§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ SIR HAECOURT JOHNSTONE
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: In bringing this subject before the House, I am aware that I am undertaking a very delicate and difficult task—difficult, because so many hon. Members who have formerly voted for the repeal of these Acts are unfortunately, now out of Parliament, and delicate because the subject has been so criticized and censured, and even, I may say, so ostracized by the Press and by many people in this country that it is scarcely possible to obtain a thorough ventilation of it without bringing it before the House of Commons. But the unwillingness I have felt in bringing it forward is not owing to any want of thorough conviction which has deepened and strengthened every day and every hour, that a Repeal Bill was absolutely necessary. Moreover, I have an intense dislike as many other hon. Members of that House to prominence on a matter which is so revolting, so loathsome. It has not been my habit to trouble the House on many questions during the last few years; but I felt bound, in deference to the wishes of many of my constituents, for whose judgment and whose feelings I have the greatest respect, and also in deference to the unanimously expressed wish of certain Members of the House who had met to consider the question, to come forward. I must remind the House that three Acts have been passed on this subject differing from each other very slightly, except that they have become more intensely despotic in character as they advanced. In 1864—according to the Report of the Royal Commission that sat on the subject—an Act was passed without notice in or out of Parliament, for the suppression of contagious diseases in various parts of the Kingdom, at certain places, the names of which it mentioned. After the Act of 1864, a medical Committee sat to report on the working of the Act, and in 1866 the Act of 1864, was repealed, and an amended or more stringent Act was passed. Subsequently, and after the Reports of the Lords' and Commons' Committees in 1868, an Act 352 was passed in 1869—the third Act that had been passed on the subject. There were certain penalties in these Acts which at first were comparatively lenient, but as every successive Act was passed, those penalties became more and more stringent, and more dangerous to public liberty. By the Act of 1864, no proceedings were to be taken against a woman, unless there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the magistrates, and, after all, this was only such evidence as was founded on "reason to believe." That was a peculiar sort of evidence, but a mark of the more lenient character of that Act was, that no woman was to be detained for more than three months after she had been examined, and the imprisonment for rebellion against these provisions was for two months, and without hard labour. By the Act of 1866, the powers delegated to a superintendent of police or a medical man, were handed over to an inspector, thus giving them to a person of lower and less responsible position. By Section 16 of the Act of 1866, in case of their non-appearance, women were ordered to be examined constantly for a year, and the celebrated "Section 17," which I have no doubt will be the subject of much discussion, is embodied in that Act. It is the voluntary submission clause, and it provides that any woman in any place to which the Act applies may voluntarily, by a submission in writing, signed by her in the presence of, and attested by, a superintendent, submit herself for one year. I may here point out that the penalties under the Act of 1866 were these—A woman might be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months, with or without hard labour, for infringing the provisions of the Act, and for illegally quitting the hospital to which she was sent, she might be taken into custody without warrant; the limit of the operation of the Act being five miles from the station. In the Act of 1869, by Section 4, a woman escaping from hospital was liable, if found within a 10 miles limit, to be apprehended and put under the provisions of the Act; and what was worse than that was, that by Section 6 of the same Act, a voluntary submission was held to have the same effect as an order of the justices, while there were increased penalties for non-appearance, the duration being extended to nine mouths. I 353 wish to point out how the severity of these Acts has been increased. In the Act of 1864, it was provided, first, that there must be an information before one or more justices; in 1866 there was what was termed the alternative of voluntary submission, and in 1869 voluntary submission was allowed to have the same effect as a justice's order. Thus every safeguard for the liberty of the subject has been gradually removed. I have no doubt that this was done with the best intentions, as is very often the case in these attempts to limit the freedom which every subject ought naturally to enjoy, in order to secure the object of those who pass restrictive laws, and so far as intentions go, I do not blame them. They made no secret of the fact that they desired to make the Acts as stringent and powerful for the purpose they had in view, as was possible, and therefore they had very naturally pressed for increased stringency and severity. But it so happened that in 1866 there were very few people who began to see what these Acts were likely to do, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) said during the discussion on the subject in that year that the measure was "a very queer Bill on a very queer subject," and he recommended reclamation. Well, I do not wish to pin myself to reclamation, at least, so far as State-reclamation is concerned. Voluntary reclamation is one thing, and State-reclamation is another. Mr. Ayrton, who was then in the House, too, characterized the Bill as one for—Keeping public women at the public expense for the gratification of soldiers and sailors. No useful or moral end was intended, the end in view being vice, unmitigated vice," and he added that "such a proposal was a disgrace to the country."—[3 Hansard, clxxxii. 815.]That Bill was brought into the House at 1 o'clock in the morning. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, said—That it was hardly possible the subject could be discussed then with that fulness which would be desirable."—[Ibid. 816.]The Bill was recommitted on the 26th of April at nearly 2 o'clock in the morning. Lord Clarence Paget protested, in answer to some remarks made, against the idea of women being certificated by the Acts, and Mr. Henley asked why the Bill was 354 not to be generally applied—if to Windsor, why not to Westminster? In the Act of 1866, owing to remonstrances of certain hon. Members, it was provided that moral and religious instruction was to be given to the women in the hospitals. I will now analyse, but not at any great length, some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, because the Royal Commission have been so inconsistent in those recommendations that their Report is really, in certain respects, a perfect farce. There can be no doubt that in the case of a numerous Commission, on which there are men holding different views, the recommendations contained in the various paragraphs of the Report most naturally display a good deal of diversity. There is, undoubtedly, a distinct antagonism in the views of the different Members of a Royal Commission, and that antagonism is clearly marked in many passages of their Report in a very peculiar manner. The Report, at the same time, contains some remarkable admissions, to which I would call the attention of the House. It is admitted that the "Act of 1866 sought to render the practice of prostitution, if not innocuous, at least much less dangerous;" and that, at all events, affords a very significant explanation of the true purpose of the Act. Paragraph 14 of the Report contradicts the statement of the Lords' Committee that the diminution of disease at Devonport was owing to the recent laws, because the Act of 1866 had not been in force when the Report was made. Another paragraph relates how curiously evidence was procured from soldiers who were drunk, and who often wanted to shield the persons with whom they had consorted; as well as from brothel-house keepers, who were in constant communication with, and who were, in fact, the allies of the police. Paragraph 23 says the charges made against the police cannot be substantiated, a statement which I venture entirely to deny. There is a Member of the Royal Commission, not now present, but who will probably be in his place in the course of the afternoon, who may have occasion to point out that the evidence of some of these women had been proffered to the Commission, but that it had been refused; while the mere ipse dixit of those who were engaged in the administration of the Acts, was taken 355 as a denial of the charges made by the women, who, however, were not brought before the Commission. I maintain that there are many well-authenticated cases that can be sustained; but there is one very recent instance of the injustice and cruelty that was perpetrated under these Acts. I need not allude at any great length to the case of Mrs. Percy, at Aldershot; but there can be no doubt whatever that—even if that woman had been a habitually drunken woman, or even a woman consorting with soldiers, as persons in her class of life might do without being prostitutes—the hardship she was made to suffer was such as to induce her to destroy her own life. If she had been a confirmed prostitute, she would not have been in such a state of complete and abject want as she was proved to have been in, previous to her death; and if every woman is to be called a prostitute, because on one occasion she is seen by the police to be drinking—inferences may be drawn which can only be equalled by the inference drawn in the case of the Cambridge carrier, who, when asked whether his horse could draw inferences, replied—"My horse can draw anything in reason." The difference here is that the inferences drawn by the police, in Mrs. Percy's case, were entirely without reason; they had drawn inferences to suit their own purposes. The following admission of the Royal Commissioners is a very remarkable one. In Paragraph 37, it is stated that—There was no ground for the assertion that any diminution of the disease in the Army and Navy was attributable to a diminution of disease contingent on a periodical examination of women.That being so, why has Parliament taken action in the matter? I do not wish to blame the present Government, or any other Government, for the question is one that is far above Party considerations, and I do not propose to enter into any contest of political antagonism upon it. The Bill before the House is supported by hon. Members on both sides, and I am unwilling that the discussion of it should assume a Party tone. Moreover, I assert that those who support the Bill do not wish it to be supposed that they regard themselves as standing upon any lofty pinnacle of morality. It is not upon such grounds that they desire to proceed. For I admit that quite as good men are in favour of the Acts, as are against 356 them. What I and my Friends hold is that there has been a misapprehension on the subject; that people have relied entirely on the Government statistics, and have not taken the trouble to dive into the nature of these Act, and I am not surprised at it. I admit that for many a long day I refused to look into the Acts, but I at length had to do it, long before the General Election, and the more I looked into the question, the less argument I found in their favour, and the more sure I felt that it was undesirable to maintain the Acts, either for the good of soldiers, sailors, or civilians, or for the morality of the country. Immediately after Paragraph 37 of the Report of the Commission, which states that there is no evidence of a diminution of disease, it is stated that there is a "general impression" that these Acts have acted beneficially on the health of the men. In Paragraph 48 the Commissioners contradict their first view by saying that frequent examination is a most efficacious means of controlling disease. Can anything show more thoroughly how inconsistent that report is? We know what this is owing to; but those who read the Report will no longer have reason to doubt, looking at the evidence it is founded upon, that these Acts were unnecessary. Another extraordinary admission made by the Commissioners is that—"It is difficult to escape from the inference that the State, in passing these Acts, has assumed prostitution to be a necessity." That is, in fact, the line that has been taken in foreign countries; many of whom have assumed that prostitution is a necessity. In my opinion, such is not the view of the majority of the people of this country. It may be the view of certain military men, and also of a certain number of those connected with the Navy. And that view is not confined to them, for it is held by a great many people belonging to the civil community; but it will be utterly subversive of the morality of the country if it should be generally admitted. Among the recommendations at the end of the Report are—that the system of periodical examinations should be discontinued; that the police, in carrying the Acts into force, should peform their duties in uniform; and that the Acts should be extended to any place in the United Kingdom from which a request is made for their application, 357 except London and Westminster. I have not heard that any places have availed themselves of the suggestion which has been given. It is true that there is one place that has memorialized the Home Secretary to extend these Acts to that locality. It is a town in the Isle of Wight, and the memorial is the consequence of a report that a large number of prostitutes from Portsmouth has gone thither for refuge from the action of the police. But the prayer of the memorial is entirely contradicted by the town council, and no action has been taken upon it. Now, there are three distinct principles on which the supporters of this Bill proceed. They hold, in the first place, that it is not the business of the State to provide the means of self-indulgence for the Army, the Navy, or any other class of society in this country or elsewhere; secondly, that it is not the business of the State to connive at the maintenance of houses of ill-fame, but to suppress them, and that, not by a central agency, but by means of the local authorities; and the third great principle they maintain is this—that, so long as they are in this House, they should endeavour to see that no Act of Parliament should be passed that will allow any office or Department, whether the Home Office or any other, to frame and carry out regulations that are inconsistent with the liberty of the people, and with constitutional law. A very active and zealous gentleman in the Home Office (Captain Harris) has issued a Report, which I have no doubt the Home Secretary will thoroughly endorse. I do not blame any man for doing that, and the gentleman referred to has done his duty thoroughly and completely, but many of the statements in his Report are such as the House ought carefully to attend to. It is a most curious Report, and so far as the intention of the writer and compiler is concerned, it is no doubt excellent. It deals with a great many statistics, into which I will not enter, as that part of the question will be handled far better than I can handle it by an hon. Member who has made himself thoroughly acquainted with the figures. There is, however, one statement that is apt to mislead many people and I will therefore call attention to it. The 4th section of the Home Office Report states that in towns where the Acts are enforced, the voice of the general public is 358 strongly in their favour, and that the opposition comes from persons who are ignorant of the law, or who reside in places distant from the scene of its operation. Now, the question is, has the voice of the public been tested on this subject? Has there been any discussion out-of-doors before the Acts were passed? That is the point. I assert that in every district in England in which meetings have since been held—where the meetings have not been packed—the voice of the general public is not in favour of the Acts. ["Oh, oh!"] Only recently at public, and not packed meetings, that have been held at Portsmouth and Chatham on the subject, the majority of those present strongly protested by their speeches and votes against these Acts. No doubt there are a good many in those towns who say they believe the health of their sons and daughters and of their friends may possibly be preserved and not endangered by the operation of the Acts, and that there is greater quietude and respectability of demeanour among the prostitutes who are much better conducted than before. It is also said that respectable people have been known to say they would gladly pay a special rate for the maintenance of the Acts, so much have they contributed to the peace and quietude of the places in which they lived. They do not add, however, that they contribute to the morality of the towns in which they are enforced, and I am of opinion that that is a great omission, and that morality ought to be substituted for "quietude." The Report I have referred to, says that wherever a chance exists of the reclamation of women, every effort has been made to reclaim them before they are brought under the operation of the Acts. There is no doubt that the policemen who are entrusted with the duty of enforcing the law, are all human beings—fathers, brothers and sons—and perhaps they have no wish to see young creatures hurried prematurely into a life of prostitution. I have no doubt that the metropolitan and the local police may also have done something to caution the young women they go amongst against coming under the law. I will not weary the House by going into statistics as to the number of persons who have been reclaimed, nor the statement as to the decrease of brothels—which was, in fact, 359 due to another law—nor to the alleged large diminution of prostitutes in Devonport; but I think if we see to what these figures amount, we cannot attach very much importance to them. One thing that I would point out is, that the limits in which the Acts operate, have been enlarged by the "amended" law; but, in point of fact, the enlarged limits are not used in all cases by the police. I am told that at Windsor, where the Acts are enforced, the police do not find themselves able to control the action of the prostitutes to the full extent of the legal area, and the women simply go off to Datchet and to other places, almost under the walls of the Castle. The truth of the matter is, that you cannot keep up a machinery that will thus control the action of human beings. The whole tendency of this peculiar trade, and of those who are engaged in it, is to evade the police, and I hold that it can never conduce to the real morality of the country, to keep up a body of police to watch the public morals. There is no doubt that the public require protection in many ways; but I do not think they require to be protected in the manner the Home Office and the authorities of the Army and Navy imagine. It is said in a well-known work by Carlyle, written nearly 50 years ago—It were but blindness to deny that this superior morality is, properly, rather an inferior criminality, produced not by greater love of virtue, but by greater perfection of police.Again—It is by tangible material considerations we are guided, not by inward and spiritual.You cannot tell in the case of soldiers whether the men are married or not. It was the case when I was in the Army that a certain proportion of the men were married and a certain proportion were single, and I am told that in the case of one of the towns which is under the protection of the Act, a colonel commanding a regiment came before a Committee of this House, and stated that not only did he object, but that the married men and the "good conduct" men under him objected entirely to these Acts. Many of those who were, or would be, married, were kept down by the constant system of espionage and police vigilance which no doubt seem quite right to the promoters of these Acts, but which are certainly not conducive to the liberty of the subject. 360 There is no doubt that whenever a regiment removes to fresh quarters there is a new importation of those who follow the fortunes of the Army. In that case the old comers in the town meet the new comers, and the former, finding that their original monopoly is interfered with, inform the police of the doings of the latter, and these Acts are sustained by such methods. What can be thought of a system which is kept up by the information of prostitutes and sometimes of drunken soldiers, although it may happen that information is sometimes obtained from the respectable inhabitants of the place? Some of these women remain, some, perhaps, from disposition or idleness, but others, again, from fear, for having got once into the clutches of the police they cannot escape, while others may remain from attachment to the men with whom they have consorted, even though they are not married. There can be no doubt, as everyone can judge from the experience of former generations, that the sort of terrorism produced by these Acts leads to evasion. The hon. Baronet having referred to the failure of every attempt to enforce severe restrictive laws on this subject, during the reigns of Constantine, Louis XIV. in Spain and in Prussia, and the admission of eminent French physicians that all attempts to diminish the evil had totally failed, continued—Dr. Drysdale, a countryman of our own, the senior physician of the Metropolitan Free Hospital, says—On going over the Paris hospitals I am driven to the conclusion that there is more disease in Paris than in London, Paris having only half our population, and this, too, after 80 years trial of the Contagious Diseases Acts.He, moreover, challenges contradiction of this fact, and neither Dr. Ricord nor any other of the celebrated French writers have dared to deny it. I may say, however, that this fact was partly insisted on, and partly denied by the Royal Commission. And here let me ask, to whom do you apply the examination that takes place under these Acts? You apply it to a large class of women, many of whom are not prostitutes, and who have never been prostitutes, and even who have never been diseased; and you apply it to one sex alone. You apply it only to women. I had the good fortune while in the Army to serve with Lord Herbert during the last few months of 361 his life, and I remember his speaking very highly of the efforts of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief to redeem the position of the Army; but I do not think it would ever have entered into Lord Herbert's head to recommend for our adoption such Acts as are now on the Statute Book. In point of fact, his Commission recommended the discontinuance of the examination even of the men, because it was so degrading to them. The men hated it; the doctors hated it; and it was regarded as utterly repulsive to all natural feeling. I know that many of the commanding officers, and many of the surgeons in the Army hate the present system; and I am told that certain surgeons who expressed their abhorrence of it were told that their promotion depended entirely on their compliance with the Acts. I have been told that by a commander serving in the Army in London at this moment, and also by a colonel commanding a battalion of the Guards. There is a pecuniary fine levied upon the soldiers who contract this disease, and those who draw up the statistics on this subject can tell us how it operates. It leads to concealment. You first forbid the soldier to marry, and then you fine him—for what? Not for the self-indulgence of which he has been guilty, but because he has been unfortunate enough to contract disease. I know it may, and probably will be said that the disease interferes with the man's efficiency, and this, no doubt, is true; but, the morality of the argument is peculiar. Putting it to a lower test, it is as if you should say—"It is very desirable to steal; you have only to take care that you are not found out." That really is the morality of this system. There is no doubt that this system was adopted by Lord Cardwell with the very best intentions. I am sure he would be the last man knowingly to do an immoral thing, and it was no doubt intended to promote the efficiency of the Army, but now that it has been tried and found wanting, I cannot think that the officers of the Army will desire its continuance. But I ask, what statesman in this House will get up in his place and venture to say—"Apply these Acts to both sexes of human beings?" I maintain that this House would not pass an Act that would compel a registration of men, and keep them on the register for a year—an Act that would 362 arrest men coming out of brothels and require from them a voluntary submission, the refusal to sign which would render them liable to punishment. You would find it impossible to apply these Acts to both sexes, and therefore I say that in common justice and equity they ought to be repealed. If you desire to extend these Acts to both sexes, let us have a measure brought before the House for that purpose. Well, how do these Acts affect the morals of the people? I am told that those women who have not become hardened to the system of examination are to be seen drunk in the streets, and going about in that state through towns in which they live. They are sometimes accompanied by men; and even in the very face of your new elementary schools, where you have enacted that religious instruction shall form part of the education given to the children, these women are to be thus seen, for the benefit of the rising generation; and, moreover, the rising population have been seen taking an interest in seeing these poor creatures going to the examination. I find also from the statements of men who are living in these protected districts, and who can vouch for these facts, that in Southampton, the public rush to the room where the prostitutes sit, and young boys may be seen looking at and talking to them. Fancy seeing a number of people watching a batch of prostitutes thrust into one place, some of them half drunk, some perfectly brazenfaced, and a crowd of young boys, looking at and laughing at them Well, Sir, I cannot think that these things can be at all conducive to morality. It has been said that if the certificates are no longer given to these women they can no longer go round with them and say—"I am a Queen's woman. I am at liberty to follow this trade!" The certificate is now retained; but the moment a woman has been examined and liberated, it is just as well known that she has been discharged as fit for the public service. We are told that it is not our business to interfere, and that the authorities of the Army and Navy are responsible to this House for the efficiency of the public service. I ask, however, are we to accept these illegalities as legal? We are not in a state of siege and under martial law; and I do not think the House of Commons will ever abdicate its 363 right to deal with those Services, or to prevent them having absolute power over the persons of civilians. Sir, the accusation has been levelled against us that we are indifferent to the health of the country; that we wish to promote these diseases; that we will not believe the good these Acts have done, and that we are desirous of spreading disease as much as possible. For my own part, I cannot feel that I ought to plead guilty to this charge. Personally, for many years, I have taken a very active part in urging on the local authorities, in my district, the necessity of establishing sanataria for the prevention of contagious disease—not of this character, but of another. I have said that I have taken a very active part in this work, and if it is said that we do not care for the Army and its reputation, I reply that the honour, reputation, and efficiency of the Army, are as dear to me as they are to any hon. Gentleman opposite, including my hon. and gallant Friend who is to move the rejection of this Bill (Colonel Alexander). My hon. and gallant Friend is going to move that the Bill be read a second time this day three months, or six months, whichever it may be. I am sure that, whatever he does, will be done as everything he does is always done, bonâ fide, and in the most straightforward manner; but, having known him for 30 years, and knowing that he has spent the larger portion of his life in the Army, I may say that although, perhaps I may not be imbued with the military ideas he entertains, I have the advantage over him with regard to civilian views, which, in this House, are almost the only views upon which we act. There has been a good deal said about the position which women have taken in this matter, and upon this point I will say, that in common justice, at least, when we hear of women being attacked for meddling with these Acts, we are bound to admit that if women had not begun to interfere for the liberties of their own sex, however low or degraded they might be, the men would never have taken up the subject at all. The fact is, that many of us have neglected our duty in this matter, and so far from the women being blamed, they are to be greatly praised; while the scurrilous remarks that have been made about them are only disgraceful to those who have made them. Some women 364 have taken up this subject, whose spotless reputations and great abilities are quite sufficient answer to those cynical gentlemen who believe in nothing but their own philosophical materialism. Amongst them are ladies who have been highly nurtured and highly educated, and who have had much more reluctance in touching this subject than any of us, and if, under these circumstances, they have come forward to do their duty to their country-women, I do not think that we should censure them. Turning to another point, I may say that among the remedies that have been employed for increasing the efficiency of the Army, the House should remember the measures of a sanitary nature that have been adopted with such good results for a good many years. Within my recollection there was a most disgusting want of facilities for cleanliness and sanitary purposes in the Army, such as would not have been tolerated in any other civilized country. Why, there used to be nothing for the men to wash in except the urine tub, which stood in the front of the road. Now, however, all these things have been improved. Every facility has been given to the soldier for improving his condition, by the establishment of libraries, &c., and better arrangements for cleanliness. These things, I contend, really have had a great deal to do with the improved health of the Army. I now come to the question of reclamation. Many people hold by the idea that these Acts are doing a great moral work. ["Hear, hear!"] I think my hon. Friend opposite believes this thoroughly. He is fully persuaded that these Acts are doing a great deal of good, and, of course, as he belongs to the Home Office, he would naturally back up its officials. [Sir HENREY SEL-WIN-IBBBTSOH" said, it was not from him that the cheer came.] I did not impute to the hon. Baronet that he is capable of holding that view. But there are those who say that these Acts have a reclaiming effect; that the streets are quieter since they have been in operation, and that numbers of women have been reformed. If so, the figures which show the results are very scarce; and, for my part, I believe that where these reclamations are said to have taken place in consequence of these Acts, there has been nothing but hypocrisy. No doubt, opportunities are afforded to the 365 metropolitan police of finding out and reclaiming women; but they do not try to reclaim them. They may put out their hands—and they are quite right in so doing—to warn them off the streets, and they may recommend them to go hack to their families; but when I hear of these wholesale reclamations, I say that there are no powers in the Acts providing for the reclamation of these people. The only means of doing this are those which certain Rescue Societies provide. It is said that the class of women thus said to be reclaimed are the better for having been under the operation of these Acts. If, however, they were to be summoned to a Committee-room of this House, it would be seen that this was not the case, and the Committee would arrive at an opposite opinion. The very fact of their having been on the register has rendered it almost impossible to reform them. There are homes which have been provided for them both before and after the passing of these Acts, but they are provided by voluntary subscriptions. This is so at Portsmouth. There was, I believe, a power of sending women to these homes, and I really do not know whether the expense of sending them there appears in the Estimates. It cannot be denied, I think, that one result of the examination of those unhappy women is, that they become more and more hardened, and therefore less and less susceptible of good impressions. They may be improved in appearance and become more prosperous, but they are more hardened, so that prostitution cannot be lessened by the periodical examination. I will not go to other statistics, but will take those of foreign countries. The Prefects of Paris and of the Hague state that clandestine prostitution is constantly on the increase. The physician of the first hospital in Austria states that there is in his district no diminution of prostitution whatsoever. In Paris clandestine prostitution is spreading. Mr. Wolferstan, the house surgeon at Devonport, stated in his evidence before the Royal Commission that he was entirely opposed to the present Acts, because they failed to effect any improvement in the health of the soldiers and sailors, while they greatly increased clandestine prostitution. What does the matron of Colchester say? She says that the moral reformation effected is remarkably small 366 —that one in four may be doing well; while the matron at Devonport says that the Acts do little permanent restoration. The chaplain says that—Advice does little, because it is of a compulsory character; in fact, these women Know just as well as we do that they are not imprisoned from motives of kindness, but to give security to men: and you cannot effect your purpose by these Acts, which by attempting on the one hand to remove the consequences, on the other hand directly stimulate the cause.You may cover it with the cloak of a spurious morality or with a coating of State varnish; you may make it more specious, but you cannot make it more moral or more worthy of the consideration of the people of England—and who, I would ask, are in favour of those Acts? They are opposed to the feelings of the great religious bodies of the country. You may perhaps say that they are fanatical. Well, that will come with ill-grace from the hon. Gentlemen opposite who have fought for religious education. Sir, I have presented numbers of Petitions from English clergymen in the five northern dioceses, numerously signed. I do not say that they were all against those Acts, but I do say that many of them were, and that they manifest a growing feeling against the Acts. I will take Cardinal Manning, I will take the leading Baptists, hundreds of Congregational ministers, almost the whole of the Wesleyan body, the Society of Friends, the bulk of the Scotch Churches,' the United Presbyterians, and the Scotch Free Church, and other bodies for whom Petitions were presented to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), who stated that they represented the great bulk of religious feeling in Soot-land. I do not know what the mind of all my hon. Friends at this side of the House may be; but as far as I can judge, Roman Catholic Members cannot be favourable to Acts of the kind. And, moreover, the feeling against them is not confined to the country. To my knowledge there is a very widespread feeling against them over the whole of Europe. The evidence on this point goes to show, beyond doubt, that public opinion in the great towns and cities of the Continent—where there is public opinion—is decidedly against such laws. That feeling exists strongly in Italy and Switzerland. Only yesterday I read a letter from a former President of the 367 Federal Chamber, in which he says that public opinion must come round by degrees against such Acts, for that to legalize prostitution is repulsive to the feelings of the people. Well, then, the question is—What is to be done? What do our opponents propose to do? I say this boldly, that I consider it to be the duty of the State, in all those districts where the course of circumstances brings together a large body of men, under peculiar circumstances, there it is the duty of the State to contribute to the hospitals. I am not going to say that because the disease is caused by immorality, therefore it ought not to be cured. That would be repugnant to common sense; and I say that wherever the peculiar circumstances to which I have referred exist, Lock wards ought to be attached to the hospitals. I do not know where you could get local authorities to do so; but if it came before me as Chairman of a Board of Guardians, or local sanitary authority, I would urge the matter upon them. I would say you must not shut your eyes to the fact that this disease exists; try to improve the condition of those who are subject to it, by laying before them the highest lessons of morality, but do not shut your eyes to the fact that the evil exists, and where it exists make provision for the lessening of it. And, moreover, there is voluntary effort to be made available, which exists in all the Churches, and which is never called upon in vain for any great or philanthropic cause. Look at the range after range of hospitals which it supports, and has for 40 or 50 years supported in London. Funds they often want, but the want is speedily supplied, and now we have the special effort put forth on Hospital Sunday on their behalf. In voluntary effort you will find an enormous reserve of philanthropic charity, and that not only for cure but for reclamation and prevention also. I know that not very far from me there resides one person who has given up almost every luxury of life for the sake of reclaiming and maintaining those poor women. And I know many persons who have deprived themselves of a great deal, and made many sacrifices in the same excellent cause. Societies of such persons are increasing in every town and city in the country, and, in some respects, I do not lament that those Acts have been passed, because their inefficacy 368 has been shown; and it has been demonstrated that the work of reclamation and cure—the work of improving the morals of the people—really must be done through the medium of voluntary effort. Sir, those Acts must be repealed. I do not care how many may' vote with us to-day. That is, I had almost said, a matter of indifference to me. This movement is only beginning. We will go on with it. We have made up our minds to do so. We have not only advocates on this side of the House with us, but we have good advocates with us on the other side also. I say that those Acts must be repealed, because they are injurious to private liberty and public morality, and repulsive alike to Christianity and civilization. I beg. Sir, to move the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the second time."—(Sir Harcourt Johnstone.)
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
If I cannot hope to imitate my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) in the clearness and perspicuity of his language, I will at least endeavour to follow his moderation. It is frequently said of questions debated in this House that they are not Party questions, but this is pre-eminently the case with the important subject which we are invited to consider to-day. The Acts of which my hon. Friend proposes the repeal were passed with the assent, if not the approbation, of both Parties in the State, and therefore whatever either of praise or blame attaches to this legislation, both Parties must share in an equal degree. I therefore respectfully invite hon. Gentlemen sitting on both sides of the House to consider in all its bearings this momentous question, and to reflect that the vote they give to-day may involve the happiness or misery, not only of the present, but of generations yet unborn. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough that reciprocating the spirit in which he has spoken, not one word shall fall from me reflecting on the character or motives of those who feel it their duty to advocate the repeal of these Acts. How could I, indeed, impugn the motives of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen whose names are on the back of this Bill, who are among the most respected and honoured Members of this House? And, Sir, 369 having read the evidence taken before the Royal Commission on which were associated three distinguished Members of this House, I desire to record my opinion that those witnesses who bore testimony adversely to these Acts, could not do otherwise than protest against their continuance. If, Sir, I might be allowed to single out one of these witnesses whose character and conduct entitle her to the highest admiration, it would be Mrs. Butler. Till I read, Sir, the evidence taken before the Commission I had formed no conception of the nobility of this lady's character. For 15 years prior to the passing of these Acts, she and her husband had received into their house at Liverpool poor outcast women as friends. She had taken them in as patients when ill, keeping them in her house till they died. "Our house," she says, "is a small refuge for them—sometimes five of them living together." If we had more women of this stamp, perhaps these Acts might not be so necessary as I humbly conceive them to be. When I say necessary, I do not pretend to defend all the details of the Acts, some of which are doubtless capable of amendment in the direction pointed out by the Royal Commission; but I do hope to make good their principle against the objections advanced by my hon. Friend. First of all, the hon. Baronet and those who think with him assert that the Acts legalize, sanction, and, in fact, recognize the necessity of prostitution. Sir, if I thought that such was their effect, I would not utter one syllable in their defence, but would use my utmost endeavour to sweep them from the Statute Book. But my hon. Friend, as I conceive, misinterprets these Acts and their effect. What was the position of prostitution in this country before this legislation was enforced? Hon. and learned Gentlemen will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that prostitution per se, although, perhaps, theoretically, was practically not an offence. If, however, the prostitute behaved in the streets in a riotous and indecent manner she brought herself within the provisions of the Vagrant Act, and the Police Clauses Acts in towns further authorized the punishment of those women who solicited passers by so as to cause annoyance. Thus far it may be said that the State recognized the existence of prostitution not as a necessity, 370 but as a painful fact. It said to those unhappy women—"We know what you are—we are aware of your occupation, but we will not disturb you so long as you behave decorously and do not annoy passengers with solicitation." Prostitution was, in fact, regulated, although not legalized or sanctioned. Now, my hon. Friend will not, I think, deny that the principle of regulation being conceded, the State if it thought necessary might add to and supplement the regulations already in force. The State, then, finding an evil existing in our garrison towns and seaports, compared with which the annoyance caused by riotous behaviour and solicitation was petty and unimportant, said to the prostitute—"We do not recognize you more than before, but, we must place you under further regulations; and if you insist on carrying on your immoral occupation we must take care that you do not communicate horrible disease to our soldiers and sailors. To do this effectually' we consider periodical examination necessary, and if you should be found diseased detention in hospital. During that detention you will not be subjected to undue restraint. Chaplains, medical officers, and matrons will minister to your spiritual and temporal necessities. You will be brought under the influence of humanizing agencies, and if disposed to reform you will be placed in situations or restored to your friends." Will my hon. Friend tell me in what way these regulations recognize prostitution more than it was recognized before? Mrs. Lewis says she objects to the Acts because her Bible says "Make not provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof;" but let me ask Mrs. Lewis and her friends whether the State does make any such provision? On the contrary, it unfortunately finds the provision already existing and seeks by regulation to render it as innocuous as possible. But it may be said, indeed has been said, especially by Mr. William Fowler, formerly a Member of this House, and who moved the repeal of these Acts in 1873—Why are these Acts restricted to garrison towns, camps, and seaports? My answer is, the State may be said to stand in loco parentis to our soldiers and sailors, and when it locates simple country recruits in camps, where the disease is rife, is bound to protect them against its horrible ravages. Mrs. Butler says—"This legislation is 371 abhored by the country as a tyranny of the upper classes against the lower;" but, to my mind, when you take measures to protect a simple country lad who often falls into temptation when under the influence of drink, you are legislating rather in favour of the poor than of the rich. Again, Sir, it is urged that in subjecting women to compulsory examination and detention you are violating the principle of personal liberty. The Rev. Mr. Kells, a Baptist minister, said—He considered the privileges of the British Constitution violated, and Magna Charta in abeyance, for women by the compulsory examination under the Acts.And Mr. Cooper, Secretary to the Rescue Society, who is now engaged in active agitation against the Acts, testified before the Commission—That it was an unjustifiable invasion of a woman's liberty to bring her forcibly to hospital and detain her till cured.But let me remind these gentlemen and others, that if this is a violation of Magna Charta similar violations of it are taking place daily and hourly. No person ill with small-pox would be allowed to leave a hospital uncured, and there is a clause moreover in the later Poor Law Acts enabling guardians to detain paupers in workhouses when labouring under contagious diseases. I now come. Sir, to a very important objection urged against the Acts—namely, that the compulsory examination and its attendant circumstances further degrade and harden these unhappy women. I will not dwell on the charges of cruelty brought against the medical officers when conducting the examination, because the Commission, I think, expressed itself satisfied that these charges had been completely disproved, and that a nurse was invariably present in the room. "With respect to the degradation or supposed degradation involved in the examination itself, some conflicting evidence was given before the Commission. Miss Lucy Bull, the Matron of the Royal Albert Hospital, rightly described by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) as a most important witness against the Acts, "considers the periodical examination demoralizing and objectionable;" but I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the witness parts company with him at that point, because she would revert to the examination prescribed by the Act of 1864, which he 372 and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hants (Mr. Cowper-Temple) rightly think infinitely more objectionable than that legalized by the Act of 1866. Mrs. Kells, a most respectable witness, the wife of the minister from whose evidence I have already quoted, stated—The girls had told her that the examination was taking all modesty and self-respect out of them; that they never knew what indecency was till they submitted to this examination.A statement which one of the Commissioners naturally followed up with the question—Are you not aware that in following up this vicious life, these women are in the habit of submitting themselves to three, four, and five men in an evening? Do you, as a woman, think that a follow-woman who lives by doing this can talk of anything elses having driven modesty out of her?To which the answer was—"Yes, they have their own conventional ideas." On the other hand, we have evidence to prove that what the women dislike is not the examination, but the detention in hospital if found diseased; and Dr. Barr, the visiting surgeon at Aldershot, says the only objections made by women were such as the following—"Well, Sir, my clothes were not quite dry, and I could not get my clothes perfectly clean, and I do not like to come up without." Nevertheless, Sir, I am quite willing to admit that there is "in the lowest depths a lower still," and I concur with that excellent woman. Miss Farrow, Superintendent of the Lock department at Portsmouth, and formerly seven years Matron of the Bristol Home, who thinks the periodical examination "a great blessing, having seen the want of it at Bristol." I concur with her in opinion, when she says—I never met a woman but that I found there was some good in her not quite gone; I never mot a woman of whom I could say she could not be made lower.Well, Sir, I say is it judicious, is it kind, to encourage such a woman in the notion that she is degraded by examination? Is it not rather the part of true friendship to point out to her that she is defiled and degraded—not by examination—but by the sin which entails the necessity of examination? Moreover, as Lord Hampton and six other dissentient Commissioners observe— 373It is in the power of any woman to emancipate herself from examination, by resolving to abandon her vicious ways.With regard to the circumstances attending the examination, I think it was proved that in one or two places—as, for instance, at Portsmouth—it was held at an inconvenient place and hour; that is, however, a matter of detail, which can easily be rectified; but when the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) talks as he did, two years ago, of women being driven up to the examination room by men, he forgets that a very competent witness on his own side entirely contradicts the assertion. Mrs. Kells told the Commission—For two or three months I attended every day, from the beginning to the close of the examination, in a shed constructed for that purpose. I received girls who chose to come and speak to me. I never, except on one occasion, saw a man accompanying a girl.But, Sir, would it be possible to dispense with the examination without neutralizing the advantages contemplated by the Acts? Many of the most competent medical witnesses depose that examination is the essential feature of the Acts. Mr. Lane, the Senior Surgeon of the Lock Hospital, in London, who has been connected with it since 1846, in reply to a question whether compulsory detention in hospital would not be sufficient without compulsory examination, replied—I think it would be very unfortunate for the women to deprive them of the advantages of the examination, that their diseases may be discovered at the earliest possible time," and added, "If I thought compulsion unjustifiable, I should object to it quite as much at one end as at the other," and further, "It appears to be trifling with the evil to close one end and leave the other open.Before leaving this part of the subject, I may say that I am in favour of the examination, at stated intervals,; of soldiers and sailors—in fact, such examination has always been carried out in the regiment to which I have the honour to belong. With regard to the suggested examination of men in civil life, Mr. Lane gives a decided opinion that it would be both impossible and impracticable. The fact is, there is no corresponding class among men—at least, I hope not. Only one witness before the Royal Commission hinted that there was. If there is, all I can say is, let such men be sent not to be 374 examined, but to penal servitude. Mrs. Butler, indeed, tells us she had heard that the solicitation by men in Glasgow was fearful, but she fortunately explains her meaning by saying that she was herself, on one occasion, so solicited in that city. Well, she might, I imagine, have given her assailant into custody, and no special enactment is therefore necessary to meet that case. Mr. Thomas, the Secretary of the London Female Preventive Institution, whose name is appended to the Papers denying the correctness of Captain Harris's statistics, would have every man examinedWho walks with more than one woman, and that every man who cannot prove that he does not go with any woman other than his own wife should be placed under surveillance;but he scarcely appears to see that for such a law to be equal it must be made applicable to many women beyond the limited class who live, on the wages of sin. Another important objection urged against the Acts is, that by making the women more attractive and safe you increase immorality among men; but it is alleged by more than one witness—and my own knowledge of soldiers enables me to confirm the allegation—that they are, as a rule, very unlikely to make such nice calculations. Admitting, however, the existence of some isolated cases, are they not more than counterbalanced by the improvement which takes place in the poor woman's condition; it is the mens sana in corpore sano which alone possesses the power to receive and retain good impressions. Mr. Lane mentions a remarkable instance of a woman who was 20 times admitted to hospital and at last reformed—"Of all the women we ever received," he adds, "this was the most unpromising." The greatest error into which almost all the witnesses before the Commission, adverse to the Acts, fall, is to speak of the woman's detention in hospital as a punishment. Why, Sir, you cannot possibly confer upon her a greater advantage. Is it a punishment to place her under the care of a Miss Farrow, who reads to the girls on Sunday afternoons, and to whom the girls frequently say—these are her own words—"We wish you were not going out to-night that you might come down, and we might sing and have some reading." These are the girls of whom this excellent woman says— 375They are not girls with no reason in them. I think they are very much better than the world takes them to be.The Report of the Commission does not use the language of exaggeration when it speaks of Miss Farrow, and other matrons, as "being animated by a benevolent zeal for the work in which they are engaged." I will not weary the House by enlarging on the deterrent effect of the Acts upon girls and married women. The evidence is very strong that they are, as the Report observes, "restrained from indulging in occasional licence by fear of the Acts." Mr. Wolferstan, a surgeon engaged in the administration of the Acts, but opposed to them, acknowledges that "the Acts have a deterrent effect in preventing women from becoming common prostitutes." I will only cite one instance from among the numerous interesting cases mentioned in the Report of Captain Harris—On 5th July, a married lady was found by Police-constable Disberry, in a brothel, in Pond Lane, Devonport, with a gentleman. She left at once on being spoken to. She came next day to the inspector, and thanked him for informing her as to the character of the house.It is difficult to express a decided opinion respecting clandestine prostitution, and it must, more or less, always exist; but there is abundant proof that solicitation has greatly diminished, and that one temptation to vice is thereby removed. Although juvenile prostitution has, I believe, considerably decreased, it might be still further diminished were more stringent measures directed against brothel-keepers, when found harbouring girls under 16 years of age. Mr. Wreford, the Superintendent of Local Police at Devonport, disputes the accuracy of the Return relative to juvenile prostitution, furnished by Mr. Anniss, the Inspector of Metropolitan Police; but the fact is, the local police have never been in a position to know anything about the matter. The only member of the local police who pretended to any knowledge was obliged to admit at an investigation that his figures were entirely incorrect. Mr. Wreford's evidence before the Commission was not satisfactory, because he admitted that, although figures furnished by himself, and afterwards discovered to be incorrect, were made use of at a public meeting, he did not deem it necessary to offer any explanation. With respect to 376 the women known at Aldershot as "Bushrangers," and at the Curragh as "Wrens," the effect produced by the Acts is perfectly marvellous. Dr. Barr, who went to Aldershot from the Look Hospital in London, testified that—The women were very dirty—in fact, filthy, covered with vermin, like idiots, in their manner, very badly diseased; they almost burrowed in the ground like rabbits, digging holes for themselves in the sandbanks. They were, at first, very violent, but I reasoned with them, and the chaplain seconded my efforts, and very shortly afterwards they began to improve.And with regard to the disease, Dr. Barr says—There ha" been a very remarkable diminution in the severity of the disease at Aldershot.And the Matron at the Kildare Hospital speaks quite as hopefully of the "Wrens" at the Curragh, who were, if possible, worse than the "Bushrangers" at Aldershot. And now, Sir, will the House allow me to say one or two words on a most important—I may say vital—point. I mean the transmission of disease. Sir James Paget remarks—It would be difficult to overstate the amount of damage that syphilis does to the population, and that a number of children are born subject to diseases which render them quite unfit for the work of life.Mr. Lane says—The amount of secondary disease has certainly diminished, and unless there is secondary disease, there is no fear of transmission.But the Medical Officer of the Privy Council observes—There are strong reasons for believing that the gain so purchased (by the Contagious Diseases Acts) would, on analysis, be found to belong very predominantly to those kinds of venereal disease in which the community has little or no personal interest.Now, we all know that Mr. Simon is a most excellent and public officer, but ne sutor ultra crepidom. I do not depreciate Mr. Simon when I say that, on such a point, Mr. Lane's opinion is infinitely more weighty. Mr. Lane was asked whether he agreed with that statement—No; I do not," he replied. "The most serious affections have been the most influenced by the Acts, and I cannot help thinking, if the Medical Officer of the Privy Council had seen much of the practical working of the Acts, he would not have made the statement quoted.Why, Sir, at that very time, Mr. Lane had a case in the Lock Hospital of a girl, aged 22, who had been a year 377 diseased, literally from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet, and through no fault of her own. She contracted the disease in nursing the child of a friend. She kissed that child who was diseased, and had secondary spots on its mouth, and got a sore on her mouth with the awful result described. The child had got the disease from the mother who was infected by her husband. In the papers published by the opponents of the Acts, it is urged that you do not protect the children of parents who have small-pox; certainly not, for the obvious reason that small-pox is not a transmissible disease. But it is urged all the good you effect will be produced equally well by voluntary exertions. I do not deprecate the erection of voluntary Lock Hospitals; but let me ask my hon. Friend what is the difference in the sin, if it be a sin, of establishing Lock Hospitals supported by the State, and of establishing Lock Hospitals supported by private individuals? Will he define the distinction—a distinction as it appears to me without a difference—between sin committed by an individual and sin committed by an aggregate of individuals termed the State? Mr. Berkeley Hill informs us that he treats several hundreds of women as out-patients at the Lock Hospital, and as he phrases it "patches them up." Surely, the opponents of these. Acts ought to oppose this "patching up," for, from their point of view, it must render sin more attractive and also more safe. But, Sir, it will be a long time before you are able to provide sufficient Lock accommodation—There is," says Mr. Lane, "the greatest difficulty in getting funds. The London Lock Hospital has very influential support and very energetic management, and yet it is almost impossible to keep 30 beds going. The accommodation in London and most large towns for venereal cases is very small;but still it would appear in some cases more than equal to the demand—forAt Winchester," he adds, "there was a ward for this disease at the Hospital there: for years past it has been unoccupied, and no patients have gone in on the voluntary system, although when the Acts were applied to Winchester, no less than 43 per cent of the women examined were found to be diseased.Then, Sir, Mr. Lane observes—Disease on the voluntary side is very much more severe than that on the Government side. The contrast is very remarkable.And the reason for this is, he says— 378Patients on the voluntary side, as a rule, are not admitted till the disease has reached a very serious state.The reason why I quote Mr. Lane so much is not only on account of his eminence in the treatment of this disease, but because he has under his care both voluntary and Government patients. He says about one-fourth of the voluntary patients leave the Hospital uncured and in a condition to communicate disease, and he thus succinctly sums up the disadvantages of the voluntary system—"It acts badly at both ends; they will not come in soon enough or stay in long enough." Of the admissions on the Government side in 1868 nearly half of them were girls not more than 20 years of age. Just conceive, Sir, the unspeakable blessing to these poor children of being thus placed under the care of able physicians, instead of being treated by quacks in brothels. I have the greatest admiration and respect for Bible women and Mission women who try to effect the reclamation of women by seeking them in brothels; but it is quite evident that they cannot hope successfully to compete with chaplains, medical officers, and matrons in well-appointed hospitals. An hon. and gallant Friend, uncertain how to vote, told me some days ago his decision would be made by the way in which these Acts had affected the health of the Army. He must be gratified by the Return which he received on Saturday, than which nothing can be more satisfactory. As the Paper is in the hands of hon. Members, I will only say that whereas 1874 appears to have been an exceptional year, when the decrease in the ratio of admissions for the more serious type of disease at the unsubjected groups was unusually large, the relative position of the two groups, however, is still maintained, that of the subjected having a ratio of less than the half of that of the groups at which the Acts have not been applied. The Report alludes to the Royal Warrant of October, 1873, empowering commanding officers to deprive soldiers of their pay when in hospital through their own misconduct—a Warrant for which we ought to be grateful to Lord Cardwell. Hon. Members may, perhaps, not be aware that soldiers may also be kept 28 days in barracks for concealing disease, and the double penalty inspires considerable dread. Regarding the relative amount 379 of disease in the British and Foreign Armies, some interesting statistics are furnished by Mr. Acton, who has paid great attention to the subject. He visited Paris and Brussels last year, and in the latter place, in a body of 3,500 men, he found only five cases of primary syphilis, and in Paris 14 cases in all, among 3,841 men forming six regiments, taken at random in the garrison of that city. In the same year Mr. Acton visited the hospitals of the brigade of Guards in London, and found one-fifth of the whole force suffering from primary syphilis. Thus one battalion of 500 men in London showed more disease than 3,841 troops forming part of the French garrison. I am really sorry to trespass on the patience of the House, but I must allude to the charges which from time to time have been made against the police. The charges produced before the Commissioners were thoroughly investigated, and the Commissioners report—We have made inquiries into every case in which, names and details were given. The result of our inquiries has been to satisfy us that the police are not chargeable with any abuse of their authority, and that they have hitherto discharged a difficult duty with moderation and caution.I wish I could stop here. I wish my hon. Friend had not introduced into this debate the name of one who is now no more. But, while we ought not recklessly to recall the weaknesses and failings of the dead, we cannot leave unrefuted attacks on the character of the living. Inquiries which I have made into the circumstances attending the death of Mrs. Percy have satisfied me that she was not quite the immaculate person my hon. Friend supposes her to have been. I understand that during the life of her late husband she led, to his great grief, a very immoral life, and that she trained up her daughter in the same evil way. After the death of her husband, she resided at Aldershot with one Mrs. Jewitt, who, however, gave her, as well as her daughter, notice to quit, because a sergeant of the 78th Highlanders was found in the house about half-past 11 o'clock. They then lived with a Mrs. Davis, who soon followed Mrs. Jewitt's example, because two soldiers remained with them all night. They then took up their abode immediately opposite the residence of one of the metropolitan police constables, 380 who on the night of March 8th saw them with two soldiers—Private Miller, of the 47th Regiment, and Corporal Hogg, of the 84th Regiment. The men were acting indecently both with mother and daughter. At midnight on the 9th of March both women went home, accompanied by two men in plain clothes, one of whom entered the house and remained till nearly noon the next day. It was then decided to bring them under the Acts; and they were ordered to attend for examination, but declined and left Aldershot. On March 13th a man named Ritson, who had three times deserted from the Royal Artillery and discharged as a bad character, called on the inspector and said that if Mrs. Percy was allowed to return he would undertake to live with her. The inspector replied that she and her daughter were at liberty to return. The mother returned and lived with Ritson at Aldershot, and as she lived with this one man she was never addressed by any member of the police force up to the time of her death. On the night of March 27th she left a public-house with a soldier of the 65th Regiment. He was stopped by the military police and sent back to his quarters. She was very drunk at the time and could hardly stand, and it was ascertained that she did not go home that night. The only person who saw her alive after that was a private in the Army Service Corps. He stated that he saw her the next morning on the towing-path on the other side of the canal. The jury, of course, returned an open verdict. These are the circumstances, so far as I have been able to ascertain, attending the death of the unfortunate woman, and I submit that the inspector of police showed moderation and forbearance in the discharge of his difficult duty. And now. Sir, is there any real demand for the abolition of these Acts? I have watched the numerous Petitions presented to this House against them, and have observed that by far the greater number come from the unprotected districts, where the effect of their operation is unknown. Sir, I am entitled to ask my hon. Friend what he proposes to substitute for these Acts? He will surely not be content with carrying their unconditional repeal Does he intend to adopt the legislation proposed by Lord Aberdare, who although strongly approving the Acts, unfortunately 381 had not the courage of his convictions? If so, I venture to predict he will be abandoned by many of his followers. He may please Mr. Rylands, but will offend Mr. Jacob Bright. He will certainly not find favour with the gentlemen who drew up a long memorial or protest against the encouragement afforded to prostitution by these Acts, but inserted in the memorial a paragraph so ominous that I hope the House will allow me to read it—A large number of women who practise prostitution more or less continuously, but who have not adopted it as a profession, also resist registration. To be registered, and, if found diseased, to be forcibly carried off and imprisoned in a hospital would change the whole structure and arrangement of their lives; the relations which they have formed would be abruptly ended; milliners, dressmakers, sempstresses, domestic servants, who eke out a precarious existence, or provide themselves with coveted luxuries in the form of dress, &c., by recourse to occasional prostitution, would at once lose their business connections, or, if in situations, would be discharged. Their characters would be lost, and they would find it impossible to reinstate themselves in their former positions in life.Sir, I really think this a remarkable plea in a memorial deprecating the Acts as favouring prostitution. Is the House prepared to repeal these beneficent Acts? Will it, in the face of the opinions of more than 80 of our most eminent physicians, take no thought for posterity? Will it allow this generation to beget children?Mox daturosProgeniem vitiosiorem?More especially I ask—Will Parliament consign the poor outcast to life-long misery? Think of her as she once crouched and burrowed in the ground at Aldershot, calling out in her agony—"Do not touch me or I shall fall to pieces," and of her as she now is in hospital, attended, sympathized with, and cared for. Think of her as she once crouched naked behind the bushes of the Curragh, and of her now clothed and in her right mind. I ask the House not to send her back to those dens of infamy where there is no eye to pity, and no arm to save. Violate, if you please, the principles of Magna Charta, but do not violate the commands or disregard the injunctions of One who took these poor women under His especial protection, and who taught us by His example to seek and save that which was lost.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—(Colonel Alexander.)
§ MR. HOPWOOD
Sir—I wish I had self-possession at my command to express in fitting terms the feelings I have upon these Acts, and to pass in review the many arguments which have been addressed to the House on the subject. I feel some apology is due to the House that I thrust myself into the matter at all, when I feel there are hon. Gentlemen here more able to do it; but I have this excuse—that I have for some years past devoted myself to this question, and was informed upon it to some extent in earlier life, when I was told that abroad they had an admirable system, that they provided against all the evils of irregular intercourse, and that it would be better for this country to adopt that system. But when it was urged that this vice was to be committed with impunity, and that the State was to recognize it, I confess I felt very indignant. I was rejoiced to hear the way in which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for South Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) has, with the courtesy belonging to the Service he is connected with, for the first time in this House, by an opponent of the Bill, done some justice to the motives of the excellent women in England who have endeavoured to stir up some feeling in this matter. If I have any right to speak on behalf of these women, they, I am sure, will recognize with satisfaction the appreciation which has been shown of the position in which they have placed themselves in this matter; and they had a perfect right to do it. Certain noble women of England felt that an act of duty was to be done; and they have done it with effect, and the effect is daily increasing on this question. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, in concluding a most eloquent peroration, alluded to the Divine Master, whose teachings are recognized in this House, as if in reproof of the course we pursue; but does it occur to him that there may be more difficulty in the matter than he perceives or appreciates? We desire to do all that is benevolent towards these women. We desire also to protect the liberties of other women, who might be involved with them. As far as I remember, 383 these Acts involve any woman whom any policeman may, in his view, believe to be a common prostitute. She is then liable to be subjected to a surgical examination, which is accompanied by some pain. Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman say the doctrines of our Divine Master are against us in trying to stop this? It often happens that women who are ill, whether diseased or not, are liable to be detained in the hospital. "Oh!" but says the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "detention is no punishment!" I would like to ask him how he would like to be confined even in his own dining-room for five days? Is not detention a punishment? What is the fact? These Acts say, if any woman is in a natural condition and cannot be examined, detain her five days! "Oh!" says the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "that is keeping her from the streets; it is doing her good." When we say these things ought not to be done, we are told we are not fulfilling the commands of our Divine Master Who is to define a common prostitute? The Act is directed against common prostitutes, and yet is there any definition of one? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that acts of irregularity come under the cognizance of the police. How should the police be arbiters of morality and justice? Where are they authorized to do anything of the sort? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says they have no alternative but to put any woman on the register whom they believe to be a prostitute. These cases differ from the paternal Government of France in this—that in France a father, after he hears his daughter is to be put upon the register, has a right to come and take her away. These Acts of England do nothing of the sort, and yet we are setting up the police as a moralizing agency, to call up people who are masters of their own lives, and to warn them not to pursue the course they assume they are going upon. Police in plain clothes, who act as spies, are known by sight to the servant girls, who actually leave their friends or followers, and run in alarm from the spot. Why is this to be borne? Is it in the British House of Commons we are to be told that women are to be terrorized in this fashion, and that policemen are so to conduct themselves that they are to be terrors to those who are walking harmlessly 384 about with those to whom they are most attached? I find the last Return has been specially manufactured for this occasion, and has been made to support these Acts. What do these Returns say of a benevolent policeman who met a married woman on one occasion and actually took upon himself to give her a warning. It relates with naïveté that she was dreadfully distressed. Now, what right has the police, what right has this House to engage in this matter of morality. [Laughter.] I see hon. Gentlemen opposite smile. I wish them joy of the feeling they have created. Again, in another part of this Return, a policeman actually warns a governess of 18 or 19 years of age, who had trusted somebody as she ought not to have trusted him. Again the officer steps in. What right has he to do so? Let me ask hon. Gentlemen in this House, if there are any such who have been guilty of acts of this kind—and let him that is without sin cast the first stone—if they would like a policeman to dodge about after them and put their names on the register? If any such attempt were made would not the streets be rife with violence? Death would be the penalty if such insults were put upon Englishmen. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that this is not recognition of prostitution as a State institution. Is it not? Prior to this, every brothel in the land might be made the subject of a prosecution. What do you do now? On the face of it you say, the only offence we make by laws in regard to brothels under these Acts is, that if any diseased prostitute is found in them, the keeper of the brothel shall be fined. Under the old law, a brothel-keeper was liable to two years' imprisonment; now it is brought down to a fine. Brothel-keepers are told that if they will come and tell who is diseased, they shall be protected in their calling and occupation. Does not the State recognition amount to this? You set up a staff of officers at £50,000 a-year, and enable them to bring up every woman whom they say is a common prostitute, or who has been temporarily erring. It is true you have provided chaplains. Is not that a hypocritical homage paid to virtue? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says the work of bringing these poor women back from the paths of vice cannot be accomplished by voluntary action. Now, Sir, in allusion to that divine aspect of 385 the question of which we have heard, what is the fact with regard to these women? A woman is enrolled in this register, and what is the effect of that? Ask those who have seen the system in operation abroad, and they will tell you that the consequence is this—that, having once been placed on that roll, they feel that they have passed the gulf, or rather that they have fully descended into the gulf of despair as soon as the act of registration is accomplished. The evidence we have from abroad is that the hospitals provided for these unfortunate women are the vilest sinks that exist in the world, where the woman, who is not yet 60 debased as others, may be brought down to the lowest degradation that a woman can undergo; for there are shades of difference between the commonest of the common and the lowest of the low, and by this degrading confinement in these hospitals, you lower beyond hope of recovery those who have as yet perhaps but just entered on the verge of vice and who might otherwise have a chance of retracing their steps. But here all chance of that is gone. It is all very well for the police to say that there are some they do not put down on the register, and for hon. Members to say that when they are put down on the register, they can get off when they like; but I have proofs which show that it is the most difficult thing in the world to get off that register. Even marriage will not do it; nothing will do it. It is not enough to say that a respectable woman may, and does sometimes submit herself to examination. How can you draw a parallel between the two cases? It is absurd to draw a comparison between such cases, and I should be doing the hon. and gallant Member an injustice if I supposed that he could pretend to draw such a parallel. As to the treatment to which these women are subjected, do they not dread it? With reference to one case to which reference has been made, the hon. and gallant Gentleman has forgotten what transpired at the inquest; for, most distinctly, there was evidence that the woman was labouring under the fear of the Acts. She declared that they would lead to her end, and her end shortly followed. A woman may be a paragon of virtue, and yet liable to this sort of treatment. Why must it be assumed that everybody is a common prostitute? And yet such 386 is the effect of these Acts. Spy police are introduced into the protected districts—spy police, be it known, in plain clothes—to ransack the town. And what is the policeman's duty? Why, the moment he sees a woman in the streets who may be out a little after the time which the wisdom of the Legislature has fixed as the limit of morality, he is to pounce upon her. Workmen's wives, workmen's daughters—even servants—if they have occasion to be out beyond that hour, may be subjected to inspection. How else can it be? You cannot blame the police. Their duty is to make themselves masters of the situation, and to learn what is the course of proceeding of every woman in the place. How can you be surprised, then, if there should be mistakes? It is not for us to show you the mistakes. Who would be foolish enough to think of bringing up a woman from these protected districts, who had been falsely' accused? Would they not rather prefer to go to the police, and beseech them not to spread such evidence about their character, not daring to do anything more in the matter? They might be women above suspicion, whom only the policeman has solicited; and would they care to have their names put to such uses? As to soliciting, there is no law of solicitation as between man and woman. There is no such legal power as to give a man into custody for it. It was sought by the Bill brought in by Mr. Bruce (now Lord Aberdare) to give certain powers with regard to solicitations by a woman, and it was proposed on the other hand to give similar powers with respect to solicitation by a man; but, though there is a general power to appeal to the police in a case of molesting, there is no power to prevent soliciting. Yet, in some of these protected districts you have gone to the extreme of harshness and severity, and the case of Mrs. Percy does not stand alone. Prom the reply to Captain Harris's Report, issued by the National Medical Association for the Repeal of the Acts, referring to the case of Elizabeth Jane Brown, who drowned herself under Plymouth Hoe, on the 1st of July', 1874, it appeared that—She had often complained of the harsh treatment she had met with from the police and the surgeon, and had once before attempted to destroy herself by cutting her throat, but had recovered from the wound. She had said that 387 rather than he compelled to submit to such treatment as she had met with in the examination room she would drown herself, and she did so. Rachel House, also, was put in solitary confinement in the Royal Albert Hospital, and committed suicide on May 28, 1869, by throwing herself out of the window; and Emily Mulcarty (nee Moore) drowned herself at Millbay, on the 16th April, 1873. She was on the register at Devonport, and was married a few months prior to committing suicide, 'but had not been able to get her name removed from the register.'These were some of the cases which showed the effect of the existing legislation. The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the deterrent effect of the Acts in question; but what was the theme of his panegyric? Not that it was a deterrent with regard to men, but that it was a deterrent with respect to women, from terror of going on the register. Reference was made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman to the case of Aldershot; but I had always thought, from what I have seen of the Articles of War and camp regulations, that there was already sufficient power to remove persons from the neighbourhood, at all events, that there was power to appeal to the police. It is all a question of order, and nothing is needed but to put in force the regulations which most of these localities already possess. With regard to the transmission of disease, nobody denies it; but the fact is, that our system is ineffectual to prevent it. With regard to the prevalence of disease, I venture to assert—and I can bear out the assertion by statistics—that before the Acts in dispute came into operation it had been rapidly decreasing. I can cite the authority of Sir James Paget, that it was become, comparatively, innocuous—that is, as compared with what it was 80 or 40 years ago. I can supply figures laid before the Royal Commission by Mr. Buxton, showing that the disease had been decreasing in the Army—I do not say in the Navy—for some years before the Acts came into force. We deny that the decrease has been due to the operation of the Acts. With regard to the dangerous form of the disease, I have to point out that, though the right hon. Gentleman has moved for Returns from the Army, he has not moved for Returns from the Navy; and if he consults the Blue Book, he will find, with regard to the Navy, that the attempt to deal with it has been a failure from beginning to end. With regard to the Army— 388 how are we to check it? The Returns are not reliable. Those who made them believed what they returned, perhaps; but, for the most part, they not only believed what they returned, but they returned that which they desired to believe. I will not put myself under any quorum of doctors, nor under a quorum of paid officials, who, more especially if they are policemen, never think they can have powers enough. I reject their statistics. I have already said with regard to disease that it was decreasing before these Acts came into operation, and I might cite, besides Sir James Paget and Mr. Buxton already referred to, the names of Dr. Brewer and Mr. Henry Lee in support of my case; but I will not detain the House longer. I congratulate the House and the country upon the altered tone of debate which is observable in this matter, and on the fact that no conspiracy of silence, no spying of Strangers has met us on this occasion, neither is it any longer necessary to deliberate on the question with closed doors—a question which it is admittedly our duty to discuss, and which I believe it is necessary for us at once and finally to decide. I look upon that as one of the best features in the present state of the subject.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
thought the hon. Member who had spoken last (Mr. Hopwood) had hardly done justice to the House when he talked of the "conspiracy of silence," because it must be remembered that on two former-occasions the subject had been fully and fairly discussed. He agreed that, however disagreeable the subject might be, it was the right and even the duty of the House to discuss it, and he felt certain when he saw into whose hands the advocacy of the repeal of the Acts had fallen, that there would be nothing in the language used to which exception could be taken. The hon. Baronet the Member for Scarborough (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) had shown, as might have been expected of him, that the question might be discussed without that intemperate language which augured a weak case; without imputing unworthy motives to those who differed with Mm, and without rendering it necessary that the debate should be conducted with closed doors. He hoped to follow that example. He could not complain of the question being again 389 brought forward, although it seemed to him that the arguments urged in favour of the Acts in 1870 and 1873 were unanswerable. But when we regarded the number of most estimable people who still objected to this legislation, we could not be surprised at their desire to make their arguments heard in that House. He could not, however, allow that the opponents of these Acts had a right to claim a monoply of benevolence and high feeling, while attributing to others no higher motive than expediency. The opponents of the Bill also had mothers, sisters, and wives, and why should they have less regard for women? They numbered among their ranks at least as many who were well known for high and irreproachable character, and if expedience was talked of, would it not be pleasanter both for them as individuals and for the Government to earn a cheap popularity by yielding to a popular cry? He was glad that the hon. Baronet had cleared the ground by admitting his wish to stamp out the disease, if possible, by voluntary agency; for he simply objected to compulsion. But that was not the case with the great mass of the opponents of the Acts, judging from the communications which had reached him. They chiefly inveighed against the iniquity of making vice safe. But those who held these opinions must object as much to the voluntary as to compulsory treatment. Those who considered disease to be a Heaven-sent punishment for the terror of evil-doers must shutup the Lock hospitals, proscribe remedies, make the disease as terrible as in the Middle Ages, and gain for their results a population rapidly dying out, as in New Zealand, or as it was in Tahiti, before laws similar to these were enforced there. It was said—he hoped and believed truly—that a diminution in vice and disease had arisen from the better condition and higher character of the soldier, and hon. Gentlemen relied on higher motives for still further diminution. He hoped that reliance was not ill-founded, but if the diminution had been and would be due to these motives, what became of the other argument—that vice would increase in proportion as you made it safer. He would not stop to argue that disease had diminished in those places in which the Acts were in force. The Papers were in the hands of hon. Members and they could judge for 390 themselves; but this one fact must be not lost sight of—namely, that the Army had fluctuated in members since 1860, that it was reduced in round numbers from 84,000 to 60,000 before 1866, and had since been increased to 85,000, and that disease was always far less during reduction, when there was little recruiting, and the worst characters were got rid of, and that it increased largely during augmentation, young recruits being especially liable to it. It must also be remembered that the calculations of their opponents were sometimes drawn from the whole of England, which were necessarily misleading, the number of protected places being but few, and that in 1866 the areas of many protected places, notably Devonport, was increased while the names remained the same; so that an apparent increase of disease was really due to the enlarged area to which the Acts extended. It seemed to him that the Government was bound to accept the statements of their own officers in preference to those of irresponsible persons or societies. Those officers were selected men, and liable to ruinous results if detected in false Re-turns. They had, therefore, no inducement to say anything but what was true, unless it was supposed that successive Governments had ordered the manipulation of Returns, which they of all people must desire to have as accurate as possible. Was it creditable that Governments should continue and defend the operations of their opponents, knowing that the results of those operations were injurious or illusory? Well, but from these Returns, made by responsible people, we were told that a saving to the Army of 648 men daily—not 50, as had been stated—had been effected; that bad houses were shut up, that women were withdrawn from the streets, and many of them prevented from appearing there again; that the streets were orderly and quiet, and when these results, which were long denied, could be denied no longer, were we to be told that these advantages resulted from ordinary causes, and that the Acts contained no provisions for these things, nor were the part of the original scheme? But, if so, why did we not get the same reports from unprotected places? He was not arguing now for the extension of these Acts over the whole country, nor defending their original intention, though it might 391 easily be done; and he might say that the Act of 1866 provided especially for moral and religious instructions in the hospitals by a clause originally proposed by the present First Lord of the Admiralty. What he did say was that the results of those Acts, as furnished by responsible officers, with every motive for accuracy, were such that no Government would be justified in repealing them. But, it was said, why not trust to a voluntary system? Why should Government recognize vice as a necessity, and why subject women to unconstitutional compulsion and detention unknown elsewhere and not applied to the other sex? That objection applied as much to the voluntary as the compulsory system, and those who used this argument of recognition of vice should go further and make prostitution illegal and subject to penalties. He did think the examination of men might be carried further. But it was forgotten that there was compulsory detention under the Poor Law of paupers afflicted with contagious diseases of whatever sex. He, for one, would much prefer the voluntary system if it could be carried out. We learned, however, that it was a failure, and we should expect it to be so from analogy. What was the principle of detention in reformatories? Was it not that those who had not strength to separate themselves voluntarily from bad company might, by compulsory separation, have a chance of reformation? Were not people in all ranks obliged sometimes to separate their sons compulsorily from bad associates? The result had been very marked in the case of younger women. Attempts had been made to show that women remained longer in a profligate course on account of the profit of the monopoly they enjoyed owing to the withdrawal of some of them by means of these Acts, and this argument was based on the fact that the average age was greater, but that was accounted for by the withdrawal of the younger, and if the argument were carried out to its legitimate conclusion it would point to a desire for augmentation of numbers, which would be a very curious position to be taken up by their opponents. It was to be expected that the older women were less easily reclaimed; they were, of course, the most dangerous to society; and when it was said that men were never innocent, 392 that might be true in a sense, but hardly in that in which it is used. If he remembered rightly there was a passage in the Book of Proverbs about "a simple one" and "a woman subtle of heart," which illustrated what he meant. No doubt, the system of reformation was imperfect, affecting those only who were fit inmates for hospitals. To be fully carried out it should sweep off all who were on the streets. This was the weak point; but he could only deal with what was possible. All who had had anything to do with the ticket-of-leave question knew that in the early days of the system there were constant complaints of people being dogged by the police, and thus prevented from earning a living. These complaints were sometimes heard still, and, without saying that there had been no foundation in them, no one would deny that they had been grossly exaggerated. He was warranted in saying the same of complaints made against the police employed in carrying out these Acts, because the Report of the Commission pronounced against the truth of the allegations up to that time; and with respect to a painful case which had occurred recently, and to which allusion had been made, he could corroborate the statement of the hon. and gallant Officer who had so ably spoken (Colonel Alexander), that an official report gave a very different complexion, both to the previous history of the poor woman and the probable cause of her sad end. It used to be said that women, however kind and charitable to the failings and miseries of others, were intolerant of the fallen of their own sex, that—Every woe a tear could claim,Except an erring sister's shame.There was some now who had nobly wiped off this reproach, who had not thought that their purity could be sullied by penetrating the haunts of vice, and endeavouring to reclaim the degraded creatures who were the objects of these Acts. All honour to them for it; but while far from joining in the outcry against them, he doubted whether they were the best judges in such matters. Their own pure minds could not fathom the depth of degradation into which these poor creatures had sunk, and their generous feelings caused them to resent the apparent injustice which had in all ages, and for obvious reasons made the lot of erring woman harder than 393 that of the equally guilty of our own sex. They had, unfortunately, for these reasons set themselves against a system which he believed in his conscience was, if not the only one, at any rate the most powerful, which mere human agency could devise for the reclamation of fallen women. Their strong prejudices and overwrought feelings made them credulous and unsuspicious on one side, and very hard to convince on the other. When instruments were wanted, they were usually found ready to hand, and with motives not always so unexceptionable as their employers. When victims and martyrs were in demand, victims and martyrs would be forthcoming. In the heated atmosphere of public meetings, strong statements were accepted as facts, and hypothetical cases excited the indignation of a credulous audience as if they had really any existence except in the imagination of the narrator. The most modest demand for proof was looked upon as the proof of malignant hostility, so that for the advocates of the impeached measures to meet their adversaries on their own platform was impossible. But they did not shrink from meeting their opponents in the arena of that House. They relied upon a change of public opinion, tardy perhaps, but sure to come. Time was on their side. Even now the attack began to slacken, and many who were opponents of the Acts, while they confined themselves to reading what had been written against them, became zealous advocates when they had watched their working for themselves. For himself, if he believed that the motives of those who promoted these Acts were black as they had been painted, far from supporting, he would not like to sit on the same bench in that House with them. He believed that the benefits of these Acts were great to the country, and to that Army and Navy which were so necessary to its existence. But he would give up those benefits, he would let the soldiers and sailors take care of themselves, if he thought that such advantages were purchased by the injuries and degradation of women such as had been alleged by their opponents. It was because in his conscience he believed that the unhappy women who were brought under these Acts, so far from being degraded, were drawn from the depths of degradation, so far from being 394 injured, had the prospect of being restored to respectability—it was because he could not endure to thrust them back into the pit from which they had been dragged that he could not bring himself to agree to the repeal of this legislation.
§ MR. CHILDERS
The question before the House is not a very savoury one, or a subject which one would select for the expression of opinion, but I feel it to be almost a matter of duty on my part to say a few words upon it. First, because I do not quite concur in the view that has been taken by hon. Gentlemen on either side, and also because it was my lot to administer these Acts for between two and three years in two different capacities when I was at the Admiralty; and, so far as the Act of 1869 was concerned, to promote that legislation, altering, to a certain extent, the provisions of the Act of 1866. Under these circumstances, I think I am bound to state to the House the reasons for the vote I shall give on this question, and to justify the view I take as to the best method of administering this portion of our legislation in future. I would first, in a very few words, remind the House of what the history of these Acts has been. After the Crimean War broke out, when the Army and the Navy, or at least those portions of them which were to be found in our arsenal and dockyard towns, were increased, there arose a desire to improve the sanitary condition of the Forces, and that desire, which was promoted with so much zeal by the late Lord Herbert, induced the Admiralty to endeavour to do something towards checking the enormous amount of disease that prevailed both amongst our soldiers and our sailors. The result was the Act of 1864, which was based upon a very intelligible principle, differing in many respects from that of the succeeding Act of 1866. It established no register whatever, either with respect to our garrison towns or otherwise. It subjected prostitutes to no periodical examination, but simply established certain hospitals for prostitutes who might be found to be diseased, and empowered the magistrates on the information of an officer of the police, who had reason to believe that the particular woman or women in question were diseased, to have them sent to these hospitals. The Act of 1864 was followed by an inquiry 395 conducted under the direction of the Admiralty and the War Office; and in 1866, the Act which has been especially a subject of debate to-night was passed, involving a very great extension indeed of the provisions of the Act of 1864. Under the Act of 1866 we practically established in districts considerably larger than before, a register of all persons who might be called prostitutes, and were found in those districts, and compelled all those persons to appear once a fortnight for examination to see whether they were diseased or not. In the latter Act, as in the former, but more effectually, penalties were imposed on persons, not for harbouring prostitutes, but for harbouring prostitutes found to be diseased. The Act of 1869 was virtually an extension of the provisions of the Act of 1866, which had been found to be very imperfectly operative, because it only applied to garrison towns and great military stations. The Act of 1869 gave a very great extension to those districts—enlarging them to a considerable distance from those towns and stations, because it was found that if there were such places within reach of those towns and stations those who wished to engage in prostitution there could easily do so, the prostitutes must be reached from those centres. The Act of 1869 led to the appointment of the Commission of 1871, which proposed very large alterations indeed in the Acts of 1866 and 1869. They declared, practically, that the system of the registration and periodical compulsory examination of prostitutes was a failure. They distinctly recommended that it should be discontinued, and that we should revert to the Act of 1864, which established no such periodical or compulsory examination whatever, excepting in the case of prostitutes known or informed against as being diseased. The Commission also recommended that it was desirable to take the administration of the Acts out of the hands of the War Office and the Admiralty, and place it under the Home Office. They proposed that these provisions should be extended to all parts of the country, excepting London, or to those towns to which the inhabitants expressed a desire that they should be extended. The Commissioners made strong recommendations in the direction of increasing the penalties imposed on those who harboured prostitutes, or otherwise 396 offered facilities for prostitution in the places to which the Acts applied. These were the recommendations of the Commission of 1871, and I venture to say that these recommendations pointed to an entire revolution in the system which was then in force. Practically, they advised the repeal of the whole of those Acts which had been the subject of public controversy, and recommended we should go back to the much more simple provisions and non-compulsory character of the Act of 1864; and I say that that was a wise proposal. Now, upon that, the Government was called upon to act in 1872. I was not a Member of that Government, and therefore can speak with perfect impartiality of the proposals which were then made. What were those proposals? The Bill of 1872 proposed absolutely and entirely to repeal the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869. No part of these Acts was to remain; no provision of these measures, with one exception, was to remain in operation, though specially referring to the garrison and dockyard towns. It was proposed that the whole of the Three Kingdoms should be under one uniform law, and have the same means of restraining disease. The one provision that went in the direction of the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869, was, that any prostitute who was found to be diseased might be sent to hospital. These were the provisions of the Bill of 1872. The House will see that the Report of the Royal Commission went to take the life altogether out of the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869; and the Government followed up that Report by recommending that those Acts should be repealed, and that the whole country should be brought under one law on the subject. That being the short history of the Acts, I will make a few remarks as to what has been said to-day and on former occasions as to the operation of those Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869. I will allude to some points to which I do not think that full justice has been done with regard to those Acts. I took it upon me, with the assistance of officers, not long ago to investigate what was a special subject of controversy, and that was the actual working of the Acts in the districts where they have been in force, and it appears to me that the statistics which have been published by the Government on the authority of the 397 police, have not been effectually broken down. In several respects I think that the operation of these Acts has been successful. I will not say so successful as those who have acted on these statistics may be inclined to think; there may be, and no doubt there are, some defects; but I do say that in respect of several of the most important points, those statistics which have been produced, and on which the War Office and the Admiralty have acted, have not been broken down. Being in possession of the facts on this subject, I should say distinctly that the number of young girls giving themselves to prostitution—the worst form of prostitution—has decidedly been reduced, and large numbers have been returned to their homes—large numbers, indeed, who, but for the operation of these Acts, would not have been returned to their homes. I will go further. So far as I can judge—though in this respect, there is the most extraordinary discrepancy between the statistics furnished by or supplied to the police, and those which appear in the official volume of statistics—I believe that the number of disorderly houses in the districts affected by the Acts has also been decidedly reduced. What has been the character of those houses? Those who know Portsmouth—who knew it before the Acts came into operation and who know it now—must know, perfectly well, that the character of these houses has been decidedly improved, and that this improvement may be traced to the operation of the Acts. That is the point about which doctors differ; but I say that the amount of disease has been reduced in those districts, and owing, as I believe, to these Acts. I allow for the improvement of the country generally, but still, making that allowance, I think, from the portion of the statistics I have been able to analyze, it is indisputable that credit is due to this legislation with regard to protecting districts and diminishing both the amount and the virulence of the disease. There are other points on which I cannot agree with the opponents of these Acts. It is said we ought not to maintain these Acts because the disease has been sent by Heaven as a punishment on those who indulge in vice. That is a very popular argument; but to say that a disease, which was unknown in this country until 200 or 300 years 398 ago, has been sent as an antidote against vice, is a proposition which appears to me to be utterly untenable. There is another argument which I have heard with the greatest pain, and that is, it has been insinuated that the object of the promoters of these Acts was to supply healthy women for the use of the soldiers. That was not the object; the object was simply to prevent great mischief to our social condition, both with respect to the Army and the Navy, from the prevalence of disease. That was the whole and the sole object; and, I believe, it has been in a great measure realized. I think, however, that there are strong reasons why a very considerable change should take place in this legislation. In the first place it is faulty, inasmuch as it fails, in the most marked degree, with regard to the principle of equally treating the two sexes, which ought to be the basis of our legislation. The right hon. Gentleman the Paymaster General argued in favour of this legislation, on this ground—that just as we take steps to remove from children every kind of temptation, so we are entitled to impose upon a body of women who hold out temptation to our soldiers and sailors, an exceptionally strained law. That is an utterly untenable argument, and one which I was surprised to hear from the mouth of my right hon. Friend. The principle that we should apply, as far as possible, equal law to both sexes seems to me a great object. With respect to compulsory periodical examination, the Commission distinctly said that that was a thing which ought not to be maintained. What I would ask the House is, whether anything has occurred to show that public opinion on this point has altered since the date of the Commission's Report. If it has altered at all, it has been more in the direction of the Report than the other way. Public opinion is distinctly opposed to establishing such a rule as that these persons should be compulsorily examined once a fortnight, and that feeling has increased since 1871. Then we are met by the question—"If you propose to give up the Acts of 1866 and 1869, what are you to substitute for them? Are you prepared to repeal them simpliciter and leave the question to settle itself? "I infer from the speech of my right hon. Friend—reading between the 399 lines—that he did not quite like the Acts himself, though he did not venture to suggest to the House any Amendment of them. Speaking for myself, I would suggest Amendments which I think might be adopted and which, repealing the Acts as they stand, would substitute provisions giving all the benefits of the Act of 1869. I will state in a few words what I would propose. I would abolish altogether both registration and compulsory periodical examination. I would continue the Look hospitals for special districts, and would give women who applied a right to admission, with the condition that no one so admitted should be discharged until she had been either cured, or reported to be incurable. And I think it is fair to do so, without imposing expense upon the locality, because those districts are selected for the simple reason that in them is to be found a large number of persons, a considerable portion of them being bachelors from whom a great deal of incontinence springs, and I think that the localities are entitled to say that the special provisions in this respect should be defrayed at the cost of the country. I think that it would be perfectly legitimate to make this condition, that those who go into a Lock hospital should not be discharged from it until they are either cured, or stated to be incurable. I think that is a perfectly legitimate condition to be made; and, in my opinion, would have a beneficial effect. I would submit a system under which the penalties against harbouring prostitutes, not merely diseased prostitutes, were made very much more strict. I would also impose penalties under certain circumstances, as proposed in the Bill of 1872, against public solicitation. Then I would do this, which, I believe, every artizan in the Army and the Navy would be glad to see—that is to say, I would make the concealment of the fact of being diseased by a soldier or sailor in those districts, a very much more severe offence. It is now an offence, but a very slight offence; but I am sorry to say I cannot concur in the remark made by the hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Alexander), as to the result of the Regulation of 1873, under which a soldier sent to the hospital is mulcted of a certain portion of his pay. I may be wrong in saying that was a 400 thing in the wrong direction, because it operated as an inducement to conceal it, and I think it would be much better to make the concealment of disease an offence, and that might be done with great and good effect to the soldiers and sailors. Then I would also introduce into the law a condition as to which I am bound to admit there is a considerable difference of opinion in the minds of the Commissioners, and the weight of evidence must be taken as against me. But, nevertheless, I have read the evidence of six of the most important and best witnesses, and as they strongly recommended this course, I think we might try the effect of a law which would make the wilful communication of disease, whether by a prostitute, or by a soldier, or a sailor, an offence. I know it is an open question, and I do not think I should insist upon it; but, at the same time, it is very strongly recommended by a number of witnesses, both those in favour of the Acts and those against them. I do not agree with those who think that we may treat women who give themselves up to prostitution in loco parentis, and deal with them as we choose; but I do believe that those of tender age—young girls who give themselves up to this practice-should be treated in loco parentis, and that provision may be made for doing all the good which has been done by the Act of 1866. It is hard to say when that power should cease; but that there should be an age below which any woman or girl found to be a prostitute should be compulsorily returned to her friends, or in case of their not being willing to receive her, should be sent to a home. Such a law would have to be administered with great care and delicacy, and it is not inconsistent with the general principle that Ave have no right to interfere with persons who think fit to commit acts of incontinence. But we have the right to deal with persons of tender age; and I think we should do so. Finally, it would be most unwise to do anything the effect of which would be to remove from the metropolitan police, who at present administer these Acts in our dockyards and garrisons, the responsibility of administering such a law. They have done so with marked success, and all the charges of unfairness have broken down; for, I may say, that 401 99 out of 100 have been groundless. It is very much more easy to administer an exceptional law of this kind by such a specially marked body as the metropolitan police, than by the ordinary borough or county police in which these districts are situated. And, therefore, acting upon the recommendation of the Commission of 1871, I would place the administration of the law, as I suggested it should be amended, under the Home Office and in the hands of the metropolitan police; and I firmly believe that such an amendment of the law, either with or without that special clause to which some exception was taken—and it is not one to which I attach much importance—such an amendment of the law would continue to increase the good effects of the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869; while, on the other hand, it would meet, and effectually meet, those objections to the Acts which I believe rather increase than diminish the evil. I think there ought to be special legislation for those districts, and strongly entertaining that view, I would support any measure that carried out that idea in the manner I have suggested.
§ MR. HENLEY
I wish to say a few words in support of the Motion of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Harcourt Johnstone). I shall not trouble the House by endeavouring to reconcile any conflicting statement as to whether the Acts have been more or less successful in the degree and hopes of those who introduced them; neither shall I trouble the House with any remarks upon the mode and manner in which those Acts have been put in force. So far as I know, subject to the mistakes that always must occur with any human action, I believe they have been put in force as the law has intended them to be put in force. There have been mistakes—in all human actions there will be; but I believe they have been put in force simply as the law intended they should be. Before any of these things, and before the mode of dealing with the subject was passed or introduced, I opposed the introduction of this legislation. I opposed it on the simple ground—which I stated at 3 o'clock in the morning—that it was no business of the State to provide clean sin for the people. In whatever country laws of this kind have been in force, they have been quickly 402 followed—first of all, by the depravation of the moral sense, and, not long after, with the depravation of morals themselves. What are these laws? Here are people living—I will not say in defiance, but, certainly, in contradiction to the laws of God and man—and by the officers of justice you recognize them and take them in hand—not to deter, not to restrain, not to reform—but simply to see that they are in a fit condition for other persons who wish to carry on the same practice as themselves. And what has been the effect in these towns? I said that these laws would produce depravation of the moral sense. We have had Returns from those towns in which these things are stated—that these unfortunate people are better dressed, that they are more orderly and decent in their behaviour. And what does all that amount to, but that they are rejoicing that what is wrong, what is sinful, is to be stripped of all that is disgusting, and all that is abhorrent to the people's sight and view, and that you are to make these women more attractive for the calling which they are unhappily carrying on. If that is not an evidence of the depravation of the moral sense, I do not know what is. What will it necessarily lead to? Can you make the people whom you wish to obey God's law, believe that you are sincere in that, when you uphold these things, especially when you make people who carry on these practices more attractive and less repulsive? As I have said before, when this sort of law exists, that sort of depravation of the moral sense follows. I held that opinion when the laws were introduced, and I hold it now; and I am therefore glad to record my opinion upon it. I believe, also, that the laws have failed very much in the object for which they were introduced. I believe you know very little of the actual state of matters, for you have given up all examination of men. Therefore, you know nothing but of the men who come to you; and while they can go to a chemist's shop and get relief at a low cost and no stoppage of pay, anyone who knows anything about human nature knows that they are not likely to come to you. These are my reasons for voting against the measures, and I am glad of having one more opportunity of raising my voice against them.
§ MR. MASSEY
Sir, having served on the Royal Commission, I hope to be allowed to trespass upon the House for a few moments while I state the conclusions I have arrived at after a careful examination of this subject. The Royal Commission comprised several Gentlemen who are strongly adverse to the policy of these Acts, and also those who were in favour of them. There was also a neutral party on the Commission, which was open to conviction upon the subject. Of that party I formed one. I entered into that Commission with no bias, either in favour or against the Acts. We prosecuted the inquiry in a painstaking way, and in as judicial manner as any Commission that ever sat. Our inquiry lasted for 45 days, and we examined 80 witnesses. The cases which came before the Commission were well inquired into. It was alleged, in the first place, that this legislation was immoral in itself; it was alleged, in the second place, that its practical tendency was towards immorality; in the third place, the efficacy of the Acts for the purpose for which they were framed was denied; and, lastly, it was alleged that the administration of these Acts was grossly abused. I need not detain the House with any lengthened observations upon the first head of objection. It is sufficient for me to say that Acts which obtained the entire concurrence of a large body of persons, comprising every class of society, from magistrates to clergymen of all denominations, cannot fairly be called immoral. Well, Sir, as regards the second objection, that they were immoral in their tendency, that was one of a practical nature, and which demanded strict inquiry, because we felt that if any one of those cardinal objections, which were urged against the Acts, could be substantiated, it was impossible to defend them, but that the whole policy must be abandoned. We inquired, with very great care, as to their alleged immoral tendency. We took a very large body of evidence on this subject, and the result of that investigation was, that the number of prostitutes and the number of brothels had been very materially reduced since the Acts came into operation; and one fact which made a very great impression, as it naturally would upon the Commission, was, that the Acts had 404 been most effectual in deterring young girls from entering the profession. The evidence was most express upon that subject, and the result was, I think I may say, the unanimous conviction of the Commission that, to a greater or less degree, that the Acts had achieved a very great success; and certainly if any legislation could be credited with such an achievement as that of deterring young girls and thoughtless creatures from entering upon a career which must result in their physical and moral ruin, much could be said for such legislation, and I think the House would pause before they abandoned it. It was said, however, that although public prostitution appeared to be diminishing, yet it was in a great degree supplanted by clandestine vice. On that point there was a great deal of evidence, and it was extremely difficult to get at the truth of the matter. There were general statements that clandestine prostitution had in a great measure ceased. I, for one, was not prepared to go that length; but I felt satisfied, and I joined my Colleagues in thinking that the weight of the evidence was in favour of the views of the police upon that subject. Now, Sir, I should be very glad to corroborate these statements by quotations from the Report of the Commission; but at this late period, and as other Gentlemen are desirous of speaking, I will not detain the House with quotations from the Report. As to the statements that the Acts are inefficacious, we took a very large body of evidence; and I must refer very shortly to one or two paragraphs which appeared on that point. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill, referred to the evidence of the surgeons, and quoted Sir James Paget. He might have referred to Sir William Jenner, who also gave evidence as to the transmission of syphilis. But the great majority of opinion in the medical body is that the effect of this foul disease is not confined to the sufferers and to the sinners themselves, but that it is visited not only upon the next generation, but upon succeeding generations, who are innocent of the offence. We then inquired how far those Acts, within the limited sphere in which they operated, were efficacious in removing or preventing this disease. I will not refer to the ample statements in the Report of the Royal Commissioners 405 which bear upon this point, but I may refer to a document which has recently been laid on the Table of the House, the Report of Captain Harris, the Inspector of Police, with regard to the present position of the question. In the 9th paragraph he says that—2,041 common women have been registered during the year, including those re-registered chiefly from the unprotected districts. Of that number, 646, or 32.76 per cent of those examined (1,972) were found to be diseased on their first examination; whilst, 130 only, or 6.54 per cent of those examined (1,989) out of 2,121 women remaining on the register on the 31st December, 1873, were found to be diseased.Now, if this Report is trustworthy at all, if it is not a fabricated Report, such testimony is absolutely conclusive as to the fact that the operation of these Acts has had a direct and signal effect upon the existence of disease. [The right hon. Member having stated the substance of Petitions and Memorials laid before the Commission, before it had concluded its sittings, from the principal naval and military towns and garrisons—all "subjected districts"—proceeded,] Now, all these authorities concur in the strongest way in representing to the Government which they addressed and to the Royal Commission the value which they attached to those Acts. They were men who were on the spot, and who were daily engaged in the administration of justice, and in the administration of public institutions for the relief of sickness and disease, and they were clergymen who were engaged in the haunts of vice and misery, in their respective localities; and they all concurred that these Acts had been most beneficial to the health and to the morals and decencies of the towns in which they were in operation. I do not know what testimony you can have more conclusive than that; and I ask the House whether they are prepared, merely upon statements, and upon statistics which have no authenticity, and which are not corroborated by any evidence which has ever been laid before the House, to vote for the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Scarborough, and to entirely sweep away this legislation and substitute nothing in its place. Before I heard the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers), I was under the impression that the Report of the Royal Commission had not 406 received the attention that it had deserved. That Report was the result of great labour and of very great thought, and it obtained in its main provisions the concnrrence of the Commission. The minority of the Commission were in favour of maintaining the Act of 1866 in its integrity; a smaller minority were desirous of abolishing the system altogether; but the majority, including dignitaries of the Church of England—the Bishop of Carlisle, Canon Gregory, the Vicar of Brighton, and the late Rev. Mr. Maurice—all concurred that these Acts of 1866 should be removed, and that a mitigated system should be substituted for it. So far as the medical testimony was concerned, there can hardly be a doubt that the system of the periodical examination was the most efficacious for the restriction of disease; but, on the other hand, there were many considerations of morality and decency which rendered the majority of the Commission unwilling to recommend it. There were, no doubt, unpleasant exhibitions attending it, and there was something so repulsive in requiring that these unfortunate creatures should once a fortnight be examined, that the majority of the Commission came to the conclusion that the principal benefit of this policy might be maintained, without continuing that extreme proceeding. I was one of those who thought that the policy of the Act of 1864 was prematurely abandoned. It was working well. The women were coming to the hospital. Imprisonment was required only during the time of treatment—a provision which was absolutely essential to the working of any such system with these thoughtless and vicious women; for if they had been allowed to quit the hospital before being cured, the Act would be reduced to nullity. Upon the fourth allegation, that the Acts have been greatly abused, that modest women have been insulted, and that poor creatures who are not offending against public decency have been hunted up by the police, we also made particular inquiry. We had 70 cases of alleged gross misconduct on the part of the police. The Commissioners reported that they investigated these cases, and that there was no evidence in support of them. They invited the persons who had made these charges to come forward with their proofs, and they declined to 407 do so; and the result was, that many of them depended upon mere hearsay, and others were without foundation. That was the result of a strict inquiry. I am so desirous that this policy should not be abandoned in toto, that this House should not adopt a view founded on exaggerated statements with regard to the policy and operation of these Acts, that I should have been glad to have entered very fully into the subject; but the subject has been fairly brought forward before the House by hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me. I say that the Acts are not immoral in their tendency, but that they are efficacious, and have not been abused. We have to deal with a trade, which, though not recognized, is as practically established as if it was a recognized trade. That trade is carried on with conditions dangerous to the public health and offensive to the public order. "We apply restrictions and regulations to the manufacture of gunpowder, to the storing of petroleum, and to the management of public-houses. We are told by some enthusiasts that this is an invasion of the liberty of the subject. No doubt. But what sort of liberty—the liberty of prostitution and the liberty of propagating disease. I should be glad to see more legislation to restrain such liberty as that. The question today is, whether this policy shall be abandoned or not, or whether we shall adhere to the Acts as they stand? That is the question upon which we have to vote, and I regret it, for the opponents of the Acts are absolutely unpractical, and they reject the recommendations of the Royal Commission with contempt. ["No, no!"] I am so advised. I have never seen one word in the numerous publications of the opponents in favour of any one of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. If these recommendations had been met in a reasonable spirit of compromise I should have been happy to have aided in modifying the Acts. But I have found no such disposition. There is an uncompromising determination to sweep away this policy; and much as I approve of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, and entirely as I concur in the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), I cannot hesitate to give a vote against the Bill introduced by the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. STANSFELD
Sir, I entreat the House to grant me for a short time a patient hearing. I have some right to be heard on this subject, for I beg leave to say that during the past year probably no hon. Member of this House has devoted so much time and thought to it as I; and I would add that by the course I have taken that I have given pledges of my sincerity as far as my convictions are concerned. Now, Sir, time presses, and I rise under a very considerable disadvantage, because I am under the obligation, which I recognize, of making way in time for the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who no doubt will conclude this debate. I do not make this statement for the purpose of obtaining sympathy for my misfortune; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman when he rises, and I would ask the House to give me this credit at least, not to believe when I have resumed my seat, that I have exhausted all that I would have liked to say on this subject. It will be necessary for me to make a selection, and to confine myself somewhat stringently to certain aspects of the question. Time will not allow me to give, as fully as I could, a reply, which I am not unable to give, to previous speeches in favour of the present system of legislation. Sir, we have been told that the view—the main view—of the opponents of these laws is, that diseases, which are the frequent consequences of sexual vice, are the visitation of Providence, and that Government or law have no right to assuage or cure them. I entirely repudiate such a doctrine, and I take upon myself, having as much knowledge as any man can have of the opinions of the opponents of this legislation, to say that there is no considerable number of persons anywhere who entertain such a doctrine. Our view is something very different. The function of Christian charity is to heal diseases; and, above all, those which are the consequences of vice, because that healing gives the opportunity to reclaim, and therefore those of us who oppose this legislation, are entirely in favour of voluntary hospitals, such as those to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) has referred. But what we object to is this—and the House will, indeed, be dull-sighted if it is unable to grasp this distinction—we approve of 409 hospitals and of reclamatory agencies, but we disapprove of the registering of the examination of women, of the periodical examination, and of the Government guarantee. As for me I am amazed, I say, to find men incapable of understanding this, that when you have a system whose effect—I will not speak of the object in the minds of those who introduced it—that is not the question—that has never been the question as far as I am concerned—but when you have a system, the effect and tendency of which is not to cure and to reclaim, but to cure and regulate in order that these women may be returned sound upon the market, I would ask any sensible man if he can deny, on appealing to his conscience, but that a law of this description must be calculated to lower the moral tone and the habits of the people of this country? I may state further, to define our views and our objects, that we are entirely open to the consideration of any ameliorative measures not subject to the objections to which I have referred—namely, that their effect upon the imagination and the habits and the life of the population would be of a demoralizing nature. But what I desire to do is to address myself to a part of the subject which is very dry, but which has to be expounded to the House, and this I will compress to the narrowest limits, and I earnestly entreat the patient hearing of the House. I have been much struck in the course of this debate, that my right hon. Friend the Paymaster General (Mr. Cave), and the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the rejection of the Bill (Colonel Alexander), appeared not to feel it incumbent upon them to adduce any arguments or statistics to prove the hygienic success of legislation, which rightly or wrongly revolts the moral sense of a large portion of the community. "Well, then, Sir, I am here compelled, not to take up the most elevated part of the subject, but to cast everything else upon one side in order that, if the House will give me its attention, I may demonstrate as well as I can the hygienic failure of these Acts and this system, and so prepare the way for Her Majesty's Government, not yet responsible, whatever may be said, as a Government, for this system, to make their proposals to the House at some future time. Well, Sir, I turn, and refer to the Army and Navy 410 Medical Returns. The question which I have to discuss—the hygienic question—is a double question, and I ask the House to sever those two questions. First, the question and the object of promoting efficiency or diminishing in-efficiency in the Army and Navy; and, secondly, the question and the object of greatly diminishing, if not of stamping out, a disease which is said to be a scourge in our population, affecting the innocent and injuring the constitution of generations yet unborn. Well, I will take these propositions in turn; and I undertake first to demonstrate from the existing Army and Navy Returns, and then from the Return of the right hon. Gentleman to which he casually referred, which was circulated amongst hon. Members on Saturday last, and which I presume is intended as a refutation of the conclusion at which I have arrived, the practical failure of these Acts. Sir, the Army Medical Returns divide these diseases—I will use no medical terms—which are the consequence of sexual vice into two classes, which are generally called the less and the more serious class. As to that which is called the less serious class it is admitted—explicitly admitted—by consecutive Army Returns that no reduction in respect of that class of disease has been effected by these Acts. Now, I ask the House to pause for a moment, and consider, from a scientific point of view, the importance of a fact of this kind, of which I have never heard an attempt at an explanation. What is the difference between the two classes of disease, that one should be reduced, and that the other should not be favourably affected by such a system as this of which I am now speaking? I will give you some reason why that first class shows no reduction—first of all by the false expectation of physical immunity from the consequences of vice, you have stimulated vice; and if you stimulate vice you increase the danger and the probability of disease; and, secondly, this particular class of disease, which people are wont to call the less serious, is by no means the less serious as far as the temporary efficiency of soldiers and sailors is concerned; and it is the most difficult to conceal; and those are reasons why no apparent reduction has been affected in the admissions to hospitals in respect of this class of disease, and those reasons 411 do not apply with equal force to the other class. Well, then, I come to the other class. I find in the year 1866—which is the date of the earliest existing Act—that the number of admissions to hospital per 1,000 men in the subjected districts in respect of this second class of disease was 90 per 1,000. We find that by the year 1872 that 90 had fallen to 54. Now, that is a great reduction; and if you look to the unprotected districts, you do not find that fall. And these are the figures which have impressed the minds of the Government, and these are the figures with which it is essential for me to deal. I said that this second class was by no means necessarily the serious class; and now I will prove it. The detentions in hospital in consequence of this second-class disease are for limited periods of time, and the 54 admissions per 1,000 men mean no more according to the Army Returns than a number of constantly sick from that cause of 4½ men per 1,000. When I go back from 1872 to 1868, I find the admissions have risen from 54 to 72, and I find that the average of constantly sick has only risen from 4½ to 5. When I go back to the year 1866, I find, as I have said, that the admissions were 90, and by a process of calculation, because I have no means of knowing the exact figure, and my conclusions may not be literally and exactly true as regards that particular year, yet it proves itself true upon a series of years, I say that 90 means no more than 5½ constantly sick in the 1,000. Therefore the saving in the efficiency of the Army is 1 per 1,000 in 1872 as compared with 1866. The whole Home Army consists of 85,000 men, and 50,000 are now in the subjected districts. I have shown you that the fall in the numbers constantly sick has been from 66 to 72, from 5½ to 4½ of men per 1,000, and that is a saving of efficiency of 1 man per 1,000, and that is the saving of 50 men out of a whole Army of 85,000 men. I am responsible for that-figure. My right hon. Friend, in referring to that figure, talked of there being an inefficiency of 648, but he did not explain, and I do not understand that figure to refer to his Return. What I find is, that comparing subjected with unsubjected districts, he is disposed, or the Return attempts, to show a saving of 200 instead of about 50. That saving I am prepared to disprove; 412 but I am not going to disprove it. I confidently ask the House and the Government whether they are prepared to base legislation upon this subject upon the basis of a hypothetical saving of 50 or even of 200 men who are simply in hospital instead of parade, because I have shown that the bulk of this disease is of a light character. If the order was given, not for parade but for foreign duty, then these hospitals would soon be cleared. Let me come to some other figures, which I will rapidly place before the attention of the Government and the House. As far as the invaliding is concerned, in the year 1866, the number of men invalided from this cause—I am alluding to the second class of disease—was 43, out of a total of 60,000; and in 1872 the 43 had risen to 96, out of a total of 85,000. That is to say', from 7 per 10,000 to 11 per 10,000 men. Sir, as regards the Home Navy nearly everything has gone to the bad. I am about to modify some figures which I have given to the public elsewhere, not that they are inaccurate, but that they are not entirely exhaustive, and the Army and Medical Returns vary in their nomenclature, and the classification of disease has been changed from year to year; but I give them with the changes. Those changes, however, have no bearing whatever upon my argument. In 1866, the admission to hospital, in respect of this disease, out of our naval forces, was 101.5 per 1,000 men; the constantly sick, and therefore inefficient, numbered in 1866 9–3 per 1,000, and in 1872, 10 per 1,000; in 1866, out of a total Home naval force of 21,200, 22 were invalided; in 1872, out of 23,000, the number of permanently invalided had risen from 22 to 52 men. Well, then, Sir, if the House will grant me attention, I will come to the Return which has been laid upon the Table. We have been asked to believe everything that Government tells us, and I have been told that it is a reflection upon the Captain Harrises, or whoever they may be, if we do not believe this Return. But I am somewhat familiar with Government departments and Government Returns, and it is no reflection upon the officers who made those Returns to say what I am going to say—that when a given policy is impugned, and you call upon the Department for 413 statistics or Returns which, are to enable you to meet objections of that description, that their function becomes somewhat one of advocacy; and without any conscious dishonesty at all, they are apt so to deal with those figures, or to manipulate them so as to present to us the view which â priori they have adopted in their own minds. This is not only argument; I will prove that I am right. Well, now, what the Return tries to show is this—In order to show a heavy fall in respect of this second class of disease in the protected places, it goes back for six years before the Act of 1866, and takes an average of four years before the Act of 1864. Now, there was a constant fall before the Acts, and therefore not caused by the Acts. It may be said that it was in consequence of the reduction of the Army, but I will meet that objection. For the present it is enough to say that instead of starting from the natural starting point, the beginning of a particular system of legislation, you go back to a prior date in order to get a higher starting point. You pursue a course which statistically, is not to be justified. The fall is calculated upon from an average of 130 to an average of 87. The average of 87 is the average of six years, from 1864 to 1869; that figure is reached in 1866. I will show to the House that whether that fall from 130 to 87 is an accurate or exaggerated statement; there is not 1 per cent of that fall due to the operation of the Acts, and I will show that, as I was never able to show it before, from this Army Paper, and the Army and Medical Returns of 1872. In this Return, I find in 1866, in places which ultimately came under the Acts, out of 39,476 men, the number of admissions amongst men for this second class of disease was 87. That is the fall from 130 to 87; but if I turn to the Army Medical Report of 1872, I get more information—the proportion of those 39,000 men, who at that time were under the Acts; and I get the fall in respect of these men, and what I find is this—that of these 39,476 men, only 10,161 were under the protection of the Acts; and whereas on the whole, the fall had been from 130 to 87, with reference to these 10,161 protected men, the fall was simply 90.5. And therefore I maintain that so far as the 87 per 1,000 is concerned, it is in no degree 414 owing to the operation of the Acts, because as to the 10,000 men subjected to the Acts in these districts, the fall is only to 90½, and the fall to 87 was only obtained by taking into account what occurred amongst the 29,000 men who happened to be unprotected men. Then, passing over another point, I come to the last statement in the Return, which is to this effect, which is an admission that does credit to the reporters, but which does not consort with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's remarks who referred to them. He referred to the great reduction in the year 1874 as a favourable fact, as far as these Acts were concerned; and he referred to Lord Card well's Order as a blessing to the Army, and as something which acted as a deterrent against vice. Now, this Report does not support that view. For I find these words—In October, 1873, a Royal Warrant was promulgated, directing that soldiers admitted into hospital on account of venereal diseases should forfeit their pay whilst under treatment. It is presumed that this led to concealment of those diseases.So that you do not get a real Return, but a concealment of the disease; and the statistics after 1873 become and are henceforth simply valueless. But I will give some evidence. I was down at Portsmouth the other day, and I will tell you what I heard at Portsmouth. A short time ago three regiments were suddenly examined. In one of those regiments they found 40 cases of concealed disease. And I will tell the hon. and gallant Member for South Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) what the soldiers of Portsmouth say with regard to that Order of Lord Cardwell, for which they were to be so thankful. Well, they might be thankful for that Order if it were not for the existence of this legislation; but it is not consistent with the principle of this legislation, and I know what the soldiers say. They say—"You only permit a small portion of us to be married, and for the rest you provide these women, and you guarantee that they shall be clean, and then you fine us, and stop our pay, not because we were vicious, but because we have not been safe in our intercourse with the women you have provided." They say it is not fair, and I say it is not fair and consistent with the principle of these Acts. I will be true to my word, and 415 will compress my remarks as much as possible. I will now come to another branch of the subject, and that is the severity of the disease, and its effect upon future generations. Now, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has moved the rejection of this Bill has quoted the medical testimony of Mr. Lane, and has felt himself justified in speaking slightingly of Mr. Simon, and preferred the opinions of a specialist like Mr. Lane; but I am not so easily persuaded to pin my faith to specialists, and Mr. Simon's opinion of the gross exaggerations employed in speaking of the severity and danger of transmission of this class has been confirmed by the evidence of Mr. Skey before the Committee of the House of Lords, and by the opinion of Mr. Jonathan Hutchinson, probably the highest authority on the subject in the country, and others. But whatever the danger may be as to its severity or the danger of its transmission, this at least is true, that your legislation has had no effect whatever upon that particular class of disease. The second class of disease to which reference has been made is not this most serious class, but contains it in some small fraction; and when I want to know the practical effect and judge from the Government Returns, I find in the year 1866, as to this most serious class—which is known by the repetition of the attack without fresh contact—that whereas in 1866 the admissions to hospital came to 24.73 per cent. in 1872 they came to 24.26, which is the same thing within a decimal fraction. Well then. Sir, I say these figures cannot be disproved; I say these figures must banish for ever the notion of the great hygienic success of the measure, and it can only reappear as a vague picture on the hypothesis of the adoption of further and more stringent laws of continental origin to which this country will never submit. Therefore I will simply make this appeal to the Government and the House, if we have lost sight of the possibility of the large hygienic success which recommended it to the consideration of the House, I will ask the House, in the interest of morality and justice, and in deference to the moral instincts of large portions of the community, and further in the interest of the character of Government, of Parliament, and of Law, let us determine, by the repeal of 416 these Acts, that at least Parliament and Government and Law shall no longer be needlessly responsible for legislation which has outraged, without any occasion, the moral instincts of a large portion of the community, which has raised an agitation which will never cease until it has attained its object, and which, if you will address the question to your own consciences, they will tell you is essentially immoral, and incapable of justification or defence.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I am quite unable to bring into the course which I shall think it my duty to adopt on the discussion of this subject any of the passion or enthusiasm which has been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman who has preceded me; and, if I, dealing as I do with the responsibility of the Army, feel myself obliged to take part in the debate, I do so with reluctance, for it is a subject which in itself is distasteful to me, and which, I know, excites the feelings described in large classes of the community. But I speak with a deep sense of the benefits achieved from the operation of these Acts, and the responsibily incurred if I were to withdraw that protection from the Army by giving a negative to the Amendment on the Motion before the House. The passion which has been thrown into the discussion by the right hon. Gentleman, not only in this House but elsewhere, while it does great credit to his sincerity, is not so creditable to his judgment. I was sorry to read in this pamphlet—that elsewhere he said that where laws are passed without preliminary discussion they are not entitled to the obedience of the public. [Mr. STANSFELB: I beg your pardon; I never said so.] I will read the passage to which I allude, which is contained in this pamphlet published by the Association of which the right hon. Gentleman is the head—Acts that have been passed without the sanction of public opinion, and without that preliminary discussion which the laws of Parliament are intended to receive, have no rightful claim upon our obedience.
§ MR. STANSFELD
I cannot undertake to remember my precise words. ["Oh, oh!"] I have always been perfectly frank with the House. What I can remember is their intent and effect, which was, that laws passed in the manner I described, had forfeited all claim upon our moral obedience. ["Oh, oh!"] 417 I was not speaking of practical obedience to the law.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I hope, at all events, the House will do me the justice to observe that I quoted correctly words contained in the pamphlet, a copy of which I believe has been sent to every Member of the House. That pamphlet contained a portion of the speeches the right hon. Gentleman has made, and as it is circulated with the authority of the Association with which it is connected, I thought the speeches were authentic. The right hon. Gentleman said the officers concerned in making the Returns were apt to give them a colouring. That is no doubt consistent with the statements in the pamphlet—"Captain Harris must have the pen of a lawyer," &c.; and then, again—"This is a disgraceful and misleading Return, and calculated to deceive," &c. I think it my duty to say on the part of that gallant officer, that there is not a particle of foundation for these assertions, and that he is as incapable of writing misleading Return, as he is charged here, as any Gentleman in this House. The right hon. Gentleman has said that everything has gone to the bad under the Acts. I think I could find the exact sentence he used; but he put it before the House that, practically, with the exception of one slight reduction, no hygienic success had attended the working of the Acts at all. He has not entered so fully into the question here as he has elsewhere; but he has put forward before the public that these Acts are simply inoperative. That proves a great deal too much. The right hon. Gentleman who presided over the Commission (Mr. Massey) has proved, beyond doubt, that there was abundant evidence, both morally and physically, of the good operation of the Acts. Now, the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman are totally different from those made by those who are in authority, and who are endeavouring to obtain true results. He now tells the House that there has been only a small fraction of improvement—from 4½ to 5, I believe he said—in the health of the troops as the result of their operation. But one medical authority reported that in 1872 the saving effected was of 387 men daily in a certain area: or, if they took the 85,000 men of the Army, it was a saving of the services of 648 daily. I will ask the House if that is not a tangible matter, and of serious 418 consequence to the Army. Those are statistics put before me, by those in authority, and the right hon. Member calls upon us to throw these over upon his ipse dixit, founded on statistics that took a totally different view. I have not gone into these minute details myself, but I place before the right hon. Gentleman the conclusions that have been arrived at by gentlemen well qualified to form opinions on the subject. I want the House clearly to understand the position we are in. My hon. Friend who brought in the Bill (Sir Harcourt Johnstone) said—"We are perfectly prepared to support every effort of Christian charity and philanthrophy. Nay, we think them so important that we are prepared to give State aid to the Lock Hospitals." Why do they do that, if it were not necessary in order to put some check upon disease? Why do they single this disease out, except that they feel that the interference of the State is necessary? They do not say they are ready to propose Votes of public money for hospitals for other diseases, but the necessity that these diseases should be checked appears so urgent to them that they say they are willing that grants should be made to the Lock hospitals conducted on voluntary principles. For what object? That the same women may go back upon the streets and be the means of the same sin, and avoid disease? Is that the object? If it is right, according to philanthropy, in what is the State doing wrong; in taking hold of the people who are bringing pollution and death into our midst, and keeping them until they are fully restored? I say that, if time permitted, and the subject was not so repulsive, I could show that through the streets and various parts of the country, there are women going about who are as dangerous to society as if they were wild beasts. In dealing with these women, as a class, it is essential to consider who and what they are. Look at the position they occupy. The troops come into a neighbourhood and are beset by these women. Disease would be communicated by those women, and it was the young recruits who are seized with that particular form of disorder to which allusion has been made—the minor form of disease. The amount of sorrow and suffering that were thereby created, it is almost impossible to conceive. I have a letter 419 from a magistrate at Chichester, detailing a case that has come within Ms own observation [and the right hon. Gentleman read it to the House.] Can it fairly said that we are doing an un-Christian act, in taking these girls into an hospital where they will have the attention of chaplains and matrons; and rescue the girl from a life probably caused by the neglect of parents in her early years, and endeavour to provide for her, as hundreds have been provided for, and redeemed from this horrible life. I cannot now go into details with respect to compulsory examination and registry. It is not the time to discuss these questions, we are now asked to pass a Bill which proposes the total and absolute repeal of these Acts, leaving nothing in their place to check the spread of this fatal disease. But I would have the House remember what has been done in the way of prevention and cure. I mean the moral cure as distinguished from the physical one. I have before me an extract from the report of the chaplain of the Lock Hospital at Cork; and I shall call upon the Irish Members to vote as I vote, after they have heard the extract. It has been said, no provision is made for the moral treatment of these people; this is totally untrue. No hospital for the treatment of the disease would be sanctioned unless it had proper provision for the moral treatment of the patients. A clause to the effect on the Motion of Mr. Ayrton was introduced into one of the Acts, that the certificate should be withdrawn unless the hospital was so provided. This condition has been observed, and it shows that the moral training has been in the minds of those who were considering their physical cure. The chaplain to whom I referred, gives most accurate details, and has been in correspondence with the women. He says, out of those received into the hospital, 5 were sent back to their fathers; 11 were sent back to their mothers; 5 were sent back to brothers and sisters; 2 went back to their husbands; 10 were provided with situations; 12 were sent to the Union, where they were behaving properly; 22 had died after giving very sincere proof of their having renounced their evil life, 9 had emigrated, 13 had married, and 56 were in Magdalen Hospitals. Of others the Returns were not so favourable, but only 420 25 the chaplain considered to have relapsed. These Acts have in their necessity that which is repulsive to many of us. I can say when they were first introduced, my instincts were against them. It is only upon the distinct feeling and the assurance I derive that they are operating physically and morally to the advantage of all, that I can give them the support which I do. I might, but for the lateness of the hour, quote Returns of a similar character that I have received from Chatham and many other places. The hon. Member for Stockport made a complaint because a policeman told a married woman going into a certain house that it was a brothel. That was complained of as being an interference with personal liberty, and yet the woman went the next day and thanked the police inspector for the warning she had received. It can be shown that many girls are prevented from entering into this trade. Formerly, girls of 12 years of age were commonly seen about the streets of some towns—they are now hardly ever seen—thus proving that these Acts exercise a most beneficial preventive influence. Since I came into the House I have received a letter from a Dissenting minister at Woolwich, who confirms all that has been said by the Roman Catholic Chaplain of the great importance at Cork of the Acts in their social aspects, and the beneficial result upon the whole population. Much has been said of the agitation of which the right hon. Gentleman has put himself at the head. I do not wish to say one word against the ladies who have devoted themselves with pain and reluctance to the work of repealing these Acts, if they think it their duty to do so; but I will ask one question of them: If you are so strongly convinced of the degradation which you say is imposed by these Acts upon the polluted and degraded, what do you think must be the effect of putting into the hands of young girls the horrible literature which has been circulated in connection with this agitation? Has not that literature been doing something towards polluting the minds of young girls who lived in ignorance of these things, and who ought to be allowed to live in ignorance of such matters, and to grow up in that innocence and that purity which is their beauty and 421 their grace? I implore these ladies, if they are opposed to these Acts—if they think it right to agitate this question—that they will, at all events, leave our children in peace, and not pollute their minds by issuing any more of this literature.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 126; Noes 308: Majority 182.
§ Words added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Second Reading put off for three months.
§ And it being Six of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House till Tomorrow without putting the Question.