HC Deb 25 May 1880 vol 252 cc436-47

in moving that the House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday, said: I had hoped I should have been spared the task of inflicting a speech upon the House on this occasion, and I believed that if I did what is wise I should immediately sit down, after briefly recommending hon. Members opposite to go into the Library and read in Hansard the sentiments I have so often expressed upon this subject. Such a course, if generally adopted, would certainly curtail the never-ending flow of words and the reiteration of ideas for which this Assembly has become so famous. The world looks upon this House, not as a great working machine, but as a talking apparatus; and one of the principal reasons why the world looks upon us in this light is because hon. Members persist in bringing forward Motions which they know they have no chance of carrying, which contain no great principle, and which nobody has ever asked for. I must accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) with being a great introducer of new ideas. I am afraid that all the chimerical notions of the day have found a resting place in the brain of the hon. Baronet. It is probably his good nature and charitable spirit that makes him patronize so many forlorn hopes. I know of nothing so detrimental to the interests of a deliberative Assembly as small heads filled with, crotchety ideas. The hon. Member for Carlisle and those who act with him are all theorists, one of the most dangerous classes of men in society. He is a patron of the Permissive Bill, he is an advocate of Sunday closing, and he is quite welcome to throw into his cauldron of impossibilities the abolition of the Derby Day. What I object to in the conduct of my hon. Friend is that he has no experience of the subjects upon which he undertakes to legislate. He talks about the liquor question, yet he never drinks; he talks about the racing question, yet he never races; and he always appears to forget that one pound of experience is worth a ton of theory. The adjournment of the House for the Derby Day has become a Parliamentary institution. On the last occasion, when the question of adjourning on that day was mooted, the supporters of the Motion for adjournment won in the commonest of canters, and this year they will win in a walk. A great many things have happened since the last Derby. I believe I am the only Member who in this Assembly ventured to predict the probable result of the last Election; but I was laughed at as a man generally is who tells the truth. However, the Liberals have returned to the promised land, and I am sure that they are anxious—or they ought to be anxious—to celebrate their victories upon what I must call the classic ground of Epsom. All parties in this House require an occasional holiday, and most of all Her Majesty's late Ministers. They who by day and night did battle fierce and long with Whigs and Radicals, with Home Rulers and Obstructives—surely a day of rest and recreation is only due to those poor mortals whose race is run. So also, Sir, with Her Majesty's present Advisers, for although they have had six long, tedious years of rest—or rather, I should perhaps say, of unremunerative labour—they may fairly claim by anticipation a day's recreation, for, like a young bear, they have all their troubles before them. The air of Epsom may brace them for their perilous journey. Again, the officers of the House require the day to invigorate them; and I refuse to believe that the hon. Baronet opposite is serious in his opposition to this Motion. I do not think that his generous mind would consent to inter- fere with the innocent enjoyment of so many of his fellow-Members. If he was really serious he would not confine his opposition within the walls of this Assembly. He does not do so with his pet baby, the Permissive Bill, but stumps the country with it, trying to make it assume more manly features, although it was sometimes massacred with the Innocents—a system of baby-farming which must be regarded as most detrimental to the interests of the Empire. His great argument has always been—"Let those who will go to the Derby go, and let those who do not remain here and legislate." I am afraid the hon. Baronet would not get the requisite number of 40 to form a House, and even if he did it would be a very dangerous and unconstitutional proceeding. We must remember that he is a violent Radical; all Radicals are violent, except, of course, when they sit upon the Treasury Bench. I much fear, therefore, that if the hon. Baronet had his way those who went to Epsom would on their return find the Constitution altered, the Permissive Bill passed, and the "incarcerated Baronet" liberated. Now, Sir, the hon. Baronet is super-excellent, but he is very inconsistent. He has voted to give bank clerks a holiday, yet he refuses to-day to give the clerks and the hard-worked officials of this establishment a holiday. Of course, we shall hear a great deal about scoundrelism, ruffianism, and every other ism which may suggest itself to the fertile imagination of my hon. Friend. I have often wondered where he ever met all this dreadful amount of rascality. It could not possibly be on a racecourse, for he will not admit that he ever was there; and I can only hope that it was not at any of those political meetings that he is so fond of addressing. It cannot be denied that fortunes are made and lost upon horseflesh; but there are also fortunes lost and made upon elections. The last time this question came before us it was a very unlucky occasion for sporting Members. The hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) very generously gave us a "tip"—I do not know whether the hon. Baronet knows what a "tip" is. We all went off and backed the opinion of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire instead of our own, and the selection of the hon. Gentleman was nowhere. I wish to benefit by his experience, but I cannot refuse to give a tip upon this occasion, particularly as I know the hon. Baronet will take no exception to it; and I will tell him this—the Devil will have it all his own way to-morrow. He is a very warm favourite; there are only six to one against him, and I advise the hon. Baronet to have him upon his side. I see around me the faces of many who had not the misfortune to sit in the last Parliament, and I should like very much to address a few words to them. To the Members of the third Party in the House I would recommend very strongly that they should follow me into the Lobby to-day, because it will be about the only occasion they have had this Session of being in the majority. The most unlucky vote that you ever gave will be one against me to-night. Out of the 95 men who voted against me upon the last occasion 33 have lost their seats. Where, I would ask, is now the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Assheton), who was foremost in the van, and opposed me in a speech of great pomposity, worthy of a more serious cause? He was a Conservative of Conservatives; yet he met with a well-deserved fate, and an enlightened constituency has punished him for his anti-Derby proclivities. I should like to know where is the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Blake)—he who was so eloquent in his denunciations? He was a Liberal of Liberals; yet he, too, is gone. He declared that he saw only one road which led to the Derby, and that was the road to ruin. If the successors of those two hon. Gentlemen are listening to me I sincerely hope they will read the moral of the tale. Now, any speculation or any occupation in life may ruin a man if that man is fool enough not to take care of his money. Many a man has been ruined by the expenses of a contested election. I admit freely and frankly that the Derby is not the great fashionable race it used to be some years ago; but it is what is more important—it is essentially the people's race, and it is now approaching what I may call its glorious anniversary. It was founded in 1780, and I refuse to believe that Englishmen will object to celebrate that event in a becoming manner. The hon. Baronet objects to be seen upon a racecourse. Well, I think that objection comes very badly from the late master of the Cumberland Foxhounds. But I have seen my hon. Friend in far more objectionable places—I do not wish to tell the House. [Cries of "Name !"] I have seen the hon. Baronet everywhere. I have seen him in shop windows; I have seen him on temperance banners that were carried by very unsteady hands indeed; and where I last saw him, and where he certainly looks best, is smiling in wax at Madame Tussaud's. At the same time, it is only fair to my hon. Friend to say that he was not in the Chamber of Horrors. I do not object to the hon. Baronet amusing himself in Baker Street if he chooses to enjoy himself there; I have no wish to interfere with his amusement, as it appears he wishes to interfere with mine. But there are a group of Motions which are branches from the same root. We have Sunday Closing, the Permissive Bill, the Abolition of Suburban Races, and this question to-day. They all spring from the melancholy Sabbatarian spirit that endeavours to overshadow the rational and the national enjoyments of the people. Show me a strait-laced people and I will show you an effeminate and degenerate race. I do not believe in those saintly reformers who go about the world moaning and groaning over the sins of others. Why, Sir, we are no worse than our ancestors; on the contrary, I think we are a little better. These bucolic reformers always remind me of one of the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, who was a Director of the Glasgow Bank, and who declared that he never read the paper on Monday because it was printed on Sunday. The doctrines of effeminitism, the doctrines of what I might call Miss Mollyism, and what, if it were a Parliamentary term, I would call washer womanism, are unworthy of our consideration. The whole world would gape and stare if the noble Lord the late Leader of the Opposition was sitting at Westminster while the greatest race in the world was being run. In our great social and political arrangements we ought to preserve the love of an ancient and manly pastime. The history of horse-racing carries a man back to the early days of our civilization. Our ancestors believed that rational amusements were indispensable for the building up of a nation, and the greatest barrier against degeneracy. Look back over the history of horse-racing and scan the list of animals with which you have challenged and beaten the world, and tell us by your vote to-night that you are proud of the position to which you have raised horse-racing, and that you believe it to be, in the language of one of your Sovereigns, "the manly and noble sport of a free people."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at its rising, do adjourn till Thursday next,"—(Mr. Richard Power.)


I am very sorry to hear from my hon. Friend that so many supporters of my Motion last year have lost their seats. I am still here; and I believe it will be found, if electioneering records were searched, that it was not on account of their opposition to the Derby that my supporters were slain. I will not follow my hon. Friend's speech, because it was hardly to the point, and although good-humoured, it does not prove any reason that this House should adjourn for the Derby. There are, I am glad to see, many new Members in this House, and I am sure we all desire to maintain the credit and dignity of this House. I ask, is it for the honour, and the credit, and the dignity of this national Assembly that we should adjourn in honour of a horse race? I have tried to find out what are the arguments that have at different times been brought to the notice of the House to induce it to adjourn for the Derby, and I find they are these—First, that it gives a holiday; second, that it is a time-honoured custom; third, that racing is a noble and manly sport; and, fourth, that it is a national sport. Before I sit down, I hope I shall convince the House of the untruth of all these propositions. Why should we have a holiday? We are often told in pathetic tones, Mr. Speaker, that it is for your benefit that the Speaker and the officers of the House are most anxious to have a holiday on the Derby Day. If that were so, nobody would be more ready than I to provide for your amusement; but I do not think there is anything in this holiday argument. This new House of Commons has only sat eight days, and so far we have done nothing except to swear in ourselves, and try to prevent other people from swearing in. It is a new House of Commons, and I believe the new Members are only anxious to have some Business put before them. The hon. Member himself alluded to the four Bank holidays we already have. Let us have our holidays on a Bank holiday—some respectable day. I do not object to the House holding holiday when it wants one; I only object to its being held in honour of a horse race. Then, again, I deny that it is a time-honoured, custom. The race itself is only 100 years old, which is not very old; but the custom of adjourning for the Derby is not old at all. It was first of all moved by Lord George Bentinck, in 1847, when the race was 70 years old, and he was opposed by Mr. Hume, and, according to the report I have, by Mr. Bright, "in a very bitter speech." The third argument is that it is a noble and manly thing to go to the Derby. I see nothing noble or manly about it. What is there manly in going and sitting on a stand, in a cloud of dust, surrounded by a crowd of bawling blacklegs?—sitting there and watching 20 jockeys making 20 horses gallop as fast as they can? My hon. Friend says I know nothing about it, because I have never been to the Derby. Why, I have been there before he was born, and I know the sort of company I have met there, and the sort of company he will meet if he goes to-morrow. There is nothing noble or manly about horse-racing. It has not even the manliness there is in fighting. We know that in this Christian country one of the most noble and manly things is to kill somebody else or get killed yourself; but there is little chance of that at the Derby. In cricket we play ourselves, in boating we row ourselves, and in football we fight with one another. What is there manly in hiring these jockeys to win money for you? To call that noble is the greatest abuse of terms I ever heard. It is said this is a national sport, and that seems a great argument. Only use a long word that has no meaning, and anybody will be convinced. In one sense I admit that it is national. I admit that many thousands of all classes of people take the greatest interest in it. The newspapers, which write about things that will sell, are full of accounts of races, and jockeys, and trainers; and I quite admit that there are hundreds and thousands of people who take more interest in the state of the odds than in the state of Europe. It is popular with persons of all classes. I remember that the Lords' Committee on Intemperance, on which there were several Bishops and two Archbishops, were obliged to suspend their sittings during Good wood Week. But it is not a national institution in the sense which the hon. Member means, because there is a large proportion of the people who are opposed to it. Drinking is a national amusement just as much as gambling. It is the most popular national pastime we have. Yet, what would the House say if the hon. Member for Derby on this side (Mr. Bass), or the hon. Member for Middlesex on the other (Mr. Coope), were to propose that we should adjourn in order that we should have a special day for drinking—a mere drinking holiday, a special day! It would be every whit as rational that we should adjourn in honour of a great gambling day. But you say it is not gambling, it is sport. It is all nonsense. Do not tell me they run horses for sport. If all these noblemen and gentlemen ran for nothing but sport there would be no stakes and no added money. They would meet together in a park, and see which man's horses went fastest. The whole thing is money from beginning to end—an attempt on the part of persons to live by their wits—and I say the proposal is not worthy of this House. What did Lord Chesterfield say? He left an injunction in his will that if his son were to reside for one night in Newmarket—that infamous seminary of iniquity and ill-manners—he should forfeit £5,000 to the Dean of Westminster. I do not suppose that he was a Puritan, a theorist, a Radical, a Permissive Bill man, or any other of the things which the hon. Member has called me. Now, I ask the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), who I see is getting ready to anathemathize me, to give some facts to prove that racing is any better now than it was then, or that Epsom is any better than Newmarket. I say it is not; and I say that the whole system of racing is an organized system of rascality and roguery from beginning to end. I was grieved to hear my hon. Friend for one moment compare horse racing with fox hunting. He can know nothing about fox hunting, or he would not say that. Last year the House, by large majorities, passed a Bill to get rid of suburban races. Everybody voted for it except two hon. Members, one of them being my lamented Friend, Mr. Wheelhouse. I mention that, because the principal opponent of that Bill—Sir Charles Legard—said— He had attended most of the race-meetings within the vicinity of London, and he had never seen more disorderly conduct there than at the meetings held 200 or 300 miles away from the Metropolis. And I say it is not worthy of this House to legislate for the rough and to patronize the roué. ["Oh!"] Yes; you patronize the Derby only because lords and ladies and Peers and Members of Parliament go to it. You put down the races in the suburbs, to which the working men go; but you patronize the Derby, which is just as bad, because the swells go there. This House is pretty full of new Members; they know its history; and I believe they are as jealous of its honour as any of the old Members; and I ask them to follow me into the Lobby to help me in giving a final blow to a practice which is somewhat mischievous, altogether contemptible, and unworthy of the support of an intelligent House of Commons.


remarked, that as he had only just returned from the scene which the hon. Baronet was anxious to prevent the roués of the House from attending to-morrow, he had not heard all of his remarks; but he would say a few words in reply to that portion he did hear. The hon. Baronet asked whether the House would promote its dignity by adjourning for a horse race? Well, that depended upon what horse race it was. If this were a question of going to a suburban meeting, perhaps hon. Members would agree with his hon. Friend; but the Derby was a great national institution. His hon. Friend objected to what he called the holiday argument, and said there was no reason why Members should take a holiday to-morrow. He thought one good reason for taking a holiday to-morrow was afforded by the fact that there was no Business to be done in the House. If his hon. Friend wanted a better reason than that, he could supply him with another. His hon. Friend could not expect the whole House of Commons to be as good as he was himself; and whether the House were permitted to adjourn or not it was certain that a great many hon. Mem- bers would go to Epsom; and the result would be that whatever Business, if any, was transacted, would be transacted under the most disadvantageous circumstances in a very thin House, which by no means represented the opinions of the country. His hon. Friend ridiculed the idea that this was a time-honoured custom, and in support of his view cited an excessively bitter speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). For his own part, he did not remember that speech; but he did remember a spirited speech delivered by the present Prime Minister in support of the Derby. His hon. Friend opposite spoke of horse-racing as "nothing but an attempt to live by one's wits," and as "an organized system of rascality and roguery." The present Prime Minister, however, described it as a noble, national, and manly pastime, and he said that without any qualification whatever. He would, therefore, leave this point to be settled between the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend. He supposed it was a new instance of the re-union of the Liberal Party. His hon. Friend wound up his speech by denouncing horse racing as "an. organized system of rascality and roguery." The following information he had acquired on the course at Epsom to-day. He found it in The Licensed Victuallers' Gazette, and the article was signed by a gentleman who called himself "The Aristocratic Tout." A list was given of the probable starters for the Derby, as well as the owners' names. Out of 22 horses which were likely to start, more than half belonged to distinguished Members of the Liberal Party. His hon. Friend said that gentlemen in these days raced for no other purpose than to make money and to live by their wits. Now, he would remind his hon. Friend that the Duke of Westminster was going to start three horses—Bend Or, the first favourite; Muncaster, the second favourite; and a filly called Evasion. The Prime Minister was not the owner of a racehorse; and it was a lamentable fact that the stable of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India appeared to be in so deplorable a condition at the present time that his noble Friend could not find an animal good enough to run. Lord Rosebery, whom some people might re- gard as a greater person than the Prime Minister, whose return he was instrumental in securing, started two horses—Ercildoune and Pelleas. Another owner was Count Festetics, a distinguished Hungarian, whose sympathies were probably more or less Liberal at the present time, as he must have been enchanted with the Austrian letter of the Prime Minister. Prince Soltykoff was the owner of another horse, and as he was a Russian he was sure to command the sympathies of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Lord Falmouth was likewise the owner of a horse that would probably start. His hon. Friend spoke of these gentlemen, who were the pillars of the Turf at the present day, as persons whose only purpose was to make money and to live by their wits.


explained that he had said nothing about the gentlemen referred to. What he really said was that the only purpose of horse-racing was to make money.


observed, that his hon. Friend had also said that racing was an organized system of rascality and roguery. If his hon. Friend spoke thus of a pursuit in which men like Lord Falmouth were engaged, his language was such as ought not to be used in the House, and it was a cruel libel on their character. Among other pillars of the Turf he might mention Mr. Jardine, a Member of that House, and Mr. Vyner, a distinguished Liberal of Yorkshire and of the county to which he himself belonged. He believed he had advanced some reasons to show why hon. Members on the opposite side of the House might regard with leniency the proposal to adjourn over the Derby Day. By allowing hon. Members to go to Epsom they would be supporting the Leaders of their own Party; and although it was a moot point whether the Caucus or the Whig element contributed most to the success of the Liberals at the General Election, he thought they ought to show the Whigs their gratitude by going down to Epsom to-morrow.


remarked, that Her Majesty's Government did not as such take any part in this debate; and, therefore, he spoke only in his individual capacity. Whether the House adjourned or not was indeed to the Members of the Government a matter of indifference; because having only recently come into power they had a great deal to do, and if an adjournment were agreed to they would simply have to pass a certain number of hours in their Offices instead of in the House. In point of fact, however, there was no Business to be transacted in the House to-morrow. There was a Notice for Supply; but no Supply could possibly be taken. There was an Order for Ways and Means; but no Ways and Means were wanted. Nothing else was on the Paper. If the House met to-morrow the Speaker, the Clerks at the Table, and other officials of the House would come down at 12 o'clock. It was impossible to suppose that 40 Members would come down to do nothing; and, therefore, the result would be that the Speaker would have to remain in the House till 4 o'clock, after which hour only could attention be called to the fact that 40 Members were not present. It struck him that it would be better, instead of going through that form, and depriving the officers of the House of their holiday, to let them have it at once; they would gain, nobody would lose. Therefore, he should support the Motion.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 285: Noes 115: Majority 170.—(Div. List, No. 5.)