Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [24th May], "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts 1866–1869."—( Mr. William Fowler.)
Question again proposed.
rose, and said: Mr. Speaker, I see Strangers present.
Then Strangers were ordered to withdraw.
The following is believed to be an accurate representation of the several Members who addressed the House on the Motion, so far as they can be ascertained:—
Sir, the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) may be unaware of the fact that in the present Session of Parliament some 700 or 800 Petitions, signed by nearly 500,000 persons, have been presented to this House, asking for a repeal of the Acts which are now under discussion. By the course which he is now taking he is not only acting contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of the House, but he is also preventing the country from knowing what takes place here upon a subject in which it has expressed the deepest interest. Some tell me that this widespread opposition to these Acts arises from ignorance. I believe it springs from knowledge, because the more thoroughly I have understood these Acts myself, the more I find myself opposed to them. But if this earnest opposition of the people does arise from ignorance, where does the fault lie? Look at the stealthy way in which they have passed this House. They have been brought forward either late at night or late in the Session, and every effort has been made to stifle discussion. So far as I can discover from Hansard, only two short speeches were made during the passage of these Acts—one by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley); one by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton). Both attacked this legislation in the bitterest terms of condemnation; no case was made out for the Acts; and it is an unprecedented thing that so serious an innovation should have taken place without any speaking whatever but that which was in direct opposition. Let us look now at what occurred in the Lords. The defenders of the other Chamber — and they are not becoming more numerous—always maintain that it is necessary as a check to rash legislation. When the character of that House comes to be discussed in the future, it will not be forgotten that it passed these odious Acts entirely without debate. The Press joined this great conspiracy of silence. That institution to which we are so much indebted, which criticizes with so much advantage the proceedings of Parliament—one of whose noblest functions it is to guard the country from unjust legislation, on this remarkable occasion abandoned those functions, and up to this hour there are great London newspapers which have opened their columns freely to the supporters of these Acts, and which reject answers from, the most competent persons. Before the passing of these Acts there was no inquiry, I mean, of course, no real, no impartial inquiry. There were Committees of Investigation to which I shall, for a moment, refer. There was a Committee of the House of Commons which sat last year. I believe I am correct when I say that every witness examined by that Committee was in the pay and employment of the Government. There was a Committee of the Lords which sat in 1868. This Committee seems to me to have been the creature and the tool of an outside Association, an Association for extending these Acts to the whole country. This Association is said to number among its members Peers and Prelates, Members of the House of Commons, and clergymen of the Church of England, and yet it boars a fraudulent name, and dares not adopt a title which shall exhibit its real objects. It calls itself an Association for extending these Acts to the civil population of the whole kingdom, when its real object is to extend them to the female population of the kingdom. Between these two adjectives, civil and female, there is as broad a distinction as between any two words in the English language. Then there was a Committee which sat in 1865, presided over by the eminent surgeon Mr. Skey. Before that Committee there were examined some scores of doctors, men connected with the Army and Navy, men belonging to the police. I admit that doctors are acquainted with disease, that men connected with the Army and Navy know something of naval and military matters, and that the police have their special instincts; but when Parliament, in an important matter of legislation, submits to be guided by a congregation of professional men, it is liable to make stupendous blunders, and two or three years will not pass over without our finding that we have made such a blunder in this instance. The Association for extending these Acts has been doing all in its power to deceive the public, not intentionally, of course. They have a zeal in what to Englishmen is a new, but not an exalted, faith; and zealots have very little mental control. They have been endeavouring, by the grossest exaggerations, to frighten the public into accepting this legislation. I am supported in this view by the most eminent authorities. Dr. Skey says—
I quote next from Professor Syme, of Edinburgh. He says—"The public mind is alarmed; it has been coloured too highly. The disease is by no means so common or so universal; and I have had an opportunity today of communicating with several leading members of the profession at the College of Surgeons, and we are all of the same opinion—that the evil is not by any means so large as has been represented. I think if you took the impression of any individual on reading the reports of the Association for extending the Acts, you would infer an extent of syphilis in society far beyond the truth—very decidedly beyond the truth. It is not so common it is not so severe."
I shall give one extract from Mr. Acton, a great supporter of this legislation. Mr. Acton is probably the most illogical man who ever put pen to paper, but he is a gentleman of character, and therefore his statements will be accepted. He says—"Mild results now form the penalty of frailty." He further says—"It is now fully ascertained that the poison of the present day, though arising from similar local sores, does not give rise to the dreadful consequences which have been mentioned. The case may be tedious, and skin, throat, or periosteum may be slightly affected, but none of the serious effects that used to be so much dreaded ever appear, and even the trivial ones just noticed comparatively seldom present themselves. We, therefore, conclude either that the violence of the poison is worn out, or that the effects formerly attributed to it depended on treatment."
We are told that these Acts are required in the interest of innocent wives and children. This seems to me like asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend the people's money in order that British husbands may commit adultery with impunity. I could give the highest authorities to prove that inherited disease, even among the lowest and least protected class of the London poor, is small. We are told that this disease descends from generation to generation. Sir William Jenner says he never knew a case go beyond one generation. Dr. Arthur Farre says—"Notwithstanding their excesses and exposure to many causes of disease, the health of prostitutes resists all attacks better than that of the ordinary run of women who have children and lead orderly lives."
Mr. Erasmus Wilson says—"The conclusion that I came to, after many years' experience, was that syphilis in infants was one of the most easily-cured complaints that could be met with, provided the treatment was commenced sufficiently early, in which case the cure was as certain as of any complaint that could be named."
If our alarmists were sincere they would be irresistibly driven to the conclusion that the Contagious Diseases Acts should apply to the civil, and not merely to the female population. The truth is—and everyone knows it who has investigated this question—that during each succeeding decade these diseases have become milder and prevail less extensively. Is there anyone in this House who will stand up and say that the people of this country are less healthy than people living in those countries where this hateful institution has so long existed? The broad facts of our national life contradict the supposition. Look at our industry and commerce; they exhibit an energy unequalled in the world. We have covered not only our own land, but every other land with public works. In time of war, if we have met with difficulty or disaster, it has not arisen from the physical weakness of the soldier, but from the mental weakness of commanders. When this question was last debated, the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Dr. Lyon Playfair) gave us a great many figures, and brought Dr. Balfour, of the War Office, to his aid. Dr. Balfour is a very accessible gentleman, and I, too, have had the advantage of an interview with him. I will state the broad facts of this case, and they have the support of his authority. From 1860 to 1865, a period during which these Acts were not in force, there was a remarkable decrease of disease at the military stations. From 1865 to 1868, when the Acts were generally in force, there was no diminution of disease. The figures for the year 1869 have not been given to the public; but the hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh obtained them from the War Office, and made use of them in his speech. Dr. Balfour considers that they show some favourable results from the Acts. I will state, on his authority, what those results are. In some of the stations where the Acts are in force there is a considerable diminution of disease in the year 1869; but in some of the stations where the Acts are not in force there has been a considerable diminution. The difference is this—that in scarcely any of the stations, under the Acts, has there been any falling back; but, in some of the stations, not under the Acts, there has been a falling back. The comparison is here made between stations where there is ample hospital accommodation, and stations where there is none. What we contend for is—that if in the stations, not under the Acts, there were hospital accommodation where persons could voluntarily resort for treatment, the comparison might show that these Acts were worthless in a sanitary point of view. I shall be told that the voluntary system was tried, and that the desired results were not obtained; but it must be remembered that no results are claimed even for the compulsory system until the year 1869. The greatest hospital created by these Acts is the Albert Hospital, of Devonport. Mr. Wolferstan was the house surgeon for five years ending December, 1869. He is a gentleman of character and ability, and he kept the most elaborate accounts of the women who entered and re-entered that hospital. I shall give to the House some information with which he has furnished me. In 1867, the number of admissions for each woman was 1·21; in 1868, 1·71; in 1869, 2·07. These figures show that in each succeeding year, under the operation of these Acts, the women are more frequently diseased. The supporters of these Acts are bound to admit that inference, or to assent to another view of the case, which is suggested by the mode in which they obtain the Government money. The hospital receives from the Government £30 a year for every bed which is occupied, and. £9 a year for every bed which is empty. Are the women then more frequently diseased, or, deprived of every civil right, are they forced into the hospital to satisfy the greed of its managers? Or, again, is this strange result obtained from the fact that the police surgeon is a man who, having been 20 years in the Navy, has never before handled a speculum in his life, and is, therefore, entirely ignorant of the duties to which he has been appointed? The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh said that this compulsory system had changed the character of disease, and that the Government women were cured in very much less time than those who, in other places, resort to voluntary hospitals. Is he not aware of the fact that in other places there is very limited accommodation, and that, therefore, only the worst cases are taken, whilst the registered women are forced into hospital, some diseased, some suspected of disease, and some not diseased at all. I again quote some remarkable figures from Mr. Wolferstan. From September, 1867, to December, 1869, 566 women were liberated at the Albert Hospital, Devonport, after a detention varying between 1 day and 10. The details are as follow:—Two women were liberated after 1 day's detention, 12 after 2, 17 after 3, 28 after 4, 46 after 5, 101 after 6, 97 after 7, 64 after 8, 108 after 9, and 91 after 10. Have these women been unjustly imprisoned, or does medical science attain more rapid results in these prison-hospitals than elsewhere? In a vain search for a defence of this legislation we have been told that it effects a great pecuniary saving. In the Plymouth district, the loss, in time, of soldiers, sailors, and marines, for the year 1868, was 120 men. If we reckon these at £60 per head, we get a sum of £7,200; but the annual cost of the hospital, the police surgeon, the spies, including, of course, interest of money invested, amounts to a larger sum. But I am not going to argue this case only on the level on which it has been placed by the sanitary reformers of this House. Human beings have some feelings, some rights too sacred to be subordinated to these boasted sanitary results. A voice is heard from the country — a voice which is growing louder every day — asking for a restoration of those safeguards to personal security which have been handed down to us from generation to generation, and which, until now, no Government, either Liberal or Tory, has ventured to invade. The demand is made that though vice may be difficult to diminish, and impossible to repress, the State shall not become a partner in it; and, further, that whatever law shall be directed against the propagation of this disease shall be an equal law, and not have in it the cruelty and the cowardice of attacking the weak and letting the strong escape. How are these boasted results obtained? By what process does this law work? You begin by letting loose spies upon a town. There is no street nor square, no precinct of the town, be it field or garden, over which the eyes of these men do not range. They resort to the basest means to entrap their victims. They are not instructed to dog the steps of men and women—only of women; and not of all women. Their attention is specially given to the poorer and more defenceless class. Milliners, shop girls, women in domestic service—those classes which more commonly furnish the victims to men's lust, these are they who are placed in peril, and whose steps are tracked day and night by the creatures of this law. The House is aware that the Act professes to be directed against common prostitutes. The Act, however, contains no definition of this term. I believe there is a definition in the Police Act. The term there implies women who are seen soliciting in the street. The operations of those who carry out the Contagious Diseases Acts are limited by no such definition. Poor men's houses are entered, women suspected of incontinence, but who are in no sense common prostitutes, are forced into this vile slavery. I was recently asked by a man of position in London whether I thought poor women were as sensitive on these matters as women of a higher class. Sir, until that hour I never felt so much sympathy with the efforts of working men to obtain direct representation in this House. Here is a law passed by Peers and Prelates in one Chamber, and by an assembly of rich men in another, the whole burden of which is directed against the poor women of the country. It is the most indefensible piece of class legislation of which I have any knowledge. How are these Acts carried out? Their victims are not brought into Court and fairly judged. There is a provision by which they can be made to sign what is called a voluntary submission. Women frightened by the police are induced to sign their names or put their crosses to a paper of the meaning of which they know nothing. Every kind of cajolery and fraud are resorted to to obtain the signatures of ignorant and defenceless women. When once they have committed themselves they are subjected to forced examinations every fortnight, and have upon them a brand which makes a return to decent life almost impossible. I say their signatures are obtained by fraud, and if I am not misinformed, the War Office itself is a party to that fraud. Among the regulations issued by the War Office, on the 1st December, 1869, is the following:—"I look upon syphilitic diseases as so manageable a complaint, in comparison with other diseases of the skin, that it is always a source of pleasure to me when I hare to deal with syphilitic disease."
Now, Sir, there are no penal consequences attending such refusal. A woman who refuses to sign can only be summoned before the Bench, where she has the opportunity of showing that she is not a common prostitute. Then, Sir, we have the examining house. I will not undertake to describe that disgraceful institution, but will leave it to the imagination of those who now hear me. I will simply say that women who are young, women who are not young, those who are hardened in vice and those who are barely past its threshold, are driven up to this examining house, herded like cattle in a pen, waiting for the ordeal which a Parliament, representing only men, has prepared for their victims. There is a clause in the Act of 1869, I believe it is the 3rd clause, which exhibits in the extremest way the injustice and indecency of this system. I will refrain from any further reference to it, and I am glad to be told that the authors of the Act are themselves ashamed of it, and would be more at case if it had no existence. After having spoken of the sanitary, let me refer to the moral results of this legislation. Is the House aware that great moral results spring from this system? The first Act did not pretend even to aim at moral results. It was only when the Members for Oxfordshire and the Tower Hamlets assailed the Act that the flimsy veil of morality, as it was called by the Member for the Tower Hamlets, was thrown over it. From what part of the system do these moral results flow? Do they come from the examining house? Are they assisted by the operations of the police surgeon? The Blue Books teem with evidence to show that when the soldiers were subjected to this ordeal the morale of the Army was lowered, and it was discontinued because both soldiers and surgeons revolted at it. The moral results are said to come from the hospital. We are told that by forcing women there an opportunity is afforded of teaching them religion and of applying to them the chaplain. I see before me my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Miall); he has had something to say in his time about the State-teaching of religion. What will he say of this new phase which it has taken? How will he regard a plan for forcing people into hospitals, in order that they may be taught religion? Let me ask upon what principle all this proceeds? If it be right to drag women into hospitals in order to administer the chaplain to them, might it not be right to confer a similar benefit on other portions of the community, not excepting even some of those who have helped to pass these Acts? Let me discuss now, for a moment, the statements so repeatedly made, that by the operation of these Acts women are often reclaimed and restored to a respectable life. These statements are entirely unfounded. We are told that there were 1,755 prostitutes in Devonport and Plymouth, and that they have been reduced to less than one-half. Mr. Frederick Wreford, chief superintendent of police at Plymouth, denies the whole of this statement. Mr. Lynn, the superintendent of the Devonport police force, says he does not know of one case of reclamation through the operation of the Acts. Mr. Norman, the secretary to the Albert Hospital, Devonport, says—"Should any woman object to sign, she is to be informed of the penal consequences attending such refusal, and the advantages of a voluntary submission are to be pointed out to her."
Mr. Wolferstan states that, during the 18 months ending March, 1865, when the voluntary system, existed, 28 per cent of the women admitted into hospital were reclaimed, while, during the period from April, 1865, to December, 1869—when the Acts were in force—only 13 per cent of the women were reclaimed. There is nothing surprising in this result, for anyone who knows anything of human nature will admit that women who are suffering under a sense of injustice from brutal treatment and forced detention, are not likely to be influenced by those who are placed over them. The question is asked—"Is prostitution legalized?" Of course it is legalized. Until now everything that has been done by Parliament has been with a view of repressing it. The law has changed sides on this matter. We have entered into partnership with the brothels. We do the sanitary part of the business for them, and from all accounts we are not doing it amiss. A superintendent of police, Mr. Mallalieu, says—"I think there are no grounds whatever for thinking that the total number of prostitutes is lessened."
So long as there are brothels I have no objection that they should be clean; but I maintain that this result should be accomplished on the voluntary principle. I protest against the State being employed to secure this advantage. We are told, too, that "valuable information" is obtained from the heads of these houses which is of great service in carrying out the Acts. In fact, we have established an intimate alliance with these persons, and the great Departments of the State are in terror lest it should be disturbed. The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh spoke of the altered character of the unfortunate girls. I understood him to say that they were healthier, cleaner, better dressed, and more attractive. It would be a remarkable thing indeed, if, when the State brought its great resources to bear upon an institution like this, it did not render it more attractive. Our opponents are disturbed when they are told that they have planted the French system amongst us. If it be not the French system it is something very like it. So far as I have been able to compare the two, I believe ours to be the more brutal. It surrounds its victims with fewer safeguards, and subjects girls to slavery at a more tender age. I believe, the last time this question was discussed, somebody stated that the certificates were given up. If so, the change was made to meet the exigencies of the debate, for Mr. Cooper, of the Rescue Society, told me that he had recently been accosted by two girls, at Blackheath, who had their certificates. He bought one of the certificates, the other he could not buy, and the girl said that a man came to her every Saturday night and paid her rent, and that without that certificate he would not come near her. I do not know whether it be true or not that these certificates are given up; but if this system be in any way justifiable they ought not to be given up. If the Queen's Government, if the Imperial Parliament undergo the unspeakable humiliation of allying themselves with this system, if the British taxpayer is called upon to support it, then, I say we are entitled to enjoy the results of this expenditure, and both the soldier and the civilian should be enabled to distinguish the instrument which has been prepared for their use from that which would subject them to danger. Why is this law applied to women only? We are told that it is a sanitary law. It is the first time in our history that we apply a sanitary law not to disease in general, but only to the disease of one sex. It is said that you cannot catch men. This is equally true of women. Although you endanger the security of all, you only catch the more notorious. There is always a large outlying fringe of clandestine prostitution which baffles the efforts of the police. The same state of things would be found if you assailed men. Instruct your spies to track the steps of men. Let them be able to tap a man upon the shoulder and ask him to sign a voluntary submission. If he refuse, let him be summoned before the magistrate, give him what you give to women, the luxury of being—I will not say tried; there is little or no trial—but of being condemned in secret, and I undertake to say that you will have no difficulty in laying your hands upon the more notorious class of male propagators of disease. The right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown is not present to-day. I know that it is not his habit to be here on a Wednesday. If he had been here I should have called his attention to the fact that under these Acts women are subject to nine months' confinement, whilst men in precisely the same condition go absolutely free. I should like to have been able to have asked the right hon. Gentleman whether this legislation squared with his sense of justice. The hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh said that we had a standing Army, of which 90 per cent were celibates, and that they must be protected. This means that a standing Army of men requires an accompanying army of women under Government regulation. Let this be freely admitted, and I believe that standing armies, the great curse of modern times—that institution which inevitably leads to war and all its horrors, would occupy a less secure foundation among us. The hon. Member told us we were standing in the way of a beneficent discovery in science. The examining house, with all its accompaniments, may, indeed, to some minds represent a scientific triumph, but what we have here is at least no recent discovery; it has existed for generations in Continental countries; it has done more to demoralize society there than any other institution that can be named, and there is not one tittle of evidence to show that this country is less healthy than others which have long been subject to this "beneficent legislation." The hon. Member seems to me to be ignorant of the people for whom he has been sent here to legislate. The tone of his speech reminded me of an answer which was given by a surgeon who was examined before the Parliamentary Committee. The surgeon was asked whether he thought these Acts might safely be extended to the whole country? He said—Yes; he believed all hypocrisy on this subject was now gone, and that the people would accept the Acts. These gentlemen forgot in their calculations one portion of British society not wholly without influence. I mean the women of this country. These men seem to think that the women of England can look on and be at peace, while successive Governments of England are setting their seal upon, and to all appearances contentedly accepting the perpetual degradation of their sex. I am told that these Acts are the work of pious and well-intentioned men. I do not deny it. There are men in this House who support this legislation for whom I have a great respect; but let it be remembered that history teaches us no more frequent lesson than this—that the most indefensible things, the greatest crimes against humanity have been committed by pious and well-intentioned men. Some of the worst things that have ever been done in this country, have been done by Liberal Governments, because the people do not suspect them. It would not have been in the power of the right hon. Gentleman who leads the party opposite to have placed this law upon the statute book. Whether this legislation be good or bad, the First Minister of the Crown and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War are more responsible for it than anyone in this House, because they have been influential members of every Cabinet which has sanctioned these Acts. I should advise the whippers-in of the Liberal party to consider the political aspects of this business. A party is being formed in every town in the country which will subordinate all politics to the repeal of these Acts. Men are saying everywhere, if this be Liberalism, then henceforth there is no Toryism of which we need to be afraid. Leading men on the opposite Benches have had their full share in this business; but, at a future election, their agents will not be slow to ask who passed the hateful Contagious Diseases Acts? and the answer must necessarily be, they were passed by Liberal Governments. Before sitting down, let me consider for a moment what was the real course which Government ought to have taken to meet the evil in question. They should have established voluntary hospitals. I shall be told that the voluntary system was tried, and did not produce satisfactory results. It should have been more fully tried, and tried for a longer period. During a period of two or three years it is evident that the compulsory system did not produce the results that were anticipated. Then, Sir, the sanitary arrangements for the Army and Navy should have been improved. I could show from the Blue Books that the men do not possess the ordinary requirements of civilized life, and that they are in some respects scandalously neglected. The Government should have taken a leaf out of the book of my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). They should have protected the soldiers and sailors from the consequences of the unrestricted sale of liquors. This they might have thought too arbitrary a proceeding, although it is not considered too arbitrary to subject women to the most degrading treatment, and to deprive them of every right. The questions of employment and of greater facility for marriage should have received the earnest consideration of the Government. In short, through these various paths I have no doubt whatever that far greater sanitary results are to be obtained than can ever come from the revolting system which the country all but universally condemns. I will sit down by saying in one word that I believe it is not in the power of Parliament to maintain these Acts. There is no place in the United Kingdom where a public meeting can be called together to defend them, and any Government which undertakes to support them will render itself hateful to the people."Since the passing of the Act, the greater cleanliness of the brothels is something very remarkable."
said, that when he entered the House that day he had no intention whatever of taking part in the discussion, but having listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), especially to that part of it which related to the results of the Albert Hospital at Devonport, he could not remain wholly silent, seeing that, while acting as Secretary to the Admiralty, he had personal knowledge of the details of the working of that institution. The hon. Member for Manchester had challenged the House on two points—first of all he had denied the beneficial workings of the Act; and, secondly, he had denied the moral benefits flowing from it; but he hoped, before sitting down, to give a categorical answer to the hon. Member on both of those questions. Before entering into the matter, however, he wished to express the astonishment with which he had heard the hon. Gentleman complain of the want of publicity in the columns of the newspapers for the views of those who were opposed to those Acts. He must ask the hon. Member what he meant by such a complaint as that. So far from there having been any insufficiency in the degree of publicity given to those views, on the contrary, he deeply regretted the extent to which their publication had been carried, and also the manner in which and the means by which it had been accomplished. For the last few months every day and every hour respectable households had been invaded by pamphlets and statements couched in the most filthy language and containing the most indecent details. Talk, indeed, of the want of publicity—he knew, as a fact, that in the county in which he himself lived (Sussex), the drawing-rooms and breakfast-tables of the wives and even the maiden sisters of the most respectable families had been deluged with publications which deserved no other fate than to be brought under the provisions of Lord Campbell's Act. Another complaint of the hon. Member, to which he had listened with equal astonishment, was that those Acts had been passed without any debate in that House. Whose fault, he would ask, was that? When those Acts were introduced they went regularly through all the various stages, through which all other legislative measures passed, in the ordinary course. Nay, more, whereas in other instances when a Bill had received the sanction of both Houses of Parliament the principle of that Bill was not, in general, again raised for discussion; in the present case, on the other hand, an opportunity was annually given for challenging the principle of these Acts when year after year both the Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty asked the House to vote the sums of money required for carrying the Acts into operation. Therefore, the opportunity afforded for discussing the principle of those Acts was far greater than existed in the case of any other legislative enactment. He now came to the beneficial working of the Acts, which the hon. Member for Manchester had denied, quoting some figures given by Mr. Wolferstan, the house surgeon, to prove that, during a certain period, the number of women admitted to the Albert Hospital at Devonport had increased, and from that, forsooth, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to argue that prostitution in that town had increased. He begged to assure the hon. Member for Manchester that he had taken an entirely erroneous view of the inference to be drawn from those figures, the truth being that the increased number of admissions was owing to the increased knowledge spread among those unhappy women of the great benefits which would accrue to them from being treated in that hospital. The hon. Gentleman also denied that those Acts had any result. Now, having himself, when Secretary to the Admiralty, moved for a Vote of money for the erection of the Admiralty wing of the Albert Hospital, he told the hon. Member, from an official experience of three years, that the reason why the results of those Acts had not been more satisfactory and complete was the limited area over which they operated, and the comparatively limited sums which had been expended in carrying them out. The really beneficial effect of those Acts, he contended, could not be properly appreciated from the present system of partial treatment, as that disease required, like all other diseases of the same kind, a policy, so to speak, of stamping-out to be applied to it. He would also mention that at Sheerness, in the year 1867, the Admiralty received official intimation that the disease had then been all but completely stamped out. The hon. Member for Manchester, referring to the Devonport Hospital, had stated that 500 women were annually driven up, forced, bullied, and compelled even by fraud in high places to enter those institutions. Now, he begged leave, speaking from official knowledge, to give his most positive contradiction to that statement, and to say that, so far from force, bullying, or official fraud being required, those wretched women flocked up, anxious to enjoy the benefits of the hospital, and fearful of nothing but the jeers of the companions whom they had left outside. The hon. Member had likewise asked how the treatment they underwent could improve the morality of those women, and whether the examining room, was to be regarded as the reformatory. Again he would be happy to give the hon. Gentleman a categorical answer, and to tell him that the most beneficial moral results had been produced by those Acts. Very many of the cases in our seaport towns were those of the lowest and most ignorant class, who, it was found when admitted to the hospital, had been brought up to prostitution as their natural trade. They were grossly ignorant of even the first rudiments of religion, and equally so of any occupation which would enable them to gain an honest livelihood. In that hospital at Devonport those unfortunate women were not only cured of a loathsome disease, but during their cure received the ministrations of the chaplain, were taught those first principles of religion of which when admitted they were supremely ignorant, and were practised in all those kinds of domestic and household work which, when they left the institution, would enable them to earn their living without returning to their former career of degradation. The hon. Member for Manchester had spoken of the policy of those Acts as being a purely Liberal policy. He begged leave to deny that assertion, stating that the First Lords of the Admiralty under whom he had served, and he himself also, as the Secretary of that Department, had cheerfully done their best to carry out the policy inaugurated by Lord Clarence Paget in that matter. Notwithstanding the tempting prospects held out by the hon. Member for Manchester that, at the next General Election, the present Liberal majority in Parliament would be turned into a Tory ascendancy, he, for one, utterly repudiated any support given either to himself or his party on any such grounds as those indicated by the hon. Gentleman, and he only hoped that the hon. Member who was supposed to be then taking shorthand notes of the proceedings of the House would make it known to the public that he, at all events, had disclaimed any endeavour to make party capital out of that question. In conclusion, he had to apologize for intruding upon the attention of the House, and he repeated that he had had no intention of speaking, but he really could not allow the erroneous statements of the hon. Member for Manchester to pass without rising to implore the House to pause in its condemnation of a measure which he believed was calculated to promote the best social and moral interests of the country.
regretted that the hon. Member for Cambridge had not been content to let this disagreeable subject be considered by the Royal Commission, which was to be appointed, instead of consuming the time of the House in a useless discussion. As, however, the debate had been renewed it was his (Captain Vivian's) duty, though very reluctantly, to trespass on the time of the House, in order that he might contradict some of the unfounded charges which had been brought against those who administered this Act, and explain the reasons why, in his opinion, this most unpleasant subject had to be dealt with by Parliament. But before he entered upon the question, he wished fully to endorse what had been said by his noble Friend the Member for Chichester as to the reprehensible steps taken by those who were opposed to this legislation. He (Captain Vivian) did not for a moment question the sincerity and earnestness of their motives. But he did question the prudence—nay, more, the decency—of their acts. The hon. Member for Manchester spoke of "Zealots," and said that they were not remarkable for discretion. There were generally zealots to be found on both sides of a question, and he could not congratulate those who were among the opponents of these Acts on their discretion. He (Captain Vivian) held in his hand the last of the numerous disgusting publications with which hon. Members had been inundated for the last six months. The pamphlet was signed Garth Wilkinson, and, for his part, he had never seen so filthy—he could use no milder term—a production in the English language. His hon. Friend the Member for Bedford had said the Government had made a mistake in bringing in so stringent an Act. They should have been contented, he said, with the voluntary Lock wards which were always full during the time they were in action, and were a great success. Now, his hon. Friend himself admitted they were not a success, inasmuch as some of the unfortunate women were undoubtedly in the habit of leaving the wards before they were well. That was, in fact, the case, and to a much greater extent than his hon. Friend supposed. It was not that one or two left the wards before they were cured; but experience unmistakably proved that when a ship came into port or a regiment into garrison, and these poor women saw their way to driving a thriving trade, they used to leave in shoals, whether cured or not, so that the voluntary wards, so far from being a success, were an utter failure. That being the case, and this terrible scourge being on the increase, it was necessary to do something, and hence the cause of the Act of 1864 being introduced. Hon. Members had said that these Acts were smuggled through Parliament. It was not to be wondered at that Parliament did not like to discuss openly such painful and disgusting subjects; but were they smuggled through Parliament? "Why, the Act of 1864 was based upon the recommendation of a Committee composed of Members whose names were as follows:—
It would have been impossible to find a more impartial Committee, or one composed of Gentlemen of higher Parliamentary position. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to criticize the proceedings of the Committee of the House of Lords of 1868. He described that also as a partial Committee. It was not his (Captain Vivian's) duty to defend the proceedings of the other House of Parliament; but this much he would say, that a Committee which numbered among its members the names of Lords Ebury and Nelson—names which commanded confidence and respect wherever they were mentioned—could not be open to the criticisms the hon. Member had made. Then, again, there was the Committee of 1869, of which he (Captain Vivian) had the honour to be Chairman, and which was composed of the following Members:—"Mr. Spencer Walpole (Chairman), Lord Clarence Paget, Sir John Pakington, Mr. Hennessy, Mr. Hunt, Lord Hotham, Sir James Fergusson, General Peel, Mr. Liddell, Sir Harry Verney, Mr. Aytoun, Sir Morton Peto, Sir John Trelawny, Mr. Kinnaird, Mr. Locke, The Marquess of Hartington, Sir George Grey, Captain Jervis, and Mr. Longfield."
The right hon. Member for Oxfordshire had, at the beginning of this debate, severely animadverted upon the proceedings of that Committee. He said they were open to two charges—first, that they called no witnesses who were not favourable to their own views; secondly, that they took care to put no questions to the witnesses which were not sure to extract such replies as would be favourable to the views of the Committee. Now, those were grave charges to bring against a Committee of the House of Commons. If they had been made by an hon. Member of less standing and position in the House than the right hon. Member, he (Captain Vivian) would probably have passed them by unnoticed; but when the right hon. Gentleman made them, it was his (Captain Vivian's) duty to notice and repudiate them. It was only enough to point to the names of those who composed the Committee to show how absurd it was to suppose that they would have lent themselves to such an unworthy course of proceeding. But was it the fact that only favourable witnesses were examined? Why, Dr. Balfour and Mr. Simon were examined. To be sure, the first had become a convert to the Act from experience; but when he was summoned as a witness, the Committee had no reason to believe that his evidence would be in favour of the Act; on the contrary, he was the sole dissentient from the Report of the Venereal Committee of 1866–7. And, as to Mr. Simon, he certainly did not give very favourable evidence in support of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman should think twice before he made charges which tended to weaken the respect and confidence which the public ought to feel in Committees of that House. And now to the discussion of those Acts and their effect. There appeared to be three objections to them—first, that they legalized immorality; secondly, that they increased instead of suppressing vice; thirdly, that innocent women were exposed to insult. With regard to the first objection, it would not be necessary for him to say much, as his hon. Friend the Member for the University of Edinburgh had so fully gone into and answered that branch of objection; but this much he (Captain Vivian) might be allowed to say, that those Acts no more legalized prostitution than compulsory vaccination legalized small-pox, or than putting a drunken man in the lock-up legalized intoxication. The religious objection to the Act—namely, that to attempt by legal enactment to suppress a disease which was meant by Providence as a scourge on dissolute men—was neither new or surprising. It was raised when Jenner invented vaccination, and when the use of chloroform to suppress pain was first introduced. It had always been, and would probably continue to be, raised against all efforts at legislation of a similar character. In addition, however, he must be permitted to remark that some of those whose lives were dedicated to the improvement of morality—he referred to clergymen of the Church of England and others—and whose experience of the working of those Acts qualified them to give an opinion on the subject, held very opposite opinions to those of the hon. Members for Cambridge and Manchester. He held in his hand letters from various clergymen, extracts from some of which he would road to the House. The Rev. L. H. St. George says—"Mr. Childers, Sir John Pakington, Captain Vivian, The Marquess of Hamilton, Mr. D. Dalrymple, Mr. Percy Wyndham, Mr. Kinnaird, Mr. Collins, Sir John Simeon, Mr. James Lowther, Mr. Rathbone, Lord Eustace Cecil, Lord Charles Bruce, Sir James Elphinstone, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Tipping, Dr. Brewer, Mr. Mills, Captain Grosvenor, Sir John Trelawny, and Mr. Mitford."
The Rev. G. Dacre says—"I have the honour to remark that the general conduct of the girls during the quarter has been very satisfactory. They have not only been steady and attentive during service, but evinced an earnestness which has been most gratifying."
The Rev. J. F. Burlton says—"Of the beneficial working of the system there cannot be a doubt. The girls came into the hospital turbulent, lawless, and godless, and it is astonishing the change that a few weeks produces in them. In many instances they would give up their profession, and remain in the hospital until they had proved the sincerity of their resolutions if they would be allowed.… Mrs. Brown's (the matron's) method is so judicious that, after a short residence, the poor creatures are apparently perfectly contented and happy."
The Rev. H. Everett says—"There can be little doubt left in the minds of those who have watched the working of this Lock Hospital, that the benefits are beginning to be appreciated. There is a general acknowledgment that the conduct of the prostitutes in and about the town of Aldcrshot is less indecent, and their habits more quiet and sober than before its establishment. Inside the hospital they submit to the steady discipline of the place, and in most instances express their gratitude for the kind treatment they receive. During the last quarter 23 women have expressed a determination to lead a different sort of life. Nine at their own request, earnestly made, have been sent to asylums, and 14 to their friends."
Another clergyman, of considerable experience, says—"My opinion has been formed by six years' work as a clergyman in Devonport. I have myself married women to respectable men, who have declared to me that the turning-point in their lives was the time of their residence in the Royal Albert Hospital. I am perfectly certain that we have done, and are still doing, a great and good work within the walls of our hospital. A great deal has been said here about virtuous women being arrested and examined; this, if true, would be a horrible thing, and to be avoided at any price. Here, again, I have taken a good deal of pains in a quiet way to gather reliable information, and am convinced that here there has been gross exaggeration. I cannot find—nor can I hear of anyone else who can find—a single true case where a modest woman has been arrested and examined. Since the operation of those Acts I am certain, that the number of prostitutes has greatly decreased in Devonport; that disease and suffering are much less rife among them; and I am also quite certain that very many women have been entirely reclaimed, and have altogether abandoned their vicious life in consequence of the teaching and advice they have received during their stay in the Lock wards."
And with that he would, dismiss that part of his subject. He next proceeded to discuss the second objection to these Acts—namely, that they tended to increase vice. His hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge said that he based his objections on higher grounds than mere statistics, and that he repudiated statistics. But in discussing such a matter as this it was impossible to ignore statistics; and he (Captain Vivian) thought he could show to the House by statistics that, so far from "increasing vice," the direct tendency of these Acts was to diminish vice, and that their effect had been as satisfactory in a moral as in a physical point of view. First, as regarded the increase or decrease of disease among soldiers and sailors in the protected districts. He (Captain Vivian) held in his hand a Return of the percentage of disease in the Army and Navy for each of the years the Act had been in operation—"I have good reason to hope that many who have been brought to the hospital by the police officer have seen, during their enforced seclusion, the error of their ways, and have been really and permanently reformed. I speak, however, with no certainty, because time alone can settle the question. The whole question is involved in difficulty; but I at present think that this terrible disease needs a most potent medicine, that something must be done; and that the Act in question, although not perfect, is a step in the right direction, and is worthy of painstaking support and a patient trial."
That Return showed clearly that disease of this character had in five years been diminished by one-half. The hon. Member for Manchester said that in those countries—namely, France and Belgium—where acts of a similar character had existed for many years, the health of the soldiers was, notwithstanding, worse than in our own Army. He (Captain Vivian) had obtained a comparison between our Army and the two other armies which had been referred to—"31st December, 1865, 22·68; 31st December, 1866,18·87; 31st December, 1867, 18·00; 31st December, 1868, 12·19; 31st December, 1860, 11·06."
But what did medical officers say on that subject?—"The average loss of days' service in Home Stations of English Army is equivalent to seven days loss of service of the whole Army in a year. France loses four days; Belgium three days. 1862—Before the Acts were in operation our Army lost eight days."
Medical Officer, 35th Regiment.
"Venereal affections, which are little more than half the number returned for 1868, notably diminished during the period the troops were quartered at Aldershot, the existence of a Lock Hospital being conducive to that result."
Medical Officer, 25th Regiment.
"The percentage of admissions for venereal during this year has been much less than the prior year, owing to the better working of the Contagious Diseases Act."
Medical Officer, 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards.
"It is gratifying to be able to state that since the arrival of the Battalion at Windsor a marked exemption from this disease has taken place, owing, doubtless, to the successful working of the Contagious Diseases Act, affording ample proofs of its good effects."
So far, then, as the effect on the health of the Army went, it was clear that those Acts had been eminently successful even in the short time during which they had been in operation. Now let them see how they worked as regarded these unfortunate women—
"The number of women coming within the provisions of the Contagious Diseases Act from its first coming into operation has been 7,766. Of these, 2,558 left the districts; 385 were married; 451 entered homes; 1,249 were restored to friends; 107 died; total 4,750—leaving 3,016 still on the register."
That could not be considered but as a most satisfactory Return, for the moral effects of this Act appeared from it to be not less important than the physical. The numbers of those poor creatures had not only diminished, but a large percentage of them had been reclaimed from their life of sin and restored to their friends; and those beneficial effects were not confined to one or two of the protected districts, but extended in pretty equal proportions over all, as the following Return showed:—
"Number of women in the under-mentioned districts since the Act came into operation till the present time:—
|Registered.||Now on Register.|
The remainder of the towns only came under the operation of the Act this year; but yet there is a diminution of prostitution even in them. They are—Greenwich, Winchester, Dover, Canterbury, Deal, Maidstone, Gravesend. The balance between those originally on register and those remaining is accounted for by those who have left the district, or married, or entered homes, or restored to friends, or died."
And even among those poor creatures who still continued their pitiful career, there was a marked improvement in their general habits. Captain Harris wrote on that point as follows:—
"The improvement that has taken place in the persons, clothing, and homes of the common women, as regards cleanliness and order, is most marked. Many of the women formerly looked bloated from drink, whilst others were greatly emaciated, and looked haggard through disease. Their language and habits are greatly altered. Swearing, drunkenness, and indecency of behaviour have become quite exceptional. The women now look fresh and healthy, and are most respectful in their manners; in fact, these poor creatures feel that they are not altogether outcasts from society, but that there are people who still take an interest in their moral and physical welfare."
The hon. Member for Bedford said that there was one part of this great social evil which those Acts did not, and could not, reach. He described it as the "broad border" which surrounded those poor creatures who lived only by a life of prostitution. He (Captain Vivian) owned frankly and freely that this was a great difficulty, and one that neither these Acts, or any other, could fully grapple with. But even here they found that indirect benefits arose from the Acts, for Captain Harris reports that—
"Clandestine prostitution, particularly amongst married women and servant girls, has much diminished; this, in all probability, proceeds from the fear of being brought under the operation of the Act."
One other evidence he would produce to show that prostitutes had largely diminished in numbers in protected districts.
|Ratio per 1,000 of mean strength admitted in|
|Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa.||Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa.||Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa.|
|Devonport and Plymouth||110||116||133||147||82||169|
|Chatham and Sheerness||88||146||86||139||83||161|
|Average of preceding||100||117||96||117||84||98|
|Average of other large Stations||119||110||103||117||98||104|
He (Captain Vivian) found that the prostitutes in the three towns of Devonport Stonehouse, and Plymouth had fallen from 2,020 in 1865 to 650 in 1869, and the houses of ill-fame, from 410 in 1865 to 125 in 1869—in short, a whole street had been swept away. The hon. Member for Manchester had cited Dr. Balfour as not being very favourably disposed towards these Acts, and he had quoted some figures of Dr. Balfour's in support of that assertion. He (Captain Vivian) held in his hand evidence contained in a Return, lately received from Dr. Balfour, contrasting the protected with the unprotected districts, which threw quite a different light on this subject—
This Table shews—
1st—That the reduction effected by the Contagious Diseases Act has been in the amount of Venereal sores, or that form of disease which is likely to be followed by constitutional mischief. The amount of Gonorrhæa has been very slightly affected. 2nd—The reduction in the admissions by primary Venereal sores has been steadily progressive at the protected stations, while no such decrease has taken place at the other large stations—on the contrary there has been, in the last two years, a slight increase.
The reduction in 1866 may have been in some degree due to the Act of 1864 having been in force at Devonport, Portsmouth, and Chatham.
The fluctuations at each station may be in some degree the result of the small numbers—the averages are more reliable, the numbers under observation in each year not being under 24,000 men.
Table shewing the ratio of admissions per 1,000 of mean strength by primary Venereal sores and by Gonorrhæa during three years prior to the Act coming into operation at each of the stations (except Windsor) to which the Contagious Diseases Act of 1866 has since been applied, with the average for each year at these stations and at the other large stations to which the Act has not been applied:—
Table shewing the ratio of admissions at the stations during the three years in which the Act has been in operation, with the average of these
|Ratio per 1,000 of mean strength admitted in|
|Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa.||Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa||Primary Venereal Sore.||Gonorrhæa.|
|Devonport and Plymouth||76||178||66||148||74||124|
|Chatham and Sheerness||71||131||63||156||41||114|
|Average of preceding||86||131||70||129||59||106|
|Average of other large Stations||106||127||108||125||111||102|
He (Captain Vivian) had shown by official Returns that, so far from these Acts having the effect imputed to them—namely, to increase vice—they had exactly an opposite effect. Disease had decreased—the numbers of prostitutes had decreased very largely—many had been reclaimed from their life of sin and restored to their friends—houses of ill-fame had diminished in numbers. But it might be objected that his evidence being of an official character, was open to suspicion, as it came from those only whose duty it was to administer these Acts. But he (Captain Vivian) held in his hands evidence of a quite impartial nature—evidence of those whose duty it was to watch over the moral and physical conditions of their districts, and who were, therefore, well able to form an opinion whether these Acts had a beneficial effect on their neighbourhood or the reverse. Here was a resolution of the Guardians of the Farnham Union, which was unanimously passed—
"Guardians of Farnham Union, in December last, unanimously expressed their approval of the Act, and their sense of the benefits it had produced in Aldershot and the neighbourhood."
Of course, he (Captain Vivian) did not bind any guardians who might not have been present at that meeting to that expression of opinion; but those who were present were unanimous in their view. The Mayor of Dover, writing to the Commissioners of Police, under date 16th May, said—"The Act, I consider, has proved most beneficial." And, lastly, the strongest im-
stations and of the other large stations at which the Act has not been in operation;—
partial evidence of the opinion of the gentry and clergy in the neighbourhood of those towns where the Act was in operation, came only lately to the War Office, in the shape of a Petition to the Secretary of War, praying that these Acts might not be repealed. That Petition was signed by the Mayor and ex-Mayor, Head and Assistant-Master of College, an Archdeacon, 13 local clergy, and many magistrates and gentry. And now to combat the third objection—namely, "Innocent women are exposed to insult." Now, a great deal had been said, both in that House and outside, on that head; and most erroneous statements as to the manner in which those Acts were worked by the police had been encouraged and circulated by the opponents of the Acts—statements of a general character that honest, virtuous women had been frequently accosted and insulted by the police, threatened with all sorts of punishment if they did not submit themselves to medical discipline, &c.; and some had been bold enough to bring forward special cases, mentioning the names of those injured innocents. Every one of those special charges had been met, inquired into, and fully and completely disproved by the authorities; and he (Captain Vivian) held in Ins hand at that moment the detailed statement and refutation of each case; but as the hon. Member for Manchester had not repeated any of those charges that afternoon, he (Captain Vivian) would not weary the House by reading these
Papers. He would content himself by now again openly challenging the hon. Member for Manchester, or any of his Friends, to produce one single instance of any woman having been improperly interfered with. Some hon. Members, and many out of doors, appeared to be under the impression that these Acts were entrusted to the rural and local police to administer, and that any common policeman could at his pleasure arrest any female he saw in the street, and compel her to attend for examination. But that was not so. The rural and local police had nothing whatever to do with these Acts. They were entrusted to a few carefully selected married men of the Metropolitan Police; and he must remark, in passing, that nothing could exceed the tact and discretion which those officers had displayed in administering Acts which he fully admitted required most delicate handling. He (Captain Vivian) would read to the House the number of police in each protected district who were alone charged with those duties—
|Total for England||8||2||25||35|
|Cork and Queenstown||1||2||3|
|Total for Ireland||2||4||6|
The power of those men, again, was so limited and controlled, that even were they disposed to be indiscreet, it would be impossible for them to be so without exceeding their powers. For the following were the forms which must be gone through before a woman could
be compelled to attend for examination:—1. A policeman charged with the duty—one of those he (Captain Vivian) had enumerated—having satisfied himself that there was good reason to suppose a woman was leading the life of a common prostitute, reported the case to his inspector. He must not speak to the woman, or interfere with her himself. He reports to his inspector. 2. The inspector then inquired into the case, and if he was convinced that the policeman had good grounds for thinking the woman was a prostitute — and those grounds amounted almost to a certainty always before they were acted upon—he (the inspector) gave her notice to attend for medical examination. 3. She was asked if she would sign a voluntary submission, and if she assented she was taken to the surgeon. [The House must bear in mind that all that was done only by the inspector, not by the policeman.] 4. If she refused, the inspector could do no more. His duty then was to report the case to Scotland Yard. 5. The Chief Commissioner then inquired into the matter; and, if he was convinced as to the nature of the life the woman was leading, he ordered her to attend before a magistrate. 6. Even then the woman was not exposed in an open court, because she could attend by deputy—either husband, brother, father, any relative, or a legal adviser might represent her. 7. And it was only after the case had been legally proved that the magistrate ordered her to attend periodical examinations for 12 months. Surely, it was impossible to take stronger precautions against an improper use of the powers of those Acts; and that they were sufficient and satisfactory was proved, he repeated, by the fact that no woman had been improperly arrested under the Acts, and he defied the opponents to prove the contrary. Among the unfair measures resorted to by the "Zealots" who opposed those measures, was that of trying to induce those unfortunates to resist the provisions of the Act; and, to a certain extent, their efforts had prevailed. Lately, and only lately, since printed papers had been circulated, calling on the women in most inflammatory language to resist the Acts, had any disposition to do so been shown. On the contrary, the poor creatures seemed grateful for the kind treatment they received, and expressed themselves so, not
only verbally to the doctors or nurses, but in writing also. He (Captain Vivian) held a few extracts, taken at hazard, from many letters received from some of the unfortunates, who had been reclaimed from their life of sin entirely by the gentle treatment and kind advice they had received in the hospital, while under treatment. He would read a few to the House—
"Give my respects to the Honorable the Gentleman the Doctor that was the means of getting me sent home and may God Bless you all for your kindness to me which I will not soon or never forget."
Here is another—
"Please to give my kind Love to all the girls that was in the Hospital an tell them if they knew the Happiness and Comfort there was in the place they would all take a right step and alter their minds from what they had when I left—I return many thanks to every body connected with the Hospital."
A third writes—
"I hope please God I shall soon be able to obtain a situation so that I may be able to do myself some good and to lead a respectable life for the Future and once more to be admitted into good society, please to thank Dr. Barr for all his kindness to me and tell him that we are all very happy and please to give my Love to all the girls that inquire for me in the Hospital. so my dear madam with my very kind regards to you."
Extract of letter from the mother of a girl who had been induced to return home after discharge from the hospital—
"i am very thankful that thare ever was such a place provided for such poor things and such kinde friendes as to sende har home to har friendes."
That was the Act which was described as wicked, immoral, brutal, and many things besides. He (Captain Vivian) was sorry to have trespassed so long on the House. He had a duty to perform, and he hoped he had convinced the House that, at least, those Acts should not be repealed, as the hon. Member for Cambridge wished, immediately; but that they should have further trial, and be inquired into by the Royal Commission which was to be appointed. In conclusion, he (Captain Vivian) admitted that that Act aimed only at preventing disease, and did not touch the moral sources of it. But they must deal with the evils by the only means they knew of—namely, those which common sense and medical science suggested. That such means did not strike at the root of the evil, or arrest the passions of dissolute men, were too sadly true. How to do that was a problem which had remained
unanswered for ages; and though by that Act they might fail to solve it, they hoped at least that they might, to some extent, improve the moral condition of those who came under its operation.
said, that having been associated with many hon. Members and many others out-of-doors for the purpose of maintaining and, when the country should be prepared for it, of extending the operations of the Acts, he wished to say why he thought they did not deserve the abuse which had been so freely lavished upon them. He regretted that the public had been excluded. Nothing could be more revolting than the subject, but legislators must face it—the see-nothing and do-nothing policy which had led to such a disastrous state of things must be given up, and he thought that their constituents ought to receive correct information on the subject. It was for want of this that people were led away by partial statements and one-sided harangues, and petitioned the House to repeal Acts the provisions of which they were imperfectly acquainted with, whilst they knew nothing of the reasons which imposed upon Parliament the necessity of enacting them. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Fowler) adjured the House in the name of common sense, of justice, of morality, to repeal the Acts. As regarded common sense — what was it which induced Parliament to touch the question? It was the almost unanimous opinion of the most eminent medical men that a frightful disease was ravaging the country—affecting not only those who had brought it on themselves, but numbers of innocent persons, and, from its hereditary character, undermining the health of future generations. This opinion was corroborated by military and naval men; by captains of merchant vessels, who clearly saw the vast amount of evil among the large bodies of men under their control. Was it not common sense to interfere? And if it were said that it was only the doctors who cried out—the answer was, that the doctors only knew the gravity of the question. Many a poor man suffered and died—many a poor child was born to a life of misery, and died a premature death. Friends and relatives were not informed of the cause—the doctors alone knew it too well. As regarded justice— justice between the sexes, and justice between what the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) called the silk gown and the stuff gown—those who approved of the Acts had no desire to restrict their benefits; and when the nature of things was altered, when men adopted as a profession, as a means of livelihood, the career of the prostitute, the law should apply to them. As it was, the Committee of 1869 recommended unanimously that periodical examinations of soldiers should be made. As between the silk gown and the stuff gown, they would also like to apply the laws equally; but you could not get at the one; you could not invade the sanctity of a private house; you could at the other, who solicited and walked the streets; and there was no reason why you should not benefit those you could, if you could not benefit all. As regarded morality, he admitted that there were two sides to the question, and that encouragement to vice might be sometimes given by immunity from the effects of vice. On the other hand, it was well known that many women were deterred from adopting a vicious life by the irksome restraints of the Acts — that, in some of the towns under them, there was much less open temptations in the streets—whilst many poor women had been saved by the kindness, the moral and religious teaching given to them in hospital. Statistics showed this clearly. And when they know that some of the most eminent men in the country, including several Bishops, clergy of all denominations, the leading authorities of our two great Universities, had memorialized Government for extension of the Acts, could it be thought that morality would suffer seriously? With regard to repealing the Acts, he would show the consequence of it by citing the case of "E. H.," which had been selected by the hon. Member for Manchester as a special case of grievance, and about whom that hon. Member had asked a Question of the Home Secretary some time ago. The answer showed that "E. H." had been examined as required by the Acts 14 times, had been sent to hospital 5 times, and was in prison because she refused to be examined again. What would happen in repeal of the Acts? "E. H.," and hundreds of others like her, would be sent out of hospital more or less diseased, and, having no other means of livelihood, would pursue their vocation in the garrison and seaport towns. The House might imagine the consequences. Opponents of the Acts would say—"None but those who sinned would suffer." But it was not so. The essence of the case of those who supported the Acts was that people as innocent as the hon. Member for Manchester himself, and that children now unborn, might or might not be sufferers. As regarded herself, what happened? You had taken her from a place where her body and soul were cared for, perhaps for the first time in her life—whence she would have been sent at the public cost to her home, if she could be persuaded to go. You let her go from bad to worse. She might by-and-by, driven by want and disease, again apply for relief, when in that state when doctors could do nothing; and the end would be that she would be found some day dying in a garret, or under a hedge, or where-ever she could hide her wretched head. This was no fancied picture. Those who knew Aldershot had seen too much of it. Some might remember the letters signed "The Wren of the Curragh" on the same subject. Much had been said about degrading a woman. He ventured to ask, which course was the most likely to lead to degradation? which course was the most Christian? which the most humane? And still, because they supported these Acts, and tried to save poor women from being a curse to themselves and to all about them, to save them in spite of themselves, they were held up to public execration throughout the country, they were threatened—and the hon. Member for Manchester had repeated that threat—with the loss of their seats. They were denounced in a newspaper called The Shield, the organ of their opponents, as—
The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) recommended that there should be hospitals in the towns frequented by prostitutes, but that there should be no compulsion to enter them. This was tried by our earliest Act on the subject, and found ineffective. Women would not come into them till their cases were far gone, so that cure was far more difficult, and often impossible; and, unused to confinement, would not stay long enough, to be thoroughly cured, but on the arrival of a new regiment or of a new ship, could no longer be induced to stay. With regard to the appointment of a Royal Commission, it would, under ordinary circumstances, be premature to inquire into Acts not yet in full operation, passed after lengthened inquiries by a Commission, and by Committees of both Houses of Parliament; but, so great was the public ignorance on the subject that—"Those who, having knowingly made these laws, and are working them in this demoniac style, are monsters who will shortly find England more hot than pleasant for them."
And it being now a quarter to Six of the clock—
Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.
House adjourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.