HL Deb 05 May 1879 vol 245 cc1683-705

rose to call the attention of the House and the Government to a Petition again addressed by working men to Parliament this Session, praying For the opening of the British Museum, the South Kensington and Bethnal Green Museums, and the National Gallery on Sunday afternoons. He must crave their Lordships' indulgence for a few moments while he explained the scope of his present Motion, and the grounds on which it rested. In the first place, he desired to state that the Petition praying for the opening on Sunday afternoons, free to the public, of the Bethnal Green, the British, and South Kensington Museums, and the National Gallery, emanated from one only of several Societies now existing in London for promoting this object. There was, for example, the well-known Sunday Society, established in 1875, which had been presided over last year by a noble Earl (the Earl of Rosebery), and which was to be presided over this year by a most distinguished commoner, Sir Henry Thompson. He noticed this Society first in order to point to its rapid progress in proof of the advance this cause had made of recent years. On the roll of its Vice-Presidents they would find the names of many Members of both Houses of Parliament; of some of the most eminent surgeons and physicians of the day, who were certainly well qualified to form their own opinion on the matter—at any rate, from one point of view—of eminent writers of science and morality, like Huxley, Lecky, and Tyndall; of eminent divines of rival Creeds, like Monsignor Capel and the Dean of Westminster; the newly-elected President of the Royal Academy, bankers, large employers of labour—in fact, representative men of all classes and professions; forming, altogether, an array of learning and philanthropy which it was impossible to gainsay. Well, this, the Sunday Society, was an offshoot of an older Society that first acquired prominence in 1829 in the action taken by Mr. William Lovett, who drew up a Petition that was signed by several thousands and presented to Parliament by Mr. Joseph Hume. This was the Society that presented the present Petition, and it was the one that presented the Petition to which he ventured to call their Lordships' attention last year, and to which the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack (Earl Cairns) objected, being signed by only one name, the President of the Society. It was, therefore, not impossible that the noble and learned Earl might object to the present Petition as only signed by two names, the Chairman and the Secretary of the Society. But he (Lord Thurlow) desired to explain that the preparation and presentation of these Petitions of late years had only been for the purpose of formally protesting in each Session of Parliament against the inaction of the authorities. Larger Petitions, with many thousands of signatures, had been presented in former years, and had been equally disregarded—so far, at least, as any action in London was concerned, although it might be that to them had been due the action taken by the former Governments in Dublin, Hampton Court, and Kew. Some years ago, for instance, a Petition was presented signed by 200 clergymen, mostly of the Church of England, praying for Sunday opening of National Libraries and Museums, and he would tell their Lordships some of the names he found attached to that Petition, because he thought they were the names of people who knew what they were about—The Rev. Septimus Hansard, rector of Bethnal Green; the Rev. William Rogers, rector of Bishopsgate; the vicars of St. Mary's, Soho; of St. Peter's, Bayswater; of St. George's, Kensington; the incumbent of St. John's, Holborn; then they found the great name of Charles Kingsley; and the rectors of St. Luke's, of Chelsea, and many more London rectors, vicars, incumbents, and curates, too numerous to mention. Then he had a Petition of the journeymen tailors of London, signed almost to a man; and a Memorial to Her Majesty the Queen by 943 gentlemen of literature, science, and art, for the same object. Well, let them see who signed this Memorial in 1860—Sir James Herschell, Sir John Burgoyne, Sir Edwin Landseer, Gibson the sculptor, Cooper the artist, Mulready, John Sheepshanks, Foley the sculptor, Mr. Henry Cole, Norman Macleod; Tom Taylor, secretary, and John Simon, medical officer of the General Board of Health, Thomas Graham, Master of the Mint, and names, familiar as household words, like Richard Owen, Charles Dickens, Lyon Playfair, Wheatstone, Vaughan, Glaisher, Lyall, and hundreds of the wisest and most distinguished men of the day. Then he could give a list of 60 Metropolitan Trade Societies who memorialized Her Majesty's Government in 1860—carpenters, printers, carvers and gilders, bootmakers, basketmakers, goldsmiths, plumbers, masons, smiths, weavers, dyers, and so on. In 1869 over 68,000 persons petitioned Parliament on this subject, and most of them had heard of the 25,000 artizans who walked in orderly procession on Sunday, the 7th of May, 1876, and knocked at the doors of the British Museum and National Gallery. So that he thought he might with confidence say that if the noble and learned Earl would only state how many Petitions he required, and how many signatures attached to each, to convince him that this was a question on which the working classes felt deeply and were in earnest, it would be an easy matter to satisfy him. There were, however, two other points in the reply of the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack to his Question of last year to which he desired to refer. The noble and learned Earl said he thought that the Petition of 1856 had only about 5,000 signatures. Now, his information was that it had about 24,000 signatures; and although it was quite true, as the noble and learned Earl very properly pointed out, that a counter-Petition more numerously signed was presented at the same time, still this was only half the case, for the noble and learned Earl did not tell their Lordships, what it was important to know, and what was pointed out at the time in the other House of Parliament by a noble Earl now on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Derby), that— It must be borne in mind that whereas the Petition for the opening was only signed by inhabitants of London, the counter-Petition was the result of a thoroughly well-organized agitation of the Sabbatarian party over the whole area of England; And this he thought was an important factor in the consideration of the relative value of these two Petitions. In the second place, the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack stated that, considering the allegation that this was a working man's question, it was remarkable that some of the leading opposition in the other House of Parliament to Sunday opening emanated from Members representing what might be called working-class constituencies, and he specially mentioned Leicester, Southwark, and Newcastle-on-Tyne; but here, again, he was bound to say that his information did not quite tally with that of the noble and learned Earl, for he had examined the Division List of 1874, and there he found voting for the measure the name of Mr. P. A. Taylor, the hon. Member for Leicester; and also the names of the Members for the following working-class constituencies:—Macclesfield, Middlesborough, Scarborough, Huddersfield, Bury, Blackburn, Barnstaple, Rochester, Stafford, Morpeth, Rochdale, Carlisle, Sheffield, Derby, York, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Southwark, Hackney, Chelsea, and many more seats of labour and centres of industry of the very greatest importance, and where they would naturally expect to find the constituents taking a lively interest in the question. And a glance at the Division List of 1874 revealed another name, which he would mention because he thought it would carry weight with their Lordships. He referred to the name of the late Sir William Stirling Maxwell. Now, he was the Conservative Member for the important County of Perth, a man of large possessions and of very great intelligence, and, moreover, he believed, a Trustee of the British Museum. When they found a man like that voting for Sunday opening, and considered that Scotchmen were not prone to Sunday opening, he thought they could only conclude that he did so as the result of strong personal conviction of the necessity of the measure. But he did not seek to rest this thing mainly on the foundation of Petitions or of Division Lists. He sought to rest it on the unanimous verdict of all thinking men who approached the question with impartiality. He (Lord Thurlow) looked at the growing evil of intemperance. He looked at the happiness and contentment of the people. He looked at the art education of the masses. He asked himself what could a working man do with his time on an inclement Sunday afternoon in London? On all sides of him, and at nearly all the corners of nearly all the streets, certain creature comforts were held out to him:—Warmth, shelter, society, and such selfish and transient enjoyment as could be derived from drink; and he desired to draw the picture of a working man in such a place—he meant, of course, a public-house—in the evening, before returning to Ms family, gloomily contemplating the bottom of his empty glass and his empty breeches pockets, and to contrast that with the picture of another working man who had spent his Sunday afternoon in wandering through the well-warmed galleries of the British Museum or South Kensington, and in the contemplation of the grandest works of God and man. In the former—especially in its geological and natural history sections—he would find the whole story of the Creation and the Old Testament profusely illustrated; in the latter, he would derive the gratification of being brought face to face with the most beautiful productions of every age and race, in every variety of form, colour, and handicraftship. He would not dwell on the home-going of the first—it was too easily imagined, and might be found in the police reports of the newspapers on any Monday morning, with all its hideous accompaniments of wife-kicking and other brutalities. Let them rather go home with the second, his mind relaxed by new ideas and pleasant images, his shillings and sixpences still in his pockets; and, he asked, who would dare to prefer the home-going of the first, or venture to contemplate without anxiety the influence on society of hundreds of thousands of such home-goings on every inclement Sunday evening in London as at present, and who would then refuse to lend a helping hand to the cause of Sunday reform? But he thought he heard some one say—"Beware of the thin end of the wedge—if you open museums and libraries and national galleries on Sunday, you will inevitably drift into music-halls, theatres, and the like." He asked why? Was there any likeness between national institutions, open free, and places of private enterprize, opened by greedy individuals for the sole purpose of making money? The one saved the workman pounds, shillings, and pence; the other took them—aye, to the uttermost farthing if it could. Besides, the thin end of the wedge was a much-abused argument, and opposed to all progress, and, moreover, could not be held to apply; for if this wedge had a thin edge, it was introduced by former Governments years ago in Dublin, Hampton Court, and Kew, and he asked boldly with what results? This was no new or revolutionary idea that he urged. He only urged the application to London of an old and eminently Conservative idea, which had been found to succeed beyond anticipation, and which had been solicited by the working classes of London themselves for years with a patience, a forbearance, a regard for Constitutional usage, and an absence of anything like passionate agitation that did them the very highest credit, and entitled them and their cause to every consideration and respect. He desired to correct a statement he made last year in this House, when he said that he thought a certain amount of opposition to Sunday opening might be looked for from the custodians and guardians of these repositories of art and learning, whose Sunday afternoon hours of leisure would be thereby curtailed. He now knew that that remark was as unjust as it was untrue, for he had since received numerous spontaneous communications from these custodians, from the highest to the lowest, all expressing their willingness to volunteer for Sunday labour, and all expressing their conviction of the benefits that would accrue, and he thought their Lordships would agree that this feeling did them very great honour. Experience taught that Sunday afternoon was the only time that suited these classes for visiting those places. They had the experience of the noble Duke (the Duke of Westminster), who opened Grosvenor House, that whereas the average on week days was only 143, on Sundays it rose to 510. They had the experience of Birmingham, Manchester, Middlesbrough, Maidstone, Wigan, &c. They had the experience of Dublin in Ireland, of Sydney in Australia, of Chicago. Cincinnati, and St. Louis in America. In 1868 the descendants of the Puritans opened the Boston town libraries on Sunday, and the principal librarian now said that he would rather close them on any other two days in the week than on Sundays, on which days he had more than three times the number of readers than on any other day. The mercantile library of Philadelphia had also been opened some years on Sundays, and now had over 700 readers, mostly young men, on Sundays. The same had been done at New York, and with the same result. Sabbatarians might shake their heads and point to the librarians prevented from going to church. He preferred to point to the Report of their Lordships' recent Select Committee on Intemperance. There he found it stated that there were in this country 340,000 barmen and barmaids, the large majority of whom worked on Sundays, and numbers of whom were undoubtedly thereby prevented from going to church. And he would ask leave to quote Sir Joseph Paxton on this point, as he knew something of the tastes and wishes of the working classes. He said— There would be less labour done on Sundays if museums were opened, as the number employed in public-houses would be greatly diminished. He agreed with Sir Joseph Paxton, and he agreed with the noble Earl on the Cross-Benches, to whom he had already referred (the Earl of Derby), when he said, some years ago, in "another place"— But one class would have grounds for thanking the Sabbatarians for their efforts in this direction—they would have gladdened the hearts and filled the pockets of every brewer, distiller, and publican in the United Kingdom. He thought their Lordships would admit that language was not too strong, when he told them that, a few years ago, the public-houses in Manchester were watched on a Sunday, and were found to have been visited on that day by over 120,000 men, by over 71,000 women, and by over 23,000 children. Those figures were more eloquent than any words of his, and sufficiently told their own tale. Then they came to the desirability of removing such class restrictions as gave ground for the belief that the poorer classes of the community were, by the closing of museums on Sunday, treated with an asceticism not practised by the wealthy. Those words occurred in the Petition; and that point was well explained by Mr. Jesse Collings in the Birmingham Town Council, when the opening of the town libraries and museums there on Sunday was under discussion in 1871. He said— If you are rich enough to become sole proprietor of books, of gardens, and pictures; nay, if you are rich enough to hold a share in a company that has such possessions, the law will not be against you, public opinion will be with you, and a religious scandal will not be created. If you can buy a share in the Crystal Palace, or if you can subscribe a guinea to the Botanical Gardens, you can enjoy art and nature righteously; but if you are so poor that you can possess books, and pictures, and gardens in the only way in which the poor can possess them—that is, in their corporate capacity, then such enjoyments become oppressive to the consciousness of certain other men, many of whom, by their own confession, derive the utmost delight from doing in their own homes that which they so strongly object to being done in the public libraries and art galleries of the town. But he would not dwell any longer on that point, which was a self-evident one. He had already taken up too large a share of their Lordships' time, and he must refer, however briefly, to the general consensus of opinion on that subject of the leading magistrates and police authorities of London. Mr. Norton, who long-presided over the Lambeth Police Court, said— I am one of those who would see the Crystal Palace freely thrown open to the people on Sundays; also the Museums and the Zoological Gardens. Again, Mr. Hardwick, of Marlborough Street Police Court, said— I would let all places of innocent recreation be opened on Sundays. I think the effect would be to diminish drunkenness. If you provide good objects, less pernicious stimulants will be required. Then they had Mr. Long, of Marylebone Police Court, who said— The man who seeks recreation on Sunday afternoon may have been at church in the morning, or may go to church in the evening, and in enjoying the beauties of nature and art in the afternoon I think he is acting very wisely and properly. The higher classes have improved as the love of literature, of science, of nature, and of art have increased among them. What is low and disgraceful is now spurned; and the same will operate in all other grades of society. Encourage the people to take innocent recreation on Sunday, and as you give them bettor tastes they will relinquish low sensualities. And Mr. Combe, of Southwark Police Court, said— I think that every facility should be thrown in the way of the people for recreation on Sunday, and that they have a right to expect it. Again, Mr. Wakley, Coroner for Middlesex, no bad judge, said— I am strongly in favour of places of innocent recreation being thrown open on Sundays. My conviction is that it would greatly diminish drunkenness. And, lastly, he would quote the late Sir Richard Mayne— No disorder arises from persons going forth to places of innocent recreation, nor in the town afterwards. I should fear no disorder if the Crystal Palace or the Museums were opened. I have seen a great improvement in the people, and consider part of it, at least, owing to the greater opportunities which have been given for their amusement and the employment of their time on Sundays in other places than public-houses. Richmond Park, Hampton Court, Kew, and Bushy Park, attract large numbers on the summer Sundays; and I do not think I have been obliged to increase the number of police in those places, although the attendance has so largely increased. Well, Sir Richard Mayne did not exactly tell them what this increase amounted to; but some idea might be formed of the extent to which the working classes availed themselves of whatever was thrown open to them, and of whatever entertainment was provided for them, on Sunday, from the following statement by Sir Benjamin Hall, the late Lord Llanover:— That the Sunday visitors to Kensington Gardens had, by the band playing there, been increased from 7,000 to 80,000 in one day; and in the Regent's and Victoria Parks, 190,000 had been attracted by the bands on one afternoon; and that, so far from tumult or disorder arising, he had ascertained from the magistrates of the neighbouring Police Courts that the Monday morning cases had decreased. Finally, he would read a letter from Birmingham. It was there that Sunday opening had received its fairest trial in this country, and it was, therefore, only natural to look there for the result. Accordingly, he placed himself in communication with the Chief Superintendent of Police there, Major Bond, an officer of great energy and experience, and he asked that gentleman to give him the results of the experience of his department on this question. This he kindly did. The name of Major Bond must be favourably known to many of their Lordships on account of the impartiality that characterized his evidence before their Lordships' recent Select Committee on Intemperance. He wrote him on April 7 last as follows:— We have in Birmingham the following places open on Sundays:—The Art Gallery of the Midland Institute, the Free Libraries, and the Astor Park Museum. These places have now been open since 1872, and with the greatest success. In my opinion, no such satisfactory results could have been achieved amongst the poorer classes of this town in weaning them from the riot of the public-houses, the only place of resort for them on a Sunday, as has been the case since the throwing open of these places to the public. They are, visited by thousands, and more orderly, quiet, and decently-dressed crowds are not to be seen anywhere. It is of the rarest occurrence that the intervention of the police is necessary. I trust your Lordship will be able to get the same boon for the working classes of London as is now enjoyed by the people of Birmingham. He would now conclude this appeal to Majesty's Government and to their Lordships' House to take this opportunity to confer an incalculable benefit upon society and a priceless boon upon the artizans of London—a boon that, in his opinion, would come to them with peculiar propriety at a moment like the present of great privation and distress. He only asked for a trial in London of what was now being done elsewhere, and that on any scale Her Majesty's Government might think proper. He did not even ask for the whole of the four prominent institutions mentioned in the Petition. In the case of the British Museum, special departments like the prints, coins, gems, and large sections of the library, might remain closed. He could not admit that there existed any insuperable mechanical difficulties. A noble Earl whom he had the honour to sit near in that House, and whose whole life had been spent in successful endeavours to improve the condition of the working classes (the Earl of Shaftesbury), told them the other night, at the close of his eloquent appeal for the extension of the British Factory Acts to the oppressed operatives of British India, "Where there is a will, depend upon it you will find there is also a way." With these words from the experienced lips of the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), he would now leave this matter in their Lordships' hands, confident that, at whatever result their Lordships might arrive, they would not refuse to give this subject their serious and impartial consideration. He therefore begged to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice.

Moved to resolve, That this House haying observed the excellent results that have followed upon the opening of museums, &c. on Sunday afternoons in Dublin, Birmingham, Manchester, Middlesborough, Hampton Court, Kew, &c., is of opinion that it is highly desirable that the prayer of the petition of the Council of the National Sunday League, presented to this House on the 27th of March last, praying "for the opening of the British Museum, the South Kensington and Bethnal Green Museums, and the National Gallery to the people on Sunday afternoons," should be granted, oven if only in part and as a tentative measure, in order to provide the working classes of London with an alternative to the public-house on the many inclement Sunday afternoons when places of out-of-doors recreation, such as the public parks, are of no avail for the purposes of health and relaxation.—(The Lord Thurlow.)


, as one of the Governors of the National Gallery in Dublin, desired to say that during the last 13 or 14 years that institution had been regularly opened to the public every Sunday afternoon, from 2 o'clock until dusk, and that with the happiest results. The Gallery was invariably well attended by the working classes, and during all that time there had not been a single complaint made against any visitor. He desired to mention these facts in corroboration of the views expressed by the noble Lord, and trusted that the Government would see their way to acting on the prayer of the Petition.


observed, that as publicans, like other people, could not be expected to be in favour of any measure which interfered with their own interests, they would not be in favour of the opening of museums on Sunday if such a measure wore, in their opinion, likely to lessen the amount of their receipts on that day. The strongest argument in favour of it would be to show that the libraries would be largely taken advantage of if it were brought into operation. Unfortunately, that was the point upon which the testimony was weakest—and, indeed, the only evidence on that branch of the subject was derived from America. What he desired to see was an extension of the Saturday half-holiday, and greater facilities given to the working classes to visit the museums on Saturday by the keeping open of those institutions till a later hour. With respect to the religious aspect of the question, it could not be expected that those who regarded Sunday as a day of rest of Divine origin could agree to the secularization of that day, the effect of which would, he thought, be to reduce it to what might be termed a Parisian Sunday.


said, he was unwilling to introduce a theological subject to their Lord ships' Notice; but, while he gave every credit to the noble Lord and those who were in favour of his Motion for excellent motives, he could not think that their object would be obtained by the means they had suggested. He wished to see every possible facility given to the working classes to visit the museums on every day except the Lord's Day; but to the throwing open of those institutions on the Lord's Day he was altogether opposed.


said, that those who shared the views of the noble Earl who had just sat down were, of course, bound to vote against the Motion; but he (the Marquess of Ripon) was not one of those who thought that the injunctions of the Mosaic law with respect to the Jewish Sabbath applied to the Christian Sunday. To use the beautiful words of the author of "The Christian Year," it was, "An Easter Day in every week." Sunday was a holy day, and no one would more regret than he should any step which might be taken to lower it to the level of an ordinary holiday. If he had to choose between the English Sunday in its sternest form and the Sunday which was to be witnessed in some parts of the Continent—a Sunday devoted to labour on the one hand and horse-racing on the other—ho should certainly choose the English Sunday; but, happily, the choice, as it appeared to him, did not lie between those alternatives. No doubt, they were often told that the proposal of his noble Friend was only "the thin end of the wedge." But that argument had been used against every improvement and reform in this country, though happily without success—to which circumstance it was owing that we had been able to proceed by reasonable steps instead of by violent changes. He quite admitted that, in providing the means for what appeared to him to be the reasonable recreation of the people on Sundays, care should be taken not to open to cupidity or self-interest a door by which Sunday work might be introduced. He should strongly object to Sunday labour—first, on religious grounds, and, secondly, because he believed a weekly day of rest to be essential to the physical well-being of the people. But he did not see that they need entertain any fear that, by rendering the Sunday of the working man more agreeable to him than it was at the present moment, they would be taking any step in the direction of Sunday labour. On the contrary, he believed that a measure of the kind now proposed would make it more sure that the working classes would resist any attempt to introduce Sunday labour. One consideration which had weighed a good deal with him against the proposal was the importance of not shocking the strong conscientious convictions entertained by many persons on the subject. A good many years ago, when in the other House of Parliament, he voted in favour of a Motion similar to the one now before their Lordships. Since then he had had to consider the question, for when he held the Office of Lord President, a deputation waited upon him in connection with the subject. He did not at that time feel prepared to suggest any alteration in the existing practice; but he hesitated mainly from the fear lest the proposed change should greatly shock the strong conscientious convictions which were entertained by persons whose feelings were entitled to the fullest consideration and respect. Still, considering that no one was to be compelled to go to places of recreation on Sunday who did not wish it, it would, he thought, be admitted that those religious convictions on the part of certain people ought not to be permitted to place a permanent obstacle in the way of the change now proposed. There were, it should be remembered, strong feelings on the other side, not merely on the part of individuals, but—what was more important—on the part of large masses of the working men; and, it seemed to him, the time had come when some further step towards meeting the views of that section of the population might be taken. Almost the only place of resort at present open to many of the working classes on Sundays was the pot-house. Now, it was surely much more consistent with the due observance of the Sunday that a man should spend an afternoon with his family in a museum or picture gallery, than that he should spend it alone in a pot-house, amid all the temptations which there beset him. Their Lordships, in justice, could hardly expect poor families to spend, say, a wet Sunday afternoon in the single room in which they were often lodged. Some change upon their only day of rest ought to be afforded them, and the question was, what should be the nature of that change? Was it to be the bar of the public-house or public institutions of the kind which the noble Lord desired to open? There was yet another argument which weighed very strongly with him in favour of the proposal. There were in this country, and he feared in all countries, a large number of persons who were practically indifferent to religious considerations, and also a small but active and energetic body who were distinctly hostile to the Christian religion. Now, to reject the Motion of his noble Friend would be to enable these latter people to go to the indifferent working man and to say—"Look what this gloomy and fierce and fanatical religion does for you; the rich can enjoy themselves whenever they please; the poor man has only Sunday at his disposal, and he is precluded from enjoying himself on that day in obedience, as they say, to the dictates of Christianity." That was a gross libel upon the spirit of the Christian religion; but, in holding such language, its enemies wielded a powerful and dangerous weapon, and it was to deprive them of that weapon that he was about to vote for the Motion.


My Lords, unquestionably the Resolution moved by the noble Lord (Lord Thurlow) needs greater consideration than would appear on the surface. There is no doubt it is desirable that the working classes of this country should be more familiar with galleries of art and museums of science than they probably arc. But that is a wish which, I think, ought not to be limited to the working classes. There are other classes in the country who would be benefited by a nearer acquaintance than they appear to me to possess with galleries of art and museums of science; and the tendency of our legislation of late years has happily been to bring the population of this country generally, irrespective of class, under the civilizing influence of those institutions—to bring art and science into nearer relation with the general life of the people. Within these few years public holidays have been established by statute. They have been secured to the people by the action of Parliament, and are not dependent upon the will of the Church; and there has been, besides, that great revolution in manners known as the half-Saturday movement—a revolution not legislative, but not less powerful, because it is the result of general conviction—whereby you secure 52 half-holidays in the year. Therefore, since the question now before your Lordships was first started, great changes, all favourable to the frequent visiting by the people of tills country of galleries of art and museums of science, have occurred. The proposal of the noble Lord is in favour of a very considerable advance being made from the stage at which we have arrived, and it is impossible to consider that proposal without some reference to the religious feelings of the country. Now, my Lords, I would not take an exaggerated view of the circumstances connected with this proposition in that respect. I am perfectly free to admit that there is a difference between the Christian Sunday and the Jewish Sabbath, and I cannot agree with those who would extend to the observance of the Christian Sunday the rules and regulations of the Jewish Sabbath. If there be any who desire to do it, they would utterly fail to accomplish that purpose. But of all Divine institutions, I maintain the most divine is that which secures a day of rest for man. If there is a consideration connected with this subject which I think ought not to be absent from your Lordships' mind on this occasion, it is this—would it have been possible to have secured a day of rest for man unless it had been connected with the religious sentiment? To my mind, it would have been utterly impossible; and it is the religious principle which, to a certain extent, is admitted by all—at least, by all classes that have influence and numbers in this country; it is that principle we must take care should not be discarded if we wish to maintain that day of rest which I hold to be the most valuable blessing ever conceded to man. It is the cornerstone of all civilization; and it would be very difficult to estimate what might be the deleterious effects, oven upon the health of the people, if there were no cessation from that constant toil and brain-work which must ever characterize a country like this, so advanced in its pursuits and civilization. Under these circumstances, I have ever hesitated to support propositions which have tended to diminish the observance of the Christian Sunday. Another point which ought to influence our decision is this—In all questions into which the religious sentiment enters, it is highly desirable that no change should be effected that is not called for by the expression of a predominant sentiment on the part of the people. What evidence have we of this predominance? I ask really as much for instruction as for any other object. I have endeavoured to obtain some information, and that information has not convinced me that there is such a predominance of opinion in favour of this great change. It is a great change, and those who suppose for a moment it can be limited to the proposal of the noble Lord will find they are mistaken. I want to know what evidence we have that there is this desire on the part of the people of this country for a change which will affect the conduct of their lives, and to a great degree their opinions on the most important and solemn subjects? I venture to refer to the proceedings in the other House of Parliament, the popular branch of the Legislature. This is not an old subject; as a public question it has come into prominence only within the last few years. I remember, as well as the noble Marquess, the first occasion on which it was brought forward in the other House of Parliament. The experiment has been made three or four times, and it has been made so recently as during the existence of the present Government. If I am not mistaken, it was made during the last year I sat in the other House. What has been the principal feature of those discussions, debates, and divisions? Unquestionably this—that the proposal has always been defeated by vast majorities, and in those majorities you generally could observe the Members for the great commercial towns and the great centres of industry always voting against the proposition. These are grave circumstances—though I do not say they ought to be decisive. I do not say the question the noble Lord has brought forward is not one that deserves our consideration, and it has received to-night a consideration which it well deserved. But we ought to bear in mind that the proposal cannot rest where it is. I do not speak of the "thin end of the wedge," which has been denounced; I do not speak at all in that sense. I say it is in the nature of things that the proposition which the noble Lord has made must be followed by others, and the question will be the change in the habits of the people, and perhaps in their opinions, the further the matter is pursued. As a mere matter of politics, any substantial or considerable change in the legislation which secures a day of weekly rest to the people of this country should be, I will not say viewed with the greatest suspicion, but examined with the greatest vigilance. I believe this proposed change is viewed with suspicion by the working classes. Whether it is just or not I will not discuss; but if such a feeling is entertained by the labouring classes of this country, it ought to be tenderly treated. I do not think your Lordships should make any movement in the direction proposed unless you have good assurance you are taking a course with which the great body of the people of this country sympathize. No evidence has been given which convinces me of that; and, therefore, it is my duty to oppose a Motion—and I do it with regret—the apparent, and—I say it not offensively—the superficial, object of which would seem to be to civilize the people.


said, that the question was one for Parliament to decide, and it would be for the Trustees of the British Museum to consider the wishes of Parliament. The galleries could be opened with very little inconvenience to the officers of the Museum; but it would be impossible to open the reading room, and, in fact, the reading room was not a place where a working man would desire to spend Sunday afternoon, nor would he find there the kind of literature he would want to read. The opening of the Museum on Saturday afternoon was practically of no advantage to working men, because on leaving work they had to go home to change their clothes, and to allow them time to reach it, it must be kept open until a late hour. The noble Earl spoke of the Motion as involving a great change; but what was the difference in principle between opening Museums and opening Kew Gardens and the gardens and galleries at Hampton Court? The visitor might study in one place the Beauties of the time of Charles II., but not in another the statues and adornments of an earlier age. The workingman could not afford to go often to Hampton Court, and would prefer to visit places easier of access. In other towns galleries were being opened, why not in London? Great numbers had visited the Grosvenor Gallery, and their conduct had given every satisfaction. With regard to the Resolution itself, he confessed the wording of it was not exactly what he approved. For instance, it conceded the point only with regard to working men, while other classes were also interested in the question. At the same time, he must say he could not think that the opening of Museums and Picture Galleries would have the effect of closing public-houses. Upon the whole, he thought if their Lordships accepted this proposal, it would be an agreeable concession to many persons and injurious to none.


was not disposed to blame the Government for being unwilling in this matter to move without popular support; their business was to follow opinion rather than to lead it; but, precisely for that reason, he, as not being under the restraint of an official position, wished to help in supplying that popular impulse without which nothing could be done. What was the real question before them? Like the noble Duke who had just addressed their Lordships, he was a Trustee of the British Museum, and he quite admitted that it would be inconvenient to open the reading room on Sunday. But that was really not what they had to decide. A question of detail of that kind could very easily be dealt with by the department concerned; but neither their Lordships nor the House of Commons would be unreasonably exacting, if it were found, from considerations of general inconvenience, impossible, in any particular instance, to give practical effect to the Resolution. The real question was whether certain public collections formed by the State, and paid for by taxation levied on all classes of the community, should be accessible to the great mass of the people during the only day of the week on which it was practicable for them to visit them. He thought there was a strong primâ facie case in favour of the principle of the Resolution, and it became stronger when they looked at the size and character of the Metropolis. The city in which they lived was the largest capital in the world, and certainly not the most picturesque. Residents in small towns could easily escape from them by a moderate walk; but there were upwards of 2,000,000 of people who lived in the interior of London who could not escape from the long succession of streets often squalid and generally dreary, and where, certainly on a Sunday, there was nothing to give pleasure or to create interest. The objection to open these galleries, though put in various forms, really came to this—the objectors did not like the idea of their neighbours passing their Sunday afternoons looking at pictures. But they did not lay down any consistent rules on this subject. They had laid out some fine parks and gardens with admirable skill and success, and they did all they could to encourage the people of London to frequent them; but he could not understand on what principle of reason or logic it could be held that it was perfectly innocent and right to walk in gardens and among flower beds, and absolutely wrong to enter a picture gallery. He did not deny the extreme importance of maintaining the day of national rest; but they must recollect that whatever amusements were allowed, some labour must be thrown on those who provided them. They permitted excursion trains, and they constantly saw, in the fine season, omnibuses and vans filled with occupants going into the country—and, on the whole, there was a great preponderance of advantage over disadvantage in this; but it necessarily involved labour imposed on a certain number of men who had to look after these excursionists. Nobody, again, attempted to prevent demonstrations for any purpose in the London parks; but there could not be a large meeting in Hyde Park without having a much larger number of police in attendance than would be required to look after all the galleries and museums in London. He did not deal with the abstract question, on which something might be said as to its not being the duty of the State to enforce what was essentially a religious obligation; but when they were told that the London population should be better employed than in visiting picture galleries, he was led to remark that, even if working men were in the habit of going to church, he did not believe they could find room in the churches. He did not wish to exaggerate the effect of what was proposed. After all, the 2,000 or 3,000 who, if this Resolution were carried, would visit museums and galleries would be inappreciable as compared with the number of those who frequented public-houses. But if public-houses were to be open on Sunday afternoons, they ought not to be the only places of amusement for working men. If they were not to be open, there was the more reason why some rational pleasure should be substituted for that which was taken away. Having taken some part in the discussion of the question in "another place," he felt he should not be doing his duty if he did not support the proposition of the noble Lord.


said, there had been a good many fallacies uttered on this subject, and the speech of the noble Lord who introduced the subject (Lord Thurlow) seemed to him especially to abound in them. In the first place, it was taken for granted that the working classes were in favour of this measure; but the proof of this was entirely wanting. The evidence placed in his hand was exactly on the other side. He was informed on authority he could not doubt that when a canvass was made in Bethnal Green, some short time ago, when that Museum was first opened, ten meetings were held of the working classes, eight of which repudiated the idea of opening it on Sunday, and only two were in favour of it. He believed, if they could ascertain the opinion of the working classes, they would find that they shared, the alarm expressed by the noble Marquess on the other side of the House (the Marquess of Ripon), lest any great change in this matter should deprive them of that day of rest which they greatly valued, and which had been so conducive to the prosperity of this country. It was also taken for granted that all thinking men were of the same opinion as the noble Lord. Well, persons who advocated any measure were apt to suppose that those who differed from them were not thinking men. But, desirous as he was and had ever been to promote the welfare of working men, he could not think he should be acting in accordance either with their wishes or their interests in voting with the noble Lord on this occasion. They were told that in some places experiments had been made as to the opening of museums and libraries. But how many places which had museums and libraries had thought it at all necessary to open them on the Sunday? Had the persons who had the control of those museums and libraries in the various towns thought it right to open them? Unless he was misinformed, there were only two or three instances in which these institutions had been thrown open, though it was in the power of the managers to throw them open, and had the working classes wished it they would in all probability have done so. He could not help thinking that there was another fallacy which ran through the whole of this debate—that, after all, this was a step of very little consequence, and that the difference between going through gardens and going through the Grosvenor Gallery, the British Museum, or the National Gallery was scarcely appreciable. But what were their Lordships called upon to do to-night? They were called upon, before the eyes of the people of this Kingdom, to pronounce a deliberate opinion that the policy with regard to the observance of the Sunday hitherto pursued in this country had been a mistake. Those places which had been opened had been opened by some private arrangement; but here Parliament was called upon to make a most solemn declaration that the policy hitherto observed in this matter was a mistake, and that not on account of the wishes of the great body of the working classes, but of some Societies, one of which made no secret of its objects, but told them what were the ulterior views it had on this subject. But, with all respect for those who laboured in those Societies, their Lordships ought to know what they were aiming at before assenting to their request and making a great change in public policy. He was convinced that if any such change was made there was great danger of the day of rest being lost. The noble Marquess had pointed out, in terms better than he himself could use, the evils which existed on the Continent of Europe in this matter. Were they to say to the working classes—"You have made a mistake hitherto as to the Sunday. You are to enjoy yourselves, and to use the day in the way most conducive to your pleasure?" Whatever amelioration of society might be expected to follow from such a course as was now proposed, there would still be a large number of persons to whom the greatest pleasure in life would be to add a few pence to the wretched wages which the six days of work gave them. Let their Lordships look at the Continent of Europe, and observe the hard-working peasant coming back from the Sunday's labour in the fields, or 'let them go to Paris and see the work that was carried on there on Sundays as on other days. These things were full of warning to them not without sufficient reason to depart from that policy which had hitherto governed them in this important matter.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 59; Not-Contents 67: Majority 8.

Bedford, D. Canterbury, V.
Somerset, D. Cardwell, V.
Powerscourt, V. [Teller.]
Ailesbury, M.
Bristol, M.
Lansdowne, M. Aberdare, L.
Ripon, M. Annaly, L.
Auckland, L.
Airlie, E. Belper, L.
Brownlow, E. Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)
Camperdown, E.
Derby, E. Breadalbane, L. (E. Breadalbane.)
Fortescue, E.
Granville, E. Calthorpe, L.
Harrington, E. Dorchester, L.
Kimberley, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
Minto, E.
Morley, E. Foxford, L (E. Limerick.)
Northbrook, E.
Onslow, E. Granard, L.(E. Granard.)
Ravensworth, E.
Spencer, E. Greville, L.
Sydney, E. Hammond, L.
Hare, L. (E. Listowel.) Ribblesdale, L.
Hatherton, L. Rivers, L.
Houghton, L. Romilly, L.
Howard de Walden, L. Somerton, L. (E. Normanton.)
Kenry, L.(E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)
Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kesteven, L. Strafford, L. (V. Enfield.)
Monson, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L. Sudeley, L.
Thurlow, L. [Teller.]
Mostyn, L. Truro, L.
O'Hagan, L. Vivian, L.
Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.) Waveney, L.
Canterbury, L. Archp. Ashford, L. (V. Bury.)
Cairns, E. (L. Chancellor.) Bagot, L.
Braybrooke, L.
Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)
Northumberland, D.
Richmond, D. Carysfort, L. (E. Carysfort.)
Abergavenny, M. Clanbrassill, L. (E. Roden.)
Salisbury, M.
Clinton, L.
Amherst, E. Colchester, L.
Beaconsfield, E. Congleton, L.
Beauchamp, E. Conyers, L.
Cadogan, E. Cottesloe, L.
Coventry, E. Denman, L.
Dundonald, E. de Ros, L. [Teller.]
Effingham, E. Dinevor, L.
Jersey, E. Ellenborough, L.
Manvers, E. Forester, L.
Mount Edgcumbe, E. Gordon of Drumearn, L.
Nelson, E.
Powis, E. Hartismere, L. (L. Henniker.)
Redesdale, E.
Selkirk, E. Kenlis, L.(M. Headfort.)
Shaftesbury, E.
Waldegrave, E. Kintore, L. (E. Kintore.)
Bridport, V. Lovel and Holland, L. (E. Egmont.)
Cranbrook, V.
Eversley, V. Massy, L.
Gordon, V. (E. Aberdeen) Norton, L.
O'Neill, L.
Hardinge, V. Penrhyn, L.
Hawarden, V. [Teller.] Saltoun, L.
Melville, V. Selborne, L.
Strathallan, V. Silchester, L. (E. Longford.)
Templetown, V.
Templemore, L.
Gloucester and Bristol, L. Bp. Tollemache, L.
Ventry, L.
London, L. Bp. Winmarleigh, L.
St. Davids, L. Bp. Wynford, L.

Resolved in the Negative.