The EARL of MALMESBIURY
alluding to the petitions which were presented to their Lordships a few days back, praying that all labour should cease on Sunday in the Post Office throughout the kingdom generally, said that he did not concur in the prayer of these petitions, and he believed that the parties who signed them did not properly understand the object of the petition. This was the way in which they were got up—a man was asked whether he was not desirous of keeping the Sabbath holy, and of course he answered in the affirmative. He was then asked whether he did not think it a hardship that the men engaged in the Post Offices in the country should not be treated on the same terms, with regard to working on that day, as those engaged in the Post Office in London, and to that question he also very naturally replied in the affirmative; and thus a large number of signatures was obtained throughout the country in favour of the abolition of work altogether in Post Offices on Sunday. He should like to know from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Clanricarde) whether, as far as 1047 his experience enabled him to speak, if the mails were to stop running on Sunday, any system could be contrived by which the letters could be delivered as often and as steadily as at present. It appeared to him (the Earl of Malmesbury) that, if the prayer of the petitioners were granted, the effect would be that people living about 100 miles from London would have two days in the week in which their news would be forty-eight hours old, instead of one day as at present; that in many cases, he believed, would be a most cruel inconvenience, and occasion a great deal of anxiety.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
could have wished that a question of this sort had been put to him much earlier in the Session, as he had been subjected to very gross misrepresentations upon the question of Sunday labour. Even noble Lords, Members of that House, had gone so far as to publish letters in newspapers commenting in very harsh terms on his conduct on this subject. If the question had been brought at an earlier date before the House, an opportunity would have been afforded to him of meeting his accusers. As the noble Earl had not given him any notice of his intention to put this question, the best answer which he could give to him at present was, that he could assure him that he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) would lay on the table of the House reports which would clearly set forth what had been done with respect to Sunday labour in the Post Office within the last two years, and what was the view entertained on the question by the Post Office authorities. His own opinion was that it would be impossible, having due regard to the convenience and requirements, and indeed he might call them the absolute necessities of the community, to stop the transmission of the mails during the whole of Sunday. There was no duty, religious or otherwise, which imposed that necessity upon us. But he was the more prepared to lay the papers to which he had alluded on the table of the House, since notice had been given in the other House of the intention of an hon. Member to ask the Government for information upon the subject, and these returns, he thought, would give the noble Earl all the information he desired.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
, after the promise made by the noble Marquess, would not then enter into the general question of stopping the mails on Sunday, though he confessed he did entertain a strong opinion on the subject.
The BISHOP of OXFORD
Yes; but his purpose in rising was to refer to what fell from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury). He stated that the petitions presented on this subject were petitions signed by a very large number of people who knew very little what they were signing about, and that they were induced to sign by being told that it would be a good thing for them if they signed the petitions. He (the Bishop of Oxford) had a large number of these petitions to present to their Lordships, and he felt bound to say that the observations of the noble Earl could by no means apply to them. They knew perfectly well what they had asked for, and they believed that if it were granted it would be beneficial to all interests in this country that the business of the Post Office generally should be stopped throughout the country on Sunday.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
Nobody could feel more deep respect for the motives of the parties who had signed the memorials on this subject than he did, and, in proof of that feeling, he might point to the diminution of Sunday labour in the Post Office which he had endeavoured, as far as his duty would permit him, to effect. The report which he would lay before their Lordships would disabuse the public mind. LORD BROUGHAM wished to know whether the parties who would stop the transmission of the mails all over the country, would stop also the mail-packet service; because he was puzzled to know how that was to be done?
§ The EARL of HARROWBY
said, that having sat in a Select Committee on this subject, he could state that the merchants and men of business in Liverpool and other large towns would not object to be placed upon the same footing as the mercantile men of London with regard to Sunday deliveries of letters. These were not persons to be led away by fanatical feelings.
The persons who advocated these extreme views inflicted the greatest mischiefs upon the observance of the Sabbath. He regarded the observance of the Sabbath, not only as one of the most important religious duties, but as most important in a political sense. But these extravagances tended to make that unpopular which would otherwise be a most popular institution. Did the persons who cried out against the transmission of mails on Sundays wish to stop the mail packets as 1049 well? Would they have the steam-engine stopped, the steam blown off, and the vessel "brought to" from Saturday night until early on Monday morning—blow fair or blow foul? Let it be remembered that, although the sea was the "highway of nations," there were no inns on that road.