HC Deb 31 July 1833 vol 20 cc191-4
Captain Dundas

presented a Petition from Greenwich, praying for the institution of Poor Laws in Ireland. He supported the petition; and he believed that nothing but Poor-laws could effectually put down agitation and starvation. He had reason to know, that the greater part of the respectable landed proprietors connected with Ireland were favourable to the introduction of Poor-laws.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that the petitioners from Greenwich—for he had looked into their petition—did not rest their demand for Irish Poor-laws upon the argument which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had stated. They called for Poor-laws for the Irish, because the parish of Greenwich would be benefited thereby. He differed from the hon. and gallant Member, and was convinced, that nothing could more effectually add to the agitation of Ireland than Poor-laws, which would create the greatest animosities between the peasantry and the few gentry who vet resided on their estates. He looked upon the Poor-laws in this country as a cause of starvation, and of all uncharitableness. The people of Greenwich were, no doubt, very respectable; and if they would send back the Irish gentry who resided in this country, they would not find themselves troubled longer by the poverty of the Irish labourers.

Mr. Spring Rice

, from his acquaintance with the circumstances of Ireland, was able to assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Captain Dundas), that, instead of putting an end to agitation, the Poor-laws would have the contrary effect. The hon. and gallant Officer had also said, that a majority of landed proprietors connected with Ireland were favourable to Poor-laws for that country. On the contrary, it was well known that they were not so; and the reason assigned for their opposition to Poor-laws was, that the burthen would fall upon themselves. Now, for his part, he would not oppose any burthen upon his estate, to any extent, if it would improve the condition of the Irish peasantry. But though he differed from the hon. and learned member for Dublin upon most subjects, he agreed with him on this, and believed, that Poor-laws would be productive of the most injurious consequences in Ireland; and he believed that the reasons which led him to this opinion, and which, on the proper occasion, he was ready to urge, were those which influenced the greater number of gentlemen connected with Ireland.

Mr. Finn

said, that a great portion of the rental of Ireland came over to this country, and all that Ireland received in return was, the importation of five Englishmen as Bishops and two as Archbishops, who received there amongst them about 50,000l.; besides a host of excisemen and other placemen. He concurred with the right hon. member for Cambridge as to the effects of Poor-laws, and he would never consent to their introduction into Ireland. But he would gladly agree to a tax of a shilling or sixpence in the pound upon the rental, for the employment of the labouring poor in public works.

Mr. O'Reilly

could not conceive how any man's heart could allow him to refuse to make some provision for the poor in Ireland, whatever might be his objections to the English system. He thought it was the duty of the gentlemen of Ireland, not to wait to see the result of experiments for the amendment of the English Poor-laws, but to take the matter into their own hands, and to devise a plan for their own poor. Whatever their excuse might be for not adopting the English Poor-law system, there could be no excuse for increasing the number of Irish poor. The consolidation of farms in a poor country, without capital, and with an absentee proprietary, had caused the greatest misery, and added largely to the number of the unemployed and destitute. In the discussion of the West-India Bill, he had heard a good deal about the attachment of the negroes to their buts, and of the great advantage they derived from their provision-ground; and when he heard this, he felt some regret that there had been so little sympathy for the Irish labourer, when the House passed a Bill to expel them from their cabins and potato-gardens. He could not conceive how a domestic Parliament, in a country with an absentee, and in a great measure an English, proprietary, could cure all grievances.

Mr. Ruthven

said, there was a growing feeling in favour of Poor-laws amongst the Irish landlords. He agreed with the hon. Member (Mr. O'Reilly) as to the consequences of the consolidation of farms; and he believed that nothing but the Law of Settlement could protect the people from the tyranny of the landlords, who turned them out of their small farms.

Mr. Clay

would say only a few words in support of the petition. He would imitate the brevity of his hon. and gallant friend, although he could not hope to be so successful in his brevity; as he (Captain Dundas) had, in so few words, produced two unanswerable arguments. The petitioners stated, that in their parishes the wages of labour were depressed, and the Poor-rates increased, in consequence of the great number of Irish labourers, who displaced the native labourer; and of Irish poor, who became chargeable on the rates. Irish gentlemen were said to reside in this country in great numbers; but, unfortunately, it was not in the same parishes with the Irish poor. He should have no objection to their going back to Ireland if they took the poor with them; or the evils occasioned by the numbers of poor Irish in the parishes complained of might be alleviated by a better distribution of Irish gentlemen from the west end of the town to the parishes of Poplar, Shadwell, Greenwich, &c. The hon. and learned Member had said, that the Poor-laws caused starvation; but he believed that the Irish peasantry would call the starvation they caused abundance.

Mr. Shaw

, believing that the Poor-laws would not relieve the distresses of Ireland, could not conscientiously support the petition. if he believed it would create profitable employment for the poor, he would support it; but he believed that its only effect would be, to deprive the industrious of that labour which was their only support, and, without satisfactorily relieving any, it would pauperize all. He certainly admitted, that it was a great hardship on English parishes to support the Irish poor; no doubt that matter required amendment. But when it was wished to introduce into Ireland a system of Poor-laws avowedly bad and insufficient in England, he could not at all agree as to the propriety or efficacy of the remedy proposed. If England adopted a good system, he should support its application to Ireland; but he should never support the application of one which as a remedy was much worse than the disease. He was decidedly of opinion, that a complete reform of the present system of Poor-laws in England was imperatively required. When that was done, he should urge no objection to having Ireland put on the same footing as England; but not till then. It was too much, that England, because she had a bad system of Poor-laws, should force it upon Ireland, by way of putting her upon the same footing.

Petition to lie on the Table.