HL Deb 31 May 1892 vol 5 cc325-8


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Morley.)


My Lords, my excuse for intruding upon your Lordships with regard to this Bill is this. Some years ago, as may possibly be in the recollection of some of your Lordships, I brought before this House what I considered, and what I was rejoiced to find Peers of far more weight and influence than myself agreed in considering, as real grievances on the part of the Salvation Army—as it is called—grievances which they had suffered from in several places where inadequate protection had been afforded to them as peaceable and law-abiding citizens. They complained, and it seemed only with too good reason, of assaults and insults with which they had been visited, if not with the connivance, at any rate without the active interference on their behalf which they had a right to claim, as their employment was lawful and innocent, not to say benevolent and beneficent. My Lords, as this Bill has come up, I am sorry to believe, with the sanction of Her Majesty's Government, after passing the other House, I do not propose to trouble myself—if anyone else moves it I should support him—or to trouble your Lordships with a Division on the Bill. But I must be allowed to say that it does not indicate quite all the zeal for the strenuous maintenance of order in the administration of England—for which we are most grateful to Her Majesty's Government in the administration of Ireland—that might be wished. And the proceedings which led to this legislation seem not to have been very creditable to the inhabitants generally, or to the Municipal Authorities, of Eastbourne. But, my Lords, I venture to say that they are most discreditable to the person who is called General Booth, and I should add, his deluded followers only they seem to be merely passive instruments in his hands. Now, for some time after that discussion in the House of Lords the Salvation Army, as it is called, was sinned against rather than sinning; they were law-abiding, and inadequately protected as law-abiding and benevolent citizens. But after a time, I suppose feeling the need of fresh excitement on their part and on their behalf, Mr. Booth encouraged them to violate the law, and to persevere in violating the law, at Torquay; and since then, to a far worse degree, as we all know, quite recently at Eastbourne. I say that this conduct is most discreditable to him, because he is the person really responsible, as a citizen and as a Christian. It is distinctly in violation alike of human and Divine law. Goodness of intention is no justification for lawlessness. As to the violation of human law there can be no doubt; and as to the violation of Divine law, writing under a heathen Government, the inspired Apostle says: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake." That of course implied ordinances that were not directly at variance and incompatible with the observance of the Divine law. Now, to speak of its being an act of imperative Christian duty to march illegally through a town where it was forbidden by law, and to do that with a noise more or less harmonious or discordant, is simply absurd and ridiculous. And I must say I read with much surprise the testimony borne on behalf of this man and his works—I do not deny at all his good and benevolent intentions—from a wonderfully strange assortment of sponsors. For my part, I venture to think that the effect of that testimony is less likely to be that of inspiring your Lordships and most men of common sense with fresh confidence in Mr. Booth than of shaking our confidence in the good sense of that very heterogeneous body of sponsors. I do not wish to trouble your Lordships any further; but having on a previous occasion taken upon myself to speak on behalf of the Salvation Army and their work when they were law-abiding, I feel it my duty to protest against them and their acts when they are deliberately law-defying and law-breaking.


My Lords, I believe it is not usual in this House to discuss a Private Bill on Second Reading; but I myself personally was not aware that this Bill was coming before your Lordships to-night, and I am not therefore prepared to say anything about it until I have looked more carefully at the Bill—indeed, I have not seen it until this moment. I only hope it will not be assumed that the matter will pass sub silentio. I certainly at some stage of this Bill, probably in Committee, and even perhaps later, shall think it right to call your Lordships' attention to the circumstances under which this Bill has found a place here. If what I saw was truly reported in the newspapers it was reported something in this form: That the Committee to whom the matter was referred inquired of those persons who were responsible for the proceedings of the Salvation Army whether, if a particular course was taken, they would obey the law, and that upon an assurance that they would obey the law so altered, then the Committee found that the preamble of the Bill was proved. My Lords, I should very much like to know whether that was accurately stated, and I mean to inquire. If so, I can only say that the Bill does not come accredited here by such a procedure as I, for one, should be disposed to accede to; and further I think it necessary to see whether the Bill can be commended on its own merits to the House, and not simply because people have persistently and openly defied the law.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read 2a; and committed.