§ Lord Althorp
hoped that it would not be necessary to detain the Committee long in explaining the plan which Government intended to submit. Hon. Members were aware that the greatest evil at this time pressing upon Ireland was the want of 1211 employment. That country presented an extraordinary state of things: with a most fruitful soil, upon which capital could be most advantageously employed, and connected with a country in which capital was so abundant, it nevertheless did not flow into Ireland with any thing like the expected rapidity. The object of Ministers, therefore, was, to adopt such a course as would encourage the flow of capital into Ireland. It had been said that it would be imprudent, and contrary to the principles of good government, for England to advance money for this object; for that if the works contemplated were likely to be profitable, capital would be devoted to them without any extraordinary impulse. But experience of the condition of Ireland showed that such was not practically the fact there; capital was, indeed, increasing but hot to the extent that must be desired by every well-wisher to the United Kingdom. It would, therefore, not be thought contrary to principle, or to those views that ought to guide an enlightened Government, to give an artificial direction to capital by the application of the powers of the Legislature, He was very far from saying that the people of England ought to be taxed for such a purpose—that would not be a justifiable proposition; but he thought that the security of the country might be given to assist those who needed capital to be applied to the improvement of Ireland. To him there seemed nothing wrong, therefore, in advancing money in the way in which he proposed, although he was aware that every such advance should be made with great caution, being liable to great abuse. It was necessary that great precaution should be exercised, both as to the manner in which the money advanced might be applied, and as to the hands through which it might be allowed to pass. Great care was necessary to prevent its being applied more to the furtherance of private and local interests than to that of public objects. There was one great danger attending the application of public money which must necessarily be placed under local superintendence, viz. that it might be too much subjected to private or merely local influence. It was, therefore, proper to place as much as possible the control of the sum for which he applied in the hands of the Government in this country. But in reserving that control, it was at the same time necessary that those who should have in their hands the immediate 1212 application of the money should possess the most intimate local knowledge of the places in which the expenditure was to be made, as without that knowledge it was not possible to direct the application of the money with effect. Another thing which was particularly to be guarded against in the application of the public money in Ireland was, that it should not be made subservient to political or party purposes. In coming to Parliament for the advance now required, his Majesty's Government had taken all those particulars into their consideration; and the manner in which he hoped to secure all the necessary precautions would be explained, he trusted, to the satisfaction of the House when the Bill came before them which it was the intention of the Government to propose. As, however, it was not intended to introduce that Bill immediately, he should not occupy them with a statement of its details, but confine himself to a general explanation of its leading provisions. It was intended to appoint a Commission in immediate communication with the Treasury in Ireland, but acting solely under the control of the Government here. To this Commission would be intrusted the disposal of the money granted by Parliament for local improvements in Ireland, and all matters at present subjected to the direction of the Commissioners of Inland Navigation, the Board of Works in Ireland, and the Commissioners of Post Roads. The superintendence of the works at present under those Boards would be committed to the Commissioners under the Bill which it was intended to introduce; at the same time that they should not have the control of the money applied under their direction as was the case with those Boards. Thus, by the appointment of the Commission, instead of an increase, there would be a considerable diminution of expense, by the reduction of those Boards, independently of the advantage to the public of having the outlay of the sums granted entirely under the control and upon the responsibility of the Government. At the same time he wished it to be understood, that. whilst the proposed Commission was to be in communication with the Irish Treasury, it should not be at all under the control of the Irish Government. It should not be supplied with the means of undertaking, or be permitted to undertake, any work without the express consent of his Majesty's Government in England, in order to 1213 prevent the influence of any political or local interest from directing the application of the public money. In the consideration of every application made to them for assistance, and in their communications to the Treasury, the Commissioners would be expected to have regard to the public benefit to be derived from the projected works, and to have regard also not only to the immediate, but to the future employment of the labouring population, in the districts in which it might be proposed that works should be undertaken. Above all things, they would be expected to have regard to the security on which they should propose to advance the money. The main object of the Bill would be to grant loans of money for the promotion of local improvements upon available security; but not upon the principle on which former loans were granted. In former loans, when the money advanced had been repaid, the fund ceased; but it was now the intention of his Majesty's Government that when any sum advanced by the Commissioners should be repaid, the Commissioners should continue to apply it, with the rest of the fund under their direction, to the improvement of Ireland; with this condition, however, that the interest was to be paid to the Government. The way in which it was proposed to raise the money was by Exchequer Bills, of which the interest would be received by the Government; the fund being in all cases of repayment, left in the same state—the principal sum being continued to be applied to the improvement of Ireland. Reports from the Commissioners should annually be laid before Parliament for their approbation, stating the sums advanced, and the repayments received, as well as the nature and situation of the works conducted under the Commission, within the year. Persons borrowing that money would become Crown debtors. One kind of security to be accepted by the Commissioners was the county rates. But also in places where tolls were exacted, the tolls would be taken as security, and in some cases money would be permitted to be advanced on the security of private property, great care being taken to ascertain that it be adequate. In that way there could be no doubt that the repayment would be secure; for on all former occasions of the advance of money by Government, the loan had always been repaid. Nor was 1214 the Government merely indemnified for the advance, but in all such cases, the improvement of the revenue in the districts in which the money lent had been applied would of itself repay the advance. He believed, that when the general measure should be laid before the House, the results which had been proved from former loans would be shown to be such as to remove every rational objection to the Bill. The Committee must be aware, from the outline which he had given of the general purposes of the Bill, that it must be one of considerable length, and that an examination of its details would occupy a long time. Therefore, if his Majesty's Government were to wait until the Bill should have been fully discussed, and should have been passed into a law, the time for its application, in the present year, would have long passed. with that consideration, he thought that he was justified in asking for a smaller grant in the mean time. The Committee must be aware that the months in which labour would have most opportunities of employment in Ireland were April, May, and June. But if the Government were to postpone their assistance for the employment of labour until the Bill could pass, much of the season in which the assistance might be beneficial would be lost. The state of Ireland at present was such, that the necessity of some immediate remedy was of extreme urgency. It might be objected that the assent of the Committee to the Resolution which he should propose would be of no effect, because it could not be reported until after the holidays. But it must be obvious to the Committee, that his Majesty's Government could not bring the grant into operation without some time to consider it. Therefore, it was necessary that the consent of the Committee should be obtained as early as possible, in order that the Government might make the inquiries necessary for its immediate application. He had said that it was the determination of the Government to take every means for preserving the proposed Commission free from political or local influence; but yet he did not think that the objections to which he had referred were of so much weight in respect to a temporary measure, as they would be to the permanent operation of the Bill itself. They certainly were not such as could induce the House to reject the Resolution which he had to move for, especially when it was considered, as he had already 1215 stated, that the time for bringing the Resolution into operation would be gone by unless it were now agreed to. His intention was, to advance the sum of 50,000l. in Exchequer Bills, to be placed at the disposal of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under the restrictions to which the Commission would ultimately be subjected— that is, for the purpose of being applied, in the way of loan, to the promotion of public works in Ireland, with the sanction of the Treasury in Ireland in the first instance, and with the consent afterwards of the Government in England. He did not stipulate that condition through any want of confidence in the present Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; but he thought that if the measure would require the precaution to be exercised in the whole course of its arrangements, as he had explained, it was indispensable that it should be exercised in the beginning. He believed that he had now made the objects of the Resolution understood by the Committee; and he thought that he and his hon. friends near him would be able to answer any questions which might be put, to the satisfaction of the Committee. The money which he proposed to ask of the Committee would be lent upon private freehold property, as well as upon the security of the county rates and upon tolls, in districts in which tolls are collected. The noble Lord concluded by moving, "That it is the opinion of the Committee that a sum of not less than 50,000l. should be placed at the disposal of the Lord Lieutenant and the Government of Ireland, to be applied to local improvements in Ireland."
§ Mr. Wyse
said, that he had yesterday postponed a Motion respecting the employment of the poor of Ireland, on the understanding that the Government themselves had prepared and were bringing forward a measure upon that subject. He felt that he could congratulate the country upon the prospect which the Government had opened of bringing into action the resources of Ireland, which had so long lain dormant. Although the proposition of the noble Lord would only comprehend a part of that which he (Mr. Wyse) had intended to bring forward, he was willing to relinquish any opportunity of gratifying his own personal vanity. The present state of Ireland was such as the House and the country were scarcely aware of. The people were in some places in such a condition as to bring society to the verge of dis- 1216 organization. The elements of society were in disorder, and in Meath and Clare, in disunion. The system was falling to pieces in large masses — and unless it were immediately repaired, the evil would soon be past recovery and cure. The state of Ireland was the anomaly of anomalies in the history of nations. Its population was hardy, intelligent, numerous; — greater than that of nineteen States in Europe— smaller only than seven. Its soil not requiring the skill or manure of England, was capable, as had been stated by Arthur Young, of sustaining 100,000,000 of souls; its climate was the happiest medium, its fisheries were mines under water—its south-west districts contained the richest mines, according to Griffith, in the empire; its apposition was such, that it was the link between two hemispheres, so that a ship could reach America from its western coasts before she was out of soundings departing from London. Such was the Ireland which God created. What was the Ireland which man had made? Other countries had risen and fallen; Ireland had never been but as at present; she had had vicissitudes, but only vicissitudes of ill; hope, which comes to all, never came to her; with her population, she was powerless except for evil; with her soil, her climate, her fisheries, periodical visitations, sure and quick visitations of famine had been her history; with her mines, her ports, her coasts, she had no shipping, no trade; in one word, endowed with every physical blessing she was the prey of every moral ill. The frequent famines in her early history were known and, according to Spencer, the frosts in the year 1539 and 1560, carried off one-third of her population. The dearths of 1741 and 1762 were as bad. But, alas! our own times could parallel these accounts. Three famines, with their consequent trains of epidemics, had swept over the land since the peace, and the people were crouching now before the fourth. The awful visitation of 1822. and the dreadful state of the counties of Mayo, Galway and Clare, at that period, must have made the most selfish and profligate shudder with awe. In Sligo the starving peasantry of an absentee landlord lay perishing about the doors of a poor clergyman. In Mayo numbers were seen stealing the sea-weed which was brought for manure. In Cork many grew mad and delirious with hunger—numbers died for want of food. Did the evil cease there? 1217 No; plague trod on the heels of famine— scrofula, typhus, mania followed up in fierce succession, gathering what hunger had left. Each of these diseases was only the manifestation of sheer want. Scrofula, it was well known, was indigenous to those countries where extreme poverty compels the use of crude food, exposure to damp air, and great fatigue. It is the malady of the Highlands of Scotland, the remote districts of Switzerland and Egypt—it leads to typhus and insanity. The typhus is the famine—plague of Ireland. Dr. Stokes, in his reports of the Cork-street Fever Hospital in Dublin, had distinctly traced it from its first insidious advances to its final fastening upon the heart of the people. Baron Larrey when he visited the Dublin hospitals, started back in horror at the scene, it was not disease, but starvation. Then it was, that 11,681 patients passed through the Government Hospitals, and 200,000 through the other establishments of Dublin. In 1815, when great scarcity prevailed, the number of in mates in the Lunatic Asylum of Cork rose from 74 to 210. A scarcity of grain in the Netherlands in the years 1816 and 1817, and a want of bread in France, produced a similar phenomenon in their respective establishments. But these evils could not be slowly exorcised. Famine in Ireland was occasionally suspended, but never extinguished. In Carlow, one of the most flourishing districts of Ireland, where seven families are often cooped up in one cabin, disease was, of course, produced, and, on the average, out of thirty families ten survive at the end of a twelvemonth. But why refer to that, with the existing famine of the barony of Erris before the public? The facts detailed in the letter of Mr. John M'Donough, dated the 22nd of February last, would give the House a pretty good idea of the calamities of that place. Men perishing at sea in their boats, being too weak to row them; others nearly expiring while begging coffins for their wives. The doors barred, that the scanty meal might not be seen by the passing strangers, and the Irish peasant must endure much before he would close the door of hospitality—flight give the House some idea of the calamities now suffering by the Irish. What was the cause of all this misery? Was there no food? There was food, but no money to purchase it; and, what was worse, no means of earning money. There were many mouths and many hands, but 1218 no means to feed the one, or employ the other—want of employment was the chief cause, but why did that exist? The process of deterioration had been going on among all, without any means to stay or prevent it. Manufactures had expired. The people of Erris complained that they had lost their employment, and that their small manufactories in flax, wool, &c, had utterly failed. But was it not the same in. other parts of the country? It was true that the exports of oxen, sheep, and swine had enormously increased since 1800. Exports of wheat and flour had also augmented, though in a small proportion; but the exports of beef and pork had declined, as well as the import of tallow, and there was a diminution of the consumption of malt, tea, sugar, wine and tobacco. Cottons were imported to a great extent in 1800, the imports amounting to 976,466 lbs.; and in 1825, to 2,702,5231bs., but it must also be remembered, that the linen trade had in the same period considerably declined. The augmented import of coals, of which nearly half was confined to Dublin, was attributable principally to the introduction of steam. The Marine Insurances effected in 1815, amounted to 3,000; in 1830, to not more than 2,198. Seven-eighths of the shipping trading with Ireland were British and foreign, and three fourths of the Irish trade was carried on exclusively by British shipping. Even Scotland had the advantage of Ireland, which had nothing but the manufacture and export of food; but would it not be a better evidence of prosperity, if that were consumed at home? England consumed her own produce, and six millions of foreign produce besides. What was the result of this ''.—Why the whole population was thrown on the cultivation of the soil; but the soil was gradually becoming pasturage, and the employment was lessening. The root of this misery was mal-administration; penal laws, the sweeping disfranchisement of the Catholic freeholders in the reign of George 1., like those under the present Disfranchisement — and Subletting Acts, and the exemption of pasturage from tithe, depopulated and desolated the country. Henry Boyle, the first Earl of Shannon, saw this in 1748; but new insurrections added new evidence every day. In 1759, the price of cattle was raised, the demand for pasturage increased, tenants were ejected, and the White-boys desolated Ireland; in 1763, 1219 Grand Jury cess was the grievance, and the Hearts of Oak made their appearance; in 1770, the refusal of renewals on a large estate in Down and Antrim caused the Hearts of Steel to come forth; and, in 1784, the pressure of tithes gave rise to the Peep-of-day and Right Boys—the Rebellion of 1798 Was Protestant and aristocratic, but the servile war was only suspended. The exactions on the Courtney estate brought it again into action in 1823; and at this moment, in Clare, the same exciting: principle was bursting forth in the fiercest gusts. The cause was one and simple— the rich and poor have been and are separated. The rich are absentees, the poor are unemployed. No wonder they should be divided, no wonder they should be hostile, no wonder such hostility should endure, no-wonder it should wrap in common injury every order in the community. What then should be done? Employ, and make the persons most benefitted contribute to this employment. Let not the occupant bear all; the landlord was more benefitted than the occupant. Let not the absentee escape by throwing the burthen on the occupant. Irish mendicancy at this moment costs us enormously; there were about 500,000 paupers, who could not be supported for less than 1,800,000l. Add the Grand Jury cess, 800,000l.; the expense of an army, 23,000l.; of a police, 50,000l., &c, which would bring it up to not less than 2,870,000l. annually, one-fourth of the rental, and one-twentieth of the entire consumption of the State. The poor-rate in England did not amount, though high, to one-fortieth of the entire consumption. His estimate did not include English expenses for Irish paupers, which amount to same hundreds of thousands in the year. Such sums, properly laid out, or even a portion of them, would go far to give employment to the whole of the poor labourers of Ireland. But would there be no return? Take any of the various sources of production with which Ireland abounds. There are five millions of waste, but reclaimable, land in Ireland, capable of supporting two million persons. Mr. Nimmo engaged to drain it at 1l. 1s. per acre — the total expense would be 9l.; which allowing 3l. 3s. surplus or profit per acre, would increase the national revenue 9,000,000l. Mr. Kelly's evidence was not less flattering. But was this calculation only? Mr. Nimmo had it put to the test of experience. It cost Govern- 1220 ment only 150,000l. to make 1,000 miles of road in the Highlands—what was the result? Mr. Telford's evidence was conclusive on the subject. In 1742 there were no roads in Scotland; every inconvenience was suffered from this want of communication. The late improvements have, in his language, "advanced the country one hundred years." The effects in Ireland are not less striking. Mr. Nimmo, by the order of Government, expended on roads, &c, in Connaught, 167,000l.: seven years fully repaid it. Mr. Griffith expended, in a similar improvement in the South, 60,000l., and there venue had since been benefited not less than 50,000l. annually. By similar exertions, the Marais de la Vendée was made one of the most fertile districts in France, and the soil of Belgium had been converted into the garden of Europe. The soil of Belgium, Sir H. Davy remarks, has the very same substratum as the bogs of Ireland. As to inland navigation, what country in Europe offered equal advantages? but how much neglected! Any one who cast his eye over the map of the comparative inland navigation of both countries, could not but feel mortified. England was intersected with conduits like the living human body; Ireland had only great arteries in her rivers, yet it had been ascertained that thirty rivers in Ireland might be rendered navigable, which would bring not less than 6,400,000 square acres within five miles of water carriage. Her coast extended 1,737 miles, but was comparatively waste and idle. Any one who referred to the fishery reports might see how much had been done; but also, how much remained to be done. Sixty safety-tiers had been built along the western coast, at a very trifling expense; but such was still the deficiency, that the Dublin fishery boats often catch, off the coast of Mayo, the treasures of which the inhabitants themselves could not profit by for want of deep-sea boats. The Fishery Board expended little more than 5,000l. a-year, and 3,000,000l. had been voted for the Rideau Canal, and 1,500,000l. for an absurd palace. A tithe of these sums would have contributed to the improvement and tranquillity of Ireland! He said tranquillity; for idleness, hunger, and discontent, must bear misery and anarchy, as the wild tree bears its bad and bitter fruits. Such policy was a bribe for crime; gaols were like palaces, and cottages were 1221 wretched hovels. What was the result? Better to be well housed, well clothed, with 2d. per day, than rotting in rags with scarcely two pence. Such was the reasoning of the peasant, which meant, that it was better to be a criminal with these advantages, than an honest man without them. What, then, was the remedy? These evils had originated in want of employment, high rents, and partial burthens; substitute, then, employment, lower rents, and more equal burthens. The resolutions which it was his intention to have proposed yesterday, went first to the establishment of a Board on the principle just sketched by the noble Lord, consolidating all previously-existing Boards, but constituted on somewhat a different principle from his. It was intended to suggest, that it should be composed of three or more Members of Parliament, from each province, and an equal number of persons appointed by Government, as is the case in America. This body should be divided into three sections: the first for public works; the second for public charities; the third for public education. The province of the first should be all such works as the noble Lord has just stated, which come under the head of works of general utility, such as roads, bridges, &c. The other departments of the Board should attend to charity and public education. The hon. Member then entered into a rapid explanation of his own plan, and which was nearly coincident with the arrangements explained by the noble Lord, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, except that the hon. Member's Board was to be permanent, responsible to the rate-payers, and to engross into its own hands the functions of Grand Juries and parish officers.
§ Mr. Sadler
said, that no adequate relief could be given to Ireland by a mea- sure of the description of the one proposed, and he hardly knew whether or not to give it his approbation. There were 150,000 persons on the verge of destitution and actual starvation, and the loan of 50,000l. would afford no adequate relief to the distresses of such a mass of people. If the population were 8,000,000 it would afford about l½d. a head. That was not the way to relieve such deep-seated distress. He had heard a good deal of Irish labourers taking the bread out of the mouths of Englishmen, but he did not hear much said against those absentee landlords who took the bread out of the mouths of the 1222 Irish peasantry. He thought some measures ought to be taken to compel those culpable absentees to support the poor in Ireland, and until the House adopted some moderate system of Poor-laws for that country, he did not think it would have done its duty. He must urge Ministers to proceed in a more decided course, being satisfied that temporary and palliative measures would be of no use, and that they must, to restore Ireland to prosperity, be guided in their measures by the great principles of justice. They should consult these, not the voice of shifting expediency, or the theories of political economists. Let them advance 500,000l. and nothing would be done effectual. They would place the people in debt, and ultimately increase the discontent of a high-minded population. Nothing but a system of Poor-laws would relieve the distress of the people. The gentry of Ireland often rose in that House and exclaimed, what does Ireland get by this or that measure? But he never heard those honourable Gentlemen say, what do we give? With regard to the Poor-laws of England, he would say, they never could dispense with those laws. A moderate system of Poor-laws introduced into Ireland some time ago, would have afforded relief; but loans of 50,000l. would produce no useful effect. At the same time he did not oppose the loan proposed, but implored his Majesty's Government to have recourse to a more enlarged mode of assistance.
§ Colonel Tyrell
said, he had pledged himself to his constituents to advocate retrenchment and economy; and he wished to know, from the noble Lord opposite, whether, considering the sufferings of the poor of this country, he should act consistently with his promise if he supported the present vote for 50,000l.? He hoped the noble Lord would take the distresses of the people of this country into consideration. He was sure that this country could not exist without Poor-laws, and therefore he was of opinion that Ireland would never be well off till she had such laws.
§ Lord Althorp
explained, that no part of the 50,000l. would come from the pockets of the people. It would be raised by Exchequer Bills, and repaid by the people to assist whose labours it was intended.
§ Mr. O'Brien
was of opinion, that the Government greatly deceived themselves 1223 if they imagined, that by the advance of this money they would afford any permanent relief to Ireland. To assist that country effectually, they must come to a qualified system of Poor-laws. He felt how annoying it was for Irish Members to come begging to that House, but he did not see how that could now be avoided. The present loan was only an extension of the eleemosynary system, and its most beneficial effect, he was afraid, would be only to encourage speculation.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, that the adoption of a well-regulated system of Poor-laws was the best thing that could be done for Ireland; and though he believed his noble friend (Lord Althorp) was opposed to that system, it must be established.
§ Mr. Grattan
was quite satisfied, that some plan of Poor-laws must be carried into effect with respect to Ireland. Permanent good could be effected by no other means.
§ Mr. G. Dawson
gave the Government credit for an anxious desire to do full justice to Ireland; but still he considered the present proposition as a complete delusion (and he did not mean to use the expression in an offensive sense) on the people of Ireland. No gentleman would like to become a Crown debtor, and to have his estate made accountable for money borrowed to forward works in his neighbourhood. Irish corporations, or Irish gentlemen, if they saw the necessity of borrowing money, would rather seek it from other sources than from that which was contemplated under the plan of the noble Lord. When they came to find that they must apply to Commissioners, Solicitors, and all those who were connected with the machinery of this measure, they would at once reject the aid which was to be thus obtained. Gentlemen in Ireland would not be able to procure the assistance which the noble Lord proposed to give, without mortgaging their estates. This they never would consent to; and therefore he again said, that the plan was a delusion. He objected, whether the sum to be granted was 50,000l. or 500,000l., to have it placed under the control of a Board of Commissioners, because he believed that a system of jobbing would be the inevitable result. He meant not to cast any reflection on those who might be appointed Commissioners—of course he knew not who would be placed in that situation; but of this he was certain, that they would 1224 be exposed to the arts, to the trickery, to the cajolery, of designing persons, who might wish to get this money into their possession. They would be but men, and with the best intentions in the world it was very likely that they would be deceived. He believed that not a month would elapse before these gentlemen would find themselves in a very inconvenient position. The great question was, how the poor of Ireland could be raised from their present deplorable state of destitution to one of decency and respectability? Having considered the subject much, he had come to this conviction, that unless some system of Poor-laws were adopted, their situation could not be permanently ameliorated. He believed that machinery could be found in Ireland quite sufficient for carrying such a plan into effect. Every Member for Ireland ought to be anxious to have something effectual done for the poor of that country; for it must be most distressing and annoying to a gentleman of feeling to find his country constantly brought before the British public as an object of charity. It was, however, but just to this country, and to their English fellow-subjects, to say, that whenever the misery of Ireland was brought before them, the appeal never failed to excite feelings of sympathy and of generosity. The hon. Member then adverted to the report of the Committee appointed last Session to inquire into the state of the Irish poor, and observed, that though that Committee had recommended several plans for the relief of the poor of Ireland, none of them (with the exception of the present) had been attempted to be carried into effect. As a sincere well-wisher to Ireland, and believing that the Gentlemen opposite were most anxious to do as much as they could to promote the prosperity of that country, he called on them, as the only way in which that prosperity could be secured, to introduce a modified system of Poor-laws.
defended the Government from the charge that this proposition had been brought forward for the purpose of obtaining a temporary popularity in Ireland. The right hon. member for Harwich had depreciated the report of the Committee of last Session which had been drawn up by his hon. friend, the member for Limerick, but he must maintain that it was a very able, comprehensive, and masterly document. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that of the nineteen bills 1225 recommended in that report, none had been brought forward by the Government. Now several of those bills had been already introduced, and several had been prepared and would have been introduced before this time but for the great and important measure which now almost exclusively engrossed the attention of the House. He would not pledge himself to resist the introduction of any species of Poor-laws into Ireland, but, not intending to enter upon that question at present, he should content himself with saying, that he had never known any measure of that kind as yet prepared which did not appear to him to be calculated to be attended by results that would counterbalance any advantages which might be derived from it. He was sure that this proposition would be accepted with gratitude in Ireland by persons who had opportunities for employing capital to advantage there, but who did not possess the means of doing so without the assistance of Government. It had been said, that if money should be advanced in this way, it would never be repaid to the Government. Now several sums had been already advanced in a similar way, for similar purposes, in Ireland, and such had not been the case; and he held in his hand a statement, from which it appeared, that of the 500,000l. which had been advanced to Ireland in 1822, both of principal and interest, there remained only 15,000l. not repaid. The advance which, it was proposed to make in the present instance would be only a fair advance of money, which any private capitalist would make upon equally good security. It appeared from the report of the Committee of last Session, that the most beneficial effects had resulted from the advances which had been already made from time to time for the carrying on of public works in the south-western districts of Ireland; and he was confident that the advance which it was now proposed to make, was calculated both to relieve distress and to increase the revenue, as had been the case in the former instance.
§ Mr. Goulburn
was sorry to say, that he did not think that as much good as was expected by those who proposed it, would be derived from this advance, and he did not believe that this sum of 50,000l. would at all go to the extent which was anticipated towards alleviating the distress which existed at present in some districts in Ire- 1226 land. It was not from those districts that the Government might expect to have applications sent to them for portions of this loan. Such applications would come from the more prosperous districts, where speculations of various kinds were more likely to be afloat. This proposition, therefore, if acceded to, would do very little towards removing the distress which prevailed in some parts of Ireland.
§ Mr. M. Fitzgerald
said, that so far as this measure went, it should have his complete concurrence; and if a compulsory assessment had been also proposed, he should be most willing to give his assent to it. The right hon. Gentleman contended, that if the proprietors of land in the distressed districts did not consent to charge themselves with the relief of the poor in their vicinity, they would disgrace themselves. It was said that large advances had been made to Ireland; so there had, and they had been repaid. Out of a sum of 1,600,000l. advanced to that country for public works, only 20,000l. remained now unpaid, and that was in the course of re-payment. He gave his cordial approbation to the proposition, which he was convinced would do much good in Ireland.
§ Mr. T. P. Courtenay
agreed that the present was not the fit opportunity for discussing the question of the application of Poor-laws in Ireland; but he hoped the noble Lord opposite would provide an early opportunity for the discussion of the motion of the hon. member for Ennis, for making some provision for the poor of that country by legislative enactment. Unless some compulsory means of relief were adopted, no temporary measure of this kind would be effectual. The relief would not be given by works which were to be finished in a given time; on the contrary, the works should be permanent, and of such a nature that they should be carried on or discontinued as occasion might require.
§ Colonel Trench
feared, that if money were to be lent out only to borrowers upon adequate security, it would not answer the end in view. Immediate relief was what was wanted. An immediate application of relief would alone be effectual. If, instead of giving this money as a loan, a sum was made applicable to the immediate relief of the distress now felt, and which would be more severely felt in the course of the next month, some good would fol- 1227 low; but he feared that the tedious process of looking out for security for the money advanced would defeat the object of advancing it.
§ Mr. Attwood
deprecated a discussion on the question of providing security for the insignificant advance of 50,000l. at a moment when distress existed which required immediate relief. He would not believe, that the proposed sum was intended to court popularity; but he must say, that it would be inadequate for the relief of the distress which existed. The present Ministry had held out hopes of relief to the distresses of the people, which he feared they would never realize. After all the hopes held out, the only measure of relief proposed was this insignificant Joan of 50,000l., and the emigration plan, in which Ministers themselves seemed to have not much confidence.
Mr. Dominick Browne
regretted to find that some hon. Members should attempt to throw cold water on a proposition of this kind, and talk of a Poor-law at a time when instant assistance was required. When he heard the members for Water-ford and Limerick, and the right hon. member for Tamworth, object to the Poor-law system in Ireland,—when this objection was made by men who had no community of opinion,—he must pause before he assented to the proposition. He did not concur with the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, that this plan of lending money on security would afford relief— that immediate relief which was wanted. If they wished to avert all the horrors of famine in several parts of the country, particularly the district of Erris, to which he had before called the attention of the House they should give immediate and gratuitous assistance.
spoke to the following effect:—Sir, I should have expected that the right hon. Gentleman, the member for Armagh, instead of declining to express an opinion on the measure now proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would have been the first to have urged his Majesty's Ministers to pursue towards Ireland the same conduct he adopted himself in 1822, when he was Secretary for that country, and when it was very nearly under the same unhappy circumstances as it is at present. In 1822 the right hon. Gentleman came down to this House and asked—on the part of Ireland, what was instantly conceded—a grant of 50,000l. 1228 for the purpose of spreading employment n the mountainous and distressed districts of the south and west of Ireland, and a loan of 200,000l., repayable with interest, on public security, such as the funds of corporate bodies, canal companies, or Grand Jury presentments, to promote such national works as would have the effect of giving immediate and profitable employment in those opulent districts of Ireland which could afford paying for their further improvement. This expenditure, and subsequent loan, of money, repayable never under four per cent interest and five per cent principal, materially relieved Ireland, and now enable her to repay, by a permanent increase of revenue in the districts where the improvements were curried on, the full amount of the original advance. As the right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that an annual increase of revenue equal to the amount of the sum expended has been the result of his advances, I could not possibly have expected but that he would have been the first to have applauded the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the measure he has now brought forward. Sir, on grounds of public policy, it is impossible to dispute the justice and the expediency of making small grants for the purpose of spreading colonization and intercourse in deserted portions of the United Kingdom, where the result would be an accession of profitable territory to the State, and of making even large loans for the further improvement of opulent and cultivated districts when the repayment was well secured. I believe it to be an undoubted fact, that, at this moment, there is not a single public work executing at the public expense in Ireland. Far be it from me to argue that because there has been a lavish expenditure in palaces and public yards, and great undertakings in England, that, therefore, the improvement of a fertile and populous portion of the empire, like Ireland, ought not to be overlooked. I disclaim this kind of reasoning. I am one of those who are happy to see everything done to improve England, provided some little attention is paid to promote the prosperity of Ireland; and whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes a loan, or imitates the conduct of his predecessors by calling for a grant in aid of local improvements, I am satisfied that, by the people of Ireland, either measure will be received as a very useful and timely relief to the country. 1229 Sir, the measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is loudly called for by Grand Juries and public bodies in Ireland, who have made large presentments in aid of local improvements—who offer security which cannot be questioned—and who, by this measure, would immediately take out of the market of labour the redundant hands which are now idle and unemployed. I consider this loan of 50,000l. in aid of public works, re-issuable for other works as the instalments are paid into the Treasury, a great improvement on the plan of the loans which were heretofore advanced in favour of public works in Ireland, and calculated, I trust, to prevent the humiliating necessity of Irish Gentlemen, year after year, coming down to this House to solicit the smallest advance in aid of districts which may be visited with sudden or temporary calamity. I regret that there should be the smallest difference of opinion respecting the measure which the noble Lord has thought it his duty to recommend in the present instance; for I cannot help saying, that, in my opinion, if the public bodies of Ireland brought their securities into the money-market of England, and proved, as the fact undoubtedly is, that their engagements for a succession of years were punctually discharged, but that ample funds might be speedily raised on those most ample securities. I think there is nothing extraordinary in a Parliament doing, for the public benefit, what individuals would be found to do even for private advantage. These advances have been of signal benefit to Ireland, and have not been attended with the smallest loss to Great Britain. I should however, deceive the House if I disguised the fact, that the present alarming condition of Ireland requires a far more searching and more extended remedy than a mere loan of 50,000l., repayable with interest. Sir, if I am asked to what it is I ascribe the more than usual redundancy of unemployed labour, and the discontent, which exist at this moment in Ireland, I say it is my conscientious opinion, that the sudden suspension of loans for aiding and encouraging the extension of public works has caused a great deal of discontent, and impressed a large portion of the working poor with the opinion that even measures of the most admitted public utility were no sooner introduced into Ireland than they were abandoned, When the late 1230 Secretary of State for the Home Department introduced for the first time the system of aiding and developing the natural resources of Ireland, by an advance of capital to public bodies giving adequate security, and also of assisting with public grants districts quite incapable of giving security for repaying advances—the obvious benefit of this system rapidly displayed itself, and Ireland became progressively enriched, without Great Britain being at all impoverished or inconvenienced. Why, then, was a system which worked so well discontinued? If any Gentleman who has filled the office of Secretary for Ireland will rise in his place and declare that this system of loans, repayable with sufficient interest, was unprofitable to Ireland or injurious to England, I will not trouble the House with another observation. But when it is admitted on all sides that there was no loss sustained by these loans, and that they acted as a stimulus on Irish industry, and reacted beneficially on the commerce and manufacturing industry of Great Britain, by making Ireland a greater and wealthier consumer, is it not to be regretted that any interruption should be given to a system which increased the revenue of the State, and increased the comfort of the labouring poor of that country? Now, although it is contended by the right hon. member for Armagh, that when the 50,000l. is advanced, the instalments, by which it is to be repaid, will afford only a very small fund for future employment, I must say that, let the fund be what it may, still it will be to all intents a national loan-fund, to which distressed districts may resort on urgent necessity. Sir, the instalments may be small, but still the advantage of the proposed measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, that a national loan-fund is created, which will enable those intrusted with its management to take care that those districts of Ireland, which from accidental causes may require small temporary relief, through the medium of employment, shall, on security, be always certain of obtaining it. I consider this measure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer calculated to be of great utility; and having given that opinion, I should have closed with that observation, if the hon. members for Newark and Borough- bridge had not, I am satisfied with most excellent intentions to Ireland, zealously and fairly submitted—that measures of a very different character were absolutely necessary for the relief and tranquillity of 1231 that country These two hon. Gentlemen, along with other Gentlemen, have fearlessly declared, that a provision for the Irish poor cannot be longer delayed or evaded. I hold in my hand a paper which I received this day from Ireland, containing a letter from a highly informed and educated gentleman, addressed to the Marquis of Anglesey, in which he says, that though the bones and muscles of the Irish peasantry fertilize the fields, create the national wealth, and provide funds for rents and taxes and tithes, yet that peasantry, who produce everything, consume nothing; and that, unless measures, the most prompt and energetic, are adopted to improve the condition of the Irish labourer, and to furnish him with regular employment so as to enable him to procure comfortable food and decent raiment, Ireland will become a wilderness; and he fears, ere long, a country in which no person could happily reside. In that letter it is asserted that the war of poverty against property has already commenced —that formerly it was the war of religion, or the war of political opinion; but that it is now, unhappily, the war of gaunt famine, leading to desperation, and striving for an improved existence. I confess I fear that this description of the country is too true a delineation of its present condition, and that it is well calculated to confirm many Gentlemen in the opinion of the necessity of introducing a provision for the poor in Ireland. On this subject I allow there is a great discrepancy of opinion. I admit at once that it is my firm and conscientious belief, that the frightful evils of a desolating absenteeism, and the immense drain for the payment of the interest of millions advanced on the security of landed property, are the causes of the great distress which exists in Ireland. I admit, that the Irish absentees are probably amongst the first class of landed proprietors in Europe; and that a country which produces an annual stock of wealth from the produce of her own soil, cannot be in a sound or healthy state whilst loans of money are requisite to be raised in another country, to be remitted to that country to discharge the functions of capital. When I make this admission, I beg Gentlemen will consider, that even if the proprietors of great estates in Ireland remained at home, still the rental of the country is small, and the population very great. The accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few is in every country accomplished at the expense of the 1232 many, inasmuch as each community possesses only a certain amount of property. When these masses of wealth are reinstated where they are collected, the evils are mitigated; but when these masses are taken out of this country, a general disorganization of society is the unavoidable result. Sir, while I am favourable to any measure which will retain the wealth which a country produces in that country for its ulterior improvement, be assured that it is impossible for any individual to proceed with greater care or caution than I am disposed to do, in endeavouring to effect so important a purpose. I am one of those who like to draw from authorities which are venerated for their intelligence and worth, and from legislative enactments, where I can find them, authorities in favour of, and precedents which are in point for, measures which may be considered calculated to relieve the distresses of my country; and I avow that the recommendation of Dr. Woodward, the Bishop of Cloyne, published sixty years ago, and then submitted to the consideration of the Parliament of Ireland, always appeared to me highly deserving the most serious consideration of such persons as were disposed to pay attention to the affairs of Ireland. That eminent and distinguished scholar and divine laid down these principles:—"That the poor are so inadequately provided for by voluntary contributions in Ireland, as to stand in need of some legal title to a maintenance. That it is the indispensable duty of the rich to grant to the poor some competent provision; and That it is eminently the interest of the commonwealth that this duty be discharged in a suitable manner." These were the principles of an Irish Protestant Bishop, Dr. Woodward, sixty years ago, and are the principles of a Catholic Irish Bishop, Dr. Doyle, an eminent divine and distinguished writer, at the present moment. It was said by Dr. Woodward, sixty years ago, "That the lower class of the people of Ireland are ill accommodated with lodging, raiment, and even food; and that their poverty is likely to continue with but little mitigation, from the following, amongst other causes—the exorbitant rent extorted from the poorer tenants, ever loth and afraid to quit their ancient habitations; by the general method of letting farms to the highest bidder, without any allowance for a tenant right; the oppression of duty-work, which calls the cottager arbitrarily from the tillage of 1233 this little spot which he holds at so dear a rent; and the low rate of wages for labour; these circumstances, combined with some others, reduce the Irish cottager below the peasant of almost every country in Europe. Such is his hard condition in the most plentiful season, and in the prime of his health and strength: what, then, must be his state in time of dearth, under the pressure of years, infirmities, or even a very numerous young family? His expenses admit of no retrenchment; he is a stranger to luxury, or even to decent accommodation, and yet his wages seldom afford any reserve. On the death of such a father of a family, dependent on his labour for their main, or perhaps entire, support, how forlorn must be the situation of his widow and orphan children! It would shock a tender mind to imagine (if imagination could paint) the miseries to which the bulk of the inhabitants of Ireland are continually exposed by the slightest reverse of fortune, By a single bad season; by an accidental loss; by an occasional disease; and even by the gradual decay of nature, these evils exist in a great, although not equal number, and cannot be doubted or denied by any but those who shut their eyes or steel their hearts against them." These were the words of an Irish Protestant Bishop, addressed to an Irish Parliament sixty years ago, and to a Parliament which actually commenced legislating at his instance, and on his re- commendation. These sentiments have, I candidly admit, always left a deep impression on my mind, as well deserving most serious consideration. Dr. Woodward contemplated the creation of a fund for supporting destitute children, providing the sick poor with medicine, and the aged poor with a small fund in aid of their labour. Dr. Woodward likewise proposed a regular contribution of one percent on all property, to make such provision for the poor as would take away all imputation of neglect or injustice. The gentleman (Dr. Grattan), an extract from whose letter to the Marquis of Anglesey I read to the House, certainly goes farther than Bishop Woodward, for he is for creating a national loan-fund by the imposition of a tax, not upon income, but upon actual property of every description, increasing in a ratio proportioned to the property of the individual, so that those who have a larger property shall pay a higher poundage than those whose property is smaller; the entire produce of the tax to be expended in Ireland for the purpose 1234 of providing regular employment for the poor, and encouraging undertakings of useful and productive labour. Sir, I have not ventured to lead, but I have humbly presumed to follow and support public opinion in Ireland on these important topics. Every one knows how easily the able-bodied peasant disposed to work, and who cannot obtain the means of subsistence, is reduced to a condition as bad as that which proceeds from age or even infirmity. In my opinion, it ought to be a favoured measure to extend employment, even at the lowest rate of wages, to the working poor of Ireland; it may be said to be the religion of the Irish people, for the young and hearty labourer of every family to support the aged and infirm of his family. I do not say that the Irish peasant ought not to be relieved of this burthen, but I say it is a burthen he is willing to endure when he can obtain employment. I will support the national loan-fund in aid of public works in Ireland, as proposed by the noble Lord, as I will every other measure calculated to extend employment in Ireland, whether it be by grant, by loan, by assessment, by labour-rate, or by Poor-laws. I, for one, will never differ about the mode in which the fund is raised, or the name which is bestowed upon it. As an incipient measure, this proposed measure of the noble Lord is entitled to my most warm and hearty concurrence; it precludes no other project being resorted to in aid of the same principle, and it lays the foundation of a system which I trust will prove, as I am confident the noble Lord and his Majesty's Ministers intend it should prove, the means of extending employment to the people of Ireland, without the smallest injury to Great Britain; and answer a most beneficial purpose, until measures of a more extensive nature may be carried into execution for ensuring the peace and improvement of Ireland.
Sir J. Bourke
expressed his gratitude to the Government for this measure of relief. The application of such grants to the improvement of the roads in the western district of Ireland would be, in his opinion, the best system of Poor-laws that could be introduced.
§ Motion carried, and the House resumed.
§ A number of Petitions were then received, and at three o'clock the House adjourned to Tuesday the 12th of April.