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Gingrich Suggests Restoring Victorian Moral Code

March 14, 1995

WASHINGTON (AP) _ House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggests the United States take a lesson from Victorian England and use moral codes to ``shame″ society into reducing drunkenness and out-of-wedlock births.

During a speech Monday before the National League of Cities, Gingrich cited an essay in USA Today by Gertrude Himmelfarb, history professor emeritus at City University of New York.

Himmelfarb pointed out that crime in England fell by 50 percent and illegitimate births dropped from 7 percent to 4 percent during a ``moral reformation″ in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign.

The queen’s emphasis on morals, Gingrich said, ``changed the whole momentum″ of English society. ``They did it by re-establishing values, by moral leadership, and by being willing to look at people in the face and say, `You should be ashamed when you get drunk in public. You ought to be ashamed if you’re a drug addict.‴

Later, Gingrich told reporters he agrees that moral leadership can transform society. But he cautioned that morality should not be translated ``into running around using the law to brand people.″

``I think we ought to say `Shame.′ I think moral force matters. In a free society it matters as much as the law does,″ Gingrich said.

``A society which gets up and says every day, `The work ethic is good, you ought to do your homework, it’s necessary to work to be a full citizen,′ sends a signal,″ Gingrich said. ``A society that gets up every day and says, `Gee, if you’re too drunk, and you don’t feel like it, and you’ve had a bad weekend, why really trouble yourself,′ sends a signal. The signals matter.″

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