HL Deb 29 August 1831 vol 6 cc750-1
The Bishop of London

stated, that he had petitions to present on the subject of the Sale of Beer Act, and thought it imperative on him to take the opportunity of saying something in answer to certain calumnies which had been published against him and certain of the clergy and Magistrates of this country. They had been stigmatized as being always bent on exerting all their power and influence to abridge and restrict the innocent amusements of the people. With respect to himself, perhaps, it was not worth his while to make any answer to such a calumny. But as for the Magistrates and the clergy, no class of men was better acquainted with the habits of the poor, or more competent to judge what was good for them; and it was preposterous to say, that those wished to curtail the comforts of the poor, who had been the most active in promoting the institution of Saving Banks, and every thing by which the comforts of the poor could be really augmented. But they did wish to diminish the temptations which were thrown in the way of the poor to induce them to spend in drinking and gambling their scanty earnings, which it would be much more for their comfort to expend in the support of their families. The Magistrates and clergy did not wish to abridge the innocent amusements of the people; but they did wish to save them from temptations to vice and immorality. It had been said, that he himself was adverse to the system which enabled the poor to supply themselves with good and cheap beer. This was a calumny, for he had only proposed that the people should not be supplied at the beer-houses with gambling materials, and that the shops should be shut on the evenings of Sunday, and certain other days—all which was perfectly compatible with the system of supplying the poor with good and cheap beer. When the baker was compelled to shut his shop at one o'clock on Sunday, and the butcher at ten in the morning, he saw no reason why the keepers of these beer-houses should not be compelled to shut at seven in the evening, As to the clergy, particularly, they were placed in rather a difficult situation in these cases. If they remained silent, they were represented as careless and remiss in the execution of their duty; and if they spoke out against practices which they honestly believed to have a tendency to produce vice and immorality, then they were represented as meddlers and hypocrites. He really did not know what the clergy had done to give any one a right to say, that they had said one thing when they meant another. It had been said of himself, that he was always ready to set himself against the vices of the poor, but suffered the vices of the rich to pass unheeded. That accusation was groundless as far as he was concerned; for he had exposed himself to ridicule and censure for his opposition to the vices of the great. But, from whatever quarter this abuse and calumny came, he would not be deterred either by ridicule or censure from speaking and acting, when he considered it a part of his professional duty to speak and act. The right rev. Prelate concluded by presenting a petition from the clergy of Salisbury, praying that the Beer Act might be so modified, as not to furnish temptations to vice and immorality. His Lordship also presented a petition from the London Association, for preventing the profanation of the Lord's Day, praying that the beer-shops might be shut at an early hour on Sunday.