HL Deb 25 February 1859 vol 152 cc850-3

Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said that it would be in their Lordships' recollection that an Address to Her Majesty had, in the course of last Session, been unanimously agreed to, praying that She would be graciously pleased to repeal those Proclamations by which special forms of service were appointed for the 29th of May, the 30th of January, and the 5th of November in each year. When, however, the question of doing away with those services was raised in their Lordships' House, he was of opinion that, instead of presenting an Address, asking for the repeal of the Proclamations on which they depended, the more desirable course would be to consider the propriety of abrogating the Acts of Parliament which provided that the particular days which he had mentioned should be marked by certain observances; nor could he now entertain a doubt that their Lordships would have any difficulty in arriving at the conclusion that it was not expedient that laws which were universally and systematically violated should be kept upon the Statute-book. He said systematically violated, because he believed no clergyman or layman was in the habit of strictly complying with the regulations of those statutes. For his own part, he must say that it had occurred to him but very rarely to hear any of the services to which he was alluding, even when the day for their observance fell upon a Sunday. But not only was it required by the law that the minister of every cathedral and parish church should duly perform those services on the appointed days, hut it was also enacted that on the Sunday previous to the recurrence of each of those days he should give notice that such a day was appointed to be observed, and that the special services would be performed. He would, however, appeal to the right rev. Bench to say whether they ever knew any such notice to have been given, or whether they were aware that the Acts by which the services were ordained were at such periods, in accordance with the express command of the Legislature, "publicly, plainly, and distinctly read" by the several clergymen throughout the country to their congregations. But it was not by the clergy alone, but also by the laity that the Acts in question were practically disobeyed, inasmuch as laymen did not consider themselves bound "faithfully and diligently to repair to their parish church," and there, "during the whole of the service behave themselves lawfully and soberly" on those occasions. He under those circumstances felt assured that their Lordships in assenting to the Address for the repeal of the Proclamations were of opinion that the Acts on which they depended ought not to be retained on the Statute-book. When the services were abandoned he was quite sure that their Lordships would not agree to keep these Acts on the Statute-book. The proposition therefore of the Bill was to follow up the steps already taken by Her Majesty in pursuance of the Address of both Houses, and to repeal the Acts which ordered the days he had mentioned to be observed. Another day—the 23rd of October—was required by an Irish Act to be observed in the same solemn way. Probably their Lordships were not aware of such an Act, but it had reference to the prevention of the seizure of the Castle of Dublin, in consequence of the confession of one of the accomplices in the projected attempt. That Act was also included among those which the Bill proposed to repeal,

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.


said, he should not offer any opposition to the Bill, as after the Parliament had addressed Her Majesty to put a stop to these special services, and Her Majesty had been advised to assent thereto, it was only natural that Parliament should pass a Bill like the present. He was only surprised that the noble Earl had not in the last Session proposed such a Bill, for it would have been more consistent with the propriety due to the occasion if, before Her Majesty was called on to issue a proclamation for the discontinuance of these services, a short Act like the present had passed both Houses. The noble Earl had stated that certain forms required by these Acts were unsuited to the present day. Greater and higher considerations, however, were involved, and those considerations induced him last Session to trouble their Lordships with some observations on the subject. The events to which these Acts referred were great events, calling for some solemn acknowledgment of gratitude, and he should be sorry to see the recollection of those events done away with in future, and the matter passed over in silence. The particular mode of commemoration enjoined by the Acts of Parliament might possibly not be suited to the present day, but a mode might have been adopted which would have answered all the required purpose in duly testifying the national gratitude for those great events.


There is one observation that I wish to make with regard to the remarks of the noble Duke as to the Bill not having been introduced and passed during the last Session of Parliament. After the Address had been presented to Her Majesty we thought it was our duty to apply to the law officers of the Crown for advice as to the best course to pursue with regard to the matter. We did so, and the law officers found so much difficulty in the case that they were sonic time before they could come to a satisfactory conclusion upon it. We did not get their opinion till December. In consequence of it we advised Her Majesty to issue Her royal warrant on the subject, and we now apply at the first opportunity to the Houses of Parliament upon the subject.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Tuesday, the 8th March next.