The MARQUESS of GRANBY
said, that he hoped the House would extend its indulgence to him whilst he endeavoured to make some observations upon the measure now under the consideration of the House. He could assure the House that it was his anxious desire to abstain from saying anything which could excite a party or personal feeling. He hoped that he might be allowed to say that he heard with the deepest regret the determination which the noble Lord at the head of the Government had come to respecting this measure, for he had hoped from the assurance his noble Friend had given to the noble Lord, that 1359 he proposed this measure, not in hostility to Her Majesty's Ministers, but as a means of facilitating the carrying out of the measures proposed by the Government, that the noble Lord would have supported it. The noble Lord the Member for London said he could not support the Bill, and had also expressed his determination, if defeated on it, that he would resign the government of the country. He was quite sure the noble Lord was actuated by high and patriotic motives; but he regretted his determination, as he believed it would be for the injury of Ireland. He would not go into the comparative merits of the measures of the Government and of the Bill now under consideration, as he did not think the two schemes were incompatible. In considering the present plan for the relief of Ireland, he would not enter into the causes that had brought about the present state of that country. Whether it had arisen from unwise legislation, or from the conduct of absentee landlords; whether it had arisen from any peculiarity of disposition in the Irish people, or from the system of letting land which prevailed, or from the subsistence of the people upon a potato diet, he would not affirm; but this he would say, that there were only two practical modes of meeting the evil—either by a diminution of the population, or by an increase of capital. There was no other remedy. Now, the noble Lord the Member for the city of London had said that he had no general plan of emigration. Though he thought a good deal might be done in that direction, still he did not think it would be a cure for the evils which afflicted Ireland. The only other course, therefore, was to introduce capital into Ireland; and as from the state of the country and the want of confidence, from whatever cause, which prevailed in regard to it, private individuals were not prepared to introduce capital, the Bill of his noble Friend the Member for Lynn would be the effectual means of doing so. His noble Friend had shown so clearly the benefits that Ireland must derive from that measure—he had stated so eloquently the employment it would give—the new markets it would open, the increased value to that country in the most essential points—the benefit the poor man would derive, not only from the employment it would give, but from the industrious habits it would cherish, by attaching him to the comforts of his home, that he would not weary the House by going over them again. It was the less necessary, because no one had 1360 risen in that House to deny the benefits which the measure would produce to Ireland: though he would refrain from expressing any opinion of his own, perhaps he might be permitted to quote the opinions of others. He would call the attention of the House, in the first place, to a memorial presented to Lord Besborough in 1846. The memorial was from the inhabitants of the city of Dublin, whose opinions certainly ought to be considered on such a question. [The noble Lord read the document, which stated that the memorialists conveyed the strong opinion of the country in favour of railway enterprise, from which they expected the greatest possible good would result; that 40,000 persons were employed by the works then in operation; and they pressed the matter warmly on the attention of his Excellency.] He was not arguing that in a country where employment was ample, where food was abundant, where artificial wants had already been established, where happiness and abundance reigned—he was not arguing that in such a country as that they might not quicken the pulse of that country to a feverish and unhealthy action; but what he was saying was this, that in the present low and unfortunate condition of Ireland, the railway system carefully carried out would produce the most beneficial results. The noble Lord the Member for Bandon had the other evening cited a passage from Sir Robert Kane's work in favour of the present measure; and, perhaps, he might be permitted to quote another to show how greatly Ireland stood in need of improved internal communications. It stated, that the roads in many parts of Ireland were so bad that the farmers were thereby prevented from carrying their grain to market. [The noble Lord read the entire passage.] Sir R. Kane, after relating the benefits which had been felt in the county of Clare from an increase of communication, proceeded—Such are the results of opening out the internal communication of the country; and that ought accordingly to be one of the first objects of a Government really anxious for the improvement of Ireland.Amongst the other important effects a system of railways must have in Ireland at the present moment, he thought would be the means of facilitating the transference of fish throughout the country. He held in his hand a letter he had received from a gentleman in Ireland who was well versed on this subject, and for whose talents and 1361 integrity he could vouch. It was not, however, written for the purpose of assisting his noble Friend's measure, because it was dated, and he received it so far back as the end of October, 1845. The writer said, that at the end of October, 1845—I was in Galway, and was much interested with the proceedings of the Claddagh fishermen. The herrings were on the bank, and I observed at least a thousand boats shoved out to sea. The community of fishermen were under the direction of a king, whom they obeyed more implicitly than did the subjects of any other monarch. The thousand fishing boats brought in each, on an average, 8,000 herrings, which sold at 10s. a thousand, or 120 for 1s. This number was equally divided among the fishermen; and, before the close of the day, they were sold to purchasers who attended with horses and carts to hawk them over the country. 8,000 herrings, at 10s. per thousand, came to 4l. per boat; and the gross amount was, therefore, 4,000l. per day. The shoals of herrings continued off the head of the bank; but the king of Claddagh would not allow any of the fishing boats to go out until the hawkers returned. Thus four days elapsed; and on the evening of the fourth day the horses and carts arrived, and the fishermen again put to sea.It was plain from this letter, therefore, that if railways had existed, 4,000l. worth of herrings might have been fished on each day, and conveyed throughout Ireland and to Dublin. Thus, for want of railways, many thousands of pounds were lost; and the evil was the more felt, because, for want of these railways, no curing was carried on, in consequence of the very high price of salt. It had been objected to the plan of his noble Friend, that there would be such difficulty in carrying it out—that they would never raise the 16,000,000l.—and that the plan must therefore be refused. But he did not think that this country was in such a condition that the sum could not be raised. He would not obtrude any opinion of his upon the House, because it would be of no avail; but if England, in 1847, could not raise 4,000,000l. for the starving people of Ireland, there must be something radically wrong in their legislation, and the sooner they retraced their steps the better would it be for the safety and dignity of the country. Another objection was, that the people of England would object to the imposition of a tax for the relief of the people of Ireland. Now, he had read in the Morning Post of that morning the following melancholy statement:—The accounts of the ravages produced by destitution still continue to be of the most distressing character. The Cork Reporter of Thursday says:—'On last Monday morning there were 44 corpses in the room allotted to the dead at one 1362 of the Cork workhouses. Over 100 bodies were conveyed the morning but one after, and, we regret to say, deposited in the small burial ground of one of our most popular suburbs. The ordinary graveyard is too full to receive more coffins. The deaths in the unions of Skibbereen and Bantry may be calculated at 400 weekly, If a month expires before the Temporary Relief Act is in operation, 1,600 victims more, at the rate at which the poor are perishing, will have been added to the appalling catalogue of dead in the two unions only of Bantry and Skibbereen.'Then were they to be told that the people of England would not advance any thing to relieve such distress as that? He was sure that the people of England would not give their sanction to any such objection. But if that were an argument at all, it might be an argument against the noble Lord opposite, but it was no argument against his noble Friend; for, although the noble Lord intended to tax the people of England 11,000,000l., the present Bill would not tax the people a single farthing. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to show that the effect of the plan of his noble Friend, would be in reality to tax the people of England. The right hon. Gentleman said we should have to pay the interest on the loan immediately—that we should get no returns, in consequence of the delay which must take place before the railways were open. The right hon. Gentleman did not say, however, that we should have to put on fresh taxes, but that we might need another loan. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman would be glad to hear that no such result could occur; for there was a clause in the Bill providing, that on the very day upon which the interest of the money becomes payable, it will be receivable from the Irish railways. But that was not all; not only would not a single shilling be taken from the pockets of the English people, but the measure would put money into the Treasury. Here he would take the liberty of reading a passage from the Spectator of last week—a paper that certainly could not be supposed to be considerably influenced by admiration of his noble Friend, or of the party to which he belonged:—There was some disposition to anticipate this counter scheme with contempt, on account of the quarter whence it emanates; but it proves more troublesome for Ministers to deal with than they might have supposed. It is not only in the magnificent promises of the project that its strength lies, but also in the elaborate and lucid speech of its proposer—in the pains he has taken to support every part of it with the exact evidence of figures—in the specific nature of that object, and the clear adaptation of the means to the end—in the explicit account of the manner in which the plan 1363 was expected to work. In all these respects his proposition stood in formidable contrast to the Ministerial plans and statements. It almost looks like reality opposed to shadow. Lord George Bentinck has laid down all his data. They may be disputed—they may be denied—but there they are; they challenge and defy scrutiny.And there they still are. And though three Chancellors of the Exchequer had risen, one after the other, in opposition to his noble Friend's measure, not one of them had attempted to deny any of the important statements he made. And among these statements was this — that between 600,000l. and 700,000l. a year would be pat into the Treasury through the increase of the Customs and Excise, under the indirect operation of his measure. Was not that any advantage to the English taxpayers? He said, therefore, that not only was it no part of their plan to take away money from the English Treasury, but they would actually (this had been hitherto uncontradicted) add to the national income near 700,000l. An endeavour had been made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to impeach the calculations of his noble Friend in another respect. The right hon. Gentleman attempted to prove that instead of 112,000, only 45,000 men could obtain employment under the plan of his noble Friend. The House had heard the errors of the right hon. Gentleman's calculations exposed by his hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Stuart). For instance, instead of taking the total amount of the money from which the employment of labour would be derived, at 6,000,000l., he took it at 4,000,000l.; and then he only took the proportion of the whole amount available for labour at only 25 per cent. But, on one of the lines which would be least favourable to his noble Friend's plan—the line from Dublin to Mullingar, &c.—the contract for earthworks (i. e., for labour alone) was 3,600l. a mile. Now, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said 1,000,000l. would afford employment to 45,000; and hence it followed that 1,000l. would employ 45 men. And at this rate 3,600l. would employ 162 men, from which it followed that on the right hon. Gentleman's own data the single railway referred to would furnish employment to 162 men per mile. And this was a line most unfavourable to his noble Friend's plan, for the total cost was 10,000l. a mile, of which the purchase of the Grand Canal absorbed 3,600l. per mile—leaving only 6,400l. for the cost of construction. Again, it was said that his noble Friend had no right to state 500,000 1364 as the number of persons who would derive benefit from this plan; for that it was well known that labourers employed on railroads had not the same number of persons dependent upon them as labourers in other species of employment. But, he did not at all understand why, because a man was employed upon a railway, he was the less to be supposed to have a wife or child, or sister dependent upon him, than if he were engaged in agriculture. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer also said that the really destitute would not be relieved by the railways under the plan of his noble Friend, for that none but able-bodied labourers would be employed upon the railways. How could any great work of improvement, any great reproductive work, be effected without the labour of able-bodied men? It was impossible. But if it was really argued that if out of 500,000 destitute persons in Ireland 112,000 were relieved, that would be no relief to the remainder, it was the most extraordinary argument ever heard of. It was impossible not to see that by such a measure, important benefits would be conferred on all the destitute people of the country. The right hon. Gentleman said, further, that the railway companies did not take the people from the immediate neighbourhood of the lines. Probably not. Probably some would be taken from places more or less distant. The right hon. Gentleman, however, added that all the railways would be in the east, and all the distress in the west of Ireland. Was that the fact? He was afraid that the distress was far more general. And as to the railways being all in the east, why there were lines from Waterford to Limerick, from Cork to Limerick, from Limerick to Wexford, from Cork to Blackrock, from Cork to Waterford, from Cork to Bandon, from Limerick to Ennis, from Dublin to Galway? But, taking the two statements of the right hon. Gentleman together, viz., that the railway companies would take their labourers from a distance, and that the railways would be on the east, and the distress upon the west, did it not follow that the labour would not be derived from the distressed districts? It was said, that the result of his noble Friend's plan would be to take labour from the agriculture of the country. If he thought that that would be the case, it would be a great and serious objection to the measure; but when they heard the accounts of the numbers of those who were distressed—when they heard the learned Member for Dublin 1365 say that there would be 2,000,0000 in absolute distress for want of food—he feared there was no danger of a deficiency of labour for agricultural employment. He much feared, on the contrary, that when they had done all they could, there would yet remain much distress unrelieved—much labour unemployed. He found it stated in the correspondence of the Board of Works, (January, 1846)—It is calculated that there are 310,000 small holdings in Ireland of not more than five acres each, and 250,000 of more than five and less than fifteen acres; the former class comprising 1,550,000 persons almost always in distress; and the other class comprising 1,250,000 persons never much above distress, but now in absolute want; so that there are 2,800,000 persons in extreme destitution at this moment.He feared, therefore, that there need be no apprehension of a deficiency in labour, even after they had done all that was possible to employ the people. It was said that Irishmen were not well able to work on railways, or that if able they were unwilling. He found it stated in a recent work, Kane's Industrial Resources of Ireland, that the average height of the Englishman was 58½ inches, and of the Irishman 71 inches; that the average weight of the former was 151lbs., of the latter 155lbs.; and that the average strength of the one was estimated at 403lbs., and of the other at 432lbs. Therefore, there was at all events no physical deficiency. And as to the habits of the people of Ireland, he really deprecated these invidious comparisons between them and those of this country. They were as much our fellow-countrymen as the people of England. They had fought by our side in many a contest, and were our fellow-subjects of the same great empire. But so far from the habits of the Irish people being opposed to labour, it was stated (in the work just referred to, and other recent works on Ireland) that they had made great advances in industrial occupations of late years; and it was well said in the work he had already quoted from—The present is a favourable opportunity for giving a salutary direction to the nascent energies of Ireland.Again, he found the following passage in a letter from Capt. O'Brien to Mr. Trevelyan:Dec. 26, 1846.—I think the majority of the labourers have done their duty; and considering how they were circumstanced, the population have behaved very well. Their patience has been beyond all praise. The labourers, indeed, see that what they are doing is of no real value; and (as they say) their heart is not in it. They are 1366 naturally quick in feeling, and of course can take no interest in the completion of a task which, though it affords them relief from starvation, is evidently useless and unproductive.It was in the highest degree natural that men should not work with much energy in tasks they knew to be useless. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, said that he was "ready to bow to the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sunderland." But it soon appeared that it was only "a bow." For the right hon. Gentleman, after saying that he had learnt from the career of the right hon. Member for Sunderland what great results could be effected in this country by capital and enterprise, went on to say that if Ireland were let alone, the same result would one day be produced by the same course. That did not seem to him more conclusive or convincing than if one were to say, because the climate of the south of France is favourable to the growth of the grape, and the climate of this country the reverse, therefore, if you want to raise grapes in this country, do as they do in France, and resort to no hothouses or other artificial means. Unless the House aided the construction of railways in Ireland they would never be established there. One of the best lines was from Limerick to Ennis. It was 137 miles long. The population upon it was upwards of 500,000. It took up the traffic of 100 miles of river; it would yield, it was estimated, a dividend of nine per cent—that the cost would be only 8,000l. a mile. Yet he had a letter in his hand assuring him that it was impossible to proceed with the line, entirely on account of the want of money, owing to the depressed state of the country. He hoped the House would take a liberal course with respect to Ireland. In that hope he was confirmed by the spirit which generally preponderated. In his opinion the Bill of his noble Friend would confer an immediate and permanent benefit upon the people of Ireland, with the least possible cost to the people of this country; nay, not only without taking one sixpence from them, but actually putting 700,000l. yearly into the Treasury. He hoped, however, that in reckoning up the probable returns from this measure, they would not look solely to the moneyed value of it. He trusted they would take a nobler and loftier, a more enlarged and elevated view of it—that they would look to the permanent benefit which must be derived from the increased prosperity of Ireland—to the benefits which must result from rendering 1367 that which was a constant source of weakness, and a constant drain on our resources, a principle of vitality, of vigour, and prosperity. And he ventured to predict that if they passed that Bill, they would look back hereafter with pride and gratification to the day when they thus consented to act generously towards a suffering and a sister isle.
§ MR. W. BROWN
was understood to say, that he agreed with the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) when he said that the British people would not grudge 4,000,000l. to assist their fellow-countrymen in Ireland in their present distress; but, while he agreed with the noble Lord in that statement, he must dissent from the principle that the industrious classes of England should be laid under any taxation for the benefit of the Irish landlords. He had risen, however, rather to deal with the Bill itself, than with the arguments that might have arisen out of it. That Bill he considered as having been issued into the world almost stillborn, as he could not believe that such a measure would ever be carried into effect. He did not see how any Government could expect that British proprietors, or any other proprietors, would come forward and allow their property to be mortgaged when they had more advantageous and more secure investments for their money. He spoke advisedly when he said that people were lending their money at six, seven, and eight per cent on the security of the best railway shares in the kingdom, with this condition annexed, that should the market value of the shares fall, the borrowers would be bound to give the lenders new and sufficient securities. If this were a mere charitable bequest, it might be considered on other grounds; but it was, on the contrary, a speculation which, while it would be of no advantage to Ireland, could hardly fail to be a disastrous one to the speculators. Every railway in Ireland, with the exception of three, was at a discount; and he believed the premium on the Dublin and Kingstown line was caused by their having a large sum of money borrowed on a low rate of interest. There was, in fact, a want of confidence in the Irish people on the part of capitalists. Why this want of confidence existed, he could not pretend to say. He simply stated the fact. It had been said, in answer to statements from that side of the House, that money was advanced by Government to assist the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. 1368 He admitted that in some circumstances, when a portion of the money requisite to carry out an undertaking—say one-third—was wanted, it might be expedient for Government to interpose, and so assist the parties as to give them a fair chance of relieving themselves from their difficulties; but it was another thing when parties required advances to enable them to carry out the whole of their works. It had been said that the loans proposed by the noble Lord would not affect the monetary interest of the country; but could there be the least doubt upon this subject by those who paid attention to the question? Why, he saw it stated in The Times of that day, that the funds falling one per cent made a deficiency of 8,000,000l. to the public creditor. It was not merely in this view of the matter that the proposal of the noble Lord was unadvisable; but they must consider to what an extent so large an application of the public money would prevent the Chancellor of the Exchequer from giving a favourable hearing to any one of the many applications made to him for relief from taxation, such as the duties on tea, tobacco, soap, and many others that might be mentioned. The Government were, no doubt, disposed to give relief as far as possible; but if they were overwhelmed with demands like that made by the noble Lord, it was out of the question to suppose that they would be in a position to do so.
§ COLONEL MURE
trusted, that in any remarks which he might make, it would not be understood that he committed himself as hostile to the general principle of promoting, even by judicious advances from the public purse, the extension of railway communication in Ireland. On the contrary, he was of opinion that there were no means which might, within reasonable conditions and limitations, be more fairly or effectually applied to develop the resources of that country; but he considered the measure now before the House to be unreasonable and exorbitant in itself, and its advantages more than questionable even as regarded Ireland, while its effects would be most injurious to the general interests, and more especially to the public credit and commercial character of the United Kingdom. It was not his intention to enlarge upon the many, and, in his opinion, conclusive arguments, that had been urged against this measure in the previous course of the debate; but there was one objection which, while it had been but little urged 1369 on the attention of the House, appeared to him to be one of paramount importance; he alluded to the flagrant public immorality of the measure. There was no one who was more sincerely convinced than he was of the purity, patriotism, and philanthropy of the motives by which the noble Lord had been influenced in bringing forward his Bill; but it was not with the intentions of the noble Lord, but with the tendency of his measure, that he had to deal; and he did not hesitate to characterize it as an extensive scheme for the encouragement of railway gambling, under the auspices of the State. He trusted he should be able to prove to the satisfaction of the House, that, in making use of this expression, he was guilty neither of misrepresentation nor of exaggeration. What, he might ask, was the definition of gambling, either in railways or in any other class of joint-stock enterprise? One definition of it he understood to be the staking of money on insecure and creditless adventures, at the lowest denomination, in the hope that with a proportionally heavy risk of total loss, some happy turn in the wheel of fortune would increase those stakes to profits of a high denomination. He did not believe there was any impartial Member of that House who was prepared to say that Irish railways were not insecure and creditless adventures. They had only to look at the utter prostration of their stock, as showing what was the verdict of the public as to the value of such investments. Whatever the noble Lord the Member for Lynn might say, that was the only true and competent criterion; it was the only one to which the British House of Commons, as the guardians of the public purse, could be justified in deferring; and that verdict was conclusive that Irish railways were insecure and creditless adventures. Now, the whole scope of the arguments, as of the measure of the noble Lord, was, to persuade the people of this country, by the interposition of the credit of the State upon an enormous scale, to embark their property in these depreciated and discredited schemes, as if they were safe and profitable investments. He did not doubt that, by this proceeding, a certain stimulus might be given to the value of those shares; but he believed that it would be but temporary, and that matters would soon subside into the state of apathy in which they were at present. Whatever portion of the public might derive benefit from the measure, it would be ultimately 1370 found, from ruinous experience, that an essentially bad concern could not be made an essentially good concern, even by the Legislature consenting, reluctantly, and influenced by a loud cry of sympathy with Irish distress, to become a participator to the extent of two-thirds of the loss. It was only through the influence of some delusion, that men could be induced to believe that what they had been accustomed to regard as valueless, had suddenly, without any essential change in its character, become of value. And this delusion it was the object of the noble Lord's Bill to create to the extent of 8,000,000l. of private capital, and 16,000,000l. of prostituted public credit: this was what he called an encouragement to gambling and undue speculation, under the auspices of the State. The noble Lord, in the able speech with which he had introduced this Bill, said, that one of the advantages of the measure would be, to enable Irish landlords to sell their shares and turn the money to account in the improvement of the country; but the noble Lord told them, almost in the same breath, that the best mode of turning money to account for the improvement of Ireland, was to construct railways. The noble Lord surely did not mean that a man who was unable to pay up calls to the amount of 2l. or 3l. annually upon some twenty-five or fifty shares, was likely to become a very enterprising improver of the country. He could not but hope that the House would refuse its sanction to what he considered—however meritorious the motives of the promoters of the Bill might be—a great act of public profligacy. It was scarcely a year ago since that House resounded with denunciations of the pernicious spirit of railway speculation that then prevailed throughout the country. That spirit was now happily laid, or comparatively dormant. He trusted the House would not become instrumental in conjuring it up into renewed activity, and sending it across the Channel as another curse to assist the demon of famine in still further tormenting the unhappy population of Ireland.
§ MR. ALDERMAN THOMPSON
thought that as the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down had described the proposal of the noble Lord as a measure of legislative gambling under the sanction of that House, it was much to be regretted that the country had not had the benefit of the services of the hon. and gallant Member at an earlier period in that House, when he 1371 might have had it in his power to stop the ruinous Irish Railway Bills in their progress through Parliament—measures which were considered of such vast importance to Ireland, that both Houses of Parliament even suspended the usual Standing Orders in their favour. The hon. Member for South Lancashire had stated that, in the present state of the money market, railway companies were borrowing money at 6 and 7 per cent; and he was sure that, from the position which he held in the commercial world, what the hon. Member stated was from his own personal knowledge; he stated that there was no prospect that money could be borrowed at 3½ per cent, as was proposed by the noble Lord. Why, that was the greater argument in support of the measure; for if the railway schemes for Ireland were good, this was the very time that the Government and the country ought to lend their credit to aid them. An hon. Gentleman opposite had quoted the example of the United States of America, and had said that they (he supposed the Government) never interfered in works which could be done by private enterprise. Let him ask the hon. Gentleman how all the great railroads and canals in the United States had been executed. By far the larger portion had been executed by each particular State, which had pledged its credit for raising the money, and for guaranteeing the interest. He believed that the main objections to this measure might be divided into two: first, that it would interfere with works which ought to be carried out by private capital; and, secondly, that it would be unwise, impolitic, and contrary to the principles of political economy, for Parliament or the Government to interfere. With regard to the first, a great many precedents had already been cited, in which Parliament had raised large sums for turnpike-roads and canals, not only in England and Scotland, but in our colonies, and also in Ireland. It had been said that these were old examples; that knowledge and practical wisdom had made great advances since; that these precedents, therefore, were not applicable. How stood the fact? So late as 1836 a Select Committee of that House had been specially appointed to inquire how public works could be best carried on in Ireland, and three or four Members of the present Government were members of that Committee; and in their first report they stated that of the many remedial measures proposed for the improvement of Ireland, none had created 1372 less difference of opinion, and had been more recommended by all persons, than the proposal for the execution of public works, and that the Committee concurred in opinion that there were reasons of justice and policy for extending to that country public aid for that purpose; and they suggested that the Government should lend its support by loans for such works, and by making grants to a moderate extent for other objects of national importance; and they called the attention of the House to the extraordinary distress of the labouring population in certain districts, increased by the scarcity and dearness of potatoes, upon which they depended for food. That was the report of the Select Committee in 1836, and it was not treated like other reports and laid upon the shelf. So late as 1841 Her Majesty's Government proposed a grant of 5,000,000l. for the aid of public works in Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, then Secretary for Ireland (Lord Morpeth), actually introduced a Bill for that purpose, which Bill was read a first time and committed. He understood, for he was not present, that the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had criticised the names of the Members on the back of the present Bill. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman meant to cast any imputation at him (Mr. Alderman Thompson) or on him; he would not take the trouble to inquire; but he thought, if the right hon. Gentleman meant to do so, that his (Mr. Alderman Thompson's) conduct in that House for twenty-seven years would be his best defence against such an imputation. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that he sat in that House with a mind as pure and circumstances as independent as the right hon. Gentleman's. He held in, his hand a copy of the Bill introduced by the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth), and he found at the back of that Bill the names of "Lord Morpeth, the Attorney General for Ireland, and Mr. Alderman Thompson." further, the noble Lord had done him the honour of reciting his name in the body of the Bill. The 9th clause enacted that there should be three directors of the company, and that the first directors should be Sir I. L. Goldsmid, J. Abel Smith, and William Thompson. Then it was stated that the proposed railroads were in the north and east of Ireland, and that the distress was in the south, and that it would be impossible to employ the most distressed portion of the people upon 1373 railways which were in progress in the north. But how happened it that there was less distress in the north of Ireland? The potatoes had failed in the north as well as in other parts. The reason was, because labour had been provided for the population in the north; the railways were the very reason why the people were not distressed. But the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had made it obligatory in his Bill upon contractors for railroads to provide cottages for their labourers, upon the same system as in this country; and he saw no reason, therefore, why the labourers might not go from the south of Ireland, where there was little work, to the railways in the north. He admitted that the value of Government securities had been considerably depressed; but he did not consider that this was an objection to the measure. Perhaps the principal cause might be the great and disproportionate amount of our imports. The noble Lord had stated that he could not exactly say what was the amount of money he might require for Ireland; that it might be 7,000,000l., or 9,000,000l., or 10,000,000l. Now, he (Mr. Alderman Thompson) said, that the 4,000,000l. which would be required by his noble Friend's plan, might be taken as part of what might be required by the noble Lord. Then, if Government had to borrow a sum (and a large sum must be borrowed in some form or other), why not adopt his noble Friend's plan? His noble Friend said, "I want no increased taxation, all I want is for the Government to lend its credit." How? He saw no difficulty. If the Railway Commissioners, as required by this Bill—and he had never in his experience seen a Bill which had been more misunderstood or misrepresented—if the Commissioners did as required in clause 20, they, being empowered to exercise their judgment when applied to for advances of money, would not recommend such advances unless the security was good. He apprehended, if Government guaranteed an interest of 3½ per cent, there was sufficient capital in the country, and that parties would come forward and place funds in the hands of Government or the Railway Commissioners before the Government could be required to part with one shilling. But, if he had not been misinformed out of doors, he had been told that Government had, within a very few days, consented that the East India Company should give railroads in India a loan of 2,000,000l. of money. [An hon. MEMBER: The East India Company.] 1374 That was a distinction without a difference, as all the liabilities of the Company were guaranteed by the Government. On Tuesday last the noble Lord the Member for Hertford (Lord Mahon) asked the right hon. Baronet the President of the Board of Control whether the Government had received any report or papers respecting railways in India, and whether there were among them any that might, without detriment to the public service, be laid on the Table? The right hon. Gentleman replied that the report of the commission sent out to India in 1845 to examine into the subject had been received, and he had no objection to lay that report before the House. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) was not quite satisfied with this answer, and put this question—"Whether the right hon. Baronet had any objection to add a copy of any resolutions or despatches which had been sent out by the Court of Directors regarding railways?" The right hon. Gentleman, however, declined to lay those despatches upon the Table, on the ground that certain terms proposed to the railway companies were under consideration. He (Mr. Thompson) could easily conceive, if important negotiations had been going on, that might be a reason for not laying papers connected with them before the House. The principles of the railways had been agreed upon, and the question of the grants; but the parties required a term of thirty years, whilst the Government said they must take less. He put it to the House, whether it were just and right to promote railways in India, and not in Ireland? and he hoped that, before this debate ended, Her Majesty's Government would do the House the justice to let it have those papers. His right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had objected to the measure on the ground that it was unfair, inasmuch as it would raise the value of railway shares; and he had referred to a list of shareholders in Irish railroads in the blue book, and he found that two-thirds were resident in England. He was surprised at this objection of his right hon. Friend, as the great objection had been that English capital did not flow into Ireland; and when that capital did flow there and was placed in jeopardy, and when it was proposed to uphold that capital, the right hon. Gentleman turned round and said, "Oh, but it will encourage gambling." But when alterations were made in the Tariff, it put money into the pockets of the holders of 1375 the articles on which the duties were reduced, as in the recent cases of sugar and brandy. It at least came to this—a balance of good and evil. He supported the Bill of his noble Friend, because in his conscience he believed it would afford a prompt and profitable employment to the labouring population of Ireland.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
could assure the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that whether this measure were successful or unsuccessful, Ireland owed him a deep debt of gratitude, for the manliness with which he had come forward and admitted the magnitude of the evils under which the country was suffering, as well as for proposing measures of a magnitude and importance which, whether successful or not, would at least point out the way for the legislation of future Governments. He cared not what the Government might hereafter be; but after the declarations of the noble Lord, all future Governments must follow in the broad and open path which he had laid down, and grapple with those master evils under which the country was suffering. The narrow and petty system of legislation under which Ireland was suffering, must eventually and finally be put a stop to by the measure which had been brought forward by the noble Lord. Before entering further into this question, he wished to reply to certain accusations which had been made against his country by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by the hon. Member for Inverness. He cared not from what side of the House these attacks might come; but so long as he had a seat in the House, he should raise his voice against them. The first circumstance to which his right hon. Friend had alluded, was, that a sum now nearly amounting to 100,000l. was borrowed from the Government by the Grand Canal, of which neither principal nor interest had ever been repaid. Now, he would state the facts of the case, and then leave the House to judge whether from that circumstance it was fair to attribute either dishonesty or neglect of Irish engagements to Irishmen generally. The sum originally lent was 47,000l., and at that time the income of the Grand Canal 1376 was about 50,000l. a year. But the directors were anxious to extend their canal to Ballinasloe, and they came to Government to negotiate for a loan. Had they gone to private capitalists—had they gone to any but those who had the disposal of the public funds—they would, of course, have been obliged to give security upon that part of the canal which was already so productive. But instead of acting this prudent part, the Government of the day were careless enough to take the security upon the extension line, which ran wholly and solely through a bog, which, it was clear, never could be remunerative. From day to day, the interest had been accumulating till the present time, when a compromise was offered of 10,000l. He thought, therefore, that they could not blame the Irishmen, but the Government that lent the money. Then there was the sum of 12,000l. borrowed by the great city of Cork. How was it possible, if proper security had been taken in the first instance, that there could have been the slightest difficulty in raising this trifling sum from Cork? The next case was that of the Ulster Canal, which had borrowed 23,000l., but the proceeds had never paid the interest even of the original sum; and it was to be remembered that all the shareholders were English. The Government might foreclose the mortgage, and enter upon the canal, but it was clear that the shareholders were not to blame. The next, and he thought the last case, alluded to by his right hon. Friend, was that of the sum of nearly 100,000l. being lent to build bridges in the city of Limerick. Now, could it be conceived that in this case the Government had taken no other security than that of the tolls levied on the bridges. In fact, the money was never looked upon in any other light than as a Government grant, and no one imagined that there was the slightest chance of a single farthing ever being brought back to the English Exchequer. He wished he had been aware of this circumstance in 1835. In 1822, when there was a famine in Ireland, Government sent down, unsolicited, orders to stop the collection of the cess in the county of Roscommon, the amount uncollected there being 6,000l. For fourteen years nothing more was heard of the matter; but, at the expiration of that time, Government said, "You owe us 6,000l.; levy it and pay it." The grand jury refused to make a presentment on the subject, on the ground of the lapse of time, 1377 and that property had changed hands in the interval; on which the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Spring Rice, brought in a Bill which compelled the repayment of the money. Had he known of the debt due by the city of Limerick, it would have added force to the opposition he gave to that measure. Then, with regard to the hon. Member for Inverness. That hon. Member had very justly praised the conduct pursued by Lord Macdonald, by Macleod of Macleod, and by other Scottish proprietors, in availing themselves of the provisions of the Drainage Act; but when he censured, as he appeared to censure, the Irish proprietors for not availing themselves of the same facilities, he must tell the hon. Member that he only knew half the subject he was talking of. He knew what was the conduct of the Scottish proprietors; but he knew nothing of what was the conduct of the Irish proprietors. In the county of Roscommon alone, one individual had applied for 40,000l. under the provisions of the Drainage Act, and others had applied for smaller sums; but questions upon this subject had been raised both in the Court of Exchequer and in Chancery, and it had been decided, after much investigation and expense, that, owing to a deficiency in the Act, its provisions were not available to tenants for life. Upon the whole subject he had great pleasure in referring to the invaluable returns moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for Kilkenny, bringing out the fact, which could not be sufficiently dunned into English ears, that since the Union 9,000,000l. sterling had been borrowed for Ireland, of which 7,000,000l. and a few thousands had been repaid; and that, during the same period, 18,000,000l. had been borrowed for England and Scotland, of which only 6,000,000l. had been repaid. The hon. Member for Westmoreland had alluded to the Bill brought in in 1839 by the noble Lord (Morpeth) then Chief Secretary for Ireland, for the execution of railways by the State. Now, he had objected very strongly to that Bill; and he believed it was chiefly owing to his exertions, and those of other Irish Members, that the Bill was not persevered in. The same objections which he felt towards that Bill, he felt towards the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. He believed that that Bill would beneficially affect the shareholders. He believed that if that measure were adopted, the shares, which were now at a heavy discount, would rise 1378 to a high premium; and it would give him great pleasure, for the sake of the shareholders, if such were the case. But he was not disposed, for an object like that, to pledge the credit of the State. He took it, that the noble Lord had exaggerated the effect which his measure would have upon the sole result regarding which they were at all anxious—the employment of unskilled labour. He presumed that in the 1,500 miles of railway which the noble Lord calculated there were to execute, he did not include the 120 miles already executed. [Lord GEORGE BENTINCK: No.] Well, then, there were twelve Acts passed in 1845, providing for the execution of 545 miles of railway. But he had good reason to believe, that of those Acts, the greater portion of the earthworks was already completed; and in some cases, even the rails were laid. During the last year, twenty-two Railway Acts had been passed, authorizing the execution of 800 or 900 miles of railway; but a considerable portion of these were extensions of lines formerly passed, which did not require assistance; while, looking at the localities of some of the others, he would say it was as well they should not be finished. The reason why he opposed the Bill of Lord Morpeth was, not that he was opposed to the construction of railways by the State; for to that principle he was highly favourable: but because the project was a partial one. He would have supported the measure, if it had proposed the construction of branch lines to the north, south, and west, so that every portion of Ireland might have benefited equally by the measure; but, instead of that, it was proposed that the whole of the money should be expended in making a line from Dublin to Cork. Now, the measure of the noble Lord did not affect more than one-fourth of Ireland. He had, therefore, to choose between two things: either he must support the measures of Government, or the measure proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; and he must say, that he considered that one of the measures proposed by Government—he alluded to that for employing the people in the improvement of property—was of more importance, and more likely to lead to beneficial results, than the measure of the noble Lord. In addition to its tendency to develop the resources of the country and add to the supply of food, he would say that it would indirectly secure the very measure sought for by the noble Lord. He believed that 1379 the improvement of the country would aid the formation of railways, and for this reason he must support the measures proposed by the Government.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
was anxious to say a few words upon the subject, as a Member of an English constituency, that, he was sorry to say, were beginning to feel the distressing effects of those measures which the House had passed during the last year. He begged distinctly to repudiate the insinuation that he was seeking to add to the burdens and taxation of the people by the support of this measure of the noble Lord. The loan which was sought for under this Bill, was intended to act as a substitute for the money which would otherwise be wrung from the hard-working people of this country for the relief of their suffering brethren in Ireland; and he must also distinctly assert, that when the 16,000,000l. were sought for under this measure proposed by the noble Lord, that sum was assigned as the extreme limit of the measure for raising money; but it was no criterion of the amount that must necessarily be raised to meet the exigencies of Ireland. The hon. Member who had just sat down had adverted to the statements made the other night by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he (Mr. Newdegate) must say that the hon. Member had given a satisfactory explanation why the loans alluded to had not been repaid. But suppose that good reasons had not been assigned for these losses, were they to be told that because loans amounting in all to the sum of 575,000l. lent during a series of years, risked on bad security, and in no case taking the guarantee of reproductive works in the sense in which railways were productive, were they to be told that this was an absolute bar in the way of any more money being lent to Ireland? But they must remember that all the loans which had been lent to railways in Ireland, had been repaid. If the Railway Board properly performed its duty, not only would they secure the country from loss by selecting those lines of railway which would afford good security; but, more than that, they would be able to limit the amount raised under the powers of the Act to an amount which would be well secured under the railways, taking into account the districts through which the railways were to pass. He was very much surprised indeed when he heard the right hon. Member for Portsmouth and the Chancellor of the Exchequer 1380 speak of railways as purely local works. They said that if the railways were to pass through the destitute parts of the country, the security would be bad; or if they passed through the rich parts of the country, it would not meet the extreme exigency of Irish destitution. Now this argument was based upon the fallacy that a railway was a purely local work. One would think that these right hon. Gentlemen had never heard of such a thing as a through traffic. In the scheme of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, great branch lines were included, and those lines must reach through the centre to the west and the south of Ireland, where the destitution was extreme. He need not tell any hon. Member, who, like himself, had ever sat upon a Railway Committee, that the best lines were always considered those which afforded a through traffic. Another argument had been adduced against this plan, that it violated the principles of political economy. Now, really to talk of political economy with reference to Ireland at the present time, seemed like reverting to theories which had been long since abandoned. But if they would apply the rule of leaving private capital and private enterprise to effect this work, what was the prospect of Ireland obtaining railways at least for many years to come? It was now eleven years since the first Railway Acts had been passed for Ireland. What had been done since that time? It had been shown by the noble Lord, that during those years English Acts had been passed sanctioning railways, which would pass over 7,200 miles. Of these, there were completed 2,600 miles, leaving incomplete 4,600. During the same eleven years, Acts had been passed for Ireland sanctioning railways which would cover 1,523 miles. Of these there had been completed 123 miles, leaving incomplete 1,400. Now, in answer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Roscommon, suppose his statement was correct, that the larger portion of the earthworks on some of the railways had been completed, how did that affect the argument? If so, it was true that labour would not be so employed; but then it was also true that the capital would not be wanted. Therefore, he contended that this did not affect the argument at all. But he might add, that as the noble Lord had allowed for the completion of 164 miles of railway, the arguments adduced by the hon. Member for Roscommon did not affect his calculations at all. He had already 1381 stated the number of miles of railway sanctioned for England and Ireland; and it must be remembered that the necessity for them was tried by the same tribunal in both cases. Now, what did they find? Why, that the capital and credit of England had completed one-third of those lines which had been sanctioned by Parliament as necessary for the accommodation of the English people, or 28 per cent of the lines so sanctioned; whilst the capital and credit of Ireland had only completed one-twelfth, or 8 per cent of those railways which the House had declared to be necessary for the accommodation of Ireland. If this was all that private capital and private enterprise was able to do for Ireland during the last eleven years, he would ask the House to consider the present state of Ireland—the debilitating effects of the sad calamity with which Providence had afflicted her, and to say what prospect there was now of private capital and private enterprise being likely to supply Ireland with railway accommodation. But what added still more to this argument was the striking fact mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). He stated that three-fourths of the capital which had completed this miserable twelfth of the lines necessary for Ireland was English capital, and not Irish. If that was the case, he thought there needed no farther illustration of his argument—that to look, in the present state of Ireland, for the completion of those undertakings which were essential to her prosperity, to private enterprise alone, was to expect impossibilities. Well, but notwithstanding the strict application of the rules of political economy, the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that there might be exceptions in cases of emergency. Now, he thought, after all they had heard and seen, there could not be a doubt of the emergency. There could be no doubt that the Irish people were destitute, nor could there be any doubt that private capital in Ireland—weak as it was before, but doubly absorbed now—was quite insufficient to meet the wants of the community. The right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Baring) had followed in the same strain. He said, that in case of emergency it was the duty of the State to find means for assisting private capital in great undertakings. But the right hon. Gentleman seemed afterwards to regret that observation, or, at least, to make it appear that this was not an emergency to justify 1382 the loan; for he said, that in the present circumstances of unexampled emergency, it would be unwise to deal with great and important questions of this nature. Now, if that observation had been applied to the poor law brought in by the Government, it would have been quite as just as when applied to the measure of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. But he would not repeat the arguments which had been so ably adduced, to show that this was an emergency which justified—which, in his belief, called for—the immediate advance of the credit of the country to the relief of Irish destitution; and, as he had said before, to the economising and diminishing the pressure which would inevitably fall upon the people of this country, if the system proposed by Government were adopted. He would, therefore, come at once to a point which he was most anxious to touch upon; and that was, that it had been asserted by three right hon. Gentlemen—one of them an extant Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the other two ex-Chancellors of the Exchequer—that the financial and monetary condition of the country was such as to preclude the House from adopting the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. That the right hon. Member for Portsmouth should have stated this, he confessed did surprise him; because he had voted for the proposition of the Government, in 1839, to advance five millions for the construction of railways in Ireland. Consider what was then the condition of the finances and of the money market of this country. In that year, the bullion at the Bank never exceeded 7,000,000l.; at one time it was as low as 2,500,000l. In that year, too, there was a deficiency in the revenue to the extent of 1,381,258l.; and there was not a deficiency in that year alone, but it followed two years of deficient revenue, and it again was followed by three years of still greater deficiency. Yet at that time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth voted for a proposal something similar, though not so comprehensive, as the measure of his noble Friend. What was their position now? They had thirteen millions of bullion in the Bank, and no deficiency in the revenue. He admitted that there were, however, serious signs of a commercial crisis, which would, according to our present monetary system, be followed by greater monetary difficulties. But what had they been told by the hon. Member for Westmoreland (Mr. Alderman Thompson)? That hon. 1383 Member had said that the money required could be raised without difficulty. What, too, had they been told by the hon. Member for Sunderland? The hon. Member for Sunderland also said, that the money could be raised without difficulty; and the hon. Member gave a sufficient reason for his belief. There was in this country a large amount of capital, which could only be invested in Government security, and which was now locked up for want of a proper channel for its circulation; and he did not see what better could be done for the distress of Ireland, and the relief of England from the burden which that distress would impose, than to provide such a channel; and he could conceive no better channel than that offered in the measure of his noble Friend. He admitted that the signs of financial, commercial, and monetary embarrassment were most ominous; and upon that point he could say nothing stronger than that which had fallen from the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn). The right hon. Gentleman said that—They knew by the last returns that they had a surplus revenue, something short of three millions"—(that was instead of a deficiency of more than one million in 1839, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth supported a similar measure)—That they also knew that six millions were required to be raised, in order to meet the awful calamity with which Ireland was visited; so that, so far from a surplus, there was likely to be a deficiency; and the present moment was likely to be one of much greater financial embarrassment than had occurred for a long period.He was afraid that there was great reason for thinking the right hon. Gentleman right. What were the circumstances of so ominous a character? In the course of the last and few preceding years, the House had sanctioned a great relaxation of import duties. They had consequently increased our imports, until they were altogether disproportioned to our exports—a state of circumstances which, in former years, had led to great financial difficulties—as in the years preceding the difficulties of 1825; and the necessity of importing large quantities of corn added to the embarrassment, as in the years immediately preceding 1839. Those were two reasons for deeming the present season a very ominous one; but was he to be told that because there was a prospect of commercial difficulties in this country, therefore the people of Ireland were to be left to starve? If there was to be 1384 commercial difficulty, would the people bear taxation more easily when it came? Would the money which it was proposed to expend under the system adopted by Her Majesty's Government, force the people of this country into monetary difficulties less than the measure of his noble Friend? He should say that if ever there was a time when it was the duty of a Government to alleviate the pressure of taxation, it was a time of commercial difficulty and stagnation of trade. He said that the measure of his noble Friend was a measure calculated to alleviate the burden which Irish distress would cast on the taxpayers of England. Let them consider for a moment what were the circumstances with respect to railway enterprise which had occurred at the beginning of this year. The commercial sky had then been serene, capital had then been abundant, and employment rife. It was not eighteen months ago that he had heard complaints that money had been too cheap, and that the holders of it could not find for it a safe investment, and that there had been reason to apprehend that our capitalists might be induced to invest their money in dangerons securities, such as those speculations in America in which they had embarked in the years 1837 and 1838. But that capital had taken the direction of railway enterprise; and what had been the next difficulty? The Bank had raised its rate of discount; and such had been the apprehended difficulty of making the railway deposits, that the whole commercial world had been thrown into a fever. He was then about to read a statement, showing how that difficulty had been met. It was well known that he deprecated the severity of our monetary system. Let them look back to the period when we had been on the verge of financial embarrassment, and let them see how that had arisen. It had arisen from the fact that our railway shareholders had been expecting to pay 11,000,000l. in money to the Bank of England. How had they been absolved from that difficulty? He would, with the permission of the House, proceed to read a statement upon that subject, by a gentleman whose knowledge and accuracy he could guarantee, but whose name he would, for obvious reasons, not mention. That statement was an extract from a letter, dated 2nd of December, 1846, and was as follows:—I have pointed out that when Sir Robert Peel came into office, the liabilities of the Bank of England to the public were only 25,184,000l. Some time after that the Bank broker was constantly 1385 buying stock; and when that is the case there is a large herd of speculators, who somehow or other know what is going on in the Bank parlour. Well, they were all at work, and Consols rose from 89 to above par. I recollect seeing about that time a return, which showed that the Bank had 1,500,000l. more public securities than before this rise took place. Now, to prove my case—viz,, how the currency had been tampered with, I shall take my position from the first return under the new Act, from the one at the time there was such a pressure to pay the railway deposits, and from the last return—viz., the 21st of November. You are aware that the division into issue and banking departments is a mere piece of gammon. I shall consider, then, only how much in the pound they can pay in money on their liabilities on the occasion cited—for there can be no doubt that the Bank are responsible to pay their depositors in money, as well as the notes, and I wish you to understand the deposits are really money left in their hands, for only by a payment into the Bank of notes or bullion, can a deposit account arise. The reason why the mercantile world were driven to get their bills discounted at the Bank in the spring of this year was, that the private bankers had to pay money into the Bank for the railway deposits; and this money they were obliged to call in from their customers by refusing to discount any longer for them. The merchants then got their bills discounted at the Bank; with the notes they received they paid their bankers; and this enabled the bankers to pay back the notes to the Bank for the railway deposits. I will now take the first return, and from the gross amount of notes issued, I deduct the notes in the Bank, which gives the notes in circulation; but to this musst be added the seven days' bills in circulation; to this amount I add the deposits, forming together their liabilities. Against this, as credits, I have placed the bullion and coin in their coffers—
Dr. Sept. 14, 1844. Cr. Notes in circulation £20,788,330 Bullion and coin £13,589,059 Deposits 12,892,161 £33,680,498 £13,589,059 Second period—March 5, 1846. Notes in circulation £20,968,242 Bullion and coin £14,536,305 Deposits 24,943,603 45,911,845 £14,536,305 Third period—Nov. 21, 1846. Notes in circulation £21,198,429 Bullion and coin £13,926,772 Deposits 15,851,448 £37,049,877 £13,926,772At the first period they could have paid in money about 7s. 6d. in the pound; at the second, although they had 1,000,000l. more gold, they could only have paid about 6s.; at this moment they can pay about 7s. One very singular circumstance in their statements is, that the amount of bullion (on which their issues are based, beyond 14,000,000l. of notes they are authorized by the new Banking Bill to issue) has remained nearly the same, yet their issues or liabilities have increased upwards of 12,000,000l., and again reduced by 9,000,000l.; and a yet more extraordinary circumstance has been that the quantity of notes in circulation has remained very stationary—so that any one merely looking to the bullion and circulation does not perceive that in fact the circumstances of the Bank have really altered very materially, and had the account been kept as formerly, it would have been evident to all parties; in fact, since Sir R. Peel came into power, the liabilities of the Bank have been nearly doubled, and are at this moment about 12,000,000l. more than in 1841.He had detained the House with reading that document, for the purpose of pointing out the fact that, at the first period, the bank could pay 7s. 6d. in the pound on its liabilities; at the second period, only 6s.; and at the last period, only 7s. in the pound. Every one who knew the stringent rules by which the Bank of England was hound, would see at once that in order to meet the difficulty occasioned by the railway deposits, the bank had increased the proportion of its liabilities above the amount of its bullion to an extent which was not permitted, and could not be justified, according to the rules by which the bank was bound. If, then, in days of prosperity, in order to further railway enterprise in this country, the bank outstripped the bounds of what was considered prudent, should the House of Commons, in the present misery and distress of Ireland, refuse to adopt no illegitimate course, such as the bank had adopted, in order to relieve railway enterprise in England last spring, but the simple means proposed to them in the measure of the noble Lord? After that example, should they refuse to meet the present emergency with a measure which many of its opponents admitted was wise in its general tendency, and which, he contended, was justified by the occasion? Would they tell him that there was not capital enough in the country to allow them to spare a loan of 4,000,000l. annually? Four millions was not a twentieth part of the loans which were raised annually through four successive years of the war, when a revenue of 75,000,000l. was raised. Considering the enormous increase of population since that time, would anybody tell him that it was impossible now to raise 4,000,000l. annually? Was there 1387 any reason to fear an abstraction of capital? Let them look to the income-tax returns. In 1813, an income tax of 10 per cent produced 15,000,000l.; an income tax of less than 3 per cent now produced 5,000,000l.; in other words, an income tax of 10 per cent would now produce 19,000,000l. Were they, then, driven to such a point, that to relieve the distress of their fellow-countrymen, they could not raise less than one-hundredth part of the loans which they had raised when they were at war with half Europe, when the population was much smaller, and when their imports and their exports were not half their present amount? If there were any difficulty, it was not the want of capital. If there were any difficulty—and he believed that there was—it was in our monetary system. That system pressed heavily on the people at all times. When the country was prosperous and trade good, it closed up the internal channels of this country to which capital would otherwise be directed. The speculation in foreign railways, in 1845 and 1846, was a proof of it; and in times of adversity it rendered the stagnation of trade doubly distressing. It locked up the loose capital of the country, and then, when the crisis came, and bullion was exported, it kept the monetary system closed, to perpetuate the difficulty. He asked any one who had attended to the subject, whether it could be deemed wise to leave the banking department of the Bank of England to act on one principle—the principle of private enterprise—whilst the other department was restricted from meeting the necessities of a commercial crisis? In the banking department, the bank now invested its reserves, which were once kept to relieve the temporary, though severe difficulties of the public; but now, when difficulties arose, the Bank of England was in greater embarrassment and distress than most private establishments. He was ashamed of trespassing so long upon the attention of the House, but as we were verging towards a monetary crisis—[Mr. MASTERMAN: No, no.] The hon. Member for the city of London doubted that fact; but he (Mr. Newdegate) could only say, that he spoke on the authority of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. He rejoiced, however, at the doubt of the hon. Member, because, if there were no such difficulty to be apprehended, then there was no reason against the adoption of the measure of his noble Friend. But perhaps these might be said to be the opinions of a 1388 young and inexperienced man; and that was so, but he begged the House to remember that he alone was responsible for the opinions he had expressed. He begged to call the attention of the House to another fact, that in 1839 the drain began on the deposits of the Bank of England; it appeared not improbable that would occur again; and he feared we might again be brought into a similar position to that which followed. But whether that were so or not, he thought that he should have ill discharged his duty as an English Member, if he had not protested against the notion, that in voting for the measure of his noble Friend, he was increasing the taxation of this country, at a time when she was little able to bear it; and still less, if he had sat quiet under the insinuation of the hon. Member for Lanark, that the supporters of the Bill were urging the Government to a disgraceful speculation. The hon. Member for Portsmouth had said, that if the Government had taken the Irish railways into their own hands, from the beginning, as the Governments of some foreign countries had done the railways of their countries, they might have set the good lines against the bad, and made something of them. That might be termed a gambling speculation on the part of Government; but the measure be-for the House proposed nothing of the sort: it proposed merely, that Government should advance its credit on loan for the encouragement of the construction of Irish railways by private enterprise; and he hoped that under the opposition of the Government to his noble Friend's measure, there lingered no intention to let railway enterprise in Ireland meet its fate, and then to build up a Government monopoly on the ruins of private capital. He must say that he had been greatly surprised at the manner in which the Government had met the proposal of his noble Friend, which was not offered as a substitute for any of their own measures, but as accessory only. Whatever course they might think right to take upon the present stage of the measure, their hesitation as to allowing it to be read a first time was certainly anything but gracious; and he could not say that they had met the noble Lord in that generous and liberal spirit in which his proposal had been made.
§ MR. JOHN O'CONNELL
confessed that he felt exceeding difficulty as to his vote on this occasion. The project itself, 1389 so far as he was competent to judge of it, seemed to have a good deal of doubt about it in its working details; but there was one thing about which there could be no doubt, namely, that it proposed an expenditure of at least 16,000,000l.—this in addition to anything the Government had proposed. Now, he was under the deep conviction, that the Government, and the House, and the English public generally, greatly under-estimated the expenditure that would be necessary even for this year to prevent one-fourth, and even one-third, of the Irish population from perishing. He said this with the fullest acknowledgment of the benevolent intentions of the Members of the Government; and he also gladly bore his humble testimony to the strong charitable feelings which prevailed within that House and outside. But that fatal ignorance, which was the inevitable consequence of the want of identification of interests and of real connexion between the British Legislature and the Irish nation, rendered the benevolent intentions of the English public entirely inefficient, and carried dismay into the hearts of those who, like himself, had the means of really knowing the extent of the present exigencies. If he thought that the Government had any plan in reserve by which an expenditure equivalent to that offered by the noble Lord opposite would be insured to Ireland, he would at once follow his own inclinations by giving them his hearty and grateful support; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer had distinctly told them, in his very able speech of the other night, that he was not prepared to undertake so large an expenditure. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) deeply regretted that declaration, while he freely acknowledged, he did not believe that it proceeded from any want of good-will towards Ireland on the part of the right hon. Gentleman or of his Colleagues. If it were the more difficulties of the plan that deterred him, and the very proper desire to avoid giving the public money for the advantage of private speculators, surely the Government might take up the railway plan themselves. Nothing he had as yet heard convinced him there was any real difficulty in the way. France had not a bad reputation for sharpness in money matters: nay, its financiers were often accused even of penuriousness; yet they had not scrupled to commit themselves to a system of Government railways; and he believed they found their account in it. Not only were there good annual 1390 returns, but the railways were beginning to be taken at short leases by private companies; and, on the expiration of those leases the Government would, of course, reap advantages in letting them again. This would have been the plan he (Mr. J. O'Connell) would have proposed; but as this plan was not brought forward, nor any other offering an additional expenditure equivalent to that proposed by the noble Member for Lynn, he was bound, in his strong conviction of the indispensable necessity of such additional expenditure in Ireland, to give his vote to that noble Lord. He regretted much that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, should have found it necessary, in the course of his very able argument, to deprecate Irish securities for public moneys. He was quite conscious that the right hon. Gentleman did so in no ill spirit towards Ireland, but as a necessity of his case; and further, that he limited his remarks to a few items of advances of public money. But there were so many utterly unfounded impressions on this subject in the minds of the English public, and anything coming from so high a source as the right hon. Gentleman would have such effect in confirming them, that it was absolutely necessary the real state of the case should be made known. It was particularly so, if the Irish Members were to call, as in the discharge of their duty they must call, upon the Ministry and the House, to stretch the expenditure in Ireland much beyond the limits of the Government plans. There were three points to be urged. First, that the advances of money to Ireland were at least as safe as to any other part of the United Kingdom; second, that large advances, even if they were made grants, which he did not ask for, would be no more than due compensation to Ireland for the fiscal injuries inflicted upon her; and, third, that it was as easy of proof as that two and two made four, that if the House at last seriously addressed itself to improve the condition of Ireland, they would, even without one additional tax, be most abundantly repaid by the increased revenue returned from that country. Intending to deal very briefly with these points, he (Mr. J. O'Connell) would upon the first remind the House, that any advances whatever hitherto made to Ireland, were paid out of the produce of the Irish public revenue, and not out of English moneys. There was a Parliamentary return of but two Sessions ago, which gave the comparative 1391 amounts since the Union, of remittances of public moneys from the British Exchequer to the Irish, and of remittances from the Irish Exchequer to the British in the same period. The amount sent from the British Exchequer was 7,500,000l. The amount sent from the Irish Exchequer was 26,790,000l., showing an excess of Irish moneys sent to the British Exchequer, over those remitted from the latter to the Irish Exchequer, of 19,290,000l. Now, he would go into a few, and a very few, particulars. The right hon. Gentleman had laid great stress on the non-repayment of the Dublin Wide Streets Loan to an amount a good deal under 300,000l. What were the facts as to that loan? A portion of it—certainly a small portion—had been repaid when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, being at the time Secretary for Ireland, declared in that House that the entire sum would be no more than a small compensation to Dublin for the loss of a resident Parliament, and consequently of the rich resident gentry. Of course, such a declaration must have decided the fate of such an advance of money, even if the attempt to recover it had been persevered in. Then there was the Lagan Canal. Why, as he understood, the proprietors of the canal were English; but whether that were so or not, the moneys came out of the grant of 500,000l. of the Irish Parliament for the purpose of improving the internal communications of Ireland. Then the right hon. Gentleman spoke of moneys to Cork and to Limerick. The amount to Cork was very small; and whatever it was, it did not equal the promises made at the Union, when, amongst other things, the citizens of Cork were assured that they should have an extensive naval establishment permanently in their harbour. As to Limerick, if the same precaution had been taken as was taken with regard to other places, there would have been a return of the moneys; but he should again recall to the House, that whatever advances had been made there or elsewhere in Ireland, the moneys came, as he had shown, out of the Irish, and not out of the English, revenue. Again, were the House at all aware—and he believed that their ignorance on Irish matters was such that they were not aware—that there was a considerable proportion of revenue paid by Ireland for which she got no credit whatever? For instance, in the statement of the revenue of Crown lands, in the public accounts, the annual 60,000l. or 70,000l. of 1392 the Irish quit and Crown rents was lumped in with the English account, and no credit at all given for it to Ireland. Again, on manufactures imported for Irish consumption from England, the duties, whether of revenue or of excise, were credited to the English revenue; although, of course, paid by the Irish customer. Altogether, he could, if he had time, easily show that half a million was a moderate estimate of the uncredited revenue of Ireland; a sum that would far more than cover the utmost statements of Irish deficiencies, as to repayment of advances, that could possibly be made. Now, there was a short statement in figures which he would submit to the House, as to advances and repayments to and by Great Britain and Ireland, respectively, which he trusted would go far to give right ideas upon the subject:—
Ireland. Advances. Repayments. £. £. Post and other roads and bridges 744,860 721,200 Police, old and new 3,600,000 3,400,000 Boards and officers of health, cholera, and fever 236,000 228,000 Lunatic Asylums 672,000 616,000 Money advances to England up to 1842 15,661,385 6,200,000 Advances to Ireland—see Financial Accounts 9,067,170 7,050,000
These statements were taken from the finance accounts, but all from Parliamentary returns; and the House would see, by reference to those accounts, that Ireland was steadily repaying many matters in which she could of right claim that the empire should bear the expense. In particular, he alluded to the expenses on post-roads, bridges, &c., on which, out of upwards of 700,000l., there was but 24,000l. yet due; and on the enormous expense of constabulary, which did duty for, and saved the expense of, a large amount of the regular army in Ireland, there were out of 3,600,000l. but 200,000l. yet unpaid. He had also shown that England, up to 1842, had repaid but 6,000,000l. out of 15,000,000l. advanced to public works, while Ireland repaid 7,000,000l. out of 9,000,000l.; and further, that by reason
Profit to the Government on Irish advances:— Upon one million, in 1843–4 £ 47,434 Upon one million, in 1844–5 51,720** Appendix to Lord Devon's Report.1393 of higher rates of interest charged to Ireland by the Government on moneys lent to her than those at which the Government raised the moneys themselves, they had realized a profit of 50,000l. There were other matters which he would not delay upon; but one he could not pass without drawing attention to it. The Scotch fisheries had 1,400,000l. spent upon them in thirty-six years; while in forty-five years there had been only 300,000l. spent upon the Irish. And it was a curious fact, that, annually, 11,000l. were still paid by England to Scotland on account of what was called the Scottish equivalent, namely, moneys voted at the time of the Scotch Union, in 1707, as a compensation to Scotland for becoming subject to the English debt. The hon. Member for Coventry had, the other night, taunted Ireland with not having paid the workhouse loan; but he seemed not to know that it was in process of repayment, and that England owed under a similar head 900,000l. Now, as to the second point, namely, that a large expenditure in Ireland would be no more than some compensation to her for the effects of the Union, he should remind the House, that in money matters, as in some others, the provisions of the Union had been grossly violated towards that country. There was much stress laid the other day in negotiations with France upon a treaty of a century and a half ago. He would call upon them to respect what they declared to be a treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, not yet fifty years date. By the provisions of that treaty—as they had, when it suited their advantage, insisted upon calling it, and, therefore, could not now repudiate the designation—the unfairness of making Ireland liable for the enormous debt of Great Britain was acknowledged, and also the impossibility of giving her, as in the case of Scotland, an adequate equivalent, it was therefore provided that it should not be competent—and he begged the House to mark the word—that it should not be competent to the United Parliament to make Ireland liable to the heavy debt of England, except upon the occurrence of two contingencies of equal necessity and importance. But Ireland was so made liable in 1816, when it was even declared, in the very Parliament that made her so liable, that one of those indispensable contingencies had not occurred; nay, that the very contrary was the case. This was not the time to go into particulars; but he was ready to give them, 1394 and to prove every word that he said from Parliamentary records. He would only now say, that the consequence of the violation of the Union Act was, that England had thrown upon the taxes which were common to both countries, a large portion of the burdens which, according to the Union Treaty, as it was called, she should have defrayed by separate taxes. To illustrate this, he would direct attention to the separate taxation of Great Britain at this moment. It exceeded only by a little the sum of 12,000,000l., while the annual charge upon her debt, contracted before the Union, was 17,000,000l.; deducting a sum equivalent to the annual charge upon her debt contracted before the Union, that left a clear sum of 4,000,000l., which, at the present day, was unjustly charged, on account of the English debt before the Union, upon the common debt of taxation. During the course of forty-six years, the amount thrown thus unfairly on the taxation common to both countries, gave a proportion for Ireland of 60,000,000l.—without counting interest or compound interest—the benefit of which she should have had in relief of taxation, had England paid by separate taxation all that was rightfully due from her on that score. Whether these conclusions should be disputed, or not, the following statement of the relief of taxation out of the imposition of taxation on each country, respectively, since the Union, were to be found in Parliamentary returns, accessible to every Member up-stairs after five minutes' search:—
The assessed taxes, he should remark, were, in 1815, declared by the Finance Committee of that year, to be as nearly as possible assimilated to those of Great Britain. He would not delay the House long with the third point, namely, that Ireland, if her condition were improved, would 1395 speedily repay a large expenditure. The customs, stamps, and Post-office duties were the same in Ireland as in England, in so far as the rates; yet the British receipts were 27,000,000l., while the Irish were not 3,000,000l. Population was as eighteen to eight. The eight millions of Irish would, if their condition were raised, consume taxed articles under these heads to the amount of 12,000,000l., that is to say, an income of 9,000,000l.; and similarly on the items on which excise duties are equal in both countries, the Irish increase would be 3,000,000l., making a total increase of revenue of more than 12,000,000l.; to say nothing of what might be got from an extension of the income and assessed taxes of Ireland, when her condition would be so improved; but were the income and assessed taxes now extended to her while in her present poverty, the effect would only be to cripple the receipts on the duties of customs and excise. Now, without going into more details, he believed he had said enough to show that it would be perfectly safe to make a large expenditure in Ireland, far beyond even the plan of the noble Lord, provided that the House also addressed itself to its duty, too long neglected, of at least opening up the resources of prosperity in Ireland. He frankly confessed, however, that he did not think that House, or any legislature save one resident in Ireland, could fully call out the great capabilities of that country: nothing but a resident legislature would bring home, and make stay at home, the rich absentees, and thus give custom, and the support of capital circulating at home, to the present scarcely existing manufacturing interests of Ireland. Without manufactures in that country, it was quite impossible to take the pressure off the land—impossible to prevent subdivisions of holdings and incitements to the landlord's cupidity or to his necessities. Without the residence of rich proprietors, and the stoppage thereby of the millions of rent-drain from Ireland, capital never could increase nor healthily circulate in that country. At present, what capital did remain in Ireland was in a great measure locked up in the funds, and savings' banks, and small building investments; there being no prosperous home-market to stimulate investments in large manufacturing enterprises. That House would find the necessity pressed daily more and more on them of sending back the Irish proprietors to their own 1396 country by the increase of the distress. The policy which Mr. Fox so early denounced—the policy of the Union Act—would soon be denounced by the whole English community as it was by the Irish. Hon. Members at his side of the House would respect the opinions of Mr. Fox, and he therefore would read a short extract of that statesman's denunciation. Mr. Fox said—
GENERAL TAXATION, RELIEF, AND IMPOSITION. Taxation, &c. Great Britain. Ireland. £. £. Relief of taxation 47,100,000 2,670,000 Imposition of taxation 40,620,000 5,510,300 Excess of relief to England over taxes imposed 6,480,000 — Excess to Ireland of taxes imposed — 2,830,000 Assessed taxes (Ireland) reduced and repealed — 536,090 Assessed taxes (England) 5,179,202 —The whole scheme (Union) went upon that false and abominable presumption, that we could legislate better for the Irish, than they could do for themselves—a principle founded upon the most arrogant despotism and tyranny. There was not a more clear axiom in the science of politics, than that man was his own natural governor, and that he ought to legislate for himself. No other being could enter into his feelings, or have anything common in sympathy with his nature; and therefore the legislature of a people must flow out of, and be identified with, the people themselves. It was idle to speak of the word union to Ireland, since there could be no such thing as a real union on an equal footing, between countries so disproportionate and unequal. We ought not to presume to legislate for a nation, in whose feelings and affections, wants and interests, opinions and prejudices, we have no sympathy. It can only be attempted on the principle of the most arrogant despotism. It was an attack on the pride of a gallant nation, and was calculated to reduce them to the state of a dependent province; and it was, in his opinion, a most audacious attempt, after all that appeared in that country, since it was adding insult to injury, to call it a measure in which the Irish acquiesced.He (Mr. J. O'Connell) recommended these words to the serious consideration of the English Members; and would ask them if Mr. Fox's words had not come true, and that Ireland was indeed reduced to the state of a miserable mendicant dependency. The disastrous experiment had been made in full; and its ruinous consequences to Ireland were now fully developed. The Union had been tried for forty-six years; and the result was the misery they were now labouring to meet and partially to remedy. There could be no real, no efficient remedy, so long as the natural sources of prosperity were sealed and closed up. Let the House restore her Parliament to Ireland; and those sources would speedily be opened, and Ireland would arise from her present miserable helplessness, and give new strength, and vigour, and vitality to the empire. The hon. Member concluded by thanking the House for their attention.
said, that he did not rise for the purpose of replying to the two hon. Gentlemen who had spoken last, whose observations did not appear to him to be very relevant to the subject before the 1397 House; but, as an Irish Member, he was anxious to state, very shortly, the reasons for the vote which he should feel it his duty to give on the second reading of the Bill. He might, perhaps, in the first instance, be permitted to say, that when he received the circular—a copy of which had, he believed, been forwarded to the whole of the Irish representatives, inviting them to belong to the Irish party then about to be formed — he stated, in reply, that, although he must decline to attach himself to a party of whose objects and principles he had no means of forming an opinion, he should, nevertheless, consider it his duty to discard all political prejudice from his mind in dealing with whatever measures might be proposed for the relief of Ireland during the present Session, and to co-operate with the Irish party, whatever its political complexion might be — whenever the course pursued by it should appear to him to be conducive to the interests of Ireland, and generally deserving of support. It was, he could assure his noble Friend the Member for Lynn, in this spirit only—he meant, in a spirit wholly divested of the prejudices of party—that he had endeavoured to approach the consideration of the great measure which had been proposed by him, he was sure, in perfect sincerity, for the immediate relief and prospective improvement of Ireland. He was quite prepared to concur with his noble Friend in thinking that the extension of railroads in Ireland—although he did not take so sanguine a view of its effects, either immediate or prospective — would, nevertheless, materially tend to the improvement of the country; but it did not therefore follow, that, on a comprehensive view of the whole question, he should approve of the means by which his noble Friend had proposed to accomplish an object, which, in itself, he admitted to be desirable, or that he should consider those means as well adapted to the relief of the distress then unhappily prevailing in Ireland. The urgent and immediate difficulty with which the House had now to grapple, was that of providing food for a starving population, whose ordinary means of subsistence had been swept away by a direful visitation of Providence. It was the duty of the Government, at a season of such extreme peril to the lives of millions of the people, regardless of all ordinary considerations of financial expediency, to contribute the resources of the State in assisting the property of Ireland, which—in the part of Ireland, at 1398 least, with which he was connected—had not, he thought, been neglectful of its duties; but which, unassisted, was, in so overwhelming a calamity, wholly unequal to the task, in arresting, as far as human means could arrest it, the progress of the famine which was spreading through the land. This duty Her Majesty's Ministers had not hesitated to perform. His noble Friend the Member for Stamford had said, that there must be something wrong in the financial system of the country if they could not afford to advance 4,000,000l. for the relief of Ireland; but the fact was, that Ministers had already proposed measures for the relief of Ireland, the cost of which had been estimated, including the expenditure already incurred, at 9,000,000l.; and it was in addition to this — for he thought he had never heard a proposition more untenable than that his noble Friend's plan would supersede the necessity of any one of the measures of relief which had been proposed by the Government—that they were called on to advance 4,000,000l. in this year, and in each of the three next succeeding years, for the construction of railroads in Ireland; and although his noble Friend anticipated that the whole of this money would ultimately be repaid—in the first instance, at least, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be required to raise it, and so far the transaction would add to the financial difficulties with which, in the present state of the country, it was obvious the Government would have to contend; and he would remind the House that the estimate of the sums which the Government would be required to contribute for providing the people of Ireland with food, had been brought down only to August next; but would any man venture to predict that the distress in Ireland would cease with the collection of the ensuing harvest? He wished that he could take so favourable a view of the prospects of Ireland; but when he considered the scarcity of seed—the backwardness on the part of the people in many districts in attending to the cultivation of the soil—and the doubts, to say the least of it, which must be entertained lest the potato disease should not yet have exhausted itself—he confessed that he could not look forward without the apprehension of great scarcity and great distress in Ireland, even after the expiration of the period to which the Government had brought down the estimate of the probable cost of the measures which they had proposed. Now, if that 1399 were the prospect before them, surely, if money was to be sent into Ireland, it would be more prudent to husband the resources of the State to meet, if necessary, the contingency which he thought they had so much reason to dread, instead of investing so large a sum as 16,000,000l. in works which, however useful in themselves, had, he thought, been very properly considered as inapplicable to the relief of distress arising from scarcity of food; because, whatever might be the proportion of the whole of their cost which might be applied to the payment of labour, by far the larger portion of it would of necessity be required for other purposes. His noble Friend himself did not anticipate that his proposed advance of 4,000,000l. would give employment to many more than 100,000 persons—an estimate which the Chancellor of the Exchequer (speaking, probably, on as good authority) had considered to be greatly exaggerated; but he (Mr. Corry) did not think the difference between the two estimates to be of as much importance as might at first sight appear, because the formation of the groundworks of railroads was an operation of so laborious a character, that he agreed with those who were of opinion that the half-starved peasantry of Ireland would, in their present condition, he found to be wholly unequal to it, and that the contractors could soon be compelled, in their own defence, to substitute for them, in large numbers, the hardy and well-fed class of men who were usually employed in the execution of such works in this country. The letter written by Colonel Jones on the 19th of last month, which was read to the House by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in his speech on introducing the measures which he proposed for the relief of Ireland, was strongly confirmatory of that view of the case. Colonel Jones was reported to have said—I am of opinion that it would be better in many cases to give food than to be paying away money as we are now obliged to do at the same time that the people are discontented at the small sums they are entitled to. The fact is, the system of task-work is no longer beneficial employment to many—their bodily strength is gone, and their spirits depressed, and they have not power to exert themselves sufficiently to earn an ordinary day's wages.It was true that this observation might be said to apply to those districts only in which the greatest amount of destitution prevailed; but he would remind the House that these were the very districts which 1400 had the strongest claim on their sympathy and support; and if it were argued that labourers better fed and equal to the work, could be drawn from other districts in Ireland, his answer would be, that such persons could not be fit objects for relief, and therefore that his noble Friend's expedient would contribute in a very small degree to the accomplishment of the immediate object which he had in view in proposing it. And even if it should have the effect of affording employment to those who were now suffering from extreme destitution in Ireland, to the full extent which he had calculated, and of providing 550,000 labourers and their dependants with a better description of food than they had heretofore been accustomed to; he confessed that he very much doubted whether, as strong stimulants when applied to the human frame were sure to leave weakness behind, so, in like manner, a reaction would not follow in the withdrawal of the artificial means by which it was proposed to free the industrial energies of Ireland during a period of four years; which would eventually lead to much suffering among the people. There appeared to him to be various other objections to the scheme, on which he did not think it necessary to dwell; not because he did not attach the greatest importance to them, but because they had already been urged by others more competent than he was fully to estimate their force: such as the financial difficulties which they had been told by the Ministers of the Crown it would occasion—the unfair advantages which it would give to the holders of one description of railway scrip over those of another—the doubts which existed whether the whole of the railways which would be undertaken would prosper sufficiently to enable the companies to fulfil their engagements with the Government—and other such objections, which led him to the conclusion, that it was his duty to vote against the measure. He had arrived at this conclusion, however, with regret, because no one could be more sensible than he was of the advantages which would result from the extension of railways in Ireland; and it would give him great satisfaction if the Government could devise some means which would not be open to the objections to which he considered the present proposal to be obnoxious, for the promotion of railway enterprise in Ireland; but he could not concur in the means by which his noble Friend proposed to effect that object, for the reasons which he had 1401 stated, which were shortly these: that he considered them unjust to important interests in this country, and ill-adapted as a means of present relief to the people of Ireland. He thought, also, that the moral effect of his noble Friend's plan would be bad. They were already too much disposed, in Ireland, to look to assistance from this country, instead of trusting to their own exertions, whenever any great enterprise was to be undertaken; and he thought that the almost extravagant amount of assistance which his noble Friend proposed to give them, would tend to encourage that spirit of dependence on the aid of Government, which had, he was convinced, done as much to depress the material interests of Ireland, as the bold efforts of private enterprise had done to raise this country to her state of prosperity and greatness. He knew there was something dazzling to many in the prospect of introducing so much English capital into Ireland; but he trusted the representatives of Ireland would not allow themselves to be led away by such a consideration, but that they would remember that they were bound to take a comprehensive view of the whole question, and to consider it in all its bearings, before they determined on giving it their support. He was sure that even as regarded the interests of Ireland herself, at a time when she had so much need of the sympathy and support of this country, no more unfortunate impression could get abroad, than that the Irish Members were banded together to support whatever measures might be proposed—without reference to their aptitude—without reference to their justice—provided only they should have for their object the introduction of English capital into Ireland. He did not for a moment mean to insinuate that any Irish Member would allow himself to be unduly influenced by such a consideration; but for himself, considering, as he did, that his noble Friend's proposal was, in principle, unjust to this country, which had evinced so much readiness to relieve the distress of Ireland, and that it was not well adapted to the relief of that distress, but that a far larger portion of the money proposed to be advanced would find its way into the hands of railway speculators, than into those of the starving Irish, he felt that no alternative was left to him, in the conscientious discharge of his duty, but to give his support to those who were constitutionally responsible for the application of the finances of the country, 1402 in resisting the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR WILLIAM CLAY
did not intend to vote for the second reading of the Bill. He thought there were objections to the details of the noble Lord's plan. If the principle were admitted that there was sufficient cause for the lending of the money by the Government to railway companies, he did not think that so large a proportion as two-thirds need be advanced. Again, he could not approve of the noble Lord's suggestion, of advancing the money at an interest of three and a half per cent, when the ordinary market interest given upon money so advanced was much higher. Yet still he thought that the question of assistance to railway companies in Ireland, to be given by the Government under other conditions than were proposed by the noble Lord, was one well worthy the consideration of the House. He did not think much of the validity of the objections which had been made to the measure. It was said to be opposed to the principles of political economy. He could not admit that much weight should be attached to that objection. Assistance to be given by Government to railway enterprise was certainly not more opposed to the principles of political economy, than other plans even now before Parliament for the relief of Ireland: the Bill for the reclamation of waste lands, for instance. Again, it was said to be both inexpedient and unjust to divert capital from its legitimate and natural channels. But he did not think it was diverting the capital of the country from its legitimate and natural channels, to send it from England into Ireland. He believed that what was chiefly wanted in England was field for the employment of capital; and as there were reasons connected with the social and political condition of Ireland, which operated to deter capital from flowing into that country, quite irrespective of the ordinary motives and inducements by which the possessors of capital were influenced, he thought it would be wise, by the intervention of the Government, to neutralize and obviate the effects of those circumstances in the condition of Ireland. Then it was said that the measure would be an encouragement to speculation. Now he would not have the House legislate for the encouragement of speculation. But he could not think it a sufficient reason to weigh against a line of policy otherwise beneficial, that its effects would be to encourage 1403 speculation. Such an objection would apply equally to every measure of finance which affected taxation of commodities. There was no tax either freshly put on or taken off which did not encourage speculation in one way or another. Another objection which had been raised by his right hon. Friend near him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was, that by a measure now to encourage railway speculation in Ireland, they were inverting the natural order of events — that railways should follow the extension of commerce in a country—that they had done so in England; but the noble Lord and his supporters wanted to make railways precede in Ireland that extension of commerce which they had only followed in England. He begged the House to recollect that the formation of railways actually created, and that uniformly, a large increase of commerce. He need only ask any hon. Gentleman who had served upon Railway Committees (and there were few Members in that House who had not served upon some one or more of them), to recollect how the traffick tables were usually made out. In the first place, the traffick takers estimated that a great number of passengers would travel by the line, assuming a certain large increase upon the number who travelled by the road; and their estimate was generally borne out by the results. But when they estimated the goods traffick, although they had perhaps made their calculations over a route where only one solitary carrier passed the road daily, they set down the traffick at thousands of tons in the week; and the reasons they gave all tended to show the enormous extent to which the facilities of communication afforded by railways, created traffic. They showed that while lime was in abundance on one part of the intended line, there were vast tracks of country which would be benefited by its application on another part—that facilities existed for making drain tiles in one district, which would greatly increase the value of some other district on the line. Such was the nature of their calculations, which experience had almost invariably shown to be justified by the results. It was, therefore, not fair to judge of the necessity for a railway, nor to treat the question of railway extension by the actual amount of business existing in the district, because it had been proved that the making of railways did in a very high degree create a traffick, and open up the resources of a 1404 country. Upon the subject of the actual amount of employment which the earthworks would afford, he thought that justice hardly had been done to the fact that these earthworks must give very considerable employment; but he wished the House would not confine itself to the mere consideration of the amount of relief to be temporarily given by such works. It was the future of Ireland which they ought to look to. It was the future of Ireland which appalled him far more than the present. They had before them in Ireland the spectacle of a people in a condition more resembling that of the ryots of India, than of a civilized population of a European country in the nineteenth century. They had a people in an elementary state of human society, in the lowest condition of civilization, and it was their business to alter and to remedy such a state. It was their duty so to legislate as to allow capital to find a field of action in that country, and to give an impulse to employment. They ought to open up the resources of the country, and to afford an opportunity for the investment of capital in mines and manufactures; and he thought that much could be done in that direction by the extension of a system of railways. He therefore repeated that he thought the subject of railway extension in Ireland well worthy the consideration of the House. He thought that the mode of carrying it into effect should be left in the hands of the Government, and that, care being taken in the examination into the several plans proposed by the companies, the Government having selected those likely to be most useful, should go on pari passu with them, and advance equal proportions of money with those raised by the companies themselves. He was of opinion that such an amount could be advanced without risk.
§ MR. SHAW
said, that, as he did not mean to join in the general debate, he would ask the House to permit him to take that opportunity of saying a few words in explanation of his own vote. The fact was, that in respect of the question then before them, his feelings would lead him one way, while his reason and judgment constrained him to vote the other. No man disliked more than he did even the appearance of a wavering or doubtful course, and he trusted it was not one he was in the habit of taking; but in all the important affairs of life, as well as in politics, they could not shut their eyes to, but must be influenced by a due consideration of the practical consequences 1405 of their acts. He agreed with the hon. Baronet who had just sat down (Sir W. Clay), in much of what he had said on the plan of Irish railways. He (Mr. Shaw) had always approved of a general and combined system of railways for Ireland under the charge and control of the Government; and he hoped that the Government would yet introduce some measure upon that principle, removing such defects and correcting such errors as the Chancellor of the Exchequer had deprecated in regard to the present Bill; and perhaps adopting some of the suggestions of the hon. Gentleman opposite, so conversant with the subject, who had spoken for the first time in that debate (Mr. Chaplin); for example, undertaking the earthworks on some of the trunk lines in the way most calculated to give employment and relief to the distressed poor; and, after that, leasing the lines to railway companies. But considering the declaration made by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of what would be the practical result of the success of the Motion then before the House as regarded the Ministry; and the reply of his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) that he (Lord G. Bentinck) would not shrink from the responsibilities that it would involve; he (Mr. Shaw) confessed that seeing the disjointed and disabled state of parties in that House—that the financial and general aspect of public affairs was such as must fill the firmest mind with anxious care; and, above all, looking to the present calamitous condition of Ireland, he could not be a party to overthrowing the existing Government at such a crisis: still less to attempting to form a new one upon such a question as that then before them. It might be, that he should be sufficiently safe in following the bent of his own inclination, inasmuch as that the Government was then in no great danger of defeat; but after what he had already said, and indeed, on any question of grave importance, he felt that the more manly and straightforward way was to vote as if the question was to be decided by that vote alone. He was aware that he should subject himself to unpopularity in Ireland by not voting at all risks for so tempting a scheme as that proposed by his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck). Still, he (Mr. Shaw) could not think it would be for the true interests of Ireland to attempt to force upon the Government, and that country, a large additional pecuniary obligation at that period of monetary embarrassment; 1406 and when it must in justice be admitted they were making great and munificent efforts on behalf of the suffering people of Ireland. He could not, as an Irishman, sufficiently express to his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) his (Mr. Shaw's) sense of his noble Friend's exertions; of the care, the attention, the ability, and still more the deep sympathy, he had evinced towards Ireland in the present trying exigency. But his noble Friend would excuse him for saying, notwithstanding his noble Friend's confident announcement of his readiness to accept office—and no one could doubt his noble Friend's unflinching courage—the independent party that surrounded his noble Friend could never forget that he (Lord G. Bentinck) had stood by them in their utmost need—had redeemed the character and consistency of the country gentlemen of England, when their natural leaders had forsaken them—and animated them with the spirit, the purpose, and the power to place the exemplary mark of public disapprobation upon the exhibition of unexampled public and political inconsistency. Still his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) would excuse him for saying, that he (Mr. Shaw) was persuaded it would be more conducive, not only to his noble Friend's personal comfort and happiness, but to his political reputation, that he should fail rather than succeed in displacing Her Majesty's Ministers at that moment. At all events, he (Mr. Shaw) could find no room to doubt what was his own duty under the circumstances he had stated—and that was to vote, though reluctantly, against the second reading of the Bill.
§ SIR W. MOLESWORTH
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilkenny, in the commencement of his speech, expressed his opinion as to the policy which ought to be pursued towards Ireland in the present emergency. His opinion might be stated in a very few words. It was simply this: Let there be the greatest possible expenditure. Such was the language of the hon. Gentleman, and other hon. Members from Ireland. I do not mean to say anything disrespectful to those hon. Gentlemen. I pity them from my heart. For neither words can tell, nor imagination conceive, the suffering they have beheld—the horrors that have surrounded them—famine and pestilence at their doors—death in its most hideous forms before their eyes—and, worse than death, the agony of impending starvation—the agony of men witnessing, without being able to 1407 relieve, the lingering tortures of those dearest to them—these sights have been familiar to many of the Irish Members; and I am not surprised that some of them should be half wild with grief and apprehension, and, like the plague-stricken, should be eager to try every nostrum which contains the promise of a cure. But the representatives of England, whose feelings are not harrowed up in a similar manner, are able and are bound to exercise a cooler and a calmer judgment. They are willing—the people of England are willing—to make any pecuniary sacrifice to save their Irish fellow-citizens from starvation. This has been already proved. A Bill has passed this House for the relief of the destitute poor of Ireland. I cannot say that I cordially approved of that measure; but I felt as other Members felt, that when thousands were dying—when myriads would perish if unassisted—when there was not a moment to spare—it was impossible to scan strictly the measure of a Ministry who were responsible for the lives of a people, and who introduced that measure as one of urgent necessity. Enormous will be the expense of that measure. Great will be the burden which the patient and laborious people of this country will have to bear for Ireland. Yet I believe that the people will not be displeased with their representatives for having placed that burden on their shoulders, in order to save the lives of their fellow-citizens. They will expect, however, that having done thus much, we should calmly consider what can be done to prevent the recurrence of a similar calamity, and what ought to be done in order to place for the future the burden of Irish distress on the shoulders of those persons who ought to bear it. I object to the scheme of the noble Lord, because it will not accomplish either of these objects. I object to the scheme of the noble Lord, because, viewing it in the most favourable manner, it will only accomplish in a slight degree and at an enormous expense the object of the noble Lord, which is to provide employment for the destitute poor of Ireland. For it has been shown that of the 16,000,000l. which the noble Lord proposes to expend on Irish railways, not more than one-half, probably less than one-third, would be expended in paying the wages of labour; that the labourers who would be employed would be chiefly able-bodied men, skilled in that description of labour which is required for making railroads; 1408 and, therefore, that in all probability a considerable portion of them would be imported from this country. It has been proved likewise that the increased demand for labour, which is caused by making a railway, seldom extends very much beyond the immediate neighbourhood of the railway. Now most of the Irish railways are on the eastern side of the country, where there is most wealth and least destitution, consequently the demand for labour would be increased in those districts where it was the least necessary to increase it; and even then it would not be the really destitute, the needy, and the suffering, who would obtain employment, but the strong, the able-bodied men, who can always obtain employment, if willing to work. In addition to this, it appears, from the evidence of the persons best acquainted with Ireland, that if labourers were to be brought from a different part of the country to work upon a railway, the immediate consequence would be riots and faction fights with the surrounding population; and ultimately, in all probability, the labourers from a distance would be driven away. For these reasons I consider that the scheme of the noble Lord would only be of benefit to that portion of the labouring population of Ireland who are in the immediate vicinity of a railroad, and who, I believe, least require assistance; and the benefit to them would be trifling beyond all comparison with the enormous expenditure of public money which would be required. The persons who would be the chief gainers by this scheme of the noble Lord would be the landowners, whose property would be traversed by railroads, and who would get a good price for their land; the shareholders, whose now valueless shares would, if we believe the noble Lord, become more profitable than the best English securities; and the mortgagees on railways, whose mortgages are, according to the Bill of the noble Lord, to be the first charge on those moneys which he proposes to levy from the English people, on the plea of giving employment to the destitute poor of Ireland. Indeed, looking at the clauses of this Bill, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has justly characterized or rather stigmatized it as a Bill for the relief of destitute shareholders and mortgagees. Now, Sir, I believe that the people of England will consent to make great pecuniary sacrifices for the relief of destitution in Ireland; but they will justly condemn us, if under the plea of charity we give 1409 away their money to railway speculators. I say, if we give away their money, for it is ridiculous to suppose that more than a very inconsiderable portion of such loans would be repaid — for past experience shows that loans to private companies in Ireland are rarely, if ever, repaid. Why should it be different with railways? What security can they give us? It is evident that if any railroads are likely to repay the loans of money which it is proposed to make to them, it will be those whose intrinsic merits are the greatest, and which, therefore, least require extrinsic aid. It will be those which pass through the wealthiest portion of the country, where there is, or ought to be, the least destitution and want; and where, therefore, assistance from England should be least required and least given. On the other hand, the railroads which will be most certain not to repay any loan that may be made to them, will be those which pass through the poorest portion of the country, where, however, there is most destitution and distress, and consequently where assistance is most required. With regard to these railroads, the simplest and most economical plan would be to dispense with the rails and other materials, which constitute more than one-half the expense of making a railway. In either case it appears to me that the plan of the noble Lord would be a failure. For in the case of really good railways, loans would hardly be required; and I have assigned my reasons for believing that little relief would be given by them to the destitute poor. On the other hand, in the case of bad railways, it is true much more relief would be given to the destitute poor, but it would be at an enormous disproportionate cost, for the loans would never be repaid. Now, where are we to get the money to be advanced to the Irish railroad proprietors? A public loan would be required; the consequence of raising such a loan would be the depreciation of all public and private securities, and by this all British undertakings would suffer. Now, I ask hon. Members, representatives of English counties, to consider that in every county in England important railways are making, or are about to be made; that most of them will pass through towns of much importance, with great local trade; that their object, generally speaking, is not to create a future and problematic traffic, but to facilitate a traffic already existing; that they are certain to be beneficial to the country, and to augment 1410 its wealth. In order to make these railroads, neither loans nor favours are required from the Government, The merits of the schemes themselves are sufficient to command the capital which is required to make them, provided that capital is not forced into other employments by the interference of the Legislature. But if the Legislature furnish Irish railroad proprietors with the money which the merits of their schemes do not enable them to obtain by fair competition in the money market, by so doing the Legislature would diminish the fund which would otherwise be applied to making railroads in England and elsewhere. In short, every farthing which the Legislature squanders upon bad railroads in Ireland, is so much money deducted from good railroads in other parts of the empire, and by so much, therefore, is the wealth of the empire diminished. Now, I ask hon. Gentlemen, especially those who are Members of that party which the noble Lord so emphatically calls his own, and whom he describes as rushing here with eager haste from every part of Great Britain and Europe to obey his commands and do his bidding—let them, as independent English Gentlemen, who should scorn blindly to follow any man, exercise their own judgment, and remember that, though we are bound to save Ireland from famine, we are equally bound to do justice to our own constituents, and not idly squander away their money in such vain and noxious projects. In the papers which have been laid upon the Table of the House, and in the descriptions which have been given of the distress in Ireland, and of the means which have been taken to relieve it, many facts are stated, which when I read them astonished me excessively. First, I was surprised at the want of energy and of self-reliance on the part of many of those persons whose duty it was to have prepared against the impending distress. In many cases it seemed that their first and only thought was to apply to the Government of the country, to beg its assistance, and to entreat it to feed and clothe the people; and only after repeated refusals and even menaces could they be induced to do their duty, to exert themselves, to make rates, and to attempt to collect them. Now with regard to the payment of those rates, I was equally surprised to find that the defaulters were not so much among the poorer classes as among the immediate lessors, that is, among the owners of landed property, who 1411 are described as persons perfectly able to pay their rates if they chose to do so. And lastly, Sir, I was astonished by a description of an abundant harvest—fields covered with oats and corn—and yet to read that there was no food for the people. These striking facts seem to me to indicate what is the first permanent measure which is required for Ireland. It should be a stringent poor law, which shall compel the real owner of the soil and the possessor of property in Ireland, to support the destitute poor. This is not a fitting occasion to discuss the question of a poor law for Ireland. I shall therefore conclude with expressing my opinion, that before this question is entertained, whether money should be lent or not to Irish landlords or shareholders, the subject of a poor law for Ireland should be carefully discussed, and an adequate measure should be passed for the permanent relief of the destitute poor of that country.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, when I first, in the early part of the debate, attempted to catch your eye, I was in hopes I might have addressed himself, without reserve, to the immediate subject which is before us for consideration. I should not have attempted, like some speakers, perhaps, on either side of the House, to diverge into topics, no doubt of paramount importance, but, under the existing circumstances, not I think, of urgent interest. But, after the short, yet impressive address of my right hon. Friend the Recorder for Dublin (Mr. Shaw), I think the House will hardly deem it impertinent on my part if I advert to the feelings which influenced that expression from him, and to the position in which they are placed. The right hon. Gentleman has expressed, with a frankness which becomes him, and with a good feeling for which all his friends must give him credit, the sentiment under which he felt it his duty to give a vote contrary to his economical convictions; but in pursuance of the policy which he has adopted, the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he believes—at least, that it has been avowed—that the fate of the Government depends on the vote which the House could now give; and because the fate of the Government is dependent on that vote, he must register his suffrage contrary to the proposition which the noble Lord the Member for Lynn has brought forward for our acceptance. This leads one, no doubt, to the consideration of circumstances other than those which could influence us in a mere vote upon the question before us. I can easily understand why 1412 party connexion should not only induce, but should authorize, an individual Member to vote against a measure which he considers abstractedly beneficial to the country, if he thought it were an instrument which would open to what he considered an obnoxious party the road to power, and enable them to supplant his Friends, knowing that they would follow on every other question a policy hostile to that which his party pursued, and, in his mind, antagonistic to the general interests of the country. But that is not the position of my right hon. Friend. He still is, and I hope will remain, one of that political connexion who—being originally deserted by their leader, and even now fighting against odds — most unexpectedly find themselves in a position adverse to the existing Government. And this leads me to the consideration of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and the position we now occupy. Sir, this measure that has been announced to the House by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn suggested itself to him some time ago, and was long matured and well digested. He considered it to be a measure peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of Ireland, and one which, of all others, met the wants, and was calculated to elevate the condition of that country. The Queen's Speech informed us that the attention of Parliament would be called to certain measures for the relief of Ireland, and that those measures would be proposed to us for our adoption. What was the conduct of my noble Friend? My noble Friend was prepared, on coming down the first day of the Session, to propose his measure. He then said—"As Her Majesty's Ministers are themselves about to bring forward measures, and that shortly, I will not run the chance for a moment of appearing to oppose a Government whose general policy, from all which has occurred, and from all which I have observed, I am not only bound, but inclined to support." My noble Friend did not therefore bring forward his measure, matured by the consideration of many months, and by laborious investigation, not alone in this country, and which at least might account for the perfect manner in which the project has now been laid on the Table of the House. Then the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers with respect to Ireland were brought forward. What was the conduct of my noble Friend, and of those who voted with him on that occasion? I am sure Her Majesty's Ministers could 1413 not pretend there has been on our part any indication of hostility; and it is not to be denied it would have been easy for my noble Friend, amid encouragement from more than one section of this House, to have viewed inimically the course of the Ministry in their Irish legislation. We said at once, considering the unprecedented circumstances in which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) and his Friends ascended to power, considering the unexampled state of things which, installed into power, under those circumstances, they were called upon to control, it would have been an unworthy part to take in any petty spirit—to criticise too severely—the conduct of the Government. It was very easy to criticise the Labour-rate Act; it was very easy, after the event, to suggest a course which might have been pursued with more success; but all we really had to consider was, whether the body of the Gentlemen, under those circumstances, occupying the posts of power and honour, had deported themselves with intelligence, with ability, with energy, and with zeal. We believed they (the Ministers) had deported themselves with intelligence, energy, and zeal; and it was our candid opinion it was very possible, nay more, it was highly probable, that no other body of Gentlemen in the kingdom Could have deported themselves with more intelligence, more energy, or with more zeal. But my noble Friend said, when he had listened to the exposition of the Ministerial measures, "I am ready to support your measures; but if I find in detail that they do not carry into effect, so far as I could wish, that remedial course which I think expedient for Ireland, I shall not hesitate to propose another measure not in a competing, not in any hostile, not in an antagonistic, but in an ancillary spirit, and I shall put it before you for your consideration." The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) knew very well that these were not mere words of rhetoric, uttered in the House of Commons solely to influence a superficial public opinion. The noble Lord knows that, as declared in private as well as in public, my noble Friend had an earnest and sincere conviction that thought he measure might at first startle, it would ultimately be viewed as in harmony with the general design, and that Her Majesty's Ministers, being, perhaps, not opposed to the principle, would consider it with friendly feelings. The noble Lord knows that, so far as our side of the House is concerned, he has heard nothing except in support 1414 of the Government. And now, arriving at this position, we are told the existence of the Government depends on the rejection of this measure. But I would say this—when my noble Friend brought forward the measure, when he made a full exposition of its principles and provisions, then was the time for the noble Lord to have risen, and to have said—"This measure is one which I cannot accept—if it is carried I will not be Minister of this country—I divest myself of that responsibility, which under such peculiar circumstances, I accepted—I will throw it upon you, who have evinced no improper ambition—you who have expressed to me in a manner not to be mistaken, your sincere and honourable desire to support me." That was the position which should have been assumed by the Government; that would have been the proper position for the noble Lord to take up. But I maintain, that when the noble Lord rose and permitted the Bill to be brought in, and allowed it to be laid on the Table, then he, and not my noble Friend, became responsible for all which has happened since. I think my noble Friend should not have been described as a man of rampant ambition—as a man wishing to destroy a Government, when he has done nothing but that which all men of honour and spirit, looking to the good opinion of their fellow-subjects, and desirous to maintain their station in public life, would do, viz., having the leave of Her Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill, pursued that Bill to the ultimate point. My noble Friend has confidently placed his case before the House and before the country, and whatever be the result, I am persuaded no conclusion will be drawn unfavourable to the conduct or character of my noble Friend. I am satisfied that this will be the view of the case which, on an impartial retrospect, even those who are now opponents of the Bill will take. Having obtained the permission of the Government to lay the Bill on the Table, it was utterly impossible we could stop short, and say—an insidious whisper had reached us; we have heard of meetings in places of which we know nothing; we have read paragraphs in papers which many never read, and though we have made this exposition in the House of Commons—though we have sent over every part of the empire the outlines of this project for the regeneration of Ireland—and though we have obtained the quasi sanction of the Government, we must nevertheless, in a mysterious, shabby, back-stairs 1415 spirit, announce that the plan is not to be pursued. Oh, no! that is out of the question; no man of spirit, even though his vote be recorded against us, would or could applaud such a proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) is going to vote against us, because, although he thinks it very improbable, a belief has arisen that, if a vote is given adverse to the Government, the Government will cease to exist. I see Gentlemen on the other side of the House who entered Parliament the first time with myself—ten years ago—and they will recollect, when they came in they were all told that the Government of that day would not last, because it was going out on an Irish question. That Government did not go out on an Irish question. Two years after that the leader of the most powerful party, at least the most powerful party in opposition, that ever existed in this country, forced to accept office against his will, and resigning, under peculiar circumstances, in three days, that position, announced to that House that he felt that Ireland was his "great difficulty." A Government then again acceded to power which unquestionably was in a minority, not alone as regarded that House, but as regarded the country—a party which, however, although not able to govern England — which generally governs itself — was deemed not only by its own supporters, but, I admit, by some of its opponents, as the only party that could govern Ireland. But the Irish question now before us is not the Irish question of the last ten years. Then the Irish question was, how Ireland is to be governed; now, the Irish question is, how is Ireland to be fed? It will be well for us at this moment, when so much interest is excited about Ireland; when for the first time that the attention of the House has been called to the subject, with none of the passions and less of the prejudices which generally mix themselves up with its consideration, and before we discuss exactly the merits of the project of my noble Friend; to place clearly before us the situation of the country to which the remedy is sought to be applied. If we were to consider the state of Ireland, as we would the state of some island of antiquity in our studies, and yet possessing that ample knowledge which the blue books surrounding us will afford, I am not quite sure that it would be so difficult to form an accurate opinion as hitherto upon the condition of that country. Hitherto we have been discussing whether its political franchises 1416 should be increased or diminished; hitherto we have been debating whether its municipal privileges should be sustained or abolished. But if we had remembered that, all this time, we have been considering the state of a country where the population is the densest of any country in the world; where the population, as regarded the arable area, is denser even than in China; where this population is sustained only by the land; if we had remembered also that with this population, so dense, there is the most intense poverty—that if it is not the poorest country in the world, it is certainly the poorest country, relatively, in Europe—that if they have, for example, an amount of circulating and banking capital in Ireland averaging 1l. or 30s. a head, they have in sterile Scotland an amount averaging 16l. a head; if we had known we had to deal with the densest population and the most intense poverty, and that, for the third characteristic, this people were fed on the last resource for human subsistence—we should long ere this have been induced to consider whether an increased number of Members of Parliament—whether an increased number of the electors of Members of Parliament—or whether an increased number of mayors and aldermen—could be cures for evils so strictly social and economical, and, as I now fear, so inveterate and profound. I believe there is now a conviction in the minds of the great body of the people of this country, without reference to creed, or class, or party, that no hallucination—to use the mildest term—has been greater than to suppose that a political panacea can cure the ills of Ireland. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), in his general address on the subject of Ireland, some time ago, said, that the state of Ireland was a famine of the 13th century with a population of the 19th; and no doubt that was a very striking and picturesque description; but I am bound to say, that I think it a fallacious one. The famines of the middle ages, the feudal famines, are now pretty well understood; their causes are known. Their consequences struck all classes alike. The Irish famine strikes one class alone, although the most numerous. I believe that the famine of Ireland may find a parallel in a country and in a time much less remote; and I am sorry to say that it is in the dominions of Her Majesty. There is another portion of Her Majesty's dominions where the population is almost as dense, and where the poverty is almost as 1417 intense as in Ireland, and where the people depend upon the lowest source of human subsistence. In India, when the rice fails — as when the potato fails in Ireland—we find a state of affairs similar to that which we have now to meet. It is a visitation of Providence; because that all that occurs comes from the Most High, is a truth which none can dispute. But it will not do for this House to use the easy phrase a "visitation of Providence" to conceal its own laches in this respect; for what has occurred has been foretold by great statesmen and by men most experienced in Ireland. Lord Wellesley told us years ago, that the potato, and the gradually degenerate state of the potato, till it came to the "lumper," would ultimately destroy Ireland, unless measures were taken to arrest the evil. We may find, in the public papers of Mr. Drummond, the same opinion expressed; and everything now happening in Ireland is, in fact, the occurrence of a contingency which has been foreseen by those who best knew that country, and who were best capable of forming an opinion on the subject. But we have the Government measures to meet the state of affairs. It is not for me to criticise the Government measures. I am their supporter; and—as I hope I shall always be whenever I am a supporter—I am an earnest supporter of those measures. But, as I before ventured to remark, the measure which has been brought forward by my noble Friend the Member for Lynn, is supposed to be quite in accordance with the general theme of the Government system. The measures of Her Majesty's Government, while they alleviate, or attempt to alleviate, immediate distress, indicate the means by which future renovation should be secured; but it did not appear to my noble Friend the Member for Lynn, that their general tendency is such as will either secure that employment which is desirable, or lay the seeds of that future renovation which we all wish to see accomplished. My noble Friend then brought forward this project, which is to give immediate employment to a large mass of the people of Ireland; but which is to have a twofold effect—which is also to give a new character to the country, and so to change the very complexion of that long disordered and unhappy land, that results similar to those which have recently occurred, and under which Ireland is now suffering, may not again happen. I will not dilate, at present at least, upon the character of 1418 the measure proposed by my noble Friend. I will, however, advert to the two objects which it proposes to accomplish; and principally, because it is the most urgent, though it can scarcely be called the most important, in its power of affording employment to the people. My noble Friend has made an estimate, framed upon data which he gave to the House without reserve, by which he calculates that under his scheme at least 110,000 able-bodied labourers will be occupied, who will represent a population exceeding 500,000 persons. Although this is not an employment that can cure the ills of Ireland, I am sure there is no hon. Gentleman present who will not acknowledge, that if we can secure such an employment, especially if it be a quasi permanent employment, we shall afford an immense alleviation of the present pressure upon the Government and resources of this country. Now, the proposal of my noble Friend has been met by, I will not say an able, but an extremely zealous opposition. It must not be supposed, however, that I intend to say that that opposition is not able in an offensive sense. I am sure that the hon. Gentlemen who have conducted the opposition to the measure, have made the best of the means of resistance they possess; but I think I may be able to induce the House to hesitate before it comes to the opinion that that opposition is really an effective one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member of the Government who first addressed the House on this subject, raised an initial objection to the project, which seemed to have existed on the very back of the Bill. It was found that the Bill was introduced, not merely by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, by my noble Friend the Member for Stamford (the Marquess of Granby), who addressed the House with so much ability to-night; but by the hon. Member for Sunderland, who is considered a great authority upon railway matters; and by another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Westmoreland, who is known to be one of the largest manufacturers of iron in England; and that was the first objection raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer against the measure. I am quite willing to admit that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not impute, even by inference, any corrupt motives to my hon. Friends. All that the right hon. Gentleman said, was this: "There is not the slightest doubt that the peculiar occupations of these Gentlemen have given a bias 1419 to their judgment." As a philosophical proposition, there are few Gentlemen present who will dispute that assertion. We all know the magical fascination of an engrossing pursuit; it certainly does give a tone to the judgment. It is not at all impossible that a man always studying one subject, will view the general affairs of the world through the coloured prism of his usual atmosphere; but though I am not disposed to deny that the hon. Member for Sunderland and the hon. Member for Westmoreland may perhaps have viewed the circumstances brought under their consideration with the inevitable influence of a paramount idea, still I must remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is not merely makers of railways, and creators of railways, and manufacturers of iron, who have one pursuit; there may be a peculiar body of men in the State who follow one pursuit, and fill one office; and when I find three Chancellors of the Exchequer rising one after the other to oppose this measure, I am disposed to view that financial opposition with some jealousy. But whatever may be my feelings on this subject, I will merely allude to it in passing; especially when reasons have been adduced by the Gentlemen to whom I refer, which leave me no excuse for travelling for a moment out of the record of a strict reply. The right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. Baring), who came forward in a most gallant spirit, and with all the sympathetic reminiscences of official life, said, in answer to the hon. Member for Newark, that he (Mr. Stuart) had made a declamatory speech, but that he had given no reply to the unanswerable statements of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have been unanswerable, but it was also unproved. I understood, throwing aside many petty objections raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the opposition of that right hon. Gentleman to the proposal of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) was based upon two principal grounds: first, that the quantity of capital which the noble Lord anticipated would be expended upon labour in Ireland would not be so appropriated; and, secondly, that the number of men employed on the railroads would be much smaller than was calculated by my noble Friend. This, in fact, is the same objection in two forms; because if my noble Friend can show that his calculations are correct, or rather understated, then it follows, that if so much more capital will 1420 be expended in labour, so many more men will be employed, and the converse of that proposition will stand. I am bound to say, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made his speech in a very bold and dashing spirit. It certainly was in a style not generally heard from Chancellors of the Exchequer; indeed, so courageous was its spirit, that I should rather have expected to hear it from the Secretary at War or the Paymaster of the Forces, at least. But the right hon. Gentleman stated most positively, that the noble Member for Lynn and his Friends are quite wrong; and he asserted that the proportion of capital expended on railroads was only 25 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman did not condescend to offer any proof on this point; he did not allege any evidence, or present the House with any data; but he said, "You are perfectly wrong. I have been told"—though he did not name his authority—"that the proportion of capital expended is only 25 per cent, and that the utmost you can expect is that 1,000l. a mile will employ forty-five men." Now, I think these are not subjects which can be treated upon the ipse dixit of any man. I am not a railroad director, nor have I a single share in those undertakings, and I admit that all my knowledge on this subject has been derived within a few months, since my attention has been directed to this matter; but I had thought it impossible that any man, whether a Chancellor of the Exchequer, or a railroad director, could have got up in his place and have made such a declaration as has been made by the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and suppose that it would really influence public opinion. But still more extraordinary is it that one Chancellor of the Exchequer should have another Chancellor of the Exchequer to be his bail and guarantee in such an argument. I now come to the consideration—a vital one—of the employment given to labourers by the expenditure of money in making railroads. I will read to the House very shortly a most important document, which is, I think, quite conclusive on the subject. Here is a paper which is an analysis of the items of expenditure on the greatest existing railways in this country and on the Continent. I know the vast and multifarious documents from which it has been drawn up, and I think I can vouch for its accuracy—I am sure I can vouch for the good faith with which it has been compiled; and when I mention to the House, that 1421 I am indebted for it to my learned friend Mr. Laing, I am certain they will be satisfied that it is an accurate and bonâ fide statement. There is given in it an analysis of each description of expenditure incurred upon a dear line in England, and also upon a cheap one; likewise upon all the Belgian railways; and upon the Paris and Rouen—one of the most complete lines in France. The total expenditure per mile on the London and Birmingham Railway was 49,650l. Of this, there was expended on law, Parliamentary, engineering, and direction, 2,150l.; and on land and compensation, 6,300l.; giving an average of 17 per cent out of the 49,650l. Of items indirectly connected with skilled labour, there was, on the carrying department, 3,000l., and for the permanent way, 5,650l.; giving 26 per cent; and on the items connected immediately with labour, such as earthworks, and stations, and the like, out of the 49,655l. that was expended, 32,630l., or 62 per cent. That is an account of a dear line of railway; and I will now take a cheap English one. The total expenditure of the Grand Junction was 21,200l. per mile, and the items unconnected with labour were 17 per cent; the items directly connected with skilled labour were 26 per cent; while those connected with common labour were 50 per cent. On the Belgian railways the total expenditure per mile was 16,130l.; and the items connected with common labour per mile was 6,920l., or 43 per cent. On the Paris and Rouen Railway the expenditure per mile was 22,500l.; and, out of that, there was paid for common labour 12,570l., or 56 per cent; giving an average on the whole of these railways, in England, in Belgium, and in France, of 57 per cent on common labour. I will now call the attention of the House to the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who estimates the expenditure for labour on railways at only 25 per cent. If we take the Irish railroads at 16,000l. per mile, and allow 57 per cent as the average expended on labour, or 9,120l. per mile, which, spread over a period of four years, is 2,280l. annually; and if we take the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, that for every 1,000l. per mile there are 45 men employed, it is clear that, according to the right hon. Gentleman's data, there will be employed for every 1,000l. expended per mile 102 persons for four years; that will make, on 1,500 miles of railway, 153,000 labourers, instead of 110,000, as my noble Friend 1422 calculated; and, supposing five persons dependent on each of these labourers, that will make, according to the principle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 765,000 people deriving their means of subsistence from these works. I beg to say, that when my noble Friend estimated the employment of the people at the rate of 60 per mile, he under-estimated his case; for I have documents in my possession which show that the number is much larger. My noble Friend the Member for Stamford referred to page 35 of the blue book, containing the proceedings of the Board of Works; and I, also, will refer to that volume, in which we find, from the memorial of the Lord Mayor of Dublin, that 40,000 persons were, in October, 1846, employed on railroads in Ireland; but in October, 1846, there were only 300 miles of railroad in progress. Now, taking the number stated in that memorial to be employed on 300 miles as the data, and applying the same calculation to 1,500 miles, it will give employment to 200,000 persons. I conclude, however, that the estimate taken from the data of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the data taken from the lines of England, Belgium, and France, are extremely within the limits; and, since I have come into the House, I have found, in the Irish Railway Gazette and Commercial Advertiser, a statement to the effect, that, on the works on the main line of the Great Southern and Western Railway, 33 miles from Dublin, there are 8,600 men constantly employed on 47 miles, giving 183 men per mile. So much for the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that only one-fourth of the capital of a railway is invested in labour. According to the estimates founded on the expenditure of the English, Belgian, and French lines, there would not be less than 3,000,000l. expended on unskilled labour in Ireland for four successive years under the proposal of my noble Friend. And suppose that the navigator is a man who has a wife and family, not only shall we employ 102 persons per mile for 1,500 miles, but I will show that the estimates they have taken of five persons maintained by each man's labour, is as much understated as the general statement of my noble Friend. I think the House must wish that this question should be fairly put before them; and I will read for its information a document full of knowledge of the subject, written in a straightforward spirit, and in the most perfect simplicity, and altogether so conclusive that I am sure they will not regret the time occupied 1423 by reading it. It is a letter, dated February 8, 1847, from one who has much acquaintance with the subject of railways, and great experience of Ireland, and who has no knowledge of the noble Lord to whom the letter is addressed. The writer said—It is scarcely possible to overrate the benefits which would result to Ireland from the passing of the Bill now brought into Parliament by your Lordship. Allow me to trespass shortly on your Lordship's time while I endeavour to refute two of the principal objections which appear to be raised against the measure, which I think the experience I have had in that country will enable me to do. The first is, that if railways in Ireland were at once undertaken upon a large scale, English 'navvies' would be brought in by contractors, and, by superseding the labour of the country, greatly decrease the relief thereby sought to be given to the existing distress. For the greater part of the last five years I have been living near Londonderry, executing very large works, which are peculiarly adapted to the labourers of that country, when once they are taught, and which a very few weeks serve to accomplish; namely, the making of very large embankments to reclaim land from the sea, and on the Londonderry and Coleraine Railway. On commencing these, I found the difficulties almost insuperable, from the total unacquaintance of the people with the nature of such works; I fortunately persevered, and with beneficial results to them and to myself. I brought over a few experienced gaugers, who, in a few weeks, instructed the more intelligent, who, in their turn, taught others; and the men now employed are almost exclusively Irish, and are quite capable of executing any works of the sort. I have now about 1,000 men employed; and, if the company would furnish the means, I could at once greatly increase the number, and in a month of six weeks from this time I could take on between 3,000 and 4,000 more; and to enable me to do this, I should not require additional English labourers of any description. There are some works in which it is to the interest of contractors to employ high-priced labour; these works, from the nature of the country, are almost unknown on the Irish railways. I have, on the Coleraine line, I believe, almost the only tunnel in Ireland, which is a very difficult one, being nearly 1,000 yards in length, through the solid basalt rock. To commence it, I brought over some experienced men, and added the necessary number of local labourers, who very soon became sufficiently expert to continue the works without such supervision and assistance. All the Englishmen but three have returned to England—the works, with this exception, are carried on exclusively by Irishmen, entirely to my satisfaction and to that of the resident engineer of the company. Many of those men are now earning 3s. per day, and several men have left me at different times to undertake sub-contracts in other places, for which they have become capable, after two or three months' instruction, although previously totally unaccustomed to the work. The works, generally, on this line, are of a difficult description. On the Londonderry and Enniskillen, fifteen miles of which are completed, there are still forty-five miles to make, the works being of the ordinary description, and upon which some thousands of Irish labourers could be immediately 1424 and beneficially employed. The number of Englishmen now employed by me does not exceed 2½ per cent on the whole, and these are principally engine-drivers and mechanics. Another objection raised is, that the counties through which the railways pass are not the most distressed, and therefore the works on them would not relieve those parts of the country which require it most. I believe that the comparatively small amount of distress, which till very lately existed in the neighbourhood of Londonderry, has arisen chiefly, if not solely, from the employment at improved wages on the works of the two railways connected with that city. I should add, that when I first went there, the average price for labour was 1s. per day; but that now, and for a long time past, it is 1s. 6d. per day, and in many instances higher. I have always found that, when I required an increase of labourers, the fact soon became known, and, in a very short time, they came out of Connaught and the western coast. If all the able-bodied men remain in those parts, the farmers will of course employ them first, and thousands who can find no employment must be fed by charity, or starve; whereas, if the able-bodied men came down to the railway works—which, from my own experience, I am convinced they would, if they were certain of employment at good wages—they would afterwards return with their earnings, and, in the mean time, the farmers would absorb the whole or greater part of the remaining local labour, and the entire community would be benefited. Previously to going to Ireland, I had, during several years, very large contracts, both on the London and Birmingham and the Bristol and Exeter Railways, exceeding in value 500,000l., and having frequently employed above 3,000 men at one time. I mention this fact to satisfy your Lordship that I am not ignorant of the comparative difference between works of this sort in England and Ireland. In these observations, which I thus venture respectfully to submit to your Lordship, I feel satisfied that Mr. Dargan, who has the largest contracts in Ireland, and the other large contractors in that country, would fully concur.That document, coming from an Englishman, Mr. Samuel Hemming, extensively engaged upon railways in Ireland, and who tells us that he can employ Irish labourers to so great an extent, is well worth listening to. It completely answers all the vague and shadowy objections of a late, a later, and the latest Chancellor of the Exchequer. The writer tells us that the mere Irish labourer is sufficient for the construction of these railways; that there are only 2½ per cent of English labourers employed upon his works; that he could employ 1,000 more Irish labourers; that they were perfectly capable for that kind of labour; that, in a few weeks, they were capable of making even tunnels; and that when he wanted more men, they came from Connaught and the western coast. But then, it was said that these navigators were gay Lotharios—that they were not family men—that they were all Englishmen—and that they had all left a wife and family at home. Now, I find that 1425 they are almost all Irish; and I have, within the last hour, had a letter put into my hands by the doorkeeper of this House, from an Irish gentleman, which almost raised a blush in my face as I read it, and which I will, with the permission of the House, read. The writer is Sir Harvey Bruce; and his letter is another reply to the "unanswerable" speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is as follows:—Having remarked that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is reported to have stated that most of the men employed on Irish railways are unmarried, I take the liberty of writing to inform you, that I happen to be chairman of a relief district through which the Londonderry and Coleraine Railway passes; and although the works are not carried on extensively, yet they very considerably relieve our destitute poor; and that the great majority of the labourers on the railway and in the country are married, as they all marry when they are boys, and many of the poor on our books have families of from eight to twelve; and a father and mother and three children is considered a very small family.So that it seems these desperate navigators, who left their wives and families in England, are, after all, Irish "boys"—men who had wives of their own, and with such a progeny of boys, that, if the Government would pass this measure, the railways would take off their hands the 580,000 persons whom the Government had taken into their pay. The letter continued—I know many instances of labourers, who were before earning only 10d. or 1s. a day, earning at the railway 2s. 6d. and 3s. 6d. a day, and less skilful labourers 1s. 8d. a day. To show the low price of land, the railway goes through nine miles of my estate, and they have bought their line rather under 600l. a mile.Here is new data for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he again estimates the amount to be given for land. I think that rather an interesting document. The writer does not mean to say that all the poor in his district have from nine to twelve children; but he gives us some reason to believe that the flashy style of assertion which we have heard from the other side—all supported, of course, by official documents, and, of course, confirmed on this side of the House, echoing from cliff to cliff, on each side of the Speaker's chair—is not all to be taken for gospel, which is at once to settle the question. It was impossible to escape from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman has remarked upon the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland being attached to the Bill, as if that hon. Member had been the originator of the Bill, when I know 1426 that my noble Friend is exclusively entitled to the credit of this measure, and that my noble Friend applied to the hon. Member for Sunderland. But what would the Chancellor of the Exchequer have said if the name of the hon. Member for Sunderland had not been on the Bill? He would have said, "You have an experienced man in your party, who knows more about railways than perhaps any other man in the kingdom. He is a practical man, who presides over 45,000,000l. of capital invested in railways; and he knows that your proposal is so preposterous, that it could not be maintained." The right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. T. Baring) and the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) would, no doubt, have readily supported that opinion. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that unskilled labour was not employed in making the Irish railways, and therefore—the right hon. Gentleman is always ready with his therefore, and I, for one, admire the dashing rapidity of his conclusions—and therefore railways would do nothing for the good of Ireland. I have shown that nothing but unskilled labour, if that of Irish labourers is to be so called, is employed upon these lines. I will not say what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the money advanced to Ireland has never been repaid. I leave that question to be settled between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and some champion of Irish repeal. But when it was said that railways would give employment to the destitute, and give a new tone to the country, they were told in reply, that money had formerly been lent to widen the streets of some corrupt Irish corporation, and that it had never been repaid. They had been told too that it had; but what do I care whether it has, or whether it has not? No doubt the Government who lent the money had two good Members returned for that borough, with whom they had a perfect good understanding when they lent the money. And these are the instances and precedents brought forward to meet the supporters of this Bill; these are the circumstantial arguments and accurate data that we have to encounter: and we are told that the case shall be decided on its merits. Let it be decided on its merits; but do not talk about the broad streets of Cork, when the question is of of the broad gauge through Ireland. We have no cause, however to complain of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It would be difficult to meet with a more candid opponent than the right hon. Gentleman. 1427 I am quite content to take the case as the right hon. Gentleman has made it out; and if this Bill will only, according to the right hon. Gentleman's own statement, make half Ireland rich, that will be quite enough for me; for if it were said that an inexperienced party, which had nevertheless shaken the Government to its centre, had succeeded so far in its first project as to make half Ireland rich, it could not be said that such a party had failed. They would have done enough for one Session. What body of men, I should like to know—whether Ministers that are, or Ministers that were—have ever made half Ireland rich? I will now come to the second great branch of the subject; for multifarious as are the objections to this plan, if those of the smaller order are taken away, it will be found that they range themselves under three great heads; and, strange to say, each of these arguments is represented by a Chancellor of the Exchequer. First, there is the real Chancellor of the Exchequer, who tells us that under the proposed Bill there will be no employment for labour at all; or at all events, no great employment. Then comes the right hon. Gentleman who was formerly Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who represents the objection of monetary disturbance. And lastly comes the right hon. Gentleman who was lately Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who represents the great principle of non-interference with private enterprise. Of the first objection, namely, the incommensurate employment of labour, I have already disposed, and I therefore next come to that which was founded on the fear of a monetary crisis—of the danger to the State—especially at a time when the finances are supposed to be or likely to be disordered, or, at least, when there will be some unusal claims upon them—of entering into these speculations. I will deal with this argument as I have done with the other, not by abstract reasoning, but by an appeal to facts, which I will put before the House, leaving them to draw their deductions. I will not notice the slight passing observation of the right hon. Gentleman, that our Railway Board will not report in favour of any one of the lines; which would, at any rate, be answer to all his apprehensions; but I will come at once to the precedents to be drawn from the Belgian and French lines, and the warning that is to be drawn from them as to the effect of raising money by loan for railway enterprise. First, I will take the case of Belgium; 1428 and I will beg to recall to the minds of hon. Members, what was the financial state of Belgium at the time to which I am about to refer, because it will afford a perfect answer to the right hon. Gentleman's argument. In the year 1840, the Belgian Government determined to create railroads by virtue of a grant from the State; and the State granted, in round numbers, 6,000,000l. sterling for that purpose. Out of that 6,000,000l. about 2,700,000l. were instantly raised by loan by the State. And this was at a time when the annual revenue of that State was only 3,300,000l. Now, that sum of 2,700,000l. was raised by a 5 per cent loan on terms which cost the State only 5l. 6s. 8d. per 100l. Two years after this—in the year 1842—Belgium raised its second loan of 1,000,000l., part of the original grant of 6,000,000l., and in pursuance of the first loan of 2,700,000l.; and now, after two years had elapsed, and the former sum had been raised so short a time before, at what rate was this second loan raised? Notwithstanding the natural effect of such an operation as the first in depreciating the Government securities, they raised the second loan at 4l. 17s. 4d. per cent. That was to say, the value of the national securities was regarded as being 11¼ per cent higher than before, the Government having raised in the course of two years a sum more than the whole annual revenue of the country. Such was the effect of the Government assisting railway enterprise, by way of loan in Belgium. I will now come to France; and as I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. Baring) has very ample knowledge of that country, I must say I was surprised that he should have ventured on the argument the right hon. Gentleman has used. I remember having been in France in 1842, which was a very critical year in the finances of that country. France had at that time a floating debt of 17,500,000l. sterling, in consequence of the fortifications of Paris. It was under those circumstances, that the Minister proposed to the Chambers a grant of 19,000,000l. sterling for railroads in France, thus creating a further debt of 19,000,000l., in addition to the 17,500,000l. That sum of 19,000,000l. was raised thus—18,000,000l. by loan, and 1,000,000l. by Royal bonds, equivalent to our Exchequer-bills. Now, what was the effect in France of this operation, and that, too, under such peculiar circumstances? In 1841, the proceeds of the indirect taxation of France 1429 were something like 28,000,000l.; but what was the indirect taxation in 1846? Why, it amounted to much more than 34,000,000l., leaving indeed a balance in favour of last year of 6,400,000l. Such was the consequence of the spur given to industry in France by the introduction of railroads, under circumstances infinitely more difficult than those with which we now have to contend. France, by these acts, created a floating debt of nearly 40,000,000l. sterling, and France has been paid over and over again. But what has she not gained in the legitimate and salutary increase of her indirect taxation, through the increased production and consumption stimulated by this grant? Since then, as is well known, there has been no increase of direct taxes in France. Yet this was that France which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth brought forward to school us with. When the right hon. Gentleman was Chancellor of the Exchequer, could he refer to a revenue like that? Could he refer to a state of the Treasury like that? It would have been enough to make his mouth water, even to think of it. But this is not all I have to say to these Chancellors of the Exchequer, who have come forward to settle this question with the reckless ipse dixit of official arrogance. The Government of France, also, it appeared, "took care of the interests of the people" in establishing their railways. They did not allow the people to pay for their seats at the rate they had to pay in those infamous jobs in Ireland. This was what was put forward in favour of the French railways as against those of Ireland. But I hold in my hand a comparative statement of the rate of fares in the two, from which the House will be able to judge as to their relative cheapness. It appears that of the first-class fares, while the French rate is 1.66, the Ulster Railway is 1.44. For the second class, while the French is as 1.25, the Dublin and Drogheda is as 1.0, and the Ulster as 0.96; and, for the third class, while the French is as 0.92, the Ulster is as 0.64, and the Dublin and Drogheda as 0.56. So that on the Irish railways, it seems, they pay less than they pay in France. The French railways, it should be remembered, are at the same time cheaper than the Belgian. But this is not all. The right hon. Member for Portsmouth tells us that we are creating an immense monopoly. Look at France. Why, every railroad in France is leased for a term of at least forty years: until the expiration of that time Government 1430 cannot interfere. How different in this country. Why, under the provisions of Mr. Strutt's Bill, Government assumes a right to revise the tariff of every railroad once every ten years. And yet we are to be told of France. Really it is too much for statements like these to be made by two men of such experience and management of public affairs. But see how they were actually made. First, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets up and makes a most unauthorized statement. According to him only 25 per cent of the whole capital of a line will go to the employment of labour; and then, warmed by the fire of his flashing rhetoric, he goes on to tell us that twenty-five men only will be employed upon each mile of rail. Not a single fact does he offer. Not a single proof does he adduce. But what was the magnificent peroration of the "unanswerable speech?" Why it was—that on the whole—taking a common sense and practical view of the case—they are all practical men these Chancellors of the Exchequer—he could assure the House that not more than twenty-five men would be required per mile. Now it so happens that I have seen persons well informed upon the subject—it so happens that I have seen a scientific, and in all respects competent individual, who came to me, who said, "I believe I am the anonymous—[laughter]—I am the anonymous person whom the Chancellor of the Exchequer has consulted, and I am in the greatest distress. He has made such a mistake—the most enormous blunder ever committed by a public functionary." He went on—this anonymous authority—he said, "I told him that twenty-five men would be employed per mile, but I meant permanently employed." Now we only supposed that ten men per mile would be thus employed. I told him so. He said, "Yes, your noble Friend has understated his case throughout; but I tell you, as I told the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that twenty-five men would be permanently employed per mile." And so it was. The right hon. Gentleman comes down, makes his speech, gets a majority, saves the Government, and ruins Ireland, all with this story of twenty-five men per mile. Another and another still succeeds, and still I have to deal with the third Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now I come to the Gentleman who will not interfere with private enterprise. I come, therefore, to the question of private enterprise; and I think it highly important that we should arrive at some 1431 clear understanding of this great social and economical principle. Now one very remarkable circumstance is, that every night you hear a statesman—a present or a late adviser of the Crown—rise to denounce interference with private enterprise; and yet every night I find the same men supporting measures which do directly interfere with private enterprise. Why there is not, in this point of view, an objection against the tenor of the plan of my noble Friend, that is not fatal to the scheme of Government. But I do not dwell on this. But let us really understand this question of private enterprise. It may throw a great light upon the main subject. I can understand why, as a principle, interference with private enterprise is deprecated: what do you mean by non-interference? This, that you believe that in a country like England the commercial principle is able to cope with and control all circumstances with which it comes into contact. Am I right? I believe that you cannot have a more efficient organ than dealing with the commercial principle in commercial circumstances. Suppose a man in this country is about to construct a railroad. All he has got to do is to calculate the cost and probable profits. He knows the amount of Parliamentary expenses, rather indefinite though they be; he knows the cost of land, of timber, of iron; he calculates what will be the rate of labour, and then he undertakes his work. All he has got to do is to estimate cost and profit. The commercial principle deals merely with commercial circumstances; and I can understand why in such cases the State ought not to interfere. But if a man makes a railroad in Ireland, he has not merely to calculate the cost of land, but he has to buy the land under so complicated a tenure, that the result of the transaction is often public rancour and private animosities. He has to engage labour which lives upon a casual supply; and he knows that if by any visitation of Providence that supply be cut off, that the State has made no provision for the catastrophe. He knows that instead of allowing his men to go to church or chapel as they like, as he would in England, he is labouring in a land where religious animosities run to such a height that the most rancorous feelings are often engendered. He knows that he may some day meet a party procession which his men may join instead of going to work. He is served when he has commenced operations with threatening notices. His stewards or 1432 principal men are shot from behind hedges. Why, Sir, these are not commercial circumstances! The commercial principle cannot cope with these circumstances. The commercial principle does not work in Ireland. Whatever may be our opinion as to the cause of Irish disturbances, this is not the time to inquire into it, be it Protestant ascendancy or Popish supremacy—the tenure of land or the want of manufactures—one thing is certain: all men agree that Ireland has been misgoverned. And who has misgoverned her? The State. It is the conduct of the State, past or present, that prevents the free action of the commercial principle in Ireland; it is the State, therefore, that should step in to alleviate the injury and inconveniences it has produced; and therefore the political principle in Ireland must be called into the assistance of the commercial principle. This is the rationale of interfering with private enterprise in Ireland. And yet you lay it down that you are to act in Ireland as you would do in England. I deny that by interfering in Ireland, you would interfere with private enterprise. There is no private enterprise to be interfered with. But the last Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that on looking over the list of Irish railway proprietors, he found that most of the names were those of English capitalists; and he immediately deduced from that fact the inference that Ireland did not require Government aid. Why, Sir, it proves the very reverse. It proves that the railroads begun are good commercial speculations stopped by political circumstances, which interfere with the commercial principle. The proof is a fair one, that the undertakings are such as would pay the State. But there must be something more powerful and comprehensive than private enterprise set to work. Go on, if you please, maundering about private enterprise; trust to it, and Ireland will remain as she is, three centuries behind. The measure of my noble Friend has sought to supply that to Ireland which we believe that private enterprise cannot supply. We have been told that it is a partial measure. The course which we have taken shows that it is not. At all events, the debate has proved that all agree upon the one point of the advantage of railroads to Ireland. We have shown you that our measures will employ a great deal of labour in Ireland. We are prepared to show you that its advantages do not merely consist in employing labour, 1433 but in opening new markets for other kinds of labour. For example, you will have railroads passing over the largest coal field in the kingdom—that of Mallow; and do you believe that five years will then pass over without that coal field being worked. Is not fuel as important as food—is it not as necessary? The railway will make it attainable—make it plentiful and cheap. But need I dwell on the different sorts of industry which it will develop? Do not let the House understand that in that respect our case is incomplete. We could show you how our scheme would create new trades—open new markets—rear new residences—give an impulse to the fisheries which no projector has yet reamed of—we could show how it would give a new character, a new face, to Ireland. I remember a Member of this House—a Member before I sat in it—well known to all of you, and whose memory is cherished by you all; a gallant officer and a humourist; who propounded the theory that the only cure for the woes of Ireland would be to sink it for twenty-four hours under water. Sir, without resorting to the painful results of this diluvian process, we propose to give a new face to the country—a new character to the people—a new tone to the age in which they live; and whatever may be the present result, although I suppose we may no longer hope 1434 to be able to carry this measure immediately, yet ultimately it will be successful. I can conceive, Sir, an hon. Member sacrificing his convictions to his party; but he should be an English Whig, not an Irish Repealer. I do not think that this is a case in which an Irish Member ought to refuse his sanction to a measure, than which no political agitator—and I do not use the word in an offensive sense—than which no political agitator — be he Repealer or Imperialist—who has ever appealed to his countrymen, has ever ventured to propose one half as comprehensive, or a quarter as practical. I can only say, thanking the House for the kindness with which they have listened to me, that whatever may be the result, though I cannot pretend we shall be free from the nobler pang of political disappointment, we shall at least be exempt from the bitterness of personal mortification; for we shall have failed in carrying a measure which no one can pretend was conceived in the spirit of faction, or matured by the calculating craft of a scheming ambition—a measure that was brought forward in good faith, and would have served a great cause—a measure which did not aim to injure a Government, but which did aspire to benefit a nation.
§ Debate again adjourned.
§ House adjourned at half-past Twelve.