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I read history, the more I see of mankind, the more I recognise its value. Well, then, you are not merely a multitude of fifty millions; you are fifty millions sprung from this excellent Germanic stock, baving passed through this excellent Puritan discipline, and set in this enviable and unbounded country. Even supposing, therefore, that by the necessity of things your majority must in the present stage of the world probably be unsound, what a remnant, I say—what an incomparable, all-transforming remnant-you may fairly hope with your numbers, if things go happily, to have!
The day of rest is such an inestimable blessing to all classes of men ; it is to the labouring classes in particular such an unspeakable boon; it has done so much to benefit our race, both morally and physically, that any movement likely to interfere with the design and duties and blessings of the day, and to make it a day of toil instead of a day of rest, should be earnestly resisted by all who have the good of mankind at heart.
Adam Smith said :
The Sabbath, as a political institution, is of inestimable value, independently of its claims to Divine authority.
Lord Macaulay, in speaking of the Sunday, said :
While industry is suspended, while the plough lies in the furrow, while the exchange is silent, while no smoke ascends from the factory, a process is going on quite as important to the wealth of the nation as any process which is performed on more busy days.
Man, the machine of machines, is repairing and winding up, so that he returns to his labours on Monday with clearer intellect, with livelier spirits, with renewed corporeal vigour.
Dr. Farre, in a Committee appointed by the House of Commons, said :
Although the night apparently equalises the circulation, yet it does not sufficiently restore its balance for the attainment of a long life; hence one day in seven, by the bounty of Providence, is thrown in as a day of compensation, to perfect, by its repose, the animal system. Physiologically considered, power saved is power gained, and the waste of power from every kind of excitement defeats the purposes
of the day.
The late Earl of Beaconsfield, who voted on two occasions in the House of Lords against opening museums, &c., on Sundays, said, on May 5, 1879 5
Of all Divine institutions, the most Divine is that which secures a day of rest. for man.
I hold it to be the most valuable blessing ever conceded to man. It is the corner-stone of civilisation, and its removal might even affect the health of the people, . . It (the opening of museums on Sundays) is a great change, and those who suppose for a moment that it could be limited to the proposal of the noble baron to open museums will find they are mistaken.
Mr. Gladstone, who has always voted against the Sunday opening of the National Collections, in reply to a deputation in March, 1869, said:
The religious observance of Sunday is a main prop of the religious character of the country. . . From a moral, social, and physical point of view, the observance of Sunday is a duty of absolute consequence.
From his seat, as Prime Minister in the House of Commons, on April 18, 1871, he said :
From a long experience of a laborious life, he had become most deeply impressed with the belief—to say nothing of a higher feeling—that the alternations of rest and labour, at the short intervals which were afforded by the merciful and blessed institution of Sunday, was a necessity for the retention of a man's mind and of a man's frame in a condition to discharge his duties; and it was desirable as much as possible to restrain the exercise of labour upon the Sunday, and to secure to the people the enjoyment of the day of rest.
In a letter to the writer of this article in 1876, Mr. Gladstone wrote as follows:
Believing in the authority of the Lord's Day as a religious institution, I must as a matter of course desire the recognition of that authority by others. But, over and above this, I have myself, in the course of a laborious life, signally experienced both its mental and its physical benefits. I can hardly over-state its value in this view, and for the interest of the working men of this country, alike in these and in other yet higher respects, there is nothing I more anxiously desire than that they should more and more highly appreciate the Christian day, of rest.
It would be easy to quote the opinions of a long list of eminent men all bearing testimony to the great value of the Sunday as a day of rest, and showing the importance of preserving it as such.
If the Sunday is such a priceless blessing ; if its repose is essential to the physical, social, and religious welfare of our people; if our race would deteriorate without it; if it has done something both morally and physically to raise our country to the exalted position which she occupies amongst the nations of the world ; if its quieting, sanctifying influence on the minds of men is universally admitted ; if, in these days of intense excitement, when men live at an express rate, when mental and physical activity are carried to their extreme limits; if, under these circumstances, the Sunday comes with a Divine influence and brings rest and quietude to millions of the human race, ought not responsible public men to pause ere they take any steps which would tend in any degree to make this day of rest a day of work ?
The opinions of some of the eminent men named show that the danger of an increase of Sunday labour arising from the proposed opening of the National Collections on Sundays is not a mere phantom. The immediate and direct increase of such labour which Sunday opening would involve would be very considerable ; but the reflex influence in the same direction would be enormous, extending to every industry in the country.
Suppose that the supreme governing body in this country deliberately passes a law which affirms that the National Collections are to be opened on Sundays.
The following are amongst the places which would at once be opened :
The British Museum, with its Library and Reading-room.
The Houses of Parliament,
The staff of attendants and care-takers at these places now enjoy the whole of the Sunday as a day for rest and worship with their families.
When Saturday evening comes they can go home with light hearts, for the rest-day follows. But immediately the new law comes into operation, immediately the doors of their places of business are ordered to be opened on Sundays, they lose their Sunday liberty ; the State which employs them has resolved that they must work on the rest-day, and with heavy hearts they comply. They have families to support, and in days of keen competition they have no choice but to submit. Thousands would be only too eager to cut them out, to undersell them, to step into their places on any terms, however hard those terms might be.
A large staff of attendants would at once be employed at the places named; hundreds of persons would be immediately injured both morally and physically; some hundreds of families would feel that a wrong had been inflicted on their fathers or brothers; some hundreds of wives would, on the Sabbath Day, miss their husbands.
If large numbers of persons visited the places opened, these persons would require to be carried by rail or road to the several exhibitions from the suburbs and distant parts; they would also have to be supplied with food and refreshments.
Suppose 50,000 persons visited the places named on each Sunday a very large number of additional railway servants, omnibus and tramway men, cabmen, eating-house keepers, and publicans would be required to feed and carry them.
All these classes of persons have now excessively long hours of labour, and any proceedings on the part of governing bodies which would increase their labours would be a wrong most keenly felt.
To show that refreshment-house keepers are apprehensive that their Sunday work would be increased by the Sunday opening of museums, we mention the fact that out of 120 persons employed at the Holborn Restaurant in 1877 no less than 115 signed a petition to Parliament against Mr. Taylor's motion to open museums on Sundays.
The grounds on which these employés signed were that they enjeyed the Sunday as a day of rest (the Restaurant being closed on that day), but if the museum in the vicinity were opened on Sundays there might be a demand for the Restaurant to be opened also.
On this point the Right Hon. W. H. Smith, M.P., spoke with effect from his seat in Parliament on June 8, 1877. He then said :
The effect of opening museums on Sundays must be to instantly bring into operation a number of subsidiary means of feeding and supporting the people who might flock to the museums. Public-houses were closed during a great part of the Sunday afternoon. Would it be possible to keep these places closed if people came to the British Museum, the South Kensington Museum, and the National Galleries, from distant parts of London ? Taking the proposition as it stood, it involved very much more than stood on the paper of the House. He himself attached enormous value to the day of rest, which had been preserved for many centuries. Whether working men desired to go to church or not on Sunday was not the question. The question was,- Whether they should have the day of rest preserved to them, which the practice of this country had established.
A careful consideration of the subject leads to the conclusion that the immediate effect of opening the National Collections on Sundays would be to impose Sunday labour on a large staff of persons who now enjoy Sunday rest, to bring into operation on Sundays an industry which has hitherto rested on Sundays, and to increase the Sunday work of large classes of men whose hours of labour are already excessive.
That this is the view taken by large numbers of the working classes there can be no doubt. The instinct of self-preservation is the first law of nature, and that instinct leads the people at large to understand that the Sunday rest is a great blessing, and that this blessing would be endangered by the impetus to Sunday labour which would be given by the Sunday opening of the National Collections. Sunday opening means Sunday labour. Lord Dupraven says, We deny that Sunday opening will lead to Sunday labour. We assert that Sunday opening cannot possibly be achieved without Sunday labour, and that Sunday labour should be limited to that which is strictly necessary. At the Manchester Public Libraries, no less than 30 attendants are kept at work on Sundays from 2:30 to 9 P.M.