HC Deb 05 February 1838 vol 40 cc774-89

Lord John Russell moved the Second Reading of the Poor-relief (Ireland) Bill.

Sir Charles Style

said, that although he thought the Bill insufficient for the purposes for which it was intended, and was persuaded that it would impose heavy expenses, without corresponding advantages, yet he could not reconcile it to his conscience to withhold his support from it. Whatever faults there might be in the measure, sooner than that the poor of Ireland should remain in their present depressed and degraded state, he was prepared to adopt a measure even still more objectionable in its character. The first thing that struck him as objectionable in the Bill was, that one-half of the burthen was to be im- posed upon a class of persons who were usable to support it, and who ought not in justice to be called upon to pay it. By this Bill persons in Ireland occupying land to the value of 5l. a year were rendered liable to the payment of the amount of one-half of the poor-rate. Now, really, that was too hard, especially when the almost destitute state of persons who occupied a much higher station as tenants of land was considered. He was quite aware that it would be said that those persons would be relieved from the charge which at present devolved upon them; but that was a payment made by them voluntarily, a very different matter from being compelled to pay, under an act of Parliament which was to be carried into effect by a most extensive machinery. It was also different; because under this Bill the relief to the poor would be entirely left to the discretion of the poor-law guardians; it would rest with them whether the destitute poor should have relief or not; it rested with them to say whether they would grant relief to all, to some, or to none, of the destitute poor within their respective districts. The Bill expressly provided that the guardians of the different unions should have it in their discretion to make orders for the relief of the poor, as they should see fit. He, for one, was very apprehensive that these Poor-law guardians, or, in other words, the rate-payers themselves, the persons whose immediate interest it would be to curtail the relief within the narrowest limits possible—that these Poor-law guardians, speaking the voice of the rate-payers, would take a very limited view indeed of the number of persons who ought to receive relief under the provisions of this Bill. It was his opinion, therefore, that if it were really intended that this Bill should be what it professed to be—a Bill for the more effectual relief of the destitute in Ireland—that it should grant a right to such relief to such persons as were destitute and unable to support themselves; and also that the nature of that relief should be such as to make it practically applicable to the extent of the destitution which existed in Ireland. He would, endeavour to show that, by denying a right to relief, and by restricting the mode of administering relief, the Bill must prove inefficient as to its proposed object; and also that this Bill would be by no means efficient as a measure for remedying even in the slightest degree, the causes which created the destitution in Ireland, namely, the total want of employment by the people. Why, what was the Bill? It was a Bill that, perhaps, might be the means of affording relief to 80,000, or, it might be, 120,000 persons; and that altogether depended upon certain powers conferred on the Poor-law commissioners, and for raising a sum of money, by way of poor-rate, for the purpose of emigration. Such was the full measure of relief which it was proposed to bestow upon the destitute poor of Ireland. In forming his opinion on the subject he would not advert to the amount of the relief now given to the poor in Ireland, or to the number who received that relief. He had been told that in making a calculation upon such a basis the results would be quite erroneous, and would give an exaggerated notion of the amount of destitution in Ireland. He thought, however, that he should be justified in referring to the evidence and the information collected by the commissioners of inquiry into the state of the poor of Ireland. He knew it had been objected that those commissioners were mistaken in many of their calculations, and that their statement of destitution was exaggerated; but it was, nevertheless, indisputable that the distress which existed was most extensive, and imperatively called for relief. The poor in Ireland were without clothing; they lived in hovels that were totally unfit for any human being to breathe in; they were huddled together in crowds, and lay on the damp floor at night. Such was the condition of the poor in Ireland, and he should like to know what degree of human suffering further than that was required before it was thought expedient to give relief? If ever relief was necessary, the people of Ireland required it. There were nearly two millions of human beings in that country in the state which he had described. In his opinion, the present Bill would not operate in the slightest degree upon the cause of destitution; for it was not by shutting up two or three hundred thousand persons that any good could be effected, or that the social condition of the Irish peasantry could be improved. Employment was the only efficient and desirable remedy—employment which, while it administered to the physical wants of man, elevated him in his moral feelings. The Bill left the great evil which existed among the peasantry of Ireland without alleviation. The Irish peasant had at present no security for his miserable subsistence, unless it were the occupation of some wretched patch of ground. Now, the bill held out no right to such a person to claim relief, or no prospect of enjoying it; and, therefore, no feeling of security was created that he who received the relief would continue to obtain it; as the administrator of the law had the power of refusing it, even if he had the means of granting it to the fullest extent required. The consequence of it would be, that the fierce struggle for land which now existed to such a frightful extent in Ireland would continue unabated. Yet that was the real cause to which most of the barbarous murders and other crimes that were committed in Ireland and to which the insecurity of property in that country were mainly attributable. He would not occupy the time of the House by entering into statements to prove that this was the fact, for it was already well known to every one who was acquainted with the administration of the law in Ireland. It was a well established fact that there was scarcely a landed proprietor in Ireland who dared to make the slightest alteration whatever in the distribution of his property, without incurring the danger of raising an insurrection in the country around him. It appeared to him of the highest importance that they should without delay vigorously grapple with the difficulties which surrounded this question. In his opinion, with every sense of the difficulty of the undertaking, the only course was at once to place the landed proprietors in that position in which they would be compelled to find either employment or subsistence for the poor. They ought to be made to do that which they had so long neglected to do—to employ the great mass of labour which now existed in Ireland in a destitute state, and which might be so profitably employed. It had been objected to a poor-law bill for Ireland that it would absorb a considerable portion of the rental of the landlords. That would certainly be the fact if the landlords looked supinely on while the change was going forward; but if they applied themselves to the better cultivation of their estates, and to the breaking up of waste lands they would cause an increase of the means of subsistence, and would promote general benefit, of which they would be large participators. There was one part of Mr. Nicholls's second report which bore so strongly on this question that, with the permission of the House, he would read it. It related to a part of Ireland with which he was well acquainted, and he would vouch for its accuracy. The passage was as follows:— Nothing can exceed the miserable appearence of the cottages in Donegal, or the desolate aspect of a cluster of these hovels, always teeming with an excessive population. Yet, if you enter their cabins, and converse with them frankly and kindly, you will find the people intelligent and communicative, quick to comprehend, and ready to impart what they know. They admitted that they were too numerous, 'too thick upon the land,' and that, as one of them declared, 'they were eating each other's heads off—but what could they do? There was no employment for the young people, nor relief for the aged, nor means nor opportunity for removing their surplus numbers to some more eligible spot. They could only therefore live on 'hoping,' as they said, 'that times might mend, and that their landlords would sooner or later do something for them.' Yet, with all this suffering, no disturbance or act of violence has occurred in Donegal. During the severe privations of the last summer, when numbers were actually in want of sustenance, there was no dishonesty, no plundering—the people starved, but they would not steal; and although their little stock of cattle and moveables have been notoriously lessening these last four years, and especially in the last year, which seems to have swallowed up nearly all their visible means, they have yet paid their rents—the occupier's share of the produce has been insufficient for his own support, yet the landlord's share has generally been paid in full; and I was assured by the agent of one of the largest proprietors that he had no arrears worth noticing. He begged to ask how long it was thought desirable that the people of Ireland should remain in this miserable condition, while at the same time they were able and willing to work, and to earn their subsistence? An efficient poor law would certainly be in the end a pecuniary advantage to the landlords in Ireland, although it would no doubt be attended with some inconvenience in the first instance. Although he advocated a poor-law in Ireland on the most extended scale, he was convinced that auxiliary measures must he put in operation at the same time. He should vote for the second reading of this bill, and for its going into a Committee, with the greatest reluctance, and only because he had no alternative.

Mr. Shaw

intended to support the principle of the bill by voting for the second reading; but he thought that the details of it would require many alterations and amendments in Committee. He did not agree with the hon. Baronet (Sir Charles Style) who had just sat down in the principle that the poor had a right to relief; nor did he agree with him in the proposition that relief should be given out of the work- house. He thought that the principle upon which the bill ought to proceed was this: in-door relief to the aged and impotent, aided by increased facilities of emigration to the able-bodied. Neither this law nor any other that could be devised would be adequate to give relief to all who were in distress, or employment to all who were idle, in Ireland. The subject was one of a very complicated and difficult nature, and required to be very calmly and very carefully considered before any decisive measure were adopted. He did not feel that he should be justified in trespassing upon the patience of the House at that moment; but in a subsequent stage he should consider himself bound to state his opinions upon the bill at considerable length. Meanwhile, everybody, he thought, would feel that the question was one that ought not to be influenced by considerations of party. Every one, too, must be aware, now that the subject had once been mooted, that a law partaking something of the character of the present must certainly be adopted.

Mr. O'Connell

agreed with one-half of what had just fallen from the hon. and learned Gentleman, and that was a great deal, he thought. He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman that if the Bill did not pass this year, as he (Mr. O'Connell) certainly hoped it would not, a measure giving some kind of relief to the poor of Ireland must some day pass. At the same time he did not see why it should be expected that the House of Commons should be unanimous in introducing Poor-laws into Ireland at all. Had he (Mr. O'Connell) been in London a few hours sooner, he should have felt it his duty to have trespassed upon the House at considerable length in stating his objections to the Bill now proposed; but as his arrival had been delayed, he should confine himself to one or two observations only in the present stage of the Bill, reserving himself until the proposition for going into Committee, when he should state his objections at length, and move that the Committal of the Bill be deferred for six months. He could not agree in the principle of any Poor-law as proposed to be applied to Ireland which should go beyond the extension of relief to the lame, the impotent, and the blind—those who from permanent physical causes were utterly incapable of labouring for their own subsistence. To that extent, and to that extent only, would he go in the introduction of a system of Poor-laws into Ireland. Any thing short of that he knew it would be ruin for him, in the present feeling of the House of Commons, to attempt to resist. But upon that point—upon the limitation of the relief to the objects he had named—his determination was fixed and inflexible; and upon that point he would decidedly take the opinion of the House, even if he stood alone. He entertained a firm conviction that a poor country was never yet benefitted by a Poor-law. He believed that Ireland was too poor for a Poor-law. The distinction that was attempted to be drawn between poverty and destitution, although both certainly existed, excited something of the ludicrous when applied to Ireland. The sages who out of that House had laid the ground-work for the present measure admitted that there was more poverty in Ireland than in England; "but then," said they, "there is less destitution." There might be great merit in the phraseology employed to express that opinion; but how, in common sense, poverty should not be considered the mother of destitution it was impossible for him to explain, as he certainly could not understand. He entertained a full conviction that a measure like the present must entirely fail. The notion of having 100 workhouses, in each of which 800 persons were to be boxed up and imprisoned for the benefit of their health, the fattening of their bodies, and the increase of their moral feelings and tenderness by the separation of husband and wife, was absurd and ridiculous. There never was a country so utterly unfitted for the introduction of such a system of Poor-laws as Ireland. Mr. Nicholls need not have gone to Bristol, to Liverpool, and to Manchester, to ascertain whether the Irish were reluctant to receive relief administered in the form proposed by this Bill. Every body who knew any thing of Ireland would have told him that the Irish people would rather remain in a state as near as possible akin to actual starvation than be admitted to the enjoyment of workhouse food at the cost of personal liberty. He had trespassed further than he intended upon the patience of the House; his only object in rising was to intimate his intention, in the next stage of the Bill, of proposing, by way of amendment, that it be deferred for three or six months.

Mr. Gibson

rejoiced that there was at least one Irish question upon which all sides of the House were agreed, and he regarded the present discussion as an omen of better days for his unhappy country. Before they proceeded, however, to legislate on a measure which was of such paramount importance as this, and which was pregnant with consequences of such a vital nature, they ought to inquire if they had sufficient data to proceed upon. He denied that they had such data, and he impeached in particular the report of Mr. Nicholls. That gentleman had stated that the number of poor that would require relief in Ireland would be only 80,000. He (Mr. Gibson) could not believe it. Would it were true! From his experience of the state of the poor in Ireland, he believed that that was only a fraction of the number that would require relief. The House could not proceed to legislate with confidence on this subject upon such data as the report which had been laid on the table of the House contained. Upon that report the Legislature ought to place no reliance, for it really furnished no data upon which Parliament could efficiently legislate. He denied that 80,000 would be the highest number that would require relief, and the system was calculated to pauperise the middle classes in Ireland, upon whom the burden of contributing to that support would fall. The principle of this Bill was repugnant to the feelings of the Irish poor man, who would never consent for a paltry subsistence in the workhouse to a separation there from the wife of his affection, and the children of his love. He had a further objection to this Bill, on the ground that it excluded any provision with reference to the law of settlement. Though he was ready to admit, that in this country the law of settlement had been much abused, and had led to considerable expense, still some provision with reference to that subject ought to be made for Ireland, or the Bill would be the acme of injustice. On these grounds he objected to the introduction of the proposed law, and would say it would be better to leave Ireland alone, and rely on the natural course of events, from which even Mr. Nicholls admitted that improvement within the last fifty years had ensued; and he believed, that if equal and impartial justice were done—if there was not one law for the rich and another for the poor—more happiness would be produced than could possibly flow from a measure of the kind now under the consideration of the House. On these grounds he could not assent to the principle of the Bill, but, coerced as he was by the opinions of others, he should not oppose its second reading, but should watch with minute attention its progress through the Committee.

Mr. James Grattan

said, in his judgment the present measure was the best ever introduced for the improvement of the condition of Ireland. He trusted her Majesty's Government would keep the Bill in its present shape, with the exception of the clause relating to emigration. He thought also that the relief ought to be confined to indoor relief, as by increasing the various modes of relief the object of the measure would be wholly destroyed. With these alterations, and by the omission of the emigration clause, the Bill would be a blessing to the country to which its operations were directed. The hon. Member who had spoken last had said leave Ireland alone; but that would never do when it was notorious that the assassinations, agrarian combinations, and outrages—all were to be traced to the state of destitution which, unhappily, generally prevailed in Ireland. The establishment of boards of guardians would of itself be productive of great good. The noble Lord below him (Lord Morpeth) was entitled to great praise for the mode in which he had brought the Bill forward, and he trusted that the Government without vacillation would carry it through in a bold, manly, and straightforward manner.

Mr. Wrightson

said, that having some years ago been engaged as a commissioner to inquire into the state of the poor in Ireland, he hoped to be permitted to express his opinion on the present measure. Undoubtedly the Government had taken great pains in the matter; they had consulted persons of high attainments upon the subject, and the result was the Bill now on the table, the great objection to which was that part which involved the public with a degree of liability with regard to the great mass of the labouring classes of the people. He thought that liability to be of a very injudicious character. The classes of people who were to be entitled to relief ought to be specified, and when the Bill was in Committee, he should feel it his duty to propose amendments to attain that object, and to confine relief to the lame, blind,' and impotent, following as near as possible the words contained in the statute of Elizabeth and to exclude from the provisions of the Bill young healthy men who were able to earn their own livelihood.

Mr. Poulett Scrope

begged to ask the hon. Member who had just sat down, if it was not the young men of Ireland who formed agrarian combinations, and committed murders and outrages in consequence of not having the means of subsistence? and if so, what answer would the hon. Member give to such young men, when, though in a state of starvation, the workhouse was not open to them? He was disposed to give his support to the present Bill. He approved of what had fallen from the hon. Member for Wicklow in the latter part of his speech. He certainly thought that this was the most important measure by far which had ever been introduced for the pacification of Ireland. He believed that it would raise that country from a position the most miserable and the most disgraceful of any nation on the face of the globe to one of the most prosperous that could be imagined. On the whole he agreed most completely with the general principles of the Bill. He did hope, however, that the Government would not erase the clauses which related to emigration. He was far from thinking that too many avenues could be opened for employment. It was, in his opinion, desirable to have as many strings as possible to their bow. Ireland was in a situation of great embarrassment, and it required extraordinary efforts to meet extraordinary circumstances. The more means they took to assist the practical operation of the Bill, in providing employment for the poor, the better. He regretted that there was not some measure carried on in conjunction with this Bill which would promote its operation, such as an extensive system of public works. He believed that a great pressure on the board of guardians would be the result, and that great numbers of able-bodied men would be unable to obtain work. He trusted, therefore, that Government would do something to relieve the guardians from this difficulty. There was some prospect last Session of employment from public works forming an adjunct to this measure, and he hoped that it would not be lost sight of by the Government, and that the House would endeavour to open as many doors as possible to the employment of the poor of Ireland, as the best and most effectual method of giving real relief.

Mr. Hindley

observed, that it had been said that this was not a party question. He wished it were a party question, for it would then be better for the poor of Ireland. They would then have had both sides of the House richly clothed; but because the poor of that country had no party in that House, hon. Members could say this was not a party question, and both sides of the House could agree to oppress them. He could not concur with the hon. and learned Member for Dublin in that a Poor-law was not necessary for Ireland. On the contrary, he thought it highly necessary, and therefore if he expressed the very strong objections which he felt to the measure in its present shape, he hoped the House would not infer that he was opposed to the principle of a poor-law generally. He had no objection to the machinery of this Bill, or to a board of guardians, but would the hon. Member for Wicklow call this a good Bill; when it contained a clause which dried up entirely that source of relief for destitution which as yet had never failed the poor of Ireland—he meant the charity of their countrymen. What did this Bill propose to do? In a country containing 2,000,000 of beggars, it was proposed to pass into law a clause which provided that every person begging or gathering alms, or placing himself for the purpose of begging or gathering alms, or placing any child to do so, should be committed to the house of correction, there to be kept to hard labour for any period not exceeding one calendar month, and for a repetition of the offence he was to be imprisoned for any period not exceeding three calendar months. Any person might apprehend the offender, and a justice of the peace might issue his warrant on suspicion, and then any person when in the last hour of destitution he cried to his fellow-man for relief, and had found a heart to assist him in his distress, might have the money taken from him and applied to defray the expense of conducting him to gaol, and of keeping him there. Did they live in a Christian land? Did the 43rd Elizabeth introduce any vagrancy clauses? This was called a bill for the more effectual relief of the Irish poor. If it deserved that title, did the House think that the Irish poor would not avail themselves of it? Did they suppose that they would beg a precarious subsistence from the hand of charity if they were properly treated in the workhouses of the noble Lord? He felt that if this clause were pressed, they would inflict as great an injustice on the people of the north of England as on the poor of Ireland. What would be the consequence? They would drive the poor of Ireland from that country to this. The principle upon which relief was to be afforded was this, that the treatment of the poor under the workhouse system, must be worse than the subsistence which they might earn by their labour out of it. Now, what was the food on which the poor of Ireland lived? Potatoes and buttermilk. Their workhouse system, then, must provide them with worse food than this. But the Government said to the poor, "You shall not have recourse to private charity, but you shall be imprisoned in the workhouse, and fed on fare worse than potatoes and buttermilk, or else we will drive you from the land." They would then come to the north of England, they would compete with the labourers there, who were not accustomed to live on potatoes and buttermilk, and what would be the results of that competition it was not difficult to foresee. They would also apply to the manufacturers, and that would increase the distress which already prevailed there. He trusted that this clause would be struck out of the Bill.

Lord Clements

was sure, that the hon. Member who had just sat down, would himself, on reflection, condemn the intemperate language which the House had heard from him. The speech of the hon. Member was, he must say, more suited for the Committee than for the present moment. He was himself disposed to think that the mendicancy clauses had better be omitted. If reasons were given to satisfy him that they ought to be retained, he should be glad to see them form part of the bill, but he thought this was not the present time to discuss that question. In reference, however, to the observations which had fallen from the hon. Member in the beginning of his speech, he must say, that it was very unfair in him to say that both parties in that House had agreed to oppress the poor of Ireland. He would assert that but one feeling prevailed in the House, and that was anxiety to remedy their condition. He should not have ventured to rise on this occasion, but that he wished to make one remark, which he begged to do with great respect and deference to the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department. He thought it desirable that the noble Lord should, on going into Committee, lay before the House a more general view than he had hitherto done of the way in which he would recommend that the discretion given to the Poor-law Commissioners should be acted on. He himself approved of the powers which were vested in the Poor-law Commissioners, but no explanation had yet been given of the way in which they were to be exercised, and he believed that much of the dissatisfaction with the measure which prevailed in Ireland took its origin in the misapprehension which existed with respect to the nature of those powers. The present was a question of much complication; there was the question of the formation of unions, the question as to the size of the unions—whether the system was to be tried first in one part of Ireland, or whether it was intended that its operation should be simultaneous, which he thought would be found impracticable. If, therefore, the noble Lord, would give the House some explanation, not of the details but of the principles on which the discretion of the Poor-law Commissioners was to be exercised, he thought that it would soften the feeling of hostility with which this measure was regarded in some quarters.

Mr. William Roche

said, that having but that moment arrived from Ireland, he had no opportunity of hearing the arguments and opinions adduced during the present discussion; but, nevertheless, he could not forego the occasion now presented of expressing his conviction that it was high time to extend to Ireland a system of protection for its poor; and that he was more disposed to regret that circumstances should have prevented its commencement at a much earlier period, than to quarrel with its adoption now; convinced as he was that if adopted some years ago, and therefore now in active and mature operation the condition of the Irish people, and the face of that country would present a much more gratifying aspect. Few opposed the measure on principle, and therefore, the sooner they came to the details and thereby expedited practical proceedings with a view to arrive at the test of experience, the sooner would they be enabled to discover faults, if any, and to smooth down difficulties. Difficulties no doubt must attend the maturing of every new measure and extensive change; but that he was quite sure so soon as the machinery was made by practical knowledge and experience, to work with ease, the measure would be found to be one most salutary and beneficial to all classes of the community. Nevertheless, no one felt more than he did that it was only a beginning and a fragment of what was due to Ireland, and necessary to remove the impediments and to call forth the sources of her prosperity—sources in which no country more abounded, but which from, various causes, moral and political, had been grievously neglected, if not disregarded. Yet he considered this measure a most indispensable first step, and a sure foundation upon which to build future exertions, and if they allowed themselves to be deterred by seeming difficulties they might as well abandon it altogether, for whenever undertaken, those difficulties would have to be encountered. Therefore the sooner they began the nearer they would be to the disembarrassed advantages of that measure, and he could not allow speculative fears or doubts to retard even a mitigation of the mass of misery which so long and still pervaded the poorer classes of Ireland, and which must needs be so prolific of disorder and disturbance. Then in regard to its expense he trusted they would find it not so serious as might be apprehended; for a little before he left Limerick (the city he represents) he visited one of the principal asylums for the poor there, called the House of Industry; where he saw 400 to 500 poor fellow-beings, healthfully and gratefully fed and lodged, (though from want of adequate space rather crowded together), at the trivial expense of about 3d. each per day; very much owing indeed to the zeal and benevolence of a respected fellow-citizen, who so charitably and gratuitously superintended it. In fine he was disposed to strongly hope that when a short period of practical operation and experience smoothened down obstacles, and disclosed the proper remedies, this measure would be hailed and acknowledged as one most salutary and beneficial, but to render it so assuredly required the most rigid scrutiny of its details, both as regarded such a measure in general and in reference to the peculiarities of Ireland in particular.

Lord John Russell

certainly could not agree with the hon. Member for Ashton, who seemed to think that the House must intend to oppress the poor because there was an agreement between both parties to pass this measure for their welfare. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that we ought to go back to those times when beggary was generally permitted, and when it was considered to be rather a merit than otherwise that the whole country was overrun with troops of mendicants. The hon. Gentleman seemed also to think that at present the law permitted vagrancy in Ireland. But so far from that, as the law now stood, vagrants might be transported. The hon. Member, therefore, was mistaken in supposing that this bill introduced for the first time a punishment for vagrancy. The Government thought that the law of Ireland pressed too severely on this offence, and they therefore proposed that it should be visited by a lighter punishment. The feelings of mankind would not go along with the law unless the law were consonant to general justice. It was the practice of the law in England, that while with one hand we offered relief to destitution, if it were not accepted, with the other we inflicted punishment for vagrancy. But while the law of Ireland punished vagrancy most severely, it gave destitution no relief. The Government, then, proposed to place the law on a more just footing, and while vagrancy was not to be permitted on the one hand, on the other relief would be given to the poor. He must say that it appeared to him that this arrangement was consonant with the principles of general justice. This was the general principle on which any poor-law should be founded. He knew no country in which it was not the duty of the state to relieve destitution, and punish vagrancy. But when they relieved the destitute, they should also take care to provide that no abuses should take place; and if any hon. Member should be of opinion that the hardships which would probably arise in individual instances from the establishment of the principle of a test of destitution would outweigh the advantages to be derived from its adoption, that hon. Member would be bound to oppose the Bill. He must observe that numerous cases had been proved to have occurred under the operation of the English Poor Law Act, and were equally likely to occur elsewhere, where persons not really destitute preferred the idle mode of subsisting by receiving parochial relief without work, rather than support themselves by the wages of industry. If he were asked to specify a recent instance of this description, he could point to a letter which had appeared in the public newspapers two or three days since from a person who signed himself a "Market Gardener," in which the public was cautioned against giving relief to persons going about and describing themselves as market gardeners out of work. The writer of this letter stated that if these persons chose to work, there was employment for them, but that, in point of fact, they had left their work of their own accord, so tempting a thing was it to them to live on the charity of the public. To abuses of this description the charitable institutions of every country were liable. And if they established by law a system of relief, without identifying with it some test of destitution, they would run a great risk of turning men, who might otherwise be laborious and useful members of society, aside from the paths of industry. For these reasons he had arrived at the conclusion that some test of destitution there should be, and that which appeared to be the best practical test, was the workhouse, established upon the principle that no person should receive relief outside it. He was not prepared to say that in Ireland particular circumstances might not exist which might call for some modification of this principle. He was not prepared to say that in Ireland there ought to be no relief except in the workhouse. Neither did he say, that there might not be some other test framed; but that the principle must, he believed, at least with certain limitations, be adopted. He was glad to find that the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) approved of the principle of the Bill, and would give it his support. The details would of course all form the subject of consideration in Committee. His noble Friend near him had made some observations as to the mode in which the commissioners were to proceed in working out the details of the Bill. He did not exactly understand the point to which the noble Lord alluded. If there was any point upon which he was desirous of being informed as to his (Lord J. Russell's) intentions, he should be happy to explain to the noble Lord. This much he would observe generally, that in carrying into effect the details of the Bill, much must of course be left to the discretion of the commissioners. He was happy to find that no serious opposition had been made to the second reading of this Bill. And from what had fallen from several hon. Gentlemen, he belived that the House was disposed generally to adopt some Bill of this description; and, without entertaining the extravagant expectations in which some individuals had indulged, as to the benefits which the people of Ireland would derive from this Bill, he would express his belief that it would tend very much to improve their condition.

Bill read a second time.