the religious feelings of a great portion of the community are deeply affected, it is highly inexpedient that Parliament should by any vote set itself in opposition to that which is the religious feeling of the people. I think Parliament would be doing an injudicious act if, by any vote of its own, or or by any Resolution, it should lead the country to think that it is less mindful of those religious principles which ought to govern the conduct of all men than the great mass of the community themselves are. For these reasons, thinking that the Resolution of the hon. Member for Leices- ter would do violence to the feelings of a large portion of the community—feelings which we are bound to respect, and which it is highly desirable studiously to encourage—I shall give my opposition to the original Motion. To the Amendment of the hon. Member for Southwark I shall object, not, of course, on the same grounds as to the original Motion, but for the technical reasons urged by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Goulburn), that the opening of the Museum and the National Gallery on the Saturday as well as on the Monday would allow of no opportunity for keeping those buildings clean mid in proper order.


said, he must beg to express the satisfaction with which he had heard the statement of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, that steps should be taken, if possible, to open the British Museum to the working classes on Saturdays.


said, he had brought forward the Motion believing it would be practically useful, but he had no wish to press it, finding the great majority of the House to be of a different opinion. He still believed that his views were in accordance with those of a large portion of the public, and if it were the wish of the House he was quite willing to go to a division. If his Motion were rejected at the present moment, he was sure it would ultimately be carried.

Question put:—

The House divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 235: Majority 187.


said, that he would withdraw his Amendment in full confidence in the pledge which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge with respect to opening the British Museum on Saturday afternoon.


said, he had not given any pledge. He had only promised that the subject should be carefully considered.

Words added:—Main Question, as amended, proposed, and, by leave, withdrawn.