The Earl of Roden
presented Petitions, numerously signed, from Brecon, Dundee, Long Preston (in Yorkshire), and several other places, praying for the better observance of the Sabbath. On account of the importance of the subject, he had felt it his duty to give notice the preceding day of his intention to present these petitions. It was a subject of sincere gratification to him, and must be also to their Lordships, to see the middle classes of society, the shopkeepers and tradesmen of the different towns of the kingdom, take up the matter in the way they had, by petitioning their Lordships to enforce the better observance of the Lord's Day. If ever there were times when it behoved his Majesty's Ministers to look to other sources than earthly ones for counsel and support, it was the present crisis, unexampled in the history of the world. The petitioners stated to their Lordships an important fact; it was this—in order to effect any benefit from the laws, it was necessary that an example should be set them by the higher classes. The framers of the laws ought to observe them, if they were anxious to see them obeyed by the people. The petitioners stated, that some shopkeepers would not close their shops during the Sabbath-day, and the petitioners consequently suffered, losing many of their customers. He would not detain their Lordships longer than requesting one of the petitions might be read at length, on account of the very important subject which was about to be brought forward.
§ Lord Cloncurry
was anxious for the due observance of the Sabbath, but he thought that care should be taken, in enforcing the law, not to create discord, and do mischief to the people. He (Lord Cloncurry) was anxious, therefore, that it should be 717 known what was the real view which the, Legislature took respecting the observance of the Holy Day, He thought it would be a means of preventing much mischief in Ireland. He was engaged in the Canal Navigation of Ireland, which afforded valuable commercial opportunities to private individuals, and to those of the middling classes the means of maintaining their families in decency and comfort. It was not unknown to their Lordships, that, on the Sabbath-day, the boatmen on the canals were in the habit of attending to their business, and going with their boats as on ordinary days. On Saturday, boats were constantly in the habit of setting out from Limerick and other places, and continuing without any hindrance to proceed to their destination. But at no distant period, two certain Magistrates, who took peculiar views of the law, ordered the police to prevent boats from proceeding on the Sabbath. The boats were actually stopped, and the boatmen, not at all offended at a course that promised them an idle day, betook themselves to the nearest public-house. The result was, that the cargo was entirely plundered. Noble Lords, perhaps, were not aware, that in the Catholic Church, the rule was to attend mass in the forenoon, and it was then deemed allowable to spend the remainder of the day in amusement or business. The act of the Magistrates already alluded to was in violation of law; for the proper course was to have summoned the boatmen for the offence, instead of stopping the boat. It was not, therefore, surprising that law should be held cheap in Ireland, when it was broken by those who ought to uphold it. He knew also another similar instance, cattle brought from Clare and Galway, and intended for exportation, were stopped by the same Magistrates, much to the injury of the owners.
The Earl of Roden
could not allow the observations of the noble Baron to pass altogether unnoticed. The noble Baron had brought a very grave charge against two Magistrates whom he had not named. If those Magistrates had exceeded their duty, let the noble Lord state their names, in order that an inquiry might be instituted. He, however, thought that it would be found, the Magistrates had only acted in strict conformity with the law of the land. As to the opinions of Roman Catholics relative to the Sabbath, 718 he would say, without meaning them any offence, that Parliament ought to legislate according to its own religious feelings.
§ Lord Cloncurry
said, in the few remarks he had made, he had only been anxious the law as it stood might be known, in order to its being properly administered. There were other cases of a similar character to that which he had named, which he could state if he knew he was not intruding on the House. With respect to disclosing the names of the Magistrates, he must decline doing that. He was unwilling at any time, especially in the excited state in which Ireland was at present, to bring an odium upon any man. He begged, however, to add that he was in possession of the names of the Magistrates to whom allusion had been made.
§ Petition laid on the Table.