§ MR. P. SCROPE
rose to move, pursuant to his Notice—That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to make provision therein that the Guardians of the several Poor Law Unions in Ireland be required to relieve with food all such destitute persons within their Unions as may be in danger of perishing from want, or from disease the consequence of want.The hon. Member said, that, in moving this Instruction, he had no wish whatever to obstruct the progress of a Bill which might be, and no doubt was, most desirable to be passed in the present critical condition of 1168 Ireland; at the same time, the House had not yet heard any statement from the Government as to the reasons why this measure had not been brought forward at a much earlier period; and he was anxious, though not an Irish Member, to address to the House a few observations, with a view to prove, in the first place, that the Bill, if wanted, ought to have been introduced much earlier; and secondly, that being introduced, the measure ought to have gone a deal further in its provisions than those provisions at present stood. It was necessary that in the outset he should call to the recollection of the House the nature of the Poor Laws at present existing and in force in Ireland. In the year 1837, the first provision for the maintenance of the destitute poor in Ireland was made by the Legislature; and in that measure the machinery of the English Poor Law was copied to a very great extent. The same, or a similar, organization was established; the country was divided into Unions; boards of guardians were appointed; and a set of officers, denominated wardens, but whose duties corresponded with those of relieving officers in this country, were established; and lastly, workhouses, which were now nearly completed, were ordered to be built. The distinction between the Irish and the English Poor Law Acts consisted of two points—first, that by the former there was no power to give outdoor relief; and, secondly, that on the face of the Act, it did not appear that indoor relief was compulsory, even in case of the most extreme destitution. It appeared that, in the course of the last autumn, the failure of the potato crops in Ireland, which attracted so much general attention and sympathy, came under the notice of Her Majesty's Government; and he could not but think that, considering the extensive organization of the Poor Law Unions in Ireland, it would have beer a wise precaution on the part of the Government to have thrown upon the local authorities in those Unions the responsibility of providing for the coming emergency, the Government itself superintending the efficiency of the preparations, and, at the same time, informing the local boards that, on the meeting of Parliament—he thought the emergency would have justified, calling it specially together—measures would be brought forward for the purpose of requiring, authorizing, and enabling the boards of guardians and the local authorities to provide for the necessary maintenance of the destitute poor, 1169 whom the failure of the potato crops might have reduced to the extremity of distress and suffering. This, however, had not been done; and the House and the country were ignorant of the steps which had been taken by the Government, with the exception of the fact that 100,000 quarters of American oats had been purchased to supply the immediate wants of the population of Ireland. He did not wish to disparage this proceeding on the part of the Government; but he must observe that he held to the opinion that the first resource for the people of Ireland, which should have been looked to on the failure of the potato crops, should have been the oats which they themselves had grown by the side of their potatoes, and that the burden should have been thrown upon the Unions of taking care that a sufficient stock of those oats should have been stored to provide against necessity: and he earnestly hoped that the introduction which had been made of American corn into Ireland would not lead to the expectation on the part of the boards of guardians, or of private individuals, that corn grown in their own neighbourhood might be safely exported, instead of being reserved as a stock sufficient to meet the pressing demands of the people for food. He made this observation, because he had seen with great alarm the enormous extent to which the exportation of oats from Ireland had taken place since the last harvest, and the failure of the potato crops. From returns made up to the 5th February last, he found that the imports into England from Ireland, since the last harvest, amounted to about 258,000 quarters of wheat, to 701,000 cwt. of flour, besides barley—indeed the amount of imports of wheat and barley was in value something like 1,000,000l. In addition, there appeared to have been imported from Ireland about 1,000,000 quarters of oats and oatmeal, all since the failure of the potato crops; and though the returns from which he derived this information only reached to the 5th February, the same thing had been going on for the last six weeks in the same extraordinary ratio; and he, therefore, hoped that amongst the means provided by the Government to meet the impending crisis, there had been directions given for storing a sufficient stock of the produce of the bountiful harvest of oats which had been sent by Providence, as though expressly to meet the failure of the crops of potatoes. The Government had, however, undertaken 1170 the responsibility—and he gave them full credit for the ample manner in which that responsibility had been admitted—of seeing that no individual should be allowed to starve in Ireland for want of food; but he still thought it would have been much better to have left the responsibility upon the local authorities. The House had heard from the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, that he placed great reliance on the voluntary assistance of the landed proprietors. He owned that to him the dependence to be there placed appeared of a very brittle and frail character. In some districts, probably, assistance would be afforded; but he knew that, in others, the landowners would receive the full amount of their rents, which they would carry into foreign lands, and not return a single farthing towards the relief and maintenance of their suffering tenantry. How, then, was such a state of things to be met, but by making their contributions compulsory? It was so, not only in England, but, he believed, in almost every part of North Europe. Circumstances were occurring at the present moment in Ireland which clearly showed that reliance could not be placed upon the voluntary principle to which the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had alluded on a former occasion. Could it be denied that accounts were daily reaching this country that in Ireland, even at this period of impending famine, the eviction of the tenantry was going on? That so far from the poor being supported during the existing emergency by their landlords, their dwellings had been levelled with the ground, and they themselves driven to swell the daily increasing masses of destitution and misery which crowd the towns of Ireland? That very morning he had seen a statement of a most harrowing description. It came from Roscommon, and asserted "that, to add to the misery of the wretched peasantry, day after day we hear of hundreds of families being turned out of their homes. Yesterday one lady dispossessed 447 wretched beings; one poor woman with a child in her arms had not time to make her escape from the cabin which was being pulled down, and a piece of timber falling upon her killed the infant in her arms."* Upwards of 2,000 human beings had been* It is proper to notice that the passage in the text was correctly quoted by Mr. Scrope from the Roscommon Journal; but the circumstances of a child having been killed in the arms of its mother was afterwards contradicted.1171 turned out by the same lady and her husband within the last few years. Now he (Mr. P. Scrope) asked if this was not a case which justified the introduction of the compulsory principle for which he contended? From another account he found that, "in Mullingar, nineteen families had been ejected;" and at Killmallock, in the county of Limerick, forty families had shared a similar fate, and prayers had been offered up in the chapels to "give them patience under their sufferings." [Sir J. GRAHAM: Where do you find these statements?] Perhaps they were exaggerated; and he admitted that he had only newspaper authority for them; but could it be denied that evictions in Ireland were still going on, or that the clearance system—well authenticated in the blue books of Parliamentary Committees, and which he wished an endeavour to be made to stop it—was one which had been going on for years in Ireland? He repeated that the contributions of the landed proprietors ought to be compulsory. It was said that since the establishment of the Irish Poor Law no necessity for change existed. That might be the case if the boards of guardians were compelled by law to maintain their poor; but so far from that being the practice, he was afraid that the refusal to admit to indoor relief very frequently was maintained until the very large stage of destitution had arrived. In corroboration of this assertion, he would quote a case well known to some hon. Members, from the Report of the Irish Poor Law Commissioners for the year 1845. It was the case of David Broadley, of Carrick-upon-Shannon, who, after repeated applications for and refusals of relief, about the middle of the preceding month of December ended his days on the high road, where his body was left the whole of the next day (Sunday) as a spectacle to the people passing to and returning from church. The board of guardians of the Carrick-on-Shannon Union had been very properly reprimanded by the Poor Law Commissioners; but he asked what security existed that similar circumstances might not again occur under the pressure of the crisis which was now fast approaching—what security was there that similar harrowing cases of absolute death from want might not be multiplied? Besides, even supposing the boards of guardians were to take into the workhouses all who were in a destitute condition, why the workhouses would be soon completely 1172 filled, and what resource would there be in the event of that emergency occurring? The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department had stated that means would be employed to put the population to work. In the propriety of the adoption of that resource he entirely agreed. He saw some value in the measures which had already been passed during the present Session for the purpose of giving effect to that proposition; but he would suggest that a Bill for the reclamation of waste lands might well be added to those which had already received the sanction of the Legislature with respect to fisheries and drainage. The waste lands, both bogs and mountains, would, he thought, afford means of employment, with a small outlay, to a considerable advantage. Still these measures only referred to the relief of the able-bodied poor, while it could not be forgotten that in Ireland there was an enormous class of the population which was unable to work for their own maintenance. How was it proposed to relieve that class, which comprised the aged, the sick, cripples, widows and orphans, and all those who came within the designation of impotent poor—a class which numbered hundreds of thousands. The workhouses in Ireland, 130 in number, would, he believed, only afford accommodation to about 90,000 persons; and what was to be done, supposing that number was doubled or trebled? Why, then it would be obligatory to afford them outdoor relief. Hence it was that he contended it would be both wise and prudent for the Government to avail themselves of the organized local authorities, and to make it compulsory upon them to take measures for that purpose, and thus satisfy the minds of the people that relief would be afforded to them out of funds taken primarily out of Ireland's own resources. He knew that the Irish proprietors, in alluding to the principle of outdoor relief, spoke of confiscation. They ought not to make use of such a strong expression, or they must expect even stronger terms being applied to themselves. But what did the poor rate in Ireland at present amount to? Why, not to more than 5d. or 6d. in the pound; while in England the rate was 2s. in the pound on the aggregate value of the land. He was reminded that in one district of Ireland the rate amounted to 15d. in the pound; but what was that compared with the amount levied in England where it was known that poor rates had at times amounted to 10s., 12s., 15s., and 1173 even to 19s. in the pound. Such was the state of things which had been seen in England in times of extreme destitution and starvation. With respect to the question before the House, he repeated that the first requisition ought to be upon the local authorities, who were competent to raise funds by an equal rate on all property, because the voluntary rate which was expected would only be contributed by the benevolent, while the hardhearted absentee, who was unwilling to subscribe would get off "scot free," although probably he possessed more wealth than those upon whom he left the burden. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government spoke on this matter the other day, as though it was desirable to maintain secrecy and mystery. Now he could not understand why there should be any mystery or secrecy about the matter. It seemed to him that every Irishman ought to be informed that he was not in danger of absolute starvation, and that his fears as to a famine ought to be appeased. It appeared to him that a sound Poor Law, securing the maintenance of the destitute, would afford the best means of putting down those outrages which were about to be coerced by some strong and unconstitutional measure. Let provision be made that men shall not be allowed to die in ditches for want—show some respect for the lives of the poorer classes, and that would teach them to respect the lives of others. He did not ask for a permanent measure of compulsory relief, but for a measure to meet the emergency, and which would compel the local authorities to provide funds out of the resources of Ireland, which were amply sufficient for that purpose. On the whole, he felt that the amount required was not such as the landed proprietors of Ireland ought to hesitate to contribute, in order to avert the horrors of want and starvation on the land which they possessed.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
seconded the Motion. He disclaimed any wish to throw difficulties in the way of the measures proposed by Her Majesty's Government; but he thought it the duty of hon. Gentlemen unconnected with the Government to call the attention of the House to measures which in their judgment the present emergency required. The Government had stated that they took upon themselves the responsibility of providing food for the people of Ireland. He gave the Government credit for so doing; but the measures 1174 they had hitherto taken had not proved adequate to meet the emergency; some other measures, therefore, were necessary to be adopted. Reports of Commissioners and of Committees appointed under different Governments, had recommended the adoption of several measures, none of which had hitherto been brought forward. If the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission and the Landlord and Tenant Commission had been attended to, it was his opinion that none of those evils which now existed, would have occurred. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir R. Peel) had said, that in the measures the Government intended to take, it would be impossible for him to succeed without the assistance of the landlords of Ireland, on whose voluntary co-operation he mainly relied. Without wishing to speak harshly of the Irish landlords, he must observe that on former occasions they had generally failed in the discharge of that duty which the Government was desirous to enforce upon them. Many, no doubt, did perform their duty; but many, as unquestionably, neglected to do so. Some compulsory measure, therefore, was required. But the landlords should be encouraged to engage actively in affording assistance at a period of unusual distress. Several measures calculated to give this encouragement had for many years been suggested. One, which had recently been partially acted upon, was, to empower the tenant for life to charge the inheritance with a portion, at least, of any outlay by him which tended to the permanent improvement of the estate. There was a recommendation contained in the Poor Law Commissioners' Report, that the local authorities should be empowered to enforce the improvement of waste lands, and of locating individuals and families on those lands. This would be an achievement of the greatest value. But the recommendation had become a mere dead letter. It was hard that the landlords should be blamed when the Government failed to perform their duty. Then, with respect to the Landlord and Tenant Commission: the Report of that Commission had now been presented for nearly two years; but no positive statement had been made by the Government as to how many of the recommendations of that Commission they intended to adopt. It was true, they had introduced a Drainage Bill; but improvement by drainage was applicable only to a certain description of land. What he wished to see was a general measure for 1175 the general improvement of Ireland. The Bill now before the House provided only for one description of disease—namely, fever. It made no provision for those various diseases which were mentioned in the Reports received, as now afflicting the people of Ireland. [Sir J. GRAHAM: That can be amended in Committee.] Another evil under which Ireland suffered, was the displacement of persons from their holdings. Some provision should be made for the relief of those individuals who were dispossessed of their land. It was to meet this evil that the Poor Law Commissioners recommended that the local guardians should have the power to locate individuals upon unreclaimed lands, making the landlords chargeable for a proportionate part of the expense of doing so. It was necessary that Government should make a bold stand upon this subject; and not adhere so tenaciously to the abstract rights of the landlords. They should make such a disposal of the waste land as the interest of the State required. Government often felt the necessity of interfering with the political rights of the people: they were now acting upon that feeling; and he would not deny that the necessity existed; and in like manner the civil rights of individuals should be made to give way to the public good. Unless some means were provided for giving food to the poor through the medium of the Poor Law establishments, no sufficient relief could be rendered to meet the present exigency. It might be said that this would impose a heavy tax upon the poorer sort of ratepayers. But the answer to that was, that the poorer sort of persons were already relieved from the payment of poors' rates. Tenants in towns, under 4l., were exonerated from that tax. The Government ought to throw the burden directly upon the landlord, and the rich tradesmen, and farmers. Instances of death had been known to ensue from the guardians having refused to make an assessment for the relief of outdoor paupers. The guardians ought to be made responsible in all cases where death ensued from starvation. A law which fell short of imposing this responsibility, instead of being a law for the protection of the poor, deserved to be designated an inhuman law.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
I can assure the House that I feel, and constantly have felt, the high responsibility and great disadvantage under which I labour, in dealing with questions of such immense importance, and so deeply affecting the well-being of 1176 the great mass of the people of Ireland, in the absence of those of my Colleagues who are more immediately connected with the Irish Government, and, therefore, necessarily possessing that local information, of which I am to a considerable degree ignorant. At the same time I am anxious to state plainly to the House the opinion which I entertain with reference to the important questions which incidentally, and, because incidentally, unfortunately, have been brought under discussion, on a Motion for giving an instruction to a Committee upon a comparatively very limited Motion. I believe it is barely within the rules of the House that such an instruction should be moved with reference to a measure of this description. This Bill is applicable to a limited period, and—although for an important and pressing, still—for a temporary object; I mean for the purpose of giving the means of affording relief in cases of fever in Ireland, arising from the calamity which now threatens that country. The instructions moved by the hon. Member (Mr. Scrope) raises the whole question of relief to the able-bodied at their own homes. [OPPOSITION: No, no!] Yes they do.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
begged to explain. The right hon. Gentleman had misunderstood him. If the precise words of his proposal did not fully express his (Mr. P. Scrope's) meaning, he thought that the speech he had addressed to the House must have done so. He never contemplated giving relief to the able-bodied idle, though destitute, poor. All he wished to be done for them was, that they should be provided with work. He was quite willing to alter his Motion to that effect.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
This shows the immense disadvantage which results from a practical departure from the rules of the House. If the hon. Gentleman had moved for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the existing Poor Law, in Ireland, then he would have adopted exactly the proper course for attaining his object, and we should have known what he aimed at. But owing to a departure from the rules of the House, what has occurred? Why, the very first objection that I make against the Motion, calls up the hon. Gentleman, who says that he is perfectly willing to alter the terms of his instruction. I am willing to take the alternative which he has suggested, and to point out the difficulties arising from them as so amended. But it is not a mere question of the Poor Law that is now under 1177 consideration. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion has raised another question of the highest importance, but having no possible connexion with the very limited measure now before the House, namely, the question affecting the relation of landlord and tenant in Ireland. And this, too, the hon. Gentleman has done in the face of a notice which has been given by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell), who has announced his intention, after Easter, of bringing under the consideration of the House the general condition of the people of Ireland. It is impossible to dissemble—it would be most unwise to attempt to dissemble—that these two questions—the relief of the destitute poor of Ireland, and the relation between landlord and tenant, are the two questions which lie at the root of all the difficulties of governing that country with a view to the happiness and social welfare of the people. I say, again, I think it most unfortunate, especially in the present state of the House, and incidentally, that two such important questions should be discussed. I cannot, however, refrain from making a few short comments upon some of the observations which have been made by the two hon. Gentlemen, the mover and seconder of this instruction. The hon. Mover first complained that measures for the relief of the people of Ireland had not been brought forward at a much earlier period. He stated, that it would have been a great advantage if Parliament had assembled sooner, that the general state of Ireland might have been taken into consideration at an earlier period. Now, the House and country are well aware of the peculiar circumstances under which these measures were introduced. My right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury sought to impress upon his Colleagues, early in November, the necessity of adopting, as a Government, certain measures, which he and a portion of his Colleagues were desirous should be brought under the notice of Parliament, even in the course of that month. I will not refer to the transactions of that month, further than to say, that the Government over which my right hon. Friend presided, after long discussions, in which there prevailed differences of opinion, was dissolved. Efforts were then made to form another Administration. The arrangements consequent upon so difficult an undertaking occupied a considerable time; and, finally, the effort was abandoned, and 1178 the present Government did not resume its responsibility until the middle of December. The Government then, as reconstructed, had to consider the measures which it would be proper to introduce relating to Ireland. It would have been most unwise to have met Parliament until they had arranged those measures which they intended to ask Parliament to adopt. So much, then, upon the subject of delay. I hope, under all the circumstances, that the delay does not remain unexplained, and that the explanation will be considered satisfactory by this House. I think the hon. Member labours under some misapprehension, if he supposes that there exists no provision by the present law for the relief of poor persons suffering from disease in Ireland. There are no less than four provisions, as the law now stands, for cases of fever. The first provides that the party should be taken into the workhouse. Now, I think that a most dangerous provision to act upon in cases of epidemic fever; as it would be bringing the disease into immediate contact with the poor inmates who were in health. The next provision is, that the sick may be removed from their home to the hospital. But in many instances those hospitals are twenty and thirty miles distant; and if the fever assumed the form of an epidemic, this provision must be considered to be a very imperfect one. Then, the third provision is, that which enables the guardians of Unions to erect fever hospitals in the vicinity of the workhouse. This I consider an admirable provision; and, out of 130 Unions in Ireland, nearly eighty have acted upon it. The fourth provision of the existing law is that which gives a power to the guardians to hire private houses for cases of fever where no hospital exists. Such is the present law; and I certainly did think it expedient that an interval of time should be given to the boards of guardians to consider these provisions, in order that I might ascertain to what extent they were disposed to act upon them. Generally speaking, I have no reason to complain of their intentions. But within the last week the Government has received from the Executive in Ireland, a representation that there is reason to apprehend the spread of fever in that country, which will require an extension of means on the part of the Government to arrest its progress. I am afraid, under the circumstances of the present scarcity of food, or of the unwholesome nature of the food of 1179 the people, that the apprehensions of the Lord Lieutenant are well grounded; and that an extension of the power to provide relief, in cases of fever, is expedient. This Bill has, therefore, emanated from the recommendation of the Executive of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman has complained that I have not stated to the House the provisions of the Bill. I think the provisions lie in a very narrow compass, and are perfectly intelligible. The burden of expense which will arise by the adoption of means to check the spread of fever which is anticipated will be divided, under the circumstances, between the public generally and the ratepayers. The public will pay for the extra-medical attendance; and power will be given to the Lord Lieutenant, on the representation of the Central Medical Board in Dublin, to require the guardians of the Unions—if there should be any unwillingness on their part to act spontaneously—to adopt measures of precaution, either by erecting temporary hospitals, or by hiring buildings within their Unions, wherein fever patients may be received; and where they shall obtain the benefit of medical attendance, and all those medical appliances which their unhappy condition may require. The hon. Gentleman has stated that in his opinion there are various precautions which ought to have been adopted, but which have been neglected by the Government. In the first place, I understood him to complain that the export of corn from Ireland has not been checked or prohibited.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
No; that is not what I said. I expressed a hope that Government had taken care that a sufficient stock of corn should be reserved in the neighbourhood where the distress prevailed.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
How could the Government check the diminution of corn in Ireland, unless they prohibited the exportation of corn? [Mr. P. SCROPE: The Unions might have a stock in hand.] I must repeat that it would be very convenient to the House if the hon. Gentleman would put in the shape of a Bill, or of Resolutions, such measures as he thinks the present emergency requires. I should most willingly receive the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman, and treat them with great respect; but if any check in the present impoverished state of Ireland were to be imposed upon the exportation of the only article which Ireland has for sale, I am greatly mistaken if all the evils of that unhappy country would not be ag- 1180 gravated tenfold. Although I am always disposed to treat the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman, especially on economical subjects, with the greatest respect, yet I certainly am astonished that any proposition to check the exportation of corn from Ireland should have emanated from such an authority. [Mr. P. SCROPE: I never said anything of the kind.] Then I have the misfortune of having misunderstood the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
I beg again to explain. I said that under the circumstances which had occurred in Ireland, I thought it would have been desirable for the Government to have instructed the local authorities to make preparations for coming events; and that one of those preparations would have been the laying out of a sum of money in the purchasing of a sufficient stock of oats and other corn, to provide food for the destitute poor; but I did not suggest that the Government should have passed any measure to check the exportation of corn from that country.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
said, that was equivalent to a recommendation that there should be a purchase of oats, a forced purchase of oats. But how was such a purchase to be effected? Was it to be done by Government, or out of the poor rates? Either proposition would have had the effect—a most injurious one—of suddenly increasing the demand for the article, and greatly enhancing the price; and not only enhancing the price of the food thus bought for the purposes of charity, but equally raising the price to be paid by those poor persons in Ireland, who were just able to subsist upon oatmeal, instead of potatoes. It would also have had the effect of enhancing the price of the article in all the markets of this country, where it was in general use; and I was about to say, if a reference to another debate were not irregular, that we should see as the effect of the maintenance of the Corn Laws an artificially enhanced price of wheat throughout the United Kingdom, and at the same time, if the proposal of the hon. Gentleman be agreed to, an enhanced price of oats also created by purchases on the public account. A more dangerous proposition it would be scarcely possible to submit to the House, being second only in danger to the first proposition of the hon. Gentleman, which he now disclaims. The hon. Gentleman rests this extraordinary recommendation on two grounds. First, the general ejectment of tenants in Ireland. 1181 And here let me say, it is much to be hoped and desired that the landlords will exercise more than usual forbearance towards their tenantry during the period of calamity which now threatens them; and I am disposed to entertain a confident belief that such will be the case. The hon. Gentleman denies that this has as yet been the case; he asserts that ejectments on a large scale are still occurring. On being asked for proof of the fact, he alludes to a paragraph in a Roscommon paper which he has read, copied in the London papers of this morning; and when pressed for further proof, he deduces the statements of other papers. The second ground on which he argues the recommendation, is the recurrence of a refusal, on the part of the boards of guardians, to grant relief. I myself have not heard that, in the present unfortunate circumstances, there has been any disposition in the boards of guardians in Ireland to proportion their aid to the increased wants of the community. The hon. Member has brought forward a single instance to the contrary, and that instance is recorded in the report of the board of guardians two years ago; but it was such a departure from the usual practice, that it met with the disapprobation of the Commissioners, when it was expressed in so decided a manner, that the hon. Gentleman does not refuse to applaud their conduct. With respect to the asserted deficiency of the measures with which Government proposes to remedy the wide-spread evil, I have stated to the House that the sum of money already voted, or undertaken to be voted, by the Government, subject to the sanction of the House, to accomplish that object, amounts to very nearly 500,000l. That is to be applied without delay, and, of course, must have the effect of adding to the means of the people to avert that calamity with which they have been visited. The hon. Gentlemen also has a suggestion in reference to the public works, which he thinks it is requisite to consider, and which we have omitted to notice. He believes that some arrangement might be made for giving additional facilities for the improvement of waste lands in Ireland. I am by no means disposed to deny that such improvements are well worthy of public encouragement; but it is forgotten that, at the present moment, there exist many facilities, subject to certain restrictions which have been already imposed, for obtaining loans from the Exchequer Loan Commissioners for all such 1182 works; and there is also, I think, a society in Ireland, incorporated for the very object of carrying out such improvements in waste lands, which has already availed itself of the opportunity presented of obtaining the money demanded for the occasion. It is needless to say that, under present circumstances, the Crown would be most willing to entertain such an offer. I have thus shown that there has been provided by the Legislature, subject to certain conditions which I think salutary and sufficient, the remedy which the hon. Gentleman has adverted to. I come now to what is really the most important circumstance that can be considered in reference to the questions raised by the hon. Gentleman, and that is, whether, under the pressure of a temporary calamity—great as I admit it to be—we should hastily and without mature consideration, completely alter the principles of the Irish Poor Law. The hon. Gentleman says that Government has undertaken a serious responsibility in not meeting the calamity in question, and supplying the exigencies arising from it out of a poor rate levied in Ireland by the boards of guardians, instead of meeting the emergency by grants from the public purse. Certainly I feel with the hon. Gentleman the weight of that responsibility; and if, consistently with my sense of duty, I could have transferred the responsibility and burden to local funds and parties, I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the House, that personally, and indeed on the part of the Government, I should have been happy to be able to take that course. But after having given the subject the most anxious and deliberate consideration, I have come to the conclusion that under present circumstances I could not be a party to any such recommendation. I think it is our bounden duty, in legislating for Ireland, not to legislate with regard to English feelings, English prejudices, and still less with reference to English law, which has long obtained the sanction of usage in this country; but we are bound to consult Irish feelings, Irish habits, Irish laws, as they have existed for centuries, though they may be at variance with the provisions found in the English Statute-book. It is most true that from the reign of Elizabeth, for nearly three centuries, there has been, not indeed a claim for maintenance, but an absolute right to obtain work, and work yielding wages; the poor man may be said to have been indirectly enabled to de- 1183 mand from his locality a supply of food. In Scotland, at a later period, the same principle was admitted, though there might be some difference in administration. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: The able-bodied have no right to relief in Scotland.] Yes, I admit to the noble Lord that a most important difference existed in the Scotch Poor Law, which gave the impotent poor there only a right to relief, the able-bodied being under no circumstances entitled to it. I have pointed out what was the law of England, what was that of Scotland, which in a most important particular varies from that of England; but it is right also to observe that during three centuries no law for the relief of the Irish poor ever yet found a place on the Statute-book of that country. I don't wish to follow the matter unnecessarily further; still I am bound in my own vindication to touch on a topic or two, when it is proposed by a new law to throw on the land of Ireland the burden of supporting its own labourers. Beyond all question different habits prevail in the two countries. In Ireland mendicancy has not been prohibited even under the Poor Law recently passed with respect to that country, and almsgiving prevails there to a greater extent than in any other country. I don't wish to dwell on differences of religion; but still that is a matter which cannot be omitted from our consideration. The Roman Catholic is the religion generally prevalent in Ireland: the priesthood of that religion are an unmarried priesthood, and they devote their time, their means, everything which can be called their own, to the visiting the sick and the comforting the poor—and this, as I believe, to the great benefit of the poor of Ireland. It must also be remembered that from their peculiar tenets they attach immense importance to almsgiving; and I am disposed to think, that the prevalence of that religion does induce in the social scheme a difference decidedly in favour of the poor. But then let me observe that all sales, all purchases, all leases, all fixed contracts, previous to 1837, when the new Poor Law passed, were fixed on the established usage of the country, that the right of maintenance for the poor was no part of the burdens incident to the land of Ireland. This is an additional and most important element of consideration, in testing the proposal of the hon. Gentleman with reference to the rights of property. Well, then, as relates to the habits of the poor themselves. The 1184 proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud is neither more nor less than a recurrence to the labour rate which formerly prevailed in England, and which was an abuse so inveterate and dangerous that it was found necessary to eradicate it even at the expense of much angry feeling excited in several quarters in this community. I shall ever be of opinion that the system of a labour rate, as it existed here, was a frightful evil. I believe that it demoralized the working classes to the greatest possible degree; and that its degrading operation was fatal to their independence. As a tax, too, it was most unjust. Take an illustration of the manner in which it worked. One man resides on his estate, and discharges his duty in an exemplary manner; he gives labour to those able to work, and he supports those who are unable; and, in point of fact, on his property pauperism cannot be said to exist. His next neighbour neglects all the duties I have mentioned. Now the effect of a labour rate is to make the good landlord and his tenants pay for the neglect and maltreatment of the labourers over whose condition they have no control whatever. It has, in fact, this effect—it makes industry, and wealth, which is its consequence, liable for the maintenance of idleness and poverty. When once the idea prevails that a man can shift the burden of his support from himself to his neighbours, however industrious, honest, and independent he may be, if by the force of circumstances he is made dependent for his daily bread on the law, he will be reduced in his own estimation and in the scale of society. The effect of the rate was to make the employers and the employed enemies. Of all the evils of the English Poor Law, none has been more fatally or more clearly ascertained than this; and, therefore, if the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud is to introduce into Ireland, even in her present most unfortunate position, a labour rate, which English experience has demonstrated to be vicious in principle and destructive in practice, every consideration of policy and equity induces me to oppose the application to temporary evils, of remedies, the permanent effects of which are known to be injurious; and I have stated many other reasons why Government declines the proposition. I look upon it as inconsistent with the welfare of Ireland, with the rights of property in Ireland, and dangerous, in the extreme, to the great body of the 1185 people in that country. I am satisfied, that if you lift these flood-gates, a torrent of pauperism will overflow the land; and I think it not only inconsistent with the rights of owners, but with the independence and welfare of the labourers. I repeat my belief that this evil is only temporary; if temporary it ought to be met by a temporary remedy. And what is that remedy? I say it is to be obtained by aid from the general taxation; and when I say that, I mean by aid to be given from the public Exchequer. It is not aid from England, it is not generosity: I deny that altogether. Ireland contributes to the general taxation; and when the peculiar circumstances of Ireland are considered, it will be allowed that she contributes her fair and just quota: at all events, I would not now regard that question with a very jealous and scrutinizing eye. Then, as Ireland takes her share in the general taxation, her misfortune is to be alleviated by assistance from the public purse. It is not a dole given by England to Ireland: it is from the resources of the United Kingdom, of which she is an integral part, that aid is to come. I do also most certainly hope, and I may say I believe, that the sympathy and kindness which the British Legislature has evinced in her hour of need towards Ireland, will produce a favourable impression on the hearts and minds of the people of that country. I trust it will prove to them that British connexion is not onerous, but advantageous. I am happy to see that that effect has already been produced. It has been asserted that England's infirmity is Ireland's opportunity; but it will not be now denied that Ireland's infirmity has also been England's opportunity—that we have shown an eager sympathy for her sufferings, and an earnest desire to allay them. As to the imposition of any land tax, as suggested, I must object to it; for I believe it would be unjust and impolitic in the extreme to use this opportunity to add another burden to an impoverished people. This Bill is limited in point of time; and to that extent I do not believe the measure, so limited, will be resisted. I have now stated to the House the outline of those views which, after much deliberation, I honestly and sincerely entertain; and I cannot too strongly state my insuperable objections to the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud. The right hon. Baronet concluded by stating that his Amendments, on going into Com- 1186 mittee, would be to strike out the word "destitute," the word "poor," and to add to the word "fever" "and other epidemic diseases."
MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
said, nothing could be more fair than the spirit in which this subject had been discussed by the right hon. Baronet. He hoped to discuss it with the same feeling; but in the remarks which he should feel it his duty to address to the House, if anything should fall from him contrary to that, he trusted they would not consider that it was put forward with any intention of offending the right hon. Baronet. They were all agreed that it was desirable to take measures to prevent the epidemic which would result from the failure of the potato crop, in order to meet future contingencies; but, in his opinion, the Bill which the Government had introduced with the intention of accomplishing this object was inadequate to the emergency. He found, by reference to the Irish Poor Law Act, that the guardians of every Poor Law Union are empowered to provide relief for persons affected with contagious or other diseases in the workhouses under their control during their illness and convalescence; to afford them such food as they might deem necessary, with the consent of the Poor Law Commissioners; and that the expense should be paid out of the rates paid by the inhabitants of each Union. Under this law there were eighty-eight fever hospitals connected with Unions, in all of which this rule had been carried out, whenever necessity arose. He thought, therefore, that the right hon. Baronet should have brought forward some case in which the guardians of one or more of these Unions had neglected or refused to carry out this provision: he had not, however, done so; but the Bill he had introduced showed that he considered that the Poor Law guardians had neglected their duty. The Bill would introduce the principle of imperative taxation, which was much complained of in Ireland, and apparently without achieving any great object. It also gave power to the Executive to appoint fresh medical officers, certainly at the expense of the State, who were to supersede the officers now employed in the different Unions. It appeared to him, however, that the people of Ireland did not want fever hospitals, but food at the present moment. The Government asked, had they not brought in the Corn Law Bill? That, he apprehended, was a Bill for England, and not for Ireland, If that 1187 measure had the effect, as predicted by its friends, and dreaded by its opponents, of reducing the export trade from Ireland from 15,000,000l. to 12,000,000l., the first effect of it, at all events, would be to reduce by 3,000,000l. the power of giving employment in Ireland. In 107 Unions, distributed over twenty-five counties, the Reports proved there was fever, diarrhœa, and all manner of complaints arising from scanty and diseased food. They had now come to a crisis in Ireland; and he was afraid that, in a short time, the supply of provisions would be altogether exhausted. But certainly, as regarded a large portion of the population, the remedy for distress should not be longer delayed. It was a prevalent feeling in Ireland, that the ports ought to have been opened in November last. It was the duty of Government, when such a crisis was depending, to have assembled Parliament; and then such measures would have been adopted as would have rendered unnecessary any appeal to the public purse. As regarded railway expenses, it was manifest that it would be impossible that any funds from that source would come into circulation in connexion with any Railway Bills to be considered this Session. Had the Government taken these projects into consideration in November last, their benefit might have been felt at the period when it would most be wanted. The right hon. Gentleman had said, "Look at the liberality of Parliament; they had granted 400,000l. to afford employment to the people of Ireland; Bills for public works had been forwarded in order that Ireland might feel the benefit of the employment they would occasion. There was the Drainage Bill; the Bill for County Works, for which 100,000l. was to be advanced; the Public Works Bill, for which 50,000l. was to be advanced; and the Fisheries Piers Bill, for which 500,000l. was to be advanced. They would certainly be better than grants; and had he been speaking to an Irish Parliament, he would have recommended similar measures to them; for he considered that the principle of indiscriminate charity was one of the most demoralizing and debasing kind. If they would do what, in his opinion, they ought to do, they would not find it necessary to make these demands on the public Exchequer. About four or five millions per annum were abstracted from Ireland by absentees living in England or on the Continent; and if these people resided in their own country, it was his belief that 1188 there would not only be no prospect of starvation, but that the people would get better food. Let the Government levy a tax on the absentees, and they might keep their grants in their pockets. A tax of 10 per cent on 4,000,000l. would give 400,000l., which could be applied to the relief and benefit of Ireland. It was not customary for him to suggest measures of improvement to Her Majesty's Ministers, yet he had no hesitation in saying that the principle of loans, if carried out, would be productive of great advantage. An hon. Member had spoken of the employment afforded by railway projects; but he could say that, from the stagnation of the money market, and other causes, there was a general indisposition at the present moment to pay up the calls upon shares; and even those which were in a forward state were now almost suspended for want of funds. Why could not the Government advance money, in order to carry them on? A very erroneous impression existed on people's minds in regard to loans made to Ireland. On almost every occasion of the kind the British Exchequer had profited by the transaction, because they borrowed the money in England at 3 per cent, and lent it to Ireland at five per cent, taking care, at the same time, to have some perfectly good security; as in the proposed measure for drainage, the Legislature had taken care to make money advanced for the purpose of draining the first charge upon the land benefited by it. The hon. Member for Stroud advocated local taxation. To that principle he had always been friendly; but he would rather prefer, for the present purpose, that a special rate should be made, from which all small holders should be exempted, but to which all annuitants, and every one who benefited by land, should be rendered liable. There was another class of measures which Her Majesty's Government ought to have brought forward. The Report of their own Commissioners had been lying on the Table of the House upwards of a year. That Report ought to have occupied their attention during the vacation; and they might have been prepared with measures that might have proved beneficial to Ireland. They had brought in a Coercion Bill, which would occupy several months in discussion; it was very possible that that Bill might not be passed before Christmas. They had had a specimen of the fixedness of purpose of the Irish Members in the discussion of the Arms Bill of 1843. 1189 The discussion on that Bill must occupy much valuable time: would it not be better, then, he would ask, to devote the months which must be consumed upon it to the consideration of measures which would be beneficial and useful to Ireland? Let them appoint a Committee of Irish Members from every section of the House—refer the Report to which he had alluded to them—and he had no doubt they would unanimously recommend many measures which would be for the basis of useful legislation. The Coercion Bill would only further exasperate the people, and increase crime. Let them follow the advice he had given them, and the disposition to vilify their proceedings which was attributed to him would at once pass away, and he would say that their legislation was both wise and useful.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
observed that the Drainage Bill was not to be applied to Ireland alone, but was intended for the three kingdoms.
§ MR. WAKLEY
said, he had hoped that the Government were not unfriendly to the introduction of a good Poor Law into Ireland; but it was now clear, from the statement of the right hon. Baronet, that the people of Ireland had no hope that such a law would be introduced, or if introduced, would be supported by the Government. He regarded the statement of the right hon. Baronet as a very calamitous announcement; and he thought that the poor of Ireland would have great reason to complain of it. The right hon. Baronet thought that it was not a permanent evil they were to provide for—a temporary arrangement was sufficient; but was not the present condition of Ireland, proved by their own inquiries and legislation, a reason for altering their permanent condition? [SIR J. GRAHAM: Not for altering the Poor Law.] He therefore felt grateful to the hon. Member for Stroud for introducing the subject in a large and comprehensive sense, in a way that the subject might be understood by the English public. He thought it positively disgraceful that England, Scotland, and Ireland should have different laws for the government of their poor. The right hon. Baronet had endeavoured to show why Ireland was not entitled to the same wide and general Poor Law as the people of England. In that respect he had failed. Was there not the same state of things in Ireland at present as in England before the Statute of Elizabeth? Did not vagrancy exist now in 1190 Ireland as it did then in England? Vagrancy was not punished in Ireland as it was in England; but it did not give a man in Ireland a title to relief. Suppose he were in England, he would be entitled to relief. Yes, if an Irish vagrant came to England, and by the law of England actually violated the law, he nevertheless would be entitled to relief; but in Ireland, even a destitute man, starving almost to death, was not entitled to relief. The right hon. Baronet said, he was entitled to beg. What a splendid boon to the Irish to be entitled to beg! Why not make vagrancy an offence in Ireland, as in England, and give to the poor of Ireland the same claim as they would have in England? Suppose an Irish labourer in England, destitute and having committed no offence, applied for relief; he obtained that relief; he was entitled by law to relief in England. After he had obtained this relief more than, once, an order was issued for his removal to Ireland; he was sent to Ireland, and as soon as he was landed on the shores of his own country he was entitled to no relief. He was sent from a foreign country, where he was entitled to relief, and when he came to his native country he was doomed to starvation unless he could obtain charity. The same as to Scotchmen. If a Scotchman became a pauper in England, he was entitled by law to relief, and he received it. After a certain period he was sent, at the cost of 40s. or 50s., to his own country, and his own Scotch law doomed him to starvation. And he should like to know whether, under this state of things, the English labourer was treated as he ought to be? He considered that the present state of the law was a robbery of the English landlord, and a robbery of the just rights of the English labourer. Many thousands of the Irish labourers came to England in the time of harvest, and at the end of it returned to their own country with what they had earned in their pockets. What was the condition of the English labourer? This was the season of the year at which the English labourer hoped that increased wages would enable him to set aside a sufficient sum to provide for the wants of that period of the year when employment would become scarce, and food more costly; yet the misfortune of his position was this, that at that critical moment the labour-market in England became glutted with an influx of labourers from a foreign country. [Hon. MEMBERS: Not foreign!] Certainly they were foreign- 1191 ers in the eyes of the English labourer. He had not said that the Irish were foreigners; this, however, he would say, that those who wished to treat the Irish differently from the manner in which they treated the English, intended to make them foreigners; but nothing could be further from his mind than such a sentiment. He wished to see the working classes of Tooth islands placed upon the same footing, and then competition amongst them could be injurious to neither. In the present state of things, nothing could be more unjust than to overwhelm the labour-market in this country with swarms of half-starved, half-naked Irishmen. Nothing could be more natural than that the English should regard the Irish labourer as a foreigner, for he beat down the value of the Englishman's labour. Now, the thing to be desired was, that there should be a Poor Law in Ireland that would make a provision for the destitute labourer. In England the law enforced such a provision; and let it be remembered that the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud went no further than to effect that object. The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech the House had heard, made some observations the effects of which were to divert attention from the subject then more immediately under their consideration; but with any notice of those uncalled-for remarks he should not then trouble the House. He would suppose the law in Ireland to be similar to the law in England; and when that supposition had previously been adverted to, the right hon. Baronet said that it led to forced purchases, and that was the reason why the prices of food had reached their present level. [Sir J. GRAHAM: I did not say so.] Well, supposing that it was not so, or at least that the right hon. Gentleman had not said so, still he would ask, was not England open to the same or similar effects? Did not the guardians of the poor in this country make purchases upon the spot? Surely meat, flour, and other provisions for the workhouses were purchased in the immediate neighbourhood of such workhouses—in short, was not everything given in the workhouses obtained in the immediate vicinity of them? Before he sat down, he intended to contrast the extent to which outdoor relief was carried in this country, as compared with the relief afforded in the workhouses during the period which had elapsed between the enactment of the Irish Poor Law and the present time. But before he pro- 1192 ceeded to do this, he wished once more to remind the House that the hon. Member for Stroud did nothing more than urge the House to do that which the operation of the Poor Laws effected every day in England. It seemed to him that the House ought very carefully to look at what was going on outside the workhouse, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would calmly and dispassionately consider the literal statement of facts which he intended to bring under the notice of the House; and in doing this he intended to quote from returns that the right hon. Gentleman himself used in debates which occurred in the course of last year. He would say to the right hon. Gentleman, that nothing could be more fair than to make the people of England aware of the facts which those returns disclosed; nothing was better calculated to enlighten the public mind upon this subject than to place those statements in juxtaposition. They should all be seen at one view in order to their being fully understood. He should limit his statement thus—he should begin with the year 1837, and end with 1844. The hon. Member then read the following table:—
Now, the House must remember that in Ireland no one received any relief out of the workhouse. Some hon. Members had cheered when he reached that part of the statement which showed that there had been a decrease in the numbers of those who received relief outside the workhouse, as if that proved the system to be bad; but the aggregate numbers did not show the working of the law so much as the percentage did. In 1839, 1840, and 1841, it was 87; 86 in 1842, 85 in 1843, and 85 in 1844. That showed the state of the law, its operation, and its practice. Did the right hon. Gentleman disapprove of that practice? If it be bad, why not alter it? But it had worked well as far as outdoor relief was concerned. He would put the proposition again. If the system were 1193 bad, and objectionable, and demoralizing, why not alter it? But if good, it ought to be extended. Nothing was more common than to declaim in that House and other places against the evils of absenteeism; but he desired to know if any one could devise a better absentee tax than that which a good sound system of poor rates afforded. The English people had a right to be protected from the competition which the influx of Irish labourers occasioned. The duty of providing for their own poor belonged to the Irish proprietors. Possibly some Irish Members thought that they did maintain their own poor. How did they maintain their poor—was it on potatoes? The Returns which were upon the Table of the House showed that millions of the Irish had no other food than potatoes. Now, he wanted to know if the great landed gentry of Ireland were contented with that state of things? Were the protectionists satisfied with it? Dr. Corrigan, in a very just and forcible manner, described the condition of the pauper Irish. That Gentleman truly described them as living upon the very lowest description of food, and at the same time he very truly stated that starvation was uniformly followed by pestilence; and it was not until pestilence supervened that the Irish gentry seemed to grow discontented. At the present moment Ireland was threatened with starvation, and therefore was threatened with pestilence. Every means should of course be adopted to remedy the evil; but mere talk would do no good. Hon. Members might say that at the present moment it was not expedient to alter the law. Did any one suppose that they would be willing to change it when the pressure upon them was lessened? The noble Lord the Member for London had given notice that he intended, after Easter, to bring the state of Ireland under the consideration of the House; he hoped that the public would learn from the noble Lord distinctly what his views were as to an Irish Poor Law; for the present was a most cruel state of things, because it was well known that if in Ireland a poor man fell into a state of destitution, there was no remedy open to him. There, if a poor man fell ill of fever, or any other ailment, and the fever hospitals were full, and the workhouses full, what could he do? There was no relief for him. That every one knew to be the state of the law, and every one must know that the representation which he gave of the matter was strictly true; yet in that 1194 state of things the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House and proposed a Fever Bill, the object of which was to limit the probable operation of the pestilence. But was the evil one of limited operation? Was it not an evil which had spread itself over the whole face of the country; and were there not at the present moment millions threatened with starvation? All this time, however, it was said that the workhouses were not full. Probably the poor people thought that they might as well starve out of the workhouses as in them. It was idle to say that the people were not half starved in the workhouses. No doubt the Irish proprietors were a fine, generous, hilarious set of gentlemen; but yet after all they did not take care of their poor; and there was the puzzle. It quite baffled him; there was something in the Irish character which he could not understand. The Irish proprietors thought that they maintained their own poor; but what sort of maintenance was it? The best way of answering that question was to see from the returns before the House what was the dietary. In value, the dietary amounted to a sum less than 2s. per week; for that was the maximum cost of diet and of clothing, taken altogether. In many of the Unions, the charges for diet, necessaries, and clothing were 1s. 4d., 1s. 5d., 1s. 8d., and 1s. 9d. a week. They clothed the poor for 1d. a week. He confessed that he knew not how poor people could be clothed at so small an expense, unless, indeed, they were covered with the skins of potatoes. With such clothing and diet it was no wonder that the people kept out of the workhouse. When human beings could be induced to enter such places, what must have been their previous condition? Surely no one would voluntarily go into a place where only 1s. 9d. was to be expended in his maintenance. If an Irishman in this country happened to be guilty of disorderly conduct, he was taken to a station-house, and there he got bread, butter, coffee, &c., to the value of 6d., and his lodging to boot. The maintenance of criminals in this country cost from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. and 4s. a week; and pauper lunatics cost in England as much as 9s. 6d., whereas the same class of persons in Ireland were restricted to 1s. 9d., and, in some, cases, the allowance was as low as 1s. 4½d. per week. Looking, then, at these facts, he could not help saying that he should like to be informed if the Irish landlords were unfriendly to the introduction of a poor 1195 law of a more liberal character; and if they were not now favourable to such a change, he desired to know when it was at all likely that they could be induced to give it their sanction. The state of this question was very ably handled in a pamphlet from which he intended to make some extracts. Of this pamphlet Dr. Corrigan was the author. Now, he wished hon. Members clearly to understand who Dr. Corrigan was. That gentleman was a physician of great knowledge and experience, a man who had been engaged in the practice of his profession for more than five and twenty years; and let the House recollect this, that the pamphlet in question was not written for the purpose of answering the present Bill, but, on the contrary, was published early in the last autumn. Dr. Corrigan had gone fully into the whole subject. As he had already stated, that gentleman was a physician, and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. He was also Physician to the Hardwicke Fever, Whitworth, and Richmond Hospitals, Lecturer on the Theory and Practice of Medicine in the Dublin School of Medicine, formerly Physician to Cork Street Fever Hospital, to the Charitable Infirmary, Jervis Street, and to the Sick Poor Institution, Dublin. Moreover, Dr. Corrigan was a man of great reputation in his profession, yet at the same time a man who had never in any way been concerned in political affairs; a pamphlet written by him, therefore, could never have been got up to serve party purposes. For this reason, then, a statement coming from such a man must be viewed as a work of authority, and one full of weight. He did not like to trouble the House with long extracts, or to waste their time with reading anything which did not well deserve their attention; but on a subject of that importance he hoped they would not consider their time misspent in listening to a few extracts from the pamphlet which he held in his hand. Dr. Corrigan availed himself of information which extended over a period of 100 years, although his own personal observations did not go further back than 1817. Now, Dr. Corrigan asserted, and apparently on very good authority, that nothing was more probable than that the famine and pestilence of 1846 would be as severe as those of 1817 and 1826. These were his words:—
ENGLAND AND WALES. Years. Believed in Workhouses. Relieved out of Workhouses. 1837 30,351 258,367 1838 78,264 568,113 1839 98,755 674,788 1840 114,626 747,052 1841 136,442 814,425 1842 149,461 855,283 1843 183,974 1,010,136 1844 179,663 997,224In the commencement of the year 1817 those who foresaw the coming pestilence, and would have made exertions to obviate it, were considered as alarmists. Thus, in Tullamore, in that year, 1196 when it was proposed to adopt measures to check the coming evil, the proposers were coldly and jealously avoided, their plains were ridiculed, and their efforts were unaided; but how sudden was the transition! The death of some persons of note"—(Yes, as soon as it reached the mansions of the wealthy, precautions were taken which previously no one thought of:)—"excited a sense of danger; alarm commenced, which ran into general dismay; military were posted at every avenue; the town was placed in a state of blockade; all intercourse in business, all trade was arrested, and all communication between the town and adjacent country was at an end. The poor were deprived of employment, and were driven from the doors where before they had always received relief, lest they should introduce disease with them. Thus, destitution and fever continued in a vicious circle, each impelling the other, while want of presence of mind aggravated a thousand fold the terrible infliction.The right hon. Gentleman opposite ought to be made acquainted with the substance of that pamphlet. [Sir J. GRAHAM; I have read it.] Then it was much to be regretted that the perusal of that publication had produced so very little effect upon the mind of the right hon. Gentleman; there had been no fruits from his study of it. He did not appear to have adopted a single suggestion proceeding from the pen of Dr. Corrigan. He should now proceed to lay before the House the observations made by Dr. Corrigan on the subject of fever hospitals. When fever prevailed, the poor were driven from the habitations of the wealthy; they were, therefore, deprived of employment, they returned amongst their neighbours and friends, famine brought disease, disease brought want of employment; and so the miseries of the people proceeded in a circle, for the wealthy were afraid to receive labourers from the infected districts. So it was in 1817 and 1826, and so it would be in 1846. The pamphlet of Dr. Corrigan then went on to say—I know not of any visitation so much to be dreaded as epidemic fever; it is worse than plague, for it lasts through all seasons. Cholera may seem more frightful, but it is in reality less destructive—it terminates rapidly in death, or in as rapid recovery; its visitation too is short, and it leaves those who recover unimpaired in health and strength. Civil war, were it not for its crimes, would be, as far as regards the welfare of a country, a visitation less to be dreaded than epidemic fever. Epidemic fever, as it has appeared in Ireland, persists through all seasons, and, when it has seized on an individual, generally extends to every member of the family, leaving no one of them capable of struggling against the common destitution. In Dublin alone, notwithstanding all the means of prevention that wealth and charity 1197 supplied, 42,000 patients passed through the fever hospitals, or one-sixth of the whole population of the city, in the epidemic of 1817 and 1818; and of 6,000,000, the estimated population of Ireland at that time, at least 1,5000,000 of the labouring classes suffered from fever. Of these about 60,000 died.That was his statement of facts, and could anything be more frightful? They ought to know every fact which was necessary to prevent these epidemics not only now, but for the future; and if they left the Irish to subsist only on the potato, they would always be subject to the same calamities that they now were. The writer went on to observe—The epidemics which appeared at different times, during a space of 100 years, have presented the same characters. It is reasonable to infer that they owe their origin to some common cause; my attention was, therefore, turned to ascertain what that common cause was. For this no mode of inquiry seemed better adapted than the inductive, to group together all the epidemics of which we have accurate accounts, noting the circumstances that accompanied or preceded each, and ascertaining if among them there were some one condition invariably present, which, according to the laws of this mode of inquiry, would then be that common cause.In making an inquiry into the causes, he found them all to vary except one. There was every variety of cause in operation on each return of the epidemic; but there was one common cause in each succeeding epidemic. What was that cause? It was want of food; want of a sufficient supply of food, or of a food of good quality. Finding, then, this cause invariable, Dr. Corrigan ascribed the epidemic fevers to want, and to want alone. He said—I have thus thrown together, with a concise notice of the most remarkable preceding or accompanying circumstances, the principal epidemics of the last hundred years. It is a maxim in philosophizing to assign like causes to like effects; and if upon a general view of all the instances adduced we find some one condition invariably present, to that condition we give the name of cause. We give the name of cause to the object which we believe to be the invariable antecedent of a particular change. Epidemic fevers are the like effects; we must, if possible, assign them like causes. Upon a general review of all the instances, with the accompanying circumstances, we find one condition invariably present—famine, which we, therefore, mark down as their common cause.And, observing on the measures which were passed in the year 1826 of a similar character to that which the right hon. Baronet now proposed, Dr. Corrigan, with his mind fortified by facts and experience, wrote this opinion of what was then done:—When the epidemic of 1826 appeared, an Act of Parliament was put in force, suggested by the Board of Health, which obliged each parish to ap- 1198 point persons denominated officers of health. Their duties were to see that all nuisances, such as collections of manure, &c., were removed, and that the habitations of the poor were whitewashed. Much money was expended in this way, in cleaning out dépôts of filth for those who were too indolent to do it for themselves, and in whitewashing rooms for poor creatures who then had not the price of fuel to dry their wet walls.And upon these proceedings the writer thus commented:—I would be far from undervaluing the advantages of cleanliness, but it is plain that all those matters over which the officers of health were given control, had equally existed for an indefinite period of time, and, and without being accompanied by any epidemic, and that expending much time and money in their removal, and directing the principal attention to them, was objectionable for two reasons. First, it was nearly an useless expenditure; and secondly, presenting an appearance of active exertion, it drew away attention from the real cause of the evil. The Act of Parliament took away all discretionary power from the parishes; they might spend as much money as they pleased in whitewashing rooms and staircases, but they could not lay out one penny to save a fellow creature from starvation.This was written last autumn, before there was any suggestion made by the Government, and made before any measure had been proposed, but made upon a Bill precisely similar to the present. Writing of the effects of the Bill of 1826, this gentleman told them that it was all very well to whitewash the rooms and passages; but that it would be better to prevent disease, and the spread of disease, by giving the poor people food. [Mr. S. HERBERT: We are doing that.] He did not see any symptoms of that at present. Dr. Corrigan said—The people of Ireland are peculiarly liable to become the victims of such pestilence. The effect of competition among a population with little employment has been to reduce their wages to the lowest sum on which life can be supported. Potatoes have hence become their staple food. If this crop be unproductive, the earnings of the labouring class are then quite insufficient to purchase the necessary quantity of any other food. Corn is altogether out of reach of their means; and thus, with an abundance of it around them, so great as to admit of exportation, they starve in the midst of plenty, as literally as if dungeon bars separated them from a granary. When distress has been at its height, and our poor have been dying of starvation in our streets, our corn has been going to a foreign market It is to our own poor a forbidden fruit. The potato has, I believe, been a curse to our country. It has reduced the wages of the labourers to the very smallest pittance; and when a bad crop occurs, there is no descent for them in the scale of food: the next step is starvation.What were they now doing in the House to prevent the spread of this disease? They were merely directing that in certain 1199 Unions in which disease should exist places which were called "fever hospitals" should be established by the guardians, and that there should be administered to those who were suffering from disease nourishment, medicine, and medical attendance. But what were they doing to prevent the origin of the disease? Nothing. With regard to the prevention of the disease not a single step had been taken. What did the writer to whom he had referred say upon this point?—Little need be said of the means best adapted to guard us against it. It remains for others than the physician to provide the preventive; it is to be found not in medicine, but in employment; not in the lancet, but in food; not in raising lazarettos for the reception of the sick, but in establishing manufactories for the employment of the healthy. This is the true mode of banishing fever from this country.Unless they threw this duty in the form of a law on the proprietors of the soil, would it ever be done? His conviction was, that it would not. If it were the legal duty of the proprietors of England to supply the people with work or with food, why was there not a like duty imposed on the proprietors of land in Ireland? He maintained that the state of the English poor was infinitely better than the state of the poor in Ireland. ["No, no!"] Then, why did the Irish people come here? ["To obtain work."] To be sure they did; they came here to obtain that work which they could not get in their own country; and why was it not provided for them there? If the burden of maintaining the poor in Ireland were thrown upon the proprietors, as was the case with the poor in England, they would not want work for the people; because especial care would be taken, if the proprietors had to maintain the Irish poor, that they were provided with work. The poor were now left to subsist on the charitable feeling of the nation. He held that the people of a country ought to have a right by law to a maintenance; those who were willing to work ought to be provided with the means; they ought to receive the wages of their labour, and to be independent of charity for their maintenance. Dr. Corrigan said on this—Some time might, however, elapse before measures, how well soever devised, could be brought into effective operation, to enable our population to possess within themselves the means of obtaining sufficient supplies of food; and it therefore remains to be determined, what would he the most beneficial mode of distributing nourishment, were we again to be visited by an epidemics such as that of 1817 or 1826. A plan was adopted in 1200 St. Catherine's parish, Dublin, for the distribution of food during the epidemic of 1826, which will be found, I believe, applicable on all similar occasions in towns. I can speak from personal knowledge of its efficiency. Tickets were issued to persons or families ascertained to be fit objects for relief. No ticket was given unless at the residence of the applicant, whose real circumstances thus came directly under the eye of the inspector. Those tickets remained in force for fourteen days, and were renewed or not at the end of that time, according to the discretion of the inspector. There were two classes of ticket, pay tickets and gratis tickets. The holder of a gratis ticket received each day during its term, a roll of bread with one quart of hot soup, The holder of a pay ticket received the same, but was obliged to pay for it 1d., about one third of its original cost. It frequently happened that those who during one fortnight were in the greatest distress were often able during the next fortnight to become holders of pay tickets, and thus to contribute to the maintenance of the fund by which they had themselves been relieved. The demand of the small sum of one third of the first cost for the food, while it enabled the distressed labourer to support himself cheaply, still preserved his independence, and preserved him from the disgrace of being considered as a mendicant. Moreover, the sum thus obtained in pence from the poor, and returned to them in the most advantageous form for themselves, namely, in wholesome hot food, amounted to much more than might at first be supposed. In St. Catherine's parish the sum thus received in pence from the poor in little more than six months was 277l.The learned doctor did not in his pamphlet mention any proposal for giving extended powers to the Poor Law guardians; but he summed up the conviction to which he had come from the facts he had investigated in these words:—I have in the above observations endeavoured to keep three positions prominently before my readers:—1st. That famine (including deficient or unwholesome food) is the paramount cause of the epidemic fevers of Ireland. 2dly. That epidemic fever, originate as it may, soon acquires a contagious power, a power of generating and of propagating itself, and thus involving all, rich and poor, in the country, in one common danger. And 3dly, as a corollary from these two, that employment and wholesome food will be the best prevention, aided, should the necessity arise, by hospitals to extinguish contagion.The right hon. Gentleman proposed only by this Bill the erection of hospitals; and it would be unnecessary for him to comment upon the clauses in that Bill, because it was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that it was a measure of a limited extent, from which he did not expect much good; and he (Mr. Wakley) certainly expected none, or next to none, from it. What he wanted to see were measures adopted adequate to prevent the spread of disease, or, what was far more important, the origination of disease. Out of the 110 reports they had received, nearly the 1201 whole of the returns showed that the origin of the disease was owing to a want of food, and there were most alarming accounts of the prospects before them. In many instances it was stated that the produce would only last for a few weeks. So long as the people should be simply destitute there was no remedy by the law; it was only when sickness should supervene that the law mercifully gave a provision; and then after these poor men were cured, with their frames and strength exhausted by the disease, they were to be sent out again, and were again to be exposed to poisonous and pestiferous influences. He said, the picture was one of such an appalling nature, and the prospects were so frightful, that every effort ought to be made by the Government and by the House to prevent the occurrence of so dreadful an epidemic amongst the Irish population. In the present measure he found nothing of that kind: it was wholly inadequate to the occasion. The Government said that they were responsible for the supply of food; but they ought to throw the responsibility on the law. He knew it had been often calumniously stated that what led to the destitution and poverty of the Irish people, and to their living in mud-holes, was their idleness. He believed that a falser statement had never been made, and that a grosser calumny had never been circulated in an intelligent community. What did they witness in London? The severest labour was performed by the bricklayers' labourers. He believed that, beyond all question, the severest labour in England, but in London most undoubtedly, the severest work that a labouring man could perform, was performed by the bricklayers' labourers. By whom then was that labour performed? By the Irish, almost to a man. There were some 20,000 bricklayers' labourers in London and its suburbs, and not more than 100 of these were English. What were the wages of these labourers? Eighteen shillings a week. Now, within twenty miles of London the English labourers in agriculture—in Buckinghamshire, for instance—were not receiving more than 8s. or 9s. a week. Yet so terribly severe was the labour of the bricklayers' labourer, that, with all the temptation of the increased wages, the English labourer was incapable of performing the work, and shrank from the toil, which was gladly and cheerfully performed by the Irish labourer, though the English labourer was now receiving but half the 1202 wages he could earn by the severer trial. The Irish, then, would work if they had the opportunity. What he wished was, that they should have that opportunity; and of that the hon. Member for Stroud contemplated the provision by his present Resolution. If, by introducing clauses into the Bill, the right hon. Baronet should carry out the principle of that Resolution, he would soon compel the boards of guardians to provide work for the poor in a state of destitution. This would be the best tax on the absentee proprietors of Ireland; if it fell unfairly, let all be bound to assist. If it oppressed unjustly the property in Ireland, the people of this country would have no right not to contribute; but the poor man in Ireland ought to be protected from suffering those horrible calamities to which he was exposed from the want of those staple articles of food which ought to fall to his share. It was acknowledged that there were millions in Ireland into whose cabins a loaf of bread never entered. The state in which they existed was a disgrace to civilization. All other classes had been advancing; new luxuries were daily in store for them; but whilst the wealthy were increasing their means of happiness, the Irish labourers were in as bad a condition now as they were a hundred years ago. It was a disgrace to the Government—he did not allude particularly to the present Government, but to all the Governments which had existed in this country—that Parliamentary measures had not been proposed to protect the labourers. Every advantage had been given to the English labourer by the Act of 43d Elizabeth, the principle of which had been carried out for the last 250 years; and he would only ask what would have been the present condition of the Irish labourers if that principle had been in operation in that country? The poor would have been as well off there as they were here; and, until they had such a law for Ireland, the social, physical, and moral condition of the Irish would not be improved.
§ MR. SHAW
would trespass very shortly on the House, as he desired to throw no impediment in the way of the Bill then under their consideration going into Committee. He could not however avoid making a few observations upon the speech of the hon. Member for Finsbury who had just sat down. The hon. Gentleman had accused that side of the House of a reluctance to adopt a good Poor Law for Ireland. Now, they did not object to a 1203 good Poor Law, but they did object to the hon. Gentleman's definition of what a good Poor Law was. He would at that time introduce into Ireland the old English Poor Law, with all its grievous abuses of outdoor relief and labour-rates. He entirely concurred with the right hon. Baronet in repudiating that plan. In England, for nearly three centuries, there had been a Poor Law; and the evils of the outdoor system had been so great, that the whole policy of the recently amended law was gradually to get rid of them. In Ireland, a Poor Law at all had only been introduced within the last few years; and the great object was to keep off the old abuses of the English law, by restricting the relief to be afforded to indoor relief. The system had been attempted in Ireland under many difficulties and much opposition. He had supported it, and it was even then working better than he had almost ventured to anticipate. The tax on the land of the country was already about 260,000l. a year, and if that were increased in the ratio that the statistics of the hon. Gentleman proved — the proportion of outdoor relief to bear to indoor relief in England—it would absorb the whole property of the country; indeed, according to the hon. Gentleman's definition of a poor condition of living, there were many large districts in Ireland where the whole labouring population would become fair claimants for the outdoor relief he contended for. The hon. Gentleman, as well as the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), who had moved the Amendment, complained that there was in Ireland no legal right to relief. True, but the workhouses were not full; and though there was no strict legal right to relief, practically it was never denied to any destitute person who sought it at the poor house. Then the hon. Member complained of the treatment of the paupers in the workhouses in Ireland; but if he would take the trouble to visit them, he would find the poor people in them clean and comfortable, and well fed. There was only one point on which he differed from the speech of the right hon. Baronet. It was with reference to the purchase of oats in Ireland. He quite agreed with the right hon. Baronet, that it would have been absurd to prohibit the exportation of oats; but he thought, without materially raising the price, as much money as was expended on American maize might have been more wisely and economically spent in purchasing in Ireland a food that the people 1204 there were used to. And without any interference, such as had been recommended by the hon. Member for Finsbury, with the Poor Law guardians by the Government, he was aware that some of the boards of guardians had very prudently purchased oatmeal and other food for the inmates of the workhouses, instead of potatoes. He would not then dwell upon the exaggeration of the extent of the scarcity and danger of famine in Ireland, of which he had before spoken in that House; but he had nothing to retract on the subject. It was not, however, when a remedial measure for the distress and sufferings of the Irish people was before the House, that he wished to introduce that topic — for he fully admitted that there was ample ground in Ireland for all the temporary measures of alleviation that the Government were proposing. He would willingly and cordially support them, in giving labour to the unemployed—food to those threatened with famine, and in providing for the care and comfort of the sick. But when the discussion should be with reference to the Corn Laws, then he would never shrink from exposing what he considered the frivolous and flimsy pretence of making the usual periodical distress of the Irish poor—aggravated in the present season, as it was, by the disease of the potato—a ground for altering the whole commercial system, and removing the just protection to native industry, throughout the Empire. Upon that occasion, however, he must say a word upon each of the documents relative to the potato disease and apprehended famine, which had lately been printed by the House, and had been observed upon by hon. Gentlemen who had preceded him. As to the first — the potato return, it showed a price somewhat higher than the average of late years, but still nothing approaching to a famine price, namely, about, on an average, 4d. per stone, or 2s. 8d. per cwt. And, as to the paper on disease, it proved no very extensive case of fever throughout the country generally. The first remark that it struck one to make upon it was, that there were answers from no more than 108 dispensary doctors, whereas in Ireland there were between 600 and 700: and it was to be supposed that the answers were to a general circular sent them all. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: They only gave the answers where fever had actually broken out]. No, no; he begged pardon of the right hon. Baronet, for a great number of the answers only stated 1205 the apprehension of fever. Such a document, he believed, could very truly be made out in any year for the last ten at that season; and, that such was the opinion of Dr. Corrigan, would appear from the pamphlet the hon. Member had so largely quoted. He felt that there was some danger lest the care of the sick poor, once being thrown, under the present Bill, upon the Poor Law Unions, there might be a difficulty in removing it, and that it might become a permanent charge upon the poor rates. Still he would rather encounter that danger than oppose any temporary measure, introduced on the responsibility of the Government to meet the present exigency, and therefore he would not offer any impediment to the progress of the Bill.
§ MR. FRENCH
, in deference to the feeling expressed on both sides of the House, should not, at present, enter on a discussion as to the demerits and defects of the Irish Poor Law; his opinions were unchanged as to its inapplicability to the wants of the country: inoperative for good—productive only of discontent and disturbance, injudiciously and offensively administered by the Commissioners—it would not be a matter of surprise that it was almost without a defender. There was one subject, however, unconnected with its administration, which he could not pass over. In reply to a question put by him to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, why the guardians of the Castlereagh Union were dismissed? an answer had been put into the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, wholly and totally destitute of truth. The right hon. Gentleman stated, that the Poor Law Commissioners had dismissed the guardians of the Castlorea Union, because they refused to open the workhouse. He had lately seen several of the selected magistrates and electoral guardians of that Union, and learned from them that the House had been opened, a new rate imposed, and that the reason assigned was the very opposite of fact. Assurances of this kind were not only damaging to the Commission, but to the Government by whom they were retained in office. He fully concurred with his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick, that Government had no reason to pride themselves on the measures brought forward by them in the present Session of Parliament in relation to Ireland. The self-complacency of the right hon. Baronet was ludicrously absurd. 1206 Whatever might be the intentions of Her Majesty's Government to promote the interests of Ireland, they were singularly infelicitous in carrying them into effect. He neither anticipated the improvement of the country nor employment of the people as a consequence of the three measures so often boasted of. Their sole result would be to add to the arbitrary and objectionable power of the Executive, and of the public boards in Dublin. Their first measure, the Public Works Act, with its 50,000l. for moiety grants, clogged with the condition that the public works to which any portion of this money was granted, shall from thenceforward be placed in the hands of Commissioners resident probably 100 miles or upwards from the spot, to lay out any sums they please, under the head of repairs, repayable by the districts, through the means of compulsory presentments. Secondly, the Drainage Bill, carrying with it the necessity for those who avail themselves of its provisions, to place their estates in the hands of the Commissioners, to be cut and carved, and possibly ultimately sold, at their pleasure. Then came the sum of 200,000l. for the promotion of inland navigation, just at a time when it was proved that the cost of carriage by water could not in point of economy contend with that by the rail. This loan, in place of serving Ireland, was likely to prove of the greatest disservice, as works would be executed by public money which private parties would not be found to undertake. There would not be any return for this money so invested, and a check would be given to the influx of capital into Ireland. He regretted the position of the Government, that, since the death of his noble Friend, Lord Fitzgerald, there was no person amongst them who understood anything of the interests of Ireland, or the feelings of any class of her inhabitants. 100,000l. was to be advanced under the Grand Jury Presentments' Bill. Already the magistrates and cesspayers assembled under that Bill had found out that it was so framed as not to carry out the objects of its preamble; and at five sessions in his county, where they had met, they had unanimously declined to put it in force. In the baronies of Ballintubber, Boyle, May, Carnon, and indeed in every barony of the county of Roscommon, such had been the result. He held in his hand copies of the Resolutions agreed to at each of these meetings, fully explanatory of the deficiencies of this Act, and showing how 1207 utterly impossible it was to secure any employment to the people, although that was stated in its preamble to be the object Bought for. The necessity of accepting the lowest tender, and giving the execution of the work to the contractor making it, precluded the possibility of, under it, procuring employment for the distressed poor, in districts suffering from the failure of the potato crop. Now, as to the necessity of the Bill at present before them, on what was it founded? A return had lately been laid before the House on the state of disease in Ireland, which Government appeared to rely on as showing a necessity for the measure. Now, what did that Paper really show? There were between 700 and 800 medical institutions in Ireland—between 600 and 700 dispensaries—eighty-eighty fever hospitals, supported by grand jury presentments; and, according to the statement of the right hon. Baronet, eighty-one Unions out of the 130, had availed themselves of the power given under Vesey's clauses, and established fever hospitals in the workhouses. The number of medical institutions might therefore be fairly taken at about 800. A circular was of course written to all. Where is that circular? Where are the answers to it? But 108 of "the most serious" have been published—one-eighth of the whole. The remainder were cushioned—they would not support the "alarming exigency" of the Minister. Even of the 108 published, but four specify in figures an actual increase of disease, the remaining 104 are vague and indefinite, and merely record the apprehensions of the writers, and their desire to have fever hospitals built in their district. On their own Paper, their own admission showed that there was no necessity for this measure. There were already 165 fever hospitals in Ireland, and there was a power vested in the Poor Law guardians to increase that number if necessary. Why then should this objectionable and unconstitutional power be given to the Lord Lieutenant of taxing the people of Ireland at his pleasure? Why should the medical men, if they be required, be paid out of the Consolidated Fund? The landlords, landholders, and owners, were the parties on whom this charge should be placed, and if it were necessary it would by them be willingly borne; this provision was merely an attempt to bribe the medical profession and stamp the country with pauperism. There was, however, an omission from this Bill, which he could not leave unnoticed. 1208 There was not one word about inspection, notwithstanding that every Committee that had inquired into the state of medical relief in Ireland had strongly recommended it. The Poor Law Commissioners, the Poor Inquiry Commissioners, the Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians, and united voice of the medical profession, had advocated the necessity of inspection; yet this, the only thing that could by possibility give satisfaction, or carry out proper medical relief, was omitted. By it alone could a due administration of the funds be secured, and a proper medical assistance to the poor be provided for. Now with respect to the proposed Board of Health, he should like to know who the individuals were who were about to be appointed. They were, he understood, to be the heads of different departments already in the service of Government; but what knowledge of medical arrangements, or the treatment of epidemics could be expected from commissary-generals or inspectors-general of police? From his experience of the late Board of Health, he was not disposed to place much confidence in the proposed arrangements. Under the old system, an application was made for the sum of 200l., for cholera or fever, he forgot which, but the documents were in the Castle of Dublin. The money was sent down without any previous inquiry, and a compulsory presentment forwarded to the grand jury to levy its amount. The grand jury objected, on the ground that no fever existed in the locality at the time specified; but the certificate of the Under Secretary for Ireland was imperative, and the money had to be paid. On subsequent inquiry it was discovered that the application had been made to the Board of Health, that the money was sent down, and was appropriated to the building of a house of religious worship. This Bill appeared to him to be uncalled for and unnecessary, and he therefore protested against its passing.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
expressed his regret that the Amendment had been moved, and, if his hon. Friend pressed it to a division, he must vote against it; for a proposition involving so wide a question as that of outdoor relief should have been brought forward as a substantive Motion. Now, the hon. Member for Finsbury had made an observation which had very much struck him. He knew the kindness of heart of that hon. Gentleman, and his wish to promote the welfare of the Irish people, but the hon. Gentleman stated that he did not 1209 understand the Irish character. He (Mr. Osborne) thought the hon. Gentleman neither understood the Irish character nor the state of Ireland. The hon. Member spoke of the labourers coming over to this country; but did he not know that in many counties of England the harvest could not be got in but for the aid of the Irish labourers? Then he seemed to desire that the food of the people in the workhouses should be different from that of the labourers generally. Sow he lamented that the potato should be the staple food of the Irish people; but the hon. Gentleman must know, that it was a subject of great difficulty to change the food of a people. He himself knew a case in which a landlord had given oaten cakes to his labourers, and what was the fact? They refused to take them. In his opinion the preliminary step for any measure of relief for the people of Ireland was employment. It would never do to engender a system of eleemosynary relief in that country. There was one kind of capital there which had been altogether neglected to the present day. It was the capital of labour; and it was perfectly disgraceful to the various Governments of this country that they had never taken that into consideration. He called such a course abdicating the functions of a Government. The hon. Member for Limerick had said, put a tax on the mortgagees; but the effect of such a measure would only be to raise the value of money in Ireland. Now, he adhered to the old axiom, that property had its duties as well as its rights, and he was prepared to act up to it in his own person. For his own part, he thought that the much-abused class, the Irish landlords, were as good, if not better, than the English. There might be some who were distressed, which was the real origin of bad landlords; and he should be most happy to see some measure brought in to break the law of entail in Ireland, which, in his opinion, caused much of that distress. He would recommend the First Lord of the Treasury to advance liberal loans to the railways in progress in Ireland, but for which many of them would not be made. One of the most important of these undertakings, the Limerick and Waterford Railway, was now at a standstill for want of such assistance.
§ MR. M. MILNES
The hon. Member who had just sat down had hit the right nail on the head when he asserted that the great evil which afflicted Ireland con- 1210 sisted in the inability in which the majority of the landlords there found themselves of being able to do anything to better their own position. The observations which had fallen from him (Mr. M. Milnes) with reference to this subject on a former occasion had given rise to some ill feeling; but he was happy in being able to state that he had received communications from the other side of the channel assuring him that what he had said had been kindly taken, as he meant it. He entirely agreed also in what had been said of the better management of the Irish estates of the absentee landlords. At the same time he was of opinion that in such a crisis as impended over Ireland at the present moment, it was the imperative duty of those who had estates there to go over and personally superintend the efforts made to alleviate the miseries and distresses of the people who were under their care. That was what any English landlord would do if his tenantry or his neighbourhood were threatened with famine or fever; and why should not the Irish landlords act by their Irish tenantry as they would by their English tenantry, if the case called for it? He knew, however, that there must be some limit placed on the extent to which the relief administered by them went; for the demands upon the Irish landowners would otherwise be so great as not possibly to be complied with. There was one point to which he would direct particular attention—namely, the very heavy burden which the landlords endured in the shape of mortgages. They frequently paid 5 per cent, in most cases 4½ per cent, for the money they borrowed; and he did firmly and conscientiously believe, that the more effectual means of affording relief to Ireland would be by the Government applying its own credit for the purpose of enabling the landowners to reduce their present mortgages, and to borrow money at from 3 to 3½ per cent. The question was a grave one, and would lead to grave objections; but if it were taken up by a more powerful advocate than he was himself, he had no doubt the remedy would be found effectual. Suppose the Government thereby enabled the landlords to borrow at 3½ per cent, how many hundreds of labourers would there not be at once employed in draining and otherwise improving lands in Ireland. He hoped the present discussion, and those preceding it, would convince Ireland that the feelings of the people of England, and of their representa- 1211 tives, were strongly roused; and he trusted that those Members who had honoured them by coming over from Ireland, and taking part in their debates, would, when they went back to their countrymen, assure them that it was the universal belief amongst Englishmen, that whatever misery was endured by Ireland, was certain to recoil, by its effects, upon England.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
would not take up the time of the House farther than to observe that the present was not a fit opportunity for entering upon so wide a topic as that supposed by the last hon. speaker. He wished particularly to direct attention to the fever and other returns from Ireland, and to observe that it would be advisable to have those returns periodically made, and to append to them the names of the landlords in whose localities diseases were most prevalent, so as to render those persons subject to public opinion. He had felt extreme gratification in hearing from the lips of the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary an avowal which he trusted would henceforward be acted upon by him, and one which was almost made in the precise terms used so often on his own side—namely, that the time was come when the Government must make up its mind to legislate, upon Irish subjects with Irish feelings. He hoped and he believed that the expression of such a sentiment on the part of the Government, constituted a new era for Ireland.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
rose to make an observation on the Motion before the House; and he did so even at the risk of appearing hard and uncharitable under the afflicting circumstances in which Ireland was placed. He believed that if the practice of giving outdoor relief was resorted to as proposed, the practice would become permanent, and the workhouse test could never again be resorted to in Ireland. Would it, let him ask, be fair, without resorting to any test, or having recourse to any preliminary inquiry, at once by a by-law, such as was proposed, to overturn the whole social system upon which the Poor Law of Ireland was based? Had any emergency yet arrived which called for so sweeping a measure? The workhouses were not yet full, nor was there any demand for extra accommodation, which he would be prepared to provide in a temporary manner if needed. He knew it was said by the hon. Member near him, that the people of Ireland would not go into the workhouse; but the circumstances had not sufficiently 1212 tested that feeling, which, as it was founded on a false idea, would, he believed, vanish at the first opportunity of trying its strength.
§ VISCOUNT EBRINGTON
could not vote for the present Motion; but he thought that more power to give relief to the sick and impotent poor, as in Scotland, should be given to the guardians. On some future occasion, he should trouble the House with his opinions on the administration of relief in England. He knew a case in which the guardians of a Poor Law Union in Devonshire were—he could not say are—letting out the labour of ablebodied men. How the right hon. Baronet reconciled his views of political economy in Ireland with the laxity of his Poor Law administration here he could not pretend to say.
§ MR. FITZGERALD
intended to vote for the Bill; but in doing so, he should observe that the very existence of the evils which led to the necessity for such a measure was proof of the existence of one of the heaviest grievances of which Ireland had to complain. One of the greatest evils of which Ireland complained was the want of a sufficient proportion of representation in the Cabinet or the Legislature. Now, the right hon. Baronet had admitted—and his evidence was most important—that there was not at present a single Irish Member in the British Cabinet. He thought that a serious grievance. But there was another part of the right hon. Baronet's speech for which he had pleasure in thanking him. He thanked him for the kind manner in which he had spoken of the Catholic clergy in Ireland. That kind language would be the more soothing to the people of Ireland, and would be productive of the better effect, that it had been used by the right hon. Baronet in that House on the same day on which a newspaper, which was looked upon as an organ of the Government — he meant the Times — ["No, no!"] — well, at all events, it was a journal that was looked upon as expressing the sentiments of the great majority of the people of England; and it was important that the right hon. Baronet should have used such soothing language on the same day on which an article of a most insulting nature appeared in the Times journal. In the Times of that morning there was an article on the state of Ireland, from which he would read to the House an extract. After alluding to "the enormity, not less than the impunity of 1213 crime, and the encouragement given to it by great and organized conspiracies in different counties of Ireland," it went on thus—The spectacle of a country where outrage may be threatened with effect, and executed without retribution—where the forms of justice are of no avail, and its spirit without influence—where sympathy is on the side of the wrong-doers, and not of the sufferers — where testimony is perverted by fear, or destroyed by violence—where falsehood assumes the guise and utters the language of devotion—where perjury protects itself beneath the venerable garb of sanctity, or is sheltered by the sacred walls of the confessional.Now, he asked, was not that an insult to the people of Ireland, and an attack upon the Catholic clergy of Ireland? Was it not language calculated to sink deeply into the minds of Irishmen, and to engender feelings of anger and animosity towards the people of this country? Was it not calculated to promote feelings of distrust and dislike between the people of the two countries? But it was satisfactory that the right hon. Baronet should have taken the opportunity of speaking on the same day as he had done, and of bestowing such encomiums upon the Catholic clergy of Ireland. More lasting measures than the present were, however, wanting. Temporary relief and the distribution of alms in charity, would be useless beyond the moment. The great want was employment. The people of Ireland had had their expectations raised. They had been led to expect extensive employment, and means should be adopted for that purpose. He recommended the Government to attend to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien), and to appoint a Committee of Irishmen to whom all measures relating to Ireland should be submitted.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
said, that if outdoor relief were to be established in Ireland, it would amount to an utter confiscation of property. The system had been tried in England, and it had not succeeded. Its effects would be disastrous in Ireland.
MR. P. S. BUTLER
As it appeared to be expected that every Irish Member should deliver his opinions upon the question, he begged to offer a very few observations. He should vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud. The funds at the disposal of the Poor Law guardians in Ireland were totally insufficient. The hon. Member proceeded to give several instances of the straitened circumstances in which 1214 some of the Unions were placed, and amongst others stated, that in the Kilkenny Union, of which he himself had been one of the first-elected guardians, a cheque which he had drawn upon the bank, in discharge of a debt for the supply of some articles of food to the Union, had been dishonoured, and upon his applying at the hank to know the reason, he was laughed at by the clerk, who told him that no fewer than 144 similar cheques had been dishonoured for want of funds.
§ MR. SCROPE
explained, that he had certainly not meant that the ablebodied poor should be relieved at their own homes. His object was merely to prevent their actually starving. However, as several hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that the discussion had better be taken at another time, and that the Bill should be permitted at once to go into Committee, he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn. House in Committee upon the Bill.
§ The various clauses were passed with verbal Amendments.
§ House resumed. Report to be received, and Bill read a third time on the next day.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to Six.