§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into a Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on the said Bill.—(Lord Chelmsford.)
said, that in moving as an Amendment that the Bill be committed on this day six months, it was no part of his case that the noble and learned Lord who introduced the Bill (Lord Chelmsford) had overstated the amount of Sunday trading. On the contrary, he was ready to admit that the noble and learned Lord had understated rather than overstated the matter. The noble and learned Lord had said that 10,000 shops were kept open on the Sunday; but he should have said that 20,000 poor traders were dependent on Sunday trading for their means of livelihood. Taking the whole of the country, to which the Bill was intended to apply, the habits and practices of many hundred thousands, the poorest of the poor for the most part, would be affected by the Bill. Not only for the sake of the poor, but for the sake of religion, and on the grounds of humanity and political wisdom, he hoped to persuade their Lordships to reject the present measure. Their Lordships were aware that in order to effect a diminution of Sunday trading various Christian and moral forces had been brought into operation. A large number of worthy men were now employed as missionaries, and their labours were especially exercised among the buyers and sellers on Sundays. From year to year they reported progress, and they declared that their labours were not in vain, but that from their influence and persuasion a consider able number of persons were ready to give up Sunday trading. The Saturday half-holiday and the payment of wages on Friday had, no doubt, likewise tended to diminish trading on the Sunday; but so many were those who remained unaffected by these circumstances that the necessity for Sunday trading remained to a great degree untouched. The noble and learned Lord had referred to Sunday fairs held in various parts of the metropolis; but, while the adoption of means to diminish that evil was a fit subject for Christian 930 and patriotic consideration, it should be borne in mind that the present Bill not merely affected the practices of individuals, followed by them for an insignificant period of time only, but in attempting to "stamp out" in a day the rooted habits of the lower classes in the metropolis, it attacked a system which had existed from generation to generation. The noble and learned Lord regarded the Act of Charles II., imposing a fine of 5s. for trading on the Lord's Day, as too weak an instrument for his purposes. He would refer to one or two facts in illustration of his argument. Four or five years ago, owing to some circumstances, the police were ordered to take steps under the Act. Five women were taken up and brought before the magistrates for selling some trifling articles to children, and in two or three of those cases in which these poor persons were convicted it had been found necessary to distrain in order to obtain the fines which had been inflicted, therefore the apprehension of such women was discontinued. It happened also some years ago that Mr. Charles Pearson, the late Solicitor of the Corporation of London, had, backed by some other persons, determined to put the Act of Charles II. into force, with a view to put a stop to Sunday trading. Every Sunday, accordingly, people were employed for the purpose of detecting those who might be guilty of transgressing the law, and each Monday the offenders were summoned and fined; but it was discovered that in the greater number of cases it was impossible to get the fines without levying a distress, and the impression left on the mind of Mr. Pearson was that so much misery was thus inflicted by well-meaning persons upon their neighbours that they could not find it in their hearts to go on in the course which they had commenced, and eventually they were obliged to give up the operation of watching, fining, and distraining. Those facts occurred under the action of the existing law, and might be repeated as often as persons could be found cruel enough to put it in force; yet it was because the law which took the bed from under poor women and children was not strong enough that the noble and learned Lord asked their Lordships to put this new law upon the statute book. In asking their Lordships to reject that Bill he was not calling upon them to signify their disapproval of some 931 imaginary scheme to put down Sunday-trading which might be devised—he was arguing against a measure under the operation of which a fine not exceeding 20s., and not less than 5s., might he inflicted for each offence under its provisions; and if 5s. could not be recovered as matters at present stood from the poor women who were convicted of selling on the Sabbath without taking their beds from under them, how, he would ask, was the higher fine of 20 s. to be obtained? He was not now, it must be understood, speaking of a state of things in which the law might or might not be put in force, but of a totally altered condition of circumstances; for if the Bill of the noble and learned Lord were to receive the sanction of Parliament it would become the duty of the police to see that its provisions were carried into effect Sunday after Sunday, and Monday after Monday the magistrates would be employed in the imposition of the proposed fines, thus being made the instruments of taking their little means from the poor and leaving their homes desolate. The people, he might add, who were generally occupied in selling in our streets on the Sabbath might be divided into two classes—the poor Irish and the poor costermongers. Their Lordships were aware how remarkable were the lower orders of the Irish for the strength of their domestic feelings and for the most part for the purity of their domestic conduct; but if the present Bill were to pass the officers of the law would be obliged to go into the courts in which they were collected together in the metropolis, and Monday after Monday to distrain the furniture of their little rooms; and would it, under these circumstances, be surprising if a spirit of antagonism to the police should be aroused among them? Was the noble and learned Lord prepared to answer for the peace of the metropolis when such was likely to be one of the consequences resulting from his measure? In the administration of the law it was at all times an exceedingly difficult matter to apportion the punishment to the offence, and he would invite their Lordships to weigh the offence against which it was proposed to legislate, and the punishment by which it was to be provided it should be followed. A poor girl might, under the Bill, be convicted of selling a few bundles of watercresses on a Sunday afternoon; and when it was borne in mind that after a first conviction for such an 932 offence a fine of from 5s. to 20s. might be inflicted, was there, he would ask, a fair proportion between such a punishment and the same amount of fine inflicted, it might be, for selling cigars in a cigar shop? The Bill was one the operation of which would extend over the whole country, and many of their Lordships would, as Justices of the Peace, be compelled to adjudicate under it. He would, under those circumstances, appeal to them to say whether they were prepared to fine their poor neighbours for selling an article, however trifling or however innocuous it might be, on a Sunday? If not, they would feel it to be their duty to reject the Bill, for once it became law they would have no option but to act in obedience to its provisions. In Excise and Custom House cases, whenever an inordinately heavy fine was imposed, the person on whom it was inflicted might, upon the recommendation of the magistrate, apply to the head of the Revenue Department for some remission of the amount; but under the present Bill there would be no court or individual to whom an appeal from the decision of the magistrate could be made; so that, no matter how disproportionate to the offence committed the magistrate might think the penalty which he found himself obliged to inflict, there would be no means of obtaining redress. He would now pass to another view of the subject. Convictions and punishments, whatever their nature and extent might be, were recorded in juxtaposition in the newspapers. A man might be brought before a magistrate for well-nigh killing an unoffending person in the street, and if for that unprovoked outrage even the full fine of £5 were imposed upon him there would be no comparison whatever between that punishment and the amount of the fine which might be inflicted on a poor woman for selling, it may be, watercresses or some other trifling article on the Sabbath. Was it for the honour of our law, then, that people should week after week have the disproportion between the two classes of cases brought under their notice in the public press? With whom would the Bill, if it became law, deal? With hundreds and thousands of the lower orders of the metropolis and other large towns; for, although the measure was primarily directed against sellers, it would exert a moral effect upon the buyers, who were the neighbours and associates of the sellers; and, indeed, to a large extent, among the poorest of the poor, the buyers 933 were sellers and the sellers were buyers. What was the state of civilization among that large portion of the community? The notion of their Lordships with regard to these poor people probably was that they were too violent and rude in their manners and habits, and stood much in need of education and instruction in religion and in gentleness. But would they teach gentleness on the part of a poor man towards his wife, his children, or his neighbours by going into the court or alley where he lived, and enforcing against him a measure like this of unheard-of violence and rigour? Moreover, there were already too many of those concerned in Sunday trading who were more or less tainted with crime, and had not a proper regard for the principles of honesty. But a Bill which inflicted fines for the selling of oftentimes innocent things on a Sunday, and which sought to recover those fines by going to their humble dwellings and violently taking away the few wretched articles of furniture which they might possess, would hardly teach those persons a due regard for honesty, or tend to make them refrain from preying upon the property of other people. Turning to the details of the measure, it would be found to hold that it was a right thing on the afternoon of Sunday to sell fruit and pastry, but that it was a wrong thing to sell water-cresses and shrimps at the very same hours—those who were guilty of selling water-cresses and shrimps on Sunday afternoon were liable to be fined and distrained upon; and those persons dwelt in the same courts and often in the same houses with the sellers of fruit and pastry, who were favoured by the noble and learned Lord. How would the Christian missionary who went among these people be able to reconcile such law as that with the religion which he had to teach them? How could they show these poor people the distinction between the criminal and the permitted trade? Again, was not that a class measure? At any time during the Lord's Day their Lordships might in their clubs buy what they pleased, and by this Bill they were called upon to legislate with respect to the offences of other people and not their own—they were invited to legislate concerning the lives of other people which were governed by circumstances that did not at all affect their own lives. He asked their Lordships to leave them alone. He appealed to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and also to other noble and 934 learned Lords; he appealed especially to those Peers who were Justices of the Peace—whether it was possible on the principles of justice to carry into execution the penalties laid down in that Bill. A policeman acting under that measure might summon an individual for the offence of Sunday trading, and if the magistrate asked the policeman, "Supposing I convict this man or woman, what interest have you in the fine?" his reply might be, "That fine is to pay my wages. I shall he fed and clothed in part by it." He now came to the religious aspect of the question. The noble and learned Lord professed to have introduced the measure solely on municipal grounds; but it could not be concealed from their Lordships that the Bill would never have been introduced but for the ancient law given to the Jews that on one day in seven they should do no manner of work. The commandment which the noble and learned Lord would introduce was, that for three hours of one day in seven no manner of work should be done—for to that extent alone did the Bill really proceed. He did not know where the noble and learned Lord found his authority for a certain kind of observance of the Sabbath during a limited number of hours and for no other period, for that was the ultimate extent to which the Bill proceeded. On the other hand, when He who was Lord of the Sabbath went through a corn-field on the Sabbath day his disciples gathered of the corn and ate it, nor did He reprove them. The interpretation he put upon this was that a hungry man was authorized by Him to obtain food for himself throughout the whole of the twelve hours of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. It is impossible in a statute to provide at once for exact obedience to a law forbidding all selling during all hours of the Sunday, the only law which would agree with the fourth Commandment; and also, when the need of man required, permitting buying and selling in any hour of the Lord's Day, the three selected hours of the noble and learned Lord not excepted. Whereas Keble, in his preface to Hooker, represents that that celebrated man urges the perpetual observance of the Lord's Day (carefully separating from it the name of Sabbath), as a sacrifice of one-seventh part of our time to God. And Joseph Mede, of Cambridge, no inferior scholar, reminds us that all nations had something 935 in their ceremonies whereby they signified the God they worshipped. So in those of the Celestial Gods, and those which were deified souls of men, were different rites, whereby the one was known from the other, as—those Gods which were made of man, having funeral rites in their services, as cognizances that they were souls deceased. So the Jews, by sanctifying the seventh day, professed themselves worshippers of that only God who created the Heaven and the earth, and rested the seventh day, and who is the God of the noble and learned Lord, whose act of resting for three hours during one day in seven he would by this Bill require all England to celebrate. He asked their Lordships, therefore, to reject this Bill, and he would remind such of them as were Scotch Peers that many of them were requested by their countrymen, who were famed for their regard for the Sabbath, to support his Amendment. The Bill enacted that no person should here after expose for sale any goods, wares, or merchandise, or anything whatsoever except what was excepted by the Bill. He did not see how railway and steamboat travelling could be continued if this Bill passed, because it would prevent the sale of railway and steamboat tickets. A very large portion of the poor of London were engaged in buying and selling until one or two o'clock on Sunday morning, and was it a merciful thing that they should be required to resume their occupations so early on Sunday morning as that all their buying and selling should be finished by nine o'clock? He was informed that persons came all the way from places as distant as Gravesend to Middlesex Street on Sunday morning, for there only could they provide the garments required for their families. The details of the Bill were open to innumerable exceptions. Those who sold vegetables usually sold also the fuel to cook them with; but the present Bill allowed persons to sell the vegetables, but not the coal or coke their customers required. The noble and learned Lord utterly excluded the sale of tea and sugar on the Sunday, while he would allow a man to buy at the baker's, butcher's, or greengrocer's what he required. More than one person had pointed out to him the imperfections of the clause which contained the exceptions with regard to pastry, fruit, and certain beverages. They stated that there were many poor persons who eked out a scanty living by the sale of fruit, pastry, and 936 those excepted beverages, who also sold ices and sweetmeats for children; but by this Bill they would not be allowed to expose the latter for sale on the Sunday in the same shop in which they sold the former; and yet it was by the sale of all this variety of things that they were able to pay their rents and obtain an honest livelihood. The noble and learned Lord intended to stop one-half of their trade. To a great many, the most interesting portion of the exceptions applied to the sale of newspapers, or, in the language of Parliament, periodical publications. These were allowed to be sold until ten o'clock on the Sunday morning. Among them there was one in particular—The Observer—a paper of some repute, which was published only on Sunday morning. Well, according to the Bill of the noble and learned Lord, as far as the railway could carry it up to ten o'clock the paper might be sold; but if the speed of the train would not allow the paper to arrive at ten o'clock it would be an unlawful and wicked thing to expose it for sale, and the seller after one conviction would be liable to a fine of 20s. for every paper sold. In the country—particularly on the Sunday—newspapers were sold by persons who also sold paper and envelopes, and there was a post to London on that day. Up to ten o'clock the sellers of newspapers would be held harmless; but to sell letter paper or envelopes for the post would be a penal thing. Then the exception with regard to cook-shops was objected to by the poor on the ground that the effect of it would be to drive them in the afternoon from their homes to places of public entertainment; and not only that, but practically to compel them to buy cooked food when they might buy uncooked food more cheaply, and enjoy it with their families in their own homes. The clause with respect to bakers and licensed victuallers approached them with an air of gentleness. There were certain hours on the Sunday when their lawful business might be carried on. Under the present law if a licensed victualler was convicted for selling to ten or twelve persons within the prohibited hours he had to pay only one fine, but this Bill would bring him under the operation of the clause which multiplied the fine. On the grounds, then, of policy, of religion, and of detail, he asked their Lordships to support him in the Motion that the House go into Committee on the Bill this day six months.
§ An Amendment moved to leave out ("now") and insert ("this Day Six Months.")
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, the course pursued by the noble Lord was one, to say the least of it, very unusual and open to very considerable objection. It might be in the recollection of their Lordships that when the Motion was made for the second reading the noble Lord made a speech against it. He began by expressing himself favourable to the Bill in one respect, because, unlike the measure of 1860, which was confined to the metropolis, it extended to the whole of England; but he was at a loss to understand how the noble Lord could think it a recommendation in favour of a measure to which he absolutely objected that the sphere of its operation was to be extended. The noble Lord, however, proceeded in the usual form to move the rejection of the Bill; but when the question was put, he found himself the only one to say "Not-Content," and he did not think proper to go to a division. Now, though he (Lord Chelmsford) might have no right to infer from that circumstance that their Lordships were in favour of the Bill, he was, at all events, entitled to say that the noble Lord expected there would be so large a majority against him that he did not think it prudent or even necessary to divide against the second reading. Under these circumstances it was not a very usual, nor did he think it a very fair course, for any noble Lord to interpose to prevent the Bill going into Committee. However, the noble Lord entertained a different opinion, and they must submit to the course which he had thought proper to pursue. Now, he had listened with great attention to the speech of the noble Lord, and to the arguments which he had offered against the Bill. These arguments were of various kinds, and many of them conflicting with each other; but if he understood him correctly, the noble Lord based his principal objection to the Bill upon the ground that it restrained Sunday trading at all, and he put forward that objection on behalf of the poor. The noble Lord admitted that he (Lord Chelmsford) had understated the amount of Sunday trading—that, instead of there being 10,000 shops open every Sunday in the metropolis, there were at least double that number, and, taking the whole of England, there were about 500,000 persons who were engaged in this unlawful species of trade. And the noble Lord 938 seemed to say that this had been continued for such a number of years, it had become such an inveterate habit, that these people had a prescriptive right not to be interfered with to carry on their trade as before. The noble Lord having taken this strong ground, and objected to any interference with Sunday trading, then complained of the inconsistency of the measure in making certain exceptions, shifted his position altogether, took up the religious view, and complained of the three hours' exception, and then he attacked the Bill on the ground that its provisions were too stringent, and the penalties extremely high. The noble Lord had, perhaps, made out a case for the dealers in shrimps and water-cresses and other persons in a humble position; and the way to obviate that objection was to leave the amount of the penalty to the discretion of the magistrates, under a certain maximum. He anticipated the petition which the noble Lord had presented, because a few days ago he read this paragraph in the newspapers—Last evening a crowded meeting of the retail dealers and traders of Whitechapel and neighbourhood was held at the Exhibition Clothes' Exchange, Hounsditch, to protest, as stated by the circular convening the meeting, against the unjust and arbitrary Bill now before the House of Lords as affecting trading and hawking; Mr. Moss in the chair. Mr. Levy moved that the Bill introduced into the House of Lords in reference to selling and hawking on Sunday is most unjust and arbitrary, favouring many tradesmen, oppressing others, and deeply affecting many thousands of the poorer classes.The district from which this petition emanated happened to be one of those most strikingly distinguished in all the evidence given upon the subject as being one in which Sunday trading was carried on to the greatest possible extent. The words the noble Lord had used—"a fair or market"—applied most strictly to the sort of dealing carried on there, in which he understood that every Sunday no fewer than 10,000 persons were engaged. It was all very well for those persons to characterize the Bill as arbitrary and unjust; and the noble Lord might come forward as their advocate, and insist that they ought not to be prevented continuing a system which had become to them so habitual as to give them a prescriptive right in it; but he (Lord Chelmsford) hardly anticipated that their Lordships would adopt that view, and say that the proposed law would be an arbitrary and unwise one, What was the state of the 939 case? For nearly 200 years there had been a law prohibiting Sunday trading; that law had become utterly inefficient; the penalty was much too small, and there were no adequate means of enforcing it. No doubt, whatever, when the law was passed, the intention was that it should be efficient for its purpose; and the object of this Bill was to strengthen the arm of the law, which had been raised for so long a period against Sunday trading, but which had become almost paralyzed. What possible objection could there be, in point of principle, to the object of this Bill? It was to render the law efficient for its purpose, and to put down that which, in defiance of the law, had been carried on for so long a time, and which could not, as Committee after Committee had declared, be put down effectually by the existing law, so that further legislation was absolutely necessary. He was not, he confessed, apprehensive of the class of opponents just named, who offered no solid argument against the Bill; but he had more apprehension of the opposition of the good and conscientious persons who, upon principle, thought that there ought to be a strict and religious observance of the Sunday, and who objected to any relaxation of the law with regard to Sunday trading. He respected the motives of this class; but, at the same time, he would ask whether they were acting judiciously on this occasion. He trusted they would not suppose that the promoters of the Bill were not as sensible as themselves of the propriety of a general and reverential observance of the Lord's Day; at the same time, the promoters of the Bill were satisfied that it was quite impossible to enforce that observance by any legislation. They saw a state of things which had existed for a very considerable time, and which, he thought, had almost become a national reproach; they saw that in the most populous and crowded parts of the metropolis Sunday seemed to be almost especially selected for the purposes of traffic; they saw that thousands—he might say, tens of thousands—of tradesmen were drawn into the vortex, and, against their will, were compelled to resort to the same course of illegal trading; they observed that these persons petitioned their Lordships to interpose for their protection, and to ensure to them the blessings of the day of rest. The Bill now before their Lordships had been framed to attain that desirable object. They knew very well from former attempts 940 of this kind that it was quite impossible to accomplish all they wished; but this class of his opponents would agree with him that it was a most desirable object to free tradesmen from the pressure which was placed upon them by the action of a minority who compelled them to Sunday trading in their own defence—it desired to set them free to employ the Sunday in accordance with the dictates of their own conscience, so as to leave them open to moral and religious influences. Was this class of opponents satisfied with the present state of things? Did they think that the desecration of the Sunday ought to be allowed to continue? They could not think so; and yet, unless they gave way in some degree—unless they admitted of some exceptions—it was quite impossible they could expect to advance towards the object which all their Lordships had in view. It would be a matter of regret to this class of objectors if, acting rigidly upon the principles they professed, they interfered with the passing of this Bill, and, by so doing, perpetuated a state of things which was a scandal and a reproach to the country, and deprived tradesmen of that day of rest which they earnestly implored the Legislature to protect for them. Having trespassed upon their Lordships' attention on the second reading of the Bill, he was unwilling now to occupy further time in defending its provisions.
THE BISHOP OF CARLISLE
said, he was one of the class whom the noble and learned Lord had just addressed who felt some difficulty in accepting the Bill simply on the ground of religious principle. In common with many others, he had no notion that such a Bill was on the table of the House until he read the speech of the most rev. Prelate who presided over the see of Canterbury, on the second reading. He did not wish to identify himself with the long series of incongruous arguments addressed to their Lordships against the Bill. As some machines were self-adjusting so some speeches were self-answering. He felt very deeply the importance of protecting their poorer fellow countrymen from a servitude continued from week to week and year to year—a servitude which was most galling to conscientious men, and which he knew had the effect of wearing out prematurely many a strong constitution—he had the strongest desire of doing everything that could be done to deliver a large number of tradesmen in London from the galling yoke of Sunday trading. While 941 he wished for the success of the noble Lord's design, he hesitated to support the Bill. Their Lordships would perhaps allow him to state the predicament in which he was placed. His first difficulty was one of principle. It was a well-known proverb that the strength of a chain must always be tested by its weakest link. Now, the preamble of this Bill was a very strong link indeed, and so also was the first clause; but the weakness of the measure lay in the second clause, which contained the exceptions. He would ask their Lordships how, as a matter of principle, they could logically sanction the various exceptions contained in that clause? Many of them could certainly not be justified as falling within the class either of works of necessity or works of mercy. With respect to the delivery of meat, he had been informed that an association had been formed by West End tradesmen to put an end to the delivery of meat on the Lord's Day, and one of the arguments adduced in the address they sent to their customers—among whom, probably, many of their Lordships might be included—was, that there were no markets for the sale of meat on Sunday, and that, consequently, meat was not more fit to be used because it was delivered on that day. Again, the sale of pastry and vegetables did not appear to be a work of necessity or mercy; and the same remark applied to the sale of periodical publications. He hoped that in Committee the last-named exception, at all events, would be struck out of the clause. Again, was there any warrant for drawing a distinction like that drawn in the Bill between certain hours of the Lord's Day and the remaining portion of the day? He was aware that the evil of Sunday trading existed to a very large extent; but if they legalized it to some extent, by authorizing these exceptions and recognizing this distinction, would they not make themselves participes criminis, would they not thereby take upon themselves by this measure a national guilt? As education advanced and public opinion improved, the evil would be gradually put down. He was one of those who believed—and he was sure their Lordships were of the same opinion—that one great element in the success of any measure was the blessing of Almighty God; and how could they expect to have the blessing of Almighty God upon a measure which legalized certain acts of Sunday trading? In carrying out a measure for the preven- 942 tion of Sunday trading it was necessary to enlist the support of the parochial clergy, the religious men of every parish, the Dissenting ministers, the City Missionaries, the Scripture readers, and all those who were working directly or indirectly to procure a better observance of the Lord's Day. He sincerely hoped that their Lordships would take the subject into consideration from that point of view. He might remark that the speech of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment contained some arguments which really bore upon the subject, for certainly the Bill made distinctions which could not possibly be maintained. How, for instance, could a distinction be consistently maintained between the sale of vegetables and the sale of the wood and coals required for cooking them? He wished, however, to allude to another feature of the measure. Its operation was not confined to the metropolis; indeed, if it had been, he should have been very loth to address their Lordships on the present occasion—on the contrary, it extended to the whole of England, and he would ask the House to consider whether the Bill would not, if passed in its present state, inflict upon many a village and small country town the very evils which were so much deplored in the metropolis. He had been for twenty years in active work as a parish priest. For four years of that time he was in a large town, the remaining sixteen years being spent in a country parish. Well, during the whole of the time he resided in the country Sabbath desecration was unknown, not because there were no persons who would have sold their goods on Sunday, but because there was a strong restraining public opinion, supported by law. But if public opinion were deprived of the support given to it by law, there would be persons in country villages who, bidding defiance to the laws of God and deaf to the wishes of their neighbours, would open shops for the sale of such goods as were allowed to be sold under the second clause of this Bill. And the mischief would not stop there. Other things than meat and poultry were perishable. He did not know any sight more instructive, more worthy of praise, than the observance of the Lord's Day in hay time and harvest. From earliest dawn till latest night for every one of the six days the husbandman toiled at gathering in these fruits of the earth. But let the day of rest come round and all labour ceased, even though the un- 943 certainty of the weather might suggest many a fear. Such was the state of things now. But let this Bill pass, and gradually all this would come to an end. The result, of course, would be most disastrous to the cause of Sabbath observance. In his opinion, this measure would let in the thin end of the wedge, and he believed that the noble and learned Lord, instead of succeeding in his high and excellent enterprize of discouraging and putting an end to Sunday trading, would practically fail altogether in the metropolis, and would extend all the evils of Sunday trading to the whole of the country.
THE EARI, OF HARROWBY
said, he could not agree with the view of the right rev. Prelate (the Bishop of Carlisle), who seemed to think that the law must be held to sanction everything which it did not expressly prohibit. In all legislation there was the difficulty of deciding how much should be left to the domain of private conscience, and how much should be undertaken by law; and this difficulty, perhaps, existed in legislation upon the observance of the Lord's Day more than in any other question. The difficulty arises in this way—all classes—the wealthier not less than the poorer—make exceptions to the obsolete rule of abstinence from labour on that day, and thought themselves justified in doing so by considerations of convenience or necessity not very strictly interpreted. Their Lordships, no doubt, had all of their dinners cooked on Sundays, at least, if they imposed no other labour on their households, although the wants of nature might be sufficiently satisfied by cold viands. But there was this difference between their case and that of the poorer classes, that which their Lordships did took place privately within their own dwellings, and, except in pure wantonness, they had no occasion to go out into the streets and make purchases, and infringe a public law. But with the poorer classes it was otherwise. Their necessities, and their imperfect means of making and having provisions for the morrow, might compel them to make these open purchases on the Sunday, which would be quite wanton in their Lordships. It was clear, therefore, that without any wider interpretation of the law of necessity and convenience that the wealthier classes felt themselves entitled to adopt exceptions on behalf of the poorer classes, and their 944 necessities must be admitted into any Bill which professed to give increased strictness to the laws against Sunday trading. Whether the exceptions proposed by the Bill, whether as to articles or hours, were the right ones, it was not then the proper opportunity for discussing. That was the business of the Committee. Exceptions of some kind, for perishable articles at least, always had been and must be made, and he should, therefore, feel himself entitled to go into Committee on the Bill; anxious, on the one hand, to make such exceptions as were necessary to meet the poor man's wants and convenience, and, on the other, to take additional securities against these needless invasions of the poor man's and the tradesman's day of rest, which are creeping in more and more, especially into the habits of our great metropolis, such securities as can be enforced consistently with the habits and necessities of a great population.
THE DUKE OF ARGYLL
said, that having been intrusted with many petitions on this subject, he wished to say one word, and one word only. He had presented two petitions—one from the Sabbath Alliance in Edinburgh, and another from Glasgow, and both objected to this Bill on the religious grounds referred to by the right rev. Prelate. He thought this an erroneous objection, and it had been well replied to by his noble Friend who spoke last. He entirely concurred in the reasons his noble Friend had given as to the necessity for making exceptions. There was a large number of the poorer classes who could not live from day to day, almost from hour to hour, without the purchase of certain articles. Such an exception was, therefore, almost a work of necessity and mercy. The intention of Parliament was not to enforce a theological opinion, but to secure to the working classes of this country a day of rest sanctioned by the traditions of the Christian Church. They did not wish to force on any one their opinions as to the mode of keeping that day; their object was, if possible, to secure to the working classes that day of rest. There would be no necessity of legislation on the subject if the trading classes had free will in the matter; but under the pressure of the tremendous competition which existed, if one opened his shop others must, and therefore the protection of the Legislature was necessary to secure to them the rest of one day in 945 seven. This was the only ground on which they ought to legislate, and he thought they were bound to legislate unless it could be shown that the provisions of the Bill would impose such restrictions as would be intolerable. But while their Lordships were bound to protect, so far as lay in them, the sanctity of the day of rest, they were also bound to provide for those exceptional circumstances under which they themselves did not suffer. So far from this being class legislation, he held the enacting clauses to be a protection to the trading class, and the excepting clauses a protection to the consuming class.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
said, he would not detain their Lordships for more than a single moment. He did not entirely agree with what had fallen from his right rev. Brother (the Bishop of Carlisle), but rather with the noble Earl (the Earl of Harrowby) who spoke from the cross benches. One thing only he wished to add. Of course if the Christian Sunday was really by God ordered to be kept as the Jewish Sabbath was ordered to be kept, his right rev. Brother's argument was perfectly sound. We must keep God's law as it was laid down to us to the full, come what might. But it was because he believed that the rest of the Lord's Day—one of the greatest blessings to a nation or an individual that could be conceived—was based on a different set of Divine charges from what the Jewish Sabbath was based on, that he thought they had full liberty to entertain the consideration of the weaknesses and wants of certain classes of the community, without being in any danger of incurring that Divine wrath. Holding himself quite at liberty in the Committee to deal with any of the exceptions contained in the Bill, he was quite ready to give his support to the present Motion.
§ On Question, That ("now") stand Part of the Motion? Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ Clause 1 (Penalties for Selling, Offering, and Exposing for Sale) agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Certain Cases to which this Act does not apply).
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
asked upon what principle the exceptions were constructed? If it was to exempt the sale of periodical publications it would be bet- 946 ter to exempt booksellers' shops altogether, otherwise a person would be permitted to sell a penny newspaper of infidel tendencies or immoral character, while he would be liable to a fine of 20 *. if he offered for sale Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or even a copy of the Holy Scriptures.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, he was not aware that there was any general principle applicable to the exceptions. Each exception stood on its own ground.
§ THE EARL OF HARROWBY
thought that some words ought to be introduced which would prevent persons from buying fish on Saturday and requiring their delivery on Sunday. The salesmen in the West End had complained of the delivery of fish and fowl on Sundays, and there had been an improvement in this respect; but the prohibition would relieve them from a labour still to some extent imposed upon them, while it would not affect the poor, who carried away their purchases themselves.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
inquired whether the clause would prevent any newspaper being bought or delivered after ten o'clock on Sunday morning?
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
replied that it would; but he had no objection to leave out the words excepting the delivery of periodicals after ten o'clock on Sunday.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ADDERLY
observed, that the effect would be to prevent persons who were living any distance from London from getting their Sunday newspaper.
THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH
said, it would be a national sin to legalize the sale on Sunday of Sunday newspapers, which might contain infidel matter. If people wanted what they called Sunday newspapers they might get them on Saturday night.
§ The words "nor to the delivery" struck out.
understood that the Bill would prohibit the circulation of any important intelligence which reached on Sunday afternoon; and that it would have prevented the announcement of the fall of Sebastopol if it had been in operation at that time. He should therefore move an Amendment to leave out the words "before the hour of ten o'clock in the morning."
§ An Amendment moved to leave out ("before the Hour of Ten o'clock in the Morning.")—(Lord Houghton.)
§ On Question, Whether the said Words shall stand Part of the Clause? their Lordships divided:—Contents 37; Not-Con-tents 13: Majority 24.
|Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Clancarty, V. (E. Clancarty.)|
|York, Archp.||Hawarden, V.|
|Stratford de Redcliffe, V.|
|Bristol, M.||Carlisle, Bp.|
|Belmore, E. [Teller.]||Oxford, Bp.|
|Chichester, E.||Berners, L.|
|Dartmouth, E.||Boston, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Chelmsford L. [Teller.]|
|Harrowby, E.||Denman, L.|
|Leven and Melville, E.||Dunsany, L.|
|Morton, E.||Foley, L.|
|Nelson, E.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
|Romney, E.||Heytesbury, L.|
|Shaftesbury, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Templemore, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Athol.)||Wynford, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Normanby, M,||Houghton, L. [Teller.]|
|Granville, E.||Mostyn, L.|
|Minto, E.||Oxenfoord, L. (E. Stair)|
|Morley, E.||Stanley of Alderley, L. [Teller.]|
|Abinger, L.||Wentworth, L.|
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
then moved after ("Morning") to insert (" Or after One o'Clock in the Morning.")
§ On Question? their Lordships divided:—Contents 17; Not-Contents 20: Majority 3.948
§ On Question that the clause as amended stand part of the Bill,
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
said, that the Act of Charles II. totally forbidding Sunday trading was not repealed by any provision in the present Bill. As both measures would be in operation simultaneously, he wished to know how one would work in connection with the other.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, there could be no doubt that the later law would prevail in the event of any conflict.
§ THE DUKE OF MARLBOROUGH
desired that this Bill might be the means of doing some good, but he was afraid that if they drew the string too tightly there would be a reaction against the law. If the Clubs were not allowed to receive their periodicals on Sunday there would be a great outcry.
§ Clause, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 3 (Provision as to distinct and separate Offences) agreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Police Constables to enforce the Provisions of this Act).
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
observed, that it was an entire novelty to require the police to put a law of this kind in execution.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, that the evidence given before Committees was very strong to show that unless the police were intrusted with the duty they might as well not pass the law at all. The omission of such a requisition was partly the reason why the Act of Charles II. had become a dead letter. People would not inform against their neighbours, and the only means of putting the law in force would be by the police.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 (Limitation of Act).
§ THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY
said, that all that they had heard showed the 949 extreme difficulty of Sabbath legislation, and he had been forced to the conclusion that it was utterly hopeless to pass any Bill of that kind 'which would be of real and permanent benefit. He had himself dissuaded his friends in hundreds of instances from attempting to pass such laws. He deeply regretted that the noble and learned Lord—of course, with the best of motives—should have introduced it on that occasion. It would have been much wiser, he thought, to leave matters alone. If it were extended universally throughout England it would do irreparable mischief. In most of the villages and small towns of the country the shops were shut up all day on Sunday; but once a legislative sanction was given to the carrying on of certain descriptions of traffic at particular hours on the Sabbath, he was much inclined to believe, from what he knew of the mercantile spirit, that many of those shops in the villages and smaller towns which were now closed throughout that day would be opened within the permitted hours. The great evil prevailed in large and populous districts, and therefore he thought that if the Bill were made to apply only to towns in England having a population of 10,000 persons, that would, he thought, do something towards the abatement of the evil. The noble Earl concluded by moving the insertion of words to this effect in the clause.
§ An Amendment moved, after ("to") to insert ("Towns containing Ten thousand Inhabitants in.")—(The Earl of Shaftesbury.)
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
thought that this was a good illustration of the difficulty of legislating on this question. The Bill which he introduced in 1860 was rejected because it was confined to the metropolis; and now when he introduced a general Bill his noble Friend objected that it would be very prejudicial by causing persons in small towns to open their shops on Sundays. He (Lord Chelmsford) very much doubted whether any such advantage would be taken of the exceptions in the Bill; and he could not see why the application of the Bill should be confined to towns of 10,000 persons, rather than to towns of twice that population. He believed that such a limit to the operation of the Bill would introduce another element of discord; and therefore he proposed that the clause should stand as it was.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
said, the extreme 950 difficulty of legislating on that subject arose from the fact that they were attempting by legislation to do what they could only effectually do by the operation of moral means.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided:—Contents 7; Non-Contents 26; Majority 19.
|Carnarvon, E.||Shaftesbury, E. [Teller.]|
|Harrowby, E. [Teller.]|
|Leven and Melville, E.|
|Romney, E.||Wentworth, L.|
|Cranworth, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Abinger, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Chelmsford. L. [Teller.]|
|Normanby, M.||Dunsany, L.|
|Belmore, E. [Teller.]||Foley, L.|
|Granville, E.||Granard, L. (E. Granard.)|
|Minto, E.||Hay, L. (E. Kinnoul.)|
|Morton, E,||Heytesbury, L.|
|Stanhope, E.||Houghton, L.|
|Strange, E. (D. Athol.)||Llanover, L.|
|Tankevville, E.||Redesdale, L.|
|Hardinge, V.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Stratford de Redeliffe, V.||Wynford, L.|
§ The Report of the Amendments to be received on Thursday next; and Bill to be printed, as amended. (No. 119.)