HC Deb 08 June 1863 vol 171 cc525-45

rose to move a Resolution— That, in the opinion of this House, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh should be open to the Public after the hours of Divine Service on Sundays, as is the case of other Botanical Gardens supported by Parliamentary Grants. It might be asked why this subject had not been brought forward by one of the representatives of Scotland? His answer was, that if the Question could be decided by a vote by ballot of the Scotch Members, he felt certain, from information he had received, that it would be carried by a large minority. It was not pleasant, however, for any hon. Member connected with a Scotch constituency to offend a section of his supporters, even though it might not be a large one. If the question were one of primary importance, he had that confidence in the public spirit of hon. Gentlemen from Scotland, that he felt sure they would not hesitate to take the course which seemed to them to be right; but they could not be expected to run counter to the wishes of a considerable section of their constituents in a matter of such comparatively small consequence. The reason why he brought the subject forward was, because two year ago he had been successful in a similar Motion with respect to the Gardens at Glasnevin, near Dublin, and he had therefore been requested by many of the in habitants of Edinburgh to take up their case. He had no reason to complain of any attack made upon him by the Scotch laity in consequence of the notice he bad given; but some of the Scotch clergy had used rather strong language respecting his Motion, which deserved a place amongst the amenities of theological literature. The Rev. Dr. Begg, in a recent speech, for instance, had stated that it was a very painful thing to have the Scotch Sabbath interfered with by the representative of an Irish Popish con stituency—by a representative of "one of the most degraded Popish communities in the world." He could only say in reply that he hoped that Dr. Begg would learn to display a little less of the zeal of a theologian, and a little more of the graces and the gentleness of a Christian. In 1861 a demand was made by the working classes of Dublin for the opening of the Glasnevin Botanical Gardens on Sundays. It was violently opposed. The predictions were sinister indeed. It was asserted that large numbers of persons would rush over the grounds in a state pf drunkenness, and destroy everything. At the same time he was told—for the opposition, as the sailors said, blew from all points of the compass at once—he was told that no one would go to the Gardens at all on Sundays. With regard to the first allegation, he was glad to say, that so far from any damage having been done, the working classes, as they would always do when they were trusted, bad constituted themselves the guardians of the public property; and not a single shrub or plant had been injured. He had seen letters from Mr. Moore, the curator, and Captain Lindsay, the resident magistrate of the neighbourhood, stating that the step of opening the Gardens had fulfilled their most sanguine expectations; that the conduct of the people had been most orderly; and that it was likely to be of material service to the cause of morality and religion. With regard to the second allegation, that the working men would not go to the Gardens, he would only quote one or two figures. In 1861, the year before the Gardens were opened on Sunday, the whole number of visitors was only 39,800. In the first ten months after the opening on Sunday the number had increased to 226,763. Strange to say, the number visiting the Gardens on week days had also increased, for they amounted in the same ten months to 43,220. The fact was, that until this Sunday afternoon opening the gardens were virtually unknown; but the people who went there told their friends, a taste for flowers sprang up, and the gardens bad in consequence become a great attraction to the poorer citizens of Dublin. With respect to the Edinburgh Gardens, the working people of that city, having seen the advantage of opening the Glasnevin Gardens, had presented a Petition signed by 14,000 of their body, praying that their Gardens also might be made accessible to them after the hours of Divine Service. They stated they were chiefly working men, whose labour and domestic duties left them no opportunity to visit the Gardens on week-days. They quote the decision of the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1854— That it was expedient that places of rational recreation and instruction, then closed, should be open to the public on Sunday after two o'clock. And they added— No kind of recreation or instruction can be more rational than that derivable by working men And their families from visits to such places: not only will they thus be led to take wholesome exercise in the open air, but their tastes will be elevated, their knowledge of the works of nature increased, and their devotional feelings nourished and stimulated. To this a counter Petition against the Bill had been got up by a Society calling itself "The Sabbath Alliance." It stated that to open the Gardens would involve a violation of the Divine law, which forbade men from doing their pleasure on the Sabbath Day; that it would be the beginning of a series of alterations ending in the opening of the theatres on Sundays; and that as the Gardens were already opened on Saturday evenings, the working classes had no occasion to go to them on Sunday, Exactly the same objections had been urged by the opposition in Dublin, and they had a much better case, for the Glasnevin Gardens were largely supported by private funds, whereas those at Edinburgh were wholly kept up by the public money. He had no intention to go into the theological question; but if it be a violation of divine law to have rational amusement on the seventh day, he would only say that the principle had been repeatedly sanctioned by the Legislature. Successive Ministries and Votes of the House of Commons had permitted the opening on Sundays of Kew Gardens, Hampton Court, and other places. The future King of England did not entertain those opinions; as only a few Sundays previously he and the Princess visited the Zoological Gardens, and no doubt he took his pleasure in that most interesting collection of natural history. And with regard to the objection, that if the Gardens were opened, theatres too would come to be open on Sundays, it would be sufficient to say that not a single Petition had ever been presented to the House in favour of such a proposition; and when such a request was made, it would be time enough to deal with it. He wished to ask the gentlemen of the Sabbath Alliance why it was that every single Park frequented by the higher classes in Edinburgh was open on Sunday, whilst these Gardens were closed? The Gardens of Edinburgh might be divided into three classes: those belonging to local proprietors or associations; those belonging to the City itself, represented by its corporation; and those belonging to the Crown. Of the first class of these Gardens—such as West Prince's Gardens, Regent Terrace, Royal Terrace, and others—no less than six were open to the higher classes who could pay, while on religious grounds the Botanic Gardens were closed to the lower classes who could not. As a very ably-written Scotch paper, The Scotsman, remarked, this is much worse than compounding for sins we are inclined to, by damning those we have no mind to; for this is compromising for the recreations we perpetrate by forcibly disabling others from doing likewise. Now, there had been presented to the House Petitions in favour of opening the Gardens, signed by working men to the number of 35,800, and the petitioners declared that they were ready to have the Petition analysed and signatures tested, for they were perfectly bonâ fide. On the other hand, a Petition was presented, signed by 63,000 of the people of Edinburgh. But he (Mr. Gregory) had been credibly informed that this Petition was signed by women, by children, by whole schools of young people, and that the pressure put upon these children was such that they were compelled to sign, without knowing, in the slightest degree, what it was they were signing. [The hon. Gentleman then read letters which he had taken pains to authenticate, and which gave instances of girls of fourteen, ten, and eleven years of age being asked to sign, and upon their refusal, being turned out of the school and told never to come their again.] In one instance the writer's stepdaughter was called upon by the lady teacher to sign the Petition, and, upon refusing, was ordered to leave the school and not to return. Two other girls were turned away from the same school for not signing. Another correspondent said that on the 26th of April his youngest sister, ten years old, went to the Sunday School. Immediately after school was over the teacher produced a Petition against opening the Gardens on Sunday, and requesting the girls of the class to put down their names, which was done by some of them. A working man wrote to say that his daughter, a girl of between ten and eleven, was attending the Sunday School as usual; and when school was over, the lady teacher produced a sheet, and asked the girls to sign. The writer's daughter refusing, she was turned out of doors, and ordered never to come back. He believed that a very large proportion of the signatures were those of women and children, whereas the whole of the 35,800 petitioners who signed in favour of the opening might be tested. One of the arguments used against the opening of these Gardens was that it would lead to drunkenness. Now, with regard to drunkenness, he had witnessed the scenes which took place in the streets of Edinburgh. It was a most painful sight, and such as he believed could be seen in no other cities in the world, except, perhaps, Glasgow. Two things were clear. It was very certain that Scotch asceticism in the observance of the Sabbath produced no effect in diminishing the prevalence of drunkenness. Another thing was also clear, that where recreation had been placed within reach of the working classes, their amendment in this respect had been very conspicuous. Since the opening of Kew Gardens the amount of drunkenness in the neighbourhood had diminished; and Sir Joseph Paxton, in giving evidence before a Committee in 1854, stated that some 500 or 800 persons frequently came on Sundays from Sheffield to go over the house and grounds at Chatsworth. They used to go to the public-houses to put up their horses, but they never sat there sotting and drinking. About ten years ago the Duke of Devonshire closed the gardens at Chatsworth on Sunday. Nearly the same number of people used to come from Sheffield; but not having the gardens to resort to, they were driven to frequent the public-houses, and great disturbances arose. Representations were made to the Duke, who re-opened the gardens on Sunday; the disorders ceased, and now it was found necessary to employ no more than two persons to look after the grounds on Sundays. This was a question of something more than a mere opening of gardens; the question was, would the House of Commons sanction the principle that a number of men—granted a majority—should impose what he would call pains and penalties upon a minority? No man was more ready than he was to make every allowance for conscientious feeling; but there were people in the world, possessed of ideas peculiar to themselves, who were desirous of gratifying the indulgence of those ideas by doing certain acts, or by imposing certain restrictions upon others, which involved the infliction of pains and penalties. He hoped there was nothing in the nature of Scotchmen which unfitted them for the recreation which was to be derived from surveying the works of nature to a greater extent than their brethren in England and Ireland. He now begged to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh should be open to the Public after the hours of Divine Service on Sundays, as is the case of other Botanical Gardens supported by Parliamentary Grants,"—(Mr. Gregory,) —instead thereof


said, he did not blame the hon. Gentleman for bringing the subject forward; but it was a significant fact, that both the Members for Edinburgh and the other Scotch Members had abstained from doing so. He was quite certain the votes of those Members would riot be recorded in favour of the Motion. If it were the fact, as the hon. Member supposed, that the feeling of their constituents was so strong that they would vote one way because the division would be known, and would vote a different way if a ballot were employed, then the Government had acted very wisely in deferring to a public feeling which was so powerful in Scotland, He (the Lord Advocate), however, thought that both his hon. Colleague (Mr. Black) and himself had given sufficient proof of their independence, because it was not so long since they had voted in the majority upon the division on May-nooth—a question upon which there was a very strong feeling in Scotland. He was prepared to say, for all the Scotch Members, that they were not men to be driven or dragooned into voting on any question in a way they did not approve, even though their constituents might have a strong view upon the matter. A parallel had been drawn between the case of the Gardens at Dublin and those at Edinburgh. But the case of Edinburgh was the converse of Dublin in every respect; and the course adopted by the Government in this case was the same in principle as that pursued in the Glasnevin case, though it led to a different result. The Gardens in Dublin belonged to a society, and were open to the 1,500 members of that society, not merely on the week days, but on Sundays also. A Petition was presented to the Department of Science and Art, or to. Parliament, praying that the Gardens might be open on the Sundays, not only to the members, but to the public generally; and it seemed, according to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman, that a minority of 6,000 inhabitants of Dublin petitioned against the opening of the Gardens in Dublin on Sundays, though they were quite willing that they should continue open to the 1,500 members of the society. Therefore, in that case, a large majority were on one side, and a minority on the other. Beyond this, the hon. Gentleman stated that the inhabitants of Dublin had no other place for recreation or for the enjoyment of the fresh air on a Sunday. The case with regard to Edinburgh was the converse in almost every respect; and while regretting that without sufficient cause there should be raised in that House questions with respect to which great diversity of opinion in a religious point of view prevailed, he felt quite certain that there never was more slender ground for a Motion like the present than that which existed in the case of the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. Those Gardens were attached to the Professorship of Botany in the University, and were strictly botanical. They were never intended for public promenade; they were laid out in a scientific manner; they amounted to eighteen acres in all, and were situated a couple of miles beyond the residence of the greater part of the working classes of Edinburgh. He appealed to his hon. Friend and Colleague, to the Member for Bute, and to hon. Members acquainted with Edinburgh, to say whether there was any ground for believing that opening these Gardens at four o'clock or half past four on the Sunday would be of any appreciable advantage to the working classes of Edinburgh. He admitted, that if this question arose with regard to a crowded community, where the artisans worked from week to week without the opportunity of breathing the fresh air or seeing the green fields, it would then arise under circumstances different from the present; but in Edinburgh there was no lack of fresh air for the working classes, who had immediate access to the country from all parts of the city. Instead of going a couple of miles to the eighteen acres of Botanical Gardens, the working classes of Edinburgh could, in five minutes, get into a solitude as wild as any in the heart of the Highlands, and into the midst of scenery not to be surpassed in any part of the United Kingdom. They had at their command spots for recreation beyond the inhabitants of any other city with which he was acquainted; and in the time they would take to get to the low level of the Botanical Gardens they might roam over Arthur's Seat, and ascend to the top of high hills, and see the view described in Marmion. Therefore there was no ground, so far as public necessity was concerned, for the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He would not go into the general question as to the observance of the Sunday, further than to say that it was notorious that in Scotland, as in England, diversity of opinion prevailed in respect to it; and it was exceedingly undesirable to raise discussions in the House of Commons leading to the irritation which generally accompanied controversies on such points. However, public opinion in Scotland was clear in regard to this particular case, that there was no ground for giving offence to the many who maintained strict views on the observance of the Sabbath. He was not going to enter upon matters connected with the Petitions which had been presented, though a good many letters had been addressed to him with regard to the Petition to which the hon. Member alluded as proceeding from the working men of Edinburgh. These accusations were often made by both sides. The general ground on which he thought the Government justified in not entertaining the proposition to throw the Gardens open on Sundays was simply that by so doing they would give offence to a large portion of the community, and he thought that there existed no public advantage in raising the question. The hon. Gentleman said that the principle should be maintained that the majority should not coerce the minority; but it was also to be observed, that when a large body of people held a thing to be matter of principle and conscience, and another body held it to be a matter of indifference, it was reasonable that those who held it to be indifferent should give way. He would not discuss whether the Scotch or the English way of spending Sundays most tended to sobriety and morality; but it would be difficult to show that there was any connection between drunkenness in Scotland and the mode of keeping the Sabbath there. On the contrary, he thought that those who spent the Sunday in the way in which the majority of the Scotch people thought right were not those who drank the most or figured chiefly in the police reports. On the part of his constituents, and of the working men of Edinburgh, he expressed a hope that the House would support the Government, and not allow this question of controversy and irritation to be opened.


hoped that the Government would not oppose this very reasonable proposition. He should like to hear some better reason given why that which was right at Glasnevin and Kew must be wrong at Edinburgh. He begged to tender his thanks to the hon. Member for Galway for having brought forward this question. The right hon. Gentleman (the Lord Advocate) opposed the Motion by asserting, broadly and simply, that public opinion was opposed to the proposal; but he wisely declined entering into a criticism respecting the Petition. But the House should bear in mind that the Petition from Edinburgh, for opening the Gardens on Sundays, was signed by upwards of 35,000 adult males, while the contrary Petition, with 63,000 names, bore the signatures of many women and children; and of all the instances of scandalous Petitions he had heard of in that House he had never known one more scandalous. It was all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he had his pocket full of letters against the Petition for opening the Gardens on Sundays; he (Mr. Stirling) had also received numerous letters, and as a stimulus to induce the right hon. Gentleman to produce his, he would trouble the House with one or two on the other side, the value of which he taken means to test. One writer said— When the person intrusted with the Petition against the opening of the Gardens called and requested my signature, I replied that I had already signed one of the Petitions, without stating which. He, believing that I had signed a Petition against the opening, said, 'Oh, never mind, sign again; we want as many signatures as possible;' whereupon I undeceived him by stating that I had signed a Petition in favour of the opening. Another writer said, that being out at the time when the Petition was brought to the door, his sister signed; and although she knew that his sentiments were adverse to the tenour of the Petition, she added his signature, saying, "I know my minister is against the opening of the Gardens, and therefore I cannot be wrong in adding my brother's name to the Petition." If the teaching of that minister inculcated such doctrines as that, it must be of a very questionable character; and it would be ludicrous, if it were not painful, to see the means by which people, excellent in their way, sought to bolster up their own interpretation of one of the Divine Commandments by breaches of several of the rest. He would not trouble the House further with stories about the schools. He could use no other terms in reference to the conduct of those who maintained them, than that it was scandalous, and that by inducing little children to support their own peculiar prejudices, they were striking at the root of all which they professed to teach in those schools. The right hon. Gentleman, with the plausibility and pleasantness of manner which always distinguish him, told them that the public opinion of Edinburgh was unquestionably against the Motion of his hon. Friend. He held in his hand a Petition followed by four octavo pages full of names of men of position and men of science, citizens of Edinburgh. The list began with Lord Dunfermline, Sir J. M'Neill, Professor Play fair, and a num- ber of professors, and contained also the names of a few of the clergy, and many of the most respectable shopkeepers. The list contained the names of the best people of Edinburgh, and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to produce a list equal in number and eminence against the Motion, One thing, with regard to public opinion, be must admit, and while he admitted it he greatly regretted it. A large majority of the clergy of all denominations in Scotland were against the Motion, and they were supported by those who took part in the Ecclesiastical Assemblies. But, he ventured to say, with all respect to the clergy, and to those lay persons with ecclesiastical tendencies that they did not represent the intelligent opinion of the laity of Scotland. He could give ah instance in what occurred not many days ago in the Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland. A rev. gentleman, well known in Scotland, brought before the Assembly the fact that Her Majesty had erected on one of the hills near Balmoral a monument to the late Prince Consort. Upon that monument Her Majesty had caused to be inscribed a few touching words taken from the Wisdom of Solomon—words which, no doubt, had some tender association with the illustrious Prince, whom the monument was intended to commemorate. This rev. gentleman, in the course of a long speech, brought those words before his brethren, and maintained the proposition, which he thought would not be entertained with, much respect in that House, that because the words were taken from the Apocrypha, Her Majesty seemed to imply that the Apocryphal book was of equal authority with the Holy Scriptures. He did not wish to misrepresent the rev. gentleman, and as there might be some doubt of his accuracy, he would like to read the very words. The words occured at the close of the rev. gentleman's speech. He had already spoken of the inscription as a Popish inscription, and he said, "Scotland cannot but regard these words as an offence to the Bible which Scotland loves, and to the religion which Scotland has inherited." He was sorry to see, by the report of the speech, that this rev. and frantic divine was interrupted by several marks of applause, and, as far as he saw, he certainly departed from the Assembly without receiving the rebuke which his language and logic deserved. His hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop), whom he saw in his place, rose immediately after the rev. gentleman, and did not endorse the sentiment; but there was no one present who made any reply. Were they to understand that reasoning such as that was to be held to be a fair specimen of the opinion of the laity of the Free Church of Scotland? Unquestionably not. Until he was informed by his hon. Friend the Member for Greenock, or some one of equal authority, that the laity of the Free Church held such opinions, he should not believe it. The truth was, that in Scotland, as in other countries, the clergy were obliged to do a good deal of the public speaking; and the consequence was, that they spoke their full share of nonsense. But even were it not so, he was happy to think that upon this particular subject, even in these ecclesiastical assemblies, a better spirit was rising. In the Free Church Assembly, of which he had spoken, a highly-esteemed Gentleman, the late Member for Edinburgh, in a very sensible and excellent speech, opposed the Petition against the Resolution of his hon. Friend, and said he was not of those who saw any outrage upon the feelings of Scotland in opening a garden to walk in after church. In the Assembly of the Established Church one of the most able of the younger ministers of the Church supported a Motion in favour of this Resolution. He hoped, therefore, that public opinion upon this subject would gradually change, and that what appeared to be a minority would very soon be a majority. The only other argument which he saw much mentioned by those who opposed this Motion, was that it would entail labour upon the men employed in the Gardens. The staff of labourers was about twenty-five, and those who contracted not to labour on Sundays would probably not be asked to do police duty in the Gardens when the public were admitted. But he believed that three or four men were at present employed on Sundays in the Gardens, and that they would be quite sufficient for the purpose. Even if a few more should be required, he thought that such a boon as that of opening the Gardens to some 30,000 toil-worn men would justify their employment. At all events, if men, who now worked in the greenhouses and other parts of the Garden on Sundays, should feel their consciences injured by having to see that the public did no damage to the walks and beds, there would be no difficulty in supplying their places with others. The only remaining point which he wished to ask the House to consider was this:—With what face could they refuse permission to the working classes to walk in Gardens for which they paid after they had expressed a desire to do so. He had the honour to be acquainted with many persons, both in Scotland and England, who belonged to what was called the religious world, and with many others, who, whether they desired to be ranked in that regiment or not, were sincerely and truly religious. Did he find that in their country houses on Sundays people were taken into a room, with the blinds down, and there compelled to read and meditate entirely upon theological questions? That was not his experience. He would say that on Sunday afternoons, the very period of the day referred to in the Resolution, was exactly the time devoted to lounging and harmless sightseeing—when the conservatories, the stable, the garden, or the kennel were visited by persons whose lives and conversation would be admitted to be models for the rest of their neighbours. How could those who possessed these things by accident and fortune, rather than from any merit of their own, and who enjoyed them on Sundays, say with any face to the poor man claiming his small share of public institutions, "We ore sorry for you; we have received your Petition, and while we enjoy our own gardens on Sunday, our respect for the Sabbath is such that we must refuse your request?" He would only add that he hoped his hon. Friend would persevere with his Motion, and that what had been done at Glasnevin and Kew would also be done at Edinburgh.


Sir, I wish to say a word or two on this question, especially as I cannot on this occasion conscientiously vote with my right hon. Friend (The Lord Advocate), whose lead upon Scotch matters I am generally proud to follow. It seems to me that we have nothing to do with the motives of those who raised this Botanic Garden controversy. They may be right, they may be wrong; we have only to decide how a dispute should be settled which others have had the responsibility of commencing; and, I confess, I do not see how it can be settled except in the way in which such controversies have been settled in, to the best of my belief, every other capital in Europe These gardens must be opened, if only for the sake of peace and quietness. The party which desires to open them is a great and growing one; it comprises a large portion of the intelligence of the country. It increases with every new facility for communication, with every step in the advance of real civilization and the diffusion of knowledge. Who are those who are opposed to the opening? They may be divided into three classes—First, there is a large body of people who do not go very deeply into this particular controversy, but who have a general idea that by opposing the opening of these gardens they are taking the side of religion. I wish to speak of many of these people with the greatest respect. Their ranks include a large number of persons of the type alluded to by one of the greatest of English poets, when be speaks of— Choice word, and measured phrase, Such as grave livers do in Scotland use— Religious men, who give to God and man their dues. We should deal gently even with the prejudices of such men; but even their prejudices will, when a short time has passed, not he offended by seeing their neighbours walk in the Botanic Garden, any more than they are now offended by seeing them walk in those of Princes Street. Secondly, you have, undoubtedly, a certain number of persons who really have violent and bitter opinions upon this Sunday question, but they are not numerous—far less numerous than is generally supposed. It is useless to point out to those men that the high Sabbatarian doctrine which is popular in some circles, north and south of the Tweed, was invented by the very persons whom they most abhor—by the Roman Canonists—and was, perhaps, more the work of the great Spanish Doctor Tostatus than any other man. It is useless to assure them that Luther abhorred it, that Calvin describes it in words fierce and bitter after his fashion, as "crassa carnalisque Sabbati superstitio. It is useless, I say, to argue with them; but it is not a small knot of impracticable men who can be allowed to govern the legislation of the country. But I am afraid that, in addition to these two classes of which I have spoken, there is a third, with whose apparent zeal is mingled a great deal of selfish calculation. There are persons who feel, that if the whole truth on this and other subjects is distinctly to be told to the people, the virtual leadership of the people will pass into other hands than theirs. These men know the susceptibilities of their countrymen, and practise on them, making them the lever of their own ambition. I never yet heard of a country where there was too much real religion, and assuredly if there ever was a country where the religious sanction was needed to supplement the efficacy of other sanctions, that country is Scotland. If any one doubts what I say, I commend him to the study of that most interesting, but also most grim and grisly book, Chambers's Domestic Annals. If, therefore, I thought that the proposal of the hon. Member for Galway would have the very slightest effect in diminishing the amount of religion in Scotland, I would certainly oppose it; but as I feel certain it will have an opposite effect, I have no choice but to follow him into the lobby. In doing so, I shall only take the same line which was taken a few days ago in the General Assembly of the Established Church, by some of the most distinguished ecclesiastics connected with the district of country with which I am best acquainted, and which I am well assured will be in my own constituency approved by many, acquiesced in by more, and resented by few or none of those who have hitherto honoured me with their general support and confidence.


said, it was not a pleasant thing to be called upon to pronounce a decision upon a point involving a difference of opinion between one's constituents, especially when that difference turned upon a small matter. He felt it, however, to be his duty to record his Vote against the opening of the Gardens in question. They occupied but a very limited spot of ground, set apart for the botanical class, and it was only between the hours of Divine Service that it was proposed to leave them open. Now, as Divine Service occupied from eleven till four, and was continued at eight, it was only between four and eight that advantage could be taken of the Gardens; and in winter, when the days were so short, there would be hardly any time to resort to them at all. Under these circumstances, much as he was in favour of giving the working man access to free air. he did not think it would be expedient to go in opposition to the feelings of the people of Edinburgh—whose sentiments were, he could from his own knowledge state, opposed to the proposition of the hon. Member for Galway—more particularly as few cities were better provided with places of recreation than Edinburgh where, if a man stood in need of fresh air he might obtain it more easily by going to some other quarter of the town, than by betaking himself to the Botanical Gardens Scotland, he might add, was a Presbyterian country, and all the children, at all events, of religious families there were indoctrinated with a catechism which taught a very strict observance of the Sabbath, so that a large portion of the community would respect it, in accordance with their opinion, whatever course Parliament might take. Whether this was a prejudice or not, the feeling of the Scottish people was opposed to the opening of the Gardens on Sundays, and he should vote against the Resolution.


said, that although he had the honour of representing a Scotch constituency for many years, he did not recollect that any one of his constituents had ever urged upon him the propriety of opening the question which the hon. Member for Galway had brought before the House; nor had he ever been requested to present a single Petition for opening public places of this description in Scotland on Sunday; whereas he had presented many Petitions against their being opened. In his belief, the fact was, as had been stated by the Lord Advocate in his able speech, a majority of the people of Scotland had a very strong feeling in the opposite direction; and on this, if on no other grounds, he thought they ought to reject this proposition. There could be no doubt, indeed, that whether rightly or wrongly, the opinion prevailed very generally in the country, that if the Motion of the hon. Member for Galway were carried, the decision would be adverse to the views of the great majority of her people. His hon. Friend had alluded to the fact that drunkenness existed to a great extent in Scotland; but he was happy to be able to state, from a Return which he held in his hand of the number of persons who had been found drunk in the streets of Edinburgh between eight o'clock on Sunday and eight o'clock on Monday morning, and been taken to the police office, that while in the six months ending March 31 in the year 1854 the number was 173, it had fallen in 1862 to 39, and in 1863 to 23. He regretted to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Perthshire call Dr. Candlish a "frantic divine," and hoped that on reflection he would withdraw an expression which was in itself offensive, and ought not to be applied to a man who had rendered such eminent service as had the rev. Gentleman referred to.


trusted that the House would deal with this question on the broad practical ground on which it had been placed by his right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, with whom he entirely concurred that the great preponderance of the feeling of the thinking people and of the working classes of Scotland was against the opening of these Gardens on Sunday. Many of the Petitions which had been presented to that House had, no doubt, been very irregularly obtained. He had been informed by an Episcopalian clergyman that in one instance he stood by a table on which a Petition in favour of the opening of the gardens lay for signature, and saw the boys from a neighbouring manufactory sign it, some of them two or three times. He did not suppose that this was peculiar to the Petitions in favour of the opening—they all knew what injudicious persons would do in getting up Petitions on any question. As had been abundantly shown, while there was a strong feeling against that measure, there was no great necessity, as far as the working classes were concerned, for opening these Gardens; and, in fact, there was no town in the world that had such facilities for recreation; and on that ground, therefore, he hoped the House would not accede to the Motion. Close to the part of the town in which they generally resided were the Queen's Park and Arthur's Seat; while to reach the Botanic Gardens, which included only eighteen acres of ground, they would have to walk nearly two miles. The opening of these gardens would, he was informed, from the way in which the gardens were laid out, every plant being ticketed, render necessary the attendance of at least twelve persons every Sunday—an amount of Sunday labour which that House ought not lightly to require. The gardens to which the hon. Member for Galway had referred as being open on Sunday were not properly public gardens, but gardens attached to residences the occupants of which alone had the right of admission; and as the working classes had easy access to far more agreeable places of recreation than the Botanic Gardens, he hoped the House would not agree to the Motion for opening them.


said, that the feeling of the people of Edinburgh, both high and low, was against the opening of these Gardens on Sunday. The hon. Member for Perthshire (Mr. Stirling) had endeavoured to make out, that if the gardens were open on Sunday, it would not be necessary to increase the number of gardeners or police employed in those gardens—but what was the fact? The people of Scotland were so thoroughly well educated that they always required to know, if possible, a little more than they did already. So well known was this characteristic that he would give them an instance in illustration. He and a friend, while at the Exhibition of 1851, saw some patent felt helmets for the army, and in order to ascertain whether they would be of any use to the army they tried them on; but a policeman stepped up, and requested that they would leave the helmets alone. They at once complied, but he was struck by the remark made by A 21 to A 22—"Oh, they are merely a couple of Scotchmen, and must touch everything they see." And if these gardens were opened on the Sunday, the people would not be satisfied with the information which Professor Balfour chose to give, but would touch the plants themselves; and he need not say, that if they did so, those plants would be destroyed. He had not the slightest doubt, therefore, that if the gardens were opened as proposed, a greater number of police would be required. That all these Sunday amusements and recreations increased the labour of the police was proved by an answer which was given to the Lord Provost of Glasgow, when, at the instance of the clergymen who complained that the police were the only persons who wandered about the streets, he asked if it could not be managed that they should be sent to Church with the rest of the community. That answer was a "replica" of a celebrated reply given by a Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. The Lord Provost was told, that if the police of Glasgow went to church, he would be the only spoon that would be left in his own house. If extra police and gardeners were employed in Edinburgh, there would be an increase of, in his opinion, unnecessary Sunday labour, and therefore he should decidedly oppose the opening of these gardens. He did not concur in the imputation that Galway was an immoral county; and though the hon. Gentleman might not be the man for Edinburgh, he was certainly the man for Galway.


stated, that seven years ago he had advocated the opening of places, like the British Museum and the Crystal Palace on Sunday after Divine Service, for the recreation and instruction of the working classes; and he then received many letters from religious people in Scotland who imagined that such a measure would lead to the opening of theatres on Sundays. He did not, however, conceive that there could be any connection between such places and theatres; such places were widely different from theatres. He confessed himself unable to see how the position of the strict Sabbatarians could be maintained. Those gentlemen said in effect that persons should work on six days of the week and rest on the seventh; but they did not act upon their own rule. For the most part they belonged to the idler classes; they did not follow the command of working on six days, and consequently they were not so much inclined for resting on the seventh as they often were for seeking their own pleasure. It was said that throwing open these gardens on Sunday would encourage habits of flirtation. Why, what other day had young people of the working classes for meeting and talking together? ("Divide!") He perceived that hon. Members would rather go to their dinners than discuss an important question, and he would not stand in the way of their inclination.


Sir, if I were to vote according to my own opinion on the merits of the question in itself, I should give my support to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Galway; because, in the abstract, I can see no harm, but rather good, in doing that in Edinburgh which has been already done in other capitals—that is to say, opening places, be they small or large, for purposes of recreation. But I think in the present case there is another consideration to which the House ought to attend, and by which they ought to be guided—namely, that a real, sincere, and honest feeling on the part of the people of Scotland exists with regard to this question. I hold, that without some very grave and important reason, you ought not to do violence to public feeling; and that public feeling in Edinburgh and Scotland is against the opening of these Gardens on Sunday evenings is, I think, an indisputable fact. We have been told to-night that there are over 64,000 signatures against the opening, and 30,000 in its favour. Why, last year every morning I used to get Petitions, coming from almost every parish in Scotland, against the opening of these Gardens. It is quite true that these Petitions had a very strong family likeness; but still the striking identity of expression showed such identity of feeling that it really gave weight to these opinions, because it showed that in every part of the country the same opinions prevailed. Whatever might have been the origin of those Petitions, they would not have come to me if they did not express the feelings and sentiments of those from whom they proceeded. Now, is there any necessity—any strong and paramount reason—for doing violence to public feeling? It has been already stated by my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, that Edinburgh, of all the towns in the world, possesses in its neighbourhood the amplest opportunities for air, exercise, and recreation. Arthur's Seat, the Queen's Park, and all the outlets in every part of the town afford the working classes much greater enjoyment than these small Botanic Gardens can possibly yield; indeed, I think the great desire expressed to enter it must proceed from the same feeling which forbidden fruit excites in the minds of men—because they are not allowed to go there, they imagine it is an Eden into which it must be most delightful to enter. This garden is the smallest thing imaginable; in extent it is only about sixteen acres, and the greater part of it is occupied with beds of plants intended for scientific instruction. I venture to say, that if the 34,000 persons who are so anxious to enter these Gardens were all to agree to go there some afternoon, they would find considerable difficulty in getting in; and if they did all succeed in entering, the air would not be by any means enjoyable. I think there is no necessity for acceding to the Motion of my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman says the feeling of Scotland is changing in this matter, and that in the course of no distant time the opinion of the majority will be in favour of opening these Gardens. Well, I say, let us wait till that change takes place. I am of opinion that this—I will not call it prejudice, for it is not prejudice, but strong religious feeling—is honourable, and ought to be respected. I am inclined to think that, owing to change of circumstances, the same importance is not attached in Scotland to those strict observances which some time since was attached to them; and in the course of a few years we shall probably find that in the general opinion of Edinburgh and of Scotland there will be no harm in opening these Gardens on Sunday. Wait till that happens; act in accordance with public opinion and in a spirit of deference to it; and do not, by hasty adoption of a principle to which Parliament in the abstract might be disposed to lend its sanction, offer violence to ancient and honourable feelings conscientiously entertained.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 123; Noes 107: Majority 16.