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Cruelty to Animals Bill, 1809-Jun-13
[1809-Jun-13] "House of Commons, Tuesday, June 13, Cruelty to Animals' Bill," Parliamentary Debates from the year 1803 to the Present Time 16 (1809-Apr-11 to 1809-Jun-21): 1029-1040; Google Books: Online Library of Free eBooks.
[CRUELTY TO ANIMALS BILL] On the motion for going into a Committee upon this bill.
Mr. Windham said, that his first and general objection to the Bill was, that the object of it, however commendable, was not such as to become a fit subject of legislation. For this opinion he had at least a pretty strong voucher, in the universal practice of mankind down to the present moment. In no country had it ever yet been attempted to regulate by law the conduct of men towards brute animals, except so far as such conduct operated to the prejudice of men. The province of criminal legislation had hitherto been confined to the injuries sustained by men. This fact, though affording a pretty strong presumption, (sufficient, one should think, to make us pause, and not hurry through the house, with hardly any discussion, a bill of so novel a character,) was yet, he would confess, not absolutely conclusive. It might be right, that 'all this should be changed;' that what was now proposed, should be done, though it had never been done before. But the question was, at least, of some importance, and not to be decided without more discussion, than had hitherto taken place, or could now well be expected before the sessions would be at an end. The novelty of the subject, not in its details or particular application, but in its general character, was a topic not brought forward, as an objection, by the opposers of the bill, but claimed and insisted upon by its authors. In a pamphlet, circulated with great industry, (and of equal authority, as coming from the same source with the bill itself,) it was expressly stated, and with no small triumph, that the bill would form a new era of legislation! Two reflections arose upon this; first, that we ought to take care, to be cautious at least, how we began new eras of legislation; secondly, that we ought to have a reasonable distrust of the founders of such eras, lest they should be a little led away by an object of such splendid ambition, and be thinking more of themselves than of the credit of the laws or the interests of the community. To have done that which no one yet had ever thought of doing; to have introduced into legislation, at this period of the world, what had never yet been found in the laws of any country, and that too for a purpose of professed humanity, or rather of something more than humanity as commonly understood and practised; to be the first who had stood up as the champion of the rights of brutes, was as marked a distinction, even if it should not turn out, upon examination, to be as proud a one, as a man could well aspire to.
The legislature, however, must not be carried away with these impulses, of whatever nature they may be, but must consider soberly and coolly, whether it might not be something more than mere indifference or want of thought, that had kept men, for so many thousand years, from attempting to introduce this new principle, as it was now justly called, of legislation; and whether, in the attempt at present, they might not do far more harm than good.
Of the desirableness of the object speaking abstractedly, there could be no doubt. As far as wishes went, every man must wish, that the sufferings of all animated nature were less than they were. Why they were permitted at all, was a question, as had been observed by a great and pious writer, which must for ever continue to perplex mankind, as long as we were allowed to see only in part. But there was not only the wish that suffering universally should, if possible, be less than it was, but there was a duty, he was ready to admit, upon man, (the only animal, it was to be observed, that took cognizance of others pain,) to conform himself to that wish, in the little sphere to which his influence extended. Morality itself might perhaps be defined, 'a desire rationally conducted to promote general happiness,' and consequently to diminish general pain; and he was far from contending, that the operation of that principle (so glorious to man, the only animal that partook of it) should not be made to embrace in its effects the whole of animal life. Let the duty be as strongly enforced, as far as precept and persuasion could go, and the feeling as largely indulged, as its most eager advocates could wish. He had no objection to any sacrifices, which any one might be disposed to make in his own person, for sparing the pain or promoting the enjoyment of others of his fellow-creatures, whether men or inferior animals. The more lively the sympathy, within certain limits, and the greater the sacrifice, the more would be the amiableness and the merit. Within certain limits he had said, because theoretically, certainly, there were limits, which those feelings could not pass, without defeating instead of promoting the ends of Providence, which must be presumed to have intended them as the means of increasing the quantum of happiness. Sympathy was necessary to the production of virtue, and for the procuring mutual aid in case of distress. But were every one to feel with equal sensibility the pains of others as his own, the world must become one unvaried scene of suffering, in which the woes of all would be accumulated upon each, and every man be charged with a weight of calamity beyond what his individual powers of endurance were calculated to support. There was little danger, however, of this excess. One might safely lay down the rule, that the more any one should feel for the suffering of others, the more virtuous they should be accounted; and that they were at liberty, in this respect, to give a full loose to their feelings.
But the very same considerations would make it dangerous to allow of systems, in which men were to become virtuous at others' expence, and to enforce upon others what might be wanting in themselves. It was not sufficient to state of any thing that it was matter of obligation, to justify an attempt to enforce it by law. Laws were almost universally restrictive. They restrained acts which were injurious to the community, and were such moreover as could be clearly defined. There were whole classes of duties, known to writers on morals under the name of Imperfect Obligations, which no one ever thought of enforcing by law, not because they were, in point of moral duty, less obligatory than others, but because they were of a nature that, to exist at all, must be spontaneous, or such as that law could not be made to apply to them. What idea could any one have of a law, to enforce charity, gratitude, benevolence, or innumerable others of the Christian virtues? If a man with thousands in his coffers, of which he made no use, should suffer a fellow creature whose case was fully known to him, to perish in the next street for the want of a few shillings, you might inveigh against him for his want of humanity; but would you ever think, that there ought to be a law to punish him? The same might be said of cases that occurred, he feared, too frequently under the influence of the poor-laws, where paupers at the point of death, and women expecting at every moment to be seized with the pangs of labour, were turned out into the streets or roads, sooner than by the death in one case or the birth in the other, a burthen should be brought upon the parish. The poor-laws were an example of an attempt to force charity; and fine encouragement they gave to such attempts! But after all that they had done, unfortunately done, how much was left, which the law did not attempt to reach?
It would not be difficult to show, that the case was much the same in respect to the objects now meant to be provided for. The measure sets out with a preamble, containing a lofty maxim of morality or theology, too grand to be correct, too sublime to be seen distinctly, and most ludicrously disproportioned to the enactments that follow, wherein it is declared that God has subdued various classes of animals to the use and benefit of man: and from thence it seems to be inferred, not very consequentially, that we ought to treat them with humanity. That we ought to treat them with humanity, that is, that we ought, in all we did respecting them, to have a consideration of their pains and pleasures, was a maxim which he was not at all disposed to controvert; but it did not seem immediately inferable from the permission before recited. If humanity indeed were carried to its utmost extent, it would rather run, counter to that permission, and lead us, like the Gentoos, at least to abstain from eating the animals thus consigned to us, if not from using them in any way that should not be productive to them of more gratification than suffering. The humanity, however, that is now recommended, is not meant, it seems, to go that length. We may destroy them for the purposes of food, that is of appetite and luxury, to whatever amount and in whatever ways those purposes require. Another class of us likewise, namely the rich, may destroy them, in any modes, however lingering and cruel, which are necessary for the purposes of sport and diversion. Even independently of the doubt which these striking exceptions create, we may ask reasonably, what humanity is? Is it any thing capable of being defined by precise limits? or is it a mere question of degree, and something consequently which is not capable of being set forth in words, but must be left to the decision of some living tribunal, giving its judgment upon each particular case?
Here we come back to the first and fundamental objection to legislating upon this, and various similar subjects. You inflict pains and penalties, upon conditions which no man is able previously to ascertain. You require men to live by an unknown rule. You make the condition of life uncertain, by exposing men to the operation of a law, which they cannot know till it visits them in the shape of punishment. What is humanity? It is generally the having a consideration for the sufferings of others, (men or other sentient beings) as compared with pains or gratifications of our own. But what the proportion was, necessary to be observed between our own and others pain, or, (as was oftener the case in the subject then under consideration,) what the proportion was between others pain and our pleasure or interest, no mortal attempted to ascertain: nor was it one and the same, but as various as there were, various men, and various circumstances and subjects to which it was applied, and what was of not less consequence, varied as men were judging in their own case, or in that of their neighbours. It was not only not the same in any two men, but not the same in the same man for half an hour together, but changed, according as he applied it to one case or another, or was in one humour or another, or, above all, was judging in the case of others or of himself. This was no exaggerated representation. As a proof, let any man go through the instances where his humanity has been shocked, at one time, and where at others it has remained perfectly in repose. The instances of ill treatment of animals, which most frequently occurred, (and were most in the view of the advocates of this bill,) were those which arose from passion; a coachman whipping his coach-horses, a carman beating his cart-horse. The undisturbed spectator, who knows nothing of the causes that have led to this, and who, as Swift says of men bearing others misfortunes, can bear the provocations, which have inflamed another, 'perfectly like a Christian,' is full of virtuous ire, and inveighs hotly against the man who can thus go into a senseless passion with his horse; but he does not consider that the irritability here shewn may have come upon a man wearied by long labour, and soured by some recent vexation, and have been excited withal by something in the horse, which he has been led, foolishly for the most part, to consider as perverseness; nor does the blamer recollect, how, he himself the day before, when he was riding comfortably to get an appetite for his dinner, spurred his horse most unmercifully, (as violently as his fears would let him), because the animal had been guilty of starting or stumbling. Here was an instance of that different standard of humanity, which men have in their breasts for themselves or others, for their cooler moments and for their passionate ones; and we might thence see what flagrant and scandalous injustice would be done, under a criterion subject to such variation. It was no answer to say, that the judgment was not unjust, because the judge might have been guilty of the same offence: and that as he punished others, others might punish him. The judge, we knew, would not be punished. Few would inform against his worship the squire because he had rode his hunter to death, or unmercifully whipped, or in a fit of anger shot, his pointer. The scandal therefore in the general administration of the law would remain, even though those who were convicted, were punished justly. But it was not true, that passion would not be mixed even in the judgment itself. Passion might be suspected to mix itself, and did in fact continually mix itself, in all judgments carried on by close and summary jurisdictions, and by persons who were little likely to be made responsible for their conduct. Such jurisdictions must of necessity exist in many cases; but they were not on that account the less to be deprecated. But there was one general passion applicable to the present case, and which would not fail to operate in every part of the process; in the judgment often, but still more frequently in the information; and which would form a complete answer to that childish plea in favour of the bill, viz. that as no reward was given, no temptation would be held out to informers. The passion here alluded to was one of great account in human nature, though not so often noted as it ought to be, namely, the love of tormenting. There was a book written some years ago, commonly ascribed to a sister of the author of Tom Jones, but really the work of a lady of the name of Collier, which treated of this passion, under the title of 'The Art of ingeniously Tormenting,' and after illustrating, with great acuteness and much nice observation of character and manners, its operation in various relations of domestic life, as, how to torment an humble companion, how a wife should torment her husband, and a husband his wife, concluded with a chapter, entitled 'General Rules how to torment 'all your Acquaintance.' It would be found by any one who perused this book, how much there was of this principle continually in operation, of which he had often witnessed the effects, without at the time having understood or attended to the cause. But frequent as these instances were, as seen and described by the author referred to, they were nothing in extent and amount to those which were carried on, under a new and more enlarged head, which did not come within the scheme of her work, nor fall, possibly, within the scope of her contemplation, viz. the art of tormenting people in the name of the public good, an art which seemed to have been gaining ground considerably in our days, and to have had a larger share in the acts of the legislature, as well as to have produced more annoyance in society, than people were commonly aware. Here, the trade of course was wholesale, and carried on upon a large scale. And it was not to be told how eager the passion was, when animated and sanctioned by the auxiliary motive of supposed zeal for the public service. It was childish for people to ask What pleasure can any one have in tormenting others? None in the mere pain inflicted, but the greatest possible in the various effects that may accompany it, in the parade of virtue and in the exercise of power. A man cannot torment another without a considerable exercise of power—in itself a pretty strong and general passion. But if he can at once exercise his power and make a parade of his virtue, (which will eminently be the case in the powers to be exercised under this law) the combination of the two forms a motive, which we might fairly say, flesh and blood could not withstand. Young's 'universal passion' had not a wider range, nor a stronger influence, than the union of these two feelings.
In what a state then should we put the lower orders of people in this country (for it was they only who would be affected) when for the sake of punishing some rare, and hardly-heard-of enormities, (the narrow but only rational object of the measure) we should let loose upon them a principle of action like that above described, armed with such a weapon as this bill would put into its hands? All the fanatical views and feelings, all the little bustling spirit of regulation, all the private enmities and quarrels would be at work, in addition to those more general passions before stated, and men be daily punished by summary jurisdiction, or left to wait in gaol for the meeting of a more regular tribunal, for offences, which were incapable of being defined, and which must be left therefore to the arbitrary and fluctuating standard, which the judge in either case happened to carry in his breast. The bill, instead of being called A Bill for preventing Cruelty to Animals, should be entitled, A Bill for harrassing and oppressing certain classes among the lower orders of the people.
The manner in which it would be thrown upon them, and the scandalous injustice with which it would be attended, might be exemplified by one of the instances set forth by the authors of the bill themselves. The cruelties suffered by post-horses was a favourite topic. But on whom was the punishment to fall? on the post boy or on the traveller? On the post boy, who was the only person who would be seen inflicting these severities? or on the traveller, who sat snug in the chaise, having only hinted to the post boy, that he meant to dine at the next stage, and that if he should not bring him in in time he would never go to his master's house again, nor give him any thing for himself.
This case of post horses belonged also to another head, to which he would now proceed; namely, the objections to the bill on the score that it was doing that by law, which if people were sincere in their feelings, might be done by other methods. Laws never ought to be called in but where other powers fail. Upon whom was the whole force of this bill to be discharged? what were the instances which were uppermost in every one's mind, which had been first cited as proofs of the necessity of such a measure, and in which indeed the bill either would or was intended to act? Why, the cruelties inflicted on horses by grooms, coach-men, post-boys, carmen, servants in husbandry, or others, to whom such animals were entrusted. But whose property were these? Why, the property of persons, who had some, (generally great,) power respectively over the several classes of persons above enumerated? Why do not these masters and owners exert themselves in earnest, in punishing such offences whenever they come within their cognizance, or are even known to them in a way which, though sufficient for them to act, would not authorize a legal process? But, no; they are often the direct parties, the parties interested in, and the parties instigating, the very cruelties or seventies which they affect to decry. One of the favourite instances in the fashionable female circles, as they are called, of this town, and who appear by the bye to have been very diligently canvassed, are the cases with which they have been continually shocked, of coachmen whipping their horses in public places: an instance by the way by no means of magnitude enough to call for the interference of the legislature. But be its magnitude what it will, why must the legislature be called in? are there not means (sufficient probably for punishing the offence adequately in each instance, but certainly for preventing the practice,) in the power possessed by masters and mistresses? But apply to any of these ladies, and satisfy them, after much difficulty, that their coachman was the most active and the most in the wrong, in the struggle, which caused so much disturbance at the last Opera, and the answer probably would be, 'Oh! to be sure; it is very shocking; but then John is so clever in a crowd! the other night at Lady Such-a-one's, when all the world was perishing in the passage, waiting for their carriages, ours was up in an instant, and we were at Mrs. Such-a-one's half an hour before any one else. We should not know what to do, if we were to part with him.' Was it the coachman here who most deserved punishment? or was it for the parties here described to call for a law, which was to lay the foundation of a new era of legislation, and to operate with great severity and most flagrant injustice upon whole classes of people? A similar instance would be found in the case just alluded to of the traveller and the post horses. Whose fault was it, in nineteen cases out of twenty, that these sufferings were incurred? the traveller drives up in haste, his servant having half killed one post-horse in riding forward to announce his approach; the horses are brought out; they are weak, spavined, galled, hardly dry from their last stage. What is the dialogue that ensues? does the traveler ever offer to stop on his journey, or even to wait till the horses can be refreshed? such a thought never enters his head; he swears at the landlord, and threatens never to come again to his house, because he expects to go only seven miles an hour, when he had hoped to go nine; but when the landlord has assured him, that the horses, however bad in their appearance, will carry his honour very well, and has directed the post boys to 'make the best of their way,' the traveller's humanity is satisfied, and he hears with perfect composure and complacency the cracking whips of the postulations, only intimating to them, by-the-bye, that if they do not bring him in in time, they shall not receive a farthing. What revolting and disgusting hypocrisy was it in persons daily witnessing without remonstrance, or acting in such scenes, who would not sacrifice the smallest particle of their convenience in consideration of any pain that was to result from it, to be inveighing with such exaggerated sensibility against the cruelties practised on the brute creation, and calling for a law to punish them; much of that cruelty being incurred in their service, and under their own immediate inspection and orders! Where was the justice of punishing the inn-keeper here? who, if he refused his horses, lost his customers, and his means of livelihood; or the post-boy, who when once employed must perform the task assigned him by such means as he had, and must ply his whip till the pain or threat overcome the pain of the effort, which the horses had to make in order to go through their stage?
Such were the proofs of the injustice of the law, and such the proofs that no law, just or unjust, was necessary, even in the cases to which it applied But what should be said of the flagrant and horrid injustice, of withdrawing from its operation and cognizance, a whole class of cases, which, if such a bill was to pass, could not, one should think, be allowed to stand an instant, as being more than any others in the very line and point-blank aim of the statute, and having nothing to protect them, but that which ought in justice and decency to be the strongest reason against them, namely that they were the mere sports of the rich? Was it to be endured or believed, that a legislature setting about the great and original work of enacting laws to prevent the sufferings of the brute creation, should still reserve to themselves, and that too by a most invidious and oppressive code, the privilege of killing animals by a cruel and lingering death, in mere sport and wantonness? The reason assigned for this extraordinary omission, by the author of the bill, might be suspected as having been intended in mere mockery. It was said that being fera natures (a learned distinction, but never before, surely, applied to such a purpose) they were not entitled to the protection of man? But why, because they did not ask his protection, were they to be liable in consequence to be persecuted and tormented by him? On the contrary, if he did nothing for their good, he ought the rather to be required to do nothing for their harm. They would perish, it was said, if left to themselves, often by a cruel death. But what was the animal, man not excepted, that was not liable so to perish? If this argument was good for any thing, it might justify, in pure kindness, our killing one another. Another danger was, that they would become so numerous as to overrun the earth. But this danger, formidable as it might be in respect to other animals, certainly did not apply to one great class, with which notwithstanding we made pretty free, namely the fishes. After all, when humanity was the question, what connection was there between the necessity of destroying those animals and the right which we claimed of being ourselves the destroyers? It was very disinterested, no doubt, in all the higher orders of people to offer themselves gratuitously as vermin killers to the rest of the community; but it was an odd choice for them, as men of humanity; particularly as it was found, that these vermin were encouraged and protected for the sake of being afterwards killed, and certainly by a mode of destruction in many instances, not capable of being exceeded in cruelty by any to which they could naturally be liable. Even in the case of sheep and oxen, which must, it is admitted, be killed, and might be killed possibly by a gentleman with as little pain as by the butcher, we should think it an odd taste in any one; to be desirous literally to kill his own mutton, and to beg of his butcher that he might be allowed on the next slaughter day to take his place. It was in vain therefore by such wretched evasions and subterfuges to attempt to disguise the fact, that if with such a preamble on our statutes, and with acts passed in consequence to punish the lower classes for any cruelty inflicted upon animals, we continued to practise and to reserve in great measure to ourselves the sports of hunting, shooting, and fishing, we must exhibit ourselves as the most hardened and unblushing hypocrites that ever shocked the feelings of mankind. He did not know any thing, that could so justly call for a measure, which he had always been anion u the first to resist, a parliamentary reform. Strongly as he had always declared against such a measure, as wholly uncalled for by any thing in the practice of parliament as now constituted, he must fairly confess, that if it should appear in any instance that so scandalous a distinction could be made between the interests of high and low, rich and poor, he should be not a little shaken in his opposition, and must be driven in a great measure from that argument, which, as long as it could be maintained, was conclusive against every such proposal, namely, that there was no class in the community whose interests, even as parliament was at present constituted, were not upon the whole fairly taken care of. What a pretty figure must we make in the world, if in one column of the newspapers we should read a string of instances of men committed under 'the Cruelty Bill,' some to the county gaol to wait for trial at the assizes, some by summary process to the house of correction; and in another part, an article of 'Sporting Intelligence,' setting forth the exploits of my lord Such-a-one's hounds, how the hounds threw off at such a cover; that bold Reynard went off in a gallant stile, &c., and was not killed till after a chace of ten hours; that of fifty horsemen who were out at the beginning not above five were in at the death, that three horses died in the field, and several it was thought would never recover; and that upon the whole it was the most glorious day's sport, ever remembered since the pack was first set up! Was it possible that men could stand the shame of such statements? that this house which tolerated such sports, nay, which claimed them, as the peculiar privilege of the class to which it belonged, a house of hunters and shooters, should, while they left these untouched, be affecting to take the brute creation under their protection; and be passing bills for the punishment of every carter or driver, whom an angry passenger should accuse of chastising his horse with over severity? He begged not to be understood, as condemning the sports, to which he had been alluding, and much less, as charging with cruelty all those who took delight in them, cruel as the acts themselves undoubtedly were. He would not dispute with his friend, the hon. mover (sir Ch. Bunbury) what the quantum of cruelty was in horse racing, whether the whip was always as much spared as he supposed, or whether when it was, the forbearance proceeded from humanity, or from an opinion that more would be lost, by the horse's swerving and the rider's seat being rendered unsteady than would be gained by the pain. Though no sportsman himself, he should lament the day, if ever it should happen in this country, that from false refinement and mistaken humanity they should be abolished or fall into disuse. So far from arraigning those who followed them, his doctrine had ever been, that, odd as it might seem, cruel sports did not make cruel people: and he would quote for this the great body of the English country gentlemen, now and in all former times. But as long as, upon that ground, and for wise and salutary purposes, such practices, cruel as they were, were permitted, and even upheld, he could not consent, that the house should go off into that wild career of humanity, that was proposed by the present bill. He denied, generally speaking, the existence of the abuses complained of. He denied at least the increase of them, and that the treatment of animals now was worse than in former times, or with us than in other countries. There was in general, no doubt, a very coarse and harsh treatment of them, such as might be expected from the coarseness of the people to whom the management of them was for the most part entrusted; but which was often founded more in ignorance and unskilfulness, than in malice or ferocity. Many of these instances were moreover falsely estimated, by those who allowed their sensibilities, (always ready in their application to others,) to outrun their judgment. He himself had had as many squabbles as others, with carmen and drivers of different descriptions for ill-treating their horses: but he had more than once had reason afterwards to think himself in the wrong, and that his complaints had been ill-founded, or were at least exaggerated. Instances were however unquestionably to be met with, of shocking and atrocious cruelty, which every one must wish to have the means of punishing. A case of this sort known or related, instantly inflamed men's minds, and disposed them, without further consideration, to call out for a law. But a law was a serious thing, and ought not to be adopted, merely upon such impulses. There had grown up in the country, of late years, a habit of far too great facility in passing laws. The immediate object only was looked to; some marked cases were selected, in which its operation coincided with the general feeling: but no account was taken of the silent depredations which it would make in numerous instances, on the peace and happiness of individuals, of the manner in which it would embitter the general comfort and security of life, particularly among the lower classes. It was always a question, whether the good effects of a law were, in a few rare instances, a compensation for the general constraint imposed by it, and the instances in which it would operate unjustly. Nor was it true, that in the very cases that would be cited on behalf of the present bill, the crime would go, (or at least need go,) unpunished, even though there were no law specially provided for the purpose. What would be the number of instances for example, in which the animal ill-treated, was not the property of some one, who, if his zeal for humanity was what the calls of many for this bill would indicate, might surely, either by himself, or with the aid of others, inflict ample punishment on the offender, on the score of pecuniary injury? But even where means for that purpose could not be had, or an injury of that description could not be pleaded, the mere publication of the fact, which might be the work of any one, with the steps that might be taken to turn upon it the public attention and indignation, would produce in the end consequences as severe as any that the case required, or that could be hoped from a law. If there was not virtue or humanity enough in the country to make the commission of such outrages ruinous to the party even in point of fortune and circumstances, to hunt down such offenders by a general exclusion from all the benefits of intercourse, and by marking them out as objects of general detestation, it might well be doubted, what the effect of law would be, and whether among those who called for a law, there was not more of a fondness for persecution, and lust of power, than of real concern for the interests of humanity.
It must at all events be more by manners than by laws that any good could be done upon this subject. Animals used in the service of man were left unavoidably so entirely at his mercy, were exposed so much to clandestine mischief, and could so little make known their own injuries, that it would always be a question, whether an attempt to protect them with vindictive justice, would not subject them to more ill treatment than it was likely to guard them from. If manners could not protect them, miserable indeed must be their condition, in spite of all that law could do for them. It was not possible, in the nature of things, that law could with so much precision define the duty as to be able to ensure the performance of it. It was a duty evidently of that sort which are called imperfect obligations; of which the definition is, that though equally binding in conscience with other duties, they are not capable of being inforced by law. They must in consequence be left to morals. Let them be inculcated upon that footing in every possible way, from the pulpit, from the press, by precept, by exhortation, by example. But let us not run counter to the nature of things, by attempting, what, as the authors themselves of the bill tell us, never yet was attempted; and above all things let us not bring in such a bill as the present, which, without contributing possibly in the smallest degree to the very object in view, will let loose the most dreadful scourge upon the lower orders of the people, will commit the most flagrant injustice in the manner in which the bill will be executed, and constitute a general charge of injustice against the house, such as it has never before been exposed to, and from which it will be impossible to vindicate it.
The objections to the bill were indeed so numerous, and of such a nature, that he was satisfied it would never have passed, so as to be now a subject of discussion in this house, if those who were really adverse to it would fairly have stood by their opinion, and had not been awed by the apprehension, that in opposing a bill, introduced with such a preamble, they should be considered as the abettors of cruelty. He had no doubt that such would be the charge made against him. But for that he should care very little, compared with the object of opposing a bill so objectionable, as he thought this to be, in every view in which it could be contemplated, He should have no fear in trusting his justification to the reasons he had already given (much as they fell short of what might be urged upon the subject, if he was not unwilling to trespass further on the attention of the house). But whatever had been wanting on his part would be amply supplied by an admirable paper in one of the late Volumes of the Edinburgh Review, the 26th he believed, in which would be found much masterly discussion upon this subject, considered in a point of view in which he had abstained from speaking of it, namely, in its connection with the Society for the Suppression of Vice. As well with a view to that Society as to the present subject, and to the connection between the two, he earnestly recommended to gentlemen the perusal of the paper.—He should now propose to negative the motion for the Speaker's leaving the Chair, with a view to moving afterwards that the Bill be committed to this day three months.
Mr. Stephen was ready to do justice to the ingenuity and talents of the right hon. gentleman, but begged, when he talked of the humanity claimed by others, to ask whether that right hon. gent, and those who thought with him, did not affect to be above vulgar prejudices? He denied, that this was a new era, as had been stated, in legislation, because humanity had ever been a characteristic of British jurisprudence. It was the duty of that house to protect useful animals from wanton and malicious cruelties; and he contended that if any of the cases alluded to by the right hon. gent, should come within that description, the persons concerned would be within the operation of the act. The bill was intended to prevent practices specifically mentioned, and all the objections of the right hon. gent, went only to the enactments of the bill, and might be removed in the Committee.
Mr. Davies Giddy had hoped that the able and convicting speech of the right hon. gent. Opposite, would have produced an unanimous vote against the bill in that house. He was an enemy to the bill on the grounds stated by the right hon. gent. as well as because it did not draw any definite line to mark the offence, and would consequently lead to arbitrary decisions.
Mr. Wilberforce felt surprised at the rejection of a measure coming recommended as this did from so respectable a quarter, and expressed his regret that such distinguished talents should be employed in opposition to it. He possessed a letter, which, if he read, he was sure would create in the breast of the right hon. gent., sentiments congenial to his own. If the bill had been more general, it would be argued that it went too far, and now that it was confined to distinct offences it was said it did not go far enough. By raising the estimation of the animal creation in the minds of the ignorant, this bill would create a sum of sensitive happiness almost impossible to calculate.
Mr. Frankland thought that a bill so novel in its nature as the present required more time for its due consideration. He did not credit many of the facts which had been stated and called for evidence to be produced at the bar. He then mentioned that he himself saw a man once striking a horse on the head with the butt end of his whip, in a manner that appeared to him most cruel and brutal. He interfered; but the man, with a most good-humoured countenance, assured him that it was necessary to frighten the horse by striking him on the head, that if he had struck him with the small end of the whip, it would have put the animal to greater pain.
Mr. Jekyll professed himself a warm friend to the bill, which was founded on moral principle. He had many years since considered this subject of cruelty to animals, together with his noble friend (lord Erskine) the mover of it.
Sir Robert Williams mentioned a case, where he himself had met a man beating and spurring his horse most cruelly, and he threatened to take him before a magistrate. The man defied him, and said the horse was his own, and he would treat him as he pleased.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was ready to give full credit to the intentions of the noble mover of this bill, but thought that it was a subject which required great consideration. If such cases as that stated by his hon. and learned friend (Mr. Jekyll) were intended to be included under the general words of wantonly and maliciously abusing those animals, he could not readily bring his mind to assent to it: for who was to judge exactly of the quantity of food which ought to be given, or of the quantity of punishment or of spurring which was necessary to oblige a horse to make the exertion that was necessary? Who was to judge of the exertion that was necessary? Suppose the man who had been met by the hon. baronet was riding to get a physician for a sick wife, was to be made liable to be stopped in his journey, and taken before a magistrate, if any person passing thought he beat or spurred his horse too severely? He thought that it would be much safer not to adopt a measure of this nature, at the very close of the session; and that if the noble lord who had been so long considering the subject, had not made his bill complete, they might well despair of their powers of mending it with so little time for consideration.
Sir Samuel Romilly could not allow that there was any thing in this bill so vague and indefinite as had been stated by the right hon. gent. The words of the bill were "wantonly and maliciously abusing." These were not words of vague and indefinite signification, hut such as magistrates and juries on other occasions conceived sufficient for their direction. As to the quantity of punishment or severity, the crime was entirely in the degree of it. Thus, where a man had dominion over his fellow creatures, such as a master over his apprentice, or a father over his child, they could never be accountable for that ordinary severity, which may be necessary, or be conceived to be necessary with respect to those whom it was their duty to govern. There was no one, however, would say that there were not degrees of cruelty in the exercise of this power which our laws very properly punished, and which juries and magistrates did not find it difficult to determine. But in this bill the words "wantonly and maliciously" being introduced, it would be still harder for the juries to mistake the proper line. He did not see how there could be any doubt; and he thought it would be a strange thing, indeed, if the legislature were to forbear from making laws, merely on the statement that magistrates and juries would not understand them, and would determine in a manner that the law never intended, This was also supposing magistrates and juries to be absolutely void of common sense, and incapable of finding out what should be conceived wanton cruelty to an animal, although they are allowed to be perfectly capable of judging of what was unreasonable cruelty to a child, or an apprentice. He differed very much with the right hon. gent., (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in his opinion of the case that had been stated. Could any body doubt, but that if a man were to bring a number of horses, or any other sensitive animals, and keep them in a confined place, famishing to such a degree as to prey upon each other, that this was a wanton and malicious abuse of his dominion over those animals? (Hear, hear! from many members.) An hon. gent. (Mr. Frankland) had expressed some doubts of the existence of this cruelty; he should therefore cite a case from Leach's Crown Law, which was a pretty recent one, in confirmation of the fact. A man of the name of John Shaw was indicted on the black act, in the year 1798, at the Old Bailey, for the following offence. His master had refused to lend him a particular horse, and he was seen shortly after beating that horse on the head with the butt-end of a whip which he held in one hand, while with the other he had hold of the horse's tongue. The horse was the same day found dead near the spot, with the tongue almost torn from its head. The man was acquitted, because hitherto no degree of cruelty to animals could be punished, unless it was proved to proceed from express malice to the master. There was no doubt at all but that the cruel act which he mentioned had been done, but hitherto the laws with respect to cruelty to animals only referred to the injury of the property of the owners of them. There was another point of view in which this bill might be of great political importance. It was a great public interest that the people of this country should not be depraved, and it was well known that cruelty to animals generally led the way to cruelty to our fellow-creatures. This was well described by our inimitable artist Hogarth, who traced the cruel murderer from the early tormentor of animals. He really believed this bill might be considered in a great degree as a bill for the prevention of cruel murders.
Mr. Morris defended the principle of the measure.
Lord Porchester declared himself friendly to the bill. The evil which it went to correct called for some interposition, and he could see no force in the objection that it came not within a legislative remedy.
The Solicitor General expressed an anxious desire that this measure, which exacted a new penal statute, and was avowed to be an aera in legislation, should be delayed until the house would be enabled to view the nature and extent of its provisions in their respective bearings.
After a few words from Mr. W. Smith and Mr. Windham, For going into the Committee 40.—Against it 27.
The house then went into the Committee.—A conversation of considerable length took place, on the point whether the offence should or should not be deemed a misdemeanor, triable before a jury. Mr. D. Giddy, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Mr. R. Dundas thought it ought not to be such a misdemeanor, but that at all events the Committee should not at that time proceed further. Mr. Windham and Mr. W. Smith thought the chairman should report progress. Mr. Stephen thought the clause might stand, by adding a few words. Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Morris were of opinion the offence should be a misdemeanor. Mr. Lockhart observed, that as so much diversity of opinion prevailed at that late hour, he thought it right to move that the Committee be counted. A cry from the opposition side of No; No. The Speaker said, that as an hon. member had moved that the house be counted—the rule of the house must be strictly complied with, and it was not in the power of the chairman of a Committee, or of the Speaker in the chair of the house, to put any other question after that motion was made. The house was accordingly counted, and there not being more than eighteen members present, the house adjourned.
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