§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE O'CONOR DON,
in rising to move that the Bill be now road a second time, said, he could not refrain from expressing his regret at the absence through ill-health of his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. R. Smyth). It was considered important that the Bill should be introduced at the very earliest opportunity, seeing that last year it failed to become law, not by the will of the House, but by want of time to carry it. He was actuated by two reasons in undertaking the charge of the Bill this Session—the one being that his hon. Friend had conducted it to such a point that the carrying of it to what he trusted would be its final success would be comparatively an easy task; and in the next place he hoped his hon. Friend would be very shortly amongst them and able to assist him in promoting this mea- 278 sure by his counsel and advice. The Bill had been so often before the House, its principles had been so often discussed, and everything which could be said for or against it had been so eloquently urged, that it was not necessary for him on this occasion to deal at any length with its general principles; and in the few remarks he intended to make he would confine himself to a statement of the proceedings which had taken place with regard to it since the Bill was introduced last Session. It was then introduced under circumstances almost exactly similar to those now existing. Notice was given for the introduction on the first night of the Session; it was introduced on the next day, and on the following Monday the second reading was taken. But when the Bill came up for the second reading it was opposed by the hon. Member for Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan). There was some discussion with regard to it, and the second reading was carried by an overwhelming majority, the Government at that stage supporting it. But subsequently to that the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) proposed that it should be referred to a Select Committee for a certain particular purpose—namely, to ascertain whether certain cities and towns should not be exempted from its operations. The promoters of the Bill consented to its being so sent up, and the majority of the Members of the Committee were selected by the Government. The Committee, nevertheless, came to a vote against the proposals of the Chief Secretary for exempting those particular cities and towns, and they supported the Bill in its entirety. Under those circumstances the Bill came back to the House. It was not necessary for him to go in detail into the subsequent proceedings of the Session; suffice it for him to say that it was through sheer want of time the Bill was lost last year. He wished to call the attention of the House and of the Government to what had taken place since then, and what they were told at the time by the opponents of the Bill. They were told that it would be very necessary to wait and see what effect the evidence given before that Committee would have on the country. They were told, especially by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Murphy), who had been the most indefatigable opponent of the Bill, that if they waited for 279 another six months—for another Session of Parliament—that a complete change? would take place over the expressed opinion of the Irish people, that it would be seen that Irishmen realized the fact that the Bill was a reality and not a sham, and they would see a complete revulsion of feeling in Ireland. The expressed opinion at that time was undoubtedly in favour of the Bill; but the opponents of the measure asserted that there wore hundreds of thousands of people who had never expressed any opinion upon it, and who, if they only had time and opportunity and studied the evidence, would come forward and give expression to such opinion as would render it impossible for the promoters of the Bill to come again before the House under the same circumstances as they had come last Session. How had those predictions been verified? Early in the autumn the campaign against the Bill was commenced by a conference in Dublin, and curiously enough this conference, he was informed, was composed very largely of representatives, not from Irish cities and towns, but from English cities and towns. A conference of delegates, largely composed of delegates from English cities and towns, who were opposed to this Bill, was held in Dublin, and a resolution was passed in pursuance of which meetings were held in various parts of Ireland. The first of these meetings was held at Limerick. It was an open meeting held at a time when the working men could attend. ["No, no!"] Then why was it not held at a time when the working men could attend? The choice of the hour for holding this meeting was at the discretion of its promoters. The Mayor who presided was one of their friends, and if the meeting was not held at a time when the working men could attend, that was their fault. At all events, what was the result? Why, the resolution, which was carried, accepted and approved of the measure which they were called upon to condemn. The next meeting was held in Dublin; but, warned by the experience obtained in Limerick, the means of admission was by tickets, many of which were obtained at public-houses. The meeting was held in a small room in the Rotunda, and it took place at a time when the working classes could attend. A meeting was next hold in the city of Cork. It was 280 not a close meeting, but it was called for an hour—namely 12 o'clock at noon, when for working men to attend would be to forfeit a day's wages. It could not for a moment be contended that these meetings showed that public opinion in Ireland was opposed to the Bill. A similar meeting was held in Belfast under similar circumstances, and he understood the proceedings were of a most disorderly character, and anything but unanimity against the Bill prevailed. In addition, however, to the holding of meetings, a deputation of working men waited on the Chief Secretary to urge on the right hon. Baronet the necessity of opposing the Bill, in the interest of the labouring classes in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet inquired of them whether they represented societies; but it appeared from their replies that they represented themselves only. Such was the result of the agitation against the Bill, and these were the only expressions of public opinion in Ireland in that direction. It would have been quite legitimate for the promoters of the Bill, so far as expressions of public opinion went, to have allowed matters to rest whore they wore last year, and to have maintained that unless there was a change of opinion against it it ought to be carried. Public opinion, however, so far from going against the Bill, was still growing in its favour, for over 60 public meetings had been held in all parts of the country in favour of the Bill. All these were open meetings, held at times when the working men could attend, and yet, in spite of that, at all the so meetings resolutions were carried enthusiastically in favour of the measure, and with one exception there was no disturbance or diversity of opinion at any of them. Would it have been possible to have held those meetings, and that they would have passed off as they did, if the working classes of Ireland had believed that this Bill was one of a coercive character, or one which would injuriously affect their liberty? It would have been perfectly impossible. But that was not all. A deputation waited on the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland —not to express their own opinions merely as supporters of the Bill, but also those of 2,000 working men who had deputed them. Further than that, a memorial was presented to the right hon. Baronet signed by nearly 10,000 281 persons, including magistrates, professional men, clergymen of all denominations, Poor Law Guardians, and members of Town Councils, all in favour of this Bill, and asking the Government to press it forward. No doubt these gentlemen would not be individually affected if the measure became law, but they would not have come and misrepresented the feeling of the people of Ireland. It had been asserted by the hon. Member for Cork that the great bulk of the Roman Catholic clergy were opposed to the Bill; but what proof had he given of this assertion? Why, it was a singular fact that the number of parochial Roman Catholic clergymen in Ireland being about 2,500, the signatures of 1,200 Roman Catholic priests were to be found attached to the memorial. He would ask any hon. Gentleman who was acquainted with Ireland whether this could have been the case had this been a coercive measure intended to interfere with the wishes of the people of Ireland. If it had been of such a character, there would not have been found such a number of Roman Catholic clergymen signing the memorial in favour of the measure. But if there were Roman Catholic clergymen of Ireland opposed to this Bill, why did they not appear, and where were their declarations? Such had been the expression of public opinion outside the House. Then there was the expression of opinion on the part of the Irish Representatives in that House. How did that stand? There had been, or was about to be, presented to the Chief Secretary in favour of the Bill a memorial signed by 57 out of the 103 Irish Members, and there were 18 others who on former occasions had voted for the Bill, or expressly stated their intention of voting for it, but who did not wish to put their names to the memorial. There were thus 75 out of the 103 Irish Members who were supporters of this measure, whilst the largest number whom a division had shown against the Bill was 11. What chance had Irish Members in that House of carrying any Bill, on the ground that it was consistent with the feeling of the Irish people, if they were to be told that three-fourths of the Irish Representatives were in favour of a measure which was not one the Irish people were in favour of? These were the circumstances under which this Bill now came 282 before the House; and in these circumstances he should have expected that the Government would have taken it up and saved private Members the trouble of pushing it through. The Chief Secretary, however, had said that he could not do so, although, in answer to the hon. and learned Member for Louth (Mr. Sullivan), it had been promised that the Government would give every facility for passing the measure into law, and take every means of ensuring that it should not be rejected, as on former occasions, simply by a system of pure obstruction and delay. He would appeal to the right hon. Baronet to repeat, even more strongly, that statement; because if the Government made it clear that they wore determined that the Bill should pass this Session—trying, of course, if they wished, to amend it—it would not be defeated by such tactics again, and they would thus save a great deal of trouble and valuable time both to the promoters and to themselves. He appealed to his hon. Friends who opposed the measure to allow the Bill to go into Committee, and then they could move any Amendments they might think proper, and if their demands were reasonable the promoters of the Bill would give them every consideration. He was glad that the present opposition to the Bill did not arise from an Irish Member, and that the true opponents of the Bill were showing their colours, and that the hon. Member for Guildford had been selected as their champion. He was not a fanatical supporter of the measure—he was not, and never had been, what was known as a strict Sabbatarian, and he was not opposed to innocent amusement on Sunday; but it had always seemed anomalous to him that the museums and other places of innocent amusement on the Sunday should be shut, and that the only places licensed by the law to be open should be those which ministered to the intemperance of the people. He did not like Government interference in private affairs, nor did he believe in making people sober by Act of Parliament; but he asked that a source of temptation should be taken out of the people's way, and he asked it because he believed the people themselves wished it to be removed. If he did not believe that the majority of his countrymen were in favour of the Bill he would not promote it in the House. Moreover, he believed 283 the Bill would be inoperative if the people, as a body, were opposed to it. The hon. Gentleman who was about to move the rejection of the Bill, and who did not usually manifest much interest in Irish affairs (Mr. Onslow), had given Notice that he should move it should be read a second time this day six months. Now, if the hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to look at the almanac he would find this day six months would be a Sunday, and he, therefore, presumed that the hon. Member's wish was not only to keep the public-houses, but the House of Commons open on that day. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(The O'Conor Don.)
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, that he had intended to move the rejection of the Bill by a Motion that it be read that day six months; and, in reference to that point, would inform the hon. Member opposite (the O'Conor Don), that, in giving Notice of the Motion, he had not had an opportunity of seeing the almanac. He did not propose to divide the House on that occasion, because many of his Friends who intended opposing the Bill were not present, as no one could have anticipated that the second reading would be reached at that early hour. He would, therefore, reserve his remarks on it until the next stage—that of going into Committee on the Bill. He was informed that there was an immense number of Petitions which would be presented against the measure, and which would have been laid on the Table before, had the Irish people had any idea that it would have been taken up at this early period of the Session. He regretted that the Government had given way, and had promised to help the Bill in every way that was possible, and thought they made a mistake last year in acting as they did on the subject. As an English Member he opposed the Bill, believing as he did that the question involved was not so much one in reference to the closing of public-houses in Ireland as one of a much larger kind. For his part, he could not but regard the measure as being merely the forerunner of a similar attempt with regard to England; and, therefore, he should do his best to oppose the passing of the Bill during the present Session. 284 Any action he took in the matter was taken on his own responsibility, and not from any communication with Irish or English publicans. He sincerely trusted that on another occasion the Government would not hold out inducements to the promoters of the Bill to bring it again before the House.
§ MR. SHAW
said, he could not but hope that the suggestion just made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) would be acted upon, and that the House would not divide at the present stage in the progress of the Bill, postponing any opposition to the time when it should be in Committee. He had on all occasions by his vote opposed the Bill, and he should continue to do so; because he believed, in opposition to the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don), that the people of Ireland were opposed to it. He had a pamphlet flourished before him, and it looked very formidable; but they could get up anything, he believed, with money, especially if they had plenty of brass. Of course no one would stand in that House to say a word against the clergy who had so numerously signed the Petition to which the hon. Member for Roscommon had referred. He (Mr. Shaw) believed no one could be more interested in their flocks than the clergy of Ireland, but he should be very doubtful about basing legislation on the question on the opinions of clergymen; for they had such an intense idea of the good to be effected by anything they proposed, that they were not the best judges of the good that actually would be effected by it. Let them take the population of London and drive them to Heaven by Act of Parliament, and it would be found to be no Heaven to them. And if they tried to force them into any course for which they were not prepared by Act of Parliament their action would be a failure. Then, again, no one liked to refuse to sign documents which, on the surface, sought to accomplish something that was good, and it seemed like doing good to the poor working classes to close the public-houses on Sunday. He was certain that the same class of people would sign a Petition for closing public-houses during half the week. Now, he believed in resting on the Sabbath, in the physical and moral benefits derived from its institution; but the Sabbath was made for man, and 285 not man for the Sabbath, and if they pushed views to the extreme they would only increase the difficulties, both social and moral, which were involved in the question of drunkenness. The promoters of this movement in Cork were, he know, very good men, and they had shown their interest in the working classes by setting up coffee-houses for them which were of the greatest benefit, but they took care to close these houses on Sunday. If this movement was not of a Sabbatarian character surely they would have kept thorn open, seeing that they might be expected to act as formidable rivals to the public-houses. But Sabbatarianism in its most intense and objectionable form was at the bottom of this movement. They had been told a great deal about Boards of Guardians having petitioned in favour of the measure. He was a Guardian of two or three Unions, and he could say that the business of those Unions was always conducted by two or three gentlemen, and he never knew a case in which there was a discussion under notice on the question. Was the expression of opinion thus formed enough to enable the promoters of the measure to say—"We have the whole population of the country with us." But it was said that they had 75 Members of Parliament. He wanted to know how many of those hon. Members had made this question a prominent one or challenged public opinion directly upon it at the last Election. How many of them would do so at the next General Election, so as to ascertain clearly what was the opinion of the large majority? Would it not be desirable to postpone the question until the opinions of the constituencies had been thus challenged? and if then by a large majority Members were returned favourable to it, he would say they might pass the Bill. He asked one of the promoters of the Bill if he would not give the people an opportunity of choosing whether or not they would adopt the Act for their own districts. The answer was an emphatic No. He asked another if he would permit the houses being opened during certain hours for the sale of the dinner porter for the working men, but he replied certainly not. He might say that porter was pre-eminently the drink of the working-men of the South of Ireland, and, as they all know, if drawn from the cask on Saturday, it would not keep fresh for 286 consumption on Sunday. The effect, therefore, of the present measure would be to increase whiskey drinking very much in place of the much less stimulating drink which was now to a very great extent used. He himself was as desirous as any man could be to raise the working man, but he would accomplish that object by increasing his moral respect. He was a very large employer of labour, and he was prepared to go as far as most people to stop drinking; but he believed nothing would effect that object, but an appeal to the intelligence, the reason, and that moral self-respect which he was glad to notice was surely increasing in Ireland. He hoped that on the question that the Speaker leave the Chair this question would be fully considered. He believed that up to the present time public opinion had not expressed itself on this question, and that it was just now beginning to do so. The subject was only beginning to be understood. He had been in conversation with a very worthy clergyman in Cork, who had a large working class congregation, who expressed to him his dislike to the measure, and a largo meeting of the working-men recently held in that city had pronounced strongly against it. He believed the intelligent thought of the country was in favour of lessening the temptation to drink, but that they were not favourable to that unreasonable interference with the liberty of the working man which this Bill would effect if passed.
§ MR. WHEELHOUSE
said, that he should not have intervened in this de-bate, if he thought it was wholly an Irish question. He was bound to state that he, for one, did not believe in what had been termed the increasing drunkenness of the Irish people, nor did he believe in class legislation, whether in this country or elsewhere. If there was to be, as they were told there might be, equal laws both for England and Ireland, he should by all means prefer to try that principle in this case. If they wanted it, let a Bill of this character be brought in for England also; or, at any rate, one that would deal with England and Ireland alike, and they would see what became of their intended legislation then. It was, however, alleged that there were special reasons why this particular measure should be applied to Ireland alone rather than to this country; but he apprehended that there never 287 was and never could be a greater fallacy than this argument. They were further told that a memorial, largely signed, had been placed in the hands of the hon. Member opposite (the O'Conor Don); but he (Mr. Wheelhouse) desired to be told whether there was a single individual who had signed that memorial who would be affected in the slightest degree by this Bill? It was not of the slightest use to tell him what any of the upper ten thousand or the upper twenty thousand might think about this measure; for what he wanted to know was, what were the wishes and feelings of those who would be affected by it individually? He was told that the under classes of the Irish people, who had no cellars of wine, beer, or spirits of their own, were willing that the House should legislate for them; but if this sort of legislation was to be carried into practice, where was it to stop? for he could not see any ground or reason why the largest class of people in Ireland should be treated in this way. They were told that the object of this measure was to ensure greater sobriety in Ireland; but why were sober people to be, deprived of what might be alike necessary and reasonable, because some of their neighbours indulged in excess. He was strongly of opinion that they ought not to punish those who were sober because a limited number of the community broke the law which, he would remind the House, was considered to be a social regulation only by the under classes themselves. It came, then, practically to this— that there was to be one law for the rich and another for the poor. They must all know perfectly well that all the Bishops in Ireland, of whatever creed they might be, could get their drink when and how they chose. They must all fool that members of Town Councils and Boards of Guardians could go when they liked to their own wine-collars. But what was the poor man to do? He had no wine or beer-cellar to go to, and this measure was therefore an attempt at class legislation in its worst form. He would go further, and say that there was every possible opportunity for the Government of Ireland to repress drunkenness if they desired to do so. Under these circumstances, he had not the slightest doubt as to what ought to be the fate of this Bill; but whether the House intended to read it a second time 288 or not, he, for one, was utterly opposed to it, for if there was anything in it that was good in principle, the Bill ought to be extended to England also. If there was nothing in its principle, it ought not to be introduced either for Ireland or any other part of the Empire. Opposed as he was to the principle of the Bill, he was not ready to go into the Lobby and vote for the second reading; but if they did go into Committee on the Bill, he still hoped the Bill would be thrown out. He was well aware that there were Bishops of the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches who said they could, if they liked, shut up the public-houses in their dioceses; but that was no reason why the Government should do it for them, and he trusted that they would not do so. Who were the Bishops of Ireland that they should dictate to any class of the community? They knew nothing, comparatively speaking, of the social wants of the classes with which they had little or nothing to do, except so far as the making of a few sacerdotal visits was concerned. If there was anything in the name of right, of justice, of reason, or of common sense, he hoped that they would never in the House of Commons sanction the principle of class legislation, and pass a measure which let the upper ten thousand go free and only affected the under classes. With respect to the memorial of which so much had been said, they all knew how memorials of this kind were got up; for it was a fact that any member of a temperance society could get any number of his fellows to sign it; but, supposing that he got every individual member of his class to sign, it would not in the slightest degree influence his opinion. What did it amount to? There were only about 10,000 or 12,000 names to the memorial, and they could not be said to express in the slightest degree the feelings or opinions of the people of Ireland. What were they, numerically considered, among the 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of Irish people? Not a bit of it. It might be an expression of the feelings of the higher classes, but that was all. The very fact that the signatures of 1,200 priests were affixed to the memorial showed who were at the bottom of the movement. He could quite understand that the clergy of Ireland wished to keep excessive order, and to endeavour to retain 289 the people who frequented public-houses in their churches and chapels; but he hoped that the Government would not compulsorily help them in their efforts. In conclusion, he would ask them not to indulge in the fancy that people could be made sober by Act of Parliament. What he wished to impress upon the House was that he, for one, would never, under any circumstances, consent to such a Bill as this. It was said, on the one hand, that they ought to have equal laws for England and Ireland; yet in the same breath they were told it was necessary to pass this Bill, which was simply an attempt at class legislation. Under all the circumstances, he could only say, if there was a division, he, at all events, would go to the Lobby against the Bill, and in Committee he should offer it his most strenuous opposition.
§ MAJOR O'BEIRNE
said, he had found from impartial observation and inquiry that there was a considerable amount of indifference in Ireland upon the question whether the public-houses should be closed or not. In his own county, however, about two-thirds voluntarily closed their houses already. He saw that The Freeman's Journal, which was generally accepted as the exponent of public opinion in Ireland, was in favour of the measure; and, if public opinion was strongly against it, there would surely have been a series of letters admitted into the columns of that paper protesting against the Bill. It might be said that this was class legislation; but he desired to point out that when the upper class did get drunk it did not become so serious a question for the public as when the poor man did so; as, in the latter case, the family almost invariably had to be supported by the public. He would feel it his duty to support the Bill.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
rejoiced that, owing to the manner in which the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) had brought forward the measure, the discussion could be continued without that heat which generally accompanied it. The hon. Member said this was a question into which no theological controversy ought to enter, and he expressed himself favourable to the opening of museums on Sundays. He would like to read a paper which he had found in the Library of the House, and which had a strong bearing on the hon. Mem- 290 ber's views and feelings. On the back of the Sunday Closing Bill he found the names of the O'Conor Don, Mr. Richard Smyth, Mr. Charles Lewis, Mr. James Corry, Mr. William Johnston, Mr. Dease, Mr. Dickson, and Mr. Rodmond. When the question of opening museums was discussed in that House on the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A, Taylor), he found the O'Conor Don was absent from the division; Mr. Richard Smyth voted against it; Mr. Charles Lewis voted against it; Mr. James Corry voted against it; Mr. William Johnston voted against it; Mr. Dease was absent; Mr. Dickson was also absent; and Mr. Redmond was absent. With these facts before him, he was, he thought, justified in questioning the assertion that the Sabbatarian question was not involved in this Bill. He had been also led to examine the names which figured in the memorial which was alleged to represent the feelings of the people of Ireland on this subject. There were in Ireland 182 Peers, and of that number only 12 had signed this memorial, and as landlords there were no men in the country more interested in the sobriety and good order of the people, which were said to be the objects of the measure before the House. If it was their opinion that it would secure those objects would they not of all signed the memorial in favour of it? The fact, however, remained that only 12 of those 182 men of influence had thought well to do so. Again, on the magisterial roll in Ireland there wore 4,000 justices of the peace, gentlemen who in their magisterial capacity had acquired an intimate knowledge of the wants and the feelings of the people, and who had to deal with whatever offence might arise in the country out of intemperance, and of those only 1,434 could be induced by the strenuous exertions of the advocates of the Bill to sign the memorial in its favour. Again, who could be bettor judges of the habits of the people than the medical practitioners? And of the 2,573 medical men practising in Ireland not one-half had signed this memorial, whether on social, sanitary, or religious grounds. As regarded Poor Law Guardians and town councillors he had not any figures which would enable him to institute a comparison, inasmuch as many of those who signed as magistrates had their names appended to it as Poor Law 291 Guardians also. It was just the same as regards the town councillors. In fact, the promoters of the Bill had not scrupled to make exaggerated statements which misled a large number of the clergy. As regarded the clergy of Ireland, irrespective of what might be their denomination, no one entertained a higher opinion than he did, both because of the zeal with which they performed their sacred functions, and of their sympathy for the people in their privations, their sufferings, and their wants. And, speaking of the Roman Catholic clergy of Dublin, he could most emphatically state that they were not in favour of this Bill. He had spoken to many of them on the subject, and while they stated how desirous they were to repress intemperance, they added that they feared the effect of the Bill would increase it, as it would drive the people who desired refreshment into the unlicensed houses in order to obtain it, and lead to a general system of law-breaking, so that evil would greatly preponderate over any little good which might be obtained from it. No man had a better knowledge of the habits and feelings of the working men of the City of Dublin, which he had the honour to represent, and that knowledge entitled him to say that this Bill, if passed into law, would give rise to great dissatisfaction and demoralization. He had that day presented 99 Petitions against the Bill signed by 67,000 of these working men. He therefore felt justified in saying that the opinion of those 67,000 people, whose convenience was sought to be interfered with by the Bill, not only counterpoised but far outweighed the opinion of those whose ease and comforts were not assailed by the measure, and who were in no way practically interested in it except by mistaken sympathy and kindly interest. He complained that the supporters of the Bill had by the course they had that day taken stolen a march upon its opponents; but he hoped that before they were asked to go into Committee upon it sufficient time would be given to understand the public opinion of the country, which was now in a condition to inform the House that the Bill was not in accordance with the views and feelings of the Irish people, or conducive to their best interests.
§ MR.CHARLES LEWIS
said, that as the second reading of the Bill would be 292 taken without a division, he should occupy the time of the House for only a few minutes. The opponents of the measure stated that the opinions of the clergy who were in favour of the Bill were not a test that the people wished it to be passed into law; but he contended that the 10,000 persons, representatives of all classes in Ireland, who had signed the memorial showed what the public opinion of that country was. If those persons did not represent that opinion, where were they to find it? Was it to be found at public meetings? Why, within the last three months, nearly 70 meetings, perfectly free and open, and called at a time when the people could attend them, had been held on the subject in different parts of the country, and at all of them resolutions had been passed in favour of the Bill. He contrasted those meetings with the ticket meetings held in Dublin and at Cork, and that, too, at hours when the working people could not attend them. A meeting convened in Limerick in opposition to the Bill had actually passed a resolution in its favour. It was said that before passing the measure we ought to wait for a General Election. But if we were to wait for a General Election in order to test public opinion on every important measure, very few measures of any importance would be passed at all. What had those constituencies said who had had an opportunity of expressing an opinion? What had been the result of the elections in Waterford, Tipperary, and Cork? Supporters of the Bill had been returned in every instance; and in Clare, where a gentleman from the other side of the world had been elected, his friends had to give a pledge that he would vote for the Bill. Then there was the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell), who, whatever else he might do, would hardly be found voting against the measure Thus there were Petitions, elections, public meetings, house-to-house canvass, all expressing the opinion of the Irish people on this subject, and yet some hon. Members said that this was no test. These, however, were the usual Constitutional means of ascertaining what public opinion was, and if they were to be set aside what other modes of learning it could they resort to? He had himself attended meetings at Lisburn and Enniskillen which were attended by 293 large numbers of the people, and at both, resolutions were unanimously adopted in favour of the Bill. He did not see any inconsistency in voting against the opening of museums on Sunday and his advocacy of this Bill. The Bill could not pass for two or three months, and he challenged its opponents to protract their agitation, when they would find that the people were against them. It was not an aristocratic movement, as it had been said, in favour of the Bill, but a working-class movement. He asked the Legislature to alter the present state of things in Ireland by removing temptation from the people, and pass an Act that would effect a great social benefit.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he did not intend to oppose the second reading, because there, was a general consensus of opinion that some legislation was necessary. He was willing to believe that Sunday closing advocates meant well—that they had the well-being of the people of Ireland at heart; still he must express his opinion to be that they were mistaken as to the feelings of the great majority of the people of Ireland on this subject. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) had asked the House how it was to ascertain the state of public feeling if they did not accept Petitions and the resolutions adopted at public meetings as tests of it? His answer to that question was that their own common sense and a moderate study of the Irish character ought to be sufficient to convince them that the Irish people were not likely to come as suppliants to the House of Commons, asking it to place them in rostraint and protect them from them-solves. He wished now to observe upon the discordant opinions entertained by the promoters of this Bill. In one voice they asked the House to extend to the Irish people certain political privileges, and the very next moment they told the House that those very men whom they proposed to entrust with an extension of the electeral and municipal franchise wore incapable of putting any restraint upon themselves, and that, too, in a matter which concerned their own interests. He saw in the Bill a certain amount of intolerance, and he was afraid that a remnant of that intolerance would control its supporters when they came to consider it in Committee. He hoped, however, that they would meet himself 294 and his Friends half-way when the Bill was in Committee, so as to make it a good Bill and one that would satisfy the people. It was a great mistake to propose to exclude five large towns in Ireland from the operation of the measure. If the promoters of this Bill persevered in their intention they would do a great amount of mischief, occupy needlessly the time of the House, and, with all, their efforts would fail, because there would be a persistent attempt on the part of those who opposed their views to prevent their carrying out their special objects. There were a great many small towns in Ireland—such as seaport towns, large fishing stations, and other places of that description—the inhabitants of which would feel it a great hardship and inconvenience to be subjected to the operations of this Bill. He could not understand why, if these exemptions were good, and would operate beneficially in the larger towns, the advocates of the Bill or the Government should commit themselves to such a limitation, which, in his conscience, he believed would be most dangerous and improper. There were many urban districts in Ireland that might suffer many hardships by a limitation of that kind. Before sitting down he would make an appeal to the Government. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had shown so much impartiality, and had given the subject such an amount of patient attention and consideration for the purpose of fully ascertaining what was the real opinion of the people of Ireland on this subject, that he would entreat of him not to be too yielding to the advocates of the measure, but to meet them, at the same time, in a spirit of conciliation. He begged of the right hon. Gentleman to consider patiently the circumstances of the various other districts of Ireland which were likely to be materially affected by the operations of this Bill. If he would listen to the advice that might be tendered regarding those districts, he would find that many of thorn would be seriously injured if they were included in the scope of the Bill. He hoped those who advocated the measure would continue in the moderate and temperate line of policy which they had adopted that evening; and lie believed he was justified in saying that those who opposed the Bill would hold out to them the right hand of 295 friendship and be willing to meet them half-way.
§ DR. WARD
said, that as far as he could make out, the principal objections to this measure were the ill effects it would have upon the people; but, as the Representative of a town in which the system of Sunday closing had been tried for some time, he thought he could offer valuable evidence in the opposite direction. Nearly three years ago the publicans of Galway, acting on the representations of persons interested in the Sunday closing movement, decided upon closing their houses on Sundays. Last year he presented to that House a Petition signed by four-fifths of the publicans of Galway, who, having kept their houses closed on Sundays for two years, asked the House to keep them closed. That, he thought, was a very good proof of the feeling on the matter. The working men had made no complaint of the closing, and within the last three months held a large meeting, at which he was present, and they unanimously passed resolutions in favour of the Bill. They were told that if they closed public-houses the people would resort to shebeens, and that drunkenness would increase; but he believed the Chief Secretary had in his possession a Report from the resident magistrate at Galway, that since this custom had been adopted in Galway, the number of people brought up for drunkenness at the potty sessions on Mondays had decreased enormously. no thought that evidence such as that completely disposed of the objections to the Bill, and was of far greater value than the theoretical objections urged on the other side.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he thought he should not properly discharge his duty if he did not oppose this Bill at every stage. He was satisfied that the majority of the people of the South of Ireland were opposed to Sunday closing. At the same time, he would not vote against the second reading of the measure, as he was anxious to see what Amendments Her Majesty's Government intended to suggest. He admitted that many of the Irish Representatives were in favour of Sunday closing; but the reason was that the influence of the wealthier classes had been brought to bear upon them. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) had said that any evi- 296 dence the opponents of the Bill wished to bring before the Committee was received; but that was not the fact, for the working classes were denied the opportunity of giving evidence. The hon. Member had referred to the first meeting on the subject held in Limerick; but he forgot to toll the House that the mayor refused to hold the meeting in the evening and fixed 12 o'clock in the day, when he knew the working classes would not be able to attend. A second meeting was called, and was held at 7 o'clock in the evening. It was largely attended by the working classes and the tradesmen, and at that meeting a resolution against the Bill was carried unanimously. The hon. Member, who had forgotten that, had also told them that there were several meetings held in the South of Ireland in favour of the Bill; but he (Mr. O'Sullivan) challenged him or any of the supporters of the Bill to show where in the South of Ireland a unanimous meeting was hold in its favour. It was a fact that, in addition to the largo public meetings held in Dublin, Limerick, and Belfast, there were also public meetings held against the Bill in Killarney, Tralee, Newcastle West, and other places, at which resolutions were unanimouly passed against the Bill. The hon. Member for Roscommon had spoken about the number of Irish Members who were in favour of the Bill. There was a large number in favour of it; but influence had been brought to bear upon them by the wealthy classes, and they had not the ear of the working classes and tradesmen who would be affected by the Bill. He denied the hon. Member's statement that tickets for the Dublin meeting were only to be had at public-houses. He believed that none of them were so obtained. Out of the 70 meetings held in Ireland in favour of the Bill 60 must have taken place in the Sabbatarian part of Ireland, and its supporters had in one case defeated their opponents by burning cayenne pepper in the room where a meeting was held. It was well-known that the Sabbatarians were the backbone of this Bill. Adverting to the adoption of the Forbes Mackenzie Act in Scotland, the hon. Gentleman pointed out that in a country where the people professed neither to drink nor to whistle on the Sunday drunkenness had been more steadily on the increase 297 than in any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions. With regard to the Committee which sat last year, some of the hon. Gentlemen composing it expressed surprise that the people were not satisfied with its constitution. How could they be satisfied when it was found that out of the 18 Members who composed it the Sabbatarians from the North of Ireland had more than one-third of that number? It included the hon. and gallant Member for Fermanagh (Colonel Cole), the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. W. Johnston), and the noble Lord the Member for Donegal (the Marquess of Hamilton); and Londonderry, the hotbed of this agitation, was not satisfied with her city Member, but wanted both the Members for the county of Londonderry, or just as many as there were for all Munster. How, therefore, could the people of Ireland be satisfied with that Committee? He found by a Return presented to that House last Session that drunkenness was alarmingly on the increase in Scotland. The number of persons apprehended for drunkenness in Edinburgh had increased from 5,106 in 1870 to 6,825 in 1873. One of his chief reasons for opposing this Bill was that he believed it would tend to demoralize th working classes of his country. It would drive the people to she been-houses, or they would carry drink homo with them, and they would be obliged to do by stealth that which they could not do openly. Great stress had been laid upon the number of Members in favour of the Bill. He found that the total number of electors in Ireland was 227,000. There wore 22 Members opposed to the Bill, representing 67,800 electors, or nearly one-third of the whole. Taking one-third more as neutral on this question, it would then be found that the 75 Members who were in favour of the Bill did not represent more than one-third of the whole electors of Ireland. But this was not so much a question for the electors as for the non-electors. He would read a few remarks of a gentleman who was formerly a Member of that House, and which wore written to him after the debate on this Bill last year. Mr. Stephen De Vere said—I have read with much pleasure your speech in the House of Commons on the Sunday Closing Bill. I felt the more interested in it as the statistics you quoted show the working of the pro- 298 posed law in my own county. Upon entering the Board-room of a largo Union lately, I found the Board about to adopt the Petition in favour of Mr. Smyth's Bill unanimously. I opposed it, using almost verbatim the reasons you have so well put forward, and the result was that the Petition was immediately rejected.A short time ago he was in the Boardroom at Kilmallock Union, when a Petition was brought forward by a gentleman who strongly advocated Sunday closing. Out of 60 members only four wore present, and as he happened to be one of them, and as there was another gentleman who opposed the measure, the gentle-man who advocated Sunday closing proposed the question should be adjourned for a fortnight, as it was no use to vote two and two; but at that moment another Guardian who was in favour of the Petition came in, and the subject was immediately brought forward and carried by a majority of one. In his letter Mr. De Vere wont on to say—The statistics to show a preponderance of opinion in favour of the Bill are incomplete and illusory. The Petitions arc no doubt signed by those who have cellars and cupboards of their own, but they do not express the feelings of the great mass who will be effected by the Bill. As a magistrate of very long standing—nearly since the commencement of the reign—I can safely say that there is not, in my opinion, more drunkenness on Sundays than on any other day. The measure is false in principle, because it proposes to abridge liberty without adequate cause, and because it proposes to abridge the liberty of the many to prevent its abuse by the few. It is fallacious, because it will not only increase drinking, but will make that drinking of a worse sort—will transfer it from licensed to unlicensed houses, and from the bar to the family. It has the two worst faults that any social enactment can labour under—it is tyrannical, and it is ineffectual.That was the opinion of a gentleman who sat in that House as Member for the county of Limerick for nearly 20 years, and they could not have stronger evidence against the Bill. He believed that if the whole of Ireland was polled, at least two-thirds would be against the principle of the measure.
§ MR. MELDON
said, he had no desire to protract the discussion on this stage of the Bill, when its principle appeared on all hands to be approved and confirmed; but he wished to correct certain statements which had been put forward by the hon. Member for Dublin City (Mr. Brooks), and the Representative of Limerick County (Mr. O'Sullivan). The great bulk of the Roman Catholic priests 299 of Ireland were in favour of the Bill. During his constant intercourse with, that body he had never met but one Catholic clergyman who was opposed to the principle of the measure. The Catholic Archbishop and the Vicar-General strongly approved of the Bill in all its details, and not a single clergyman had signed a Petition against its becoming law. Out of 2,500 parochial clergy, 1,224 signed the memorial, without including those who had affixed their signatures to Potitions in favour of the Bill. This simple statement of facts repudiated the insinuation that the Catholic clergy of Dublin wore opposed to the passing of this measure. Then with reference to the meeting of the working men in Dublin about which they had heard so much as a strong demonstration against the closing of public-houses on Sunday, it was within his own knowledge that that meeting had been called by the publicans, and was organized by the publicans, and was organized by the secretary of the Dublin Licensed Vintners. There could not be a greater slander than to assort that the working classes of Ireland were opposed to this Bill. Every tittle of evidence that he had seen showed that they strongly supported it. Out of the 26 Roman Catholic Bishops in Ireland, no less than 21 of them had come forward to sustain the movement, which had been originated in Cashel, where from the time that it was started nothing but good results had accrued. The question of closing public-houses in certain towns was not at present raised by the principle of the Bill. Whatever arguments could be raised on that point would be willingly listened to at the proper time by the supporters of the Bill, as they would endeavour to meet the wishes of the majority of the Irish people whether there should be total or partial closing in those particular localities. It was stated last Session by those who opposed the Bill that if time wore given for the full consideration and discussion of its provisions a re-action would set in against the proposal, but none such had taken place. Out of the seven elections which had recently taken place the Sunday closing movement had been made a test-question, and at six of them the successful candidate had declared himself in favour of the principle of the Bill they were then asked to read a second time. 300 The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had not given any pledge; but it would astonish him much if he recorded his vote with the opponents of the measure.
§ MR. M'CARTHY DOWNING
considered that on both sides of this question there had been great exaggeration of opinion and argument. The Chief Secretary for Ireland had expressed himself in favour of the Bill if five large towns which he named were exempted from its operation. Now, he (Mr. Downing) considered that if the Bill were at all necessary, it should be applied to largo as well as small towns; because, if they exempted largo and populous cities, they would exempt those particular localities were drunkenness most prevailed and crime existed; and if they applied the Bill to rural districts, they would apply it to places where the evidence showed it was not so necessary. For his own part he should like to see legislation on this subject of a tentative character. Let them begin by trying how the plan would work of having the houses open from 2 to 4 or 5 o'clock, and diminishing the hours of liquor traffic on Sunday afternoons. It was a fallacy to say that drunkenness prevailed in Ireland on Sundays. The evidence taken by the Committee last year showed that, so far from its having increased, it had decreased. The number of convictions had increased since 1874, be-cause by the Act passed in that year a record would be made of a case of drunkenness unattended with violence or disorder, which before would have been dismissed by the magistrate before whom the party was brought. If the right hon. Gentleman wanted to pass a Bill that would be acceptable to the Irish people, he must limit the hours of drinking on Sunday to two, and also shorten the hours on Saturday night.
§ MR. REDMOND
thought that the cause could not be a very sound one which had to resort to the argument that the Bill ought to be rejected because the Members whose names were on its back were Sabbatarians. He had no doubt they were all of them in that House more or less Sabbatarian; but no doubt the name was given to persons who believed it to be wrong to indulge in any recreation or employment on the Sunday. For himself, he had always disclaimed such a belief, and at every meeting on 301 the subject lie had attended he had invariably urged that rational opportunities of recreation should be provided for the people on Sunday. He fully intended voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), but was accidentally absent when it came on. He thought the present position of the question had been fairly described by the hon. Member who had given Notice of an Amendment (Mr. Onslow) who said that it would cause a great deal of clamour in Ireland, which might be extended to England. Whether it would be extended to England or not he did not know; but he protested against that consideration having any weight in relation to Ireland itself. The change of opinion in Ireland they had been taught to look forward to had not been pronounced. He expressed himself very much surprised at the argument of the hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Shaw) that the Catholic clergy of Ireland, who supported the Bill, were bad judges of the wants of the people. No Irish Member would join in that opinion, and the truth was that no men could be better judges. He hoped the Bill would be allowed to pass its second reading, and that all objections to it would be considered in Committee.
said, he had received a communication from the president of trades in Limerick stating that resolutions had been passed against the Bill.
remarked that the president referred to was a publican. The clergy of Ireland were undoubtedly in favour of Sunday closing.
§ MAJOR O'GORMAN
said, he desired, with the permission of the House, before he said the few words he had risen to give utterance to, to make a personal explanation. It had been reported to him by several Members of that House that a great deal of offence had been taken by hon. Members in consequence of words he made use of at a recent meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Wat or ford Union. He must say that those words had been tolerably correctly reported, and he deeply regretted having made use of them. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman and that House that those words were made use of under the greatest possible provocation; but he did not bring forward that provocation as a palliation of the 302 words themselves. He most unreservedly begged to apologize to every Member of the House, and to every Englishman whoso susceptibilities he might have wounded, and to throw himself on their good will. He bogged that the House would receive that apology. With respect to the question before the House, he had a few words to say. He had for four years resisted this Bill, and he appeared there to resist it again that night. He had simply to say that if the Bill passed there could be no doubt whatever that three great mischiefs would be established in Ireland, and he warned the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland with regard to them. The right hon. Gentleman had already ox-pressed himself as favourable to the settlement of the question at this time, He (Major O'Gorman) thought the time was not ripe for its settlement; and if it was settled now in favour of the Sunday closers, he warned the right hon. Gentleman that it would be the ruin of families from one end of Ireland to the other; it would be the parent of illicit distillation, and of very many riots throughout the country, He thanked the House extremely for hearing him.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill road a second time, and committed for Wednesday.