said, that he was anxious to explain his reasons for having voted against the clause of the Bill which sanctioned out-door relief to the able-bodied poor, of which he had not an opportunity when the Bill was discussed in Committee. He was quite sure that any stranger, deriving his information only from the speeches of the advocates of out-door relief during the present Session, and ignorant of what had passed in former years, would have imagined that its policy, as far at least as the interests of the poor were concerned, was unquestionable, or at least that it could be questioned by those alone, 876 who, in the language of the hon. Member for Bath, were banded together for selfish purposes against the poor. No such stranger to the subject could ever have imagined that the question had been investigated during a long series of years, by Committee after Committee—by Commission after Commission—and had been discussed by statesman after statesman—and that the unanimous opinion of every authority on the subject, down to the present year—that is to say, so long as it was considered not as an English question, but as an Irish question—so long as it was to be determined not by clamour but by argument—had been that it would be as fatal to the interests of the poor themselves, as to those of the rich—of society at large, to which they thought it would be injurious to a ruinous degree. On other points of poor-law legislation, differences of opinion existed among them; but with respect to out-door relief to able-bodied persons, all were unanimous in condemning it; and so strongly had Mr. Nicholl, on whose report the existing poor law was founded, objected even to its occasional administration, that he recommended that it should be specially provided in the Poor Law Act, that no relief should be given except in the workhouse; and this had been his opinion, even with reference to the possible occurrence of a calamity such as they had now to deal with in Ireland, which Mr. Nicholl had said ought to be considered as an extreme case, to which it would be most unwise to adapt the regulations of ordinary poor-law administration. These had been the opinions, not of Irish landlords, banded together for selfish purposes, but of men whose disinterestedness could not be suspected, and whose arguments had been admitted in 1847, by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government himself, to be conclusive; and he had in vain sought, during the course of these discussions, for a single argument calculated to upset these conclusions, or to prove that out-door relief to the able-bodied poor was, in any respect, applicable to the condition of a country so peculiarly circumstanced as Ireland. The noble Lord, indeed, at the head of Her Majesty's Government had endeavoured to set aside some of the objections to the measure, by expressing his confidence in the capability of the soil of Ireland, and in the willingness of the people to labour, and in the probability of the introduction of such a system of agriculture into Ireland as would 877 provide employment for nearly the whole of the population of the country; but he thought, that if the noble Lord had referred to the statistics of which he was in possession, and which he admitted to be conclusive against out-door relief in 1837, he would have found some difficulty in convincing the House of the reasonableness of his expectations, or of the possibility, under whatever system of agriculture, of realizing his anticipations. He should like to know by what conceivable means, in those districts of Ireland in which the population was the greatest, as compared with the value and extent of property (and it was to the relief of those districts that the Bill was specially directed, and with reference to which, therefore, it ought specially to be argued), he meant in those districts in the south and west of Ireland, in which there was an average of about one head of population to every thirty shillings' worth of rateable property, employment could possibly be found for the people in the cultivation of the soil; or even supposing it to be possible to bring into cultivation such an additional quantity of land as would be necessary for this purpose, how it would be possible to maintain them in the meantime by rates to be levied off the land, even supposing the whole rental of the land to be divided among them? Such an obligation on the land would amount to nothing short of an entire confiscation of property, which would even then be wholly insufficient to supply the wants of the people. But it had been argued that those who maintained that to give a right of out-door relief to able-bodied destitute persons would lead to the confiscation of property, had proved too much for their own case, because, if destitution existed to such an extent as such an argument implied, it was clear that it ought to be relieved, and that the land was the proper source from which such relief should be derived. He admitted that in the south and west of Ireland he was at a loss to conceive by what means the population was to be maintained, if the potato was to cease to be the main article of food, unless indeed some extensive scheme of emigration were resorted to, coupled with extensive works for the employment of the people, and increasing the productiveness of the soil and the quantity of land in cultivation; but of this, at least, he was quite sure, that their wants could not be provided for by means of out-door relief, which, on the contrary, he was satisfied, would, by 878 its demoralising effect, create more destitution than it would provide for, and thus only add to the difficulty which it was intended to remove. But in the more prosperous parts of Ireland he had a strong impression that, if the right to out-door relief were not conceded, there would be sufficient accommodation in the workhouses, now that the aged and infirm were entitled to be relieved out of doors, for all such able-bodied persons as would be willing to submit to the workhouse test; but if the right to out-door relief were conceded, he was satisfied that the feeling which it would engender among a people of whose proneness to rely on public means of support, rather than on their own individual exertions, the history of the past year had furnished so many examples—the feeling that they need no longer rely on their own labour for subsistence, which, if they became destitute, must be provided for them at the public charge, and without the irksomeness of workhouse restraint, would raise up such a mass of destitution as would ultimately prove an almost intolerable burden on the land. Their argument, therefore, was, not that there existed, but that the right to out-door relief would call into existence, that mass of destitution, to provide for which would, as they conceived, almost amount to confiscation. He was aware that there were those who argued, that, even if the concession of the right to out-door relief should prove so injurious to property as had been apprehended, the House ought not to be deterred from granting that right; because it was the duty of the proprietors of the soil to maintain the poor of the soil; and that, therefore, all such destitute persons as could not obtain admission to the workhouse ought to be relieved out of doors, whatever might be the consequences. No one was more ready than he was to admit that duty; and if it could be shown to him that the confiscation of property in Ireland was essential to the welfare of the people, he would not deny that the interests of a class ought to be sacrificed. But he should have thought that the veriest tyro in political science would have known that a flourishing condition of property was as necessary to the welfare of the poor as of the rich; that if you diminish the capital of the rich, you diminish his means of giving employment also; and that, if at last his whole property should be broken down by the weight of the burden which you impose upon it, the whole of the labouring population 879 must be thrown upon the poor rates (for if you ruin the landlord you ruin the farmer also, who was to pay an equal proportion of the rate) and the result would be, in the words of the Poor Law Commissioners, to involve the landlord, the farmer, and the labourer, and the whole community, in general destruction. It had been stated by one of Her Majesty's Ministers, that those, who anticipate the possibility of such disastrous consequences from the measure, were fighting chimeras of their own creating; because the Bill did not authorize out-door relief as a general and permanent system, but only in extreme cases, and for a limited period, and not without an order from the Poor Law Commissioners; but if the effects of the right, however guarded, should be as demoralising as he anticipated—if the people should become negligent of seeking employment, preferring a slothful existence at the public charge, to labour and independence, it was clear that great and general destitution must follow; and he knew not how, in that case, the Poor Law Commissioners could refuse to order out-door relief, and to renew the order from time to time; and thus, in his opinion, there was a great danger of out-door relief becoming, at least in the most distressed districts of Ireland, which were the least able to bear it, the rule, and not the exception to the rule, of ordinary poor-law administration, and leading to all the disastrous consequences which, he thought, they had so much reason to apprehend. But the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government appeared to consider that a conclusive argument in favour of out-door relief was involved in the question, which, he said, the deputation of Irish Members was not able to answer—"by what other alternative, when destitution existed to a greater extent than the workhouse could provide for, do you propose to save the poor from starving?" He thought, that before the noble Lord asked that question, he ought to have explained that the alternative proposed by himself would, at least, be effectual for that purpose; but he had not explained how in those districts to which he had already referred, in which the whole value of rateable property varied from one to two pounds for every head of the population, rates were to be collected to a sufficient amount to provide for the wants of the poor. Why, it was an absolute impossibility; and he thought the noble Lord had therefore had no right to ask by what other alternative they proposed to do that 880 which his own alternative clearly could not do. But, he thought, nevertheless, that a direct answer might be given to the noble Lord's question. If it had been put with reference to the present calamitous state of the poor in Ireland, his answer would be, that he agreed with Mr. Nicholl in thinking that famine was irremediable by any poor law, and, therefore, ought not to be met by a permanent law such as had been proposed: if, on the contrary, it had reference to the ordinary extent of destitution which was likely to prevail in Ireland, after the present crisis should have passed away, he would remind the noble Lord, that he had himself expressed it as his opinion that no man could foresee to what changes in the system of agriculture, and in the social condition of Ireland, the present crisis was likely to lead; and he thought, therefore, that the noble Lord would have adopted a far wiser and more prudent course, if, instead of legislating thus in the dark, and proposing, under the influence of a temporary pressure, a permanent measure, from which there could be no retreat, however ill adapted it might prove to the condition of the country, he had contented himself during the present Session with such temporary measures as the necessities of Ireland might deem to require, reserving the question of permanent legislation to some future period, when he would be in a better position to judge what description of poor law would be most applicable to the then altered condition of the country. It appeared to him, therefore, that, even admitting, for argument sake, the force of the reasoning of the advocates for out-door relief, that the permanent measure to which they were now called on to assent was, to say the least of it, premature. The effects of the Bill would, in his opinion, be precisely the reverse of those which its promoters contemplated. They wished to stimulate the owners and the occupiers of the soil—the landlord and the farmer—to introduce an improved system of agriculture, and to give employment to the greatest possible number of the labouring poor; and they introduced a Bill which, in many parts of Ireland, would, he believed, utterly paralyse their means of exertion, and render them utterly unable to extricate themselves from the difficulties which surrounded them. They wished to encourage emigration. The calamity which had fallen upon Ireland had warned hundreds of thousands that they must seek the means of subsist- 881 ence in those regions which yet remained uncultivated for want of the population of which Ireland had so great a superabundance; but the noble Lord stepped in with this Bill, and told them that there was no such absolute necessity for seeking subsistence abroad, because subsistence at least must be provided for them at home. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had, in the course of these discussions, attributed the want of energy in agricultural pursuits among the peasantry of Ireland to the facility with which they had hitherto obtained the means of an indolent and slothful existence—a little food and a wretched shelter—which was all that they required; and he now told them that he had great confidence in their willingness to labour; but that if he should be disappointed in that respect, they at least need not be disquieted, for that, come what might, their condition could not be much worse than that with which they had hitherto been contented, and that so long as a penny could be collected from the land, that penny must be applied to their support. The noble Lord had asserted, that the necessity for this measure had been proved by the smallness of the rate which had been collected in Ireland under the existing law. He (Mr. Corry) was the last person to deny that some change in the law was required, because he had himself argued, when the existing law was under discussion, that outdoor relief ought to be administered to the aged and infirm; and of that portion of the Bill, therefore, he cordially approved. He fully admitted the obligation of the soil to support its own poor by every practicable means, but not by means which, he was satisfied, would defeat their own end, and be most disastrous to the general interest of the community. He thought that this measure had been produced more in the reckless spirit of a gambler, than with the prudence of a statesman. So long as Ireland was comparatively prosperous, no man dared to propose the introduction of outdoor relief to able-bodied persons into the system of her poor-law administration; but the moment that she appeared to be involved in almost inextricable difficulties, Her Majesty's Government no longer hesitated to stake all on the hazard of a die, and to embark in so rash an experiment. ["Hear, hear!"] That the experiment was a safe one, he believed no one had pretended to argue; and the differences between its advocates and himself was, 882 that they considered it a dangerous experiment, while he regarded it as ruinous; and thinking, as he did, that the measure was fraught with consequences ruinous to the best interests of all classes of his countrymen, he had felt it his duty to enter his protest against it on the present occasion.
§ MR. FRENCH
commenced by saying, that as his right hon. Friend who had just sat down had declared there was no intention of dividing the House on the third reading of the Bill, he did not consider it necessary to detain the House by repeating the arguments which had already been urged as to the danger of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor in Ireland, and as to the unfairness of legislating permanently for Ireland in a time of such excitement as the present. Nothing, he felt assured, he could say on any of those arguments which he, in common with those who were best acquainted with Ireland, and with the peril to which they were exposed by such a principle being embodied in the proposed measure, would affect the determination of a majority of this House to legislate for Ireland as they considered most for the advantage of England—his sole object in rising was to call the attention of the Government to the frightful state of disease in the union workhouses in Ireland, and to call on them to act promptly and vigorously. The reports of Dr. Stephens, presented on the Motion of the right hon. Member for Stroud, and now in the hands of Members, would enable them to form some idea of the state of Cork and of the south of Ireland. In the west of Ireland, matters were even still worse. He found in Sligo, from the papers, that scarcely a single house there inhabited by the distressed classes was free from fever—that the fever hospital in the town was full—that there were upwards of 100 patients—and that the coffinmakers were now making upwards of fifty coffins a day. By a letter he had just received from Castlerea, he found that out of 990 inmates of the workhouse, 830 had been attacked by the workhouse fever, of which the former master and matron had lately died. The doctor in attendance on it had resigned. His successor and the present master were also in the fever; and in the course of a few days fifty patients had died of it. When the fever first appeared in Carrick-on-Shannon and other workhouses, the mortality was not above 5 per cent; it had since increased in an appalling degree. 883 Things appeared as bad throughout all Ireland; and there was scarcely any preparation to meet the increase of disease which uniformly attended on famine. In Kilkenny Dr. Phelan found the fever patients four in a bed. The expense must be enormous, and as yet no attempt had been made by the Executive to control it. He saw an estimate the other day for the extra expenses for one week, thirty gallons of whisky, eight dozen of port wine, three cwt. of soft sugar, tea and other articles in the same proportion. How the rates were to be borne or collected in the west of Ireland, was beyond his powers of even conjecture. No rents of any kind were to be had. All the farmers, possessed of any capital, fearful of the impending taxation, were emigrating to America; and although the Government had got their Bill, he doubted very much if they would get money through it to carry out its objects.
§ VISCOUNT JOCELYN
wished to say a few words on the subject of a measure which he believed, as stated by the noble Lord at the commencement of the Session, to be one of the most important that could be submitted to the consideration of Parliament. Looking at the amendments and alterations that had been adopted since the Bill was first introduced, he trusted that they were such as would facilitate the working of the measure, without that danger which was to be apprehended from its original form. He thought, however, that it would have been wiser if the Government had decided on introducing only a temporary measure in the first instance, and had allowed the House to come to the consideration of a permanent enactment at a time when there would be less excitement on the question. He said this, not because he felt any hostility to a poor law in Ireland, but because he agreed with Mr. Nicholls, that any hasty legislation on the subject of out-door relief in a period of great excitement, like the present, was calculated to increase the difficulties with which they had to contend. He felt that this measure had not received that consideration which so grave a question demanded. He believed, however, that the Amendments which had been adopted were calculated to improve the working of the Bill; and although many of the provisions of those Amendments would doubtless be evaded, yet they would serve to mark what the wishes or intentions of the Government and of the Legislature were. 884 He thought the question which they had to ask themselves was, whether they could expect to be able to resist further concessions, and to maintain the safeguards now adopted? Looking, however, at the language which was held on the subject of out-door relief when the poor law was first introduced for Ireland, and seeing how the barriers which were then felt to be absolutely necessary, were thrown down by the present measure, he could not rest perfectly secure on that point. He did not think, however, that the danger of a probable further extension of the poor law hereafter, was a sufficient reason for opposing the Bill; and, approving as he did of the Amendments that had been adopted, he should feel it his duty to support the third reading. At the same time, he thought it right to protest against the ground which some hon. Gentlemen, and particularly the hon. Member for Bath, in his last speech on this question, laid down for supporting it, namely, that it was to be considered as an equivalent for the facilities afforded to the Irish proprietors for the improvement of their estates by another measure, and that both should stand pari passu in their progress through the House. He could not regard that other Bill in such a light. No loans were to be made, except where the officer of the Government was fully satisfied as to the security both of the capital and of the interest; and he believed the capitalists of this country held the opinion expressed by his noble Friend the Member for Lynn, that there was no mode by which the credit of this country could be so beneficially employed as in developing the resources of Ireland. If the present Bill had stood alone, and as originally proposed, he should have felt it his duty to oppose it; but he regarded it as a part of a great and extensive scheme for the improvement of Ireland, and on that account it was that he gave it his support. He regretted, however, that Her Majesty's Government had not thought it expedient to call upon all those who had charges upon landed property to contribute to the rates for the relief of the poor. Annuitants, mortgagees, the holders of settlements and jointures, all derived their beneficial interests from landed property; they should therefore be compelled to bear a fair portion of the burden, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would yet see the justice of calling upon them to bear their share under this Bill. It was with some regret that 885 he felt called upon to say that this measure had assumed the character of hasty legislation. The whole of the evidence on the subject which had been laid on the Table showed that giving the right of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor in Ireland, would increase, instead of diminishing, the existing evils of the country; and, having this conviction himself, it was with considerable doubt and hesitation that he gave his support to the measure. The only hope of benefit to Ireland was, not in one, but in a combination of measures, giving encouragement to labour, and to the introduction of capital, accompanied by provisions of this description, to prevent the able-bodied labourer from starving when unable to obtain employment. Looking at the general measures of the noble Lord, and on the hearty and generous spirit in which he had introduced them, he must express his belief that they would be beneficial to the country. Never, indeed, had so fair an opportunity offered for a wise and courageous statesman to legislate for the improvement of Ireland. Some of the noble Lord's measures were too favourable towards the landlord class. It was not his province to defend the landlords, many of whom, he admitted, must be open to grave and serious charges; but if those who entertained the extreme opinions of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, would turn to Lord Devon's report, they would see it stated that there was much exaggeration in many of the charges against the landlords of Ireland. There were three classes of landlords in that country—one which properly performed their duties; a second which were desirous of doing their duty, but did not possess the means; and a third which shamefully neglected their duty. However hateful the name of an Irish landlord might be in England, it was through that class only that the benefits intended by the Legislature could be diffused among the people. Those who were desirous of properly performing their duty, must be encouraged and enabled to perform it; whilst those who neglected it must be compelled to perform their duty. Legislation of this kind would raise the character of the Irish people, and cement more closely the union between the two countries. It would, indeed, be the best reply to those who demanded a repeal of the Legislative Union between the two countries. Much had been said upon the alleged evils which repeal of the Union would produce to Ire- 886 land; but he would tell those who believed it would be fatal to Ireland, that it would also be fatal to England; for the grandeur and power of England materially depended upon the security and happiness of Ireland. If it were said that the present state of Ireland was owing to the neglect of the landlords and the apathy of the people, he would refer to the bad legislation of past centuries, and ask whether it could be expected that the memory and consequences of such laws could all at once pass away? It was not difficult to detect the essential evils under which Ireland was labouring. The greatest was, that the law was not powerful to punish. The law, therefore, in the first instance, should be placed upon a sound footing, and the guilty be made to feel that punishment would assuredly follow crime. Besides this, facilities must be afforded to the introduction of capital, also to changes of property; the middle classes must be encouraged—men who would give a new direction to public opinion, and upon whom should rest the operation of the present measure in their several districts. As an Irishman, he thanked the noble Lord for the knowledge he had displayed of the wants of Ireland. A generation might pass away before the effect of wise legislation would be properly felt in Ireland; but it was only by large aad liberal measures being now adopted, that the country could rise in the scale of nations; and, in the firm belief that it was the noble Lord's intention to raise Ireland, he should give the measure his humble support.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
thought that a proper poor law in Ireland would have the effect of preventing crime; for it would have the effect of preventing those hordes of sturdy beggars wandering about in quest of some means to support their existence. He considered that the reasons were tenfold for the introduction of a poor law into Ireland to what they were for one in England. If a poor law existed in England, while Ireland would be deprived of it, the necessary effect of it would be to draw over here the population of the sister country. He wanted to know whether there was any provision for taxing personal property as well as landed property for the maintenance of the poor? He thought this measure should be passed as soon as possible; for everybody must admit that the country was bound to support her own population; and this measure was perfectly sound and unobjectionable as far as it went.
SIR W. JAMES
said, that on a former occasion his remarks on the subject of emigration had been misunderstood. All he meant to say was, that he hoped the Government, in making, at present, so small a grant as that which they proposed for the purposes of emigration, did not mean to adhere to the rule of small grants for that purpose on future occasions. He wished to say one word on the subject of the measure before the House; but previous to doing so, he desired to observe that emigration was not a thing, as some people supposed it to be, identical with out-door relief. They had this in common, that both were assistances to the poor; but in another point they widely differed; for, whereas out-door relief kept people at home, emigration, as the word implied, sent them out of the country. With respect to the Bill before them, he quite agreed with the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, that it was a Bill which well deserved the support both of English and of Irish Members. The Archbishop of Dublin, in another place, observed, that in passing a measure of this description, care ought to be taken that it should not become inoperative. They must not lose sight of this, that if they doubled the employment of the people, there would be a duplication of their food. But, by means of emigration, they would be enabled to get rid of those who pressed upon the State for sustenance. Although he thought the measure highly desirable as affording the means of giving employment and food to the poor; yet he wished to know if it was to be accompanied with any measures to relieve the landed interest, and prevent the poor rates pressing with undue severity upon that in-
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
agreed in the sentiments of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Jocelyn), that England and Ireland must remain united. The two countries were in the same boat, and they must sink or swim together. It was impossible for England to avoid participating in everything affecting Ireland; and it was equally certain that Ireland must share in whatever affected England. The way to prevent England suffering from the terrible condition of Ireland, was to assimilate the institutions of the two countries to the greatest possible extent, by securing to the people of Ireland that upon which their welfare depended, namely, the means of existence. This being the principle of the measure, he was much gratified at its in- 888 troduction; but before it passed its third stage, he must express his deep regret at the Amendments which had been introduced, in contradistinction to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, who approved of them. For his part, he thought that very large concessions of a most dangerous character had been made in the Bill for the interests of the landlords. He referred, first, to the alteration in the second clause, whereby it was required that relief should not be given to the able-bodied out of doors until the workhouse was full; also to the enlarged number of ex-officio guardians — a concession which would be seriously felt in Ireland. Another concession was of a larger character, from which he anticipated serious mischief. He alluded to the clause limiting the amount of land to be held by persons taking relief, which clause, he again prophesied, would entail a strong necessity for its repeal. An exclusive power to carry the Bill into operation had been given to the landlords by the ex-officio guardians' clause; and, as if that had not been sufficient, the House had been asked to agree to a clause for the purpose of causing the tenant to pay all the rates, and thus bear all the burden. Such a proposition was one which deserved to be rejected in that House, and to which, for his part, he (Mr. Scrope) was decidedly opposed. He was quite sure that a proposition to place an unknown quantity of rates upon the tenants of Ireland ought not to be tolerated. The excuse which was given for the proposal to place that burden on the tenants was, that it was similarly borne by the tenantry of England; but it ought to be recollected that the system in England had been allowed to adjust itself during two or three centuries, and that although the tenantry nominally pay the rates, they in reality come out of the pockets of the landlords of England. What would be the result in Ireland if a small farmer complained of the rates, and asked his landlord to take his fair proportion of them? The answer would be, "If you don't like your farm, you may leave it," and thus the small tenant would have no redress. Various arguments had been used in a pamphlet published by the Archbishop of Dublin against this measure; but they were not sufficient in his mind to cause any real objection to the Bill. It had been said that it was impossible for Ireland to support her own poor; but that was no argument against the attempt to support them. It 889 had also been said in that pamphlet that this would amount to a confiscation of the property of Ireland; but that was, in his opinion, begging the question altogether; for the argument of those who were in favour of poor rates for Ireland was, that it would increase and develop the resources of Ireland, and thereby increase her means of supporting the poor. He must confess that he was not afraid of the rental of Ireland being insufficient for the support of the poor; for the rental was admitted to be 17,000,000l., and that was rather a large sum, which he could not believe would be so very easily exhausted as those who were opposed to the extended poor law appeared to think. It had, indeed, been said that the mortgages and other claims on property in Ireland ought to be deducted from the rental; but, he would ask, was it proposed to make a similar deduction from the responsibilities of property in England? Certainly not; and he did therefore see how that argument could be used as a proof that the burden of supporting the poor was more than the property of Ireland could justly bear. His opinion was altogether opposed to such a view; for he believed that, on the contrary, a sound poor law would greatly increase the rental of Ireland, by facilitating the improvement of the land; in addition to which they ought to take into calculation the very great saving which would arise from applying the sum now applied in the support of mendicancy to the rates. That sum would, under a sound and proper system of poor laws, be all given for the employment of the people, instead of being applied to the support of the idle, the dissolute, and the disorderly. This measure would, in fact, tend forcibly to improve the rental of Ireland, instead of injuring it. The third argument used in the pamphlet of the Archbishop of Dublin was, that it would demoralise the peasantry; and the argument against out-door relief in that case was such, that if it had not had the name of the Archbishop to sanction it, he could have scarcely thought it was used by a person imbued with Christianity at all: it showed such a distrust in the character of the people of Ireland—such a distrust as he never before had heard of. The writer of the pamphlet stated that it was impossible to carry on the system of out-door relief in Ireland, as the peasantry would not work if they got out-door relief; and in case an overseer attempted to make them work, he would be in danger of being shot through 890 the head. The writer said that the Irish peasant would not labour for his living if he had the least chance of obtaining subsistence from public funds; and the writer instanced the case of some fishermen in the county of Cork who had no means of provisioning their boats to go to sea. The writer had money in his hands to be applied to charitable purposes; and he was informed by a clergyman who lived in the neighbourhood of those fishermen, that if they were enabled by contributions from this fund to go to sea, they would consume the provisions in some creek or inlet, and would not go to fish. But did the writer of the pamphlet try the experiment? No! he put the money in his pocket, or applied it to some other purpose; as if the Irish people were of such a character that they could not be trusted with a single loaf of bread. He had heard of a humane Quaker, who acted very differently, on the west coast of Ireland. He did not distrust the fishermen of Galway; he provisioned their boats and enabled them to go to sea, which they immediately did, and caught 800l. worth of fish. He would say to the Archbishop that he ought to follow the example of the Quaker, and, instead of distrusting, he ought to place faith in the good qualities of Irishmen. He denied that Irishmen were deficient in good qualities. It was true they might now be accused of idleness and improvidence; but if they were at present idle and improvident, then the argument of the Archbishop would be of no use as regarded the demoralisation of the peasantry; for the system of out-door relief could not make them worse if they were as bad as he described them to be. Why were they improvident or idle? Because they had been ground down and oppressed by the system which prevailed in that country; but if they were treated properly it would be soon seen that they were not deficient in those qualities which were required for successful industry. Every one knew when Irishmen came to England how well they worked; and they had all seen the statements in the papers describing the great sums which had been sent within the last year from America by Irish labourers to their friends and relatives in Ireland—sums which must have been obtained by perseverance and industry. The Irish labourers worked well in this country, where they were well paid; but in Ireland they were paid but 4d. or 6d. per day; and that being paid not in money but in land, by a sort truck system, they had no encou- 891 ragement for industry and providence. Yet such was the race of men of whom it was said they were so deficient in moral qualities and in providence that they were not fit to be trusted with a loaf of bread. The plan of out-door relief had been called a rash plan, and one which had been brought forward with all the recklessness of a gambler; but he would remind the House that a proper poor law for Ireland was a subject which had for a long time been before the public, and had been demanded twenty years ago. Even further back, the Bishop of Cloyne proposed such a plan for the relief of Ireland about a century ago. It, was not, perhaps, generally known, although it was worthy to be known, that a poor law for Ireland was passed so long ago as the year 1640, which was almost verbatim a copy of the 43rd of Elizabeth; and that Act, which passed with the assent of the King, Lords, and Commons, was only prevented from being promulgated and brought into operation by the breaking out of the great Irish rebellion. He was of opinion that this poor law had been postponed too long; an opinion which was borne out by the fact, that Dr. Doyle, nearly twenty years ago, called upon them to direct their attention to the subject of providing a poor law for Ireland; and stated that if they did not, pauperism would at length, like an earthquake, execute upon their heads the vengeance of heaven. Surely that prophecy had been all but fulfilled; and if, notwithstanding the failure of the potato crop, we had escaped some of the consequences of our past neglect, it was more through the benevolence of Providence than from any attempt made on our part to put an end to that state of things of which we were now witnessing the lamentable result.
§ SIR W. VERNER
called upon the House to pay every attention to the views of the right rev. Prelate, the Archbishop of Dublin, contained in the pamphlet alluded to, as no one was better capable of describing the state of Ireland. He would tell the House, that if they passed this measure, it would be the first decided step towards a repeal of the Union. The landowners would then desire it. He warned the House against being led away by those who were actuated by interested motives. It was most unfair that the House should join in the cry against the landlords of Ireland, who were the only true friends of the Union. They might depend upon it, if they got rid of the landlords, of the Pro- 892 testant freemen of Ireland, they would destroy the greatest barrier in the way of the separation of the two countries. The present measure was, he feared, calculated to make men repealers who had never before thought of joining that body. In conclusion, he wished to draw the attention of the Government to the jobbery that prevailed, in consequence of the perfect understanding that existed between the sellers of meal in many parts of Ireland. The result of that understanding was, that they could make the price of meal anything they pleased; and it was found that, in proportion as our grain fell, Indian meal increased in price. He mentioned this with the view of suggesting to the Government the propriety of establishing magazines, which, when the price of meal rose inordinately high, should issue at the proper market value.
§ SIR T. E. COLEBROOKE
feared that, before six months were over, it would be necessary to pass an Act correcting the operation of the present Bill. He felt considerable doubts as to the success of the second clause, believing, as he did, that the requisite machinery for carrying it out did not exist in Ireland. He had seen a statement, that in some poor-law union in the county of Donegal two members of the board of guardians became objects of charity, and that the chairman was not in a much better situation. In Ireland there was no middle class to carry out this Bill. In those parts of the country in which there was most need of the poor law, it would be often impossible to find any one to carry it out. It was a popular argument that it was necessary to make the Irish landlords use greater exertions to give employment to the people, and to make them more independent. No doubt, where landlords were resident, the bulk of them would come forward and make those exertions. But in those parts of the country where there were no resident gentry, the Bill would be one of almost impossible execution. He feared, too, that it would increase the clearances that were now going on; and, looking at the pressure of the second clause upon the proprietors, it would only increase the evils under which the country was labouring.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that the saving clause of the present Bill was the proposal of the hon. Member for Dublin (Mr. Gregory), respecting the emigration of small tenants of land, the effect of which would be to enable landowners to amalgamate 893 their smaller holdings. He did not see how the rates proposed to be levied under this Bill could be raised. At present the poor rates in Ireland in arrear bore a large proportion to the whole amount levied, and the whole system of rating began to be considered as a farce—as much a delusion as the promise of the return of the loans made to Ireland. It was not a small encouragement to emigration that would suffice, for that would not give the facilities that were required for the clearance of estates. Unless a large scheme of emigration were adopted, out-door relief would become impossible, as the attempt to levy rates already in arrear would turn out a failure. The present measure was considered by many Members of that House in the light of a retaliation upon the Irish landlords, and it appeared that such was the case; but he thought the House should be cautious not to legislate in any such spirit.
could not suffer this Bill to pass without expressing his cordial approbation of its purpose, and stating his belief that no measure had ever gone forth from that House more entirely in accordance with the opinion, and feeling of the public at large; he firmly believed that the opinion in its favour was the result of deliberate conviction, and not the least from what was imputed to it by the hon. Member who spoke last, namely, from a retaliatory or vindictive feeling towards the proprietors of Ireland. It was, he believed, the general feeling out of doors, that it was a measure of humanity towards the Irish—a measure of justice towards the English—and a statesmanlike policy as regarded the empire at large. Experiment it was called, and so it doubtless was; but one he considered most fully called for by the circumstances of the country where it was to be applied; it was, in his judgment, directed immediately to the two great sources of evil in that country, namely, the fear of starvation on the part of the people, and the abuse of property on the part of the proprietors. Let any one examine closely the real evils that retarded the progress and produced the misfortunes of that country, and they would trace them to these sources. Crime and mendicity now deprived person and property in Ireland of the safety essential to the well-being of any country, and these sprung naturally and necessarily from the apprehension and fear pervading the greater part of the population, that they might perish from want. 894 The circumstances and condition of the poor in Ireland were now familiar to the House. It was known that, actuated by this fear, they sought allotments of land as a means of existence; and they covenanted for rent with a proprietor or his tenant, at a rate far exceeding its value. Deprived by accident or necessity of the means of fulfilling their engagements, they were frequently ejected by those under whom they held, and always lived in terror of this exercise of proprietary right. If they were rendered destitute, there was no liability attaching anywhere for their support. There was no responsibility attaching to the owner for this abuse of his property: for it was abuse to avail himself of the ignorance and eagerness to escape starvation of a wretched peasant, to accept his promise of exorbitant rent, and then summarily cast him from his holding, because he failed in what it was never in his power to perform. To avert this misfortune, a system of terror was organized by the peasantry; and if an ejectment took place, a hideous crime was committed upon the unfortunate successor of the ejected and destitute man; and thus ejectment, which in the minds of millions meant starvation, was often prevented. The man who committed the crime had the active sympathy of all who lived in dread of destitution. He was sheltered if pursued; and the violation of the law, and not its observance, was regarded as the protection of the poor. The feeding generated by that system was fatal to the protection which capital required; the country became notorious for being lawless and turbulent, and the English projector or capitalist, come from what quarter he might, fled from Ireland as a place which he had had notice to avoid. But mark the result—observe the condition of a country in that state. The people were reckless and criminal—still the population increased, but the means of their maintenance and employment remained stationary or diminished. He cared not how that result was produced; but let any country he in the condition of its people increasing, without an increase of its saving or capital to give fresh employment to them, and that country would be poor, discontented, and lawless, and thus aggravate the primary causes of evil. That, then, was the condition of Ireland. A number equal, according to reports which were credible, to one-third of the population, lived in constant dread of starvation. This made them tur- 895 bulent and criminal, which precluded the introduction of those means by which they could be employed; and thus the evil was constantly augmenting. What was the object of the law now proposed? It was to declare to the poor that they should not suffer the last extremity of want; that they should have no longer a pretext for crime; and that those who sympathized with crime should have no longer an excuse; for that in Ireland in future, as in England, where it had been long the case, and as in every civilized country it ought always to be, it was declared that no man should starve: and it was his firm belief, inasmuch as he believed that people were not wantonly criminal, or that any community could feel itself benefited by the commission of crime, that, when the necessity no longer existed for breaking the law, so would they in Ireland be true to human nature, and to all experience, and see the blessing and advantage of respecting the law. This would not follow at first and at once; but the root of the evil was struck at when every man felt that he had so far an interest in the community of which he was a member, that while it lasted he could not perish from absolute want. It was with the view to afford security that the last Government proposed the Coercion Bill. The object was good, but the means were bad, because it did not strike at the real source of the evil, namely, the extreme destitution of the people. The House rejected it, by which it became bound to provide some other; and this was one really reaching the evil, and benevolent and humane in its character. He had not overlooked the perils of such a measure; he well knew all that could be said against public charity, and all the mischiefs that belonged to improvidence; but with regard to Ireland, he was not afraid to contemplate them all, when he had to compare or consider them with those that existed at present. With all deference to those who had spoken and written against this measure, he could not treat with much respect the woful predictions which they had hazarded of its results. They had pointed chiefly to a provision made by the Second Clause of this Act, by which the purpose of the law was carried into full effect, by declaring that when those who were destitute and applied for relief could not be maintained within the building existing for the purpose, that, still holding in view the promise of the law, some other mode should 896 be devised to relieve them, and relief in kind should be given to them out of the building, so that they should not be allowed to starve. That was what was termed "out-door relief," and had been dwelt upon with so much alarm as the means of such terrible results. And what were the results expected? Why, that the people would by this means be demoralised, and lose their independence of spirit. Why, was it possible that those authorities believed that these unfortunate people had much independence of spirit, when they, according to the evidence and reports of these alarmists themselves, lived partly by crime, partly by begging, and partly by what was extorted from fear, and violation of law. These opponents of the law were afraid of out-door relief! But what did they term the relief that they said nearly one-third of the population received habitually by begging and crime? What did the beggar and his curse obtain when he solicited alms of his neighbour, but outdoor relief in its most demoralising form? He got it, subject to no condition, to no inquiry, and with a consciousness in himself that it had been extorted from fear—with a conviction on his mind, in consequence, that he need take to no regular pursuit—that he need turn to no honest calling—but that while he could get a bare living by presenting himself as a destitute man to one who had something, and who believed that the beggar might die of want, he might live idly. That was out-door relief in a luxurious shape. The mendicant appealed in the name of humanity to an industrious man to share his crust with him, and lived a life of idleness, knowing that he had never deserved the subsistence extorted. But that was the man that these writers, to whom they were to defer, said was to become demoralised if deprived of his excuse of extorting out-door relief from a man just above him in means; and he was to lose his independence if subject to a rigid scrutiny from a legal administrator of public relief, by which it might be rendered painful to him to remain idle, and by which imposture, when attempted, might be detected. At present there was a wholesale system of out-door relief procured by practising on the fears or ignorance of unsuspecting or helpless persons. The plan of this measure was to legalize it—to subject relief to some test of its necessity—to remove the pretext for crime and mendicancy—to distribute the charge equally among those who gave, 897 and diminish its mischief among those who received; and yet they were told that this was demoralising, dangerous, and alarming for the future character of the people. Again, were they to be told that a system that enabled a man to retain land without paying for its use, was safe and elevating; while that which required him to abandon the land for which he could not pay, and receive the relief which in his misfortune the law had provided, was ruining the independence of his character? Surely then there was this consolation in the measure before the House—that if it yielded not all the fruit expected of it, at least, fail it ever so much, the country and the people could not point to a state which was better, or from which they had fallen. But, when all these calamities were spoken of as certain to follow from this measure, he would ask whose fault it would be? Why, where was it that this measure was introduced? was it in a barren country—in a country of no resources, where no labour was to be had—where no market was near? Was that the account which the patriots of that land, or those who could be trusted for its description, had given of its state? Why, nobody disputed that it had the most fertile soil in Europe—that it abounded in resources—that it wanted nothing but labour to develop them—that it was "the first flower of the earth, the first gem of the sea." That they had been told, while it was a fact that Ireland had the productions that England wanted, and thus had in its immediate neighbourhood the finest market in the habitable globe, with free and complete access to it. With all these advantages, then, when they said, you must not allow the people to starve, were they to be told that this was to ruin the country? There was everything which was required to make the country rich, happy, and contented; there was not a man too many in the land, if they would work, or if those who had the means would employ them. Was that House, then, to be blamed if that country should lie waste? Was that House bound to find industry, honesty, and ordinary intelligence for the people who wanted those qualities? Nothing more was required to make that country peaceful and rich; and on the Irish themselves, then, he said, and on those it concerned, be the blame, if with such blessings as God had conferred upon them—with equal rights, advantages, and privileges with the people of England—they suffered their land to lie waste, and their people to live idle. They had the means 898 to be wealthy and prosperous; they were subject to no restrictions as formerly; the law was equal, and they were in all respects as free as in this country: let them, then, look to it themselves. He, however, was far from wishing to disparage the Irish people; he had never seen reason to believe that they would fall into the state which the opponents of this measure predicted. He did not believe in the ferocity or idleness of the common people, which had been asserted, or in the drivelling helplessness of the proprietors, which must equally be presumed, if what was anticipated by some should come true. He had no reason to think ill of the Irish if they were under circumstances favourable to their industry; and he thought there had already been signs that the proprietors could appreciate the necessity of averting the consequences of the new liability imposed upon them. He had read with pleasure the resolutions passed by the grand jury of Wexford, when they, like men of sense, observing the intention of the Legislature, and anticipating the consequences if they neglected its effect, urged the owners and occupiers of land to set their own shoulders to the wheel; to do all in their power to improve their estates; and thereby, in employing the people, escape degradation and ruin. Here then was the first fruit of imposing this liability upon the landowners; they were, because they could, urged to improve their properties, and thus benefit themselves by employing the people. Now, if this was good for Wexford, why should it not be good for Mayo? And why should they not expect the example to be followed throughout the country? What was it but showing the wisdom of a law which, instead of stultifying and corrupting everbody, as these wise men predicted, was presenting a picture of ruin and degradation, if they did not do what was best for themselves, and most beneficial to the poor. This was in fact doing by the rich what had been done by the poor in this country, namely, throwing them upon their resources; and that, in their case, as in all others, would do them a real service; and he was much mistaken, and he should be much disappointed, if from the effect this law would have in compelling men to look after their properties, and to use them in a manner most beneficial to themselves and their neighbours, and in checking those disorders which terrified the real benefactors of a people, the capitalists, in bringing their means of employment 899 among them, if the improvement, nay, he would say the regeneration of that island, did not take date from the introduction of this measure. The fact was, that this measure ought long since to have been passed: it was from the want of adequate machinery when the late heavy visitation came upon the country, that such shocking events had occurred, and the dreadful mortality from want had happened—and also that there had been such a fearful waste of the resources of this country in Ireland: people were taken by surprise and were helpless. He, moreover, did firmly believe that if there were any measures that could be of advantage to that country, such as compulsory emigration, or systematic colonization, or whatever it was called, or reclamation of waste lands, that none could be fairly tested or adopted, with the slightest chance of permanent advantage, unless first a strong motive like this was presented to the rich to care for and watch over the poor, and to the poor themselves of deriving the full advantage which security and respect for law would bring to them. He firmly believed that the present demoralised condition of the Irish resulted from extreme poverty and fear of destitution; and this a poor law would remedy; and though a poor law in itself could not increase the property of a country, yet it was calculated, by the protection which indirectly it would offer to property, to be the occasion of more wealth being introduced, and more being accumulated, and thereby of more means being offered of providing for the people; and as such he fearlessly and with hope supported it. He rested its support further, as a measure of consolation and justice to the people of this country, who were doubly taxed, first by the great additional expenditure in feeding and employing the people in Ireland, and, secondly, by additional local rates levied for supporting them here—but who patiently and humanely bore the double charge this year, from believing and hoping that it was the last time that the property of Ireland would be exempted from the charge of the poor, at the expense of the prudence and industry of this country.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
observed, that as the hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) had alluded to a systematic scheme of emigration as a means of improving the condition of Ireland, he might take this opportunity of expressing his full concurrence in the plan of emigration which 900 had recently been put forth by Mr. Goadley; for he was convinced that, without a system of emigration, or some substitute in the way of industrial employment, it was vain to expect that this measure could work fairly in Ireland. He might say, with reference to the clause introduced into the Bill by the hon. Member for Dublin, that though he was not quite certain that the right amount had been struck in that clause, he was satisfied that unless some restriction was adopted to prevent the class of small farmers from becoming recipients of relief, the consequences of this measure would be most disastrous to the landlords—to those tenants who were anxious to make a profit of their farms and pay their rent—and to the industrious labouring classes. He considered that this measure had escaped great danger by the rejection of the clause which was proposed on the last occasion when the Bill was in Committee by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. There was some expression of astonishment when he (Mr. O'Connell) and other hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House complained that they were taken by surprise by that Amendment. They really did not know, till the clause was on the Notice Paper, that the noble Lord had intended to press it; to make a reference to the noble Lord's pursuits, they did not know whether he meant to enter the clause in earnest, or, in other words, to "run to win." It was, he might observe, a remarkable fact, that the division in favour of that clause was an old party division. The great curse of Ireland was the want of commercial enterprize among both the proprietary and the tenantry. Instead of regarding the agreement between them as one for their mutual benefit, they were too prone to look upon it as a stake between two antagonists—to be won by one and lost by the other. He was anxious to see the experiment of this poor law carried out with success; but he believed that the addition of such a clause as that proposed by the noble Member for Lynn would be not only injurious to the tenantry, but also to the landlords of Ireland.
§ SIR J. WALSH
was surprised at the assertion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. M. J. O'Connell), that the Irish Members, and the House generally, had not had full notice of the Motion of his noble Friend. His noble Friend could not have done more than he had done; and if the Irish Members did not attend to it, that surely was not the fault of his noble Friend. The 901 Motion was a most important one, and was of itself quite sufficient to command the attention of any hon. Member who took an interest in the welfare of Ireland. His own opinion in favour of that clause remained unchanged; and his view was in accordance with that of the Archbishop of Dublin, and some of the greatest writers upon political economy. He must complain of the indifference of hon Members. He thought that the present thin state of the House; the absence of those more immediately interested in the question; the sort of apathy with which a measure of such transcendent importance was now about to pass through the House—were curiously illustrative of the state of parties. Certainly there could not be a subject of greater importance in itself, or one with respect to which a greater diversity of opinion existed as to the principles on which the Bill was founded. The object of the Bill in its leading provisions was to introduce the English Poor Law into Ireland. He could not say that there was no difference; but this he would say, that all the deviations were unfavourable to the Irish proprietors; but still the main provisions were borrowed from the English Poor Law. Now, were they in a situation to go to the Irish proprietors and say to them, "We submit to your adoption a law which has been tested by our own experience—which unites in its support the suffrages of all parties in this country—which is no longer the subject of controversy, but which has taken its place among the settled institutions of the country?" Why, so far from this being the case, many of those who were the warm supporters of this Irish Poor Law, were at the same time the declared opponents—the bitter and irreconcilable enemies—of the English Poor Law; and it was understood that their persevering hostility had forced upon the noble Lord opposite the necessity of considering, with a view to modify, the whole system. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Not so.] Well, as he was himself a supporter of the English Poor Law, he was glad to hear that the noble Lord did not intend to abandon it. But the noble Lord had himself intimated that he meant to modify the administration, and there could be no doubt that the hostility of its opponents threatened its permanency. Then, further, he thought, that, at the present moment, under the pressure of such a calamity, it was dangerous to introduce such formidable changes as were here contemplated; for he entirely concurred in the observations of the noble 902 Lord the Member for Lynn, that it was impossible this law should receive a calm and dispassionate discussion, or that it could have a fair trial and experiment in Ireland under circumstances so perfectly unexampled, particularly when it was considered that advantage had been taken of the present calamities to get up a clamour against the Irish landlords, which had been fomented by the public newspapers; and every unfounded story was laid hold of to expose them to public odium. It had often been said, that there were duties connected with property, as well as rights; but he could not help believing that the rights of property were weaker in Ireland than in any other part of the three kingdoms—that the duties were more onerous—and that the object of the present Bill was to inflict still heavier burdens on it. A large proportion of the Irish had been satisfied with existing on the mere necessary of life supplied by the potato, and the population had gone on increasing. The potato failed, and the population was consequently thrown immediately into distress. How were the landlords of Ireland to blame for this? For the last fifty years, or at least for the last twenty-five years, the only aim of the landlords of Ireland had been to prevent the subdivision of their estates and the too rapid multiplication of the population on them; and this rapid increase of the population had taken place, not by any connivance on their part, but in spite of their efforts to prevent it. But he heard another argument in that House, that if we introduced this poor law into Ireland, and made it the interest of the landlords to employ the labourer, they would do so. Now, it was the greatest mistake in the world to suppose that the landlords, quà landlords, could employ permanently any very large amount of the labour in any country. The labour was carried on by the tenantry and the occupiers, not by those who were in receipt of the rents. It was fair, therefore, he might remark, that the principal burden of the rates should be thrown immediately upon the tenants; because they were the parties who could supply the labour, and prevent the able-bodied man from becoming destitute whilst there were the fair means of employment. He considered the present measure to be fraught with the utmost danger to Ireland. The extension of the principle of out-door relief, if it should have the effect of creating a kind of confiscation of rents—which some hon. Gentlemen seemed to talk of as 903 if it were something inevitable, and almost salutary and desirable—would not only be a great cruelty and hardship upon the landed proprietors, but would inflict an incurable wound upon the future prosperity of Ireland; the existing race of landlords would only be succeeded by another sufering the same disadvantages. The principal consolation he felt was in the belief that there was something in human affairs which often, and beyond expectation, prevented much of the mischief to which, upon the face of it, a bad law would seem likely to lead.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
was astonished to hear from the hon. Baronet the Member for Armagh (Sir W. Verner), that this Bill was calculated to induce the landlords to join in the demand for the repeal of the Union, when the measure was founded on the necessity of preventing the people from starving at such a time as the present. That was an opinion which he did think was not very creditable to the hon. Gentleman. It was a total misrepresentation of the measure to say that it was a Bill for giving out-door relief to the able-bodied poor. It was no such thing. It merely allowed the granting of out-door relief in two cases: when the workhouse was full, and when the prevalence of disease within its walls rendered it unfit for the reception of the poor. The principle of the Bill was opposed to out-door relief to the able-bodied poor; and the two cases to which he had referred were exceptions. Let any one look into the reports of the Commissions on the law of landlord and tenant in Ireland, and he would find that the landlords themselves originally promoted the subdivision of land, with the view of getting increased rents—they let to middlemen, and these middlemen underlet to others. Again, when the elective franchise was conferred upon the 40s. freeholders, the landlords, to obtain political power, very much encouraged these subdivisions. Extravagant rents were charged and kept up until the means of the tenants were little by little brought to the lowest state, and at last it came to this, that the only thing left to them was the potato—now not even that—and he insisted upon it that the evils existing in Ireland had resulted from the system adopted by the landlords towards the tenants there; and he insisted that the landlords of the present day must necessarily be responsible for the acts of their predecessors. It was most degrading to see the landlords of Ireland 904 attempting to shake off that responsibility from themselves, and declaring that they would not provide the necessary means to prevent the people from starving. He contended that it was right and proper that the House should put an end to this state of things, and throw the responsibility upon the landed proprietary. He did not wish to place upon others a burden which he was not ready to take upon himself. He happened to be an Irish landlord, and all the estate he possessed was in Ireland. But he had no fear with regard to the consequences of this measure. On the contrary he believed that, the value of property in that country would be raised if they gave protection to its labour. He had just returned from Ireland, and he understood that objections were entertained to two of the clauses in the Bill. One of these clauses increased the number of ex-officio guardians, and it was supposed that the result of that measure would be to throw the administration of the law into the hands of those guardians; thus producing distrust and want of confidence on the part of the elected guardians, who would feel that they had not a reasonable share of power, and might be disposed to combat everything that was proposed by their ex-officio colleagues. On this ground, then, he felt it to be his duty to enter a protest against that clause of the Bill. He also objected to the strict limitation of out-door relief. By another of the clauses it was provided that no person who held a quarter of an acre or upwards of land could obtain relief, however great the emergency, without first selling his interest in the occupation. What would be the consequence if they forced the sale of a holding in that way? Why, that they at once made the poor man and his family paupers for life. For his part, he thought the workhouse test was quite; sufficient. He rejoiced, however, at the; prospect of the immediate passing of the Bill through the House, and he should give it his most cordial support.
§ SIR G. GREY
Sir, as this is the last opportunity I shall have of addressing the House upon the subject of this Bill, I am unwilling to let the occasion pass without saying a few words in reference to the matter which is now under consideration. The hon. Baronet (Sir J. Walsh) has alluded to the state of the House, and the absence of many hon. Members this evening, in a manner which I must say I think the circumstances do not warrant. I believe, that so far from the appearance of 905 the House arising from the state of parties, in the sense which I understood him to imply, it only shows that this is not considered by any hon. Members a party question, but it is looked at solely with regard to its own merits, and its bearing upon the interests and welfare of Ireland, which, however we may differ upon other questions, I believe every hon. Gentleman is sincerely anxious to promote. I believe that the circumstance of our having listened to no long speeches on this occasion, and of there not being a full attendance to-night, is very much owing to the fact that it is admitted that a measure founded upon the principles of this Bill must be passed, as well as owing partly to the very ample discussion which this measure received, both in its principle and details, upon former evenings. Those discussions took place in very full Houses; and I am willing to bear my cheerful testimony to the temper and moderation with which hon. Members, who, from their apprehension of the results of some portions of this Bill felt it their duty to oppose it, conducted that opposition. The general favour with which this Bill has been received, and the manner in which the opposition has been conducted, relieve me from the necessity of entering into any lengthened defence of the principles upon which this measure is founded; and if I had felt myself called upon by what has been said this evening by some hon. Members to enter upon the question of out-door relief, I really should have felt myself in a situation to do little more than retrace the ground already occupied by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Villiers), who in his very able speech to-night stated sentiments upon that subject in which I most cordially concur. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Jocelyn) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry), not objecting to the principle of the Bill, have expressed some apprehension as to its results — apprehension from which I confess I am not myself entirely free; for, in proposing this measure to the House, I do not pretend to express any very confident anticipation of what the results may be; but I look forward to them with hope—a hope partly founded upon and justified by circumstances to which I shall presently allude. Sir, while I fully sympathize with those who, having great practical experience of Ireland, and knowing the difficulties which must attach to all attempts at great social 906 improvements in that country, look with apprehension to the practical workings of this Bill, I confess I have not been able to go along with them, when, not opposing the principle of the measure, they have expressed a strong opinion that this is not the time for such a step to be taken. My own opinion is, that this is precisely the time when a measure of this kind may be most safely and most effectively passed; and upon that question I wish to say a few words. If the circumstances of Ireland now were merely accidental—if the causes of the present distress were temporary and ephemeral—if those causes had not a deep seat in the social condition of that country—then, indeed, we might hope that the circumstances would pass away in a few short months, and it might be wrong to propose a permanent measure of this nature. But I believe that the present condition of Ireland is not occasioned by the failure of the potato crop in the two last seasons. I believe that has only revealed the permanent condition of that country, and forced upon Parliament, and the country, and upon the public mind, the conviction of what that condition permanently is, and of the necessity of some permanent improvement of the poor law for that country, in order to provide some effectual system of relief for the poor. Under these circumstances, I think, that, at the present time, when, that conviction is forced upon us, and with a view to guard against the recurrence of the extreme calamities which have recently afflicted Ireland, we are bound, not merely to provide for the temporary emergency, as we have attempted to do in the Temporary Relief Bill, but to take measures for the permanent improvement of the people, and to provide against the periodical recurrence of those seasons of distress which sweep away hundreds and thousands by famine and disease. And when hon. Gentlemen talk of out-door relief, and say that it will be ruinous to the people of Ireland to look forward to out-door relief, and to have expectations held out of its being indefinitely extended, they must remember the circumstances in which Ireland now stands with reference to this country. A few short hours and the expense of a few shillings bring over the Irishman to this country, where he is not debarred from the expectation of out-door relief. He knows that while out-door relief has been denied him hitherto at home, he has a right to it the 907 moment he arrives in England. Representations have reached me from Liverpool, and from South Wales, and other parts of the country, deprecating, in the strongest terms, the hardships to which the inhabitants are subjected by the continual arrival of a number of destitute Irish, owing to no adequate provision being made for them in their own country. I find that, at Liverpool, about 90,000 Irish arrived from Ireland within the last few months, of whom a very large proportion, certainly—about 30,000—have emigrated to America; but the other 60,000 remain in Liverpool, or are spread over Lancashire and the adjoining districts. From South Wales the same complaints are made. Under these circumstances, I think it would be impossible to refuse to make a far more adequate provision than has hitherto been made for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland. But some hon. Gentlemen ask, "How will out-door relief enable you to provide increased employment?" I admit that it does not in itself; but I look to the stimulus which this Bill will supply to the proprietors and occupiers of the land to find increased employment for: the people. Sir, that is not founded upon vain speculation; I find that the knowledge that this Bill is passing through Parliament with so decided an assent to its principle, is operating in this way now, and inducing proprietors and occupiers to find increased employment for the people. I believe that the apprehensions expressed in many quarters will be more than realized if proprietors and occupiers are to cease to exert themselves, and sit down in apathy and indifference and watch the course of events; and if, on the other hand, the working population are to look to out-door relief as the means by which they are to be supported without work. But I do trust there is a spirit among all classes of the people which will avert so dire a calamity; and if that spirit does not exist, I believe that no legislation, or absence of legislation, will avert it. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton alluded to an address which has recently issued from Wexford; and I will call the attention of the House to some parts of it, because it embodies in forcible language the principles which I think are those on which the salvation of Ireland, or of any country, must mainly depend; and which I trust are the principles upon which Irishmen are prepared to act. It is an address to the landowners and land occupiers of 908 the county of Wexford, issued by a "Land-Lord and Tenant Association" in that county; which is stated to have been for some short time carrying on operations there. The Earl of Courtown is president of the body, and it is stated that it has the support of all the proprietors and many of the cultivators of the soil. The address, which emanated from a meeting held on the 1st inst., begins—We, a committee appointed by the late grand jury, in consequence of the unhappy state of this country, address you solemnly and earnestly upon the necessity for exertion at the present crisis.After adverting to the system of relief now going on, and the projected permanent system, the address proceeds, referring to the letter—Under that system, the surplus population of this country will, if unemployed, be fed in idleness. The consequences will be—first, a heavy tax, from the expenditure of which no profitable return will arise; secondly, the demoralisation and degradation of the lower ranks of society, whose habits of dependence thus acquired, will render taxation under the New Poor Law a burden too heavy for the country to bear.But they do not sit down in despair, merely prophesying evil; they propose to exert themselves to avert it. They state—Two remedies present themselves—industrial profitable employment for the surplus labouring population, and emigration. The latter is a slow mode of relief; not to be neglected, but too slow to have the requisite effect. The former is that alone of which we can at the moment avail ourselves to the extent required. To provide this remedy general exertion will be necessary.And then, after adverting to the formation of committees with a view to consult, they say—These committees will search out means of employment of a general nature, such as enlarged fisheries, reclamations of uncultivated tracts, &c. More limited means of employment, suited to different localities, will be ascertained more readily by those connected with the localities; but a passing notice may well be bestowed on the vast field for profitable labour in the undrained land, and the unnecessary banks and ditches which deface and render so much of our country useless. The evil of out-door relief, when grappled with systematically, will not be found unmanageable. On the 20th of February, when more than 20,0011 persons were employed on public relief works in this county, the proportion was one person was so employed to twenty-five arable acres in the county. We again solemnly and earnestly adjure you, the owners and occupiers of land, to unite while there is still time to prevent the degradation and final ruin that threaten this country. The result of your exertions will be the development of fertile resources and a provision for the future. A wise Providence blesses well-directed activity, while, inaction ever produces ill consequences.909 That is the spirit in which, I hope, all classes of Irishmen will act; and, if they do, then I am confident that the apprehensions excited with reference to this Bill will prove unfounded. If they do not so act, but sit down with apathy and listlessness, merely watching the course of events, I am persuaded those apprehensions will be more than realized. Their hope does not lie in extraneous aid, but in the exertions of all classes, in the development of their own resources, aided indeed by measures calculated to promote the introduction of capital and provide employment for the people; and the landed proprietors and occupiers, assisted by those measures, will, I hope, adopt a system which, while it will provide increased employment for the people, will enlarge the productive powers of the country, and tend to elevate the people, and promote their future prosperity. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord Jocelyn), adverted also to the absence of political feeling which has of late prevailed in Ireland; and it is indeed a gratifying circumstance to find all parties so entirely impressed with the conviction, that, regardless of those differences which in past times have unhappily divided Ireland, they might combine their efforts for the general good, and by such combination pursue a course which would tend to remove the influence of those differences. And I do most cordially join in the hope which has been expressed, without at all complaining of the length of time occupied in the Imperial Parliament by discussions on the subject of Ireland, that those discussions, and the measures which Parliament has passed with the view of improving her social condition, will be followed by the willing co-operation of all classes in that country, for the common benefit, in carrying out the intentions of the Legislature; that a brighter day will yet dawn upon Ireland; and that those calamities which have not unfrequently occurred in her history, but which have been of almost periodical occurrence, will hereafter be averted or greatly mitigated. In that hope I trust this Bill, passing, as it is understood to pass, with the general concurrence of the House, will secure for Ireland the benefits it is calculated to confer upon that country, if carried out in the spirit in which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. A. S. O'Brien) on a former occasion stated that it is his intention to act, in giving effect to the objects which are contemplated in the measure.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: I understand that, during my absence from the House, the hon. and learned Member for Kerry (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) has made some remarks—certainly from the best possible motives—as to the circumstances under which I brought forward the clauses which I wish to have inserted in the Bill now before the House when it was in Committee. I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman stated that I took the House and the country by surprise—that I had taken the country at all events by surprise, if not the House — with the Amendments which were so nearly successful. Now I think it right that this observation should not pass altogether unanswered. I gave the notice of those Amendments on the 11th of March. The House went into Committee for the first time on the 16th March, and it was not till twelve o'clock at night, on the 29th of the same month, that these clauses were discussed at all. So that there had been eighteen days' notice given of those clauses, and consequently they must have been printed in the Votes and Proceedings of the House not less than twelve times over, while they must have gone forth to the country in all the daily newspapers in the metropolis on not less than three separate occasions, each a week from the other. I think, therefore, I am justified in saying that there was no disguise on my part, and no attempt to take any advantage either of this House or of the country, when I proposed the Amendments to the Bill. Though the hon. and learned Gentlemen the Member for Kerry has said nothing in ill-humour—he never does—still he was wrong in stating that I meant by the clauses I proposed to impose a burden on the occupying tenants of Ireland. I beg to say that I was no party, and never meant to be a party, to the imposition of a burden on the occupying tenant, except with his own good will; for my clause was not to come into operation till 1849, and therefore the occupying tenant, who would have that burden placed upon him, would incur it with his eyes open, and after the experience of two years probably the most trying as far as rates are concerned. If any person, therefore, was likely to be injured, it would be the landlord, because the occupying tenant would be a fool indeed if he undertook an engagement after 1849 without duly considering the amount of rates he would have to pay, looking at what he had paid during the present year and in the year 1848. 911 And then if the rates, as I trust they will be, are materially reduced after 1849, the occupying tenant would have the entire benefit of that reduction. I therefore think there never was any more unjustifiable charge made than that my intention was to impose an unjust tax upon the occupier. My object was not to protect the landlords, for I am not connected with the landlords of Ireland by myself or by my friends. I was seeking to do justice to all parties; and I believe this, that the occupying tenant and the poor of Ireland, would have been the most benefited had the clauses which I proposed been made part of the Bill. I believe the effect would have been to have induced the occupying tenants to have improved their holdings; and I am convinced that the effect would have been to add much to their own wealth. I interfered with no vested right, as connected with the occupying tenant. I did, it is true, interfere with vested rights in one case. I did impose burdens in regard to the second clause; but I proposed that those burdens should be imposed upon the landlords. To the landlords I gave no quarter. To them I gave no opportunity of making a contract; but I did propose by the second clause that all the owners of holdings which did not exceed 5l. of yearly rent, should pay the rates—not from 1849, and not after new leases had been gone into, but from the passing of the Act. I proposed that the owners of all holdings not exceeding 5l. of yearly rent, and comprising a body of 76,029 persons, should bear the entire burdens themselves, and that the tenants should be altogether relieved. I say then, that there never was a greater calumny upon my friends or myself, than to say that we have been guilty of a felonious attempt to impose a new burden upon the occupying tenants of Ireland. And to say that there was a conspiracy in this matter between those Gentlemen who usually act with me, and those who were accustomed to act with the late Ministry, is altogether unjustifiable; for I can most conscientiously say that when I drew up the clause, I had no notion of receiving such support; and I can truly add that I never was more surprised in my life than when I found how nearly I had succeeded in carrying the clause which was put to the House. I trust I have said enough to prove to the House and to the people of Ireland that there never was anything more erroneous and more unjustifiable than the charge which has been made — that I have been 912 seeking, or my friends on my behalf have been seeking, by any unfair concert, and by any unfair underhand method, or without giving good notice to the House and to the country of placing upon the occupying tenants any burden which it is not right and proper, and not for their interest, that, they should bear.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) had entirely acquitted himself of any charge or reflection which had been made against him of taking the House by surprise in the matter of the clauses he had wished to introduce into the Bill. He did not hear the statement which had been made by the hon. and learned Member for Kerry; but he could not think that that learned Gentleman intended to cast any imputation upon the proceedings of the noble Lord. The noble Lord did all that he could do under the circumstances. He had given the most ample notice of his Amendment; but if the hon. and learned Member for Kerry, when he spoke about the people being taken by surprise, meant the people of Ireland, he could confidently state that he had said nothing more than the truth. He had been in Ireland lately, and had conversed with many persons well acquainted with the feeling throughout the country; and he could say that there did exist, on the part of the people, a very strong feeling of alarm and apprehension on the subject of the danger they had escaped. It was not his intention to discuss the merits of the clause proposed by the noble Lord, as it formed no part of the Bill; but this much he would say in reference to it—and he felt it right that he should make the statement—that from all he had heard in Ireland from those who were best informed on the subject, that it would be a most unfortunate thing if a clause of the description proposed by the noble Lord was made to form part of the Bill. It had been said by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what he thought no man could disguise from himself, that however right the Bill might be in principle, and however carefully and cautiously drawn up in detail, yet still the working of it would be attended with no ordinary difficulty; and he felt convinced that if the clause in question had been engrafted upon the Bill, it would have added greatly to the obstacles and difficulties which the measure would have to contend with from the prejudice and odium that would have been excited 913 against it among the tenant-farmers. He heartily rejoiced to see this important measure brought to a successful conclusion; and he hoped that the expectations entertained by the Government and Parliament, that it would lay the foundation of the permanent prosperity of Ireland, would be realized; but he agreed with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department in thinking that the success of this and every other measure that could be devised depended upon the degree of co-operation which the measures met with from those classes upon whose assistance the Government had a right to rely.
§ MR. GOULBURN
said, he would not have forced any observations on the House on the present occasion, were it not that, admitting, as he did in the fullest manner, that the period was arrived at which it was impossible to avoid making some provision for the poor in Ireland, he was still not insensible to the difficulties which would attend the attempt. Those difficulties had in his mind been greatly aggravated by those temporary measures to which recourse had been had, and for which he did not wish to fix blame on any party; but the effect of them had been to throw upon the public works a large portion of the people of the country, thereby imposing great obstacles in the way of those who administered the poor law on sound principles, and in the same spirit as induced that House to pass the measure. It was not enough to call for the cordial co-operation of all parties in carrying this law into effect; but there was a peculiar duty imposed on Government to give the full aid of their authority to those who might be willing to execute their duties, and not to allow them to be overborne by tumultuous assemblages on the one hand, or by feelings of interest on the other. He certainly had voted for the clauses introduced by the noble Member for Lynn, not with any view of throwing a burden on the occupying tenant—and from that charge the noble Lord had fully vindicated himself—but because he felt it was essential in the present state of Ireland to be able to oppose to the undue wishes of the multitude for the receipt of relief, the interest of those who were of the class on whom the burden would fall most heavily, and would have the means of supporting the guardians in the discharge of their duty. He also wished to combine with them a class of persons who, from their intimate knowledge of the people, would be able to afford information as to 914 the real condition of applicants for relief to the board of guardians. He would repeat that it was absolutely necessary Government should be prepared to lend their cordial assistance to those charged with the execution of the law. It was no secret that in Ireland it was not so much the law passed here by the House that was the question, as the mode in which that law was there carried into effect. It was impossible to expect that the gentlemen and farmers of the boards of guardians, pressed by multitudes of men, taught to depend, not on their own exertions, but on public charity, and believing that on their decision their own existence depended, could execute their duty unless they had a confidence almost amounting to certainty that in resisting unfair claims they would receive the protection of Government. They had been in the habit of attacking the mode in which the country gentlemen of Ireland had administered the law entrusted to them, and the manner in which they had levied the presentments in Ireland. But he had always considered that before they condemned those gentlemen, they ought to place themselves in a similar situation, and let the boldest among them ask what would have been their conduct if they were obliged to assemble, like those gentlemen, surrounded by crowds of men in a state of starvation, who knew that on those gentlemen depended their only hopes of relief; and let them ask themselves, too, what would have been their feelings, if they were obliged to return to their homes, assailed by those persons—exposed, if not to the loss of life, at least to some serious injury? It was from dangers of this sort that the poor-law guardians had a right to expect that Government would defend them. He had seen a published letter, by the hon. Member for Rochdale, in which it was stated, that whatever burdens might be placed on the opulent part of the country in Ireland would certainly be resisted, and that a passive resistance would be resorted to, in order to defeat the collection of the rates. Now, he boldly declared that, if after this Bill had passed, and the necessary rates imposed, there were any hesitation in their enforcement, or if Government permitted any resistance, active or passive, from that moment their poor law would become a dead letter; any social evil it was intended to remedy would be aggravated; and the measure itself, instead of proving a benefit, would become a permanent source of mischief.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I concur in all that has been said by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. I agree with him that it is quite necessary that Government should protect their officers engaged in the administration of the law, not only in granting relief, but in the refusal of unfair and unjust applications. And those who have represented this law as so very objectionable and ruinous to property in Ireland, seem to me to have misconceived the administration of a law of this kind, and the purport and nature of the law itself. It is constantly represented in the pamphlet which has been circulated as the speech of the Archbishop of Dublin, as if the poor of Ireland have nothing to do but to make their choice between receiving such wages as the farmers may choose to give them, and going to the workhouse and receiving, without any work, sufficient for their subsistence and support. Now that, as everybody knows, is not the poor law. It is not the proper administration of the poor law. If the landlords and farmers agree that they can support the labouring man by wages—if the labouring man is afforded sufficient for his subsistence—he has no claim whatever on the poor-law guardians. He has no right whatever to go to the guardians and say, "I am offered work, but I prefer coming to the poorhouse. I am offered wages, but I prefer securing a subsistence without any work, and therefore I consider myself a pauper, and require support from you, instead of being employed as an industrious labourer." That is not a poor law. That is not the proper administration of a poor law. And yet by representations that such is the case under this law, and that the people of Ireland, preferring to have subsistence without work to having subsistence with work, will by this law have the alternative placed before them—it is by such representations that the Bill now before the House is made to appear so alarming to the holders of property in that country. Sir, I do think, as the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. S. Crawford) has stated, that this Bill is guarded by very stringent provisions. When you say there shall be no relief to the able-bodied poor except in the workhouse, and if there be no room in the workhouse that application shall be made to the Poor Law Commissioners, who shall make an order for a limited time, during which the able-bodied labourers shall be supported only by food, and not by money payment, I think you have taken 916 very stringent precautions against the abuses to which we know every poor law is in some degree liable. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman who has last spoken, that in the administration of this law, those who insist upon the enforcement of such conditions as the law has pointed out, and who act fairly, honestly, and with intelligence in carrying it out, have a right to the fullest support on the part of the Government. There are likewise questions of support to persons who, acting thus in the administration of the law, may be subjected to intimidation, and who, being unpopular, may be threatened by those who would wish a more lax and improvident system of administration. I entirely agree that we cannot expect that men will act firmly in the administration of this law, if in their lives and persons they are not to be secured by the efforts of the Executive Government. I quite admit it is not fair to charge a man with deserting his duty, giving improvident relief, and abusing the law, unless you give him the utmost security which a Government can give, that if he docs act as I have described, he will be supported. I do not agree with the noble Lord who proposed a clause which has been already the subject of discussion on the report, that that clause did not impose an additional burden on the tenant. I cannot think that the case of Ireland is, as the noble Lord seems to think, exactly similar to that of England. I quite admit, if there were any additional burden, or any new county rate which you could say would be imposed on tenants at will in England from the beginning of the year 1849, that any person who was about to take a farm, or was in the occupation of a farm, would have an opportunity of making his contract with the landlord, would calculate exactly what would be the burden be would have to sustain, and would refuse any longer to hold the farm if be were bound to pay a rent, which with that burden, was disproportionate to the produce of the farm. He would be able to make that contract; he and the landlord would agree together, and probably on very fair terms, as to what portion would fall on the tenant and what on the landlord, so that most probably the whole burden would in fact fall on the landlord, by a diminution of the rent. But considering what has been the state of society in Ireland, I cannot think that such would be the case in that country. My opinion is, that though it would be a great alleviation of the burden that the clause 917 was not to come into operation till the year 1849, there would be no deduction from the rent which could be enforced against the landlord, but a very great desire to hold out for the utmost that could be obtained; and, looking to the habits of the people, I will not say as they may be fifty years hence, but as they have hitherto been, and the strong conviction generally entertained that in holding the land they hold the means of life, I think the tenant would be obliged to pay an additional rent. If, indeed, the noble Lord had argued that no additional burden was now to be thrown on the tenant, so that there would be no inducement to look more narrowly to the administration the poor law, and see that abuses did not spring up—if the noble Lord had taken that view, I am not prepared to say that there might not have been some truth in it, though the change would not be less injurious. But when the right hon. Gentleman calls on the Government to support those who have to administer this law, I think the Executive Government, on the other hand, may very fairly express their hope that Parliament will not make the poor rate more burdensome—that they will not make the poor law odious to the people of Ireland—and will not enhance the difficulties which every man will meet with in the administration of that law, and the collection of the rate which is to be imposed. I will not, having stated my opinions to the House, now say anything further than that I am very glad to see that, after the debates we have had in this House, and the visits many Gentlemen have made to Ireland, there is no diminution of the attention paid to this Bill, and every disposition to give it a fair trial.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I may have misapprehended the noble Lord; but I understood him to say, that he thought the argument of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn a very good argument as applied to a county rate, but not as regarded a poor rate. [Lord J. RUSSELL: I said that it would be a good argument if applied to England, but not to Ireland.] I misapprehended the noble Lord, and, therefore, I am glad to have given him an opportunity of correcting that misapprehension. I understand, therefore, the view of the noble Lord to be this, that he thinks the argument of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn a very good argument as applied to England, but not as applied to Ireland, owing to the different state of these coun- 918 tries. Now, I am sure I do not intend for a moment to maintain that there are not great differences in the state of England and Ireland; but the Secretary of State has already confessed to us that he himself supports this Bill without any confidence of its producing the effect which we all desire; and yet the Secretary of State votes for this Bill, and we support the Secretary of State. The fact is, that this is a great experiment; and, if it be, is it unreasonable that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, reasoning from such facts as political experience offers under analogous circumstances, should draw his argument from the position of affairs in England? And is it any answer for the First Minister to say that there is a difference between Ireland and England (which no one disputes), and therefore you must not refer to the instance of England? Is that not the best instance, although an imperfect one, and the only instance we can refer to under the circumstance which Her Majesty's Ministers admit, that they are offering a remedial measure in which they have not implicit confidence? I think it, therefore, not only a justifiable but an extremely wise course to refer to the best example which any one can adduce for his guidance at the moment. I therefore think that the observations of the noble Lord are really not such as should influence our opinion. It may be true that the instance of England is not exactly, or perhaps very remotely, similar to that of Ireland; but we are all agreed that it is the only example we have to guide us; and it was, therefore, a very fair basis for the clauses which the noble Lord the Member for Lynn proposed. I am of opinion—and, of course, one can only offer an opinion, for we have no experience on the subject—that the clauses which he proposed, and which he nearly carried, contained a statesman-like principle — a principle which has been much misrepresented out of the House; but, although spoken of in some terms, I will not say of contumely, by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. M. J. O'Connell), but with some terms of disrespect and dislike—the hon. Gentleman having received intimation from his constituents since the discussion, enforcing views which did not animate him on the night on which the Amendment was discussed; and although on a previous occasion the hon. Member for Stroud lavished his great powers of denunciation against that Amendment—the expressions which fell from the 919 hon. Member for Stroud and from the hon. Member for Kerry, only show that an opinion exists out of doors in Ireland which does not exist in this House, as shown by the tone of the debate that evening, especially on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers; for I am sure that an opposition more moderate—I might say more modest—than that which was offered to the Amendment of the noble Lord by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I never saw exhibited in any popular assembly. I thought that up to the last moment he was to be vanquished against his will. The reason of proposing the clauses in question was this, that this being by the announcement of Her Majesty's Ministers a subject of experiment—they themselves bringing forward a measure in which they had not implicit confidence—the noble Lord the Member for Lynn thinking that, although it was of great importance to relieve the tenant, it was of greater importance to pass a law not for the mere advantage of the tenant—not for the mere advantage of the landlord—not for the mere advantage of any class, but to pass a law which would really act, thought he would draw a line which, while it removed the burden from the smaller tenants, offered a stimulus to the superior ones, and would make all classes combine to carry the law into operation. Nothing is easier than, in this House, especially on the subject of Ireland, for hon. Members to rise and make general statements and flashy speeches, and talk of burdening classes; but the point to consider is, whether we will pass a law which will operate. You may pass a law, throwing as you think the burden on a particular class; but when you find you are not able to carry it into effect, what answer will you make to those parties who proposed an Amendment similar to that proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, when they ask what advantage has accrued to the country—what benefit has been conferred on the people of Ireland? In the present instance the Amendment in question proposed to do more for the smaller tenant than was done by the existing law. Under the present law no tenant was rated to the maintenance of the poor who occupied a holding under 4l. annual rent. The noble Lord proposed that no tenant who occupied a holding under 5l. a year should be rated; while at the same time, although he threw what you believe to be a burden, but what I believe to be a salutary stimulus, on the su- 920 perior tenants, he stipulated that there should be a lapse of time to permit them to draw the result; he gave them the fiscal experience of two years to frame a new bargain and compact for 1849. I believe, although I don't say, that the result would be as satisfactory as the noble Lord the Member for Lynn stated; but when Ministers bring it forward avowedly as an experiment—when the Secretary of State tells us that it is with no enthusiastic conviction that he supports the measure, is it to be tolerated that clauses so practical, so wise, and, as I believe, so beneficent as those brought forward by the noble Lord, should be treated as some persons have treated them who have spoken in utter ignorance? I am not speaking of Irish Members at this moment. I refer to what has taken place out of doors; for, although the noble Lord moved his Amendment in a temper and spirit with which no one could find fault, he has received letters by every post from Ireland since couched in a very different tone indeed from some which he had previously received from the same quarter. I heard an hon. Member say on a previous evening that the Poles were the Irish of the north of Europe. I hope it will never be said of the Irish that they are a light and frivolous people; but the rapidity with which they pass votes of confidence, and then of illimitable condemnation, is certainly not an encouragement to public men, and is not the best evidence of popular consistency. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) has referred to a pamphlet which has just been published, containing the report of a speech of a right rev. Prelate. I am glad the noble Lord noticed that extraordinary ebullition of prelatic conviction, for anything more remarkable I never remember to have seen. Throughout that pamphlet there is one unprecedented assumption; the writer always assumes that the poor law is to be administered by the poor. That is the basis of all his arguments, the fountain of his illustrations, and the source of all his counsels. That is not the opinion, I believe, of Gentlemen on this side of the House, who generally support Her Majesty's Ministers in the measure they have brought forward. They have supported it as a great experiment—as a hazardous experiment, but as a necessary measure—as a measure brought forward under circumstances in which inevitable necessity is the counsellor of the realm. But, although it has been brought 921 forward, under these circumstances, as a last resource—we have not counselled in panic. Although it is a measure of necessity, we bring forward in its support the principles of political science. It is not a rash measure, to allow the starving people to break into the public granaries of the realm; but it is a measure in which we have endeavoured, by stringent regulations, to benefit the country and promote the commonweal. I will venture to say, that if there be any thing calculated to bring political economy into greater discredit than it now enjoys, it is making and publishing such speeches as that to which I have just referred. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State noticed the unanimity with which this question was about to pass. I certainly had no intention to interfere with that unanimity; but I am glad that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, although he unexpectedly entered the House, did notice the attack which was made upon him; for one more unjust in its essence or more improper to encourage, as regards public men, I cannot conceive. I am glad he had an opportunity of making that vindication which has been completely acknowledged by leading men on both sides of the House. What may be the opinion of the people of Ireland, I cannot pretend to decide. I know that he has been animated in the course he has taken on Ireland by only one principle, and that was to do his duty under circumstances of great difficulty: and the consciousness of that principle will maintain him, and whatever may be their opinion, he will not swerve from the course he has determined to pursue.
§ SIR G. GREY
The hon. Member has referred to an expression of mine as implying that I wanted confidence in this measure. I certainly did not intend to express—and I believe I did not express—any doubt of the expediency or necessity of the measure now before the House. I did say, however, that I could not predict with confidence what the result of the measure may be, because I feel that that result mainly depends upon the support and the co-operation it may meet with on the part of that class of persons whose co-operation is essential to its safe administration.
, as the representative of a large English county, and particularly as being, through his family, connected with Ireland, begged to be allowed to say a few words on this sub- 922 ject. One thing he would wish to point out to the farmers of Ireland, which was the great danger they were incurring by the mode of proceeding that had been adopted, unless he was misinformed, by too many of them. They were holding their corn for famine prices. Now, he had received information from a person of unquestionable authority, who wrote from Kingston, in Canada, under date the 11th of December, showing that the storehouses there were crammed with corn not able to be forwarded on account of the freezing of the St. Lawrence and the Rideau Canal; and stating that from what they heard, it seemed that there was an immensity of grain in the west not yet thrashed out. Another symptom of there being large quantities in the country was the falling of prices. In the United States the reports of the numbers of bushels to be sent in the spring were almost beyond belief. This corn would be poured upon Ireland in a mass at once, and those farmers who were holding their corn for famine prices would be disappointed; they would not be able to get any price, and therefore not able to pay their rents, and extensive ruin would be the consequence. With respect to poor relief, the plan which he had to propose, and which he had submitted to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, many months ago, was this. He would suppose the unions of Ireland would require to be increased so as reach perhaps 200. To every union he would attach a farm of say 100 acres, over which he would appoint a first-rate bailiff. He might mention that Dr. Kane, in his Industrial Resources of Ireland, had given the weight of his high authority in favour of the plan. The way he (Captain Fitzmaurice) would work it would be this. Every man who came for work to the union might by this means be tested as to the sincerity of his desire to earn a livelihood by labour. He would put every such man to work on the farm, and allow him to take home his wages in preference to confining him in the house; and he contended that such a plan, if carried out on principles of high farming, would be a self-paying system. As to the draining of lands, he trusted that the Government would pause before they went further in attempting to drain the bogs of Ireland; many of the attempts that heretofore had been made, had led to disastrous results. His own family having been brought under the notice of the House at different times 923 in the course of the late debates relating to Ireland, he trusted the House would excuse him for referring to the subject. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien), who he was sorry was not then in his place, had named his (Captain Fitzmaurice's) brother, as one of those landlords who were deficient in the performance of their duties, and a constant absentee. Now, at the very time the hon. Member was making that remark, his brother was in Ireland remitting hundreds of pounds to his tenants of the rent that they owed him. His brother had also given his agent orders to draw on him to any extent for the relief of the poor on his estate; and there was not a poor tenant on that estate who had not got seed given him by his brother, and those who were disabled by sickness from doing it themselves had had the land sowed for them. There had not been one person on his brother's estate that had applied for parish relief for his family. That statement he considered it was just to his own family to make; it was a truth which he thought the people of Ireland would not be the worse for hearing. His grandfather had sunk as much as 200,000l. in the linen trade, which was all lost, owing to the want of energy of the people in his neighbourhood, who took a prejudice against the machinery that was employed in the manufacture. It could not be said that the loss arose from absenteeism, for his grandfather even went behind the counter in an apron in order to give an example to the people. Nevertheless the whole was lost, and he regretted to say he was the sufferer. The true cause of absenteeism lay on the people themselves, for that which immediately led to it was the insecurity for life and property that was felt in Ireland. As a proof of the insecurity of life, he might mention that his brother's servant was shot at his door, eleven bullets being put through his body. There were twenty men round the door, not one of whom stirred a hand to help the victim. When Englishmen, having property in Ireland, were accused of absenteeism, he would ask, could it be expected that any one would go from this country, where, as far as the lives of himself, his wife, and children were concerned, he might sleep with his doors open, to live in such a pandæmonium as was exhibited in the returns for 1846 of the general state of Ireland, which gave as the account of crimes committed within the year, 176 homicides: 158 firings at the person; 604 924 aggravated assaults; 611 demands or robberies of arms; 290 assaults endangering life; 1,783 sending threatening notices; 536 attacks on houses; 167 firings into dwellings. The hon. and gallant Member then stated the following cases as specimens of the outrages against life in Ireland: The first case occurred on October 24, 1846; it was the case of Mr. Hugh Palliser Hickman, deputy-lieutenant of Clare, late high sheriff of the country, and son-in-law of the Bishop of Meath. On the evening of that day, a numerous band of ruffians, with blackened faces, entered his house, and having placed sentinels over the servants, proceeded to the dining-room, and, calling for fire-arms, commenced a most furious attack on Mr. Hickman, who stoutly refused to deliver up his arms until he was completely overpowered by several blows on the head; when Mrs. Hickman pointed out where the arms were, with which the ruffians decamped, but not before they had renewed their brutal attack on Mr. Hickman, inflicting two very deep wounds on his head, and breaking one of his fingers. The outrage was the more to be lamented, seeing that the object of it was always resident in the country, and not less conspicuous for his humane attention to the wants of the poor, than for the extensive employment which he gave. A number of poor people residing on land adjoining Mr. Hickman's property would have been in a most deplorable state of destitution had not Mr. Hickman provided them with constant employment during the year, and thus kept their families from starving. In the county of Galway, on the 9th of December, a most brutal murder was committed near Tuam, on Mr.: John Lynch, who was a large landed proprietor, and one of the kindest and most benevolent gentlemen within the district in which he resided. He was also a most inoffensive man, and was greatly esteemed by every person, rich or poor, in the neighbourhood, and it was unaccountable why he should have been selected for the dagger of the assassin. Mr. Lynch was entering his own gate when he was fired at from behind, and it would appear that the shot mortally wounded but did not instantly kill him. The assassins beat him dreadfully on the head, and moreover houghed and mangled his body in a shocking manner with some instrument supposed to be a reaping hook. There was not the slightest cause assigned, nor indeed could there be, for this murder. Personally there could 925 be no ill feeling towards Mr. Lynch, for he was kind, humane, charitable, and conciliating. The shrieks of his family and their heart-rending anguish could not be heard without emotion by the most hardened, and upon one of his children the effect had been of the most melancholy description. With respect to Tipperary, with which his brother's family was more immediately connected, it was stated in the return to which he had already referred, that that county alone had furnished 604 cases of aggravated assaults, whilst—and this was a fact which demanded the serious consideration of the House—out of the gross number of 176 murders, no less than 132 were committed in Tipperary. These murders were perpetrated under circumstances of the most revolting barbarity. The particulars of one of these cases were thus described:—About the hour of 12 o'clock on Sunday night last, five men—rather monsters in human form—went to the house of Michael Mullaly, at Jamestown, and demanded admittance in the name of the police. Before the door could be opened, it was violently forced in; four ruffians entered, two of whom were masks, the other two had their faces coloured. One of them was armed with a pistol, and the fifth person, who was stationed at the door, was armed with a pitchfork. There were in the house at the time, James Mullaly, 80 years of age, and his nephew, Michael, aged 60 (a cripple), and two women named Mary and Ally Mullaly. The party having lighted four candles, which they brought with them, then demanded what money was in the house, and were informed that ten shillings were all they had. One of them produced a book and swore the entire family as to the truth of what they said; and he then deliberately swore on the same book that they would leave the entire family corpses before they left. They then beat them. The gray locks of the venerable old man, or the helpless state of the unfortunate cripple, were no shield from the brutal attack of these sanguinary scoundrels. They next proceeded to the bed, and having dragged Alley therefrom, they also dreadfully beat and kicked her, and having procured a rope, they tied it round her neck, fastened it to a beam, placed her on a box, in the most cool manner, and when they had all ready, they removed the box, and left the body suspended from the beam. Before life became extinct, those monsters cut down the body of the wretched woman, dragged it to the fire-place, and placed her on her side across the fire; however, she was then thrown on the kitchen floor, to all appearance lifeless, when one of these monsters got a burning coal, and placed it on different parts of her arms, and then beat and kicked her about the head and shoulders unmercifully. All this was done with a view of extorting a confession of where they had the money. The party remained in the house for three or four hours, and when going away one of them lit straw and held it to the thatch for the purpose of setting fire to the house.It might be supposed that those wretches 926 committed the crime in order to obtain possession of some rich booty—an enormous quantity or a large sum of money. They carried away with them all they could get—1s. 2d. and an old razor. For so trifling a booty was that frightful tragedy enacted. In another instance a party broke into the dwelling-house of a man named Renchen, whom they beat in a shocking manner, and afterwards placed upon the fire. The man died. He would not travel further into this record of blood; but when the landlords of Ireland were condemned for absenteeism, and when the Legislature was about to impose upon Ireland the severest absentee tax which could be devised, he called upon the Government and Parliament to make life and property as secure in Tipperary as in Middlesex and Buckingham. He had a right to make that demand. Under the present system of violence and intimidation, it was impossible for a landowner in Ireland to farm his land to the best advantage—he was not allowed to do so. A gentleman who had some property near his brother's estate, directed his steward to send some men from one farm to another. The consequence was, that the steward's skull was broken immediately, and the gentleman received notice that if he persevered in his design he would be killed the next day. These violent proceedings were not confined to disputes respecting land. The Irish fisheries ought to be most productive; but he would ask the noble Lord the Member for Newry whether from the moment the Board of Works began to pay out money, a single net had been put in the water in the north of Ireland? Conversing lately with a person who fished the west coast of England, he asked him why he did not go to Ireland where fish were so abundant? His reply was that he had gone there once, and the people cut his nets, in consequence of which he left the country in disgust. He was aware that a fishing company was once successfully employed on the coast of Waterford, the men earning 18s. per week each, and the produce paying a dividend of 20 per cent. The nets were destroyed, and the boats cut adrift in the night. The company of course ceased working, and the district lost the advantage which it derived from the fishing. The House had heard much of the misery existing at Skibbereen. Within five miles of that place was fish enough to feed all Ireland. There was as fine a bank of fish off Youghall as at Newfoundland, and fish might be obtained there 927 in sufficient quantities to supply not only Ireland but France and Spain. The people on the spot would not take the fish, and English fishermen had been invited to go there; but not a man would stir, because he knew that his life would not be safe. He called for no Coercion Bill for Ireland, but he did demand security for life and property in that country. One of the most disheartening circumstances attending the present crisis was the continuance of the Repeal agitation. Whilst Ireland was being saddled with taxation to the amount of four, and, it might be, eight millions, and whilst England was straining every nerve to save the people of Ireland from starvation, a set of persons were anxious to separate the two countries. It was time that the distinction between Saxon and Celt should be forgotten, and that all Irishmen should unite in an endeavour to benefit their common country. In his opinion the commencement of the social regeneration of Ireland was compressed in a monosyllable—the spade. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by declaring his intention to support the Government amidst the unexampled difficulties in which it was placed.
§ Bill read a third time.
§ MR. GROGAN
said he had given notice of his intention to move the addition of two clauses to provide against a pressure that would probably occur in this way:—Liverpool was at the present moment overwhelmed by the influx of Irish paupers; that town would soon have the power of re-moving those paupers back to Ireland. Dublin would be the place where those distressed objects would land, and the citizens of Dublin would be obliged to give them relief. His wish was to enact that Dublin (or any other place similarly circumstanced) should have the power to examine the poor whom they relieved as to the union whence they originally came; and to charge such union with the expenses incurred in administering such relief. He was, however, informed by the Speaker, that owing to an informality, it was not competent for him to propose the clauses he had prepared. At the same time, it was a subject that vitally affected the city of Dublin, where there were at present upwards of 40,000 paupers receiving relief under the Temporary Relief Bill. If the Government would give the unions a power of removal, the 928 clauses he had intended to propose would not be necessary.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said that the clauses went to impose a burden upon unions in Ireland which was not at present instituted by any other clause of the Bill, and therefore it was not competent, by way of rider, to introduce such clauses.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the clauses involved the subject of the law of settlement, which was a matter of too great importance to be enacted by way of a rider to any Bill. He could assure the hon. Gentleman that the subject would engage the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Bill passed.