§ The Adjourned Debate was resumed by
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
, who agreed most fully in the recommendation which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that in proceeding to discuss a question which affected alike deeply the interests of England and of Ireland, they should endeavour to steer clear of all party politics and political temptations. He regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not in his practice borne testimony to the value of the recommendation; and he was sorry, also, 38 that many hon. Gentlemen, neglecting that excellent advice, had in their several speeches entered upon topics and considerations totally unconnected with the subject really before the House. The Bill could be opposed only on its own grounds; and, even with all the ingenuity and ability—and both were great—of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. D. Browne), it had been found very difficult to give a sectarian and political turn to this question of Irish railways. The hon. Member looked in vain for an objection against the Bill, as viewed solely by itself; and he had, therefore—though it was to be confessed very indistinctly—connected the construction of earthworks with the increase of the franchise, and had sought to persuade the House that the people who would be engaged in laying down sleepers, would afterwards be occupied in rooting up the Catholic Church. He could not see the inference, nor could he admit that, because the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) had voted for Catholic Emancipation, therefore he would be disposed to convert a railway communication to any unorthodox purpose. There was no doubt that, if the noble Lord succeeded in carrying his Bill, he would, when the lines were ready, offer premiums for Conservative stokers, and breaksmen of improved Protestant principles. A similar sort of reasoning had been adopted on the occurrence of a similar calamity in this country. After the great fire of London, and when the whole of this vast metropolis was suffering from distress, the sympathizing people of Ireland sent over a contribution of twenty thousand fat cattle to support the once fat citizens of the capital city. But, the historian recorded the fact, so high did party feeling run in those days, and so prejudiced were the citizens, that though many of them were famishing, it was with the greatest difficulty they were brought to touch the steaks of such decidedly Popish bullocks. They had improved in some respects since those days, and few would now object to the scheme of the noble Lord on the supposition that he might enable people in Ireland to travel too fast for the convenience of the Establishment. He found fault with the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury, not because he had manifested a disposition to oppose the Bill, but because he had not given to the House any intimation of its being his intention to bring forward any measure for the extension of railroads in Ireland. Had any such promise been held out, he should 39 have felt justified in giving his vote against the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; but, in the absence of any such desirable declaration, and in the face of the poor law which was about to be forced on the Irish people, contrary to the opinion of the Irish Members and landlords, and which would tend to sweep away all property, whether in lands or money, unless some plan was adopted to absorb the surplus labour of the country; he could have no hesitation in giving his support to the principle of the present Bill. He did not pledge himself to all the details. He thought the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) would have discreetly consulted the spirit of the House had he mentioned some sum less than 16,000,000l. It was the plan he approved of as a plan, original and complete, independent of the sum by which the borrower might be benefited, and the lender not injured. He did not support the measure merely because as a measure of expenditure it would give relief. Unless the money were well spent, so as to insure a permanent and not a temporary relief to the people of Ireland, and a profitable investment for the capital of this country, the outlay of money would be a direct loss. He could not perceive the excellence of the logic in use among some hon. Members and some right hon. Gentlemen; he did not see the necessity of relying so strictly on the rules of political economy as to wait for the development, in Ireland, of that private enterprise which had resulted in England in the existing magnificent system of railway communication. What might be a sound rule when applied to England, might be a very absurd rule when applied to Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Morpeth) who—now ranging the Woods and Forests, met nothing to disturb his composure more formidable than the Wellington Statue—had, some time ago, drawn a definable distinction between the political economy of the two countries. The noble Lord, speaking in 1839 on Irish railways, said—The question for us to consider is, whether what is perfectly consistent with political economy, when applied solely to England, is supported with equal force of reasoning when applied to Ireland? I will not quarrel with the rule as applied to England, possessed of all the advantages and resources which advanced wealth and civilization can supply; but the case is different with Ireland, which cannot be said to be prodigal of means or bursting with opulence.This was a point upon which the noble 40 Lord should be consulted by his Colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. T. Baring), when Chancellor of the Exchequer, once declared he was astounded at the opinion declared by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, that it was not right for a Government to interfere with private speculation. The speech then made differed greatly in its doctrines from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the other night; and he was glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman was no longer in danger of being astounded at any such opinion. He thought for the State to become a great money-lender was much better than to become a profligate spendthrift. The policy of the State always had been to lend money on a great scale. Since the Union, in less than fifty years, the sum of 18,000,000l. had been lent to England and Scotland, of which 6,000,000l. only had been repaid; and 9,000,000l. to Ireland, of which so much as 7,000,000l. had been repaid. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. H. J. Baillie) had pointed out the conduct of the Scotch proprietors in a time of distress, and had suggested that the Irish landlords should pursue the same course. Now, he thought that Scotland had got a fair share of public money, and had repaid very little of it. Between 1770 and 1839 they had voted, for the Caledonian Canal, for the construction of Highland and military roads in Scotland, the enormous sum of 1,221,308l. The hon. Member had given them an account of the exertions of the landed proprietors in the Isle of Skye, and had asked why the Irish landlords were not equally energetic and equally zealous. Why, the Irish landlords were doing all they could do. Did the hon. Member know that a noble Lord connected with Waterford, and with a rental of 60,000l. a year, had spent a considerable proportion of his income in relieving the people on his property? That noble Lord, the Marquess of Waterford, had laid out 5,000l. in purchasing a stock of Indian meal, and had taken measures to give employment to every man on his estates. Was the hon. Member aware that every proprietor in the county of Waterford was acting in the same manner; that the ladies were sacrificing their jointures and selling their jewels to buy food for the destitute and the starving? This was the fact; and it would not be denied that the noble Marquess, whose name was never heard of but in connexion with deeds of charity and 41 benevolence, was an honour to his country. There had been a time when the people of Paisley came to that House for pecuniary assistance; and it should not be forgotten that those who supported the proposition then made for their immediate relief were the Irish Members. He disliked the distinction which had been drawn between Irish and Scotch Members; they all in that House represented one common country. A great deal had been said about the security offered by these railways in Ireland. The gallant Officer the Member for Renfrewshire (Colonel Mure) had termed the application of capital to their construction a flagrant immorality. The gallant Officer had spoken for the first time as a legislator, and was, therefore, not to be criticized harshly; but he should have reflected on the effect of his words, before he declared that all the railways in Ireland were ruinous affairs and bubble transactions. If the gallant Officer enjoyed the possession of shares in the Dublin and Kingstown Railway, and were in the habit of receiving the dividend on that line, he would probably have passed over the flagrant immorality without notice, and spoken less vehemently of the bubble transaction. The hon. Member for South Lancashire (Mr. W. Brown) had informed the House, that capitalists were invariably reluctant to invest money in any Irish undertaking. But the reason was, because there was never any security given that the undertaking would be legitimately carried out. Give that security by the interposition of the State, and there would be no want of capital. The Limerick and Waterford Railway had been referred to. The sum of 78,000l. had been advanced to that railway company under a Treasury Minute on the baronial securities. Three months ago he was at a presentment sessions which voted 20,000l. towards accomplishing the Limerick and Waterford Railway; but from that day down till last week nothing had been heard of this grant of 78,000l. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had endeavoured to prove that money lent by Government for the promotion of railways, would not give employment to the labourers of the district. Now, he had received, three days back, a letter from a leading director of this railway, which, as it was antagonist to the statements put forth by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would read an extract from it to the House. The writer was answering the argument that pauper labour would not 42 be employed on the line of railway. He said—The argument of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) was counteracted by the following fact: that a bargain was made with the Board of Works to take the labourers from the relief committees—that these labourers were set to work by task, each barony providing its own labourers—and that the consequence was, that the cripples and others of that class were left to finish the Government roads.This was a complete answer to the objection of the noble Lord, afterwards repeated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that in no case would railways employ the paupers of a barony; but, instead of foreigners, as they were called in Ireland, being brought to work on the Limerick and Waterford Railway, the paupers of the district were employed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in the course of his speech, taunted the Irish Members with objecting to the measures of Government, but with proposing no plans of their own. Now, he did not see what right Government had to look to them for the proposal of measures; but he might remind the right hon. Gentleman that, at the presentment sessions which were held in Ireland, they were continually suggesting plans for the adoption of Government, and that Government was as constantly rejecting them. Why, it was not till after that admirable body of men, the Quakers, had introduced the system of soup-kitchens, and had them in operation for four months, that Government, adopting their plan, introduced their Soup Kitchen Bill. He did not think, however, that this Soup Kitchen Bill would have the effect of transferring the labour of the country, with anything like effect, to the cultivation of the fields. His opinion was, that the only way in which the noble Lord would insure a future harvest in Ireland was to till all the farms under ten acres; and it was not to be forgotten that when the spring labour of the field was over, no work could be expected in Ireland after the month of April; so that unless some great measures for the purpose of giving employment were introduced, the people would have no alternative but to lie down and starve. He must say, that he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was rather too apt to rest his case on anonymous documents, and was too ready to use such as fell into his hands to crush the landlords of Ireland. He had spoken of a sum of money collected in Queen's county, and had referred to the small amount subscribed by landowners; but who could tell what the landowners of 43 Ireland, with the people dying everywhere around them, had done in the way of relief? Would it not have been better if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, instead of making attacks on the landlords of Ireland, had told the House what had been done by them in 1846, when 100,000l. was subscribed? He would not go into the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, as to ejectments in the county of Mayo, after what had been said by the noble Lord (Viscount Clements) in the course of the evening, and especially as he did not see the right hon. Gentleman in his place. [An Hon. MEMBER: The Chancellor of the Exchequer is unwell.] He was sorry to hear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had retired in consequence of being unwell; but he was not surprised that he should have been so after making such extraordinary statements. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have been, and no doubt was, well aware of the difference between ejectments and processes; but he had, nevertheless, stated that there were upwards of 6,000 ejectments in that county. Now, he had been told by the lord lieutenant of the county that the large number of processes served were issued not by any landowners, but by middlemen, for payment of conacre rents; and that so far from Lord Lucan having made a wholesale ejectment, he denied that he had done so in any one instance. To illustrate the slowness of the steps taken by Government for the relief of Irish distress, he would read the following letter, dated August 22, 1846, from one of their own officers, who was sent to the district of Skibbereen. He said—I really am—and with heartfelt sorrow I say it—afraid that I shall be obliged to look out for another place; for whatever is done by Government on public works will be too late, after people are driven to desperation by hunger. The whole country is nothing but a slumbering volcano. It will soon burst.The same officer, in a previous letter, says—As to a few relief committees, in a corner here and there, they are utterly inadequate to the sufferings of hundreds—thousands—nay, millions of starving people. You might just as well attempt to feed the people with a puff of wind from a bellows. I defy any one living to exaggerate the misery of the people—it is impossible.He did not wish unnecessarily to attack Government, but he thought them greatly to blame in not calling Parliament together as soon as they knew that distress like this prevailed in the country. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury had so well hit off 44 the arguments brought forward by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that to the greater part of them he felt it unnecessary to allude; but there was one observation of the right hon. Gentleman which deserved especial notice. He solemnly told the House to take care what it did in this matter, as it was a most mischievous project to raise a loan in a time of peace. A time of peace! Could any man present scenes more shocking or terrible than those which famine now produced in Ireland? And yet they were told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—when the deaths caused by famine were greater and more horrible than they could be in war—that they should be careful not to raise a loan in a time of peace. The Government was very ready to apply the rules of political economy, when they squared with their own prejudices; but when things ran contrary to their own ideas, away went all the calls of political economy, and Gentlemen who strained at a gnat were ready to swallow a camel. It would not be difficult to make it plain that the plan of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) was much more in accordance with the principles of political economy, than were those brought forward by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The latter noble Lord gave money for the purpose of promoting the employment of the people; but that employment was to be at the option of those proprietors who chose to avail themselves of the Government proposals; but the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) introduced a measure by means of which money would be given for the direct employment of the people, so that this was a scheme more in accordance with the principles of political economy than were the plans of the Government. No sane man would doubt the permanent benefit which must flow from that measure all over the country; for it was a result of the construction of railways not only to encourage trade, but even to create towns in the districts through which they passed. If he wanted any scheme better calculated than another for the reclamation of waste lands, he would say, extend the means of communication through those lands. As to the consequences of the vote he was about to give, he did not share in the misgivings of some hon. Members. Some hon. Gentlemen said they were well inclined towards the measure of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), and were disposed to support it; but then the Ministry would go out. Now, he had not 45 much experience in that House, but he had read in history of transactions similar to this; and these Gentlemen must be aware that all these meetings in Downing-street, and all the talk about resignation, were just parts of the stage business—of the tricks of office. All Ministers were in the habit of playing this game:—They often took leave, but seemed loth to depart.He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of the city of Dublin, should have had so many nervous misgivings as to the Ministry resigning. He ought to know, from the experience he had acquired of Governments, that the Ministry could not go out—that the noble Lord might walk out at one door, but that most assuredly he would walk in at the other. He ought to know that this was just the old mode of applying the whip to bring up certain votes that would not, perhaps, be given except under threats of resignation. He had not taken a serious view of the state of Ireland, without coming to the conclusion of voting with the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), because he thought his measure was the only one that was likely to ameliorate the condition of Ireland for the present, and to lay the foundation of future prosperity. He, for one, would not for a moment put the duration of a Ministry in competition with the existence of a people. The old spells of Whig and Tory were past: they had gone for ever. They could not now get up any feeling as to either Whig or Tory, or even Conservative. The charm was broken, particularly in Ireland, by the pressure of famine; and the people were united in one object—the salvation of the country. On the subject of railroads for Ireland, perhaps the House would wish to hear the views of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in 1839. At that time the noble Lord said—He could not imagine how any man was to suppose these railroads existing in Ireland, and used as a means of traffic, that no advantage was also to be derived from them in importing the blessings of civilization into that country." "Let it not be affirmed that, if this plan failed, of which, also, it might be said, that it was a plan which offered considerable advantages, and tended to the improvement and civilization of Ireland, it had been defeated by the prejudices of the assembly to which it had been submitted; and that a measure which chiefly affected the welfare and improvement of Ireland, he hoped would not be treated as the merest party question.He re-echoed the sentiment of the noble Lord, that this should not be a party question. And as he preferred the salvation of 46 the people of Ireland to the Ministry of the noble Lord, he should support the Bill now before the House.
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
sincerely thanked the noble Lord the Member for Lynn for having introduced a measure of so impregnable a character—so perfect in all its details; and he felt quite satisfied that the position of his noble Friend had not been assailed with the slightest effect. It had been stated that 9,000,000l. had been lent to the Irish people, and that 7,000,000l. had been repaid, leaving 2,000,000l. unpaid. But it ought also to have been stated that there was every prospect of that balance being repaid. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had attempted to disparage the present measure by stating that everything which it proposed to effect had been proposed to be done by contractors for railways in Ireland for a sum of 5,000,000l. But the right hon. Gentleman had overlooked a remarkable circumstance, which was that the protection of the Government would call forth a large amount of capital, and that, consequently, there would be increased means of providing employment. Various statements had been made for the purpose of proving that the present was a project for benefiting contractors and railway speculators in Ireland, and that the feeding of the people was a mere pretence. He had no hesitation in saying that that was an imputation of the most calumnious description. He could only say that the sound judgment, the real discretion of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, in maturing his measure, without admitting any interested Irish person into his counsels, did him great credit, and redounded much to his discernment and good taste. It had also been urged that the promotion of railways in Ireland would not relieve the destitution of the people. He was in a position to contradict that statement. Two railways, which could be seen from the windows of his own house, had been recently constructed; and it was a remarkable fact that, while other baronies were making presentments and calling out for relief, the four baronies in his immediate neighbourhood had had no sessions for presentment, and all that he had been asked for in the shape of charitable contribution was 10l., in order to enable them to market for meal down, which had risen to a great price. Which then of the two measures should the House, under the circumstances, adopt—the measure of the Government, which would only go to keep alive 47 the people for a short time, or the measure of the noble Lord, which, besides giving them immediate employment, would improve their permanent condition? Did they prefer giving money to a people in a state of exhaustion, to borrowing money for their permanent employment, with the prospect—he should say with the certainty—that the money would be repaid in a reasonable time? In his opinion the measures of the Government were merely palliative, and not at all commensurate to the evil; while that of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was not limited to a three or four months' operation, but was of a permanent nature, would place the labour of the country on a steady industrious footing, and teach the people to rely on their own exertions. He had some experience of the people of Ireland, and he would advise the noble Lord at the head of Government not to persist in his plan for the reclamation of waste lands, but to hand over the money which he proposed to devote to that purpose (1,500,000l.) to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated that the pauper population of Ireland were not fit for railroad labour. They had, however, recorded in a Parliamentary return the opinion of Sir J. M'Neill, an engineer of high character on that point. That gentleman stated that he usually found that in the first week the people had a hard fight to earn their wages; that in the second they were tolerably able for the work; and that in the third they were not only able but ambitious of undertaking task-work. That was, he thought, a sufficient answer to the right hon. Gentleman on that point. He denied emphatically that the money which was to execute the railways under the proposed scheme of the noble Lord, was to come out of the public funds; but private enterprise would be materially assisted by the plan of introducing railways into every part of Ireland; and there was not a single district of the country that would not be much benefited by the operation of the Bill of the noble Lord, one chief effect of which would be the perfecting of the links of the chains of communication which were broken at present. The hon. and gallant Member then went into many local details to show how the fisheries as well as the agriculture of the west of Ireland, would derive great advantage from such a comprehensive measure as that proposed; and contended that the traffic on railways would increase in a 48 few years as much as the commerce of various seaports in Ireland, which had at present three or four steamers trading between them and Liverpool, which ten or twelve years ago had only one. The noble Lord the Member for London had said that this was the time to make a great many useful and important changes in the system of legislation adopted towards Ireland. Now he (Colonel Conolly) told the noble Lord and the House, that the measure by which such a system was to be commenced, was that of the noble Lord below him. In conclusion, he trusted that the noble manner in which England would show her readiness to come forward to the succour of Ireland in the hour of her distress, and manifest her disposition even to expend 16,000,000l. for that purpose, would prove a more lasting bond for the future union of the two countries than any other.
§ MAJOR LAYARD
observed, that every one who was connected with Ireland, and every hon. Gentleman who stood up in that House as a representative from Ireland, was bound to feel (as he did on that occasion) most deeply interested in the measure now under consideration, and most sincerely anxious that his vote might be disposed of in such a manner as to promote the benefit of a country now unhappily labouring under such a dreadful dispensation of Providence. For his own part, he could declare unaffectedly, that he had given to this measure the most anxious attention; and he thanked the noble Lord the Member for Lynn for having brought it forward; for, in having done so, the noble Lord had so brought the subject under the consideration of the House, that he believed that Her Majesty's Government, though not now prepared to enter into the consideration of so large a measure, would, notwithstanding, perceive the necessity of giving their countenance and assistance, at some future time, to railway projects, which he considered would be highly conducive to the welfare of the country. He had heard with pleasure the able speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury last night; and had listened that evening with peculiar gratification to the clever statement of the hon. Member for Wycombe; but it did not require the talents of either of those hon. Gentleman to make him a sincere believer in the great and manifold benefits which would result to Ireland from giving work to her people, and spending money in the development of her resources. But both 49 the hon. Members to whom he had alluded had been guilty of an inexcusable omission, in not having made any allusion to what was, after all, the most important consideration—namely, where the money was to come from. The hon. Member for Wycombe had quoted some passages from history; but he would take the liberty of recalling to his recollection the story of Queen Elizabeth and the mayor and common council of Warwick. When the Queen was entering that ancient place on one occasion, the mayor, accompanied by the members of the corporation, came out to meet her; and having enumerated twenty-nine reasons why the bells of the town had not been rung on her Majesty's approach, concluded by stating that the thirtieth reason was, that they had got no bells to ring. And so too, in the present instance, he was very much inclined to believe that one of the very strongest reasons why money could not be granted, according to the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, was, that there was no money to grant. Hon. Gentlemen who had better means for knowing the financial circumstances of this country than he could be supposed to possess, had stated distinctly in that House, that, in the present state of the money market, there was no possibility of procuring so large a sum as that required by the noble Lord opposite — 16,000,000l. [Lord GEORGE BENTINCK: We only require 4,000,000l.] He was aware that 4,000,000l. was the sum required; but that sum would be required every year for four years. He could very well understand that in seasons when there was not, as at present, an unusual pressure on the money market, there might be no great difficulty in procuring the necessary funds for such an advance; but, circumstanced as the country just at present was, he feared there might be very great difficulty indeed. They owed a debt of humanity to Ireland—of that there could be no question; and he was sure there was no man in that House who was not willing that it should be paid. But it certainly did appear to him that when they saw that Government had been doing their best to meet the difficulties of the case, the safer course would be to leave great commercial questions of this kind in their hands. He admitted that he was one of those who applied to the late Government for a loan at 3½ per cent for railway purposes; but then, the stipulations respecting the mode of advancing and repaying were very different 50 from what they were in the present instance. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of York had spoken in terms of high eulogy of the noble Lord's scheme, and had declared, that, even in the sale of the rails as so much old iron, some security for repayment might be found. The right hon. Gentleman had promised the benefit of his head to this proposition; but if he would give the benefit of his name to it in the money market, there would be a much better chance of repayment than any that could be realized by the sale of the old iron. He gave credit to the noble Lord at the head of the Government for his desire to carry them through this calamity; and he believed no man in the House would venture to say that the expenditure of money in Ireland would not be beneficial. It might be said, they were bringing forward small measures that would be of little use; but he referred to the results effected by the reduction of the quantity of corn allowed to cavalry horses; and he conceived, if the same course were adopted generally throughout the country, it would be attended with great advantage, and a supply of food for the sustenance of millions would be thus afforded. He also thought that with proper economy a considerable quantity could be saved in seed corn. There had been many attacks made in that House on Irish landlords. He thought, in many instances, they had been unjustly attacked, and that also, in many instances, they had been unjustly praised. There were many princely examples exhibited in that country by Irish landlords; and God forbid that he, having, while amongst them, experienced their hospitality and kindness, should refrain from bearing his testimony to their conduct. He wished to lay before the House the contents of a letter received by him from Ireland. The writer said—Dear Sir—As a member of the relief committee, I attended a meeting yesterday at Ballymoyla, barony of Slibargie, Queen's county, at which Mr. Cooper, of Cooper Hall, an excellent friend of the poor, presided as chairman. Having analysed the subscription list, we found that the non-resident landlords, possessing property of the amount of 25,587l. per annum, annually contributed to the relief fund 208l. or about 2½d. in the pound on their annual income; the resident landlords, possessing 4,550l., contributed 105l., and the clergy, farmers, and traders, subscribed 374l. There is, and has been, an appalling amount of misery in this district; 48 deaths from starvation occurred; four inquests were held on the same day, and the verdict in each case was—died from want of food. For two months we have been soliciting assistance from the lords of the soil, with 51 all that zeal which the horrors we daily witness are calculated to awaken, and the result is stated above. The patience and meekness of the poor people under the chastening hand of Providence is without a parallel in the history of nations.He would be happy to give the name of the writer of that letter to any hon. Gentleman who should desire to see it; and he had not the least hesitation in saying that the facts as stated in it were perfectly correct. He did not know the names of the gentlemen whose property the place is, and therefore he could have no feeling in referring to the matter, save the desire—which every man must experience—that those who do their duty should be known to the House, and that those who neglect their duty should be known likewise. He would give his support to an extended poor law, and had always been in favour of it; for he thought if such a measure were in operation, it would be the means of improving the condition of the country. He felt proud, as an Englishman, of the exertions made in this country to relieve the distress in Ireland; but he would also call the attention of the House to a letter received from Mr. Harvey, New York, in which the writer stated that he was happy to find that the poor labouring Irish in America were doing their duty by silently remitting their savings to their friends at home, from one pound upwards. It appeared from the letter, that the total sums remitted by them since the 1st of November, amounted to 150,000 dollars, or 30,000l., and that the total sum remitted by them for the year, amounted to 650,000 dollars, or 130,000l. He was rejoiced to have the opportunity of reading such a letter as that to the House. He had heard the Government abused for not coming forward in the manner they ought to have done to assist the people; but he held in his hand a letter from a right rev. prelate (Dr. Healy), of Carlow, who bore honest and just testimony to the efforts of those who, in this fearful crisis, had administered to the wants of the people. He said that the Government authorities were making every exertion to relieve the poor; but no scheme that wisdom or humanity had as yet suggested, was able to avert the consequences of the visitation. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had, at the end of his speech, said that he saw no reason of despairing of Ireland. That speech would revive his (Major Layard's) hopes. He saw no reason to despair, so long as the noble Lord was at the head of 52 the Government. A Whig and a Liberal Government had always been of advantage to Ireland, and he felt convinced that while the noble Lord was at the head of the Government, wise counsels would be given to the Sovereign, bold and energetic measures would be held out for their consideration, and a just but not overweening confidence in the vast resources of this country would guide the noble Lord. He trusted that, hereafter, his name in the page of history would be held up as that of one who had helped to raise beautiful but unhappy Erin to that station amongst nations which, from the fertility of her soil, from the vastness of her water power, and the richness of her mines, but, above all, the intelligence and generosity of her people (to which he had already borne his testimony), as well as their patience, of which they had given such convincing evidence in calmly waiting on Divine Providence in the midst of their afflictions, she was so fully entitled to hold; and he trusted that the present affliction, which was indeed heavier than any man could describe, would be eventually followed by years of tranquillity, prosperity, and happiness.
§ SIR J. WALSH
said, that he had been an attentive observer of the course of that debate; and he could not think that his impression misled him in believing that the whole discussion had tended to satisfy doubts, to remove objections, and to raise the character of his noble Friend's Bill in the opinion of the House and of the country. One good, at least, might be confidently said to have resulted from that debate. He had gathered from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House representing Irish constituencies, that the Irish people had received that measure in the midst of their dire distress in a kind spirit, and that they considered it to be a bold, a comprehensive, and a generous effort on the part of a great party in that House to bring forward a project which might alleviate their sufferings, and sow the seeds of prosperity in their country. Even those hon. Members who were not ready to support by their votes the Bill of his noble Friend, had, in many respects, supported that Bill by their language. He would particularly instance the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) last night; a speech more clear, more convincing, or which placed in a more striking light the advantages which the construction of railroads 53 would produce in Ireland, it would have been difficult for any Member, however favourable he might be to the measure, to have made. It appeared to him that in the course of that debate many of those objections of detail on which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had rested the strength of his argument with so much confidence, had been entirely demolished. Before, however, entering into the merits of the question immediately before the House, he wished to call their attention to a few leading facts with regard to the present condition of Ireland, which ought not to be lost sight of. The potato crop in that country was, he believed, wholly destroyed. Would it be restored? Was that root altogether extinguished? Was that source of food to the Irish people altogether destroyed? Was that a temporary or a permanent visitation? There was much reason to apprehend that the potato, on which the whole agricultural population of Ireland depended, was destroyed. This population might be divided into two classes: the small farmer, farming from five to fifty acres; and the cotter, depending for his subsistence on the cultivation of his small garden. The operations of all these were carried on without the intervention of paid labour. The small farmer was generally enabled to carry on all the operations of his farm with the assistance of his family, and did not require, nor could he afford, to pay for paid labour. How were these cottiers to be supported, if their staple article of food should become extinct? Whence would come the capital to enable the agriculturist to relieve himself? The farmer could not supply it. Was then the landlord to supply it? What would be said in England if the landlord was called upon to supply the capital which ought to be furnished by the tenant? If the landlord were to furnish the capital required by the cultivation of the soil, who could doubt that it would be speedily lost? The poor law was one of the remedies proposed as the panacea for the ills of Ireland. He would not go into that large question, but would venture to affirm that no poor law in Ireland could possibly meet the present emergency. Any poor law which should cast the burden of maintaining the whole famishing population of that country on the land, would entirely engulph the capital and destroy the property of Ireland, and after all the object in view would not be attained. Would they throw all the rate 54 on the landlord, or partly on him and partly on the farmer? He would tell them what was going on in Ireland with respect to the small farmer. The small farmer had no more potatoes than the cotter. He applied to be put on the public works; but was very properly refused employment designed only for the absolutely destitute. What happened? He went home; he had no potatoes and no money. How was he to feed his family, and preserve them from starving? He was stating no hypothetical case, but what he knew to be the fact. He was driven to make an inroad on his capital, and compelled to sell his cow, his yearling, or his horse that drew his car, or even his car itself, and not un-frequently was obliged to cripple himself by selling his small farming stock. Consideration would convince Ministers that this could not be rendered an available resource for the improvement of the Irish population, and for meeting their wants. Another device was the improvement of waste lands. He was sure that were Government to embark in such a speculation, it would be of all speculations the most desperate, the most hopeless. To carry out this scheme, two great ingredients were necessary—time and capital. It was impossible by any magic to transform at once the bogs, the wastes, and morasses of Ireland into fertile fields. It would be impossible thus to add to its resources in time to meet the existing emergency. Emigration had been suggested as another means of relief; and he regretted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had passed this subject over in so cursory a manner, for he believed that a well-considered plan of emigration, as an auxiliary measure, promised a considerable alleviation of the distresses of Ireland. He might here mention the course pursued by a noble Lord, who was one of the best landlords in Ireland. That noble Lord had established an agent in Canada, who took charge of all the emigrants from his estate, and saw them properly located on their arrival. The most satisfactory accounts were constantly received from the emigrants, which were the means of inducing many of their friends to follow their example, and remittances of money were constantly made by the emigrants to their relatives at home. He thought this well worthy the consideration of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, the results of whose measures had not hitherto been such as to place them in very favourable contrast with those 55 proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. He made no reproach against the Government, who certainly were called upon to meet a very trying emergency. Still he must remind them, that by their own admission, their first measure for the relief of destitution by employment on the public works had broken down; and he feared that the proposed substitute for it would equally break down under the weight which would be cast upon it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said he wished to take care that all the aid and assistance which England could possibly give, should be afforded solely to the relief of destitution; but it would be wiser policy in England, and would tend more to lighten both her burdens and those of Ireland, if she would direct her best and most energetic efforts to prevent the people from becoming entirely destitute. If they should neglect to avail themselves of the agency of railroads, they would neglect the mightiest engine which the mind of man had yet fashioned out of the material world for a nation's prosperity. What were the objections urged against the plan of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn? The Chancellor of the Exchequer denied that it would, in the first instance, tend to the relief of destitution, and described the statements of the noble Lord as exaggerated, assuring the House that not more than forty-five men per mile would be employed on railway works; that Englishmen would be very generally employed instead of Irishmen, who would leave the country as soon as they had finished their work. This argument had been most fully met by the able speech of the hon. Member for Shrewsbury. There were, however, some other arguments which he might be permitted to urge. He would cite no anonymous correspondent, or rely on any doubtful authority. His authorities were the reports of the eminent engineer, Sir J. M'Neill, to the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, of which he was the principal engineer. In the third half-yearly report, dated September 20, 1845, Sir J. M'Neill stated that the works were executed, to a very great extent, by labourers of the country residing along the line, and that in no instance had he seen better or more efficient workmen; and that in the county of Kildare, especially, he found the labourers most intelligent, sober, and industrious; and he had no doubt that the same would be found to be the case in other districts. The amount of good that 56 had been already effected in the districts where the works had been carried on, was much more than met the eye of a common observer. The habits of steady and constant work during the hours of labour, the efficient implements they were taught to use, and the effective manner in which they were set to work, the result of long experience acquired by the contractors and overseers, could not fail to confer a lasting benefit on the habits of the people. Scarcely an idle man was to be seen in any part of the country through which the line passed. The contractors, in the most praiseworthy manner, engaged almost any man who presented himself for employment; and the number employed amounted to 5,000, and 400 horses. In another half-yearly report, dated 20th March, 1846, he stated that the best feeling was manifested along the line by the labourers, who amounted to 25,000. He described the men as working contentedly and with good will; and, although totally inexperienced in that kind of labour, yet that when led by experienced overseers and gangers, they soon became excellent and efficient workmen. Then the report not only bore the highest testimony to the character of the workmen, but also expressed a conviction that the Irish labourer was very capable of being formed into an excellent workman for employment of that description. But that was not all; the report of Sir J. M'Neill entirely corroborated the calculations of his noble Friend (Lord G. Bentinck) with regard to the number of men employed in the construction of railways. The length of the Great Southern and Western and its branches was 220 miles; and 25,000 railway labourers, according to this report, were employed on the works. This number, divided by 220, gave an average of between 113 and 114 workmen per mile. But then complaint was made that the labourers employed were all able-bodied men, and not the infirm or impotent. Why, any employment to be profitable must be carried on through the intervention of able-bodied labourers; and surely the employment of able-bodied labourers must naturally, to a great degree, relieve the destitute of their neighbourhood, with whom they were connected by ties of relationship. Another objection that had been urged to the proposition of the noble Lord was, that it would be injurious to the existing lines of railway. Now, it was quite clear that the existing lines rather benefited 57 than otherwise by an extension of the system; it would, therefore, be a benefit rather than an injury to the existing lines. It was equally certain that the English lines would be served by the extension of railways in Ireland, as they would be feeders to the Great Western, the North Western, and the Scotch and northern lines, which communicated by Portpatrick with the north of Ireland. It might probably be better, as had been urged, that these speculations should be undertaken by private enterprise; but if all their great works were left to private enterprise, there were many of them that would never have been undertaken. Let them take the case of Russia. Who would deny that if the line from St. Petersburgh to Odessa was carried out, it would be a great advantage to the whole of that empire, in promoting its trade and intercourse, and developing its resources; but if such an undertaking as that were left to Russian private capital, and Russian private enterprise, it would be left incomplete till the day of judgment. In France, partly in consequence of the great shock to credit which had been occasioned by the convulsions of the first Revolution, and partly owing to that pernicious law for the subdivision of property which prevented all accumulations of capital in the hands of individuals, private enterprise was almost entirely extinguished; and if the French Government had not stepped forward, and British capital also, the French railroads would never have been made at all. And yet he believed it would be admitted that no railroads paid better than those of France. In Canada they had constructed canals and other public works; and they had the public roads in the Highlands of Scotland, the Holyhead-road, and other great works to refer to, in which the Government had judiciously stepped forward, and contributed to their formation. They had been even on the point of coming forward, at least the East India Company was about to contribute 4,000,000l. sterling, for the formation of railways in India. So far as he understood, the main objections to the noble Lord's measure were of a financial nature. The hon. and gallant Officer who had preceded him, had said that it was utterly impossible for that country to obtain the necessary funds. He ventured to assert that no assertion had ever been made less founded upon fact than that. He felt satisfied that there would be no difficulty whatever 58 in meeting the calls for these railways, if the country was only once convinced that it was necessary they should be made. Now, if the sole objection of the Government was as to the goodness of the security, he wished to know whether they would be satisfied if 3½ per cent could be satisfactorily secured to them? Hon. Gentlemen had doubted whether the proposed lines of railway would afford an adequate security for the interest on two-thirds of the capital at 3½ per cent, which the Bill proposed. Now, in this case he would argue, according to the algebraic formula, from the known to the unknown; and he would show from the Railway Traffic Returns an official document, published every week, that every railway hitherto opened or partially opened in Ireland, did, in fact, afford that security in the amplest manner. There were four lines of railway open and in operation in Ireland—the Dublin and Kingstown, the Ulster Railway, the Dublin and Drogheda, and the Great Southern and Western Railway. Of these, the Dublin and Kingstown Railway paid 9 per cent; the Ulster Railway paid 5l. 10s. per cent per annum. That, he thought, would be a sufficient security for the payment of 3½ per cent on two-thirds of the capital. The Dublin and Drogheda was not yet quite so flourishing; but even in its present state it paid 3l. 14s. per cent per annum on the whole capital, which was abundant security for 3½ per cent on two-thirds. Of the Great Southern and Western line, only 56½ miles had been completed, and it had only been at work since the month of August; the traffic, therefore, was only partially developed; it carried as yet no merchandise; the number of trains was few; they were short of locomotive power; and yet the average traffic for the last two months was about 1,000l. a week. Now, allowing 400l. per week for the working expenses of the line, it would leave 600l. per week net, or 31,200l. per annum; taking the expense of constructing the line at 16,000l. per mile, which would give a capital of 904,000l., then two-thirds of that sum would be equal to 602,000l., and the interest on that sum at 3½ per cent would be 21,095l. 6s. 8d., leaving a very large surplus profit upon the working of the line. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, that in the present posture of affairs, and the present position of parties, the retirement of the noble Lord from office would be a most unfortunate event; 59 but while he so far concurred in opinion with his right hon. Friend, he wholly differed from him as to the vote he meant to give on the present occasion. If the permanency of the Administration of the noble Lord depended on the vote he should feel it his duty to give, he should still consider himself bound to vote in favour of the Bill of his noble Friend, because he felt a most intimate conviction that it was a measure which, considering the great emergency of the case, and the great peril impcnding over Ireland and the empire, was the soundest, the most practical, and the most intelligent remedy that had yet been devised for that most urgent and unhappy state of things.
MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, that, in considering a measure of so great magnitude as that proposed by the noble Lord, they ought to take into account the quarter from whence it emanated, and inquire why a proposition involving so large an expenditure as 16,000,000l. should emanate from an individual Member, instead of the Government itself. The consequences of urging such a measure upon the House were twofold—either it would compel the Government to resign their offices, or it would involve the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a series of measures which would be most embarrassing to the finances of the country. It did not appear to him to be a wise policy in Parliament to sanction such a proceeding. He gave the noble Lord great credit for the measure which he had proposed; but he thought it the duty of the noble Lord to tender it to the Government, and leave it to them to adopt it, if they considered it necessary or expedient to do so, instead of forcing it on the House, as he was now doing. In surrendering his measure, no doubt the noble Lord would be making a great sacrifice, as it would deprive him of the glory of being a leader of a party; but, independently of his other objections to the measure, he disapproved of it from a conviction that it was not calculated to serve his country. When a country was suffering under a calamity of a severe famine, he could not convince himself that the construction of railways was the best remedy that could be devised. It was, he believed, understood that the benefit to be derived from the construction of railways, was confined to a space of two or three miles along the line; and that was comparatively inefficient for the relief of the existing distress. He wished to say nothing against the promotion 60 of railways in Ireland by the Government. A presentment was passed in favour of the Limerick and Waterford Railway, as respected some of the earthworks, and the Government made advances of money for these purposes. If these powers still existed, under which this particular railway was served, surely every other company that could offer the proper security could take advantage by them. He should hope, if they were not able to urge upon the Government the necessity of giving their assistance to Irish railways, that they would not deprive them of the means through which they had hitherto obtained Government money.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
said, he never rose with greater pain for the last sixteen years, during which he had been a Member of that House, than on the present occasion, because he felt himself bound to vote against that party with which he had been hitherto acting, notwithstanding that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had staked his existence as a Minister of the Crown upon the result of this debate. He was, however, so closely identified with the principle of extending railways in Ireland, and was so convinced in his conscience that there was no one act of this House or country that could so promote the welfare of Ireland, and its ultimate prosperity as the extension of railways in that country, that he could not vote against his strong convictions, although the downfall of the Government might be the consequence. Last year he had waited upon the right hon. Baronet opposite, who was then the head of the Government, as a member of a deputation that was headed by the Duke of Leinster, with a view of pressing upon him the necessity of lending State assistance to railways in Ireland. He had acted on that occasion upon the same principle that influenced the vote he intended to give upon the question before them—from a conviction that such a measure as was now proposed, was one of the most necessary for Ireland. The extension of railways in Ireland, he thought, would have the effect of promoting the prosperity of agriculture in that country, and of advancing the interest of every class from the Peer to the peasant. In 1839 he had voted for a similar measure introduced by the then Secretary for Ireland (Lord Morpeth). If the present Government had given the slightest hope to the Irish Members, that they would introduce any measure upon the subject, he should have hesitated in 61 recording his vote in favour of the proposition of the noble Lord opposite. There were three courses open to the Government to pursue upon the present emergency. The first was the adoption of the principle laid down by the noble Lord himself at the head of the Government, and the noble Lord at the head of the Woods and Forests, when he was Secretary for Ireland in 1839, and by the right hon. Gentleman now sitting near him (Mr. F. Baring), when he held the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1839. The noble Lord who was then Secretary for Ireland, at that time stated that in England they had great resources, great wealth, and enormous capital, and therefore there was no necessity for State interference for the promotion of railways; but in Ireland, on the contrary, there was great poverty, great distress, and want of employment; and that which would have been exceedingly wrong in England was not only right as regarded Ireland, but absolutely necessary for the development of the resources of the country. When he had the noble Lord's authority for the vote he was about to give, he felt that he must be right. He might, no doubt, be told that the present measure was not precisely the same as that which was brought forward by the noble Lord (Lord Morpeth) in 1839. His answer was simply this, the principle was exactly the same—namely, that State assistance ought to be given to railways in Ireland—that the credit of the State ought to be pledged for the promotion of these works in Ireland. If the measure were considered right in 1839, he contended that in 1847 the argument in favour of it came with double force when there wore millions of the people famishing for want of food, and wholly unable to obtain employment. He did not pledge himself to support the measure to the extent of 16,0000,000l. for the railways when giving his vote in favour of the Motion before the House. ["Oh, oh!"] If he understood the rule of the House correctly it was this, that when an hon. Member voted for the second reading of a measure, he was only voting for the principle, and not for any of the details. He felt that in giving his present vote, he was not pledging himself to the amount of 16,000,000l.; for he conscientiously believed that even 8,000,000l. would be found to be unnecessary to carry out the projects referred to by the noble Lord opposite. The second course open to the Government was to advance money solely 62 to the amount that was actually paid up by the railway companies themselves, so that when a company of 3,000,000l. capital had paid up 1,000,000l., and had expended the same, the Government might then come forward and say that the credit of the State should be given for 1,000,000l. more, for the purpose of promoting the railway. The third course that was open to the Government was that of advancing money for the earthworks, to be expended upder the control of the Government and of the Railway Board in this country. With such checks as these, he did not see how the Government could have endangered even one shilling of the public money upon such undertakings. As the Government had declined to take any one of these courses, he felt himself obliged to act consistently with his recorded opinions, and to vote for the principle involved in the noble Lord's measure. In 1839, a petition was presented to Her Majesty upon this subject; it was signed by the Duke of Leinster, the Marquess of Headfort, the Marquess of Clanricarde, the Earl of Clancarty, the Earl of Clanwilliam, and about 200 other noblemen and gentlemen. The petitioners prayed Her Majesty to take into Her most serious consideration the report that had been then made upon the subject of railway communication in Ireland, for they were fully persuaded that the promotion of such works of public utility in Ireland, would not only prove one of the safest remedies for her wants, by the increase of her commerce and industry, but would also confer a benefit on all other parts of the empire. The hon. Member for Montrose had then recommended, in very strong terms, the adoption of such a measure by the Government, which he thought would be productive of the greatest possible advantage to Ireland and to this country; and he expressed a hope that the Government would not permit any technical or trifling objections to stand in the way of giving it their support. He hoped that the hon. Gentleman would that night vote in conformity with that sound practical axiom laid down by him in 1839. His opinion was, that this was not a transitory evil passing over Ireland. It was his solemn conviction that the Government would have to expend very large sums of money in the employment of the people for some years to come. Let him not be mistaken. Let not the House conceal from itself this fact, that the potato was lost to the people as a means of subsistence. They must therefore 63 alter their whole system of management in respect to that country. But they could not alter the habits, the feelings, the prejudices, and the means of existence of about 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 of persons, in one, two, or three, or even four years. They must find out other channels for the employment of the people, or else they must starve. There was little or no chance of the potato ever being cultivated again to any extent in Ireland. How were they then to employ the people? They had heard often of the conacre system that was adopted in that country, by which the people were enabled to sustain their lives in cultivating the potato. That having failed them, how was it proposed to employ them? They could not count on this dreadful visitation being adequately overcome by an immediate remedy. They must look forward to the continuation of this disaster for the next year and the year following. And unless the State lent its aid in these matters, it would be morally impossible for the landlords to meet their great difficulties. It was said, why did not the Irish landlords support their own poor? The principle was no doubt excellent, and could not be denied by any man. But let them look to the real position of the landlords of Ireland. Why, what was the position of twenty-six counties out of thirty-two counties? Some of the landlords had not received one-fourth of their rents. In the majority of cases one-half had only been received; and in several cases he knew that only about one-tenth had been received. The landlords of Ireland were not receiving one-half of their incomes, and the taxation for the support of the poor was at least quadrupled. He knew of one nobleman in Tipperary, who at the audit of his accounts in last January, only received 540l. out of an income amounting to 7,400l. Not 8 per cent of his income, although his taxation was quadrupled. The landlords in his county had been attending most laboriously to the support of the poor, and had taxed themselves to the fullest extent for that purpose. The landlords of Ireland had taxed themselves, in many instances, to the amount of 30s. in the pound of their rentals, in order to support the poor in the present emergency; and in his county (Waterford) there were three landlords, who at the present moment employed 1,200 individuals. If hon. Gentlemen doubted that statement, he was ready to give the names of those proprietors. When he was told by the hon. Member for Inverness 64 (Mr. H. Baillie) that the Irish landlords ought to have taken means to borrow money from the Government, as the landlords of Scotland had, his reply to the hon. Member was, that he (Sir W. H. Barron) himself and other landlords had applied to the Board of Works for a portion of the million of money voted in the last Session of Parliament for the drainage of lands in Ireland; and the reply that he had got was a letter, asking him if he were a tenant for life, and stating that if he were, he need not apply, as the law officers of the Crown had declared that the conditions of the loan were not applicable to tenants for life. Now, eleven out of twelve of the proprietors of Ireland were tenants for life under settlement, and were unable therefore to borrow a single shilling of that so much talked of money for the purpose of employing the people. They were, in fact, thrown upon their own resources. He very much regretted the tone which had been taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the subject of Irish landlords and Irish loans generally. The whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument went against giving any assistance whatever to public works in Ireland. That was the tone of the right hon. Gentleman; and he regretted it very much indeed, for it was a most unfortunate tone with respect to Ireland. It was the duty, nay, the interest, of the Government of that House, and of the people of this country, to show their sympathy for the distress of Ireland, by giving every kind of assistance they possibly could to all parts of Ireland, so as to ensure the support of the people. He would not dwell further upon that subject, but dismiss it with the hope that it was not a fair sample of the feelings generally entertained by Her Majesty's Government with respect to Ireland. He hoped the Irish Members might be spared the infliction of such opinions from any other Members of the Government. Those Irish Members who had supported the present Government through good and evil report, did not certainly deserve such censure from a Member of that Government, as the right hon. Gentleman had permitted himself to use. The right hon. Gentleman had said, that the Bill was a measure more for the relief of destitute shareholders than of the destitute poor of Ireland. That might have been a very good antithesis—it might have been a way of putting the question that was very amusing to the House; but it was not consistent with the 65 facts of the case. It was and would be a Bill to give relief to the poor of Ireland, and that was the reason why he (Sir W. H. Barron) voted for it. He had no connexion with destitute or any other shareholders. ["Question, question!"] He hoped he had been talking to the question, and was talking to the question, and he did not wish to wander from it. He knew, and he was therefore warranted in stating, that the Irish landlords had come forward in the noblest and most generous manner, in the present emergency, to support the poor; and the middle classes too, for he knew, of his own knowledge, that in the city of Waterford the merchants, shopkeepers, and other residents had come forward, and without the aid of one shilling from Government, had established four distinct relief committees. If any landlords had failed in their duty to the poor, it was the absentee landlords; but the great majority of the resident proprietors had sacrificed their own comforts and made themselves responsible for the support of the poor. But notwithstanding all their efforts, thousands were starving, and he therefore humbly implored the House to afford those poor people the means of purchasing food, by giving them employment.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said: Sir, it is my wish to discuss the proposal which has been brought forward by the noble Lord in the spirit and temper befitting the deep sense which I entertain of the magnitude of that evil under which Ireland is now suffering, and of the magnitude of that future danger which is, I fear, impending over it. Sir, I understood the noble Lord to bring forward this question in a spirit alien from all party considerations. I understood him to bring it forward, not as a measure in hostile rivalry to the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, but as a contribution proffered by the noble Lord in aid of the measures by which it is hoped to diminish the sufferings of Ireland. Sir, in that spirit it is my intention to discuss this measure. I am the more inclined to do it because the vote I shall give will be upon the merits of the question, and will be in no degree influenced by the consideration of those political consequences which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) indicated as the possible result of the noble Lord's (Lord G. Bentinck's) success. Sir, the proposal is, that the credit of this country should be pledged to the amount of 16,000,000l., for the purpose of providing employment in making railways for the poor in Ireland. 66 The extent to which it is proposed so to engage the credit of this country, justifies—and, in my opinion, necessitates—some reference to the financial condition and the financial prospects of this country. Sir, the present financial condition of the country, judging from the returns made up to the beginning of January last, is, no doubt, prosperous. It would appear from these returns that the amount of revenue received within the year, apparently (I speak of the year ending the 5th of January last) far exceeded the estimate which was made by my right hon. Friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. That revenue was partly derived from sources upon which he could not have calculated; but, speaking generally of the ordinary sources of revenue for the year ending 5th January last, the receipts were greater than the most sanguine expectations could have anticipated. My right hon. Friend calculated the amount of the revenue for the year ending the 5th of April next, at about 50,900,000l.; and the receipts for the year ending the 5th of January last were not less than 53,000,000l., being an excess of 2,000,000l. above the estimate of my right hon. Friend. The balances in the Exchequer were not less than 9,000,000l., and the total amount of excess of revenue over expenditure was about 2,800,000l. As far, therefore, as the receipts and disbursements of the present year are concerned, we may consider the financial condition of the country to be prosperous and satisfactory. But in reference to the proposal of the noble Lord, to pledge the credit of the country to the amount of 16,000,000l., the matter for our consideration is rather the prospect of the coming year, than the financial condition of the country for that which is about to close. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will, upon an early day, state to the House the view which the Government take of the financial prospects of the country. I apprehend they can hardly calculate upon a receipt of revenue for the coming financial year greater than that which will have been received in the present. It is hardly possible to conceive that, considering the high price of provisions in this country, and considering the depressed state of manufactures, at least in some of the great branches; considering also the unexpectedly high price of the most important of the raw materials 67 of manufacture—I mean cotton; considering also the effect which the high price of provisions throughout continental Europe, and in the United States of America, caused by the demand from Europe, must produce upon the power of consumption in Europe and America—it is hardly possible to suppose, I say, that the concurrence and combination of these causes should not have a material effect upon the future receipts of our revenue. As to the expenditure of the coming year, I apprehend we can calculate upon no reduction. I find, indeed, that in the great military estimates, those of the navy, army, and ordnance, an addition of not less than 400,000l. is required in the next year. I quarrel not with that increase; I do not believe that any Government ever proposes estimates of this kind without a conviction that the amount is justified by the wants of the public service; and I allude not to the proposed increase for any purpose of invidious contrast. The fact, however, is, that in the case of the military estimates, there is an actual increase of 400,000l.; and I cannot anticipate a reduction in the miscellaneous estimates. It is certain, therefore, that the total expenditure of the next year will considerably exceed that of the present. Then, Sir, with respect to Ireland, there cannot be a question that the necessary expenditure which must be incurred for the purpose of mitigating those horrors of famine which the accounts of every day present to us, and for the mitigation of which I, for one, am prepared to consent to a very heavy charge, to be borne by this country in common with Ireland—there cannot be a question that the result will be to cause a very considerable deficit, comparing the revenue of next year with the necessary expenditure. Supposing this terrible calamity in Ireland and on the west coast of Scotland had not occurred, it is possible the noble Lord might have anticipated some considerable excess of revenue over expenditure. If the total expenditure required for Ireland should at all approach the sum indicated by the noble Lord and the Chancellor of the Exchequer — namely, 9,000,000l., or, possibly, 11,000,000l., in that case I consider it highly probable there will be, on the 5th of April, 1848, a deficit of not less than 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. But I fear we must not limit the extraordinary demand on account of the Irish calamity to the present year. I believe you will 68 be required, in a liberal and indulgent spirit, to estimate the necessities of the future. I believe you cannot trust, I hope you will not trust, to that root on which the people of Ireland have hitherto depended for their chief subsistence. If you cannot trust to it, depend upon it by no application of skill to the production of other food in Ireland, will you be able to provide sustenance for nearly the same number of people. The great object, therefore, after providing for the absolute necessities of the present emergency, must be to consider what are those measures, conceived in a wise and just and generous spirit, which may lay the foundation of that social regeneration, which, so far at least as subsistence is concerned, must be in your contemplation. To carry out these future measures may demand continued pecuniary sacrifices; and consequently the burden upon the finances may not be limited to that sum of seven or eight millions of which I have spoken, but will probably be increased by a considerable demand for aid from the public purse. With these prospects before us, let us advert to the present state of that which is significantly and familiarly known by the name of the money market. The reference to it seems to excite a smile in some quarters; but the money market, in the sense in which I am using the phrase, means neither more nor less than the terms on which the public can borrow the loans which are necessary for meeting the public exigencies. A loan for that purpose is significant of taxation. It is a burden on the people which must be provided for by some species of taxation. Well, then, I find that the three per cents, which a short time since were at not less than par, and which within these three years were, I think, nearly at 100, are at the present time not more than 91. The fall in the value of funded property within the last six or seven months amounts to not less than 5 per cent. So much for the funded debt. Now look at the state of the unfunded debt. On the very day on which I am speaking, it is almost a question whether some description of Exchequer-bills are not at a discount. At any rate, they are not at more than 4s. or 5s. premium; and of course the existing state of the unfunded debt is a material consideration in discussing a measure which proposes to increase it. Sir, with respect to foreign affairs, I am ready to put confidence in the assurance given by Her Majesty on the 69 first day of the Session, that Her Majesty confidently trusts to the continued maintenance of public tranquillity. I heard that general assurance with great satisfaction; but my confidence in it was somewhat impaired by a reflection on the present state of our relations with that great country, France, with which we have had discussions—necessarily had discussions—in consequence of recent events in Spain. My confidence in that general assurance was also diminished by the notorious fact, that Her Majesty was obliged to accompany it by a plain and positive declaration that three of the great Powers of Europe had been recently guilty of a manifest violation of the Treaty of Vienna. It is then, Sir, at this period, with the three per cents at 91, with Exchequer-bills scarcely at a premium, with our relations with foreign Powers in a state to justify at least great anxiety, if not great apprehension—it is at this moment that the noble Lord has called upon us to authorize Her Majesty's Government to contract engagements which, spread over four years, may amount to the sum of 16,000,000l. These engagements are altogether independent of that obligation which I contemplate to be highly probable, namely, the obligation to provide for a deficit of 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. within the coming year. But how is that deficit to be met? What means has the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury to provide for it? I know of none, excepting either by drawing on those balances in the Exchequer, the amount of which it is of the utmost convenience to maintain; or by a vigorous effort to increase direct taxation to be visited on all parts, I presume, of the United Kingdom; or by the further issue of Exchequer-bills in the present critical state of the unfunded debt; or by the contraction of a loan to the amount which may be required. One or other of these methods of supplying this deficit must, I apprehend, be resorted to. Sir, this is the position in which we stand, independently of the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), for an additional mortgage of the public credit to the extent of 16,000,000l. I am sure the noble Lord at the head of the Administration will acquit me of any desire of referring to this part of the subject for the purpose of crimination or blame. The necessity of acting has been imposed on the Government by a great public calamity, and let the Finance Minister of the country have been who he 70 may, the demand would have been equally large. Suppose, now, that the noble Lord should think it advisable to resort to a loan, or to a fresh issue of Exchequer-bills, which is identical in this respect with a loan, for it is borrowing money; then I am compelled to ask, is it advisable that we should increase the difficulties of his financial position by urging him to enter into additional engagements to the amount of 16,000,000l. such engagements to be spread over four years? Sir, I totally differ from those who contend that we can pledge the public credit of this country to an indefinite extent, for the purpose of aiding private commercial speculation, without subjecting the country to the risk of loss. There may be the prospect or even certainty of the repayment of the capital advanced; but there may notwithstanding be loss—absolute pecuniary loss—by the transaction. It is quite clear that, in addition to the six or seven millions which the noble Lord may find it absolutely necessary to provide, he would have to provide four millions for the present year, and twelve millions for the next three years; and, depend upon it, that so serious an addition to the unfunded debt would require a positive addition to the interest paid on Exchequer-bills. What is the public credit of the State? It is part of the national property—it is one element of our financial strength. You cannot appropriate a great portion of the public credit to the encouragement of railway speculation, without, at the same time, fettering your power to appeal to the same resource, should the public exigencies require it. Therefore, I say, the application of the national credit to the encouragement of commercial undertakings, is the same in principle as the application of public money to the same purpose. It makes you the less able to avail yourself of your credit for national purposes. The loan you may have to raise for such purposes will be raised on less advantageous terms—that is to say, more money must be paid from the taxes to the public creditor.
Some observations have been made in the course of this discussion about Gentlemen not having read the Bill, and misrepresenting its provisions. I can assure the noble Lord that I have read the Bill; and that it is not my intention to misrepresent it in any respect. If I understand the Bill, its purpose is this—to enable the Treasury to advance for the next four years a sum, the maximum of which is 16,000,000l. 71 It does not impose on the Treasury the obligation of advancing the whole of the 16,000,000l.; but still the whole of the calculations of the amount of benefit to be derived from the employment of a large number of labourers, proceed on the assumption that the whole sum will be advanced. The noble Lord says that there are 1,500 miles of railway to be made in Ireland (excepting that portion already completed), and that the work will employ 110,000 labourers, and give support to 550,000 persons. That estimate implies that the powers granted to the Treasury will be exercised to their full extent. If, upon a rigorous investigation into the merits of the various railway schemes, the whole amount of the 16,000,000l. should not be advanced; if, for instance, 12,000,000l. only, instead of 16,000,000l., should be required in the course of four years, we must make a corresponding deduction from the advantage expected to be derived from the measure. Observe, however, that the proposed advance of 16,000,000l. is not limited to railroads which have already received the assent of Parliament. If, upon investigation by the Commissioners, it should appear that there is in Ireland of railways which have been sanctioned by Parliament a number sufficient to justify an advance not exceeding 12,000,000l., there is power given by the Bill to advance the remaining sum of 4,000,000l. to any railroads which may hereafter receive such sanction. As I read the Bill, the Treasury is not only liable to be called upon to do this, but it is compulsory on it to obey the call. It has no discretion to withhold the money, provided the Railroad Commissioners certify that the construction of particular railroads would be for the public benefit, and afford employment to the people. The Treasury, therefore, is to be used as a mere instrument—the power of judging whether public money ought to be advanced in certain cases is to be taken from that department which is responsible to the House for the management of the public revenue, and to be transferred to a railway board. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury said, that Chancellors of the Exchequer were actuated by a fellow-feeling in considering a question like this: their common object is to protect the public purse. The fellow-feeling of a railway board would be just the reverse. Their sympathies would be with railway enterprise. It is certainly a novel 72 proposition to leave the Treasury no option with respect to the advance of 16,000,000l. of public money; but to compel them to pay all that is demanded upon receiving a certificate from a board of Railway Commissioners, in no way responsible for the public expenditure—in no way interested in protecting it—I say it is a novel principle in our legislation to make the Treasury a mere instrument in the hands of the Railway Commissioners, and to compel the Treasury, on receiving from them a certificate—which, by the by, is not of a very stringent character—to advance the public money. The certificate required, is to this effect—that the railroad would be of public advantage, and in its construction afford beneficial employment to labourers. Nothing is to be said in the certificate about the certainty of the repayment of the money. All that is required in the certificate, is a declaration of opinion that the railroads would be of public advantage, and afford beneficial employment for labour; and upon receiving that, the financial department of the country would have no option, but must, whatever they may think of the security, advance 16,000,000l., if required, in the course of four years, in addition to providing, either by direct taxation or by loan, or by the issue of Exchequer-bills, 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. to meet a deficit in the public revenue. Now, what are the prospects of repayment? It has been generally assumed in the course of this debate, that we shall, at any rate, get back our capital at the expiration of thirty years. But, observe, this Bill, if I construe it rightly, merely provides that there shall be paid on the advance during thirty years, such a rate of interest equal to that paid to the holders of Exchequer-bills. There is no such provision in this Bill as was contained in the Drainage Act of last Session—there is no obligation on the railroad companies to provide, without delay, for the gradual repayment of the principal. Last year we advanced money for the purpose of encouraging draining at a very low rate of interest—at the rate of 3½ per cent. We, however, provided that from the date of the advances, the repayment of the principal should commence. We provided that there should be an annual payment of not less than 6½ per cent, at which rate it would take twenty-two years before the whole of the principal would be repaid. But by this Bill, if the railway company should pay the annual interest on the money advanced to them, 73 they could not be required to repay any portion of the capital until thirty years should have elapsed. Well, even at that remote period—for remote it is, speaking in a financial point of view—is there a certain prospect of getting back any part of the debt? By no means. Power is given to the Crown to extend the period for the repayment of any portion of the capital beyond the assigned limit of thirty years. Just see how this will operate on future railroads. There is a public notification to all incipient railroads, that, provided the shareholders can pay up 20 per cent of their capital, and obtain a certificate from the Railroad Commissioners, they can at once compel the Treasury to advance 40 per cent, or double the amount which the subscribers have paid on their shares. They know that for thirty years they are not liable to repay any portion of the capital. They know also, that power exists in the Treasury at the end of thirty years, if the scheme is not promising, to extend the period of repayment indefinitely. Now, it was only last year that we were all impressed with the danger that arose from excessive railway speculation. At the beginning of last Session, the question was, how we could impose restrictions on the mania with which the public was affected. Did we not all fear that operations in the money market for national purposes would be materially prejudiced by railroad speculations? The question mooted was, whether you would limit the amount of capital—of capital the property of individuals—which might be employed in railway speculations? The difficulty was found to be so great that the idea was abandoned; but there are very grave doubts still entertained whether the restriction would not have been politic. But the present Bill adopts the opposite principle. It not only does not restrict and discourage private speculation, but foments it at the public cost. It enables private parties, having obtained an Act, and a certificate from the Commissioners of Railways setting forth that the speedy completion of the works will be of public advantage, and will afford beneficial employment for labour, to procure from the Treasury an advance of 40l. for every 20l. which may be contributed by the shareholders, with an assurance, also, that for thirty years there shall be no demand for repayment, and that a power shall exist to defer repayment even after the lapse of thirty 74 years. Now I, for one, am willing to make great sacrifices for the purpose of providing employment for the poor in Ireland; but I must at once say, that the proposed benefit to the shareholders in Irish railways, is greater than can possibly be justified on any public grounds. We must not, it is true, judge of any proposal that is made for the interest of Ireland at the present crisis, by the ordinary rules which we apply to matters of this kind: the measure proposed by the noble Lord is, no doubt, open to grave objections; but we must not necessarily reject it upon these grounds, for they are equally applicable to the proposal made by the Government. But, making every allowance for the exceptional nature of the present crisis in Ireland, the proposal in this Bill, with reference to shareholders in Irish railways, is unjust as concerns the vast mass of the community subject to taxation. You cannot benefit the shareholders in Irish railways by the grant of public money, or the use of public credit, without injuring other persons, by adding to the heavy burden of taxation. An hon. Gentleman who sits near me, took particular pride in that clause of the Bill which enables the railroads to pay off their existing obligations. From what fund are they to pay them? From the public. Here are certain shareholders, who are bound to pay up the calls or to forfeit their shares, and who have incurred certain debts; and the first application of this public money is to be, to enable them to pay those debts. This, says the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson), "this will make the coast clear, and then the public will have an increased security by getting rid of the prior incumbrances." That is to say, they are to get better security for the payment of their own demands, by first paying the debt due to other persons. The shareholders in other railroads are borrowing money at 5, and in some cases at 6 per cent; railroads that give the most unexceptionable security are offering 5 per cent. Just see what these English railroads have done. Such is the state of the money market in Great Britain, that according to the statement of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson), they have raised a capital of 10,000,000l. within the last three or four months; and in making the calls for that amount, they have met with no default. What a decisive proof that if good security can be given, money can be raised without the intervention 75 of Government! The hon. Member (Mr. Hudson) says to us, "Don't suppose that I have any interest in this affair; don't suppose that I have a share in any Irish railroads; I will give you"—and I believe him—"I will give you, disinterestedly, my advice and assistance, but I shall derive no benefit whatever from this measure; as for shares in Irish railroads, I disclaim anything of the sort." But is it not a notorious fact, that many of the shareholders in Irish railroads are Englishmen? Is it not possible, that English railroad companies may have shares in Irish railways? The hon. Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) said, "See what an ernormous profit"—that was his expression—"this will be to the English railways; if you make a railroad, the terminus of which is at Waterford, or Dublin, you cannot suppose the passengers will stop there; the passengers brought to Waterford, or Cork, or Dublin, come there for the purpose of passing on to the English railroads; and "enormous profits"—again I quote his expression—"will be made by the English railroads." Well, but if English railroad companies, paying dividends to their shareholders of some 10 or 12 per cent, are great holders in Irish railway speculations—if this encouragement of additional railway enterprise in Ireland is to be attended with "enormous profits" for the future to these English railroads—with what pretext of justice can they ask me to advance the public money to forward their interest? Take the Birmingham, or the Great Western, or any other great line of railway, and suppose, as is alleged, that the establishment of railways in Ireland would produce "enormous profit" to these English companies, would it not be manifestly unjust to add to the taxation of this country, in order that that class of shareholders in Irish railways might obtain money at 3½ per cent, for which they ought to pay 5 or 6? Why should such parties be empowered to raise money at 3½ instead of 6 per cent, and thus receive an annual bonus of 2½ upon every 100l. for which they had rendered themselves liable? Sir, I will not pledge the public credit for any such purpose. It would be a direct bonus to the Irish railway companies of 25,000l. annually in the shape of interest on every million of money that they borrow; if, as we are assured, Irish railway enterprises will be attended with such enormous profits to English railroad companies—even if those companies 76 have now no shares in Irish railways, they ought to be the parties to forward them. Not only am I not prepared, therefore, to assist that description of shareholders; but if the accounts of the bearing of Irish railroads on the prosperity of English railroads be true, there is a great inducement for English companies, and my hon. Friend (Mr. Hudson) at the head of them, to come forward liberally in aid of the Irish railroads.
If this measure were really calculated, as I am confident the noble Lord sincerely believes it, to be a great instrument for the future regeneration of Ireland, I am not prepared to say that even financial difficulties should interpose any necessary obstacle to its adoption; but it is because I doubt whether even if you have 16,000,000l., or one-half that amount to expend, you might not expend it in Ireland with a greater prospect of advantage to that country. It is because I doubt the policy of the proposal, apart from the question of financial difficulties, that I hesitate in giving my assent to the measure of the noble Lord.
The hon. Gentleman who concluded the debate last night (Mr. Disraeli), adverted to that which I deem to be one of the main considerations to be borne in mind on this occasion. I will not enter into that part of his argument which related to the alleged mistakes of Chancellors of the Exchequer. But while the hon. Gentleman adverted to mistakes which he said were made by three Chancellors of the Exchequer, I think there was one mistake into which he himself fell. The hon. Gentleman was adverting to the proofs which abounded of the poverty and inferiority of Ireland, as compared with Great Britain; and he alleged as his decisive proof of depression and inferiority, the contrast that was presented, if I understood him aright, between the amount of the currency in Scotland, and the amount of the currency in Ireland, as compared with the population of the two countries. Now, the amount of the currency, surely, is a most fallacious test of the prosperity of a country. The pride and boast of Scotland is, that it has not increased its note circulation for several years; but that by a provident management of it, that country has been enabled to conduct its increased concerns. Though there is no country on the face of the earth in which the advance of prosperity has been so rapid, yet if you compare the note currency of Scotland thirty 77 years back with its present amount, you will find no great difference in it. To look, therefore, to the amount of currency in a country as a test of its prosperity, is most fallacious. The hon. Member thinks it to be a conclusive proof that Ireland is not so prosperous as Scotland, because in Ireland the amount of currency, as he stated, is only 1l. per head of the population, whereas in Scotland it is 16l. per head. I say that it is impossible to place the least reliance on that test. [Mr. DISRAELI spoke not of currency, but of bank capital.] If I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, I will not pursue that subject further; I will advert to the much more important consideration which is the foundation of the whole argument in favour of the present measure. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) says—I admit the truth of the abstract doctrine, that it is better to leave commercial enterprise without State interference. I think that doctrine not only abstractedly true, but I think that in the case of England it is practically applicable. In England the prospect of commercial gain is all that regulates the conduct of the speculator; he ascertains the cost of the work, the probability of the amount of traffic, the number of men he will have to employ, and by purely commercial principles he determines whether or not he shall embark in a certain undertaking; therefore, this abstract doctrine is practically applicable to a country like England.But the hon. Gentleman proceeds to say that—This doctrine is not practically applicable to Ireland, for there political considerations overpower the commercial; the State has misgoverned Ireland, and therefore the State ought to interfere for the encouragement of commercial enterprise in Ireland.That is an argument which I am about to contest. I do not admit that it is for the advantage of Ireland that political considerations should overpower the commercial; and I contend that, in Ireland, as in every other country, commercial considerations ought to determine commercial undertakings. If, indeed, I am to judge from the arguments and statements made use of in the course of the present debate, it is clear that Ireland ought not to be exempted from the application of that principle which is admitted to be abstractedly perfect. I have listened with great attention to most of the hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in favour of the present measure, and they have succeeded in convincing me that if their assumptions and statements be correct, it is the manifest interest of Irish proprietors to encourage from their own resources these railway speculations. 78 The noble Lord the Member for Lynn made this statement. He said—Complete 1,500 miles of Irish railroads, and see what will be the bonus to the Irish landlords. The land on every square mile adjoining the railroads will be improved; every acre in the vicinity will have a positive addition to the value of its rental; and, taking that increased annual value, at a low estimate, to be 10s. an acre over the whole number of acres so improved, the rental of the whole number will be raised about 900,000l.; and, converting the increased rent into capital, the amount would not be less than 23,000,000l.23,000,000l. for the Irish landlords to be derived from the improved value of their property, in consequence of railroad enterprise! Then why do not the Irish landlords promote these undertakings? While we are willing to advance all that is necessary for the relief of the destitute, and I say, also, for improving the moral condition permanently of the labouring poor; have we not a right to call on the Irish landowners in the vicinity of these proposed railroad lines to give every facility to enterprises from which they are to derive 23,000,000l. of clear pecuniary profit? I will now take the case of the Galway fisheries—of the Claddagh fishermen who have been expressly named. It has been said that they can go out and return in a single night, bringing in a quantity of herrings, which would insure a return of 4,000l. for one night; and the noble Lord the Member for Stamford said—See what a benefit railroads would be to the Irish fishermen; for they would be enabled then to take fish to Dublin, and to the intervening parts of the country; and these Claddagh fishermen, instead of lying idle for three or four nights together, would then be enabled to catch fish every night in the week, and distribute it over the country, for which they would get a return of 4,000l. a night.Are not these just the commercial considerations which ought to enter into the minds of the Irish themselves? Land is to be trebled in value—fisheries are to be encouraged. Are not these commercial considerations? [Mr. HUDSON: There is no money in Ireland.] There is no money, says the hon. Gentleman; but there is that great fund on which he himself recently raised his 10,000,000l., namely, the prospect of gain. If these railroads are, as we are assured, to be so profitable, why should not British capital be invested in them? The hon. Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli) says, that in Ireland political considerations overwhelm the ordinary commercial operations. He says, that the shareholder in Irish railroads finds great 79 difficulty in procuring land; he finds complicated interests, and a confused tenure of property, and much greater difficulty in procuring land in Ireland than the English railroad companies find in England. Then, I say, the remedy for this is, to facilitate the means of procuring land. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn has maintained that it is for the pecuniary interest of the Irish landowner that his land should be taken for the construction of railways. Then, if the Irish railway companies experience great difficulty in procuring land from the owners of it, take means to facilitate the purchase of it on fair terms. It is proved to be the interest of the Irish landowners to part with their lands for such a purpose. Nothing could be more easy. It was done with respect to the Shannon Navigation. It was not there left to the owners of land to demand an arbitrary sum, but the amount was left to be determined by commissioners; and I am told that the award of the commissioners was so just with respect to all the complicated interests concerned, that there was not a single appeal against their decision. I entreat then the Irish landlords maturely to consider whether one way to promote railway enterprise in Ireland, is not to simplify and facilitate the purchase of land. I do not ask them to give it up without a fair equivalent; but, instead of leaving the railroad companies to deal with four or five complicated interests in each acre of land, let them voluntarily press on the Government the policy of enabling the Railroad Commissioners to deal with land, as I believe it is dealt with in France and Belgium, and by a fair and liberal award to diminish those difficulties under which railroad companies labour in Ireland. But the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) says that the Irish railroad companies, after employing men, would have them taken away by some party procession. They could not send, it is said, the men to church or to chapel without the fear that they would join some party procession, arising out of religious animosities. What is the cure for those animosities? Bring men to act together in the pursuit of gain—unite them in a common interest. If the Government were to hold the doctrine that Ireland is different from other countries; that it is not fit to be trusted with its own concerns; that the Government must do everything which is done by individual exertion here, and in Scotland—depend on it these religious animosities 80 will never be extinguished. But invite the Irish to take part in the concerns of their common country, and then, if religious animosities should be found to obstruct the success of commercial enterprises, the Irish would find it their interest and duty to discourage both party processions and religious animosities; and the double advantage would be gained—the extension of commercial undertakings, and the discouragement of a great social evil. The hon. Member for Shrewsbury proceeded as others had done to demonstrate the advantage railroads would confer on Ireland; he says there is a bed of coal at Mallow more extensive than any coal field in England; make a railroad, he says, and not five years would elapse before that coal field would be explored; the coal would be carried to Dublin, and, as fuel is of as much importance as food, the revenues of the railway and the comforts of the people will be increased by its transport. Why, then, should political considerations overpower the commercial? Why do not men of capital and men of sense estimate what amount of profit the working of the Mallow coal field will produce? Again, the hon. Gentleman said the social state of the country would be improved; there would be a new stimulus to erection; new residences would be built; new branches of trade would be encouraged. Well, but are not all these the very considerations which should encourage individual commercial enterprise in Ireland? I firmly believe, if you will not overpower that enterprise by the application of public money and Government interference, that at no remote period this will be the case.
I am not contending for it as an universal rule, that there shall be no advance of public money in aid of private enterprise in Ireland. Such encouragement has been frequently given by the Government to private enterprise. As First Lord of the Treasury, I consented to an advance to an Irish railroad; but on the same principle on which other commercial enterprises have been encouraged; and I am not at all prepared to say, under the dreadful calamity Ireland is suffering from, that it would be unwise to give some encouragement to railway enterprise in that country. But I cannot go to the extent proposed by the noble Lord. I am not averse to the occasional application of public capital to the encouragement of enterprise, both here and in Ireland. But I sincerely deprecate 81 such an application of it as would paralyse individual exertions. And the advance of any such sum as that proposed by the Bill before the House, would, in my opinion, have a direct tendency to suspend individual exertion, and paralyse private enterprise.
The noble Lord contends that we must not add to the 16,000,000l. which he demands, the 7,000,000l. which the Government requires for the maintenance of the destitute, for that the effect of his measure, by giving employment, will be to supersede the necessity for gratuitous relief; but I doubt whether the measure of the noble Lord will diminish the expenditure which is now proceeding, and is deemed necessary for the relief of Ireland. Sir, I hold in my hand a railway map of Ireland, on which are marked the lines sanctioned by Parliament for that country. There are on it those railways which have been made, those railways which are in the course of construction, and those railways not commenced, for which Bills have passed. The statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the other night, was in the main correct—namely, that the Irish railroads are for the most part confined to the east coast of Ireland. I find on this map only two projects which concern the western coast of that country; and these are comparatively small undertakings. One of them is the Sligo and Shannon Railway, the estimate for which is only 100,000l.; the other is the Limerick, Killaloe, and Clare Railway, the estimate for which is 300,000l. These are the only exceptions to the right hon. Gentleman's statement. But, looking further at the map, I find that in the counties of Donegal and Roscommon—in the county of Sligo, with the exception of the Sligo and Shannon line, to which I have just alluded—in the counties of Mayo and Galway—in the county of Clare, with the exception of the Limerick and Killaloe line—and in a great part of the county of Limerick itself, no railroad is projected, and no likelihood, consequently, of the destitute in those districts, should the noble Lord's Bill be adopted, finding employment in the neighbourhood of their homes and families. It was stated by the hon. Member for Radnorshire, in the course of this debate, and I believe stated truly, that Irish labourers who were employed on railroads, usually resided in the vicinity of those undertakings. But suppose they travel to a distance, will not the abandonment of his family by a Connaught man, 82 during the period of his employment in the east of Ireland, be an evil? Who is to provide for them in his absence? Will his remittances be so punctual that they shall not suffer want while he has work? Even under the most favourable circumstances, the demand upon the Government for the support of the infirm and destitute on the west coast of Ireland, and in many other districts, will not be materially relieved by giving employment to the able-bodied on railways at a distance from their homes. The charge of 7,000,000l. will, in that case, be concurrent with the advance of 16,000,000l.
My chief objection to the noble Lord's measure is founded on the impolicy of undertaking to do that, on the part of Government, which ought to be done by individual enterprise—which will be done, if there is a fair prospect of profitable return. What has been the result in Ireland of past interference on the part of Government? Take the case of Irish canals, for instance. Canal navigation in Ireland was promoted and encouraged by the Government of the day in which it was projected, as a national enterprise of the most advantageous character; and I wish to present to the House the contrast between undertakings encouraged and fostered by the Government, and others commenced under every difficulty and discouragement, but of which the life and soul has been individual enterprise and the hope of private gain. By the Irish Parliament, inland navigation was greatly fostered; and this public aid was granted exactly on the same grounds on which we are invited to give it to railroads now. By the 25th of Geo. II., a corporation was formed to promote and carry on the inland navigation of Ireland. The plan was a magnificent one; namely, to join the Irish Channel with the Atlantic, by a canal across the whole of Ireland. The most confident prophecies were made of its success; the profits it would return were to be quite enormous; the general welfare of Ireland was to be vastly promoted by it. And so it would, if you had left it in the hands of private speculators, and not incumbered it with your expensive help. The Act of Parliament declared that the object was "to encourage tillage, and employ the poor," and therefore that "it was fit and reasonable that it should be carried out at the charge of the country." In 1787, the affairs of the corporation had been so badly conducted, that it was dissolved; 83 but even that warning was of no avail. It was admitted, indeed, that the system of giving grants of public money had proved abortive; but private enterprise was not appealed to. The usual remedy—a public board—was resorted to. Commissioners were appointed, of course by the Government, with salaries of 500l. a year each, to superintend the works; and it was wisely resolved to have two canals close to and nearly parallel with each other. They were called the Royal and Grand Canals. The original estimate for the Royal Canal was 180,000l. The sum of 60,000l. of the public money was advanced to the canal in aid of 134,000l. raised by subscription; and it was thought that this would have been sufficient to cover the whole expense. In the year 1811, there was an inquiry into the affairs of the company. What was the result? There had been 186,000l. of public money already granted—180,000l. having been the original estimate. The debts of the company were 842,000l.; the income of the company was 15,000l.; the maintenance of the works cost 11,000l.; therefore there was left 4,000l. to cover the annual interest on the debt, which amounted to 49,600l. So much for the Royal Canal Company, and the result of Government interference.
The Grand Canal Company was not much more prosperous. It was described as a great national undertaking, destined to establish a regular water communication through the centre of Ireland, between the British Channel and the Atlantic; and it was accordingly fostered by the Government. But it turned out, on inquiry into its affairs, that the directors of the company had made dividends among the proprietors, not only at periods when there was no clear profit, but when they were obliged to pay the interest of former loans, and provide for the permanent expenses by raising new loans. In the case of the Royal Canal, the great national undertaking superintended by Government Commissioners, and supported by public grants, I had to say to Parliament, in 1814 or 1815, "Although you have already granted 186,000l.—although the original estimate was but 190,000l.—although near a million has been expended—yet, unless you now grant 150,000l. from the public purse to complete the canal, all that has been expended will be useless." Well, Parliament did grant that 150,000l. in addition to the 186,000l., 84 for the purpose of saving the canal from destruction; and the company was dissolved, and the affairs of the canal entrusted to other management. In what condition the Grand Canal Company now is, I do not know; but, as I understand its affairs were subsequently better managed, I hope it has succeeded. Now, this was the result of Government interference in respect to encouragement of canal navigation. Let me contrast this with what has been done without Government interference or Government aid. In the admirable report on Irish railways, prepared by Messrs. Drummond, Burgoyne, Barlow, and Griffiths, there are some important statements on this point. There are the means of comparison between private enterprise and Government patronage. I have already detailed to the House the consequences of Government interference in inland navigation in Ireland. I will now give an account, quoted from this report, of what has been done by individual enterprise:—The enterprise and intelligence of an individual," says the report, "has, within the last twenty years, supplied the entire of the south, and a great portion of the west of Ireland, with means of internal communication by a species of accommodation, and in directions which, till then, had been unattempted—we mean a regular system of communication by cars between the provincial towns; for it is worthy of remark, that, while the intercourse has been long kept up by public coaches, and other vehicles, between Dublin and the great towns, and between the several places situate on those lines one with another, there was scarcely an instance of a public conveyance plying regularly by the cross roads, until the individual we allude to undertook it.This was the work of an individual determined to rely on his own exertions. Had he special advantages? Had he enormous capital? Had he great connexions in Ireland? He was a foreigner, an Italian, a native of Milan, who came to this country, and said, "I rely on my own industry, on my own activity, and I want no Government aid. I will begin with a single car, and I will try what enterprise and regularity in my dealings will do." The report went on to say—Mr. Bianconi is a native of Milan, who, when he settled in this country, was unacquainted even with the language spoken by its inhabitants. With a capital little exceeding the expense of the outfit, he commenced running a car between Clonmel and Cahir; fortune, or rather the due reward of industry and integrity, favoured his first efforts, and he soon began to increase the number of his cars, and to multiply their routes, until his establishments, which are still extending themselves in all directions, spread over the whole province of 85 Munster, passed through Kilkenny to Wexford, Carlow, and Mountmellick, in Leinster, and penetrated into the counties of Sligo and Leitrim on the north-west. He has now ninety-four public carriages in constant work, and the distances traversed by them exceed 3,000 miles per day. These results are the more striking and instructive, as having been accomplished in a district which has been long represented as the focus of unreclaimed violence and barbarism, where neither life nor property can be deemed secure.Suppose we had addressed Mr. Bianconi, in the language of the Member for Shrewsbury, "Political considerations outweigh commercial ones in Ireland. That country is disturbed by factions; there are party processions, there are religious animosities; you must not trust to your own industry and enterprise; the Government must undertake car communication, and foster it with votes of public money." If we had thus addressed this Gentleman, is it not possible that the result of our patronage of car communication would have been like that of our interference with inland water communication? Mr. Bianconi encountered all difficulties; he went into that county, Tipperary, which was—I hope is not still—proverbial for habits of insubordination among the inhabitants. He established himself in the very centre of lawless violence, where neither life nor property was secure:—Whilst many persons, possessing a personal interest in everything tending to improve and enrich, have been so misled or inconsiderate as to repel, by exaggerated statements, British capital from their doors, this intelligent foreigner chose the county town of Tipperary as the centre of his operations wherein to embark all the fruits of his industry, in a traffick peculiarly exposed to the power, and even to the caprice of the peasantry. The event has shown that his confidence in their good sense and good feeling was not ill-grounded. By a system of steady and just treatment, he has maintained a complete mastery, exempt from lawless intimidation or control, over the various servants and agents employed by him; and his establishment is popular with all classes, on account of its general usefulness and of the fair and liberal principles of its management.Such was the benefit conferred by the individual unaided enterprise of a foreigner, who did not even understand your language, and who had only capital sufficient to set up a single one-horse car. Let me entreat you, the landed proprietors of Ireland, to profit by the lesson thus written for your instruction. If you feel convinced that railways will add to the value of your estates—that, according to the perhaps too sanguine estimate of the noble Lord, they will increase the rental of land in the neighbourhood of railways to an extent 86 equal, if converted into capital, of 23,000,000l.—if by liberal dealings with railway companies, and by simplifying the complicated processes of law, you can facilitate the conveyance of land—if you will put down party processions, and discourage religious animosities—if you will permit commercial considerations to prevail over political—if you will trust to the energy of private enterprise—if, forgetful of religious and political differences—united by a common danger—standing in the awful presence of that desolating calamity under which your country is suffering—you will concentrate all your strength on the mitigation of that calamity and on the improvement of the social condition of the millions who are dependent upon you for their future well-being—you will do more to promote the interests of your native land, and to improve your own properties, than if, resigning yourselves to sloth, idleness, and despair, you place all your confidence in Parliamentary grants, and in Government interference.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: Mr. Bianconi and his cars appear to be the standing stock in trade of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel). I am sure that it must be in the recollection of every man who was in this House in 1839, when the Government of Lord Melbourne proposed its scheme for assisting railways in Ireland, that, word for word, what we have heard for the last half-hour in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, was uttered by him on that occasion. Leave private enterprise, said the right hon. Gentleman, to take its own course in Ireland, and you will have railroads constructed the same as you have got Mr. Bianconi's cars. But, Sir, seven years have elapsed, and what has been the result? Why, Sir, this. You have in England 2,300 miles of railroad; in Belgium there are 375 miles completed; in Austria and Germany, 3,000 miles; and in the United States of America 3,300 miles; whilst Ireland, where private enterprise is left unaided by Government, has only 123 miles of railroad. Will the House, then, listen to this effete policy of the right hon. Gentleman? or will you agree with me, as Government aid has succeeded in Belgium—as Government aid has succeeded in Austria and Germany—and as Government aid has succeeded in the United States of America, that your wiser course is to come with the aid of Government to assist railways in Ireland; not to 87 supersede private enterprise (for that I never proposed to do), the very principle and spirit of my Bill being this—that you should not supersede private enterprise, but that Government shall give its aid to stimulate and encourage private enterprise.
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman entered at great length into the finances of the country, and, as I imagined, was proceeding to show to you how my proposition would have the effect of inflicting heavy taxes on the country; but, though I listened patiently, I could not gather from him how it was that any tax or any burden of any description would be imposed by my Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has told you that it will require 7,000,000l. sterling, in addition to that which has been already spent, for the relief of Ireland, and that, for that purpose, some imposition must be placed upon the people of England; and to this he has no objection; but the right hon. Gentleman seems entirely to forget that these seven millions are to be paid for carrying on unproductive works, in respect to which there can be no return. Yet, whilst he is willing to spend 7,000,000l. sterling unprofitably, he seems to have no inclination to spend four millions of money raised on the credit of the Government, to which two other millions, under the provisions of my Bill, must be necessarily added by private capitalists to employ the people in productive labour; though I am prepared to show that of the 6,000,000l. not one-fourth, or one-half only, as has been asserted, but two-thirds of the sum, will be expended on the ordinary labour of the country. From the 7,000,000l. which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to raise, and says will be necessary to raise for the subsistence of the people of Ireland, to be spent on unproductive works, I have a right to say that my scheme, if adopted, would deduct 4,000,000l. That amount will be saved.
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman intimated to the House that Exchequer-bills were just now wavering between premium and depreciation, and it was more than possible you would have to raise the price, that is to say, the interest on Exchequer-bills. But the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual caution, prudently forgot to tell the House to what extent the interest would have to be raised. The right hon. Gentleman apparently did not deem it prudent to state to what extent the raising of 4,000,000l. would affect the public funds or the value of Exchequer-bills; 88 for that is the question. The question is not how much 7,000,000l. would cause the funds to fall, or to what extent the raising the 7,000,000l. would reduce the premium on Exchequer-bills; but the Question is, how much, by raising the 4,000,000l., you will reduce the premium on Exchequer-bills. And the right hon. Gentleman also prudently forbore to tell the House to what extent the raising 4,000,000l. would throw down the funds, and reduce the premium on Exchequer-bills. Whether he means to say that it would reduce the premium on Exchequer-bills to any extent, or that the interest thereon would have to be raised a halfpenny, or even a farthing, per cent per diem, it is impossible for me to say. But suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have to raise 4,000,000l. to be expended in profitable employment in this country, and suppose that this should cause the funds to fall to 85½, and raise thereby the interest of money to from 3¼ to 3½ per cent, and that he should be obliged to raise the interest on Exchequer-bills one halfpenny per cent per diem, then, I ask, in that case, what would the cost to the country amount to? Suppose there to be 27,000,000l. of Exchequer-bills in circulation, the cost would not exceed 200,000l. a year; but what did we hear last night from the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Why, that his "Useless Works" staff alone, constituting an army of 11,587 men, would cost 78,000l. a month; and yet this right hon. Gentleman, whilst he is willing to waste all this money, is shrinking back from a dread of incurring the necessity of paying 200,000l. a year more for increased interest on Exchequer-bills, to be consequent possibly on the expenditure of 4,000,000l. a year for four years, on reproductive railway enterprise. Though the right hon. Gentleman objects to this, he thinks nothing whatever of the 78,000l. a month, to be paid under the grant he contemplates for the maintenance of an idle staff, not for the benefit of destitute shareholders certainly; but neither is it for the benefit of the destitute poor.
Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, in the latter part of his address, called attention to the ill consequences of Governments meddling in inland navigation matters; and with great candour took some blame to himself for the advance of the public money which had been made to the Royal and Grand Canals. Now, I certainly was not aware that the 89 right hon. Gentleman was Chief Secretary of Ireland so long ago as the year 1789; for it was in that year that the Act of Parliament passed the Irish Legislature for constructing this canal; but if I am not wearying the House, I will read a description given in the Second Report of the Commissioners of the progress of these two canals. The right hon. Gentleman, with perfect candour, acknowledged that the reason these canals utterly failed was, that for a long way they ran parallel to each other. For fifty-six miles, they were never more than eighteen miles apart; for many miles, not more than four. Now, was it possible, under these circumstances, that these canals could pay? That competition which the right hon. Gentleman advocated once in the London and Birmingham Railway, was carried out with a vengeance in Ireland. The result was, the two canals starved each other. This is the report:—This (the Royal) canal was begun in 1789, and owes its origin to the efforts of a director of the Grand Canal, who seceded from that company on account of some trifling differences, and resolved to form a rival company. Being a person of considerable plausibility and energy, he succeeded; and if the only object of the new company had been to injure the Grand Canal, they could not have devised a plan better suited to that end. They appear, however, to have overlooked the inevitable consequences to themselves of such ruinous competition. The sanction of the Irish Parliament was obtained for this scheme, without any apparent examination of the grounds on which it claimed support, or any calculations as to its probable success.So it appears there was no calculation or estimate whatever; and the effect of such rash and inconsiderate legislation might easily have been foreseen. This was private enterprise. True it is that when this company got into difficulty, a jobbing Minister in Dublin lent the aid of Government to these influential private parties, but the undertaking itself was unaided by Government at its outset.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
The right hon. Baronet says that 60,000l. was advanced in the outset. I hold in my hand the report of the Commission, which states, Sir, that the first parliamentary grant was in 1791; the canal was commenced in 1789.
Well, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman, commenting upon the admirable speech of my noble Friend the Member for Stamford (Lord Granby), who showed the great advantage which might be derived to the 90 fisheries of Galway from the introduction of railways into the west, said, if it was true that the poor fishermen could make 4,000l. per day, why did not they make the railways themselves? Just, Sir, conceive the poor fishermen—the poor fishermen of Gladdagh, engaged in the work of constructing a railway from Galway to Dublin. The right hon. Gentleman might have borne in mind that it was only last year that he himself proposed a grant of 50,000l. for the purpose of relieving these same poor fishermen. The right hon. Gentleman did not then think that they had sufficient enterprise to be left to themselves. The measure, however, was so bunglingly drawn up, that it totally failed in its effect. I am sure the House will remember that the Commissioners of Public Works, on the 23rd of June last, thus addressed Mr. Trevelyan:—Very extravagant notions have been formed by some of the beneficial results likely to arise from the working of the Act to peculiar interests and localities; but we cannot avoid expressing to their Lordships our opinion that its machinery will be found too cumbrous, and some of its provisions too complicated and perplexing, to admit of the possibility of the benevolent objects of the Legislature being attained to anything like the extent contemplated or that would appear desirable.That is the practical legislation of the right hon. Baronet; but, I trust, Sir, that in the simple Bill which I have introduced, no such cumbrous machinery, no such complicated and perplexing provisions, will be found to prevent our benevolent objects from being attained—that it will be found simple and easy enough to be worked practically out—and that it will save, as stated by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. John O'Connell), "one-fourth, if not one-third, of the population of Ireland from starving." Such was the ground laid down by the hon. Member for Kilkenny for the support which he is prepared to give my Bill. Sir, having already tried what can be done by private enterprise during the last seven years, the right hon. Baronet appears to be content to trust to private enterprise for another seven years, whilst the people of Ireland are in this frightful state of wholesale starvation. He has patience to wait another seven years before he will be prepared for a social revolution in the condition of the people of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet talked in general terms, without at all going into details, of the tax on the people of this country and of Scotland which would be necessary to enable 91 the Government to grant these loans to companies; he totally passed over—and in that he followed the example set him by the three Chancellors of the Exchequer who preceded him—he totally passed over the financial statement which I made a fortnight ago to this House, in which I proved that the increased consumption of exciseable and custom duties paying articles, which would be created by the improvement of Ireland necessarily consequent upon the adoption of my Bill, would far more than make up for the increased expenses; that my plan would not take away from the taxes, or cause new taxes to be laid on; but, on the contrary, would add in Ireland alone 600,000l. or 700,000l. a year to the British revenue, without any increase of old or any imposition whatever of new taxes either in England or Ireland. But, Sir, as that exposition has now run the gauntlet of three Chancellors of the Exchequer, and also of an ex-Prime Minister, I think I may take it for granted that no one in the House will gainsay it. The right hon. Gentleman, by stopping my Bill, will prevent the addition of 600,000l. or 700,000l. to the revenue, without the imposition of any new tax whatever. The right hon. Baronet, following in the track of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, confirmed his statement that there was no railway in Ireland, except those on the eastern coast, where, said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there was no distress. It may, Sir, be very true that the completed railways, and those in the course of construction, are chiefly on the eastern coast; but may it not be well to consider whether the absence of distress there has not been the effect of the construction of the railways? Seventy miles of railway have been sanctioned between Dublin and Wexford; another seventy from Drogheda to Portadown; thirty or forty miles more from Belfast to Coleraine—these are all that remain to be completed on the eastern coast. The whole of the remaining thirteen hundred miles in extent, which I calculate have yet to be constructed, run either due west, south-west, or north-west, in the very districts where the greatest distress prevails. I should like to ask, Sir, what part of Ireland has shown a blacker picture of misery than the county of Cork? Yet from the city of Cork no less than four railways diverge. A Bill is now before Parliament to make another railway from Athlone to Galway, traversing part of the county of Roscommon. My Bill includes not only 92 railways for which Acts have been obtained, but railways "for which Acts may be hereafter obtained," so that this undertaking, from Athlone through Roscommon to Galway, will feel its influence; and, as it is unopposed, I have no reason to believe that it will not receive the sanction of the Legislature. It is also well known that a branch from the Dublin and Mullingar railway is projected through the county of Mayo to Castlebar and to Westport. And, Sir, a Bill was passed last year for the making of a line from Longford to Sligo; but the company could not raise the money, and it is now abandoned. But, Sir, I have been assured that, if my Bill receive the sanction of the Parliament, a Bill will forthwith be brought in, and that a railroad would be made, and so would railroads in every part of Ireland. Let my Bill pass, and there will not be a county in Ireland which will not be traversed by railways. The right hon. Baronet hinted to you that there will be a great difficulty in raising the 4,000,000l. annually which will be necessary under the Bill—he did not venture boldly to state the fact, but he wished the House to understand that there would be great difficulty in raising the 4,000,000l. which my Bill contemplates. Sir, we can all remember that in the time of the war, for three successive years, we spent 103,000,000l. annually without experiencing any very great difficulty. It might have occurred to the right hon. Baronet that last year no less than 11,000,000l. of railway deposits were locked up in the Court of Chancery, waiting for the passing of the Bills then before the Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman might have remembered that, in the last Session of this Parliament, the Legislature passed Bills authorizing and empowering parties to raise 122,000,000l. during the next five years. What, Sir, had been the effect of those measures on the funds? The three per cents in December were 93; and in June, after many of those Bills had passed, and the rest were all before the Legislature, the same stock was at 97. It has been said the annual savings of the country are between 50,000,000l. and 60,000,000l.; surely, then, we can, without hazard, raise and employ 4,000,000l. sterling in a year for the improvement of the country without lowering the price of the funds. The loan of 15,000,000l. in 1835, for the slave compensation, was 93 raised without any prejudicial effect on the funds: no man, therefore, with any pretension to credit, can say that 4,000,000l. a year for four years could not be raised with equal facility, and without any derangement of the money market, which ought for one moment to be weighed against the welfare or starvation of the Irish nation.
The right hon. Baronet said, private enterprise had always failed in Ireland when stimulated by public assistance. Is the memory of the right hon. Baronet so short that he cannot look back to what took place between 1822 and 1828? Has he forgotten that it is stated in a report on the Table of the House that, during that period, an outlay of 140,000l. took place in the west of Ireland, in the counties of Galway, Mayo, Clare, Cork, and Kerry—an outlay which had raised the revenue of three towns, from which none had been received before, to 6,000l. sterling a year. It raised the revenue in these three small ports and towns alone—Clifden, Kilhenan, and Roundstone, where none had existed before, to 6,000l. a year, representing an amount of capital greater than the whole of that which had been laid out in the course of those six years by the Government, in the entire west of Ireland. True it is, that the Government of another day thought fit to spend something like 1,500,000l. upon the Caledonian Canal, which was a dead loss to the State. But why was that? Because the Government of that day did not act on the principle on which we are now proceeding. The Government of that day did not apply its money in aid of private enterprise to stimulate exertion, but selected, undertook, and executed the work itself. By the measure before the House, no attempt is made to interfere with the management of railways beyond this—that a condition is annexed that the companies shall provide suitable dwellings for their labourers. The right hon. Gentleman has told us, that it will not be easy to bring labourers from the distressed localities; but, I do not see why, when a suitable provision is made for them, you should not procure them from Mayo, and Galway, and Athlone, for the South Western Railway, or any other that may be in the course of construction, as easily as they can repair to Liverpool, where they are now flocking in thousands. In the county of Cork the distress is very great. In Skibbereen and Bantry there have been fifteen inquests per 94 day. The fare from Bantry to Cork is not more than 1s. If there is an overplus of labour in Skibbereen, where is the difficulty in sending them to Cork, where, if my Bill passes, there will be four railways in progress towards construction in the course of a fortnight? My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Collett) the other night said, and as a director in them he spoke with authority, that if the Government had assented to the Bill, he would have undertaken, eight days ago, to give employment to 50,000 men on the railways in Ireland; and amongst the railways upon which he would employ this great number, he mentioned the Belfast, Drogheda, and Navan Junction, as one on which he would have set to work, by last Monday week, seven thousand men.
I have received a letter since the Bill was introduced from one of those kind and benevolent sisters of charity, who, fearless of contagion, regardless of self, have done so much to assuage the miseries of Ireland. This letter is written by a lady with whom I have no acquaintance, a daughter of the Protestant Bishop of Meath, Miss Stopford, an honour to her country; and how does she depict the distress which exists? She thanks me, in the name of the Irish people, for having brought forward the measure; and in order that I may believe the real state of things in that part of the country, which she says language cannot reach, she sends me a sketch of the horrors which are common in the country. And what does it represent? It represents a family of eight persons, the roof broken through—no fire in the chimney—the woman of the house just dead, after child-birth—a child five or six years of age lying dead beside her—the father of the family covered with nothing but a shirt, also dead, lying on the straw, with the rats hovering about him, and ready to feed on his carcase. The child—the wretched new-born baby—is also without covering, whilst another young child is in the death-staggers. [The noble Lord held the sketch in his hand.] This, she says, is but a faint picture of what is seen every day; and this is the state of things now existing in Navan, the very town in which my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln would have employed 7,000 men eight days ago. Are we, then, to set the chances of losing a farthing or a halfpenny per cent in the price of Exchequer-bills, against the lives of the Irish people? It has been shown, wherever railway works 95 are in operation, that no distress exists. I trust the House will show its pity for these unfortunate people; and I think, when I read an extract from a letter to the Bishop of Meath, the greater portion of it will be touched with pity and compassion for the people of Ireland. The Rev. Mr. R. Winning, in a letter addressed to the Bishop of Meath, says—If you can do anything to help us, I will ever bless you: what to do for our starving people we know not; by over-exertion and exposure to cold, I have unfortunately been confined to bed for three weeks: it is so painfully heartrending to see the excess of misery; to see, daily, hundreds fasting and shivering at your door, and be without the means of helping them: I buried the father and son one day last week, and the poor mother followed them the next day; yesterday a wretched mother carried her dead child through the parish to raise money to buy a coffin: thousands, 1,000 in my parish, of Romanists, as well as our own starving people, are looking to me for help: it sinks into my heart: these, when they have any food, exist on one meal a day, of a little meal mixed with cold water (turf and clothing are gone for the most part); but, thank God, the endurance of the populace is wonderful: they are advised by us, or what must ensue, if prices are not lowered, or wages raised proportionably, outrage, robbery and death would have long since ensued among the people here: but when they come to me in hundreds, emaciated for want of food, and I say to them, 'Oh, boys, why do you come to me when you know that I have not the means to feed you;' they answer 'only because we know you pity us!'Now, here is a measure proposed which will be of greater service than any other which has yet been proposed to Parliament. Will you, for fear of making a slight derangement in the money market, withhold your assistance from these people? I have numerous other cases, but they are merely a repetition of descriptions of similar miseries. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo, Mr. Dillon Browne, the other night, objected to my measure. I certainly shall not follow him into the extraneous matters into which he entered. I am content with the virtue of the Bill itself, and nothing shall provoke me to travel out of the record. Nothing in the present state of Ireland shall induce me to import any germ of a party nature into the subject. But if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mayo thinks this measure will not be of benefit to his own county, or if he thinks that because I voted, as he is pleased erroneously to imagine, against Catholic Emancipation and against the Reform Bill, nothing, however good it may be, should be accepted at my hands, I take leave to say in answer to the last observation, 96 that it is to me a source of great satisfaction and great gratification to think that I am able to tell the hon. Gentleman, that I have received the unanimous thanks of one of the largest meetings that ever assembled in the county of Mayo, and that that vote of thanks was moved to me by a Roman Catholic, whilst the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tuam (Dr. M'Hale) was present at the meeting. I trust the hon. Gentleman will change his course, and be content to follow the example of this his high-minded and excellent Prelate. As to the effect of the measure in Mayo, I will now, Sir, with your permission, read a letter which I received to-day from a gentleman with whom I had no previous acquaintance, a resident Baronet of the county of Mayo. The gentleman is Sir Samuel O'Malley, and he says—The measure which your Lordship has proposed would do more good to Ireland, and relieve more people from distress in one month, than all Lord John Russell's measures put together would in a thousand years.He continues—Your Lordship's measure would give immediate and great present relief, and cause continually increasing permanent employment and improvement, without adding to the distress of any.Now, Sir, when these statements are made—when parties who are acquainted with the feelings of a majority of the people of Mayo speak thus—I trust I may have the vote of the representative of that county on this occasion. I have to-day, Sir, also had the honour of presenting to the House petitions from Newry and Armagh; and I received at the same time a letter from the coroner of the latter county; and this coroner is also a poor-law guardian. I will read that letter. He says—I take the liberty of sending herewith a petition from the inhabitants of the town of Newry to the House of Commons, in support of the principle of the Bill introduced by you, for the encouragement of railways in Ireland. There is no differrence of opinion here relative to that measure. People of all shades of politics in this locality concur in the opinion, that it is the only measure which will confer anything like permanent relief to the people of Ireland. Let the consequences be what they may, the people here will be under lasting obligations to your Lordship by pressing forward that measure. I am not a railway speculator, nor have I the good fortune to agree with your Lordship's politics generally; yet, on this subject, I express the unanimous opinion of those who agree with me, as well as of those with whom I differ, that the measure introduced by your Lordship is the only scheme yet propounded, calculated to meet the emergency in which this country is placed—open the resources of the country—improve the condition of the people—enhance the 97 value of the soil—and bind this country to England with ties which never can be severed. The petition I send was got up at very short notice, and received the signatures attached to it in a very brief time; similar petitions are being got up in Armagh, and various other places. In a very few days the sentiments of universal Ireland will be expressed in favour of your Lordship's measure.I have before me several letters from Dublin and from Cork to the same effect; and I think that if the Irish people understand their own affairs, I may safely assert that this is the only scheme which can do them good, and that I am entitled to press it on the consideration of the House. I do not propose to make a sacrifice in the shape of a grant to Ireland, although the right hon. Baronet near me has talked of making such grants. I only ask the House to consent to a measure which will give to industry and enterprise in Ireland a clear stage and no favour—a measure which knows no private interests, and by which no individual companies are unduly encouraged, by which all such as are ready to help the country by giving employment to the people, will receive impartial assistance at our hands.
I wish now, Sir, to answer a few of the objections taken by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who I am deeply grieved to find has been obliged by ill-health to leave the House. I entertain strong feelings of friendship towards my right hon. Friend; but if it were otherwise, I would take care not to say anything in his absence under such circumstances calculated to hurt his feelings; notwithstanding the observations he made in the outset of his speech on this subject. But I must, however, say that I can, and that I am prepared, to contradict every statement he has made; and to prove that from first to last, his facts have no foundation. One of the statements which my right hon. Friend made was this; that the measure would put the bad and rotten lines on an equality with the best, which would create great unfairness, and do away with the proper reward of wise enterprise. That, Sir, is not at all the object or end, neither can it possibly be the operation of the Bill which I propose. The strong lines can take care of themselves to a certain extent, though that which is called the London and Birmingham line of Ireland—the Ulster line—drew its slow length along for ten mortal years before it was completed. The railway is only twenty-four miles in length, but it took ten years to complete it. But my object is to improve the whole of Ireland, 98 and to leave no part of Ireland without the benefit of railroads. It is necessary, therefore, that I should propose better terms than those proposed by the Irish Gentlemen to the Government. I believe that the terms proposed by them would have reanimated the Great South Western, the Waterford and Limerick, the Cork and Passage, the Athlone and Longford branches of the Dublin and Mullingar, and one or two other lines on the eastern and northern coasts; but I believe that these are all which would have been completed by the proposals made to the Government by the Irish Gentlemen. Now, it is my special object to make railroads general throughout Ireland, to carry out every line which offers a good security to the Government; that is to say, which would give 3½ per cent interest "on two-thirds" only of the entire cost of construction; but when you say that I put weak lines upon an equal footing with the best lines, it is totally contrary to the fact. Sir, take the case of a line which has cost 16,000l. per mile, of which the gross traffic is 622l. That is less than the lowest railway in Great Britain or Ireland; indeed, I believe I may say, it is less than the lowest line in Germany, Austria, or Belgium. It is less also, than any in the United States of America. It is less, too, by something like five-sixths, than the average of lines in Great Britain in 1845. The line that has 622l. a mile gross traffic, would be ample security to the Government; that is to say, after deducting 40 per cent for working expenses, it would pay the Government at 3l. 10s. per cent on two-thirds of the cost of its construction, being the capital borrowed from the State—but it would pay nothing to the share-capitalist. With respect to the observation which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I may say that unless the share-capitalists made most desperate exertions, they would get nothing for their borrowed money, because the Government must be paid in full before the share-capitalists got anything.
Well now I will take the case of another line. I will assume a line that has about the traffic of the Great South Western of Ireland, that pays something over 1,000l. gross traffic a mile: this, after deducting, as in the former case, 40 per cent for working expenses, such a line would give 5l. per cent on the entire capital. The Government in that case will be entitled 99 to receive 7l. out of 15l., which out of a gross traffic of this amount, would be the dividend to be divided on every 300l. This, Sir, would leave an 8l. dividend for the shareholders on a good line like the Great South Western? A weak line, on the contrary, which by means of the encouragement of this Bill I might cause to be constructed for the advantage of the people of Ireland, which only paid 2l. 6s. 8d. per cent upon the entire cost of its construction, after paying the Government 3l. 10s. per cent upon two-thirds of its cost, namely, upon the capital borrowed of the State, would leave nothing whatever to the share-capitalist, nothing but a blank to those speculators and gamblers of whom we heard so much on Friday. On a good line, which pays 5 per cent on its entire cost of construction, there will be a dividend of 8l. per cent to the private speculator. No dividend whatever to him, on the bad line, which pays only 2l. 6s. 8d. per cent on the entire cost: perfect security, nevertheless, to the Government. Well, then, what becomes of your argument, that my Motion is one which is to excite gamblers to embark their capital, their property, and their influence in executing railroads by the aid of the Government, which they know beforehand must turn out to be bad speculations! It is not at their option to decide whether they shall receive Government aid or not. When they have undertaken a line, it will not be at their option to insist upon the Government advancing the money. It is to be a subject of supervision by the Railway Commissioners. The Railway Commissioners, responsible to both Houses of Parliament, are to advance the Government loan upon their responsibility. Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his old partialities; and as an ex-First Lord of the Treasury, may think very lightly of these new creations; but still they are a body paid by the State, and responsible to Parliament. For them the Government of the day is responsible; and if, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other night, those Commissioners should be so wanting in their duty "as to lay down a general rule, either to refuse to grant Government aid to all the lines, or to grant Government aid to all without discrimination, whether the security was good or not," I can only say Parliament would not meet a week before there would be an address to the Crown to remove such incapable officers, and 100 probably also to remove the Ministers who appointed and dared to uphold them. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman said he had read the Bill attentively, and would take care to mis-state and misrepresent nothing; and he told you after he had read it, that there was no provision for "security" made in the Bill.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
The right hon. Baronet says he spoke of "the certificate." Why, that was something like, I wont say a quibble, but it was something very like special pleading, because the Railway Commissioners are to report before they sign the certificate, that "there is reasonable security." Not one word is there however, said he, about "reasonable security." Then the right hon. Baronet spoke of beneficial employment, and of everything else but the point at issue, which was the necessity for the Railway Commissioners to report before they signed the certificate that there was a "reasonable security." Sir, I think the next point that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer touched upon was this, that there was a provision in the Bill which was evidently intended for "destitute shareholders;" and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn), followed in the same strain; and I believe, also, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. They said that there would be a higher class of mortgagees than the Government, who would have security upon railways; that the Government was not to take priority of them. It must be known to every Gentleman in the House who knows anything of railway matters, that before a company is in a condition to borrow at all, half of its capital must be paid up. So that half the capital must be paid up before any mortgagees can come in to claim in preference to the Crown; and, therefore, the Government is no longer in the same position as it would be under the provisions of this Bill, authorizing it to lend 200l. on the security of 100l.; more than half the estimated cost of the railway, and half the capital of the company must have been expended before the Government could have been asked even to lend 100l. in the case referred to by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn). But the real truth of the matter is, that there cannot be at this time at the most above three railways in 101 Ireland which would be in that position; and those would be railways with respect to which the security cannot be doubted. Sir, I think the next point that my right hon. Friend touched upon was the employment of the people. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel), if I understand him aright, concedes to me the good which we allege the construction of railways in Ireland would do in respect to the employment of the people to the extent we allege, and admits that, on this point, we have proved our case. But not so the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who made the extraordinary statement on Friday night, "that the average number of men required for the construction of railways did not exceed from 20 to 30 per mile for two or, at most, three years!" Why, Sir, it would take almost that number to make a turnpike-road! This was a statement made upon the authority of that "Great Unknown"—whose real name, I should guess, we shall never hear. I am sure it was not Mr. Brunel, because I have by me a copy of the report which that gentleman has made to the Government, in which he says that of the lowest and commonest order of labourers on the Tramore line, he would undertake to employ on seven miles of road from 800 to 1,000 men. Well then, I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not get his authority from Mr. Brunel. Mr. Brunel also says—"It is notorious that the whole amount of money paid in wages for this class of labour is spent upon the spot, and that naturally and necessarily the surplus labour of the neighbourhood is always absorbed before a supply is drawn from elsewhere."
Why, Sir, we have not only Chancellors of the Exchequer coming forward on this occasion, but also the hon. and gallant Admiral, the Member for Marylebone (Sir C. Napier), who told us that the common labourers of Ireland were incapable of performing those works, and that English "navvies" would have to be procured from this country to construct the Irish railways. Now, Sir, there is no man who has a greater respect or admiration for the hon. and gallant Admiral than I have, when he is in his proper sphere. If Commodore Sloat, with the assistance of General Taylor, should first conquer Mexico, and next seek to pounce upon the British West Indies—or if the Prince de Joinville, as he once threatened to do, should try to come with a French fleet up the Thames 102 to sweep the Pool, I know no officer whom I would sooner see commanding our fleet than the hon. and gallant Admiral. But the moment the hon. and gallant Admiral steps over the gangway on dry land, though it be only into the dockyard, he is as much out of his element "as a fish out of water." All recollect the diatribes which we used continually to hear from the hon. and gallant Officer in this House against the ships built by Sir W. Symonds, and the lessons in shipbuilding he used to teach us. Now, I understand that, worn out by his importunities, either the late or the present Admiralty at length authorized the gallant Admiral to turn amateur shipbuilder, and to build a steam-frigate after his own fashion. No time was lost. The frigate was built, and in honour of the gallant Admiral she was called The Sidon. Well, Sir, The Sidon went to sea, when being caught in a gale of wind she was seen to roll so furiously, that the jolly tars of Her Majesty's navy, who are comical fellows, rechristened this celebrated frigate—why I leave the House to guess — Drunken Charlie!!!
But I beg pardon for this digression: we are now debating about the employment of the people. Since I entered the House to-night, I have received two letters on the subject. One, I believe, is from the director or secretary of the Waterford and Kilkenny Railway, and is addressed to the brother of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, the Member for Carlow (Captain Layard). The Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the Waterford and Kilkenny line did not employ the labourers of the locality. The writer states—In reply to your question as to the truth of the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Friday night, respecting the employment of labourers on our line, I can tell you that such statement is not borne out by facts, and must have been made on erroneous information. The contractors employ all the able-bodied labourers they can find on the spot; and in a conversation I had with one of them (Mr. Hammond) only three weeks ago, he assured me that the relief committee at Thomastown was a "sinecure," except when the weather was too bad to admit of full work on the line. Mr. Hammond used the same language with respect to other parts of Ireland where he had contracts.The other letter which has been forwarded to me is from Thomastown, and is signed by a Mr. Wandesforde, who states—If it would be of any use in forwarding Lord G. Bentinck's Bill, you may state that the workings on the Kilkenny and Waterford Railway at Thomastown, two miles from this, have been stopped for want of funds, and the workmen who 103 have been employed there are now going from house to house in a large body insisting on food or money. This is not very agreeable, and an additional force of police has been applied for to the inspector at Kilkenny, and likewise some military.The effect, therefore, of the railway being under construction was, that the relief committee had a sinecure; they no sooner stopped for want of funds, than a reinforcement of police and military were necessary to keep the peace of the place. I have also another letter. ["Divide!"] I beg pardon of the House for so long detaining them, but it is a question of vital importance to Ireland. You have at this moment thousands starving. The hon. and learned Member for Cork told you the other night that already 25,000 Christians had perished from starvation; that 2,000,000 more would follow from pestilence, the consequence of famine; and I do trust, late as it is, and great as has been the indulgence of the House, that you will allow me, to the best of my power, to prove to you—not to Irish Gentlemen, I believe I need say nothing to them, they know the state of their unfortunate country—but to English Gentlemen, that the measure which I propose would employ the people of the country. I have a letter from the secretary of the Midland Great Western Railway—the only line that has not been touched upon, in which he says—I have observed with much surprise, during the discussion on the second reading of your Lordship's Bill for the encouragement of Irish railways, that several hon. Members assumed, a great proportion of the labourers employed were not local labourers, but came from remote districts, and many from England and Scotland. From my professional connexion with a railway which is the second in extent and importance in Ireland, viz. the Midland Great Western, I am in a position to give an opinion quite at variance with that to which I have referred. The first contract, twenty-six miles, was let to a Scotch contractor, Mr. Jeffs, who, with the exception of a few gangers, waggon-tippers, and superintendents, employed the local labourers, who only required, according to the report of Mr. Jeffs, a little practice and better food to enable them to compete with the labourers to be found on the English and Scotch railways. The best proof which I can give your Lordship of the employment of the local population is, that during the last harvest the number of labourers on the works were reduced fully forty per cent; and the engineer was under the necessity of giving the contractors some indulgence, in order that their works should not interfere with the saving of the harvest.This is the opinion of a person competent to judge; and therefore I beg hon. Gentlemen to observe, that these railways do not prevent the men employed on them from 104 going to harvest in harvest-time, and they are the identical men who are thus employed in the harvest. The letter proceeds—The two other contractors employed by the company are Irishmen, and the workmen engaged by them are almost exclusively local; in proof of which, I have to state, that I witnessed within a few months since, in the town of Mullingar, a partial strike amongst the labourers, because some residents of the adjoining county (Roscommon) were employed on the works. The directors have kept in active employment, since the month of August last, about 3,200 men per week, and could easily employ 6,000 in addition for the next fifteen months, for the construction of the line to Athlone and Longford. The directors have a Bill before Parliament now, for an extension from Athlone to Galway, which when completed, will bisect Ireland, and as it were, connect the Irish sea with the Atlantic Ocean. I need scarcely say, that your Lordship's plan would ensure the speedy completion of this great national undertaking, instead of permitting it to remain incomplete for several years, like the Dublin and Drogheda and Ulster Railways.As to the line to Galway, the right hon. Baronet seemed to doubt that it would be possible that so large a quantity of fish could be caught on the shores of Galway. [Sir ROBERT PEEL signified his dissent.] The right hon. Baronet does not doubt, then, that 4,000l. of fish may be caught on the shores of Galway; but he says, if so, how comes it that railways have not been constructed? I apprehend there is no more fish in Galway now than there was ten years ago, and yet there were no railways, and it is necessary to apply the stimulus of Government and to procure a railway.
Seeing the hon. Member for Roscommon in his place, I beg to call his attention to this important point. I wish to touch gently on the subject; but having had the honour of meeting upwards of fifty Irish Members of Parliament this day fortnight, assembled no very long way from this House, and having received their unanimous thanks for the proposition I made, and having been present whilst unanimous resolutions were passed appointing the Earl of Fingall, Mr. Daniel O'Connell, and Mr. George Hamilton a deputation to wait upon the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, with the purpose of insisting upon his giving up the Government night, the very next Friday, for the discussion of a measure acknowledged unanimously by them to be of vital importance to Ireland—I confess I am greatly surprised at the dissension that appears, by some mysterious interference of Government, to have been created amongst 105 the Irish Members. The hon. Gentleman was one of my warmest supporters. [Mr. F. FRENCH was understood to intimate his dissent.] I suppose I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman; but certainly I thought I understood him distinctly to say "that come what would, he would support my Bill;" but I was going to call his attention to the fact, that there is now a Bill before Parliament for a railway, which will traverse the county of Roscommon; that Bill is unopposed, but I am assured that unless this measure passes, so hopeless would it be for the company to obtain money without the aid of Government, there would be no prospect of Roscommon getting a railway completed at all, at least not for a number of years, as was the case with the Ulster, Dublin and Drogheda Railways, which hung fire, and could not obtain money to complete them for eight or ten years after they obtained their Acts. But on the subject of the transit of fish, and the value of railways for the accomplishment of that object, I have to call the attention of the House to a document which I think will relieve the doubts of the hon. Member for Roscommon, and of every other Member who may be sceptical as to the advantages of railways in this respect. I hold in my hand a return of the quantity of fish carried by the Midland Counties Railway of England during the period of one year—of the year which has just expired. It will be recollected that this railway is the means of communication from Hull, Whitby, Scarborough, and the northern districts of Yorkshire. It appears that in the course of last year the quantity of fish carried on the North Midland line south of York, amounted to 9,502 tons, 16 cwt. Now, supposing that this fish was only worth 3d. per pound—and the calculation is a moderate one—its value per stone would be 3s. 6d.; and if we multiply the entire quantity according to the rules of vulgar arithmetic, we shall find that no less then 266,056l. is the total value of the fish conveyed upon the North Midland line during a single year; and but for the railway, a great part of that fish would have been wasted. I state this fact in elucidation and illustration of the speech of my noble Friend (Lord Granby) who sits behind me. The point as to the employment of labourers has been so much disputed, on the other side especially, that on that subject I beg leave to read a letter from Mr. Robert Stephenson. He says— 106Being obliged to leave town this afternoon, must be my apology for making my remarks brief. The statement that from twenty to thirty men per mile are sufficient to execute any average railway in three, or even in four years, is so monstrous, that I am satisfied it could not have come from any competent engineer. The London and Birmingham occupied about four years to execute, and the number of men varied from 10,000 to 15,000. At the Kilsby tunnel alone, which is one and a half miles in length, we had for upwards of two years from 1,200 to 1,300 men. On the Blisworth cutting, in Northamptonshire, about two miles in length, about the same number were engaged for a like period. The same remark applies to the great chalk cutting at Tring. The average number of men employed on the line throughout three years cannot be taken at less than 100; but this conveys an incorrect notion of the actual number of labourers deriving employment from the London and Birmingham Railway, because it only represents the number actually employed between the fences. Besides this number, you must add all kinds of local artificers, in constructing and maintaining the contractors' implements, which were never included in the returns which the company received from time to time from the contractors.Mr. Stephenson then goes on to state that—On the Manchester and Leeds Railway, for a considerable portion of three years, which is fifty miles, fully 10,000 men were employed, which gives 200 men per mile. The North Midland Railway is similar in character to the last mentioned line; I cannot state from memory the exact number, but I am confident it could not fall much short of a similar average. The Trent Valley Railway, now in progress between Rugby and Stafford, is fifty miles long; and there is at this moment about 5,000 men employed upon it. This is a remarkably easy line, and consequently approaches more nearly the average which would be required in Ireland. Without, however, depending upon statements of this kind, the amount of money to be spent in labour on the Irish lines, affords an excellent and indisputable test of the number of men that will be required. Take the total cost at 16,000l. a mile of this, all is spent in local labour, except the following items:—
Land, say £1,500 Rails and Sleepers 3,500 Engines which would be made in England 1,000 £6,000The production of these articles, except land, implies a vast amount of labour in England, and consequently, productive of much good at home. The whole expenditure of a railway, is, in short, labour, except law, land, and timber; in this particular, it is impossible to conceive any description of public work better calculated to meet the exigencies of Ireland, than railways.The production of these articles, to which reference is here made, will employ a great number of labourers besides in England, and, consequently, would produce much good, even here, at home. So, when you 107 say this measure, which I introduce for the good of Ireland, is calculated to render it necessary to raise fresh taxes on the English people, the truth is, that far from taxing it serves the English people materially; for, so far as the manufacture of locomotives is concerned, I believe Manchester and Newcastle are the only two towns in which they are constructed, and the carriages are made in London and elsewhere; so that the great towns of England would have their share also in that expenditure; but every expenditure of this kind adds to the revenue of the country. Mr. Stephenson further goes on to say that—From the statements I have made, it would appear that, according to the proposal of your Lordship's Bill, that the one-third subscribed for by shares, would be nearly all spent in England in producing rails, engines, &c., and the remaining two-thirds to be advanced by Government, would literally be employed in paying for local Irish labour.So that every farthing which I ask the Government of this country, by my Bill, to lend on good security, will be employed either in local labour for the benefit of the people of Ireland, or otherwise usefully. The letter to which I refer, goes on to say—I trust your Lordship will excuse these hasty notes; but I trust they will suffice to rebut the assertion that, twenty or thirty men per mile are sufficient to absorb the labour required in the construction of railways in Ireland. Turn the matter as you will, other questions resolve themselves simply into this—how many men, and during what period, will 10,000l. per mile employ, at 15s. or at 12s. a week? This, worked out, appears to me to put the matter beyond controversy.If I were going into Committee on this Bill, I would beg to read another letter to the House which I have received on this subject of the expense of railways from Mr. Stephenson. Mr. Stephenson in this last letter says, that if the object be to employ a still larger number of labourers, it might be easily obtained, and double the number of labourers employed at little or no more cost to the companies, by introducing a provision into the Bill obliging the companies to purchase a trifle more land for spoil and for side cuttings; so that the entire of the earthworks might be accomplished by men alone with spades and barrows, without the aid of horses or carts—the earth excavated from the deep cuttings being wheeled out to what is called "spoil," and the embankments being made from side cuttings. But it has been objected to me, on the one hand, 108 that I should employ no Irish labourers, and, on the other, that if I employed all the labourers on railways, the fields would remain unsown, and that consequently the next year's harvest would be defective. If those Gentlemen will read the Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, they will find the Poor Law Commissioners report, that where two men are employed in agriculture in England, five men are employed in Ireland upon the land; and that when all is done, the five Irishmen get no more out of the land than the two Englishmen do, so that if they were well paid and well fed in Ireland, there would be enough of men to do all the work necessary for agricultural purposes. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) seems to doubt this. He has left all the work of the present debate, however, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he may be able to inform us of the fact of this matter.
Well, Sir, ["Divide, divide!"] I have now stated what I intended relative to one portion of the Irish railway question; but I have another short letter to which I wish briefly to call the attention of the House, and which I only received to-day. I really am very sorry to be obliged to trespass so long on the impatience of the House; but this is a great and important question, and as it is one in which the lives of one or two millions of people are concerned, I do trust that hon. Gentleman will have a little patience. I have received a letter from a gentleman, living at March, in the Bedford Level, on the subject of the practical benefits conferred by the construction of railways in an agricultural district, which is so forcibly expressed, and so much to the point, that I hope the House will permit me to read it, and I promise it shall be the last. It has reference to the Peterborough and Ely Railway. This gentleman says—A line of railway from Ely to Peterborough was opened on the 14th ultimo, and during the construction last winter and this absorbed much labour of every description, and made this place in a flourishing condition, not only as regards the common labourer but the artisan, tradesman, and higglers (men who keep a cart and one or two horses). Lord John Russell observes truly when he states that railways take the able-bodied; but that makes room for others that would not be employed; and such men last year and this have found employment at 10s. and 12s. a week, who but for the railway would become either chargeable to the parish, or be obliged to work at 8s. a week. There has been a very considerable consumption in all articles both agricultural and 109 exciseable. The butchers have given ½d per lb. more for mutton than could be obtained in Smithfield. The value of land has been enhanced, and also the rent of houses. This is purely an agricultural town with about 6,000 inhabitants. A friend of mine tried to sell his wheat at Wisbeach on Saturday (the market day), and sold it the Monday following in London by railway at 6s. advance per quarter; he grew five quarters per acre, which makes exactly a rent difference. Some of the close-fisted farmers are not quite satisfied with the railway, as they are obliged to give for inferior labourers as much as they formerly gave for the best, forgetting the saving in poor's rates, the better condition of the people, and the satisfactory state of the poor in general.Thus we see how employment was extended by railways. But this is an account of the operation of railways in this country; and if such is the effect of railways in the fens of this country, I think we may presume that they will produce quite as beneficial an effect in Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the effect of my Bill was to lower the price of shares in Ireland. But I confess that I heard that statement with considerable surprise. I find it stated, in a recent account of the Belfast share list, "that English shares had given way, but that the new Irish shares were commanding more attention, in consequence of the hope of Government aid." Well, but I should have done nothing if I had not reanimated the Irish railway shares. I shall not trespass upon the time of the House with the reading of any more documents, although I could bring forward many others in support of this measure. I am satisfied, however, to understate rather than to overstate my case. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer used another most extraordinary argument against me when he said that some Irish gentlemen had come to him and had asked for a loan of 5,000,000l. to be added to their own 10,000,000l., by which means they said they could give employment to 100,000 men; whereas I ask for 16,0000,000l., with 8,000,000l. of private share-capital, with which I promise to give employment to 110,000 men. Now, I do not think there is any very great discrepancy between the two statements; and I believe I may claim the confidence of the House for not having shown a disposition to overstate my case. I am satisfied from strict inquiries that I have made, that instead of finding employment for only 110,000 persons in the construction of the railways, I could show that, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement, every million 110 sterling spent on railway labour would employ 45,000 labourers—that at least 180,000 persons would be employed, were this measure to be carried. Thus the means of subsistence would be provided for not 550,000, but for 900,000 persons.
There is another point, and a very important one, to which I must allude—I mean the point of the security which would be offered for the repayment of any advance that might be made for the construction of Irish railways. ["Divide!"] Now, I think, that if I can show that all the railways in Austria, Italy, Belgium, and the United States—I think if I can show that all the railways in these countries, from their traffic, would have offered ample security for the repayment of such advances as I propose should be made to the Irish railroads, I shall have made out my case; and when I tell you that the population in Ireland is denser than in any of these countries, except Belgium, I think I have a right to assume, that the railways of Ireland will pay as good a dividend as these foreign railways, and will afford a good security for the repayment of the money advanced for their construction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Portsmouth (Mr. F. Baring) was very much excited at the idea of my seeking to borrow, as he was pleased to say, "hand over head" 16,000,000l. for the purpose of executing these Irish railroads. But I cannot forget that in the year 1839 that hon. Gentleman himself supported a Bill similar to this one, and asked an advance of 5,000,000l. for the construction of Irish railways, at a time when there was a deficiency of nearly 2,000,000l. in the Exchequer, and when there was not more than 4,000,000l. of bullion in the coffers of the Bank. Now, I must say, without meaning any offence, that I do not feel any regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not on my side; for I do not believe that the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman, with the préstige of his financial misfortunes, would create any very great confidence in favour of the measure in the money market. When I recollect that it was once the fortune of this same right hon. Gentleman to fish for a budget in a bottomless pool of deficiency, into which he himself took a Leader, dragging the whole Whig Government of 1841 after him and drowning them in it, I feel that I may congratulate myself in having his opposition.
111 I now come to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn). I confess I was never so much surprised at any speech as that of the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed I am much disposed to pass it by, merely saying—'Tis a pity when charming womenTalk of things which they don't understand!I must observe, however, that from the day money would be advanced under this Bill, interest on that money would become payable; so that before 200l. were advanced, the company must have called up not only 100l., but 3l. 10s. in addition, to meet the half-yearly dividend on the Government loan of 200l. Simultaneously with the demand upon the Treasury would be the payment of the interest by the company, out of their share of the capital. Thus the Government would not be out of either capital or interest for a single day. The right hon. Gentleman, showing the bad security upon the Irish lines, instanced the case of the Dublin and Drogheda. He said, that on this line the shares were 75l.; 70l. had been paid up, and yet the price of the shares was only 58l.; and from this he argued, that the Dublin and Drogheda Railway would be no security to the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman had been able to multiply 58 by 3, he would have found the product to be 174; and if he had been able to multiply 70 by 2, he would have found the result to have given 140; and, deducting 140 from 174, he would have found a balance of 34l.; showing to him that there would be complete security, not only for the Government advance of two-thirds of the capital, namely, 140l., but that there would be a surplus security of 34l. remaining for the private speculator. When the public read these statements of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, they will see that it is not a very difficult task to fill the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer with success. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness (Mr. Baillie) objects to giving loans to Ireland, and says, that when the Scotch people were suffering the greatest distress, grants or loans were never heard of. He told us of Lord Macdonald, and Macleod of Macleod, who have anticipated the whole of their income for the current year in relieving the distress among their people. Sir, I know it. I can cordially concur in admiration of the noble generosity and charity of the Scotch landlords; but I will not allow that the hon. Member speaks the 112 sentiments of the people of Scotland when he says no loans or grants ought to be given to Ireland. He says, Scotland got no loans or grants. Sir, I think I have as much right to speak for Scotland, and more, perhaps, than the hon. Member—who, I believe, is not a Scotchman—and I repudiate for Scotland the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman; and I will say, that, even if she had not received anything, she would not raise her voice against relief to Ireland in such an emergency. But the fact is quite otherwise. Scotland got loans and grants long before Ireland did. Scotland has received no less than 850,000l. out of the 2,000,000l. Drainage Act, whilst England has got only 250,000l. I know the feeling of the Highlanders—I know their proverbial and historic character for gratitude—I know they would not be unmindful of the fact, that the Irish Members, so far from opposing, have ever voted for the loans which were advanced to Scotland—no Irishman ever raised his voice against grants or loans to Scotland in the times of Scotland's need; and, recollecting this, I know well, Sir, they would not raise their voices against Ireland in the day of her greatest adversity.
The right hon. Gentleman the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us this is quite a novel plan. Does he recollect 1835? Does he recollect the monster Committee of fifty Members of this House—many of whom were Members of the present and of the late Government—who unanimously voted in favour of railways in Ireland? And what was the plan? Why the Government of that day was recommended to advance, not one-half the sums required, but two-thirds, half as a gift and half as a loan, for the formation of Irish railways. But what did a former Chancellor of the Exchequer do—and that, too, when there was a gloom in the commercial world, not over railways, which did not then exist, but over commerce and manufactures—when commercial credit was at a discount, and the manufacturing interest reduced to the lowest ebb? Why, he came down to this House and recommended 5,000,000l. of Exchequer-bills to be lent, not upon security examined by Railway Commissioners, but upon the security ofthe stock in trade of manufacturers and of merchants, upon the woollen and cotton and cutlery of the manufacturers, and upon the sugar and coffee and tea and other merchandise of the merchants, the goods only to be given in pledge in the ports 113 of London, Liverpool, Hull, Bristol, Leith, and Glasgow. This was 1793—he was not a Chancellor of the Exchequer of the modern red-tape class—he was a man of a higher order—he was the illustrious Son of the immortal Chatham—he was "the Pilot who weathered the storm." Sir, did such a measure in those days make the public securities fall? Nothing of the kind, Sir. Mr. Fox, who was in opposition, and disliked the measure on constitutional grounds, fearing that it would give too much power to Ministers, and not choosing, as he said, to place the trade of the country at their nod, nevertheless acknowledged "he had not heart or nerve" to go to a division. What happened, then, to the money market; with the French at our doors, did the public securities fall? Far from it. True, the drivellers of that day rose in their places, like the three Chancellors of the Exchequer of this day, and expressed their fears that Exchequer-bills might fall to a discount; but they were speedily answered, by being told that the mere report upon 'Change, that Mr. Pitt proposed to issue 5,000,000l. of Exchequer-bills for the relief of the commerce and trade of the country, had given confidence in the city, and had caused all the public securities of one accord to rise. I have just received an account from America, that the effect of issuing new treasury notes to the amount of 23,000,000 dollars, and reissuing 5,000,000 more of old treasury notes, has been to raise the public securities at Washington and New York.
Sir, I did not bring forward this measure in any factious spirit, nor with any feeling of rivalry. One of the gentlemen to whose great abilities and researches I am chiefly indebted for the materials which I have used is Mr. Laing, the political friend of Lord Dalhousie, the personal friend of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere). That hon. gentleman asked me, when I first applied for his assistance, whether this measure was to be made a party one? My answer to him was this, that this measure was not proposed in a spirit of rivalry or of opposition to Her Majesty's Government — that we, as a party, had resolved that we would not allow party feelings to interfere with the consideration of what was for the interest of Ireland; and that was, I wont say the condition, but that was the honest understanding on which I received that gentleman's disinterested and patriotic services. But 114 because I said the other night that I had summoned all my Friends, I am told this proves the present to be a party measure. Sir, when did I summon my Friends? It was not till the First Minister of the Crown, with that high-mindedness and generous feeling—that chivalry which belongs to his illustrious house — came across from the other side of the House on Tuesday last, and said to me, "I will not take advantage of you. The Government have decided that they will reject this Bill on its first reading, and I think it is therefore only fair to come over and tell you." Now, believing, as I do, that this is a measure which will go a long way to cure all the evils of Ireland, am I to be told that because the Government do not approve of it, and do not sanction it, that I am tamely to drop such a measure as this? It has also been said that I offered to take the government of the country. Sir, I think consistently with the independence of this House and of the country, when the Government comes down and says, if you do not reject this measure, though you believe it to be a good measure, we will throw the Government up, and anarchy may prevail, and there will be no help for you—why, Sir, I should have been wanting altogether in that spirit of independence which always has belonged, and ought always to belong, to this House, if I had not risen and said, that if this measure, which I have proposed on its own intrinsic merits, should so carry with it the feelings of this House as to convert a comparatively small minority into a majority—I would not shrink, were the task unwillingly forced upon me, from taking the responsibility of carrying this scheme into execution. At the same time, I hope that nothing which has fallen from me can be construed into a premeditated intention of proposing this measure in a spirit of hostility to Her Majesty's Ministers. And I believe my noble Friend at the head of the Government will say that he has no cause of complaint in the conduct of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House; and I will say now, that so little was it my intention to bring forward this measure from any feeling of rivalry towards my noble Friend, that I conscientiously think it would be of great assistance to his other measures. There is no one of his measures with which it clashes—there is no one which it does not support; and I take leave to tell my noble Friend, that when the day comes when his 115 army of 480,000 men, who now live upon the bread of idleness, are to be dismissed, unless he is supplied with some great safety valve of this kind, he will not be able to keep the peace in Ireland, even if the 35,000 military and police that are now there, should be raised to 70,000. Hunger is not to be resisted; and if it cannot get the key of the granary, it will have recourse to the crowbar and sledgehammer; and I tremble to think what may be the consequence when the day comes when it is to be told to those 480,000 able-bodied men, that they must choose between the workhouse and starvation. Therefore, I say now again, at the last hour, that I offer this measure with a feeling of the most perfect good-will to my noble Friend; and if he says that he cannot undertake to carry out this measure, if he will appoint a Commission, as was done by Mr. Pitt in 1793, he may have the disinterested unpaid services of the right hon. Member for Sunderland. My right hon. Friend has offered to stake the whole of his fortune to the House and to the country as security to the Government for its success. I am not going to offer mine, because I know that it is of little value; but if, along with my right hon. Friend and Mr. Laing, he chooses to put me at the head of his unpaid Commission, then I will be responsible for carrying this measure out, without the loss of a single shilling to the State, but, on the contrary, with a large additional annual revenue to the Exchequer. I will be responsible for carrying this measure out, and for the employment of the people, through its means, to the extent and numbers which I have stated. I will be responsible for the regeneration of Ireland; and if it fail, why then, as the responsible head of the Commission, I shall be liable to impeachment; and I now challenge the House to put that process in force against me. I say not this in any trifling spirit, or in any idle bravado. There are ready hands and willing hearts in this House, I doubt not, to put it in execution. There is a party in this House to whom I have shown no quarter; and it is meet and just that they should give no quarter to me. As I have given, so I will take no quarter; and I now offer myself, with the assistance of the gentlemen I have before named, to carry out this measure at the hazard of impeachment, without its costing the country a single shilling, and I will answer for its success. 116 It is a measure which offends against no old party recollections—it is a measure which wars not against any religious prejudice—it is a measure which confiscates not the property of the landlords, whilst it seeks not to expatriate the peasantry, or to send the poor to the workhouse—it is a measure which outrages no constitutional law—it is a measure which, whilst it clothes the naked and "fills the hungry with good things," sends not the "rich empty away." And I ask now the Government, for the last time—I implore them, for the sake of suffering Ireland, to accept it at my hands. I say to them, grant to Ireland, grant to me this my humble, my fervent, my honest, my only prayer; and I, for one, care not if this be the last time that I address this or any other mortal assembly.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
explained that he understood the Irish Members were only committed to support the first reading of this Bill, and that, afterwards, they were at liberty to act as they chose.
§ MR. W. R. COLLETT
would not detain the House more than a few minutes. Having stated a few days ago that he was ready to give employment to 50,000 men in Ireland, he felt himself bound to bear out that assertion. There were 393 miles of Irish railways with which he was connected. There were 223 of these under compact, and upon which upwards of 20,000 labourers were employed. During the last year he had given employment to 13,000 persons on the Chester and Holyhead Railway. With these facts before the House, he trusted he would get credit for the truth and sincerity of his statement on the other evening—that if the Government consented to this measure, he would have 50,000 additional persons put upon these works.
§ MR. MUNTZ
, in explanation, said that when he had first spoken in favour of the noble Lord's measure, he was not aware of the intentions of the Government in the event of its being carried. He should now be obliged to vote against this measure, because he was not prepared, at this moment, to leave Ireland in its present unfortunate state, without the protection of the present Government, and the advantages of those measure, however small, which they were carrying through Parliament.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, although I am unwilling to detain the House at all from coming to a division at this late hour, and though I mean to forbear from attempting 117 any reply to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, yet, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer having commenced this discussion, and many of his statements having been attacked, and as no Minister of the Crown has since taken part in this discussion, I think it would be most respectful to the House, before coming to any decision, that I should state what is the general view, without going into details, which I take of the condition of this country and Ireland at this moment, and of its bearing upon the Bill which the noble Lord has brought forward. I will not go into the finances of the case now; but, without stating those particulars of which the right hon. Gentleman cannot have had sufficient information, I may at once say, that I concur generally in the views expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. Considering our financial condition at this moment, the proposition of giving such assistance to Ireland as is contained in the measure of the noble Lord, becomes a matter extremely serious. But there is another part of the question, that relating to our commercial and social position. I take it that our position is this: there was not any such failure in England and Scotland, except in the Highlands, as would have made this a year of much suffering and difficulty for the people of Great Britain; but the great failure of the potato crop in Ireland has made it necessary, in the opinion of the Executive Government of this country, to make a very great effort in order to preserve a great portion of the people of the country from starvation. But the consequences have been, that instead of a large importation, as has usually been the case, of food from Ireland to this country, there has been, in the first place, a much smaller importation; and, in the next place, there has been a considerable exportation—an exportation now going on—from this country to Ireland, for the purpose of feeding those whose usual food has entirely failed. Their means of procuring this food have been furnished from the Treasury of this country, at the rate of 800,000l. or 900,000l. a month; but the consequences of enabling the people of Ireland in such large numbers to buy food is this, that the price of food in this country, and in foreign countries, has been greatly enhanced. But not only are the consequences of the high price of food beginning to be felt, and very severely felt, but a depression in the manufacturing interests 118 of the country has also taken place; together with the want of sufficient wages for industry, upon which the great bulk of the population is maintained. It is, in my opinion, most desirable not to make that pressure greater than the people of this country can bear, so as to be able still to furnish assistance to their fellow-countrymen in Ireland. I think if we come to press to a very much greater extent than we now press upon them, and to drain further the resources of this country, we should find that, without enabling the people of Ireland to escape the dreadful consequences of the present famine, we had disabled the people of England and Scotland from giving that assistance which I am sure they are disposed to give. With this view of our finances, and of our commercial and manufacturing position, I have to consider how the means of this country can be best disposed of to preserve the greatest number of human creatures from, famishing. That appears to me a very serious, painful, and at the same time a true view of the case. I believe in the last month or week that not less than 600,000 persons have received wages upon the public works in Ireland, representing, probably, 3,000,000 of the population. One hundred thousand persons more were in the workhouses, maintained by the rates. Thousands and thousands more are maintained by private charity in Ireland, and by the exertions of the resident landlords, many of whom have no doubt made great sacrifices on behalf of the poorer classes. I have, then, to consider, when there are more than three and a half millions of persons thus living, whether on the advances thus made by the many, or from the rates collected, or the subscriptions and charitable donations, I say, I am to consider, whether, under these circumstances, the proposition of my noble Friend is one that tends directly to the removal of the distress. Now, Sir, on that point I do not think the proposition is effectual in the manner that the Gentlemen from Ireland seem to suppose. I cannot think so, because while I see the means which I have stated from those different sources are all applied, or intended to be applied, to the relief of the most distressed persons, the most destitute, and the most in want of food, that the natural employment given by railway contractors is to the best labourers and the most able-bodied men, such only as are capable of bearing the very hard and laborious operations that 119 are in such cases carried forward. My noble Friend, in the course of his speech, seemed to contradict a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Limerick and Waterford Railway had declined to employ the labourers of the neighbourhood. I believe my right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was perfectly correct—that it amounts to this, not that they refused to employ the able-bodied labourers where the railway is being carried on; but they say, and I have the letter of the secretary here, that they do object to employ the worst class of labourers and the very destitute poor. What they like to employ are of course the best and most able-bodied labourers. The noble Lord read the letter. [Mr. W. R. COLLETT: Hear.] The hon. Gentleman cheers. I have no doubt from his experience, it is exactly the statement he would expect the railway company to make, that they are ready to employ the able-bodied labourers of the neighbourhood; but they do object to that general employment of the destitute, which to procure, after all, should be the great object of the Executive in making their advances. In the course of these discussions, the right hon. Member for Sunderland made various statements in respect to the employment of labour afforded by railways with which he is concerned. I have received several statements from different quarters, being copies of various reports which have been made public in the railway papers of this House; and from those reports it appears that while the hon. Gentleman estimated so much for permanent way, so much for land, and so much for the remainder, leaving it to be inferred, and asking indeed in what that rest could be employed except in labour, he seems entirely to have forgetten that very large sums are expended in locomotive engines, and very large sums also for the construction of stations, which stations are in point of fact in a great part ornamental buildings. With respect to the North Midland Railway, one of those lines to which the hon. Gentleman referred, I find there were expended 190,000l. for locomotive engines, and 260,000l. for the stations. Now, the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, though those sums were expended in labour, that it is not the kind of labour which can be performed by any class of labourers, still less by the class of destitute labourers. But with regard to the 27,000l. per mile which that line cost, it will be found that, deducting 120 those two items for stations and locomotives, that sum will be reduced by 6,000l. per mile. Various statements I have received all concur in one general result—that of the whole of the sums expended in railways, about one-half may be said to be for labour; but then that includes a vast deal of skilled labour, so that on the whole but one-fourth, or 25 per cent, is devoted to ordinary purposes. Now when the question is, as my noble Friend has just been stating it over and over again, how we are to save millions of Irish people from starving, we are obliged to go into details, and when we find that of the whole 16,000,000l. to be advanced, only one-fourth of that sum goes to unskilled labour, I say this is not a Bill which goes to the immediate relief of those starving people. Every one knows who is at all acquainted with Ireland—and this is a remarkable circumstance—that, with respect to skilled labour, such as that of masons, bricklayers, and carpenters, there is no great supply, certainly no surperabundant supply of that labour in that country; and that labour, as compared with other descriptions of labour in Ireland, remains dear—almost, if not quite as dear as such labour in this country; and so far from those classes being in constant want of employment, they are the very class amongst whom combinations exist in order to obtain high wages from their employers. I heard an instance of this only a very short time ago in the town of Galway, where, amid the greatest distress, there happened to be two or three public buildings in progress, and, consequently, there was work for masons, and those masons were holding out for more than 2s. 6d. a day. I say, then, if you are applying these large sums for labour, that the word labour is a complete delusion when applied in connexion with the distress, because it includes a great deal of skilled labour. I come, therefore, to the conclusion on this general view, that the finances of the country being severely pressed by the demand for the relief of those who are famishing in Ireland; that the manufactures and commerce of this country being in a state of partial suffering; that the wages of industry in this country likewise being severely tasked by the present state of Ireland, and by the efforts which are being made by Parliament and by Government to relieve that distress: unless this Bill is one which goes immediately to the relief of destitution, it is not one which this House should adopt. For the short reasons which 121 I have given—for reasons in which I think the right hon. Member for Sunderland must concur—for the reason that three-fourths of the sum proposed to be advanced would not go to the relief of destitution, I come to the conclusion that it would not be wise in the present circumstances of the country to accede to this Bill. I am not at this hour going to enter—as I might do, were it earlier—into the question, whether it is advisable for the Government, under any circumstances, to make grants of money for the promotion of railways. There are questions connected with those matters which would make me differ from some of the opinions that have been urged against the Bill of my noble Friend; but, at all events, I think that any advances which are made to railways should be made in a different state of the country, and in accordance with those principles on which Governments generally proceed when they are making advances to public works. I am far from saying, that there are no great public works to which Government might not, under particular circumstances, make grants of public money. In the fens, as the noble Lord knows, it has been done with great advantage; and there are now great public works in Ireland, which have been undertaken under various Governments, and which have been most useful in their results; and, certainly, I should be most loth to say that railways would not be most useful to Ireland; but I am only dealing with the proposition before the House. Now, with regard to my noble Friend's speech, and to the manner in which he has brought forward this Bill, I am far from making any complaint of his bringing a measure before the House which he conscientiously believes will be of great service to Ireland, and which will tend to relieve the misery of that country; but the noble Lord must at the same time see, that it was not equally reasonable in him to expect, that if the Ministers of the Queen did not take the same view as he takes of the utility of this measure, they should adopt a measure of which they disapprove. The noble Lord might have brought it forward, and have laid it on the Table, as a measure to be taken or not by the Government; but he thought it so important, that the noble Lord the Member for Newark (Lord J. Manners) declared it to be his noble Friend's intention to proceed with the measure, and elicit the opinion of Parliament with regard to it. But it is quite 122 impossible for any Government to allow the finances of the country to be taken out of their hands, and placed under the direction of the noble Lord, or any other person. Therefore, whilst I quite concede that he had the best motive for bringing forward this measure—and though I think he was quite right in saying, that if he succeeded with the measure he would himself be responsible for carrying it into execution—though I think he showed great spirit in expressing that determination—yet, on the other hand, I must say, feeling myself responsible for the conduct of affairs in this very important crisis, all I can do is, to bring forward those measures which I in my heart believe will tend most to the relief of destitution in Ireland, and ask Parliament to consent to those measures. If I am supported by Parliament, I shall then feel courage to go on and to brave all the difficulties with which I am encompassed; but I do hold, it would be most injurious to this country to have at this moment any Minister at the head of affairs who may be baffled in any effort he may make; whose opinions are not in accordance with the ruling opinions of the Members of the House of Commons; and whose position is still further embarrassed by having to carry out measures of which he does not approve. I must repeat, therefore, that I do not think I was taking any other than a constitutional course, when I intimated to those who I believed were disposed to support the Government, that with respect to the management of the finances of this country in this great crisis, we must have the majority of the House of Commons with us, or we cannot be competent to conduct the Government of this country. I think the noble Lord has had nothing to complain of. With his convictions I think he was perfectly right in bringing forward this measure, and in his readiness to carry it out if Parliament should consent to it. It is now for the House of Commons to decide whether this measure is that which he has described it to be—the sole measure which is essential for the benefit of Ireland; or whether, on the contrary, the course which we are pursuing is the best calculated to promote the welfare of that country, and of the whole empire.
§ LORD GEORGE BENTINCK
rose to explain a sentence he had used in reference to a ship which had been built on the plan suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone. It was said of a 123 ship when she rolled in the trough of the sea, that she rolled like a drunken man; and his allusion was to that phrase. He did not mean such an allusion to have the slightest reference to the hon. and gallant Officer, and nothing could be further from his intention than to apply it to him.
§ The House divided on the Question, that the word "now" stand part of the Question:—Ayes 118; Noes 332: Majority 214.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acton, Col.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Allix, J. P.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Bailey, J.||Hodgson, R.|
|Bailey, J. jun.||Hudson, G.|
|Bankes, G.||Hussey, T.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Baskerville, T. B. M.||Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.|
|Bateson, T.||Kelly, J.|
|Benet, P.||Ker, D. S.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Kirk, P.|
|Bentinck, Lord H.||Knightley, Sir C.|
|Bernard, Visct.||Law, hon. C. E.|
|Blackburne, J. I.||Lawless, hon. C.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Lawson, A.|
|Blake, M. J.||Lefroy, A.|
|Borthwick, P.||Lennox, Lord G. H. G.|
|Brisco, M.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Brooke, Lord||Liddell, hon. H. T.|
|Brooke, Sir A. B.||Lowther, Sir J. H.|
|Bruen, Col.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Buller, Sir J. Y.||Macnamara, Major|
|Bunbury, W. M.||M'Carthy, A.|
|Butler, P. S.||Manners, Lord C. S.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Manners, Lord J.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Martin, T. B.|
|Christopher, R. A.||Miles, W.|
|Clayton, R. R.||Neeld, J.|
|Clifton, J. T.||Neeld, J.|
|Cole, hon. H. A.||Newry, Visct.|
|Collett, W. R.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Conolly, Col.||Northland, Visct.|
|Dick, Q.||O'Brien, C.|
|Disraeli, B.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||O'Connell, D. jun.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||O'Connell, J.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Osborne, R.|
|Entwisle, W.||Packe, C. W.|
|Farnham, E. B.||Pigot, Sir R.|
|Ferrand, W. B.||Prime, R.|
|Finch, G.||Rushout, Capt.|
|Fitzgerald, R. A.||Scott, hon. F.|
|Forbes, W.||Seymer, H. K.|
|Fox, S. L.||Shirley, E. J.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Smithwick, R.|
|Gooch, E. S.||Smyth, Sir H.|
|Gore, M.||Stuart, J.|
|Goring, C.||Taylor, E.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Taylor, J. A.|
|Grattan, H.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Gregory, W. H.||Trollope, Sir J.|
|Grogan, E.||Tuite, H. M.|
|Halford, Sir H.||Tyrell, Sir J. T.|
|Hall, Col.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Halsey, T. P.||Vyse, R. H. R. H.|
|Hamilton, J. H.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Walpole, S. H.|
|Harris, hon. Capt.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Henley, J. W.||Woodhouse, E.|
|Worcester, Marq. of||TELLERS.|
|Wyndham, J. H. C.||Beresford, Major|
|Newdegate, C. N.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acheson, Visct.||Compton, H. C.|
|Acland, Sir T. D.||Copeland, Ald.|
|Acland, T. D.||Corbally, M. E.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Corry, rt. hon. H.|
|Ainsworth, P.||Courtenay, Lord|
|Aldam, W.||Cowper, hon. W. F.|
|Anson, hon. Col.||Craig, W. G.|
|Arkwright, G.||Crawford, W. S.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Cripps, W.|
|Attwood, J.||Curteis, H. B.|
|Austen, Col.||Dalmeny, Lord|
|Baillie, Col.||Dashwood, G. H.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Dawson, hon. T. V.|
|Baine, W.||Deedes, W.|
|Bannerman, A.||Denison, J. E.|
|Barclay, D.||Denison, E. B.|
|Barkly, H.||Dennistoun, J.|
|Baring, H. B.||D'Eyncourt, rt. hon. C.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Dickinson, F. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. W. B.||Dodd, G.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Douglas, Sir C. E.|
|Barrington, Visct.||Douglas, J. D. S.|
|Beckett, W.||Douro, Marq. of|
|Bell, J.||Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Dugdale, W. S.|
|Benbow, J.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Berkeley, hon. C.||Duncan, Visct.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Duncan, G.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Duncombe, T.|
|Bernal, R.||Dundas, Adm.|
|Blakemore, R.||Dundas, F.|
|Bodkin, W. H.||Dundas, D.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Easthope, Sir J.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Eastnor, Visct.|
|Bowles, Adm.||Ebrington, Visct.|
|Bowring, Dr.||Egerton, W. T.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Egerton, Sir P.|
|Bright, J.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Ellice, E.|
|Brotherton, J.||Ellis, W.|
|Brown, W.||Emlyn, Visct.|
|Browne, R. D.||Escott, B.|
|Brownrigge, J. S.||Esmonde, Sir T.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Etwall, R.|
|Bruges, W. H.||Evans, W.|
|Buckley, E.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Buller, C.||Ewart, W.|
|Buller, E.||Fielden, J.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Filmer, Sir E.|
|Cardwell, E.||Fitzmaurice, hon. W.|
|Carew, hon. R. S.||Fitzroy, hon. H.|
|Carew, W. H. P.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Castlereagh, Visct.||Fitzwilliam, hon. G. W.|
|Cavendish, hon. C. C.||Fleetwood, Sir P. H.|
|Cavendish, hon. G. H.||Flower, Sir J.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Forster, M.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Fox, C. R.|
|Chapman, B.||French, F.|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Gardner, J. D.|
|Cholmeley, Sir J. M.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Christie, W. D.||Gill, T.|
|Chute, W. L. W.||Gladstone, Capt.|
|Clay, Sir W.||Godson, R.|
|Clerk, rt. hon. Sir G.||Gordon, hon. Capt.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Gore, hon. R.|
|Collins, W.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Marshall, W.|
|Granger, T. C.||Martin, J.|
|Greene, T.||Martin, C. W.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Masterman, J.|
|Grimsditch, T.||Matheson, J.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|
|Grosvenor, Earl||Mildmay, H. St. J.|
|Guest, Sir J.||Milton, Visct.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Mitcalfe, H.|
|Hamilton, W. J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|Hastie, A.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||Morris, D.|
|Hawes, B.||Morrison, Gen.|
|Hay, Sir A. L.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Hayter, W. G.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Mure, Col.|
|Heathcote, G. J.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Neville, R.|
|Heneage, G. H. W.||Norreys, Lord|
|Heneage, E.||O'Brien, J.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. S.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||O'Conor Don|
|Hinde, J. H.||Ogle, S. C. H.|
|Hindley, C.||Ord, W.|
|Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.||Oswald, J.|
|Hogg, Sir J. W.||Owen, Sir J.|
|Hollond, R.||Paget, Col.|
|Hope, Sir J.||Paget, Lord A.|
|Hope, A.||Pakington, Sir J.|
|Hoskins, K.||Palmer, R.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Howard, hon. J. K.||Parker, J.|
|Howard, hon. E. G. G.||Pattison, J.|
|Howard, P. H.||Pechell, Capt.|
|Howard, hon. H.||Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.|
|Howard, Sir R.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Hume, J.||Philips, G. R.|
|Humphery, Ald.||Phillipps, Sir R. B. P.|
|Hurst, R. H.||Philips, M.|
|Hutt, W.||Phillpotts, J.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|James, W.||Ponhill, F.|
|James, Sir W. C.||Ponsonby, hon. C. F. A.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Power, J.|
|Jervis, Sir J.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Johnstone, Sir J.||Price, Sir R.|
|Kelly, Sir F.||Protheroe, E. D.|
|Kemble, H.||Pulsford, R.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.||Pusey, P.|
|Lambton, H.||Rawdon, Col.|
|Langston, J. H.||Reid, Sir J. R.|
|Lascelles, hon. E.||Reid, Col.|
|Lascelles, hon. W. S.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Layard, Maj.||Rice, E. R.|
|Leader, J. T.||Rich, H.|
|Le Marchant, Sir D.||Roebuck, J. E.|
|Lemon, Sir C.||Romilly, J.|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Ross, D. R.|
|Lindsay, hon. Capt.||Round, J.|
|Loch, J.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Lockhart, A. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Lyall, G.||Russell, Lord E.|
|Lygon, hon. Gen.||Russell, J. D. W.|
|Macaulay, rt. hon. T. B.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Ryder, hon. G. D.|
|M'Donnell, J. M.||Sanderson, R.|
|M'Taggart, Sir J.||Sandon, Visct.|
|Mahon, Visct.||Scott, R.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Maitland, T.||Seymour, Lord|
|Mangles, R. D.||Seymour, Sir H. B.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Shaw, rt. hon. F.|
|Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.||Trotter, J.|
|Sheridan, R. B.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Smith, J. A.||Turner, E.|
|Smith, rt. hon. R. B.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Somers, J. P.||Vernon, G. H.|
|Somerset, Lord G.||Villiers, Visct.|
|Somerville, Sir W. M.||Vivian, J. H.|
|Spooner, R.||Wakley, T.|
|Stanley, hon. W. O.||Walker, R.|
|Stansfield, W. R. C.||Wall, C. B.|
|Stanton, W. H.||Warburton, H.|
|Staunton, Sir G. T.||Ward, H. G.|
|Stewart, J.||Watson, W. H.|
|Stuart, Lord J.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Stuart, W. V.||Wellesley, Lord C.|
|Strickland, Sir G.||White, H.|
|Strutt, rt. hon. E.||Williams, W.|
|Sutton, hon. H. M.||Wilshire, W.|
|Tancred, H. W.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Thesiger, Sir F.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Thornely, T.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Tollemache, hon. F. J.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Tomline, G.||Wyse, T.|
|Tower, C.||Yorke, H. R.|
|Trelawny, J. S.||Hill, Lord M.|
|Trevor, hon. G. R.||Tufnell, H.|
§ Bill put off for six months.
§ House adjourned at half-past Three o'clock.