HL Deb 30 June 1876 vol 230 cc715-34

rose to move that a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the prevalence of habits of intemperance, and into the manner in which those habits have been affected by recent legislation and other causes. His Grace said, he felt that he need make no apology for bringing this very important subject before their Lordships. What had induced him to do so at this particular time was especially this—that recently, in common with many of his right rev. Brethren and the Archbishop of York, he had received a Memorial signed by 10,000 of the Clergy of the Established Church of England, calling upon them in their place in Parliament to draw their Lordships' attention to the growing prevalence of intemperance, and to endeavour to ascertain whether any remedy could be found for the very serious evils of which the memorialists complained. This Memorial was the sequel of two important Reports—one drawn up by the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury—a Committee to examine into the subject of the Report was, indeed, appointed as long ago as the year 1869—and the other Report drawn up in the year 1874 by the Convocation of the Province of York. The first of those Reports had been in the hands of the Clergy and the public generally for several years. It contained much information as to the spread of intemperance in the country, and also a great many valuable suggestions as to the best way in which that evil could be met. A venerable friend of his, who was at that time an important member of the Lower House of Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, was mainly the author of that Report—the late Archdeacon Sandford. It was specially owing to his indomitable perseverance that this Committee was enabled to acquire the information which they had laid before the public. In the midst of the pressing avocations which the Clergy had in their several spheres—in the midst also of that controversy which he supposed was an inseparable concomitant of increased religious zeal, however much in itself to be deplored—it was refreshing to find that that venerable institution, the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury, applied its attention to this important practical matter, and by a laborious and exhaustive process was able to supply the country with a storehouse of information on the subject. He was bound to say, also, that the Convocation of the Province of York drew up a Report in 1874 or the beginning of 1875, and therefore took cognizance of all the changes which had occurred since the year 1869, and had contributed further most valuable and important information on this subject. He was not surprised that the Clergy generally, feeling that their work as the established ministry of this country was greatly impeded by the evil complained of, should, in such large numbers, have memorialized the Bishops, and asked them to bring this subject before Parliament. It was only natural that men who felt that the very object of their existence as a class was interfered with by some growing evil should be more alive to the existence of that evil than, perhaps, any other class of men. It was not, indeed, to be taken for granted that all the allegations contained in these Reports were capable of being distinctly maintained. The very object which the Bishops had in view in asking their Lordships to grant a Select Committee was that those allegations might be tested—that they might see first whether the evil did exist to the extent alleged; secondly, what were the causes to which the existence of the evil was in a greater or less degree to be attributed; and, thirdly, what were most likely to be remedies for the evil. It was maintained that intemperance had greatly increased in the country. It was maintained that crime had been assisted by the growth of intemperance; that the Reports of all prison chaplains, or magistrates, and of all persons connected in the police with the repression of crime, attested that a large proportion of the crime of the country was owing to intemperance. It was alleged also that pauperism might be greatly diminished throughout the country if it were not for widespread intemperance, and that those who had charge of the union workhouses in every part of the country bore testimony to the fact that the ranks of the paupers under their care were swelled by the existence of that terrible evil. It was also alleged that much was done in the way of spreading disease, and especially of that worst of diseases which showed itself in insanity, by that intemperance. Therefore, as the occasion was so grave, and had so much to do not only with the morality but with the social safety of the country, he felt justified in asking their Lordships to inquire in the regular and appointed way whether these allegations were true or false; and whether, if true, anything could be done, either by direct legislation, or by distinct appeal to the right feeling of the country, to mitigate this great evil. He was aware that questions connected with this subject had been mixed up with a great deal of controversy, and that exaggerated statements had been made. He was aware that it was not uncommon to speak, perhaps, in harsher terms than it was at all desirable of those who were engaged in what was commonly called the liquor traffic. He was aware especially that many of those men who had embarked their capital as brewers or distillers felt very sensitive as to the way in which they were spoken of by some of those who had interested themselves in promoting the temperance movement;—and certainly from his own personal acquaintance with gentlemen engaged in this trade, he thought there was great exaggeration, and an undue tendency to regard them as responsible for evils which they were as anxious as ourselves to prevent. It might, indeed, be retorted that all those engaged in the production of those things from which distillers and brewers formed their liquor were equally responsible; for certainly if there were no malt and no hops there would not be a great deal of brewing. Of the men who were engaged in the liquor traffic, in its higher departments at least, he thought there were none who ought to be so much interested in such investigations as he asked their Lordships to give him as the brewers and distillers of this country. If it should be the case that by calling attention to the way in which their public-houses were disposed of a way might be found to mitigate this evil, he could not but feel confident that when their attention was directed to a matter in which as Christians and as patriotic Englishmen they were interested they durst not for conscience sake submit to take part in what was degrading and ruinous to the country, but would be as ready as any others to meet any proposal that was made in order to diminish the spreading. Still less could he assent to the allegation that it was the character and condition of the English working man that was the cause of this widespread intemperance. The English working man bore a high character in the civilized world. Most of the occupants of the Episcopal Bench were acquainted, through personal intercourse, with the labouring population of this country. As to the agricultural labourers, he should be surprised if it were denied that in the agricultural labourers of England were to be found many of the best specimens of English citizens. He should be surprised if any one denied that in almost every village you might find a man who lived by the sweat of his brow and the labour of his hands who was as much interested in the welfare and education of his children as any of their Lordships were, who was a regular attendant in his place of worship, and who cultivated those habits of frugality which had made working men in various parts of the country rise from the lower positions which they originally occupied to a place among the foremost of the land. He believed that our labouring population in the rural districts was not behind the labouring population of any country in Europe or in the world, and that therefore if intemperance had degraded the working men in the rural population of England, it was not from any defect either in their character or in the circumstances in which they were placed, but from some dangerous influence which it was possible to remove. Those of the Clergy who were acquainted with our urban mechanics knew that among them were men whose conduct and habits were irreproachable, and who were deeply interested in the welfare and the education of their children. If that were the case, how were the strange and somewhat piteous stories to be accounted for of the way in which the increase of wages had plunged the working man into every sort of reckless excess? A friend of his who had great experience of the habits of the population of Australia had made to him a remark which perhaps threw some light upon the subject. He told him that the first effect of the gold discoveries in that country had been to induce the people to plunge into vicious extravagance and intemperance, for they had no idea of any other sort of indulgence; but in the course of a few years matters had righted themselves, and men began to understand that there were better ways of spending their money than by indulging in drink and vice. The result, therefore, was that the people of Australia were largely and permanently benefiting by the rise of wages in that country. He trusted that events would run the same course in this country, and that we might anticipate safely that the ultimate prosperity of the working men would be increased by the rise in wages. In the meantime, however, we were bound to do all we could to protect the working man against temptation. And here he wished it to be understood that he was speaking not alone of the temptation as it affected the lower classes, but of the temptations to selfish indulgence and to vice that were offered to all classes of society. We lived in an age in which the luxury of the rich was largely upon the increase, and therefore it was not surprising that the working man or the agricultural labourer should seek for luxury in his own way, which led too often to his degradation. He would only slightly refer to the various modes which were pointed out in the documents to which he had alluded as being calculated to palliate or to remedy these evils—because it would be the business of the Committee which their Lordships would probably be kind enough to grant him to recommend the steps that should be taken to check intemperance. No doubt if we could by any means increase the comfort of the labouring population—if we could make their homes more suitable as the homes of English citizens—if we could secure for them good houses and more abundant and cheaper food—we should do much to check drunkenness;—because the man who lived in a comfortable home and ate plenty of wholesome food was not so likely to seek for amusement or for the palliation of his sufferings in unwholesome drink. He recollected that some years ago, when the Western Islands of Scotland were visited by famine, more whiskey was said to have been drunk in those Islands than had ever been consumed there before; and the conclusion he drew from the fact was that starvation, and not prosperity, was the chief incentive to drink, because people drank to enable them to forget their misery for a time. Therefore, he believed that by improving the habitations of the poor, and by giving them sufficient food, we should be approaching a great and beneficial result. Nevertheless, he urged that we were bound in the meantime to diminish the temptations to drink which were brought strangely near to the doors of every person under the present system. Enormous sums were expended in the erection of workhouses, and if it were true, as was alleged, that a large proportion of our pauperism was caused by intemperance, then we were being put to a large and an unnecessary expenditure in consequence of intemperance and of the temptation afforded by the unrestricted number of public-houses. He was given to understand that the adulteration of the drink of the people was in itself an additional incentive to intoxication, and was therefore one of the main causes of our pauperism and all its attendant miseries. Under these circumstances, he could not help thinking that it would be wise for us to look narrowly at the system under which our public-houses were licensed, and to consider whether some restraint could not be put upon adulteration of the drink sold in them. We should further consider whether beershops should be allowed to exist, and whether we should permit spirits to be sold at various shops, as was done under the existing law. We could not pass through any county in this country without seeing large lunatic asylums, and if the allegations made in the papers before him were accurate, a large proportion of the inhabitants of those buildings were the victims of intemperance. We were spending much, and were likely to spend more, in this country upon education; but there was a strange something in the public money being spent in erecting side by side schools, workhouses, and lunatic asylums—the former intended for the education of the people, and the two latter to receive those whose evil example tended to counteract the good that education would do. For these plain and common-sense reasons, which appealed to every man's experience, he felt confident their Lordships would not refuse to consider this very important question, but would, without hesitation, grant him the Committee he asked for.

Moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the prevalence of habits of intemperance, and into the manner in which those habits have been affected by recent legislation and other causes."—(The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury.)


said, he could not but think the inquiry proposed by the most rev. Primate was most desirable. He was glad also to hear in the speech of the most rev. Primate such testimony to the zeal of the Clergy of the Church of England in the cause of temperance, and they would be supported in their efforts by the ministers of all other denominations. One of the principal advantages which he anticipated as likely to arise from the inquiries of the Committee was that the opinions of the most competent medical authorities would be obtained on the subject. He attached the greatest possible importance to the results of medical experience, and it was in this direction more than any other that he looked for a remedy likely to correct an evil which all deplored.


said, he looked upon the Memorial to which reference had been made as of the greatest possible importance—it was signed by many of the most eminent clergymen in this country. But he desired to remark that although the Clergy had taken up this question very strongly, it would be a mistake to regard it as an exclusively clerical question:—it was practically a lay subject. All ranks of society, from Members of Parliament down to the ranks of the working classes, had of late years evinced a lively interest in the checking of intemperance; and he had been greatly struck by the enthusiasm with which the subject had been taken up by large numbers of working men in that part of the country with which he was immediately connected. He might go further, and say that the publicans themselves, or some of them—for there were respectable members of that as of all other trades—had shown a desire to diminish the evils which were clearly traceable to the sale of intoxicating drinks. He thought that the inquiry asked for in the Memorial of the Clergy could not in so many terms be granted. A measure intended to deal in any form with a restriction of the trade he would not say would have a very bad chance of success, but would come with a certainty of failure from what was called the right rev. Bench. They might, however, well ask their Lordships' House to appoint a Committee to inquire into the subject. What struck him, in looking at debates in the House of Commons, was the extreme uncertainty which often existed as to the facts of the particular question under consideration. For instance, in the recent debate on Sir Wilfrid Lawson's Bill the question whether temperance was or was not on the increase was—the assertions on the subject were so much opposed—left in doubt. It was important that they should know which way they were going. If the great increase of intemperance they had heard of was due to the higher rate of wages received by the working classes, and would decrease as that rate went down, the case was not so bad as if the increase went steadily on. Inquiry would throw light on this important matter. For himself, he trusted that as education spread, as men became more civilized, as they had more opportunities of improving their minds, and knew better what to do with their money, intemperance would more and more decline. But it was well to look the case in the face. He altogether disbelieved in the notion of making men temperate by Act of Parliament; but still they might make men intemperate by Act of Parliament. One point of the inquiry should be as to the effect of what was called the system of grocers' licences to sell spirits. From the accounts that had reached him, under that system women had an opportunity of obtaining spirits which they had not before, and many families had been made wretched and placed in poverty in consequence. Inquiry should also be made as to the result of the present system of treating persons taken into custody and imprisoned on charge of drunkenness. Then, again, he believed that a great deal of illicit drinking took place in what were called "hush houses," where intoxicating liquors could be procured after the public-houses were closed. A great amount of drunkenness was, he believed, to be traced to that cause. It seemed to him and to all to whom he had spoken on the subject that a Committee of their Lordships' House was the best tribunal to conduct such an inquiry. By a fair, impartial, and elaborate investigation a mass of facts might be secured which, whether they led to legislation or not, could not but be most beneficial to the country, and invaluable to those who sought to advance the cause of temperance.


said, that the desire for inquiring into the subject under their Lordships' consideration was not confined to any part of the United Kingdom. Petitions had been presented from Scotland praying for a searching investigation; and though they suggested a Royal Commission, he was sure the Petitioners would be altogether satisfied with a Committee of their Lordships' House. The nation, he thought, was greatly indebted to the 10,000 clergymen of the Church of England who had presented the Memorial which had been referred to, and to the most rev. Primate for having brought the subject forward.


said, that when the subject of temperance was brought before their Lordships on a former occasion he obtained an unexpected and undesirable notoriety in consequence of an observation he then made. As, however, he retained very strongly the opinion he then expressed, he feared he must incur still further unpopularity by stating that his opinion was unchanged—and, indeed, strengthened—by what he had heard since. Nothing but a very deep conviction of the soundness of those opinions would induce him to incur fresh unpopularity by repeating them on the present occasion. He had ventured to say—not as a simple and general proposition—that he preferred freedom to sobriety—as if there would be any natural antagonism between freedom and sobriety, and as if a man could not at the same time be perfectly free and perfectly sober—butthat if he should ever be compelled to make his choice between freedom and sobriety, then in that case he should prefer freedom. He never could support unwise or injudicious legislation which tended in the direction of suppressing freedom, even if by that legislation were gained the advantage of sobriety. He might gain this advantage of sobriety by imprisoning every man and woman and keeping them on bread and water; but that would be a degree of interference with the liberty of the subject which would induce the strongest advocate of temperance to say that he preferred freedom to sobriety. Upon this question of legislation in regard to intemperance he could not too heartily thank the most rev. Primate for having, with his usual moderation and wisdom, refrained from attempting any hasty legislation. It appeared to him that this kind of legislation for the suppression of intemperance had reached a very dangerous point. Every one was saying that the Legislature ought to do something, but no one was able exactly to say what the Legislature ought to do. When this was the case the Legislature was extremely likely to do something that had better be left undone. He remembered, for example, that some of the measures now complained of as tending to promote intemperance were passed originally in the interests of temperance. That fact ought of itself to "give us pause," and make the Legislature very careful how it tried legislative experiments over the whole country upon so large and difficult a social question as the enforcing of sobriety. He did not say this in order to deprecate the appointment of the Committee, which he trusted their Lordships were about to grant, because one of the results of the investigation would be clearly to show what were the possible limits of legislation on this subject. He believed for himself that there was too great a tendency in the present day to clamour for legislation—too great a tendency on the part of those who were gaining political power in the State to believe that legislation could do everything for them, and that as little as possible was to be done by themselves. And this very class, from their habits and many of their associations, were perhaps less sensitive upon the point of personal liberty than others. So far from working men being jealous of their personal freedom, the habits acquired in Trades Unions led them to sacrifice that feeling for other things. They were, from their connection with Trades Unions, too apt to regard the State as a great Union, and were too willing to give up their own freedom and endanger the freedom of their neighbours by bringing about some larger and sweeping action on the part of the State. He could not help feeling great anxiety when he saw the deep enthusiasm which this question had stirred in the minds of the working classes, and observed how many of them were pressing on the attention of Parliament measures that were crude and dangerous. For these reasons, he was anxious that any legislation should be based on the most careful and exhaustive inquiry that could possibly be made. The difficulty attending upon all legislation on this question of temperance was the difficulty specially attendant upon all legislation when it was directed, not for the suppression of crime, but for the suppression of vice. There was no class of subjects so difficult and so dangerous for the Legislature to meddle with as that class in which the law was called upon to deal with vice, or that debatable and ill-traced ground where vice may be on the verge of passing into crime. The difficulty was this—that if the vice were widespread and national it would have, not one cause, but many—perhaps very many; and if they attempted to reach it by wide, sweeping, and stringent legislation they would not, probably, carry with them the public feeling and opinion of the nation. Then legislation would in that case be in advance of public opinion, and it would be in danger of provoking a perilous reaction in favour of the very vice which they desired to suppress. If, on the other hand, public opinion was so hostile to the vice that it was prepared to accept measures sufficiently drastic to deal with it, then the nation hardly needed such measures at all. That was not a reason against all legislation, but a reason why they should be extremely cautious how they did legislate. It seemed to him that the legislative remedies lay between two extreme limits, either of which might be logically supported, and either of which would be effectual if it could be carried out. One was the system of free licensing, which was tried at Liverpool, followed by severe penalties against adulteration, disorder, and drunkenness. It always seemed to him that there was a great deal to be said on behalf of that system; but our modern system of licensing had raised up a powerful monopoly which it was extremely difficult to deal with. The other equally logical way was by the total suppression of the liquor traffic by the Maine Liquor Law, and which, if it could be effectual, would certainly suppress the traffic. He did not believe that this would involve any interference with freedom, because the nation had the right to forbid, if it thought fit, the sale of any article whatever which it believed to be injurious. He thought, however, that neither of these plans would be successful, because it would be impossible to carry the public sentiment sufficiently in taking the measures necessary for their adoption. The matter then became one of police, for the regulation, and not for the suppression, of the liquor traffic. It would be out of order to discuss a Bill not before their Lordships; but he had been a great deal taken to task by the advocates of the Permissive Bill—who reserved all their intemperance for their speeches—and he should, therefore, like to say in a few words why he opposed this measure. His objections to the Permissive Bill were three. He believed it to be absolutely immoral, thoroughly unconstitutional, and thoroughly mischievous in its operation. It was absolutely immoral to say of a trade that it was poisonous, murderous, and destructive to society; and then to say that if two-thirds of the inhabitants wished to have this murderous, poisonous, and wicked thing in the midst of them they should have it, whether for good or for bad. That was a strange way of proceeding. When Parliament legislated against infanticide in India they declared infanticide to be wrong, and forbade it everywhere. But what would have been thought, if Parliament had passed a law declaring that if two-thirds of the people in any village in India wished for infanticide they should be allowed to have it? Surely the liquor traffic was either right or wrong. If it were right, they should allow it everywhere; if wrong, they should forbid it everywhere. But to make the right or the wrong to depend upon the majority in the streets appeared to him to be perilous to morality, if not positively immoral. It also seemed to him to be decidedly unconstitutional that men should be governed, not by a representative government, but by a personal government—by a plébiscite and by a vote of the streets. How could this system work? Let him give an instance. An eminent ecclesiastic of whom he wished to speak with every respect—Cardinal Manning—advocating the Permissive Bill on a great platform, said that the ratepayers ought to exercise the same rights as the owners of property, and ought to forbid anything being done in their town which any individual might forbid to be done on his own property. Now, he had been living for three years in a town the inhabitants of which had little fear of liquor, but had a great fear of the Pope. He was certain that the majority of the inhabitants would not assent to the suppression of the liquor traffic; but if that eminent ecclesiastic had been a lodger in that town, and if the ratepayers had been asked by a two-thirds majority to expel him, he greatly feared there would be no doubt that they would have expelled Cardinal Manning. That would have been in accordance with the principle of the Bill, which is, that a majority of ratepayers may exercise those rights which belong to the owners of property. He protested against the liberty of any one being trusted to a vote of the streets, and he claimed for every one in this Kingdom the right to be governed by representative government, which was the essential condition of freedom. Such a measure would be mischievous, because of the secret and illicit intemperance it would provoke and the incessant quarelling it would produce in every town of the Kingdom. Having shown that he was not altogether that apologist of intemperance and defender of abandoned publicans which he had been described, in consequence of the speech to which he had referred, he would say a word as to the other causes of intemperance which were referred to in the Resolution. He was satisfied it was far more to those other causes we must look for the prevention or the cure of intemperance than to any legislation with respect to the licensing of public-houses. The causes of intemperance were very many—they were social, economical, educational, and in some senses touched upon religion. It was to the elevation of the sanitary, social, religious, and moral condition of the poor far more than to laws respecting the licensing of public-houses that we must look for the suppression of intemperance. The advocates of teetotalism told the poor man to drink nothing but water; but was he always sure of getting water to drink? Men were told to drink water, and in many places for water they were given diluted sewage. The poor man was told to stay at home and enjoy the society of his wife and children; but what manner of home was it he was to stay in? What sort of place was the one room where the man wearied with toil was to spend his evening in the presence of a wife as weary with toil as he was, and of half-educated children? What sort of attractions were there at such a home compared with those of the public-house, from which the poor man was rightly asked to stay away? We hardly did justice to the heroism and self-denial of any poor man who did stay away from the public-house. The man who did that denied himself of much which many of their Lordships could hardly bear to be deprived of. Many of them would bear with less equanimity banishment from the club, though they expected the poor man to bear banishment from the public-house. As far as this was a question of education, we must elevate men to the enjoyment of higher pleasures than the mere indulgence of the appetite. It might also be a question touching upon religion and suggesting inquiry how far we might relax our ideas of the relaxation to be allowed to the poor man on Sunday. All these questions—social, religious, economical, and sanitary—reached very far and deep under the complicated roots of our modern civilization, and he believed the hopes of those who were opposed to intemperance lay in the very diversity and extent of these causes. For that reason we never could tell from what source help might come to us. As the sources of intemperance were many, so would the remedies be various. He was quite sure it would be through the labours of the Clergy, who had signed the Memorial, in their parishes and schools, and in efforts to elevate the condition of the working classes and purify and make beautiful their weary labouring lives, quite as much as through passing Acts of Parliament, we should at last grapple and, he trusted, by God's blessing, destroy the great curse of our nation, intemperance.


was glad that the most rev. Prelate had brought this Motion forward. The subject was one which had excited much interest in Ireland, and had occupied the attention of the Synods of the Irish Church. He hoped that the Committee, if granted, would extend its inquiries to that country. He agreed with a good deal that had fallen from the right rev. Prelate who spoke last, and he was sensible that this matter involved questions not only of temperance, but also of Revenue and of social convenience. He thought it well, therefore, that there should be an inquiry into the subject by a Select Committee.


said, they were indebted to the most rev. Primate for the very moderate and temperate speech in which he introduced a subject which was peculiarly fitted to excite angry discussion. It was idle to treat those who produced and distributed spirituous liquors as if they were in a position morally worse than any other members of the community who might be employed in producing and distributing articles for which there was an innocent demand. We might just as well make accusations against a man who sold powder and shot, because somebody bought powder of him for the purpose of committing a murder; or depreciate the character of those who sold arsenic for poisoning rats, because occasionally it was used for other purposes. The most rev. Primate very rightly disclaimed any sympathy with those attacks upon the labouring classes of this country which were occasionally associated with this discussion. He did not think, considering their numbers compared with those of the rest of the community, there was any ground for saying—if we looked over a very long period of time—that they had any monopoly of the vice of intemperance. No doubt the subject was surrounded by the greatest possible difficulties. No one who kept his eyes or his ears open could deny the existence of the evils of which the memorialists complained. This was not in any sense a clerical question. It was not from clergymen alone that they heard of the evils which had been caused by drunkenness:—they heard of it in every direction—magistrates on the bench, Judges of Assize, who were best conversant with the classes out of whom our criminals were mainly drawn, assured them that by far the largest part of the crime of this country was due to intemperance. He thought also that a great deal of the pauperism that existed was attributable to the same cause. It was also charged with the increase of lunacy. That, no doubt, was to a certain extent true; but it was a moot point with the best authorities. The scramble of our modern life—the pace at which we all lived—was supposed by many to have had a large share in the increase of that terrible curse. If it had pleased Providence that no such thing as alcohol should have ever existed, the world might perhaps have been the better for it; but it was a great step from that to say that Parliament ought to make the world the same as if alcohol did not exist in it. It did exist, and it must be taken into account. We could not make our Legislature play the part of a paternal Providence. The general arguments against paternal legislation were so well known, and they had formed part of the political inheritance of this country so long, that he would not waste their Lordships' time by repeating them. But the Legislature had tried its hand at paternal interference on that particular question, although on other matters it ordinarily abstained from it; it had done its best to make the people sober, and after every effort it had made there had been a great outbreak of intemperance—whether in consequence of those efforts he could not pretend to say. The Duke of Wellington's Government in 1828 thought to effect a great reform by the creation of beer-houses; and they had heard ever since of nothing else but that the beer-houses were the great source of intemperance in this country. Then, a few years ago, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson brought in a measure to diminish the number of beer-houses; and now it was said that that was the cause of the recent outbreak of intemperance. Mr. Gladstone in 1860 also had his specific for the cure of intemperance. It was one of a somewhat recondite and subtle character—namely, allowing brandy to be sold by grocers; but great reliance was placed on it at the time, and much ridicule was cast on those who suggested that it would produce greater insobriety than before. He was not censuring Mr. Gladstone's measure, because he had himself agreed with it, and thought it would be a good one. But now they heard that the sale of brandy in grocers' shops was introducing an amount of intemperance, not at the public-houses, but in the homes of the working classes which threatened the most serious consequences. It was, moreover, not a species of intemperance which was confined mainly to one sex, but it could be indulged in secret, and they were told that the opportunity had been used to a terrible degree by women. With those failures, then, before them, they must look to legislative proposals with some caution and apprehension. Even if they could reconcile themselves to the doctrine that it was the business of the English Government to be paternal, and to correct—if he might say it without irreverence—the action of Providence in the creation of alcohol, the wrecks of their past failures, should warn them of the difficulty of the task they had undertaken. Another danger which a right rev. Primate had eloquently indicated was the falseness and viciousness of the principle which any careless or despotic legislation on that subject would introduce. It was not merely that they were asked to direct their legislation against vice—that would be a sufficiently dangerous innovation—they already punished drunkenness; but they were asked to go a step further and punish people who did that which was innocent that the guilty might not fall into vice. They were asked to prevent the use of those liquors in order that those who could not restrain themselves should avoid their abuse. Whether that was right or wrong philosophers might dispute, but certainly it was an absolutely new principle in our legislation. They were all very anxious to prevent the vice of gambling, and they had legislated against it. No doubt gambling carried frightful evil to many homes; but what would be thought of a proposal to put a heavy penalty on the possession of a pack of cards? What, again, would be thought of a law rendering it penal to make a bet on a race-course, because such practices sometimes ruined families? Unless, therefore, they looked carefully where their principles would land them, they would find themselves venturing upon dangerous paths. He mentioned these things to indicate the difficulty which surrounded further action in that matter rather than to deprecate the proposed inquiry. The Government did not entertain any very sanguine hopes from that inquiry, or they would have suggested it themselves; but when it was asked for, as it now was, by such high authority, they did not think it right to oppose it. On the contrary, they would assist it as much as they could—especially as it was sought not so much with a view to legislation as to ascertain the facts. For himself, he did not look to legislation as the means of getting rid in any great degree of this great evil. The agitation on this subject, though originating in laudable feelings, was. not wholly reasonable. No class could very well bear the sudden arrival of unexpected prosperity; and those who found their income suddenly and largely increase would be tempted towards indulgence. He could confirm what had been said as to the effect of the sudden accession of wealth caused by the gold diggings in Australia, for he happened to be there at the time. The first outbreak of intemperance was fearful, but the authorities put down drunkenness with the strong hand—the rough-and-ready expedient of burning down the grog shops at the diggings was resorted to; and as those interested in the grog shops naturally disapproved of such summary proceedings, sometimes sanguinary results ensued. But as soon as this was done it was found that all the roads leading to the diggings were covered with men lying in a state of intoxication; for when the grog shops were closed the digger went to the nearest town in quest of liquor, and there took in gross what he had not been allowed to take in detail. Sometimes the digger made his way to the nearest public-house, deposited all his money or a nugget on the counter, and said—"Waken me when I have drunk all that;" and when it was all exhausted he would go back to his work. That was an illustration not only of the futility of such legislation, but that any sudden accession of wealth would demoralize any class, and especially the class that was the least instructed. They should not, therefore, be too much discouraged if the great and sudden increase of wages in the North of England a few years ago had exposed the work- ing classes to some additional temptation. One great remedy to which he looked was religious teaching, and therefore he had heard with satisfaction of the Memorial on that subject which had been signed by so many thousand clergymen; for although it might be unwise to ask for fresh legislative restriction, still the motives which had induced them to press that matter on the Legislature would doubtless prompt them to do all they possibly could in other directions to accomplish that which they could do better than any other men in the Kingdom—namely, to stem the torrent of intemperance. Everything which improved either the social or the intellectual condition of the people would tend to diminish their craving for drink. To those remedies they must chiefly look; but even in regard to the application of those remedies the proposed inquiry would probably be of value; and if it were conducted with a desire to abstain from those controversies which only tended to obscure that question, it would, he hoped, promote the welfare of those whom they all desired to benefit.


said, he understood that one of the objects of the Committee would be to ascertain whether intemperance had increased or not; but he thought the question of increase of intemperance was one that could not be settled by statistics. No doubt mere figures went to prove that such an increase had occurred; but then it must be remembered that it was but a few years that the new Act had been in operation; and that before it was passed the register of convictions was much more loosely kept than it was now. For his own part, he would assert that of late years there had been a most marked improvement in the moral tone of the working men on the question of temperance, and he had heard the same from many employers and others with whom he had spoken on the subject. Some years ago drunkenness was hardly considered a vice by the working classes, but now it was scarcely mentioned without a feeling of shame. Before the passing of the Act of 1872 there were 150,000 cases of drunkenness; and after the passing of it they increased to 183,000, but that increase in the numbers must not be attributed to more intemperance, but to the greater accuracy of the statistics and to the more effectual operation of the law. No plan had yet been discovered by which drunkenness could be prevented. He did not think the number of public-houses had anything to do with it, and he did not believe it signified a bit whether in a town of 50,000 or 60,000 inhabitants there were 200 public-houses or 300. It was notorious that it was not in the towns which possessed the most public-houses that drunkenness chiefly prevailed. In Bristol, for instance, which abounded in public-houses, yet drunkenness did not exist to so large an extent there as in some Lancashire towns in which there were fewer. The fact was that temperature as well as climate had a remarkable effect, and if men wanted to drink they would find opportunities even if the public-houses were reduced one-half. The most efficient remedy he had heard of was in a town in Sweden, once notorious for drunkenness, where the public-houses were bought up, and then placed under the management of persons who had no pecuniary interest in selling intoxicating drinks. He was glad that the Government had acceded to the Motion of the most rev. Primate for the appointment of a Select Committee.

Motion agreed to.

And, on July 21, the Lords following were named of the Committee:—

L. Abp. Canterbury. V. Hutchinson.
D. Westminster. V. Canterbury.
E. Shrewsbury. L. Bp. Peterborough.
E. Shaftesbury. L. Bp. Exeter.
E. Onslow. L. Bp. Carlisle.
E. Morley. L. Penrhyn.
E. Kimberley. L. Aberdare.
V. Gordon. L. Cottesloe.

The Committee to appoint their own Chairman.