§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I hope that, by the indulgence of the House, I may be permitted to make a Motion before it proceeds to the Orders of the Day. I ask this favour under circumstances of urgency. If the House had met yesterday, it was my intention to have made the Motion then, and it is for leave to bring in a Bill to make temporary provision for the treatment of destitute persons affected with fever in Ireland. Only yesterday morning Government received from the Lord Lieutenant a Report from the Commission appointed to watch the advance of distress arising out of the failure of the potato crop, announcing that, in all the provinces, almost in every county, and in various localities of different counties, dysentery, to a very formidable extent, 981 had made its appearance, attended by fever in many instances, and adding an apprehension that the fever would become general. Under these circumstances, the Members of Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that it was absolutely necessary to make some special provision; and I now ask leave to bring in a Bill for the object already stated. The substance of the measure I will briefly state. It asks that power should be given to the Lord Lieutenant to establish in Dublin a Board of Health, this board to be composed of commissioners, not more than five, already in the service of the public, and therefore requiring no additional salaries. It is proposed that three members of existing commissions shall be members of the Board of Health; and there is a medical officer already in the pay of Government who will be added to the body. It is proposed also that on the representation of this Board of Health power shall be given to the Lord Lieutenant to appoint in every Union a medical officer to be paid at the public expense; and on the representation of that medical officer that it is necessary, on account of the appearance of the fever in a formidable shape in the Union, to call upon the boards of guardians in the Unions either to build temporary fever hospitals, as in the case of Galway some years ago, or, failing that, to apply some existing edifice to the purpose. Provision is to be there made for the supply of medical assistance, medical comforts, food, and every thing necessary for the cure and treatment of fever at the expense of the Union. Power is also to be given to the boards of guardians to defray the expenses out of the poor rates. A provision will also be introduced that this measure shall only be of temporary duration. It is to be limited to the month of September 1847. Power will also be given in the Bill to the Lord Lieutenant, on the representation of the boards of guardians that fever has disappeared, to suspend its operation. I have now shortly stated the substance of the measure, and the House will see that no delay ought to be interposed. I shall therefore at once move for leave to bring in a Bill to make temporary provision for the relief of destitute persons afflicted with fever in Ireland.
§ MR. WAKLEY
had expected that some Member of Parliament connected with Ireland would have followed the right hon. Baronet; but he could not omit this opportunity of saying that it seemed to him that prevention was better than cure. The 982 right hon. Baronet said that additions were to be made to the Commissioners; that a board of health was to be established; that in different Unions medical officers were to be appointed; and that the Lord Lieutenant was to have the power to direct that fever hospitals should be prepared. This was all very well, but it must be attended with a heavy expense; and what he earnestly recommended was, that the money should be applied to the procuring of food for the people of Ireland. This ought to be done immediately, liberally, without stint, and without restraint. The experience of all medical men, in cases of fever arising from want of food, had proved distinctly and unequivocally, that do what you will to prevent its progress, but one remedy was successful, and that remedy was a supply of food. An able pamphlet had been published by Dr. Corrigan, in which he gave statistical details to show that no change of weather, no change of climate or condition of circumstances, would be effectual. Nothing would do but a change of food. As he had said, it was proposed that great expense should be incurred. Then, why not incur it in food? Why not give the people provisions, which was much better than giving them physic? The disease was now only commencing; it was in an incipient state, although in some districts it might have made considerable progress. This was the very time, then, to prevent the spread of fever by the spread of food. The question was between fever and food. Where fever had not yet made its appearance, let it be kept away by food. The supply ought to be sufficient and immediate; and he was sure that he only spoke the universal voice of England, when he said that every man would be delighted to learn, that a general and an adequate supply of food had been given to their Irish fellow subjects. Let it be borne in mind, that the great principle of prevention, in cases of fever, and, indeed, in all other cases, was better than cure. It ought to be a most serious consideration with Government how best to supply food; and by this means to put a stop to the progress of disease.
§ MR. COLQUHOUN
was very much inclined to agree with the last speaker. This was no new case, for the same thing had happened in 1823; and he might refer to the experience of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for its effects, when serious famine made its appearance in the west of Ireland. They would find that the appli- 983 cations then most earnestly made were for food. He believed that in 1831 there was a similar case; famine and disease broke out in that year, and that also received the only possible relief, which was in the shape of food. He would, therefore, most urgently entreat Her Majesty's Government, if medical relief was necessary, to bear in mind that food was of infinite importance.
§ MR. OSBORNE
expressed his fear that if Government was to provide food gratuitously for the distressed poor of Ireland, it would, create a system of eleemosynary relief, which ought by all means to be avoided. He could conceive of nothing so mischievous as leading the people to look up to Government permanently for relief and food. He would rather call upon Government to provide some regular employment for them. It had been anticipated by many that a great deal of employment would be created before this time, by the Railway Bills that were passed last Session; but he believed it was a fact, that none of these companies had as yet put a spade into the ground, in consequence of the want of money. He would put the thing in a more tangible shape, and would call on the Government to make grants of loans of money to these railway companies; by which means they would be able to proceed with their works, and to give employment to the people. Of what benefit would it be to send food into the country, if the people had not wherewithal to buy it? He did not know whether he had properly understood the proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury; but certainly nothing-would be so injurious to the people as to establish a system of eleemosynary relief.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
was sure that no objection would be offered from any part of the House to any measure that might be proposed by Government, for the purpose of extending relief to Ireland; but he thought they were entitled to ask Her Majesty's Ministers to lay on the Table of that House the whole of the information on which they founded their proposition. He quite concurred with the hon. Member for Finsbury, in thinking that it was for want of food that the evil of fever was arising; and the best mode of remedying that evil was to take care that those who were in want should immediately receive food to relieve it. He thought the way to obtain that object would be, as he had stated on former occasions, to purchase Irish oats, wheat, and food of every description; and not to send for maize from the United States.
§ MR. HUME
said, the subject was one of very great importance. He was very much of opinion that it would require serious consideration whether they should make the whole people entirely dependent for food on the Government, or means should not rather be devised to find thom employment. In the case of public societies which gave relief to the entirely destitute, they had ample proof how very rapidly the number of claimants increased, and how unworthy of relief the parties were. He should fear very much that such a course would have the effect of lowering, instead of raising, the quality of their food. It had been said that Indian corn was likely to introduce a better description of food, and thereby to assist in raising the character and aspirations of those who used it; but he much feared, with his hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Osborne), that if they were to distribute it indiscriminately to those who were in want, they would be doing more harm than good to the people. Whatever measures might be devised, he should desire the Government to be very careful in their iniquiries, discriminating as to the application of relief, and chary of its distribution. He meant chary, not from any disinclination to relieve those who were really destitute, but lest relief should be bestowed on those who were not really in want, or were undeserving of it.
could not agree with the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) that the best plan would be to purchase provisions in Ireland; for that would be to raise the price of provisions to those who wanted to purchase them, and make them generally dear. No: he could not but think the Government had done much more wisely. They had brought in a quantity of maize to replace the damaged potatoes, and caused it to be transported to Ireland under the Government auspices. Thus they certainly had added to the quantity. But he agreed with the suggession which had been offered by the hon. Member for Wycombe, in reference to railroads. Let it be remembered that these had to pay their deposits; he would not advise the Government to lend any money beyond the amount actually subscribed by the shareholders. If the shareholders in some instances had subscribed as much as 100,000l., there would be great difficulty in getting in the calls; and it would only increase the distress of the country to get them in. Whenever such a sum had been advanced, let Government advance by way of loan, at interest, 985 a similar sum; this would put the railroads in operation directly. This would be better than giving the people physic for nothing; food was the best possible physic; but instead of giving the poor food without work, give them the means of earning wages, which would enable them to obtain food. Thus, in the midst of this calamity, there would be an opportunity of doing good by taking the railroads which had their deposits subscribed, and advancing them an equal sum.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
Perhaps I may be permitted to explain to the hon. and learned Member and to the House, what has already been done towards giving the people employment by Government and by Parliament. In the first place, I would answer the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), with respect to the information on which we have called on the House specially to adopt this particular Bill. That information was only received yesterday; and I, on the part of the Government, shall have no difficulty whatever in laying on the Table a copy of extracts from this information. Even if the whole that we have received is not given, I am quite certain there will be more than enough to satisfy the House of the necessity for this Bill. With respect to what has fallen from the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Colquhoun), he has observed, most truly, that assistance was afforded to Ireland in 1832, partly by supplies of food, at a reduced cost, and partly by advances of money to public works. But, as has been already stated, the distress at that time was comparatively partial; it was confined, I believe, to two or three counties. But the difficulty with which we have now to contend pervades the whole of Ireland: it is to be found in every province, it is to be found in every county, it is to be found in every Poor Law Union, and, I believe, in almost every parish in Ireland. The course which Government has taken has been this. We have in particular parts of Ireland established depôts, where food can be bought at an easy price, at the very lowest price; and thinking, with the hon. Member for Wycombe, that eleemosynary relief ought to be avoided as much as possible, we propose to afford, to the utmost possible extent, either by means of public works to be undertaken, or by works already established, the means by which the people may be enabled to earn wages, and so to purchase food at the moderate cost at 986 which it will be supplied. By the adoption of these means we hope to afford very general relief. Exceptions may occur, as in the case of persons who cannot work; those in extremity may require aid of another description; but cases of that kind will not be overlooked. Now, with regard to the works in progress: the hon. and learned Gentleman has been detained in Ireland, probably by other avocations, and we have not had the pleasure of his presence here; but he must be aware that in the course of the present Session, Acts of Parliament have passed, giving either advances or loans to the extent of 300,000l., or nearly 400,000l. for the purpose of encouraging works in Ireland.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
The hon. Member calls on me to state the particular sums that have been so voted. With respect to Public Works in Ireland, there is an absolute advance of 50,000l.; for the piers and harbours there is another advance of 50,000l. Then, under the Public Works Act, there is an ordinary circulating sum of 60,000l., which is available this year as well as in each succeeding one. Then there is a further sum of 17,000l. or 18,000l. which has been specially granted for the previous inspection of works before they are undertaken, which expense would, under ordinary circumstances, have been partly paid by the counties, and partly by the promoters of the works. We have also included in these Bills clauses by which drainage and improvement of inland navigable waters may be provided for; and the many great works contemplated of that description will call for advances of 120,000l. or 130,000l. We are willing to entertain those propositions in the present year, and are prepared to approve of advances on that account. There is, in addition, another grant which received the sanction of the Legislature only about a fortnight ago, with reference to the presentments by the Grand Jury at extra sessions, for which another sum of 100,000l. has been specially demanded. Thus, I think, I have shown that, a sum of nearly 400,000l. has been granted; and, as my right hon. Friend near me has stated, instructions are given, upon the responsibility of the Government, to relieve unforeseen emergencies which it would be inexpedient in me to detail. But I may state, generally, that there is no portion of this distress, however wide spread or however lamentable, for which 987 Government has not endeavoured, either by legislation, by relief given in money, or by a sufficient supply of food, to provide a remedy, or at least an alleviation. With reference to this particular case of fever, I quite agree with the hon. Member for Finsbury. I believe that the fever in this case, as almost always in Ireland, may be traced either to an insufficiency of food, or to the use of food of a tainted kind. The great object, therefore, is to check the progress of fever, by providing better food. The best mode of doing this, in reference to the people there, is by providing them with work, and giving them wages for work; and I have already stated to the House the measures which have been adopted, not only last year, but in the present Session, for that purpose. In the course of the evening, either the noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) or myself, may move for a copy of extracts from the information we have received; and I shall be most ready to lay them on the Table of the House.
§ MR. W. SMITH O'BRIEN
was bound to say, with regard to the sums of money mentioned by the right hon. Baronet as having been, on a former occasion, voted by the House for the relief of Ireland, that, as far as his own information went, not one single guinea had ever been expended in the manner prescribed. He was also bound to tell the right hon. Baronet that 100,000 of his fellow creatures in Ireland were famishing. He had himself departed thence only a week, and he had more than once seen whole families sitting down to a meal of potatoes which any Member of that House would be sorry to offer to his hogs. Under such circumstances, did it not become the House to consider in which way they could deal with the crisis? He would tell them frankly—and it was a feeling participated in by the majority of Irishmen—that he was not disposed to appeal to their generosity. There was no generosity in the matter. They had taken, and they had tied, the purse-strings of the Irish purse. Irishmen had been taunted and belied by the English press; and now, even in that House, he saw something of the same character. But he would not dwell on such a topic at the present mo-moment: as an individual, he thought that the Irish people were themselves able to provide for the calamity with which they were visited out of the national resources of Ireland; and he also considered that, if the House compelled the proprietors of land in Ireland to do that duty which they 988 ought to do to the people, there would be neither disturbance nor starvation. It was a measure of that kind which was wanting. They ought in the very first instance, and before all else, to compel—for nothing but compulsion would be successful—the absentee Irish landlords, squandering away their fortunes in London and in other parts of England and Europe, to return to their estates, and there to fulfil the ordinary duties which humanity dictated to those placed beneath them in point of wealth. He was indeed well aware that at such a time, in such a country, to allay such distress, individual exertion, however humane and however generous, could do little; but by something of the nature of an equitable Property Tax, which would affect not only the proprietor of land, but also those who collected and received a portion of the revenue of the land, a great deal could be done; and to such a tax neither he, nor he believed, any other Irish Member would object. If they adopted measures founded on the principle of the Bill introduced into the House of Lords last year by Lord Stanley, that of giving compensation to tenants who had expended capital in the improvement of their farms, they would be opening up sources of employment which had hitherto, and most unfortunately, been completely unknown. He (Mr. S. O'Brien) had to apologize for speaking on this subject; he would not have addressed the House at all if he had not felt himself coerced to it. He had also to apologize for speaking in a tone which could not be acceptable to the House; but he was sure, at the same time, the House would feel that, circumstanced as they were in Ireland, they could not be merely passive spectators of the contingencies with which they were threatened. He was bound frankly to tell the truth; and he, for one, was not prepared nor disposed to make an appeal to English generosity. What Ireland claimed from a British Parliament was just legislation—a legislation which should compel the landed proprietors to do their duty to the people—a legislation which, once obtained, would satisfy and appease every demand.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
was extremely anxious to say one word on this subject. He did not believe there was one English Member who was inclined to treat the question as one of generosity, or who would not be ready to go as far in kindness to his fellow subjects as the hon. Member for Limerick, or any one else. He very much feared, 989 however, that speeches of the nature they had just heard would only have the effect, or rather would tend to create inflammatory feelings in the minds of the Irish against that House. He hoped that the measures Government had adopted, and which the House would continue to support, would satisfy that country how deeply seated were their feelings of commiseration for that distress. They deeply felt for that distress, and deeply did they sympathize with their misery. The question, however, was how they were to deal with it. He hoped that something better might be devised than had yet been done by the Government, though he did not yet see his way clearly. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. Wakley) had indeed shadowed forth something, but in such vague and indistinct terms that he feared nobody had understood him, though he did not believe anybody cared whether they understood him or not. It was, that they were to bestow eleemosynary gifts, and to give large sums for the purchase of food. If this were what the hon. Member did mean, he begged leave to differ from him; for nothing could be more demoralising than to give temporary relief with any view of benefiting the people. If they did this, in his opinion it would not really benefit them, and would hardly even be received as a boon. He thought, with the hon. and learned Member for Cork, that the introduction of maize would to a certain extent afford relief to the destitute population of Ireland; but he, for one, feared that that relief fell very far short of what ought to be given. He very much feared that the alteration of the Corn Law would be inadequate to give the relief required. They must apply some more immediate remedy than giving corn cheap some months hence, and giving more some years hence. This would not meet the existing evils; still less would the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck,) to purchase oatmeal and flour for the purpose of distributing it to the Irish people.
§ SIR R. PEEL
I was sorry to hear the imputations passed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) who opposes the introduction of the Bill proposed by Government, on the House, and on the English Members of this House more particularly. I think nothing can have been more marked than the disposition of this House to introduce and to adopt every measure which could, by possibility, mitigate the evils of 990 scarcity, and of disease consequent upon that scarcity, in Ireland; and even those who dissented from the course taken upon many other points by Her Majesty's Government have manifested a most earnest, most eager, desire, to co-operate with us in this great object. Now, I do not think, as has been said, that the evil is of a temporary nature. On the contrary, I think you will find that it has much of a character of permanency, and that, at any rate, it will continue much beyond the present year; and my impressions, originally, were so strong on this subject, that they justified me in considering something more than temporary measures should be taken. And in the absence of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. O'Brien) we have been occupied the whole of this Session, so far as it has yet advanced, in giving precedence over every other business to those measures which had for their object giving relief to Ireland; and whatever differences of opinion in other respects may have prevailed, we were unanimous in deferring every thing else to the measures for the amelioration of Irish distress. And they passed almost, too, without, discussion. There was a wish on both sides of the House to give every facility; and now the hon. Gentleman comes down, two months or six weeks after, only to say that the Irish scorns to profit by English generosity. He has also proposed that we should have an Income Tax for Ireland. Well, will the hon. Gentleman have an Income Tax for a limited period—for six months? Will he propose and arrange the whole machinery of such a task? And how long does he think it will be before the Income Tax for Ireland, to endure for a limited period, shall pass this House? But then the hon. Gentleman will say, the reflection he makes is not on English Members, or on this House; it is upon Irish proprietors. He complains in his speech that Irish proprietors will not perform that moral duty which is imposed on them and on all great landowners—a duty which they will refuse, he states, to acknowledge without the interference of the law. Now, I say at once, that unless Irish proprietors are ready to come forward and to co-operate with the Government, all that the Government can do will be of little or of no avail. I am perfectly certain, that if Her Majesty's Government proposed, by the setting aside of a stun of money, to mitigate either scarcity or famine in Ireland, the House of Commons would grant it, if that were the only consideration, without a word 991 of dissent. But I advise you to take care that this prodigality of benevolence does not defeat itself. If you choose to say that you will, without any co-operation, without any local exertion whatever, undertake to feed the Irish people in this time of scarcity, all your efforts will be, and must be, useless. For, from that moment the proclamation has gone forth that no individual energy is asked for, that the aids of local authority are not necessary, but that Government will undertake the responsibility of feeding the people of Ireland, from that moment the Government alone will be relied on. But then you will fail: it is local exertion you must depend on. There ought to be in Ireland with the local proprietors an anxious co-operation, in place of an unfriendly disregard. There should be in every direction local committees formed, to give and to spread information, and to organize the means of seconding us in the object we have in view. I will venture to say, on the part of the clergy of all religious persuasions, that they will readily meet us and assist us. It is in vain to throw this task exclusively on the Government and on the House of Commons; without local aid and co-operation the work will not be effectually done. We have proposed various measures; we have, certainly, not advanced any suggestions of wholesale grants of money or of food, because it would be an utter demoralization of the people—creating an evil which it would be impossible to cure; it would teach habitual dependence, and looking to authority for that which is a moral duty for themselves to perform. And I say this not from placing too high a value on the mere pecuniary consideration, but because your benevolence, to be effectual, ought to be directed by caution and discretion. The aids suggested to be given to railroads cannot be of very great moment for this purpose. This distress is so wide-spread, and pervades so many parts of the country, that it would be a very doubtful and dangerous experiment to concentrate the population in the immediate neighbourhood of railroads. It is not well to make men leave their families, and to congregate together in one district, for the one object, and thus, as it were, depopulating other districts, to the total neglect of other occupations. It is a matter requiring great caution. I am disposed to think that by giving an assistance in extending smaller local works, we shall be doing that which is of far greater importance than is supposed. 992 By what we have done with reference to the coasts of Ireland, we shall be laying the foundation for considerable after-prosperity, and for a great increase in the fisheries; and 2,000l. or 3,000l. laid out in this way may do more than by an advance of 200,000l. to some great line. But, considering the objects we have had in view, the manner in which the attention of Parliament has been directed to this subject, and the scarcity in Ireland, I must say I think it rather hard for an Irish Member who has taken no part in our deliberations to come at last, and declare that the Irish people scorn to take anything from English generosity, and to insinuate, in addition, that we have neglected our duty to his country. I think that had this distress occurred in any other part of the country, in Wales or in Scotland, there would not have been so unanimous a wish to afford that relief we are enabled to give—a feeling manifested amid all our many political variances; and instead of upbraiding us, if the hon. Gentleman would but address exhortations to his own countrymen, requesting their co-operation, depend upon it, he would do much more than he can hope to do by casting upon us these imputations.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
admitted that his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick had spoken warmly upon this subject; but they must remember that he had come from Ireland, where he had witnessed the distress of the people, and where he had found no practical effort yet made to mitigate it. [Sir J. GRAHAM: Every application made from Ireland had been answered the very day it had been received.] The effect of that expenditure had not yet been made visible. The hon. Member for the county of Limerick had been taunted with being absent from his duties in that House. Those who uttered the taunt, ought to have known before they gave utterance to it, that if his hon. Friend were absent, it was not only with the knowledge and the consent, but with the full approval, of his constituents. His hon. Friend had been in that place where it was believed by his constituents his hon. Friend would best discharge his duty to his country. He had been present at these discussions, and was ready to give his testimony to the anxiety displayed by them in that House to relieve the distress in Ireland—that testimony he was bound to give, and he tendered it in the most unequivocal manner. His hon. Friend had spoken under a strong feeling, excited by the taunts of a paper against the 993 Irish; of a paper—the Times—which had aided in displacing the Whigs, and putting the present Government in office. His hon. Friend had suggested the imposition of an absentee tax. If ever there were a fair tax, that would be one; and if they proposed it, he was sure the Government would receive a considerable amount of support. At least it was worth their while to try what support they might get. If Government proposed it, they would have the support of the Irish Members—they would gain the warm sympathy of the people, for all honest men must desire to see a high tax imposed upon the heartless absentee landlords of Ireland. His hon. Friend had another cause for exasperation, though he had not spoken of it at the moment—that was the Coercion Bill which was coming down to them from the other House. That was an unconstitutional, exasperating, and unnecessary measure, and one too that would utterly nullify all the good effects that might have followed for any sympathy they had expressed for Irish distress. And he might add—that was a measure that would have the most disastrous effects upon the two countries. With regard to what was to be done at the present crisis, he would implore of the Government to let the people have food at once, whether they gave it as alms, or enabled them to purchase it by the efforts of their own industry. At this moment the people in many districts in Ireland were consuming the seed potatoes, so that there was not only the certainty of famine this season, but the prospect of it in the succeeding years. With this distress came the heavy burden of the poor rate, to be made still more heavy by the present measure, upon the occupying tenants; for in Ireland the landlords threw the burden of the poor rates upon the occupying tenants. As to stopping a portion of the rates from the landlord, he said he should like to see the condition of the unfortunate tenant who would dare to stop a single penny of poor rate from the rent of his landlord.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
wished to call the attention of the Government to the inconsistency which was now manifested in the working of the new Poor Law. The burden of enforcing the rate was thrown upon the Poor Law guardians; but no power was given to them of employing the people. In making this remark, he gave the Government and the House credit for their intentions towards the people of Ireland. He wished to see the land of Ire- 994 land made liable for the maintenance of the poor of that country, who, if they had the claim upon the land which the English people possessed, would not now be in such distress. With regard to the Bill under discussion, he desired strongly to impress upon the right hon. Baronet that there was a necessity to provide for other kinds of sickness than dysentery, and that provisions should be introduced into the measure for that purpose. The House should also adopt measures which would give a stimulus to private exertion in the improvement of the lands of Ireland; and that could not be done unless the tenantry had security for embarking their capital. He very much regretted that no measures had been yet brought in founded upon the Report of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. There were various important recommendatious contained in that Report, and he would take the present opportunity of pressing upon the Government the necessity of considering the propriety of bringing in measures founded upon them.
The EARL of MARCH
said, that though he disagreed from the general policy of Her Majesty's Ministers, he thought it incumbent to rise and state his opinions on the subject under discussion. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. S. O'Brien) had told them to-night, in the name of the people of Ireland, that he would not throw himself upon the generosity of that House. He entirely repudiated and repelled with indignation the very idea that hon. Members on that side at least were actuated by the feelings that they were "generous" towards Ireland in supporting the measures which had been introduced for the alleviation of distress in that country. On the contrary, they felt that they were doing nothing more than their duty. In the year 1822 a sum of, he believed, 250,000l. was voted by Parliament for the relief of Irish distress, whilst nearly an equal amount was raised in this country by private charity; and he now told the hon. Member for Limerick, in the name of the people of England, and in the name of those hon. Gentlemen who were sitting around him (the Earl of March), that if Her Majesty's Government were to come down to the House, and state that it was necessary for the relief of the people of Ireland that a sum of 100,000l., or any other amount, should be voted, they and he would have no hesitation in giving it their support.
§ MR. SHAW
thought his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had 995 misinterpreted the observations made by the hon. Member for Limerick, respecting Irish landlords. He understood his hon. Friend (Mr. O'Brien) not to complain of the resident landlords, but of the absentee proprietors. Moreover, it appeared to him that the right hon. Baronet had himself cast an imputation, very unmerited, on the resident landlords of Ireland—it was, that they were not ready to do their part in co-operating with the Government, to relieve the distress of the Irish people. Now, he (Mr. Shaw) insisted that there was no class more unjustly maligned than the resident landlords of Ireland. It was true that they were comparatively few in number, not generally as wealthy as the English proprietors, and placed under difficulties to which those in that country (England) were strangers; but he maintained that, as compared with their means, there was no body which, as a whole, did more to improve the condition of their tenantry and dependants, and to alleviate the distress of the poor that surrounded him. He admitted and deplored the great evil of Irish absenteeism. He saw great difficulties in an absentee tax; and he believed that neither tax nor any other remedy could cure the evil, until there was that security for life and property in Ireland, which unhappily was so much wanting at the present time. He willingly bore testimony to the universal sympathy for the scarcity and distress in Ireland, which had been evinced by that House; but he regarded it as most unfortunate that the question of Irish famine should have been unnecessarily mixed up with the political measures of the Government relating to the general commercial policy of the country. He did not mean, as others had said, that the Government had made the potato failure in Ireland a mere pretext for measures which had been previously determined on; but he certainly thought that the Government, having been at first misled, and, as it were, panic-stricken, by exaggerated statements of the extent of the disease, had put it forward as the foundation for those measures, and then found it difficult and inconvenient to abandon that ground. He was still of the same opinion that he had before expressed in that House, in respect of the failure of the potato crop in Ireland, namely, that although there had been a failure to a considerable and lamentable extent, still that that failure had been exaggerated. He had visited Ireland since his former statement, and again consulted practical men, 996 as well as the market prices throughout the country: he would admit too, that there had recently been an increase of the disease in the potato; but he still would maintain the general correctness of his former statement—that, while there was abundantly sufficient prospect of scarcity and distress in many parts of Ireland, to require every precaution that the Government could adopt, in order to alleviate them—yet, that upon the whole, in the greater part of Ireland, there was either an average stock of potatoes remaining, or a more than usual supply of other food as a substitute for them. He knew that it was unpopular to make those statements, but truth often was unpopular—it might appear at first sight unfeeling—Gentlemen at the other side might represent it as inhuman, in the present suffering condition of the Irish people; nevertheless, none of these considerations should deter him from stating, upon a question of so great importance what he sincerely believed to be the real facts of the case. In providing for the admitted scarcity, he agreed with his noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), that it would have been much simpler and wiser for the Government to have purchased Irish oats, and other Irish food, where they were produced, than to have suffered them to be exported in such large quantities as they had lately been, and then to have had recourse to the roundabout course of bringing maize from America. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) said, that would have had the effect of raising the price to the English artisans—but, surely, in point of general economy, it was obvious the expense of carriage and freight would, at all events, have been saved by purchasing Irish food on the spot where it was wanting: it would have been more congenial too to the taste of the Irish people; and as maize could be now introduced at a nominal duty only, the English artisans could as well have purchased it. With respect to the Bill proposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), he was apprehensive that it might add considerably to the burden of the Irish ratepayer, which was already sufficiently weighty; but he would not oppose that or any other measure which the Government, upon their responsibility, should introduce as a temporary expedient to meet the present temporary emergency in Ireland.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The statement of the right hon. Gentleman made it desirable that some further and more par- 997 ticular accounts as to the distress in Ireland should be obtained. The right hon. Gentleman had, most honourably to himself, borne testimony a second time to the sympathy displayed by that House for the sufferings of that country; and that if there was any measure the House could adopt, or the Government could propose, which could tend to alleviate that distress, and to put the people in a better position to meet the evil, the House was ready to sanction such a measure. But there was great danger, in adopting measures which seemed at first view to be most calculated to relieve distress, that they might be productive of permanent misery. He remembered a large subscription having been entered into—more than 150,000l. he believed—upon occasion of great distress in the manufacturing districts; and upon after inquiry it had been found that great mischief had been done by the general granting of alms, without regard to the position of the recipents as regarded work; and he had been assured that many persons had become permanently impoverished and pauperised owing to the want of care with which the funds had been collected and distributed. He was inclined to attach very great importance to the opinions of Mr. Twisleton, the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, and such other gentlemen as the Government had thought fit to consult upon the subject, with respect to the precise condition of the Irish population at the present moment, and in reference to the prospects that were probably opening before them; and he hoped that those opinions would before long be submitted to the consideration of the House. He was particularly desirous of knowing what reports Mr. Twisleton and those who were associated with him were prepared to make as to the extent of the distress prevailing and likely to prevail in Ireland, and as to the best method to be adopted for remedying it. He did not mistrust the measures which had been adopted by Government with a view to the relief of the Irish people. On the contrary, he believed that they were prudent, well-advised, and benevolent; but he thought it was exceedingly desirable that information should be had from time to time from persons so well qualified to form an opinion on the question as those who had been appointed by Government to inquire into the subject—information both as to the extent of the distress, and as to the effects produced by the remedial measures adopted by the Government as they came 998 into operation. He confessed he was sorry to find that any delay, though it were ever so trifling, had taken place in carrying into effect the Acts which since the opening of the Session had been passed by that House for the benefit of Ireland. It was true that those measures had been but recently enacted; but the very necessity which had created the occasion for their immediate introduction rendered it imperative that as little delay as possible should occur in carrying them into operation. He fully concurred in everything that had been stated by the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury with respect to the necessity for local exertions by the affluent and wealthy, with a view to the relief of the people in the present scarcity; and he was of opinion, with the right hon. Baronet, that more was to be expected from such exertions than from the undertaking of railways or other public works. These great national enterprises, however, were not to be disregarded; on the contrary they ought to be taken in hand with the utmost zeal; and he trusted that the various district Committees that had been appointed throughout the country, and which were in communication with the Government, would see the necessity of using all possible expedition in adopting measures for commencing the works in their different localities. He also thought that it was in the highest degree desirable that such information as could with safety be relied on, should be submitted from time to time to the House, as to the manner in which the proprietors and landowners of the country were conducting themselves, and to what extent they manifested an inclination to co-operate with the Government. Such information would be satisfactory to that House, and its diffusion would be gratifying to the feelings of those amongst the landed proprietors who manifested a desire to discharge their duty in an exemplary manner, at the same time that it would operate as a stimulus to others who were tardy and reluctant.
§ SIR R. PEEL
remarked that the observations which had fallen from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin appeared to imply a charge against the Government, that they had exaggerated the amount of distress prevailing, and likely to prevail, in Ireland. Now, all he had to say to this was, to express a hope that hon. Members at all sides of that House would suspend their judgment until Monday next, when 999 certain Papers which he then held in his hand, and which had been received yesterday, would be printed, and accessible to all. It would be then seen whether Her Majesty's Government had or had not exaggerated the true state of affairs in Ireland.
LORD CLAUDE HAMILTON
rose to make some observations with reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Limerick. He concurred in what had been stated by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government with respect to the duty which devolved upon Irish landlords of making local exertions with a view to alleviating the distress which was impending over the Irish population. He represented a county which possessed the advantage of a resident proprietary, and he had not the slightest doubt but that the landlords in that county, and indeed in Ireland generally, would discharge then-duty in a becoming manner, and act up to the advice given by the First Lord of the Treasury. He must vindicate the Irish landlords from the aspersions cast upon them by the hon. Member for Limerick—taunts which came with a peculiar bad grace from such a quarter. The hon. Member had tonight, for the first time this Session, made his appearance in the House. He had neglected his own duties, both as a landlord and a representative, and had devoted his undivided time and attention to the task of fostering a system of agitation most pernicious to the best interests of his country. And yet the hon. Member now came over here to cast censure on the landlords of Ireland; whereas the real state of the case was this, that if all the Irish landlords were like himself, all the legislatures in the world could not save Ireland from utter ruin. The hon. Member feigned a great anxiety about the Irish people; but he was acting a part hostile to their interests, by lending himself to that baneful system of agitation by which Ireland was convulsed, and prosperity rendered unattainable to her population.
§ MR. SHAW,
in explanation: The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) has misrepresented what I said. I did not accuse the Government of wilful exaggeration. I did not even accuse those who misled the Government of wilful exaggeration; but I said, what I am ready to maintain, that the statements as to the potato failure in Ireland were in fact exaggerated; and I am persuaded that the Papers to be produced by the right hon. Baronet will not change my opinion in that respect.
§ SIR R. PEEL
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) said that we were deceived originally, and that we had not afterwards the manliness to acknowledge our error, but wilfully persevered in it.
§ MR. BERNAL
believed that the present condition of the Irish population was in the last degree alarming and distressing, and such as to command the warmest sympathy of that House; and this being his feeling, he had heard with extreme sorrow what his right hon. and learned Friend opposite (Mr. Shaw) had said respecting reports being exaggerated. He did not require to wait until Monday next, as had been suggested by the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, before he made up his mind with respect to the actual condition of Ireland, for he could not bring himself to believe that any Government would be so imprudent, so indiscreet, or so malevolently wicked, as, for the sake of carrying any party or political object, to play with such a topic as the distress of millions of human beings—distress, too, which verged upon the point of starvation, pestilence, and death. He implored of his right hon. and learned Friend to approach the consideration of this question dispassionately, and, throwing aside all party bias, to ask himself calmly and deliberately this question, whether, from his own knowledge of the character of Her Majesty's Ministers, he thought it likely that any of them would be so silly and so wicked as to mingle, for a petty party purpose, truth and falsehood indiscriminately in the discussion of a topic of such awful importance as the condition of our fellow subjects in Ireland. If ever there was a crisis which demanded prompt and vigorous exertion on the part of the Legislature, the present was that crisis, for the lives of thousands upon thousands were at stake. This was no time to quibble about politico-economic objections. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary had announced that he had learned from the reports of persons who were appointed to investigate the condition of the Irish people, that famine and typhus fever were rapidly approaching. This being the awful state of affairs, was the House of Commons to stand still waiting for the dilatory proceedings of railway companies, com- 1001 missioners, and boards of works? It was all very fine to talk of teaching the Irish people to depend on themselves, and to buy oats and barley for their own use. Where were they to get money to purchase food? A vast proportion of the Irish population had no money in their pockets to buy either such provision as was indigenous to the soil, or such as might be imported. What arrant nonsense it was, then, to bid them buy food! Were they to be starved to death pending the arrival of the period when riches would come upon them? Extraordinary cases must have extraordinary remedies. Let the nostrums of political economists be flung aside. If famine and disease were approaching, these, evils should be met in time, and, if possible, averted. Were the people to starve and rot in pestilential lazars? Certainly not. He was anxious to know whether the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department would be able to explain, by means of the Reports which he intended to lay upon the Table, the reasons why there was not a more accelerated progress made in carrying into effect the measures which had already been passed in that House to facilitate the employment, of the Irish people in public work? [Sir JAMES GRAHAM observed that the Bills in question had not received the Royal Assent until within the last few days.] The question then was, what were the Irish poor to do in the interval? They were told that it was useless to depend on the landlords. In what a dilemma were the sufferers placed? For his own part, he would declare that there was no proposition, whether conformable or irreconcilable with the principles of political economy, which he would not support, if its tendency were to secure the welfare and the salvation of the Irish people.
The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
did not wish to detain the House by any lengthened remarks upon the subject, with respect to which general unanimity appeared to prevail; but as the hon. Member who had just sat down appeared to be under the impression that some unnecessary delay had taken place in carrying into effect the measures which had been lately passed by that House for promoting public works in Ireland, he felt himself called upon to say a single word in explanation. The Bill under which authority was given for increased grants had only been passed a few days ago, and no delay which was at all avoidable had taken 1002 place. Three days since authority had been given to the Board of Works in Ireland to undertake important public works in the county of Clare and the county of Meath, these being the districts of the country in which the distress appeared to be most oppressing; and if any delay h[...] taken place it had unavoidably resua[...] from the necessity of ascertaining what description of works it was most desirable should be undertaken.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
observed that there was no measure which the Government could adopt with a view to relieve the distress and difficulty in which the Irish people were now placed which would not command his warmest and most cordial support. A noble Lord opposite had censured the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Smith O'Brien) because of his taking part in the repeal agitation; but if anything could justify an Irishman or an Englishman in advocating the repeal of the Legislative Union between the countries, it was the contemplation of this fact, from year to year, that the Irish people were not treated as the English people were by that House. He put it to the conscience of the Members of that House to say whether they had dealt with the people of Ireland as they had dealt with the English people. In England the peasantry had the first claim on the produce of the land, and justly so, because their labour went in a great degree to create it; but in Ireland, where the agricultural produce was created by the toil of the agricultural classes in a much greater degree even than in England (for in England the soil was more indebted to the expenditure of capital than in Ireland), the population were treated with no such respect or consideration. In England the claim of the agricultural classes to food was—so to speak—the first charge upon the soil. No man could starve in England as long as means for his support were to be found in his parish. Before the landlord could touch one penny of rent for his estate, especial care was taken that the poor man should not be reduced to starvation. But this unhappily was not the case in Ireland. In Ireland there were many considerations which intervened between the poor man's claim and the produce of the land; and as long as this was so, how could they censure the Irish people for being discontented, and for complaining that the same measure of justice was not granted to them which was awarded to the people of England? The right hon. Baro- 1003 net the Secretary of State for the Home Department had intimated his intention of introducing a Bill, one of the provisions of which was to give to boards of guardians additional power to grant relief; but this additional relief was only to be granted to such of the population as had been prostrated by disease, and were actually stretched upon the fever-bed. It occurred to him that a much wiser and more humane proceeding would be to adopt some measures to prevent the population from being reduced to such a dreadful condition. It was an essential condition to the right of enjoying the relief which was to be in the gift of the boards of guardians, that the applicants should be prostrated by disease; but this he considered an impolitic, cruel, and most unwise economy. In England the mere fact of a man being in a state of destitution was sufficient to entitle him to relief. Why should it not be so in Ireland as well? Why should illness be added as a necessary condition? If any person came before a board of guardians who was supposed to be an impostor, let them apply the same test to him in Ireland as was applied in England. Let them put him to hard work, and they would soon find out whether he was an impostor or not; or they might apply the further test of outdoor employment on public works. Let them apply both or either of these tests, if necessary; but let them not refuse the poor man in Ireland the food that was necessary to keep him in health until he was suffering from fever, and then take him in as a fever patient. It was proposed that an absentee tax, or a property tax, should be established; but in his mind the best tax to be applied for the purpose was an ordinary poor rate. If the landlord found that he must maintain the people on his property if they could not maintain themselves, he would come to look after his property. The means of bringing the absentees back was to make them responsible for the due safety of the people on their estates; and, inasmuch as that would be a tax on the rental of Ireland, it would be the best property tax that could be applied for the purpose. He conceived that the poor rate should be applied for the support of the destitute out of the workhouse when the workhouse was not capable of affording them accommodation. The proposition of the hon. Member for Finsbury coincided with that which he attempted to urge upon the House, namely, 1004 that the poor rate should be applied in the first instance for the relief of this extreme destitution. It had been said by the right hon. Baronet, "let the landlords do their duty;" and he was one of those who said it was the duty of the landlords of Ireland to provide for the poor. He repeated the maxim, "that property has its duties as well as its rights," and he felt it was the duty of landlords to see that the people on their estates did not starve. He was not one of those who wished to impeach the humanity or generosity of the landlords of Ireland. He did not wish to say anything against them as a body; but he defied any one to deny that the landlords of Ireland, however they might do their duty as a body, individually did not do their duty. He repeated, that he thought the property rateable for the relief of the poor should first be made subject for the support of the poor; and if the destitution became so great that contributions were necessarily required from individuals and from the Government, he should not, in a great emergency, object to it. He asked what was the amount of the poor rate at present made in Ireland? He doubted very much if it reached twopence in the pound—he was sure it did not reach threepence; but in England the poor rate, on an average, was from two to three shillings in the pound; and until something more than twopence in the pound was contributed towards the relief of the poor by the property of Ireland, why should it be said that the property of Ireland was overburdened by the very natural and just responsibility that was imposed upon it?
§ MR. BANKES
said, it appeared to him that there was now forced upon the attention of the House that which must have occurred to the minds of many people, namely, when the Government was in possession of that important information with reference to Ireland, and when they had it in the month of October last, surely it was their bounden duty to call together the Parliament in the month of November, by which course of proceeding those difficulties of which they now complained would not have occurred. Those votes of public money would then have been taken, and long before this time that money would have been transmitted to Ireland, and those beneficial measures which were contemplated would be now in operation. Instead of now discussing the consequences of the want of food in that country, namely, the 1005 fever which had arisen amongst the people, caused by their privations, they might have the hope of preventing, instead of curing, those mischiefs which now called for their attention. He was at a loss to know what answer the Government had to give to the observation which so naturally arose on this subject. They were in possession of that full information which did produce considerable uneasiness and disquiet in their minds; and surely the natural course to have been taken with reference to Bills to furnish employment to the people of Ireland was to call together the Parliament at the earliest possible period. If they did so, the money would now be circulating in that country, and the people would not now be in the state which was represented. As he (Mr. Bankes) had risen to make this observation, he would say, that having heard the speech of his right hon. Friend the Recorder of Dublin, he must say, that in his humble opinion the comments made in that speech were most unfairly made. He did not hear his right hon. Friend make any statement stronger than this, that having been last week in Ireland, he felt it a relief to his mind to be able to say, that he thought the extreme accounts of distress had been exaggerated; but that he did find the distress to be great, and, in fact, greater than was usual at this period of the year. He (Mr. Bankes) thought there was nothing in that statement which should cause an imputation to be cast on the benevolence of his feelings, when he declared it was a relief to his mind to be enabled with truth to make such a statement. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury, which gave rise to this discussion, he (Mr. Bankes) must say it had his cordial concurrence. He agreed in the hon. Member's observations. He coincided not only in the tone—and everything that fell from him was always in the tone of humanity—but in the spirit of his observations. He must say that the hon. Member's speech had been much misrepresented. The hon. Member did not say that the suggestion he offered was to be considered as one of a permanent nature. The hon. Member merely proposed that it should be of a temporary nature, with a view to afford the most efficacious remedy for the evils which were now prevalent. The hon. Member said, instead of physic, try what food will do. He concurred in that suggestion, and he trusted the Government would give it their attention.
§ SIR VALENTINE BLAKE
agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last, that food was the thing required in Ireland. He suggested the improvement of waste lands in Ireland by the Government, and declared it to be his opinion that the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. S. O'Brien) had been hardly dealt with.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
begged to be permitted to say a few words, but he was not going to reply to the personalities of the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone. He could not think of taking up the time of the House by observations of such a nature; but he would say, with reference to the expenditure of money in Ireland, to which the noble Lord had alluded, that the people who subscribed that money were the best judges how it should be employed. He wished that what he had said should be distinctly understood. He confessed that his feelings, in common with a large number of his fellow countrymen, had been greatly exasperated by the tone—not so much taken in that House as by the press of England—with respect to those miserable grants. But the fact was, that Parliament had only granted them 100,000l., for all the rest were loans; and he, on the part of the people of Ireland, so far as one individual could speak in their name, said, let them pass a law to give them the four or five millions which were now drawn by absentees out of their country, and they would give them back their 100,000l. He considered it to be the duty of Parliament to give them good laws, that would bring the industry of the country into operation; and if Parliament met in the month of November to enact good laws, instead of now coming forward with a Coercion Bill, they would not be under the necessity of making those painful appeals to Parliament.
§ MR. W. MILES
said, if the hon. Member for Limerick had been in his place during the late discussions, he would have found that every Member on both sides of the House had been ready to come forward in every possible way to assist the Government in providing for the distress of the people of Ireland. All the information the Government had on the subject had been brought forward, and Government had received the ready assent of the House in moving to take off the duty on maize and all food necessary for the people of Ireland. Moreover, he would tell the hon. Member that, if instead of 100,000l., the Government had thought it necessary to ask for a 1007 vote of ten times that sum, he was certain the British House of Commons would have readily assented to it to relieve the distress of the population of Ireland. But the measures which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. O'Brien) proposed, were the very worst that could be devised to meet the exigency; for months must be spent in their discussion, during which time hundreds and thousands of the Irish people might perish of disease and famine. What was to be done should be done immediately. Sanatory establishments for diseased persons should be established in all parts of Ireland, more particularly in those districts where the disease was already prevalent; and not only this remedy, but all remedies should be brought at once into operation. It would be necessary, also, that they should be assisted in these efforts by the local board and the Irish clergy and priests; for without their aid the Government could do little or nothing to stave off the famine which was about to reach the Irish people. Before he sat down he wished to ask what had become of a Return he moved for about the first day of the Session? He then moved for a Return of the highest price of potatoes in the different market towns in Ireland on the 1st of February, for each of the last seven years. He thought great advantage would result from the production of these Papers. It must meet the observation of every Gentleman that the people of Ireland were starving in the midst of plenty. Only look at the imports from Ireland into this country. He thought this was the most lamentable position of the people of Ireland, that they should export so much, and yet be starving. It was a most anomalous position. It was only by these Papers that they could see the extent of misery which prevailed in Ireland, and the necessity for measures to render it of less frequent recurrence. He wished to know also the capacity of the different Poor Law houses now existing in Ireland, and the number of their inmates. As he understood they were about to establish new poorhouses there, he thought it well that they should first know the extent of the present accommodation, and whether some of the existing houses could not be advantageously appropriated for the purpose.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
begged to call the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Votes of the 9th March. On that day he would find the Return he moved for respecting potatoes was presented, and ordered to be 1008 printed. He would also find a statement appended to that Return, to which he would take the opportunity of calling the hon. Member's attention—namely, that it afforded no safe criterion for the future, inasmuch as it was stated, that from the progress of the disease many of the crops would be utterly destroyed in the course of the month following. With respect to the number of workhouses, he had no objection to a Return, if it were wished for; but he must observe, it would be altogether useless. The hon. Member must see, that as the inmates of the present workhouses were not affected with disease, there would be the greatest danger in introducing amongst them persons who were suffering from it, and that, consequently, it would be necessary to erect others for the purpose. The hon. Gentleman had misunderstood the object of the measure, which was not to throw the expense of providing these hospitals on the British public, but upon the poor rate in Ireland.
§ MR. R. A. FITZGERALD
observed that if his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick had expressed himself strongly, every allowance must be made for his feelings. If that Parliament sat in Dublin, and English Members came over there to press on the Legislature the distress of their country, he should hope, for the honour of humanity, that they would express themselves in terms not less forcible. As an Irish Member, he, for one, begged to thank his hon. Friend for his speech; and to say that he believed him entitled to the heartfelt gratitude of his countrymen for the course which he was taking, both in the House and out of it. He had heard it said that the distress of the Irish people was exaggerated. For his own part, he believed no language could adequately describe it; and he knew for a fact, that, in his own county of Waterford, there were 40,000 people with little or nothing to support them.
said, one observation which fell from the hon. Member for Somersetshire (Mr. Miles) seemed to him so remarkable that he would ask the attention of the House to it. The hon. Member said, that it was a distressing thing that, while there was so much distress among the people of Ireland, we should be importing their produce. Now, he would just suggest to the hon. Member a mode of correcting this evil. Let them get that produce elsewhere. But it was the business of the hon. Member's life to prevent 1009 this. He believed the price was not higher here than in Ireland. Then let their produce remain there, and let the Irish people consume their own produce. Then the hon. Gentleman said another thing. In his benevolence towards the people of Ireland, he would restrict the commerce of the country, forgetting that without the employment it afforded, the people would have still less money in their pockets to buy food. Let the hon. Member inquire into the matter, and he would find that whenever there was distress in the manufacturing districts the Irish people were more distressed than at other periods. Let the hon. Member reflect that there were 600,000 Irish people in this country who were dependent upon the prosperity of our manufactures, and that it was that prosperity which enabled them to put money into their pockets when they returned to Ireland. He had heard two hon. Members (the hon. Members for Limerick and Stroud) advocate the repeal of the Union, They offered two reasons in support of that measure. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) said he did not wonder the gentlemen of Ireland were for repeal, when he considered how different was the condition of the people of Ireland to that of the people of England. His hon. Friend entered into a lengthened detail of his views on the subject; but be asked him whether it might not all be summed up in this, that he thought it necessary to have a poor law in Ireland? But he would ask his hon. Friend, if they were to repeal the Union, and there was a Parliament sitting in Dublin, and legislating for Ireland, whether he believed the first measure they would adopt would be a law taxing themselves for the support of the poor? He believed that if they were to have the advantage of an efficient Poor Law in Ireland, they must be indebted for it to the Legislature of England. There was another great evil they had heard of as the second reason, and that was the absence of landed proprietors from Ireland. Now that was really not the fault of the Legislature of England. But he would ask his hon. Friends from that country if they did not find some estates there of non-resident landlords better managed than those of residents, and that it was not a condition of residence that the poor should be taken poor of, and estates be well managed? For himself he thought there was no necessary connexion between these matters.
§ MR. SCROPE
explained that he did not 1010 advocate the repeal of the Union. He merely said that if be were an Irishman, and saw the interests of Ireland were not regarded by the Imperial Legislature, he should advocate that mode of obtaining justice for his countrymen.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it appeared to him that the ideas of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers) were so concentrated on the one object of free trade, that he could not see any circumstances which might render its adoption more or less advantageous at one time than another. The argument of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton was, in his opinion, a perfect fallacy.
§ MR. FINCH
said, if all the Irish corn were to be driven out of the English market, he did not see how the people of Ireland would be benefited by the prosperity of English manufactures. The great cause of Irish suffering was the want of a demand for labour; and the greatest curse that could be inflicted upon Ireland would be the introduction of the produce of Polish or Russian labour. In his opinion Her Majesty's Government had taken the fittest course in the measure before the House to remedy the existing evil; and though he differed with them upon other points, he considered that they deserved the thanks of the country for their prompt exertions to put an end to famine and disease.
§ Leave given to bring in the Bill.