§ Mr. F. French
rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move—That the House resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, for the purpose of preparing an address to her Majesty, praying that she would be graciously pleased to recommend to Parliament that such measures shall be taken as may appear most likely to secure to Ireland the advantages of railway communication.
He said this subject could not fairly be considered a party question, and he should certainly have brought it under the notice of the House had his right hon. Friends near him continued in office. He had more than once declared in that House his strong conviction, that unless her
Majesty's Government undertook the construction of railways in Ireland, or gave considerable assistance towards their formation, that country would to an indefinite period be deprived of those great means of social improvement. The period which had since elapsed had strengthened his conviction, and must, he thought, have shown to the most sanguine advocates of the private enterprise system that any hopes they might have entertained of these objects being attained by such means were utterly fallacious, and he was pre pared to show by numerous documents that such was their opinion, two of which he had selected, as they had been already made public in pamphlets. The first was the opinion of a gentleman well known in the scientific world, Captain Moorsom, an active and intelligent director of one of the largest of the English railway companies, who stated—
He was bound by duty and disposed by inclination to uphold the interests of those who elected him as director, and though he at one time partook of the current impression that works of this nature were best left to private enterprise, experience had since convinced him of the contrary; that it appeared to him the most important object of railways was the benefit of the public who were to use them, and that their construction under parliamentary control by advances of public money would more effectually and permanently secure that benefit than their construction by means of the capital of private individuals, and he contended that railways should not be allowed to fall into the hands of joint-stock companies in Ireland, for three reasons. 1. Because in that country a system might now be carried into effect which should avoid the evils arising out of the want of such a system in England; 2, because by advancing public money for such works Ireland would come at once into the enjoyment of the many and great advantages of railway communication, and thus, in that respect, keep pace with England; and,3,because the public would have persons and goods conveyed at the lowest fares and rates compatible with the existence of railways.
chairman to the general Irish Railway Committee stated that—He had worked strenuously and earnestly for private enterprise so long as he had reason to believe it was capable of carrying out the system in a comprehensive manner, but so soon as he ascertained that without great pecuniary assistance from the state it was out of the question to expect that the leading lines so necessary to Ireland could be made, he yielded his first opinion, and became a thorough 1402 convert to the principle that if an extended system of railroads (which the wants of Ireland demanded) was ever to be made, it must be by the State."
The question then narrowed itself to this,—were they sitting then in the Parliament of the United Kingdom to deny to so large a portion of the empire as Ireland the power of raising a sufficient sum on her own credit, and upon the most ample security, for the purpose of obtaining these valuable means of developing her neglected resources, and of ameliorating, which all must admit to be desirable and necessary, the condition of her people? To prove that no other means were left to them than those of Government construction or Government interference, it was alone necessary to refer to the feeble and disjointed efforts of private enterprise in Ireland for accomplishing this object during a period which had been remarkable for the greatest possible degree of private exertion and public excitement on the subject of railways. Up to the year 1838 inclusive, 112 private acts were passed for the construction of railways in England and Wales, 21 for Scotland, and but 8 for Ireland. The proportions of national prospects indicated by those numbers must awaken painful reflections in the minds of the Irish people; but the relative position of that country in the race of national improvement was never less favourable than these figures would lead them to imagine. Up to the present moment five out of those eight acts remained a dead letter; and whilst they contemplated the extraordinary impulse given to commerce in this country by means of the railroads already in operation, which traversed it in every direction, and those in progress of construction, turn to Ireland and they would find that six miles of railway from Dublin to Kingstown, and seven from Belfast to Lisburn, since carried on to Portseadown, were all that private speculation, during that period of excitement, had been enabled to accomplish in that country. Whether this had been caused, as some considered, from the report of the Railway Commissioners having underrated the probable advantages derivable from this mode of investing capital in Ireland, or from the absence of capital in that country applicable to such works, or, as others contended, from the uncertainty existing in the minds of capitalists as
to the intentions of Government, he should not take on himself to deliver an opinion. The facts were unfortunately as he had stated, and so were they apparently destined to remain. There was no disposition on the part of the public to invest money in Irish speculations. According to the last report of the directors of the Dublin and Kingstown railway that line was returning a net profit of 8 per cent.; notwithstanding which its shares were at a discount of 25 per cent. It might be well to briefly run over what had been done in reference to this great question by her Majesty's late Government. On the 28th of October, 1836, in accordance with an address from the other House of Parliament, a Royal Commission was issued to the late Mr. Drummond, Sir John Burgoyne, Professor Barlow, and Mr. Griffith, the head of the Ordnance Survey in Ireland, gentlemen of the highest ability, who were directed to consider a general system of railways in Ireland, either by a survey or otherwise, such as would serve as a guide to the le gislature in any future projects that might be brought before them; and also to in quire into the best mode of directing the developement of this new and important means of intercourse to the channel whereby the greatest advantages might be obtained at the smallest outlay. They were also desired to take into consideration, not only the existing means which the country presented, but those which might be anticipated from the resources to be in future developed, and they were to take into consideration the point from which the communication with America might be best carried on. On the 11th of March, 1837, their first report was presented; it was a short one, merely showing the difficulties of the question submitted to their consideration, the conflicting interests it involved, and the necessity for maturely considering it in all its important bearings. It, however, contained ah important statement, one which made a most unfavourable impression on the minds of those capitalists who were disposed to embark their money in railway Undertakings in Ireland—namely, that the selection of the leading lines ought not to be left to private companies. Now, as it was vain to expect that private parties would embark their money in speculations of this nature without the most perfect freedom of choice in the lines likely to
prove remunerative undertakings, the effect of this declaration of the commissioners was sufficient to destroy, and in fact did destroy, all hopes of railroads in Ireland from private enterprise, and this he contended gave them great and peculiar claims on the consideration of Parliament, as at the time that report was made there was every reason to suppose that both the Kilkenny and the Western lines would have been made by private companies. On the 13th of June, 1838, their second report was laid on the Table of this House. That important and valuable document, which had been attributed, he believed correctly, to one of the ablest men of the day, the late Mr. Drummond—a report which contained as much knowledge, as much research, and as much information as were ever presented in any public document by persons appointed under a commission from the Crown—that report clearly proved that the system which had been pursued in respect of railroads in this country was wholly fallacious; it showed beyond the possibility of refutation, that these great works ought not to be left in Ireland, as here, to be accomplished by separate and isolated lines, constructed by companies whose chief aim and object must be their private interest; and it recommended, as the only means by which the great evils of the English system could be avoided, a well-combined and judicious system of railways to be executed by the Government in Ireland, under regulations to be enforced by effective superintendence and control. The danger of leaving these works to private companies, the unnecessary expenses both legal and Parliamentary incurred, the extravagant demands for compensation from landowners or others, the vexatious opposition and ruinous competition of rival companies, were all pointed out; every item of which expense must eventually be defrayed by the public, and that those expenses were of no trifling nature was shown by the re turns before the House. For parliamentary and other preliminary expenses, compensation, &c, eight railway lines in Eng land had to pay the enormous sum of 1,137,000l., 15½ per cent. on their entire cost. The London and Birmingham company, whose railway was 112½ miles in length paid for parliamentary expenses 72,868l., for compensation or preliminary expenses 735,087l.; the Great Western,
117½ miles in length, upwards of 100,000l. for parliamentary, and 720,000l. for other expenses. The expenses of the Brighton line before Parliament exceeded 100,00l.; they paid for land 400,000l. The South Western 75½ miles, paid for parliamentary expenses 42,000l., for compensation 298,000l. The original estimate for the London and Birmingham was 2,500,000l.; it cost 5,690,375l. 4s. 7d. The estimate for the Great Western was 2,500,000l.; it cost 4,508,160l. 3s. 4d. The estimate for the Liverpool and Manchester was 300,000l., it cost 1,430,304l. 18s. 5d. The estimate for the South Western was 1,000,000l.; it cost upwards of 2,000,000l. The result of all this was, that the public had to pay a higher rate of fares for rail way travelling by 120 per cent. than would have been the case had a system similar to that pursued by the Belgian government been adopted. He found the weekly amount received in the month of September last, on the thirty lines of railway, the traffic returns of which were published, was 88,503l. 17s. 1d., at which rate the annual receipts would amount to 5,002,200l. 8s. 4d. The fare from London to Liverpool, in a first class carriage was 2l. 13s., the distance being 195 miles, or an average of 3¾d. per passenger per mile. Now, it appeared from the official report published by the minister of public works in Belgium, M. Nothomb, that the fare chargeable in a first class carriage in Belgium was about 1½d. per mile per passenger; so that the public were charged in this country about 120 per cent, higher for railway travelling than they were in Belgium. Allow 20 per cent, on the receipts in this country, on account of the natural advantages in levels which Belgium possessed, and assuming there was the same difference in the carriage of parcels as of passengers, still you had, by the errors of your system, entailed an annual tax on the public in respect of this mode of travelling to the enormous amount of 2,500,000l. sterling. This was calculating the charge of conveyance of passengers at 3½d. per head per mile. In many of the acts which had been passed, the companies had the power of charging at the rate of 6d. per head per mile; in two acts no limit was fixed in the tonnage dues; there was a most extraordinary want of uniformity in the different acts; the carriage of limestone
varied from 1d. to 3d. per ton per mile; just 200 per cent; coal from ½d. to 4d.— 800 per cent; manufactured goods from 2d. to 6d.—300 per cent.; and sheep from ¼d. per mile to 3d., or 1,100 per cent. Was it desirable that such a system as this should be extended to Ireland? Attention was drawn by the report to the obvious fact, that as railway speed increased the expenses of the line were increased in a high proportion; and that there, therefore, existed the strongest temptations to railway companies to diminish the velocity to a rate little exceeding that of the modes of conveyance they had superseded, an evil which could only be corrected by the most objectionable means of ex post facto legislation. The commissioners merely re marked that the great errors which had been committed in England were mainly attributable to the suddenness with which the invention had burst upon the country, as well as to the imperfect view which had been taken, both of its extraordinary power, and the extent to which the public interests were involved in its just application and management, and they called on the House to preserve Ireland, where the ground was yet untrodden, from similar acts, and to secure to it, as they then could, and now could do, at a moderate expense, all the advantages which railways were capable of affording. He had mentioned, that prior to this report, eight rail way acts for Ireland had been obtained— one for constructing a railway from the city of Limerick to the town of Carrick, in the county of Tipperary, passed in 1826; the Dublin and Kingstown Act in 1831; this line was opened to the public in 1834. In 1832 an act was passed for making a short line from Belfast to some quarries in its neighbourhood, called the Belfast and Case hill Railway. In 1836 two companies, the Ulster and the Dublin and Drogheda, obtained their acts, and three in 1837— namely, the Dundalk and Ballybay, the Dublin and Kilkenny, and the Cork and Passage. The two most important of these were the Dublin and Drogheda, and the Dublin and Kilkenny, the first projecting the great northern, the second the great southern line of railway. The Drogheda company had a capital of 600,000l., half of which had been subscribed by share-holders in Liverpool and Manchester; they had, according to their own statement, purchased seven miles of the way leading from Dublin, and had expended upwards
of 100,000l. Still, so necessary did the combined system appear to the commissioners, that they recommended that another line, differing from, but parallel to, the Drogheda, should be undertaken by Government. Sanguine, indeed, must the speculator have been who could imagine two parallel lines of railway in Ireland were likely to prove remunerative. The directors, as shareholders of the Drogheda company, did not think so, and the report of the commissioners put a complete stop to the progress of the work. It was true they had again resumed, and they were six years after the passing of their act carrying out its provisions, and it was but justice to say, in a manner highly profit able to themselves. The public must reap very considerable advantages from this line when connected with the Ulster; a direct railway communication would be opened between Belfast and the entire north of Ireland with Dublin. In resuming work this company was more fortunate than their southern cotemporary and the other companies he had mentioned, not one of which had shown the slightest appearance of returning animation. To remedy those evils, to give to Ireland the advantage of railway communication, or, in his own words, "to promote the practical, the material benefit of the Irish people," his noble Friend, the late Secretary for Ireland, early in the Session of 1839 brought forward his measure for executing the lines recommended by the commissioners as public works, and obtained,' by a majority of 44, the sanction of Parliament, to an outlay of 2,500,000l. for that purpose. This sum he proposed should be exclusively appropriated to the construction of the southern line from Dublin to Cork. He (Mr. French), in common with others, hailed this project of the, noble Lord as a happy omen for the future prosperity of Ireland, and he endeavoured to impress on him and on the House, at the time it appeared successfully, that this sum would be more beneficially employed, and would tend more to develope the resources of the country, by constructing a given portion of three great lines, north, south, and west, to Carickmacross, Cashel, and Athlone. In this view he was strongly supported by the majority of the petitions presented to the House, and by the unanimous resolutions of public meetings in Ireland, called after the Government plan had been made
known. At a very numerous and influential meeting, held at the Thatched-house, the 20th of April, 1839, it was unanimously agreed to,
That it is expedient that three great leading lines of railway in Ireland—one to the north, one to the south, and one to the west, should be simultaneously constructed; and, secondly, that any aid to railways in Ireland ought to be distributed in due proportion to the three provinces.
It was also resolved, at a meeting held at the Carlton Club, the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (now Baron Lefroy) in the chair,
That the introduction of the railway sys tem into Ireland under the control and direction of the State, if conducted upon perfectly impartial principles, is entitled to our most warm support.
No opportunity, however, was afforded of discussing these details, as his noble Friend, on account of the opposition offered to his plan by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tarn worth, found himself compelled to abandon his mea sure. In 1840 he brought forward another, the principle of which was, that the necessary funds were to be advanced by private parties, to whom a certain rate of interest of 4 per cent, was to be guaranteed by those counties in Ireland which were supposed to be benefitted by the proposed work. This measure was printed, but on account of the political difficulties of Government, was never brought under the consideration of Parliament. The subject had been under discussion in that House upwards of six years, and as the Minister of Public Works in France remarked to the Chamber of Deputies last month, when laying before them his extensive plan for the formation of railroads in that country, "we had much lost time to make up." However he might personally regret the political changes which had taken place, he (Mr. French) sincerely hoped that the noble Lord who had succeeded to the office of Chief Secretary for Ireland would with equal anxiety to promote the interest, of that country, as all who were acquainted with him must admit him to have, prove to have greater power than his noble Friend to carry through the other House of Parliament measures by which Ireland might be rendered a source of strength and advantage, in place of weakness and disgrace, to the empire. It appeared to him, from the course pursued by the right
hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, when this subject was under discussion, that he was not very strongly impressed with the advantages of extending railway communication throughout the kingdom. Should his supposition be correct, the right hon. Gentleman stood alone amongst the statesmen of Europe in this opinion. The powerful resources of France, the disposable income of Belgium, the limited means of the small German and Italian states, Prussia, Saxony, Russia, the cautious Government of Austria, the enterprising spirit of the United States, were all struggling towards one common object —the extension of railway communication throughout their respective dominions. France had now completed, or in progress, 350 miles of railway, in which capital to the amount of 7,000,000l. sterling was embarked; in addition to which M. Teste, the minister of Public Works, had a measure before the Chambers to allocate 20,000,000l. sterling to construct five great lines from Paris to the different boundaries of the country. Belgium had by M. Nothomb's report 350 miles, and had expended about 5,000,000l.; Austria, according to the Chevalier Von Geisner, had 410 miles, and a capital of 2,500,000l. in addition to which a further sum of 8,000,000l. was about to be allocated; Prussia had 300 miles, and a capital of 2,000,000l.; Saxony, eighty miles, and a capital of 900,000l.; America had completed 3,430, with a capital of 20,000,000l. There were in progress 2,000 miles, with a capital of 15,000,000l.; in addition to which there were proposed lines, some of which had been undertaken, to the extent of 5,948 miles. All this might be said to be the work of the last ten years, prior to 1830 there were but three-short lines throughout the United States—theQuincy in Massachusetts, but four miles, and two short ones in Pennsylvania, the Maunch Chunk and the Corbondale. Independent of the assistance given by the state governments to the different corporations, by whom the greater portion of these lines were constructed, sixteen railways were executed at the sole expense of the state governments, two in Pennsylvania, one in Georgia, one in Indiana, three in Michigan, and nine in Illinois. England had completed 1,750 miles of railway at an expense of 60,000,000l. sterling, 10,120,000l. of-which had been swallowed up by parliamentary and preliminary ex
penses. Of this sum Mr. Hyde Clerk calculated 6,720,000l. were absolutely, and unnecessarily wasted, a larger sum than would have constructed all the pro posed railways in Ireland. Why should: the Legislature of this country be more indifferent to the interests of its inhabitants than France, Belgium, Austria, or America? It was peculiarly an English object that the most remote parts of Ire land should be connected as intimately and as closely as possible with herself; and it was by opening to every part of that, country the most direct and easy modes of communication with this, that that identity of feeling and interest could be obtained on which depended the prosperity and permanence of the union of the two countries. This was well put in a pamphlet which had recently been published. The writer said,—
Railways and steam are effecting a new economization of life, of business, of government, which neither ignorance can stop nor interest interrupt. They will be the great re generating powers of Ireland. They will introduce into that country not only the muscle, but the mind, the enterprise, and the security of England, and impart to her new life, new feelings, new objects, and new interests. The more the case is considered, do advantages, benefits, conveniences, and accommodations multiply. It opens to Ireland, as it were, a new world, and discloses her re sources to the enterprise and public spirit of England. In fact, it will call into existence a' union which nothing can repeal.
§ He trusted that these considerations, would have their due weight and influence, on the mind of the right hon. Baronet, and that he would accord to them, as he, had the power of doing, either by adopting or by any other mode he might consider, more expedient, those means, the most effective which modern science had discovered, for calling into action the powers and capabilities so long dormant amongst, them. He had a soil to deal with, rich from the fallow of centuries of neglect; and amply would any outlay he might deem it advisable to make be repaid. From the opposition which any advance for public works to Ireland uniformly met with in Parliament, the House might naturally suppose that any assistance given to that country in this way must be attended with loss or at least with considerable risk. They might not be pre pared to hear that the very reverse was the 1411 fact. The State, on the contrary, had derived very considerable profit on loans made to Ireland. The system had hitherto been to lend money for eleven years, repayable within that period by instalments at the interest of 5 per cent. The interest on 100l. for eleven years, at 5 per cent, would amount to 55l., receivable by the State; the State paid for the same sum for the like period an interest of 3 per cent., which would amount to 33l., gaining therefore 22 per cent. on the transaction. He found by a parliamentary paper that the money advanced by way of loan out of the consolidated fund in Ireland, from the 5th of January, 1809, to the 5th of January, 1834, was as follows:—
|Repairs of roads and bridges||36,000|
§ making in all the sum of 1,403,000l. so lent during that period; the difference of interest gained by the nation on this advance amounted to no less a sum than 308,660l. This was, however, a mere trifle in comparison with the important national advantages resulting from the outlay, shown by the increasing revenue and the improved condition of the people. It was in evidence that an expenditure of 60,000l. in the south of Ireland brought an increase to the revenue of 50,000l. a year. The calculation, therefore, of the Railway Commissioners was not exaggerated. Men of great professional ability and experience, not likely to be influenced by Irish enthusiasm, or rashly to hazard an opinion, would tell you that an annual increase of 6,000,000l. to the revenue might be expected from giving us the use of the national credit alone. Let not the House underrate the importance of Ireland as an integral portion of the empire. Although the revenue of that country might be proportionally smaller as com pared with her extent and population than that of Great Britain, it had been, and was, gradually and steadily increasing. In the year 1793 it amounted to 1,000,000l., at present it had reached about 4,500,000l. Taking the tea and other duties paid in this country into account it exceeded 5,000,000l. By the parliamentary paper 1412 ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, 28th April, 1841, No. 273, they found, that for the first five years after the Union Ireland paid into the British Exchequer 14,113,307l., which was about one-fourteenth of the national revenue. During the five years ending 1840 she had paid 19,495,971l., which was about one-twelfth of the national revenue. The in crease of her imports and exports during the last twenty years had been most remarkable. As to the exports—horned cattle, in 1825,64,000; in 1835, 99,000; and at the same ratio, in 1845, they would amount to 153,000. In like man ner,
|Pigs had increased nearly sevenfold||66,000||377,000||—|
|Meal and Flour||600,000||1,981,000||6,540,000|
|Wheat and Barley||439,000||590,000||—|
§ According to the returns presented to the House by the Vice-President of the Board of Trade on the 11th of February, the quantity of wheat and wheat flour imported into England from Ireland was, in the year 1825, 336,000 quarters: in 1835, 661,776 quarters. Oats and oatmeal, in the year 1800 but 2,411 quarters, had, in the year 1841, increased to 2,539,380 quarters.
§ This increase showed more strongly than words could do how essential it was to the future prosperity of England that the resources of Ireland should be speedily developed. It would supply a new market for their manufactures, a new supply of food for their artisans, and a new and fertile source of revenue for the State. In proportion as the resources of Ireland were called forth, would the burdens of England be diminished. Those resources 1413 could be fully developed by allowing them to avail themselves of what they had used with no sparing hand for their own purposes—the credit of the United Kingdom. Since 1817 loans to the amount of 12,000,000l., money borrowed on the credit of the United Kingdom, had been sanctioned by the Exchequer Loan Com missioners for the improvements of Eng land. The largest annual sums voted for this purpose were by the 57th of Geo. 3rd, and the 3rd of Geo. 4lh., when the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was in power. On what principle could he refuse to deal with Ireland in a similar spirit? They asked no more—they would be contented with no less; both justice and enlightened policy demanded that it should be conceded to them. The express condition upon which the Poor-law Bill for Ireland passed through that House was, that considerable assistance should be given to the people by means of public works in that country. Again, there was the importance to this country of facilitating the intercourse with Ireland. Having trespassed so long on the indulgence of the House, he would conclude by submitting the motion which he had already announced.
§ The Speaker
said, he collected from the observations of the hon. Member, that the object of his motion was to obtain a grant of public money for the purpose of constructing railways in Ireland.
§ Mr. F, French
said, he appeared to have been somewhat misunderstood by the way in which he had expressed himself. His object was to call the attention of the Government to this important subject; but not to point out to them any means by which the object in view could be attained. It was simply to make out good grounds for the interference of the Government.
§ Mr. Shaw
rose for the purpose of seconding the motion of his hon. Friend. In doing that he had a twofold object. First, he de sired, if possible, to dissuade his hon. Friend from pressing his motion at that moment. His meaning was, that he had an unaffected desire to support the object of his hon. Friend, but he felt that, considering the condition of the public finances, that the financial statement of the Government had not yet been laid before the House, and that they were not in possession of that information which alone could enable them to come to a satisfactory conclusion, 1414 if they came to a decision upon the subject at that time, it must be unfavourable to the views which he held in common with his hon. Friend. He thought it, therefore, unwise and inconvenient that the motion should be pressed. His second object was to state to the House his entire concurrence with his hon. Friend in wishing to promote the introduction of rail ways in Ireland; and he should be sorry to let slip an opportunity of expressing his most anxious desire that all Irish Members should be united in the promotion of a mea sure, the object of which was the real and permanent interest of Ireland, and the development of her national resources, without reference to party differences or the kind of agitation upon which their energies had been thrown away, and which formed an excuse and justification to the House and the Government to overlook those Irish objects of great public moment and importance which, with the cordial good-will and co-operation of all parties in Ire land, might be attained. He would not go into the various points of the subject, but he must say, that from all the information he had been able to procure from the reports of railway companies and committee of that House, he believed that if a system of railways were to be introduced into Ireland, it would be better and more effectual if it were a combined and general system, as distinguished from a system backed by different bodies having separate, and oftentimes, opposite interests. The introduction of a public measure by her Majesty's Government, adopting a general plan as to the management and control of such ways, would greatly facilitate the introduction of a system of railways into Ireland, and it would be highly advantageous if that system were combined, and there were a common station in the metropolis for the three great northern, was tern, and southern lines. He said, that the very difference whether 'the system would be remunerative or not would turn on the fact, whether they were conducted on that general and common principle, or as mere private speculations. One great object was the facility of communication between London and Dublin, and he would venture an opinion, that by combining those cities by means of a railway through Wales, the whole journey might be per formed in the time that was now consumed in an average passage between Dublin and Liverpool—namely, fourteen 1415 hours; and that, indeed, was One reason why he was anxious that they should come to no premature decision. But, besides saving time, when London and Dublin were connected by means of that railway, they would then have a point whence to start main trunks through every part of the country, And if Irish Members and Irish interests did prevail with the Government to countenance that improvement, and the opening of a system of railways throughout Ireland on a general and combined principle, they would have some public spirited persons taking it up, and he was persuaded there would be a full return for the money that might be expended; he did not mean by the indirect means of an improved condition of the country, but by a direct return in the way of public economy; by the saving of Post-office communication and otherwise, the Government would save a sum considerably greater than any they would be called upon to spend in promoting the object which he was so anxious in the main to see established. If, however, his hon. Friend should persist in his motion, as he considered that they had not sufficient information before them at that period, he would ask his noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland not at present to come to any decision on the subject, or at least, not to come to any unfavourable decision respecting it.
§ Mr. Redington
said, the right hon. Gentleman had backed the motion of his hon. Friend in a very indifferent manner. The House was then called upon to say whether this Government, as the former one had done, should support the introduction of railways in Ireland. He would speak of the report of the Railway Commissioners with the greatest respect as to the ability with which it had been drawn up, but he considered that it was not such a report as justified the Government in carrying into effect an universal system of railways in that country; and he confessed he had great doubt whether, by the Go vernment taking upon itself the entire regulation of those railways, they might not be travelling too fast. He knew that much might be done by the encouragement of public works—which after all did not pay, and that more distress might be created by holding out hopes that might never be realised. But at the same time he must say, that a great deal was due to Ireland in the way of promoting intercourse 1416 with that country, and increasing her resources. When hon. Gentlemen had been legislating for the last fortnight upon a subject materially affecting the agricultural interests of Ireland, they ought to be more liberal in encouraging the construction of public works in that country. He did not wish to ask her Majesty's Ministers to come forward and propose a grant of public money, but he thought that the bill which was laid on the Table of that House in the early part of last year, containing a provision that acts for railways in Ireland should be public and not private acts, proposed a much better system than was adopted in England. If, indeed, the Government had exercised a more general superintendence over rail ways in this country many of those difficulties, respecting which inquiries were then going on, might have been avoided. Before he sat down he would refer to a petition which he had presented to the House, praying that the railways from Belfast to Portadown, and from Dublin to Drogheda, might be united. He believed that that proposition was made by parties equally interested in both those railways. They did not seek pecuniary aid, they wished the road to be completed, and all they sought was a certain guarantee on the part of the Government of a small interest on their capital. All they asked from the Government was a guarantee of 4 per cent. upon one-half of the principal advanced; but with that guarantee they could at once sink their capital, and give the Government a mortgage of all the railway property. In conclusion he would suggest to the Government, that without being called upon to advance considerable sums of money, they might extend, even in the present condition of their finances, considerable aid with regard to railways in Ireland, by giving facilities to bills being passed through that House in the same way as had been done in the case of several of the railways in this country.
§ Lord Eliot
said, that before the hon. Gentleman (Mr. French) answered the question which had been put by the Speaker, he was about to acknowledge the very candid and manly manner in which he had explained the object of his motion. He confessed, however, that from the answer which the hon. Gentle man gave to that question, he was at a loss to understand what the hon. Gentle- 1417 man proposed. The motion of the hon. Gentleman was,—That this House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, for the purpose of preparing an Address to her Majesty, praying that she would be graciously pleased to recommend to Parliament that such measures shall be taken as may appear most likely to secure to Ireland the advantages of railway communication.
§ The whole gist of the speech of his hon. Friend had been to show that no other means could avail for that purpose. Whether the hon. Gentlemen were right might be questionable; but he stated that without Government security no railways could be established in Ireland. He had himself some little difficulty on the subject, and was afraid of being misunderstood because, if he objected to the motion, it might be supposed that he took entirely different views from his hon. Friend, and under-valued the importance of railways in Ire land. He meant, however, no such thing, because, although he did not go quite the same length as his hon. Friend, still he was prepared to admit that great comfort, convenience, and advantage—and above all, the employment of the labouring classes, which, though not the only thing needful, was the one most needful to those classes, would result from the introduction of railways in Ireland. No one could see the labouring classes in Ireland without wishing to remove them from the state in which they were placed, and every one who knew that a stimulus only was wanting to their energies, and that with that stimulus, those energies might easily be called forth, must be most anxious to afford them a field for their exertions. But the plan which his hon. Friend pro posed would bring them back to the point at which they had arrived in the year 1839; and here he would take that, the first opportunity he had had, of naming his noble predecessor in that House, to acknowledge the obligation he felt to the noble Lord for offering to him, in the most liberal manner, such advice and information as he was able to give with respect to Ireland. The private character of that noble Lord required no eulogy; but, from all that was known and heard of him in Ireland, he had carried away with him the good wishes of all classes of the community, and his political opponents bore no unwilling testimony to the kindness of his heart and the generosity of his disposi- 1418 tion. Now, his noble predecessor had proposed, in 1839, as his hon. Friend had said, a plan, the object of which was to recognise the principle that the Government would undertake the construction of railways throughout Ireland. There was to be, he believed, some sort of security upon the county cess; and in the event of the returns of the railways not being sufficient to pay the expense, the Government was to be repaid by that rate. That, however, was a species of security almost illusory. In the first place, if anything like great distress occurred in Ireland, no Government could reimburse itself at such a time from that source; and it would be in the recollection of the House and of those hon. Members who took a part in that discussion, that the sum charged upon the county cess for the railways was by no means small. Mr. Griffith, the railway commissioner had stated, that the amount of the liability varied from 8d. and 9d. to 1s. 10d. and 2s. 2d. an acre. But the county cess already amounted to from 3s. 6d. to 4s. an acre; and he thought that the additional charge upon the counties would, in many cases, be such as they would be unwilling to incur. He knew not whether any arrangement was to be made for dividing the burden between the owner and the occupier of the land; but if the change were to be borne by the occupying tenant, those persons who might derive little advantage from those railways, for several years might be saddled with a considerable part of that charge. It was true, that Parliament had confirmed the proposition of the noble Lord by majorities of forty and forty-four; but it must be recollected, that the proposition was so coldly received, although confirmed by the House, that the noble Lord took no other step respecting it. Nothing further was done until 1841, when the noble Lord brought forward a proposition, the principle of which he considered to be unobjectionable. The noble Lord facilitated the coming together of capitalists, and those parties who were interested in the completion of railways, and proposed that certain arrangements should be made between them. That principle was, he thought, unobjectionable. The whole duty of the Government was to take care that the arrangement was reasonable and satisfactory; but from what he had heard and seen in Ireland, he believed there was a considerable hesitation in the 1419 country to accede to the proposition. He was unwilling, on the part of the Government, to hold out any expectations which might lead to disappointment. It was better at once to say, that the Government could not consent to any plan which would involve an expenditure of the public money. The Railway Commissioners had pointed out certain modes, and the Government conceived them to be legitimate modes, by which the establishment of railways in Ireland might be facilitated. They recommended that, if private individuals could be found who were willing to furnish the capital necessary for establishing a railway in Ireland, the Government should interpose to protect them against being saddled with unnecessary expenses—that they should not be charged with the expenses usually consequent on obtaining an act of Parliament, and that the mode of determining the amount of compensation established on some fixed principle, independent of private and local bias. To such an extent as that he and his Colleagues were disposed to facilitate the enterprise of private individuals; but beyond that they thought it would be impolitic to go. The hon. Mover had referred to the example of continental states, and he was surprised that France, amongst others, had been adverted to, because the system pursued in that country was diametrically opposed to that which had always been followed in this. Public works in France were invariably conducted at the expense of the government, and private enterprise was almost unknown. Belgium, again, was a small country, and the expense of constructing railroads could consequently be easily ascertained. The case was different with respect to Ire land. If the Government should deter mine on granting the means for establishing a railroad between Dublin and Cork, they would soon be called upon to render similar assistance to other lines from the north and west. The hon. Member had talked about England treating Ireland like a step-child, if she refused pecuniary aid to the establishment of railroads in that country; but surely it must be allowed that every disposition to serve Ireland had been evinced by the appointment of the most eminent engineers to survey the country. Their report was be fore the public, and private individuals who wished to embark in speculations had I an opportunity of knowing the grounds 1420 on which they were about to proceed. The official surveys would materially assist the operations of private companies. The hon. Member said, that it was impossible to find persons in Ireland willing to invest their capital in railroads; but he could state, on the best authority, that the shares in the Dublin and Drogheda, and Dublin and Ulster railroads were better paid up by the Irish than by the English shareholders, and that there had been fewer shares forfeited by the former than by the latter. The hon. Member had referred to the enormous increase in the amount of the Irish imports and exports, but he (Lord Eliot) could not see how an inference could be drawn from that fact favourable to a grant of money for the establishment of railroads in Ireland. For the reasons he had stated, he must, though with great reluctance, object to the motion before the House. The course which the Government felt it its duty to take on this occasion might be liable to misconstruction in Ireland but he thought it better to meet the proposition of the hon. Member, not, indeed, with a direct negative, but with the more courteous proceeding of moving the previous question, than, by acceding to the motion, give rise to expectations which the Government had no intentions to satisfy.
said, the House was now informed that the Government would do nothing in this matter. The noble Lord was not justified in disparaging the security of the Irish counties. It might be a question whether it was good policy to look to such security, but as to its solvency there could be no doubt. All the public works in Ireland had been executed by means of the same security. The in formation which the noble Lord had received as to the counties not consenting to the construction of the railroads was not correct. He had reason to believe that most of the counties were prepared to support the undertakings. In most of the counties the grand juries who impose the cess had actually declared their assent. Some counties had made no declaration on the subject; but be believed he could be borne out in stating, that in none bad the grand juries declared against the rail roads. If the counties were to be absolutely liable for the cost of construction, the case would be different, and would require greater consideration; but the counties would have a claim upon the 1421 revenue of the railroads; and according to the calculations of the intelligent railroad commissioners, there was no probability that the counties would ever be called upon to make good a single shilling. He did not agree with those who thought that Government ought not to have the superintendence of railroads in Ireland. The great evil of the English railroads was, that they were not subject to that superintendence. At present they were mere monopolies, and competition was quite out of the question. The railroads in Ireland, at all events, ought to be under the superintendence of the Government. The noble Lord had referred in terms of approbation to the report of the railroad commissioners; but of what value was that report if it were not acted on? One consequence only had resulted from that report. The commissioners had estimated the rate of profit so low, that private speculators were deterred from having any thing to do with railroads. 6 per cent. was the greatest profit which, in the opinion of the commissioners, railroads in Ireland would yield, and every body knew that capitalists would not embark their money in such speculations in the expectation of obtaining no greater return. Lord Morpeth abandoned his plan, not because he was convinced of its impolicy, but because he foresaw that it would meet with such a degree of opposition in that and the other House, as would render it impossible to bring it to a successful issue. In the few observations he had made, he bad endeavoured to avoid uttering a single Word which was calculated to excite an angry feeling, and under all the circum stances of the case, he would recommend his hon. Friend not to press his motion to a division.
§ Lord Eliot
had not intended to question the security of the Irish counties; what he said was, that in the event of the failure of railroads, it would be very inconvenient to come upon the occupier of the land. Grand juries were not the representatives of the rate-payers, and though some of them might have declared in favour of the railroads, he believed a general indisposition to adopt them upon the terms recommended by the hon. Member was manifested throughout the counties. The present Government would folly adopt and carry oat the last proposition brought forward by Lord Morpeth in 1841.
was convinced that the counties of Ireland would never consent to be taxed by the grand juries in the manner proposed, and that the people would consider Such a tax a great grievance.
§ Mr. W. S. O'Brien
thought it was as well the duty of the Government as the interest of this country, to assist the people of Ireland in forming railways; This country relied oft Ireland for many articles of consumption, and it would; therefore be a positive advantage to bring the remote parts of Ireland, by means of railways, within thirty hours of this metro polis. The whale amount required for the purpose would not be more than 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l., and such a sum, considering the advantages likely to result from its expenditure, ought to be a matter of indifference to the Government.
§ Mr. Shaw
in explanation, said, he had not called on his noble Friend to form an opinion and decide officially on the matter. On the contrary, all he had said was to express his hope that his noble Friend would not be premature in forming an opinion in coming to a decision in the absence of proper information.
§ Sir R. Peel:
Sir, I inferred from the speech of the hon. Gentleman who made this motion, as well as from the terms of the motion itself, that the object which be had in view was to recommend that the Government should undertake the construction of railways in Ireland at the public expense; and I must say, that throughout his speech, the object of an advance of public money Was apparent. As, however, the hon. Gentleman disclaimed any such object, I am bound to give full credit to his disclaimer, but, at the same time, I must say, that I never beard a speech from which it could be inferred more clearly, that the object of the speaker was, that the construction of rail ways in Ireland should not be left to private speculation, but undertaken at the public charge. When the Speaker inter posed, and reminded the hon. Gentleman that the form of his motion was inconsistent with the rules of the House—that unless his object was a grant of money he could not move the House into committee to address the Grown—the hon. Gentle man said that his object was not a grant of money; but certainly the disclaimer of the hon. Gentleman was directly at variance, not only with the motion of the 1423 hon. Gentleman, but with the pretexts which the hon. Gentleman put forward in his speech. The motion of the hon. Gentleman was not for an address to the Crown on the part of the House, but that the House should resolve itself into committee for the purpose of preparing an address to her Majesty, a course which can only be pursued when a pecuniary grant is intended to be recommended to the Crown. The form of the motion, there fore, occasioned my doubt, and I certainly thought, both from his motion and his speech, that the object of the hon. Gentleman was a grant of public money. Sir, I fully agree with the hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if party considerations could influence her Majesty's Government, it would be a good party move on our part to concur in any measure, to agree to any proposition, which would be likely to con ciliate for us the support of the Irish Members. If, I say, we could be influenced by party considerations, the expenditure of 6,000,000l. or 7,000,000l. might be a matter of perfect indifference to us; and if the state of our finances were, in short, a matter of utter indifference to us, we might, perhaps, become makers of Irish railways, and expend 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. in that way, with a view to conciliate the valuable support of the Members for Ireland. Not being, how ever, actuated by party views, we cannot act with such considerations; but still, if I really did believe that an undertaking by the Government to make 540 miles of railway in Ireland would be a substantial and permanent benefit to that country, I do think all my scruples on the subject would be removed. But the question is, would such a course, on the part of the Government, be an advantage to Ireland? Now, Sir, I think that it would not, and that it is best for the interests of Ireland that Irish gentlemen should act in reference to such objects, precisely as we in this country have done; that is, that they should undertake speculations of this kind themselves—if, indeed, they believed that profit would result from them. My opinion, Sir, is that what the hon. Gentle men opposite ask, would, if given, prove a fatal gift; and I say this, because I am looking at what took place in the Irish Parliament, and the result of the grants which they made. I know that grants of public money were given for the construction of your. Grand Canal, your 1424 Royal Canal, and your Laggan and Tyrone Navigation, and what was the result? Why, that so far from these undertakings turning out profitable, the contrary was the case. [Mr. F. French: These were all private undertakings.] Why, Sir, I myself proposed a grant of 200,000l. to enable the works on the Royal Canal to go on, and the Tyrone Navigation was carried on at the public expense. These grants, no doubt, were the result of exaggerated statements as to the existence of extensive and valuable coal and other mines—statements which had never been realised; and what I say is, that if, instead of Government interfering, the matter had been left to private speculation, no money would have been expended until it was proved, beyond all doubt, that not only such advantages did really exist, but that the undertakings would turn out profitable, Sir, my belief is, that an undertaking to construct an extensive system of railways in Ireland would not pay the expense, but, even if it did, what would be the consequence? Why, you would bring together an immense mass of labourers, by the incentive of the advantage to arise from undue exertion; but when the works were finished, and these labourers could find no employment, was it not probable that the evils of Ireland, instead of being mitigated, would be increased? The hon. Member for Roscommon said, that in 1839 I opposed a proposition brought forward by the noble Lord opposite, and I admit that I did so. Sir, what I say is this, that if railways in Ire land can be accomplished with profit, their construction ought to be undertaken upon the principle the railways in this country were undertaken; but if they cannot, then I think they ought not to be undertaken at all, and certainly I greatly doubt the policy of making grants of public money for such objects, even in Ireland. Let us look at the manner in which these undertakings have been carried out in England? Why, will the gentlemen of Ireland not do as was done in this country? Why will they not determine on constructing one line of rail way in the first instance, say from Dublin to Cork or Limerick? The Government are perfectly willing to give them all the advantages of Government superintendence. They can have plans and surveys for their line, and undoubtedly the country is peculiarly favourable—possesses great geological facilities for the formation of a 1425 railway. But, I ask, are you (the Irish Members) willing that land should be taken for the purposes of railways in Ire land on a different principle from that acted on in England? Are you willing that, instead of insisting on your own valuation, land for these purposes should be taken on the principal adopted in Russia and Prussia? If you are not willing to do this, all I can say is, that even if Government were to accede to your wishes, we should have great difficulty in forcing any bill through Parliament, great difficulty in forcing Irish proprietors to' accept, say 25l. an acre for their land. If, however, Irish gentlemen are of opinion that their own estimates of the value of land should not be applicable to rail ways, and are ready to accept the sum which might be determined on by Government commissioners, no doubt that would afford great facilities, as well as prove that they had profited by experience. They might also obtain such powers as would enable them to avoid the evils and embarrassments against which English rail way companies have had to contend. But notwithstanding all this, I cannot act on the supposition that the people of Ireland are unable of themselves to undertake the construction of railways, if they make up their mind to for get party divisions and animosities, and apply themselves to such an object in right down earnest. The hon. Gentlemen opposite say they are not able; but did not their speeches show the contrary— that the internal condition of Ireland was prospering, and that both the navigation and agriculture of that country were in creasing by means of the national energies. Sir, if this be the case, and I have no doubt it is, why ask the Government for assistance? or why should not Ireland, like England, rely on her own native energies for improvements of this kind? I believe her own energies are fully equal to the accomplishment of railway under takings; but, if not, why does not Ireland exhibit such a state of peace and tranquillity—such an absence of agitation and disturbance—as will show that capital may be safely vested in that country? If peaceable and tranquil, there could be no doubt that English capital, for which it was now so difficult to find profitable employment, would flow into Ireland. But what is the account given with respect to the Dublin and Kingstown Railway 1426 That is the result of private undertaking, and it shows that there is no ground for the supposition that the people of Ireland are not competent to engage in such speculations. [The right hon. Baronet read a passage from the report of the Railway Commissioners to show that this railway had been successfully managed, and that the persons engaged in it had made many improvements, and displayed a degree of ingenuity highly creditable to Irish talent.] Sir, I recollect that Lord Morpeth proposed a line of railway from Dublin to Cork, to be executed by a grant from Government, and that his proposal met with strenuous opposition from Irish Members. They said it was not fair to select a single line, that it would be better to do nothing unless three were determined on, and that a sum of 2,300,000l. should be expended, not on the completion of one, but on the commencement of three lines. It was said that the north and west would complain that the south had been unduly favoured. Now, Sir, I don't despair, taking advantage of the errors which we have committed, having the benefit of Government superintendence—having a new arrangement with the proprietors of land, and having the facilities of public instead of the expense of private legislation—I do not, I say, despair of seeing railway undertakings in Ireland with these advantages, and aided by Irish and English capital, conducted to a useful, if not a profitable and remunerating result. Sir, I deny that the Government are disposed to show any indifference on the subject; but I believe that their aid would be ill-timed, and that their interference would be an impediment instead of an advantage.
§ The Speaker
suggested that the formal objection to the motion might be got over by omitting all that part of the motion by which it was proposed to move that the House resolve itself into a committee of the whole House.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, it would be a very dangerous precedent to facilitate the motion by varying the terms. The House of Commons was a very liberal body, and only too apt to involve the Crown in expense. He should himself have a great objection to facilitate the motion by acceding to any alteration in the terms.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, there were two questions to be considered, first, whether the proposed railways would in themselves be useful; and secondly, whether public 1427 money ought to be advanced. England was intersected in every direction by railways. Had Government lent any assistance towards the construction of those railways? He could not see why, in such a country as Ireland, similar advantages might not be derived from such works as in England, by the application of the surplus funds of the country. Let Ireland be tranquilised, and he would venture to say capital in abundance would flow into the country. It was in the power of the right hon. Baronet to make Ireland happy. It was only necessary to act towards her with justice. Let the two countries be placed on the same footing, and the same happy state of things that existed in Eng land would be quickly established in Ire land likewise.
Lord J. Russell
said, that before the motion was withdrawn, he was anxious to say two or three words on the motion itself, and on others of a similar nature. He did not object to the declaration of the Ministers of the Crown, that railways ought not to be constructed at the public expense, and ho did not think that Government ought to be pressed to do so, even if the forms of the House would permit such a course. But he did not mean to say that it would be perfectly fair to say that Government might not at some future time undertake, by a public grant, to contribute towards the construction of railways in Ireland. He thought there were sufficient grounds at the time to justify Lord Morpeth in bringing forward his motion on this subject. It might not be proper at the present time to do so, but it did not follow that such a coarse might not be perfectly expedient at some future time. It was easier, however, at all times for a Member bringing forward a case to show reasons why the House of Commons should be generous, than it was for a Minister of the Crown to show reasons why any particular grant ought not to be made. Ministers had to consider, net merely separate eases, but the whole question as to bow the public purse might best be applied for the general benefit of the country. On that account, he thought the House of Commons should show more disinclination than it bad done of late years to entertain individual applications for an expenditure of public money. The argument told, not only against the pre sent motion, but against others which had at no very distant period been submitted 1428 to the consideration of the House of Commons. He would only refer to a motion that had been brought forward in these terms:—That an humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying that her Majesty will be graciously pleased to take into consideration the deficiency which exists in' the number of places of worship belonging to the Established Church, when compared with the increased and increasing population of the country, the inadequate provision therein for the accommodation of the poorer classes in large towns, and the insufficient endowment thereof in other places, as such facts have been severally set forth in the reports of the late Ecclesiastical Commissioners; to assure her Majesty that this House is deeply impressed with a just sense of the many blessings which this country, by the favour of Divine Providence, has long enjoyed, and with the conviction that the religious and moral habits of the people are the most sure and firm foundation of national prosperity; to state to her Majesty the opinion of this House, that no altered distribution of the revenues of the Established Church could remove the existing and augmenting evil arising from the notorious fact, that an addition of more than six million souls has been made to the population of England and Wales since the commencement of the present century, and that the rate of this increase is rapidly progressive; that the grants made by the wisdom of Parliament, on the recommendation of the Crown, in 1818 and 1824, have been inadequate to supply the national wants; and that, though private and local liberality has been largely manifested in aid of particular districts, the greatest wants exist where there are the least means to meet and relieve them; to assure her Majesty that this House, feeling that God has intrusted to this nation unexampled resources, is satisfied that it is the duty of the Government to employ an adequate portion of the wealth of the nation to relieve the spiritual destitution of large masses of the people, by whose labour that wealth has been enlarged; and humbly to represent to her Majesty that this House Will cheerfully make good such measures as her Majesty may be pleased to recommend, in order to provide for her people in England and Wales further and full means of religious worship and instruction in the Established Church."
§ This motion was negatived only by a majority of 163 against 149. Yet, if carried, it must hate led to a great in creased expenditure, and to an increase of the taxes for the purpose of Carrying out the objects of this single motion. He was glad that a line had been taken that night to discourage such applications. By adhering to a principle of just economy, they would most effectually prevent 1429 the necessity of increasing the burdens on the people.
said, that the hon. Member for Finsbury, when he talked of the surplus funds of Ireland, ought to remember that the owners of Irish property did not reside in the country, but for the most part spent their revenues in England.
§ Motion withdrawn.