§ On the return of the Speaker after the usual interval,
§ MR. MASSEY-MAINWARING (Finsbury, Central)
rose to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the national museums and art galleries in London should be open for a limited number of hours on Sundays, after 2 p.m., upon condition that no officer shall be required to attend on more than six days per week, and that any who have conscientious objections shall be exempt from Sunday duty.After presenting petitions in support of the Resolution from Aldermen and 618 Common Councillors of the Corporation of London, the County Council, and a public meeting held at Queen's Hall on Monday night, he said the princpal obstacle he should have to contend with in this matter was a mysterious and yet actual feeling that the Resolution in some way might infringe the sanctity of the Sabbath. That was not his view. He had been told that the Church of this country was opposed to the Resolution, but he could not believe it. A committee appointed by the convocation of the Archepiscopal Diocese in which the Metropolis stood, and consisting of the Bishops of Exeter, St. Asaph, Rochester and Lichfield, the Deans of Rochester and Windsor, the Archdeacons of Buckingham, London, Kingston-on-Thames, and Birmingham, Canon Erskine Clarke, and the Rev. E. Carr Glynn, had unanimously decided that in no way would the opening of museums, art galleries, or public libraries on Sunday infringe upon the sanctity of the Sabbath which they all revered. He would make one or two quotations from the speeches of the Bishops upon the occasion when this subject came before them. The Bishop of Winchester, who was then Bishop of Rochester, said that it was stated by the opponents of the change—That the working classes did not really want it; that it would involve an immense increase of Sunday labour, and that it was the thin end of the wedge, and that we should soon have in England what was popularly known as a continental Sunday.To this the Bishop replied:—… "To me the evidence before us shows conclusively that the cause of religion has nothing really to fear from the reasonable and careful extension of the principle to which we have referred. Some of those who read the Report may think that its compilers have suppressed the evidence furnished to them by the clergy and others opposed to such Sunday Opening. On the contrary, we have endeavoured to make the most of it, and have anxiously wished for more, but we cannot obtain it. There must certainly be many who feel strongly on the subject, but they have neither replied to our circulars nor answered the appeal we made through the newspapers for the benefit of their help. I confess to have been greatly surprised by the overwhelming preponderance upon one side of the clerical opinion furnished to us. Scarcely any disapproval is expressed by anyone, and this notwithstanding our endeavours to elicit it wherever it exists. We do believe, my Lords, that the Church has 619 nothing to fear, or rather that the deposit entrusted to her keeping will be in no way harmed if more institutions than now should be opened for a time upon Sunday.Thus it was plain that this great leader of the Church did not fear the opening of our museums and art galleries on Sundays. Then the Bishop of Lichfield said:—He thought they ought to be glad to think that there were places of resort such as these for young people during their leisure hours on a Sunday. There was no portion of the community so difficult for the Church to deal with as their young people.The Bishop of Southwell thought the the time had come—When they ought to express the opinion that there was nothing unholy, unsacred, or unworthy, after going to Church, in paying a visit to these different places. His own impression was that these places being opened, in themselves would not be any discredit to the spirit of Sunday. On the contrary, to many people they would be a very distinct gain.The opening of museums on Sunday had not affected the religious tone of the towns where this change had already been introduced. Had Birmingham been affected for the worse by this opening of museums? Was there less religious fervour? Were there fewer Churchmen in that town than formerly? Was there any sign that out of the portals of the museums came any irreligious miasma or agnostic chill? If Birmingham could open its museums on Sundays without evil results, surely similar institutions could be opened in London. The people were anxious that the working classes should have the advantage of spending the Sabbath in a rational way. His Resolution was so worded that it could not possibly interfere with religious services on Sunday. His proposal was that museums should be opened from 2 to 6. Those who desired to attend service would thus have every opportunity of doing so. In old days there was very little in the way of amusement for the working classes on Sunday, but latterly there had been some progress in this matter. The parks were open, and music was played there on Sunday. In former times this would have been considered a heinous crime, but public opinion had undergone a change. One of the chief objections 620 urged against this opening of museums was that it would cause extra labour. As a matter of fact, the extra labour caused would be infinitesimal. The authorities stated that an increase of one-third in the staffs was all that would be required if the South Kensington Museum and similar institutions were kept open on Sundays. As things stood at present, a large number of policemen and other officials were employed in museums on Sundays, and surely they would prefer to have numbers of their fellow-countrymen enjoying themselves in their company than to find themselves perambulating empty halls, melancholy and miserable. Those who were in favour of this change were sometimes taunted on the ground that they were not in sympathy with Sunday. He claimed that his Resolution was coloured with every sympathy for Sunday. It could not be said to be in any sense founded on irreligion, or to be couched in terms likely to be harmful to the morality of this country. People could not be in church all day, and in the interval between services they ought to have opportunities of rational enjoyment. At present, what was there for the working classes to do, especially on a rainy day? Were they to walk in the streets in the pelting rain? Were they to remain indoors in their miserable homes, listening to the harmony of squalling children, or were they to go to a far worse place, the drinking-shop or public-house? Would it not be far better to place another alternative in their reach, by saying "Open sesame" to the portals of our museums? The upper classes, it should be remembered, had their museums and amusements at home, and they had their clubs to go to. The working men were part proprietors of the museums, as they were taxed to support them. Why, then, should they not have the opportunity of enjoying them? They had not the opportunity of enjoying them on week-days; why, then, should they not enjoy them on Sundays? The opportunities afforded by the weekday extension in the Amendment were no opportunities at all, because a working man when he returned home tired, weary and dirty did not care to wash and dress himself in his Sunday best and go to a public institution in the evening. It was 621 said that the working man was indifferent. He denied that this was so. He had received a petition from 109 trade unions of the metropolis, representing every imaginable trade carried on in London, and they all united in asking that reasonable concessions should be granted to them and that the museums should be open on Sunday. Advocates of Sunday opening were twitted with the fact that the opening of museums in the larger towns had not reclaimed drunkards. That was not the question. Those who might become drunkards would, if the museums were left unopened, likely be more to take to drink if they had not rational amusements to occupy them on the Sunday and to keep them from wandering through the streets into the public-houses. It was further said that the working classes did not take an interest in museums. The return of attendance at Bethnal Green Museum, in the centre of a working-class population, showed that 595,422 working men visited the museum last year, while the attendance at the more fashionable museum of South Kensington was less than half as much again. The museums on Bank Holidays were crowded by the working classes, not only of London but from a great distance. Kew and Hampton Court were also well attended, and when the great magnates of the country gave the working men an opportunity to visit museums and picture galleries the advantage was fully accepted. The attendance was large where the Duke of Westminster, the Duke of Sutherland, and the Duke of Wellington generously opened their houses on Sunday, so that their galleries might be seen by those who could not come any other day. But it was urged that the opening of museums would lead to the opening of theatres and workshops on Sunday. He denied this. There was no cry for the opening of theatres or workshops in any of the large towns in which museums had been opened. Even on the Continent workshops were being gradu- 622 ally closed on Sunday, while the museums remained open. It was said that the working men ought to walk in the parks on Sunday. No doubt a walk in the park was enjoyable in fine weather, but when the weather was bad the only alternative for these people on a Sunday was the public house, or a return to the misery of their homes. In the Colonies and in foreign countries museums were open on Sunday, and no evil result followed. Were the churches abroad less frequented? He did not think so. The churches in Paris were more crowded than our own, and more men attended them than was the case in London. The museum and Botanical Gardens in Dublin had been open for years on Sunday, and year after year the attendance mounted by leaps and bounds. The Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh had also shown a very large increase in the attendance on Sunday. If the movement was not a success then let the museums be closed. He believed, however, that the moment for opening museums on Sunday would be a vast success, and working men would thank the House for the opportunity afforded to them for rational amusement on that day. The question of expense would be covered by a sum of £2,000 to £3,000 a year. He knew there were thousands throughout the country who were anxiously waiting for the result of this Resolution, and he hoped that hon. Members would think twice before they voted against a Resolution which would confer untold benefits on thousands and thousands of people, and would in no way, he was certain, affect the religious atmosphere, which he was as anxious as any others should continue to be supreme in the Empire. He asked the House most seriously to take this question into consideration. He knew that great pressure was brought to bear from many quarters on hon. Members respecting this question. He knew that there were some who had a feeling that he was going to do something that would unsanctify the Holy 623 Day. He did not believe that for a moment. Why should it? When this question was brought before the House in days gone by, the clergy had not inquired into it. They had now had a Committee which had unanimously reported in favour of the proposition he made. The opinions of all kinds of great personages were quoted against the proposition. He had seen Mr. Gladstone quoted as being opposed to it; but when this question came before the House in 1891, it was a significant fact that before the Division took place Mr. Gladstone walked out of the House. That did not show that he was very seriously opposed to the opening of museums on Sunday, There were Members of the Government who were strongly in favour of it, and one in particular would, he believed, have spoken in favour of the Resolution had he not been laid up by serious illness. He would, however, quote a paragraph from a speech of the right hon. Gentleman because he thought it explained a good deal of the opposition. The right hon. Gentleman said:—I can find no other meaning in it than this—that if you are rich enough to become sole proprietors of books and gardens and pictures, may, if you are rich enough to hold a share in a company that has such possessions, the law will not be against you, public opinion will be with you, and a religions scandal will not be created. If you can buy a share in the Crystal Palace, or if you can subscribe a guinea to the Edgbaston Botanical Gardens, you can enjoy art and nature righteously; but if you are so poor that you can possess books and pictures and gardens in the only way in which the poor can hope to possess them, namely, in their corporate capacity, then such engagements become oppressive to the consciences of certain other men, many of whom, by their own confession, derive the utmost delight in doing in their own houses that which they strongly object to be done in the public libraries and art galleries of the town.That was an expression of opinion on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham, and it was of the highest importance. It went to the very root of the opposition to this scheme. People were not troubled by the thought of Sunday labour when their own comforts 624 were concerned; but when the advantage of other people was taken into consideration, then the Sabbatarian Pecksniffs cried out. In conclusion, he would urge the House to support his Resolution. In supporting it he felt certain they would give pleasure and enjoyment and religious and moral advancement to the people of this country. He begged to move the Resolution which stood in his name.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said he was very glad to have an opportunity of saying a few words in seconding the Resolution. He could not but think that they were very fortunate in the hon. Member who had moved it. He was well known as one of the most distinguished connoisseurs of art in the country. There were a large number of exhibits at the Bethnal Green Museum belonging to the hon. Member, and there were other museums to which he had contributed. He ventured to suggest that there was no principle that could be urged against the Motion. They had got Kew, Hampton Court, and other places in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis open, which entailed a railway journey and resort to refreshment houses; whereas the particular institutions dealt with in the Resolution were so conveniently situated that numbers of people could visit them without travelling or using refreshment houses. If there was no principle to be urged against the Resolution, so there were very few practical difficulties in the way of carrying it into effect. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the institutions affected should be open for only a short number of hours; but it would be a great advantage to have them open, if only for those few hours. He had lately received a telegram from a country town where a museum was opened for three hours on the Sunday, and he was informed that 3,000 people on the average attended it every Sunday. So far as the employment of labour went, the hon. Member had provided that no one who was un- 625 willing to work on Sunday should be asked to do so, and that no one should work more than six days in the week, and he hoped that the hon. Member would go the length of saying that they should not work more than 48 hours in the week. He ventured to put the matter on a somewhat broader ground. They did not object to Sunday labour, for the cook and the milkman had to work. What they ought to ask was, whether the labour undertaken was of a sufficiently important character to justify its being done. Who would question that the work necessary in this case would be as sanctified as any done anywhere on Sunday? He believed the existing staffs of the institutions affected were, speaking broadly, in favour of the Motion. It must, therefore, be agreed that there was no great practical difficulty in the way. What were the objections that were urged against the proposal? He believed that an Amendment was going to be moved which pointed attention to the fact that these institutions might be opened in the evening, and that that ought to satisfy anybody. He was talking to a working man only yesterday, who said he knew plenty of working men who had to carry 50 tons weight on their backs during the day and that, if they had to do that, they would be in no humour to go to a museum in the evening. The returns they had before them did not encourage them to hope that evening opening would be a sufficient substitute for opening on Sunday. He had heard a point put in this connection that evening opening did not enable poor people to take their families to museums. Many young people who might learn useful lessons from visiting museums ought to be in bed during the hours of evening opening. The toiling classes throughout the country had not so many opportunities for taking their children about with them that the House should deny the opportunity this Resolution would give them. A further objection urged by those 626 opposed to the Motion was that the ascertained wishes of the working classes were against the opening of the museums on Sunday. He was always suspicious of that kind of argument, and he thought the far better and more straightforward course to take was to ask themselves whether the thing desired was right, and if they believed it to be right to do it regardless of the wishes of any class. [Cheers.] It was an extraordinary thing to him that, in a matter which had reference to London alone, they should be threatened with an incursion of opposition from the lowlands of Scotland. [Laughter.] He would make this suggestion to the hon. Baronet the Member for Kirkcudbright, that if the question arose in his own constituency, and there was a desire on the part of the people to keep such local institutions closed on the Sunday, he would help him in seeing that their wishes were respected. In the same manner and in the same spirit he asked the hon. Baronet to assist the people of London on that occasion in getting the museums and art galleries of the Metropolis opened. [Hear, hear!"] Another objection brought forward was that after the experiment had been tried in a certain few places the institutions had been again closed. But there was no difficulty in that. There might have been a dozen reasons why those institutions were closed again. They might not have been very interesting or attractive institutions. But the institutions in London in regard to which they were now speaking, were among the most interesting and attractive in the world. ["Hear, hear!"] At the same time, he was quite ready to respect local feeling and wishes in this matter; the people of each locality should be their own judges as to whether their local institutions should be opened on the Sunday; and he claimed the same privilege for the people of London. ["Hear, hear!"] Those were perhaps small objections. A more important one was the suggestion that if the Motion was 627 assented to they would be militating against the safeguards of the Sunday. If he believed the Motion would have that effect he would not second it. Of all the institutions which were invaluable to the social life of the people generally, Sunday was the greatest, and on no occasion would it become the House to take any step that would tend to weaken the observance of the day. ["Hear, hear!"] He believed that the action proposed would really tend to a better, rather than a worse observance of the day. It should not be forgotten that there had been a great deal of progress in recent years in the direction of the spirit that prompted those who were moving in this matter—the brightening of the Sunday for the benefit of the people. There was a time when it was even deemed wrong to have instrumental music in churches and chapels; but recently a great deal had been done in connection with places of worship to attract and interest the population on Sunday afternoons. He might instance the efforts of the Society known all over London as the "P.S.A.," and he had heard that some churches in the City had resorted to magic-lantern entertainments for the same object. He hoped that hon. Members would not be influenced by the efforts of certain Sabbatarian Societies, which sent round circulars on the subject. In one circular so distributed—he believed it was issued by the Lord's Day Observance Society—attention was drawn to the effects of the opening of museums and similar institutions on the Continent on Sundays, and it was suggested that if a similar course was adopted in London an increase of murder, drunkenness, illegitimacy, and other evils would follow. [Laughter.] This was simply gross exaggeration, and nothing but harm was done by it. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members should judge the matter entirely on its merits. He believed the opening of the institutions in question would greatly strengthen respect for the observance of the Lord's Day in the minds of the people; and, 628 after all, he thought that in this matter they might take some notice of the opinion of the civilised world. There was no other country in which, with such splendid institutions as the Metropolis possessed, the people would be deprived from visiting them on Sundays. ["Hear, hear!"] The alternative to keeping them closed was to condemn thousands of people to the open streets, to go to the public-house, or to attend some skating rink or other inferior entertainment open to them. He would appeal to the Government on the matter. They held the keys of the institutions in their pockets, and it was only for them to express a benevolent wish that they might be opened on Sundays and great good would result from their action. He appealed, in fact, to Members of all parties and nationalities in the House—Scotchmen, Welshmen, and Irishmen, as well as to Englishmen. In the constituencies of many hon. Members the local museums were thrown open to the public on Sundays with avowedly good results, and he would ask them to respect the wishes of the people of London, and to express by their votes that their opinion on the subject was in consonance with that so well expressed by the Committee of Convocation, namely:—That the Committee was of opinion that the religion of Christ had nothing to fear from a reasonable and careful extension of Sunday opening.[Cheers.]
*SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright) moved as an Amendment to substitute the following for Mr. Massey-Mainwaring's Motion:—
That, in the opinion of the House, it is desirable that the national museums and art galleries in London should be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on at least three week-day evenings in each week, so far as the safety of the collections will permit; but that the opening of museums and art galleries on Sunday is neither necessary nor expedient, and is contrary to the ascertained wishes of those classes chiefly interested.
He remarked that he intended to put
the Amendment to the test of a division in order to take the opinion of the newly-elected House of Commons on the subject. He gave the Mover and Seconder of the Motion full credit for sincerity in stating that they did not believe the effect of opening the museums and art galleries in London would militate against the proper observance of the Sunday; but he entertained a very different opinion. He thought the Mover and Seconder had taken too narrow a view of the subject. They had taken rather a parochial kind of view of it, as if the adoption of the Motion would affect one place only; but he maintained that if the Motion was carried the action of the House would have a very far-reaching character. The sanction of the House of Commons to such a Resolution would have a marked significance. ["Hear, hear!"] It would not merely unlock the doors of a few institutions in London, but it would give an impetus generally to a movement which he, for one, did not think was calculated to work the good that was claimed for it. ["Hear, hear!"] He was satisfied that, if the Motion was carried, the vote would hereafter be regretted, and that the very class of persons who were to be benefited by it would be the first to complain. They could not cross the Channel without seeing the effects of the Continental Sunday. They would find that if they once moved in the direction proposed that night, if this question were solved in the way asked for by some hon. Members, the theatre, the Sunday concert and the racecourse would all be opened. The sanctity of the Sunday would be desecrated instead of that high veneration being felt for it which was the case at present. It might be said that what was proposed that night was only a very small matter, a mere nothing. But he ventured to suggest that they were boring a hole in a dam and that, when the water once began to pour out, they would find it very difficult to stop it. Who was at the bottom of this matter?
It was not his hon. Friend who moved the Resolution or the Seconder of the Resolution. It was the Sunday League, which did not respect or venerate the Sunday, and of which his hon. Friend said he was the champion. What those persons said who agreed with him on this side of the House was that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. Sunday was a day of rest and it was to be enjoyed as a rest for the working classes. He admitted that there were, as one hon. Gentleman had put it, squalling children and homes that were not always happy, but that was not the position enjoyed by the bulk of the working men in this country. He knew a great deal about the working classes, and he knew that there were as happy homes among them as among those, for instance, in his own social sphere. Lord Shaftesbury, than whom a better friend to the working classes never lived, said on one occasion:—
The Lord's day is one of the greatest boons ever given by God to man. It is absolutely necessary to enable him to bear the wear and tear of six days' work. In these times of progress and hurry it is only through the institution and observance of the Sabbath that the mass of the people can enter into the full enjoyment of that great and blessed gift of God to man—domestic happiness.
He maintained that the way he proposed to deal with this question by his Amendment would have as equally a good effect as the Resolution, and it would have this additional advantage, that it would not offend the susceptibilities of a single man either in the House or in the country. The proposal of the Resolution was not a mere matter of local option. The State was to direct, and he ventured to submit that the State had great responsibility in directing a question of this kind. He was quite satisfied that if the State directed badly it would not be supported either by the House or in the country. He was not going to argue this question from the religious point of view, though he felt very deeply on this subject and thought there was a much
greater principle involved in it than the hon. Gentleman who Seconded the Motion seemed to conceive possible. But he would ask was this a national necessity, a Government to compel men to work? If instead of opening the museums and galleries, as at present from 10 to 4 and then from 8 to 10 on three week day nights, they had them open from 10 to 10, they would bridge over a difficulty that now existed. He had been repeatedly told by the working classes and clerks in the middle walk of life, that when they came out of their workshops or offices at four, or five, or six o'clock, they would like to go into these museums. But they were closed at these particular hours according to the season of the year, and, as the majority of them lived in the suburbs they could not go home and then come back to visit them. If they allowed these museums, at a very trifling additional cost, to remain open continually from 8 to 10, then they would be able to gratify their desires. His Amendment, if agreed to, would obviate such a difficulty as he had alluded to. People did not visit these places at night. The British Museum, for instance, showed a steady decline of attendances at night from 15,000 in February to 2,000 in December. When he contrasted that with South Kensington and Bethnal Green he found that, where these institutions were opened from 6 o'clock to 10 at night on three week days in each week, the numbers in 1894 were 129,172 in South Kensington, and at Bethnal Green 267,322. That proved that his Amendment would do a great deal of good. Take the question of the Sunday opening of libraries. Since 1891, when they had a Debate on this question in the House, the libraries at Bristol, Bury, Cardiff, Leeds, Nottingham and Sunderland, mainly through the opposition of the working classes, had all been shut on Sundays. Of the 208 towns possessing museums, picture galleries and libraries, 176 did not open their buildings at all; 46 had consented
to be opened, and of these 14 had been shut up since, and of the 32 remaining the great majority reported decreasing or merely nominal attendances. It had been said that they were outraging the feelings of the working classes because they did not give them this Sunday opening, but such a statement was absurd when they had these examples to guide them as to what was going on in the country. One would suppose that all the 357 museums in England were open on Sundays, but as a matter of fact only 24 or 25 were opened in the smaller towns. No, the working classes enjoyed thoroughly a day of rest, and though it might be very elevating and a very good thing to go to museums and picture galleries, they did not care to do it on Sundays. As to the reclamation of the drunkard argument, he did not think any one would stand up in his place and say that the loiterers they might see at the public-house door on Sunday afternoons were quite the people who would care to go and enjoy the sights that an art gallery or museum offered. He contended that in the matter of crime the advantage was greatly on the side of those countries where Sunday was observed as a day of rest. Take the statistics of Paris, Berlin and Vienna, the number of suicides, murders and infanticides was greatly in excess of those in this country. He did not say this was entirely attributable to non-Sunday observance, but at all events it had not an elevating effect on the morals of the people, and the system was bad. The Manchester Art Gallery was opened on Sundays in 1884, and at first there was an average attendance of about 10,100 per day; but in 1894 the number had fallen to 25 per day, and now it was closed altogether on the Sunday. It was, indeed, found that the class of men for whom the Sunday opening was designed never presented themselves within its walls. In the case of the Liverpool Art Gallery, the Sunday attendance had fallen from 10,430 to
643, two-thirds of whom were boys who strolled through it on their way from the Sunday League Concert. In the case of the Birmingham Art Gallery, seven years ago there was an average Sunday attendance of 2,365, but last year the number had fallen to 1,029. He supposed that all Members of the House would believe the testimony of Christian Ministers, or, at all events, admit its reliability. The Sunday Society, not long ago, made an organised attempt to obtain a selected Sunday called ''Museum Sunday'' for its proposal to open museums. And how many of the thousands of ministers and missionaries in the country did it get to favour this proposal? The figures were instructive, namely—26 Anglican clergymen, 1 Scotch Church clergyman, 31 Unitarians, 1 Independent, 1 Theist, 1 Positivist, and 4 Ethicals. Since 1855 they had had no fewer than six different Motions of this character made in Parliament, and six times were those Motions defeated by varying but always by large majorities from 125 to 328. He mentioned this merely by way of indicating what the feelings of those were who were supposed to represent the constituencies of this country. Were the present Members not very much the same flesh and blood with those who held the same views and ideas that prevailed a few Sessions ago? He hoped they should have some expression of opinion from the Treasury Bench, and that Ministers would say what they meant, as the late Mr. W. H. Smith did. Mr. Smith did not for one instant conceal his views, and no doubt his doing so secured the large majority on his side of the question in the Session of 1891. The Liberal Ministers did not desire to open up this question. What was the answer of Lord Rosebery to the proposed deputation on the subject last Session or the Session before? He said the question had been so lately settled by an overwhelming vote, that it was too soon to again reopen it. He hoped therefore, that the Opposition Front Bench would vote with them in favour of the Amendment. It had been said that Trades Unions were almost unanimously in favour of Sunday opening. But Trades Unions did not represent all the working classes, for, outside those organisations, and unbound by their
fetters, were many respectable working men. These men had the courage of their convictions, they voted as they liked, and they had the free and unfettered opinion of the English voter at all Parliamentary Elections. At the Trades Union Congresses, six votes on this subject had been taken between 1884 and 1893. Five of the votes favoured Sunday rest, one favoured Sunday opening. On that occasion only 69 voted. It was on a Saturday morning, the last day of the Congress, and Mr. Broadhurst, one of the great champions of the cause, was absent through illness, and the vote went against him it is true, but the next time there was a large majority in its favour. What did Mr. John Hodge, President of the Trades Union Congress of 1892 say in his address at Glasgow?—
Within recent years a cry has been raised for the opening of Art and Picture Galleries and Museums on Sundays, ostensibly for the benefit of the working men. Shall we not in influencing or propagating such an object interfere injuriously with the leisure of those in charge of such institutions. ['Hear, hear!' and 'No.'] Selfishness is at the root of the movement. Do not let us, for the gratification of individual tastes, encroach on the leisure of others. ['Hear, hear!'] Rather press forward for the limitation of the working day ['Hear, hear!'], so that when the day's toil is over we may go to such places for pleasure, recuperation, or gratification of artistic tase, knowing that we are injuring no one. [Applause.] Remember that in France, where such institutions are open on Sunday, you look in vain for the workmen at any of these institutions. They are in their workshops, their factories, in their shop or warehouses, or in the fields following their usual occupations. Does anyone desire that this should be the result here? Do not, then, encourage it. It is due to the religious customs of our country that the avarice of the capitalist has been held in check, and Sunday Labour the exception and not the rule. Let us earnestly strive to retain our Day of Rest. [Applause.] Look not with kindly eye on any attempt in the direction indicated. It is this break in the continuity of daily toil that gives to many breathing-time. Let it be filched from us on such pretexts, and as a nation we would deteriorate; individually we would become nerveless, our powers of thought enfeebled, our physical energy a thing of the past, our preeminence amongst the nations only a name.
With those words, far more eloquent than his own, he would conclude. They were stronger and better than anything he could put before the House. He could read to the House letters from thousands of the 500,000 persons
employed in the amusement industry, pleading for Sunday as a day of rest. He had in his pocket the strongest testimony of the great band of artistes who dreaded the exacting terms which might be placed on them in the rush for existence by Sunday work. These people, if present, ought to prevent this Motion being carried. He was but the humble mouthpiece of these persons, but he called upon hon. Members who thought with him once more to record their vote against this proposal.
§ COLONEL SANDYS (Lancashire, Bootle)
seconded the Amendment. He said he listened carefully to the speeches of the Proposer and Seconder of the Motion, but they did not carry conviction to his mind, and he did not think they carried conviction to the minds of others who heard them. A certain amount of ridicule had been attempted to be thrown on the Lord's Day Observance Society, a society composed, he believed, largely of working men, who held strongly that the Sabbath should be kept inviolate, and that no concession whatever should be made to those who wished to impose Sunday labour on any portion of the working classes of this country. He rose in support of that particular view. The Mover of the Motion spoke in the Queen's Hall, Langham Place, on Sunday, 5th January, and stated that he intended in the House of Commons to champion the cause of the National Sunday League. That League, he was informed, was a group of societies federated together for the avowed purpose of abolishing the Theological Sunday. He stood before the House to advocate the cause of the Theological Sunday, and he ventured to say that the Theological Sunday, as laid down in the Sinaitic Law, at which the proposer of the Motion had ventured to sneer, had made this nation great above all the other nations of the world. Now he would venture to put before the House a physiological fact which perhaps might not be known to all of those whom he had the honour of addressing. It was this, that during the week's work which men went through who laboured with their brains and muscles, the work they had to do during the six working days somewhat overtaxed the vital functions of the body; notably, the action of the heart was overworked by 636 the six days' labour, and it had, as it were, to drive the fly-wheel of the human body by beating more than its proportion of beats during the time it worked. But by the Sunday rest the fly wheel was enabled to calm down overpressure, and on Monday morning the fly-wheel of the human body was working at regulation speed, and all the functions of the body were in normal condition and able to take up the labour of the week. The Mover of the Motion said the young should be guided in the way they should go on the Sunday, and the way he indicated in which the young should be guided was that they should go to museums and picture galleries. He himself did not for one moment say anything against museums and picture galleries. He was a great admirer of art, and he was proud of the collections which we owned in this country. But he thought the way of training the young would not be altogether attained in the best manner possible by teaching them to spend their Sundays in picture galleries and museums. Indeed, it appeared to him that the object of those who opposed this Motion was to prevent the Sunday being spent in what he called a Sinaitic manner, and to introduce the Continental or Roman Catholic Sunday into England. It was stated that Sunday opening would involve the extra services of one-third increase of staff in the museums and picture galleries. But why were these people to be made to labour at all on the day set apart for rest? Why were tramcar men, omnibus men, and attendants at public-houses to be robbed of their legitimate Sunday rest? The hon. Member who introduced the Motion had referred to the feeling of the working classes, but he must have alluded to those of London, for the feelings of about 12,000,000 working class men in all parts of the country had been carefully tested by those who were best able to feel their pulse, and ascertain their views, and the result was 95 per cent. of the 12,000,000 were decidedly against Sunday opening. He represented one of the largest constituencies in England, in which the bulk of the people were of the working class, and he had not had a single request from a working man to support this Motion. There was a museum in his constituency, and he had 637 not heard of a single working man who wished it to be opened on Sunday. Sunday had been compared with a Bank Holiday, but the people of this country did not wish to make them parallel; they did not wish that our Sunday should approximate to that of the Continent, because they knew that the public opening of resorts of pleasure, such as museums and picture galleries, would be followed by the opening of theatres and race-courses; and they would be followed by more general Sunday labour, and the day of rest would be gone. He, therefore, trusted the Amendment would be accepted, as indicating that the House and the country still wished to ''Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy."
§ SIR S. MONTAGU (Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel)
said, he wished to explain in a very few words, his position with regard to this Motion. He had always held the opinion that the Sunday opening of museums and picture galleries would confer a great benefit on the working classes. But in the two first Parliaments of which he was a Member he remained neutral on the question. He had stated to his constituents that, seeing a religious question in which he had no personal concern was involved, he preferred to abstain from voting. In 1892, however, he made inquiries in Whitechapel, which he had represented since 1885, and found a general desire for this change, even among many opposed to him politically. He also felt that he was partially disfranchising his constituency by abstention; therefore, he promised to vote for Sunday opening. Another reason also influenced him. In 1891 a similar Motion was introduced and debated in this House, when Whitechapel was specially mentioned. The late Sir Robert Fowler, then Member for the City of London, misinterpreted his absence from the Debate; he referred to Sabbath observance in the Jewish community as an argument against Sunday opening of museums, whereas it should have been used in its favour. There was no objection, even among the most observant in his community, to visiting museums and picture galleries on Saturday. In fact, that day was often preferentially chosen. He therefore advocated granting this great boon in the interests of the labour- 638 ing classes in his constituency to brighten somewhat their dull lives by an intellectual enjoyment for which Members had many opportunities. His constituency, if not the very poorest, was among the three poorest in London. The bulk of its inhabitants could not afford to lose working time, and were too tired in the evening to visit our great national collections, however much they might desire to do so. Whitechapel was situated within a walking distance from the British Museum, the National Gallery, and Bethnal Green Museum. He believed that some of the stalwarts would even walk to South Kensington and back, if they were permitted to see the treasures in South Kensington Museum on Sunday, their only available day. He felt sure that such a facility would be highly appreciated by the working classes in Whitechapel and neighbouring districts, and would tend to make them more contented with their lot. This was no mere assertion on his part; he spoke from actual experience extending over the last ten years. In 1886, the Rev. Canon Barnett, then Vicar of St. Jude's, Whitechapel, established a loan exhibition of pictures for 20 days at Easter, in connection with Toynbee Hall, also in his constituency. That exhibition had been continued annually ever since, and was open on Sundays. The number of visitors had greatly increased in latter years. During the last three Easters the attendance had ranged from 62,000 to 73,000 for the 20 days; that would be an average of 69,000, or 3,450 a day. In the last three years the exhibition was open nine Sundays; the total of visitors was 36,000, or an average of 4,000 each Sunday. The comparison in favour of Sunday attendance would have been more striking were it not for the fact that Jewish residents visited the exhibition by preference on Saturday—their Sabbath. This local exhibition was one of pictures lent for the occasion; and it was located in school rooms insufficiently lighted and somewhat difficult of access. Of course, it could not be compared with even one room in our splendid National Gallery; yet, the result was so satisfactory that Canon Barnett had offered to raise £20,000 for a Town Hall in Whitechapel, on condition that a temporary exhibition should be held once or twice 639 a year, of course open on Sundays. He should like to read a very short extract from a recent letter he had from Canon Barnett:—People do not know higher pleasures, because the places for higher pleasures are closed on their holidays. As long as the galleries are closed on Sundays, people will prefer the pleasure of bed and public-house, and they will not demand things which are good for them The Archbishop of Canterbury opened the Exhibition in 1890.Hon. Members would notice that some dignitaries of the Church of England did not oppose Sunday opening of museums, etc. The only difficulty, if any, lay in the employment of extra people in museums and galleries on Sundays. He said extra people, because policemen and other guardians were now very rightly employed on Sundays to protect our art treasures, although the public were excluded on that day. He believed very few extra men would be required in London on Sundays, and they could be chosen from those who had another day of rest. Supporters of the movement cited provincial towns where museums were opened on Sundays, but Government were not directly responsible for that fact; nevertheless Her Majesty's Government were directly responsible for what was done in our Indian possessions, and he found that in Calcutta the Great Indian Museum was open free to the public on Sundays. Of course it might be said that those employed there were not Christians. But that course could be adopted in this country if necessary. British subjects, either Mahommedans or Jews, could be had as volunteer guardians on Sundays, or at the cost of a few shillings each. Jews were so employed at Birmingham, in the reference library, as special assistants on Sundays. He need not refer to the Government employment of people on Sundays at Post or Telegraph Offices, because he held that what would be required in the museums and such institutions if opened on Sundays was not work at all. At the South Kensington Museum, visitors were not troubled to surrender their sticks or umbrellas, and no mischief had arisen. If that course were generally adopted, no one employed on Sundays need work at all. He did not call sitting down or walking in a picture room work. If 640 it were work it was the pleasantest kind of work known to him, and he would be glad to undertake it himself. There remained only the objection that working people did not desire this reform. He did not believe that; and if it were even true that the labouring classes did not love art, then create the taste for it, or otherwise it would be monstrous to have collections worth millions simply for the gratification of those who could buy pictures themselves. He yielded to no one in the desire that every person should enjoy a weekly day of rest, and he was glad to know that on the Continent that feeling was spreading; but certainly on the Continent they would never close their museums and picture galleries on Sunday. He need only add that he was convinced that by giving reasonable access to our splendid national collections on Sundays, even if only when public houses were open, they would strengthen the observance of religious and secular laws, they would make the labouring classes more contented, and would promote the intellectual improvement of the masses of the people.
§ COLONEL WARDE (Kent, Medway)
said, he hardly thought that this question had been treated by the Mover and Seconder of the Motion from that high standpoint from which alone many persons thought such questions should be approached. He hardly thought that the question of expediency should be allowed to influence judgment in a matter which, in the belief of many people, threatened the very foundations of religious observances. He thought that in the abstract there was no harm in the opening of museums and picture galleries on Sundays; but in practice many evils might result from such a course. The displacement of a very small stone might start an avalanche which in its course would sweep away the monuments of centuries. Once sanction the interference by law with the Church's teachings of centuries, and where could they draw the line. Once sanction the interference by law with the Church's teachings in regard to the most serious aspects of the Sabbath Day—once sanction by law the feeling that Sunday might be regarded, as much as a holiday as a holy day—and they embarked on a course which would inevitably result in the loosening of the ties that in this country 641 bound Church and State so intimately together. If it were the fact that the working classes had not sufficient leisure to enable them to appreciate our art collections, make Saturday or Wednesday or some other day a compulsory half-holiday, but let the law leave the Sabbath alone. Already public bodies all over the country had the power of opening their local institutions on Sunday if public feeling in the locality was in favour of having them opened. Why, then, not leave the question to local opinion to decide? This was not a matter for collective action, but for each individual to decide for himself. Let every individual decide for himself according to his conscience as to how his day of rest was to be spent. This Motion would, if carried, be the first step towards introducing the Continental Sunday into this country. He had seen in Rome, which for centuries had been considered the headquarters of Christianity, that business and pleasure were conducted almost the same way on Sunday as on the other six days of the week; and the only result of such a course could be that many persons must forget there was such a thing as Sunday at all.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said the hon. Member for Kirkcudbright, quoting a very distinguished authority, said this question had lately been decided by an overwhelming vote. The question was so decided by the Parliament elected in 1886. This Parliament, however, was elected in 1895, and it was extremely important they should know what it thought about this most important question. He was inclined to put aside at once all appeals that were made to popular feeling either on one side or the other. They were told by people very well qualified to judge that the immense mass of the working men of the country were opposed to the Motion, and they were told, on the other hand, by people equally well qualified to judge that the immense mass of working men were in favour of it. It had been said in the course of the Debate that every man should decide for himself how he should spend his Sunday. It was not desired to force any man to do what he thought wrong, but it was desired to enable every man to do what he thought right. 642 This was not a measure of local option; it was a measure of personal option; it was a measure which would enable every man to go to these galleries if his conscience allowed him, if his taste directed him. That was the reason why he did not think they should trouble very much as to whether the majority of the working men were on the one side or the other. There was another reason why he would not be too particular about one class of the community, it was that this was a matter which did not concern one class at all. These museums and art galleries appealed in a great degree to the middle class, to the less wealthy of the upper and professional class, men and women who could not go to these places upon any day except one in the week, and men and women who had the very greatest reason to go. When they considered how much of the very best of our modern literature was connected in the closest manner with art, and how impossible it was for any one to enjoy the works of Ruskin and Browning unless they had an opportunity of seeing these works of art—that alone was an argument in favour of allowing them to go on the only day on which they could go. He had been struck by the insistence with which hon. Members opposed to the Motion had argued that a comparatively small number of people attended art galleries. To Hampton Court 1,200 went on Sunday and on the week day 490 went; 1,650 people went to the Sheffield art galleries during the three hours on which it was open on Sunday, but on a week day, when it was open nine hours, 900 went. In Birmingham, 1,583 people went during three hours on Sunday, and in Newcastle, Lord Armstrong's gallery of statues, a severe, even though a beautiful and instructive form of art, was attended by 300 on Sunday. The art gallery in Bradford was open for three hours on Sunday, and well attended. He admitted that these exhibitions did not appeal to the multitude, but they did appeal to the choice people of every class to whom attendance was a great education of the very highest order. No one denied that a large number of people went to the libraries which were open on Sunday. The people went there to read books. What was the difference between reading 643 a book and looking at a picture for the purposes of education? But to read a book when people were tired with the work of the week was a serious matter; whereas to look at pictures and statues, especially pictures, was not only an education, but a rest. It must be remembered that some of the most highly-cultivated communities of old days and of mediæval days read scarcely at all, but got all their cultivation through pictures and through art, and that was a cultivation which hon. Gentlemen practically denied to the mass of their fellow-countrymen. [Cries of "No, no!"] He was willing to admit that hon. Gentlemen did not deny it by intention; but when men were tired with a long day's work they could not take advantage of what was offered to them by the Amendment in a right spirit, and spend their evenings looking at pictures. He did not believe there was any more religious way of spending Sunday afternoon than in looking at good pictures in our art galleries. ["Hear, hear!"] Two or three hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, such as the hon. Member who had just sat down and the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, hold the strongest views about Sunday, and he deeply respected their opinions. But he would ask hon. Gentlemen who had a different sort of practice not to do that which was fit to be called by a not very flattering epithet, by denying to their less-favoured fellow-countrymen what they themselves enjoyed. One Sunday last year he went to a famous gallery of Flemish and French pictures possessed by a very well-known gentleman on the Chelsea Embankment. That gentleman this year had sent all those pictures to a public gallery, and among them was a replica of Millet's "Angelus." What better way of spending a Sunday afternoon could there be than looking at that picture of Millet's. [Cheers.] Lately at the National Gallery he was standing in front of Crivelli's "Annunciation"—a picture which every one who knew the Gallery would admit to be one of the most beautiful there—when a poorly-dressed working lad came, dragging a comrade to the picture, sayingHere, I will show you the best picture in the gallery.What harm would it do that boy to look at such a picture on Sunday? He had 644 noticed on week-days that a great many people, and especially many children, went to the picture galleries and museums for the sake, apparently, of the bright surroundings. Working men who could not go there during the week would go on Sunday for that reason. They might not be great art critics, but in walking about the galleries they would acquire higher tastes. They were told,If it were possible to take a vote of the working classes throughout the country, we believe that vote would show an overwhelming majority against every Sunday-opening movement which involved Sunday labour,and it was urged that, if once the floodgates were opened, there would be Sunday travelling in every way. What did that mean? Many people thought it wrong to travel out of the great cities on Sundays. Then were the dwellers in those cities, who were excluded from the sight of country scenes, to be deprived of the only brightness and beauty which a great city could offer—that of the art galleries and museums? Where could art joined with science be better seen than in our glorious Gallery at South Kensington? And he was glad to hear from Sir William Flower that, by an addition of only £300 a year to the Estimates, it would be possible to throw that unequalled collection open to the people who had paid for it. [Cheers.] For the people had paid for all these advantages; and who were Members of the House of Commons to deny them? Some hon. Gentlemen had galleries into which they could go on Sunday, and the wiser of them had the pictures in the rooms in which they and their families habitually lived. Just as much as those pictures belonged to the hon. Members in whose houses they hung, the pictures in the public galleries belonged to the great public who had paid for them with their taxes; and let the House give them the right to enjoy their own. [Cheers.]
§ LORD WARKWORTH (Kensington, S.),
in a maiden speech, said that, as Kensington would be very closely affected by the success of this Motion, he felt he ought not to give a silent vote. He protested against the idea which had been hinted at, that in opposing this Motion he and others were actuated by any motive of bigotry or religious intolerance. Similar motions had been 645 rejected over and over again by both Houses, sometimes with an overwhelming majority and sometimes without a division; and the names of gentlemen who had spoken against such motions on former occasions—Mr. Gladstone, Lord Beaconsfield, Mr. W. H. Smith, and Lord Cairns—ought to be enough to guarantee them against the insinuation of intolerance. [Cheers.] No doubt that among those who held his views on this matter might be found some whose opinions would be regarded as narrow-minded and puritanical; but then, among the supporters of the Motion, there were many whose open and avowed object was the complete secularization of the Sabbath. [Cheers.] The opposition to this Motion was with no particular view as to the way in which Sunday should be observed by individuals—with that the House was not concerned—but simply and solely because the logical outcome of the acceptance of these proposals would be a still further advance in the direction of secularization. [Cheers.] That consequence would be regarded as disastrous by the vast majority of this House; and he was sure, in spite of all that had been said to the contrary, that it would be bitterly opposed by the religious feeling of the country. The opponents of the Motion were entitled to ask its supporters to show not only the advantage they expected the community at large would derive from the adoption of the Motion, but they should also explain, and not content themselves with mere assertion, where they proposed to draw the line between the opening of museums and the opening of other places of amusement on Sunday. ["Hear, hear!"] There was only one ground, in his opinion, for the interference of the State in the matter of Sunday observance, and that was the Fourth Commandment. He believed it to be most mischievous to put forward the physical advantage to be gained by one day's rest. No doubt it was an incidental advantage just as health was an advantage incidental to morality. But neither the health in the one case, nor the rest in the other supplied reason or justification for the action of the individual or the State. If it was true that the object of the State was that there should be a guarantee of one clay's rest out of seven, even that was not secured by the pro- 646 posal. To say that no official was to be compelled to work on the seventh day unless he liked it was not sufficient, and, in their opinion, the State was bound to say that no man in its employment should work on Sunday whether he liked it or not, except in cases of absolute necessity. The fact that that provision had been inserted showed, to his mind, confusion of ideas. For if it was the liberty of the individual to work or not work as he pleased that was at stake, there was no longer any justification for the interference by the State with Sunday traffic of any kind provided that it was voluntarily engaged in. To his mind there was a great difference between a holiday and a holy day. ["Hear, hear!"] A great deal was said about the State setting an example in the matter of wages to their workmen. If hon. Members were right in that argument, it seemed to him the State should observe an equal duty by setting an example to employers in the matter of Sunday observance. ["Hear, hear!"] The figures as to the attendance at these museums and other institutions showed that they were becoming smaller on Sundays as compared with week-days, and that a large proportion of those who did attend on Sundays were boys and girls. ["No!" and "Hear!"] It had been suggested during the Debate that boys and girls would be well employed in museums, but he did not know whether they constituted the most eligible class of the community to which reference had been made. He did not wish to weary the House with statistics, but he would point out, with reference to this question, that a paper had been recently circulated which contained what purported to be answers given to questions put by the hon. Member for Central Finsbury, the Mover of the Motion; but the hon. Member, however, had not supplied the House with the number of adverse answers which he had received. ["Hear, hear!"] It was obvious, nevertheless, that there were only 13 answers on four large pages which gave any statistics of the average attendance on successive Sundays. Out of those 13, only four were museums or public galleries. He was perfectly prepared to deal with the question of the libraries; and he knew that in at least 12 cases, and probably more, libraries which had been 647 opened in the country had proved failures. Manchester had only succeeded in 20 years in raising the attendance to 7,773, of which 2,926 were boys and girls. At Wigan the increase was very gradual indeed, being only 400 in a population of over 55,000. The report from Birmingham showed that the average attendance on Sunday had dwindled from 2,365 in 1888 to 1,188 in 1894. On Museum Sunday in 1885 it was stated that the attendance was 4,706, while in 1894 it had fallen to 1,193. At Stockport the Sunday attendance was 276 in 1891, and was only 220 in 1892. It did not appear to him that these figures showed that the opening of museums at the places to which they referred was a success. He had already mentioned the fact that a large portion of those who attended these places on Sunday were children, and that fact was of much importance, because the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Trevelyan) had remarked that children would be well employed on Sundays if they attended these museums. In his opinion, however, the places to which children should go on Sundays should be the Sunday schools, and not free libraries. ["Hear, hear," and laughter.] He thought that no temptation should be held out to prevent children from attending Sunday schools. ["Hear, hear!"] The additional labour entailed by opening these institutions on Sundays was not confined to that of the officials in charge. There were other consequences that would follow the opening of museums on Sundays that were to be deprecated. For instance, the population in the neighbourhood of South Kensington Museum was of the well-to-do kind, and if that museum were to be opened on Sundays for the benefit of the working classes there must necessarily be a great increase in the traffic upon the railways and the tramways, which was amply sufficient at present. They were asked to believe that all the disadvantages to which he had referred were to be counterbalanced by the moral elevation which would result to the people as a whole from the opening of these institutions on Sunday. But museums had been open on Sundays for years on the Continent, and did anyone pretend that the people of foreign countries were more moral, 648 more religious, or more refined than our people were? ["Hear, hear!"] If the educational value of an institution was to to be made a test of its claim to exemption from the universal rule of Sunday closing we should be plunging into the region of speculation, where there was no appeal except to individual opinion. Many people believed that the Stage was capable of imparting quite as much education on Sundays as the picture galleries, and if they were to open such institutions on Sunday in order to relieve the dulness of Sunday afternoons, they would soon be asked to open the theatres also. ["Hear, hear!"] They had been told that this was a purely local and individual question, but, in his opinion, it was a national question. They would be taking quite a new step if they opened a national institution on Sunday. If the State were to go any further in the direction of abolishing the distinction between the Lord's Day and other days of the week it ought to do so upon some higher ground than that of affording additional comfort and amusement to a fraction of the population at the cost of depriving others of the one holy day of the week which this country alone amongst Christian nations continued resolutely to observe. ["Hear, hear!"]
MR. J. G. HOLBORN (Lanark, N. W.)
said, that the opening of the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh had certainly not demoralised the population in any way. Speaking not the opinions of working men, but as a working man himself, who had worked at the bench not only until the last Election, but all through last Recess, he contended that they had a right to claim their share in those elevating influences which were contained in the national museums. As to the argument that the numbers who now attended Sunday-open museums were not sufficiently great to encourage an extension of them, was it not the duty of the House to give the people the opportunity of visiting and enjoying those places? And what was there in the contention that so many boys and girls frequented museums and art galleries on Sundays? Were they not better employed in looking at art treasures than in wandering about the streets? [Cheers.] When he was giving evidence before a House of Lords' Committee on this subject, a noble Lord asked him whether 649 he did not think the Sunday opening of public gardens would lead to a good deal of courting in those gardens, and his reply was—"It is better that the courting should be done in a public garden than in a close house in the high street." [Laughter.] He had pleasure in assuring the Mover and Seconder of the Motion that they should have at least one vote from Sabbatarian Scotland. [Cheers.]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN, St. George's,) Hanover Square
I wish, in the first place, to dissociate myself entirely from any Ministerial capacity in the words I am going to address to the House to-night. I am going to speak, like the noble Lord (Lord Warkworth) who has addressed the House a few minutes ago in a manner which has justly won the high appreciation of the House—[cheers]—entirely as an unofficial Member, and to state the views which, though I cannot be sure they are those of my constituents, still, from all that reaches me, I believe are the views which animate them. It was said by the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division of Glasgow that this was not a question on which the House ought to listen peculiarly to the view of the working classes. I differ from him in that respect. ["Hear!"] I should be guided in my vote to a great extent by the wishes of those who would be able to avail themselves of those facilities if they were offered to them. I believe I express the views of four-fifths of the House when I say when I say that our minds have been peculiarly exercised as to the side on which we ought to vote on this question. On the one hand, there is the strongest desire, shared by every class in the country, that the British Sunday should be maintained in its essential conditions. [Cheers.] Some maintain that view as my noble friend (Lord Warkworth) has done, mainly from the religious standpoint; others from the social point of view; but I believe we are all agreed that if we were to see in the Motion a tendency that the Sunday should be made a day of labour, or that the rest which that day affords to the community should be sacrificed to any considerations whatever, there is scarcely an hon. Member who would not vote against any Motion which might have that effect. And so I 650 believe the working classes, the middle classes, and all classes in this country would be against any Motion which seemed to imperil the sanctity of the Sunday as regards the increase of labour. [Cheers.] The argument that we may, by a Motion such as this, encourage the idea that we are on the downward path, and moving in the direction of an exchange of the British Sunday for the Continental Sunday—that argument, if sound, would weigh greatly with this House, and justly so. On the other hand, we have to remember that this is no new proposal. Museums and libraries are open on Sundays in many parts of the country. They are open in Birmingham, in Liverpool, in Manchester, and so far we have had no sign that the opening of museums in those provincial towns has led to that which I should be one of the first to deplore—namely, any desecration of the Sabbath. ["Hear, hear!"] Then in London we have Kew Gardens, which are open, and other places of public resort to which recourse is had by those tramways and railways which unfortunately do necessitate Sunday labour. I have had a number of appeals from working men in my own constituency that I should vote in favour of this Motion, and it would be difficult for me to resist those appeals—["hear, hear!"]—knowing, as we do, what has been done already in the provinces, and the little harm that has there ensued from the opening of public institutions on Sunday. Has it led to far to the desecration of the Sabbath? Surely the Sabbath is desecrated as much by many of the amusements in which all classes habitually indulge on Sunday. ["Hear, hear!"] What will be the feelings of the working man who calls upon me as his representative to vote for the opening of South Kensington Museum if I refuse to do so? Supposing I tell him that I think this Motion would lead us on the downward path and open the floodgates to Sunday labour; will he not reply: "Is not Niagara open on Sunday?" ["Hear, hear!"] "Are there not many clubs, so-called clubs, organised so that those who have more opportunity than we have to enjoy themselves on weekdays may also enjoy themselves on Sunday?" To that I have no answer. If the Legislature is prepared to shut up all places of public amusement and to 651 take such measures as would stop every kind of amusement on Sunday, I could understand the position, but I find great difficulty in drawing a distinction between those places which are now open and the places which we are called upon to open by this Motion. I agree, to a certain extent, with the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division. I believe that it is far better that men and women, and boys and girls—["hear, hear!"]—should have recourse on Sunday afternoon to places like South Kensington than that they should be driven to seek excitement and amusement elsewhere. If it were a question of choosing between the Sunday-school and the museum I grant that it would be a great advantage that they should have recourse to the former. But if that is not the question, if they prefer the more frivolous occupation, then I say that the national institutions with their refining influences should be open to them. ["Hear, hear!"] Attention has been called to the work of Canon Barnett in the East-end of London, and he has told me himself that the refining influence he has been able to exercise through the opening of museums has often had greater effect than any religious power which he could bring to bear upon individuals. For my own part, although I wish to secure to the Church, to all Churches, to all denominations, as much attendance at their services as can possibly be secured on Sunday, I also wish that every kind of refining influence should be brought within the reach of the masses of this country—["Hear, hear"]—if that can be done without increasing Sunday labour to the extent which many friends of mine fearfully anticipate. If I thought that this change would lead to the breaking down of the sanctity of the Sabbath I would sacrifice all the refining influences that you might secure through its operation, because I believe it would be a social calamity of the most serious kind to sacrifice Sunday rest. But I think the sober sense of Englishmen, the ingrained feeling of the great majority of the people that Sunday must be kept as a time of rest, the influence which will be exercised by all the leaders of labour to secure that Sunday shall not be interfered with in the way some hon. Members fear—these are guarantees with which we 652 may embark on an experiment of this kind without running that risk which I would be the last man to wish to run, namely, that after six day days of labour the Sunday rest should be sacrificed. I hope the view I take is clear to the House. If working men appeal to me and ask that they, like other classes, should have the opportunity on one day in the week to visit our great public galleries and museums, and if, at the same time, I know that the influence of the Labour Leaders will be so great that it would not lead to that which we should all deplore, I cannot help saying that I shall join my voice without hesitation to those who are in favour of opening the museums. [Cheers.]
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
thought that the speech just delivered removed some fears and misgivings he entertained after the speech made by the noble Lord the Member for South Kensington. He joined in congratulating the noble Lord on his maiden effort, and his only regret was that so good a speaker and so excellent a champion should be identified with so bad a cause. [Laughter.] But, fortunately for London, St. George's, Hanover Square, had come to the rescue of South Kensington, and, with that magnanimity which characterised a First Lord of the Admiralty asking the nation for a large sum of money—[laughter]—the right hon. Gentleman had dispelled the unfavourable impression created by the noble Lord's speech, and the Sunday opening of museums would be carried with practical unanimity. ["No, no!"] The great mass of the working classes who were in favour of opening the museums and picture galleries were not in favour, as a consequence, of holding that view of the secularisation of the Sabbath to the extent which the noble Lord indicated. Satisfactory statistics could not be obtained on this question until it had been put to the test, and until the test had been applied it was ridiculous to take a small town of 20,000, 30,000, or even 200,000 inhabitants, with a small museum, mostly consisting of the industrial products of the district, and which the men were sick and tired of making six days a week—[laughter],—and apply that test to the best and richest museums in the world, and deduce arguments there from. The noble Lord 653 did not seem to regard boys and girls from the point of view of a young Member of the House. To anyone who knew London the saddest sight was to pass through the streets in March, April, October, or November, and even in July and August, and to see the swarms of boys and girls with positively no place to go to. They would not go to Church because the service was dull, and the advice was not always acted up to by the parson himself. They would not go to Sunday school, and he ventured to say that the noble Lord himself, when he was a boy, did not practise as he now preached. [Laughter.] He wished to point out to the noble Lord that those who did not go to Sunday School unfortunately walked about the streets, hanging round about the corner posts and in and out the public house doors; and if the noble Lord would go to the father of a family, say a member of the A Division of the police, who looked after the interests of hon. Members so well, and asked him his straightforward opinion as a policeman first, as a citizen second, and as a father third, ho would tell him that it would be a godsend to the police and to the boys and girls if there were more places where the boys and girls could go for recreation. The noble Lord said that the opening of the museums on Sunday meant a larger use of the tramways, but surely the noble Lord knew that South Kensington was the centre of a radius of three miles from which 500,000 visitors to the museum could be drawn, who would walk leisurely over the bridges to the museum; and when they visited the Natural History Museum he sincerely hoped they would see the pliosaurus in a glass case and mark the evolution of the politician who opposed the opening of museums on Sunday, and avoid him in future as an awful example. [Laughter.] The hon. and gallant Member who represented the Medway Division of Kent certainly scored a point against the Motion when he contended that this was a matter which ought to be left to the localities; but this was mainly a London question and the Imperial Parliament kept the keys of the London Museums. The only bodies that could voice the opinion of London in this matter were the London County Council and the Vestries, and the London County Council had 654 decided with almost absolute unanimity in favour of Sunday opening, while many of the Vestries had taken a similar line. No one could go down to Toynbee Hall, where he had seen Canon Barnett's exhibition, or to the Tower Gardens, even when the weather was not particularly good, without seeing swarms and crowds of people, even to an extraordinary and inconvenient extent. If that was so, what reason had the House to assume that, if the same regulations which affected the Tower Gardens were applied to picture galleries and museums, the same result would not be obtained. He believed it would, and nothing would convince him that people would not visit the museums and galleries if opened, until they had been opened for six or 12 months and the fact proved by application. He thought the motion was too moderate. The hours it proposed were from two to six o'clock, and it seemed to him that it could not be framed more in the interest of the publican. On Sunday morning, the father of the family was generally engaged in domestic duties. The single man went for a walk in the parks; but there was a class not well dressed enough to come into the light of the streets, many of whom, he believed, would sneak from the slums and alleys of Seven Dials, just round the corner from the National Gallery, would find their way there if they go and visit it by gaslight, and if it was only for that class alone, he thought the museum ought to be kept open later than 6 o'clock in the evening. He did not see why they should not be open till 8 or 9 o'clock. But he wanted to urge another point. London was rapidly becoming in many respects a cosmopolitan city. There were in London at this moment from 10,000 to 15,000 visitors, who would welcome Sunday opening as a distinct boon. There were thousands of men, too, passing from and to the colonies who now looked on Sunday as a blank day; and beyond that how many thousands of young fellows from places round London would get on their bicycles and ride up to town and visit the many places of recreation, access to which was now denied to them. There were between 50,000 and 60,000 men in London—policemen, pensioners, post office employés, and others—who, in consequence of evening and night duty, could only conveniently visit such 655 institutions on a Sunday. He believed Sunday was certainly also the most convenient time for shopkeepers and shop assistants to visit them. As to the question of Sunday labour, he was free to confess that if he thought the Motion would lead to an increase of such labour he would oppose it. But Sunday labour and the demand for it were diminishing in all countries. One of the chief features of each of the International Congresses of workmen that had been held had been that the excellent institution observed in England of having the six days' work and the seventh day for rest had been again and again brought before the workmen of Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, and other countries with good results. He had recently had an opportunity of discussing the value of the six days' work with three German Imperial Commissioners, who had come here to investigate the question of Sunday labour, and the information he received was that on the Continent an unmistakable desire was being shown to follow England's example in this matter. With regard to the argument of cost he did not think there was much in it. It would involve comparatively very little cost to carry out the object of the Motion; for he was confident that, if the Chief Commissioner was appealed to, he would be able to make arrangements for the attendance of the few extra policemen who would be required at the museums and art galleries without calling for any additional men or money in consequence. He supported the motion as one, perhaps, as closely connected with labour as any metropolitan representative, and as one, too, who had always opposed the Sabbatarian party at his elections. He believed there was a much stronger feeling in London in favour of this motion than hon. Members opposite seemed to suppose. Whether that was so or not, the House was the guardian of those museums and picture galleries; it alone could give access to them on Sundays, and therefore the great body of ratepayers in the metropolis appealed to hon. Members to give them, for one day at least, a convenient opportunity of enjoying them. He was confident that, if the museums were opened as desired, they would prove a strong counter-attraction to the public-house, and would exercise a great moral 656 and educational influence on thousands of men, women, and children who now had no reasonable way of spending the Sunday afternoon and evening. [ Cheers.]
§ MR. J. LOWLES (Shoreditch, Haggerston),
in supporting the Motion, said that he had much experience of Church work in London, and one result of it was, that he had been made a convert to the movement for opening museums and picture galleries on Sundays. [Cheers.] He had himself again and again given interesting and illustrated lectures on Sunday afternoons to the people, and believed that much good was done by work of that kind. They were living now in different times to those of 25 years ago; the old narrow feeling of Sabbatarianist was dying out, and he certainly thought they might safely support such a moderate Measure as that proposed by the hon. Member for Central Finsbury. The people's capacities were being enlarged, and that being so, they ought, he thought, to enlarge their opportunities. He had himself no fear at all about this thin edge of the wedge. He was perfectly certain the House would take care of itself if any further proposition were made.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, that as he had the honour of representing the trustees of the British Museum in this House, he ought perhaps to say a few words on this subject. The trustees of the British Museum were anxious to open the museum in accordance with the Resolution before the House. They quite admitted the importance of the evening opening, but they did not think that was any substitute for opening on Sundays. At the same time, if they thought that there was the slightest danger that, in doing so, they would be opening the doors to Sunday labour, they would resist any such proposal. But they believed that, so far from increasing Sunday labour, they would really be diminishing it by opening the museums on Sunday. The people who would come would be orderly, well-behaved people, and the extra staff which would be required would be extremely small. The people would really require less looking after in the museum than they would out of it, and for every additional policeman required in the museum perhaps two policemen would be set free somewhere else. Provincial 657 museums, and Birmingham in particular, had been referred to, and it was pointed out that the Sunday attendances had very much fallen off. But what was the explanation of that? Hon. Members were contrasting the numbers of those who went when the museums were first opened, when they were a novelty, with the numbers of those who went now. If they took the same standard of comparison for week days, it would be found that the numbers had fallen off even more since the opening of museums than on Sunday, and if they took hour for hour there was a much larger attendance on Sunday afternoons than there was on the week days. He thought six o'clock would be rather early to close, but that was a matter which would, he hoped, be left to the discretion of the trustees. They had heard something about Sunday Schools during the Debate, but he ventured to say that the British Museum was one of the best Sunday schools in the country. He would put it in this way. No one could thoroughly understand the Bible who had not travelled in the East. They could not all travel in the East, but they had in the British Museum monuments of Egypt, of Assyria, and of Babylonia—ancient records referred to in the Bible itself; and after they had seen these they would understand the Bible much better than they did before. He hoped the House would give its sanction to the Resolution.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 178; Noes. 93.—(Division List, No. 39.)
§ The result of the Division was received with loud cheers.
§ On the Resolution being put from the Chair, a Division was challenged.
§ The House having been cleared, Mr. Speaker put the Resolution again, and declared that the "Ayes" have it—a decision which was received with cries of "The 'Noes' have it."
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.658
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that the National Museums and Art Galleries in London should be open for a limited number of hours on Sundays, after 2 p.m., upon condition that no officer shall be required to attend on more than six days per week, and that anyone who may have conscientious objections shall be exempt from Sunday duty.—(Mr. Massey-Mainwaring.)