§ Mr. Lucas
rose to move the instruction to the Committee of which he had given notice. The hon. Member for Dundalk had given notice of certain amendments which he should have deferred to had it not appeared to him that they brought the question before the House by implication instead of in a distinct form; and the opinion which he entertained of the m was shared with him by the Committee on this Bill of last night. The amendment he was now prepared to move was to the following effect: "That it be an instruction to the Committee to introduce a provision for settlement, so as more justly to apportion the pecuniary charges to be incurred and levied tinder the name of poor-rates." He thought the first inquiry he ought to make was, what was meant by the term "law of settlement." He only knew of the term as it was recognised by the law of England prior to the passing of the Poor-law Amendment Act. The law of England, prior to the late amendments, gave to the poor the right of relief—if not in terms, at all events the practice under that law had given a right by prescription, so that, as it was understood and acted on, those who in any parish were destitute had a right to call on that parish for relief. The relief was given on certain conditions, which constituted the law of settlement. The object of imposing those conditions seemed to have been to confine and regulate, or possibly to limit, the claims on each parish; thus the parishes were each surrounded with a certain imaginary line, the poor within which could claim relief, and the poor without which could not. It was concluded that as the rates were confined to the parish, and as the introduction of poor persons, and persons likely to become chargeable, would add to the burthen of each individual parish, the rate-payers would be influenced by the strongest motives to oppose the introduction of such parties. Such had 828 been the effect of the system. The parishes did oppose the introduction of poor into their locality by every legal means in their power, and he might add, in many instances by means which were not legal. This opposition was carried to a degree of harshness which prevented the honest and industrious poor from pursuing their ordinary avocations. On the other hand, the poor practised trick and chicanery to prevent the law from being enforced. Thus a most prejudicial contest was carried on between the ratepayers and those who wished to throw the whole burthen of their maintenance on the rate-payers. While men were in easy circumstances, or were in sound health, and capable of contributing their labour, the rate-payers did not object to their residence amongst them, because they added to the wealth and power of the parish; but when it became apparent that they were likely to become chargeable, then the rate-payers turned round on them and had recourse to all possible legal means for their expulsion. The consequences of that system were now acknowledged to have been the greatest mischief to the country at large, as well as a great hardship to individuals; serious obstacles were thrown in the way of honest industry, which, instead of finding an open and fair market, came to be considered something that was contraband, and was reduced to the necessity of smuggling itself into employment. The question before the House at present was, not whether they should frame a law which possessed the features of that system for Ireland; such a proposition would be as monstrous in itself as it would be prejudicial to the country whose interests were under discussion. It was their honest intention to frame a law as useful as their best judgment, formed by such means of information as they possessed, would allow, and he was not surprised, therefore, that the Government had revolted at the idea of introducing such a system into another country. He, however, thought it a question which deserved serious consideration, whether a part of the old law could not be adopted—whether they could not construct a system which would define chargeability without bringing with it the terrible evils which the English law of settlement had entailed on the country, and which he most heartily desired to avoid. He thought the proposed measure liable to 829 this objection, that if there were an influx into any particular parish of 100 poor, imposing a charge of five pound per head, the burthen would so far exceed the estimate, and would fall so heavily on the rate-payers of the said parish, that they would refuse to pay the rates. Mr. Nicholls had admitted, that a little inconvenience might result from the first working of the system, but he argued that it would soon be removed; his opinion was, that if there were an overflow at one place or another, that would prove to the ratepayers and guardians of the union that they had not managed well, and that they must alter their plan of proceeding. He considered Mr. Nicholls, in this respect, under a mistake, for what materials would the rate-payers or guardians have for the removal of the evil? According to the Bill, and he did not object to it in that respect, nothing more than a bare sufficiency was to be provided for the paupers—how then could they check or get rid of the influx of paupers by lowering that which was barely sufficient already? The food was to be of the coarsest description, and the quantity a bare sufficiency; would it not be impossible, then, for them to reduce it in either quantity or quality? To adopt a uniformity of allowances would be exceedingly difficult. The poor would pour into the more favoured districts, and if, to get rid of an overwhelming population, the rate-payers were to be obliged to reduce the relief, what a system of tyranny was not the House about to sanction? With regard to the casual poor, they might be charged on the nation at large; but that would not get rid of the necessity of a law of settlement, because they must define who the casual poor were. The motion with which he was about to conclude, he had purposely drawn up in the widest possible terms, his object being to conform to the wish of the House, which he understood to be, that the general question should be discussed unembarrassed with any particular details. The motion that he meant to propose was one composed in very general terms; it was intended that upon that motion the House should express its opinion. If the House approved of it, the Members would not be bound to any particular plan, but the details of a plan might be considered in Committee. In order, then, that the House might be fully aware of the plan that he proposed, and what it was that he 830 desired to have done, he should endeavour to explain it. He should propose that any pauper casually found in any district in a destitute state, whether that he himself applied for relief, or that he was found in that state by the guardians or wardens of the district, he proposed that that person, supposing him to be totally destitute, should be treated as a person in the same situation belonging to the district, and who was known to every resident in it; that person was to have no abstract right to relief, as no abstract right was admitted by the proposed Bill. The Bill proposed that a destitute person should have "a claim" to relief on the ground of destitution. He proposed, by his plan, to give no more. He proposed that the person should have "a claim," but not "the right" to relief, on the score of his destitution, and for the sake of humanity. He proposed that such a person should be received into the workhouse, if workhouses were finally adopted; that upon his coming into the workhouse, or at any moment after his reception that the guardians might think fit, he could be removed, as circumstances required it, to another workhouse. The question then would be, to what district does the party belong? That brought him to the question of settlement, as he proposed to have it adopted, if his motion were to be followed by the amendments that he intended to move. Objections had been stated in that House as to the different modes of acquiring settlement, and the manner of ascertaining them. He conceived that there was one mode which had been alluded to by Mr. Nicholls; but he (Mr. Lucas) admitted that, upon the whole, it met with the disapprobation of Mr. Nicholls, but which he thought furnished the most unexceptionable, and, indeed, in his opinion, the only practical mode of founding a law of settlement upon, The House was aware that two or three times there had been a census taken of the population of Ireland. The last census had been taken in the year 1831. It had been proposed that a census should be taken every ten years—six years then had elapsed since the last census. There was, they were aware, no regular and effectual registry of births in Ireland. He thought that the just basis for a law of settlement would be on a census taken at the earliest possible period. If the census were taken now, it would be only hurrying the usual 831 period for taking it by four years. This could be done with a view of forming a basis for a law of settlement upon that census. In a census the minutest details were entered into. A census was taken—it was like -the map of an estate—every person who was registered on it could be easily come at. It afforded information which was not likely to be partial. He wished it to be observed, that he only used it as a basis. He did not propose it as to the future carrying on of a law of settlement. From that record it was to be first formed—afterwards the right to be given by birth, by industry, and by residence. He should, however, now return to the case of the casual pauper, who had no claim upon the district. He should then suppose that that pauper was taken into the workhouse, and was received there with all the care and attention as if he were a poor man belonging to the same district. The first question to be asked him was, to what district did he belong? He proposed to make it the interest of the pauper to give upon that point information as clear as he possibly could—he should make it to be the interest of the pauper, having that information in his possession, to give it without evasion. He should be anxious to accomplish this, for the purpose of preventing litigation between different districts. But then, it might be said, that when the pauper found himself in a comfortable situation, that he would wish to remain there—that he would prefer being in the workhouse and idling there, to looking out for work in another place—and that being in the workhouse, there would be no power to remove him. His answer was, that if the system proposed was good for anything, it would be to discourage all persons from idleness, and to give them the strongest motives to avoid sloth, and to practise industry. He might then be asked, what interest was it that he proposed to give to the pauper to have a settlement, and to declare it? The means that he would take were these, and he thought that they would be efficient. In the first place, if the pauper declared that he did not know his residence, or denied his residence, he should propose to place in the hands of the Commissioners in that case, and in that case only, a power to remove him to such district as the Commissioners might think fit. As a check upon the Commissioners in the exercise of such a power, he should propose that 832 one-half of the expense should be paid out of the general national fund—supposing, as he had every right to do, that the Commissioners would be men of impartiality, capacity, and integrity, they could have no motive, no desire, to enforce such a power, except in extreme cases—in one in which they had reason to believe fraud was contemplated; and they would have, on the other hand, the natural motive which influenced all official persons of keeping down the expenses of a system confided to their care. But he should also give an interest to the district in which the pauper was found, not to remain in sloth and idleness as to his residence, he should give them an interest in ascertaining it. He should propose to place the burthen upon the district in which the casual pauper was found—that it should pay one-half of the expenses until he was removed by the Commissioners. He admitted that, abstractedly, this was not a just proposition; but if it were unjust in the abstract, in practice it would be found to work no injustice, because it would apply equally to every district in Ireland. As a check upon fraud and idleness, a power ought to be given to the guardians of removing the pauper to his own district. As a check upon the exercise of this power, he should propose that the entire expenses of the removal should be thrown upon the guardians who removed him—that it should fall upon their own workhouse. It would be the same to the guardians to maintain the pauper in another workhouse as in their own, and they would not, for the mere satisfaction of seeing him, disturb him. This power, he was sure, would never be exercised, except where there was a suspicion of fraud. He wished the House to recollect that, in the present Session, an Act had passed which gave much greater power than he proposed for the removal of Irish and Scotch paupers from England. His plan was based upon the principle that the free migration of the poor man was not to be interfered with—that relief, as far as it was to be given by the Bill before the House, was to be afforded to the poor man in a state of destitution, in whatever district he might be found, and with the same tenderness and humanity as if he were known to every person in that district. The basis of his plan was, that the poor man had a strong claim to relief—without having an absolute right—its basis, also, was to ascertain the settle- 833 ment by the simplest and most efficacious means; to ascertain that settlement with the least hardship to the poor man, and certainly without interfering with his free migration. His plan was based upon the fairest principles that he could devise. He considered that it was the interest of every party to forward the working of the law. He thought it to be his duty to explain the nature of his proposition to the House; because, having given notice of a general proposition, it might have been said that all this was vague—that nothing was to follow from it—that it was merely visionary; and without explaining what he had to propose, it would appear, that his motion was merely for the purpose of creating a discussion that would be useless. His object was, that the general question of settlement should be recognised by all without reference to any particular plan—that it should undergo discussion in the House—that the general question of settlement should be decided without reference to any plan of his, of the hon. Member's for Dundalk, or to any that might hereafter be proposed. What he wished was, that the House should express its opinion upon the subject. If the House should be of opinion that what he proposed was correct, then his plan might be discussed on a future occasion. He considered that the people of Ireland were entitled to the greatest attention from the House upon this subject, for they had acted with regard to it with the most laudable discretion. The hon. Member concluded by moving the instruction.
§ Mr. Lynch
opposed the motion. He could not understand the justice of removing paupers from one part of the country to the other, as the hon. Gentleman proposed. What would that hon. Gentleman think if a cargo of paupers were taken from one part of Ireland and placed upon his own estates in Monaghan? In his opinion a census never could be adopted as the foundation for a law of settlement. There was, however, a preliminary question to be determined before the law of settlement was determined upon, for the House ought to remember that a law of settlement depended upon an abstract right to relief. If there were no right, there could be no law of settlement. If, then, they had first determined upon the abstract right, they must give relief out of doors. He asked those who were acquainted with the country, if it would not 834 be madness to introduce into Ireland a system that would lead to out-door relief? But if they would not give out-door relief, what, then, must become of the abstract right? Some of his friends frankly told him that they were favourable to the plan of out-door relief; but to such persons he said, consider what is the situation of England now, and what it was before the new Poor-law came into operation. The benefit of the change was experienced by all classes. No abstract right was given by the statute of Elizabeth; and they never could commence a Poor-law by giving an abstract right to relief. Let them first admit a law of settlement, and then they admitted all the evils, and all the litigation which had cursed this country. Black-stone had exposed the evils of that law, and Mr. Chadwick had shown its effects to be, that if a man could not get employment in his own district, he was unable to go out of it. But the hon. Member for Monaghan had asked them, was it fair to burthen one district at the expense of another? To what extent, he (Mr. Lynch) asked, could they be burthened? Was it likely that a destitute person would go from one workhouse and travel to another? What inducement could there be for the pauper to desert his own workhouse—leave his friends, and depart from a place near his home, to seek another workhouse? If there were an inducement to go, it must be something in the particular workhouse. They could not but say that there must be some inducement in that particular workhouse. The fact would be sufficient to cause inquiry into the details of the management of that workhouse. It was to be remembered that the poor now are relieved to the same extent that they would be by the proposed Bill. But then it was said, why allow them to go from one district to another? Surely, the hon. Member for Monaghan must know that at present the paupers left their own poor districts for those that they considered to be rich. Under the workhouse system they would be supported with care and economy, and for the benefit of society, instead of being, as they are now, allowed to indulge themselves in extravagance and idleness. The burthen of their support would not be greater on the districts than it is at present; but vagabonds would be made industrious subjects. A law of settlement would not protect property—the way to protect it would be by giving power 835 to the guardians under the control of the Commissioners. Upon these grounds he was opposed to a law of settlement; being firmly convinced that nothing could be more injurious than the introduction of such a principle.
said, that if the proposed plan of settlement would entail such a system of litigation as that which prevailed in England, he would not support it; but he thought they might adopt a plan of settlement which would be free from those liabilities with which the law of England was entangled. He would make the law of settlement in Ireland assimilate to that of Scotland, namely, a residence of three years; and if a man fell into destitution, he must make his way back to the parish in which he had resided three years. He would give no man a title to relief out of the parish in which he had been resident three years. He would expunge from the Bill those clauses that made mendicity a crime, and would certainly not mix vagrancy and parochial relief under the same Bill.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
was sorry, that the hon. Member for Monaghan had encumbered his motion with a specification of settlement which he did not, in the first place, understand; and which, in the second place, he could not vote for. It appeared to him, that this was a question of such importance, that it merited greater discussion than they had been able to give it on the second reading. The whole question of the good of relief turned upon the question of settlement. It appeared to him, that without an adequate law of settlement, the provision which they might make for the legal relief of the poor, would lose the greater part of the benefits which it would otherwise confer upon Ireland. The great advantage which would arise from a Poor-law Bill, was not the immediate relief it would give, so much as the gradual change it would produce in putting an end to destitution. Gradual and permanent improvement, less than immediate relief, was the object to which he looked. One great mode in which the Poor-law would operate beneficially, would be the effect it would have on the taking and letting of land. The great mass of the working population in Ireland, at present, were dependent on the taking of land. He did not think he exaggerated, when he said that the greater portion of the landed property was let amongst small 836 tenants. The land was let at rents which it was impossible to pay so as to do justice to the land. The consequence was, that the land was worked out in the course of a few years; the tenant himself was reduced to ruin, and in the end became a pauper; and the land was, in all probability, notwithstanding the lessons of experience, let at a still higher rent. Such a system was most prejudicial to all classes. When the tenant could not pay the enormous rent which he undertook to pay, the landlord was obliged to eject him; and such was the sympathy created on behalf of the ejected tenant, that the landlord could not get a new tenant. There was, in fact, a system of combination to prevent ejectments; and the turbulence and disorder to which this gave rise, prevented a capitalist from embarking his capital in lands. The object of a Poor-law—and, in his opinion, a very sensible object—was to raise the condition of the people of Ireland generally; namely, instead of small tenants farming a very small portion of land, to create large farmers having the command of a considerable capital to cultivate their farms, whilst the rest of the people should be labourers working for wages. It was impossible to do this without an effective system of Poor-laws. By this plan they would prevent the existing competition for land, they would enable the landlords to eject those tenants who could not or would not pay; the tenant would not be tempted to bid too high; and the landlord would not find it his interest to let his lands at an extravagant rent, as he would have, in a great measure, to support the ejected tenants as paupers. They would hear no more about the murder of persons who took the farms of ejected tenants, as the tenant who might be ejected in Ireland would have the same facilities as in England, of obtaining support in the workhouse. In such a plan, it was absolutely necessary that the charge and the relief should be local. If the landlord, by harsh measures, drove his tenants to destitution, upon whom ought the burthen of supporting the tenants to fall? Why, upon the landlord. He could not conceive by what means they could localise the burthen and the charge, without a law of settlement. The objections which had been made to the law of settlement applied merely to some peculiarities of the English law of settlement, The English law of settlement was 837 exceedingly defective. The litigation that had arisen under the English Bill, was owing to the great variety of settlements, which amounted to not less than ten. Now, he would propose, that the right of settlement should be restricted to birth, marriage, or a three years' residence. Such a restriction would render the law exceedingly simple, and would prevent, in a great measure, if not entirely, the litigation that arose under the English Bill. He did not wish the House to pledge itself to any peculiar plan, but it was a very important question, whether they could have an effectual Poor-law without some law of settlement. He was quite satisfied that the Bill, as it was, would be attended with great advantage; but, without a law of settlement, it would not confer permanent advantage on Ireland. If they had not a law of settlement, how was it possible for the guardians of the poor to know whom they ought to relieve? On this subject, he would refer to the preamble of the 14th and 15th of Charles 2nd, to show what a dreadful state this country was in before the law of settlement was passed. The hon. and learned Member having read the preamble, added, that his reason for wishing the charge and relief to be local was, that the relief might be more effectual. Above all, he thought that they could not do justice to Ireland, or to the remedies proposed to be applied there, unless they gave a vent to pauperism by adopting a large and effectual system of emigration. He, upon the whole, approved of this Bill as a wise and benevolent experiment, and he hoped it would succeed; but in order to give it a fair chance, he would strongly recommend that they should adopt as satisfactory a law of settlement as it was possible to devise.
§ Lord Clements
thought, that the question of settlement would be attended with insuperable difficulties. AH they could do now was to relieve the poor, as this Bill, in his opinion, would not, and could not, put a stop to the undue competition for land.
§ Mr. Denis O'Conor
was of opinion, that without some law of settlement, it would be impossible to carry the measure into effect. If a provision for this purpose were not made here, it would be made in the districts in Ireland in a manner to lead to dissatisfaction and disturbance. If there were a local rate, there ought 838 also to be a local settlement for relief. He thought settlement should be limited to unions, and not to parishes.
§ Viscount Howick
said, the hon. and learned Member for Liskeard had taken a much too narrow view of the objects and principle of a Poor-law. According to the principles laid down by him, it would be necessary not only to have a law of settlement, but a settlement limiting so many small subdivisions, that almost every estate would be a district in itself. He disputed the truth of the position, that a Poor-law ought to operate so directly upon the relation between landlord and tenant, nor did he agree that a Poor-law should operate over the whole population of the country. If they were to set out by acting upon such a principle as this, they would, instead of diminishing, greatly increase the distress of Ireland, and at the same time, weaken the mainspring of industry. Amongst the advocates for a law of settlement who had spoken to-night, two at least had advocated the principle without attaching to it the principle of right to relief. Now, he could not understand how a law of settlement, unaccompanied by a right to relief somewhere, could be brought to work. He thought it would be very hard, as well as very impolitic, to confine a man to one district, and absolutely deny him the possibility of relief elsewhere, and yet not positively promise him relief in the settlement to which he belonged, and to which he was so restricted. The hon. Member for Monaghan, in introducing this proposition, said he did not wish it to interfere with the right of migration, or to induce removal as a necessary consequence. He really was at a loss to conceive how any law of settlement, with such limitations, could be devised. The same hon. Member proposed, that a census should be taken, and that settlement should be fixed by residence. Now, upon this point, he begged to read the opinion of the English Commissioners in 1834:—It will be seen, that we do not recommend the introduction of settlement by residence, We are aware of the advantages of that mode of settlement; it is the most natural and the most obvious, and its adoption would often prevent inconvenience to particular parishes, from the return, in age or infirmity, of those who have left them in youth and vigour, and inconvenience to the paupers themselves, from being removed from friends and residences to which they have become attached, to places in 839 which they have become strangers. But these advantages, great as they are, appear to us to be over-balanced by objections still more powerful. It appears from the evidence, that the existing modes by which a settlement can be changed, are productive of perjury and fraud; and that they tend to injure the employers of labour by restricting them in the choice of their servants, the owners of property, by distributing the labouring families according to rules not depending on the demand for their services, or the fund for their support, and, above all, the labourers themselves, by depriving them of the power of selling all that they have, their labour, to the best advantage. We fear, that settlement by residence would aggravate all these evils. At present, a labourer may be steadily employed for years in a place in which he is not settled, by means of successive hirings, each hiring being for less than a year. But if settlement by residence were adopted, this would be impossible. We should have the constant occurrence of one of the worst consequences of the existing law, the separation of master and man, notwithstanding their mutual utility, and their mutual attachment, to the injury of both, but to the greater injury of the most numerous and the most helpless class—the labourers. Again, the demolition of cottages, and the forcing the agricultural population into the towns and the parishes in which property is much divided, though we fear that they must, to a certain degree, arise under any law of settlement whatever, would be much promoted by a law which would fix on a parish every labourer who should have been allowed to reside there for any given period, unless the period were so long as to render the law almost inoperative. Another objection to settlement by residence, which has been dwelt on by many of our most intelligent witnesses, arises from its effect on the unsettled labourers. At present, they are confessedly superior, both in morals and in industry, to those who are settled in the parishes in which they reside.Now, if these remarks were true as regarded England, still more applicable were they to the case of Ireland. A law of settlement by residence would add to all the existing difficulties of applying a Poor-law to Ireland, and defeat the object of the measure itself. It would retard the improvement of land, by obliging the landlord to employ the labourer in his own immediate neighbourhood, or run the risk of seeking more expert and useful labourers in other districts at the risk of saddling an additional burthen upon his own district. Such a law of settlement would likewise promote parish marriages for the purpose of getting off an unmarried woman with bastard children to ano- 840 ther parish. But, besides his opposition in principle to the proposition for a settlement in Ireland, there was this important difficulty which they had to contend with; namely, that no two people of those who wished for a law of settlement, were agreed upon the principles upon which to frame it. The great inconvenience apprehended from a Poor-law without a law of settlement, appeared to be an unequal apportionment of the burthen of the poor-rates. Now, it appeared to him, that no pauper would be tempted to go to any other district than his own for relief, when his so doing would necessarily separate him from all his old friends and acquaintances. He thought they might trust to the guardians for giving relief when it was wanted; and even if they were to legislate in such a way as to give the poor a right to relief, the guardians might still be left to judge of the extent to which it should be granted. The law of settlement he did not think good in any country; but in England it had been established so long, that it was found impossible to get rid of it entirely and at once. By the new Poor-law Bill, considerable alterations had been made, for it had been enacted, that children under sixteen years of age, should follow the settlement of the parents. That, to a certain extent, did away with the settlement by birth. And he would say further, that by the practice it had been almost superseded. In several unions, both in Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire, the workhouses had been thrown open as asylums to the destitute, many of whom, in these places, were supported by voluntary subscription. He must therefore say, if the members of the Board of Guardians could open the workhouses to all the destitute, the law of settlement was not necessary. He would only add, that they might safely trust the guardians to grant the necessary relief; and if they adopted anything like a law of settlement, they would only aggravate the danger of introducing a Poor-law into Ireland.
§ Mr. Villiers
observed, that the noble Lord had treated the subject with great ability, and shown more knowledge than had yet been displayed upon the subject of settlement; and as he had exhibited how it had proved a fertile source of mischief and injustice in this country, he would just remark, that it had done so precisely in the manner by which some Members 841 thought the Poor-law in Ireland would work well, namely, by giving the landlords an interest in improving the condition of the poor. The way in which it was so to operate was, by giving them an interest in escaping from the liability of supporting them. Modes of settlement were the means of determining the particular liability of property to support the poor; and the result was, that it depended upon accident or contrivance whether property entirely escaped from this liability, or whether it was quite exhausted by the extent to which it was so burthened. This, therefore, led to every species of device on the part of different parishes and proprietors, to shift the burthen from themselves upon their neighbours. From the various modes of acquiring a changing settlement, this had led to the overseers paying single women to produce their children out of their own parish, of paying men to marry women to change their settlement, and of proprietors clearing their estates of all cottages for the poor, in order to drive them into a parish which would be compelled to maintain them when they could not procure employment. And he had little doubt that a law of settlement in Ireland would be followed by an attempt on the part of landowners to drive the labourers into this country to escape from the charge of maintaining them there. There was nothing just or equal in the principle of settlement. It fixed a charge upon property without any reference to its ability to bear it, and left without any charge or burthen much property well able to sustain it. There was no necessary relation between the number of poor and the particular property out of which they were to be maintained. He thought the poor a national charge, and should be therefore born equally by a general rate. He considered that the measure before the House was favourable to this plan, because it proposed to administer public relief upon a uniform system. There was no reason, therefore, why the poor should prefer one district to another for the purpose of obtaining relief. There was no hardship, then, in this case if the places for obtaining the relief were situated at convenient distances. It was impossible to exercise discretion with the view to the particular character of the persons relieved—the great object was to prevent destitution. He thought there was an objection to the measure, which had been stated by the 842 hon. Member for Roscommon, which had not been answered, that there was to be a local rate levied, but not applied to local purposes. That was one of his objections to the law of settlement altogether, that it would operate very partially in fixing a much heavier burthen upon some property than upon others, as in some districts there would be much more pauperism than in others. But this was, of course, as acted upon by the present measure, far less objectionable than what was proposed in the amendment.
§ Mr. Poulett Scrope
did not think a Poor-law could work well in Ireland without some law of settlement. A modified system of settlement could not do much harm, and that, to a certain extent, appeared to be the opinion of the Poor-law Commissioners. But, at the same time, he was ready to admit, it was a subject surrounded with great difficulties, and the question was, which side to choose. For his part, he did not think such a law of settlement as that which existed in England would be advisable, or even one like that proposed by the hon. Member for Monaghan. But unless some system of the sort was adopted the great number of paupers who would flock to particular localities would greatly aggravate the difficulties which, the guardians had to contend with. Even at present, great inconvenience arose from the system of alms-giving, and it was not unusual to hear of persons going to a particular district and accusing themselves of murder, in order to obtain alms from the inhabitants by exciting their sympathy. They ought, therefore, to guard against that, and how could the evil be prevented without power was given to pass mendicants to their places of settlement? If relief was refused in cases of distress, that would only increase the number of mendicants, and how inconvenient would it be to leave the amount of relief to the guardians, and compel them to make an act or by-law which ought to be made by the Legislature? He believed there was no country in the world where there was a Poor-law without a settlement. He was, therefore, of opinion, that it would be advisable to adopt a modified system of settlement at first, till they saw how the Bill would work.
§ Mr. Harvey
observed, that this was one of the few cases in which Ireland happened to be in a better situation than England; they might, therefore proceed 843 now to legislate for Ireland, unencumbered by any previous system or any ancient prejudices; they would now, he rejoiced to say, proceed to legislate for Ireland on broad principles. The existence of evil, as regarded a provision for the poor, was admitted—no one denied the truth of the statement made upon that subject—no man attempted to deny that there were 2,000,000 of human beings in a state of destitution, and sometimes in a state of starvation. Now, what was the plan by which the Government proposed to provide for these 2,000,000 of paupers? Why, cooping up 800 of them in each of 100 barracks: they proposed to relieve 2,000,000 by actually confining in workhouses 80,000, giving three houses per county. Did they propose to meet the claims of the remaining 1,920,000? Quite the contrary; they admitted the impossibility of meeting those claims; they must also admit this, that it would be impossible to conceive any difficulties in the way of a law of settlement which Were not traceable to circumstances connected with the artificial condition of the parties by whom the required provision was to be made. On behalf of those parties it had been alleged, that the right to a provision would have the effect of confiscating a large proportion of the property of the country. In the statements upon this subject, he believed there had been much exaggeration, but assuming the fact to be so, did they not see in the fears of the owners of that property the great source of the resistance to the proposed measure of settlement? They resisted the right to settlement on account of its inevitable consequence, the general right to relief; they felt that they must recognise that right if they once assented to the law of settlement, and yet, bow vain it would be for them to hope that they could eventually escape from that recognition. In making a provision for the poor of Ireland, they must sooner or later come to first principles, and that, too, before they could proceed to do what justice or expediency required. The example which they had of the Poor-law Act in England ought to form some guide for them in legislating for Ireland. To that Act he had given a tardy and reluctant assent; for he thought at the time when it was under the consideration of Parliament, that such a measure could not coexist with the Corn-law already in force 844 in this country. Strongly under the influence of that conviction, he had ever since attended to the operation of those acts, and he now found himself fully fortified in his original opinion. Amongst the various objections which had been urged to this law of settlement, there was one, that its tendency Would be to induce owners of estates to get rid of all tenants who were likely to become paupers. He was of a different opinion; but in order to guard against the possibility of such a result, he should recommend that all property be made liable for the maintenance of the poor. He was most fully persuaded that for that great principle they must combat, for the fear which that principle engendered lay at the bottom of all the opposition made to the law of settlement; they must contend for the right of every man to a maintenance out of the soil which his industry had contributed to cultivate and render fruitful. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny had, a few evenings ago, given the House some statements as to the quantities of cultivated and uncultivated land in particular counties, and there was a variety of evidence before the House and the country to shew that a very large proportion of the soil of Ireland was, though perfectly capable of cultivation, not yet turned to any useful account. While matters remained in that state, he wished to know with what show of reason or justice could schemes of emigration be so strenuously urged. Before he sat down, he desired to impress upon the House his deep sense of the greatness and importance of the subject, and to add, that he considered it to be yet in its infancy, and that it could not be too much discussed.
§ Mr. Shaw
might be satisfied as to the expediency of a law of settlement in Ireland, if it could be proved to him that by injuring the rich the poor would be benefitted. The whole question was very important. It was beset with difficulties; and all that could be done was to endeavour to arrive at the best conclusion. In his opinion, the balance of difficulties was decidedly against the law of settlement. He admitted, however, that some of the existing evils would be obviated when the unions were generally established. Independently of other considerations, he thought that the proposed measure either did not go far enough, or that it went too far. He was convinced that if a right to 845 relief were established in Ireland by a law of settlement, it would tend to a general confiscation of property.
expressed the pleasure which he felt at the tone and temper in which the present discussion had been carried on. They had now been three nights engaged in it; and he defied any stranger to say to what political party any speaker belonged. The question of settlement was one of great importance. They had to decide, in the first place, on the legal right; in the second place, on the locality; in the third place, on the plan. For his own part, he was against any law of settlement; because he was persuaded that it was against the principle of legal right. There was a moral right and a Christian right; but those did not constitute a legal right. What was the object of the proposed measure? To tranquillize Ireland. But would it tend to tranquillise Ireland to give one man a right to ask what another man had a right to refuse? On these points he perfectly agreed with the hon. and learned Member for the Univertity of Dublin. He confessed, that he shuddered at the experiment of this Bill. The execution of which he foresaw would be pregnant with serious difficulties.
said, that it was with rare satisfaction he had seen the hon. Member who had just sat down and the right hon. Member for the Universities of Dublin acting in perfect accordance upon a subject which was undeniably of such great importance, to Ireland: With the greatest deference, however, for the opinions of both these hon. and learned Gentlemen, he confessed that he could not bring his mind to the same conclusion to which they had arrived—to the conclusion, that, either satisfactorily or safely, any measure of this description could be introduced into Ireland, without the principle of settlement, coupled with the right to relief. The hon. and learned Member for Kilkenny complained of this motion upon two grounds. He objected to the principle of a settlement, first because it involved the right to relief; and next, because there had been laid before the House no definitive mode of settlement. He could not separate, in his mind, the two ideas—a law of settlement, and the right to relief. This Bill subjected the relief to the fluctuating decisions of a board of guardians, uninfluenced, upon this subject, by legislative control. The hon. 846 and learned Member for Kilkenny had said that he was against the right to relief. He admitted the moral right, he admitted the Christian right; but he was against the right, considered in a legal point of view. This was as much as to say that he admitted the charity, but was against enforcing it by law. And then he had sneered at the idea of tranquillising Ireland by extending on the one hand, the right to relief, and conceding on the other to the board of guardians the right to shut the door. Why this was precisely what the Bill did; it was of this that he complained. And it was to furnish a remedy for this evil that the proviso was proposed to be inserted the Bill. "I will admit," said the noble Lord, "that it is a dangerous, if you will, a desperate experiment; but it is, undoubtedly, the duty of a Government to make up their minds to the full extent of the principle upon which they are prepared to act, and to be ready to carry it into effect." Ostensibly the Bill gave relief universally throughout Ireland to the destitute; but it gave no right to the destitute to ask for such relief, and none to obtain relief, even upon the fullest proof of that destitution. He was willing to go the full length in defining the limit of destitution, of bringing it down as closely as any hon. Member could desire to starvation; because he felt confident that the laying down of a strict boundary like this would be the best safeguard against the fraudulent and pernicious expenditure of the public money, as well as the most efficient protection of those who by their own industry may have raised themselves to the point immediately above starvation. But if they were to have any thing deserving the name of a Poor-law for Ireland it should be such a one, in his conviction, as would recognize by law the principle that no man should starve. He was in favour of a settlement by residence, he would not say whether by unions or not, but limited to such boundaries as would give the power to individuals, by their combined endeavours, to promote the prosperity of their respective neighbourhoods, and limit the pauperism of individuals. Let the House look to the effect which the proposed Poor-law (without a clause of settlement) might produce in the way of clearing estates in Ireland. There was, undoubtedly, a great temptation to landlords to clear their properties of insolvent tenants, if this could be effected without the infliction of intense sufferings upon 847 the dispossessed, not only because the estate was thus improved, but because such a measure would tend to better the condition of those who remained behind. Six years since, he (Lord Stanley) had expended a very considerable sum of money upon a small property which he held in Ireland. For this expenditure he took no credit to himself; but he had incurred this expenditure for the purpose of promoting the emigration of a portion of his tenantry from this estate. For this outlay he had been amply repaid, since that period, in the shape of regular rents. He had not raised by the amount of one farthing the rent of a single portion of the estate; but whereas the tenants had starved each other before upon this land, the same individuals were now paying their rent as punctually as any persons in Ireland or England, and they were altogether in a state of comparative comfort. Here, therefore, existed a temptation to the exercise of a well-grounded economy, in clearing estates in Ireland. This might be done in a benevolent, but it might also be done in a harsh and oppressive, manner. What were the restrictions which now existed in the way of effecting this object? Landlords were now restrained, first by humanity (this he trusted was the case in a great many instances), and next by the fear of exciting prædial disturbance. What would be the impediments under the law of settlement? The landlord would then be bound to provide for those whom he ejected. He was not now bound to do so; but humanity withheld or the fear of consequences deterred him from turning his tenantry houseless upon the world, without making for them some species of provision. Pass this Bill without a law of settlement and the moment the property of the landlord was taxed to the full amount, that moment a premium was given him to clear his estate. The feelings of humanity and the fear of dangerous consequences would alike be at an end, because the neighbouring union must maintain the houseless mendicant, for whom there would exist in this hypothesis no special provision in the landlord's own union; and the calculating landlord would thus be enabled to clear his estate at the expense of his neighbours, whose property was not already overburthened by tenants. He (Lord Stanley) looked upon this as a very dangerous result, and as likely to prove a great impediment to the growth of that kindly feeling which it was so desirable to see 848 cultivated between the higher and lower classes of the community. There were undoubtedly difficulties in the way of establishing a useful law of settlement; but for his part he could see nothing that was either very grievous or absolutely insurmountable in the existing law of settlement in England. In Scotland there was a parochial settlement. There was no Scotch Member not even the Attorney-General who would stand up and deny this. The Scottish pauper was entitled to receive relief only in his last industrial residence, and yet he did not believe that this restriction had turned out to be any great preventive of emigration among Scotchmen. If they passed this Bill without the clause of settlement, they would be involved in a practical absurdity the very first year in which it should be carried into effect. They would take away the motive for cordial co-operation on the part of the resident gentry, without which no central board could act for an hour, and they would extinguish that reciprocal feeling upon the part of the boards of guardians which it was so desirable that they should keep alive—the feeling that their exertions tended to their own benefit as well as to the benefit of every rate payer in the community—that social advantages would spring up around them in proportion to their exertions and they would, above all, contribute as much to the weakening, as a settlement would to the maintenance, of a kindly feeling though out every parish in Ireland. It was his strong conviction that, unless they consented to the modification of this Bill, they would be the means of introducing delusion into Ireland, and before long would be forced to acknowledge that they had committed a fatal error.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that he had listened with very great attention during the progress of this debate, and that he had not been disposed to take a part in it, but that after what had fallen from the noble Lord who had just sat down, he must venture to make a few remarks. The noble Lord had said that they ought to establish the absolute right to relief, or ought not to enact a Poor-law at all for Ireland. Now, he was decidedly of opinion that the Poor-law of Elizabeth, which he believed was a very excellent law, had never been framed with the intention of giving any right to relief, and, in point of fact, did not give such right. The authors of the law of Charles 2nd were mistaken in enacting their law of settlement, from 849 which had flowed most of the evils which were observable in the English system. That Act of settlement involved the right to relief. The labourer was told that he must not leave a certain parish, which was tantamount to an admission of his right to relief in that parish. Entertaining this opinion of the evils which had arisen from the introduction of the principle of settlement into the English Poor-Law, he should be sorry to introduce that principle into Ireland. It was a principle which would be rendered more pernicious in Ireland than in any other country. If the power of removal were thus practically suspended, the farmers would be slow in employing the most skilful labourers, coming from a distant quarter, even when there was a dearth of labourers in their own district, because they would thus be entitling them probably to support, at no distant period, in consequence of residence. Now, there were districts in Ireland where a vast number of persons were without the means of employment; and there were others, where labour might be most usefully and profitably engaged. This would be made more prominent by the introduction of capital into particular districts. Could they be, therefore justified in fixing and perpetuating a motive for the discouragement of this most valuable interchange of labour? With respect to the noble Lord's argument, founded on the probable consequences as to clearing estates, it was quite obvious that the settlement which the noble Lord contemplated must be the narrowest possible—restrictive, in fact, to such a degree that, in order to give any force to his argument, it must be confined, in each instance, to the limits of a single estate. Suppose unions of twenty miles to be established, one estate within this limit might be well managed, and the management of two or three others might be of an opposite description. The mismanaging landlord would therefore have the assistance of the good landlords within the limits of the same union in paying the rates. So far from being disposed to think favourably of the project of a restrictive settlement, he would say that if the number of paupers in Ireland amounted to anything like 2,300,000, as had been stated, there must be so many cases of extreme destitution that it would, in his estimation, be infinitely better to afford relief in the workhouse to which ap- 850 plication would first be made, than to remove the pauper to a different district. He begged the House to remember that this measure was an experimental one, and that it would be easy hereafter, to introduce a clause of settlement, should its introduction be found to be desirable.
§ Viscount Sandon
said, they must come to a law of settlement some way or other. He would not leave it to Commissioners to act arbitrarily, by adopting one rule in one district, and an opposite one in another. He thought himself warranted in referring rather to the wisdom of Parliament than to any body of men.
§ Mr. Chalmers
stated, that hon. Gentlemen opposite were mistaken in supposing that the law of settlement was carried into effect in the greater part of Scotland. It was only in operation in a few parishes, and in all of these it was found to be most oppressive in its operation. He hoped that the noble Lord and the House would not rashly adopt the principle of settlement.
§ The House divided on Mr. Lucas's motion:—Ayes 68; Noes 120: Majority 52.
|List of the AYES.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Geary, Sir W.|
|Archdall, M.||Gladstone, W. E.|
|Balfour, T.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Graham, Sir J,|
|Blackburne, I.||Grattan, J.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Brotherton, J,||Harcourt, G. S.|
|Bruen, F.||Hardy, J.|
|Buller, C.||Harvey, D. W.|
|Callaghan, D.||Hindley, C.|
|Chandos, Marquis of||Houstoun, G.|
|Cole, Viscount||Jackson, Serjeant|
|Compton, H. C.||Jones, T.|
|Cooper, E. J.||Irton, S.|
|Coote, Sir C.||Lefroy, A.|
|Corbett, T. G.||Longfield, R.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H.||Lowther, J. H.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Damer, G. L. D.||Nicholl, J.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||O'Connor Don|
|Dunbar, G.||Perceval, Colonel|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Pusey, P.|
|Evans, G.||Ross, C.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Finch, G.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Forbes, W.||Sinclair, Sir G.|
|Fox, C.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Stanley, Lord||Williams, W.|
|Stewart, John||Wood, Colonel|
|Talfourd, Sergeant||Wyse, T.|
|Trelawny, Sir W.||Young, G. F.|
|Trevor, hon. A.|
|Vesey, hon. T.||TELLERS.|
|Vigors, N. A.||Lucas, E.|
|Wason, R.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Viscount||Lennard, T. B.|
|Adam, Sir C.||Lennox, Lord G.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Lennox, Lord A.|
|Anson, hon. Colonel||Leveson, Lord|
|Attwood, T.||Loch, J.|
|Bagshaw, J.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Baines, E.||Macleod, R.|
|Bannerman, A.||Marshall Wm.|
|Baring, F. T.||Marsland, Henry|
|Barry, G. S.||Martin, T.|
|Bernal, R.||Maule, hon. F.|
|Bewes, T.||Morpeth, Viscount|
|Blake, M. J.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Murray, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Bridgeman, H.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||O'Connell, D.|
|Browne, R. D.||O'Connell, J.|
|Burton, H.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||O'Connell, M.|
|Campbell, Sir J.||O'Ferrall, R. M.|
|Cavendish, hon. C.||Oliphant, L.|
|Chalmers, P.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Chapman, L.||Parker, J.|
|Chetwynd, Captain||Parnell, rt. hon. Sir H.|
|Clay, W.||Parrott J.|
|Clements, Viscount||Pease, J.|
|Collins, W.||Pechell, Captain|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Pendarves, E. W. W.|
|Divett, E.||Philips, M.|
|Donkin, Sir R.||Ponsonby, hon. W.|
|Dundas, J. D.||Ponsonby, hon. J.|
|Ellice, E.||Power, J.|
|Fergusson, rt. hon. R. C.||Poyntz, W. S.|
|Price, Sir R.|
|Fitzgibbon, hon. Col.||Pryme, G.|
|Fitzroy; Lord C.||Pryse, P.|
|Fort, J.||Rice, rt. hon. T. S.|
|French, F.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Gordon, R.||Russell, Lord J,|
|Grey, Sir G.||Russell, Lord|
|Harcourt, G. G||Ruthven, E.|
|Hastie, A.||Scott, J. W.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Seymour, Lord|
|Hector, C. J.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Heneage, E.||Smith, R. V.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Spiers, A.|
|Stanley, E. J.|
|Howard, P. H.||Stuart, V.|
|Howick, Viscount||Strangways, hon. J.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Strutt, E.|
|King, E. B.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Kirk, P.||Thomson, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Thompson, Colonel|
|Lefroy, rt. hon. T.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Vivian, J. H.||Wood, C.|
|Ward, H. G.||Woulfe, Sergeant|
|West, J. B.||Young, J.|
|Westenra, hon. H. R.||TELLERS.|
|White, S.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Wilbraham, G.||Steuart, R.|
§ Committee postponed.