HC Deb 26 September 1831 vol 7 cc593-7
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from the Eastern Branch of the National Union, praying for the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland. He was afraid that it would at last be found necessary to introduce such a system into that country; but at the same time he felt, that after the example of the English Poor-laws, which were found to be so pregnant with evils as to induce many persons to believe it would be better to abolish them altogether, it behoved them to be exceedingly cautious what steps they took with respect to the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland.

Mr. Hunt

said, that it was not the Poor- laws of England, but the abuse of them, that was reprehensible. He defied any one to point out any clause in the English Poor-laws that was not just, equitable, and humane.

Mr. Wrightson

thought, that the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland would only be alleviating one class of persons by the ruin of another. Every shilling that would be applied to the relief of the poor, must be taken from productive labour.

Mr. John Weyland

said, Poor-laws were necessary for Ireland, because so much of the capital of that country was taken away by absentees, that the labourers of the country were left without employment, and had, therefore, a right to look for support in some other way. As to the Poor-laws in England, for 200 years after their introduction, nothing but unmixed good resulted from their operation. It was the artificial state of society subsequently introduced which caused their abuse—the law of settlement had laid the foundation for this latter state of things.

Mr. George Robinson

said, that it was impossible to expect that able-bodied men would remain quiet and tranquil without employment; and he thought that Poor-laws were the only remedy for Ireland.

Mr. Daniel Whittle Harvey

regarded the Poor-laws as an institution more beneficial to those who paid, than to those who received the rates. The Poor-laws had their origin in the laws of nature; and when a man could not maintain himself by industry, he had a right to be supported by the country. He hoped that Church property would soon be made applicable to the purest of all Christian purposes—the support of the poor.

Sir Robert Bateson

said, that the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland would render that country doubly wretched and doubly miserable. He would rather take an example, as to Poor-laws, from Scotland than from England, for in the former country they worked well, and in the latter country confessedly ill. At the same time, he very much wished to see a legal support established for the aged and infirm who were unable to support themselves.

Sir Charles Burrell

did not think objections founded on the abuses which had grown up in the English system of Poor-laws, held good against the introduction of some such system into Ireland upon an improved plan. Much of the evil of the English system arose from giving the married labourer an allowance out of the Poor-rates, which was denied to the single man. This led to premature marriages, and a redundant population.

Mr. Wilks

would apply the original Statute of Elizabeth to Ireland—that which secured a provision for the aged and infirm; but thought the system at present in force in this country would be fatal to the improvement of the sister country. It would require the greatest care in adapting any Poor-laws to Ireland.

Lord Ingestrie

thought, that the question of the introduction of Poor-laws into Ireland ought to receive immediate attention from the Legislature—the state of the poor in that country was such as to require immediate relief.

Colonel Torrens

could not say, that he viewed the proposition for Poor-laws in Ireland with a favourable eye. The advocates for introducing Poor-laws into that country, were bound to show that they would effect that condition without which there was no bettering the state of the poor in any country—namely, either increase the amount of food raised in that country, or lessen the number of consumers. If Poor-laws would add to the produce relatively or directly, or lessen the number of mouths to consume that produce directly or relatively, he would support their being introduced into Ireland.

Mr. Hodges

agreed with hon. Members, that if the English system, with all its abuses, were at once adopted in Ireland, much mischief would ensue. At the same time, that was no objection to the establishment of a less vicious system of parochial relief in that country, which he thought was the only feasible means of taxing the absentees.

Sir John Newport

was as anxious as any man to see some species of relief for the aged and sick, but he must protest against that description of relief which, in England, was given to the able-bodied and young. The question of the Poor-laws being extended to Ireland, was a very important one, and would require deep consideration. He had sat many years in that House, and did not recollect a single Session in which complaints against the abuse of the English Poor-laws were not made. He should hesitate a long time before he gave an unqualified support to the introduction of the Poor-laws in Ireland as they existed in this country, but he was anxious to see the infirm, and sick, and aged, who had no means of subsistence, provided for. He condemned holding out hopes to Ireland on the subject of the Poor-laws until some system was proposed to that House.

Sir John Brydges

thought, the only way of giving effectual relief to Ireland was by a proper, well-modified system of Poor-laws. The member for Colchester was so determined to pull down the Church, that he omitted no opportunity of introducing the subject. That hon. Member, and the member for Kerry, proposed that one-third of the Church property in Ireland should be applied to the use of the poor. He trusted the Government would not listen to any such proposition. If the Church of Ireland was despoiled of her property, that of the English Church would not long remain in security. The present Bishop of Derry, in an address to the clergy of the diocese over which he lately presided, spoke in the highest terms of the services rendered to Ireland by the Established Church and its clergy. He said, "I speak not of professional partiality, when I claim for my brethren of the Church the approbation of every man in the community of common discernment. I have lived long enough amongst them to know their worth. I have seen their privations the most unjust, their unbounded generosity—under perils the most formidable, their unshaken fortitude—under difficulties the most perplexing, the most devoted attachment to the interests of their poorer fellow-creatures—and I can fearlessly assert that, in the absence of the great landed proprietors, the undisturbed maintenance of their properties has been mainly attributable to their residence and influence. If the wisdom of the Legislature should be appealed to, I do most conscientiously believe, that it could not be more beneficially displayed than by ensuring the security of those upon whose exertions the best interests of society so greatly depend." This was the Church which the member for Kerry was endeavouring to undermine.

Mr. O'Connell

said, there was no greater friend to the Established Church of Ireland than he was. It was only to her temporalities, not to her doctrines, that he objected. Ireland was in a very different situation from any other country in Europe. The greater part of the produce of the soil was exported to pay the rent of the absentee landlords, and until some means were devised to abate this drain, Ireland must necessarily remain poor. With respect to the English system, no other hon. Member had joined with the hon. member for Preston in his unqualified eulogium on the English system of Poor-laws.

Sir John Brydges

said, the member for Kerry, upon a former occasion, when he was asked whether he would take away one-third of the Church property of Ireland, answered, "Certainly."

Mr. O'Connell

said, he was a greater friend to the Church than the hon. Baronet, for he opposed and wished to remedy the abuses of it.

Mr. Hunt rose, but was called to order by the Speaker, the hon. Member having spoken before on the petition.

Mr. Hunt

said, there were many hon. Members who spoke twice [cries of "Chair, Chair."]

The Speaker

If other hon. Members had done what was disorderly, that was no reason why the hon. Member should increase the disorder.

Petition to be printed.

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