§ MR. P. SCROPE
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, would shortly state his reasons for introducing it, which he had not before an opportunity of doing, owing to the facilities he had given for continuing the Corn Law debates. And, first, he must apologize to the House for taking upon himself a task which exceeded the limits of his poor abilities, and a subject of such great importance. That apology would be the statement which, without any egotism, he might perhaps make, that this was not the first time he had given his attention to matters of this kind. For the last twenty years he had taken a great interest in the condition of the poor in Ireland, and had urged upon the House the necessity and importance of making provision for the poor in Ireland on the model of that which had been in operation for two centuries and a half with the best results in England. He might mention that, on the second reading of the Coercion Bill in 1834, he felt so strongly as to the necessity and justice of introducing measures for the relief of the destitute poor who were driven by desperation to the commission of crime in Ireland, that he then moved the following Resolution:—That, in order to secure life and property in Ireland, to remove all pretext for criminal outrages, and to give effect to whatever measure of severity may be adopted for their suppression, it is expedient that the population of that island he assured of the means of supporting life by peaceful and honest industry; and this House will turn 384 its attention, at the earliest opportunity, to some measure for effecting this desirable end.That was twelve years ago. On the third reading of the Coercion Bill of the next year, in 1835, he divided the House on Resolutions very much to the tenor of the preceding one. On other occasions he had co-operated with hon. Members of that House, who concurred with him in opinion that a poor law was essential to the maintenance of tranquillity and the improvement of the resources of Ireland. The public felt a deep interest in the matter, and eventually the Government of that day felt themselves compelled to take the question up, and appointed a Commission to inquire into the state of the poor in Ireland. At the end of the second year the Commissioners made their Report, and that Report was very much in favour of the measures he had advocated. In the concluding passage of it they said—Upon the best consideration which we have been able to give to the whole subject, we think that a legal provision should be made and 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; 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 purpose of emigration, for the support of penitentiaries in 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 the families of sick persons, and of casual destitution.Their plan amounted, in fact, to a system of indoor and outdoor relief, competent to supply all that was wanted for the poor in Ireland. The able-bodied, it is true, were excepted, but to them relief by emigration was recommended; and the Report went the whole length of the principles he had supported—a right to relief to some extent or other to save man, woman, or child from perishing from want; and that some legal provision should be made for them. Further than that, he had not urged the principle, except that if emigration did not afford sufficient relief, some other mode should be adopted. The Government, however, were not satisfied with that Report; and they sent over another Commissioner, Mr. Nicholls, at the close of 1836; and that Gentleman, at the end of a few months' residence there, returned with another Re- 385 port, in which he recommended that the relief to the poor should be confined to the workhouse system; and upon that principle the Bill of the following year was framed. But that Bill was deficient in that which, in his mind, should always he at the bottom of any practical system of relief, namely, a right to relief in some way or other for those who were in dread of starvation, and who might thereby be driven into crime. The public were satisfied at the time, no doubt, by the introduction of a measure calling itself an Irish Poor Law, and it passed, perhaps, without being scrutinized too closely as to the relief it proposed to give. The public had been comparatively tranquil since; nor had he interfered, being desirous to see, in the first place, what the system then established would be—to see the workhouses built; the last of which, he believed, was only finished last year—and partly to see how the system, confining itself to workhouse relief, would act. But the time was now come when it would neither satisfy the public nor the principles of humanity and justice, that relief should be confined to the miserable and scanty system at present in force in Ireland under that law. The test of any system of poor relief or any other must be—has it answered its purpose, or fulfilled the objects for which it was enacted? Now, what were the objects for which a poor law was required in Ireland, or in any other country? They appeared to him to be threefold. The first was the relief of the destitute, as a matter of charity and humanity, on the ground that it was contrary to human feeling to allow the poor to perish in the streets from want; and that it was much more economical to relieve them by a proper system of relief at the expense of the community, than by alms being given, or by any other mode. The second object was, as a measure of police, to enable the law to put down mendicancy and vagrancy, which were contrary to all moral order and cleanliness, and to the industrious habits of the population; but that could not be done unless they granted a right to relief. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) said the other night that the Irish had a right to beg; but he thought it was conceded by the right hon. Baronet that it was not for the advantage of the community that that privilege should be exercised; and from the filth, immorality, profligacy, and waste it engendered throughout the country, it was absolutely necessary to be put down. The third object of a 386 Poor Law in any country was, he believed, to give that protection to the life of the poor man which ought to be the foundation of all law, and which was necessary to take from him the plea of absolute necessity as an excuse for crime. The law of the land, he believed, sanctioned the commission of crime in the extremest necessity; he believed that the Judges of the land had said that stealing a loaf from a shop by a man who was starving from hunger was not punishable by law. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL: That is not so.] At all events you cannot punish a man who was starving, and who helped himself for the purpose of maintaining life to the nearest food at hand; and therefore unless they could give relief, they could not justify the law which protected any property whatever, especially property in land, which was the common gift of the Creator to mankind upon which to maintain themselves; and he asserted indisputably that when they established a monopoly of the land of a country in the hands of a large or a small number of proprietors, the mass of the inhabitants of that country had a right to call upon Parliament to give them some other resources to secure them from absolute want, and from perishing upon the face of the land which God had given them to support themselves. These were the three objects of all Poor Laws in any country which hoped to become civilized. Now let them ask how far those purposes had been answered under the law established with the name of a Poor Law in Ireland, in 1837. Why, relief being confined to the workhouses, which would barely contain one per cent of the population of Ireland, it was beyond doubt as a matter of fact that not only the extraordinary destitution that occasionally occurred in that country, but the permanent destitution, could not be relieved by the present system. The amount of destitution there was no doubt beyond that of England, as compared to the total population; yet in England the number of destitute persons numbered about 10 per cent. The number of workhouses was 534, and no less a proportion than six-sevenths of the entire number of paupers had outdoor relief. But in Ireland, under the existing Poor Law, they had not the means of relieving one hundredth part of the population. In proof of the state of feeling in Ireland upon this subject, he would call attention to the petition from the town council of Limerick, in which they said, that in the 387 Report of Lord Devon's Commission it was stated that there were in Ireland 2,385,000 persons in absolute pauperism, and yet that there were not workhouses to contain more than 90,000 persons. Could they possibly call that an adequate measure of relief for the poor? And the petition went on to say that if the workhouses were meant not to relieve pauperism, but rather destitution, they did not even accomplish that object; for although the Poor Laws had been five years in operation, yet, by the last census, it appeared that the country was perhaps worse than when Mr. Nicholls made his report. In fact, those great buildings intended for workhouses had become immense infirmaries and hospitals throughout the country, and as such they had done much good; but towards effecting the first object of the Poor Law they had done almost nothing. It was clear then that towards relieving the destitution of Ireland the existing Poor Law had done very little. He then proceeded to ask, whether it answered the second purpose he had mentioned, that of enabling the law to put down mendicancy and vagrancy? It had not touched that system, for it prevailed from one end of the country to the other. It was impossible for any one to land in Ireland without being immediately surrounded with such a crowd of wretched mendicants as could not be surpassed by any other country in the world; and in the cottages throughout Ireland they would find the poor inmates sharing their last potato with the beggars that crowded round the door asking for relief. The right hon. Baronet spoke of the Irish having a right to beg for their subsistence; he could not have been in earnest; and he called upon the Government to declare themselves clearly on this matter, and to say whether they intended to recommend to Parliament any measure to put down the mass of vagrancy and mendicancy in Ireland, or what they thought the present state of things there required. He knew that the right hon. Baronet said that the majority of the population there were Roman Catholics, and that it was a principle of those of the Catholic persuasion to give alms to a great extent. No doubt it was, and every one must admire the humanity that dictated such a course; but he did not believe that it was a principle of the Catholic religion that such a system of almsgiving should be substituted for a perfectly organized and legal system of relief. He would call to the attention of the right 388 hon. Baronet the state of things in Belgium, which was a Catholic country, where they had a system of organized relief, which did secure to the starving man relief in destitution, and which he believed had also the effect of increasing the cultivation of land and the development of industry to an extraordinary degree, and of repressing that spirit of turbulence which prevailed so strongly in Ireland. He now came to the third object which, as he contended, a Poor Law ought to have in view—namely, as a measure of justice and policy to give to every inhabitant of the land some means of subsistence, and to take from him, therefore, the plea of destitution and want as an excuse for crime. Not giving the right of relief, they left the poor of Ireland with that plea for the commission of crime, in order to secure themselves in existence. The only way to put a step to these outrages, for which Coercion Bills were but a temporary remedy, was to give a right to a maintenance upon the land of their birth and of their forefathers, and so to take from them the plea of the necessity of combining together against the law. That course he urged in 1834 in connexion with this subject. In that year he printed a small publication under the title of How is Ireland to be Governed? and it contained this passage:—Does the law, then, protect the Irish peasant? Not from starvation! It does not protect him from being thrust out from his home and little holding into absolute destitution, to perish on the highways of famine, or to waste away in those abodes of filth, misery, and disease, in the suburbs of the towns, which Dr. Doyle so faithfully describes as the ordinary refuge and dying-place of the ejected cottier and his family. It does not protect him from being visited by this fate at the command of an absentee landlord, who may desire to clear his property of some of the human incumbrances whom God has brought into being upon it. The law affords the Irish peasant no protection from so horrible a fate. Hundreds are at present exposed to it. Millions know that they are liable to it. Can the law justly require their allegiance? Can we expect them willingly to pay it? No, the peasantry of Ireland feel that the law places their lives at the mercy of the few, whom it invests with sovereign power over the land of their native country—with power to sweep them at will off its surface.That language was justified by facts, and in attempting to prove those facts he was only embarrassed by a multiplicity of proofs. But he would take the assertion of a gentleman who, in 1834, was employed by the Government as the Secretary to the Poor Law Commission, and who 389 had, perhaps more than any other man, an opportunity of forming a correct judgment of the case; for, during the two years of the Commissioners' inquiry, he had to travel over Ireland to obtain evidence, and to make an abstract of the proceedings of the Commissioners. That gentleman, Mr. Revans, said that nine-tenths of the outrages to property and violence to persons in Ireland were produced by the want of proper relief for the poor. But he wished, without further quotations, to lay the case broadly before the House, and to call the attention of the Government to facts which it was impossible could be denied. The first fact was this:—There were two systems of law in Ireland: one was the law of the land; but in what light did the Irish peasantry regard it? They hated it, resisted it, and struggled against it, because they felt that it oppressed them. The other law was an agrarian law, which was general throughout Ireland. It was more or less dormant in particular parts—but why? Because it was not resisted by the landlords or by the ministers of law. Evidence given in the year 1834, proved that when the Irish peasant was driven from his land, he had no resource but crime to escape destitution. There was therefore a general feeling among the labouring community to make common cause with those who were ejected, as the only means of preventing ejectments. The Occupation of Land in Ireland Commission distinctly stated, that agrarian outrages prevailed through the whole of Ireland; and this statement was corroborated by the Constabulary Returns of 1844, the latest of which we had possession. It appeared from these returns that there were some agrarian outrages in every county—from five, six, and eight, in the counties of Antrim, Armagh, and Wicklow, to 48 in Clare, 29 in Galway, 67 in King's County, 73 in Limerick, 72 in Leitrim, 93 in Roscommon, and 254 in Tipperary. The right hon. Baronet, on moving the first reading of the Bill for the Protection of Life and Property in Ireland, stated, that outrages were restricted to five counties in Ireland. But he must have meant the increase of outrages, the increase of the percentage of crimes. If it were said that outrages did not prevail throughout Ireland as in Tipperary, or as in the five counties mentioned by the right hon. Baronet, it was because the agrarian law had superseded, to a certain extent, the law of the land, and had fulfilled its duty of protecting 390 the lives of the peasantry. For, he repeated, the law of the land did not protect either the life or property of the Irish peasant, while the agrarian laws, enacted by themselves, did protect, to a considerable extent, both life and property. This was painful to admit; but if he succeeded in proving it, the conclusion was obvious, that until we harmonise the law of the land with the necessities of the peasantry, and protect life and property by legal authority, they would continue the horrible system of agrarian outrage and intimidation, by which they struggle to protect themselves and their families. The law could not be said to afford the Irish peasant protection to life when it refused him relief in his destitution; he therefore resorted to agrarian outrage on the plea of self-defence—the same plea which was the other day put forward by the First Minister of the Crown to palliate the horrible extremities of war. When the Society of Friends petitioned against war, and more especially against war in India, the right hon. Baronet said it was justified by self-protection, and that people could not be expected to stand and have their throats cut, without making some resistance. Could we expect the Irish peasant to lie down in a ditch and starve, even although we brought horse, foot, and dragoons to the scene? And if not, what protection did the law give him? Well, then, if the law did not protect the life of the Irish peasant, did it protect his property? He lived by the occupation of his land, but it was not the practice for the landlord to erect the farming buildings upon it. The property of the Irish peasant consisted, therefore, in the buildings and improvements he had made upon his land. But the law gave him no property in these improvements. It allowed the landlord to sweep him off without compensation. He called attention to the fact, that the tenant-right prevailed over a large extent of country. Wherever it prevailed it gave the tenant the right to recover compensation for improvements, and more than this. In a large portion of Ireland the tenants are practically admitted to a part ownership in the land—are allowed, before quitting their farms, to the extent of five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years' purchase of the value of their holding. The Landlords' and Tenants' Commission had a chapter on these tenant rights, in which they state that in Ulster the value of the right is usually equivalent to ten years' purchase of the value of the holding; and 391 that in every county in Ireland, with the exception perhaps of Dublin, the practice of admitting a tenant-right more or less prevailed. But did the law protect this right? On the contrary, the law gave the landlord the possession of these improvements; and if he chose to refuse the tenant-right he might call upon the authorities of the county, and they would be compelled to enforce his claims. In a large part of Ireland, the tenant-right being admitted by the landlord, there was comparative freedom from agrarian outrage. But where it was not so admitted, there agrarian outrage prevailed. The dread inspired by those outrages was the only security the tenant had for obtaining the number of years' purchase to which he considered himself entitled. The 10, 15, and 20 years' purchase, was paid, not only by the incoming tenant, but by the landlord himself, when he got possession of the land. In the counties of Armagh, Antrim, and Down, it was well known that outrages would follow the breach of the tenant-right. This was shown by Mr. Senior and Mr. Handcock; the latter of whom said, that the whole power of the Horse Guards could not keep the peace in Ulster if tenant-right were denied. The reason why outrages did not now occur in Ulster was, that there the landlord recognized the tenant-right, and the law authorities gave way to it. There was a horrible case the other night, that would probably be brought before the House, of eviction in the county of Galway. In the Report of the Landlord and Tenants' Commission, from 50 to 60 pages of index were filled with ejectments only, which were followed in many cases by outrage. He did not wish to be understood as justifying or palliating these outrages; but wrong would beget wrong as long as human nature was what it was, and men were in danger of perishing frem starvation and want. It was, he knew, the opinion of lawyers that the right of property was sacred, and the first of all rights. Lord Brougham said the other night, in another place, respecting the landlord's right by law to eject the tenant:—Undoubtedly it was the landlord's right to do so if he pleased, and if he abstained he conferred a favour, and was doing an act of kindness. If, on the other hand, he chose to stand on his right, the tenants must be taught by the strong arm of the law that they had no power to oppose or resist. Such was the law of the land, and property would be valueless, and capital would no longer be invested in the cultivation of land, if it were not acknowledged that it was the landlord's undoubt- 392 ed, indefeasible, and most sacred right to deal with his property as he listed.And again:—This happened in consequence of the desire on the part of the landlord to have his land better cultivated, by persons who could bring to that cultivation the advantage of capital and skill. And it certainly would be a great hardship to the landlord in Ireland if he had not the free and entire power, as by law he unquestionably had, to dismiss the small holders," &.Thus Lord Brougham expounded the law to be that the landlord had the power of sweeping off the entire population of his estate. Well, that was just his (Mr. P. Scrope's) case, that the landlord could so overstrain the rights of property. But he could oppose to the dictum of Lord Brougham that of a better lawyer and a better man—Justice Blackstone, who enumerated amongst the primary rights and securities of the people of England, the right to support:—For," said he, "there is no man so indigent or wretched, but he may demand a supply sufficient for all the necessities of life from the more opulent part of the community.This right was at the bottom of all law. It was given to the English poor by the law of England, but it was refused to the Irish poor by the Irish law. Contrast in consequence the state of things in this country, where the right was established, with the state of things in Ireland, where it was denied. The case, indeed, was stronger in Ireland than in England, because here a large portion of the rental of the country was derived from the expenditure of capital and labour upon the land, while in Ireland there was the mere land and nothing else. He hoped the House would sanction and establish a measure which recognised, together with the rights of property, the right of the lower orders to a maintenance in the land of their birth. The right hon. Baronet opposite admitted the other night that the two points upon which he was insisting—the unhappy condition of the peasantry, and the state of the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, were at the foundation of the evils under which that country laboured. This had been known for fifteen years past, and yet no remedy had been devised. The existing system, without the powerful and active interference of the Government and the Legislature, would only continue and aggravate the evils to which he had been directing the attention of the House. The misery and destitution prevailing in Ireland induced crime, and that crime rendered the lives of the 393 upper classes and the safety of property so insecure, that persons would not invest their capital in improving the land, and hence arose the want of employment. The people of Ireland would continue in their present miserable condition to all eternity unless there was powerful interference on the part of the Legislature to break up the vicious system now existing, and to render the rights of the poor as secure as those of the rich. Much had been said as to rights and duties being reciprocal, and so undoubtedly they were. The rich in Ireland had rights, but they had also duties; and while their rights were enforced with all the power of the law, the performance of their duties was discretionary. But what was the case with respect to the poor? They had rights as well as duties; but while their duties were enforced with all the rigour of the law, backed occasionally by extra-constitutional measures, their rights were left to the discretion of the landlords. How the landlords dealt with the rights of the poor he would not now attempt to inquire. He did not mean for a moment to deny that there were many humane landlords in Ireland, who behaved in a benevolent and considerate manner towards their tenantry; but he complained that the existing law left the tenantry at the mercy of those landlords who chose to adopt a contrary course of conduct. He maintained that the foundation of all improvement in Ireland must be laid by affording security to the lives and property of the poor—by giving them such a right to relief in case of need as would preserve them from starvation. In the Bill which he had introduced, he had copied in a great measure the clauses of the Bill which he had himself introduced on the same subject in 1836. He proposed that the boards of guardians in Ireland should have the power, which they did not now possess, of giving outdoor relief to the destitute poor. Under the present law, when the union workhouses in Ireland were filled, the guardians were prevented from affording relief to the poor, who could not be received into the workhouses, though they might be at the point of starvation, and death might ensue. He proposed that the guardians should have the power to give relief to the able-bodied poor in the shape of work. In this proposition he merely followed the principle of the law of Elizabeth, which had, for so long a period, operated most beneficially, and which, in his opinion, was peculiarly adapted to the condition of Ireland; 394 for outdoor employment afforded to the labouring poor might be rendered effective in developing the resources of that country. There were in Ireland 4,000,000 acres of waste land, which were capable of being reclaimed; and experience had shown that the cost of reclaiming such land would, in many cases, be repaid by the produce of the crops for the two or three first years. There were also in Ireland 12,000,000 or 14,000,000 acres of land under cultivation or in pasture, which according to the opinions of competent judges might be made to produce twice, nay, four times as much as they did at present, by a better system of cultivation employing a great additional extent of labour. There was, therefore, no excuse for saying that Ireland was not capable of maintaining its own poor. One of the Commissioners of the Board of Works had stated that the cultivated lands of Ireland, under a proper system of cultivation would yield a produce five times greater than at present. It might be said that the landlords ought to afford employment to the poor, but they found the landlords did not do so; the Legislature should therefore take steps to compel the employment of the surplus poor—a measure which would promote the improvement of vast tracts of uncultivated and imperfectly cultivated land in Ireland. He therefore asked the House to introduce into the Poor Law some provisions for establishing an organized system of employment for the able-bodied poor. He proposed that this should be done in such manner as might be deemed most advisable by the authorities, by affording employment on extraordinary works, under the Board of Works or the county surveyors, in such a mode as to interfere as little as possible with the ordinary means of support of the labouring population. But he was told that the system of affording outdoor relief and the right of employment to the able-bodied poor would amount to a confiscation of property, and would overwhelm the country with pauperism. He maintained, on the contrary, that the want of such system prevented the proper development of the resources of Ireland; and that for their own sake even it was necessary to apply a Coercion Bill to the landlords of Ireland, rendering the employment of the poor compulsory. So far from the landlords sustaining any loss from the adoption of his (Mr. P. Scrope's) proposal, he was satisfied it would tend to their infinite advantage. The poor of Ireland, whom he thus proposed to 395 maintain by a system of compulsory relief, were supported by somebody or other now. Who did maintain them? The poor maintained the poor; the destitute were relieved by their neighbours; they went begging from door to door; and they were maintained unproductively. He asked them now to organize a system by which that capital in labour which existed in Ireland might be applied to public works and the reclamation of waste lands, and so be rendered productive. He believed the development of the resources of Ireland which would result from the employment of the able-bodied poor, so far from operating to the disadvantage of the landlords, would materially increase their rentals. The system he advocated had prevailed in England for 250 years, and its advantage had been evidenced in the increased productiveness and agricultural prosperity of the country. If, however, they admitted the right of the poor to relief, it would be necessary, as an adjunct to such a measure, to provide for the prevention of vagrancy and mendicancy. He also considered it desirable that the law of rating should be altered to some extent. The present system of rating electoral divisions operated most unfairly upon particular districts. For instance, if an ejectment took place in an electoral division, where, perhaps, the rate was not more than 1d. or 2d. in the pound, the poor would resort to a town, probably in another electoral division, which might be subjected to a rate of 2s. or 3s. in the pound. He would therefore propose that the rate should be made upon the unions, instead of on the electoral districts. He did not mean to deny that other measures, besides that which he was now proposing, might be required for ameliorating the condition of Ireland. The Commission of which Earl Devon was chairman had recommended an alteration of the law of landlord and tenant; but even such a measure would not, in his (Mr. P. Scrope's) opinion, relieve the Legislature from the imperative necessity of introducing for the first time into Ireland the principle of a law which had so long been applied successfully to England: under which the poor man enjoyed the right to live on the soil of his birth, and was secure of relief in the extremity of destitution. He believed that if they applied such measures as this to Ireland, Coercion Bills would scarcely be wanted. He thought that, concurrently with the Coercion Bill, the Government should have introduced measures to remove the causes of 396 those outrages and disorders which that Bill was designed to repress. He hoped there would be no delay in introducing measures for the accomplishment of that object; but he feared that among them he would not find one for effecting the alteration he now proposed in the Irish Poor Law—an alteration which, he believed, would tend most materially to the establishment of peace and order, and the security of life and property in Ireland. To justify the allusions he had made to the disorders unhappily prevalent in that country, he need only read the following extract from the Report of the Land Commission over which Earl Devon presided:—If a tenant is removed, he is looked upon as an injured man, and the decree goes forth for vengeance on the landlord or agent, and upon the man who succeeds to the farm. And at times a large proportion of the neighbourhood look with indifference (sympathy rather, or approval) upon the most atrocious acts of violence, and by screening the criminal abet and encourage the crime. Murders are perpetrated at noon day on the public highway; and whilst the assassin coolly retires, the people look on, and evince no horror at the bloody deed. The whole nature of Christian men appears in such cases to be changed, and the one absorbing feeling as to the possession of land stifles all others, and extinguishes the plainest principles of humanity.After such an opinion from their own Commissioner, he considered it was the bounden duty of Government to put aside every other measure, in order that they might devote all their energies to the consideration of some efficient measure for the tranquillization of Ireland. What was the testimony of Mr. Revans, Secretary to the Commissioners of the Poor Law in Ireland? Mr. Revans said that if the peasantry had not land, they must beg, steal, or starve; that, to obtain land, they must engage to pay any rent that might be demanded; that, to retain possession, when arrears had accumulated, they were compelled to enter into general combinations in defiance of the laws, and to commit atrocities of the most frightful description, What had been done since that period to improve the state of things? They had passed the Irish Poor Law, which offered a possibility of relief to one per cent. of the population, and now he called upon them to expand that law. The hon. Member concluded by moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ The question having been put,
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I am very sorry that a subject of such great importance should be discussed in so thin a House; but after the speech of the hon. Member who 397 has just sat down, I feel it my duty, however unwilling I may be to trespass needlessly on the time of the House, to take some notice of the various topics to which the hon. Member has adverted. In the first place, I will frankly say, that I acquit the hon. Member of being actuated by any motive whatever inconsistent with the purest intentions and the most earnest desire to promote the public good; but the hon. Member must excuse me for saying that, considering the present state of Ireland, and the excitement which prevails, I am of opinion that the topics which he has employed, and the manner which he has dwelt on them, greatly tend to aggravate the dangers of the present crisis, and to add fearfully to the difficulties of administering the affairs of that distracted country. The hon. Gentleman says, that he is consistent—that he has introduced these topics on various occasions before—and that the remedies he proposes are remedies to which, in the exercise of his judgment with respect to the affairs of Ireland, he is much attached. It is possible to be a consistent and honest enthusiast, and at the same time a very indiscreet adviser; and it is also possible that enthusiasts may rush in, where experienced statesmen, possessed of the requisite knowledge, and acquainted with the locality, would fear to tread. The great majority of the landlords, and of the representatives of Ireland, who know that country best, have come to a conclusion exactly opposite to that of the hon. Gentleman; and he will excuse me for saying that the Legislature would act wisely in receiving his advice with caution, and in dealing with the subject with that prudence which statesmen of the greatest experience, possessing local knowledge, deem a course preferable to that which the hon. Member would lead the House to pursue. The hon. Member has introduced in one speech, not only the question of relief to the able-bodied in Ireland, but has also brought under our consideration the policy of putting an end to mendicancy in that country. He has also recommended an alteration in the mode of relief, by substituting a union rate for the existing rate, and, more than all, he has dwelt at great length on a topic even more exciting and important—that of the tenure of land in Ireland. On this latter point, the hon. Member has asserted that which, in point of fact, I believe to be grossly inaccurate. He says that agrarian law in that country is generally predominant over the law of the land; and he has referred 398 to a statement I made on Monday last. That statement is directly at variance with the assertion of the hon. Member. So far from its being the fact that agrarian crime is general throughout Ireland, I repeat the statement that I made on that occasion, that throughout Ireland, in the majority of counties, crime is on the decrease within the last twelve months, as compared with antecedent years; and that it is only in five counties that agrarian crime is greatly on the increase. The statement I made rested on figures and reports of indisputable accuracy. The increase of crime is mainly limited to five counties. With respect to the crime of firing into houses in the night time, seven-tenths of that crime have occurred in the five counties I have alluded to, and the remaining three-tenths are distributed through the other twenty-seven counties in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman has said, that by the law in Ireland, as it now exists, there is no protection from actual starvation, and that there is no provision to prevent a man from dying in the streets from want. I meet that assertion by the fact, that I do not believe a case can be adduced of a man dying from starvation in Ireland, not even during the present extensive failure of the ordinary staff of life in that country. This is a proof that it is not, after all, the poverty of Ireland which is the cause of crime in that country. I would remark that robbery, theft, invasions on property for the purpose of taking it, either by force or craft, from the rightful owner, are not crimes prevalent in Ireland. Honesty, amidst great want, is a remarkable characteristic of the Irish people; and I give them credit for the moral character which sustains itself in honesty amidst such great trials. But if there were that extreme want, such as the hon. Gentleman has described in Ireland, it would be impossible for robbery and theft not to be crimes more common than they are. The hon. Gentleman has dwelt on the tenant right which is applicable to Ulster. I admit that right; and when the hon. Gentleman talks of the rights existing in Scotland and England, as compared with Ireland, I say that this is a right enjoyed by the Irish tenantry in large districts, which is not enjoyed by English or Scotch tenants. [Mr. P. SCROPE: It is not a legal right.] The hon. Gentleman says that it is not a legal right. I demur to that statement. I deny that it is a right obtained or held by force. On the contrary, it prevails 399 in that part of Ireland where violence is practised in the smallest degree. It is true that it is not enjoyed under statute law, but it exists under unwritten law as strong as statute law, and partakes of the character of common law. It exists advantageously and peaceably in a portion of Ireland; but I deny the assertion that it was obtained by force or is held by violence in that part of the country where it exists. But then the hon. Gentleman says that the occupation of land in other parts of Ireland is not of a sufficiently firm and certain tenure. Now I must be permitted to say, that in the present condition of Ireland, unguarded words or imprudent expressions dropped in the course of debate in this House may produce effects which those who use them would be the last to desire, and which they would shudder to contemplate. In this point of view, debates on this question in this House may, I fear, be written in letters of blood in Ireland, and may be followed by a sacrifice of life which we should all deplore. I therefore approach the subject with a degree of awe and hesitation which I cannot too strongly express; but I must state that the doctrine urged by the hon. Gentleman appears to me the most dangerous doctrine ever propounded. What is the meaning of the words used by the hon. Gentleman? He appeared to feel their tendency, and himself recoiled from their effect and consequences. If his doctrine meant any thing, it amounted to this, that occupation, whether for a term or from year to year, subject to the payment of rent, and to ejectment for non-payment of such rent, should be converted into a perpetual right, subject, no doubt, though the hon. Gentleman did not say so, to the payment of a quit rent. This is the subversion of all the rights of property: it strikes at the very foundation of the social system; and no revolution, however violent, could do more than convert an occupier into an owner, subject to the payment of quit rent. [Mr. P. SCRORE: I said no such thing.] The hon. Member did not say so; but the inevitable effect, perhaps not intended, of his doctrine with respect to the rights of occupiers in Ireland, as contradistinguished from the rights enjoyed by those possessing the tenant right, did point to an occupation in perpetuity; only he omitted to state that that occupation was to be accompanied by a quit rent. [Mr. SCROPE: I said nothing of the kind. I merely spoke of compensation for improve*- 400 ments.] The hon. Gentleman did not confine his observations to the question of compensation for improvements: he dwelt on the uncertainty of tenure and on the cruelty of ejectment. I approach this subject with fear, only it is necessary that when these observations are made in this House in the presence of those who are painfully responsible for the peace of Ireland, it should not go forth to the public that they were left unanswered and received no check. The observations of the hon. Member are pregnant with danger; for what do they amount to? They amount to this, that because in some few counties in Ireland agrarian outrages exist, therefore a Member of Parliament in this House recommends as a remedy that occupation subject to ejectment should by force of law be converted into a perpetual possession, thereby subverting all the rights of property and the law of the land to an extent which even a successful revolution could not surpass.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
I wish to be allowed be explain. The right hon. Baronet has totally misrepresented what I said. He is arguing on the assumption that I am desirous of seeing such a right as he has alluded to sanctioned by law; whereas all I urged was, that the tenant right ought to be legalized, or the tenant ought to have some means of obtaining compensation for his improvements.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I listened attentively to the hon. Gentleman, and while he was speaking, I asked the Attorney General whether he could comprehend what the tendency of the hon. Gentleman's argument was? "It surely points," I added, "to give a perpetual right, where a contingent and limited right now exists." That was the impression produced on my mind, and I am afraid, unless I had commented on the point, that this is the impression which would have gone forth. I can only repeat that I think it my duty to express in the strongest possible terms my dissent from any such proposition, whether made directly or indirectly. I will now apply myself to the question more immediately included in the Bill of the hon. Gentleman. Now, I object to the present moment, as being a period most inopportune for the passing of such a Bill as that introduced by the hon. Member. The distress in Ireland is great, and the difficulties of the present moment are urgent. Measures have been taken, partly with the concurrence of Parliament, and partly on 401 the responsibility of the Executive Government, to overcome these difficulties. The measures taken by Parliament are just coming into operation; and those measures are founded on an opposite assumption to that for which the hon. Gentlemen contends. They are not on the plan of the hon. Member, that the Poor Law guardians by a rate to be levied on property in Ireland should administer relief to the able-bodied. All the measures hitherto taken have been on an opposite assumption, and after the deliberation of the Legislature, so recently as within the last seven years, it was thought on the whole not to be expedient to introduce into Ireland for the first time the claim of the able-bodied to relief. The hon. Gentleman's proposition, therefore, would derange all the provisions hitherto made, would introduce the utmost confusion, and at a juncture like the present it is not prudent to incur the risk of such difficulties, and it is not the moment for discussing, much less for introducing, so serious a change. The hon. Gentleman says that there are 2,300,000 paupers in Ireland; and he adds, "give to them the claim to relief from the land by a rate to be levied on land." Now, all our experience in England would go to show that the land of Ireland would not be sufficient to meet the permanent claim of so overwhelming a description. I doubt the policy too of such a proceeding; it was fully debated in 1837, when the existing law in Ireland was passed. The hon. Gentleman proposes to go further than the Poor Law of England. At the present moment in England, the absolute decision whether relief should be given in or out of the workhouse rests with the board of guardians, and from their decision there is no appeal. There is no power extrinsic of the board of guardians, representing the ratepayers, to compel relief to the most destitute. But the hon. Gentleman goes further, and says that the guardians should not only be authorized, but required, to grant relief. The hon. Gentleman, therefore, in this most important particular, seeks to carry the law in Ireland further than the law in England at the present moment. [Mr. P. SCROPE: Magistrates have the power to compel relief in England.] Only ad interim. I thought the hon. Gentleman understood the Poor Law of England; but I find that he does not. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken in supposing that magistrates in England have the power of ordering relief. This is 402 a point which has been steadily resisted. They had that power before the Poor Law Amendment Act; but the Amending Act took the power from the magistrates, and vested it in the guardians, allowing the magistrates the qualified power only of granting relief in cases of emergency till the next meeting of the board of guardians. The hon. Gentleman appears also not to have taken into consideration the law of Scotland, which never provided for the able-bodied, even though destitute. In England, the law since the time of Elizabeth had been liable to abuse; and it was necessary to interpose the authority of the Legislature to check this right of relief on the part of the able-bodied. In Scotland, about the same time, a law of relief was admitted, but with greater caution and reservation. In Scotland, at no time, have the able-bodied been entitled to relief. The law of that country came under review last Session, and the question arose, will you introduce, for the first time, into that country, the claim of the able-bodied to relief? And, after much discussion and full deliberation, the question was decided in the negative. And are there no good reasons why it was so decided? Has the moral effect of the existence of that claim in England been found to improve the social habits or feelings of the working classes, as contrasted with the habits and industry of the people of Scotland? My prejudices are in favour of England; but I know that on all these points the working population of Scotland can bear most advantageous comparison with that of England. What would be the effect of admitting the claim to relief of 2,300,000 persons not sick or infirm? Why, of course, among all great bodies of ratepayers, there are persons sustaining themselves and their families with great difficulty by their industry; and if you let in a claim of this description, I fear the inevitable effect will be to swamp that industrious class, and to spread pauperism indefinitely; you will create a state of society so debased and so dependent, that, bad and unhappy as the condition of the working population of Ireland may be, I feel convinced, judging from the highest authorities who have treated the subject, and relying on experience, that a very short time will elapse before that condition will be rendered infinitely worse than it is at present. I admit at once, that property with its rights exists only for the good of the public, and the benefit of the community. But 403 would the passing of such a measure as this, which would break, down the rights of property, and change and transfer the possession of property, be for the public good? I join issue with the hon. Gentleman upon that; I say precisely the reverse. I say, that so far from being for the good of the public, it would tend directly to public danger and to anarchy. This, then, being my opinion, believing it not to be conducive to the public good, my respect for law and for possession and prescription leads me to make a firm and decided stand against such a proposition as that which is now brought forward. With my views and impressions, it is quite impossible for me to consent to the second reading of this Bill. I regard it as a departure from the existing law; pregnant with the worst and most dangerous consequences. My belief is, that the effect would be bad, and that the public impression produced by it would be still worse. Giving the hon. Gentleman full credit for purity of intention, I must say also, that I think the speech with which he has accompanied his measure to-day is, if possible, more dangerous and objectionable than the proposition itself. With these feelings and views, it is my duty to meet the proposition with the most firm and uncompromising opposition. I move, therefore, "that the Bill be read a Second Time this day Six Months."
§ MR. W. S. O'BRIEN
said, that, speaking not merely in his capacity of an Irish representative, but as an Irish landlord, he felt extremely obliged to his hon. Friend for bringing forward his Motion. When measures for the coercion of the Irish people were being brought forward and pressed on in the House, he thought that they should be accompanied by some measures the tendency of which would be for the good of the people. In replying to his hon. Friend, the right hon. Baronet had said that the tenant-right of Ulster was not obtained or supported by a system of violence. But let the right hon. Gentleman look to the opinion of one of the Government Commissioners, and he would find that the Commissioners had stated that an attempt to interfere with or abolish the tenant-right would convert the county of Down into the condition of the county of Tipperary. It was indisputable that the tenant-right of Ulster existed, and to a certain extent was sustained, not by the law, but by fear; and the Government could, without violating any existing law, lay the foundation of such a right in those dis- 404 tricts where it did not exist at present, by giving compensation for their improvements to such tenants as did actually improve their holdings. He did not mean to say that that Bill was a remedy for the present state of things. It was not a remedy for it. The present state of affairs in Ireland was anomalous, and it required an anomalous remedy. The existing scarcity required an immediate supply; and in his opinion a special rate should have been levied—a rate which should have been made payable on all descriptions of property. The right hon. Baronet had introduced at the present juncture a measure which was very unpopular, and something more satisfactory was required as an accompaniment. The Poor Law required amendment. The persons to whom the execution of it had been confided had contrived to come into collision with the people of all classes in every possible manner, rendering it still more unpalatable than it might have otherwise proved. He had himself done all in his power to aid the carrying of its provisions into effect, but to little purpose. The noble Lord near him (Lord John Russell) had, in his opinion, acted most injudiciously in rejecting the advice of the Commission of Inquiry into the condition of Ireland, with a view to the enactment of a Poor Law, which commission had included the Archbishop of Dublin. The noble Lord, to whom they were indebted for the measure, had despised the opinion of those Commissioners, and had thought fit to take, instead, the suggestions of a Commissioner who had spent only six weeks in Ireland, on the subject of refusal of relief to the able-bodied. What was the fact as regarded England? Why, that five-sixths of relief granted was out of door. Now, in England the Poor Law system had been long in force. Why then should they apply the workhouse test to Ireland? Why should they compel that country to adopt the workhouse system, which was most alien to the feelings of the people? It had been established that the cost of supporting paupers in the workhouses was from 1s. 9d. to 2s. 6d. a week each, whilst in many parts of Ireland it was well known that 4s. or 5s. was the most that a labouring man could earn in a week for the support of himself and his family. It was an exorbitant charge to bring upon the ratepayers for the support of the poor, and the poor themselves were disinclined to; and would not accept it unless they were on 405 the very point of starvation. The consequence was, the sympathies of the people were disposed towards those who preferred begging to entering the workhouse, which would not be the case if out-of-door relief were provided. The persons recommended by the first Commissioners of Inquiry for admission into public institutions, to be provided for there, were the aged, the infirm, the helpless, the sick, orphans, and deserted children. As to the latter class, the workhouses were notoriously the graves of foundlings. Scarcely a single foundling, as appeared by the returns, survived. But for the relief of the able-bodied unemployed, and incapable of finding employment, they should provide employment. And there he should say, that he did not think they had any right to assume that any money raised for the employment of the poor should, of necessity, be mismanaged. He did not see why such an assumption should be taken for granted. He thought that some mode of relief should be provided for those who were willing to work, but were unable to procure it. All the facts went to show that there was an abundant field for employment in Ireland—that there was an immense quantity of public works required—that there were immense tracts of waste land, which, if the landlords would not reclaim or cultivate, the Government ought to say they would take upon themselves to cultivate. There were millions of acres of waste lands in Ireland, and there were millions of the people incapable of finding employment of any description. There was not a Government in all the world that would not, under similar circumstances, feel themselves bound to provide the employment for the people which they so much needed. Amongst other matters recommended to the consideration of the Government had been a system of free emigration. There were many persons who had emigrated to the Colonies and to America, who had there advanced to a state of comfort and independence, to which they never could have attained at home. They had become in a few years proprietors. The right hon. Baronet had objected to the heavy charges to which the landed estates would be made liable by this measure. But if the landlords, who looked to their Irish estates only as a means of obtaining money to spend in London, would, by the weight of taxation, be obliged to think of their estates with a view to the improvement of the condition of their tenantry, he thought 406 the effect would be palpably beneficial. He did not call upon the House to establish the tenant-right at once throughout Ireland, but he did call upon them to provide security for the tenant. He wished to be surrounded by a happy population. The feeling of the Irish people was strongly in favour of the administration of the Poor Laws in a kindly spirit; and yet some, even of the Roman Catholic population—men of the most humane dispositions—had expressed themselves in favour of the Mendicants' Bill, in order to prevent the system of imposture by persons of bad conduct who made a trade of mendicancy, but who were more fitted to be inmates of a penitentiary than a workhouse; and he thought it possible to frame such a measure in a spirit that would not be offensive to the people of Ireland. The union rates, which had been so much objected to on the present occasion, had been introduced by Mr. Nicholl, and had been actually embodied in the first Poor Law Act which had passed that House by a large majority. It had been objected to in the other House, and removed; and upon the return of the Bill to that House no further notice had been taken of it. Upon the whole, he would support the principle of the measure, reserving to himself the right, when the details were under consideration, to suggest further amendments.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
wished to explain that he had not thought it necessary to discuss, on this occasion, all the points alluded to. He had only said that this Bill proposed four great alterations:—1. To give an absolute right of relief to the able-bodied. 2. To deprive the guardians of all discretion in giving it, requiring them to give it against their judgment. 3. To substitute unions for electoral divisions in giving relief, and levying rates; and, 4. To abolish mendicancy absolutely, and make it criminal in Ireland.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Asthehon. Member for Limerick has referred to me upon a point which I think has often been represented not quite fairly, in respect to my conduct with regard to the Report of the Poor Law Commission for Ireland, I wish to observe, that the Commissioners recommended the relief and support, within the walls of public institutions, of lunatics, cripples, and sick poor; and they also recommended provision for emigration, and for the relief of the aged and infirm, of orphans and deserted children, vagrants, widows with young children, the families 407 of sick persons, and casual destitution; and so far as the relief to be given in public institutions was concerned, I was ready to adopt the Report of those Commissioners. But with regard to two points—namely, the relief of indigent persons at their own homes, and forming depots for emigration, I had the most serious doubts. I did not think it was advisable to introduce a Bill which, in my opinion, would inflict an evil upon Ireland, without further inquiry and consideration. Now, it is to be recollected, that although these Commissioners were very good judges with regard to the state of Ireland as it then was, and with regard to what they knew of its wants, they were not equally good judges with respect to a system of outdoor relief: a system of outdoor relief having never been established in Ireland, I think it was not likely that they, having no experience on that subject, should be able to tell all the evils of that system. For the purpose, however, of further consideration, and with the view of seeing whether my objections were supported by others, I asked the opinion especially of two gentlemen,—viz., Mr. Senior, who had been one of the members of the Commission of Inquiry in England, and Mr. George Cornewall Lewis, one of the Poor Law Commissioners of England, who had paid great attention to the subject which is now under consideration. I ask those Gentlemen who say I neglected the whole of the Report of the Commissioners, and threw them out of sight in behalf of the recommendations of Mr. Nicholl—I ask them to consider, and, if they are able to answer, the reasons which these two gentlemen I have named gave against adopting the Report of the Commissioners, viz.:—Mr. Senior stated, with respect to the proposal for giving relief to indigent persons at their own homes, partly by private contributions and partly by a national rate, would introduce all the abuses of the old English Poor Law, and many others in addition. Mr. Lewis had similar objections, and showed that it would be a great injury to the property of Ireland, while the relief would not be confined to the indigent poor alone.He showed that in many instances the law of England had been abused; and he thought those abuses would be still greater in Ireland. Mr. Lewis also pointed out the dangers that would attend the establishment of depots for emigrants. He showed that people would come to them, on the ground that they were ready to go out as emigrants; but when the time came 408 for doing so, when the ship was ready for sailing, they would probably say that now they had changed their minds, and were not ready to emigrate. If, in such circumstances, these people were held bound by their first intention, you would then incur the reproach that yon were actually transporting those persons, instead of encouraging voluntary emigration. And if, on the other hand, you allowed them to remain in the house, you would, in another form, establish workhouses, without the proper rules and regulations that belonged to them, and that, therefore, it was better to establish workhouses at once with the regulations necessary for their government. These reasons appeared to me decisive, and I would have proceeded to introduce a Bill in the terms of the present Poor Law of Ireland; but I thought it better to get still additional information, and I asked Mr. Nicholl, one of the Poor Law Commissioners, to go to Ireland, and see if his observations there had led him to the same conclusions as myself and those gentlemen I had consulted. Mr. Nicholl made his report accordingly. I do not say that the Poor Law was founded on his experience or knowledge of Ireland; but I say it was founded on the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners of Ireland, with the checks I thought it necessary to introduce. It would have been unpardonable in me, with the knowledge I had, that outdoor relief had created great abuse in England, and was certain to produce greater abuses in Ireland, if I should have introduced a Bill establishing that principle, because it was recommended by the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland. It would have been inconsistent with my public duty to have done so; I must confess that, although the Poor Law then introduced has been subjected to great difficulties—though it cannot be said to have worked satisfactorily in many instances—yet my opinion with regard to the danger of the House sanctioning a Bill for the general administration of outdoor relief is unchanged. I think it would be dangerous to the well-being of the Irish people themselves. When you say there are 2,300,000 poor in Ireland, it does not mean that they are paupers, but that there are 2,300,000 persons who have not that abundance of food and those comforts you would like the subjects of this country to enjoy. I do not think the way to raise the condition of these persons is to give relief from any public fund. I will not go into the other questions that have been ad- 409 verted to both by the movers of the present Motion, and the Gentleman who has just spoken. They are very important questions—questions of union, rate, of the cultivation of waste lands, &c., which were too important to be discussed on this Bill, and with such an attendance as the House now exhibits. My opinion is, that the course you should pursue towards Ireland as well as towards England, is to endeavour to further and promote the means by which the labourers should be able to acquire an independent subsistence—that everything you can do for that purpose should be done; but that you should not encourage a measure by which the labourers of Ireland and England should be induced to draw their subsistence from public rates; that such relief should be confined, as far as possible, to persons in the utmost state of destitution; and that whether by a workhouse, or otherwise, or by any test that could, be discovered, they ought to discriminate between those persons who are so extremely destitute that they must receive relief from public charity, and those persons who are able, one way or other, to earn an independent subsistence for themselves. That is the general principle on which I have acted, and desire to act, and therefore I shall feel it my duty to vote against the second reading of the Bill before the House, at the same time looking to other measures for the relief of Ireland.
The O'CONOR DON
concurred in much that had fallen from the hon. Member for Limerick; but, knowing that in every part of Ireland there was the greatest objection even to the comparatively small amount of rates now imposed for the relief of the poor, he felt convinced they would feel the strongest objection to the additional and enormous rate which it was proposed by this Bill to impose upon them for that purpose. The arguments which had been adduced against the Bill were quite sufficient to induce him not to support it; but if the hon. Member for Limerick would bring forward a Bill in accordance with his own views, instead of supporting a Bill from all the details of which he dissented, he for one should be happy to discuss, and, if possible, to give his support to it.
MR. P. BUTLER
, from the intimate knowledge he had of Ireland, thought that outdoor relief was much more applicable to that country than to England. The poor were generally supported by the poor in that country, but there were also benevo- 410 lent institutions, from which great relief was obtained. For example, there were two institutions—one named the Charitable Society, and the other the Benevolent Society—which last week relieved 500 persons in the city of Limerick; while the number of persons relieved by the workhouse, which embraced 22 divisions, was not more than 700. A strong case had been made out for the proposal of the hon. Member for Stroud, that outdoor relief should be given; but he knew sufficient of Ireland to know that the proposition of the hon. Gentleman was perfectly impracticable.
§ MR. WAKLEY
had hoped to find a great number of Irish Members in the House on such an occasion, and to have heard it distinctly stated why it was that the poor of Ireland were to receive different treatment from the poor of England. The right hon. the Home Secretary had decided against giving outdoor relief in Ireland. That was the declaration of an influential Minister of the Crown; and the noble Lord who expected soon to be Minister, was equally opposed to outdoor relief: but here was a county Member for Ireland, well acquainted with the affairs of that country, who mixed with the Irish people, who passed a large portion of his time in Ireland, who was as decisively in favour of the Bill before the House. The hon. Gentleman appeared, at first, to speak doubtingly as to outdoor relief; but at least he gave it as his opinion that it should be established in the sister kingdom. Now, when they had such different courses pursued in legislation, they ought to endeavour to understand from influential persons, who took an interest in this question, what were the precise circumstances that led to the distinction which prevailed in the two countries. They found that in this country Irishmen preferred being sent to an English gaol rather than being sent back to their own country. He had been told this by Irish people themselves, who asserted that their condition would be preferable in a gaol in England, to being sent home to Ireland. Why was it that the same law was not meted to the Irish as to the English poor? They had heard it said, that if it were so, it would amount to a confiscation of property. Now, what was passing in Ireland at that moment? Was there not danger already both to life and property in that country? It seemed to be imagined that by staving off this thing, the evil would be lessened; but he believed the evils of Ire- 411 land would continue to magnify till they adopted the same course towards the Irish poor which was now in existence in England. A poor man in England being destitute, had a right to relief; in Scotland he had no such right, but destitution gave him the right in England, and that was the right of poverty as contrasted with the right of property. The noble Lord himself had often stated that destitution should be the foundation of the right, and that wherever it existed the right should be enforced. That principle was a good one, and productive of great advantages; and why, he asked, if it was for the advantage of the English labourer, would it not be for the advantage of the Irish labourers? Could Irish Gentlemen he contented to hear it stated in that House that their countrymen preferred being sent to a gaol in this country to being sent back to their own land? That was a statement that should excite a very painful feeling in their minds, and lead them to consider what must be the real state of the poor in their country. He asked Gentlemen who said that the measure he advocated would lead to a confiscation of property in Ireland, what would be the result of the progress of the present state of things in that country? They had millions in a state of destitution; and they had become so destitute that the right hon. Gentleman, the other night, gave them a most striking statement as to the indifference with which they regarded life; they had become reckless with reference to life, and almost reckless with reference to property. And why did they do so? Because they had ceased to have enjoyment of happiness or repose. They were in a state of privation and misery most deplorable, and they looked to that House in the hope of obtaining relief, by seeing adopted towards them the same system of relief which prevailed in this country. Was it not a painful source of thought to see a man who was out of work, destitute and starving, and unable to go into the workhouse, having no redress, no remedy at law, but doomed to perish from want; and yet no individual found responsible for this sacrifice of life. In such circumstances as these he believed that the property of Ireland was in a state of danger. It was maddening and exasperating, in the highest degree, to millions of the people; and no wonder if crime was committed even to a greater extent than had been stated in that House. He believed 412 that these crimes would increase unless they gave to Ireland one remedy—and that was the title to relief in cases of destitution. That was all he asked. Give to the Irish people the same law, in this respect, which they gave to the people of England, and the social condition of the people of Ireland would undergo a great change. The hon. Gentleman concluded by stating his intention to support the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Stroud.
LORD C. HAMILTON
was adverse to going into Committee, because there was so much more in the Bill that he disapproved than the contrary, and he should therefore vote against the second reading.
§ MR. FREWEN
meant to vote against the second reading because there were so many clauses in the Bill of which he disapproved. In his opinion, the present system of Poor Law in Ireland was such, that the only thing that could be done with it was to repeal the existing Statute, and bring in a new measure. He was decidedly in favour of outdoor relief, and had long been so. The present system of poor relief in Ireland did very little good, as the people would not go into the workhouses.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
said, he would not give the House the trouble of dividing. His object had been to some extent answered; for the principle of outdoor relief had made some way.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill put off for six months.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to Six.