§ Order for Second Beading read.
§ MR. R. SMYTH
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said: When I had an opportunity last Session of calling the attention of the House to the state of the law and of public opinion in Ireland on the subject of Sunday trading in intoxicating liquors, I was at the disadvantage of being obliged to present the argument under cover of an abstract Resolution. I am aware, as I was then, that Motions of that kind do not find much favour either with the Government of the day or with the House of Commons. But the subject is now altogether disembarrassed from an abstract Motion, and, in moving the second reading of this Bill which I now do, I ask the House to give its sanction to practical and immediate legislation. As to the provisions of the Bill, there is nothing in them that can be regarded as novel in character. It merely proposes to surround the whole of Sunday with a hedge similar to that which now encloses only a part of that day. But I do not think that anyone pleading for a measure of this kind is under any necessity whatever to prove that Sunday is not as other days. The law of England has said so already, and the provisions which exist under the present law imply that Sunday is not to be treated in regard to trading as other days of the week. Therefore, it seems to me that all argument as to the question of principle would be entirely superfluous. But if there is no new principle in this Bill, neither is there any new application of the principle, for the same restrictive law which we now ask for Ireland—or rather, I shall say, which Ireland now asks for herself—has been in operation in Scotland for more than 20 years; and I shall be very much surprised if any Scotch Member will rise in his place and say that the prohibitory Sunday law has produced any bad effects in that country. I am sure if an opportunity is given to Scotch Members to speak in this debate they will tell a very different story. This Bill cannot, I think, be considered anything 95 but reasonable and temperate. It does not aim at hermetically sealing public-houses on Sunday, so that nobody may be able to go in or go out, but guaranteeing to lodgers and bonâ fide travellers all the rights and privileges possessed under the existing law, it simply proposes to put an end to the indiscriminate trading in liquors during the whole of the Sunday in Ireland. I hope it is not necessary for an advocate of this measure to disclaim any intention of attacking publicans or persons engaged in any way in the manufacture and sale of alcoholic drinks. For my part, I would consider it rather preposterous to assail people for selling as a commodity that which I have no hesitation in buying. If it is wrong to sell, it must also be wrong to buy, though I am ready to admit that there may be, from the temperance advocate's point of view, a distinction between the act of the tempter and the act of the tempted; but I do not go into that, or travel beyond the record of this Bill, which has nothing in the world to do with the general question of trading in liquors. If it were necessary, a good deal could be said for publicans. They are the licentiates of the State; and, to the credit of the licensing authorities in Ireland, I am bound to say that it is now almost as difficult for a man to get an appointment to exercise his gifts as a publican as it is to get appointed to be a schoolmaster or a dispensary doctor. Their character stands above all possibility of impeachment, and that is all that may be said about it. But publicans are traders, and so far as they are so, the presumption is that they ought to confine themselves, like other traders, to the ordinary days of the week; and I submit that the burden of proof lies upon those who claim the right to extract profits out of Sunday trading. There can be here no question of vested interests, for no man is acknowledged to have a trading interest in the Lord's Day, and it would be idle for anyone to plead that he has a vested interest in the weaknesses and drinking habits of the working classes. I put aside, then, all trading pleas and remonstrances on the part of licensed victuallers, and the only arguments I feel myself bound to consider are those drawn from public convenience and public opinion. It is on that ground, and that ground alone, 96 that the issue is to be joined here, though an appeal might be made to higher sanctions which could hardly fail to meet with respect and sympathy in this Assembly. Now, speaking of trade, I must request the attention of the House to a remarkable and most significant circumstance connected with the movement for Sunday closing in Ireland. The only opponents—and this is not a rhetorical exaggeration, but substantially a literal fact—the only opponents of this Bill are a portion of the Irish and nearly all the English publicans. How does it come that they take such an interest in the question? I can only account for their action on the supposition that it is with them a question of traffic. They do not want their Sunday profits to be interfered with, for, notwithstanding the acknowledgment I have already made that they are excellent people, still I do not believe that their presence at public meetings, convened by other people and in other interests, or that their presence in the Lobbies of this House for the purpose of persuading Members, and even Ministers of the Crown, to vote against this Bill, is to be accounted for upon the grounds of pure public spirit, or that they are the exclusive champions of Irish liberty, and the only disinterested guardians of public convenience and morality. At all events, as they are open to the suspicion of self-interest—a taint from which the general public of Ireland, who support this measure with an earnestness rarely seen, are altogether free—we must seek a more impartial judgment on the question than any we can get from the mixed tribunal of English and Irish publicans. What do the employers of labour in Ireland say on the subject? I never conversed with an employer of labour, yet who did not tell me that Monday was the day of all days in the week when his works were beset with the greatest troubles and dislocations, arising from the absence of some of his men, and the perfect uselessness of others on account of the drinking of the previous Sunday evening. Only a few days ago a deputation was courteously received by the Prime Minister on this subject. During that interview the Mayor of Belfast—and who in the Three Kingdoms could speak with greater authority than the Mayor of Belfast?—stated that sometimes works had to be suspended on 97 Monday, and often on a part of Tuesday, because of the effects of Sunday evening drinking. Sunday's rest was intended by all law, Divine and human, to recruit the exhausted energies of the working classes; but instead of that a temptation is placed in their way, during their hours of rest from labour to wear out the remnants of their strength by dissipation; and if they go back to their work on Monday mornings, it is in a condition of physical and mental enfeeblement which makes it almost a cruelty to ask them to do anything at all. It is all very well to have fine theories about the public-house being the working men's club; but all I can say is that if gentlemen used their clubs in the same way as that to which the public-house is unhappily devoted by the poor who have not learned the virtue of self-control, I should hope to find same courageous Member introducing into this House a Sunday Closing Bill for the clubs of St. James's and Pall Mall. This is an Assembly of practical men, who are not hunting after subtle analogies, and they know that there is not one feature of substantial similarity between the public-houses in Donnybrook and the St. Stephen's Club across the way. But I find that some English Members are misled by honest and honourable misconceptions as to Irish habits and customs. They have a notion that we are proposing to give Irishmen and women stale beer for their Sunday dinner, and they wonder how we can be so cruel as to treat our countrymen and countrywomen in that way. Now, I must distinctly and emphatically point out that draught beer is not used by the poor in Ireland. An Irish labourer, such is his perversity, thinks beer very little better than muddy water, and he would not thank you if you were to turn Lough Corrib into beer. He would certainly be angry if you turned the Devil's Punchbowl into beer; whereas I am credibly informed that many English labourers are of opinion that human life would lose a great deal of its interest without beer. It is not hard to teach an Englishman to drink whisky, but it is next to an impossibility to teach an Irishman to drink beer. So I hope we shall hear no more about the Sunday beer argument; for Sunday beer at a working man's dinner in Ireland is as great a 98 myth as the Irish Banshee. Now, adverting to the present state of the law, I am puzzled to know why a public-house is to be opened at 2 o'clock on Sunday afternoon and not at 11 or 12 o'clock. It cannot be because people are more likely to go to excess at noon than in the afternoon. The motive for shutting up public-houses during canonical hours is, I suppose a device, but it is a very shallow device for protecting the Churches. Well, in my opinion, you may just as well let public-houses compete with the churches as compete with the homes. I have but little veneration for a religious sentiment which protects the clergyman from the competition of the publican, and will give no protection to the poor man's wife. The clergy of all denominations have repudiated this distinction, and have told you in their memorials that they do not want the continuance of this law, the theory of which is that their churches and chapels are to be filled in the morning and the whisky shops in the afternoon. They are willing and anxious that the families of the poor should be cared for by British law; and I think they never uttered a sentiment more in harmony with the religion they have to guard than when they tell the House of Commons that in their view the hearth in its own place is just as sacred as the altar. I have heard it urged—indeed, I am not sure but that it was said in the debates of last year—that if drink was bought on Saturday night for Sunday use the children of the family will be led into temptation, and that it is far better for the head of the house to adjourn to a tavern and drink where his children cannot see him. I never said anything so damaging to drink as that, and I doubt whether the publicans will thank their friends for giving such a repulsive picture of the article they have to sell. But let us see how this will apply to another argument of our opponents. They say that the working classes take a walk or go some little trip on a Sunday afternoon, and it would be hard if they could not get a glass of whisky on the way. Well, suppose their excursion extends over three miles from home. In that case they become bonâ fide travellers by statute law, and can get as much drink as they like, even under this Bill. Again, suppose they merely take a walk near their own homes, surely, in that case, they will 99 take their wives and children with them. Irishmen, at all events, are not such anchorites as to go out for a walk without gentler company if they can get it. When they come to the public-house they must either take their wives and children into the bar with them or else leave them standing outside—no Irishman will ever do this latter. They will inevitably be taken inside and initiated into the carousals of the Sunday tavern. That is what it comes to, and I put it to hon. Members to consider whether a working man going out with his wife and children on Sunday afternoon—if it is right that they should so go out—would not make them and himself happier if they all returned home together to their humble tea-table, instead of his taking them along with him to drink whisky with some chance boon companions? You tell us that you cannot make men sober by Act of Parliament. I know you cannot. Can you make men healthy by Act of Parliament? Can you abolish fever or consumption by Act of Parliament? Yet you are, Session after Session, doing your best to remove the pollutions which generate these fatal maladies; and you are even now proposing to dam up or divert in some way the wash of factories, that it may no longer pollute your rivers. We do not ask you to treat drunkards otherwise than you deal with fever or consumption. It is not to be expected that an Act of Parliament will ever contain a clause to this effect—"From and after the 1st day of January typhus fever shall hereby cease and determine;" and yet we do expect that under wise legislation the causes which produce it may be diminished. So, as to drunkenness, you will never abolish it by Act of Parliament; but you may mitigate its severity and contract its area by taking all reasonable and prudent means to keep those who are most susceptible of it away as far as possible from the dangerous contagion. Parliament has hitherto treated drunkenness only as a crime. I am far from denying that there is a moral element involved in it; but I believe drunkenness to be as much a disease as a crime. I never see a drunken man dragged away by the police as a vile criminal that my nature does not revolt against the legal violence as perhaps an irrelevant and mistaken punishment. The man is diseased, and it is for Parliament 100 to consider whether it has as yet done everything in its power to abridge the mischiefs that propagate this dreadful disorder. We are met with a plausible allegation that entire Sunday closing will magnify the evils of the shebeen system in Ireland. I admit the ingenuity of my countrymen in these matters. Hon. Members who have visited the Giant's Causeway will remember the benevolent old man at the Giant's Well, who presents the tourist with a glass of ice-cold water and some Bushmills whisky to take the cold off it. It is a present, but the old man is good-natured enough to accept a present in return. That is an Ulster shebeen. Hon. Members who have been to Killarney will also recollect the black-eyed Kerry girl at Mangerton, on the Gap of Dunloe, who sold them a glass of goat's milk for 1s. and gave them a glass of whisky for nothing. That is the shebeen system in Munster; and I venture to think that it does not lie very heavy on the conscience of any English Member that he was thus far implicated in the shebeen system when he was over in Ireland. But the hon. Member for Dundalk has moved for Returns from Dublin, and I know very well what he wants to infer from these Returns when he gets them. He finds the arrests for drunkenness are largely made during the prohibited hours in that city, and he wants the House to infer that this drunkenness has been produced by drinking in shebeens during these prohibited hours. That is the only argument I can imagine he intends to adduce from these figures, and yet I hesitate to think that he would attempt such a draft upon the credulity of this House. What is the fact? These drunken men and women got the drink during the open hours. When open hours are ended they are turned out into the streets, and, of course, the arrests are made during the prohibited hours. The arrests are not made in the houses, but in the streets, and it is inevitable that arrests will take place at a time when the poor victims will have no longer the shelter of a public-house. To insinuate that the arrests made during the prohibited hours are due to drinking in shebeens is not supported by one particle of proof, and it is an inference wholly unwarrantable. If the shebeen-keepers get men inside and make them drunk, they will not 101 turn them out at all until they are sober; and, in point of fact, there is scarcely an instance of an arrest being traceable to drinking in an unlicensed house; and, even if it were so, which it is not, it is altogether a matter of police. Predictions exactly similar to those about shebeens were made about illicit distillation when the high duty was put upon Irish whisky, yet it is well known that poteen, or small-still whisky does not exist in one-tenth the quantities that was the case 30 years ago. Give the Constabulary an adequate inducement to bring offenders to justice, and shebeens will soon be swept out of existence, as small stills have been driven out of the mountains of Tyrone and Donegal. I have not up to this time troubled the House with statistics; for I feel that in any argument drawn from them there is often the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc. An elector of Stoke is reported in the newspapers to have said, some days ago, that he regretted having voted for the hon. Member for that borough, because, since that election, meat had gone np a halfpenny a pound. That elector, doubtless, was proving his case from statistics, and he probably belongs to the Statistical Society. Statistics are very much like loaded dice: you can make them fall as you wish, and turn up the side that suits you best. Now, I shall not go into the question of the comparative drunkeness of England, Scotland, and Ireland, nor shall I rely on the fact, although it is a fact, that Scotchmen drink less per head than they did before the Forbes-Mackenzie Act came into operation in that country. I think that when Scotch working men are well off, and get the chance, they will drink as much as their neighbours. What I am now concerned with is Sunday drinking, and I fearlessly assert that, so far as public evidence goes, this has diminished in Scotland under the Sunday closing law. There is just one significant comparison to which I should like to draw attention. In England and Ireland where the prohibitory Sunday law is not in operation the arrests for drunkenness on Sunday are about the average of other days of the week, whereas in Scotland they are far below the average. I shall trouble the House with Returns from one city in each of these countries. In Dublin, for three months ending December 30, 1874, there 102 were 602 Sunday arrests, the average for other days being 634. In Manchester the Sunday arrests for the year ending September 29, 1874, were 1,384, the average for the other days of the week being 1,408. Now, let us take the case of Glasgow. Baillie Collins, in a paper read at the Social Science Congress in September last, said with respect to Glasgow—I had the curiosity to examine for myself the records of the Central Police Office for the last month. I sat on the bench of that Court and found that of 925 prisoners taken for that single offence, for being drunk and incapable, in that month, only 30 prisoners were brought in on the whole of the five Sundays of that month—an average of six for each Sunday.It will be observed that the average for other days of the week was 36. That is to say, while in Dublin and Manchester, where the public-houses are open during a part of Sunday, the arrests for drunkenness are about the average of other days; in Glasgow, where there are no public-houses open, the arrests are only one-sixth of those on other days, and probably these are bonâ fide travellers. But, apart from these figures, which are as conclusive as figures can be, the clenching argument as regards Scotland is just this—that the Scotch want to retain the present system, and would rise in constitutional revolt against any attempt to undo the Act of 1853. Prom this point the transition is easy to my last argument—the state of public opinion in Ireland. I believe there never was a measure on which the opinion of Ireland in every corner, every Province, every class, and every creed was more clearly pronounced than upon this. I do not rely on any one set of evidences, which I know might be misleading, but I rely upon an induction of evidence absolutely demonstrative and overwhelming. I begin with a Memorial addressed to the Prime Minister, and signed by the following persons in their individual capacity:—Magistrates, 1,413; Episcopalian clergy, 1,119; Roman Catholic priests, principally parish priests, 864; Presbyterian ministers, 342; Wesleyan ministers, 73; Primitive Methodist ministers, 34; ministers of other denominations, 52; physicians and surgeons, 744; Poor Law Guardians, 1,991; town councillors, 596; employers of labour, 453. I should mention that the signatures to this Memorial were obtained by 103 sending circulars through the Post Office; and we all know that the number of persons who will take the trouble of replying to a printed circular is small in comparison with those who would sign if personally appealed to. From this point of view, the Memorial in question is one of the most significant ever presented to a Minister of State. In addition to this, there have been presented to this House more than 1,000 Petitions, signed by over 200,000 persons of all classes, principally the middle and lower classes. Of these, 88 Petitions have come from Boards of Guardians largely representing rural populations; 46 from town councils, including urban communities like Dublin and Limerick; and the remainder from parishes, congregations, towns, villages, districts, societies, professions, and public meetings in every part of Ireland. This thing has not been done in a corner. The movement in favour of this measure has been open, above-board, and widespread; and no one can justly say that those who are opposed to it have not taken alarm at its promise of success. That portion of the Irish publicans who are opposed to it believe in its early success, and if they could rouse public opinion on their side, they would gladly and eagerly do so. But the truth is there is no public opinion to arouse on their side. They have shown themselves here and there at public meetings to move amendments, which were out-voted by overwhelming majorities; but they have convened no meetings of their own, and for the simple reason that the numbers who would attend them would be so small that it would render their opposition ridiculous. The fact is that Ireland is against them. Very likely we shall be told that the Irish Members are not united among themselves. I should like to know how much union is expected among Irish Members? Does England never succeed in obtaining anything in the shape of legislation until the English Members are united with regard to it? There were last year as many as four to one of the Irish Members who were in favour of this measure, and I shall wait patiently to hear on what occasions in all history since England became a free country there were in the proportion of four English Members to one in favour of any measure, and England did not get it? There is no such case. No one can be 104 more sensible than I am of the inexpediency of classifying the Members of this House according to their nationality, but we cannot abolish facts by avoiding allusion to them. Shut our eyes to it as we please, there are English ideas, Scotch ideas, and Irish ideas represented in the House of Commons; and I think they are not the friends of either country who insist on a rigid uniformity in the laws by which they are governed. Now, in Ireland every class, rich and poor, high and low, want this Bill to become law, if ever they wanted anything; and surely a more innocuous idea never took possession of the mind of any people than that of suspending the custom of drinking in public-houses on the Lord's Day. I am far from calling in question the right of English Members to pronounce judgment on this Irish question, and to pronounce it adversely to our wishes. You say we ask some things that would be hurtful to England. But is that any reason for refusing us something that cannot by any possibility affect the social condition of the English people, or the political relations of the two countries? Scotland got this boon when Scotland asked for it. We admit your right to refuse it to Ireland, but there is a political prudence that ought to be allowed to take its place alongside Parliamentary rights. You have a right, which I do not question, to overwhelm the Irish Members in the vote to be given to-day. But when you have scored another victory over this peculiar idea of our country there will be a Parliamentary equity to identify itself with the cause of Ireland, and to proclaim that it too has been defeated in the unequal contest with English power. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Richard Smyth.)
§ MR. CALLAN
, in rising to move that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, said, he wished to state, in the most explicit manner, that he did so neither as the advocate, accredited or otherwise, of the licensed vintners, nor yet because he was in favour of the unrestricted sale of liquors on Sunday in Ireland. He was neither directly or indirectly 105 connected with the trade, nor had any of his family the most remote interest either as a producer or vendor. He opposed the Bill, as he had ever done, on principle, because he disliked, utterly detested, all such compulsory prohibitive legislation, and because, also, he believed that the passing of such a Bill would lead to the creation of evils of much greater magnitude, in the shape of "shebeens" and irregular houses, than the promoters of the Bill professed it was intended to remedy. He trusted that the House would summarily reject the Bill, and by a decisive majority show the country that they did not approve of the persistent introduction of discussions of this nature, which could not have any practical or beneficial effect. He considered that a brief retrospect of the history of legislation with reference to the liquor traffic would conduce to the understanding by the House of the bearings of the Bill before them. In the Session of 1868 a Bill for regulating "The sale of fermented and distilled liquors by retail on Sundays in Ireland" was brought in by the hon. and gallant Member for Longford County (Major O'Reilly), Lord Cremorne, and Mr. Pirn, the then senior Member for the City of Dublin. This Bill extended the prohibition of the sale of liquors to be consumed on the premises to the entire of Sunday, but permitted their sale for consumption off the premises from 2 o'clock to 4 o'clock P.M., and from 8 to 9 o'clock P.M., and by eating-house keepers to their customers at meals. That Bill, after considerable discussion, was referred to a Select Committee of 15 Members, of whom one was an English, one a Scotch Member, and the remaining 13 Irish Members, of whom four were still Members of the House—namely, the hon. Members for Antrim (Mr. O'Neill), Ennis (Captain Stacpoole), Cork City (Mr. Murphy), and Longford (Major O'Reilly). The Committee sat 13 days, extending over a period of two months. They examined 22 witnesses, representing almost every class and district in Ireland, and, the Irish Press not having the fear of breach of Privilege before their eyes, fully reported the evidence. The Committee, in preparing their Report, proceeded by Resolution; and they first resolved, on the Motion of the Chairman, the hon. and gallant Member for Longford, that— 106The hours for the sale of intoxicating drinks on Sunday and the other days enumerated in the Bill he from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., except in the towns to be hereafter defined.They next resolved that in other towns, to be afterwards defined, the hours should be from 2 P.M. to 9 P.M. These Resolutions were passed unanimously, and the Report of the Committee and recommendations appeared in the shape of the Bill "as amended by the Select Committee." In consequence of the lateness of the Session, the Bill was not persevered with, but was re-introduced in the Session of 1869, and withdrawn after discussion, on the representation of the then Chief Secretary for Ireland, that the subject would be dealt with by the Government Bill when introduced. That promise was fulfilled, and in the Licensing Bill of 1872 the hours for closing on Sundays recommended by the amended Bill of the Select Committee of 1868 were adopted. He asked what case had been made out to justify interference with the existing Act, which had been found to work satisfactorily, or what evidence had been brought forward to displace that given before the Select Committee of 1868? The hon. Member for Londonderry County (Mr. E. Smyth) had referred to the Memorial to the Prime Minister; but he (Mr. Callan) would ask how many of the 7,681 gentlemen who signed it were persons who were likely to use public-houses? Opinions of private individuals could be had as plentiful as blackberries; but the hon. Member for Londonderry County had failed to produce one single report or statement in support of his views, from one single magistrate or police officer responsible for the carrying out of the Act, and the accuracy of which could be tested. On referring to the evidence taken before the Select Committee of 1868, he (Mr. Callan) found that all those who had the largest experience of the working of the Acts regulating the liquor traffic were opposed to the total closing of public-houses on Sundays. Mr. John Lewis O'Ferrall, the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dublin, speaking from large experience, said that—Total closing on Sundays would not he desirable. There was too much reason to fear that the evil of Sunday traffic, instead of being lessened thereby, would be aggravated.Mr. Inspector—now Superintendent— 107 Carr, one of the ablest as he was one of the most experienced of the force in Ireland, said—There is less drunkenness on Sundays in Dublin than on any other day in the week;" and that "the closing of public-houses on Sundays would, in his opinion, operate injuriously;'but he (Mr. Callan) referred with even still greater confidence to the evidence of the very rev. Monsignor M'Cabe, one of the vicars-general of the diocese of Dublin, who stated that "drunkenness was on the decrease," and who, whilst most anxious for temperance, "could not recommend total closing" on Sundays, and considered—That it would be a hardship to deprive the working classes of all means of getting reasonable refreshments on Sundays.Mr. Hamilton, the resident magistrate at Cork, "would not advise the total closing of public-houses on Sundays," and considered that so doing "would be unfair to the working classes." Whilst Mr. John Charles O'Donnell, the resident magistrate in Belfast, perhaps the ablest and most experienced of his class in Ireland—certainly a far better authority than the Mayor of that town—"Did not think that public-houses should be altogether closed." Mr. Ryan, R.M., County Wexford—Had no doubt that a very large class of people would feel very keenly that Sunday closing was class legislation.The Mayor of Cork also told the Committee that "it would be impossible to stop the sale of spirituous liquors on Sunday in that city," and further said "that if it were done it would only lead to a worse state of affairs, by the creation of she-been houses to a very large extent." He (Mr. Callan) would not further refer to the evidence taken before the Select Committee. No attempt had been made to displace it, and he would therefore content himself by stating that he had been informed by both Mr. O'Donnell, of Belfast, and Mr. Superintendent Carr that their opinions, as disclosed in their evidence, had been strengthened since 1868. Reference had been made to a meeting of the Dublin Corporation, where a Petition in favour of the Bill had been adopted. He knew some of the members of that body who had not taken part in the discussion, but who were strongly opposed to the Bill before the House. He would only refer to one, 108 an Alderman—he believed the senior Alderman—who generally acted as locum tenens for the Lord Mayor, and who had himself declined that office—namely, Mr. Alderman Redmond, who had written him (Mr. Callan)—I am and have been connected with the spirit trade in Dublin for upwards of 40 years. I have at present two rather extensive establishments, one in the city and one in Kingstown, in neither of which is there any business transacted on Sundays, and although it would be to my individual advantage that all licensed houses were compelled to close on Sundays as I now do, yet from long experience and a thorough knowledge of the city I have no hesitation in saying that it is my opinion that the evil in a large city like Dublin of closing licensed houses on Sunday would soon be found to be much greater than to allow them to be opened for a reasonable time. This is not the age for class legislation, and a reasonable time should be allowed on Sundays for the working classes to provide themselves with refreshments, which is allowed to the wealthier classes without restriction at their clubs and hotels. These are my opinions hurriedly written, but they may be taken, at all events, as honest and truthful, according to my belief, as my personal interests would be very materially served by having every licensed house closed, as my own are at present, on Sundays.Reference had been made by the hon. Member for Londonderry County to the number of public meetings in favour of the Bill held throughout the country; but these meetings had not been called by local parties. They were called through the organization of a Dublin association supplied with ample funds by the general organization existing in this country, and the active agents of that association supplied the orators for the occasion. One of these meetings had been called in the town which he had the honour to represent, and which he regretted unavoidable circumstances had prevented him from presiding over. However, he was glad to take that opportunity to present the Petition adopted by that meeting and signed by the Chairman, Mr. James Norton, who was also, he believed, the President of the local Total Abstinence Society, comprising some 800 or 1,200 of the artizans and labourers of Dundalk, almost all of whom he was proud to number amongst his staunchest friends. He was glad of this opportunity of expressing the deep obligation he was under to the members of that body, who had nobly acted as his bodyguard at the last Election. Every one of those electors was thoroughly aware 109 before the time for that Election of his sentiments on the question; but they had returned him notwithstanding, un-pledged with reference to it, and he did not think any of them would change because of the vote he should feel it his duty to give upon it. Reference had been made to the opinions of the Mayor of Belfast. He had not the pleasure of the acquaintance of that remarkable gentleman, who, when before the Committee of 1868, stated that he "did not regard spirits as any refreshment;" and whose latest appearance was before the Premier the other day, when he threw dirt on his compatriots, and stated—That a great deal of the drunkenness which exists in Liverpool, Glasgow, and other large towns on this side of the Channel, is largely occasioned by Irish citizens coming over and bringing their whisky-drinking customs with them.The Mayor of Belfast presided over a most remarkable meeting held in that city in the month of February in favour of the objects of this Bill. He would wish to direct the attention of the House to the nature of the statements made thereat, in order to enable them to judge of the somewhat fanatical nature of the movement. The Mayor of Belfast in his opening statement laid down the proposition that "the opening of public-houses on Sunday and the selling of whisky on Sunday was a gross breach of the fourth Commandment" and that they might as well violate a Commandment that forbade murder, adultery, or theft as violate a Commandment that forbade the sale of these articles on Sunday. And following after that extraordinary harangue came a reverend Professor, who denounced public-houses as "dens of infamy." The Mayor of Belfast permitted this language to pass with impunity, but he crowned the day's performance by, to those who knew the North of Ireland, a still more extraordinary performance: he silenced John Rea! After all that, which would have contented any ordinary man, he found the selfsame Mayor taking part in another meeting in favour of the Permissive Bill and Sunday closing, in the last month. The Mayor again presided, and outdid himself. He said that—The cardinal sin of the Jewish nation was idolatry, and that what idolatry was to the Jewish nation the liquor traffic was to this country. It was a sad reflection that the English-speaking 110 people were found to be the most drunken race on the face of the globe. While they had to lament a sad state of things among the well-paid artizan classes, on the other hand, there had been an immense improvement in public sentiment. Those who could remember the festivities of 30 or 40 years ago would recollect that a host would not have done his duty to his guests, if he had not sent them all home drunk. In this respect there had been an improvement, and thanks to the influence of temperance societies that disgrace was largely removed. He had the honour, as an example, some two months ago to be invited to a dinner at Dublin Castle. The host and hostess were the Lord Lieutenant and the Duchess of Abercorn, and there were about 100 guests. He was glad to find that at the close of one of the most splendid dinners he ever sat down to, when the guests returned to the drawing-room, there was not a symptom of the slightest intemperance observable.And this announcement, gravely made by one of his Excellency's guests, was received by the crowded meeting of Permissive Billites and Sunday closers with loud cheering as an incontestable proof of the influence in high quarters of the temperance societies. Such was a fair sample of the stuff talked by leaders of the movement in the North of Ireland. Comment was unnecessary. But taking up the report of another branch of the same body under a different name, "The Irish Temperance League," they would find it stated that—It becomes more and more evident that, if the Church is to be considered as faithful to her great trust and mission on earth, her relation to the total abstinence and prohibitory movement must be that of steadfast, unfaltering, wholehearted friendship. It is only when her ministry and her membership are purged from all complicity with the iniquitous, God-dishonouring traffic, either as vendors, consumers, or purchasers, that she can hope in confidence to sec truth triumph, and the mightiest citadel in Satan's dominions razed to its very foundations.Such was the language used, not after dinner, but in a deliberate and, no doubt, well-considered report—language not referring exclusively to any church in particular, but embracing all churches, and denouncing as God-dishonouring almost every Member of the House, save the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) and his chosen few. The organ of the Sunday Closing Movement, The Alliance News, drew attention to the Refreshment Bar of the House. It said that an excellent example had just been set in the Assembly of the Dominion of Canada by the shutting-up of the refreshment counter 111 there; and referring to this House went on to say that—Many speeches have been more or less spoiled, and many a vote given or lost through the influence of what is called a 'heated imagination'—that is, an after-dinner speech,"—and further on declared that the destinies of our Empire may some day be affected very seriously" by the consumption of liquor on the premises." He merely referred to that in proof of the absurdity of the movement and the intermeddling propensity of its promoters. But, not content with all this, they had engaged Moody and Sankey, and in The Irish Temperance Banner, edited by the Secretary of the Irish Permissive Bill Association, Moody and Sankey were "trotted out," asserting that no whisky seller could be a Christian, and that they would soon make their church "too hot" for such a sinner. He (Mr. Callan) had attended one meeting of the Sunday Closing Movement in Dublin as a spectator—in the round room of the Rotunda, which was scarcely half filled. A Jesuit talker, the Rev. Robert Kelly, whose reception by the audience far exceeded in enthusiasm that accorded to any previous speaker, was handed a "cut and dry" resolution to support; but the rev. gentleman, while strongly advocating temperance, &c, expressly guarded himself by stating that common sense obliged him to declare that all the good possible would be obtained by reason able restriction of hours, and not by entire closing. This statement was well received by the meeting, but the rev. gentleman was soon "set upon" by the paid secretary, who demanded the whole hog or none. One result of Sunday closing would be an agitation for Saturday closing, and he had heard the Dean of the Chapel Royal declare that he would not be satisfied till the public-houses were closed from 12 o'clock on one Saturday till 12 o'clock on the next Saturday night. The Times, in a leading article on the subject, said recently—That between 60 and 70 of the Irish Members pledged themselves at the General Election to vote for the Sunday Closing Bill.He denied that such was the case. He had examined the files of The Irish Times and Freeman's Journal, and could not find in the address of any of the candidates for Irish seats the slightest reference to the Sunday Closing question. Indeed, even the other day, 112 on reading over the electioneering address of the hon. Gentleman the new Member for Kilkenny, the Chairman of the Executive of the United Kingdom Alliance, he failed to discover the slightest reference to what they call "the burning question of the day." Surely, if the question was deemed so important, while Home Rule, Denominational Education, Amnesty, Amendment of the Land Laws, &c, were referred to, Sunday Closing would not have been treated with such silent contempt. In the same article it was also stated that—The adhesion of the Home Rule Members almost in a body to the Sunday closing movement is a proof that the measure is not likely to offend the masses who are most directly concerned, and whose convenience would be trenched upon. The Irish farmers and peasantry, and the tradespeople of the towns cannot be hostile to Sunday closing when the candidates who are seeking their votes openly declare for it.He believed that he knew who were Home Rule Members, and, with the Division List in his hand, he could confidently state, without fear of contradiction, that in the division of last year the numbers of Home Rule Members were 10 for and 6 against. He would next refer to the attempts at intimidation of hon. Members to compel them to vote for the Bill, and would state that he himself had been threatened with a contest in case he persevered with his opposition to the Bill, one of the paid officers of the Alliance having stated that if he did not withdraw the Notice which he had placed on the Table of the House that he would be opposed whenever an election took place for Dundalk. Well, he treated such threats with contempt, and would like to see the party in question or any other carpet-bag interloper attempt to interfere between him and his constituents. He had received an electoral memorial from Dundalk calling on him to vote for the Bill; and with reference to it would observe that immediately before the last General Election he had circulated his speech against the Bill made in July of 1873 amongst his constituents, and that from the beginning to the end of his canvass, as he had before stated, no objection had been made nor any question asked of him, and that therefore he could not with any self-respect change the vote he would give. He said that the memorial had been signed by a large number of his 113 constituents. [Mr. E. SMYTH: By how-many?] By upwards of 260, of whom the greater number, he was confident, had voted for him before, and he felt equally confident would vote for him again. However, he was not a delegate; he was a Representative, and as such would exercise his own judgment. He would not be coerced or intimidated into any course, save that which his conscience dictated to him. Reference had been made to the number of signatures to Petitions, and the parties signing were classified and enumerated; but only one Petition had been presented from artizans, and the hon. Member carefully abstained from stating how many signatures of artizans were attached thereto. He would not trouble the House with statistics, save in one instance. Notwithstanding the operation of the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland, and perhaps in consequence of it, the consumption of spirits in Scotland in 1874, with a population of some 2,000,000 less, exceeded that of Ireland by 800,000 gallons. In conclusion, he would challenge the hon. Member about to follow him (the O'Conor Don) to show that that Sunday Movement had any spontaneity in Ireland. The organization in Dublin "got up" Petition meetings, &c, not one of which was the spontaneous outcome of the people, and from personal experience he could say that, judging from the City of Dublin, a strong feeling existed among the working classes against the measure. He thanked the House for the attention with which they had heard him, and again stating that he had no personal interest one way or the other, that he was only influenced by a deep sense of duty, hoped the House would, by a decisive majority, put an end to this annual Motion. He was in favour of the shortening of the hours of remaining open on Saturday nights and on Sunday; but he opposed the present measure in the interests of the poorer classes of the Irish people. He begged to move the rejection of the Bill.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
, in seconding the Amendment, said: Sir, I opposed this Bill in the last Session of Parliament, and I shall oppose it this day, and for the same reasons, or some of them, as I alleged when I last spoke on this very important subject. I repeat that the passing of a Bill of this description would be a perpetuation of that which is 114 most hateful to Ireland—the making of one law for the rich and of another for the poor. A grave mistake was made by the Legislature when it declared a club to be similar to a private house. It is not so: there is no well-regulated club whose rules do not call on each member to pay his bill daily before he quits the precincts. This is not the case in a private house; but people who belong to clubs have a right to go to their clubs on Sunday, and drink whatever they please. People who live at hotels have the same privilege; yet these are among the people who come forward here and try to prevent poor people having anything on Sunday. Public-houses are for the accommodation of the poor, but clubs and hotels are for the accommodation of the rich. Now I will ask this question of hon. Members, with hearts in their bodies—and I asked it last Session. Suppose an artizan should take his sweet wife and children for a walk to Sandymount, near Dublin, on a warm Sunday. After a time he wants to return to Dublin. He is passed on his way by a gentleman driving a phæton with a pair of high-stepping horses. When the poor man gets into Dublin he finds himself very thirsty after his walk. His wife and children are also very thirsty. As he trudges on and on, he passes a club-house, in the window of which he sees the rich man, who had shortly before driven past him on the road, drinking a glass of sherry, or possibly of dry champagne, while actually this poor man cannot get a glass of water until he has reached home. Sir, I say, there is no Irishman of spirit who would submit to such a mockery; you make slaves of a population if you treat them in that sort of way. But there is a stronger reason against this Bill. If you close public-houses on Sundays in Ireland you will clearly establish illegal sale of spirits, and most likely its illegal distillation. The consequence will be, that the police will be perpetually employed in the detection of that which was not crime before. The Petty Sessions Courts will be crowded every week or every fortnight with defendants losing their valuable time, and the whole land will swarm with Corydons and Talbots, who will first induce the people to violate the law, and then inform against them, to the great delight of the back stairs of Dublin Castle. I think that that consideration 115 alone ought to put an end to this Bill this day. But I can give you reasons stronger. I look upon this Bill as a puling miserable thing, a particular thing; nothing universal about it. Nothing holic—I dare not, I suppose, say Catholic—about it; an emasculated mile and a-half sort of thing. If we had a statesman who would do the right thing because it was right—if we had a statesman who would do the virtuous thing because it was virtuous, and not because it might affect prejudicially the pocket of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; if we had an old Irish Brehon sage here, how would he proceed? He would approach the question somewhat in this fashion. He would say—"This whisky is the destruction of my people." [Ironical cheers.] I am glad to hear those cheers. "This spirit is the destruction of my people. It ruins their health. It deprives them of their reason. It lowers them in the scale of creation even lower than brutes in the field. It is manufactured of that which should provide food, not poison for my people. Let it end. Sunday and Monday alike. Let it never appear in our sacred island again. Go, my officers, to the bonding warehouses, drag out the puncheons, the pipes, and the hogsheads of this poison; swill the streets of my cities with it; and as the very dogs lap it up and fall prostrate under its influence, let Irishmen learn what a foreign nation has provided for their destruction." [Ironical cheers.] Wait a moment. In order that the interest of a so-called National Debt, not one shilling, not one doit, not one farthing of which was ever incurred by Ireland, shall be paid. Here would be lawgiving; here would be impossible drinking Sunday or Monday; here would be wisdom; here no class legislation could show its detested face; here would be Lycurgan severity, but Lycurgan severity, Sir, chained to Lycurgan justice. Here all would stand equal in the presence of respected not despised laws. But this miserable Bill deals with only one-seventh of the week. I do not believe in legal dram-drinking for six days of the week, and legal "hedging" of it for the seventh. It is a miserable Bill, as I said before. I, too, have received threats from people who, I suppose, call themselves constituents of mine, and who tell me I 116 shall be thrown out at the next Election if I do not support this Bill. I say—"Very well; be it so." The Athenians ostracised Aristides. They got tired of hearing him called "the Just." I shall not venture to compare myself to one of the greatest men of antiquity; but all I can say is that if my constituents ostracise me, I hope it will be for the same reason. I hope the House will, by a large majority, express its utter disapproval of this Bill, and I very heartily second the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Callan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
THE O'CONOR DON
Sir, the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) has alluded so pointedly to me in the course of his speech that the House will not be surprised at my desiring to say a few words by way of reply. He asked me—and I have no doubt that the House will expect an answer—whether the movement for the closing of public-houses on Sundays in Ireland was a spontaneous movement, or whether it did not owe its existence and the progress which it had made in the country to the exertions made by the Central Association in Dublin, which, he indicated, was affiliated with the associations in England? Before answering this question, I would first ask him, what does he mean by "a spontaneous movement;" how does he define "spontaneous?" In all political or social movements there generally is some central association, by means of which the principles of the movement are made known throughout the country. I believe that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundalk is a member of what is known in Ireland as the Home Rule movement, and I would ask him if that is "a spontaneous movement?" I have no doubt that he will say that it is; but yet there is a central association in connection with it in Dublin. There are various Home Rule associations throughout the country, and through the agency of those associations public opinion has been formed, and has expressed itself on the subject of Home Rule. But will the hon. Member for Dundalk say that the 117 Home Rule Movement is not a "spontaneous movement" in Ireland? In the same way the Sunday Closing Movement in Ireland has its central association in Dublin, and through this association the opinion of the Irish people has been ascertained, and it may be, to a certain extent, formed. I say, therefore, that this movement is a spontaneous one, and that such machinery is necessary for the public to give form and expression to their spontaneous desires. I heard with regret the hon. Member for Dundalk, and the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman) say, one after the other, that they had received threatening letters from the advocates of the Sunday Closing Movement in Ireland, threatening them with—I do not know what penalties, if they opposed this measure. This sending of threatening letters is a thing greatly to be deprecated. It is a proceeding which should be visited by the House with its greatest displeasure; and, further, it is a proceeding which is not at all likely to further the object which it has in view. But, Sir, I do not think that this practice, most objection-able as it confessedly is, is altogether confined to one side; I think we have heard of threats being Tittered against those who support this Bill. But from whichever side threatening letters are sent, I believe their effect to be bad. Any man of an independent character will feel that he ought not to yield to this kind of coercion, and the effect of such a letter upon him would be that if he was in doubt before, he would immediately go over to the opposite direction. Therefore, I say this is a foolish policy to adopt on the part of those who desire the success of the principles they advocate. For myself, I may say that I have been in receipt of no threatening letter on this subject. I support the second reading of this Bill on the same grounds as I have supported a similar measure on former occasions; and I do it because I believe that it will do the country more good than its rejection, and my support to the Bill is not due to any manifestation by my constituency either one way or the other. I will now pass for a moment to consider the arguments of the hon. Member for Dundalk. He attacked the memorials and Petitions which had been presented in favour of the measure on 118 the ground that, although they were signed by a great number of people, yet they were not the people who would be affected by the closing' of public-houses on Sundays. The hon. Gentleman asks—"Who are these people; are they the people who use public-houses?" And he replies—"No, they are magistrates, clergymen, and people belonging to the upper classes; people who do not want such places of resort, and who never use them;" and the hon. Member thinks on this ground that we should attach no weight to their opinion. [Mr. CALLAN: Hear!] I am glad the hon. Member agrees that I have not misrepresented him, because I shall directly fix him with some inconsistency with regard to these memorialists. After informing the House that no weight must be attached to the opinions of these magistrates, clergymen, and persons belonging to the upper classes, in support of the closing of public-houses, the hon. Member proceeds almost immediately to quote the evidence given in favour of the keeping open of public-houses on Sundays, given before a Committee of this House, and by whom? By the working classes? No; but by magistrates, clergymen, and people of the upper classes, whose opinions the hon. Member says are of no value when in favour of the closing of public-houses. I should have thought that when the hon. Member made up his mind to oppose the Bill that he would have prepared himself with evidence to prove conclusively to the House that there existed a strong feeling in Ireland against the measure. I should have expected that he would have come armed with memorials and Petitions against the measure from those classes of society who do use' the public-houses. But, I have looked in vain for any argument from the hon. Member to prove that any strong feeling exists amongst the working classes in the country against the Bill. This is not a new question. It has been for a long time before the country, and, according to the hon. Member, has been fully discussed by the working classes, who had pronounced against it in the most marked manner to him by thousands.
§ MR. CALLAN
I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I distinctly stated that during the last six months I had been largely amongst the artizan classes of 119 the City of Dublin, amounting to more than 100,000, and that I found a very strong feeling existed amongst them against the Bill.
THE O'CONOR DON
Then why is it that this strong opinion is not embodied in some tangible form and presented before the House? If such a feeling does exist, why is it that the licensed victuallers have not flooded this House with memorials and Petitions signed by working men? The licensed victuallers of Ireland are not an ignorant and brutal race; they are intelligent, and know very well how to protect their own interests; they have of late years spent large sums of money, and studied greatly to successfully organize an agitation against this Sunday Closing Movement. As I have said, the Bill is not new, and if the feeling exists which the hon. Member for Dundalk says does exist, it should have taken a tangible form. I may remind the House that the movement for the closing of public-houses on Sundays is neither a party nor a religious one, notwithstanding that the hon. Member for Dundalk endeavours to impress on the House that there is something of a religious character mixed up with it, for he says that the Bill springs from the Sabbatarian feelings of the people of the North of Ireland. But if he be not mistaken, how does he account for the support which is given the Bill by the Roman Catholic priesthood in counties where their influence dominates; and how does he account for the fact that in three Roman Catholic dioceses in Ireland this measure has been voluntarily put into operation through the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy? We have heard before that this is a class question; that it is legislating for one class, and by another; that we are legislating against the working classes, and against them exclusively; and we are asked, with somewhat of an air of triumph—"If this is not class legislation, then why is it that you do not extend the provisions of the measure to clubs?" I deny that this is class legislation, except so far as arises out of the circumstances of the parties. The general rule of this country is that there shall be no trading on Sundays, and as there is an exception in favour of the liquor traffic, all that this Bill asks is, that that exception shall no longer exist. I believe that the bakers' 120 and the butchers' shops must be closed on Sundays; in shutting these shops on Sundays it might be said that we are shutting them against a particular class, for the rich man can get his bread and meat at his club, and the poor man cannot; and therefore you legislate against the class who cannot have their clubs. But that is not so; the baker and the butcher are closed against all alike, and working men may have their clubs as well as the rich, and then they will suffer from no restrictions which do not affect the rich. All that is asked by the Bill is that there shall be no exception made in Sunday trading for the liquor traffic. So far as clubs are concerned, they are used for different purposes than those for which public-houses are used; and if the time should arrive when clubs were used by their members for the one purpose of Sunday drinking, then I believe that some hon. Member would be found to possess sufficient courage to rise in his place and ask that those clubs should be shut on Sundays. But, Sir, why is it that an exception is made in favour of this particular commodity? It is obvious that it arose from the custom of the working classes to drink beer along with their meals; and as it was not desirable for working people to lay in a stock of beer over night, exception was made for public-houses to open on Sundays for the sale of beer. That may be a very good reason for the opening of public-houses on Sundays in England, but it does not apply to Ireland, where beer is but little drunk by the working classes, and very little drinking of any sort of spirituous liquors takes place at the time of meals. When the Irish working man drinks, it is not at his meals, and it is something more potent than beer—it is whisky. He drinks this whisky at an hour which has nothing whatever to do with meal times; and therefore the deprivation of power to purchase whisky at meal times would not in any way interfere with the comfort of the Irish working man. The reason which I have given for the opening of public-houses on Sundays does, therefore, not apply to Ireland. If the feeling of the people of Ireland is not largely in favour of this measure, then it will not work satisfactorily; but I believe that the feeling of the people of the country is largely in its favour. Should any difficulty, however, arise in 121 the working of the measure, it would, no doubt, he in the large centres of industry, such as Cork, Belfast, and Dublin; but the great good which its operation would effect throughout the entire country would much more than make up for any difficulties which might arise in the large towns. The opponents to this measure sometimes cite the case of Scotland, where public-houses are closed on the Sunday, but where they say that a large amount of Sunday drinking is carried on. I am not conversant with the customs of Scotland; hon. Members representing Scotch constituencies may be able to afford us some information on that subject; but from my knowledge of my own countrymen I can say that not one out of ten would shut himself up in his own house for the purpose of private and solitary drinking. The majority of Irishmen drink from a social feeling, and not from the mere pleasure of drinking. These, then, Sir, are my reasons for supporting the Bill. I believe that, if it passed into law, that it would be attended by very great beneficial results; I support it with the full consciousness that there will be difficulties in the way of carrying its provisions into operation in the large centres of population; and I am ready to admit that, unless the Bill is in harmony with the general feelings of the population, that it will practically fail in its operations; but, in spite of all difficulties and chances of failure, I believe that a Bill putting a stop to the sale of intoxicating liquors on Sundays will prove a great boon to the people of Ireland; and, notwithstanding that some disadvantages may be urged against it, the advantages to be derived from it are immensely in its favour.
§ MR. KAVANAGH
said, that, in supporting the second reading of the Bill, he felt constrained to assign some of the reasons which had induced him to alter his opinion on the subject. He had hitherto resisted its passage, on the ground that he thought it savoured of class legislation, and that it was an interference with the rights of the working man; but further consideration of the subject had led him to think more favourably of it, and induced him to form the opinion that when society was unable to regulate its own actions, in accordance with the rules of propriety, then it was the time for, and the duty 122 of, the Legislature to interfere. He had had brought before him overwhelming evidence of the evils produced in Ireland by Sunday drinking, and of the overwhelming desire of the great body of the people that the Legislature should deal with the matter as proposed by the Bill now before the House. He had heard many objections urged, but he was not scared by the fear that the passing of this Bill would lead to what some described as private and illicit drinking. He knew the people well, and he did not believe that, although easily led and prone to yield to temptation, their character was that of besotted drunkards. So far from it, the Irish people possessed many high and many estimable qualities, the standard of morality of the nation was considerably above the average, and if we could provide or guard against two principal causes, Ireland might challenge the world for immunity from crime. The two causes to which he alluded were these—first, disloyalty and discontent, originating in past mismanagement, and now kept alive by unceasing agitation, with the crimes which had grown out of that cause. Government had been endeavouring to deal with it of late, and he was sorry to say, had met with but qualified success, and for this reason that legislation had been directed to lop the branch, and not to cut the root. The second cause of crime in Ireland was drunkenness, and in coming here that day to ask the House to pass that Bill, they were asking the House not to lop the branch, not to deal only with effect, to lay the axe to the root, for he believed that Sunday drinking was the most prolific cause of the crimes which filled the Irish calendars, and Irish Members came there with one accord to ask Parliament to mitigate that evil and remove the temptation. They did not come as unreasoning beings to seek for impossibilities, they came with a request, and with the request they pointed out the means to grant it, and he thought a request of that nature, prompted by the best intentions, and practically certain to be productive of the best results, should not be lightly refused. He should say no more, but give the second reading of the Bill his most cordial support.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he had a Petition to present from a town 123 in the county of "Wexford in favour of the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he must remind the hon. Baronet that he was not in Order in presenting a Petition at that stage of the proceedings.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, that if it was too late to present a Petition he would proceed to make a few remarks on the Bill before the House. It was impossible to deny that there was a popular feeling in Ireland in favour of this measure. In the county of Wexford that feeling was universal, and he had presented many Petitions from it in favour of the Bill, as also had his hon. Colleague; but he was not aware of a single Petition having been presented against it, although there might, perhaps, have been one or two. That county presented a singular exception in respect to Sunday closing which might, perhaps, be surprising to English Members. Some time ago the Bishop, who was the diocesan of the county, published a pastoral letter, in which he recommended the total closing of all public-houses on Sunday, and that letter was immediately confirmed, and he was followed in his endeavours by the ministers of Protestant denominations, and now in the whole county of Wexford the public-houses were, by ecclesiastical authority, totally closed on Sundays. That being the state of things in such a large county, it clearly showed, beyond contradiction, that there was a strong feeling in Ireland in favour of Sunday closing, and, indeed, certain peculiar circumstances which had been alluded to by his hon. Friend behind him explained why that was so. No doubt, it was extremely objectionable that people coming out of places of worship should go into a public-house, because when they got there, having nothing to do, they were likely to drink too much. As they did not want the liquor for their meals, there could be no reason why the public-houses should not be closed on the Sunday. The religious observances of that day were certainly beneficial to the morals of the people. One reason why he was anxious to address the House on this subject was to guard himself against being considered inconsistent if he did not take the same view of this subject as applied to England. If hon. Members went into one of our streets inhabited by the working classes on a 124 Sunday between 1 and 2 o'clock, they would see in every direction children going to fetch beer for the family dinner. An English mechanic or labourer, if he was a respectable man, looked with satisfaction to the comfort of his family dinner on the Sunday, and if he was deprived of his beer he could not enjoy his dinner. It was well known that if beer was drawn on the Saturday, it was unfit to drink on the Sunday, and therefore it was extremely undesirable that the people should be deprived of the opportunity of sending for beer to drink with their Sunday dinner. He thought, therefore, that in this country it was well that during a portion of the Sunday public-houses were allowed to open, and he was not sure that the restrictions as to closing on that day were not carried too far, because, as the law stood, no man could get anything to eat or drink in a public-house from 3 to 6 o'clock. A man wanted his dinner before he went to church in the evening, and unless he could get it in his own house he could not get it until 6 o'clock. He thought the law might be very much improved in this country, so as to enable public-houses to keep open not for the sake of drinking, but for the sale of food, between the hours of 3 and 6 o'clock. The present restriction was too great for the comfort and convenience of the people. No doubt, legislation could take away what were called the occasions of sin to a great extent, and so far that legislation was good; but still he did not think they could make people sober by Act of Parliament. For that, they must trust to the good sense and the education of the people, and to the influence of the clergy of all denominations. That was the only way to make people sober. If they interfered unnecessarily with the customs of the people they only made themselves unpopular and created a sort of retroactive feeling against the cause of temperance, and might promote a feeling of discontent amongst the lower classes, because, argue as much as they would about the clubs, they could not get rid of the idea that a rich man could get what he liked at his club, whereas the poor man had his club', which was the public-house, shut against him. All the argument in the world would not convince a poor man that there was any difference between the two places, especially as he knew perfectly well that refreshment 125 in the clubs had to be paid for. It was true a member had to go through a certain form of election, but in other respects a club was a place of refreshment. When a poor man passed along Pall Mall and saw the clubs open, at which the members could get anything they liked, he no doubt had a sort of unpleasant feeling that he was not so favourably circumstanced, and that was a feeling which they ought to prevent as much as possible. The case was different in Ireland, as the hon. Member for Roscommon had pointed out; and it was because of this difference that he should support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. FORSYTH
said, he did not wish to give a silent vote on this question. As he intended to vote for the second reading, he would briefly explain his reasons for doing so. Strong appeals had been made to him, as he had no doubt they had been to other hon. Members, both by the advocates and opponents of this measure, and in the vote he was going to give he dared say he should offend some whose good opinion he wished to retain. But he was bound to vote according to his judgment and conscience, and he was not afraid that he should not be able to defend his conduct, if it should hereafter be attacked. Now, the first reason he should give for voting for this Bill was, that this was a question on which they were bound very much to defer to the opinion and wishes of the great majority of the Irish Members. This was no political question, or one affecting the integrity of the Empire, but it was entirely a question as regarded the social condition of the people of Ireland; and he should like to know who were so fit and competent to advise the House upon and to represent the wishes, the opinions, the habits, and the feelings of the people of Ireland as the Irish Members. The House had been told that day, and truly told, that on a former occasion, when this Bill was before them, the majority of the Irish Members in favour of it was no less than four to one; and he believed that that proportion correctly represented the wish of the Irish people themselves. He had been very much struck by perusing the memorial to which reference had been made, and which was signed by many thousands of people in favour of the Bill. Amongst the signatories were upwards 126 of 1,300 magistrates, 1,000 Epis copaban clergymen, 800 Roman Catholic clergy, 520 Nonconformists, upwards of 700 surgeons, 1,900 Poor Law Guardians, and 1,000 Town Councillors and Commissioners. It was impossible to have a more thoroughly representative memorial than that which was signed by these gentlemen. He found in this memorial, which was put forth under the auspices of the Association for the Prevention of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sundays, that the association had for its Vice President the Archbishop of Dublin, and that there were connected with it 10 Bishops and a number of other gentlemen holding high positions in Ireland. It had been said in the course of the debate—he thought by the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan)—that many Petitions presented to that House were manufactured Petitions; but that term could not be applied to a Petition signed by such high dignitaries and officials as those he had mentioned. Now, what did he find in this memorial, vouched by so many respectable men, who were competent to judge of the feeling of the people of Ireland? He found they asserted that drunkenness was increasing. The Returns for 1873 showed that there had been 95,000 committals against 82,000 in 1872; and the memorialists asserted that the amount of drinking which took place in Ireland was the cause of an immense deal of poverty, wretchedness, and crime; and they went on to say—and these were the words of men who would not commit themselves to rash statements—that—The public-houses were kept open in Ireland against the constitutionally expressed wish of a great majority of the Irish people, including a large number of the licensed traders themselves.Now, what did Parliament do with regard to Scotland? Twenty years ago a Bill was brought in for closing public-houses in Scotland on Sundays. In England they had never been closed all day on Sundays. That Bill was supported by the Scotch Members, and what was the consequence? It became purely a Scotch question; and the House, deferring to the wishes of the Scotch Members, passed what was known as the Forbes-Mackenzie Act. That had been passed 20 years ago; and although some hon. Members talked of private 127 drinking in Scotland on Sundays, no one had pretended that that Act had not worked beneficially, and there had been no successful attempt to repeal it. But then it was said that if they voted for this Bill as regarded Ireland, they must, to be consistent, vote for it as regarded England. That was the sort of bugbear with which the House was threatened. In the first place, the national beverage of England was entirely different from that of Ireland. The common beverage in England was beer; and, although he was sorry to say that a great deal of drunkenness existed from the consumption of beer, yet that was not to be compared to the drunkenness induced by the fiery nature of the whisky drunk in Ireland. He believed beer, when drunk in moderation, to be most strengthening; but he never heard anyone say that whisky was strengthening. All it did was to inflame the blood. It might, perhaps, support waning energies for a moment, but no one's strength increased by drinking whisky. More than that, the habits of the English were different from those of the Irish people. In England, we were content with the system which now existed for restricting drinking on the Sunday, and there was no general feeling against the law as it stood; whereas, in Ireland, he ventured to say that there was an enormously preponderating mass of public opinion in favour of Sunday closing. Then he had another reason for voting in favour of the second reading of this Bill. The House had been engaged a long time, and would be engaged for some time longer, in passing a Peace Preservation Bill. That Bill had been truly described as nothing more or less than a Coercion Bill. They were about to deprive Ireland of the constitutional rights which every Englishman and Scotchman enjoyed. He had voted for that Bill with great reluctance, but he had done it because he put perfect confidence in the present Ministry, who told them that the Bill was necessary in order to preserve peace in Ireland. He had therefore supported it, although reluctantly; but in doing that he would say that the House ought to remove every temptation to disorder in Ireland. No man could deny that the annals of the Assizes and Quarter Sessions showed that a great proportion of the crime in Ireland was due to intoxicating liquors. Now, he wanted 128 to be able, as soon as possible, to get rid of these Coercion Acts, and not give the Ministry an excuse for saying that they were to be continued because there had been an increase of crime in Ireland. The House ought therefore to remove every temptation to disorder, and do all it possibly could to make the people moral, industrious, and sober. It might be said that there was no connection between Ribbonism and drunkenness, and at first sight there appeared to be none; but he could show that there was. What led to poverty, to pauperism, to want of moral stamina? It was drunkenness. And, depend upon it, the men who would be most open to the influence of Ribbonism, sedition, and conspiracy, were those who had been demoralized and pauperized by drink. Therefore, in the interests of the Irish people, and with the view as far as he could, by the vote he was going to give, to make them more industrious, moral, and sober, he should vote for the second reading of this Bill. He would say one word with reference to the objection which had been urged by the hon. and gallant Member for Waterford (Major O'Gorman), that they wanted to have one law for the rich and another for the poor, and to that of the hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan), that this was class legislation. But what was that which now existed with respect to the sale of intoxicating liquors but, in a certain sense, class legislation? Public-houses were partially closed on Sundays, but clubs were not; and this might be called class legislation. The only other objection was that to close the public-houses would entail a loss upon the country. The only Petitions against this Bill were signed by the publicans in Dublin, and of course they would lose a certain amount of money by the loss of the sale of drink which they would otherwise have on the Sunday. But he thought it would be a great boon to the licensed victuallers of Ireland to be able to have one day's rest out of the seven. And when they talked of loss, he might mention that, as they had recently heard in that House, when a crime was committed in any particular locality in Ireland, it was visited by a pecuniary penalty on the district as compensation for the injury sustained; and if this fruitful source of crime was removed, it might be expected 129 that the loss sustained by the closing of public-houses would be compensated for to some extent by a diminution of crime. The only loss which would be felt would be by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but his right hon. Friend would, he was sure, far rather lose a little sum of money from the sale of spirits than receive an income connected with the intoxication of the people. For the reasons he had given he should vote for the second reading of this Bill.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
said, that apart from the licensed victuallers, with whom he should not deal, and who appeared perfectly able to defend themselves in the matter, Ireland was divided into two classes on this subject. On the one hand there were the upper and middle classes, who, in many parts of Ireland, and indeed all over the country, had expressed a strong opinion in favour of this Bill. According to their, not unanimous, but preponderating, opinion, it was desirable to inflict restrictions, which, it must be remarked, would not interfere with their Sunday enjoyment, on the millions, in order that certain sections of the millions might have their temptations lessened, and that their scale of morality might be raised. Now, it was a remarkable fact that the strength of opinion amongst these upper and middle classes varied considerably in the different phases of those classes in Ireland. There was no doubt that this Bill had received a large amount of support on the part of those who sympathized generally with the people; but it was still more certain that the main strength of the support of this class lay in the advocacy of men who on general topics had very different identity and very little sympathy with the people. He should be sorry to say that any Irishman was consciously influenced by an indirect or improper motive in supporting the Bill; but it was well known in Ireland that the feeling of many of those who supported it was far from being as unmixed as they themselves believed. In the first place, it was supported by some—he would not say there were many of any creed or shade of politics—to whose conviction it was very hard to bring home this principle—that the poor man was entitled to a paramount voice on this question, or, indeed, to any voice at all. They argued that a certain percentage of Irishmen 130 were vicious and incorrigible drunkards, and that, as they had satisfactory experience of what an Act of Parliament could do and of what it could prevent in Ireland, they would proceed to make the Irish people sober by compulsion. It was a pity that some of the supporters of this Bill, both in and out of that House, grounded their conduct, partially, no doubt, on sound moral reasons, but also on political reasons which were of a very distinct character, and of a character that was exceedingly odious to the Irish people, and particularly to those sections of them who would be affected by this legislation. He had heard, both in and out of that House, Irish gentlemen who supported measures of repression like this, but objected to the most moderate concession of the Government as to the Coercion Acts as revolutionary, advocate Sunday closing because, as they alleged, and as the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone had just said in the most courteous way, it would deprive the Irish artizans and labourers of the temptation of discussing seditious and lawless topics, which, under the influence of the bottle, they would be disposed to discuss on Sunday afternoons. In other words, it was well known that, whatever might be the merits of this Bill, the enormities of the evils against which it was directed, or the arguments in support of it, there was a certain well-defined class of influential Irishmen who supported it because, amongst other reasons, it was a satisfactory accompaniment of the Peace Preservation Act. The Gentlemen who had brought forward this Bill, and had presented the memorial which bore the signatures of so many professional men, ecclesiastics, and merchants responsible for the peace and prosperity of the country, had sent a circular to all the Irish Members, in which it appeared they relied on this memorial as the strongest and most conclusive evidence of the opinion of the people of Ireland in favour of this Bill. Now, this memorial did not purport to come from any of the millions who were to be restricted by this measure from an enjoyment which was sometimes abused, but which in the majority of cases was perfectly innocent. He wished to call attention to a remarkable fact connected with the signatures to that memorial. The number of Catholic Bishops and clergymen in Ireland was, he believed, 131 equal to that of all the Protestant clergy and dignitaries of every other denomination taken together, and from his recollection of the memorial there were attached to it about 1,600 or 1,700 names of Protestant clergy and dignitaries, and only the names of 12 or 13 Catholic Bishops and about 650 Catholic priests. No one—and least of all those who advocated this measure—would dare to insinuate that the Catholic priest was less alive to the evils of intemperance than the Protestant clergyman. Unfortunately, in Ireland the Catholic priest had to cope with intemperance in greater force than the parson. It was amongst the humbler people in all countries that this evil most existed. In Ireland the humbler class consisted mainly of Catholics, and he asked why it was that they found what was comparatively speaking so small a number of Catholic clergymen and Bishops affixing their names to this Memorial? Within the last 48 hours he asked an Irish gentleman of perfect sobriety and great intelligence, what the Bishop of his diocese, which was one of the most Catholic in Ireland, was doing about this Bill; and he told him that his Bishop was not actually opposed to the Bill, but rather looked to other measures for the permanent triumph of temperance in Ireland. The Bishop was beginning to think that compulsion could not cure this evil; that it would only irritate the people to whom it was applied without their assent; and that possibly it might not develop to its most desirable extent the results hoped for by those who pressed for this measure in its entirety. He might be told that a vast number of other Catholic priests and Bishops, amongst whom was his own Bishop, had signed Petitions in favour of this Bill. That was perfectly true; but he had talked to many people in Ireland who had signed these Petitions, and he found that an idea prevailed in their minds that they did not want Sunday closing in its entirety, but only such restrictions against Sunday drinking as would prevent the excesses which now disgraced the Sabbath in Ireland. He believed these were the views of many of the Roman Catholic clergymen and Bishops, and that if the cases of many of those whose names were absent from the Memorial were inquired into, it would be found that, while they were in favour of strong measures of restriction, they hesitated 132 to press for Sunday closing entirely. He strongly suspected that in those districts where voluntary closing existed illicit drinking went on, notwithstanding the admirable conduct of those districts as a rule. But there was a question to be considered before that of the utility of Sunday closing, and that was—had the masses in Ireland, or any preponderance of them, given any assent at all to this Bill? If they had not, hon. Members were attempting to enforce the virtue of temperance without consulting the millions whom this Bill would affect. By attempting to force this measure they were only irritating the class whom they wished to regenerate. If the masses did not assent to the restrictions sought to be imposed upon them, the Bill, if it passed, would be a failure; and if it was a failure in a country which, he was sorry to say, was torn by dissensions, it would be the best proof that could ever be given that they could not make people moral or sober without their consent by law. When they called to mind the active organization supporting this Bill, they could not regard the fact of 200,000 signatures as a proof that, in a population of 5,000,000, there was anything like that preponderating assent which would entitle the House to pass this Bill. But it would be said that there were no Petitions on the other side. There was no money amongst the masses to get up organizations for petitioning in a case of this kind. It was a remark-able fact that even the publicans had not attempted to do it. That showed, at all events, that the publicans were not really at the bottom of the opposition to this Bill. They had not subscribed anything towards getting up any opposition to it, and from all he had heard the working class did not believe there was any possibility of this extreme measure becoming law. That accounted, to a certain extent, for their indifference. He did not say what ought to be their opinions, but this he did say—that if it was assumed by the House that the people of Ireland had assented to this measure, while the fact was not so, the passing of the Bill would be dangerous to the public peace. No doubt, Petitions had been sent in in its favour; but in many of the great centres of population, meetings had been held which had by no means been unanimous. Take the city of Limerick, which he represented. A 133 public meeting was held in that city, the result of which was a great deal of confusion and disturbance. He was not present at that meeting, but on making inquiries how it had gone off, one gentleman told him that the temperance resolutions were passed with the greatest enthusiasm. Another gentleman told him that the amendments to these resolutions were agreed to; and a third gentleman informed him that such was the enthusiasm of the meeting that they passed both the resolutions and the amendments with the most unbroken unanimity. The hon. Member for Dundalk (Mr. Callan) had moved an Amendment in the way of rejection of the Bill. Well, in the town of Dundalk a public meeting was held in favour of the Bill—there was a difference of opinion, and brkikbats were substituted for arguments. [Mr. FORSTER: By its opponents.] Yes; by its opponents. But the fact itself showed how the Bill would be received in Ireland by the people if it became law. Another meeting had been held at Sligo, where the proceedings were so humorous, that a most respectable and sober gentleman, who was the leading speaker, was accused by a local wit of adjourning to a public house and drinking a quart of whisky. The Petitions which had been sent to that House were mainly got up by people who would be unaffected by the measure; but the instances which he had given, and others which might be adduced in many towns and villages in Ireland, showed that the people of Ireland were not prepared for this legislation, and in no case could it be assumed that they had assented to the Bill, or demanded it from that House. If they took and placed the matter fairly before the Irish people, and they were invited to express their feeling as to the expediency of placing more severe restrictions upon drinking, he was sure that any reasonable proposals which might be considered necessary would be agreed to. No such course had been taken; no such agreement existed now, and he must advise the House to exercise a degree of caution in this instance.
The hon. Member who last spoke said that certain classes in Ireland, whom he termed the wealthy and upper classes, had from interested motives promoted and were supporting this Bill; that was, they 134 asked for it as an adjunct and supplement to the Peace Preservation Bill. But a more unfounded accusation or a more baseless assertion he (Mr. Macartney) had never heard made.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
denied that he had said so. He merely intimated that in some quarters it was so regarded.
The hon. Member spoke of them as not being of the people, or the leaders of the people, and therefore he must mean those who were above the people. He had even said that a large number of the clergy had not supported the Bill; but he (Mr. Macartney) would point out that it was very difficult to go to everybody with a Petition, and there were therefore many who wished well to the cause and who had not signed the Petitions. He believed that the bulk of the clergy of every denomination in Ireland were in favour of the measure. He could speak for his own county (Tyrone), that the Representatives of every town had either that year or last signed Petitions in favour of the Bill, and every Board of Guardians and almost every other public body had been favourable to it. He had very carefully examined the Petitions, and he believed them to be perfectly genuine. The publicans of the county had no objection to Sunday closing, and the feeling being so strongly in favour of it he could not see any ground for the rejection of the Bill. If such a course was pursued it would be a strong argument for Irish Members to use, that notwithstanding the great feeling which existed in favour of the Bill, an English Parliament would not pass it. He would ask the House to weigh that very carefully, and in the interest of morality and with the view of obtaining a proper observance of the Sabbath, to pass the measure. In his part of the country a great many funerals took place on Sunday, and almost every person thought it his duty to attend the interment of those he had been acquainted with. After the funeral was over, the representatives of the deceased persons felt it incumbent upon them to entertain their friends, and often the whole party went from the burial ground—from a solemn and impressive scene—to the public-house, where scenes of riot and debauchery took place. If it happened that there were two or three funeral 135 parties differing in religion or polities, the chances were that words were followed by an exchange of blows. He, as a magistrate, had a painful recollection of being frequently called upon on Sunday to commit people for drunkenness, and the next worst time for these offences was on Monday morning; and, he would ask, should such a state of things be continued? He would say no more upon the subject, because he thought it better that many Irish Members should rise and speak upon the Bill than that any of them should make long speeches. But he hoped the House would pause before it rejected the Petition of a large majority of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he did not speak against the Bill last year, nor perhaps would he have done so this year were it not for the arguments brought forward by its supporters. One of those arguments was, that the Bill was supported by a large majority of the Irish people. He denied that assertion, for a greater fallacy was never brought before that House. True it was that the Bill was supported by a large number of people in Ireland, but they were not the people who would be directly affected by this Bill, as very few of its supporters ever resorted to a public-house for their refreshments. They could well afford to have those refreshments at home. He had presented several Petitions from constituents of his in favour of the Bill. He took the trouble of looking over the names on some of those Petitions, and he found that three-fourths of them were composed of people who could afford to keep well-stocked cellars. So he need hardly tell the House it was no inconvenience to those people to close public-houses on Sunday, but what was the case with those thousands of poor workmen, day-labourers and servants, who never went near a public-house from one end of the week to the other, who worked hard throughout the week, and then went to the next town to enjoy a few pints of beer or a few glasses of grog on Sundays? Sunday was their only day for refreshment. What, were they called on to enact by that Bill? They were asked to enact what he must call a Coercive Bill against the poor working class in Ireland, which Bill they dared not enact against the workmen in this country. He did not rise to advocate 136 any additional liberties for drunkards, as there was not a man in that House who despised the habitual drunkard more than he did, for next to the misgovernment of his country it had no greater curse than the curse of drunkenness. But it was not because a few unfortunates here and there abused those enjoyments that they must punish all by depriving them of their right to refresh themselves on Sundays after a hard week's work. If the supporters of this Bill asked to limit the hours of sale on Sundays, they would accomplish all they required, and, at the same time, give time enough to people to refresh themselves. With that view, he would suggest that they should allow public-houses to be open for the three hours from 2 till 5, a time in his opinion amply sufficient for the purpose. He must caution the Government against passing this Act, for by doing so they would create a storm in Ireland which they little anticipated, and if passed it must be enforced at the point of the bayonet. The people would justly say it was class legislation which was passed by a Conservative Government. While the rich and idle man could go to his club or his hotel for refreshments on Sundays the poor hard-worked man must go without his refreshments. There was another class of working men in large towns who went a few miles in the country for recreation and amusements on Sundays. Were they going to say they would prevent these men from having a little refreshment when they went to those places? Then there was another class which should be considered, and not bring ruin on themselves and their families, and that was a number of publicans who lived near large towns where the people went, not to get drunk, but simply to amuse themselves on Sundays and take some refreshments before they returned home. Were they going to destroy those poor people whose principal trade was on Sundays and holidays? Were they going to destroy their business for the purpose of carrying out that unconstitutional idea, for if so, he should oppose the Bill.
§ MR. O'REILLY DEASE
said, that as his constituents were very much interested in the question, he desired to occupy the attention of the House for a short time. He had presented more Petitions on that than on any other 137 question, and they were not signed by rich people—by magistrates and others of that class—but largely, very largely, by the labouring classes. He had practical experience of what Sunday closing could do. He wished emphatically to say that in the district he represented, one of the most painful duties the magistrates had to discharge on Mondays was to deal with the number of persons brought up before them for having been drunk on Sunday. There had been in his district a voluntary abandonment of Sunday drinking and a shutting up of public-houses, and the results had been perfectly marvellous. The place was not the same in any sense—quiet and peace and good order taking the place of brawls and tumult. He had since then met many labouring men, who had told him that they would not go back to the old style of drinking on Sundays for anything that could be offered to them, and even the publicans felt it to be an improvement. He was certain that the public opinion of Ireland of all classes was largely in favour of this measure. Catholic and Protestant, rich and poor, desired it, and he could only say that he believed that if the Government took up the measure and passed it, it would be the best Peace Preservation measure that could be given to Ireland. It was said—and he agreed with it—they could not make people sober by Act of Parliament; but let the House take care not to make them drunk by Act of Parliament. He cordially supported the second reading.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that on questions of the kind at present under notice, which were of a purely social character, it was the duty of the House and the Government to pay especial deference to the opinions of hon. Members who represented that part of the Kingdom to which the measure was proposed to be applied. But while he was anxious to afford full weight to that consideration, he, at the same time, claimed for both the House and the Government the right to exercise that individual judgment upon the facts before them without which their proceedings would be absolutely useless. His own belief was that the case could be argued without any reference whatever either to England or Scotland. That reference, however, having been made, it might be fairly 138 argued, in reply, that Sunday closing in Scotland had not materially lessened drunkenness in that country, and that if the consumption of liquor had decreased there, it was chiefly due to the duty on spirits having been quadrupled. Moreover, it had been shown that no fewer than 490 houses had been voluntarily closed on Sunday in Edinburgh before an Act for compulsory closing was even proposed. But what was the case in respect to Ireland? Why, a system of six days' licensing had been adopted in that country, and he was bound to say that, although they had been told that the Irish publicans were anxious for the adoption of Sunday closing, he had not found that they were ready to take out the six days' licences, which would not only have enabled them to close on Sundays, but would have saved them a part of the tax for the licence which they now paid. It was contended that the Irish people representing every creed and class were united in wishing for this great boon. Now, in reference to that point, he only wished that everyone had heard the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy). He had put that argument on a fair and proper basis. These were questions which were not appreciated by the mass of the people—whom, after all, they mainly concerned—until the laws relating to them were actually passed, or, perhaps, even until those laws were actually put in force. He ventured to say that there was no more idea among the working classes of Ireland that the Bill under discussion was likely to become law than there was among the working classes of England that it would come into operation here. He wished to give all due weight to the opinions expressed by the clergymen, magistrates, town councillors, guardians of the poor, and employers of labour who had signed the Memorial presented to the Prime Minister, and he recognized their sincere belief that the Bill would promote temperance among others; but veryfew, if any, of the memorialists would be themselves practically affected in their daily life if the Bill were passed. Why, what had been their experience? In 1854 an Act was introduced for materially restricting the hours during which public-houses in England, and especially in the metropolis, were to be open on Sunday, and it was passed with practical 139 unanimity. But in the following year, when the people affected by it found out what had been done, such tumult and disorder arose that the Act had to be speedily repealed. Again, the Permissive Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had been brought forward he knew not how often, and supported by Petitions numerously signed, and on one occasion it obtained a second reading. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: I beg pardon; I am very sorry to say it never did.] Well, at any rate, it very nearly achieved that success; but even the hon. Baronet, sanguine as he might be, must be one of the first to acknowledge that his project had not recently advanced in popular favour. And why was this? Because since its original introduction the people had become familiar with its scope and intent, and were determined that it should not become law. They were told that Petitions containing tens of thousands of signatures had been presented in favour of the present Bill; but in one Session Petitions having 1,000,000 of signatures attached to them were presented in favour of the very same measure for England, and yet it would now be generally admitted that in this country absolute Sunday closing would be impossible. Those facts proved that they could not take as an infallible test of public opinion in any part of the United Kingdom expressions in favour of a proposal of that kind, emanating, as they had so largely done in that case, from the middle and upper classes. Meetings had been held in Ireland, more or less numerously attended, in support of this Bill; but in some instances, and notably at Limerick, the result was an absolute riot, in which nobody knew positively what decision was come to on the question. But if a riot was caused merely by the discussion of this measure at a public meeting, what would be the effect if the people found to their surprise that this Bill had become law? The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone said the passing of the measure would remove disorder in Ireland; but his (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach's) own impression was that it would rather tend to create disorder. Last autumn he received at Dublin a deputation strongly in favour of the Bill from working men in various centres of population in Ireland; 140 but on questioning them he failed to discover any evidence of their authority to speak on behalf of the class they professed to represent. Nay more, on a closer examination, he found out that they were all teetotalers, and that therefore they were the representatives of a class who were not affected by the provisions of this Bill. The main argument in its favour was that it would put a stop to drunkenness in Ireland. He would not approach the consideration of the question from the point from which it had been approached by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. P. Smyth), that drinking was itself an evil.
§ MR. R. SMYTH
said, he had not stated that, but that, on the contrary, he could not blame those who were willing to sell him intoxicating liquors when he was willing to buy them.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
was very sorry if he had misinterpreted what had been said by the hon. Gentleman; but there could not be a doubt the Bill would be supported by many who thought even the moderate use of intoxicating liquors a great evil. For himself he could not entertain that opinion, nor could he, on the other hand, contend that there should not be any restrictions placed on the sale of spirits on Sundays. Parliament had certainly refused to endorse that principle, for it had enacted that in Ireland in towns of a certain population public-houses should not be open on Sundays, except in the interval between 2 o'clock and 9 o'clock P.M., whilst as regarded all other places, the open hours should be from 2 o'clock to 7 o'clock P.M. Upon the whole, he was of opinion that these restrictions had worked well. He certainly had received some complaints of their having given rise to the sale of intoxicating liquors in unlicensed houses, but still not to such an extent as to call for the interference of the Legislature. But it did not follow that because these restrictions on the hours of keeping open had worked well that the total closing of public-houses on Sundays would not cause a great increase in the number and gains of unlicensed houses. There were only two classes of people whom this Bill could affect. The first was the class of moderate drinkers. For his own part, he could not see any harm, but on the contrary a great deal of good, in persons 141 being able to obtain at a public-house on Sunday that which was moderate and necessary refreshment. This Bill was not necessary to restrain that class of people from drunkenness, but nevertheless it would affect them, and cause them a great deal of inconvenience. What reason was there, by passing a law of this kind, to inconvenience people who, without the restriction of any law, could control the passion for drink? The only reason that could be alleged was, that in no other way could you promote sobriety among another and a smaller class of people who were supposed to be incapable of restraining the propensity to get drunk, and to indulge this propensity to such excess that they could not pass the door of a public-house without yielding to the temptation. But could it be supposed that the total closing of public-houses on Sundays by law would prevent persons so incapable of self-restraint from getting drunk somewhere else? In respect to that argument, he might mention that one of the members of the workmen's deputation which lately waited upon him at Dublin complained that he and his family were annoyed by the noise and drunken riot which took place in houses near them on Sundays. Hearing that complaint, he asked the man at what time of the day the annoyance complained of occurred. The reply he had received was that it occurred on Sunday morning, during the very hours when the public-houses were now legally closed. He did not mean to say that, at the present moment, the drinking in unlicensed houses, or at illegal hours, was very great, but he was fortified by the evidence of the Commissioner of the Dublin Police force in saying that if they were over stringent in dealing with drinking in licensed houses, they would only stimulate the illegal traffic in unlicensed houses. Mr. O'Ferrall, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Dublin, stated before a Committee of that House which sat in 1868 that the public-houses in that city were for the most part well-conducted, and that the law was sufficiently stringent; but that if those public-houses were to be superseded on Sunday by unlicensed drinking places, which there was too much reason to fear would be the case if the former were closed all Sunday, the evil of drunkenness would be aggravated instead of lessened. A superintendent of the Dublin Police 142 gave similar evidence. He therefore asked the House seriously to consider whether, if they passed an Act which in large towns was almost certain to be evaded, they would be strengthening the authority of the law in Ireland, or whether they would not, on the contrary, be really weakening it. However great was the improvement which had taken place in the habits and feelings of the Irish people, they were still not too well affected to the law or too anxious to obey it, and therefore they could not do a more mischievous thing than to adopt for Ireland a law that would either be met in that manner, or, if so strictly carried out as realty to prevent any sale of drink on Sundays, would infallibly lead to scenes of riot and disorder. He was not speaking without reference to past legislation on this question, for Sunday closing had not been untried in Ireland. In 1807 it was enacted that there should be no sale of spirituous liquors by retail between 12 o'clock on Saturday night and 12 o'clock on Sunday night, nor of wine, beer, cider, porter, or perry on Sundays before 2 o'clock, except to travellers. In 1808 this law was altered to a Sunday Closing Act, under which offenders were subjected to a penalty of 40s. for the first offence and £5 for a second. That remained the law until 1815, in which year it was repealed; he supposed because it did not work. Houses were then allowed to be opened for drinking anything but spirituous liquors, which were to be supplied only to inmates and travellers. In 1833 a regulating Act fixed the open hours from 2 o'clock in the afternoon to 11 o'clock at night, and that remained law until 1872. As already stated, in 1868 the hon. and gallant Member for Longford brought in a Bill for the total closing of public-houses on Sundays, except so far as drink might be supplied with food by eating-house keepers. That Bill was referred to a Select Committee, which sat two months and examined 22 witnesses. Prom that Committee the Bill emerged as one for opening public-houses in towns from 2 o'clock to 9, and in the country from 2 o'clock to 7—precisely the hours which were established in 1872 by the late Parliament. By the Act of last year the House had imposed further restrictions upon the mode in which licences were issued, and it had passed other provisions designed to check drunkenness. 143 Notwithstanding, it was said that drunkenness had increased in Ireland. For one, he believed that the recent changes had not been in operation sufficiently long to have had a fair trial, and that the apparent increase of drunkenness was not a little due to the greater vigilance of the police. If, however, the increase was not apparent, but real, the evil would be best met, not by passing laws which would occasion inconvenience to a large number of persons who were not drunkards, but by the magistrates using properly and with discretion the power of punishing drunkards which the law had invested them with, and, further, by such improvements in the discipline of Irish prisons as would insure that the punishment of the drunkard in gaol should be more real than it was at present. He admitted that voluntary Sunday closing had succeeded in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Ferns, Cashel, and Kilmore, thanks to the excellent and salutary influence of the Prelates of those dioceses; but could it be argued that that which succeeded as a voluntary movement must necessarily succeed when compulsorily imposed upon the inhabitants of other dioceses, where its voluntary adoption was admitted to be impossible? Sunday closing had been in operation in one diocese for 15 years and in another for 12; and he wanted to know why this voluntary movement had not been extended to all the other dioceses of Ireland? The reason was that those dioceses which he had named consisted almost entirely of country districts, and the real difficulties of this question arose when you began to deal with the large towns. If total closing on Sundays were extended compulsorily to large towns, one of two evils would arise—either the law would be evaded by unlicensed houses, and consequently drinking would be carried on in a far worse manner than now, because without any legal power of supervision; or, if it were carried out strictly, it would lead to scenes of tumult and disorder which he had rather not contemplate. Those who were in favour of the Bill would be better advised if they would approach the subject tentatively, as it was approached in 1868. If they were to ask that restriction, because it had been successful, should be carried a little further, and that the present hours should be further curtailed, their proposition would deserve the careful attention of 144 the House and of the Government. And if, after due inquiry, such further restrictions should be adopted and should prove successful, it might then be time to consider whether public-houses could be entirely closed on Sunday in the country districts. But as the Bill now before the House proposed immediate and universal Sunday closing, which could not be safely or properly carried into effect, the Government must give it their opposition.
Sir, I shall detain the House but a few moments on this question. I think we must all feel that, though there is much to be said against stringent measures of prohibition in regard to the use of strong liquors, there is much to be said in their favour. We have not heard on this occasion—and I am glad of the omission—so much reference as is usual to the unlimited liberty which is enjoyed by the upper classes in respect to the use of spirituous liquors on the Sunday, even although purchased by them in their clubs. On that subject I think it is only necessary to say it would be a very great mistake, whatever difficulties may surround the question of clubs, on their account to withhold from the public the benefits of any measure which appeared on other grounds to be beneficial. For my own part, I do not hesitate to say if, so far as regards spirituous liquors, the difficulty of an invidious distinction between classes was felt to be of a very serious nature, I would rather endeavour even to apply restriction, with some deviation from the usual rules, in the case of the upper classes—the argument being supposed to be general and complete—than I would withhold the advantages of it from the masses of the people. I will not, however, enter into general considerations of the expediency of restrictions, nor speak of the enormous public mischiefs of drunkenness, because I think the scale is turned in the particular case before us, not by the special view I may happen to entertain myself of the balance as between those evils and those advantages generally, but by circumstances peculiar to the case of Ireland. I admit it is rather a serious matter and a responsible act to vote for the second reading of a Bill of this kind, in the face of the objections to it stated by the right hon. Gentleman as the organ of the Government. At the same time, that does not exempt me from the duty of 145 examining, at any rate slightly and briefly, the nature of the objections taken by the right hon. Gentleman. He made a most important admission towards the close of his speech, an admission which appeared to me to cut away from under his feet the whole ground he had laid in justification of the course he intends to pursue. He said that if this were a Bill which dealt only with the country districts and did not embrace the case of the large towns it would, in his judgment, be a Bill that might be properly entertained; but because it embraces the large towns, he proposes to resist the second reading of the Bill. That would be a very intelligible ground, to my mind at least, if Ireland were a country consisting principally of large towns; but how many are there, and what fraction of the whole population do their inhabitants form? It is a country in which nine-tenths and perhaps even four-fifths of the people live outside the large towns. Surely then if the right hon. Gentleman admits that the scope of the Bill is reasonable so far as four-fifths of the people are concerned, the consistent course for him to take would be to support the second reading of the Bill, and when in Committee fairly raise the question of the large towns. In that case all he could say with his usual ability and the weight of the office he fills would be attentively weighed and considered by the House. If logic governed our proceedings we should be entitled, notwithstanding the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and his objection, which we cannot hope to overcome, to claim his vote for the second reading, in consequence of the admission he made as to the suitability of the Bill for the majority of the population. Much has been said as to the probability of disorder in the event of this measure being passed; but I must confess I cannot attach much weight to that consideration, and here I stand mainly npon the negative evidence of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Armed as the Government is in Ireland, even much more effectually than in England, with the means of collecting the judgment of experienced and responsible officers all over the country through a force controlled strictly by the Executive Government—I mean the Constabulary—I feel perfectly convinced if there had been, in the opinions of those best informed, reason to apprehend general or frequent outbreaks of disorder in 146 Ireland in consequence of the carrying of a Bill like this, the right hon. Gentleman would have been able to come down with such an array of testimony to that effect as would have gone far to silence the arguments of the supporters of the Bill. But only a solitary opinion to that effect was quoted by him and I must say that I attach the greatest consequence to this negative evidence afforded by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. Then the right hon. Gentleman said there might be an apprehension of substituting a system of unlicensed for licensed drinking; but then again there are many who would have been able to give as confident an opinion as the right hon. Gentleman, and to have supported their opinion by powerful evidence, if there were any real and extensive apprehensions upon that subject. It appeared to me that, in alluding to this contingency, which is that of a serious evil, he spoke with proper and becoming reserve, and carefully guarded himself against giving to the House an opinion as to the results of the Bill with that confidence which he would have been justified in assuming if those connected with the collection of the Revenue and the suppression of distillation had been really of opinion that the effect of this Bill would be to cause the substitution of unlicensed for licensed drinking. Without doubt the special feature of the case is the state of opinion in Ireland at the present moment, and I must confess I do attach to that state of opinion the very greatest consequence. We are not now considering an application to place Ireland under laws and in a condition without example in the United Kingdom. A law substantially in conformity with this Bill has been in operation in Scotland for 20 years; and I would observe that the only question with respect to this law, is not whether it has done evil, but whether the amount of good it has done is great or small. That. I think is a fair statement of the case with regard to the Forbes Mackenzie Act in Scotland. Is not this one of the questions on which the people of the Three Kingdoms are in equity fairly entitled to have an opinion for themselves? I have had credit and discredit—to neither of which I am entitled—for having, as was supposed, in this house, delivered myself of the sentiment that Ireland ought to be governed by Irish ideas. I never gave utterance to such a sentiment 147 without appending to it a vital qualification which has been forgotten both by foes and friends. I said that Ireland might be properly and justly governed by Irish ideas on those matters as to which Imperial interests did not call for uniform legislation. It is a fair question to put whether the particular question before us falls into the class of those subjects with respect to which the local opinion, so to call it, of one of the Three Kingdoms is fairly entitled to prevail. Upon that I say that Parliament has already given a judgment in the case of Scotland. There is not a disposition on the part of Parliament to carry into effect a general system for the whole of the United Kingdom, but a special measure has been passed in the case of Scotland. There was a conviction that on the whole Sunday, closing was demanded by the opinion of Scotland, and that we might fairly take the judgment of Scotland for a fair and sufficient indication of the adaptation of a measure to the wants of Scotland. If in that case we yielded to the judgment of Scotland, much more, in the present case, has the judgment of Ireland been clearly expressed. I confess that I must take the liberty of criticizing the speech of the right hon. Gentleman upon this subject. He quoted the opinion of a man of station and education who was unfavourable to this Bill, and anticipated if it were passed the possibility of disorder. The right hon. Gentleman attached weight to that opinion because of the position of the person who gave it. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: He was an officer in the Constabulary.] If the right hon. Gentleman had produced a great many more of them, if he had produced something like a real array of commanding opinion, it would have been of the greatest weight in the discussion. I now ask him in consistency, to remember that this opinion, to which he attaches so much importance, was given by a gentleman as much removed from the condition of the ordinary people, as in his view were those who signed the Petitions or the Memorial to the Prime Minister, and that the superiority of position which he treats as a qualification on his own side, he treats as a disqualification on the other side. Am I to be told of 864 Roman Catholic priests who, though not elected officers, are yet persons dependent upon 148 the voluntary support of their congregations, that their judgment forms no indication of the state of opinion in Ireland amongst the lower classes? Assume, if you like, what I am far from conceding, that the opinions of Presbyterian ministers, whose position is essentially that of persons who reflect the popular sentiment, and those of the Episcopal clergy are all to be set aside on the ground of professional prejudice, still what can the right hon. Gentleman and the opponents of the Bill say to the facts that no fewer than 1,991 Poor Law guardians and 596 town councillors are in favour of the principles of the Bill?—the latter being members of municipal bodies representing towns in which the right hon. Gentleman anticipates that disorder, on account of which he is, unfortunately, but inconsistently, going to withhold his assent from the second reading of the Bill. But, indeed, I think that anyone who casts his eye over some pages of the Petitions in favour of the Bill will see that they are in an eminent sense representative of all classes of the community. And if we look to their mere number, while it is true that an unusual number of persons of influence and station have declared their judgment, amounting apparently to 7,681, in their Memorial to the Prime Minister, yet turning to the Petitions I find that no less than 81,000 persons have expressed themselves in that form in favour of the Bill which is before the House. If, however, we really want to know the public sentiment of the country, I must say that I am still more disposed to rely upon the extraordinary testimony which has been yielded for a considerable series of years in the voluntary closing of public-houses in three of the Roman Catholic dioceses. Why, that is one of the most remarkable phenomena to be witnessed either on the face of the United Kingdom, or on the face of the earth. When we consider the strength of the temptations to indulge in drink and to maintain the trade, and find that by a singular combination of conscientious motive on the one hand and of authority resting upon a voluntary basis on the other, this uniform closing of public-houses has been produced in three of the dioceses in Ireland, it is certainly a moral phenomenon most remarkable in itself, and most honourable to the country in which it exists. It is likewise such an 149 indication of the state of Irish opinion as ought really, I think, to put an end to all further discussion upon the question whether the opinion of Ireland is or is not in favour of this Bill. I may also observe that there is another class of cases which ought to be mentioned, where the main argument against the Bill is the apprehension of disorder. I allude to the magistrates of Ireland. If there were persons more than others on their guard against measures which had the slightest tendency to cause disorder, would they not be the magistrates of the country? Yet these magistrates have come forward as signatories to the Memorial to the Prime Minister to the astonishing number of 1,413. Under these circumstances—while endeavouring to keep my promise to the House—I must with very considerable confidence venture to submit to the Government, whether or not it be right in deference to them to consider any question of excepting towns, on which it is totally unnecessary now to express an opinion, our present course, is clear. We have the authority of the precedent of Scotland, and in my opinion it is not less impolitic than it is unjust to interfere by a great phalanx of English votes to prevent a concession to the wishes of Ireland in a matter in which that country is entitled to expect that its wishes shall have effect given to them, and upon which its opinion and judgment have been expressed in a manner which is altogether beyond doubt.
§ MR. CHARLES LEWIS
said, that as the opinions of the working classes on the Bill in most of the large towns in Ireland had been referred to in the course of the debate, he would detain the House but to inform them that in his constituency (Londonderry) the opinion of the working classes was greatly in favour of the measure. There were, no doubt, many conflicting opinions held upon it, and he himself had received several letters and circulars from different associations of publicans and licensed victuallers in Ireland earnestly entreating him not to support the Bill on grounds which appeared to them to be conclusive, but which appeared to him to be illusory. In the constituency which he had the honour to represent, there were 28,000 inhabitants, and 270 licensed houses. There was a nucleus for opposition among the public, if opposition 150 could be excited. It was a positive fact, however, that he had had no voice whatever from his constituency against the Bill. On the contrary, he had the honour of presenting a Petition in favour of the measure from his constituency the other day, signed by 1,500 inhabitants of that constituency, and that Petition could not have been got up, except by a most thorough house-to-house canvass, so that the fact of its being in course of signature must have been thoroughly well known in the city, and if there had been any public opinion on the other side, it would surely have been evoked. The lateness of the hour induced him to forbear saying many things which he desired to say. He, however, desired to make an appeal to those who sat on his side of the House. He was one of the 20 Ulster Members who were sent to Parliament generally to support the Government. On the last occasion when that Bill was before the House, 18 of those Ulster Members voted in favour of it. Two hon. Gentlemen were absent, and he very much mistook the opinion of those two hon. Gentlemen, if they would not have voted in favour of it if they had been present. Those 20 Ulster Members represented a great portion of the Conservative element in the Irish constituencies, and he appealed to those who sat on the same side not to overwhelm by their votes the Members who represented Irish constituencies. He appealed to them not to send them back unable to reply to the arguments of Home Rulers, who would then be able to point out that, on a social question upon which Irishmen were substantially agreed, they were overwhelmed by English votes. He was not disposed to believe the slander hurled against hon. Members who sat on that side of the House, that the Conservative Party was placed in power solely by the English publicans; but if they wanted to give force to that opinion—if they desired to turn a political fiction into a plausible fact, they would, upon that occasion, troop out into the Lobby for the purpose of imposing upon the Irish Members those exceptions from which they desired to be free, and at the same time do violence to the great mass of intelligent and respectable public opinion in Ireland—to the Roman Catholic, the Presbyterian, and the Episcopal opinions represented by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House.
§ MR. MURPHY
, who spoke amid considerable interruption, begged leave to assure the House that he stood there in a particular position. A Committee was appointed in 1868, of which he was a Member, and he would therefore ask hon. Gentlemen, more especially those who were not in the House at that time, to allow him to say a few words. No one was more anxious to put down intemperance than he was, and that, he believed, was the opinion of all right-thinking men, magistrates and others. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"] He believed that, as a Member of the Committee, he was entitled to a fair hearing, and should not be interrupted. There was no point during the debate on which so much stress had been laid as that those affected by the Bill made no objection to it. But that was not so. They had examined before them Inspectors of police, Government officials of various classes, and resident magistrates of counties, who all agreed that, while it was desirous and right to put down intemperance, the mode proposed was the very worst that could be adopted. But apart from those authorities, he would adduce the evidence of the secretary of the United Trades' Association of Dublin, who might be taken as a fair representative of the working classes. That witness affirmed that there was a very strong feeling among the tradesmen of Dublin against the Bill. They believed it would not promote sobriety, but, on the contrary, introduce private drinking and be productive of great social evil. It had been said that beer was scarcely drunk in Ireland. He did not know what evidence had been given for that assertion, and he most emphatically contradicted the statement. In his own City of Cork the consumption of ale and porter had increased to a very great extent of late years. He denied that whisky was the drink par excellence of the working classes in Ireland; whisky was more consumed by persons of sedentary habits belonging to a different class of society. [Cries of "Divide, divide!"] Well, if hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway thought they should put him down he could only say they were very much mistaken, and if he received any further interruption he would continue speaking until 10 minutes before 6 o'clock. He opposed the Bill: first, because it would not carry out the object proposed; secondly, because it upset the settlement which had been 152 come to in 1872; thirdly, because it was not asked for by those on whose behalf it was proposed to legislate; and, fourthly, because it would do what that House had never done before—namely, confiscate property without giving any compensation whatever.
§ MR. R. SMYTH
said, he was quite satisfied with the discussion which had taken place on the Bill, and as to the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, it was not for him, but the Government, to carry it into effect. When that occurred, he had no doubt it would be found that a very substantial benefit had been conferred upon the people of Ireland. With respect to what had been said by the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) about the meeting held in Sligo, and the story he related of the gentleman who took an active part in a temperance meeting held there having that same day finished a bottle of whisky in a railway carriage, he had the best authority for giving it the most direct contradiction. There was not a word of truth in that statement, and there was at that moment a lawsuit pending, which, he had no doubt, would clear up the matter.
§ SIR. JOHN KENNAWAY
said, he would ask, was it desirable that they should have Sunday closing altogether? The working classes received their wages on Saturday, and it was in his opinion desirable, such were the temptations, that they should have one day's rest; for the charges made at the police courts on Monday morning showed how the Sunday had been passed by many of them. In supporting the Bill, as he was prepared to do so by his vote, he begged it to be understood, should a Bill for England be brought in that Session, that he must hold himself free to take what course he thought proper. It had been shown that this was a perfectly practical measure, and the circumstances connected with it were very similar to those of Scotland. This was a case in which they could not go ahead of public opinion, as an hon. Member asserted. As he understood, Sunday closing was practically observed in Ireland some years ago. [Cries of "Divide!"] Of course, it was, in this matter, in the power of the Government to advance the object which the supporters of the Bill had in view; and they had already proposed to make large 153 concessions, and impose further restrictions in the country towns. He knew not whether, even if they came to a division, the Bill would make much progress this year; but he hoped that next year the concessions made would prove important and beneficial.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
, who also spoke amid considerable interruption, said, the question was, whether rightly or wrongly, stated to be an Irish question alone. If he thought it was so, he would not venture upon it; but he apprehended it to be no such thing, and he wished it to be distinctly understood that it was in the power of every Irishman to govern himself in a matter of this kind. Why was it said that the House of Commons should legislate in a matter of this kind, in which men could, if they chose, abstain without any restrictive legislation whatever? Why should a person go into a public-house at all when, if he thought it desirable, he could keep out of it? The House had been told that numerous Bishops and clergymen had signed the Petitions; but what he wanted, if he could, to get at, was the feelings of the class whom this Bill would affect. It was of no use to tell him that large numbers signed the Petitions in favour of the Bill. Let him see who were the parties who signed them. He knew how those Petitions were got up. They were got up in certain offices. He knew how the thing was done. ["Oh, oh!"] He was sorry to say he had reason to be too well acquainted with the system to place any reliance upon such Petitions. They were told that there were men who could not moderate their appetites; but why could they not do so? Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House had a great deal to say about the rights and liberties of the people when certain questions arose that suited them; but when a matter of this kind came before the House, they forgot their advocacy in favour of the liberty of the people. If it was right that the liberty of the people should be pronounced in one matter, why should it not be in another—such, for instance, as the question now before the House? He maintained that class statutes were not the kind of legislation that the people of Ireland wanted. The legislation now proposed was liberty for one and restriction for another. That was as clear as the sun 154 at noonday. It was no argument to say that a number of Bishops and other clergymen had signed the Memorial. He, for one, did not feel moved by such an argument. Some time ago there was in Punch, he believed, a corner picture of a wealthy gentleman—one of those who approved of this movement—and sitting one Sunday afternoon at his case in his conservatory, he called to his servant to bring him some soda-water and brandy; and, as he consumed it, he exclaimed—"I do not know what the artizans and labouring people want that they have not got." There were, the while, at the opposite corner, a man standing at the door of a public-house with a small jug, and a little girl with a pitcher, waiting for that which they wanted, their Sunday beer. Just see the difference. But the man in the conservatory would exclaim—"I wonder-what the working classes want that they have not got." He (Mr. Wheelhouse) would tell the House what the working classes wanted—they wanted to be left alone. They wanted to have the liberty which every man in his situation was entitled to have. That was the question, and he cared not for what might be said to the contrary.
§ MR. SPEAKER
interposed, stating that, according to the Standing Orders of the House, this debate stands adjourned till to-morrow.
And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.