§ Lord J. Russell
moved the order of the day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.
Mr. O' Connell
said, that before the Speaker left the chair he wished to suggest an opinion on the subject of this Bill. He must say-that the state of destitution that existed in Ireland was exceedingly underrated in this Bill. He never knew an instance of such a complete falsification of evidence as that which arose in Mr. Nicholls's report. He had trespassed upon the House upon a former occasion, and would not detain them two minutes. He had declared, that in the present state of destitution in Ireland any thing like adequate relief would amount to a confiscation of property, whilst the present provision was not only not desirable, but would lead to increasing irritation. Having to select between them, he had made up his mind for confiscation, and not for increasing irritation, and therefore he must state, that he would not oppose this Bill. But he would divide the House upon that part of the Bill which confined relief to workhouses; and he would take the sense of the House upon a clause to enable the guardians to give out-door relief. He felt it his duty to express his opinion that the relief must be more extensive, or they had better have no relief at all.
said, that it seemed now to be settled that a Poor-law should be introduced. He saw there was to be another rate imposed upon the people of Ireland before the tithe question was settled. They had now for three years resisted the payment of tithes. On the first of November there would be four years to pay. Was it intended by the Legislature to impose a new tax upon the people of Ireland before the adjustment of the tithe question? He felt public opinion was pronounced, and irrevocably pronounced, upon the subject of an Irish Poor-law. But while he felt quite convinced that a Poor-rate must be imposed, he was most anxious that the tithe question should be settled before the rate was imposed upon Ireland. It must be manifest to every body who knew any thing of the constitution of this country, that where the mass of the people, already by the most effective and, in his opinion, justifiable or- 691 ganization, resisted the collection of tithes—it must be manifest, that until the tithe question was adjusted it was impossible that any other rate should be imposed on the country with the smallest chance of a successful collection. He wished that the Government would direct its attention to this subject. He wished they would adopt the only means of pressing a measure which would conduce to the pacification of the country. He for one was anxious to know what was the course to be pursued. He would put no questions to Government. He did not think that the people of Ireland would be satisfied until the question of tithes was satisfactorily settled. He would as he said before, put no question, but he should certainly like to know what course the Government meant to adopt.
§ Mr. Shaw
was as anxious as the hon. Member for Tipperary for a settlement of the tithe question, but he did not agree with him as to the mode in which this should be effected. The hon. Member said, that it would be four years next November since tithes had been collected in Ireland. This, however, was a fallacy; for tithes had been tolerably well paid in Ireland, at least in three-fourths of the country, during the last year; and any difficulty in their collection was only experienced in one-fourth. He would venture to assert, that tithes were as well paid as any other duty or tax. With respect to this Bill, he thought that a great fault of it was, that it went much farther than the noble Lord had made provision for. He also thought that the noble Lord had greatly miscalculated the number of applicants for admission into the workhouses; they would certainly be much greater than he imagined. It would have been much better, in the first instance, if they had confined relief in the workhouses for the weak, the sick, and the infirm. He could not help feeling, however, that the whole measure was a fearful experiment on the property of Ireland, as well as the habits of the people.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
was satisfied that the principle of relief in workhouses never could be acted upon in Ireland. He differed from the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary as to the settlement of the tithe-question before the Poor-law Bill; he thought that the latter should be delayed on no account.
§ Lord John Russell
I do not think it necessary to enter upon the general argu- 692 ment as to the Poor-law measure, on which I before addressed the House, both on the introduction and on the second reading of the Bill, but I feel bound to take some notice of the question put to me by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary. Indeed, I suppose that it is the wish of the House that I should state the course that the Government intends to pursue as regards this subject, and I must say, that is a matter of considerable difficulty to state what course should be taken in certain contingencies, it resting on observations, or matter in the shape of observations, as to the course taken by the party opposed to me as regards one of these Bills. It must be recollected that we introduced three separate Bills with respect to Ireland, namely, the Municipal Corporation Bill, the Tithes-Bill, and the Poor-law Bill; these were three separate measures, but tending, as we believe, to the tranquility, the improvement, and the well-being of Ireland, and also to the more firm establishment of the union between the two countries. On the other side of the House it has been held, that these measures were not to be taken as separate measures, but as measures connected together, and that one should not be judged of without the consideration of the other. Denying, as I do, the justice of this opinion, still I have to say, that we have now brought forward, or at least stated, the nature and what we proposed to do with respect to each of these measures. We have sent up to the other House of Parliament a Bill respecting Municipal Corporations in Ireland. We now propose to go into Committee on the Poor-law Bill; and my noble Friend stated, with great clearness, the provisions of a Bill which he proposes to introduce respecting tithes; therefore, the whole of our plans on these subjects are before the House. Knowing, then, that the plans proposed on the part of the Government are before the House, we are of opinion that these measures are best calculated for the attainment of the objects meant to be obtained. But I understood the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in the course of the debate at the close of the discussion of one of those Bills in this House, namely, on the debate on Municipal Corporations—I understood him to state, that although he was not decidedly opposed to a measure on this subject, yet that the measure before the, House exceeded as it was framed such a 693 measure as he could approve of; and although he did not deny that a primá facie case had been made out for the establishment of Corporations in Ireland, in resisting our measure, he did not state the nature of the amendments which he would have wished to have introduced, nor the nature of the Bill which he would support. He, however, opposed the further progress of the measure, because the other measures as to tithes and Poor-laws were not before the House. I have stated, that I regarded these Bills as separate measures, but which he stated he wished to regard as a whole. Thus I understood the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and he is present to correct me if I am incorrect. But, I must say, what has actually happened since, is an occurrence wholly unprecedented in the history of Parliament, but, at the same time, one to which it is difficult to affix any definite meaning. I take the interpretation of this part of the constitution from the practice and from the professions of the right hon. Gentleman, and I do not think that I differ much from him in stating that, when measures have been passed repeatedly by considerable majorities of this House, they must, in the end, meet with the concurrence of the other House of Parliament. Undoubtedly, I am not about to enter into a lengthened examination of the opinion to which I have referred; but I must observe that, so far, the Bill we sent up, met with the concurrence of the other House, for it was read a second time in the other House, and I did not hear, and, indeed, the contrary would appear to be the case, that no notice was given of a motion similar to that proposed and carried last year with respect to this Bill in the other House of Parliament, and which was proposed last year, and also this year to this House of Parliament, but which was, on both occasions, negatived, namely, that instead of provision being made for the reformation and reconstruction of the Municipal Corporations in Ireland, that provision should be made for their total abolition. Judging, therefore, wholly from the fact, that the other House was disposed to follow that which was the practice in the best times of the constitution, namely, agreeing to a measure which the settled and deliberate opinion of the representatives of the people was in favour of. I supposed that the House of Lords was prepared to consider the Bill on the 694 subject which had been sent to them. At the time when the Bill was read a second time, this appeared to be the course that would be taken, above all, when no intimation was given of such an instruction as I have mentioned being proposed to the Committee. But without notice of any kind, the motion being made in such manner as precluded many of those who intended to support the Bill from having their names recorded against the motion made, and successfully made, to postpone the Bill to the 9th of June. Therefore, as I said before, putting aside the original proposition, that the Bills should be considered separately, the House of Lords adopted the amendment that was proposed, that the Bills should be considered together; and, I must say, in all fairness, and in hope of coming to an adjustment, that it would have been right to have stated and propounded, in a formal shape, the amendments which were to be made, and then, if they had thought proper, they might adjourn for a week, fortnight, or longer time, the further consideration of the subject. These amendments thus being in our power, we should have been able to form some judgment, some definite opinion, as to the nature of the measure to which that House appeared willing to assent; and also to form a judgment on the success of the measures which we are now pressing forward. I must also add, that the course of which I complain, has not been followed with a view to come to an adjustment of this question. It is a course which must very much embarrass his Majesty's Government, and throw obstacles in the way which will greatly interfere with us while we have to deal with the Bills before the House. Under these circumstances, it is very difficult to state what course it is proper to pursue, for it might be said, and suspicious minds might adopt such an opinion, that those who, without any notice, proposed this course, and who have, on all occasions, spoken against the popular principles contained in the Bill, and now appear as hostile to that popular principle as they ever were—it might be said that their object was to act in such a way as to enable them to force the Bills on the other subjects which are consonant to their feelings, while they would keep up the form and substance of Corporations in Ireland, effectually shutting out the popular principle, for these Corporations 695 would be preserved, as they now are, exclusive bodies. Such I hope, is not the interpretation to be put on this proceeding; and I should be very sorry to take any hasty or premature steps founded on conclusions that it was not intended by the other House to consent to the foundation of popular institutions in Ireland for the management of local affairs. But another course which I may be told might be taken by the other House was this, that they would say, "We will take out of the Tithe Bill all that is displeasing to us, and we will put into the Corporation Bill something that will be displeasing to you." As to what this something may be, we know not—as to whether it is a simple alteration of the Bill, or whether it will entirely militate against the vital principle of the Bill, we are left only to conjecture; and anything we hear in conversation, and all that is repeated in the public prints, as being the deliberate opinions of certain noble Lords, only involves the subject in greater doubt and difficulty and uncertainty. Under these circumstances, I think it is my bounden duty to proceed with the Bills without suspending their progress, and in the manner in which I originally proposed to deal with them; at the same time, we should not be doing our duty to this House and to the constituency, if we did not warn the House of Lords that it is not possible that there can be a satisfactory adjustment of this question, if we do not endeavour, while carrying on the public service in such a manner that it do not suffer inconvenience or detriment, to take care that none of the essential powers and privileges of this House should be departed from, which House of Commons has given confidence to the administration, and which confidence we should be misusing, if we merely persisted in carrying Bills which were afterwards totally defeated elsewhere. I believe the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for the University of Dublin, stated, with respect to the tithe question, that it was not essential that the Tithe Bill should be passed during the present Session. I will not give an opinion on this subject, but I believe such was the inference to be drawn from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. I must state further, that in what I have hitherto explained to the House, I have not seemed to answer the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny, or laid down any definite or 696 clear course of action; but the hon. and learned Member must recollect, that in the very doubts that I have expressed as to the situation in which we stand, and as to the intentions of our opponents, and I must also add the other House of Parliament, would lead us to the conclusion, that it is better that we should wait and see whether we have mistaken the intentions of our own opponents, instead of adopting that decided course which it would afterwards be shown we were not justified in pursuing. We shall endeavour to come to a settlement of these matters, and to come to that settlement in such a manner as will produce benefit to Ireland, and also to carry these measures in such a way that those who represent that country, and those who sympathies with the feeling of Ireland, will be satisfied that some progress has been made during the present Session. But at present I feel, after the vote of the other night, which cannot be interpreted in a way which will lead us to anything conclusive as to the course of proceeding of the other House, that it is essential at the present moment that all in the majority of the House of Commons should remain firmly united together on the present occasion; and I think I may say, that if the supporters of the present administration continue their present confidence in it, that with such support, and with such a majority, the Ministry will not desert them. I feel, also, that other considerations affecting this subject, of very great and paramount importance, but into which I will not now enter—considerations affecting the maintenance of the authority of the two Houses of Parliament—I remain, as I ever have been, an adherent of the established form of Government, which has recognised an hereditary House of Parliament as part of the constitution of the country; from that opinion I am not disposed to depart; and I feel convinced—such is my confidence in the excellence of the British constitution—such is my confidence in the temper which has carried us hitherto through whatever dangers and difficulties we have had to contend with—that there will at last be an agreement with respect to these Bills, as there has been before when differences have arisen. Under these circumstances, I think that the constitution ought not to be lightly parted with, and that no misunderstanding, as to the postponement, the delay, or the retarding 697 these measures, ought to be considered an obstacle to the maintenance of that constitution, and to its being continued on a basis of harmony and concord. With these opinions, and without expressing any doubts as to coming to any settlement on the Corporation or tithe-questions, I must conclude, at the same time, with stating, that I am convinced that there is nothing in the constitution of this House, or the other House of Parliament, which could finally prevent such a settlement; and therefore it would be better that, instead of the determination being left to the chances of collision, or to the winds of fortune, that we should maintain that constitution which has hitherto worked with such admirable effect, and which is still capable of producing most admirable fruits to both England and Ireland.
§ Mr. Hume
was satisfied that the conclusion of the noble Lord's speech was directly at variance with the facts which he had stated in the course of it. He had no doubt, however, but that Ministers would do their duty, and stand by the House now they saw the clear course before them. That House, at the early part of the Session, passed a Bill, which had for its object the establishment of local Government in the towns of Ireland. The cause of Ireland seemed, however, to be unworthy of the attention of the other House, at least till the 9th of June. He wished the noble Lord to state whether he intended to carry the Church-rates Bill, and the other measures before the House, as fast as possible, and send them up to the House of Lords, or whether he intended to postpone them until after the 9th of June? It appeared to him to be trifling with the feelings of the country not to stale distinctly what course the Government intended to take, to prevent the stoppage of the public business. The two Houses must be placed on a footing of harmony to carry on the legislation for the country. He knew that the noble Lord was afraid of the subject of the reform of the Lords. The noble Lord said, that he was anxious to adhere to the constitution which had hitherto worked so well: had that been the case for the last two years, during which period all the measures sent up by that House have been mutilated or broken in pieces? He wished to have a distinct answer from the noble Lord as to the course he intended to pursue, as to whether he meant to press the measures before 698 the House. He was satisfied, if the obstacles were found to remain with the other House, the country would no longer suffer it, but would lop away the impediments in its way, and would assist the Government in applying a remedy. They had arrived at a period when there was a complete stoppage of legislation, and it was necessary that they should have some understanding as to their future proceedings.
§ Lord John Russell
had thought he had made himself understood, but he begged at once to state that he intended, with as little delay as possible, to proceed with the measures before the House.
§ Sir Robert Peel
I am extremely sorry that a discussion, so mixed up with party feeling and party interest, should have taken place on the question of a Poor-law. I greatly wish the hon. Gentleman, however legitimate his question may be, had taken some other occasion for putting it, for I feel that, if we once permit party feeling to mingle in the discussion of a Poor-law for Ireland, it will greatly prejudice that discussion, and materially tend to discourage the hope of a satisfactory-completion of a measure which, as it is, is looked upon with very considerable doubt and anxiety. As the noble Lord has made distinct reference to me, I find it necessary, not adopting a different temper from that in which the noble Lord spoke, to say something on this subject. I understand from the noble Lord, that it is his intention to proceed with those measures which were indicated in his Majesty's speech from the throne, as affecting the internal peace and tranquility of Ireland, with the consideration, namely, of the Poor-law Bill, and the question of Irish tithes. I rejoice to hear that such is the noble Lord's determination, and I regard it as a much more prudent decision than the one I understood him to indicate on Friday last, of a contrary description. The noble Lord complains of the course taken by the House of Lords on the subject of the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill. I am bound to say, that I think that the course of the House of Lords is perfectly consistent with justice and good sense. I can say this with perfect truth, because the noble Lord will do me the justice to remember, that when this matter was first brought under the consideration of this House, I expressed an anxious wish that, before we came to a final decision on the 699 Corporation question, we ought first to consider the other two matters. I said this with an abstract view of the question, and without any reference whatever to the course the House of Lords might think proper to adopt. I thought it of the utmost importance, that before we pronounced our final opinion on the Irish Corporation question, we should be in full possession of the intentions of Government, and the probable course the House of Commons would be called upon to pursue in reference to Irish tithes, and Irish Poor-laws. I think the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary must admit, that it is perfectly consistent in the Peers to find an intimate connexion between questions of this kind, for in the very speech which he has just delivered, he himself said, that he thought the questions of Irish Poor-laws, and Irish tithe, so intimately connected together, that he protested against the consideration of the Poor-laws, until the House was put in full possession of the Ministerial measure respecting Irish tithes. "For," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "tithe, in many parts of Ireland, is in arrear for three years, and, at Christmas next, will be four years in arrear; before you impose a new rate of any kind in Ireland for the relief of the poor, let me know what is the final settlement you propose to make, as to the tithes in that country." Now, if it be the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that two out of these three questions are so intimately connected together, that he declines pronouncing an opinion on an Irish poor-rate, until he has ascertained the feelings of Government and of the House, as to Irish tithe, how can he deny to other parties the exercise of that judgment which he not only claims for himself, but pronounces, or how could he refuse them the right of thinking that the three questions have that intimate connexion with each other, which he himself admits to exist between two of the three? If, therefore, I wanted any vindication of the reasonableness and justice of the course which has been pursued by the House of Lords, I find it in the distinct admission of the hon. and learned Member. The hon. Member for Middlesex seems to think that there is something in the course taken by the House of Lords which is disrespectful to the House of Commons. I beg to say, I myself have that feeling for the honour of a House, of which I have 700 been so long a Member, and by which I have been received with only too much of favour. I have that deep interest in its honour and character, that nothing could induce me to acquiesce in any course which I thought disrespectful to this House: but I beg the hon. Member to call to mind, that it was distinctly intimated to the House of Lords, in the Speech from the Throne, that in the course of the present Session, their attention would be drawn to "three measures intimately connected with the tranquility and welfare of Ireland," and that, on the invitation of the Ministry, their Lordships presented an address to the King, in which they expressed a hope that they might be able to make some arrangements conducive to the welfare and peace of Ireland, and pledging themselves to an early consideration of the three measures which were specified by Ministers in the Speech from the Throne. If, therefore, the Lords concur with the Commons in the principle, that there is an intimate union between these questions, without any reference to the proceedings of the House of Commons, have not their Lordships had authoritative and indisputable declarations made to them, that these three measures would be presented for their consideration, and if they think them so intimately connected, can anything be more natural or reasonable than that they should desire to postpone the consideration of one Bill, until they know on what principle the others are founded? I before stated to the noble Lord, and with perfect truth, that if the order of these measures had been reversed—if he had perfected the Poor-law Bill, and settled the tithe question, I should then, on the discussion on the Corporation Bill, have frankly stated the connected view which I took of all the measures; but as things have been arranged, the Municipal Bill came in this House to its third reading, before anything was known as to either of the other measures. The noble Lord seemed to apprehend the possibility that in the course now taken, some advantage is intended to be laid hold of this kind, that one Bill will be passed into a law, and the other indefinitely postponed; for instance, that a tithe Bill rendered satisfactory to the House of Lords will be passed, and that then the Municipal Bill will be thrown overboard. Now, this result would be altogether a matter of impossibility, unless this House were a 701 consenting party; for, whatever the scheme of adjustment adopted by the House of Lords as satisfactory to them, this House is, of course, in no way called upon to accept it; and, therefore, the danger which the noble Lord apprehends as possible, is altogether out of the question. I will not enter further into the consideration of these questions, being most unwilling that anything of party asperity should connect itself with the discussion of a Poor-law. I will merely repeat, that as reference was made to me by the noble Lord, concerning the course of the House of Lords, I felt bound to express my entire acquiescence in that course; my conviction that it was perfectly consistent with justice and equity, to ask to see all these measures before it considered the details of one of them; my conviction, further, that had any other course been followed by the House of Lords, if they had at once proceeded to consider the details of the Corporation Bill, such a course would not have facilitated an amicable settlement of the questions, but would, on the contrary, more probably have led to their indefinite postponement; and lastly, my conviction that in the course so adopted, there could have been no intention to offer disrespect to the House of Commons. I believe that no such disrespect was intended; the proceedings of the House of Lords had no necessary reference to any inconsistent proceedings of the House of Commons; their Lordships' themselves declared, in their answer to the Speech from the Throne, that they would give full consideration to each of the three measures that speech pointed out, in reference to Ireland; and feeling as they did the intimate connexion between the three subjects, it was impossible for them fully to consider the one, without being in possession of the principles on which the other two were founded.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
could not help thinking there were some fallacies, and those of no ordinary importance, in the statement of the right hon. Baronet. Whenever the right hon. Gentleman or the other hon. Gentleman who differed with Ministers on the essential principles on which the Government of the country, and more especially the Government of Ireland, was to be carried on, whenever the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen appeared disposed to apply to authorities of the kind just invoked by the right hon. 702 Baronet in support of their arguments, he was always disposed to suspect that there lurked some fallacy which they sought to impose upon the House in borrowed arguments. Thus it appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet, in attempting to prop up his arguments by illustrations drawn from the statement of the hon. and learned Member referred to, manifestly showed that he had no very strong case of his own to rely upon. What did the borrowed argument of the right hon. Baronet prove? What was it to the purpose? Nothing. That a Member of their own House, conceiving a connexion to subsist between several measures before the House, should ask to see them in a combined form before he formed his judgment on one or all of them, was perfectly consistent with the rules and forms of Parliament, and was no violation of the constitution, receiving no influence whereby the House should seek by its proceedings to follow the proceedings in another. But the moment such an argument was raised elsewhere, it became a very different matter. It raised a principle for which those who raised it must hold themselves deeply responsible. It raised a principle which might be raised, and he hoped justly, in the present instance, only by inference; but whenever it was raised actually and positively by designs, and with a view to affect a given purpose, it could never be so raised without great danger to the constitution. The argument of the right hon. Baronet as to the propriety of a Member of that House demanding to see all these three measures before he decided upon one of them was correct enough as asserting the constitutional rights of a Member of one branch of the Legislature in the chamber to which he belonged, but it was totally inapplicable if raised in a question between the two branches of the Legislature. He would even assert the right to free and independent action of both Houses of Parliament, but, at the same time, he would resist any attempt on the part of either to overawe or control the other, as an attempt most dangerous to the constitution. He did not for a moment mean to draw from the course stated to have been taken by the other House any inference that its intention was to overawe and control the House of Commons: all he had a right to know of the matter was the statement on the journal of that House, that the mea- 703 sure in question had been postponed; and he was willing to imagine that this postponement of the Bill by the other House was not for the purpose of depriving the country of the benefits which Government anticipated from the passing of the measure. If it were probable that any Bill had been delayed in the other House for the purpose of holding out to the House of Commons either a threat or an inducement to take a particular line in reference to other Bills pending before it, the individuals who took such a course in the other House, were indeed incurring an awful responsibility; but as he saw nothing of this declared on the journals of the House of Lords, he could not in justice impute to any Members of that body any such design. If such were the design of any Members of the Upper House, they might rest assured, that it would be entirely defeated by the spirit and resolution of the representatives of the people, The two branches of the Legislature were co-ordinate, but they were not co-equal, and this would manifestly appear were anything in the shape of a conflict to occur. It was the House of Commons which was in possession of measures without which the public service could not for a week be carried on. With the postponement of the measure to the, 9th of June the House of Commons had nothing to do. It was for the House of Commons zealously to persevere in its duty; to carry on the business to which it pledged itself in the commencement of the Session; to discharge its functions faithfully; and, having done this, the House of Commons would stand firm in the affections and confidence of the people of England! Whether the House of Lords was in the wrong or no, it was for the House of Commons to keep itself in the right. Whatever party in the country put itself in the wrong in the eyes of the people, that party would be sure to be the sufferer. Supposing for a moment the case to be that the House of Lords had in the views of some parties put itself in an inconvenient position in reference to the House of Commons, it was the duty of the House of Commons to persevere in the right, by calmness and moderation, and by undeviating adherence to the principle of serving the public interests, by being swayed by no party views or party animosities one point beyond the track in which they would have walked if this occurrence had never intervened. The right 704 hon. Baronet had implied that the Ministry had changed their minds on this subject since Friday. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could assure the right hon. Baronet he was mistaken in this respect. The Ministry were taking precisely the course which they had marked out for themselves in the first instance. They made no interruption in their arrangements for conducting the public business. They left to the other House its full right to judge of all the measures sent up to it. The sole and simple object of Ministers was to carry into effect the largest measure of national improvement, to promote to the utmost possible extent the happiness and prosperity of the people. In conclusion he might observe, that there was one observation of the right hon. Gentleman in which he fully concurred in approaching the most arduous and most difficult duty ever imposed on men, that on which a greater mass of misery or happiness never depended, it was essential that all should divest themselves of party feeling, and he trusted that the discussion on this subject would on all sides of the House be for the future carried on in the same spirit in which it had commenced, and which had suffered no interruption until the interlude which had just taken place.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
said, if there was to be a compromise with the House of Lords on this question, let it be frankly stated.
§ Mr. A. Trevor
was really very sorry to see so bad an understanding on this occasion between Ministers and Gentlemen with whom, in general, they were so friendly, and without whose assistance they could not keep in office for a week. For his part, he did not understand the clamour raised against the House of Lords for their very reasonable request to know the nature of one measure before they decided upon another, these measures having so intimate a connexion.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
protested against the House of Lords being permitted thus to hang up Ireland by the neck till the 9th of June. If the Lords were quietly allowed to shelve this essential measure till the 9th of June, they would in the same way postpone the Poor-law Bill till the 9th of July, and the Tithe Bill till the 9th of August.
§ Mr. Sheil
did not conceive that he had asked any question of the Government; 705 he had suggested a difficulty with respect to two measures, but he had not inquired which course they meant to pursue either with respect to the Municipal Corporation (Ireland) Bill, or the Irish Tithe Bill. He, however, had heard with great satisfaction the declaration that they would not desert their post while sustained by the House of Commons.
§ The House went into Committee, and he first clause having been moved,
rose to submit an amendment. There ought to be a separate set of Poor-law Commissioners for Ireland, who were acquainted with all the details of the existing system. What, information could the English Commissioners be supposed to possess? What did Mr. Nicholls know of the condition and wants of the Irish? He had been a sailing captain of an East Indiaman. Was that an education peculiarly fitting him for a Poor-law Commissioner? They could not have an opportunity of practice in both countries; the circumstances were not the same. The hon. and learned Gentleman moved as an amendment that three Poor-law Commissioners be appointed to carry this Act into execution in Ireland.
§ Mr. Hume
was sorry to see his hon. Friends take the course they were taking with respect to the Commission. The question was whether they would accept the services of men who had had two or three years' experience in the working of the Poor-law system. Were their services to be accepted to perform what was acknowledged to be a difficult duty, or would they reject them and support those who had all this to gain? He did not think that his hon. and learned Friend had dealt with this matter with his usual consideration. He objected to Mr. Nicholls, because he was brought up at sea. Was that a way to judge of a man's abilities? "Why I," said Mr. Hume, "was brought up at sea." Experience assured him that the English system of Poor-laws had been well worked by the Commissioners. It was but justice to the Commissioners to state, that in the Committee which sat up stairs, not the least evidence was taken reflecting prejudicially either on the law or on the way in which the Commissioners had carried it into execution.
did not impugn the con- 706 duct of the Commissioners with respect to anything that they had done in England. He believed, that they had here done wisely and well; but what he contended was, that the principles on which Poor. laws ought to be administered in Ireland, differed toto cœlo from the principle on which they might be administered in England.
said, that mendicancy could not be put down by the law, unless they made some provision for the really destitute. He thought there should be a board sitting in Dublin; and if the hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny went to a division, he would vote with him.
§ Lord John Russell
thought the discussion had been carried further than the principle embodied in the clause called for; and as the system of Poor-laws in England differed so materially from that proposed for Ireland, it would have been better to have postponed a great deal of what had been said, till they came to the clause relative to workhouses. In allusion to what had been said by the hon. Member for Middlesex, relative to the Commissioners, he would state, that it was necessary to have for Commissioners, men of great experience; and that it would cause very great inconvenience to appoint three gentlemen totally unacquainted with Poor-laws, as they would be totally inadequate for the object in view. He thought it would be necessary, for some years, to have a board sitting in Dublin, composed of gentlemen possessed of local knowledge; but, at the same time, it was absolutely necessary to have a general board to carry out the system on general grounds, not applicable only to Ireland, but such as might be adopted in other countries to which a Poor-law might be necessary. He did not see anything so peculiar in the state of Ireland to prevent the application of those general principles to that country. With regard to the imputations made against Mr. Nicholls, he wished the House to understand, that that gentleman had been sent over to Ireland at the express request of the Government, and that he was not responsible for having set aside the report of the Commissioners. In fact, he was more responsible for that than Mr. Nicholls.
§ Sir Robert Peel
thought it was of great importance, that there should be a local board subordinate to the general board. The people of Ireland were in the habit of consulting the authorities in that country, 707 and it would be desirable that there should be Commissioners in Dublin to whom they could apply for information and advice.
§ Amendment withdrawn, and the clause agreed to. The second clause was also agreed to.
§ House resumed. Committee to sit again.