HC Deb 21 May 1873 vol 216 cc218-67

Order for Second Reading read.


I rise to move the second reading of this Bill, and, in doing so, I do that which is very painful to me, because I dislike to bring again before the House a subject in itself so repulsive. If last year we had divided on this question I might have thought it consistent with my duty not to have brought it on again in the present Parliament. Hon. Members know that since 1870—three years ago, within three days—we have had no division on the Main Question, but only on Supply or on the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate. Since that time the Royal Commission has sat and reported. Two years ago, on the 14th of August, I made a Motion on going into Committee of Supply, but it was impracticable to get a proper division at that season of the year. Now, I wish to make one preliminary observation, in which I think the right hon. Gentleman who is going to move the rejection of the Bill will agree. If he is right, these Acts should be extended to the whole Empire. If the is wrong, they ought to be repealed. Our present position is entirely wrong; it is inconsistent with reason and logic. We are professing to benefit a particular class, and refuse that benefit to another far more numerous class. Yet, for all practical purposes, they are in the same position; for I will remind the right hon. Gentleman that if it be true, that soldiers and sailors, under our peculiar military system, are in a painful position as regards celibacy, the same thing is true of a far larger army of young men throughout the country, who are equally incapable of marrying. If I am wrong, I will frankly confess it, and vote for the extension of these Acts. If I am right, I am logical in asking for the repeal of these Acts. Two questions arise in this matter: the first is as to flue facts of the case, and the second as to the principle on which legislation of this kind is founded. I have experienced a painful sense of the difficulty of arriving at facts from the Papers and statistics presented to us. Witnesses, apparently equally able to speak on many questions, are inexplicably at variance. The confusion is equal to what one meets with in the Court of Chancery in a lunacy or engineering case, when the scientific witnesses give evidence diametrically opposed to one another. I need hardly remind the House of the nature of these Acts. In the year 1864 an Act was passed which substantially gave to a policeman power to report to a magistrate that he had "good cause to believe" any given woman to be diseased, and therefore a fit subject to be examined, and taken to the hospital, if found diseased. That Act lasted till 1866, when the women were subjected to what is called periodical examination—that is to say, everyone of the women in the towns known or believed by the police to be fit subjects to come under the Acts, has, from time to time, to submit herself for examination. The object of this was to take care that if she were not well, she should be confined to the hospital until she should be cured. Another Act was passed in 1869, and its most important provision was that a voluntary submission by a woman had the same effect as an order by a magistrate, made after considering the facts. Now, I have to remark first, that the object of the Act of 1864 is not to diminish vice, but disease. There is not a word in that Act about doing anything for the reformation of women; it simply deals with the physical aspect of the question. The same remark applies to the Act of 1866, as it first came into the House; but a Select Committee who considered it, on account mainly of a protest of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, and the right hon. Gentleman the present Commissioner of Works, inserted a clause, ordering that some provision should be made for the religious care of the women while they were in hospital. But be it observed that no woman under this law is to be in hospital except while she is ill. When well, she has a right to go about her business immediately. Supporters of the Acts rely on two sets of results, the moral and physical; but the statistics on which they depend are extremely unsatisfactory. Many of them are false on the face of them, as I shall have presently to show, and it is impertinent to ask us to legislate on such a basis. With regard to the moral results, there is one important preliminary observation to be made—namely, that these Acts were passed, not with the object of moral reformation, but with the object of preventing injury to the Army and Navy. Parliament interfered because soldiers and sailors were injured by this disease. This is proved by the literature of the question abundantly, nor is it surprising that this should be the case, for there was nothing in the previous history of this question to justify the assumption that there would be any great moral results from such legislation, because towns on the Continent where this system, or something like it, had been in existence many years, did not present a better appearance than the towns of England. On the contrary, their moral position was, and is, atrociously bad. Very eminent persons have used language with reference to the present condition of Paris, Hamburg, and Berlin, which I hardly like to quote to the House. Moreover, some so-called moral results mentioned in the Papers laid before the House are not the natural products of the Acts. For instance, when the police come forward, as they are said to do, and take a sort of paternal part towards those unfortunate women—warning them from their course of life, and so forth—they are doing that which the Act never gave them power to do. The Act of Parliament requires them to bring these women under examination. It may be very satisfactory that they should take a paternal interest in the well being of the women, but that is the result of their natural kindness, and is not required of them by the law. I will now mention a few of those so-called moral results. Great stress has been laid upon the alleged diminution of the women in towns, but these figures, especially with reference to Devonport and Plymouth, have been contradicted over and over again before the Royal Commission by the local police. Statements made by the Secretary of State before his constituents, on the authority of these Returns, have been repudiated by the magistrates of the towns to which they refer. These figures still remain among the statistics as if they had been affirmed in the most solemn and deliberate manner. As long ago as 1869 these figures were denied by Mr. Swain, a surgeon, acting under the Acts. He read a Paper to the Bristol Social Science Association, in which he said— We have been lately told that the number of prostitutes in our neighbourhood has diminished from 2,000 in 1864, to 770 at the present time. We have also been told, as a proof that vice has materially diminished, that clandestine prostitution has much lessened. Now, many people who are well able to judge, assert that there never were so many as 2,000 public prostitutes in the three towns and although there are only 770 names now on the police register, it is believed impossible that that number represents the entire body of women who practice prostitution at the present. As far as Devonport is concerned, I know on the best authority, that the number of women has slightly increased during the last two years. It is thought that the gentleman who made this statement has been wrong at both ends—in overstating the number of prostitutes in the towns in 1864, and in understating the numbers at present practising this vocation. But to go on to assert that with this enormous decrease in the number of public prostitutes, clandestine prostitution has also diminished, is really to state a fact which runs counter to the experience of everyone who has studied the subject, which is, that clandestine prostitution invariably increases with the decrease of the number of women who gain their livelihood as public prostitutes. Mr. Wreford, head of the local police, stated before the Royal Commission that Mr. Anniss' estimate was excessive. Dr. Row, a magistrate of the district, said the same thing. Mr. Wakeford, the superintendent of police under the Acts, described it as a "loose calculation." Mr. Wolferstan, surgeon for years to the Royal Albert Hospital, who knows more about it than any other man, also denies the statistics; and Mr. Ryder, a magistrate of the town, says there were never so many as 2,000 prostitutes in the towns, "nor anything like it." This number would show that 1 woman out of every 12, between the ages of 14 and 34, was a common prostitute. This the people of the neighbourhood indignantly repudiate. The case of Portsmouth is also curious. There the metropolitan police gave a lower estimate than the local, so this higher figure was put on the Return; whereas, at Devonport, the figure of the metropolitan police, as being far higher than that of the local, was taken. Mr. Westbrook, who is the Inspector at Portsmouth, gave evidence of the way in which these statistics were got up. He said, in answer to Question No. 11,465— These things are got up very often. I went to Southampton to put the Acts in force, and there I saw the Superintendent, or Inspector, and asked him, 'How many prostitutes are there here?' He said,'1,300.' I said, 'You have a large number to follow,' 'Yes,' he said; 'I always make a return of 800 every year. He sent an active officer with me for four days and we got 220 prostitutes, and about a great number of them there is a doubt, and now there are 120 at Southampton. This is the evidence of a police Inspector acting under the Act of Parliament, and we are asked to take these figures and make laws upon them. It is evident that the police cannot know all the women. It is notorious on the Continent that the most dangerous women are those outside the power of the police altogether. There was abundant evidence to show that this is also the case at Plymouth and Portsmouth. The evidence told of a number who were on the border line, and depend upon it there are a great many more of whom our informants know nothing. If there is a belief among these men that a reduction would be agreeable at headquarters, they might put any number down. ["Oh!"] I do not say they do; but how can you say they do not? An Inspector might say—"This and that one is doubtful, I'll not put them down because I don't want to make a heavy return." I do not say it is so; hut I say this is a very nice question, and it is very difficult for the police to say there are so many and no more. Now, I assert that all that has been clone by the use of the powers given to the police has been clone in other places without the aid of such Acts as these. There is a very remarkable Return, dated 1872, on the subject of the diminution of low public-houses in London and the country. I find a most extraordinary diminution came about altogether independently of these Acts. Take the metropolis. In 1867 there were 1,787 houses of bad character, in 1871 they had been reduced to 1,139. Another remarkable Return, made to the municipality of Glasgow, shows that in the year 1869 the number of thefts by prostitutes was 463; in 1870, 332; in 1871, 259; and last year, 188. In the year 1869 the number of thefts in brothels was 683; in 1870, 475; in 1871, 199; and last year, 39. The number of brothels in the city in the year 1869 was 211; in 1870, 204; in 1871, 79; and last year, upon 20th December, 50. In the Sixty-sixth Annual Report by the Directors of the Glasgow Lock Hospital, issued for 1871, the following paragraph appears—namely— In submitting the Sixty-sixth Annual Report of the Glasgow Lock Hospital, the Directors have, in the first place, to record a marked falling off in the number of patients—the number admitted during the year 1871 having been 394, as against 534 in 1870, showing a decrease of no less than 140. This result has been brought about simply by the action of the police, without any of the extraordinary and indefensible powers conferred by the Contagious Diseases Acts. It shows how much may be done without offending the moral sense of any body. [Mr. BRUCE: It is under a special Act.] It may be a special Act, but it is not a Contagious Diseases Act. If there is any new law required to give the police fuller powers, I am not the man to oppose it; but I object to this peculiar legislation. I do not want to say anything offensive, but I should like to see a Return, if it were possible to get it, of the women who have been forced over the precipice, as it were, and made prostitutes by these Acts. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] I should like to see how many women have been marked down by the policeman, and have been taken off to the examining-room and made prostitutes when they did not wish to be. Such a Return would be very instructive. People tell us there is no difference between these women. I say there is the greatest possible difference in their condition, and that it requires greater discrimination than we can expect a policeman to possess to distinguish one class of women from the other. The next point made by the supporters of the Acts is that the number of young girls in the towns is reduced; but Mr. Westbrook, in answer to Questions Nos. 11,137–8, says— That is the only fault of the Acts, it gives young girls too much encouragement. In what way? Because a young girl is almost sure to take the disease, and she is taken into the hospital. There is a young girl of 18 who has been in the hospital 17 times, and in such hospitals as they are it is like turning young pickpockets among housebreakers. They are ruined after having been in the hospital, because there are such things going on there. That is the evidence of an Inspector under the Acts. The people of Devonport do not believe they ever had these 212 under 16, and 419 under 17, as is stated in the Returns; while Portsmouth had only 31 under 16 and 66 under 17 at the same time. This would give one in every seven or eight girls of that age in the Devonport district as common prostitutes. The people of Devonport look with horror at that statement of Mr. Anniss, and I say that the evidence of such men ought not to be taken by this House as a basis for legislation. The great reduction in the number of girls is not conclusively proved. There may be a decrease, but I say the number existing when the Acts commenced has been exaggerated most skilfully. Supposing the number on the register had decreased, the experience of Paris is that though you may decrease them, a corresponding increase arises among clandestine prostitutes. But it is said, again, that the number of bad houses has been reduced by these Acts. I say the reduction is not due to the Acts. I have shown you that the number of bad houses in Glasgow and in London has been decreased without these Acts. It is true Glasgow has a special Act, but the police have abundant power under the ordinary law to put down these houses, and it is a mere fallacy to attribute the suppression of such places to these Acts. There is not a syllable in the Acts about putting down such houses; but, on the other hand, there is no doubt that the Acts have put the police en rapport with the brothel-keepers, who give the police very "valuable information," and this gives a quasi sanction to these places which the law does not countenance. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear!] The Bill of the hon. Member for West Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) has had an immense effect in reducing the number of these bad houses. That must not be forgotten. But the figures are here again most perplexing. I have a table in my hand which ought to make the House pause before it trusts to statistics. In Paper 149 we find it stated that in Devonport district there were, in 1865, 356 brothels, but the "judicial statistics" show us there were only 159 brothels there in that year. I do not know which is right and which is wrong, but it shows that the figures given in Paper 149 are not to be trusted. Another point much insisted on is the alleged reclamations, but they really form no part of the system. There is nothing about reclamation in the Act of Parliament. Even those who are supposed to be reclaimed are not, really reclaimed. Anniss had the effrontery to say that he knew all about the women who went off his register, and he stated that 90 per cent of them were actually reclaimed, while the chaplain of the hospital, Mr. Hawker, and Miss Bull, the matron, said this was a gross exaggeration. She said that not more than 5 per cent were reclaimed. Mr. Westbrook said that policemen knew very little about it. In the nature of things they could not. The women go away and are lost sight of. The policemen must then leave them. They may have returned to their friends, but the chances were they had gone to another district. These Returns put some down as married, but I am sorry to say that numbers of women carry on their trade after they are married. Women entered as "restored to friends" or "married," cannot be regarded as reclaimed, but it is sad to observe how few are returned as having gone so far as that. In 1872 there were 3,484 cases—I do not say individual women—who entered the hospital, of whom only 252 entered homes. But if the House is so anxious to reclaim, why does not it assist the Rescue Societies, who are languishing for want of funds? These Returns are, as I said before, most deceptive, because, even of those who enter homes, so many return to their wretched occupation. Miss Brown said she left her place as a matron because these women came back so repeatedly, that she was discouraged. It is a very curious thing that the proportion of those who "go back to their former pursuits," as the Return says, at Devonport, was 48 per cent in 1865, and 83 per cent in 1872. Mr. Simon, in his famous Report, (11th Report to Privy Council), speaking of reclamation, says, at page 11— I fear, however, that such hopes as it at first sight would seem to justify, as to possible moral results of a Government superintendence of prostitution, would on any large scale show themselves essentially delusive; not, perhaps, as regards individual reclamations …. but as regards the statistics of prostitution broadly and practically considered. If prostitution is really to be diminished, the principles of those who would diminish it must be preventive. I believe the opinion expressed in these words is at the bottom of all sound legislation. Is it likely there should be much reclamation among women who know that they are taken care of by the State until they are well and can do no more harm by their trade? A woman knows that the object of the State is, not that she should be restored to virtue, but that she should be made clean, and that the law has nothing to do with her when once she is restored to health. We have a good deal of evidence upon this point. The surgeon of the Royal Albert Hospital said—"The women consider themselves as kept clean by the State for the use of men." Miss Brown said they thought themselves "Government women." In the nature of things, such a system tends to harden the women. Nine out of ten of these women are examined when they are perfectly well. Tens of thousands are examined every year who are not diseased. One doctor examined 70 or 80 in succession in one day without finding one diseased. The French women, long subject to this system, are absolutely impervious to moral influence, and evidence had been given by numerous doctors of the hardening effects of the examinations. One policeman, a witness before the Royal Commission, gave up a good position because he was disgusted with the business, and Dr. Routh says, "I treat her as a brute" in so examining her. Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Cook say the same. Evidence was also given of the bad effect of mixing women, younger and older, the hardened and the recent offender, in the examination-room. The scene of these women trooping down to the examining-rooms is most demoralizing even to boys and girls at school. Yesterday I presented a Petition from the inhabitants of Southampton living near the room complaining of the nuisance to them and their families of the proximity of such a place. But it is said that women are deterred from becoming prostitutes by this system. The evidence upon this point is very contradictory; but, however this may be, I am sorry to say that when the women are brought under the Acts it tends to keep them longer in the profession. Tinder ordinary circumstances they do not continue in their life much more than a year on an average. Miss Bull speaks very strongly upon this subject; she says:—(7836) "that periodical examination has a great tendency to harden and keep women in that life." It is, however, said, that whatever else may be alleged and denied, the condition of towns has greatly improved since these Acts came in force, and we have had a Return from Dr. Sloggett on this head. I must say I have very little confidence in the statements made in this Return. Yesterday morning I met a visiting magistrate of Dover, who denied a statement to the effect that the number of female inmates of the gaol had been reduced by the Acts. [Sir JOHN TRELAWNY: Name.] I will give his name to anybody who wants it. He will be quite ready to back up his statements before this House or anywhere else. He says, the Acts had nothing to do with the small number of these prisoners. The Vicar of Windsor, too, has stated that the closing of bad houses there was the result of his representations to the Mayor, and not the effect of the Acts. I have been shocked to read a great deal in this Return about the religious services carried on in the hospitals. The women are supposed to recite that prayer, praying to be delivered from fornication and all other deadly sins, while the whole cause of their being there is that they may be made clean to go out and commit fornication. Every woman knows very well that the intention of this Act of Parliament is to clean her up and make her fit for this horrible business. ["No, no!"] Then what does it mean? Now, as to the condition of the towns, we have better evidence than this Return. Referring to the alleged improvement of the district, we read in The Devonport Independent of the 8th of October, 1871, as follows:— The clandestine outlets of this stream of hideous vice have been greatly multiplied, and few people who reside in this district would believe that the number of absolute prostitutes is one less than it ever was. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, if the people of the neighbourhood are not to be believed who shall we trust? Dr. Row, a magistrate of the same district, says, they have as many rows in the streets from these women as ever, and in another answer he tolls us that prostitutes are a petted class, and that they are as numerous as ever. Mr. Wolferstan says, distinctly, there is no improvement, and that men "felt they were safe and indulged more freely." Captain Browne gave some remarkable evidence. He says he heard a colonel tell the men, when on parade, that they must take care to go with clean women. The same witness says that the women are more insolent and that there was more solicitation. Mr. Westbrook said, there is no decrease of solicitation in Portsmouth. Even Dr. Sloggett admitted there was no change in the habits of the men. It would be an abuse of terms to call any such results as those mentioned by the advocates of the Acts, moral. All the Acts do is to make the occupation apparently more respectable. Dr. Barr said (13, 861)— It has made the prostitute a more respectable person. I cannot answer it in any other way. If you look on prostitution as an institution and a required one, I would say then that it has made prostitution more respectable. It has certainly made the prostitute a more respectable woman. There is a very large "if" there, "If you look on prostitution as an institution," and that is what we do not allow. Mr. Webster, a minister, stated that a soldier had made the following remark to him— It seems very strange that the authorities should provide chaplains for the Army, and compel soldiers to go to church, where they pray From fornication and all other deadly sins, good Lord deliver us,' and yet support the Contagious Diseases Act and keep up regimental bazaars in India and so on, by which men may indulge in vice with ease. I agree with that. And now I ask the House to observe a very important point. If there is so great a desire for moral results, how is it that no pains are taken about any of these women until they become diseased. Nine out of every ten are free from disease, consequently very few of them are helped. When you have once got this woman, if you have a moral object, you ought, whether she is diseased or not, to bring moral suasion to bear upon her, and not to clean her up and send her away. Again, observe another inconsistency. You try to help a man who gets a disease by a wrong act, but you do not help a man who catches fever or small-pox through no fault of his own. The spirit of the law is to help those who may have a disease, which they need not have, if they would but obey the laws of God and man, but not to help the man who catches a terrible disease in the course of his ordinary calling. This House, apparently, selects this particular disease for its special attention, simply, on account of the health of the soldier. I say the health of the civilian wants protection as well. You have no right to select a particular class for your special patronage. If you are prepared to prove your case, go through with it. But, as we stand, we are in an absurd and anomalous position. The effect of the system on the country at large is well stated by Dr. Routh, when he says— I think in all those countries, so far as I have been able to learn, where you have prostitution under the superintendence of the State, you have a degree of immorality existing which is far greater than anything which occurs in England, I mean that it leads to the minds of people being habituated to this sort of thing, so that they fall into sexual excesses of every kind, and of the most revolting nature. I believe that is a fact, for it is confirmed by all sorts of witnesses and is not seriously disputed as to other countries, though it is supposed that a system which works badly elsewhere, will for some strange reason work well here. I must now refer to the physical results attributed to these Acts, but not in much detail, as I argued it very fully on the last occasion. In the first place, the evidence on the subject shows that there has been gross exaggeration as to the need for any legislation of this kind. I would refer especially to Dr. Simon's statements in his Report to the Privy Council—evidence which is abundantly confirmed by various witnesses who were examined by the Commission. But even supposing the disease to be ever so serious, it is evident that as long as one sex only is examined, the disease cannot be stamped out. You would not think of vaccinating only boys; you would think it the wildest absurdity to leave the girls unvaccinated. So the men in the Army were formerly examined, but was given up because the doctors found it so disgusting. It seems that it is disgusting for a man to examine a man, but not for a man to examine a woman. But the examination is entirely fallacious as a test of health. Mr. Wolferstan says, that the cases that escape detection are cases of constitutional syphilis. Mr. Simon says the same. Mr. Square says that many of the gravest cases come from women with no visible sores. Mr. Henry Lee has expressed his strong opinion that the diagnosis of this disease is almost, if not quite, impossible, and that the very worst cases may come from those women who have been examined, and are registered. But although the security is so illusory, still, as men believe themselves to be morn secure, they will indulge more, and the disease will increase. The tendency of the disease in our own Army, according to the last Return, is to rise, and I re- ceived a letter yesterday from Dr. Drysdale, in which he says the disease is as bad as or worse than over on the Continent. It is easy to understand that there is more disease in Paris than there would be if the regulations were not so stringent. The victims of clandestine prostitution there shrink from discovering their disease to doctors; it consequently increases, and the authorities are now looking out for new precautions. M. Lecour says— These results show that prostitution increases, and that it becomes more dangerous to the public health.…. The Administration has redoubled its activity; it has increased acts of repression as regards prostitutes, and it has, in short, kept the health of the ascribed (registered) women in a satisfactory state. But, on the other hand, the number of these women decreases continually, for in 1855 they were 4,257, and in 1869, 3,731; whereas, on 1st January, 1870, they were 3,656. This fact is the more important, as it coincides with a marked increase in clandestine prostitution. The Administration must succeed in turning clandestine prostitution into prostitution avowed, registered, and watched over. The evidence before the Commission is full of proofs that no law can grapple with clandestine prostitution, which is fatal to the whole system. But we are told—look at the tables. I wish, however, to point out that even the figures on which we are asked to rely in this matter, are not conclusive. They give us no proof that there is a diminution of the really important disease. The "sores" mentioned in the Return are for the most part of no importance, and the Returns which we have in no way distinguish the important from the unimportant disease. They separate "sores" from the other and minor disease, but they do not distinguish one class of sores from another. Without this distinction such figures have no scientific value as a basis for legislation. Again, the figures do not seem worthy of credit. Captain Harris confessed before the Commission that his clerk had made a series of blunders, and that the Return of 1870 was entirely unworthy of credit. He has made a new Return which I hope is more correct. The last Return laid upon the Table is incorrect. It relates to the ratio per 1,000 of men diseased from 1865 to 1872. I have taken out the figures myself from Dr. Balfour's table given to the Royal Commission, and whereas the Return shows a decrease from 120 in 1865, to 54 in 1870, the real figures show a decrease of 110 to 65. This shows a very different ratio. Greater care should be taken in laying these figures before the House; they are extremely misleading. But not only are they inaccurate, we must be careful not to give them a false value. We know that many other causes contributed to a reduction of this disease. We know that the disease was declining before the Acts came into force, because of the greater attention paid in the Army to sanitary matters. Improvements have been made in the washing arrangements and the occupation and amusements of the soldiers, and in the homes for sailors, and in some cases there have been inspections of men on returning from furlough. But, after all, the disease in the whole Army has not materially diminished. There was a much greater fall between 1862 and 1866 than there has been since. But, it is said, even supposing the men are not much helped themselves, you must think of the innocent women and children. But your soldiers and sailors are, as a rule, unmarried, so they have no wives or children to be cared for. There might be some ground for the argument, if the Acts extended to the whole kingdom, but, even in that case, it would not be right for the State to provide clean women for married men. It is a monstrous proposition to say that the State is to find funds for a purpose so grossly immoral. Besides, the State does not care for the children of the drunkard, who vastly exceed in numbers the children who are afflicted by this disease; nor does it care for the children of the man who has had the small-pox. But it is idle to reason in this way. The Acts have not been passed for the protection of women and children; they were passed for the comfort and protection of the soldiers and sailors. So far, I have been talking of the results of the Acts. But I must also refer to the principles upon which all legislation of this kind is based. Now I say that these Acts are based on the assumption that prostitution is a necessity. If it be not a necessity; if men are able to take care of themselves, why do you want the Acts? The whole foundation of the law is, that men cannot help it, and must have this gratification, and are therefore entitled to protection. The Royal Commissioners Report on this subject as follows— Thus, it is said, prostitution is indirectly if not directly recognised as a necessity. On the other hand, it is contended that by placing prostitution under regulations it is not recognised as a necessity, but the fact of its existence only is recognised. It is difficult, however, to escape from the inference that the State, in making provision for alleviating its evils, has assumed that prostitution is a necessity. Is not that a most dangerous proposition? Who is to blame in this matter, the men or women? You may say both; and if that be so, both should be under restriction. You do not treat them alike, and that is obviously unjust. You do not admit that prostitution is a necessary evil, yet it is acknowledged that it is only necessary evils that are regulated; evils that are not necessary are put down. Drunkenness is punished; you do not regulate drunkenness, you regulate the sale of drink because that is innocent in itself, and, if taking a glass of beer were like the act of illicit intercourse, you would scorn to grant a licence to a public-house. If prostitution is a necessity, houses should be licenced, and proper precaution should be taken for safe indulgence in it. M. Lecour says:— The licence of the brothels is at the root of all regulation of prostitution. In a multitude of cases, when, for example, one is thinking of imposing registration and sanitary rules on prostitutes without a home, these measures would be illusory if there were no brothels.…. This licence aids the police in localizing the mischief by giving the power to superintend and repress it, and thus to reach clandestine prostitution. I have to say a few words, in conclusion, on the powers of the police. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) in his protest at the end of the Report of the Commission, says he does not like the Act of 1864, because it entrusts the police with a most delicate duty. He does not mind the Act of 1866, but their duty under that is equally delicate. Under the Act of 1864 the policeman had to find out whether a woman was diseased; under the Act of 1866 he has to find out whether a woman is or is not a prostitute, and this is often a most delicate matter. In both cases he acts partly on his own knowledge and partly on information obtained from a variety of sources, including the keepers of bad houses. This is a discretion a policeman should not have. We are told that the police never make mistakes. The other day I saw in The Times the case of Mrs. Stone, who was forcibly removed from a railway carriage on the plea that she was a young woman of 15, who had eloped with a young man, when as a matter of fact, she was the mother of four or five children.


What has that got to do with it?


It is an illustration showing that the police do make mistakes. I have not forgotten that horrible case at Lille, where a person professing to represent the special police, terrified poor girls into submitting to his demands. That was a most fearful illustration of the danger which arises in such a case. We are told that these girls go to be examined willingly. Mr. Parsons says they go willingly rather than go before a magistrate.




Unless they submit themselves they are obliged to go before a magistrate.


They are not.


Order! order!


I do not see why there should not be protection for the woman. It is all a case of suspicion on the part of the police, and the powers given them are enormous. Now, Sir, though I have much more to say, I feel that I must not trespass longer on the time of the House. I have shown how much may be done in the way of reclamation by voluntary means, and I have shown how entirely this system of coercion has failed in other countries. I repeat my proposition that there is no defence of these Acts except upon the assumption that indulgence is a necessity of man, and that if it be a necessity that it must be made as innocuous as possible. This is at the root of the whole case. I ask the House to divide upon that question. I know it is said we give no licence and we only recognize the fact. But is it not a licence to receive the woman time after time to be examined and sent out again? Does she not feel it to be a licence? In conclusion I denounce these Acts as immoral because they licence vice and confound the clearest moral distinctions. I denounce them as unjust because they treat the sexes unequally; they let the man go free and lock up the woman who is less to blame, because she is driven to the act by want. I denounce this law as unnecessary, because the disease was rapidly diminishing before it was passed. I denounce it as illusory, because the test used as to the health of the woman is utterly insufficient. I denounce the law as unconstitutional, because it is dangerous to give such immense powers to the police. Time will not allow me to go into many points which would have made my case more clear, but I ask the House with confidence to say it will not continue this system. To be consistent we must either go backward or forward. I ask you to go back and repeal this obnoxious measure.


seconded the Motion.

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


in rising to move "That the Bill be read a second time that day six months," said, it was with much reluctance that he had taken upon himself the painful duty—which he thought should have been undertaken by some Member of Her Majesty's Government—of meeting the Motion of the hon. Member for the second reading of the Bill. In his opinion, it should not have been left to a private Member to vindicate these Acts, as the matter was essentially a Government question. The subject was one which touched the morals and the health of the people. It was one which had been legislated upon by the Government of the day; it had been inquired into under the authority of the Government; and, therefore, the Ministry ought not to have shrunk from meeting this Bill, either by boldly avowing their approbation and support of the Acts, or by boldly supporting their repeal. In opposing the measure, he was solely and exclusively influenced by a conscientious sense of public duty, and he had been led to take that course in consequence of appeals which had been made to him by hon. Members on both sides of the House, who were strongly impressed with the advantages to the community which had resulted from the operation of these Acts. It had been his fortune as a public man to have been officially connected with both the Naval and the Military Services of the country, and he had been a member of the Royal Commission, and of the Committee of that House which had sat in 1869 to in- quire into this question, and upon those grounds it had been urged upon him that he ought not to shrink from the unpleasant public duty which he was endeavouring to discharge. He had yielded to the appeal, on the understanding that he should only be called upon to act in the event of Her Majesty's Government refusing, as he had hoped they would not have done, to take upon themselves the responsibility of meeting the Motion for the second reading of this Bill by a direct negative. The history of the Acts which it was now sought to repeal commenced in 1864, when, in consequence of the state of the Army and the Navy, a meeting was held, in which the Duke of Somerset, Lord Clarence Paget, Earl de Grey, the then Secretary for War, and other Gentlemen who had held office in connection with these services under previous Governments, including himself, took part, at which it was shown that in consequence of the effects of this dreadful disease a number of men in the Army, equal to between two and three regiments, were rendered unfit for active service. Lord Clarence Paget stated at that meeting that the condition of the great naval stations in the kingdom was such as to demand the immediate attention of the then Government. The meeting consisted of men of both parties, and he had never in his life heard a discussion conducted with a more earnest and honest desire to do that which was right and good for the community. Those who were present at that meeting, which was a very considerable and important one, were perfectly aware that the question had two sides, and that it could only be decided on a balance of considerations. They were fully alive to the moral objections which might be urged against the proposition to put down the evil in question by legislation, and were aware that by taking steps with that view they might be laying themselves open to the imputation that they were seeking to remove one check that then existed upon vicious indulgence. But, notwithstanding these considerations, the meeting arrived at the conclusion that so serious were the physical aspects of the question, that the time had arrived when it was absolutely necessary that there should be some legislation with regard to it. The result of that meeting was the passing of the Act of 1864, which was accepted by Parliament almost without opposition or even discussion. In 1866, however, it was found that that Act was inadequate to check the evil sought to be got rid of, and accordingly another Act was passed in that year, which made material alterations in the law on this subject. After the passing of the latter Act, a formidable opposition, not in itself extraordinary or unexpected, but which was, in his opinion, short-sighted and one-sided, was originated against these Acts. He fully admitted the truth of the statement of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) who had moved the second reading of the Bill—that the Acts of which he complained were primarily passed with the view of dealing with the physical portion of the question alone, and without reference to the moral effect which they might have. He, however, wished to remind the House that about the time when this opposition was first commenced, public attention was attracted to the fact that the Acts were producing moral benefits to an extent which had not been foreseen, and which had assumed a most important character. In consequence of the opposition which had been raised against the Acts, Her Majesty's Government thought it desirable that some public inquiry should be made into the manner in which they had operated, and accordingly, in 1868, a Committee of the House of Lords was appointed to inquire into the whole subject. That Committee was followed by a Committee of the House of Commons in 1869, and by a Royal Commission, of which he had himself been a member, in 1870. The Reports of those three enquiries were strongly in favour of the good effects produced by these Acts, which they declared had been productive of most beneficial effects in both a moral and physical point of view, and that of the Committee of the House of Lords even went so far as to suggest, that where localities should desire it, the operation of the Acts should be extended to their districts. For his own part, he regarded these Acts as a blessing to the country. It was true that, supported by about one-third of the Members of the Royal Commission, he had conceived it to be his duty to propose a counter Report to that of the Chairman; but he had done so merely because he felt that the recommendations of the Chairman's Report were not in accordance with the substance of it. [The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to read a mass of evidence from the principal ports and military stations, showing the wonderful benefits which had resulted, both morally and physically, from the operation of the Acts.] One most satisfactory result of them was, that young men returning to their homes were no longer assailed by these abandoned women in towns where they were put in force. Those who demanded a repeal of the Acts were bound to show that the evils they had produced were not more than counterbalanced by the good they had done. He challenged any hon. Member to contradict the assertion that the Acts had produced moral effects. Why, if they had done nothing else; they had cleared the camps at Aldershot and the Curragh of these degraded women who used to live in the ditches and under the hedges adjacent to those places, and whose condition was disgraceful to a civilized country. What was the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman to that? If the Acts had accomplished only that result, they ought to be thankful that such Acts existed. Again, there was the evidence of the matron of the Kildare Lock Hospital to the effect that before the operation of the Acts the inmates of that institution conducted themselves as if they were savages or wild animals caged against their will; but that now cases of disorderly conduct were very rare among them, and he should like to hear the answer of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge to statements such as that. In addition to those facts, moreover, the statistics published by the police showed that in districts where before the operation of the Acts the prostitutes amounted to hundreds, they now amounted only to units, and there could not be the least reason for doubting that the Acts in those places had put down the horrible system of juvenile prostitution. The evidence given before the Royal Commission as to the unhealthy state of the offspring of infected parents was corroborated by the fact that 80 or 90 of the most eminent medical men in the metropolis had presented a memorial to the Home Secretary, earnestly urging that nothing should be done to weaken the beneficial operation of the Acts. Last year 150 Members of the House—half of them being Conservatives and half of them Liberals, as nearly as possible, and the number might have been nearly double if longer Notice had been given—went as a deputation to the Home Secretary to present two memorials—one from nearly 300 medical practitioners within the districts operated on by the Acts, and the other from upwards of 2,000 medical men in all parts of England—against a repeal of the Acts. In the Army stations which had been placed under the Acts there had been a diminution of the more serious disease to the amount of fully one half. He had seen a remonstrance against the Acts which purported to be signed by 1,500 of the clergy, but, while he felt great respect for the names, he was sorry to be obliged to add that he felt a minimum of respect for their remonstrance, for he thought those gentlemen were taking a very one-sided view of a subject which they did not understand, because, while the Paper professed to deal with the whole subject, it contained no reference whatever to its physical aspect. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had mainly rested his case upon the erroneous statistics, as he asserted, of Devonport, which were presented to the Royal Commission. He (Sir John Pakington) would assume, for the moment, that the hon. and learned Member was correct in his supposition with regard to Devonport statistics, but that would only be striking out one from many proofs, and the facts which he had mentioned as to the operation of the Acts at Aldershot and other places would remain undisturbed. But for the sake of the police, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would cause inquiry to be made whether their Returns as to Devonport were trustworthy. It was very wrong, and on all accounts most undesirable, that the officers of the police force should be subject to such imputations as had been heaped upon them, if they were undeserved. In conclusion, he would implore the Government and the House, in the interests of morality, of public health, of reason, and of truth, to support his Amendment that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.


Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House (Sir John Pakington) has informed you that he has done so with considerable pain. I can assure you that feeling is fully shared by myself on the present occasion. But I am sure of the indulgence of the House when I inform them that I have the honour to represent the borough of Devonport, the first, or almost the first, borough which put in force the Contagious Diseases Acts in their present form. We know something of the subject by experience. We are not reduced to gather our information from the pages of Shields, or other sensational publications which in times past, coming from Heaven knows where, have alighted upon, but certainly not adorned, our breakfast tables. I may further say that whatever effect, good or bad, may follow from the passing of my hon. Friend's Bill will be felt mainly by us the inhabitants of Devonport, Portsmouth, Winchester, and other places, who, although willing, and indeed anxious, that important changes and amendments should be made in the present law, are yet not as a rule—subject I must admit to some exceptions—desirous that they should be altogether rescinded. Speaking, Sir, for myself, I may say that I think it would be a much smaller calamity for the borough which I have the honour to represent to be disfranchised than that it should be deprived of the advantages which have been conferred upon it by these much misunderstood and maligned Contagious Diseases Acts. Sir, I will not trouble the House with what may be called the earlier statistics on the subject. They are contained in a well-known Blue Book, and I suppose, to use an expression sometimes heard at railway and other meetings, they may be "taken as read." But I should wish to say a word as to the proceedings of the Commission and the sort of evidence which was produced before it. When we, Sir, in the towns that are subject to these Acts first heard that our case was to be submitted to a Royal Commission, we were, I think, perfectly ready to abide by the decision of such a tribunal, because we felt quite sure that we should be able to produce evidence which would be found a justification of these Acts. And I appeal to anybody who has read the Report of the Commission whether our anticipations were not fully justified by the result—whether, in short, the Report of that Commission did not contain an elaborate and exhaustive reply to all the objections that had been raised against the Acts, ending in this lame and impotent conclusion that in one important particular a sacrifice should be made to public clamour. I have carefully gone over the evidence produced before the Commission, and I find that some 83 witnesses were examined before it, of whom about 51 were favourable to the Acts. Of course it will be said—it has been said—that they were persons interested in their maintenance, I do not see that this position can be fairly maintained. Supposing these Acts were repealed to-morrow, you must still have lock hospitals, and military and naval surgeons and consulting surgeons and matrons, and the Metropolitan Police employed under these Acts would be told off to other and more congenial duties. But more than this, you had before the Commission a number of witnesses who cannot in any sense be represented as interested in the maintenance of these Acts. You had magistrates and magistrates' clerks, clergymen of the Established Church, Dissenting ministers, and what is more, chemists and undertakers, who had to deplore the falling off in their businesses, to which they were ready to testify. What was the character of the evidence produced on the other side? They had some great à priori reasoners, if the term "reasoner" can be applied to such a lady as Mrs. Butler. They had a great philosopher, whose memory I hold in as much respect as any Member of this House, but who, it seems to me, was occasionally inclined to express strong opinions on social and political questions which he had not maturely considered—I mean Mr. John Stuart Mill. Let me give a specimen or two of the evidence of these kinds of witnesses— Mr. Mill has no practical knowledge of the working of the Contagious Diseases Acts. He cannot tell, from experience, whether they have actually done moral harm, but it seems to him their natural effect was to do harm. He does not know whether they have done any physical good or no. He is unacquainted with the details. Mrs. Butler opposes them on high moral and constitutional grounds. I presume she is referring to the Constitution of England, and not to the constitution of Englishmen and Englishwomen— I do not believe," she says, "there is on this earth a supporter of those Acts who dares, in the privacy of his chamber, to entreat our God, who is of purer eyes than to behold this iniquity, for the continuance and extension of these Acts. It would be difficult to find a stronger specimen of that kind of bigotry which consists in imputing to one's adversaries, not only views that are wrong, but views which they themselves are supposed to know to be wrong. Another witness, who bears, I am sorry to say, the not uncommon name of Lewis, but who is not, I can assure the House, in any way connected with me—for, in these days of woman's-right agitations, it is sometimes necessary for sane people to disown such connections as these—"is satisfied that the Acts are wicked from merely looking at her Bible." Dr. Taylor, of Nottingham, considers it "a violation of the liberty of the subject to restrict a prostitute in the practice of her calling when she is in a state of disease." Sir, I did not enjoy the honour of a seat on the Commission, and I remarked at the time, with some surprise, that no Dockyard Member was put upon it, or I should have asked that witness "Should you consider that to confine a person suffering under delirium tremens—as clearly a punishment for one sin as venereal disease is for another—and brandishing a sword in the streets, was a violation of the liberty of the subject?" I suppose the reply would be no, because in that case the lives and limbs of innocent passers by would be in danger. But, Sir, a diseased prostitute endangers the health, not only of passers by—who, it may certainly be said, are not innocent—but of unborn generations, who, it must be admitted, come under that designation. There are two grounds of objection which are commonly urged to the Contagious Diseases Acts. In the first place, it is said by some that they do not diminish disease. Indeed, in a paper which has been extensively circulated by Mrs. Butler about the towns of this country, I find it actually asserted that they increase disease. The paper states that these Acts "promote immorality and increase disease." I do not understand that my hon. Friend goes so far as that, but I understand him at any rate to throw some degree of doubt on statistics which would tend to show that disease is diminished. The other objection is that even although they do or at any rate may diminish disease, the evils which they are calculated to palliate are replaced by other moral evils of a still worse description. I have promised that I will not trouble the House with what may be called the earlier statistics on this subject; but I cannot help, in passing, reminding the House of a few startling facts which illustrate the state of our forces in the year 1864, just previous to the introduction of this legislation. You have heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) that the loss to the British Army from venereal disease amounted to the loss of two and a-half regiments annually. It may be illustrated further in this way—it amounted to the loss of the entire force for one week, and the admissions to hospital for venereal disease were 290 per 1,000. In the Navy the perpetual loss to the service amounted to 460 men; or in other words, to cutting off one entire iron-clad from the British Fleet. To illustrate this state of things in the merchant service, I may add that from the years 1864 to 1868, of the patients admitted to the Dreadnought floating ship, one in every three suffered from venereal disease. Now it may be interesting to know what at that very time was the state of an Army which has since overrun a considerable portion of Europe, and which may boast that it is the Army of the most highly civilized Continental power. I allude to the Prussian Army. Before the Medical Committee which sat just before the passing of these Acts, and whose recommendations were one of the principal causes of this legislation, about which I now speak, Mr. Cutler, the eminent surgeon, gave the following evidence:— A friend of mine went to visit a camp in Prussia last year (1864). The Prince told one of his aide-de-camps to go with my friend and show him the hospital, in order that he might see the treatment of persons there. There was a camp of 20.000 men. My friend was not a medical man, but he told me that the aide-de-camp took him just over the borders of the camp, where there were six little cottages, in which there were about six or seven men and three or four women. The officer told him that was all the venereal disease they had in that camp, and every man had orders as soon as he had any appearance of a sore, to appear before the medical officer. Now, in 1864, to put the matter in another way, the average number constantly ill from venereal disease in the British Army was 19.11 per 1,000. This will be found in the Report of the Commission, page 815, and the average on 20,000 men would have been just 380. The diminution which has taken place in disease in the British Army, viewed as a whole, has been conclusively shown by the right hon. Baronet, and I will, therefore, now only remind you that, for the worse form of malady—syphilis—the annual average disease in protected districts is only 53 for 1,000. But, Sir, since the general statistics on this subject have been so ably placed before you by the right hon. Gentleman, I would prefer to confine myself to salient facts deduced from the borough which I have the honour to represent. The hon. Gentleman who has introduced this Bill has taken great exception to the statistics which have been produced with regard to the great number of prostitutes in the three towns, and the diminution that has taken place. I am not altogether prepared in this place to uphold those statistics, for I think it possible that both with regard to the number of prostitutes and the number of brothels some error may have slipped into the calculation. I would prefer to say on that part of the subject that most unquestionably the number of prostitutes and the number of brothels have very considerably decreased. I will quote a passage from the Report of a society in no way connected with the administration of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and which to the best of my belief contains some who are even opposed to these Acts, and which, moreover, illustrates another point of importance connected with this discussion. The last annual Report of the Plymouth Female Home—the Report for 1872—contains the following passage:— Notwithstanding the well known diversity of opinion which exists with respect to certain recent Acts of Parliament, which need not further be specified, one fact is sufficiently obvious that the number of fallen women in this town has of late most perceptibly diminished. It is impossible not to trace here the operation of these Acts. Another circumstance equally observable is that a large proportion of those who se0ek shelter in the Home come thither from the Royal Albert Hospital, Devonport, of which institution they have been for a longer or shorter period involuntary inmates. Well, Sir, now, to trouble the House with a few statistics on another branch of the subject, on which, I venture to say, there can have been no mistake. In 1864, the average admissions for the more important disease—venereal syphilis—was at Devonport 110 per 1,000. My hon. Friend has taken exception to the classification adopted relating to these diseases, but he will allow me to tell him that the term "more important disease" may most fairly be justified. There are, as the House knows, two classes of this sad malady—one comparatively unimportant, and the other of a far more serious nature, and of a character to be transmitted to posterity. Well, Sir, I employed a part of my Easter vacation in a most disagreeable manner—if one has a right to call anything disagreeable which is done in the discharge of a most solemn duty. I paid a visit to Devonport with a view of obtaining the last and most accurate information on the working of these Acts. I called for the last Return. It is an official Return of the working of the Contagious Diseases Acts in the port. I wanted to know what had been the state of things during the past week—a week which I may say was taken entirely at hazard. I found that for the week ending April 5, 1873, out of a number of men, seamen, and marines, amounting to 7,638, there had been two cases of the more important venereal disease sent to hospital, only one of which was contracted in port. That is at the rate of 104 in a year. You will judge of the difference between the 104 cases from among 7,638 men, and 110 cases in 1,000 men. In point of fact, I believe that the last annual ratio per 1,000 men at Devonport was 36, and excluding 43 cases contracted out of the port, I believe that it only amounted to 20 per 1,000. I will give a further illustration of the effect of these Acts in the three towns. In 1865 the first 200 women examined were all found diseased. The average now—not to trouble the House with decimals or minute statistics—is about 1 in 10. I was anxious to get a further illustration of the effect of these Acts, and I found that in the Plymouth, Devonport, and Stone house workhouse in the two years ending 1864, the admissions of venereal disease of all kinds amounted to 471, and that of the two years ending 1872, they amounted to only 22. Similarly in the prisons there has been a decrease of two thirds. At Dartmouth, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) has told you, in 1870, when the Acts were first put into operation, of eight women examined six were found diseased; now there are only three prostitutes in the town, and there has not been one case of venereal disease for the last 18 months. Now, Sir, I do not know what my hon. Friend says to all this; but I must just notice here, even although not strictly in place, a most extraordinary argument which he gave utterance to in the course of his able address. He said, granting that the Acts did considerable good in certain localities, it is quite clear that you cannot extend them generally, and therefore you ought not to keep them up locally. It seems to me, Sir, that is a complete non sequitur, and that if we can show that they have done considerable good in certain localities, that is an argument for keeping them up there, at any rate; even though public feeling may not admit of their being more generally extended. As I have been speaking of the effect of the Acts, it is important that I should notice an important objection that has been raised, and which will be found contained in the protest of the four dissenting Commissioners specified in the Report of the Royal Commission. They say— We are of opinion that in considering the effects of the Acts on the Army and Navy, it is most important to observe that for several years prior to 1865 the prevalence of venereal disease had been materially diminished; in fact, that the proportionate decrease had been greater between 1860 and 1865 than it has been during the subsequent five years. My calculations, and I have made thorn carefully, certainly do not bear out this statement, more particularly with regard to the Navy. I will not trouble the House with them, but will point to the experience since 1870, the time at which the Royal Commission sat, as being most certainly conclusive against this theory. You have just heard from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, that in the unprotected districts, the ratio per 1,000 of syphilitic cases has risen from 99 in 1865 to 123 in 1872, while in the protected districts it has sunk from 120 in 1865 to 53 in 1872, and there are piles of other statistics which I will not stop to quote, which tell us a similar tale. Thus in Plymouth, of 92 women placed for the first time on the register during the past year who came from unprotected districts, 72 were found diseased on their first medical examination; and of 46 placed on the register who had previously lived in protected districts, five only were found to be diseased. At Aldershot 132 women were examined for the first time from unprotected districts, 107 were diseased; 128 were examined from protected districts, 33 found diseased. At Shorncliffe 18 were examined from unprotected districts, 12 were diseased; 33 were examined from protected districts, 8 were diseased. I may add that as soon as the Contagious Diseases Acts were put in force at Winchester 43 per cent of the women were found to be diseased, which was four times the proportion at Devonport. No wonder that, although wherever the Acts are put in force there is a partial opposition to them at first, the inhabitants soon become favourable to them. I am informed, that at Canterbury, the Mayor, who was at first strongly opposed to these Acts, has now become one of their warmest supporters. Similarly, at Southampton, where considerable opposition was manifested, the greater part of the magistrates have entirely changed their opinion. Perhaps I may be permitted to mention as a reason which accounts for this change, that a friend of mine well acquainted with Southampton in earlier life, recently visited that town, and he informed me that he could not account for the remarkable change which had come over its aspect; that the prostitutes whom he remembered in earlier life infesting the streets and molesting the passers-by, with their solicitations, had now disappeared from the stage, and when I informed him of what he did not know before, that the Contagious Diseases Acts were now in force in that borough, he exclaimed—"Ah, that accounts for the change for the better, which has come over its aspect." Now, Sir, I should be content to rest the case of these Acts on the immense diminution of disease which has unquestionably taken place. Some persons are inclined to make light of this disease in what I have called its more important form. But what really is the character of syphilis? The right hon. Baronet has read you a passage from one of the most eminent of living surgeons, Mr. Paget, and volumes of such passages could be read. I will content myself with citing one—merely one —because it is from the pen of a very eminent man, who was recently, and may, for ought I know, still be the President of the Society for procuring the repeal of these Acts, Dr. Chapman, the editor of The Westminster Review. I presume my hon. Friend will be willing to accept his testimony. This is what Dr. Chapman wrote in The Westminster Review for July, 1869— Its ravages are ceaseless. It counts a greater number of victims than all those added together, who, from time to time, have fallen sacrifices to scourges which have swept over and filled mankind with dread. It pervades every rank of society. Its traces may be discovered in almost every family. Some extraordinary information to this effect will be found in the evidence produced before the Committee of Surgeons to which I think I have referred. Dr. Farre, of King's College Hospital, testifies to commonly seeing six cases of children affected with syphilitic taint of a morning, sometimes 12, never less than one. Mr. Hutchinson says that one case in every five of opthalmia is due to syphilis, and similar testimony was given in relation to skin and other diseases. Mr. Berkeley Hill, before the Royal Commission, referred to a Paper containing an account of the offspring of 106 syphilitic women. Seventeen infants were prematurely born, 11 died of hereditary syphilis; of 14 others born living, four lived for three months; while of 41 others the average life was 26 days. These are terrible facts, illustrative of the frightful character of this disease, and which mere off-hand assertions of philosophers like Mr. Herbert Spencer, who do not enter into details, are quite unable to contradict. Well, Sir, but I must now say a word or two about the moral effects of these Acts. My hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, stated that nothing whatever was done for these women unless they were diseased; that they were kept in hospital until cured, and were then turned adrift to minister to the lusts of lascivious soldiers and sailors. Now, Sir, that is a complete misapprehension. During my recent visit to Devonport, I carefully went into all the mode of procedure at the Albert Hospital, and I learnt from the excellent matron, that after a woman was cured, if she mani- fested the slightest inclination to abandon her vicious course of life, she was kept in the hospital till a place was found for her in one of six homes, not immediately connected with the hospital, but which received patients from it. I asked the matron whether there was any difficulty on the part of the women in obtaining employment from these homes, and was informed that not only was there no difficulty, but that the applications for them in the capacity of domestic servants greatly exceeded the supply. My hon. Friend alluded to some of these reformed women who subsequently got married; and he rather gratuitously, I think, asserted—for he furnished not a shadow of proof in support of his assertion—that the great proportion of them resumed their abandoned life. I suppose he will say that the women so received into these homes merely come in at one door to go out at another, and that the whole proceeding is a complete sham. The records of these institutions show that the average stay of each woman amounts to something like 130 days, or, in other words, it is five months, sufficiently showing that there is here no mere pretence at reformation. Well, Sir, more than that, I learnt from the matron that if any woman who had been once admitted to the hospital, "rang at the bell," to use her own words, as late as 12 at night, and intimated a desire to become an inmate, even although not diseased, she was taken in, and kept till she was similarly handed over to one of these asylums. Again, my hon. Friend alluded to young girls, who had, perhaps, only made their first step in, a career of vice, and who were put into these hospitals and herded with common prostitutes of long standing, just as, I think he said, young pick-pockets might be turned into a pen of confirmed burglars or other malefactors, and what process of reformation, he asked, could be expected to have effect under similar circumstances? This, again, Sir, is a complete misapprehension of the facts of the case. Young girls are carefully placed apart in a ward by themselves, and are constantly visited by the excellent chaplain, who is incessant in his efforts to divert them from the path on which they have entered. I may remark on this matter that the number of young girls—that is to say the number of girls under 17 has decreased from 205 in 1865 to 1 at the present time. Well may the learned Attorney General have said when speaking recently in this House on the Seduction Bill of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Charley)— That these Acts had, at any rate, had one effect. They had absolutely stamped out juvenile prostitution in the towns in which they were enforced. My hon. Friend has told us also of the voluntary system, and has intimated that all the beneficial effects that we claim for this legislation might be equally produced by that system. Well, let me tell you that we tried for some time the voluntary system, and we found as the result that 25 per cent left physically, and, of course, morally uncured, and similar results were testified to before the Commission as having taken place at Portsmouth. Whenever a fresh regiment comes into a town, whenever a ship comes into port, out go these women in large shoals, and very often you cannot get them into the voluntary asylums until they are in the last stage of disease. Just let me quote to the House a short passage from The Lancet newspaper, which illustrates the working of the voluntary system— In January, 1871, in 79 women examined at Dover, three cases of syphilis and two cases of gonorrhœa were found, but in consequence of an outbreak of scarlet fever in the house where the examinations were conducted, they were suspended between March 14th and April 15th. On the resumption of periodical examination, of 80 women 15 cases of syphilis were detected and sent to the hospital. It would be difficult to bring forward stronger proof of the value of these inspections, and of the hopelessness of staying the spread of venereal disease without them, for during this month of interruption any woman who had desired to go to the hospital would have been dispatched thither by the authorities on her own application; but, contrary to what is asserted by the opponents of the Acts, these 15 syphilitic women preferred to roam at large until compelled by the law to undergo seclusion and treatment. Well, Sir, my hon. Friend has again urged a point which has been frequently raised out-of-doors against these Acts, that they increase clandestine prostitution. I maintain, on the contrary, that they tend not inconsiderably to diminish it. In a Paper read by Dr. Acton, who has made prostitution a special subject of study, before the Social Science Congress at Plymouth, I find the following passages. He goes on to contrast the state of morality at Birmingham and Manchester with that which prevails in other towns that have been for some time under the influence of the Contagious Diseases Acts. He cited the Royal borough of Windsor—I see my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Eykyn) below me, and he will be able to say how far Dr. Acton's statements are justified by facts within his own knowledge—where formerly the seductions of maid servants and shop girls were the two main sources from which prostitutes were recruited before the Acts were in force. The girls, after business was over or household work ceased, used to ask leave to go out on pleas of every kind. Seduction, and its inevitable consequence, coming on the streets, were sure to follow. A medical officer lately informed him that out of 32 women now registered, there are only two Windsor girls on the list, and he was told by tradesmen that since the introduction of the Act, they can keep their servants virtuous, as the girls have a wholesome dread of misconducting themselves. Let me, by the way, if I am not troubling the House, say one word as to the state of morality in the Northern towns to which Dr. Acton alludes, and with which he contrasts the state of things in protected districts. Dr. Acton refers to the brothels of a superior class which are to be found in our great Northern towns, such as Birmingham and Manchester. He speaks of one in Manchester where there are pianos in every room, and the inmates are women of education, the landlady and the girls forming a sort of cooperative Society, in which the profits are shared between them. Dr. Acton stated that these filles de joie agreed with Mr. Jacob Bright that the introduction of these Acts into Birmingham or Manchester would be highly demoralizing to their own feelings, and that their influential supporters, including Members of Parliament, would resent as an injustice the violation of their persons, for, as at present advised, no Government interference could make their private medical attendance more perfect, as was attested by their freedom from disease, and their health was well looked after by the landladies. Now, Sir, such institutions as these have been utterly suppressed in towns subject to these Acts. While speaking of these effects, I must further notice that 142 girls at Devon-port, from 14 to 25 years of age, have been rescued from prostitution without being inspected or placed on the register, and the police are furnished with the names, places, and abodes of these women, so that there is no mistake whatever about the matter. Similarly, young girls from Cornwall used to come up very frequently to the three towns with a view to practising prostitution, and have been deterred by the stringent effects of this legislation. Sir, there are other objections which I have not time now to enter upon; but there is one point of the highest importance which I think it necessary to refer to, as there is no point in connection with these much abused Acts, which has rendered them liable to greater misinterpretation, especially in the Northern towns of this country. The excessive power which is vested in the police is constantly thrown in the teeth of their supporters, and has been reproduced as a phantom, to warn the House, by the hon. Gentleman in his speech this day. It is believed, I understand, in the North of England that these Acts render any respectable woman walking in the streets liable to be pounced upon by the police—that she may be taken up and borne off to some dismal place of torture amidst the jeers, or it may be the sympathies, of an excited multitude—just as we read that in the days of the French Revolution people were suddenly seized and hurried off to execution at the nearest lamp-post. Indeed, I find as much as this affirmed in a paper which Mrs. Butler has extensively circulated in our large towns. These Acts, as Mrs. Butler in one of her circulars states, endanger the liberties and honour of respectable females. In another circular, it is said that the rich man can protect his wife and daughters. "Yours, as they go to their daily work will be at the mercy of a policeman in plain clothes." Now, Sir, in my constituency I have between 2,000 and 3,000 working men whose employment keeps them nearly the whole day from home, in the dockyard and steam factory, with the exception of one hour or one hour and a-half for dinner, and their wives, who go about making purchases for them, would be particularly exposed to annoyance of this kind. I have never, during the five years I have represented the borough, heard of one single complaint on this head. In another circular, it is said— Fancy, dear, you to be tapped on the shoulder by a policeman, and examined to see if you are in a healthy state; the law gives power to stop anyone, however seemingly respectable. Is it not infamous? Sir, I say it is infamous that such malignant untruths should be scattered broadcast over the land. Now, what are the facts of the case? The Acts are administered by a body of Metropolitan Police specially told off for this duty; they are in all cases men of proved character, and I believe they are also required to be married men. A policeman is required to give notice to his Inspector before any woman can be proceeded against, and he must not give such notice until he is in a condition to swear in a Court of Justice that she is a common prostitute. The Inspector is then himself required to investigate the case, and if he is satisfied he gives notice to the woman. In case of voluntary submission on the part of a woman, the law is most carefully read over and explained to her by the Inspector—for no ordinary policeman has the power. She is then accompanied by a nurse to the Attendant Surgeon, who is himself required—and on this point I have thoroughly satisfied myself—to investigate the case before he proceeds to examine her. I have spoken of a case of voluntary submission, but what is the case with a woman who denies being a prostitute? What is the mode of proceeding? The policeman gives notice to his Inspector, the Inspector investigates the case, and gives the woman notice, and she denies, as I will suppose, being a prostitute. Well, what has the Inspector then to do? He must report to his Superintendent, and the Superintendent is again compelled to investigate the case, and if she still denies the fact, he must report to headquarters, which I take to mean Scotland Yard; and, again, it is investigated at head-quarters, and if after having passed through these various stages, the charge is held by those in authority to be fully proved, they are empowered to apply to a Justice, who may, if he thinks fit—for mark, in cases of this kind it is not compulsory—issue a summons to the woman. She is not compelled to attend in person; she may, if she thinks fit, appear through a friend or through an attorney, and I believe that the investigation may, if she so wishes it, take place with closed doors, so that her name never comes out, and I understand the Justices at Devonport have occasionally held such investigations in private. Well, Sir, I know that the conduct of "the Great Unpaid" has frequently formed the subject of strong animadversion; it is said they frequently make mistakes—but I ask is it likely that the most careless among them would make a mistake in such a case as this, an error of which it is certain he would never hear the end to his dying day, and which would certainly come to form a subject of debate in this House? Some days ago we heard that an hon. Member of this House actually employed some sort of agent, whom he commissioned to go down into Shropshire to inquire into the conduct of the Justices there in reference to some trumpery case. I, Sir, have the honour to be a magistrate in a district included under these Acts, and if such a case was pending before me, I can only say that, whenever I took a walk about the somewhat lonely promontory on which my house is situated, just as the Roman poet describes the ancient traveller, who sees in the moving of every bush in the night wind the person of a footpad or an assassin, so I, Sir, in every suspicious-looking personage who crossed my path, should fancy I beheld an emissary of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester. Let me, before I conclude, say that it never has been proved that any respectable woman has been interfered with. Oh, yes, I beg to correct myself. There was a case at Portsmouth, where a woman was found late at night drinking in a public-house, consorting with prostitutes, and chaffing the police. She was summoned to undergo an examination, which, after all, on inquiry, she was not compelled to submit to. Sir, in conclusion, let me assure the House that the agitation on this subject is slowly, but surely dying out. It was always loudest, or perhaps I should rather say, shrillest in proportion to the distance of the persons who raised it, and the localities where they lived, from the places where the Acts were practically known and appreciated. It was never greater than that which was raised against vaccination on its first introduction by old women of both sexes. But the House of Commons of that day stood firm, and I trust that the House of Commons of this day will stand equally firm, and not proceed to decree the unrestricted circu- lation of venereal poison to the detriment of posterity, whose curses we should incur, and, what is worse, we should merit. I trust there will be no successful effort made to tamper with these Acts, which in localities where they have been in force have done more in a few short years to alleviate one of the most frightful scourges which can afflict humanity, to improve the condition of the towns, to eradicate juvenile prostitution, to bring to bear a moral influence on the unfortunate women who are subject to them, than all the voluntary efforts of all the philanthropists who have ever existed. Sir, I thank the House for the kind indulgence which it has extended to me while undertaking this most painful subject. I beg to second the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, that this Bill be read a second time this day six months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Sir John Pakington.)


in supporting the Amendment, said, he could not help expressing his strong approval of these Acts, which were now on their trial. He trusted that an overwhelming majority would show that it was the general opinion of the House and the country likewise. He thought that the Petitions which had been sent out in favour of their repeal were signed by women who knew nothing of that to which they had appended their names. He was strongly in favour of their continuance, and hoped he should be right if he congratulated the House on the fact that it was possible that was its last discussion on the subject. If so, it would be nothing but right, for there should be an end put to such topics previous to the admission of female Members of Parliament.


Sir, I should have been glad if I could have given a silent vote, partly on account of the nature of the question, and partly because I am suffering physically. But seeing that the right hon. Baronet opposite the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) has appealed to some one who took an opposite view to himself to meet his arguments, if they could be met, I trust the House will allow me to perform some part of the difficult task of answering some of the statements which the right hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. J. D. Lewis) have put forward. My interest in the question arose from the fact that I was one of those unfortunate Members who were selected by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department to sit upon the Royal Commission, which investigated this subject; but, in listening to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, I almost questioned whether I had served upon that Commission. In common with other Members of the Commission, I was so startled by the views the right hon. Baronet expressed on our behalf, that I almost wondered whether I could have taken part in that important investigation. I was afraid, from conversations I have had with hon. Members of the House on the subject, that not one in ten of them have read the evidence contained in the enormous Blue Book; and my impression is that many of those who are in favour of the Contagious Diseases Acts have been unwilling to to read the evidence on the other side. The right hon. Baronet complained that the duty of addressing the House upon the question had been imposed upon him; but those who take the other side of the question have the most right to complain, for this legislation originated almost entirely with the right hon. Baronet. Indeed, the first Bill introduced on the subject was a private Member's Bill, bearing the names of Sir John Pakington and Lord Clarence Paget. The right hon. Baronet said that, in the year 1864, the physical condition of the Army and Navy was so dreadfully bad that it was needful to call together a number of gentlemen to consider what could be done to meet the outrageous circumstances of the case; and one would suppose that physical disease in those Services had been steadily growing worse and worse until in 1864 it culminated in the highest rate of increase that had ever been known. Now, the House will be surprised to know that for years before 1864 disease both in the Army and Navy had been steadily and regularly decreasing, and it is still, from causes apart from these Acts, on the decrease. I do not deny that medical science has done, and will do, much much, to reduce these diseases; but the reduction is not wholly due to the Contagious Diseases Act, as is proved by the statistics of Dr. Balfour, the chief of the Medical Staff of the Army. Dr. Balfour gives us the following number of cases admitted to hospitals in Devonport, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Chatham, Sheerness, Woolwich, and Aldershot:—2,433 in 1860, 2,368 in 1861, 2,040 in 1862, 1,863 in 1863, 1,729 in 1864, 1,720 in 1865, 1,673 in 1866, 1,698 in 1867, and 1,628 in 1868. When I became a Member of the Commission, I resolved that whatever conclusion the evidence led me to I would boldly and publicly avow it, whether that avowal pleased my constituents or not; but the conclusion at which I arrived was the very opposite of that drawn by the right hon. Baronet. Nor was I alone in that. There were 25 Members originally of the Commission, and fully one-third of the number, distinguished gentlemen connected with the medical profession and the Church, were members of the Society for the Extension of the Acts to the civil population. Two of the Members could not serve; but I believe that out of the remainder only one was a pronounced opponent of the Acts, and that was the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands). I attended nearly every sitting of the Commission, and as our inquiry progressed the fact began to dawn upon us not that voluntary hospitals could not be maintained, nor reclamation be carried on, but that a great deal more might be done by hospitals and by reclamations, and that what had been done at military and naval stations in those respects might be extended to the whole of the nation. These conclusions, however, the right hon. Baronet has cunningly mixed up with compulsory examination and the legalization of vice, and has made out that all the good we looked for from hospital accommodation and voluntary reclamation would result from police administration upon this question. I did not belong to any organization or society connected with this question, but the late Mr. Charles Buxton, one of the vice-Presidents of the Society for the Extension of these Acts, the Rev. P. D. Morris, and Dr. Holmes Coutt, one of the first practitioners in the world with respect to these diseases, all came to the conclusion that the Contagious Diseases Acts were no longer tenable as they stood, The extremely able manner in which the right hon. Baronet has advocated his cause fills me with admiration. No one, I am sure, could have surpassed him in the wonderful manner in which he has manipulated the few facts at his command. I shall ever remember his performance of this afternoon with amazement. The right hon. Baronet said that the Commissioners came to a lame and impotent conclusion; but the reason of this is that the right hon. Baronet and six Friends who joined him were anxious that the Commission should agree upon a recommendation in which they would be unanimous. For my part, I much regret having signed the weak and contradictory Report of the Commission. The first recommendation was that the periodical examinations of women should be discontinued. Twenty-three members of the Commission signed that, the name of the right hon. Baronet being the first. Why does the right hon. Baronet now support the view of seven members of the Commission, and pass by the recommendation of the 23? One of the most important witnesses before the Commission was Miss Lucy Bull, who had been matron of the Devonport Hospital since 1863. She showed that women were much more hardened since the passing of these Acts, the scenes in the street worse, and the scene outside the examination-room such as ought not to be tolerated in a Christian land. She told us of men driving the women up to the examining-houses and waiting for them to return for the purposes of fornication. ["Oh!"] It is impossible to discuss this question without referring to abominable details. I am disgusted with the literature the agitation against the Acts brings to our houses. Well, all the witnesses insisted that the keystone of our system is periodical examination, yet the Royal Commission recommends it to be done away with. Some of the chaplains who were examined approved the Acts because they bring these women for the first time under their influence; but it was surely not necessary to that end to examine, as some of the surgeons said they had, some 60 women a-day, only to find no cause for their detention, and then to send them about their business to carry on their fearful trade. The Commissioners recommended also that women after examination should be ad- mitted to a certified hospital, which was, in fact, recommending that voluntary hospitals should be established throughout the country, and should be open for these women to enter. The 7th recommendation was that every keeper of a public-house or common lodging-house harbouring bad characters should be deprived of his licence, and the 10th recommendation was to amend the Act 24 & 25 Vict. c. 100, by extending from 12 to 14 the age at which seduction was a criminal offence. It was found that the most fruitful source of vice was among very young girls trained up in such a state of degradation, filth, and misery that they glided almost unconcernedly into evil courses. It was found even that parents prostituted their own children of tender years. Another recommendation was that girls under 16 leading an immoral life should be sent to a Home or industrial school for a period not exceeding two years, if they could not be otherwise provided for to the satisfaction of a magistrate; and this it has been shown would have the effect of sweeping thousands from the streets, and putting them in a way to become decent members of society. It is not, therefore, fair to assume that those who take an opposite view to the right hon. Baronet were unwilling to do all in their power to reclaim these poor creatures, and to reduce the extent of disease. The right hon. Baronet admits that public opinion is not ready to permit the extension of these Acts to every town in England; but if it were ready, all the forces of the country would not be able to carry them out in the great industrial centres. What is going to be done in the case of the 16 new military centres? Are the Acts to be extended to them? You dare not extend the Acts to them. And why not? Because those centres are in great manufacturing districts, where it would be impossible to enforce them. It would be impossible in towns where there was a large population of women to put a hand upon any woman seen talking to, or laughing with, a man in the street, and ask her to make voluntary submission. ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] Well, that is the course now. ["No!" and "Hear!"] One of the best witnesses before the Commission was Mr. Phillips, who had been 14 years in the Metropolitan Police Force. He stated that in- formation as to the character of women was obtained from various sources, and he had plenty of cause to believe that women were falsely accused. This witness was so distressed with what he saw that he returned to duty as a police constable, sacrificing 7s. a-week rather than continue to discharge the disagreeable duties imposed upon him. Captain Gore Jones, one of the Inspectors of Dockyards, attributed the diminution of disease in the Navy to the better administration, under which men were paid off promptly and sent home at once, stating that from that cause alone there was a reduction of one-half in the number of cases. The same thing holds true with respect to the administration of the Army. Soldiers are much better conducted than formerly, because they are much better cared for and much cleaner in their habits. Professor Huxley, one of the best hands at analysis in this country declared, after an examination of the statistics to which the right hon. Baronet has referred, they were utterly unreliable and valueless; surely the right hon. Baronet will not dispute that statement by Professor Huxley, and I may remind him that he did not secure Professor Huxley's signature to his protest. Two of the medical men on the Commission protested against the Acts altogether, from 1864 downwards. The terrible pictures that have been drawn of the prevalence of disease have been scandalously overdrawn. I brought in a Factory Bill last year, and two able men, who had served on the Contagious Diseases Commission, were appointed to inquire into the actual condition of factory children throughout the United Kingdom. They examined no fewer than 10,000, and reported an almost entire absence of diathetic diseases—scrofula, rickets, and syphilis. Am I entitled to draw any conclusion from this, that the children are not suffering from the evil courses of their parents? There are 240,000 people in Sheffield. I wish the right hon. Baronet could look at the width and weight of the men I represent. The right hon. Baronet has charged some of us who oppose these Acts with ignorance. I may tell him that between 1,000 and 2,000 medical men, comprising some of the ablest practitioners in England, have petitioned against the continuance of the periodical examinations, and though, with respect to the 1,500 or 2,000 clergymen who have taken the same course, the right hon. Baronet may think well of their hearts and but little of their judgment, it cannot be disputed that they know something about morals if they do not understand physic. A good deal has been said by the hon. Member for Devonport in regard to the evidence of Inspector Anniss; but that witness has been contradicted in almost every particular. He has been contradicted point blank; in fact, the witnesses said as plainly as possible—"Anniss is a liar;" and if the right hon. Baronet says those statistics ought to be proved, I agree with him. Let them be proved. Let a Committee be appointed to investigate Anniss's statistics. I guess what the result will be, for every witness said the same thing of them. The chief of the police was perfectly startled when he read to him Anniss's statement. He said— "It is perfectly impossible; it is not true." My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport made a good point when he spoke of the Prussian Army, and the small amount of disease found there. I quite agree with him; he is quite right; but does he know that the secret of that is not in the regulation of prostitution, but in the constitution of the Prussian Army and Prussian society? The Prussian Army is drawn from all ranks. The soldier is not tabooed; he is received into the homes of the citizens of every town they visit. It is the universal custom, because the householder knows his own son may want hospitality in a like case. Everything possible should be done to protect soldiers against disease and immorality; but it must not be that in order to do that we place women in a position from which reclamation is an impossibility. Compulsory examination degrades women into brute beasts. If you want to see what this system has done elsewhere, look to the Commune. ["Oh, oh!" and "Hear, hear!"] The women who burnt down the public buildings of Paris were women who had been subjected to compulsory examination. I agree that the former state of the camps at the Curragh and Aldershot was a disgrace to a civilized people; but the change observable there is not due to the Acts, but to the system of police adopted in consequence of the Acts, and there is no reason why that system should not be adopted irrespec- tive of the Acts. If the House will thoroughly examine the Report of the Commissioners, I am satisfied it will adopt it as far as the 1st, 7th, and. the 10th and the 11th recommendations are concerned. We shall drop compulsory examination, and extend the blessings of a general system of hospital accommodation throughout the country, thus stimulating private benevolence to add special wards to all hospitals. I trust we shall also put a drag-net round children. I hope the House will adopt such means of dealing with the matter vigorously, and not resort to a vicious system which has proved ruinous wherever it has been tried, which is in opposition to public morality, and which, if persisted in here, will compel us some day to retrace our steps with shame.


said, he had heard with astonishment the language which his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had permitted himself to use with respect to Inspector Anniss. He had great respect for the character of his hon. Friend; but he felt bound to say that after the best inquiry he had made on the subject, he believed. Inspector Anniss to be as truthful a man as his hon. Friend. Addressing his constituents in Renfrewshire in 1871, he quoted from memory, but quite accurately nevertheless, the statements contained in the Report of the Royal Commission as to the diminution of prostitution in what was rather unfairly called the Devonport district—he said unfairly, because Plymouth was responsible for a great amount of it. Speaking in round numbers, it appeared that the prostitutes in that district before the Acts, were 2,000, and just before the Commission the number was reduced to 600. Of juvenile prostitutes under 16 years of age, the number before the Acts was something over 200; at the time of the Commission they had almost entirely disappeared. It had been contended that the diminution which had undoubtedly occurred was due to other causes rather than to the Acts themselves, and with reference to that contention, he had no doubt that other causes were in operation; but he must be permitted to observe that the gradual operation of these good causes would not account for the sudden and rapid diminution which had been effected. His hon. Friend who had moved the second read- ing of the Bill might doubt the figures he had given; but what could he say to the statistics quoted by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. J. D. Lewis), which showed that not only in the hospitals, but in the workhouses, in the gaol, in the Home, and, in fact, in all the public institutions of the district, the reduction had. been still greater. Then there was this striking testimony to the beneficial operation of the Acts—that in every town in which they were in force, we had the leading tradesmen and the clergymen hoping they would not be repealed. The House might, perhaps, be of opinion that other Acts applicable to the whole country might be substituted; but when we had so many persons qualified to judge coming forward and speaking in favour of the Acts, the House ought to pause before substituting legislation which might not be equally effective. Reference had been made to what had been done in the City of Glasgow. In 1866 that City came to the House, and induced it to pass a most stringent Act for the regulation of their streets, and that Act had been rigorously enforced. Well, it was the object of the Government in the Bill they introduced last year to substitute for the present Acts legislation of a stringent character, which proceeded, nevertheless, upon the general recommendations of the Royal Commission. One of the charges against these Acts, which made a very unfavourable impression out-of-doors, was that, important as they were, and affecting the rights and liberties of so many as they did, they were introduced surreptitiously and passed without the knowledge of the country. That might be true of the first Act, the Act of 1864, but it could not be true of those that followed, because after 1864 a Committee of the House of Lords sat; the Report which they made was largely discussed in the newspapers, and the Acts of 1866 and 1869 were founded on that Report. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield himself had put his name to a recommendation that the Act of 1864, the only Act passed without inquiry, should be restored, for the 2nd recommendation of the Royal Commission was practically to restore the Act of 1864. But the Government, in the Bill they introduced, did not follow that recommendation; they rather agreed with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), that the arguments against the Act of 1864 were as strong as against the subsequent Acts. They thought it better to propose the repeal of all these Acts. But what was the consequence? Almost immediately after the introduction of the Bill which was intended to give satisfaction to the entire country, attacks were made upon it from all quarters, and he received a deputation of 150 hon. Members from both sides of the House, protesting against the repeal of the Acts. Under those circumstances, the Government felt that it would be idle to waste the time of the House by proceeding with the measure. He admitted that there was a large amount of respectable public opinion against the Acts, and that it would be impossible to extend them all over the country; though he would himself rejoice if at any time a measure should be introduced which could be made general in its application. But the Government were not prepared to introduce such a measure now, and the question was, ought they to repeal the present Acts? He was not prepared to vote for their repeal. Whatever doubts might be entertained in other respects, no one could have any as to their deterrent effects, and therefore he should not feel justified in voting for the second reading of the Bill.


Sir, when legislation of this kind was first put on the Table, I protested against it, on the ground that it was not right for Government to provide clean women for sinful purposes, I have heard no reason since to satisfy me that the Government of this country through its officers should take official cognizance of a class of persons habitually living in defiance of the laws of God and man, not for any purpose of deterring them, not for any purpose of punishing or reforming them, but simply that they may be proved fit to carry on their evil practices without sanitary inconvenience to their co-partners. I do not believe that can be defended. I believe that to be a downward course of legislation. Many organizations have sprung up in connection with carrying out these Acts. My opinion is, that if the Acts be wrong, no sanitary result will justify them, and that if you do obtain a result, you will be paying a heavy price for it; but your Returns are made out so vaguely that no results can fairly be substantiated from them. These are shortly the grounds why I shall support the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) for repeal. Something has been said respecting the people who carry on this agitation against the Acts. It is complained that the agitation is carried on by women, and therefore little value has been attached to it; but we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that women are most affected by this legislation. We do not know what women suffer. If they do not tell us, men cannot. History tells us that women, in all ages, when they believe they are right, have put their feet upon the Rock of Ages, and nothing will force them from their position. They knew full well what a cross they would have to bear, but they have resolved to take up the cross and despise the shame. Much has been said in the course of this debate on the reforming tendency of these Acts; but if you make vice more attractive, if you remove its attendant penalties and even reduce, it may be, the number of persons who are engaged in this traffic, would not that account for the uniform testimony that the women are better dressed, and therefore in every respect more attractive? I hold to the principle laid down in the Royal Proclamation, against vice and immorality, that there are many things which the law cannot altogether prevent, but that Proclamation calls upon all persons in authority to discountenance vice, and I do not think any man can lay his hand upon his heart and say—"This legislation is discountenancing vice and immorality." Do you not rather say you are content to tolerate the vice, believing you will get compensation in an improved sanitary condition of some portion of the population? You have reduced the result of this Legislation to a money value. You have Returns showing what that money-value is. If we are to act solely under the influence of money-gain, we should all of us consider who it is we serve by so doing. This is a painful matter to me, because I am obliged to differ from so many hon. Friends with whom I usually agree. Still, I have, from the beginning, raised my voice against these Acts, and I believe we are entering on a downward course in following the ex- ample of other nations in this respect. If we test results in those countries which have publicly countenanced prostitution, and see how many children are born in wedlock and how many out of wedlock, and compare the condition of those countries with our own, we should find, thank God, that for the last 35 years we have been going on improving. How can we expect to continue this improvement, if we barter away the morality of the people for some small possible sanitary gain?


as one of the members of the Royal Commission, had attended 43 out of 45 sittings, and felt bound to say that he concurred in everything which had fallen from the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington). He believed that the right hon. Baronet had not made a single statement in excess of the truth; if anything, he had understated the facts. On the other hand, his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), considering the Report to which he had put his hand as a Royal Commissioner, deserved the Victoria Cross for his present course in denouncing the Acts. [Mr. MUNDELLA observed that he was not responsible for, and did not concur in, the whole Report.] He would remind the hon. Member that he had nevertheless just said that "the police" ought to "sweep the young girls into reformatories." In that he (Mr. Mundella) was inconsistent with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler), who had deprecated the employment of the police in these matters, and who yet was inconsistent with himself, inasmuch as he had pointed out the good the action of the police produced in the streets of Glasgow. In the question before the House, he (Sir John Trelawny) had never particularly cared for the statistics, because, if they were on the side of the supporters of the Acts, it would be complained that they made vice easy by diminishing its risk; while, on the other hand, if the statistics were unfavourable, it would be complained that public money was spent in vain. He contended that the Acts were neither illegal nor unconstitutional, and he would admit that if the Acts failed in those respects, the Acts would not stand. A rope was no stronger than its weakest part. What was the worst that could be said in that case? Why, that if a woman was per- sistent in leading the life of a prostitute in a certain district, she was liable to be told that unless she married, or left the district, or expressed her intention to retire from her avocation, she must come under the Acts. Now, was there much hardship in that, considering the mischief she had done? As to the police, it was impossible that they could long be mistaken as to who were common prostitutes. Such persons usually followed one beat, and though a policeman might be wrong one night, or two or three, there could be no doubt on the fourth, or afterwards. The same sad dejected face might be seen night after night in the same locality, and there was no grievance in telling her that she must be treated in hospital, if she continued in her way of life. What was to be done in the case of a prostitute evidently suffering from small-pox? Was she not to be treated? Yet that—with vaccination—was interference with personal liberty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) seemed to prove too much in contending that the Acts tended to immorality by making vice easy, and women more attractive to men. Was he prepared to leave the women altogether without treatment? Was nothing to be done to improve them? If anything was to be done in this way, that, whatever it amounted to, necessarily made the women more attractive to men. He would conclude with expressing his high opinion of the valuable services of the the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich in support of this legislation, services for winch he would have the thanks of future ages.


Sir, the last statistical Reports of the War Office show that the operation of these Acts have failed to diminish the most serious of the diseases. My hon. Friend (Sir John Trelawny) says, that after all the only injury that can be done under this Act of 1869 is, that some unfortunate woman may be obliged to leave the district, but surely he has forgotten the effect of these Acts upon public morality. Consider what is attempted to be done by this compulsory surgical examination. Consider the position in which it puts the Government of the country. The surgeon, the recognized authority of the Government, undertakes carefully to distinguish those women who are healthy from those who are unhealthy. The nine-tenths whom he finds healthy, he sends back on the streets, with the stamp of the Government authority to inform the public that they have successfully passed his examination. The expectant consorts of these women wait at the door of the hospital, or congregate near a neighbouring public-house. This verification and announcement of the soundness of these women is not one of the proper functions of a Government. The compulsory registration of all public women by the police tends to enrol these women in a permanent and organized body. It puts a difficulty in their way when they wish to abandon the profession, for when they announce such an intention to the policeman or the surgeon, they are met with incredulity and suspicions which are not always well founded. The physical health and strength of our soldiers and sailors and of the classes from which they come are of national concern; but the moral health and force of all classes is still more important, and more to be cared for by the representatives of the nation, and the Legislature will fail in one of its highest duties if it continues this league between the State and prostitution, by maintaining laws which aim at rendering prostitution more safe and alluring without any concomitant attempt to discountenance or eradicate it.


What has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department ought to satisfy us that these Acts are wrong. He admits that no Government can impose them on the whole nation. They cannot then be maintained for any part of it. I feel more than ever confirmed in consequence of this debate in the justice of the course I have taken.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 251: Majority 123.

Words added.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Bill put off for six months.