Contagious Diseases Acts ~ debates in the House of Commons

{See also The CD Acts}

{See also Press cuttings}

{See also Ladies' petition}


Mr Henley said [regarding Mr Craufurd MP ordering the public galllery to be cleared while the CD Acts are discussed]

What I wish to do is to call the attention of the House to the gravity and extent of the subject which, was then prevented from being discussed in public, and to the interest which the public had and take in that subject. Now, Sir, up to the 23rd instant, which was the date of the last Return, the Petitions presented to this House on that subject had more than 330,000 signatures attached to them; from 70 to 80 public meetings had been held on the matter; and I believe that, with the exception of the Education question, there was no other on which during the present Session so large a number of people had manifested an interest... No discussion on a matter of great public interest had been kept back from the public by means of the exclusion of strangers. He argued that 'The subject may be discussed in such a manner as not to offend the most delicate ear' before addressing the issue.

'Now, the question itself is not whether more or less ailment affects our soldiers and sailors, or whether the means for curing it about to be devised are the best means. The matter which the public takes so great an interest in is this - whether the moral question is to be subordinate to the sanitary one...It is one of the largest questions we have been called upon to discuss. The treatment of the persons subjected to this legislation is also a question on which the people have a right to know the opinion of their representatives. They have a right to know whether their representatives consider it proper that women who wear stuff gowns should be subjected to treatment which women who wear silk gowns are not to be subjected. They have a right to know whether their representatives think the moral ought to be subordinate to the sanitary consideration, and whether they think this treatment ought not to be extended to men as well as to women. They have a right to know whether their representatives hold that, in subjecting a certain class of women to this treatment, if mistakes be made - and evidence shows you that mistakes have been made - those mistakes must be confine to women of a poor class, and the injury must not be inflicted on a higher grade who can wear silk... He added that: It is felt by many people that such legislation is a great evil in itself. It is copied from our neighbours the French, who have derived no good from it. The Committees which have sat, with the view of ascertaining whether the operation of these Acts ought to be extended more widely, have not in any way met the question ... What the public take an interest in is what they believe to be the immoral tendency of the legislation, and ... I do not believe that any Committee will decide that question, which is too wide to be dealt with in such a manner. ["Order!"]

Mr SPEAKER It is perfectly competent to the right hon. Gentleman to point out that he thinks the subject on which the right of excluding strangers was exercised a very important one; but I think he is not in Order in entering into the details of that subject.

Mr HENLEY ... I believe that there is ten thousand times more evil in attempting to carry on discussions of this character in secret than in public, and I hope and trust that we have not become so corrupt that we cannot bear to look in the face or name the vices around us.

SIR JOHN HAY asked whether it would not be possible to give the intending occupants of the Ladies' Gallery upon any particular evening notice that the House proposed to discuss matters which they would prefer not to hear discussed. He believed those who approved the exclusion of strangers on the occasion referred to were of opinion that the presence of ladies in their Gallery would interfere with free discussion.

Mr CRAUFURD said it had been said that his sole object in excluding strangers from the House on the occasion referred to was to clear the Ladies' Gallery; in justice to those for whom that Gallery was set apart, he disclaimed any such motive. The ladies of England required no such notice to withdraw from a debate which would be disagreeable to them. He had taken the trouble to make inquiry, and every one of the ladies in the Gallery on that evening, with the exception of two, rose to leave immediately [before the debate]. His object was to secure that the debate should not be reported. A feeling of disgust had been expressed by correspondents in the newspapers with regard to what had already been published in the public Press, with reference to a notorious case that was just now creating great excitement, and he conceived it to be the duty of any hon. Member who felt as strongly as he did, to avail himself of the privileges of the House to prevent their breakfast tables being flooded with authoritative reports of details utterly unfit for modest eyes. He thought it due to the ladies of England to state thus much.

Mr W. FOWLER said, he must repeat that he found a difficulty in drawing a distinction between reports which were constantly appearing in the newspapers of details far more disgusting than anything which had fallen from his lips on the occasion referred to, and the discussion of an abstract question like that which he had introduced the other day. If any distinction could be drawn it must be in favour of the debate the other evening, as compared with the publication of the actual proceedings of individual men far more disgusting and far more corrupting than anything which occurred in the course of the debate on his Motion. On that occasion the House was discussing an important social question upon which the public had a right to know their opinions; and he had not heard a word this evening to show him why an individual Member should be intrusted with the monstrous power of ordering the public to withdraw.

Mr DALGLISH said, he thought the Order for excluding strangers should be so framed as not to include the Press. He thought the House might safely leave it to the good sense of the reporters in reporting such debates not to report anything offensive to the general public.


SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE In bringing this subject before the House, I am aware that I am undertaking a very delicate and difficult task ... delicate because the subject has been so criticized and censured, and even, I may say, so ostracized by the Press and by many people in this country that it is scarcely possible to obtain a thorough ventilation of it ... I have an intense dislike ... to prominence on a matter which is so revolting, so loathsome... I must remind the House that three Acts have been passed on this subject differing from each other very slightly, except that they have become more intensely despotic in character as they advanced. In 1864 - according to the Report of the Royal Commission that sat on the subject - an Act was passed without notice in or out of Parliament, for the suppression of contagious diseases in various parts of the Kingdom... After the Act of 1864, a medical Committee sat to report on the working of the Act, and in 1866 the Act of 1864 was repealed, and an amended or more stringent Act was passed. Subsequently, and after the Reports of the Lords' and Commons' Committees in 1868, an Act was passed in 1869 - the third Act that had been passed on the subject. There were certain penalties in these Acts which at first were comparatively lenient, but as every successive Act was passed, those penalties became more and more stringent, and more dangerous to public liberty.

By the Act of 1864, no proceedings were to be taken against a woman, unless there was sufficient evidence to satisfy the magistrates, and, after all, this was only such evidence as was founded on "reason to believe." That was a peculiar sort of evidence, but a mark of the more lenient character of that Act was, that no woman was to be detained for more than three months after she had been examined, and the imprisonment for rebellion against these provisions was for two months, and without hard labour. By the Act of 1866, the powers delegated to a superintendent of police or a medical man, were handed over to an inspector, thus giving them to a person of lower and less responsible position. By Section 16 of the Act of 1866, in case of their non-appearance, women were ordered to be examined constantly for a year, and the celebrated "Section 17," which I have no doubt will be the subject of much discussion, is embodied in that Act. It is the voluntary submission clause, and it provides that any woman in any place to which the Act applies may voluntarily, by a submission in writing, signed by her in the presence of, and attested by, a superintendent, submit herself for one year. I may here point out that the penalties under the Act of 1866 were these - A woman might be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months, with or without hard labour, for infringing the provisions of the Act, and for illegally quitting the hospital to which she was sent, she might be taken into custody without warrant; the limit of the operation of the Act being five miles from the station. In the Act of 1869, by Section 4, a woman escaping from hospital was liable, if found within a 10 miles limit, to be apprehended and put under the provisions of the Act; and what was worse than that was, that by Section 6 of the same Act, a voluntary submission was held to have the same effect as an order of the justices, while there were increased penalties for non-appearance, the duration being extended to nine mouths.

I wish to point out how the severity of these Acts has been increased. In the Act of 1864, it was provided, first, that there must be an information before one or more justices; in 1866 there was what was termed the alternative of voluntary submission, and in 1869 voluntary submission was allowed to have the same effect as a justice's order. Thus every safeguard for the liberty of the subject has been gradually removed. I have no doubt that this was done with the best intentions, as is very often the case in these attempts to limit the freedom which every subject ought naturally to enjoy, in order to secure the object of those who pass restrictive laws, and so far as intentions go, I do not blame them. They made no secret of the fact that they desired to make the Acts as stringent and powerful for the purpose they had in view, as was possible, and therefore they had very naturally pressed for increased stringency and severity. But it so happened that in 1866 there were very few people who began to see what these Acts were likely to do, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr Henley) said during the discussion on the subject in that year that the measure was "a very queer Bill on a very queer subject," and he recommended reclamation. Well, I do not wish to pin myself to reclamation, at least, so far as State-reclamation is concerned. Voluntary reclamation is one thing, and State reclamation is another. Mr Ayrton, who was then in the House, too, characterized the Bill as one for "Keeping public women at the public expense for the gratification of soldiers and sailors. No useful or moral end was intended, the end in view being vice, unmitigated vice," and he added that "such a proposal was a disgrace to the country." [3 Hansard, clxxxii. 815.]" That Bill was brought into the House at 1 o'clock in the morning. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr Gladstone) at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, said "That it was hardly possible the subject could be discussed then with that fulness which would be desirable." - [Ibid. 816.]" The Bill was recommitted on the 26th of April at nearly 2 o'clock in the morning. Lord Clarence Paget protested, in answer to some remarks made, against the idea of women being certificated by the Acts, and Mr Henley asked why the Bill was not to be generally applied - if to Windsor, why not to Westminster?

In the Act of 1866, owing to remonstrances of certain hon. Members, it was provided that moral and religious instruction was to be given to the women in the hospitals. I will now analyse, but not at any great length, some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, because the Royal Commission have been so inconsistent in those recommendations that their Report is really, in certain respects, a perfect farce. There can be no doubt that in the case of a numerous Commission, on which there are men holding different views, the recommendations contained in the various paragraphs of the Report most naturally display a good deal of diversity. There is, undoubtedly, a distinct antagonism in the views of the different Members of a Royal Commission, and that antagonism is clearly marked in many passages of their Report in a very peculiar manner. The Report, at the same time, contains some remarkable admissions, to which I would call the attention of the House. It is admitted that the "Act of 1866 sought to render the practice of prostitution, if not innocuous, at least much less dangerous;" and that, at all events, affords a very significant explanation of the true purpose of the Act. Paragraph 14 of the Report contradicts the statement of the Lords' Committee that the diminution of disease at Devonport was owing to the recent laws, because the Act of 1866 had not been in force when the Report was made. Another paragraph relates how curiously evidence was procured from soldiers who were drunk, and who often wanted to shield the persons with whom they had consorted; as well as from brothel-house keepers, who were in constant communication with, and who were, in fact, the allies of the police. Paragraph 23 says the charges made against the police cannot be substantiated, a statement which I venture entirely to deny. There is a Member of the Royal Commission, not now present, but who will probably be in his place in the course of the afternoon, who may have occasion to point out that the evidence of some of these women had been proffered to the Commission, but that it had been refused; while the mere ipse dixit of those who were engaged in the administration of the Acts, was taken as a denial of the charges made by the women, who, however, were not brought before the Commission. I maintain that there are many well-authenticated cases that can be sustained; but there is one very recent instance of the injustice and cruelty that was perpetrated under these Acts. I need not allude at any great length to the case of Mrs. Percy, at Aldershot; but there can be no doubt whatever that - even if that woman had been a habitually drunken woman, or even a woman consorting with soldiers, as persons in her class of life might do without being prostitutes - the hardship she was made to suffer was such as to induce her to destroy her own life. If she had been a confirmed prostitute, she would not have been in such a state of complete and abject want as she was proved to have been in, previous to her death; and if every woman is to be called a prostitute, because on one occasion she is seen by the police to be drinking - inferences may be drawn which can only be equalled by the inference drawn in the case of the Cambridge carrier, who, when asked whether his horse could draw inferences, replied - "My horse can draw anything in reason." The difference here is that the inferences drawn by the police, in Mrs. Percy's case, were entirely without reason; they had drawn inferences to suit their own purposes. The following admission of the Royal Commissioners is a very remarkable one.

In Paragraph 37, it is stated that - "There was no ground for the assertion that any diminution of the disease in the Army and Navy was attributable to a diminution of disease contingent on a periodical examination of women." That being so, why has Parliament taken action in the matter? I do not wish to blame the present Government, or any other Government, for the question is one that is far above Party considerations, and I do not propose to enter into any contest of political antagonism upon it. The Bill before the House is supported by hon. Members on both sides, and I am unwilling that the discussion of it should assume a Party tone. Moreover, I assert that those who support the Bill do not wish it to be supposed that they regard themselves as standing upon any lofty pinnacle of morality. It is not upon such grounds that they desire to proceed. For I admit that quite as good men are in favour of the Acts, as are against them. What I and my Friends hold is that there has been a misapprehension on the subject; that people have relied entirely on the Government statistics, and have not taken the trouble to dive into the nature of these Acts, and I am not surprised at it. I admit that for many a long day I refused to look into the Acts, but I at length had to do it, long before the General Election, and the more I looked into the question, the less argument I found in their favour, and the more sure I felt that it was undesirable to maintain the Acts, either for the good of soldiers, sailors, or civilians, or for the morality of the country.

Immediately after Paragraph 37 of the Report of the Commission, which states that there is no evidence of a diminution of disease, it is stated that there is a "general impression" that these Acts have acted beneficially on the health of the men. In Paragraph 48 the Commissioners contradict their first view by saying that frequent examination is a most efficacious means of controlling disease. Can anything show more thoroughly how inconsistent that report is? We know what this is owing to; but those who read the Report will no longer have reason to doubt, looking at the evidence it is founded upon, that these Acts were unnecessary. Another extraordinary admission made by the Commissioners is that - "It is difficult to escape from the inference that the State, in passing these Acts, has assumed prostitution to be a necessity." That is, in fact, the line that has been taken in foreign countries; many of whom have assumed that prostitution is a necessity. In my opinion, such is not the view of the majority of the people of this country. It may be the view of certain military men, and also of a certain number of those connected with the Navy. And that view is not confined to them, for it is held by a great many people belonging to the civil community; but it will be utterly subversive of the morality of the country if it should be generally admitted. Among the recommendations at the end of the Report are - that the system of periodical examinations should be discontinued; that the police, in carrying the Acts into force, should peform their duties in uniform; and that the Acts should be extended to any place in the United Kingdom from which a request is made for their application, except London and Westminster. I have not heard that any places have availed themselves of the suggestion which has been given. It is true that there is one place that has memorialized the Home Secretary to extend these Acts to that locality. It is a town in the Isle of Wight, and the memorial is the consequence of a report that a large number of prostitutes from Portsmouth has gone thither for refuge from the action of the police. But the prayer of the memorial is entirely contradicted by the town council, and no action has been taken upon it.

Now, there are three distinct principles on which the supporters of this Bill proceed. They hold, in the first place, that it is not the business of the State to provide the means of self-indulgence for the Army, the Navy, or any other class of society in this country or elsewhere; secondly, that it is not the business of the State to connive at the maintenance of houses of ill-fame, but to suppress them, and that, not by a central agency, but by means of the local authorities; and the third great principle they maintain is this - that, so long as they are in this House, they should endeavour to see that no Act of Parliament should be passed that will allow any office or Department, whether the Home Office or any other, to frame and carry out regulations that are inconsistent with the liberty of the people, and with constitutional law. A very active and zealous gentleman in the Home Office (Captain Harris) has issued a Report, which I have no doubt the Home Secretary will thoroughly endorse. I do not blame any man for doing that, and the gentleman referred to has done his duty thoroughly and completely, but many of the statements in his Report are such as the House ought carefully to attend to. It is a most curious Report, and so far as the intention of the writer and compiler is concerned, it is no doubt excellent. It deals with a great many statistics, into which I will not enter, as that part of the question will be handled far better than I can handle it by an hon. Member who has made himself thoroughly acquainted with the figures. There is, however, one statement that is apt to mislead many people and I will therefore call attention to it. The 4th section of the Home Office Report states that in towns where the Acts are enforced, the voice of the general public is strongly in their favour, and that the opposition comes from persons who are ignorant of the law, or who reside in places distant from the scene of its operation. Now, the question is, has the voice of the public been tested on this subject? Has there been any discussion out-of-doors before the Acts were passed? That is the point. I assert that in every district in England in which meetings have since been held - where the meetings have not been packed - the voice of the general public is not in favour of the Acts. ["Oh, oh!"] Only recently at public, and not packed meetings, that have been held at Portsmouth and Chatham on the subject, the majority of those present strongly protested by their speeches and votes against these Acts. No doubt there are a good many in those towns who say they believe the health of their sons and daughters and of their friends may possibly be preserved and not endangered by the operation of the Acts, and that there is greater quietude and respectability of demeanour among the prostitutes who are much better conducted than before. It is also said that respectable people have been known to say they would gladly pay a special rate for the maintenance of the Acts, so much have they contributed to the peace and quietude of the places in which they lived. They do not add, however, that they contribute to the morality of the towns in which they are enforced, and I am of opinion that that is a great omission, and that morality ought to be substituted for "quietude." The Report I have referred to, says that wherever a chance exists of the reclamation of women, every effort has been made to reclaim them before they are brought under the operation of the Acts. There is no doubt that the policemen who are entrusted with the duty of enforcing the law, are all human beings - fathers, brothers and sons - and perhaps they have no wish to see young creatures hurried prematurely into a life of prostitution. I have no doubt that the metropolitan and the local police may also have done something to caution the young women they go amongst against coming under the law. I will not weary the House by going into statistics as to the number of persons who have been reclaimed, nor the statement as to the decrease of brothels - which was, in fact, due to another law - nor to the alleged large diminution of prostitutes in Devonport; but I think if we see to what these figures amount, we cannot attach very much importance to them.

One thing that I would point out is, that the limits in which the Acts operate, have been enlarged by the "amended" law; but, in point of fact, the enlarged limits are not used in all cases by the police. I am told that at Windsor, where the Acts are enforced, the police do not find themselves able to control the action of the prostitutes to the full extent of the legal area, and the women simply go off to Datchet and to other places, almost under the walls of the Castle. The truth of the matter is, that you cannot keep up a machinery that will thus control the action of human beings. The whole tendency of this peculiar trade, and of those who are engaged in it, is to evade the police, and I hold that it can never conduce to the real morality of the country, to keep up a body of police to watch the public morals. There is no doubt that the public require protection in many ways; but I do not think they require to be protected in the manner the Home Office and the authorities of the Army and Navy imagine. It is said in a well-known work by Carlyle, written nearly 50 years ago - "It were but blindness to deny that this superior morality is, properly, rather an inferior criminality, produced not by greater love of virtue, but by greater perfection of police." Again - "It is by tangible material considerations we are guided, not by inward and spiritual." You cannot tell in the case of soldiers whether the men are married or not. It was the case when I was in the Army that a certain proportion of the men were married and a certain proportion were single, and I am told that in the case of one of the towns which is under the protection of the Act, a colonel commanding a regiment came before a Committee of this House, and stated that not only did he object, but that the married men and the "good conduct" men under him objected entirely to these Acts. Many of those who were, or would be, married, were kept down by the constant system of espionage and police vigilance which no doubt seem quite right to the promoters of these Acts, but which are certainly not conducive to the liberty of the subject. There is no doubt that whenever a regiment removes to fresh quarters there is a new importation of those who follow the fortunes of the Army. In that case the old comers in the town meet the new comers, and the former, finding that their original monopoly is interfered with, inform the police of the doings of the latter, and these Acts are sustained by such methods. What can be thought of a system which is kept up by the information of prostitutes and sometimes of drunken soldiers, although it may happen that information is sometimes obtained from the respectable inhabitants of the place? Some of these women remain, some, perhaps, from disposition or idleness, but others, again, from fear, for having got once into the clutches of the police they cannot escape, while others may remain from attachment to the men with whom they have consorted, even though they are not married. There can be no doubt, as everyone can judge from the experience of former generations, that the sort of terrorism produced by these Acts leads to evasion. The hon. Baronet having referred to the failure of every attempt to enforce severe restrictive laws on this subject, during the reigns of Constantine, Louis XIV. in Spain and in Prussia, and the admission of eminent French physicians that all attempts to diminish the evil had totally failed, continued - Dr. Drysdale, a countryman of our own, the senior physician of the Metropolitan Free Hospital, says - "On going over the Paris hospitals I am driven to the conclusion that there is more disease in Paris than in London, Paris having only half our population, and this, too, after 80 years trial of the Contagious Diseases Acts." He, moreover, challenges contradiction of this fact, and neither Dr. Ricord nor any other of the celebrated French writers have dared to deny it. I may say, however, that this fact was partly insisted on, and partly denied by the Royal Commission.

And here let me ask, to whom do you apply the examination that takes place under these Acts? You apply it to a large class of women, many of whom are not prostitutes, and who have never been prostitutes, and even who have never been diseased; and you apply it to one sex alone. You apply it only to women... Lord Herbert's Commission recommended the discontinuance of the examination even of the men, because it was so degrading to them. The men hated it; the doctors hated it; and it was regarded as utterly repulsive to all natural feeling. I know that many of the commanding officers, and many of the surgeons in the Army hate the present system; and I am told that certain surgeons who expressed their abhorrence of it were told that their promotion depended entirely on their compliance with the Acts. I have been told that by a commander serving in the Army in London at this moment, and also by a colonel commanding a battalion of the Guards. There is a pecuniary fine levied upon the soldiers who contract this disease, and those who draw up the statistics on this subject can tell us how it operates. It leads to concealment. You first forbid the soldier to marry, and then you fine him - for what? Not for the self-indulgence of which he has been guilty, but because he has been unfortunate enough to contract disease. I know it may, and probably will be said that the disease interferes with the man's efficiency, and this, no doubt, is true; but, the morality of the argument is peculiar. Putting it to a lower test, it is as if you should say - "It is very desirable to steal; you have only to take care that you are not found out." That really is the morality of this system. There is no doubt that this system was adopted by Lord Cardwell with the very best intentions. I am sure he would be the last man knowingly to do an immoral thing, and it was no doubt intended to promote the efficiency of the Army, but now that it has been tried and found wanting, I cannot think that the officers of the Army will desire its continuance.

But I ask, what statesman in this House will get up in his place and venture to say - "Apply these Acts to both sexes of human beings?" I maintain that this House would not pass an Act that would compel a registration of men, and keep them on the register for a year - an Act that would arrest men coming out of brothels and require from them a voluntary submission, the refusal to sign which would render them liable to punishment. You would find it impossible to apply these Acts to both sexes, and therefore I say that in common justice and equity they ought to be repealed...

How do these Acts affect the morals of the people? I am told that those women who have not become hardened to the system of examination are to be seen drunk in the streets, and going about in that state through towns in which they live. They are sometimes accompanied by men; and even in the very face of your new elementary schools, where you have enacted that religious instruction shall form part of the education given to the children, these women are to be thus seen, for the benefit of the rising generation; and, moreover, the rising population have been seen taking an interest in seeing these poor creatures going to the examination. I find also from the statements of men who are living in these protected districts, and who can vouch for these facts, that in Southampton, the public rush to the room where the prostitutes sit, and young boys may be seen looking at and talking to them. Fancy seeing a number of people watching a batch of prostitutes thrust into one place, some of them half drunk, some perfectly brazenfaced, and a crowd of young boys, looking at and laughing at them. Well, Sir, I cannot think that these things can be at all conducive to morality. It has been said that if the certificates are no longer given to these women they can no longer go round with them and say - "I am a Queen's woman. I am at liberty to follow this trade!" The certificate is now retained; but the moment a woman has been examined and liberated, it is just as well known that she has been discharged as fit for the public service. We are told that it is not our business to interfere, and that the authorities of the Army and Navy are responsible to this House for the efficiency of the public service. I ask, however, are we to accept these illegalities as legal? We are not in a state of siege and under martial law; and I do not think the House of Commons will ever abdicate its right to deal with those Services, or to prevent them having absolute power over the persons of civilians.

There has been a good deal said about the position which women have taken in this matter, and upon this point I will say, that in common justice, at least, when we hear of women being attacked for meddling with these Acts, we are bound to admit that if women had not begun to interfere for the liberties of their own sex, however low or degraded they might be, the men would never have taken up the subject at all.

It cannot be denied, I think, that one result of the examination of those unhappy women is, that they become more and more hardened, and therefore less and less susceptible of good impressions. They may be improved in appearance and become more prosperous, but they are more hardened, so that prostitution cannot be lessened by the periodical examination... Mr Wolferstan, the house surgeon at Devonport, stated that he was entirely opposed to the present Acts, because they failed to effect any improvement in the health of the soldiers and sailors, while they greatly increased clandestine prostitution.

Well, then, the question is - What is to be done? Sir, those Acts must be repealed. I do not care how many may vote with us to-day. That is, I had almost said, a matter of indifference to me. This movement is only beginning. We will go on with it. We have made up our minds to do so... I say that those Acts must be repealed, because they are injurious to private liberty and public morality, and repulsive alike to Christianity and civilization.

COLONEL ALEXANDER First of all, the hon. Baronet and those who think with him assert that the Acts legalize, sanction, and, in fact, recognize the necessity of prostitution. Sir, if I thought that such was their effect, I would not utter one syllable in their defence, but would use my utmost endeavour to sweep them from the Statute Book. But my hon. Friend, as I conceive, misinterprets these Acts and their effect. What was the position of prostitution in this country before this legislation was enforced? Hon. and learned Gentlemen will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that prostitution per se, although, perhaps, theoretically, was practically not an offence. If, however, the prostitute behaved in the streets in a riotous and indecent manner she brought herself within the provisions of the Vagrant Act, and the Police Clauses Acts in towns further authorized the punishment of those women who solicited passers by so as to cause annoyance. Thus far it may be said that the State recognized the existence of prostitution not as a necessity, but as a painful fact. It said to those unhappy women - "We know what you are - we are aware of your occupation, but we will not disturb you so long as you behave decorously and do not annoy passengers with solicitation." Prostitution was, in fact, regulated, although not legalized or sanctioned. Now, my hon. Friend will not, I think, deny that the principle of regulation being conceded, the State if it thought necessary might add to and supplement the regulations already in force. The State, then, finding an evil existing in our garrison towns and seaports, compared with which the annoyance caused by riotous behaviour and solicitation was petty and unimportant, said to the prostitute - "We do not recognize you more than before, but, we must place you under further regulations; and if you insist on carrying on your immoral occupation we must take care that you do not communicate horrible disease to our soldiers and sailors. To do this effectually' we consider periodical examination necessary, and if you should be found diseased detention in hospital. During that detention you will not be subjected to undue restraint. Chaplains, medical officers, and matrons will minister to your spiritual and temporal necessities. You will be brought under the influence of humanizing agencies, and if disposed to reform you will be placed in situations or restored to your friends." Will my hon. Friend tell me in what way these regulations recognize prostitution more than it was recognized before?

it is urged that in subjecting women to compulsory examination and detention you are violating the principle of personal liberty. The Rev. Mr Kells, a Baptist minister, said - "He considered the privileges of the British Constitution violated, and Magna Charta in abeyance, for women by the compulsory examination under the Acts." And Mr Cooper, Secretary to the Rescue Society, who is now engaged in active agitation against the Acts, testified before the Commission - "That it was an unjustifiable invasion of a woman's liberty to bring her forcibly to hospital and detain her till cured." But let me remind these gentlemen and others, that if this is a violation of Magna Charta similar violations of it are taking place daily and hourly. No person ill with small-pox would be allowed to leave a hospital uncured, and there is a clause moreover in the later Poor Law Acts enabling guardians to detain paupers in workhouses when labouring under contagious diseases.

I now come. Sir, to a very important objection urged against the Acts - namely, that the compulsory examination and its attendant circumstances further degrade and harden these unhappy women. I will not dwell on the charges of cruelty brought against the medical officers when conducting the examination, because the Commission, I think, expressed itself satisfied that these charges had been completely disproved, and that a nurse was invariably present in the room. "With respect to the degradation or supposed degradation involved in the examination itself, some conflicting evidence was given before the Commission. Miss Lucy Bull, the Matron of the Royal Albert Hospital, rightly described by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr Mundella) as a most important witness against the Acts, "considers the periodical examination demoralizing and objectionable;" but I must remind the hon. Gentleman that the witness parts company with him at that point, because she would revert to the examination prescribed by the Act of 1864, which he and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hants (Mr Cowper-Temple) rightly think infinitely more objectionable than that legalized by the Act of 1866. Mrs. Kells, a most respectable witness, the wife of the minister from whose evidence I have already quoted, stated - "The girls had told her that the examination was taking all modesty and self-respect out of them; that they never knew what indecency was till they submitted to this examination." A statement which one of the Commissioners naturally followed up with the question - "Are you not aware that in following up this vicious life, these women are in the habit of submitting themselves to three, four, and five men in an evening? Do you, as a woman, think that a fellow-woman who lives by doing this can talk of anything else as having driven modesty out of her?" To which the answer was - "Yes, they have their own conventional ideas." On the other hand, we have evidence to prove that what the women dislike is not the examination, but the detention in hospital if found diseased; and Dr. Barr, the visiting surgeon at Aldershot, says the only objections made by women were such as the following - "Well, Sir, my clothes were not quite dry, and I could not get my clothes perfectly clean, and I do not like to come up without." Nevertheless, Sir, I am quite willing to admit that there is "in the lowest depths a lower still," and I concur with that excellent woman. Miss Farrow, Superintendent of the Lock department at Portsmouth, and formerly seven years Matron of the Bristol Home, who thinks the periodical examination "a great blessing, having seen the want of it at Bristol." I concur with her in opinion, when she says - "I never met a woman but that I found there was some good in her not quite gone; I never mot a woman of whom I could say she could not be made lower." Well, Sir, I say is it judicious, is it kind, to encourage such a woman in the notion that she is degraded by examination? Is it not rather the part of true friendship to point out to her that she is defiled and degraded - not by examination - but by the sin which entails the necessity of examination? Moreover, as Lord Hampton and six other dissentient Commissioners observe - "It is in the power of any woman to emancipate herself from examination, by resolving to abandon her vicious ways."

Inquiries which I have made into the circumstances attending the death of Mrs. Percy have satisfied me that she was not quite the immaculate person my hon. Friend supposes her to have been. I understand that during the life of her late husband she led, to his great grief, a very immoral life, and that she trained up her daughter in the same evil way. After the death of her husband, she resided at Aldershot with one Mrs. Jewitt, who, however, gave her, as well as her daughter, notice to quit, because a sergeant of the 78th Highlanders was found in the house about half-past 11 o'clock. They then lived with a Mrs. Davis, who soon followed Mrs. Jewitt's example, because two soldiers remained with them all night. They then took up their abode immediately opposite the residence of one of the metropolitan police constables, who on the night of March 8th saw them with two soldiers - Private Miller, of the 47th Regiment, and Corporal Hogg, of the 84th Regiment. The men were acting indecently both with mother and daughter. At midnight on the 9th of March both women went home, accompanied by two men in plain clothes, one of whom entered the house and remained till nearly noon the next day. It was then decided to bring them under the Acts; and they were ordered to attend for examination, but declined and left Aldershot. On March 13th a man named Ritson, who had three times deserted from the Royal Artillery and discharged as a bad character, called on the inspector and said that if Mrs. Percy was allowed to return he would undertake to live with her. The inspector replied that she and her daughter were at liberty to return. The mother returned and lived with Ritson at Aldershot, and as she lived with this one man she was never addressed by any member of the police force up to the time of her death. On the night of March 27th she left a public-house with a soldier of the 65th Regiment. He was stopped by the military police and sent back to his quarters. She was very drunk at the time and could hardly stand, and it was ascertained that she did not go home that night. The only person who saw her alive after that was a private in the Army Service Corps. He stated that he saw her the next morning on the towing-path on the other side of the canal. The jury, of course, returned an open verdict. These are the circumstances, so far as I have been able to ascertain, attending the death of the unfortunate woman, and I submit that the inspector of police showed moderation and forbearance in the discharge of his difficult duty.

Mr HOPWOOD We desire to do all that is benevolent towards these women. We desire also to protect the liberties of other women, who might be involved with them. As far as I remember, these Acts involve any woman whom any policeman may, in his view, believe to be a common prostitute. She is then liable to be subjected to a surgical examination, which is accompanied by some pain. It often happens that women who are ill, whether diseased or not, are liable to be detained in the hospital. "Oh!" but says the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "detention is no punishment!" I would like to ask him how he would like to be confined even in his own dining-room for five days? Is not detention a punishment? What is the fact? These Acts say, if any woman is in a natural condition and cannot be examined, detain her five days! "Oh!" says the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "that is keeping her from the streets; it is doing her good." Who is to define a common prostitute? The Act is directed against common prostitutes, and yet is there any definition of one? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that acts of irregularity come under the cognizance of the police. How should the police be arbiters of morality and justice? Where are they authorized to do anything of the sort? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says they have no alternative but to put any woman on the register whom they believe to be a prostitute... we are setting up the police as a moralizing agency, to call up people who are masters of their own lives, and to warn them not to pursue the course they assume they are going upon. Police in plain clothes, who act as spies, are known by sight to the servant girls, who actually leave their friends or followers, and run in alarm from the spot. Why is this to be borne? Is it in the British House of Commons we are to be told that women are to be terrorized in this fashion, and that policemen are so to conduct themselves that they are to be terrors to those who are walking harmlessly about with those to whom they are most attached? I find the last Return has been specially manufactured for this occasion, and has been made to support these Acts. What do these Returns say of a benevolent policeman who met a married woman on one occasion and actually took upon himself to give her a warning. It relates with naïveté that she was dreadfully distressed. Now, what right has the police, what right has this House to engage in this matter of morality. [Laughter.] I see hon. Gentlemen opposite smile. I wish them joy of the feeling they have created. Again, in another part of this Return, a policeman actually warns a governess of 18 or 19 years of age, who had trusted somebody as she ought not to have trusted him. Again the officer steps in. What right has he to do so? Let me ask hon. Gentlemen in this House, if there are any such who have been guilty of acts of this kind - and let him that is without sin cast the first stone - if they would like a policeman to dodge about after them and put their names on the register? If any such attempt were made would not the streets be rife with violence? Death would be the penalty if such insults were put upon Englishmen. The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that this is not recognition of prostitution as a State institution. Is it not? Prior to this, every brothel in the land might be made the subject of a prosecution. What do you do now? On the face of it you say, the only offence we make by laws in regard to brothels under these Acts is, that if any diseased prostitute is found in them, the keeper of the brothel shall be fined. Under the old law, a brothel-keeper was liable to two years' imprisonment; now it is brought down to a fine. Brothel-keepers are told that if they will come and tell who is diseased, they shall be protected in their calling and occupation. Does not the State recognition amount to this? You set up a staff of officers at £50,000 a-year, and enable them to bring up every woman whom they say is a common prostitute, or who has been temporarily erring. ... Ask those who have seen the system in operation abroad, and they will tell you that the consequence is this - that, having once been placed on that roll, they feel that they have passed the gulf, or rather that they have fully descended into the gulf of despair as soon as the act of registration is accomplished. The evidence we have from abroad is that the hospitals provided for these unfortunate women are the vilest sinks that exist in the world, where the woman, who is not yet 60 debased as others, may be brought down to the lowest degradation that a woman can undergo; for there are shades of difference between the commonest of the common and the lowest of the low, and by this degrading confinement in these hospitals, you lower beyond hope of recovery those who have as yet perhaps but just entered on the verge of vice and who might otherwise have a chance of retracing their steps. But here all chance of that is gone. It is all very well for the police to say that there are some they do not put down on the register, and for hon. Members to say that when they are put down on the register, they can get off when they like; but I have proofs which show that it is the most difficult thing in the world to get off that register. Even marriage will not do it; nothing will do it. It is not enough to say that a respectable woman may, and does sometimes submit herself to examination. How can you draw a parallel between the two cases?

A woman may be a paragon of virtue, and yet liable to this sort of treatment. Why must it be assumed that everybody is a common prostitute? And yet such is the effect of these Acts. Spy police are introduced into the protected districts - spy police, be it known, in plain clothes - to ransack the town. And what is the policeman's duty? Why, the moment he sees a woman in the streets who may be out a little after the time which the wisdom of the Legislature has fixed as the limit of morality, he is to pounce upon her. Workmen's wives, workmen's daughters - even servants - if they have occasion to be out beyond that hour, may be subjected to inspection. How else can it be? You cannot blame the police. Their duty is to make themselves masters of the situation, and to learn what is the course of proceeding of every woman in the place. How can you be surprised, then, if there should be mistakes? ...As to soliciting, there is no law of solicitation as between man and woman. There is no such legal power as to give a man into custody for it.

the case of Mrs. Percy does not stand alone Elizabeth Jane Brown drowned herself under Plymouth Hoe, on the 1st of July', 1874 - "She had often complained of the harsh treatment she had met with from the police and the surgeon, and had once before attempted to destroy herself by cutting her throat, but had recovered from the wound. She had said that rather than he compelled to submit to such treatment as she had met with in the examination room she would drown herself, and she did so. Rachel House, also, was put in solitary confinement in the Royal Albert Hospital, and committed suicide on May 28, 1869, by throwing herself out of the window; and Emily Mulcarty (nee Moore) drowned herself at Millbay, on the 16th April, 1873. She was on the register at Devonport, and was married a few months prior to committing suicide, 'but had not been able to get her name removed from the register.'" These were some of the cases which showed the effect of the existing legislation.

The hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the deterrent effect of the Acts in question; but what was the theme of his panegyric? Not that it was a deterrent with regard to men, but that it was a deterrent with respect to women, from terror of going on the register.

With regard to the prevalence of disease, I venture to assert - and I can bear out the assertion by statistics - that before the Acts in dispute came into operation it had been rapidly decreasing.

I congratulate the House and the country upon the altered tone of debate which is observable in this matter, and on the fact that no conspiracy of silence, neither is it any longer necessary to deliberate on the question with closed doors. I look upon that as one of the best features in the present state of the subject.

Mr CHILDERS The question before the House is not a very savoury one ... I would first, in a very few words, remind the House of what the history of these Acts has been. After the Crimean War broke out, when the Army and the Navy, or at least those portions of them which were to be found in our arsenal and dockyard towns, were increased, there arose a desire to improve the sanitary condition of the Forces, and that desire, which was promoted with so much zeal by the late Lord Herbert, induced the Admiralty to endeavour to do something towards checking the enormous amount of disease that prevailed both amongst our soldiers and our sailors. The result was the Act of 1864, which was based upon a very intelligible principle, differing in many respects from that of the succeeding Act of 1866. It established no register whatever, either with respect to our garrison towns or otherwise. It subjected prostitutes to no periodical examination, but simply established certain hospitals for prostitutes who might be found to be diseased, and empowered the magistrates on the information of an officer of the police, who had reason to believe that the particular woman or women in question were diseased, to have them sent to these hospitals. The Act of 1864 was followed by an inquiry conducted under the direction of the Admiralty and the War Office; and in 1866, the Act which has been especially a subject of debate to-night was passed, involving a very great extension indeed of the provisions of the Act of 1864. Under the Act of 1866 we practically established in districts considerably larger than before, a register of all persons who might be called prostitutes, and were found in those districts, and compelled all those persons to appear once a fortnight for examination to see whether they were diseased or not. In the latter Act, as in the former, but more effectually, penalties were imposed on persons, not for harbouring prostitutes, but for harbouring prostitutes found to be diseased. The Act of 1869 was virtually an extension of the provisions of the Act of 1866, which had been found to be very imperfectly operative, because it only applied to garrison towns and great military stations. The Act of 1869 gave a very great extension to those districts - enlarging them to a considerable distance from those towns and stations, because it was found that if there were such places within reach of those towns and stations those who wished to engage in prostitution there could easily do so, the prostitutes must be reached from those centres. The Act of 1869 led to the appointment of the Commission of 1871, which proposed very large alterations indeed in the Acts of 1866 and 1869. They declared, practically, that the system of the registration and periodical compulsory examination of prostitutes was a failure. They distinctly recommended that it should be discontinued, and that we should revert to the Act of 1864, which established no such periodical or compulsory examination whatever, excepting in the case of prostitutes known or informed against as being diseased. The Commission also recommended that it was desirable to take the administration of the Acts out of the hands of the War Office and the Admiralty, and place it under the Home Office. They proposed that these provisions should be extended to all parts of the country, excepting London, or to those towns to which the inhabitants expressed a desire that they should be extended. The Commissioners made strong recommendations in the direction of increasing the penalties imposed on those who harboured prostitutes, or otherwise offered facilities for prostitution in the places to which the Acts applied. These were the recommendations of the Commission of 1871, and I venture to say that these recommendations pointed to an entire revolution in the system which was then in force. Practically, they advised the repeal of the whole of those Acts which had been the subject of public controversy, and recommended we should go back to the much more simple provisions and non-compulsory character of the Act of 1864; and I say that that was a wise proposal. Now, upon that, the Government was called upon to act in 1872. The Bill of 1872 proposed absolutely and entirely to repeal the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869. No part of these Acts was to remain; no provision of these measures, with one exception, was to remain in operation, though specially referring to the garrison and dockyard towns. It was proposed that the whole of the Three Kingdoms should be under one uniform law, and have the same means of restraining disease. The one provision that went in the direction of the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869, was, that any prostitute who was found to be diseased might be sent to hospital. These were the provisions of the Bill of 1872. The House will see that the Report of the Royal Commission went to take the life altogether out of the Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869; and the Government followed up that Report by recommending that those Acts should be repealed, and that the whole country should be brought under one law on the subject. That being the short history of the Acts, I will make a few remarks as to what has been said to-day and on former occasions as to the operation of those Acts of 1864, 1866, and 1869.

Mr HENLEY: I opposed the introduction of this legislation. I opposed it on the simple ground - which I stated at 3 o'clock in the morning - that it was no business of the State to provide clean sin for the people. Here are people living in contradiction to the laws of God and man - and by the officers of justice you recognize them and take them in hand - not to deter, not to restrain, not to reform - but simply to see that they are in a fit condition for other persons who wish to carry on the same practice as themselves. And what has been the effect in these towns? ... that these unfortunate people are better dressed, that they are more orderly and decent in their behaviour. And what does all that amount to, but that they are rejoicing that what is wrong, what is sinful, is to be stripped of all that is disgusting, and all that is abhorrent to the people's sight and view, and that you are to make these women more attractive for the calling which they are unhappily carrying on. If that is not an evidence of the depravation of the moral sense, I do not know what is.

Mr MASSEY We have to deal with a trade, which, though not recognized, is as practically established as if it was a recognized trade. That trade is carried on with conditions dangerous to the public health and offensive to the public order. "We apply restrictions and regulations to the manufacture of gunpowder, to the storing of petroleum, and to the management of public-houses. We are told by some enthusiasts that this is an invasion of the liberty of the subject. No doubt. But what sort of liberty - the liberty of prostitution and the liberty of propagating disease. I should be glad to see more legislation to restrain such liberty as that.

Mr STANSFELD you have a system, the effect and tendency of which is not to cure and to reclaim, but to cure and regulate in order that these women may be returned sound upon the market, I would ask any sensible man if he can deny, on appealing to his conscience, but that a law of this description must be calculated to lower the moral tone and the habits of the people of this country?


Mr MITCHELL HENRY The First Order of the Day relates to a discussion which is likely to become annual in the House with reference to the Contagious Diseases Acts. The discussion of that question involves painful and repulsive details, insomuch that three years ago ... the House was cleared, and the doors were closed against all except Members and persons officially connected with the House. I do not think that such a course, if pursued now, would be in accordance with public opinion. But I believe that there are very few persons, whether in this House or out of it, who will not be of opinion that there are two classes of the community - namely, women and children - who had better be absent during this discussion. I would respectfully ask you, Sir, ... to close the Ladies' Gallery to-day. I think it is unfair to those Members of the House who have to take part in the discussion to subject them to an influence which cannot but be of a painful character. We are accustomed to abstain from or approach the discussion of a question like this with almost sacred delicacy, and I defy any hon. Member, unless his constitution be very peculiar, to discuss the details of the Contagious Diseases Act in the presence of ladies without great dismay and apprehension. There is another class of person, who, I think, ought to be protected - I mean ladies who may have come up from the country or elsewhere and sought admission to the Gallery without having the slightest notion as to what subject was to be discussed.

Mr SPEAKER There are two Galleries of this House appropriated to the use of ladies... One of these is under my direct control, and having regard to the subject-matter of the First Order of the Day I have directed that Gallery to be closed. With regard to the other Gallery, as the House is aware, it is available for the use of the friends of Members, under the orders of Members in the usual manner. I have not felt myself at liberty to close that Gallery; but I have desired the messenger in attendance to inform all ladies who may present themselves there of the nature of the subject about to be discussed. If after that caution they think proper to insist upon admittance, I do not feel at liberty, without the authority of the House, to exclude them.

Mr SWANSTON desired to explain that when, a week ago, he put down his name for an admission to the Ladies' Gallery he did not know what subject was to be brought forward for discussion on the present occasion. When he found what it was, he struck his name off and gave notice to the ladies, who were strangers to him, that they would not be admitted. Mr P. A. TAYLOR I think you, Sir, have taken the right course in notifying to the ladies the nature of the discussion, so that if they do not wish to hear it they may have the option of withdrawing. Further than that, I think the House would be wrong in expressing an opinion as to the fitness of the admission of any person of full age of either sex who wished to hear the discussion. I submit the ladies themselves are the best judges of the propriety of remaining. The fact that the Bill itself relates to women is too often ignored. There is nothing immoral, nothing necessarily prurient in this discussion. The analogy, therefore, that has been made as to the exclusion of women from a court of justice when an indelicate case is tried, is no analogy at all. Women, unfortunately, are the subjects of the legislation to be discussed today, and is the House going to say that women are not to feel an interest in what concerns their own sex, and are not to form their own opinion after listening to a debate on a subject so deeply interesting to them? I think the dignified and proper course is to allow women to be the best judges whether they will remain or not. There are many of them who have taken great interest in this matter. There is one gentle lady, the wife of a clergyman in Liverpool, who has spent her life in attempting to relieve the sufferings and to redeem the character of unfortunate women. The real evil consists in the immorality of these Acts, and those women who have come forward to save their sisters from these Acts should surely not be debarred from hearing the question discussed.

Mr MITCHELL HENRY I may be permitted to remark that ladies do not take part in these debates, and are present, therefore, only from curiosity. They can read the discussion afterwards; but Members are placed in a very embarrassing position by the presence of ladies.

Mr CALLAN thought it preferable that a few ladies should hear the discussion than that reporters should be present to report it. Then hon. Members had held out that ladies would be able to read the discussion afterwards - but he had that confidence in the Press that if the reporters were allowed to remain they would not report the debate.

Mr Speaker forthwith put the Question, "That Strangers be ordered to withdraw;" and it passed in the Negative.


Mr HOPWOOD Mr Speaker, I have a Petition to present from certain Ministers of the Church of England, and of various Denominations in Portsmouth, calling attention to statements made in the Report of the police charged with carrying out the provisions of the Contagious Diseases Acts in that town, and the surrounding district. The Petitioners allege that the police have stated in their Report that only 11 prostitutes under the age of 17 are to be found in those places, and that there is only a gross total of 530 of all ages plying their avocation therein. To that statement the Petitioners desire to give their unqualified denial, and to state that, in their view, the Contagious Diseases Acts have a debasing and hardening effect on the women who are submitted to their operation, and they pray that the House will forthwith repeal those Acts.

Mr CHILDERS {I present] a somewhat remarkable series of Petitions, with which I have been entrusted, on the subject of this Bill. These Petitions, Sir, are exactly 100 in number, and in them are embodied the views of gentlemen of all kinds of professions. They are signed by 446 clergymen resident in London, by the Cardinal Archbishop, and 116 of the Roman Catholic clergy; by 109 resident members of the Colleges in Oxford, by the Provost and Fellows of Eton, by Professors and others at Cambridge, by 303 barristers-at-law, by medical officers of health, by surgeons, and by other professional men in the country; and their prayer is, that the law may be so amended that a wilful communication of contagious disease may be met by penal consequences.

SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE ...The attention of those outside the House is steadily increasing with regard to the subject. I am aware that it has been stated that it is easy to manufacture Petitions; but it is evident that the Petition which I have had the honour to present from nearly 114,000 women, does to a great extent testify to the increasing interest taken in the subject, not only by the lower classes in the country, but by those who are in a position above them. The Petition is signed by such ladies as Miss Florence Nightingale, Mrs. Grote, and Mrs. Butler; and, although it may be the fashion of this House to sneer at those women who have deliberately put themselves in a position very painful often to themselves and their relatives, I am bound to say that I consider the extreme necessity of repealing the Acts justifies the line of conduct they have taken.

Mr SPEAKER put the Question, "That Strangers be ordered to withdraw?" but the MPs present voted against.

Mr A. MOORE I beg to move that the Ladies' Gallery be cleared.

SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE However desirable this interruption may be in the minds of some hon. Members, there is little time -

Mr SPEAKER The decision of the House has been distinctly declared; and in taking that course a second time he is, I think, trifling with the House.

SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE The Home Office Returns for years past ... show that the Metropolitan Police are employed at stations under the Act, and that marvellous power is given to them by the law. I find, to my astonishment, that, year after year, the Metropolitan Police ... are employed by the State in towns and municipal boroughs, to do that which municipal authorities can do without their aid. We are told that in some of those towns the efforts of the police have been so effectual that they have succeeded in "doing away with numbers of houses of ill-fame" by virtue of the Acts! It would seem from the Reports that the police were competent, not only to suppress brothels, but to reclaim unfortunate women who have strayed from virtue into vice. There are many towns in this Kingdom, especially in the North of England, which protest against these Acts. I am bound to say that their very introduction was a direct interference with the powers and privileges of municipal authorities, and no step has been taken more objectionable than that of allowing the central police to administer the law where there is already local government, administered by and responsible to local authority. The idea of the police being made the special guardians of public morality is of itself so absurd, and the result of their efforts so often contradicted by the officers of the Rescue Society itself, that I need not trouble you with any more remarks upon it at this time. With regard to the diminution of brothels, important evidence was given before the Irish Sunday Closing Committee, last year. It came out that, in the City of Glasgow, where they had no Metropolitan Police, the authorities had succeeded in reducing the number of houses of ill-fame from 204 in the year 1874, to 38 or thereabouts in 1876. Therefore, the argument that the Metropolitan Police alone are doing the work, ought to disappear. With respect to the number of women who are reclaimed and go back to their friends, I should like to know how the police can tell that they go back? How can any man in his senses accept such a statement as that? Many of these women go about with regiments, and how can the police tell always where they live? It is likely enough that, in many cases, women take themselves off, disgusted with the operations of the Act, to another part of the world, and that when they are missed it is assumed by the police that they have gone back to their friends. I think such statistics as are here given ought to be left out of the Government Returns, as they are calculated to mislead from the weight of the authority that is given to them. Then, with regard to another remarkable body of statistics which have been brought forward, showing that in some large towns and cities there was a considerable amount of disease in consequence of their not being protected districts - a larger amount than was to be found in places which were protected. I will give you an instance. There are several regiments quartered in London, comprising sometimes as many as 7,000 men. I will take the Horse and Foot Guards. It is not for me to say which of these regiments does or does not consort with the less degraded class of women; but it is a fact that there is always more disease among the Foot Guards than there is in the Household Cavalry, taking man for man, quartered at the same stations. The Returns of the averages of disease per 1,000 men of the Household Cavalry was only 48 per 1,000, while among the Foot Guards it was 162 per 1,000, from 1867 to 1872 inclusive. ... The surgeons at Aldershot affirm that disease varies in certain regiments, so in London one of the regiments may have 20 men diseased, whilst another has 80. This is not an isolated typical case of one particular year, but it goes on year after year; for it is the character of the men, or the accident of consorting with the lower order of women, that really influences these Returns.

I will ask any hon. Gentleman to go to Paris ... and judge for himself from what he will see there ... there is more vice and more disease. Go to Hamburg and Stockholm, where this system of legalized prostitution has been carried on for many years, and you will find that the amount of disease is infinitely greater than in a place like London which is unprotected ... If you are to carry out the system to its legitimate conclusion, you have no alternative left but to allow the medical men to examine all the men as well as all the women. It is not only a question between the men and the women, but it is rapidly becoming a question in this country and outside this country, whether it is not a case of the rich against the poor? In this particular case, the working-classes of this country are beginning to find out that these Acts are specially levelled against women of their own class - that their class supplies the unfortunate women who are the subjects of this legislation. It is nonsense talking about legislation if, in legislating for women, you leave out the magnificently attired women who drive their carriages in the protected towns, while you compel the wretched girls on the streets to be subjected to these Acts... [He then spoke of] Florence Nightingale. She was in charge of the Government hospitals in the Crimea ... She has been in charge of soldiers, and knew soldiers well, and yet she was the first to sign that roll of Petitions against the Acts; and she said that she felt sure that the system of Government regulation of vice and examination of women is contrary not only to the rights of woman, but to the general liberty of the State. ... The examination says to the women - not called "the Queen's Women" now, as they used to be - "You are safe; you may go." But hear what Dr. Routh says - "Not only are these examinations outrageous, because made under compulsion, but very often useless, because they do not ensure the safety of any man who may afterwards consort with these women."

Mr W. H. SMITH I am sorry that the hon. Member has brought this most painful subject before the House. It is certainly one of the most painful subjects that could be discussed in the British House of Commons... I came to the conclusion that these Acts are beneficial to public morality, beneficial to the persons who are intimately affected by them, and beneficial to the State... in 1865 there were 789 prostitutes on the register of Portsmouth, there were in December 31st, 1876, 476." [Ironical cheers.]...

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