HC Deb 12 July 1871 vol 207 cc1501-25

Order for Second Reading read.


, in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the questions embodied in the measure before them were, whether the importance of the subject and the interest taken in it had diminished; whether drunkenness was a crime or a disease, or both; and whether drunkards were to be cured or punished? Those were the questions which he intended to ask and answer. With regard to the first, the unvaried support which the Bill had received, both inside and outside of that House, as evidenced by the numerous signatures to the several Petitions he at that time held in his hand, and the increasing support of hon. Members, showed that the public were still keenly alive to the importance of the question; and he would further call the attention of the House with regard to the second to a series of Returns obtained at private expense from 259 chief constables and superintendents of police throughout Great Britain, which, though necessarily incomplete and not including the Metropolis—Colonel Henderson having declined to furnish that information—showed that in the year ending September, 1870, there had been 106,982 convictions for drunkenness, and 233,935 criminal convictions of all kinds, of which 27,450 were for offences due to drunkenness, so that there were 134,432 convictions during the year due to drunkenness in some form or other. He had no Return from Ireland; but feared that, from the eager nature of the support accorded to the Bill by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Maguire) and the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Downing), despite the labours of Father Mathew, drunkenness was not unknown there. Of the 259 chief constables and superintendents, 150 approved the measure, and not one expressed disapprobation. A Memorial, presented a few days ago to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and signed by Peers, Bishops, magistrates, clergymen, a number of influential members of the profession to which he (Mr. Dalrymple) belonged, and representatives of the licensed victuallers of England also expressed decided approval of the Bill; and the teetotallers of the United Kingdom gave it, to a certain extent, their support. He would not trouble the House with any of the hundreds upon hundreds of letters he had received filled with harrowing details, as bearing upon the third and last of the questions he had put forth; but he must contend that drunkards must be dealt with either for their own sake or for the sake of the community, and they must be so dealt with either in gaol or in some such institution as he proposed. Now, for years and years drunkenness had been treated as a crime. That plan had filled their gaols and workhouses and asylums, and was increasing their rates; but it had failed. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hibbert) had recently told the Justices of Salford of a man who had been punished for drunkenness 140 different times; and there were many other instances where men and women had passed almost a life in gaol from this cause. Was such a system worth perpetuating? Another plan had been tried with better success; and that plan he had tried to embody in the Bill. The persons with whom it proposed to deal—not the occasional drunkards—were those who either by hereditary taint—a far more frequent cause of drunkenness than non-professional persons supposed—or from the exhaustion of nervous energy—one of the most frequent concomitants of high civilization—or by the force of evil example, had recourse for delusive relief to the use of alcohol to such an extent that the mastery over reason and morality was complete. Such persons had passed into a state of disorder in which both the brain and stomach were affected by the excessive use of alcohol. To restore these persons to health they must remove the alluring but deceptive agent, and place them under influences which were moral, mental, medicinal, and hygienic. It was of no use to rail at liquor as "the devil's device." Used in moderation, liquor, per se, was no more harmful than any other combination of elements which they were in the habit of using. It was the abuse of liquor, particularly in secret, with which it was necessary to deal; and in so dealing with it there was no via media, at least until the education recently provided had taught future generations that drinking was at once a vice and a mistake. No warning or instruction, no sight of the distress he caused to all around him, would teach the habitual drunkard. He must be restrained, and the question was how to restrain him. The Bill adopted the machinery of the lunacy laws, which he would have avoided if he could; but thought it a lesser evil to avail himself of this machinery than to create new machinery. Moreover, his contention was that an habitual drunkard was ipso facto non compos mentis. He was told that the Commissioners in Lunacy objected to the Bill, and he was not surprised, because the genus Commissioner, like everybody else, did not like increased work without increased pay; but he thought that the work imposed on them by the Bill would be comparatively small, unless, indeed, the Bill succeeded beyond his expectations, and then its success would be its own justification. As a fact, he was convinced that one Commissioner, working 25 days in the year, would be able to do all the extra work incurred under the measure. There were three ways in which the Bill would deal with habitual drunkards; first, by placing them in a reformatory through their own voluntary action—a process which existed at present, but had failed, or been attended only with partial success, owing to the inability to keep persons under restraint longer than they pleased to remain; secondly, by the action of relatives, Clauses 6 to 11, affording complete protection against an improper application of that part of the measure; thirdly, by magisterial action in committing to reformatories persons who had been convicted three times within six months, either of drunkenness or of offences connected with drunkenness. The Bill applied to England and Wales, Scotland and Ireand, and to men and women alike. There were two categories of objections. The first included the infringement of personal liberty, liability to abuse from sordid and interested motives, difficulty of defining, and the costliness of the process. As regarded the infringement of personal liberty, they were told that men had an inalienable right to drink as much as they pleased; but he maintained that when alcohol was abused to such an extent as to render men dangerous to themselves and others, and to bring poverty and misery on themselves and their families, and make them burdens on society, personal liberty must succumb to the public interest. That principle had already been earned out with regard to sanitary arrangements. Then it was said that the power given to relatives would, for interested and sordid motives, be abused. He did not deny that persons had been unjustly detained as lunatics, though such cases were far less frequent than they were supposed to be; but the Bill provided against such an abuse of it, and he hoped effectually. He conceived that a man proved to be in the habit of endangering his own life and the lives of others, and ruining his family from his indulgence in drink, might fairly come under the operation of the Bill. There was no chance of an undue infringement of personal liberty, because, to bring about such a result, there must be a combination of unscrupulous relatives, reformatory proprietors ready to incur the penalties imposed by the Act of 8 & 9 Vict. The provisions of which in a degree were incorporated in the Bill, two corrupt medical men to sign certificates, blind magistrates, hoodwinked inspectors, and patients who could not talk and give any explanation of their own condition. Under one of the provisions of the Bill no person admitted to a reformatory on his own application, or on the application of his friends, should be detained for less than three months, or more than 12 months, but power would be given to proper authorities to extend or shorten the period of detention. He was told there was immense difficulty in defining an habitual drunkard; but he maintained, on the contrary, that the definition was sharp and distinct. In Part I. of this Bill, the habitual drunkard was declared to be— One who by reason of frequent, excessive or constant use of intoxicating liquors is incapable of self-control, dangerous to himself or others, or incapable of proper attention and care for himself and his family. If a drinker did not come up—or rather down—to that mark, he would not come under the operation of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department told him a few days since that if the Bill had been in operation a generation or two ago a most distinguished statesman and a most eminent poet might both have been shut up as habitual drunkards. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had sufficiently attended to the words in his definition "incapable of self-control," and "proper attention and care for himself and his family." The persons to whom he alluded did not fall under that description, otherwise their names would not have been handed down to posterity. Again, the right hon. Gentleman said that the seducer and the gambler were pests of society, and that as it was almost impossible to control them, they ought, according to the principle of that Bill, to be shut up. Two, or even three, blacks did not make a white; and though it might be very desirable that the seducer should be rendered chaste, and the gambler careful, that was no reason why a much more numerous and dangerous class of persons should be left to themselves. He had been told that in some parts of England, and especially in the North, hundreds of men were always drunk on Saturday and Sunday, sobered themselves on Monday, and were sober and worked well all the rest of the week; and some men went to bed drunk every night, and yet managed their affairs with discretion. Such cases did not come within the scope of the Bill; but he might add that those persons generally got worse and worse, until at last they became fit subjects for confinement. With regard to the objection raised against the Bill on account of the cost it would entail, he might put against that expenditure the present cost of criminals, and show that the measure, in preventing crime, would result in economy to ratepayers, and it was to be observed that in certain reformatories for the inebriated, established in the United States, 40 or 60 per cent were cured. Under these circumstances, he proposed that power should be given to magistrates and Boards of Guardians to establish and maintain reformatories under the Bill, and there was no need to fear that those functionaries would rush recklessly and unnecessarily into expense. In his opinion, the first effect of the Bill would be to cause these reformatories to be established for the upper and middle classes. Their working would then be watched, and if they proved successful, their success would justify magistrates and Guardians in providing similar institutions for the poorer classes. In the second category of objections, the first objection was that the evil was of too great magnitude to be dealt with. Admitting the great extent of the evil, he saw no reason why the struggling drunkard should not be assisted to reform, or light be thrown in on the darkness around him. He was told that relapses would be frequent. He admitted that the disorder was not exempt from the general law of relapse; but the reformation of the first batch of drunkards would be the most costly and difficult. If they had 75 per cent of failures at first, they would only have 50 per cent next, and there would afterwards he fewer failures till they came down to the residuum beyond which they could not hope to go. What was to be done with that residuum would be a problem for the future. As he had observed before, from Returns published with respect to these reformatories in America, it appeared that the annual cures amounted to from 40 to 60 per cent. He might be told that the House could not place any reliance upon these cures. Well, but the managers of the reformatories had not been content to consider a man cured because he left sober, promising well for the future. They had taken the trouble to follow him into his inner and future life, and had seen him restored to credit and to occupation, to home and happiness, to self-control and self-respect. That was what he called a cure. It had been objected to these institutions that the use of liquors was not unknown in them. That was entirely a question of treatment. The most eminent managers of these establishments, and those who had taken the treatment of drunkenness under their special care, were in favour of the total abolition of the use of liquors, while there were others who preferred to adopt the move gradual method of "tapering off." He had refrained from garnishing his statement with the appaling facts respecting habitual drunkards which lay in heaps around him. It was to the judgment of the House, and not to its sentiment that he desired to appeal; and, in conclusion, he begged to move the second reading of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."—(Mr. Donald Dalrymple.)


said, he was sure that the Bill of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Dalrymple) must command the sympathy of the House; but at the same time it was one which it would be extremely difficult to put into operation. It was to him (Mr. Salt) a matter passing his comprehension that so many skilled workmen, earning great wages, with comfortable homes, nice wives, and good families, should ruin their health and position by the extraordinary habit of Saturday night and Sunday drunkenness. But then came the question, whether the Bill would deal with the evil which it proposed to remedy? What he failed to understand in the Bill was to what extent the hon. Member proposed to push its provisions. At what point did he seize the habitual drunkard where he was not already provided for? If a man were taken before a magistrate in a state of hopeless imbecility, the law already provided for him, for in a large lunatic asylum which he had visited, belonging to his own county, he could point out many cases of persons who were taken care of because they had become incapable through drunkenness of taking care of themselves; and he also knew that some persons in a good rank of society, who had not been quite brought down to a state of imbecility by habitual drunkenness, were at their own request temporarily confined in a lunatic asylum. He doubted whether it would be possible to empower a magistrate to send a drunkard, not reduced to a state of imbecility, to a lunatic asylum, and it should be borne in mind that by sending a man to a lunatic asylum instead of to a gaol, a sort of imputation would attach to the character and health of his whole family. He did not suggest that difficulty with any view to oppose the benevolent object of the measure under consideration, but because he thought that if they attempted to apply an impracticable remedy to the evil which they all desired to cure, they would do more harm that good.


said, he must remark that if he wanted to make out a case for that Bill, he need only refer to the observations of the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken (Mr. Salt), and who had stated that habitual drunkenness had tended to swell the number of inmates in the lunatic asylum of his county. He could not help suspecting that the light hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, when he introduced his amended Licensing Bill, was under the apprehension that his measure would obviate legislation such as that now proposed. [Mr. BRUCE: No.] Whatever legislation might do on this side, that had not been the case on the other side of the Atlantic, where the prohibitory liquor laws had been fairly tested, and where yet these reformatories existed. From the statistics received from the United States, out of 3,000 inebriates who were confined in Washington House Reformatory, in Boston, 2,000 were discharged apparently cured. In this country we have already passed an Act of Parliament for dealing with habitual criminals—the Habitual Criminals Act, 1869. Under this Act a person twice convicted of felony is subject to supervision of police for a period not exceeding seven years. These arbitrary powers are intended to be reformatory in their character, and to prevent criminals from acquiring the habit of crime. Unfortunately the Act does not touch the habitual sot—the greatest of criminals against himself, and against the peace and happiness of his family. A great number of statistics might be quoted in reference to drunkenness, but he thought it was scarcely necessary to do so, for there could hardly be an hon. Member who, within the range of his own experience, had not known some wretched cases of habitual drunkenness, and who had sought to relieve the family from its consequences. He had in his hand a statement of the medical attendant of the lunatic asylum at York, who pointed out the necessity of some such legislation as that now under consideration. That Report was not originally intended for the public, being a Report to the Commissioners of the asylum. At Leeds, in 1870, the total number of convictions for drunkenness was 1,799, and of those 234 were second convictions, 130 were third convictions, and 301 were fourth convictions. In the same town the total convictions during the same period for crime of all sorts were 5,079; but no lower than 2,261 of the persons so convicted were drunk at the time when they were taken into custody, and one woman was convicted 77 times for drunkenness during the last two years. One could hardly speak to a medical man who did not advocate some such measure as the present. The number of habitual drunkards who were ruining themselves and their families was on the increase, and by sanctioning this measure the House would do something towards lessening the obligation that he conceived lay upon it, of checking the downward course of those unfortunate persons. The hon. Promoter of the Bill could not expect to carry it much further in the present Session, but he (Mr. Akroyd) I rusted that it would be re-introduced for consideration next year.


said, he was of opinion that the provisions of the Bill would require careful consideration, and that some of them were hardly likely to pass at all. Upon the second reading, however, they had only to speak on the principle of the measure, and he was glad of the opportunity of calling attention to the position in which they stood with regard to legislation for drunkards. Six different Bills on the subject had been brought in, and every one was based on the principle that it was impossible to check the evil of drunkenness, without removing the facilities for getting drunk; and now came the Bill of the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Dalrymple), which did not attack the causes of drunkenness, but sought to mitigate the evils arising from it. The hon. Member for Bath most distinctly admitted that punishment and teetotal lecturing had failed to cure drunkenness. He concurred in that statement, and believed that lecturing would always fail to prevent drunkenness so long as there were in the country 150,000 persons who got their living by supplying liquor, and whose interest it was to induce people to drink. There would be considerable difficulty in working some of the clauses of the Bill, as for instance, in ascertaining who was a drunkard coming within the scope of the Bill; but he would leave it to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department to pick what holes he could in it. Of course, his hon. Friend the Member for Bath would find it impossible to pass the Bill this Session, and he would therefore have ample time to improve its machinery. He was friendly to any measure which was at all feasible for lessening the evils of drunkenness, and that was a permissive Bill. It did not enact anything, but only gave power to magistrates, if they chose, to levy rates for the purposes of the Bill. He much preferred, however, his own measure, which gave the ratepayers power to remove the manufactories of drunkenness. There was an absolute necessity for some stringent measure on this subject, for Parliament had been trying to manage habitual drunkards for centuries, their gaols, their workhouses, their asylums were simply monuments of the energy of the publicans of this country, their object mainly being to provide for the drunkards who were made by the people who sold drink. He hoped the sympathy which the Bill had excited would prove to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department that the evil was not to be met by mere suspensory Acts; and, if he declined to do what was requisite himself, he should not stand in the way of others who were endeavouring to remove one of the greatest evils which afflicted this country.


said, he hoped the House would be careful not to be led away, under a feeling of the evils of drunkenness, to interfere so far with the liberty of the subject as that Bill proposed they should do. What were they asked to do by that Bill? On a certain state of facts constituting a bad habit, and solely on the opinion of two medical gentlemen, a person was to be locked up for six months. That was a very strong measure. There were many other bad habits which all of them, perhaps, more or less, might have fallen into, and to which he conceived in strict justice the principle of the Bill ought to apply, some of which led to aberration of mind not less than drunkenness: gambling, for instance, whether on the Stock Exchange, on the race-course, or in the course of trade, which tended quite as much as drunkenness to the ruin of families. And if they commenced this species of legislation, where were they to stop? A man might take one glass of wine or beer a-day, and if in the opinion of two medical men that habit had rendered him incapable of giving proper attention to his family, what was to be done? Some friend might ask the magistrate to shut him up, and, even without the man being brought before the magistrate or saying a single word in his defence, on the testimony of one other person he was to be locked up for six months. They knew, also, that medical men were in the habit of prescribing enormous quantities of stimulants, and that might have something to do with patients continuing the habit after recovery. Whether from a change in the Gulf Stream, or from some other cause, he did not pretend to say; but they seemed to imagine that it was impossible to get through life without drink. If a man's mind had become unsound through intemperance or otherwise, or if he committed a breach of the peace, there were plenty of modes of dealing with him either in a lunatic asylum or gaol. But they must draw the line somewhere. It might be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trace the cause of a person's unsoundness of mind; but unsoundness of mind alone was the ground on which personal liberty should be interfered with. If a man committed a breach of the peace he ought to be punished in gaol, instead of treating him in some more convenient and comfortable place provided for him by the ratepayers in order to cure him of his bad habits. If such a Bill as this had been proposed 60 years ago, it would have been necessary to turn the whole kingdom into one lock-up, of which the doctors should have had the key. If they once began to legislate in this direction, it would be very difficult to know where they could stop. He should oppose the Bill.


said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley), who had just sat down, had imitated the example of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), by replying to his own arguments, and removing his own objections. For instance, he had at that moment asserted that there existed a very general practice amongst medical men to prescribe stimulants very freely to their patients; and yet, in the opening of his speech, he affected great alarm at the probability of a medical man giving a certificate which would shut up in an asylum a person who took a single glass of wine in the day, on the plea that it incapacitated that person from minding his or her affairs. It was rather hard to understand how danger to the liberty of the subject—especially to moderate drinkers—could arise from those who were stated to be so partial to the liberal use of stimulants. But was there any real danger to the liberty of the subject in the main proposal of that Bill? What was the object of the Bill? To endeavour to prevent the infatuated victims of a deplorable vice from rushing headlong to destruction, and bringing misery and ruin upon them. The object was to prevent the desperate drunkard from deliberate suicide—from dragging down his wife and children to poverty and despair. To talk of the liberty of the subject in such a case was a mockery of a great principle. Now, they in this country affected a profound reverence for what they termed the liberty of the subject; but, assuming that their respect for that principle was really sincere and honest, would they allow him to ask—was this the only country in which that principle was reverenced? Was there less respect for personal liberty in the United States of America than there was in this country? He could easily imagine that they thought themselves superior in that respect to all other nations; but if they reflected for a moment, they would see that in a country like America, with a government springing directly from the people, the laws were at least as jealous of personal liberty as in any country of which they knew anything. And yet, what was the fact with respect to America? Why, that similar institutions to those which that Bill sought to establish existed in different parts of the United States. Not only did they exist in America, but they did so with the sanction and approval of the public, not because they interfered with legitimate personal freedom, but that they interfered with the power of a rash and a reckless man or woman to bring ruin upon themselves and others. His hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who had given to that Bill rather a grudging support, preferred, as he said, locking up the drink to locking up the drunkard. "You," he said, "propose to lock up the man; I propose to lock up the drink from him." But did his hon. Friend really mean to say that if his favourite measure were passed into law he would thus put an end to the evil against which that Bill was directed? Assume for a moment that they had a Maine Liquor Law in this country, would that put an end to drinking, and above all to what was known as secret drinking? His own opinion was this—that open drinking, with all its evils, was safer to the country, safer to society, than that legalized hypocrisy which affected to shut up the drink, but which opened a hundred sources of secret drinking. Pass what law they might—even one so seriously interfering with the liberty of the subject as one based on the Maine Liquor model—and did they hope thereby to put an end to drunkenness, and prevent individuals from deliberately persisting in a course which led to inevitable ruin of health, position, character, and family? Those who were so infatuated, who were bent on self-destruction, would find the means of self-indulgence, even though every publichouse in the district were closed by law. Did he want a proof of this, he had it in the fact, that in those very States of America in which the Maine Liquor system was attempted to be put in force, asylums such as that Bill contemplated had been and were in beneficial operation, proving that where there was a determination to have the drink, it could be had—that, in fact, his hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle could not practically shut up the drink from the drunkard. The real question was this—was that Bill necessary—was it called for? He would put it to hon. Members, was there any one hon. Gentleman in that House who, in his own district, in his own locality, nay, in his own circle, did not know—not a poor besotted mechanic who drank two days in the week, not a wretched labourer who sought in periodical debauch a desperate relief from the misery of his position; but some confirmed drunkard in the better class of society, whom, nothing could restrain, whom no influence, no advice, no entreaty of friends or relatives could save from destruction? As a rule, every hon. Member of that House was a magistrate, and had administered the law with respect to drunkenness; was there one of them who had not, at one time or other, seen the necessity for some means of reformation other than that which the existing law provided? He himself had been mayor of his own city for a period of four years, and he had acted as a magistrate for several years more, and during that time that very question had pressed itself over and over again upon his attention. Day after day, week after week, month after month, the same persons were brought up for habitual drunkenness. The offender was fined, or possibly imprisoned for 24 or 48 hours; but there was no power to shut him up for a sufficient time to bring him or her to a state of health of body and mind. Nor were these persons always of the humbler classes. He knew many deplorable instances of that awful vice, amounting to practical suicide, in families possessing every comfort and every luxury which wealth could provide. Indeed, during the time that House had been sitting that year, he had heard of a melancholy case—that of a woman of good position who could not be prevented from accomplishing her own destruction by that terrible habit—whom no influence could save—who had again and again made promises of reformation, only to break them—who, a few moments before she died, frantically shrieked out for "one other glass of whiskey for the sake of Jesus! Now, that woman was not a lunatic in the sense that would entitle her friends to place her in a lunatic asylum, and it would be hard to find a medical man who would give a certificate which would justify her confinement in such an institution; but were the Bill now before that House the law of the land, she could have been saved from ruin and restored to her friends and family in health and happiness. Now, there was really no violation of principle, and no innovation, in the main proposal of this Bill. Hon. Members said it was an interference with personal liberty. Granted. But did not the existing law do that? They had, however, to punish the drunkard by fine or by imprisonment—imprisonment for 24 or 48 hours. So far, that was a violation of personal liberty; but it was for the protection of society as well as for the reformation of the offender. But was he reformed by that fine or by that imprisonment? Not a bit; he soon became used to the one and callous to the other. The imprisonment, such as it was, gave no sufficient time for reformation; no sufficient time for reflection; no sufficient time for the operation of better influences. What was required for real reformation was such a seclusion from the world and its temptations as might restore health to the body and strength to the shattered nervous system of the habitual drunkard; and they all knew how much the mind depended for its healthy tone upon the state of the body, and that generally with health of the body came health and strength of mind. They required to got at the confirmed drunkard when he was sober, when he was penitent, when he could reflect and look into himself—when counsel could reach his ear, and when sympathy could touch his heart; and so long as he had the means of gratifying his passion, they could have no real access to his reason or his conscience. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think alone of that so-called liberty of the subject, although, taken in a practical sense, it meant liberty of self-destruction, liberty of perpetrating moral, social, and physical suicide—liberty of inflicting upon others, and those the nearest who ought to be the dearest, the direst calamity—inflicting upon them the worst that the worst enemy could inflict upon them. But was there to be no consideration for the wives and families of those confirmed drunkards. Were they not entitled to the protection of the law? In France, if a man had entered upon the path of ruin, and was deliberately rushing to his fate, a council of his family was hold, and his property was taken out of his charge, so as as to save it from destruction, and for the benefit of himself or those who belonged to him. Now, was not that a most legitimate interference with the liberty of the individual, or his power of inflicting misery on himself and others? And that was the ruling principle of the present Bill—to save the besotted victim of a deadly vice from bringing ruin on himself and on his family. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Henley) had spoken of the improved state of society, and said that 50 or 60 years ago such a proposal would have been more reasonable than it was at present. No doubt the tone of modern society had improved in many respects; their manners and habits were more refined, their tastes were improved, their enjoyments were more elevated. The host of to-day did not glory in putting all his guests under his table; nor did the individual boast, as in olden times, of his capacity for "tucking" so many bottles of claret or tumblers of punch "under his belt." Still there were, in these, as in former times, individuals of both sexes who would not practice moderation, who would drink recklessly, madly, desperately—who would peril body and soul to gratify a morbid appetite; and these were the people, and none others, to whom that Bill applied. Whatever might be the fate of that proposal in the present Session, his hon. Friend the Member for Bath deserved great credit for bringing it before that House and the country. He had brought it forward in an able, wise, and temperate spirit; and he might well congratulate himself upon being the pioneer in a great work of morality and reformation. What they had to deal with now was the principle, the main object of the Bill; the details might be fairly left to the further consideration of the House. The main object of that measure was to afford an opportunity of reflection, and repentance, and reformation, to those who, without such opportunity, would persevere in their headlong course, bringing themselves to ruin here, if not to ruin hereafter, and dragging down others, and those others sinless and unoffending, to misery, poverty, and sorrow. He ventured to say that if the people of England, Ireland, and Scotland were polled in references to this proposal, their voice would be almost unanimous in favour of that Bill—that was, its main provision and principle. To hon. Gentlemen who were so solicitous for the liberty of the subject as to regard that Bill with disfavour, he said—by all means and by every possible precaution guard the liberty of the subject, and protect it from all undue encroachment; but do not refuse to the weak and infatuated victim of folly the chance of reformation, but, above all, do not refuse protection to those who are at the mercy of one of the most dangerous enemies to society, the habitual drunkard.


said, he entirely agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). They were not to be led away by feeling, and must take the common-sense view of that matter. The question was, whether such a Bill could fairly and honestly work in the interests of the country? He had seen a great deal of drunkenness, and was most anxious to put a stop to it; but his belief was that drunkenness was decidedly on the decrease, and that was nowhere more apparent than in the ranks of the Army. The hon. Mover (Mr. Dalrymple) deserved every credit for his intentions, which, no doubt, were most sincere; but he thought means must be adopted to give effect to them very different from those provided by that Bill. He therefore ventured to hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would speak in no uncertain tone, but say decidedly that he opposed it. At any rate, he felt it his duty to move that it be read a second time that day three months. He thought the measure a most dangerous one to put in any man's hands. Nothing was more likely than that the measure would be put in force in some of those unfortunate and miserable squabbles which often arose in families, where the wife said the husband had squandered her property and totally neglected his family, and he would be locked up as a lunatic in one of the asylums provided by this Bill. It would, moreover, chiefly affect the humbler class; for means would be found for preventing people of the upper class from being locked up. The measure was a very crude one, and it was too late in the Session to attempt to amend it in Committee.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Colonel Barttelot.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."


said, the measure would impose a heavy expense upon the ratepayers, without producing any commensurate advantage. While in New York last year he had inspected the large institution for the reformation of habitual drunkards, which had been established there partly at the expense of a number of philanthropic persons and partly by State contribution, and he learned from its manager that the practical results had been most disappointing in every way. Not less than 80 per cent of those who had been discharged were returned for a second imprisonment. These institutions only existed where the prohibitory liquor law was practically inoperative. Having signally failed in every attempt to reduce the amount of temptation to which the people were exposed at every step by the multiplicity of publichouses, it was inopportune now to take tip a new scheme winch only proposed to deal with habitual and hopeless drunkards, and the success of which, in the only case where it had been employed, had produced such limited results.


said, he would support the second reading, but he certainly should not do so if he thought there was any chance of passing the Bill during the present Session. He hoped the hon. Mover (Mr. Dalrymple) would bring forward the measure in a less inchoate state next Session, and that it would then be referred to a Select Committee, in order that some good might be effected in removing some of the many objections with which it might be said the measure bristled.


said, two errors had been made by the opponents of that Bill; one set of hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that it was a measure for the repression of drunkenness, while others thought that it was a Bill of Pains and Penalties for the punishment of drunkenness. Now, neither of these suppositions was correct. The Bill was neither for the one object nor the other. The Bill was simply to place under restraint habitual drunkards. Everyone knew that there was a class of people, composed of women as well as men, who were utterly unable to restrain themselves and avoid the snares of drunkenness. Many of those habitual drunkards knew that they could not restrain themselves, and would be glad of some such Bill as that, and, so far from its being a reflection upon families, it was just the thing the families of habitual drunkards were in favour of. It had been said that the present law was quite sufficient to cause the incarceration of any drunkard who got into a state of imbecility. But the object of that Bill was to prevent these people from ever getting into niter imbecility. No doubt the law of lunacy would meet the case of imbeciles, but that Bill was to prevent people from becoming imbeciles. Under this existing law no medical man could grant a certificate for the confinement of a drunkard unless that drunkard was insane. He had the honour to represent a city which was prominently one of medical men. Both he and his hon. Colleague had presented Petitions to the House, signed by nearly every medical man in Edinburgh, in favour of that Bill. These gentlemen had every means of knowing the distress and ruin which followed to the families of habitual drunkards, and they were therefore in favour of some law by means of which these people could be placed under restraint for a certain period, in order to cure them and make them useful members of society. In Scotland, persons of that description were sent to a small island in Lochlomond, and there kept under restraint. There was no legal warrant for sending them there, but the most beneficial results had been proved to result from what had been done in that description. If they could legalize something of that kind, he was quite convinced the most beneficial results would follow. He lately attended a meeting of an institution supported voluntarily for this purpose, and it was stated by the manager that very great good had been done, though they had not the power to keep persons any longer than they desired to remain. If they had the power to detain them until they were perfectly cured, no doubt additional benefits would be the result. Some hon. Gentlemen had alleged that that Bill, if passed, would be found unworkable. That criticism he did not believe to be just. The 1st clause of the Bill said— That any person who, by reason of frequent excessive or constant use of intoxicating liquors, is incapable of self control, or dangerous to himself or others, or incapable of proper attention to and care of his affairs and family, shall be deemed an habitual drunkard and of unsound mind. Now, if the last word, "or," was made into the word "and," half the criticisms which had been passed as to the measure being unworkable would vanish. The 6th clause of the Bill said— Upon the request of a near relation, friend, or guardian, any person affected in the manner set forth in the 1st section of this Act may be admitted into any such reformatory, sanitarium, or refuge, upon the production of certificates signed by two duly qualified medical practitioners, and countersigned by a magistrate, and in Scotland by a sheriff or sheriff-substitute acting in the district in which the party lives, and upon the affidavit or sworn declaration of some credible witness other than the applicant, stating that the party is an habitual drunkard, and either dangerous or incapable, as before described. The alteration which he would suggest in this clause was that they should dispense with the certificate, and cause the matter to be substantiated by witnesses in open Court. He believed that the Bill, with these slight alterations, would be found to work; and, as he cordially approved of its principle, he should support the second reading.


said, he should oppose the Bill with a certain amount of regret, because the way in which it was proposed to deal with the class affected was not practical, and was not likely to lead to the desired results. He would not have opposed it had it been based on the principle of dealing with the drunkard as a criminal, which must be done in a licensing or some other Bill; for habitual drunkards rendered themselves liable to be placed under restraint on public grounds. That Bill, however, did not deal with those who were brought as offenders before a public Court, but with those who were anxious to be taken care of, or whose friends wished them to be controlled. It would be no great improvement of the 6th clause to require two affidavits, for the principle on which the clause was founded was antagonistic to public feeling. He hoped hon. Members would not act on the view of public duty propounded by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Portsmouth, and approve the Bill merely because they accepted the principle, while they objected to the way in which it was applied. This was not a practicable measure, and therefore he could not, because he endorsed the principle, assent to the second reading.


said, that when the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Dalrymple) brought the matter forward two years ago, he (Mr. Bruce) suggested the difficulties by which it was surrounded, and recommended the hon. Member to test his opinions by introducing a measure, which the hon. Member had gallantly done, and had thus redeemed the undertaking he then gave. He agreed with the last speaker in dissenting from the view of the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), that hon. Members ought to support a Bill because they approved of the principle, while they objected to the details. It was not because he disagreed with the principle of the Bill—it was not that he thought measures ought not to be taken against those who were continually drunken, or that he thought it might not be possible to apply to them, carefully and cautiously, some of the principles they had adopted with respect to lunatics, that he opposed that Bill; but he opposed it because, as the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth said, it bristled with objections, and it was not one that the House could wisely accept. The hon. Member for Bath, who had this matter so much at heart, and who had treated it with so much ability and moderation, would have improved his prospect of ultimate success if he had begun by moving for a Select Committee to inquire into the general subject, and particularly with what success the policy he proposed had been carried out in other countries. It was obvious that the Bill proposed a great infringement of individual liberty, which ought not to be sanctioned without the fullest inquiry. Conflicting statements had been made about the experiments tried abroad, and before they embarked in legislation of this character, they ought to know something more of the lessons to be derived from their experience. The first great difficulty of the measure was the definition of the habitual drunkard, and the second was the practical question, whether there was any treatment which gave a fair hope that those persons could be reclaimed. It was obvious that if a man were denied liquor he would be sober, and that in that respect drunkards differed from the insane, whose mental disorder was continuous, irrespective of such interference. Whether a man who had been a drunkard would continue to abstain after his forced abstinence depended upon the power of his will, and that no one could test. He did not look upon the Bill as one to repress drunkenness; it would have an infinitesimal effect in that direction, as it would provide for the treatment of a very limited number of individuals. Then, again, it was proposed that a person might be shut up under that Bill without having been previously convicted of being drunk and disorderly, which he thought was a very grave power to intrust to any authority in the irresponsible and vague manner enacted in that Bill. Another objectionable result was, that there could be convictions in those parts of the country where there were reformatories, and not in parts where there were none; and persons might be confined for a period not exceeding 12 months; and that was supplemented by the provision that, under certain circumstances, a Justice of the Peace might order a further detention for six months. It was said that persons confined under that Bill would have all the protection that those confined under the Lunacy Act had in the way of visitation and otherwise; but how could a Lunacy Commissioner decide whether a man who had been by force kept from drink for a time was cured or not; and, if he could not decide that, what would be the value of a Commissioner's visit? He would suggest that the hon. Member in charge of the Bill should not press the second reading; but that at the commencement of next Session he should move for a Select Committee to inquire into the subject. There was no hem. Member of the House who did not feel dissatisfaction with the way in which those drunkards who had rendered themselves amenable to the law were treated now; the fact that nothing was done but to repeat the same punishments was a sufficient condemnation of the law as it stood at present. The difficulties surrounding the question rendered it desirable that they should collect the results of the experience of other countries, and, before they had done that, it would not be safe to pass a measure of that importance.


said, he would recommend the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Dalrymple) to accede to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, although he thought the hon. Member had been rather hardly dealt with, after complying with the request made to him last year. Still, if he read the Bill a second time, he could not carry it further this year. Every hon. Member sympathized in the good cause he had undertaken, and the majority of those present would no doubt support the principle that the habitual drunkard should be reformed; but on other grounds it would be well to refer the matter to a Select Committee.


said, he also hoped that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Dalrymple) would accept the suggestion made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The principle of the Bill, which would be affirmed by a second reading, involved three propositions. First, that an habitual indulgence in excessive drinking weakened self-control, and the direction of conduct to the same extant as the loss of reason, and that drunkards ought to be put under restraints similar to those which were applied to lunatics, who were dangerous to themselves and others; secondly, this state of mental unsoundness constituting danger might be ascertained as well as ordinary forms of lunacy; and the third was, that there was some mode of treatment by which persons placed in reformatories or asylums might be cured of such uncontrollable propensities to irrational drinking. To the first mentioned proposition the House should be prepared to agree, though it was difficult to know when a man after being shut up could be let out with safety; but as to the third, the House was entirely in the dark, for no evidence had been produced that habits could be acquired during a limited incarceration that would overcome the habits of drunkenness when liberty was restored. On that point be hoped the hon. Member would be able to get information next year.


said, that although a difference of opinion had been expressed as to how a measure of that kind should be carried out, no difference of opinion had been expressed as to the existence of an evil which ought to be remedied. Some hon. Members had objected to that Bill on the ground that it went too far, and interfered with the liberty of the subject; while others thought it did not go far enough. He was one of those who held the latter opinion. It would not, for instance, meet such a case as had been related to him, of a man who had been twice confined in a lunatic asylum for insanity produced by delirium tremens, and who was so aware of his propensity that he desired to be kept in the asylum; but as that could not be he was discharged, and soon after died of another attack, leaving his family in poverty. The hon. Member for Edinburgh had suggested the substitution of the word "and" for the word "or;" but he did not think that would meet the difficulty—in fact, it would leave the law exactly as it was at present. An Act had been passed by the Parliament of Quebec in which an habitual drunkard was defined as a person who was a drunkard according to the common report of the neighbourhood. It was also enacted that any Judge of the Superior Courts might, on the petition of a relative, or friend in default of relations, setting forth that a person was squandering and mismanaging his property, placing his family in distress, and endangering his health and life, order a person to manage the affairs of such an individual. No doubt that was very sweeping, and many persons would be apprended under it. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) had said better lock up the drink than the persons who got drunk. But the hon. Gentleman only proposed to lock up drink in publichouses and not in private houses. He seemed to forget that most habitual drunkards got drunk in their own houses, and drank after every other reasonable person was in bed. There was another clause in the Quebec Act which was worthy of attention. Any person giving intoxicating drink to an habitual drunkard was liable to a fine of 840, or, in default, three months' imprisonment. That would be an important provision to introduce into the English Bill. He would support the second reading of that Bill, though he hoped the suggestion would be agreed to, that it should be referred to a Select Committee to report on the whole subject.


said, he hoped that the hon. Member in charge of the Bill, who introduced it on the invitation of the Home Secretary, and was now advised to move for a Select Committee, would not withdraw the Bill without a more distinct assurance than he had received of Government assistance and support. Such a Bill was required, because the provisions of the lunacy law were quite inadequate to meet the cases of habitual drunkards.


said, he would accept without reserve the offer made by the right hon. Gentleman, of a Select Committee to inquire into the facts, without a knowlege of which it was impossible to form a just opinion on what he admitted to be a very difficult question. He did so all the more freely, because, from the strong opinions expressed in favour of the principle of the measure during this discussion, he had good reason to believe that the second reading would have been carried if he had pressed it to a division. If practicable, he should propose the appointment of the Select Committee before the close of this Session, in order that he might save time by simply moving its re-appointment on the re-assembling of Parliament.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill withdrawn.