§ Mr. Sadler rose and said, that having at length obtained, with the concurrence of his Majesty's Ministers, an opportunity for which he had long waited, of submitting to the determination of that House, a Resolution in favour of the introduction of a legal provision for the Poor of Ireland; he intreated the indulgent consideration of the House, while he attempted to discharge the important duty he had undertaken, a task at all times sufficiently arduous, but which he should then have to perform under circumstances of increased difficulty. An hon. Member of that House, of great knowledge and experience in Irish affairs, who had encouraged him greatly in his present attempt, had assisted him with his valuable information, in reference to it, and who, on that account, would have seconded his endeavours, expired yesterday, lost to this House and to his country, where his life was one unvaried act of benevolence—he meant the hon. member for Louth; a circumstance sufficiently discouraging, which, joined to others of a nature affecting himself, rendered it necessary to solicit the utmost indulgence of the House. But he could assure the House, that had he been more favourably circumstanced, no one within its walls could feel less conscious of his ability to do justice to so important a subject than himself; none who would have more sincerely rejoiced to have seen it in other and abler hands, especially in those of his Majesty's Ministers, to whom it seemed more properly and naturally to belong; but having but too clearly perceived, as well from the tenor of the observations they had let fall from time to time, when the subject of the distresses of Ireland had been brought under the con- 784 sideration of the House, as from the nature of the measures which they were bringing forward in relation to that country, that nothing was further from their contemplation than such a course, he could no longer hesitate. He would again undertake the task, which he had more than once attempted in preceding Parliaments, and he did so on that occasion with increased, he might say, confident hopes of success: a confidence not placed in the slightest degree upon himself, but resting on the nature of the cause he had ventured to advocate, and in the rapid advancement it had made, and continued to make, in that House, and in every part of the empire; witness (said the hon. Member) the numerous petitions which have been already presented, which spoke with an unanimity on that important subject, which had rarely been expressed on any other. He, therefore, proceeded to submit to the determination of the House this important question, without wasting its time with apologies of a personal nature. "It can be of little moment (said the hon. Member), who commences the contest in a cause which I am persuaded will call forth the most powerful champions; but even if these should fail to appear, it is the cause of justice and humanity, and it will triumph, however feebly it may be advocated, or powerfully, and for the moment, successfully, opposed. But, Sir, I will anticipate no defections, nor any failure. There presents itself at the very outset of this important question, one circumstance of a cheering nature, and which I would fain regard as the omen of a happy result. Different from those momentous topics which have lately engaged public attention, this, not less important than any of them, stands pre-eminently clear from all party or personal views and feelings whatsoever. In the discussion on this subject we advance to neutral, or, as I ought rather to say, friendly ground: and as on the one hand we are divided by no political considerations, so on the other we are united by one common motive, that of the general good of the community referred to. We enter, as it were, some temple of peace and concord, having deposited the weapons of our political hostility at its entrance, and there 'on charitable deeds intent,' we proceed to consider, how we may best relieve an afflicted and longsuffering people, whose miseries every just and generous feeling calls upon us to 785 mitigate and redress. Our aims, therefore, are identical, though we may somewhat vary as to the best means of their accomplishment, and I am anxious to express what I am sure is felt by me, regarding those who, I fear, may oppose on this occasion, what I firmly believe to be the only effectual means of affording permanent relief to the poor of Ireland, namely, that their motives are as pure, and their principles as humane, as my own. And if, in the course of my argument on a subject of so exciting a nature, the matter of which I have indeed anxiously considered—the manner of presenting it little, if at all—I should express myself somewhat too strongly, I trust that I shall not be suspected of meaning anything personal to the feelings of any one. But on entering upon this important argument, I confess that I feel much embarrassed as to the best mode of conducting it. The subject is in itself of so momentous a nature, involving as it does, principles of so high and sacred a character, and requiring as proofs and illustrations the production of facts and statements the most varied and important, that its proper discussion seems to demand 'ample room and verge enough.' But to pursue this course would occupy, I fear, at an inconvenient length the time of the House, and exhaust instead of engaging its attention. The opposite one would however, indicate an indifference to the cause I have undertaken, or an indolence in the support of it, which I am sure would still more offend against a sense of propriety. I will endeavour, at least, to avoid both extremes, and if I fall into either, I must still hope for a lenient construction of an unintentional offence. But, whatever I may curtail, or whatever I may omit in this argument, God forbid, that in arguing it I should ever cease to place in the order which it claims—namely, as the first and incomparably the most important branch of it—the right of the poor to this provision. I mean not their legal right, touching which, there is happily no dispute in this country—that being as indisputable, as Hale and Paley have remarked, as the right of the rich to their possessions; what I mean is, that right founded upon the laws of nature and of God. To substantiate this conclusive point, I shall not again quote the Jurists of this or other countries, of ancient or of modern times, nor enter into the distinction which some 786 of them have drawn between a perfect and imperfect obligation; the latter of which, in reference to this subject, being, as Burke argues, still more imperative than the former; much less shall I offer any abstract reasonings of my own upon the occasion. I shall content myself with presenting the general conclusion of the highest authorities, in the language of Locke, who, in asserting this right in its most enlarged and peremptory application, declares it to be 'a fundamental law of nature.' Even compared with the rights of property, upon which he is speaking, he declares it to be 'the pressing and preferable right,' and asserts the injustice of withstanding it in the most emphatic terms, exhibiting throughout his powerful and irresistible argument, that sacred union which is ever found to exist between the lights of unclouded reason, and the warmth of genuine benevolence. I will not weary the House by further pursuing an argumentum ad verecundiam on this subject: I shall content myself with challenging any who may be disposed to dispute with Locke, to show me one authority of equal note, either in ancient or modern times, that does not concur with him in this important point. And, Sir, this right of nature is also as strongly and unanimously held to be strengthened, instead of abrogated, and enforced by the institutions of civilization, to say nothing, on this occasion, of those of religion, which, I need not observe, are, if possible, still more explicit in relation to it. Here again I will not multiply authorities. Can any one have forgotten what Hale says on this subject, or Blackstone, who declares it to be 'dictated by the very principles of society?' Or, all authorities apart, is there any one, whose unassisted reason and common sense, to say nothing of humanity, would not instantly conduct to the same conclusion? Could the appropriation of property by the few, to the utter rejection of the natural claims of the many, and those laws which rigidly guard such an arrangement, be reconciled on any other principle—to the principles of justice or common sense—than the reservation of this right, small as may be its amount? What would such establish a system of laws, and call it that of civilization, under which a man would be doomed to severe punishment, by being compelled by their neglect to the necessity of breaking them, or 787 left to perish if he persevered in a dutiful obedience to them! Why, Sir, such reasoners would set the first law of civilization, that of property, and the first law of nature, that of self-preservation, in open and irreconcileable hostility. If then, this right of the poor to relief is equally founded on the laws of nature and of civilization, in what sort of attitude does wealth place itself, where it is denied and upheld? The appeal from right to might is as unsafe as it is insulting, and will at length utterly fail those who are selfish and weak enough to rely upon it. Lord Hale convicts such of folly as well as injustice. Where there are many unrelieved poor, he pronounces that the rich cannot long, nor safely, continue such. But, Sir, it is surely unnecessary to enter at large upon the reasons on which a provision for the poor is established, as equally dictated by the principles of justice, humanity, and sound policy. They have prevailed in every age of the world, and in every country of it, as far as the utmost boundaries of civilization, and even beyond them. I shall not, on this occasion, again trouble the House with either the particulars or proofs of this important branch of the argument, which brings the practical experience of mankind, in all ages and nations, in proof of their principles. I shall merely mention the fact as universal. Thus, in the free states of antiquity, especially in those of Greece—in Imperial Rome, as well as in the dominion of her unhappy rival, there was this provision for the poor. In the nations of modern Europe, and especially in those whom certain writers have pronounced as destitute of such a provision, such an institution, more or less perfect in its principle and operation, is invariably found. In the New World also, which has been pronounced with equal ignorance and still greater confidence, as free from such a burthen, a most ample and efficient provision for the poor of every kindred, country, and complexion, is established, and has been in operation from the first era of its colonization, and even before it; for we have it on the authority of ancient and authentic writers, that the civilized states (such they may be called) of America, such as Mexico and Peru, had made the most ample provision for their poor. But at the present moment, wherever Christianity prevails, this provision has constantly accompanied it; and beyond its pale, in the vast 788 and populous countries where Mahomedanism is established, there also exists a legal charitable fund, ample and unfailing in conformity with the laws of their prophet on this important subject. Even in countries, properly called Pagan, where the slightest degree of civilization exists, there also the care of the poor forms a part of their national institutions; especially in China, the most extensive and populous empire upon earth, where, on the authority of its code, translated by an hon. Member now in the House, an imperfect, indeed, but perhaps a more comprehensive system of national relief exists, than perhaps is to be found in any other country. Let us now, on the contrary, ask, which are those nations, and what that state of society to which the impugners of the principle of a legal relief for the poor, can alone appeal in behalf of their views upon the subject? Why to nations or tribes wholly uncivilized—to a condition of human nature thoroughly savage, only just raised above that of the brutes that perish, if not indeed below them in this respect. There, indeed, they make no provision for the indigent, but desert helpless infancy, or lingering disease, and immolate decrepit and impotent age. And it just strikes me, that a most powerful advocate for a provision for the Irish poor, Dr. Woodward, exemplifies the condition of the distressed part of them by this very illustration; and, speaking of the cruel neglect to which they are exposed, says, 'It would be a still higher degree of economy, and even mercy, to adopt the refined Indian policy, of putting an immediate end to them.' But to return: if we trace the progress of society from that condition which it is humiliating for civilized man to contemplate, to its highest state of prosperity and happiness, we shall see, that a growing care for the distressed and indigent, marks every step of this auspicious career, till a permanent provision for the poor becomes the most sacred and permanent part of the institutions of the greatest and most polished states. So true is the observation of one of the profoundest writers in this or any other country, Dr. Johnson, 'a decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.' Reasoners, however, of an opposite character are to be found, who, disregarding equally the principles and example of mankind in every civilized country, and in all ages of the world, arguing on certain abstract and 789 theoretical principles, would reverse that deduction, and, as Burke exclaims—'subtilize us into savages.' Hitherto, Sir, I have spoken of a legal provision for the relief of the poor, as common to all civilized countries; there is, however, one solitary exception, and that exception, to the disgrace of reason, humanity, and religion, exists in, naturally, the richest part of the richest empire in the world; I mean, of course, unhappy Ireland, to the destitute condition of which, in this respect, I solemnly call the attention of this House. If the provision in question be the undoubted right of the poor (and let those who gainsay this, now advance their arguments to the contrary), why, I ask, is Ireland, in this most important respect, to be placed as it were without the pale of civilization? Why are its poor to be outlawed from the common rights and privileges of British subjects? Sir, no man who has the least knowledge of that part of the United Kingdom can, I think, refrain from acknowledging, that if any distinction in that respect ought to be tolerated in the same empire, Ireland is that division of it which should, on every possible consideration, possess such an institution, even, were the others unhappily destitute of it. Nor can I divine any reasons why Ireland should exhibit this melancholy exception to England, and the rest of the civilized world, which, when examined, do not rise into arguments of the most forcible kind to the very contrary. The only objections which occur to me, as being possible to advance against establishing such a provision in Ireland are, that it is unnecessary, that it is impracticable, that it would be impolitic, or, finally, that other means may be adopted with equal or better prospect of accomplishing the same end; I will, with leave of the House, briefly attend to these several objections, when I think it will be found, that each of them, when duly considered, will rise into an additional argument in favour of a contrary conclusion. I must, however, protest in the first place, against such a mode of determining respecting the right in question, by which an interested party, wealth, constitutes itself the sole judge concerning the just claims of poverty, which has hitherto appealed, but appealed in vain, against its unrighteous decision to the laws of nature and of God! But, waiving for the present any further allusion to the abstract right of the 790 poor of Ireland, to that provision which is established in all other countries, let us come at once to the necessity which exists for establishing a legal provision in their behalf. I mean the necessity, founded upon their deep, continued, and unrelieved distresses. And, on this most important branch of the argument, happily, or, the nature of the inquiry duly considered, I ought rather to say, unhappily, there is no necessity for me to fatigue the House with any lengthened proof. There is not a man within these walls—can there be one in the country?—ignorant upon this important subject, the distress of the poor of Ireland. I mean not distress of a slight and transient nature, but that which is at once severe and permanent; so continued as to be familiarised, indeed, to the experience, but too severe to be reconciled to the patient endurance of the people. A state which, amidst all the changes and fluctuations which have agitated the country, has remained the sole condition of the poor, which has thus exhibited a settled and melancholy uniformity; and which, while unmitigated by any national efforts, has been of too stubborn a character to yield to those temporary expedients which mistaken benevolence, or still oftener ill-disguised selfishness, has resorted to for its temporary mitigation, and which even the bounties of nature, fertile soil and fruitful seasons, have failed to remove. In other communities, fluctuating labour, varying products, and changing circumstances, may occasion temporary sufferings, which are partially felt, and alternately transferred to different industrious classes, so that each which suffers in its turn, leans upon the rest for assistance; or, in some season of general difficulty, the whole are partly supported by the accumulated wealth of the community, by means of its legal institutions, till, thus protected, industry revives, and the general prosperity is again restored; but in Ireland, which is the prosperous pursuit, that can yield its ready assistance to the rest—what the provision which is made for seasons of general depression? There, every spring of industry is at once depressed: the shuttle and the plough are alike unprofitable to the wretched artisan and impoverished labourer. The people are indeed anxious to labour, but they are condemned to involuntary idleness, or remunerated for their work so inadequately as still to consign them to wretchedness, 791 Tens of thousands, indeed, annually traverse the whole breadth of both islands, in search of a few weeks' employment, pouring upon these shores at the accustomed season, that multitude of wanderers, which, like a flight of migratory fowl, indicate the desolation which they leave behind. Tens of thousands leave their ancient homes for ever, and rend those ties for ever, which are perhaps more closely interwoven with the feelings and affections of the Irish, than in those of any other people upon earth. Still the overflowing misery is unabated, and under the present system would remain so, were the country half depopulated. The marks and badges of poverty remain just the same in Ireland as they were centuries ago, when Spencer, and after him Petty, Swift, and a whole host of political writers, described the miserable clothing, the wretched habitations, sties, as such writers have constantly denominated them, in which an Englishman would scruple to house for a single night his pampered brute—food, in quality and quantity inadequate to the preservation of health, being then as now, principally vegetable, and of an inferior kind than even to that consumed at present; a state, in short, always pushed to the utmost extremity of endurance, and to which the common misfortunes incident to humanity, such as the failure of a single crop, the loss of cattle, the illness of a family, the death of a parent, bring irretrievable ruin, when the wretched sufferers have to swell that general mass of mendicity, which is constantly inundating Ireland with misery and pollution. But if the evils to which poverty is subject every where, are thus fearfully increased in Ireland, there are others peculiar to that country, which still heighten the general misery. The constant and vast confiscations in that country, which has been too often parcelled out in immense portions, among the selfish instruments of power, have had the effect of transferring much of the property of Ireland to absentees, the number of whom has been also increased by a variety of other causes. These, as Coke argues, have broken the legal condition on which such property was bestowed; they have, at all events, violated the moral duties which its possession imposed. Evils of the most frightful nature, and of the greatest magnitude, especially bearing upon the poorer classes, have resulted from this 792 cause. It has given rise to that race of Irish oppressors (for such, with some honourable exceptions, they may be regarded)—the middlemen. It has, on the one hand, mainly occasioned the exaction of those exorbitant rents, to which the wretched peasantry of Ireland have been long subject, and, on the other, it has deprived them of that labour by which alone those rents could, in many instances, be perfectly discharged. It has been the means of constantly exhibiting the horrible spectacle of a people starving in a land of plenty, and a country exporting its produce in the very moment of famine. It muzzles the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn, which it goads on by privation and insult, to desperation. Above all, it sets the example, and is itself the principal instrument in those sudden and extensive clearances, which if perpetrated in this country, where the poverty so created would have to be sustained, would not be very popular; but in Ireland, where there is no such provision, amount to the height of cruelty. The want of a law in favour of the oppressed there, amounts to a direct encouragement to and premium upon such a course, instead of repressing it, and thus shares the crime of such proceedings. It is idle and false to assert, that these drivings are the necessary consequence of surplus numbers, as some ignorantly allege; on the contrary, the Irish—wretched, and to the full as superabundant—were proportionably full, as when the population did not exceed a fourth of its present amount. The growing numbers of the inhabitants brought successively into profitable cultivation the lands of Ireland, and having done so, were then, and always have been, cleared; so will those in turn be, who are at this moment permitted to settle awhile on the sides of mountains, or on the extremities of bogs; when they have reclaimed these, they will be again driven—when again a grain of surplus produce, as it is called, will be weighed against what is deemed a surplus human being, and, some heartless absentee holding the balance, it is easy to see which way the scale will preponderate. The hand will not tremble with any agitations of the heart, while the fate of thousands are thus determined. These proceedings, however, are one great means of increasing the amount, and aggravating the intensity of the sufferings of Ireland. They form a constant and principal source of that 793 mendicity which overspreads the country districts, and throngs the towns of that country, and which drives to the market of labour in this thousands of competitors, who lessen the demand, and consequently lower the value of labour here, so as in many instances to renew the distress from which they fled. This, then, is one of those peculiar causes of the extreme poverty of Ireland, to which the law itself is accessory, by withholding that relief, which would mitigate, and in many cases prevent, the evil. But, it will be remarked, that I have hitherto adverted solely to that state of distress and suffering which is common to the poor of Ireland; but, Sir, this gloomy picture must be yet darkened, in order to convey a true idea of their real condition. Placed always on the verge of extreme indigence, the slightest reverse plunges them at once into the gulph. Reduce their food in quality they cannot, nor can they diminish its quantity without the most appalling consequences. When, therefore, they encounter those fluctuations in seasons, and failure in produce, which it is the common fate of all countries to sustain, the effect is appalling. Then recur those dreadful visitations which at short intervals have constantly afflicted Ireland, when habitual privation at once increases to famine, and the incipient fever, which the want and despondency of the people constantly produce, rises into pestilence, completing the catalogue of their sufferings, and filling their cup of misery to the very brim. I will not particularize how frequently these dreadful calamities have, in late times, returned upon that unhappy people; nor calculate the devastations they have occasioned. On one of the many pestilences which visited the country during the last century, and which, like all the rest, succeeded to a scarcity, amounting in many districts to a famine, the mortality was enormous: it is stated by Rutty to have amounted to one-fifth of the whole population. What a scene of misery was then presented! One of the most dreadful of the plagues of Egypt repeated in unhappy Ireland. The Destroying Angel then smote an unhappy people, and left a corpse in every cottage! The last fever, that of 1817 (for the late mortality is not yet made known to us), was by no means the most severe, and yet Drs. Baker and Cheyne state, that at least 1,400,000 were afflicted by the pestilence, of whom between 60,000 and, 70,000 794 expired, exclusively of those who had already sunk under that state of want and dejection which then, as in every other instance, preceded that frightful calamity, and indeed produced it. Then was it that multitudes of the poor wretches found themselves destitute in their utmost need of all relief whatever, even mendicancy failed them—they carried infection with them, and were no longer received; many of them cleared and driven from their own native homes, were repulsed when they sought to take refuge in the towns, and had not where to lay their head; some of them, indeed, crept into fever huts, which were suddenly erected on the sides of roads, and in open spaces, where the diseased, the dying, and the dead were crowded together, exhibiting a spectacle of human misery rarely witnessed in any country of the world. Where was that national charity which should have succoured the people at that awful moment, which, in England, would have been a very present help in time of trouble; would have stood between the living and the dead, and the plague had been staid, which spread far and wide, and desolated the country! It was wanting. The distant sympathies of empire were indeed awoke, at least all but those of the absentees, but their relief came too late, the wretched victims had finally escaped from human suffering. Nor can the apologists for the continuance of such a state of things make the miserable excuse that these visitations are unexpected. The experience of centuries is full upon this awful subject. They know that they have constantly occurred, and they are as sure that they will return. Still they oppose themselves as vehemently against a provision which it would be the first business, under similar circumstances, of every civilized state in the world to establish. But I need not draw the attention of the House to a fact to which the deepest consideration, and the warmest sympathies of the country at large are, at this moment, principally directed, namely, the certainty and severity of these periodical seasons of distress, under one of which Ireland is at present groaning. It is not on these that I ground my argument in favour of a legislative provision for the poor of Ireland; these, it might be contended, could be otherwise alleviated. On the contrary, it is that constant wretchedness, which exists among them at all 795 times, and which occasions these scenes of peculiar suffering, which, I contend, demands that provision. These are but occasional heavings of that misery which has constantly afflicted Ireland. The swellings of that dark abyss of suffering, which never abates, over which a spirit of suffering and despair is perpetually brooding and rousing the troublous element to renewed storms and agitations. But, Sir, the House may think I am dealing with this important subject by figures of speech; I will therefore turn to another description of figures, namely, figures of arithmetic, and from them I will demonstrate, beyond the possibility of doubt or contradiction, the accuracy of the dark picture I have drawn of the miserable condition of the poor of Ireland permanently considered—facts, I think, which, through the understanding, will make a deeper impression upon the heart than the most pathetic appeal to the imagination, by whomsoever made, could possibly produce. I shall not, then, fatigue the attention of the House, by pursuing a course which I might well take, and with much effect, namely, verifying my general description by appealing to the unanimous declarations of the most eminent political writers of that country; or by quoting the most intelligent witnesses which have appeared before the various Committees of both Houses, appointed to examine and report on the distressed condition of Ireland; or by referring to those numerous and able medical reports, which have traced to that condition those peculiar and fatal diseases, from which it is never wholly free; but I shall proceed to show, by the incontrovertible evidence of statistical facts, the terrible consequences of the unrelieved distress of Ireland. For this purpose I shall take the census of Ireland, and compare the rate of mortality which it exhibits, compared with that of England and Wales. In the latter, I find, that in the total number of the inhabitants, whose ages were ascertained in the census of 1821, there were under the age of forty years, 8,060,004 persons; of the age of forty, and upwards, 2,469,667. In Ireland, the number under forty were 5,593,855—what then was the number which ought to have been found above that age, had the condition of the people corresponded with that of England? 1,714,014. But, Sir, there were only 1,199,375 remaining in existence; nearly one-half that amount, 796 therefore, have been swept away by the cause to which I have been referring—unrelieved distress; or, to use the emphatic phraseology of Irish political economists, cleared! Nor, Sir, does this comparison fully exhibit the existing difference. Much of the population of England is concentrated into towns, where, from other causes than distress, an undue proportion of mortality prevails. Let us, therefore, for the purpose of more accurate comparison, ascertain the same proportions in Wales, where the town-population is not relatively so numerous, and in Connaught; both mountainous districts, both principally engaged in the healthiest of all industrious pursuits, agriculture, but the latter the most thinly peopled part of Ireland, and therefore always the scene of the deepest distress. We shall then see more clearly the fatal consequences resulting from the existing state of things in the latter country. There were in the disseminated population of Wales, in 1821, 530,770 inhabitants under forty years of age, and 169,440 above that age. In Connaught there were, at the same period, 927,393 under forty; what number ought to have been found above that age, had the physical condition of the Irish been equal to that of the Welsh?—296,050. There were above sixty per cent short of that number, namely, only 181,644. As compared with Wales, then, for every surviving million in Connaught above forty, 629,836 have been swept off by untimely death; to say nothing of the havoc which disease consequent upon destitution has made in the earlier periods of life. Between six and seven, then, to every ten thus untimely perish! Merciful God, can this be so? It is. What is the havoc of pestilence and war, compared with these, the victims of unrelieved poverty. And before this constant and silent devastation has done its final work, what suffering and sorrow does not this state of things imply! Few and evil are the days of the human pilgrimage was the touching exclamation of an ancient patriarch; but beyond the lot of mortality, to these poor Irish those few days are thus diminished, and their evils thus embittered. But I am perhaps furnishing by these statements, appalling as they are, an argument which, though it will not be ostensibly put forth, will probably be secretly held by not a few, in favour of the present system, namely, that it is the means, no 797 matter how, of thinning the population; to the excess, or, to use their own favourite phrase, to the superabundance of which all the evils of society are attributable. On this subject I will only here shortly observe, that such deceive themselves. It is a fact long ago ascertained, that to diminish the strength, and to shorten the life of human beings to a considerable degree, is not to diminish human prolific-ness, but the reverse—a principle which the most accurate observers of nature have long admitted, and which Bacon extends to the principle of reproduction even in the vegetable kingdom: and hence it is held as a wise and irreversible law of nature, extending throughout all organized life, that the earlier in any general average existence is threatened with extinction, the more are the chances of perpetuating it multiplied. Such, beyond all controversy, has been the fact regarding Ireland, which, without the intervention of any miracle, has experienced in this respect the fate of another ancient and persecuted people, who, the more they were afflicted the more they multiplied and grew. I throw out this hint for the consideration of those who deem it desirable to thin the population by whatever means; such may connive at the perpetration of a perpetual Spartan cryptia on the poor Irish helots, but it may be as well for them to know that their amiable efforts will all be unavailing. Providence does not see fit to second their patriotic designs of exterminating what they call the redundant population; it confounds and blasts them. I do not throw out these ideas at random, nor am I fighting with shadows in combating this cruel view of the question. For instance, in conversing some time ago with an hon. Member of this House regarding the Ministerial measure of relief—the shipping off a part of our population to the Canadas, I referred him to the published statements of an officer, regarding the appalling mortality and sufferings to which the Irish emigrants were exposed in that country, to which I may possibly again advert, when he rejoined, 'Well, Sir, to be candid, I neither deny nor doubt the truth of what you say—but the fact is, we have a redundant population, and we get rid of them—so far our end is answered.' To such reasoning as this, as applied to the subject in hand, I reply, that you do not thus get rid of them. 798 The guilt of such attempts is perfectly gratuitous; and the history of that country, as well as the principles of science, prove that the cruelty is equalled by its folly. But to return more directly to the subject. The prevalent sickness and premature mortality to which I have adverted, as produced by the destitution to which so many of the inhabitants of that country are unhappily abandoned, are not the most melancholy of the consequences resulting from that dreadful cause. The dyspeptic complaints with which the lower orders of the Irish are almost universally afflicted at an early age, and which, as a celebrated medical authority has pronounced, are, generally speaking, less consistent with longevity than even organic affections, are not what I allude to; the low and watery diet of the Irish has, on the authority of one of the ablest physicians of that country, overspread it with that dreadful, not to say loathsome, disease, struma; and, above all, has multiplied to the most afflicting degree the most pitiable and degrading condition to which humanity is subject—idiocy and insanity in their worst and most incurable forms. I am aware that those who have inquired much how to benefit Ireland, with the least possible expense, have said much about the necessity of multiplying the asylums for these the most wretched of human beings, and for such as are wholly incurable. Happier, I think, would have been the attempt had they endeavoured to establish that provision which would have saved these wrecks of humanity from their dreadful fate, which would have assisted them while the lamp of reason yet shone unclouded, and would have revealed to their eager gratitude at once the precious boon and the benefactor—a paternal and munificent country. Nor can I refrain from adverting to the moral effect of this neglect of the suffering poor of Ireland. Commencing with the year 1805, the first year in which I find the committals throughout Ireland reported, it appears that since that period those committals have been multiplied seven or eight fold. Some part of this increase may be attributed to the diminished difficulty of tracing offences to their perpetrators; but still, on any just comparison, offences are awfully numerous, especially in a country where, generally speaking, the comparative absence of property diminishes the temptation to a possibility of committing one 799 of the commonest crimes—plundering. But upon this point I will lay no stress; I believe the Irish to be naturally a moral and a gratefully obedient people; but an authority who had as much knowledge and experience on this subject as any man that ever lived, Sir Matthew Hale, argues, in his admirable little work in favour of an ample provision for the poor, that unrelieved poverty is the purveyor for the gallows; and if the instances of criminal offences be numerous in Ireland, the Government of the country, in withholding the right for which I contend, more than shares the guilt. Lastly, Sir, the political consequences of thus habitually neglecting the distresses of the people, has been manifested in the history of the country for a succession of ages. I need not give a catalogue of the barbarous appellations by which Ireland has been successively disturbed and afflicted. They have all sprung immediately, as a late right hon. Secretary of that country asserted, from those local oppressions which have tormented and desolated Ireland, and to which Government itself has been accessory, by affording no relief to the distresses thus constantly occasioned. 'Distresses,' says Lord Bacon, 'are so many votes for troubles;' and, need I say, how vast are the number of the suffrages in that unhappy country, whatever be the ostensible occasion which solicits them? A still more experienced observer on such matters, Lord Hale, asserts, that 'poverty makes men tumultuous and unquiet—where,' says he, 'there are many very poor, the rich cannot long and safely continue such; necessity makes men either stupid or desperate. 'He, therefore, declares that a due care for the relief of the poor, among its other recommendations which he enumerates, is 'an act of great civil prudence and political wisdom.'—That act has, however, never been performed. Hence the sufferings of the people of Ireland have kept up that state of moral and political excitement and irritation, so fatal to the sanity of the body politic; which, when those sufferings have been increased, have risen into phrenzy, when it has taken the strength of the empire to bind down the wretched victim of neglect and oppression. But I will pursue these melancholy topics no further: nor need I recapitulate what I have already advanced. The distress of the poor of that country, heightened by circumstances peculiar to their state, con- 800 stantly great, and often excessive, demanding at all times legislative relief, and especially at the present moment, and yet wholly neglected, except by those occasional assistances, which, both in their nature and extent, mock the suffering which they can never alleviate;—I say this dreadful picture is impressed too fully upon this House and upon the people of England to demand any effort at description on my part, which, if made by infinitely more powerful advocates than myself, would still fall far short of the dreadful reality. Let us then shortly inquire what can be the causes of this afflicting state of things, in a country which forms a part of the richest empire upon earth, and where, therefore, those sufferings are heightened, and humanity itself insulted, by the unnatural contrasts perpetually exhibited. First, the inquiry presents itself, infinitely the most important in reference to the subject, whether there is any natural cause of this continued poverty to be found either in the country itself, or in the character of its inhabitants? And here, at all events, no difference of opinion can possibly arise, and in answering this question I will again avail myself of the language of Bacon, on this subject; who, in enumerating the natural advantages of Ireland, has not, I think, omitted any one source of national wealth with which a partial Providence can endow any country upon earth. 'This island,' says he, 'has so many dowries of nature, the fruitfulness of the soil, the excellency of the climates, the ports, the rivers, the quarries, the woods, the fisheries, and especially its race of valiant, hardy and active men, that it is not easy to find such a conflux of commodities, if the hand of man did but join with the hand of nature.' The natural prolificness of Ireland is, however, rarely disputed; but its miseries are not unfrequently attributed to another cause, and it is said that the distresses of Ireland are chargeable to its surplus population. This, therefore, dictates the second important inquiry—excessive numbers, whether this be the real cause of the general distress. It is notoriously otherwise. There is no one who has the slightest knowledge of the subject that is not perfectly aware of the utter fallacy, the extravagant folly of such a supposition. Let those who, on the subject of the extreme poverty and degradation of Ireland, repeat the cuckoo note of the economists 801 'surplus population,' and suppose they have solved the fearful political enigma which the condition of Ireland propounds, stand forth and say whether they do or do not know, that the misery of the Irish, arising either from the nature and insufficiency of their food, their clothing, and their habitations; from the dearths and famines, and the epidemics, which they periodically endure, more fatal often than the plague; from the constant want of labour, and its inadequate remuneration—were evils which did not exist, to a still greater degree, when the population was notoriously scanty, not a third nor a fourth of its present amount, and when the political economists of those days attributed these sufferings to a paucity of population, and busied themselves about the task of replenishing it; always busied, therefore, in attempts beyond their reach, and neglecting the obvious duties dictated alike by policy and humanity, and easy to perform. But to attend to the present assumption; so far from the increase of the population having occasioned these evils, it has clearly mitigated, and would, with efficient institutions, have removed them. The amelioration of the condition of Ireland in all these respects, is universally acknowledged; still much remains to be accomplished. But to attribute effects in full operation centuries ago, to alleged causes which have only recently had any existence, is a doctrine too paradoxical, one would have thought, even for the adoption of political economy. To place such absurd notions in a still clearer point of view, Ireland, a century ago, having only about 2,000,000 of inhabitants, imported grain in considerable quantities; still multitudes of her people were starving. This year, with at least quadruple that population, she will export, I should suppose, 18,000,000, or 20,000,000 of bushels of corn—multitudes of her people are still starving; meantime the exports of cattle have enormously augmented. So much for the question of surplus population, as compared with surplus produce. Again, Sir, the alleged minute division of the farms in Ireland as the cause of much of its distress, is an equally erroneous assumption. In proof of this I will not advert to the condition of the provinces of Flanders, where, with about thrice the population on the same space, and with naturally a far worse soil, the cultivators down to the la- 802 bourer are, or at least were, to a late period, comfortable and prosperous, furnishing abundance to their own country, and a surplus of at least one-third for the supply of others—a most instructive lesson, I think, to this country. I will simply allude to the state of Ireland in this respect, on which a most unaccountable delusion almost universally prevails. By adverting to the census, it will appear, that were the land of Ireland divided among the agricultural families, there would be at least, from thirty to forty acres to each. But it is not so divided: on the contrary, it is represented as one great cause of distress, that much of it is held in very small portions. Well, then, the remainder must be in the hands of very extensive cultivators, the bulk of the people, or labourers, having only a little plot of land round their cottages, a state the most desirable to be conceived, were it accompanied with corresponding regulations. Meantime, however, I will venture to assert, that in those parts of the country where the population is the most dense, or, in other words, where the property is the most divided, there is it the most valuable; and there is found the greatest degree of peace, comfort, and prosperity, the local condition of Ireland at this moment fully warrants my assertion, which is corroborated by the most intelligent witness which have appeared before the different parliamentary Committees appointed to examine the state of that country. But, Sir, the pretence that Ireland is too densely peopled, in reference to either its fertility or extent, is almost entirely abandoned, and another convenient reason is alleged for the distress and poverty of Ireland, namely, the supposed indolence and improvidence of the Irish character—a cause not one whit less erroneous than the preceding ones, and which adds insult to the injury inflicted upon that country. That they do not labour when it is impossible for them to obtain work, nor save, when extortion leaves them no means of accumulation, I do not mean to dispute, and that these are the reasons for these imputations upon them, I have the authority of Sir John Davis for asserting. But every writer upon that country, and all the evidences that have been called before your Committee, in reference to its condition, have been unanimous in describing them as most anxious to obtain work, and as grateful for it when afforded them. 803 Read, for instance, Mr. Griffiths' recent report on the roads in the southern districts of Ireland, and you will find him pourtraying the Irish character in these respects in a very different manner. He not only describes the industry of the Irish labourers when employed, but their great care and frugality, the saving of their wages, and erecting, by these gains, comfortable cottages, purchasing implements of husbandry and cattle, and becoming all at once, as it were, prosperous and happy. But, Sir, had we no evidence or disproof of these constantly repeated accusations but that of our own senses, I think, few of us could fail to be convinced of their fallacy. Thus, either in this country, or in the new world, wherever labour is to be obtained, no matter how hard or revolting, there are the Irish. Look at them in this the most laborious season of the year. Thousands of them annually traverse the breadth of both islands, and cross the sea that separates them, in search of a few weeks' employment, which, when obtained, they work like slaves, and live like ascetics. When, resisting every temptation, some of which I fear would be too hard for many of their accusers, they carry home almost entire, their hard earnings in their tattered garments, I wish I could say, an offering to lay on the humble altar of domestic enjoyment, but on the contrary, wherewithal to pay those extortionate rents which are demanded for the wretched cabin, raised by themselves which affords them shelter, and the narrow plot which furnishes them with scanty food. Thus conducting themselves, they are, nevertheless, accused of indolence and improvidence, and while deprived of labour at home, and thus eagerly searching for it elsewhere, the economists exclaim, in the language, and with the feelings of an oppressor of ancient times "Ye are idle! ye are idle!" It is, therefore, neither to Providence, nor to the country itself, nor to the number of its inhabitants nor to their character and disposition, that the distress of Ireland is attributable. But it is to a want of provision for the poor, and to that evident and inveterate evil absenteeism, with those co-actions, clearings, and drivings, which it occasions that, want of labour and lowness of wages which also spring from the same cause which aggravate the evil to which they are thus exposed, and above all to the former a want which would prevent the perpetra- 804 tion of many of these wrongs and mitigate their consequences, when inflicted; it is to these causes, and especially to the last, that the evils long endured by that unhappy country, are clearly chargeable. And it is only by giving to it a system long ago established in England, and to which, notwithstanding all declamation to the contrary, the great superiority in its general condition of the lower classes, is mainly owing, that these deep and inveterate evils can alone be mitigated and removed. But the opposers of such a provision for the poor of Ireland assert, that its introduction into that country is impracticable, owing, on the one hand, to the general poverty and unsettled condition of its people, and on the other, to the impossibility of finding proper instruments, or, as they express it, machinery by which to carry it into execution if legally established. I totally deny both assumptions. With regard to the first, hard, indeed, is it upon that country, that the very poverty which had been created by this long continued and cruel neglect, should be held a valid reason for the continuation of this state of things; and that cruelty and injustice should plead prescription. Ireland, left in the situation in which England found itself after the infamous confiscation of her charitable foundations, the abbeys and monasteries, stands in precisely the same need of a poor-law, as did the latter, and is in at least as favourable a situation and condition for establishing it. Look at the indigence of England at that period, and the crime and suffering which it created. Did these constitute a sufficient reason in the estimation of the great and benevolent men of those days, for withholding from the poor of the people their just rights? On the contrary, such considerations quickened them in the performance of that great duty, and above forty Acts of Parliament were passed, after the dissolution of the monasteries, till the passing of the Act of the 43rd of Elizabeth, all having the same object—a legislative relief for the poor. How many general laws have been passed in Ireland during the same period for a similar purpose? Not any. And the consequence is, that their distress remains unrelieved and unabated. The condition of England at that period was just the counterpart of that of Ireland at present, and in no respect preferable. Hollingshed tells us, that just before his 805 time, there were not above two or three houses in an upland town that had chimneys, and often not so many; he describes the people (not the paupers), as sleeping upon straw with a log for their pillow, and their food and clothing correspondent. Clearances, precisely similar in their motives, and consequences with those of Ireland, were perpetrated in those days. "The husbandmen," says Sir Thomas More, "be thrust out! Poor silly wretched souls! Men, women, husbands, wives, fathers, children, widows, woeful mothers with their young babes—away they trudge out of their known and accustomed houses, finding no place to rest in. And when they have wandered till their all is spent, what can they do but to steal, and then, justly, pardie, be hanged, or else go about begging. And yet, then also they be cast into prison as vagabonds, because they go about and work not, whom no man will set at work, though they never so willingly proffer themselves thereto." Of these poor wretches we learn, that 72,000 great and petty thieves were put to death in the reign of Henry 8th. In Elizabeth's time rogues, we are told "were trussed up apace, and, that there was not a year commonly wherein three or four hundred of them were not devoured by the gallows in one place or another." Strype, speaking of one county alone, Somersetshire, says, "Forty persons have been there executed in a year for robberies, thefts, and other felonies; thirty-five burnt in the hand; thirty-seven whipped; 183 discharged; and that those that were discharged, were wicked and desperate persons. Notwithstanding this great number of indictments, the fifth part of the felonies committed in the county were not brought to trial. The rapines committed by the infinite number of the wicked, wandering, idle people, were intolerable to the poor countrymen, and obliged them to a perpetual watch of their sheep-folds, pastures, and corn-fields. The other counties of England were in no better a condition than Somersetshire, and many of them were even in a worse; there were at least three or four hundred able-bodied vagrants in every county, who lived by theft and rapine, and who sometimes met in troops, and committed spoil upon the inhabitants. If all the felons of this kind were reduced to subjection, they would form a strong army: the Magistrates were awed, by the association and threats of the 806 confederates, from executing justice on the offenders." Such was the condition of England at that time, when the sudden and strikingly beneficial effects of the introduction of the Poor-laws is recorded by a contemporary authority of the highest order—Dalton. Lithgow, at about the same time, mentions the extreme poverty of the Irish, and earnestly recommended a similar provision on their behalf; and happy would it have been for both countries, had such been the case. Ireland would then have advanced with at least equal steps in the great, career of national improvement, and have amply repaid the act of justice and beneficence. I might have extended the description of the state of England at the period referred to, to a variety of particulars, all conclusive as to the fact of its condition, in almost every respect, being not better than is that of Ireland at the present time, in many particulars, doubtless, greatly inferior. I will only advert to one particular in proof of this fact, so important to my present argument. Perhaps one of the most striking and obvious proofs and indications of the condition of society and of the existence of national wealth, is the number of that noble animal, so necessary to the use, convenience, and distinction of mankind, the horse, found in any civilized community as compared with that of the inhabitants. Now, in the period I have referred to, we are informed there were only 20,000 horses in all England; at the present time there are more than that number kept for pleasure alone in Ireland; far more than ten times as many in the whole. But to return. In adverting to the two great objects of the Poor-laws of England, and which must ever remain the prominent features in any similar institution, namely, the providing of labour for the unemployed, and the administration of relief to the impotent poor—what, is there, I would ask, in the present state of Ireland, which can induce any one to suppose that both are not attainable? Regarding the latter, relief for the impotent, there can, I hope, be no dispute; it is only in reference to the practicability of the former, the providing labour for the unemployed, that strong doubts are entertained. And still when we advert to the preceding descriptions of the condition of England, given on the highest authority, can a shadow of doubt remain upon any man's mind, as to the unemployed poor of 807 England, at the period adverted to, having been more numerous than are those now similarly circumstanced in Ireland? That the profitable employment of the latter is, at this moment, a far easier task than it was in the former instance, is a still more obvious fact. I allude not to that increased demand for the products of labour, which the great improvement in society has occasioned; nor yet to those great local and national improvements, which present themselves in that country in every direction; tasks which would profitably employ multitudes, and permanently repay the labour that they would demand, and which, if neglected in this, await future generations. No, Sir, it is unnecessary for me to advert to such means of employment. The law of Elizabeth prescribed that stocks should be procured, and that the unemployed should be set to work as manufacturers; the law, I hope of William 4th, will, I trust, direct that the idle shall be employed in what Montesquieu calls the manufacture universal—cultivation; a far more certain and efficacious course. I shall not encumber my argument, which I mean, on this occasion, to confine to general principles, by showing how easily and beneficially this might be accomplished; and the inevitable result would be, that the lands in cultivation would be infinitely better tilled, and the general improvement of the wastes greatly increased and extended. Sir, I would ask whether a stranger to the situation and circumstances of the British empire, would deem it credible, that within its confined limits, some of its most fertile districts were totally uncultivated; others, still more extensive, very imperfectly improved; that multitudes of the people were either wholly or partially unemployed, and still, that a demand to an enormous and increasing extent was made upon the products of other countries; products which, under such circumstances might be raised with greater certainty, plenty, and cheapness, in our own? What would be thus deemed incredible is nevertheless the fact, and to an extent which would hardly be believed possible, were not the documents at hand which fully prove it. Thus, Sir, leaving totally out of the calculation that vast increase in the crops of Ireland, which might be obtained, were more labour employed in tillage, there are almost five millions of acres wholly uncultivated nearly half of which is land of a highly 808 productive quality; here there is a field or labour, in the simplest and most certain form, almost inexhaustible. Would there be any demand, for the products of this labour if it were thus employed? There is the best market in the world in the very heart of the country, and close at hand. Those wastes would produce corn, cattle, cheese, butter, flax, hemp, rape, linseed, tares, madder, not to mention tobacco, the culture of which is forbidden, though as employing more hands than any other culture, is peculiarly fitted for the state of Ireland, where labour is so unhappily redundant. Well, Sir, England takes from foreign countries, from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 of bushels of corn; about 150,000 cwt. of butter; 100,000 cwt. of cheese; 1,000,000 cwt. of tallow, about 1,200,000 cwt. of hemp and flax; 150,000 cwt. of clover seed; 2,000,000 bushels of linseed; 450,000 bushels of rape seed; 100,000 bushels of tares 100,000 cwt. of madder, to say nothing of many other articles of foreign growth, perfectly adapted to the soil and climate of Ireland. Why, Sir, the production of a part of these only would demand the exertion of every individual pronounced redundant in Ireland, and by increasing the demand, would raise the remuneration of labour, improving the food, the clothing, the habitations of the lower classes, and in one word, bestowing plenty, and conferring peace on the whole community. Nor, Sir, is this all. Half the advantages of such an increased production and intercourse is not yet told. The increased comforts of the Irish labourer and agriculturist would augment to an equal extent, that of the English operative and manufacturer, the products of whose industry would be increased in demand, and heightened in value, by so beneficial a policy. The market thus created by the improved condition of seven or eight millions of our fellow subjects, would infinitely outweigh in value, those casual and uncertain openings to our commerce, whether in the Old World or the New, which distant countries may occasionally and reluctantly afford. On the one hand, the necessaries of life cheapened in price, and less fluctuating in their supply, would no longer be controlled by the varying produce, or the uncertain policy of foreign states; on the other, the demand for our manufactures would in a great measure be relieved from the fluctu- 809 ations and reversals, almost equally distressing. The public revenue would at the same time enlarge with the increasing prosperity—the heavy load of taxation would be no longer oppressively felt—the triumphs of the plough would succeed those of the sword, and bury the national grievances for ever. Thus would the body politic be fed, invigorated by a constant and healthful circulation; the empire would stand erect among the nations, strong and self-dependant; and, leaning upon its own resources, would extend to the nations the right hand of fellowship, or the shield of defence, and form a reciprocal and beneficial intercourse with every country upon earth. This, Sir, I hold to be no visionary idea; it is one which is sanctioned and dictated by the experience of every country which has hitherto risen to power and prosperity, and, indeed, only extends the principle upon which the foundation of our own prosperity has been laid. The employment of the population leads to this sure and happy result; and, in addition to the realization of its fond and disinterested intention, a provision for the poor, is returned a hundred-fold into the bosom of the community that makes it, in increasing wealth and prosperity. But it will be objected to all this, that these great advantages cannot be secured, nor the Poor-laws introduced into Ireland, from a deficiency of what is called machinery to carry them into operation. I totally deny this. There are at least as good materials for creating that machinery in Ireland at this time, as there were in England at the period of their introduction, and yet our legislators made no such objection. But, if this were the case, it would be one of the most certain, and not least beneficial effects of the system, that it would create that machinery, and thereby establish a sort of moral police throughout the community of incalculable advantage to its character and interests. It would call into exercise, if not into existence, many of those qualities necessary for the purpose; it would stimulate wealth to the performance of its duties, if not by nobler exertions, at least by the certain and prevalent inducements of interest and necessity; and it would recall absenteeship to some consideration of the state of a people thus deserted and oppressed. But, Sir, it is the grossest insult upon the character of the country, to pronounce it at this moment, destitute of a 810 numerous class who would fully and faithfully discharge the duties the system would impose. What, Sir, when we see, that the work of exaction never fails of its completion for want of instruments—that the public revenue suffers not for want of an organised system of collection—that public justice can pursue to punishment its victims, with a celerity and certainty of late almost unparalleled—shall it be said, that when duties so gratifying to the best feelings of the human heart, and so congenial to the Irish character in particular, have to be discharged, that none could be found willing or adequate, cheerfully to undertake and faithfully to fulfil them? Such, I repeat, is the deadliest insult that was ever levelled at the Irish people; but it is happily wholly unfounded. No man who has considered the condition of the two countries at both periods, can for one moment doubt, that Ireland has an equal necessity and superior means, for establishing a provision for her poor, compared with England at the time of its introduction here: and I think few can dispute, that the effects would be equally great and beneficial. But, Sir, it is often said, that the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland will destroy that voluntary charity which now exists in Ireland. Voluntary charity! On whose part? The voluntary charity of the wealthy of that country? If the absence of a legal system of relief for the poor was the best means of encouraging the exercise of private and voluntary charity, no country on earth ought to have exhibited such heroic acts of munificence as those performed by the wealthy of that country. But, what said the right hon. Secretary on a late occasion, when calling the attention of Parliament to the distresses in the west of Ireland, which had then risen to so alarming a height as to arrest the attention of Government? Why, he said, that the great land-owners in that entire district, urgent and great as was the distress, had then contributed only the sum of 10l. to its mitigation. In the calamitous year of 1817, we learn, on the authority of a right rev. Prelate, that in an extensive district, where the property owned by absentees amounted to 80,000l. or 90,000l. per annum, the sum of 83l. only was subscribed, though they were personally applied to. Why, Sir, if the absence of Poor-laws is such a nurse of voluntary beneficence, the flame of divine charity would by this time have mounted to heaven, and shed its lustre and 811 spread its warmth over the whole community. But, alas, for the supposition, the contrary is the melancholy fact. It is only on the solid foundation of justice that mercy builds her purest trophies. But, Sir, if it be meant that the establishment of Poor-laws would interfere, in some sort, with the charity now dispensed to the mendicants of Ireland, who are relieved by those almost as destitute as themselves, I answer, that it is high time this method of relief were abolished. It is a shame and a disgrace to the wealth of a country, to leave the relief of poverty principally to the poor themselves; that they must spare out of their inadequate means that which renders them still more wretched, and very imperfectly relieving the miseries it seeks to succour, spreads the suffering and the contagion of beggary throughout the whole community. Sir, the time fails me, and I am sure I am exhausting the patience of the House, otherwise I had meant to have entered somewhat at length into other, and not unimportant objections, against Poor-laws, all of which, I am confident, resolve themselves, when duly considered, into arguments in their favour. I must, however, content myself with merely recapitulating them, hoping to be indulged in a somewhat lengthened reply, should they be urged against the proposition I am about to submit to the House. The first of these which I shall notice is, the supposition that Poor-laws have a direct tendency unduly to increase population; the very reverse of this I could readily prove—but this objection, paramount as it was long held, is now so generally abandoned, that I shall not further allude to it on this occasion. The next is, that the institution of a national system of relief has a direct tendency to suspend or destroy the exercise of private and voluntary charity, and to destroy the domestic virtues of the poor; and, generally speaking, to indispose the community to the exercise of voluntary charity. This I also deny. There is no country in the world, where, among the inferior orders, the domestic duties are more faithfully discharged than in England; and as to the latter part of the accusation, from whatever quarter it comes, I challenge those who make it, to produce a community upon earth where a nobler structure of voluntary charity is erected, though it rests upon the broad basis of a national provision for the poor, than in this country. 812 Let this be disputed, and I am ready with proofs of the fact. It is also affirmed, that a provision for the poor has a tendency to make the labouring classes idle and improvident. Who has ever made this accusation against the labouring classes of England? Patient of toil beyond any other class upon earth, slaves not excluded; in every market of labour they are preferred before competitors of any other country; nor is their conduct inferior with whomsoever compared. In fact, the bulk of the people of England, from their youth upwards, labour longer, and more intensely, than is consistent with the preservation of health, or the dictates of humanity. Lastly, Sir, the great objection to a Poor's-law is, that it would finally absorb the property of Ireland. To this objection, which I am aware is deemed the most powerful and conclusive of any that has been advanced, I shall content myself at present with giving a direct and positive contradiction, again appealing to the experience of this part of the empire during more than 200 years; during which time I will venture to assert, that the sums disbursed by means of the national provision for the poor, have, compared with any other item of national income or expenditure, exhibited a constant and regular diminution, while the number of those which have been assisted or sustained by this great legal charity, has also, in relation to the population, manifested as striking and uniform a decrease. I should be content, however, that the law which should establish the provision, should limit the extent of the contribution in all cases, reserving to those districts which should be the most heavily burthened, the privilege of obtaining assistance, to a certain extent, from others more favourably circumstanced, agreeably to the original provision of the law of Elizabeth, which wisely united, as far as was practicable, the advantages of local economy, with a partial equalization of the funds contributed by different divisions, for the same purpose. I am aware, however, that, after all, the system would, to a certain and limited extent, absorb a certain proportion of the property of Ireland, and especially of the absentees, and this, so far from being an objection, I hold to be one of the advantages of the proposition. What is it that the poor Irish want, but to absorb some part of that produce which they raise in such abundance, 813 and to retain a portion of that wealth which is now annually abstracted from the public stock of the country? To absorb some part of the wealth it thus produces, would indeed refresh and invigorate the country; the thirsty and parched soil in the drought of summer thus absorbs the genial showers, which drop grateful from above, investing it with renewed verdure and fertility. But, after all, Sir, these fears of Poor-laws, absorbing the whole wealth of a community, are so far from being just, that the very contrary is the result wherever they are established. Not only does their operation greatly increase the prosperity of all such countries; but, considered apart from all other considerations, the systematic method of relief they introduce is found, upon any just calculation, to be the most economical, as well as effectual mode of relief, for the most indigent part of the population, that could be adopted. Regarding Ireland, this interesting fact is demonstrably true, and has been asserted by the most intelligent witnesses of all parties, examined by the various Committees which have been appointed from time to time, to examine and report on the state of Ireland. When I last addressed the House on this important subject, I gave a calculation which I will not repeat, by which I think I proved most fully, that what with the Grand Jury presentments, which are so large in amount, much of the proceeds of which are devoted to arrant jobbing, the curse of Ireland, and disbursed, therefore, so as to disgrace the rich without relieving the poor; and what with the exactions of the innumerable mendicants who levy daily contributions on that warm-hearted and charitable people to so great an amount; to say nothing of those immense items in the national expenditure which are incurred for making an ineffectual attempt to keep a people quiet in their sufferings, whom a different treatment would restore to peace and overwhelm with gratitude;—a larger sum is expended than would be required by a legal provision for the poor, even were the English system, with all its imperfections, in full operation in that country. On the bare score of economy, therefore, I am persuaded that the measure I propose for Ireland would be one of the most beneficial that could be introduced. I have purposely avoided, on this occasion, advancing an argument, which I perhaps ought to have put prominently for- 814 ward—namely, the interests of the working classes of any description in this country, which are deeply implicated in a legislative provision for the poor of Ireland; as I cannot refrain from believing, notwithstanding all the arguments put forth to the contrary, that such a provision would raise and sustain the value of labour in that country, by increasing its demand; and that, consequently, the market of labour in this part of the empire, would, of necessity, be greatly benefitted. I never wished to throw the slightest obstacle in the way of the labouring classes of Ireland coming to this country in search of work; all I would ask is, that the same class, in both countries, should be placed upon the same footing. At present I cannot refrain from believing, that the want of a Poor's-law in Ireland is a grievous injury to the industrious classes of England, who find their labour interfered with, and its value lessened, by that influx of Irish workmen of every description, who are driven to these shores by mere want and destitution. But, Sir, it is not upon any local or interested views and considerations that I would rest my argument in behalf of a legislative provision for the poor of Ireland. The laws of God, of nature, and humanity, equally demand its establishment. The deep poverty and distress existing at all times in that country, deserted as it is by those who ought to be its protectors, and those occasional visitations of severe suffering, one of which is now afflicting the people, render that demand more urgent. The story of that country, for a long succession of generations, sufficiently shows that no other means of relief will be effectual. On any increase of the miseries of the inhabitants, and when distress rises to an insufferable height, some ostentatious, but inadequate attempts, may be made for its relief. But if you listen to selfish counsels, and institute no permanent provision for the poor, the history of past ages of suffering will be only repeated in succeeding ages Succeeding ages did I say? No! The continued neglect, and consequent injury, of a great and growing people, as sensible of resentment for inflicted wrongs as they are of more grateful impressions under a kinder treatment, will endanger the peace if not the integrity of the empire. At this moment the distresses the people suffer, the tolerated desertion of so large a portion of the wealthier classes, and the 815 absence of all legal provision for the poverty thus occasioned, are loosening the attachment which many of the inhabitants of that island had cherished for an intimate connection with this; and the Anti-unionists, it must be confessed, are hourly gaining strength, and their triumph would be the downfall of this great and ancient empire. A dark cloud of suffering has long hung over the west, where the angry elements are again heard from afar, and threatening that storm which may again shake the empire to its very foundations. The time is come when property must be taught that it has duties to perform as strictly and righteously due, as those it exacts from poverty. Politicians and economists may agree as they please, but their palliations and apologies will not much longer avail. Nor can the people of this country any longer bear that their fellow-subjects of Ireland should be deprived of their natural rights as human beings; that they should be habitually deserted in that condition of distress which is common to them, or in their severer calamities that they should be assisted by a begging-box called round the kingdom; that their miseries should be assuaged by the proceeds of a masked ball, and their dying agonies consoled by means of a bazaar or a ball. No; they demand a provision for them, a certain adequate and legislative provision; and in this, their demand, who shall say, that the voice of the people is not the voice of God? Sir, many other arguments in favour of the important proposition I am about to submit to the House press for utterance; but I have already, I fear, fatigued its attention. I shall, therefore, refrain from presenting to its consideration other facts and statements which I meant to have adduced. I am deeply sensible how imperfectly I have advocated the great cause which I have undertaken, and to which I had given my feeble, but sincere efforts, long before I had the honour of a seat in this House, and when the proposition had few advocates on either side of the water. Many of the strongest arguments in favour of Poor-laws, I have omitted to urge on this occasion, having, on more than one preceding opportunity, already presented them to the House: others, I am aware, I am entirely foregoing. But I feel confident that the cause will suffer nothing from this course, as others will follow me in this discussion, who, I am sure, will 816 more than supply those deficiencies of mine, which are the more apparent from the deep and permanent importance of the subject. I have purposely avoided submitting any plan to this House, being persuaded that the better course was, in the first instance, to gain, if possible, its sanction to the principle; that obtained, I should proceed to lay next under its consideration the outlines of a measure in the form of a Bill, founded on the principle of a compulsory provision, limited, at least for the present, in its extent, and discretionary relief, chiefly under the control of the principal contributors. But upon these points I shall not now enter. I shall now merely submit my Resolution, which I earnestly hope the House will affirm on this occasion. It must be obvious to all, that things in Ireland cannot long go on as they do at present; that, however argued against, and for a time successfully resisted, a provision for the poor of that country must be made. Let it then be made, while, in the sight of God and a grateful people, it shall have the merit of a voluntary act. Let it not be delayed till what ought to flow from the noblest attribute of humanity—disinterested benevolence, become the offspring of the basest and most grovelling feeling of the mind, fear. Lose not the grace of an act which, if promptly and willingly done, will kindle the gratitude of a nation; repay the wrongs of many generations, and join in closer and indissoluble bonds, the sister islands, which can only be prosperous and happy while united by affection as well as law. Disregard the suggestions of selfishness, and dare to be just and humane. Do justice, love mercy, and leave the event to Him who has constituted that sacred rule as the road to national, as well as individual happiness and prosperity. I beg leave, Sir, to move, in the form of a Resolution, that it is the opinion of this House, that it is expedient and necessary to constitute a legal provision for the Poor of Ireland."
§ Mr. Strickland
felt himself sorry to be obliged to oppose the motion of the hon. Member. He was impressed with the sincerity of the hon. Member who had so eloquently addressed the House. It really was impossible not to agree to much of the reasoning of the hon. Member. It brought to his recollection the observations made by a noble Lord (Lord Holland) 817 two years ago. That noble Lord said, it was easy to state the distresses of the poor, but difficult indeed to find a remedy. He could not go to the extent which he understood the hon. Member had recommended. He would willingly provide, by rates, for the aged, infirm, and sick. Such persons had a common claim on humanity. The proposition of the hon. Gentleman was, to introduce the Poor-laws of England into Ireland. [Mr. Sadler did not go to that extent.] He was happy to hear such was not the plan, because it involved great inconvenience. He had listened with great attention to find out what the exact plan of the hon. Member was. The Irish Members had a right to say, "Before you introduce the Poor-laws to Ireland, amend these laws as they apply to your own poor." The hon. Member complained of the abuse of the Poor-laws, and adverted to the commencement of those laws in the reign of Elizabeth. The Statute in that reign did not give relief to all. The intention was, to provide work for all who had not employment—all who had not a daily occupation—the aged, the blind, the sick, and infirm: but he could not bring his mind to consider sturdy labourers as the objects to whom the property of the community was to be given. The Poor-laws worked well during 180 years, but, about forty years ago, Mr. Pitt gave a new turn to the claims of paupers. That Minister had great influence over the Magistrates, and, unfortunately, his views on the Poor-laws were not sound. Mr. Pitt held, that every person reduced to pauperism had a claim on the property of the country. Mr. Whitbread, at a subsequent period, contended that it was impossible to make the funds of the nation applicable to all classes. He was of the same opinion, and even thought that parishes and local districts ought to have a discretionary power in distinguishing objects, and making provision for those only who appeared justly entitled to parochial relief, under the spirit and meaning of the Act of Elizabeth. As the Poor-laws were now administered, every man out of work might demand relief, and he was sure, nay, he defied contradiction, when he asserted, that to introduce laws founded on that principle into Ireland, would be the ruin of that country. Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act, for the appointment of Select Vestries or Committees to manage 818 the affairs of the poor, which was the only Act from which he thought some hints might be taken, had done much towards promoting a better administration of the Poor-laws. He considered it an excellent Act, as it gave the rate-payers a power over the application of the rates; but another Act, which Mr. Sturges Bourne introduced, namely, the Act for regulating votes in Vestry meetings, had cast considerable odium on the Select Vestries' Act. He certainly was of opinion that it would be impracticable, and most injurious if practicable, to introduce the English Poor-laws into Ireland. At the same time, a well regulated system of Poor-laws, adapted to Ireland, would be productive of most beneficial effects.
§ Colonel Torrens
concurred in the principles so ably stated by the hon. member for Yorkshire. He (Colonel Torrens) was decidedly favourable to the introduction of a modified system of Poor-laws into Ireland—a system by which the majority of rate-payers in each parish should voluntarily assess themselves for the relief of the impotent poor, permanently incapacitated from earning their own subsistence. But with respect to the other system, advocated by the hon. Member who introduced the Motion, he must venture to express his dissent. He had given his best attention to the plan of extending to able-bodied labourers, when wages were deficient, the right to compulsory relief; he had endeavoured to view this important question in all its bearings, and to trace it throughout all its consequences; and the result of his deliberation was, an increasing conviction of the danger of entering upon a path whose termination no man could see, and from whose windings and labyrinths there could be no retreat. He was surprised at the hasty and inconsiderate manner in which opinions upon important subjects were taken up and promulgated. The question of compulsory relief involved all the most important questions of political economy, of social government. The causes which determined the wages of labour, the profits of capital, the rent and value of land—all these were more or less involved in the wide and momentous question of establishing a Poor-rate in Ireland. Yet, strange as it might appear, the hon. Member advocated this measure without reference to the principles of that science of which it formed the most im- 819 portant portion. Nay, it was a fact—a fact which the next generation would scarcely credit—that hon. Members might be found denouncing and disclaiming the principles of political economy, in the same breath with which they proposed measures for improving the condition of the people. The labouring classes composed the great bulk of every community; and a country must be considered miserable or happy in proportion as these classes were well or ill supplied with the necessaries, comforts, and enjoyments, of life. The study of political economy teaches us the way in which labour may obtain an adequate reward; and, if it did not teach us this, it might, indeed, serve to gratify a merely speculative curiosity, but could scarcely conduce to any purposes of practical utility. It claims the peculiar attention of the benevolent and good, mainly because it explains the causes which depress and elevate wages, and thereby points out the means by which we may mitigate the distress and improve the condition of the great majority of mankind. Political economy is not, as has been erroneously stated, the appropriate or exclusive science of the Statesman and the legislator; it is emphatically the science of the people. The hon. Member had encumbered and overlaid this question with a multitude of details; and he would venture to suggest to the hon. Member, that as our knowledge of statistics was lamentably imperfect, no good could possibly be derived from conclusions drawn from imperfect and incorrect data. There was no very accurate or certain information as to the extent of the actual demand for labour, and as to the numbers of the employed, partly employed, and altogether unemployed, labourers in the several agricultural parishes of England. Now, if these facts, which are passing almost before our eyes, have not yet been sufficiently examined and ascertained, how uncertain, how vague, how utterly unworthy, of credence must be the multitudinous statistical details which the hon. Member has gathered from distant countries and remote ages? But, even if the hon. Member had established his alleged facts by sufficient evidence, still he would have performed only half his task. The faculty which accurately observes and records particular phenomena, is widely different from that which distinguishes between accidental 820 coincidence and necessary connection. Facts, however accurately ascertained, may be thrown together so as to present a chaos of heterogeneous and unconnected elements, confounding the imagination, rather than enlightening the understanding. Facts, accurately ascertained, form the only foundation upon which sound principles can be erected. But, in enabling us to judge of the future by the past, facts are of little value until they have been arranged and generalized, and subjected to that inductive process which extends individual experience throughout the infinitude of things, and imparts to human knowledge the character of science. For these considerations, he did not estimate very highly the hon. Member's multifarious statistical details, however laboriously acquired or eloquently displayed. Without entering a labyrinth, to which there appeared to be no clue, he would apply himself directly to the question before the House. The question of establishing Poor-laws in Ireland is an English, quite as much as it is an Irish, question. It must be obvious to the House, that in countries so contiguous and so intimately connected as England and Ireland, two different rates of wages, and two different states of the labouring population, could not permanently co-exist. One of the two events must necessarily occur. Either the Irish people must be raised to the level of the English, or the English degraded to the level of the Irish. There was no alternative. The condition of the working classes in England and in Scotland, could not be preserved from rapid deterioration while the stream of Irish labour inundated the British market, and while steam navigation opened a new and enlarging channel to swell its volume and accelerate its course. The time had now arrived, when it had become the imperative duty of every one whose station or whose knowledge gave him an influence in society, zealously to co-operate in ameliorating the condition of the people of Ireland, if not for the sake of Ireland, yet for the sake of England, and in order to prevent the manners and the religion of Britain from being swept away by the annual irruptions of the hordes of the west. With respect to the English part of this important question, he was prepared to shew, that the establishment of Poor-laws in Ireland could not prevent, or even 821 diminish, the influx of Irish, labourers into England. It might appear, upon a superficial view of the case, that, if the Irish poor had a legal provision in their own country, they would cease to seek for employment by migrating to this. It would, however, be found, on examination, that no such effect would be produced. So long as the wages of labour were higher in England than in Ireland, so long would Irish labourers come over to obtain such higher wages. But it was obviously impossible, that the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland should raise Irish wages to the English level. In Ireland, the wages of common labour were from 3s. to 8s. per week; in England they were from 8s. to 16s., being on the average 5s. a-week higher in England than in Ireland. There were, upon the lowest calculation, 1,000,000 labourers in Ireland; and to raise their wages 5s. a-week, so as to bring them up to the English level, would require an annual assessment to the amount of 13,000,000l. But the whole rental of Ireland did not amount to 13,000,000l. So that the confiscation of the whole property of the country, and applying the entire rental to the increase of wages, would be insufficient, without any increase of the existing population of Ireland, to prevent the influx of Irish labourers. It was obvious, however, that, if the whole rental of the country were given in aid of wages, the population of Ireland would increase much more rapidly than at present; and, in a very short period, the wages of an Irish labourer, even when increased by his dividend of the rental, would be no more than from 3s. to 8s. a-week. But the number of labourers receiving these low wages, and anxious to participate in the higher wages of England, would be doubled. Thus the establishment of Poor-laws in Ireland, instead of preventing, would increase, to an enormous extent, the influx of Irish labourers into England. Those English Members who regarded the establishment of a compulsory provision for the able-bodied poor of Ireland, as a means of protecting the working classes in England from the competition of Irish labour, would find, by woful experience, that the remedy would aggravate the disease. Having disposed of the English part of the discussion, and endeavoured to show, that the English labourer could neither derive any advantage, nor escape from any evil, 822 by the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, he would proceed to consider this important subject, not in relationi to English interests, but purely as an Irish question. The state of Ireland was appalling. In endeavouring to apply an appropriate remedy for the misery of that country, it was essential to ascertain its causes and its character. Some enlightened friends of Ireland contended, that that country was in a state of decided advancement and improvement—that tillage was advancing, better cottages were erected, better agricultural implements were introduced, the exports and imports continued to increase, and all the symptoms of growing wealth were exhibited. But, during this process, the misery of the people increased. Famine stalked in the midst of plenty. Thousands and tens of thousands were perishing from the face of the earth; and what boots it to a famished people,That while they sink, without one arm to save, The country blooms a garden and a grave.Some extensive and effectual measure of relief must be applied—and immediately applied. The only question which the House had to consider was, whether the measure proposed by the hon. Member for adoption, was calculated to remove or to mitigate the evils we deplore. He objected to instituting a legal and permanent provision for the destitute and suffering poor of Ireland, from the conviction that this species of provision, instead of relieving and removing, would aggravate and perpetuate the misery of that country. It was acknowledged, that the population of Ireland had rapidly increased, and that it was still rapidly increasing; and it could not be denied, that as long as the supply of subsistence for them was increased by compulsory assessments upon property, the progress of population in Ireland would be accelerated. At no distant period the whole rental of the country would be inadequate to the maintenance of those for whose labour there was no demand. Two shillings in the pound, or ten per cent upon rent and profit, to be levied by compulsory assessment, and distributed to those who could not obtain adequate wages, would undoubtedly afford immediate relief, but, unfortunately, it would be of short duration. As giving a tenth of the incomes derived from rent and profit in aid of the incomes derived from wages, could have no con- 823 ceivable tendency to diminish the number of births, or increase the number of deaths, the people would continue to breed up to the extreme limits of the most scanty subsistence; and want and misery would inevitably return. If, on witnessing this renewal of distress, the compulsory assessments were raised from ten to twenty per cent upon rents and profits, the same process would be repeated—temporary relief would be again afforded, and permanent distress would again return. If thirty, forty, fifty—nay, if 100 per cent were assessed upon the landed proprietors and capitalists, and the whole amount, both of rents and profits, given in aid of wages, the process and the result, with respect to the labouring class, would be precisely as before. But, although this system, which distributed amongst the mass of the people not only all the rent of land, but also all the profit of capital, could afford no permanent relief to the working classes, it would inflict the greatest injury and degradation upon the whole community. In the first place, when a country possessed, in the form of rent and profit, a considerable surplus revenue beyond what was necessary for the subsistence of the population, it might, when a deficient harvest occurred, export a portion of its superfluities and luxuries in exchange for food; and thus avert the miseries of famine. But when, by means of compulsory assessments, rent and profit, instead of existing as a net surplus revenue, were given in aid of wages; when the people (as must inevitably be the case, should the principle of population be uncontrolled), breed up to the point at which the whole revenue of the country is absorbed in mere subsistence, then there could not be, by any possibility, any surplus articles for exportation. The universal poverty of the country must render the purchase of foreign corn or other food impracticable; and every deficient crop must lead inevitably to hopeless and unmitigated famine. In the second place, this partition of rent and profit amongst the people would speedily destroy all leisure, would put a stop to every species of intellectual culture, and would confine each and all to the business of providing for merely animal wants. Not a single mind would be left to cultivate the field of thought; the progress of knowledge would be arrested; nay, so far from the human mind being, under 824 such circumstances, capable of further advances, the attainments already achieved would speedily be lost; arts, literature, and science, would be no more; and the darkest barbarism return. This state of hopeless misery and universal degradation would be the natural and the inevitable result of giving the unemployed poor a compulsory relief from the landed capital of the country, supposing such right were allowed to operate freely and unchecked. The advocates for Poor-laws, established on the principle of granting to the people a right to compulsory relief, contended that such rights would not be allowed to operate so as to increase the population, but, on the contrary, would be so controlled and modified as actually to check and control the principle of population. It is maintained, that the necessity of providing for the wants of the people would cause the landed proprietors to exert their power to prevent the increase of the people, and to keep the supply of labour within the limits of the demand. But what did this doctrine involve? It involved one of two things—either a feudal system, under which the proprietors of the soil should become irresponsible tyrants, and the people abject and passive slaves, or else an agrarian system, under which the people at large would be co-proprietors of the land, contesting with its nominal owners the distribution of the produce. Twenty years back, and this feudal system would be admitted to be impracticable; to pursue the agrarian would bring us to the law of the strongest—to a state of nature—toThe good old rule, the simple plan, That he should take who had the power, And he should keep who can.If the hon. Member would confine his proposition to introducing into Ireland such a system of Poor laws, as would leave it in the hands of the majority of the rate-payers to levy a poor-rate for the support of the blind, the impotent, and those permanently incapable of labour, he would give such a proposition his support; but when the hon. Member proposed to extend his principle to the whole of the population, he would take the liberty to tell him, that it would have the effect of abrogating the rights of property, and thereby destroy all the motives which stimulated to the production of wealth, and dry up the very sources whence charity was derived. If they thus threw all into common, who 825 would be found to cultivate the soil? Who would create the produce whence all was derived? The system thus engendered would be, in his opinion, destructive of the principles of civilization—productive industry would cease, and the land be thrown back into a desert state. He sincerely admired the benevolence and charity of the hon. Member who brought forward this Resolution; but he would venture to remind him, that benevolence and charity, when not under the guidance of economical science, might become the involuntary instruments of mischief, aggravating the evils they endeavoured to remove, and resembling in their effects those splendid but baleful meteors, which shed a deceitful lustre on the disorder they created.
§ Mr. George Robinson
though, tthat the two preceding speakers had totally failed to answer the arguments of the hon. Mover of the Resolution. He was inclined to agree with the proposition of that Gentleman, and he thought, that if the House would affirm it, they should find no insuperable difficulties to obstruct them in applying a remedy. From his own observations he could bear testimony to the frugality and industry of the Irish labourers. Witness their annual migrations, which were occasioned by nothing but the desire to obtain employment. Whatever other difficulties might be found in the application of remedies to the distresses of Ireland, none would originate from the habits or dispositions of the labourers themselves. Nothing but the existence of the Poor-laws, with all their evils, could have saved this country from being now in the state in which Ireland was placed. He thought the exertions of his hon. friend on this subject highly praiseworthy, and he earnestly exhorted him to persevere, fully believing that he would reap, at no distant period, the fruits of his benevolent labours.
§ Lord Althorp
wished to address a few words to the House on this important subject, The question which had been started by the hon. Gentleman opposite was one of extreme difficulty, and deserving of the most serious consideration of his Majesty's Government and of the Legislature. The hon. Member had given a true account of the condition of Ireland. He had truly stated, not only that great distress prevailed at present in that country, but that extreme distress—(and, he 826 might almost say, pestilence occasioned by it)—prevailed there periodically. He was sorry, indeed, that he was not able, from his own knowledge, to advance the least contradiction of the hon. Gentleman's statement. But he must at the same time remind the House, that on this and other subjects, calculated to excite greatly the feelings of the people, there was a great liability to exaggeration; if not as to the extent or degree of the distress, at least as to its progress; and although it was quite true, that at the present moment Ireland was in a state of very great distress, yet that country was, on the whole, in the progress of improvement. He thought its condition would appear, upon calm investigation, to be now much better than it usually was. At the same time, that comparative prosperity supplied no reason why they should not look to the cause of the existing distress, with a strong wish to relieve it; or why they should not apply their whole minds to the discovery of the proper remedy. But to exaggerate the nature and extent of the distress could in no way contribute to its relief. More than one hon. Gentleman had truly stated, that one of the causes, indeed the main cause, of all the distress, was the want of profitable employment for labour. In that statement he fully concurred; and it seemed to him to be indubitable, that if by any means the House could create such employment, it would at once remove the distress. But he confessed that he had his doubts respecting the adequacy of the hon. Gentleman's own plans, who, although he acknowledged that the Poor-law system of England was unfit for Ireland, yet stated his object to be, the relieving of all those who could not find profitable employment for themselves. How did the hon. Gentleman suppose that their compulsory support without employment could afford the means of employing them profitably? To him it seemed extremely doubtful, that the measures intended to be proposed by the hon. Gentleman would tend much to relieve the present distress of Ireland. There was, in fact, in that country already a large provision for the destitute part of the population. There were in most parts of that country, hospitals and other institutions for the relief of the distressed. There were, in effect, instruments by which a most extensive, indeed an adequate, relief could be applied. He believed that the Legislature might avail itself of the means afforded by such insti- 827 tutions, without having recourse to any thing like the Poor-laws of England. It was true that the hon. Gentleman only called on the House to affirm a general proposition; but it was impossible to accede to that proposition without knowing the details of the plan which was afterwards to be submitted to the House. If the House acceded to the Resolution at present before it, without having first ascertained that it could command the means of removing the distress, it would give rise to an opinion in Ireland that systematic relief had been determined on: and if afterwards it should appear, that the plan yet to be proposed by the hon. Gentleman was not satisfactory, the Legislature would have excited hopes in that country which never could be realised. It had been said by the Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Robinson), that the hon. Mover was, by his perseverance upon that subject, gaining the confidence of the public; and he (Lord Althorp) was ready to admit, that the hon. Gentleman was shaking the opinions of many who before were decidedly hostile to the introduction of any system of Poor-laws into Ireland. Although that was certainly the case, and he had himself seen many instances of change of opinion, yet he had met with no defined plan amongst all the schemes that had been proposed, which could be expected to lead to the permanent benefit of the country. It was his opinion, that the institution of Poor-laws in Ireland would give an immediate relief; but that it would ultimately preserve that country from the recurrence of the present evils he very much doubted. He thought, therefore, that it would be very injudicious, to relieve Ireland (and England also, he would say) from difficulties (which equally oppress both) by a measure which would subject them to future evils of greater malignity. They had been referred to the prosperous condition in which England continued for so long a period under the operation of the Poor-laws; but he would ask, what was it that for so long a time preserved the country from many evils, which were now felt with extreme force? It was that feeling of honour and independence which prevailed amongst the labouring classes, checking them from applying for parish relief, and which the alterations of the currency and the increasing scarcity of the means of subsistence had, at length, alarmingly diminished or almost destroyed. 828 That high spirit of independence having been broken down, the Poor-laws became more detrimental in their operation than formerly. But he would put it to the hon. Gentleman, whether there was at present in Ireland that high feeling of independence amongst the labouring classes, which would lead those people to think, that application for relief under the Poor-laws was a degradation? But if that feeling did not exist in great strength at the time of the introduction of those laws into Ireland, it would be very difficult to prevent them from leading to very great evils. Besides, the hon. Gentleman seemed entirely to overlook the difficulty of finding in Ireland the machinery for carrying such laws into effect. Could there be found in the several parishes of Ireland, considering the present state of education in that country, persons capable of executing the important trust which must be committed to those who had to act Under those laws? Of all the numerous witnesses who were examined before the Committee of Inquiry into the state of the Poor in Ireland, although so many were favourable to the introduction of Poor-laws, only one could point out a means of finding machinery to put such laws in operation. Well, what was the opinion of that witness? Why, that there must be a Government office in every parish. Now, if the plan of the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution could only be carried into effect by Government interference in every parish of Ireland, he should not give it his support, until the certainty of the advantages expected from that plan was fully established. He was not, however, disposed to give a direct negative to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman, who had often kindly consented to put it off from day to day, for the purpose of accommodating him; and he, therefore, much regretted that the details of the plan were not explained to the House at the same time that the Resolution, in some respect binding them to it, was proposed. He should, therefore, adopt the middle course, by moving the previous question.
§ Mr. John Weyland
was of opinion, that if once adequate employment were provided for the Irish people, they would not relapse into pauperism. If the capital of that country were expended at home, it would be sufficient to furnish ample employment for the people; and it was his opinion that the Poor-laws would lead to 829 that result. If the Irish gentry would of themselves employ their capital in the improvement of the country, there would be no occasion for Poor-laws. As they would not do so of themselves, means ought to be used for compelling or inducing them to it. If the Poor-laws were accompanied by evils such as had been attributed to them, the gentlemen of Ireland had now before them the experience of England, from which they could learn how those evils were brought on; and the experience of Scotland, which might show them how the evils were to be avoided. If they would take advantage of these examples, there need be no fear for the result.
said, that, between the application of Poor-laws to large towns and to agricultural districts, there was a great distinction. In a city like Dublin, many of the evils of an agrarian rate would scarcely arise. There would be found, in the first place, a committee of unpaid, of diligent, and disinterested management—the operation apprehended upon wages and rents would not, in any large degree, be produced. The assessment might be compulsory, but relief might be discretionary; and that relief would, in all cases, be so small, as not to afford incentives to improvidence. The minimum of subsistence would be the maximum of aid. Besides, if the experiment failed, the Legislature might retrace its steps—the mischief would not be irremediable, for the Mendicity Association might be restored to its present amiable, but, he was sorry to be obliged to add, inefficient, relation to the public. In Dublin, then, let the tentative process begin. Dublin had petitioned for the power of relieving pauperism from want, and benevolence from the burthen of its exclusive sustainment. This demand had originated from the failure of the Association. Even if it had succeeded, he should desire to put an end to a system by which charity was mulcted, while parsimonious opulence escaped from contribution. The tax which pity levied on its slender resources enabled insensibility to hug itself in the ignominious consciousness of its privilege, and gave a base immunity to men without a heart. He would, he owned, disturb the sordid luxuries of men who, in the midst of the public scorn, turned their self-applauding contemplation to their chests of gold. But the Society to which he had referred had failed, and it would be vain to argue the 830 question upon an hypothesis of its success. If private benevolence could support its weight, it were well; but when it sunk beneath it, it was but reasonable (if he night borrow an illustration from a source so sacred) to give it an auxiliary, and enable it to bear the burthen which it had no longer strength sufficient to sustain. Should the Legislature refuse to extend to the Dublin vestries the right of making an assessment in aid of the Mendicity Association, it must close its gates on 4,000 paupers, and pour whole shoals of beggary, with all its worst accompaniments of loathsomeness, both moral and physical, into the public streets. The institution of a rate in the Irish metropolis would prevent this serious evil—it would equalize contribution—would be a resource to indigence and to benevolence—it would be guarded from abuse by the vigilance of good and kindly men, and would be a precedent for adoption by its success, or, if it should unhappily fail, would dispose, by the evidence of experiment, of the entire question, by furnishing an example which would not only deter from imitation, but put to these speculations for the improvement of Ireland, a salutary end. With respect to the general question, it was to be lamented, that the Committee on the state of the poor of Ireland did not report on what seemed to be the essence and marrow of the matter which was referred to their consideration. It must be confessed, however, that they had done important service, by publishing so large a body of valuable testimony. The two witnesses most conspicuous were Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Doyle, who, dissenting in opinion, coincided in humanity, vied with each other in lofty faculty and in pure emotion—differed in dogma, but agreed in benevolence, and exhibited such a union of truly Christian attributes, that they should reconcile the two religions, of which they are the ornaments, and induce Rome to forgive Geneva, and Geneva to pardon Rome. When men so distinguished took views so opposite, it was difficult to arrive at a conclusion free from doubt. He thought, however, that Dr. Doyle must be allowed to have, as a witness, this signal advantage—he spoke of what he had seen; the other of what he had heard. Dr. Chalmers talked of human nature; Dr. Doyle of its peculiar modification in his own country. Dr. Chalmers was afraid of congeal- 831 ing the pure sources of gratuitous benevolence. He did not know, that in the heights of society in Ireland, the moral temperature was already below the freezing-point, and that there was a crust of ice upon the fountain of sympathy, which charity could not melt, but which the law, perhaps, might break. He owned, that he thought it a paradox in others to maintain misery in order to keep kindliness in practice, and to cultivate the retired sensibility at the cost of so much woe. It was sufficient to look at Ireland, in order to find a painful answer to those reasonings, where the premises were so amiable, and the conclusion was so practically cruel. To a political economist he would paint an Irish hovel; he would open the door, and show him enough to make him shudder and confute him. There were two great features of dissimilarity between Ireland and almost every other country, which ought to be noted, before any inference was drawn from comparison. Arthur Young, fifty years ago, and Malthus, five years ago, observed, that 'the gentry in Ireland have no mercy for the poor.' The law that made slaves of one caste, and tyrants of the other, demoralized both: it sent the people to roll and wallow in the depths of poverty, while it petrified the feelings of the aristocracy, and gave to power an ossification of the heart. It might be said, "Time will cure all this." Ay; but when would the moral Aurora arise? A generation must be laid in the grave, and the field of Irish prosperity must be sought in the church-yards of Ireland. Independently of the general hard-heartedness produced by long and vitiating misrule, Ireland (it was to be recollected) was the island of absentees. Her life-blood was drained away; millions of her acres poured their produce into English harbours, and to the laborious peasant, the sweat of whose brow does not earn his bread, not one ear of all that golden harvest was ever destined to return. The great Lords of England had principalities in Ireland. They never saw the country; or, if they did, their "angel visits" were paid on those days, so auspicious to the prosperity of their tenants—the 29th of September, and the 25th of March. There was another class of proprietors, and they were still worse—the lesser and vagrant aristocracy of Ireland herself, who looked upon their country as a mere receptable of vulgar provinciality 832 —who preferred being insignificant in London, to being useful and respectable in Dublin; or who in France or Italy vilified their country in all the artifices of accent with which they vainly endeavoured to disguise the original raciness of a genuine Irish intonation. If a poor-law could reach the proud Saxon, who neglected, or the paltry Irishman who despised, the country that owed him a return of scorn, it would confer a benefit. It were well if Ireland could stop, in transitu, some portion at least of the treasure that was poured into patrician coffers; and as to the continental itinerists who would be compelled to return, to prevent their annihilation, a poor-law would have the merit of banishing them to their country, and sentencing them to home. These peculiar incidents to Ireland belong to her gentry; but it should not be forgotten, that the Legislature have, in the infliction of much misery, entered with them into a disastrous co-operation. The "clearing system was sent like a chariot with two scythes fastened to its wheels by the law itself (the Subletting Act, and the Disfranchisement Bill), to mow the people down. He should not discuss the abstract propriety of preventing farms from being broken into fragments, but he complained, and common feeling complained, that no measures of contemporaneous counteraction were provided—that no issue was afforded, even by emigration, for the ejected tenantry, but that thousands upon thousands were driven from the fields where they were born, and hoped to die, without supplying them with a place of refuge in the forests of Canada, or even in the blasted wilds of Australian sterility. But instead of providing this resource, a proceeding was adopted, which ought to make the perpetrators and the participators shudder. A scene of greater affliction was not to be found in the annals of human sorrow. Whole masses of the people were turned out, with the world before them, and with Providence for their guide. Old decrepit men, children scarcely able to crawl, women almost in a state of nudity, and men with brawny arms, and famished faces, went forth in droves of destitution. Some lay down in ditches to die; others raised hovels for the purposes of casual mendicity on the brow of some hill in the public way; some retreated to excavations in bogs, and hewed themselves out a habitation in a morass. But 833 the greater part found their way into the obscure lanes and alleys of ruined districts in large cities—they swarmed in human clusters in garrets and in vaults; if you looked up, you saw famine glaring from a sashless window in the attics of some deserted house; and if you looked down, you beheld it in a cellar, seated upon its bed of short and pestilential straw. There was no exaggeration in this. The Committee report that the ejected tenantry suffered affliction which it was not in the power of language to describe. But this was called a state of transition. Call it pestilence, famine, death, and men would tremble; but call it transition—envelop it in the technical vocabulary of fiscal science, and a Directory of economists will speak of it with the tranquillity with which a French philosopher would have expatiated on the process of regeneration which his country was undergoing, through the sanguinary celerity of the guillotine. But it was only justice to add, that at last men's eyes and hearts were opened. It was admitted, that something must be done to alleviate those dreadful sufferings: science had relented—political economy had been touched—algebra was giving way to pity—and theorists and speculators were no longer heard, amidst the cries of a nation that stretches forth her hands for food.
after complimenting the hon. and learned Gentleman upon the energy and eloquence with which he supported the views which he took of the very important subject which had that night been brought under the consideration of the House, said, that that hon. and learned Gentleman, following an example set him in various quarters, had indulged in the customary exaggeration with which the causes were generally described from which the evils so much complained of were said to have sprung. In his conscience he believed if there was one subject, more than another, upon which exaggeration was frequent, it was on that single subject—the distress in Ireland, arising from the operation of the Subletting Act. He had taken the pains to make some inquiries upon that matter, and the result of those inquiries did not lead him to think, that any thing like the mischiefs attributed to the Subletting Act arose from that cause; nay, he could not find a single case wherein the process of ejectment was proceeded on under 834 that Act. There were occurrences in Ireland, which led to difficulty and distress; but they neither proceeded from, nor were they assisted by, the Subletting Act. Setting aside, however, those considerations, he would come to the topics which he chiefly rose for the purpose of noticing. The first of these was the proposition for a compulsory rate upon the inhabitants of Dublin. A petition had been that morning put into his hands, signed by the gentleman who held the office of Lord Mayor of Dublin, which petition he had signed on behalf of a public meeting, at which he presided. That petition prayed for the enactment of Poor-laws for ireland, and, so far as it went, proved that the desire for that species of provision was every day gaining ground in Ireland. It had been said, with respect to Dublin, that there existed in that city, as there must in every city, to a greater or less degree, the machinery for carrying into effect a system of Poor-laws; but surely the case of the Mendicity Society affording nothing like an experiment which could warrant the introduction of a system of Poor-laws into that city; and for this reason, that the conductors of the Mendicity Society felt that their funds were circumscribed, and that they did not possess an unlimited command over the purses of their fellow-citizens, such as a compulsory rate would impart to the Overseers of the poor, or whoever might have the management of those affairs. The rate upon the city of Dublin, or Cork, Limerick, or Belfast, might be all very well if it carried with it any security that the system would go no further; for he felt with all the hon. Members who had spoken upon the subject, that nothing could be more equitable than that the land should be made to support the poor, provided that, in securing to them the means of subsistence, worse evils than the former distress were not introduced. The proposition of the hon. Mover was one entitled to the most serious consideration, but he thought it dangerous for the House to pledge itself to any opinion, unless it was prepared to adopt some specific plan, calculated to give relief to the people of Ireland, without carrying in the train of that relief a body of evils greater than those removed. Suppose there were a compulsory assessment in any or all of the principal towns in Ireland, would not the population of the country be instantly driven to 835 the garrets and the cellars of the city, so soon as the mere act of inhabitancy could procure them gratuitous relief? It was said by an hon. Gentleman near him, that 1½d. a day was sufficient for the maintenance of persons in Ireland, as the Mendicity Society could support a considerable portion of those under their care for that sum; but, as he said before, the proceedings of the Mendicity Society proved nothing, for they had not the unlimited power of assessing their fellow-citizens. He would request his hon. and learned friend to look at what might be the probable results of a compulsory assessment. Let them look to the evidence given with respect to the Houses of Industry in Cork and Dublin. The introduction of a compulsory assessment would be nothing less than the commencement of a system of which no man could see the termination. It was letting in the narrow end of the wedge, with every probability that it would speedily be driven home. On the abstract question of the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland, he was not prepared to give any opinion, but, for God's sake, if the House were determined on the adoption of them, let it be done with their eyes open—let them not begin by exciting expectations which they could not gratify—let them not make an advance without the possibility of receding, and let them not begin a system which might lead God knew where. He especially objected to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite, on the ground that it went to pledge the House to a declaration which meant any thing or nothing. It might be understood to signify the making a provision for the blind, the lame, or the impotent; but soon there might be found a plausible complaint, that the able-bodied pauper was not provided for. There were no two propositions more distinct, or more capable of being supported upon different grounds, than were those to which he had thus alluded. He, therefore, not only on account of the House, but on account of the people of Ireland, must refuse his assent to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite. Nothing could be more dangerous than to commence a system of so much importance, unless they were able to follow it up. Nothing could be more inconsistent with the most obvious dictates of prudence, than to enter, without due consideration, upon a course from 836 which there was no escape. If the hon. Gentleman were prepared to introduce any Bill, he had no doubt it would receive the most attentive consideration of the House. He was anxious, that the hon. Member should bring forward some specific measure, for then an opportunity would be afforded of judging what the hon. Gentleman's views were, and what were the means by which he proposed to carry them into effect; but at present the House and the country were left utterly in the dark. He could not conclude without, however, expressing his persuasion, that an opinion in favour of Poor-laws was every day gaining ground in Ireland, and that to an extent which no Government could or ought to oppose.
§ Mr. Leader,
in common with every friend to humanity and to the relief of the Irish poor, returned the hon. member for Aldborough his sincere thanks for his generous and unceasing exertions, both within and without, the House, to rouse the attention of the British public to the alarming state and condition of the poor of Ireland. His hon. friend commenced his speech by regretting his incompetency to do adequate justice to so important a question; but his hon. friend had, with the greatest prudence and discretion, avoided every political or party topic which could excite contrariety of opinion, and had given weight to his most important undertaking by the excellence of his remarks. His hon. friend had, by his writings and his speeches, given a powerful aid and impulse to the question of the relief of the people of Ireland; unfortunately, the people of Ireland were the poor of Ireland, and he did not entertain a particle of doubt, be the disposition to elude and postpone this great question what it might, that it would be impossible to prevent the condition of the Irish people from forcing itself on the consideration of the country, and becoming, after the Reform Bill, one of the questions of the greatest magnitude and importance which could occupy the attention of Parliament, and the people of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord Althorp) commenced his address to the House by stating, that he lamented as much as any person that "distress should exist in Ireland," but the noble Lord believed, that those who undertook to describe that distress, had greatly overstated and exaggerated the extent of it. 837 He had great respect for the manly character of the noble Lord, and great confidence in his political integrity, but he assured the noble Lord, although he might hope to delude himself into the belief, that the distress of Ireland was exaggerated and misrepresented, that he had never heard or read any description of the state of the Irish poor which exceeded what was fairly deducible from their intolerable sufferings. Could he, who, in the city of Limerick, an ancient and opulent city, lately saw the King's garrison drawn up against the King's people—who saw that garrison, with charged bayonets, assailed by women who had sold their apparel, and covered with what scarce deserved the name of raiment—who saw these women approach the very bayonets of the troops, and hold up their starving and almost naked infants—could he, who in the noonday saw that city sacked, and every store rifled and plundered of the provisions which had been collected for export—could he remain silent, and hear it stated, from the highest authority, that the distress of Ireland was exaggerated and over-stated? When the recollection of those heart-rending and afflicting scenes, and of many others of a similar description, crowded on his mind, knowing that such scenes were of frequent recurrence, he must be permitted to express to the noble Lord his fears that persons possessed his confidence, who underrated the distresses of the Irish people, and who endeavoured to excuse either their indifference or incompetence to tranquillize Ireland, by representing its distress to be over-coloured and exaggerated. Such men were not friends to Government. Since he had had a seat in the House, knowing that famine impended over a large district of the west of Ireland, and knowing that a frightful anarchy threatened the south of Ireland in October last, of which he had apprized the Government before these calamities occurred, he had continually warned the Government to take proper and precautionary measures to avert those misfortunes. He had no doubt but the King's Government thought, and were consoled by thinking, that the representations of the distress of the country and the danger to the public peace, were greatly exaggerated. The noble Lord might have sincerely believed so; but the famine came on, and it required the humanity of Englishmen to mitigate its horrors by pri- 838 vate subscriptions. The insurrection in Clare followed, and was not suppressed without a melancholy sacrifice of human life, and considerable expenditure. The noble Lord admitted, that misfortunes of this kind occurred in Ireland; but that, after all, they were not frequent nor of long duration; but famine and insurrection were too frequent in Ireland—at one time they appeared in Limerick, at another along the entire south and west of Ireland. Last year, the city he had the honour to represent, and the inland counties of Ireland, were so distressed, that manufacturers and their families, once carrying on a prosperous trade in the city of Kilkenny, were glad to obtain work on the roads as day-labourers; and even that boon, from deficiency of funds, was only possible to be procured three days in the week. The next topic to which the noble Lord referred, was his gratification at the improvement which had taken place in the general condition of Ireland. The gratification which the noble Lord felt at the improvement of Ireland, consoled him for any sorrow for the distress of the people of Ireland. He admitted, like every other country in Europe, that Ireland had advanced in civilization and wealth, but he denied, that Ireland was an improving country; on the contrary, it was rapidly declining, and there was not in the world a rural population with greater claim for legislative relief and protection, than the Irish peasantry. It was matter of history, that until 1778, the Catholics, the great body of the people of Ireland, could not occupy nor possess land, and the country was a desert—the clergy were paupers—and the gentry almost mendicants on their own estates—and the British Government was maintained in Ireland by remittances from the British Treasury. Such was the state of Ireland before 1778—now, what is the claim of the rural peasantry of Ireland? Why, with a patience of labour unparalleled in the history of the world, submitting to privations which appal humanity, with a resignation creditable to their holy religion, they produced ten millions annually of rental for landlords; for clergy of all persuasions, they produced nearly three millions annually; for taxes payable in Ireland, and payable on exciseable articles in England, before exported to Ireland, four millions annually; and for local taxation, one million annually; and a 839 variety of other smaller charges—all these were produced by the toil and industry of the Irish peasant, who was allowed to have little or nothing for himself. Was it to be endured that men who were the producers of everything were to be the consumers of nothing? Were landlords, clergy, hundreds of thousands supported by taxes, to be all fed and clothed, and the great body of the people to be destitute and nearly naked? He admitted, that Ireland had improved, but since 1815, improvement had been suspended, and Ireland was not in an improving state at present; on the contrary, she was in a rapidly declining state; and without wailing to follow his excellent friend, the gallant Member (Colonel Torrens), through his elaborate arguments on political economy, without discussing the effects of change of currency or transition—he was ready to prove, from the clearest evidence, that no people who had done so much for others, had done so little for themselves as the people of Ireland. It was triumphantly alleged, that a people could not do a great deal for others, without doing a great deal also for themselves; but the Irish, after being reduced to almost famine allowance, exported two millions of quarters of corn, meal, and flour. That was the labour of eight millions of people; and the result of the agricultural employment of the Irish nation. Knowing that the linen manufacture had migrated from the Irish cottage to the English factory, that the provision trade and the export of cattle gave little in the way of employment; and knowing, also, that corn, linen, cattle and provisions, were the chief resources of Ireland, he could assert, that there was very little employment for the people of Ireland. There was no alternative but reducing the charges on the people, which amounted to little less than twenty million pounds annually; and which pressed so heavily on agriculture; or, with the most prompt and intrepid resolution, the Government ought to open every new avenue to agricultural improvement, assist the people by opening new roads, forming new canals and harbours; it ought to remove every possible local tax and burthen, to lighten the duties on timber, and on articles which, in a naked country like Ireland, would assist in sheltering the houseless poor, and wanting which, were insuperable impediments to civilization and comfort. Ire- 840 land, from 1778 to 1815, did improve; but she was no longer an improving country, and the condition of the people was deteriorating rather than improving. There was a great difference between improving the condition of the landlords, by increasing the export of cattle and provisions, and improving the comfort and happiness of the people. Looking at the revenue since 1820, he found, that it had been in that interval stationary; and he had the official documents in his hand to prove it. The political economists will not admit the increase of imports and exports to be any criterion of the increased comforts and improvement of the condition of the people, and they call for other proof. He was prepared, too, with the proof of the rapidly declining condition of the Irish people. In the first place, the duties of the Excise and Customs were falling off, and in the city of Dublin with a rapidity which was quite alarming to every Irishman interested in the prosperity and stability of the metropolis of his country. The—
He was anxious to dispel those delusions of exaggerated distress, and of Ireland being an improving country; and whilst such notions filled the mind of our rulers, they threatened the prosperity and the peace of Ireland. It appeared from "A comparative view of the quantities of several articles of luxuries retained for home consumption in Ireland, in the years 1800,1830," which he held in his hand that the—
£ Customs of the port of Dublin in 1821, were 941,837 Customs of the port of Dublin in 1821, were in 1830 669,500 Excise duties of Dublin in 1821 650,580 Excise duties of Dublin in 1830 462,698
while the consumption was, of—
Population of Ireland in 1800 was 5,000,000 Population of Ireland in 1830 was 8,000,000
He had thus taken eight exciseable articles, what was the result? Why, that with a population in 1800, consisting of 5,000,000, increased in 1830 to above 8,000,000, the quantity of exciseable articles in Ireland was diminished, instead of being increased; so that, with an in- 841 creasing population, there was a decreasing consumption of exciseable articles. Was not that evidence as conclusive as any which could be produced, of the deteriorated condition of the people of Ireland? Could any Cabinet repose in confidence in the affections of the people, until this state of things was effectually reformed? Those who said, that the distress of Ireland was exaggerated, rested upon assertion—but he, who contended that those assertions were erroneous, produced his proofs in confirmation of his statement. Gentlemen might be displeased to hear these representations of the fallen condition and increasing distress of Ireland; but he owed it to his constituents to leave no effort untried, to make their condition known. He had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the state and condition of Ireland—its trade, its agriculture, its finances, its manufactures, and its ability to increase its stock of national wealth—and he should ever feel it his duty to throw all his information on those subjects frankly and honestly before the House, not entertaining the least doubt but that other Gentlemen would follow his example, and bring irresistible and irrefragable proofs, that the distress of Ireland was great and overwhelming. But, said the noble Lord in reply to his excellent friend (the member for Aldborough), supposing your opinions of distress well founded—and supposing Ireland to be in a deteriorating state—you have no plan—you come forward with no project for improving the condition of the people; a resolution only holds out hopes which may not be realized, and consequently embitters distress by inflaming discontent. He was one of those practical men who build any superstructure they wish to erect on old foundations; and although he knew the two churches bore with deadly pressure on the industry of Ireland—although the taxes fell heavily on the reduced means of the country—yet, looking for present and immediate relief, he was disposed to entertain the proposition of the hon. member for Aldborough, and for inquiring as to the best mode of relieving the people of Ireland, If Poor-laws were inadmissible, would any one argue that other modes might not suggest themselves when that was the only subject for consideration and discussion? For himself he must admit, after the mode in which the noble Lord (Lord Althorp) had 842 met the question, he was not sanguine in his hopes, that public opinion had yet operated sufficiently on the understanding of the Legislature. It was his practice, if he could not succeed to the fullest extent of his wishes, to be very grateful for any assistance which might relieve his countrymen, without allocating the estates of the first eighteen Irish sees that drop in, to be assumed by the State, and vested in Commissioners in trust, to manage the property to the best advantage, and thereby obtaining a revenue of 300,000l. or 400,000l. a-year, for the relief of the poor of Ireland. Much might be done to give immediate relief to the people, without proceeding to that extremity. He did not look to the British Treasury, nor to the Irish Church, for relief for the Irish poor, because that would be in vain; but although, in the present state and condition of Ireland, indiscriminate direct taxation upon the productive industry of the country in the shape of poor-rates might not be at once assented to, he relied with confidence on the Legislature adopting measures which, without pressure upon the public finances, might apply the existing funds to meet the occasions of scarcity and the peculiar periods of want of employment—which might place a loan-fund of adequate amount under the management of the Loan Commissioners, to be permanently applied under their direction to public works, so as to secure the repayment of the interest by regulated instalments, to the Consolidated Fund; and which might apply a direct and effectual remedy to absenteeism, the proximate and admitted cause of a great portion of those mischiefs which affect the moral and political condition of Ireland. In his opinion it would be expedient and just, that the Lord Lieutenant for the time being should be empowered, at periods of scarcity and want of employment, to order the execution of all the presentments granted at the Assizes next immediately preceding, in any county or province, or simultaneously in the whole of Ireland, by cash payments; and that the funds to be applied thereto, should be the current balance in the respective treasurers' hands, and the current balance of the public account with the Bank of Ireland, and that such advances issued from the current quarter should be covered and reimbursed by the respective treasurers remitting the levies, as collected, to the Bank of Ireland, to the respective 843 amounts of the issues thus made. In order to promote local employment, it would be proper that an assessment should be imposed of 6d. in the pound, on the rents payable to all landed proprietors residing in Ireland, and of 1s. in the pound, to be deducted from the rent of all landed proprietors who do not reside in any part of Ireland, for six months in each year; and the produce of such tax should be applied, first, in the Baronial proportion of charge for any necessary increase in the hospital, alms-houses, and dispensary establishments of the county; and next, to public works, and in reduction of the county cesses, subject to such regulations and control in the expenditure, as should assure the fair and honest application of the fund, in ready-money payments to the labouring peasantry. He had felt it his duty to suggest these three measures—cash payments on Grand Jury presentments, national loan fund for manual labour, and a small tax on absentee as well as resident proprietors, as capable of affording very considerable relief, and possibly, for the present, superseding the necessity of the so much dreaded Poor-laws. Whether there were other sums which might be obtained from the State or the Church, it was not for him to anticipate. He took things as he found them, looking to the due application of existing means, and to the proper husbanding of existing establishments. As for the Irish absentees, the strongest Government which was ever formed, could not throw such protection over them, as to exclude them from the necessity of becoming contributors to the relief of a people from whose industry they annually extracted the amount in value of half the surplus produce of the country. Let him assure the House, and the Government, that if the Motion of the hon. member for Aldborough should be rejected, this question would not be set at rest—and if it were set at rest, the question of the Repeal of the Union would be at once raised to a terrific importance. He implored the House not to deceive itself, Ireland could not be a tranquil country, when left in a state of hopeless and increasing misery. Would the House believe, that absenteeism existed in any part of Ireland to such an extent, that in one part of the island, a district of forty miles in a direct line through the heart of Munster, was without a resident landed proprietor, or person capable of affording 844 employment to the people? And yet, between his residence on the river Black-water, and the family mansion of the right hon. Gentleman, the member for the city of Limerick, on the river Shannon, that was the case. Was it to be wondered at, that the Representatives for Ireland, who had been nearly twelve months in attendance on their parliamentary duties, removed from their families, their business, and their power of serving their countrymen, should entertain strong and ardent feelings on this vital and important subject? For his part, he had been struck with horror and dismay at the scenes which had occurred in Ireland since he left it, and which he believed arose from the distressed state and condition of the country, and from heated and inconsiderate individuals insisting on payments, when it was almost physically impossible to procure money to discharge even what, in other times, would be considered the most trifling engagements. His opinions were supported by large influential resident landed proprietors, who contributed to the wants of their countrymen—Lord Cloncurry for example, said, "that a stipendiary Board would do little, and English money advanced by way of loan on Irish security, increased the bad effect of absenteeism to the amount of the interest exacted. Let England set us going by liberal grants (not loans), we should have a regular and moderate property-tax, including absentees, the produce to be vested in such Board, one half to be applied to the relief of the aged and helpless, and the other moiety in giving employment by means of works of improvement." Mr. Naper of Loughcrew, a gentleman of large landed property, had given him the following sketch of a projected poor and labour rate, which he would read to the House.
In 1800 In 1830. Tobacco 6,737,275 lbs. 4,124,742 lbs. Brandy and gin 204,494 gals. 12,449 gals. Rum 1,036,467 gals. 25,514 gals. Sugar 355,662 cwts. 328,266 cwts. Wines 1,024,832 gals. 955,091 gals. Tea 3,499,801 lbs. 3,887,955 lbs. Coffee 120,985 lbs. 559,655 lbs. Malt 3,311,463bush. 2,011,895 bush.As an exemplification of such a scheme applied generally to Ireland, the following Notice as applicable to the county of Meath, is respectfully submitted to consideration:—The poor may be classed under three heads:
- 1. Able-bodied labourers (with their families) unemployed at certain seasons.
- 2. The aged and infirm, being householders.
- 3. The destitute—(houseless and wandering).For the relief of those classes respectively, the following means might be made available:—1. For the labouring class.Meath contains (independently of many thousand acres not yet rated on the county 845 books), 274,773 acres that pay cess. These, let at an average of 30s. per acre, together with the value of glebe lands, produce a rental to head-landlords, middlemen, and clergy, of above 400,000l. a-year. A charge of three per cent upon this rental, and upon the value of tithes, would amount, in round numbers, to 12,000l. yearly. This sum, at 2l. per head, or 5s. a-week, would give employment to 6,000 men for two months. These men being heads of families consisting of five persons each, the employment thus afforded would give an additional degree of support and comfort to at least 30,000 persons—men, women, and children; that is, to 1,661 persons in each of the eighteen baronies of the county.2. For the aged and infirm.A levy of two per cent from all tenants, upon the rental they pay, or on a valuation of the lands they hold rent-free, or at a nominal rent, would produce 8.000l. per annum. This sum would give to 2,666 aged and infirm householders, 3l. each per annum, or in each of the eighteen baronies, would allow 149 persons this portion.Having thus provided, to a certain extent, for the agricultural poor, being householders, by means to be taken directly from landed proprietors, their tenants, and the clergy, it remains to be considered what provision can be made—3. For the destitute (now houseless and wandering).For these it is proposed to provide "houses of refuge" in each barony, or in joint baronies, on the plan of the Dublin Mendicity Society. It appears, from the Report of that institution, for the year 1829, that 3l. 17s. 7½d. is the annual average cost of each mendicant (including all charges for rent, management, &c.). Thus at the rate of about 4l. a-head, 1,000 paupers may be supported for 4,000l.; and for this purpose there should be in the county ten "houses of refuge," holding 100 persons each. The necessary funds might be raised by a direct tax on the property of absentees; by additional charges on the licenses of public houses; together with a drawback from Government, of percent on the revenue derived from spirits—and by fines at Assizes, the Quarter and Petty Sessions, &c. To these may be added, the alms collected at churches and chapels, and the bequests and voluntary donations of the charitable.For the management and disposal of the funds thus raised, it is suggested, that parochial Committees should be appointed, to be composed of the Protestant and Roman Catholic Clergy, and such landlords and tenants as pay a certain proportion to the rates: the landlords to serve either by themselves or agents; and all the lay members to come on and go off by rotation.It is not proposed to give to any individual pauper an absolute legal right to support; the members of the Committee to decide on all claims.
sent with the sketch the following letter:—Sir,—In submitting to you the foregoing scheme, I do not propose it as perfect and conclusive; but as one, which, calculated at a moderate rate to effect all the needful objects of a legal provision for the poor, courts discussion and investigation from all who have turned their thoughts to the subject, or feel an interest in a matter so vitally important to the welfare of their country. The whole charge, on this county, would amount to about 25,000l. per annum; a sum not more than equal to the transport and cost of a regiment of English Militia of 1,000 strong. The simple question, then, comes to this;—whether it be better to apply to the purse of the Irish landed proprietor, to improve the condition of the Irish peasantry, or to have recourse to that of the English landholders for the means of keeping them down.I have the honour to be, &c.
He quoted these documents to show the interest which the landed proprietors resident in Ireland took upon this subject. If Ireland were conciliated by just government, and by the impartial admission of all religions to civil and political advantages and emoluments, and by a just arrangement of Church property, great causes of jealousy and dissensions would be for ever removed. Those, however, were matters for consideration at some other period. He supported the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, without reference to any political or party topic whatever, entertaining no doubt, but that the House would decide the question, so as to promote the comfort of the Irish poor, and the peace, the prosperity, and the security of the United Kingdom.
Loughcrew, J. L. W. NAPER. August 20, 1831.
§ Lord Morpeth
said, he felt it his duty to recommend some system of poor-laws for Ireland, which, though they might press severely on the landlord, were still required as a remedy for the evils which pressed so heavily on the population of that country. He thought it the duty of the resident Gentlemen of Ireland, to look to the comfort of those persons by whom they were surrounded; yet as the subject had already received the attention of Government, and had not been brought forward in a tangible shape by the hon. Member, and might embarrass their plans at some future period, he would vote for the amendment. He certainly came down to the House, intending to vote for the Motion of the hon. member for Aldborough, but after learn- 847 ing that the hon. Member was not prepared with a definite plan, he thought, that the wiser course was not to pledge the House to the subject.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
was prepared to maintain, that the introduction of the Poor-laws into Ireland would be productive of incalculable mischief, and would bring upon that country the greatest measure of evil ever produced in any civilized country. But, even if he were favourable to the proposition, he should hesitate to assent to it on the present occasion, as he could not approve of the manner in which his hon. friend had produced his plan. He objected to the principle as well as to the mode; but, at the same time, he was bound to express, in common with every Irishman, his gratitude for the talent, zeal, industry, and the disinterestedness of his hon. friend in behalf of Ireland. He felt bound to make one or two observations, though unwilling to detain the House. Previous, however, to going into the question, he would observe, that the hon. member for Kilkenny was mistaken in imputing to his noble friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a denial of the existence of distress in Ireland. For, in the commencement of his speech, his noble friend admitted this, and added, that it was a source of grief to every one who had the interest of the empire at heart. He certainly denied the extreme case put by his hon. friend, who said, that the state of Ireland in the time of Spenser was not worse than at the present day. That was an exaggerated fiction, bearing no resemblance to the true state of that country. With respect to the question before the House, what was the proposition now under consideration? Was it one containing a practical remedy? No. Did his hon. friend mean to call upon the House to declare the right of the poor to obtain relief when they were in distress, and to affirm, that the State was bound to provide them with employment, without, at the same time, pointing out the mode by which that was to be effected? It was very easy to say, that a system of Poor-laws ought to be established in Ireland, but it was ridiculous for the House to affirm that, unless it was acquainted with the nature of the measure to be introduced. Ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had heard continued complaints of the misapplication of the English Poor-laws, and of the mischief that had arisen from that part of them 848 which compelled the Overseers of parishes to find employment for the able-bodied labourers. But this principle, which had long been rejected as most pernicious, by every writer of authority on the subject, the hon. Member now proposed to make the law of Ireland. If his hon. friend could point out any advantage likely to arise from this system, he would abandon his opposition to the introduction of Poor-laws; but even his hon. friend, with all his talents and acquirements, had not done so. He would appeal to experience on this subject, and would refer the hon. Member to the results that had followed from the introduction of this practice of giving employment to the able-bodied labourer, in the south of England. He was not aware, indeed, that there was an opponent to this opinion in the House, for as long as he could recollect, all the attempts that had been made for the improvement of the English Poor-laws had for their object the removal of this system. Surely, his hon. friend could not call upon the House to impose the English system of Poor-laws, with all its complicated machinery and abuses, upon the Irish people? If he did not call upon the House to do that, he had furnished no feasible plan to proceed upon, and yet his hon. friend called upon the House to pledge itself that some measure should be introduced. His hon. friend hinted, that he had a measure ready to submit to the House, that he had a bill prepared which he would introduce if it agreed to this motion. But why not introduce his bill at once? His noble friend stated, that if the hon. Member would do so, no opposition should be offered by the Government to its being laid on the Table, when it might be printed, and left to the consideration of every Member; but it was obviously impossible for the House to bind itself to a scheme, the details of which it was not at all acquainted with. He deplored as much as any one, the lamentable state of distress to which the peasantry of Ireland were reduced; but he did not see how the introduction of a plan for giving them compulsory relief, could improve their condition; on the contrary, he feared that the distress of the peasantry would be increased, and the condition of other classes materially deteriorated. He feared, that the result of the experiment of the hon. Gentleman, would be directly the contrary to that which he anticipated; and the 849 misfortune was, that when once the scheme had been put in operation, it would be impossible to abandon it. If there was a system for the relief of the aged, the impotent, and the sick in Ireland, what extent of relief would that afford? A great many complaints had been urged, and more especially by his hon. friend, of the evil done to the labouring classes of this country from the immigration of the Irish poor. But would a plan for the relief of the sick and aged poor of Ireland prevent the immigration of the able-bodied labourers into this country? So far from preventing the Irish peasantry from coming over, it would be an inducement for them to come in larger numbers, for they would be sure, that their sick friends and relations would be taken care of in their absence. It was obvious, that no system of Poor-laws could prevent the influx of labourers in search of work, and until means were devised of finding employment for the Irish labourers in their own country, they would continue to come here. His hon. friend said, this occasional and temporary immigration of the Irish labourers deteriorated the condition and diminished the rate of wages of the English peasantry. He was far from entertaining the same feelings on the subject as his hon. friend, for this occasional ingress of small bodies of poor Irish was attended with material benefit, and more especially in the time of harvest. At that period of the year, there was always a great demand for labour, and he had yet to learn how they could injure the English peasantry. He was satisfied, that they afforded material assistance to the English farmers; and, if their influx tended to increase the Poor-rates, no encouragement would be given to them. But it had been said, that the immigration of the poor Irish tended to lower the rate of wages: but he called upon any hon. Member to furnish him with a proof of that. Look to the southern and western counties in England, where wages were lower than at former periods. What had that resulted from? From the mal-administration of the Poor-laws, by the introduction of the system of paying the labourer a portion of his wages out of the poor-rates. Was that the case in the northern parts of the island? No complaints of a low rate of wages were made where this pernicious system did not exist. As many Irish labourers, however, sought work in the northern counties as in the 850 southern, so that the effect of low wages could not be traced to their influence. Indeed, if the circumstances were as stated by the hon. Member, would not the labourers of the south go to the north, to get a higher rate of wages? He could only impute the misery that existed in the south of England, among the agricultural peasantry, to the very system of affording relief—finding employment to the able-bodied labourer, which had never existed in the north—which was recommended as a cure for the diseases of Ireland. He was convinced, that the introduction into Ireland of Poor-laws would lower the rate of wages in that country, and complete the misery and distress of the people. He would refer his hon. friend to the report of the Committee on the distress in Ireland, which sat last year, and over which he had the honour to preside, and his hon. friend would find, that all the witnesses, whether English, Scotch, or Irish, however favourable some of them might be to the introduction of a system of Poor-laws into Ireland, assumed, that such a measure would not have the least tendency to check the ingress of the Irish peasantry into England. But a British House of Commons would never take such a view of the subject—and never could consent to a measure to prevent the labourer going from one part of the empire to another to seek employment. If the House endeavoured to carry such a plan into effect as to prevent the ingress of the Irish labourer into England, it would lead to the dismemberment of the empire, attended with the bitterest feelings. But what was the question at present before the House? Was it called on to decide upon any practicable plan, or to affirm, by a sweeping resolution, that a system of Poor-laws ought to be introduced into Ireland. The House was called upon to declare, that there was a plan fully matured for carrying into effect this object, without having the least idea of that plan. The hon. Member stated, that he only called upon the House to re-affirm a resolution that received the assent of the Irish Parliament in 1771, which affirmed, that a system of Poor-laws should be introduced into Ireland. But the resolution of 1771 did not produce any legislative enactment for that purpose—it produced no other practical result than the establishment of some free houses of industry. If, therefore, that resolution only produced a result which the hon, 851 Member admitted to be inadequate to the occasion, he saw no reason to infer that the mere resolution of this House, if not accompanied by a practicable plan, would produce other than an inadequate remedy also. It had been stated, that the Irish gentry opposed the establishment of compulsory relief to the poor from a selfish principle; but he declared to the hon. Gentleman, and to the House, that if he could believe that this proposition was opposed on other than public and patriotic grounds, he would instantly withdraw his opposition to the Motion. He was sure, however, that neither his hon. friend, nor any other hon. Member, would cast such an imputation on the Irish landlords, as to suppose that they were indifferent to the sufferings of their tenantry, or regardless of the well-being of those so intimately connected with them. He opposed the Motion of the hon. Gentleman on higher grounds—because sanctioning it would be productive of much mischief. He believed, also, that there were other means of affording adequate relief to that portion of the empire, without resorting to this extreme measure—for instance, the money that was to be proposed in the Committee of Supply to be advanced for public works in Ireland—an improved mode of local assessment by the Grand Juries—and other plans, which he trusted would shortly be submitted to the House by his noble friend. The Motion pledged the House to a great deal in principle, without explaining the details, and he should, therefore, give it his decided negative.
§ Mr. Lefroy
conceived, that the representations given of the distress in Ireland was much exaggerated, and was convinced that the great mass of the population were in a state of progressive improvement. He would not consent to follow blind-folded the hon. Member, who had set forward the principle by which he was guided in so broad and vague a manner. He doubted if Poor-laws could be properly administered in Ireland. There were no large farmers there; and thus the individuals, who might be one day administering the laws, might the next be the object of their bounty. It was, he admitted, a just principle, that the richer class should provide for the maintenance of the poor, but not after a manner which would have the effect of reducing themselves to beggary.
Sir John Bourke
thought the time was come—and he believed that this was the 852 opinion of the most intelligent and well-informed people of Ireland—that the time was come for introducing Poor-laws into Ireland. He should, therefore, be ready to vote for the Resolution of the hon. Member. A great deal was said about raising false hopes by assenting to the Resolution, but he begged leave to assure the House, that the rejection of it would cause a great deal of disappointment.
hoped that every Irish Member would be allowed to state his opinion on this subject. The objection of the noble Lord (Althorp), that there was no plan, had no weight with him, for that objection was formerly always urged against Reform. He was of opinion, that all property in Ireland should be taxed for the poor, as in England. He did not comprehend why there should be one law for England and another for Ireland. The poor Irish, seeing a different law when they came here, lost all respect for the law in Ireland. The want of such a law had cast a stigma on that country. It was not possible, that the principles taught by the Church of Ireland could be respected in Ireland, when large revenues were extracted from the people for its support, without an adequate return. At the same time he had no more wish to make any encroachment on Church property, than on the property of the land-owners. He should, as a landed proprietor, prefer a diminished income with a contented peasantry, to being surrounded, as at present, with a famishing population, and finding his whole property insecure. He supported the Motion.
§ Mr. Benett
wished to see a modified system of Poor-laws adopted for Ireland, and this was the prayer of a petition he had to present from Chippenham. The petitioners complained justly, that the cheaper-raised produce of Ireland met their produce in all the markets of this country, and they wished the two countries to be placed on an equal footing. He did not, however, expect or wish to see the Poor-laws, as they were now administered in England, introduced into Ireland. They might, however, adopt the principles of those laws. The hon. Member concluded by declaring, that he would support the Motion, and that the poor had a claim to relief out of the Church-lands.
thought every Irish Member should have an opportunity to speak. He proposed that the debate be adjourned to Monday.
§ Lord Althorp
said, that the subject had been fully opened upon this occasion, and therefore, he thought the debate might be adjourned to a more distant day. If the hon. Member persisted in his motion for adjournment, he would move that the words "this day month" be substituted for Monday.
§ An Hon. Member declared he would support the original Motion.
Mr. John Smith
had witnessed two Irish famines, and would support the original Motion. He had never heard the hon. member for Aldborough propose that the English Poor-laws should be introduced into Ireland; if he had, he would oppose him. He only wanted to pledge the Parliament to do something. The English nation had twice relieved the Irish when in a state of starvation, but he believed it would not do so again. The last time doing so was requisite, the people hung fire. The Corporation of the Bank of England, which was generally very liberal, had refused to contribute on the last occasion, and so had other bodies. If again a famine should occur, an insurrection would, be believed, take place; and if ever an insurrection were justified, it would be that. Reserving to himself the right of opposing any plan which might be brought forward, he should support the original Motion.
was surprised to hear, after all that had been said and written on the subject, that any doubt should now be entertained of the propriety of introducing Poor-laws into Ireland. Such a measure would make all property contribute to the support of the poor which the landlords had created. A meeting of the county of Limerick, with which he was connected, had taken place, and decided on the propriety of introducing Poor-laws into Ireland. He wished the hon. Member to withdraw the Motion, and at once to bring in a bill, to which he promised his best support.
§ Mr. James Grattan
would certainly vote for the Motion, because it went to establish the principle that Poor-laws ought to be established in Ireland. No measure, in his opinion, however, would give entire satisfaction which did not make the Church property available to the support of the poor. He had seen the peasantry who had resided in his neighbourhood, and who were in a tolerable situation, always remain at home, and this fact was 854 worth all the theories of the hon. member for Limerick.
Mr. Dominick Browne
thought, that the hon. member for Aldborough had better withdraw his Resolution, and bring in a bill, to which he promised to give his most diligent consideration.
§ Mr. Ruthven
was favourable to proceeding by Resolution, because by such a course no one was bound to any particular plan.
§ Mr. Sadler
could not accede to the suggestions which had been made to him to withdraw his Resolution, and to proceed by introducing a bill. He recollected, that many important motions had been carried, after the way had been cleared for them by means of Resolutions. He should have preferred a direct negative being given to his Resolutions, instead of having them met by the previous question, which meant nothing else but indefinite postponement.
§ Lord Althorp
was not prepared to negative the Resolutions, nor was he prepared to acquiesce in them at the present moment. He had, therefore, moved the previous question.
§ The House then divided on the previous question:—Ayes 64; Noes 52—Majority 12.