§ Mr. William S. O'Brien
said, that whatever indulgence he might feel it necessary to bespeak on his own behalf, in submitting the statement which he was about to make, he was sure the House would not think that any apology was required from an Irish Member, for inviting its attention to the subject which he had undertaken to bring under its consideration. Even those who were least acquainted with Ireland, must be aware that in some parts of that kingdom, there prevailed, at that moment, open resistance to the Irish Poor-law—that a few months since, blood had been shed in the attempt to collect the rate—the blood of the very peasantry for whose benefit this law was enacted. Nor was this discontent confined to the humbler classes of society. Meetings had been held in different parts of the kingdom, for the purpose of petitioning against the Poor-law, at which, almost for the first time, Conservative gentlemen and Roman Catholic clergymen, were found moving and seconding the same resolutions, condemnatory of the present system. Some of the boards of guardians, if they had not openly refused to administer the law, had, at least, practically suspended its operation. Under such circumstances, it surely was the duty of that House to lose no time in endeavouring to ascertain what was the cause of such an universal concurrence of opinion in opposition to the Poor-law, and what remedy ought to be provided to meet so great an evil. He would take upon himself, with confidence, to assert, that the unpopularity of the law was not to be traced solely to an unwillingness on the part of the population, to contribute by way of taxation to the relief of the poor. At almost every meeting which had been held in Ireland, the same resolutions which condemned the present system, affirmed the necessity of a provision for the relief of the poor—and though, undoubtedly, individuals availed themselves of the present outcry, in the hope of being able to escape from contribution, in any shape, for the maintenance of the poor—he was persuaded, that the general opinion of the country was strongly pronounced in favour of the principle of a well-regu- 1348 lated Poor-law. He must also say, that even those who were most opposed to the present law, when it was enacted had manifested an earnest desire to give it a fair trial. If, then, the result of this trial had been to occasion universal condemnation of the system—that result was, in his opinion, to be attributed to faults in the administration, and to defects in the law itself. It gave him pain to say anything which could hurt the feelings of individuals; but he was bound to declare, as the opinion of his constituents, and as the result of his own observation, that much of the discontent which now prevailed, was to be attributed to the conduct of the Poor-law commissioners. At first, little objection was felt to the appointment of a central commission. Although the powers delegated to the commissioners were deemed excessive, yet all felt the necessity of some central agency to put the system in motion, and many thought, that even as a permanent portion of the institution, a central board would be useful in guiding, assisting, and in case of abuse, in checking the local administration. If, therefore, the central commission had lost the confidence of the country, it was because the commissioners had wanted almost every qualification which they ought to have possessed. Upon their first appointment, some jealousy, not unnatural in a sensitive people, was felt on finding that the administration of the Poor-law was to be confided almost exclusively to persons unacquainted with the feelings, the habits, and the institutions of Ireland. This jealousy, however, would have been easily soothed, if the commissioners had shown a disposition to defer to public opinion, and to carry the law into operation, as much as possible, in accordance with the sentiment and intelligence of the country. Instead of thus conciliating public feeling they have contrived to offend, and irritate, every class of society, from the peasant to the peer. They first engaged in a quarrel with the press. The guardians of unions which embrace the large towns of Ireland, feeling their responsibility to the public, were anxious that the rate-payers and the poor should know in what manner they discharged their duties; and determined with this view, to allow reporters to be present at their meetings. The commissioners immediately interposed their veto. The guardians persisted in their determination, and having reason as well as public feeling 1349 on their side, they compelled the commissioners to acquiesce. Thus, at a very early stage of their operations, by placing themselves in a wrong position, the commissioners lost much of the moral weight and authority which ought to belong to a body invested with such unlimited powers of control. Again, they have entirely alienated a very influential portion of society—the medical profession. No one knew better than the noble Lord (Lord Eliot) how wide is the breach between the medical men of Ireland and the commissioners. The noble Lord at the close of last Session, presented to this House a bill for the regulation of the medical charities of Ireland; but although that bill proposed to substitute for the present system of presentment by which these medical institutions are supported, a more popular system of taxation; yet, because he proposed to place them under the control of the Poor-law commissioners, so effectual has been the opposition of the medical profession to this bill, that he has not even ventured to lay it upon the Table of the House during the present Session. The medical gentlemen of Ireland are universally imbued with the notion, that the Poor-law commissioners had studied to degrade their profession. He would illustrate the sort of spirit in which the commissioners had dealt with the profession, by a single example which had fallen under his own observation. The board of guardians, of which he was a member—Newcastle union—when called upon to appoint a medical officer to the workhouse, had unanimously selected a gentleman of high professional qualifications and of unexceptionable character, resident in the town in which the workhouse is situated. They allotted to him a salary of 50l. per annum—an amount, in their opinion, affording very inadequate compensation for his labour, as he was required to attend every day throughout the year at a workhouse capable of containing 600 paupers, where he would have to visit and prescribe for a number of patients, varying from twenty to fifty per day. This amount of emolument would give about 2s.9d. for each such daily visit to the workhouse. Instead of confirming the decision of the guardians, the commissioners directed them to advertise for a medical officer, at a lower salary. The guardians refused to appoint any one else, or to diminish the amount; and, after three or 1350 four months correspondence, the commissioners were compelled to acquiesce in the appointment made by the guardians. They have been equally successful in offending the country gentlemen and the middle class of society. In almost every part of Ireland the guardians have had reason to complain of their vexatious and meddling interference with respect to those matters which properly belong to local administration, and of their peremptory, not to say insolent dictation, in regard to such affairs as were specially entrusted to the control of the central commission. Their name has become not less obnoxious to the poor. It is well known, that under its best form, the workhouse system is not a mode of relief acceptable to the feelings of the poor. They might naturally, however, have been led to look to the commissioners as protectors, who were anxious to secure to them the full benefit intended by the law. Instead of being regarded in that capacity by the poor, the commissioners are known to them only as an authority which intervenes to curb whatever kindly dispositions may be evinced towards them by the local guardians. Now, with regard to one department of their conduct, which directly affects the comfort of the poor, he would distinctly charge the commissioners with presenting to the board of guardians, a scale of dietary, insufficient to satisfy the cravings of hunger. His attention had been drawn to this part of their administration, by finding in the Rathkeale workhouse, a very general complaint amongst the inmates, that they did not get enough to eat, and also by discovering that this circumstance was used as a pretext by professional beggars for continuing to beg rather than to go into the workhouse. Upon inquiry he found, that the dietary proposed by the commissioners, for healthy paupers, was considerably below the dietary allowed in the prison of the county. Upon comparing it with the dietary actually in force in some of the other unions of Ireland, he found that the scale of the commissioners was greatly lower than that allowed by the guardians. Under these circumstances he felt it to be his duty, to submit to the Rathkeale board of guardians, the dietary adopted at the workhouse of Londonderry. Upon considering the great difference which existed to the disadvantage of the paupers in the Rathkeale workhouse, the guardians determined 1351 slightly to increase the allowance—raising it to that which bad been adopted by the guardians of the adjoining union of Newcastle, upon their own responsibility. A letter signifying disapproval was soon after despatched by the commissioners, and at a subsequent period one of the guardians having given notice that he would propose that the Rathkeale dietary should be raised to that scale which was in force in the Limerick workhouse, the commissioners anticipated this motion by intimating their disposition to withhold their consent to such an increase. Thus, in three neighbouring unions, there were three different scales of dietary—that proposed by the commissioners, giving rise to complaints of its inadequacy—that adopted and enforced by the more resolute boards of guardians, giving full satisfaction to the inmates of the workhouses. An instance of the spirit in which the authority of the commissioners had been employed, and of their consequent unpopularity among the poor, was afforded last Christmas at Limerick. Every one knows that even the poorest persons in Ireland endeavour to procure a dinner of meat upon Christmas day. The guardians of the Limerick union resolved that this indulgence should be granted to the inmates of the workhouse on Christmas day—the only occasion during the year on which the pauper tastes meat. By the next post a letter of rebuke was received from the commissioners. Concern for the interest of the rate-payers was the pretext used to justify this interposition. Now, if the poorest rate payers in the union had been individually asked their opinion not one would have objected to the concession of this trifling indulgence to the persons sustained at their expense. The guardians, naturally indignant on finding that the commissioners professed to speak the sentiments of the rate-payers more correctly than themselves—their selected representatives—treated the communication with the contempt it deserved. But, whilst there had been this vexatious quibbling about small sums dispensed by the guardians to promote the comfort of the poor, public feeling has been irritated by observing that the central board has in no case interposed to prevent the most lavish expenditure by their own officials. An opinion is very generally, though erroneously entertained, that the salaries of the commissioners and assistant-commissioners are defrayed out 1352 Of the local rates—and the undue amount of the local rates of these salaries is a topic of frequent complaint. Members of this House know very well that this portion of the expense of the Poor-law administration is defrayed by way of annual vote out of the general revenues of the United Kingdom. It will, therefore, be for the Member for Montrose to question the propriety of making such handsome allowances, reinforced by the assurance that the Irish people are of opinion, that if these salaries were paid out of the poor-rate, they would bear considerable reduction. But it is chiefly in their expenditure upon the workhouses, that the commissioners have been charged with reckless extravagance. By the Irish Poor-law, the commissioners alone were rendered responsible for the erection of the workhouses, uncontrolled by any authority representing those who are ultimately to pay the cost of their erection. In execution of this part of their duty, they have expended above l,200,000l. This large sum has been laid out under directions of an architect who was brought over from England, and who appears to have been wholly unacquainted with the prices of work in Ireland, and to have been in other respects very incompetent. About the taste of his designs, it is not necessary to raise a question. The order of architecture is a sort of spurious Elizabethian. In the opinion of those who are most capable of forming a judgment, it is considered a very expensive style of building; and it is obvious to every one conversant with the details of such institutions, that, for the purposes of internal arrangement, a less eligible plan could scarcely have been devised. It is impossible in these buildings, to adopt a proper classification of the inmates; and, if infection is once introduced, it can scarcely fail to spread through the whole establishment. The first step towards the erection of the workhouses was the purchase of sites. The commissioners do not appear to have thought it desirable to take the opinion of the guardians with respect to the sites, and consequently, many of the workhouses are placed in most inconvenient positions, and the sums paid for the land required, have been, in the highest degree, exorbitant. For an example to illustrate this allegation, he would refer the House to some papers printed last Session, with reference to the union of Lowtherstone, from which it appears that the commissioners paid 1353 for the site of that workhouse at least three times its real value. A similar complaint has been advanced in a petition presented this Session, in which it is stated, that the ground required for the workhouse at Mountmellick might have been obtained for one-fourth of the amount paid by the commissioners. It is only necessary to refer to the tables in appendix E of the report of the Poor-law commissioners for the year 1842, to perceive that there is abundant reason to suppose that the same wasteful extravagance has been committed in many other places. Surely allegations of this kind are fit subjects for inquiry before a committee of the House of Commons. In like manner there has been much complaint as to the defective and expensive manner in which the buildings have been executed. In his own neighbourhood a case had occurred, which he had been requested to state to the House. The guardians of Rathkeale union had, without objection, placed in the hands of the Commissioners the amount of money which they originally certified to be necessary for building the workhouse of that union. They had reason to complain of the defective manner in which the work was executed, and delayed for some time to take up the house on these grounds. A short time after they had got into the possession of the workhouse, they were called upon by the Commissioners to borrow a large sum beyond the amount of the original loan, for the purpose of paying for extra works and of making good the defects of the building. Upon receiving the account of this expenditure, the guardians were surprised to find that the prices allowed to the contractor by the architect of the Commissioners, were much higher than those usually paid for work of a similar description. Having been requested by the guardians to make a representation to Parliament upon this subject, he had felt it to be his duty to examine in detail some of the items in this account, inspecting, at the same time, the work to which they relate; and with regard to that description of work, respecting which he was competent to form a judgement, he would confidently state, that he could get similar work better executed for one-third of the price charged under the sanction of the architect of the Commissioners. The guardians proposed to the Commissioners to ask for a report upon the work 1354 done, and the prices charged, from a local architect in whom they had confidence. Permission to this effect was granted. After making the most liberal allowance this architect reported that the amount charged by the contractors ought to be reduced by a very considerable amount, The guardians, having obtained this report in support of their own convictions refused to pay more than the amount so reduced, and objected to be called upon to make good the defects of the work executed under the original contract. After some correspondence, the Commissioners applied to the Court of Queen's Bench for a mandamus, and the guardians not wishing to enter into litigation with the Commissioners, executed the deed by which the additional loan was to be borrowed, accompanying its execution with a strong and indignant protest against this unjustifiable exaction. A similar case occurred in the union of Edenderry; in that case the guardians resisted the mandamus, and it is believed that the Commissioners will be defeated. Another department of the duties of the Commissioners which demands explanation and inquiry, is the formation of the unions. When the Poor-law was under consideration, urgent and repeated exhortations were addressed by the Irish Members, particularly by the late lamented Lord Clements, to the Commissioners, that the unions should not be marked out upon too large a scale. It was manifest to every one that guardians could not travel a distance of fifteen or twenty miles to attend a weekly meeting, and that the poor would not—in many instances could not—go such a distance upon the chance of admission to the workhouse. Not withstanding these admonitions, some of the unions are most unreasonably large. That of Ballina, for instance, comprises an area of 792 square miles, exceeding in dimensions many of the counties of Ireland. Nor does any governing principle appear to have guided the formation of these unions, for under circumstances not very dissimilar, other unions do not comprise more than one-tenth of the area contained in the Ballina union. In some rural unions we find a population of 100,000, in others, of 20,000. Still more necessary was it to enquire with respect to the manner in which the electoral divisions in the several unions have been laid out, In this department 1355 of their duties the greatest injustice has been done; and to this cause, more than to any other, may be traced the dissatisfaction which at present prevails. It was not so much the amount of the tax (which taken in the aggregate, was inconsiderable as a per centage upon the property subject to taxation) as the inequality of the burthen that was the occasion of discontent. By the Poor-law, as originally framed, the charge of maintaining the poor was to have been defrayed in each union by an uniform rate. The subject of settlement was much discussed in the House of Commons, and, after full deliberation, the principle of an union rate was maintained. In the Lords, however, the Duke of Wellington introduced a clause, which was afterwards accepted without deliberation by the House of Commons, by which the charge of maintaining each pauper in the workhouse was thrown upon the electoral division or section of the union in which he had been resident at the time of his application for admission to the workhouse. Upon what motive this amendment was founded, it was not easy to say, but, practically, its effect was to give to the commissioners an uncontrolled command over the Poor-law taxation. It was obvious that, by so marking out the electoral divisions as to assign a great amount of pauperism to a small amount of property, they have it in their power to increase the poor-rate until it amounts to confiscation—whilst on the other hand, by assigning a small amount of pauperism to a large amount of property, the burthen of the tax may be rendered altogether insignificant. Now, as the acknowledged principle upon which the Poor-law was founded was, that the property of the country should support its pauperism, it was to be expected that the Poor-law Commissioners would so adjust the electoral divisions as to produce at first as nearly as possible an uniform rate of taxation. No such principle appears to have governed their proceedings. The result had been, that a most unjust difference exists in the rating upon different electoral divisions. An instance, taken from the county of Limerick, would furnish an example. In the electoral division of Kilfinnane the last half-yearly rate was 2s.6d. in the pound—whilst, in a neighbouring electoral division in the same union, the rate was only twopence-halfpenny—being one twelfth of the former amount. It was needless to observe, that 1356 such a difference would unavoidably occasion great discontent in the district so heavily taxed. He had been anxious to discover how far this difference might be traced to the manner in which the electoral divisions had been respectively formed, and he had obtained from the clerk of the union the following statement of facts:—In the electoral division of Kilfinnane there is a population of 4,437 persons, whilst the valued rental on which the poor-rate is levied, is 5,878l. In the electoral division of Dromin the population is 2,842 persons—the valued rental 10,395l. Assuming, then, that a given amount of population in each locality would produce the same amount of pauperism, there is in the electoral division of Dromin three times as much property available for the relief of pauperism as in the division of Kilfinnane. If, therefore, no other element were introduced into the calculation, the rate would, by the mere act of the commissioners, be three times as great in Kilfinnane as in Dromin. But, in point of fact, as there is always a tendency in pauperism to accumulate in towns, rather than in rural districts, a more liberal allowance of property ought to be assigned to those divisions, in which, as in the case of Kilfinnane, a town is situated. He was sensible of the difficulty which the House must have in following these details; but that very circumstance constituted an unanswerable ground for conceding a committee, by which alone they could be fully investigated. Such were some of the principal classes of complaint urged against the administration of the Poor-law by the commissioners. He should not feel himself justified in bringing before the House isolated acts, though many could be produced in support of his claim for inquiry; but before he left this part of the subject, he felt bound to ask from the Government, some explanation with respect to the dismissal or removal of Dr. Phelan, both because it appeared to him individually, that great injustice had been done to a deserving public servant, and because very great dissatisfaction had been occasioned by this act, as well amongst his own constituents, as in the mind of the public at large. He did not question the propriety of diminishing the number of assistant-commissioners, but he asked why Dr. Phelan was the individual selected for removal, without any prospect of future employment, and with- 1357 out any consideration for the circumstances under which he was appointed? At the present moment there were eleven assistant-commissioners in Ireland. Of these, six are English, five Irish. Of the five Irish assistant-commissioners, two are Roman Catholics. Dr. Phelan is one of the Roman Catholics, and there being at least three assistant-commissioners, junior, in the time of their appointment to him, why had he been selected for removal? Let it be remembered that Dr. Phelan was appointed on account of his ability and knowledge of the condition of the poor in Ireland. When appointed to the office of assistant-commissioner, he was in receipt of 200l. a-year, derived from three public institutions in the town of Clonmel, independently of a good private practice. No intimation appears to have been given to him that his tenure of office was to be of a more temporary character than that of his Colleagues. He and his family are now cast upon the world, without any consideration of his peculiar claims or past services. His constituents had directed him to ask on what grounds this had been done? Was it because Dr. Phelan was once a liberal in politics? Was it because he is a Roman Catholic? Was it because he is an Irishman?—He knew that the Government would state that it was not for any of these reasons; but he was bound to declare, that it was the opinion of a large portion of society in Ireland, that if he had been a Conservative—if he had been a Protestant—if he had been an Englishman, he would not have been so treated. The case of Doctor Phelan, who was much respected by the middle classes in Ireland, had excited general sympathy. Since his removed had been intimated, thirteen or fourteen boards of guardians had passed resolutions expressive of their esteem and approval of his conduct as an administrator of the poor-laws, as well as of their regret that he was about to be removed; and it was only an act of justice to the Conservative gentry of Ireland to say, that they had been as forward as any other class of society in this expression of sympathy. Under these circumstances, he hoped the Government would induce the commissioners to reconsider their determination, and not add to the other causes of their unpopularity the charge of having sacrificed a deserving individual to their caprice or injustice. He had now to 1358 direct the attention of the House to the defects of the present law, as a fit subject for inquiry before a Parliamentary committee. The first point for inquiry would be, how far it might be possible to abridge the power of the commissioners without impairing the efficiency of the poor-law. If any reliance could be placed upon public opinion, it might be asserted, without controversy, that the poor-law commissioners had abused the powers granted them. Those who, in the committee on the poor-law, had, as he had done, sought to reduce these powers within some reasonable limits, had predicted that such unlimited authority could not be safely entrusted to any public officers. It would be for a committee to ascertain in what respect this authority might be restrained within constitutional limits. The next point with regard to which legislation was imperatively required, was that clause in the poor-law which throws the charge of the pauper's maintenance upon the electoral division in which he has been resident. Not only is a different rule with respect to the interpretation of the word "residence" adopted in the different boards of guardians, but even in the same board the. definition varies from week to week. Cases of the following kind constantly arise:—A person has lived twenty years in one electoral division, and a month in another, after which he presents himself for relief to the board of guardians—to which electoral division is he chargeable? From an opinion given by the late law officers of the Crown, it would appear that he is chargeable to the electoral division in which he has last taken up his residence with intent to remain there. It was unnecessary to point out to the House what an encouragement such an interpretation gives to the clearance of estates by landlords desirous to avert the charge arising from pauperism. Questions of this nature afforded constant subject for controversy to the best disposed and most intelligent guardians. In Limerick there had been a weekly conflict between the town guardians and the rural guardians—the former seeking to place the casual poor upon the union at large—the latter striving to allocate them upon the city district. Such a strife ought to be terminated without delay; but it was a difficult question to determine in what manner this may best be done. For his own part, he was inclined to think that 1359 would be better to return to the principle of an uniform union rate. But if this were not done, it would be desirable to form again the electoral divisions upon a more equitable principle, and enact at the same time a strict law of settlement, making the pauper chargeable upon such locality as, either from his birth or from his residence there for a certain term, may fairly be considered liable for his support. Connected with this subject there is an imperfection in the law both of England and Ireland, which occasions great injustice particularly to the towns of Dublin and Cork. As soon as an Irish pauper becomes chargeable upon an English parish, he is shipped off to Ireland, and landed in Cork or Dublin without any consideration of the length of time he has resided in England. It often happened that the pauper had lived so long in England as to have lost all connexion with any particular locality in Ireland, and therefore upon his arrival in Ireland, he is compelled either to beg in the street, or to seek, relief in the workhouse. The guardians of the North Dublin Union had represented this grievance in the strongest light to the noble Lord (Lord Eliot.) He would quote, by way of illustration, a case cited by them:—On the 9th of November, 1840, Bernard Manly Adams, aged seventy-seven years, and Mary his wife, aged seventy-two years, presented themselves to this board of guardians, having been removed from Wigan, Lancashire, where they had lived upwards of thirty years, sixteen years of which they rented a house, and paid poor-rates annually to the amount of 1l. No order of removal was sent with them, and repeated communications having taken place with the guardians of the Wigan union, no satisfactory explanation has yet been made to this board. By the English poor relief act, the payment of poor-rate, for the term of one year, gives a settlement. By the 3rd and 4th Will. 4th, c. 40, a power is given to English unions to remove paupers not having gained a settlement, to Ireland; but there is no protective power given to guardians and unions in Ireland by which they can protect themselves against illegal removals. Nor is there any mode provided by the legislature to enable guardians of unions in Ireland to remove, to England or elsewhere, paupers either sent to Ireland, or found in Ireland, and having a legal claim to be removed and allocated in England. We cannot too strongly deprecate the principle that a person who has spent his youth and manhood in England, giving to that part of the empire all the benefits arising from his trade or industry, should, when he 1360 arrives at old age, and all his manly energies weakened (having the profits arising from those energies bestowed upon the sister country), be sent back to Ireland when time has obliterated the recollection of youth, and—as in the case of Adams and his wife—leaving behind him, in England, perhaps never more to see them, forty-three children and grand-children, the dearest objects of a parent's solicitude.He would he glad to know in what manner the noble Lord would propose to deal with such cases as these, and whether any reasonable ground could be shown why there should not be a reciprocal power of removing to England persons legally chargeable on the rates in England; or why the power of trying the legality of such removals as that of Adams should be denied to boards of guardians in Ireland. Another important question, which would become the subject of inquiry before a committee, would be, whether it be not desirable to exempt the holders of small tenements from liability to the poor rate. A general concurrence of opinion appears to prevail in Ireland, that it is not desirable to ask from those classes who are themselves on the verge of pauperism, any contribution in aid of the poor rate. Every one acquainted with Ireland knows that for several months in every year a large proportion of the labouring class are unable to obtain more than a casual day's employment; so that an Irish labourer may remain for several weeks without a shilling in his pocket. Under these circumstances, he is unable to pay the rate, however small its amount; yet, if it is not paid when demandable, his furniture must be sold, and he is driven to extremities. In some cases the rate upon small tenements is trivial to a ridiculous degree. In some unions it is stated that rates so low in amount as one farthing are demanded from the labouring class. It needed no argument to prove that those who are on the verge of destitution ought not to be subjected to any demand for poor rate; but it was a more difficult question to determine where the limit of exemption shall be fixed. The noble Lord must take care, lest in endeavouring to afford relief to the humbler classes in one way he, by the same measure, inflicts a greater evil upon them of a different kind. If the landlords be made liable for the rate upon small holdings, it was greatly to be feared that the tendency to consolidate holdings, and to get rid of the small occupiers—which 1361 tendency is already much too strong—would derive from such an enactment accumulated force. Upon the whole he (Mr. O'Brien) was inclined to think that it would be better to draw such a line of exemption as would relieve the labouring classes from liability to poor rate, and to make no demand upon the possessors of the property rated below an annual value of a certain amount, whether those possessors be landlords or occupiers. The tendency of such a measure would undoubtedly be to increase to a small amount the burden upon larger holdings, and to give a trifling advantage to those who leased their lands in small tenements; but in the present circumstances of Ireland, this tendency would have a very salutary effect in counteracting the disposition which now so generally prevails to consolidate the smaller holdings into large farms by the expulsion of the population. The exemption of smaller holdings from the rate will also take from the ranks of those who now resist the collection of the rate a great majority of the population, and throw their influence into the opposite direction in support of a law from which they may, in case of extreme necessity, obtain relief, but which in no case would impose upon them any burden. The next question for the consideration of the committee would be, whether a law to repress mendicancy, could now, with propriety, be adopted. God forbid that he should say anything tending to diminish the natural sympathy of man for the miseries of his fellow-creature, or forbid the exercise of the Christian duty of almsgiving. He was satisfied that after all the relief that could be administered in aid of want and distress, by the most effective poor-law, there would be but too abundant opportunity to the charitable of practising the virtues of benevolence; but he thought that the industrious classes of society—he spoke not of the gentry, because they could protect themselves—he meant the farmer and the shopkeeper, now called upon to pay a tax for the relief of the poor—should be protected from the importunities of the sturdy vagrant and the professional beggar. It would be impossible to enact an effective law prohibitory of public begging in all cases, unless at the same time an absolute right of relief were given to the destitute poor, but he thought that the legislature would be justified in declaring that wherever relief 1362 was offered to an individual by the guardians of any union, that individual should not be allowed to annoy the public by importunate mendicancy. Another subject for inquiry would be to ascertain why the clause contained in the poor-law relative to emigration has hitherto been wholly inoperative. Many thought, and he was one of them, that under the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, emigration to the colonies supplied the most effective resource which could be afforded to the able-bodied labourer, unable to find employment at home. In order to facilitate such emigration, a clause was introduced into the poor-law, but it had in but very few cases, perhaps in none, been acted upon. It was desirable to ascertain the reason of this failure. This he was persuaded would be found in the defective structure of the clause itself. The next step would be to apply the proper remedy by efficient legislation. It was also desirable to consider whether something might not be done to render valuations under the poor-law more uniform. At present the standard of valuation varies in every union. In some unions the valuation very nearly represents the rents actually paid, whilst in others it is framed upon a standard 30 per cent, below the actual rent. As the proportion of the rate borne by the landlord varies according to the valuation, it thus happens that a much larger proportion of the poor-rate falls upon the landlords in some unions than in others. The necessity of insuring a more perfect uniformity will be felt in a still greater degree, if it should ever be proposed to raise taxes upon the poor-law valuation, which shall extend to more than one union—or to make the Poor-law valuation the basis of the franchise. The committee would also have to consider, whether the injustice committed when the Poor-law passed, in exempting jointures and annuities from liability to poor-rate, might not now be redressed. The amendments hitherto enumerated were applicable to the defects of the present law, even though its essential character should be preserved; but these amendments were of trifling importance, compared with the great question—whether the restriction which limits relief to the poor in Ireland to the exclusive medium of the workhouse, should be in any degree relaxed. The workhouse system had been tried, and condemned by the opinion of 1363 the country, as the most expensive mode of administering relief to the poor, and the least acceptable to the feelings of all classes of society. It was instructive to consider the history of the proceedings, by which this system was imposed upon Ireland. Of those who had advocated a provision for the poor in Ireland, before its enactment by the Legislature, not one, he believed, had recommended the erection of workhouses. The commissioners of poor inquiry, amongst whom were to be found some of the ablest men in Ireland, after a three years' inquiry, reported specially against the adoption of the workhouse system, as a means of administering relief to the poor of Ireland. Their recommendations and admonitions were treated as waste paper, and the task of preparing a Poor-law for Ireland was delegated to Mr. Nicholls. After a six weeks' tour through Ireland, a country with which he had no previous acquaintance, he produced a showy report, in which he recommended that Ireland should have a Poor-law, but that relief should be exclusively administered through the workhouse medium. His suggestions were adopted in almost every particular, and in conformity to them, Ireland has been encumbered with a debt of more than 1,200,000l.—a sum exceeding by 500,000l. the original estimate of Mr. Nicholls. He would venture to say, that if the representatives of Ireland had asked for the loan of half that amount, to be applied to public works, tending to develope the profitable industry of the country, they would have been met with I a contumelious refusal. He might be allowed to say a few words with respect to the part which he had himself taken with reference to the enactment of this law. It was now twelve years since he first introduced a measure for the relief of the poor in Ireland. The bill which he had brought in during the year 1831, limited relief by way of domiciliary allowance to the aged, helpless and infirm, or impotent poor. He had suggested that provision should be made for the able-bodied poor, by means of emigration, by a better employment of the funds applicable to public works, and by measures tending to encourage the reclamation of waste and improvable lands. When the Government Poor-law was under discussion, he had earnestly and repeatedly, but in vain, exhorted that reliance should not be placed exclusively on the workhouse system, as a means of ad- 1364 ministering relief to the Irish poor. He now again asked the House to modify that system, and he came forward with that request, reinforced by the public feeling of Ireland, which, after trial, had condemned the existing Poor-law as unsuited to the circumstances of that country. There was little doubt, that if the Government would undertake to relieve Ireland from the debt incurred in the erection of the workhouses, the best friends of the poor of Ireland, as well as the antagonists of all Poor-laws, would gladly surrender them and commence legislation de novo for the relief of the poor. But as this could not be done, they must consider to what extent the workhouses might be rendered available for the legitimate purposes of a Poor-law. Now, he was prepared to admit that in England, where an absolute right of relief is given to the destitute poor, it might be necessary to have a test of destitution—and that the workhouse properly administered might be advantageously used as such a test; but it must be remembered, that in England it is not used as the main channel of relief to the poor, inasmuch as six-sevenths of the whole number of the destitute receive outdoor relief—whereas in Ireland, where no right of relief is given to the poor, but subject to the discretion of the guardians; and where, therefore, a test of destitution is not imperatively required, the workhouse is made the sole channel through which the necessities of the population can be relieved. He would admit also, that if the workhouse be viewed as a penitentiary, it was a fit receptacle for the idle vagrant, and, if viewed as an asylum, it was a desirable place of abode for such of the sick poor as required medical supervision. There were also many individuals among the destitute classes who, being utterly friendless and helpless, would prefer reception into such an asylum, to out-door relief. On the other hand, there were other classes for whom it was wholly unsuited. He would take the case of an aged couple who had lived together for thirty or forty years—of excellent character, of industrious habits—perhaps even so thrifty as to have saved such a pittance as their slender earnings would allow—yet, by increasing infirmities, finding themselves gradually stripped of their little store—they are compelled to throw themselves upon the poor-rates for maintenance throughout the remainder of their days. He con- 1365 sidered it an act of cruelty to persons so circumstanced, instead of affording, at a less expense to the public, such a sustenance as would enable them to enjoy a cheerful old age by their own fireside, to immure them within the dismal walls of a workhouse, and to compel them to undergo what—in this world, at least—is little short of eternal separation. Take, again, the case of widows with families; when the mother and children are incapable of earning their own subsistence, the workhouse is not the proper abode for a family so circumstanced. You want no test to establish their destitution. Why, then, compel them to accept relief on terms, the first condition of which is that the mother shall be separated from her children. In the Irish workhouses, except on special occasions, the mother is permitted to see her children only once a-week. Could a system deserve to be upheld which thus strikes at the root of maternal tenderness? And, with regard to the expense, compare the relative cost of out-door and in-door relief. A poor widow, in Ireland, with five children, would consider herself well provided for, if she were secured an allowance of 3s. per week, with the chance of such little earnings as she might pick up at home. You compel her to go into the workhouse, and her family there costs at least 2s. 6d. per head per week, or 15s. for the whole family—so that, by the substitution of out-door for in-door relief, in cases of this kind, you would be enabled to assist, at the same expense, five times as many persons as the workhouse enables you now to relieve. Neither is the workhouse a desirable receptacle for orphan children. The mortality of infants in these buildings is fearful. This mortality was so great in the North Dublin Union as to attract attention, and public feeling on the subject was only soothed by the appearance of a report, in his opinion wholly unsatisfactory, by which it was endeavoured to show that the mortality was not greater than in any equal number of the infantine population elsewhere. But, however this might be, the workhouse must always be an exceptionable abode for children. Immured within its walls, they are denied all the natural pleasures of youth. Their literary education may be advanced, but they breathe a tainted moral atmosphere. There was no part of the workhouse system which caused more ground for apprehension than that which had reference to 1366 the condition of children. When all the workhouses in Ireland were full they would contain from 20,000 to 30,000 children. What was to become of these children when they arrive at maturity? The boys might possibly—probably, if you please—acted upon by the natural energy of manhood—emancipate themselves from the confinement of the workhouse. But there was no such hope for girls. In a country such as Ireland, where there is an excessive supply, as compared with the demand for labour, no one will go to the workhouse to look for female servants. The associations of the workhouse are unavoidably of such a nature, that it is scarcely possible for them to escape contamination. At all events, a few cases of depravity will give a bad name to the female inmates of the workhouse; and unless some vigorous measures of precaution be taken, the same result will take place which was experienced in the House of Industry of Ireland—female paupers will be born in the workhouse, and live in the workhouse throughout the whole of their wretched life. It would be far better at once to adopt the system which was found necessary with respect to the foundlings in Dublin. Let the children, when infants, be placed in the family of some respectable cottager, to whom an allowance with such a child—far less in point of amount than its maintenance would cost in the workhouse—would be a sufficient inducement to undertake its care. Let measures be taken to secure the education of such children, and they would in this way become familiarised with the occupations of life, and qualified to take their place in the social scale when they arrive at the age of labour. Having now stated the grounds upon which he moved for this committee, and the object to which their inquiries would be directed, it remained for him to notice the only plausible objection which could be urged against its appointment. It would be said that the Government themselves are about to undertake legislation on the subject. He wished it to be understood, that in asking for this committee, it was by no means his desire to absolve the Government from the responsibility of grappling with such of the defects of the present law as they felt themselves in a condition to correct by immediate legislation. But he had no expectation that they would propose such measures as would satisfy the just demands 1367 of public opinion, or effect any substantial improvement in the law. The noble Lord (Eliot) had distinctly told the House that he did not intend to propose any fundamental change. He spoke also of inquiries in progress by the Government, but there was too much reason to fear that these inquiries would be addressed chiefly to these very commissioners whose administration had been so loudly impeached by the public voice of Ireland. His object in moving for this committee was to afford an opportunity of sifting the accusations which had been brought against the commissioners, and of ascertaining how far they were well-founded, how far exaggerated. He was also desirous that the defects of the law should be subjected to a closer scrutiny then could be applied to them in that House, and that a number of intelligent Gentlemen, experienced in the operation of the law, should unite for the purpose of considering how they might best be amended. In asking the House to take this course, he was supported by the precedent of the course taken in England with reference to the English Poor-law Amendment Act. In the year 1837, three years after the enactment of the English Poor-law Amendment Act—a committee was appointed to inquire into the operation of that law, and from the labours of that committee there resulted many useful suggestions. The Irish Poor-law was confessedly an experiment: it was surely now time to inquire how that experiment had succeeded. Before he sat down he hoped it was unnecessary for him to disclaim any party motive in bringing forward this motion—nor was he conscious of any personal motive. He could with truth say, that no one would have felt more gratified than himself if the Poor-law had been found to answer the end for which it was designed, and to give general satisfaction. It had long been a source of pride to him to have been an earnest advocate for a provision for the poor, when very few were found disposed to support such a proposal. It was true that the measures which he had suggested were very different from those which were ultimately adopted, but, although he had laboured, ineffectually, to introduce such alterations into the existing law as would have rendered it, in his opinion, acceptable to the country, he had been disposed to think that this imperfect measure was better than none at all. Even still, he 1368 rejoiced that the principle of a provision for the relief of the poor was implanted in the institutions of the country, because he felt assured that it never could be eradicated, and that it would work out its own amendment. It was, therefore, as a friend to the principle of a Poor-law, and not as an antagonist—that he asked for such modifications of the present law as would make it a blessing instead of a curse, to the people of Ireland. He must confess that from the Government he expected no support. He knew too well how little impression was produced upon the British Government by the action of public opinion in Ireland, however unanimously expressed. But he would appeal with more confidence to the Irish Members of every party, and to the House at large. He would not suggest to the Irish Members that from every part of the kingdom the demand for a searching inquiry had been reiterated, and that, therefore, in voting for this motion, they would comply with the wishes of their constituents. But he would apply himself to higher motives. He would remind them that their first duty, as possessors of property, is to those by whose labours that property is rendered valuable—and that everything which raises the condition of the working classes, tends to give security and enhanced value to that property. He would remind them that the condition of the poor in Ireland is still most deplorable—disgraceful to a civilised community. If, therefore, the present law had failed to produce the results expected from it by some, that failure, instead of inducing apathy or despair, ought rather to serve as incentive to renewed exertions. In his opinion the causes of that failure lay upon the surface and might easily be discovered, and an effective remedy might be speedily applied. But, whether such were the case or not, he trusted that the House, with benignant solicitude, would never desist from further inquiries and continued efforts, until the condition of the poor of Ireland should be placed upon a footing more consonant to the rights of our common humanity, and less discreditable to the legislation and government of that country which, in regard to philanthropy, claims the first place among the nations of the earth. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the manner in which the act for 1369 the relief of the poor in Ireland (1st and 2nd Vic. c. 56) has been carried into operation; and also as to the results of that measure upon the condition of the poor, and of society at large in Ireland, with power to report their opinion to the House, in reference to any modifications of the Poor-law which may appear to them desirable.
§ Lord Eliot
had listened with great attention to the very able and moderate speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. He was sure that the hon. Gentleman was actuated by the purest motives, and that he really believed the course he proposed was one from which benefit to the people of Ireland would result. He knew that this subject had long engaged the attention of the hon. Gentleman, for in 1831, he had brought in a bill which led to the introduction of the poor-laws into Ireland. The object of that bill was to enable parishes by a voluntary assessment to support their poor, but he would only further remark upon it, that that assessment was to be made on four days in each year, viz., the 25th of February, the 25th of May, the 25th of August, and the 25th of November, unless any of those days should fall on Good Friday or Christmas-day. He begged to remind the hon. Member that the poor-law now in force in Ireland was not a measure which had originated with the present Government. With regard to himself he abstained altogether from giving his vote. He felt that his knowledge of Ireland would not enable him to pronounce upon a question of so much difficulty; and he therefore did not vote upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman now at the head of her Majesty's Government, he thought, gave rather a doubting vote; though he thought some measure was necessary for improving the condition of the Irish people—a condition which should not be tolerated in any civilised country. He did not know whether the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, took any part in that debate, but he knew that that was also his feeling on the subject. He did not boast of not voting upon that question, but he mentioned that circumstance to show that there was no feeling of predilection or prejudice on the part of the Government. With respect to the commissioners, upon whose conduct the hon. Gentleman had animadverted perhaps with undue severity, he had no acquaintance whatever with those Gentlemen until he 1370 went to Ireland. They were appointed, not by the present Government, but by political opponents; but he was bound to say, as a public man, that the result of his intercourse with the gentleman who had the chief administration of the poor-laws in Ireland had convinced him of his singleness of purpose and his zeal, and that he was actuated by a sincere desire to do his duty. He would not go so far as to assert that that Gentleman had committed no errors—that he would not attempt to maintain, but if the hon. Gentleman would move for the papers relative to the matters in which Mr. Nicholls was concerned, there would be no opposition to their production on the part of the Government, and he was sure there would be none on the part of that gentleman himself. Now the hon. Member had begun his speech by saying that the dissatisfaction in Ireland upon this measure was universal. To that he could not give his unqualified assent. He had had communications from many persons in that country—amongst whom was his noble Friend Lord Clancarty, one of the best landlords in Ireland, and one who had been a most active guardian from the first promulgation of the law. He was aware that that noble Lord did think that in order to satisfy the public mind some alteration was necessary, but he declared that upon the whole he thought the bill worked well in his neighbourhood. The hon. and gallant Member for Wicklow had also spoken of the satisfactory operation of the law in his neighbourhood. But he would speak of another authority of great weight—a person whose unbounded beneficence and kindness of heart were acknowledged by all—as well with those who agreed with him, as those who differed from him in political opinions. He spoke of the Lord Primate of Ireland. The opinion of that right Rev. Prelate upon a question that affected the interests of the lower classes of Ireland was entitled to great deference. He, during the last year visited Armagh; he there visited the Union-house of Armagh, in company with the Lord Primate, and his testimony was most satisfactory. The primate assured him that the law worked well in that part of Ireland, and certainly he could bear his testimony to the admirable arrangements of that House, which was immediately under the Primate's superintendence. He had also received from the guardians of several unions letters speak- 1371 ing of the satisfactory operation of the law, and which, with permission of the House, he would now advert to. The first was from the Chairman of the Dunmanaway board, which bore testimony to the efficient working of the law in that district, and stated that a rate of ten pence in the pound would be sufficient for all purposes. He had also one from Monaghan, stating that nothing could be better than the working of the Poor-law there. There was also one from Kilrush, and all showed that the dissatisfaction was not so general as the hon. Member had intimated. No longer since than that morning he had received a copy of a resolution agreed to by the North Dublin union, which was to the effect that, inasmuch as a petition was prepared and about to be presented to the legislature, complaining not only of the abuses and defects of the present Poor-law, but also of the principle, and praying for a repeal of the law itself, that board thereby fully recognised the principle of the law and testified to its efficient working. He did not attempt to deny the fact of the dissatisfaction existing altogether, he merely wished to say that the statements of its extent should be received with some degree of allowance. He asked hon. Gentlemen to consider to what cause they were to attribute the dissatisfaction that existed. He saw two causes. The first was, the defects in the existing law, which the Government acknowledged, and to which they were endeavouring to apply a remedy by a bill which they were about to present to that House; and as the Government had announced that intention, he thought that the House would do well to suspend their judgment until the measure was brought under their consideration. The hon. Gentleman pointed out the defects in the existing law, and adverted i to the remedies he was prepared to recommend; but he should not do well to forestall the discussion that would take place on the introduction of a measure by the Government, and he would, therefore, abstain from following the hon. Gentleman into that part of the subject. He had said that he thought there were two causes for the existing dissatisfaction. The first he had just stated; the other was the gross and, what he thought most unjust, misrepresentations that had been made. Now, he held in his hand a statement of facts, which, with permission, he would read to the House. It was read as follows:—
1372 Heads of expenditure, during the year 1842, taken on an average of the returns from thirty-three unions, the workhouses of which contained 14,741 inmates, average in each house 477—
It had been said that the salaries formed the main part of the Poor-law expenditure, so far from it he should show how fallacious that was—
Cost of maintenance and clothing of paupers, charged upon the electoral divisions £2,033 8 6 Ditto, charged upon the union at large 327 8 8 Total £2,360 17 2
so that the whole average annual expenditure for each of the unions having been 3,856l. 18.s O½d. the salaries of officers and servants being 353l. was therefore about ten per cent., or 2s. in the pound, or l¼.in the shilling. The other charges being about 952l., about 25 per cent., or about 5s. in the pound, or about 3d. in the shilling; thus the total cost of these thirty-three unionsin 1842 amounted to 127,248l.; the net annual value of rateable property in these thirty-three unions was4,630,465l.; average in each union 140,317l.; there-fore the expenditure, namely, 3,856l., had averaged 23¼. per cent, on the valuation, or 7d. in the pound. There were 130 unions in Ireland; the workhouses when finished would contain 93,960 inmates, giving an average for each house of 723. At present, however, the average in each union was only 447 inmates supported at a cost of 3,856l., the 130 unions averaging the same number of inmates, would be 501,280l. assuming the total net value of rateable property in Ireland at 14,375,323/. the cost therefore of 130 unions, averaging 447 inmates, would average 3¾. per cent, on the entire valuation, or about nine-pence farthing in the pound. The annual cost of each union averaging 723 inmates (the highest average) would be 5,291l.; cost of 130 unions, at the same rate 687,830l.; assumed total net value of rateable property in Ireland, 14,375,323l.; therefore the 1373 costof 130 unions, averaging 723 inmates would be 4¾.per cent, on the entire valuation, about 1d. in the pound, pretty nearly the point at which it had been fixed by Mr. Nicholls, whose original estimate had not thus been wide of the mark. Now, as to the character of the Irish workhouses, he was bound to speak most favourably so far as he had opportunities of examining them; he had found them better built, and erected at smaller cost than in England, admirably managed as to classification, arrangement, and discipline—and altogether, perhaps, on a better footing than in England. The total number of paupers in 93 workhouses, in January, 1843, amounted to 35,112, consisting of the following classes:—
Salaries of officers and servants, including masters, matron, &c £353 3 5 Instalment of workhouse loans repaid 190 14 10 Other articles charged upon the establishment, furniture, &c. 952 2 7½ Total £3,856 18 0½.
The number of workhouses declared fit for reception was 110, and multiplying this number (110) by 723, the highest average number of paupers in each house and that would give the amount of workhouse accommodation now available at 79,530 paupers. The cost of maintenance and clothing per head, per week, including hospital diet, in the two Dublin unions, was 2l 2¾d. in Edenderry, 1s.10¼d. Castlederg, 1s. 8½d. Strabane, 1s. 11d.; Omagh, 1s. 9d. The annual cost of each pauper, at 2s.; per week, would be 5l. 4s. He held in his hand a small statement to show how much the poor-house had acted as a relief at periods of great pressure and distress. He was persuaded that these establishments had proved of the greatest benefit in Ireland, and he was sustained in this view of the case by a reference to the number accommodated in the months in which the pressure on the following population was the greatest. The noble Lord then read the following statement, showing the numbers in the workhouses increased during the season of pressure in July and August, and lessened as the distress subsided. The number in
Men 7,134 Women 11,543 Boys under 15 7,881 Girls under 15 0,669 Infants under 2 1,885
So that, without overflowing the work- 1374 houses, it was clear that they did afford an asylum to large numbers of people in the very exigence of distress. The workhouse test, then, had been applied with great advantage. Men would rather go into the house than starve; yet the Irish labourer would not go in when he could possibly gain a livelihood otherwise; and this was just the result contemplated and desired. The diet in the workhouse was, generally speaking, nutricious and wholesome, indeed delicate persons had been restored to health by it, and the clean and healthy state of the inmates attested the good effects of the regime. At the same time it was gratifying to observe (as he himself had done) the progress made under the judicious instruction administered to the young, who were every where well affected and orderly. He had himself examined many of the children, and had been surprised at the progress made by them under the judicious instructions of their schoolmasters. In fact he looked on these workhouses as a great boon to the country, and the cleanliness and discipline there enforced must have a beneficial effect on the general character of the people. The hon. Member had adverted to the appointment of the assistant commissioners, and the dismissal of Dr. Phelan. But it should be recollected that that was a matter with which the Government had nothing to do, as the appointments were made by the central board at Somerset House. He had found the facts connected with the dismissal of Dr. Phelan to be these. It was, of course, an object to lessen the expenses as much as posssible, and it was, therefore, decided to reduce the number of persons receiving pay, particularly the assistant commissioners. In the case of Dr. Phelan, his dismissal had not the slightest reference to religious or political feeling. The fact was, that Dr. Phelan was the only assistant-commissioner who had not the charge of a district. He had been engaged for a particular service in 1840—namely, to prepare a report on the subject of medical charities in Ireland. That report was completed in 1842, and from that time to the present Dr. Phelan had not had charge of a district. He thought it but natural that when a reduction in the number of assistant-commissioners was contemplated, that gentleman should be selected who had not charge of a district. It appeared that three of the commissioners retained 1375 were Dr. Phelan's juniors, and, it was alleged, of different opinions. Until his (Lord Eliot's) attention had been directed to the subject he was not aware of that fact or what their religious opinions were; but, having made inquiries, he had ascertained that Mr. Bourke was a Roman Catholic, and that Messrs. Muggredge and Otway were Protestants—the latter being an Irishman. All these had charge of districts. Although the religious question had been brought to bear on these appointments, and had excited a strong feeling in Ireland, he believed that it had not once crossed the minds of the chief commissioners. The hon. Member should be aware, that during the time the late Government were in office, the commissioners were attacked, particularly Mr. Nicholls, for being warm partisans; but now the attack came completely from the opposite quarter. He thought there could be no clearer proof that they had not been actuated by political or religious feeling. He could only say this much, that, after all the inquiries he had made into the circumstances of the case, he had been led to believe that it required and deserved the most dispassionate consideration of the Government, and if it was in the power of his right hon. Friend, or any other Member of the Government, to provide any other employment for that Gentleman, he was sure his right hon. Friend would cheerfully do it. He had read his report upon the Medical-charities Bill with great pleasure, although whether it were correct or not, he could not take upon himself to say; but it was quite clear that he had discharged that as well as his other duties with a great deal of ability. The hon. Gentleman opposite had stated that the duty of building the workhouses in Ireland had devolved by law upon the Poor-law commissioners, and that they could not, without a breach of their duty, delegate that power to any other parties. In one of the reports made by Mr. Nicholls, the Poor-law commissioners stated that they were anxious to transfer that duty to the Board of Works, but that there were legal difficulties in the way—these duties having devolved upon them by law, they were compelled to discharge them. As he had already stated, he believed in his conscience that these duties had been honestly and faithfully discharged, and that the great expenses now complained of were 1376 incurred at the special recommendation of the boards of guardians. With respect to the sites of the workhouses, in many instances difficulties were thrown in the way by the landed proprietors, and if the sites were not always the best that could be obtained, it was not the fault of the Poor law commissioners. He could not be expected to follow the hon. Gentleman throughout the whole of his statement; but with regard to the Lowtherstone work house, he must say, that in that affair, the hon. Gentleman was rather hard upon the assistant commissioner. It was somewhat unfair to taunt him with having made a bad bargain, when the gentleman from whom he purchased the site was chairman of the board of guardians, and, if that gentleman had taken advantage of his situation to exact more than he was fully entitled to, the blame ought certainly to be attached to him. The assistant Poor-law commissioner might have shown some indiscretion in the affair, but he thought on the whole, that he was justified in assuming, that the chairman of the board of guardians had not acted in a fair and proper way. It was not necessary, on the present occasion, to advert to the history of the passing of the measure in that House, but he would remind the hon. Gentleman, that to the principle of the measure no objection had been urged. Upon the second reading of the bill, in 1838, no division took place, and the majority which objected to the third reading of that measure, which afterwards became the law, was very inconsiderable. He thought that there was no man who looked back to the state of Ireland some years ago, who read the reports of the commissioners of poor inquiry, and read the works of travellers in Ireland—he thought there was no man who had listened to what had been said or read what had been written on the subject, but must be convinced that it was the duty of the House and of Parliament to interpose with some provision for the destitute poor of Ireland. He did not agree with the hon. Gentleman in his proposition respecting out-door relief—he believed that the providing of out-door relief would be fatal in its consequences, and ultimately destroy the property of the country. The hon. Gentleman entirely mistook the object of the poor-law; it was not to prevent poverty, but to prevent the possibility of any individual dying of want, and the only test 1377 that it was practicable to apply was that which had been found to work well in that country (England), and which he maintained had been successfully applied in Ireland. He would not fatigue the House by reading extracts from the papers which had been laid before the House on that subject; but there was one which the hon. Gentleman had made it necessary for him to refer to, namely—the report of the commissioners of Poor-law inquiry in 1836. It would appear that they objected to the workhouse system in Ireland, and he was ready to concede that to the hon. Gentleman; but what did they say:—
May was 20,530 June 23,389 July 28,236 August 29,570 September 22,536 October 21,564We have shown by our second report that the institutions existing in Ireland for the relief of the poor are houses of industry, infirmaries, fever hospitals, lunatic asylums, and dispensaries—and the establishment of these, except as to lunatic asylums, is not compulsory, but dependent upon public subscriptions, or the will of grand juries—that there are but nine houses of industry in the whole country—that while the provision made for the sick poor in some places is extensive, it is in other places wholly inadequate, and that there is no general provision made for the aged and impotent, and the destitute. Much is certainly given in Ireland in private charity, but it is not given in any organised system of relief, and the abundant alms which are bestowed in particular by the poorer classes unfortunately lead, as we have already observed, to encourage mendicancy with its attendant evils. Upon the best consideration which we have been enabled to give to the whole subject, we think that a legal provision should be made for rates levied as hereinafter mentioned for the relief and support of incurable as well as curable lunatics, of idiots, epileptic persons, cripples, deaf and dumb and blind poor, and all who labour under permanent bodily infirmities, such relief and support to be afforded within the walls of public institutions.He confessed he could not see the difference.Also for the relief of the sick poor in hospitals, infirmaries, and convalescent establishments, or by extern attendance, and a supply of food as well as medicine, where the persons to be relieved are not in a state to be removed from home; also for the support of emigration, for the support of penitentiaries to which vagrants may be sent, and for the maintenance of deserted children; also towards the relief of aged and infirm persons, of orphans, of helpless widows with young children, of their families, of sick persons, and of casual destitution.The hon. Gentleman would see, that they proposed public institutions for the 1378 reception of all that class of persons, and depots for their relief. They went on to say, that. "the expense would be enormous," and then they went on to recommend very nearly the machinery of the existing law, in these words:—In order to effect the several purposes we have stated, we have recommended that there should be powers vested in the Poor-law commissioners, as in England, for carrying into execution all such provisions as shall be made by law for the relief of the poor in Ireland, and that they shall be authorised to appoint assistant commissioners to act under their directions.On the most moderate computation, the amount of spontaneous alms given in Ireland, chiefly by the smaller farmers and cottiers, was from 1,000,000l. to 2,000,000l. sterling annually; but, being given without system or without inquiry, the good and the bad, the really destitute and the pretenders to destitution, receive alike their maintenance out of the earnings of the industrious, to the great impoverishment, and to the great injury of the good morals, and good order of the kingdom.It appeared to him, therefore, that un; less there was something like a workhouse J test, out-door relief would be like the allowance system in England; and if the hon. Gentleman went into committee on the question, he would find that such difference of opinion existed on the subject, that it would be utterly impossible I that the committee could agree in recommending that system which he thought i best adapted to the people of Ireland. The object of the law was very distinctly) pointed out by that report of Mr. Nicholls, to which the hon. Gentleman had referred. Mr. Nicholls said the Poor-law was not to prevent poverty, or to to provide work for the able-bodied, but simply to afford relief to the aged, impotent, and infirm poor. It was upon that understanding, and with a full knowledge of the objects and intentions of the Government, that the House had sanctioned the measure of 1838. It appeared to him, that the effect of a committee of inquiry would be to shake the confidence of the people of Ireland in the stability of the law, and that if a committee was appointed, the collection of any future rate would be almost impossible. It would be supposed, that the intention of Parliament as to the system of valuation had been misunderstood, and that there was a disposition on the part of Government to abandon its provisions. Further than that, he conceived that if the hon. Gentleman were to succeed in appointing that com- 1379 mittee of inquiry, it would necessarily appear futile and absurd on the part of the Government, to introduce at the same time a bill for the amendment of the law, while a committee was inquiring into and reporting upon its operations. Even should the hon. Gentleman succeed in obtaining his committee of inquiry, he doubted very much whether, with the difference of opinion that prevailed among the Irish Members of that House, as to the operation of the law, he would be able to come to any report upon the evidence before the end of the Session, and the only effect of the committee would be to add another blue book to the immense collection of evidence which crowded the library of that House. He thought it a more becoming course, that the Government, on its own responsibility, should bring in a measure which they thought best calculated to meet the circumstances of the case—which would remedy the existing defects, and when that measure was under the consideration of the House, it would then be for the hon. Gentleman either to suggest such modifications as it would be the duty of her Majesty's Government to adopt, or on their own parts to propose such alterations in the bill as might seem to them desirable. He hoped that when the measure of her Majesty's Government had been matured, that it would tend greatly to obviate the necessity of any such motion as the hon. Gentleman contemplated, which he should, therefore, most decidedly oppose, and which he now called upon the House to reject.
Sir Denham Norreys
was exceedingly disappointed at the way in which the noble Lord had disposed of the motion of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend, the Member for Limerick, had quoted many cases of mismanagement, and many glaring defects in the system, and yet the noble Lord had not condescended to notice them. He hoped the noble Lord would forgive him for saying, that he appeared merely to have repeated in most gentlemanlike language and manner the statements of the commissioners, every one of these statements having been put into his hands as the opinions of the commissioners themselves, and their vindication. The hon. Member for Limerick asked for an opportunity of proving the statements he had made, where it would not be in the power of the commissioners to give whatever answer they thought proper. There 1380 was not an Irish gentleman in the present House who was at all acquainted with the working of the Poor-law who would not at once admit how delusive were the statements of the noble Lord. There was not an hon. Gentleman who was at all conversant with the law, as it was administered in Ireland, who would not state that the amount spent upon the poor was one-third or one-half of the amount levied for their relief. As to the average expenses of the workhouse, the noble Lord had stated it at 199l./, and he gave 139l. as the average of the instalments repaid; but it appeared to him that nothing could well be more fallacious than that statement. The noble Lord stated that the average amount expended for the maintenance of the poor was 352l., while the average of the instalments paid for building the workhouses was 199l.
§ Lord Eliot
had taken fourteen unions, and had shown that the average repayments of the loan to Government in those fourteen unions was 199/. He had stated that the charge for maintenance of the establishments was 952/l., and salaries of servants 353l.
Sir Denham Norreys
said the union with which he was connected, athough a small one, had repaid instalments to the amount of 450l. He maintained that a very large proportion of the rate was not expended for the relief of the poor. That was the very point upon which he contended that investigation was necessary, and he believed, if the committee were appointed, his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick would be able to satisfy the Government and the House, that such was the case. The noble Lord had stated that the Poor-law for Ireland was called for, and supported by the Irish Members. He had been much longer in the House than the noble Lord—he had been nearly twenty years a Member of that House. With regard to the Irish Poor-laws, he would say that the question of Poor-laws was not so much that a want of them had been expressed by the Irish Members, as the continued tendency of the English Members, to force a system of Poor-laws upon Ireland. It was strongly urged that it would be expedient to place all parts of the country under the same system, the real object of the English members thereby being to alleviate their own burdens; and the question was not so much what would really be the benefit to Ireland, but what 1381 would relieve the rates of that country. When the question of Poor-law for Ireland came to be discussed in that House, it came to this merely, which system ought to be selected? As to the total expense of the workhouses not having exceeded the estimates, he was entirely at issue with the noble Lord. He denied the accuracy of that statement, because in every part of Ireland the expense had greatly exceeded the estimate. Now these were facts upon which the noble Lord was not likely to obtain correct information from the commissioners. These were points which they would be able to prove before a committee. He assured the noble Lord that he and the House would remain in ignorance upon them so long as he trusted to the reports of the commissioners, upon their own conduct and proceedings. The noble Lord, by the manner in which he had dealt, with the question, had rendered it almost impossible to go through the different points to which his hot. Friend the Member for Limerick had adverted. It would have been very desirable if the noble Lord had declared what was his opinion and that of the Government, upon the different points of the Irish Poor-law—he was sure the noble Lord could not be ignorant of what was going on in Ireland; and although the Table of the House had not yet been covered with petitions, he could state that in every part of that country petitions against the operation of the law were in progress—nay, he had been given to understand that the very nobleman to whom the noble Lord had referred as a supporter of the Poor-law, had attached his signature to a petition from his own union, praying for a very general revision of the system. He believed, also, that from Dunmanway, from which the noble Lord had stated that a petition had emanated in favour of the Poor-laws, a second petition had been sent praying for a revision of the law, or its total abolition. He confessed that he did not agree in every point with his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick; but that disagreement only proved that where men were anxious to do the best they could, in a matter disconnected with party feeling—where all were anxious to make the law as perfect as possible—a committee was the very best place in which facts and evidence might might be collected and compared, and the opinions of one hon. Member be 1382 modified by those of another. But that had been altogther put a stop to, by the noble Lord. The noble Lord had not even told them what the Government meant to do on the subject. He confessed that he, for one, thoroughly disapproved of the very basis of the present Poor-law, because he thought the law should never have been extended to giving the right of relief to any class. The noble Lord said there was no such right, but he asserted that there was that right in the destitute to claim relief and admission, if there was room, in the workhouse. He believed it had been held by those most conversant with the law, that if the pauper was destitute, and that there was room in the poor-house, the guardians had no right to refuse relief. He was not giving his own opinion, but that of persons much more competent than himself, some of whom were commissioners; and he could assure the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham) that that opinion was very general throughout the country, and was acted upon by the able-bodied paupers. He thought the test of destitution measured only by the extent of the accommodation in the workhouse, was one of the worst features in the law, and its inevitable tendency would be to reduce the condition of the able-bodied labourer to that of a pauper, the moment there was the slightest check given to his being employed. He had already seen repeated instances of this, and the poorer classes were beginning to lose that reliance on their self-exertion and labour which had carried them through all their difficulties hitherto. In fact they were beginning to feel that they would be absolutely in a better position by letting themselves drop into destitution than by making any exertion for independence. They were beginning to feel a relish for the indulgences and little luxuries of a workhouse. It was bad enough to have a pauper population in Ireland, but the Legislature told these poor people, "the more indolent and vicious you are, the less you exert yourself, the more certain are you of obtaining the comparative affluence and luxury of independence from labour." He feared the next step on the part of the population would be intimidation and violence. After a man had once tasted the luxury of a workhouse bed, and the pleasure of having a full meal, and a warm and comfortable house, did they think that he would willingly re- 1383 turn to his damp floor, his straw, his filthy rags, and his want of food, and willingly go to work, when he found, that by indolence, or drunkenness, or any other vice he committed, he might reduce himself to that destitution which was all the law rendered requisite to give him the indulgence of the workhouse. What would be the inevitable process in Ireland? The country guardians would soon find how dangerous it was to be too critical as to claims—there would be nothing but a system of violence and intimidation, and it would not be very long before that would come into operation. The noble Lord, by the way in which he had treated the motion, had made it somewhat difficult to enter fully upon the question. He was sorry to weary the patience of the House; but there was one point upon which the feeling of the country was so unanimous, that he wished to touch upon it; he meant the conduct of the commissioners. He, for one, was certainly an advocate for a central and powerful body to restrain the boards of guardians; but if the Legislature entrusted great powers to the commissioners, they should be exercised with the greatest possible discretion and judgment. Good sense and tact, were necessary. From the very first moment up to the present time, however, they had committed a series of errors; they had been building up walls to run their heads against—bullying whenever they could, and submitting only when they were no longer able to resist. His hon. Friend had referred to the quarrels of the commissioners with the press, and with the board of guardians, and other parties. The commissioners had made orders and regulations, and had not strength and firmness to go through with them. Where a public body set out with certain orders and rules, and afterwards were compelled to rescind them, they placed themselves in a most ridiculous and ludicrous situation, and threw discredit upon the whole law. He did not mean to contend that the public press ought to be excluded. He would merely observe that those unions which admitted the press to their discussion, did well, whilst those who excluded it did better. With respect to the erection of workhouses, had the commissioners had the good sense to consult the hoard of guardians (he would not diminish the power of the commissioners to do whatever they considered right themselves); had they 1384 laid their plans before the guardians, or had they had anything like a friendly communication with them, he was confident they would be then in a very different position. Instead of that, they received every suggestion in the most haughty and unsatisfactory manner, and who were the guardians who were treated so unceremoniously? They were gentlemen residing n the country in constant communication with the poor—they were a fair sample of the country gentlemen and farmers of each locality, and they might have been consulted without any degradation to the commissioners. He was convinced that if the commissioners had acted with a little consideration towards the guardians, the whole system would have worked better—everything that had been brought before the House by his hon. Friend would have been introduced by the commissioners themselves, and all the grievances and objections that prevailed would have been removed. He would not' go into all the points that had been touched upon by his hon. Friend, but there was one, which, if adopted, would be productive of the greatest possible convenience, and that was the more equal division of the rate over the electoral divisions of an union. Many hon. Members who were not in the House when the hon. Member for Limerick made his statement, would probably be surprised at the instances he had quoted. One electoral district paid a rate of 2s.6d., while another adjoining it, and in the same union, paid only 2d.;or 2½d. Now he thought that that monstrous discrepancy did deserve the attention of Parliament. He thought the principle on which that inequality of rates depended, was one which it was impossible to apply in fairness, to the measure. The principle on which it was applied was, that properties which were mismanaged, should be made to bear the effects of their mismanagement—to have properly effected that they must bear an individual proportion representing an entire electoral division, which was almost impossible—and what was the result at present? Let them take any property—the most egregiously mismanaged—and they would in no case find any one individual the proprietor of an entire electoral district, and consequently, every one who was a co-proprietor was punished for his fault. Nay, more—suppose an individual were the possessor in fee of an entire electoral division, still, all his te- 1385 nants were punished, and that, he (Sir D. Norreys) did not think was just. Where the principle could not be applied without evident injustice, why not at once make the rate leviable over the entire union? The consequence of the present system was this, that the properties which had been mismanaged, had given out their paupers, who had taken refuge and been absorbed in other districts, and the burden was thrown upon other districts, the consequence of which was, that the burthen was, in many cases, most grievously felt in the towns. From mismanaged estates the paupers went off; the townspeople are not those who have caused the poverty, and yet they are made to bear the burthen. Even with regard to the poor themselves, he could assure the noble Lord and the House that the system was working badly. The first thing that every guardian attends to is from what district the pauper conies, and as sure as he comes not from his own district, the guardian will vote for his admission, and thus he will make a character for himself by voting for the admission of the paupers of every other guardian. He thought that was a bad system. By making the system general over the entire union, he believed that the result would be that, the more meritorious paupers would be sought for, and that the guardians would feel a pride in selecting as many as they thought proper of the deserving poor; whereas now, whatever the right hon. Baronet might think of it, it was the constant tendency of each guardian to relieve his own district, and throw the burthen upon others. He should have been glad to have called the attention of the noble Lord to many other points connected with the administration of the Poor-laws; but when he found that the noble Lord had not noticed the statements that had been prepared with the most elaborate care by his hon. Friend—that he had not paid the slightest attention to the suggestions made to him—it was enough to deter him; and it would be probably better for any hon. Gentleman, who wished to refer to these or other points, to wait until the noble Lord had brought forward his promised panacea for all the grievances of the present system.
§ Mr. Shaw
said, his observations should be short, as he considered that a more fitting opportunity for any lengthened discussion of the question before the 1386 House would be afforded when the Government should introduce the bill, which his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, had that night announced as having been prepared with a view to practical amendments of the Irish Poor-law. He did not think that his hon. Friend, the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Brien) had made a case for a committee of inquiry—he had neither stated the facts which he proposed to prove before the committee, nor the end to be attained. He would admit that the state of the public mind in Ireland was, at the present time, disturbed and unsatisfactory upon the subject; but he was persuaded that granting the committee sought would tend to aggravate existing difficulties, and still further to unsettle public feeling. The committee would be engaged in the discussion of abstract principles, such as the soundness of the workhouse test, or the comparative merits of in-door or outdoor relief—questions which, if re-opened at all, must be decided in that House, and not in a select committee. In the latter, no useful result could be arrived at, and the whole would end in delay and disappointment. Those who had not anticipated success from the measure, but had predicted its failure, could not consistently express surprise at the fulfilment of their expectations, nor reasonably call upon those who had promoted or supported the principle of the law, to place the amendment of it in their hands. He had been from the first of opinion that too much had been attempted by the bill—he had recommended a step in the same direction, but a much shorter one, and in 1838 had moved an amendment, and divided the House upon it, for the purpose of limiting relief to the sick, the aged, and the impotent. Had that been carried, the great outlay on workhouses would have been saved, and he believed that the 35,000 persons now receiving relief might almost, without exception, be comprehended in the class that he would have provided for. However, the House decided otherwise. He and many other Irish Members, at the time the law was introduced, described it as a great and doubtful experiment; but they said that if it passed they would give it a fair trial, and he must say, that he did not think it had, as yet, had a fair trial. The great expense of building 110 out of the 130 workhouses had been incurred. The burthen, therefore, was felt, but the benefits 1387 must necessarily be slow and gradual, and time allowed for the system to develope itself in practice. In such a crisis it surely would be most unwise to grant a committee of inquiry of which the inevitable result must be to suspend the operation of the measure. Much fault had been found with the resident commissioners. He had been perfectly unacquainted with Mr. Nicholls when he came to Ireland appointed by a Government to which he (Mr. Shaw) was politically opposed. But subsequent to that period having had frequent opportunities of observing the conduct of Mr. Nicholls, he felt it but common justice to declare, that considering the exceedingly arduous duty Mr. Nicholls had to perform, a weight of labour fell upon him, which was too great for any one to bear. Considering all the circumstances under which Mr. Nicholls was placed, he did not believe that any public man could have acted better, or with more zeal for the public service—with greater singleness of purpose, or with a more disinterested devotion to the cause in which he was engaged. Mr. Nicholls, of course, was not infallible no more than other men; but, notwithstanding all the abuse which had been heaped upon him—most impartially, as it came from all sides, but most unjustly, as he was sincerely convinced—he was satisfied that Mr. Nicholls conducted himself throughout with great ability, the strictest impartiality, and the most perfect uprightness. His hon. Friend who brought forward the motion, had stated that he was in favour of out-door relief being allowed under the Irish Poor-law. Now, he could not sit down without expressing his opinion, that if that principle was once admitted in Ireland, where, let it be observed, a system of poor-laws was for the first time introduced, and a large portion of the labouring poor were unhappily living upon the very confines of destitution—all independent labour would be absorbed, and the landed property of the country virtually confiscated. He hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Brien) would not divide the House upon his motion, after the declaration of the Government that they had a bill matured for the amendment of the present law, and of which the House was not yet in possession.
§ Mr. Sharman Crawford
said, that the objections made against this committee were the same which were constantly 1388 raised against every proposition of inquiry by this House; but if ever there was a case for inquiry, the present was undoubtedly that case. It was acknowledged, that the Irish Poor-law was an experiment. The experiment had been made, and the result was, that there was a universal dissatisfaction over three provinces of Ireland, and partial dissatisfaction over the remaining province. In some places, the rates were not levied—in some they were openly resisted—and in some places the doors of the houses were closed, or on the point of being closed. Was not this a state of things which required inquiry? Was it not more especially necessary to have that inquiry before any new measure should be adopted? The noble Lord, the Secretary for Ireland, said his information led him to believe this law was working well; but he would respectfully say to the noble Lord, that he apprehended that the noble Lord was under a misconception in this respect; he suspected his information was drawn from the northern part of the province of Ulster, where he admitted the working of the law was less objectionable than in other parts of Ireland. This was attributable to two causes—first, that in that portion of the province, there was no occasion to apply for public relief for the use of able-bodied workers, and, secondly, the assistant commissioner, Mr. Gulson, who was appointed to that district, acted with that moderation and good judgment, which conciliated the guardians. There was no hostility between them. The diet was sufficiently liberal, and these houses were in that quarter what they ought to be in every place—houses of retreat and refuge for the helpless and infirm poor. If the commissioners had generally acted with the moderation and good feeling manifested by Mr. Gulson, the law would have been far more popular than it now is. The noble Lord had read extracts from the report of the Irish poor inquiry commission, from which he wished the House to infer, that the present law was in accordance with that report, He (Mr. Crawford) would take leave to read to the House further extracts, from which he would show that the reverse was the case. It is true the commissioners did recommend houses to be built, as places of refuge and relief for infirm poor; but they did not recommend this mode as a means of giving general relief to the poor of Ire-laud. On the contrary, they say:— 1389When we see that the labouring classes are eager for work, and that work is not for them, and that they are, therefore, not from any fault of their own, in permanent want, we therefore cannot recommend the present workhouse system of England as at all suited to Ireland.They say again.—We are satisfied that enactments calculated to promote the improvement of the country, and so to extend the demand for free and profitable labour, should make essential parts of any law for ameliorating the condition of the poor.The commissioners recommend various measures for promoting public works and private enterprise, the whole of which, with the exception of the Drainage Bill, have been neglected. The commissioners then proceed to offer suggestions for the modes of effecting this latter object. They propose that a board of improvement should be established with extended powers in this respect. That power should be given for improving the condition of the cottier population, by removing them to allotments on lands now waste. That extensive means should be adopted for agricultural improvement, by establishing model farms in every parish in Ireland. That powers of leasing, and charging money for improvements on their estates, should be conferred on landlords under settlement, and possessing their estates only as tenants for life. They propose an elected fiscal board for each county, for the purpose of regulating public works, and promoting improvement, and consequently employment. Now, what have you done You have not attended to one of these recommendations, and you have built houses, in which you vainly imagine the whole of the destitute poor of Ireland are to be relieved, without taking any means to promote their employment; and, at the same time, while you do nothing for the poor in the latter way, you endeavour to make your workhouse test so offensive as to preclude the working poor from seeking relief in the houses. Can such a system work? You will further find, that in appendix F the Poor-law Commissioners enter into evidence with reference to the state of the law between landlord and tenant—that an improvement of this law is suggested, which suggestion never has been acted on by either of the Governments which have been in office. He intended, after Easter, 1390 to submit to the House a proposition for carrying into effect these suggestions. The noble Lord says the Government are determined to adhere inviolably to the principle of the bill, and what is that principle? It is that which has failed in England, which has excited universal discontent, and which the Government have found it impracticable to enforce, namely, the relieving of the whole poor of the country by means of incarceration in workhouses, without taking any means for their employment otherwise. To this system various objections have been often stated, but there is one which alone would be sufficient—the subjecting the old and the young, the infirm and the strong, the virtuous and the profligate, to one common system of discipline, and to indiscriminate intercourse. He would tell the Government such a system cannot work in Ireland. The workhouses should be solely the refuge for the infirm, and if they do not permit the administration of out-door relief, about which there seems a general alarm, they ought at least to institute those various means of employing the working classes for which the circumstances of Ireland afford such ample resources if called into action. When he found the Government persist in an headlong determination to go on upon this principle in defiance of facts—in defiance of remonstrances from all parties—in defiance of the commissioners' reports—he he thought that inquiry was imperatively called for. Another cause of dissatisfaction with the Poor-law was the mode of taxation by which the tenant was required in the first instance, to pay both his own and the landlords portion of the assessment, and afterwards to claim it back from the landlord. This must ever be pregnant with causes of bad feeling between the landlord and tenant in Ireland, and must tend to aggravate all the existing causes of discontent. The levy of the tax should be so constructed, which he could show the mode of doing—that the landlord and tenant should each pay their respective proportions by distinct and separate payments. Some observations had been made about the diet; it was clear from the Commissioners own report, that they did attempt to carry out their principle of making the diet of the poor in the house, worse than the diet of the external poor in an extreme manner. In proof of this, he need only allude to the 1391 dietaries given in some reports for the south of Ireland, in which two scanty meals in the day were only allowed, and the reason given that the smallness of the allowance was not fit to be divided into three meals—but they were compelled to give up this part of the test. It was too bad to shut up people in a house to be starved. In that part of the north of Ireland in which he lived, a sufficiently nutritive diet was permitted, and the inmates were contented with it. Under the circumstances he had stated, he would support the motion of his noble Friend.
§ Mr. B. Escott
would not vote for the committee proposed by the hon. Member because he did not think it would produce any practical result. The question was one of the greatest importance to Irish Members, and yet he had not seen them in their places that night, though some of them were accustomed to arrogate to themselves the exclusive privilege of protecting, and asserting the rights of the Irish people. Where was the hon. and learned Member for Cork upon the present occasion. On the last occasion, when the question of Poor-laws was under discussion, when he wished to extend the power of granting out-door relief, the hon. and learned Member had supported his motion, and had expressly stated that in the next Session of Parliament he hoped to be able to extend the principle for which he contended, to Ireland. Where, then, was the hon. and learned Member when there was a question of practical importance as regarded the best interests of the sister country? It was stated that workhouses had been already built throughout Ireland; and the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin had stated that the Government were about to introduce a measure for the amendment of the existing law. Was it then expedient, after all the machinery had been set in motion, and all the expense incurred, to take the question out of the hands of Government and place it in the hands of the hon. Member for Limerick? Was that expedient or wise? He agreed with the hon. Member opposite, that the great end of the English, as well as the Irish Poor-law system, was the erection of workhouses; but now that they had erected them he thought it would be extremely injudicious and absurd to effect a total and radical change in the system. He thought the 1392 most prudent course would be to throw the responsibility upon the executive Government, hoping that they would introduce such amendments as would remedy the defects of the present measure.
§ Sir H. W. Barron
said the Government had expressed its determination not to consent to any measure that would alter the fundamental principles of the existing poor law, and in that he thought they had exercised a sound discretion. At the same time he thought, for the beneficial working of the measure hereafter, a searching inquiry into its details was necessary, although he was very far from saying that that inquiry should be instituted by the House of Commons, inasmuch as it would lead the people of Ireland to think they were about to alter that great measure which he believed was likely to raise the condition of the people, and make them something better than beasts of burden, or than the swine they reared in their cottages. It was for that reason, and because he did not think the law had as yet had a fair trial, that he supported it. What was the fact? Before they had had time to observe the operation of the law, they wished to upset it, and uproot a most valuable institution that had not yet been properly established in the country. He maintained that it would be most injurious and detrimental to the peace of the country; and above all, he firmly believed, and was conscientiously of opinion, that if they granted a committee of inquiry in the present state of the public mind in Ireland, they would do more mischief to the poor, than by any measure they could devise for unsettling men's mind in that country. When he stated that, he was aware that he was not stating, perhaps, what was the popular opinion in Ireland, nor the opinions of many of those whom he had the honour of representing in that House, but if his conscientious declaration of opinion was attended with a loss of his seat, he would cheerfully resign rather than act contrary to it. In the district with which he was connected, there was a great deal of popular commotion on the subject. He would state to the House, in a few words, its origin. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members that the Irish Municipal Corporation Bill passed that House about a year and a half ago, and in order to have a corporation in the city of Water-ford it was necessary that a poor rating; 1393 should first be established throughout the district. He regretted to say that Members who ought to have known better—men of property and station, who were connected with the old corporation, had opposed that rating in the most unjustifiable manner, and had employed counsel and attorneys to pick holes in the wording of the act, and employ all their legal tact in upsetting the rate. That had led to discussions and questions in the courts of law, and had also led to a resistance to the collection of the rate, because they attempted (in many cases with success) to convince the people that it was an illegal rating. That was the primary source of all resistance to the law in his district. The people were led to believe that it was illegal, and hence the opposition that arose. But if any hon. Member saw how the business was conducted in the city of Waterford—if he knew how much the poor had been benefitted by the operation of the law—if he saw upwards of 500 unfortunate persons raised to a state of comparative comfort and ease, from the most abject poverty—if he saw there the aged, the blind, the lame, and the helpless, protected, and fed, and clothed—not a cry, not a word, raised against the management of the workhouse by any inmate—if he saw all this, he would be inclined to admit its beneficial effects. Let those who saw these things declaim against the law if they thought proper—he could not do it; he could not do it; he could not consent to have these unfortunate persons, in any part of the country, sent upon the world without a friend or a house. He believed it had conferred many great benefits upon Ireland; he beleved in his conscience that it would confer still greater benefits, if the gentry would only lend a helping hand and give it a fair trial; and, with these feelings, he felt himself bound in his conscience, to vote against the motion of his hon. Friend.
Lord Claude Hamilton
believed that the law would never be found to work well until they had made it palateable to the people of Ireland, and it was from the anxiety he felt to see the law permanently established and popular, that he felt inclined to vote for the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had appeared rather to cast a slur upon the gentry, but this much he would say, so far as his part of the country was concerned, that he had 1394 never seen so much union upon any question, among all parties and classes, and whether they were members of the Roman Catholic Church, Presbyterian, or Established Churches, men of all denominations cordially combined in endeavouring to carry out the intentions of the legislature, and render its operation advantageous to the country at large. His right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin had said that the present motion was calculated to disturb the minds of the people of Ireland upon the subject. The House must be aware that the law was only an experiment, which he for one was most anxious to see successful, and that was why he was anxious to support it, and to avoid anything which might bear the appearance of indecision and uncertainty on the part of the legislature. But the appointment of a committee would not have that effect. The law was, he believed, likely to answer were it not for the stumbling-block thrown in its way by the extraordinary power given to the commissioners. To say, however, that investigation into the working of the system would disturb the minds of the people, and that it would be regarded as the forerunner to a great change, was merely a bad compliment to the system. But, supposing no other argument could be brought against the motion, what does the noble Lord say? Suspend your judgment—wait for our proposition—we have undertaken the responsibility, and intend bringing forward an amendment. Now, that proved that amendment was necessary, and people would hardly think it fair to say that those who called for investigation were disturbing the public mind, when the Government themselves asserted that it required amendment. He regretted that into some portion of the debate personal feeling had been introduced—he regretted the allusions that had been made by the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Estcott), for up to that time, he must say that all parties appeared only anxious to arrive at that conclusion that seemed most likely to prove beneficial to the country. He must say, that, so far as his own observation and opinion went, and he entertained somewhat strong feelings upon the question—not arising from any prejudice or party feeling—that he did not think the measure calculated to effect much practical good. Whatever benefit or advantage might flow to the country from the 1395 law, was interfered with by the extraordinary and arbitrary powers which had been conferred upon the commissioners, and which, in some instances, might be characterised as most meddling and mischievous. It had excited strong feelings of disgust in the minds of many of those who acted as guardians of the poor. He presumed everybody was aware that in many of the unions the advice of the guardians was sought for by the commissioners, and questions asked as to the mode in which the intentions of the Legislature should be carried out—but in every instance, so far as his experience and information went—in every case in which the guardians had given important suggestions—the result of their local knowledge—their advice, after having been duly tendered, was contemptuously disregarded, in a manner that plainly said the commissioners had long ago made up their minds upon the subjects. That had been repeated over and over again, and not only that, but when the assistant-commissioner had acted contrary to the advice of the guardians, they discovered that that advice was exceedingly valuable, and then they were compelled to alter their plans, and the cost of the patchwork added considerably to the expense of the measure throughout the country. He would not enter into the details of the working of the system, for that was, he thought, much more fit for investigation before a committee, but if so inclined, he could detain the House a couple of hours in detailing the blunders and mistakes of the assistant commissioners. Why did the Government refuse to grant them that which was the proper place for such an investigation? Surely it could not be denied that the committee was the proper sphere for such inquiries; and he could not conceive that there was anything which it was not the province of a committee of that House to investigate. It was with deep regret that he heard that the Government had refused the present motion; and he hoped that his vote would not be construed into hostility to them; but he should not be deterred by such considerations from adopting what he conceived to be the proper course—namely, giving his vote in favour of the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick. With regard to the Gentleman who acted as assistant commissioner in his part of the country, he could only say that he was very universally liked. At the same time, he got, as 1396 people sometimes did, rather warm. A contract was entered into for the erection of workhouses at Londonderry and Strabane—the undertaking being that both should be built alike. Both were commenced, but the Londonderry one was completed first, and then it was discovered that the plan would not answer, and they were obliged to alter it. Meantime the Strabane workhouse was in progress, and they were actually compelled to pull it down again to make it a counterpart of the Londonderry workhouse, thereby entailing an additional expense of 1,400l. upon the union. How, really, could it be expected that a system so contrary to all the principles of economy and common sense could be allowed to go on? Surely that was a case that ought to come before the public, and no man would say that such extravagant waste was not calculated to impair the value of the measure. He could tell the House many more circumstances of a similar nature, but he treated them to that one as a special sample of what the assistant commissioners could do. These things rankled in the public mind; and then, again, with regard to the question of valuation, the people heard of nothing but the extraordinary powers of the commissioners, and the vast expenses that they were entailing—they found that Government left the matter entirely in their hands, and that the only appeal they had was to a committee of the House of Commons. He regretted, under these circumstances, that the Government was resolved to shut the only door which was open to the people to state their complaints, because if these complaints were not well grounded, they could be at once put an end to; but they would not give the people even a chance. He certainly felt very strongly upon the subject. Already there was a very wide spread discontent throughout the country, which would be considerably aggravated if all investigation was refused. The Government was going to make amendments in the law, and yet they would not allow the public to state what were the points of objection which required amendment and consideration. He really did hope that that refusal would not be adhered to by the Government, because while the present complaints continued they were poisoning men's minds against the system. He had always acted to the utmost of his ability in support of the measure; but he prayed the House 1397 to interfere and no longer suffer that concealment of wrong that was calculated to do such irreparable injury.
§ Mr. French
would adopt the course asked for by the noble Lord, and suspend both his opinion, and the delivery of his sentiments, in respect of the Poor-law, and the conduct of the commissioners in Ireland, until the bill promised by the noble Lord was before the House; in doing so, he wished to guard himself from being supposed to acquiesce in the statements, or to acknowledge the accuracy of the figures quoted by the noble Lord—furnished, of course, to him by the Poor-law commissioners; on the contrary, he was prepared to show that the present system had utterly failed as a measure for the relief of the poor—that it never was suited—and never could be rendered suitable to the wants or the condition of the people—and that, notwithstanding the reckless manner in which the country had been covered with workhouses, the repeal of the law was inevitable, and that at no distant period. As to the figures quoted, he had no confidence in their accuracy, nor did he believe the public would have any confidence in assertions proceeding from the Poor-law office. The noble Lord had attempted to defend the accuracy of Mr. Nicholls—first, on his estimate for building the workhouses—saying the estimate was for 110 houses, not for 120, which was the number now built. Mr. Nicholls's estimate for providing workhouse accommodation for 100,000 paupers was 700,000l.; he had now, with his twenty additional buildings, provided accommodation for but 94,000, and the expense was 1,300,000l. Mr. Nicholls had estimated the annual cost of maintenance of the poor, in these houses, at the highest figures, as 312,000l., and the lowest 218,000l.—the noble Lord admitted it to be 680,000l. He contended, from the data before them, that it would turn out to be 1,500,000l.;1,500,000l. for maintaining 94,000 paupers, out of 2,300,000 persons, the number the report of the commissioners for Poor-law inquiry declared required relief. It was well that the country should know what the arrangements contemplated by the noble Lord were—that they should fully understand the alterations he was about to propose were solely for the purpose of rendering the working of the bill more easy to the commissioners—that the 1398 system was to remain untouched—and the complaints of the guardians unattended to. He sincerely wished that Irish Members would think Jess of Sir Robert Peel and of Lord John Russell, and, indifferent as to politics, pull together where the interests of Ireland were concerned. It was only by such a course, that the ruin brought on the country by the empty assertions and inaccurate calculations of Mr. Nicholls, could be warded off.
§ Mr. Gregory
thought the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick had not been fairly dealt with, and although it was a motion from which he did not think much practical benefit would arise, he still felt that a fair opportunity ought to be afforded him of pressing it on the attention of the House. The noble Lord had alluded to the sentiments of a noble relative of his (Mr. Gregory) as favourable to the present law, but he could assure the noble Lord, that Lord Clancarty was convinced that a very great alteration ought to be made in the present system of Poor-laws in Ireland. The noble Lord had also read a letter respecting the opinion of the North Dublin Union. Now, as the Lord Mayor had called an aggregate meeting on the subject, he had no doubt that the noble Lord would shortly hear something from his Friend of the North Dublin Union, about the evils of the present system. Indeed, notwithstanding the speech of the noble Lord, he was sure that the noble Lord himself was convinced that there were many imperfections in the system, which required correction.
Sir Robert Ferguson
hoped the hon. Member for Limerick would not withdaw the question from the consideration of the House. It was true the noble Lord had said, that he intended to bring forward a bill, but they had not heard one single statement as to the contents of that bill, or that the mischievous results of the present system would be in any way met. An appeal had been made to him as to the expense of maintaining the poor, and it did so happen that he was intimately connected with two unions, and had for two years narrowly watched the operation of the measure. As to the poor being supported at an expense of 2s. each per week, he would observe, that to that must be added 50 per cent, for the other expenses of the workhouse. While he was anxious to speak with all due respect of the commissioners in their pri- 1399 vate character, he must be permitted to say that their accounts and reports were by no means satisfactory. He could not place dependence upon these reports—he did not think they were what they ought to be, nor what the House had a right to expect as regarded the administration of the Poor-laws in Ireland. One most extraordinary fact was that the House had not been able to procure a single account that Session. It made no difference whether the returns were moved for by a Peer in the other House of Parliament, or an hon. Member of that House. He had called for accounts which it was admitted had been made, and for returns which must be lying in the commissioners' offices, and yet they had been refused by the noble Lord. In the same way, the hon. Member for Roscommon had been refused some papers he had repeatedly asked for. He quite agreed with the noble Lord, the Member for Tyrone, that the gentry, and he believed he was right in adding the middle classes in the north of Ireland, were anxious and determined to carry out the law in the best possible manner; but at every turn, they were met by the arbitrary conduct of the commissioners, who were endeavouring to foil them in every possible way. The noble Lord had said, that he was anxious to hand over the erection of the workhouses to the commissioners. The act required that the building should be given to the commissioners, and that the fitting up should be confided to the board of guardians, under the sanction of the commissioners, and yet they had refused to allow the board of guardians of Strabane to interfere; and had saddled the union with an expense of 50 per cent, beyond the ordinary price. He really did think that it was not treating the people of Ireland well to say that there were defects in the working of the measure, but that they would not tell what they were, or what remedies they intended to apply. What appeal had the people from the acts of the commissioners? None whatever, unless an appeal to Parliament. The Government might depend on it that the gentry in the various districts would do their duty honestly and conscientiously; but when they had been endeavouring to bring the law into operation, that was not the way to treat them; and unless some check or curb was placed upon the acts of the commissioners, they would find that it was 1400 idle in them to expect that the law would, ever become popular, either with the gentry or the lower classes.
§ Viscount Bernard
said, he should give his decided opposition to the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick, on this ground, that he did not think it could lead to any practical or useful result. When he looked at the opposition that was raised against the operation of the Poor-law in Ireland at the present moment—when he knew that in the union adjoining to one in which he resided, a successful resistance to the payment of the rates had been carried on until it had been quelled by the strenuous and able exertions of her Majesty's Government—when he recollected that that opposition threatened at one time to cause serious disturbance to the peace of the country, he could not consent to anything short of a practical remedy. Let the House consider for a moment what would be the composition of the committee if it were appointed. Would there not be on it the hon. Member for Limerick, who had brought forward the present motion, the hon. Baronet the Member for Mallow, and the hon. Member for Roscommon?—all decidedly opposed to the very principle of the law itself. He firmly believed, that were the committee appointed, at the close of the present Session they would have as little advanced towards any practical measure of amendment as at the present moment. At the same time he looked forward with hope to the measure which her Majesty's Government was about to introduce; and expected from it a practical improvement which would give satisfaction to Ireland. He had been chairman of a board of guardians in the south of Ireland for three years, during one-half of which time the law had been in practical operation, and it was his firm belief, that the welfare of the country required that the principle of the law should be maintained in all its integrity. He believed, that the chief causes of dissatisfaction had arisen from defects in the details of the measure—defects so glaring, that they had unquestionably led to the supposition that the principle itself was defective. In his opinion the reason why the measure had excited dissatisfaction among the landed proprietors was, that the influence it was intended by the framers of the law to give them by means of voting by proxy, and cumulative votes, had been practically withheld. In his mind one of the greatest faults of the measure was the taxing poor creatures 1401 leasing holdings under 51l., and who were themselves little better than the inmates of the workhouses. In the union where he had presided, there were 600 defaulters, from whom the amount of rate due was about 15l., and in one electoral division, there were persons who were receiving alms from the church collections with the one hand, and paying rates themselves with the other; and he earnestly recommended the Government—if he might take the liberty of making such a suggestion—to relieve these poor persons altogether, and he believed the fairest way would be to tax the landlord directly with the moiety he at present paid. He thought it would be a fair and equitable mode of proceeding to make the tax a union tax, and in that he certainly agreed with the hon. Member for Limerick. The principle of localizing the tax was undoubtedly excellent, and he trusted that he should be the last person to wish to relieve the owners of property (whose duty it was, and whose inclination it ought to be, to reside on their properties, to administer to the necessities, and alleviate the wants of those whom Providence had committed to their care) from contributing their fair proportion to the maintenance and relief of the destitute. As the law at present stood, there was a very heavy pressure upon the poor residents in towns, it was impossible, he' believed, to make a fair distribution of electoral divisions, if, on the one hand, it was confined to the town, it would ruin the poorer inhabitants, while, on the other hand, it would be difficult to add a sufficient rural district, without doing injustice to some party. This was the principle formerly acted upon, for before the introduction of a legislative measure there was an unwritten law which actuated every Irishman, and beat in every Irish breast; and by that law it was decreed that no beggar should ever be turned away from the poor man's door, although he might share his last meal with one scarce poorer than himself. It was his firm conviction that the valuation under the new Poor-law Act had caused very great dissatisfaction, and ought to be taken out of the hands of the guardians—much mischief had been caused by the pecuniary difficulties of the unions, and thus the case appeared worse than it really was. As reference had been made to the Poor-law Commissioners themselves, he would bear his testimony to the zeal and integrity with which the assistant commissioner for the county of 1402 Cork had discharged his duty. This much he would say, that any system of Poor-laws must be but of partial success, unless means were devised which would develope the resources of the country, which would enlighten the people and rouse their dormant energies. If they were instructed in agriculture, and taught to know the wealth that Providence had cast around them, then a happier day would dawn on Ireland, employment would be afforded to the population, and peace would be restored. He believed there were very many persons in Ireland, who, tired of religious discord and sated with political agitation, were anxious to bury in eternal oblivion all political animosities and unite together for the common benefit of their too long neglected country.
§ Sir J. Graham
trusted the hon. Member would avail himself of the advice which had been offered him, and not persevere in his motion. It was not correct to state, as had been stated by the hon. Member for Dublin, that the intention of the Government had not been set forth to the House. A question had been put to the noble Lord the Secretary for Ireland on the second night of the Session, and that noble Lord then distinctly announced the intention of the Government to bring forward a measure to amend the present law. He also had more than once stated the intention of Government. However, he would now state that a measure was matured, and it would be his duty to ask leave to introduce it before the Easter recess. Before asking leave to bring in that bill, it would be premature and inexpedient to enter into a debate upon the subject; but in answering the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick, he (Sir J. Graham) might say, that all the points alluded to by that hon. Member were dealt with by the measure of the Government. He should be deceiving the hon. Member if he held out expectations that the measure to be introduced sought to abridge the existing authority of the Poor-law Commissioners. Large powers were indispensably necessary, exercised with due discretion, to be vested in the commissioners; to that principle the Government must decidedly adhere, as also to the principle of relief administered in workhouses. The Government had given to the Poor-law for Ireland a reluctant, hesitating, and not very sanguine support. It was beyond all doubt, 1403 as applied to Ireland, of dangerous tendency; but it was an experiment, and he was bound to say, as yet an incomplete one. This was, as it were, the crisis of the fate of that measure, the burthen of which was felt, whilst the expected benefit was not yet experienced. The extent of that benefit he still considered doubtful. There had been one proposition mooted by the hon. Member for Limerick, which would render it impossible for him to consent to this committee—namely, the proposal to consider the question, whether out-door relief should be given to the poor of Ireland. To allow a question of that kind to be considered by a committee, would be deputing to it the functions of the House of Commons. An inquiry embodying a greater question of policy, or a more dangerous proposition, could not be entertained. He was quite confident, from the present condition of Ireland, that to give the right of outdoor relief to the able-bodied poor would be neither more nor less than the confiscation of the landed estates of Ireland; at any rate, it was a question for the House to consider. Of all questions to be considered by a select committee, this was one of the last. He would only just mention, in passing, that the small number of Irish Members who supported this committee held very different opinions. The hon. Member for Mallow thought the diet of the workhouses too good; the hon. Member who brought forward this motion talked of the extreme hardship of the diet. According to him, on some Christmas-day, he knew not whether on the 25th of February or the 25th of August—the diet of the workhouses was the extreme of want, whilst, according to the hon. Member for Mallow, it was the extreme of luxury. He gave the strongest commendations to the private character and public conduct of Mr. Nicholls, the Poor-law commissioner. It had been said, that in some instances he was hard, but these statements had always been accompanied by some commendations on his private character. He thought him an honest and conscientious man, and that he had gone to Ireland for the single purpose of doing his duty. Mr. Nicholls might have been betrayed into error, but he begged the House to consider how difficult had been his position. He had to try the experiment of building simultaneously 130 workhouses in Ireland. His "misconduct" 1404 was that of a man of strict integrity, and his misfortune was that he had given offence. Something had been said about the inaccuracy of the estimates; but the estimate for building eighty workhouses had been applied to the building of 130. Mr. Nicholls had had to superintend the erection of all these workhouses; he might have been very often overreached; he believed such to have been the case, but he had been most anxious to prevent any extravagance or fraud; and might have been an erroneous judge where anything was done amiss. The hon. Member for the City of Londonderry complained of the delay in making some returns; it was the wish of the Government to furnish them. At the same time, it would be his duty to resist the motion of the hon. Member for Roscommon, for calling Mr. Lewis to the Bar of the House on account of delay in making the returns. Those returns should be laid on the Table with the least possible delay. In the present position of the Poor-law question in Ireland, the concession of this committee would lead to the most serious misunderstanding there. It would be received as an indication that the Government intended firmly to maintain the existing law, when in fact the Government had no such intention. The Government admitted the defects of the law, and was prepared to lay on the Table of the House a bill to amend them. An inquiry into the past errors committed in building workhouses, was not to be weighed in the balance against the evils of granting the motion of the hon. Member. He must say, as to inquiring into minute details, with the organised resistance established in Ireland against the measure, and the assurances of the hon. Member for Roscommon, not to be forgotten, that 40,000 bayonets would not uphold the Poor-law system,—above all, recollecting that 1,300,000l. of public money had been advanced for the building of these workhouses, and must be paid, he for one should betray his duty in consenting, under such circumstances, to the motion of the hon. Member for Limerick. At the same time, the Government would lay on the Table of the House a measure in detail meeting all the difficulties, and remedying the defects of the existing law.
§ Mr. Ross
said, that prior to the last speech, the bearing of his mind had been decidedly in favour of this motion; but, 1405 after the declaration of the right hon. Baronet, that before Easter a bill would be brought in to remedy the defects in the Irish Poor-law, he felt bound not to go along with his hon. Friend and relative, the Member for Limerick. For his own part, he had never been the advocate of Poor-laws of any kind, and he must say, that he thought the Legislature had committed an error in introducing this law into Ireland; but since it was enacted, he was decidedly in favour of maintaining its principle, and most of its details. He would not limit the powers of the commissioners, and as to the principle of outdoor relief, he considered that it would be fatal to the system to admit it; and he unhesitatingly declared that, if admitted, it would in a very short time, swallow up the rental of Ireland.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 23; Noes 108:—Majority 85.
|List of the AYES.|
|Archdall, Capt.||Hall, Sir B.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Blake, Sir V.||Hatton, Capt. V.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Johnson, Gen.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Morris, D.|
|Browne, hon. W.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||O'Brien, J.|
|Duncombe, T.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Esmonde, Sir A.||Vivian, hon. Capt.|
|Fielden, J.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||TELLERS.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||French, F.|
|Gore, hon. R.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Collett, W. R.|
|Acland, T. D.||Coote, Sir C. H.|
|Acton, Col.||Corry, right hon. H.|
|Adare, Visct.||Cripps, W.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Denison, E. B.|
|Antrobus, E.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Arkwright, G.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Eliot, Lord|
|Baring, hon. W. B.||Escott, B.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Glynne, Sir S. R.|
|Boldero, H. G.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Borthwick, P.||Gore, M.|
|Botfield, B.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Broadley, H.||Goulburn, rt. hn. H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Graham, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Greenall, P.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Greene, T.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Chetwode, Sir J.||Grimston, Visct.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Grogan, E.|
|Clerk, Sir C.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Northland, Visct.|
|Herbert, hon. S.||O'Brien, A. S.|
|Hodgson, R.||Peel, J.|
|Hope, hon. C.||Pringle, A.|
|Hope, G. W.||Rice, E. R.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Rose, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Hussey, T.||Ross, D. R.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Round, J.|
|Jones, Capt.||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Ker, D. S.||Shaw, right hon. F.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hn. Sir E||Smith, J. A.|
|Lambton, H.||Smith, rt. hn. T. B. C.|
|Legh, G. C.||Smollett, A.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Somerset, Lord G|
|Lockhart, W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Lowther, J. H.||Stanley, E.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||Stuart, W. V.|
|Maclean, D.||Stuart, H.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Sutton, hon. H. M.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Manners, Lord J.||Thornhill, G.|
|Marsham, Visct.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Martin, C. W.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Masterman, J||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Wawn, J.T.|
|Meynell, Capt.||Worsley, Lord|
|Miles, P. W.S.||Young, J.|
|Mundy, E. M.||TELLERS.|
|Newry, Visct.||Fremantle, Sir T.|
|Nicholl, right hon. J.||Baring, H.|