§ MR. C. HOWARD
rose to move the Address, and spoke as follows:—Before I proceed I must claim, I fear, even a larger share of indulgence than the House is usually kind enough to bestow. I assure the House that in my present situation I stand greatly in need of it; but in the course of the few observations I shall offer, I hope 68 that nothing will fall from me to disturb that unanimity I am sure it was intended Her Majesty's Speech should inspire. We shall, I think, do well if on this occasion at least we abstain from party disputes, and, like the late meeting in Dublin, unite for one common and beneficial purpose—the improvement of the condition of Ireland. The first paragraph of Her Majesty's Speech expresses deep regret at the unfortunate dearth in the north of Scotland and in Ireland; and I am sure the House will sympathize in that regret. The circumstances of the latter country appear to be of an appalling character, and beset with such difficulty and danger that we shrink from the contemplation of them. Were not honourable Members so familiar with the painful details, I should hardly have known how to advert to them; but no language of mine can be necessary to excite sympathy, or to ensure the best efforts to alleviate distress. The calamity I allude to is unhappily no new occurrence. In 1845 it prevailed to a considerable extent; but the disease in the potatoes did not then begin at so early a period, nor was it attended with such disastrous results. Last year it began early in August, and it was of so fatal a character, that, with the exception of the potatoes planted early, nearly the entire crop was destroyed. I feel how incapable I am of describing the circumstances of the country; and figures and details of that kind cannot at all adequately represent its condition. I believe that an eleventh part of the whole arable land of Ireland, or 1,200,000 acres, are employed in potato cultivation, and not more than one-sixth of the crop escaped the disease that commenced in August. I am sensible that this gives but an imperfect view of the real amount of destruction, and it is to be recollected that the whole social relations of Ireland may be said to depend mainly upon the cultivation of the potato. It affects most intimately the relation between landlord and tenant, and the labourer is paid by the produce of the crop. If destroyed, therefore, it would be almost impossible to supply its place. I will not attempt any detail of the measures of Government to meet and remedy this great evil—the employment they have furnished, the facilities they have afforded to landed proprietors, and the assistance they have given to local consumption; but I cannot disguise from myself the painful truth, that distress has not been checked, and 69 that the people of Ireland are at this moment in a most fearful state. I rejoice to find that Ministers mean to relax no exertions, and that still farther additions will be made to the supply of food. They mean also to remove any duty on the introduction of corn into Ireland, and they propose also to employ sugar instead of grain in breweries and distilleries. I rejoice heartily at these measures, but I cannot conceal from myself that they are only temporary. The permanent condition of Ireland cannot be improved by such palliatives; and on this account it especially behoves Parliament to take the whole subject into consideration, in order to devise means, not only of remedying the existing evil, but of preventing its recurrence. Having thus alluded to prevailing distress, I cannot but remark upon the patience with which it has been borne. It may be that excess of suffering has led in a few instances to violent language and intemperate conduct; but it would be doing injustice to the people of Ireland not to admit and admire the quiet endurance with which they have sustained this dreadful calamity. I will no longer dwell on the condition of Ireland, which is sure to excite the warmest sympathy, but advert to one or two other topics in Her Majesty's Speech. Another paragraph relates to the marriage of the Infanta of Spain with the Duke de Montpensier. On that subject, as the correspondence will soon be laid upon the Table, it would be premature to make any observations; it will be sufficient for the House, when it is in possession of the necessary information, to apply itself to the consideration of the question. There is another topic on which I wish to be allowed to say a few words; it relates to a Treaty of an ancient date, and to the destruction of the independence of Cracow; and I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise that such a violation of the sanctity of a treaty has occurred. I must, therefore, heartily join in the protest against this infringement of the plain stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. Her Majesty has called our attention to the sanatory measures which are of importance to all the great towns of Her empire; and with reference to the inquiries of the Commissioners, I may remark that to Mr. Chadwick and Dr. Southwood Smith we have reason to be grateful for the application of skill and science to so interesting a subject. I shall not trouble the House further, but, thanking it for its forbearance, 70 I beg leave to move the Address to Her Majesty. The hon. Member concluded by moving—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, humbly to thank Her Majesty for Her most gracious Speech from the Throne:Humbly to inform Her Majesty, that we fully participate in the deep concern which Her Majesty expresses in having to call our attention to the dearth of provisions which prevails in Ireland and parts of Scotland:To state to Her Majesty, that we lament to learn that, in Ireland especially, the loss of the usual food of the people has been the cause of severe sufferings, of disease, and of greatly increased mortality among the poorer classes. We deeply regret that outrages, chiefly against property, have become more frequent, and that, in some parts of the Country, the transit of provisions has been rendered unsafe:To thank Her Majesty for informing us that, with a view to mitigate these evils, very large numbers of men have been employed, and have received wages, in pursuance of an Act passed in the last Session of Parliament; and to assure Her Majesty that we will take into our consideration the propriety of giving our sanction to the deviations from that Act, which have been authorized by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in order to promote more useful employment:To thank Her Majesty for informing us, that means have been taken to lessen the pressure of want in Districts which are most remote from the ordinary sources of supply, and that outrages have been repressed, as far as it was possible, by the Military and Police:Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that we participate in the satisfaction with which Her Majesty observes the exemplary patience and resignation of the People in many of the most distressed districts:To express the regret with which we learn, that the difficulty of obtaining adequate supplies of provisions has been augmented by the deficiency of the harvest in France and Germany, and in some other parts of Europe:—To state to Her Majesty that, in compliance with Her Majesty's recommendation, we will not fail to consider what further measures may be required to alleviate the existing distress, and to take into our serious consideration whether by increasing, for a limited period, the facilities for importing Corn from Foreign Countries, and by the admission of Sugar more freely into Breweries and Distilleries, the supply of food may be beneficially augmented:71To assure Her Majesty that our earnest consideration shall be directed to the permanent condition of Ireland, and that we will avail ourselves of the opportunity afforded, by the absence of political excitement, to take a dispassionate survey of the social evils which afflict that part of the United Kingdom:Humbly to thank Her Majesty for the assurance that various measures will be laid before us which are intended to raise the great mass of the people in comfort, to promote agriculture, and to lessen the pressure of that competition for the occupation of land which has been the fruitful source of crime and misery:Humbly to thank Her Majesty, for informing us that the Marriage of the Infanta Luisa Fernanda of Spain with the Duke of Montpensier, has given rise to a Correspondence between the Government of Her Majesty and those of France and Spain:Humbly to express our acknowledgments to Her Majesty, for informing us that the extinction of the free State of Cracow has appeared to Her Majesty to be so manifest a violation of the Treaty of Vienna, that Her Majesty has commanded that a Protest against that act should be delivered to the Courts of Vienna, Petersburg, and Berlin, which were parties to it, and for having directed that Copies of these several Papers shall be laid before us:To assure Her Majesty, that we have learned with great satisfaction, that Her Majesty entertains confident hopes that the hostilities on the river Plate, which have so long interrupted commerce, may soon be terminated, and gratefully to acknowledge Her Majesty's assurance, that Her efforts, in conjunction with those of the King of the French, will be earnestly directed to that end:That we rejoice to be informed, that Her Majesty's relations generally with Foreign Powers, inspire Her Majesty with the fullest confidence in the maintenance of Peace:Humbly to thank Her Majesty, for having directed the Estimates to be prepared, with a view to provide for the efficiency of the Public Service, with a due regard for economy:To thank Her Majesty, for informing us that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to order every requisite preparation to be made for putting into operation the Act of the last Session of Parliament, for the establishment of Local Courts for the Recovery of Small Debts, and to assure Her Majesty, that we participate in the hope expressed by Her Majesty, that the enforcement of Civil Rights in all parts of the Country to which the 72 Act relates, may, by this measure, be materially facilitated:To assure Her Majesty that, in conformity with Her Majesty's gracious recommendation, we will direct our attention to the measures which will be laid before us for improving the Health of Towns, an object the importance of which we do not fail to appreciate:To assure Her Majesty, that we fully participate in the deep sense Her Majesty entertains of the blessings, which, after a season of calamity, have so often been vouchsafed to this Nation by a superintending Providence; humbly to thank Her Majesty for confiding to us those important matters, for the gracious expression of Her Majesty's full conviction that our discussions will be guided by an impartial spirit, and for Her Majesty's hope, that, by our deliberations, the present sufferings of Her people may be lightened, and their future condition be improved.
§ MR. RICARDO
I do not anticipate that any opposition will be offered to the Address, the Motion for presenting which to Her Majesty I have now the honour to second. I believe that if there were anything either of insertion or of omission that might be deemed exceptionable by any party in this House, they would be slow to offer obstructions to the Government at a time when so many of our fellow-subjects are eagerly looking for measures of immediate relief. I shall not descant on the distress in Ireland; and if, after what has been said by my hon. Friend, I allude to it at all, it will not be to claim your sympathy, or the expression of it, which I know have been long since afforded, nor to obtain credit to myself for peculiar sensibility, when I am sure it is shared by every Member who hears me; but to express my firm conviction that we shall come to the consideration of the subject with minds unbiassed by party hostilities or recollections. We shall all be actuated by the same motives to accomplish the same end—that of providing a remedy for the present national calamity, and of adopting measures that will prevent its recurrence. What those measures may be, I have no means of knowing; and indeed, if I did know them, it would perhaps be premature to discuss them now; but one mode of relief is pointed out in Her Majesty's Speech: I allude to the proposal to give facilities to the admission of foreign corn. This can only be, and is understood to be, by remitting the duty on foreign corn, and by 73 relaxing the navigation laws as far as is necessary for its importation. So natural and so necessary has the first been deemed, that out of doors it has been the subject of universal discussion; and I hear but two objections to it. The one (and an extraordinary objection it is) is, that no larger quantity of corn will be admitted under free import than under the present duties. I shall have a word to say upon that presently; but in the meantime I cannot imagine any opposition on this score, because if no more corn will come in, at all events none will be kept out by the remission of the duty. The other objection is this—that a compact was entered into between Parliament and the agricultural interest, which it would be unfair to disturb or derange. Now, I confess that if I thought there was one party in the House who would deem it wise to take upon themselves the responsibility of having added one farthing to the price of food in the present emergency, in order to satisfy a punctilio like this, I do not believe that there is any other party who would be willing to accept such generosity. I do not believe that the agricultural party of 1847 will think or vote in a less disinterested manner than the agricultural Parliament of 1800, which under analogous circumstances not only remitted the duty, but put a bounty upon importation. I do not mean to say that the circumstances of the present day are as bad as they were in the year 1800; and I trust that the measures adopted by Government will prevent our arriving at such a climax of distress and destitution. But there is one element in the present circumstances to which I beg to call particular attention, which renders it doubly imperative upon us to refrain from imposing any, the slightest, check to the introduction of grain. We are not alone in our misfortunes: the scarcity extends over a great part of the continent of Europe. France, Holland, and Belgium, have opened their ports, so that there is a struggle among nations as to who shall obtain supplies of food for their people. We are, therefore, put on our defence, and it would be madness if we were to interpose obstructions which would prevent our obtaining a fair share of the produce of the world. The price of corn may now be taken at 70s. I will assume that as the price for the sake of argument. Thus a 4s. duty will be leviable, being 3s. more than under the old corn law. Now I maintain that we labour under a disadvantage to this amount in the competition Nobody will deny that 74 a seller would sooner take his corn to a market free and open, than to a market where he had to pay a 4s. turnpike; he would sooner sell at 70s. in a free market, than at 73s. in a market where a 4s. duty was imposed; in the former he would be the gainer instead of the loser of a shilling. I do not mean to say that from our more intimate commercial relations with corn-growing countries, from our means of traffic with them, giving them commodities which they require, from our insular position and from our superior power of internal transport, we might not keep the price of corn lower than in neighbouring countries; but in order to do that, we must have equal facilities of admission and transmission. The first will be obtained by remitting the corn laws, and the second can only be insured by relaxing the navigation laws. I have been at some pains to find out what quantity of corn is likely to be required before next harvest. I do not wish to trouble the House with quotations and statistics, of which they entertain a very natural horror; but it is fair to state, and it is generally understood, that we annually receive from Ireland about two millions of quarters of corn. This year we shall receive none; and the probability is, that we shall have to export two millions of quarters to that country. Our average half-yearly import from abroad may be stated at one million in ordinary times; therefore, we have to make up a deficiency of five millions. I admit that I have heard from many practical men different calculations upon this point, some putting it higher and some lower; but, for the purpose of my argument, I am willing to take the deficiency at four millions of quarters. Now, four millions of quarters are equal to about 857,000 tons, and 857,000 tons will require upwards of 1,700 ships of 500 tons each. It is, therefore, quite evident that we cannot find ships of our own to carry the corn necessary to save the people from starvation. It is within my own personal knowledge that the present freight of corn from the Black Sea is actually 16s. per quarter, irrespective of insurance, of warehousing, and other ordinary charges. We know perfectly well that as soon as the navigation of the various rivers and canals in the United States, the Baltic, and the Black Sea is opened, that is to say, as soon as the ice will allow, every available ship will be taken up for the purpose of importing grain into this or into neighbouring countries. If we do not take it, depend 75 upon it our neighhours will. The corn merchants will not wait till we fetch it; corn will be bought up wholesale by other countries, and retailed out to us at an advanced price. I do not believe that under these circumstances the most stanch supporter of the navigation laws can object to their temporary relaxation. For my part, I am free to confess—and in this I am expressing merely my own opinion—that when I consider that Great Britain is an island kingdom, with island colonies, whose empire is washed by nearly every sea that flows, while its subjects, scattered over the four quarters of the globe, may be said to be in almost daily communication—when I consider that our sailors are braving perils and disease in the cause of humanity in the torrid zone, or undergoing toils and privations in the cause of science in the frozen seas—when I reflect that our merchants are the best customers in all the markets of mankind, and that our manufacturers are surpassed by none in industry and ingenuity—when I call to mind our vast resources of capital, and our superiority in the construction of ships, and in every other way that capital can be employed, I would rather trust to these things than to the miserable remnant of a law made for other times and under other circumstances—a law, be it remembered, which failed when it was adopted, which in later times has been the main cause of our separation from our former colonies of America, and which even now is a fruitful source of discontent in your dependencies. One other measure of immediate relief is recommended in Her Majesty's Speech, the admission of sugar for the use of breweries and distilleries; but as I do not intend to abuse the indulgence the House has already shown me, I shall refrain from entering at large into the matter, which is one of considerable intricacy, and may advantageously be reserved to a later period. If, however, it can be shown that without loss to the revenue a considerable quantity of grain can be liberated, so as to be applied to the purposes of food, while at the same time one of the few luxuries within the reach of the working classes may be reduced in cost, it is hardly necessary to say that it is a measure not only expedient, but of bare justice to your colonies; by withdrawing a prohibition against them, when you have taken away that which they fancied to be beneficial to them. I should like to see all interests, agricul- 76 tural, commercial, and colonial, dealt with alike; and I believe unless you do so, you cannot carry out principles, now, I am happy to say, generally understood and recognised. When I consider the success that has attended the new course, as far as you have abandoned the old, and that experience, as far as it has gone, has demonstrated the policy of the new system, by the increase of the customs' duties, even in spite of great reductions in an unparalleled number of articles—when I see the augmented consumption of articles of such vast necessity as sugar, timber, and brandy, I cannot wonder that it is the wish of the Government, at the head of which the noble Lord is now placed, to continue in the same path that was so wisely yet so cautiously trodden by his predecessor. That he will meet with difficulties and impediments there can be no doubt; but I trust that he will not shrink before them, whether they come in the shape of navigation or excise laws. Of this I am convinced, that other nations will not be slow to imitate your example—that they will soon find that it is better to buy economically than to manufacture expensively; and that capital will be diverted from competition into barter with us, to our mutual benefit. By such means relations will be established with foreign nations that will ensure the peace and happiness of the world; and, having followed the course we began, they will admit that we have earned the gratitude of posterity. I thank the House for the kindness with which it has heard me; and not thinking it necessary to advert to topics already touched by my hon. Friend, I have only to conclude by seconding the Address to Her Majesty.
§ The Address having been read by the SPEAKER—
MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
said, that however reluctant he might be to disturb the equanimity of the House, or to violate in any respect the custom which might lead the House to receive with unanimity the Address in reply to the Speech, yet he felt that he should be wanting in his duty to his country if he remained silent on that occasion, or if he refrained from making an appeal to the House with respect to the present condition of Ireland, and for those in that country whose sufferings could not be exaggerated, and could not be described. He trusted that it would not be necessary for him to-night to recapitulate the circumstances which had occurred in Ireland during the last three months. If Gentle- 77 men were not already familiarized with those circumstances, and if the horrors which had been witnessed had not affected their minds, nothing which he might add could move them. But he felt bound to say that from what he could learn by the most recent accounts, there was not only reason to suppose that those horrors would continue in all their frightful magnitude, but that they were increasing, and would continue to increase unless some adequate measures were introduced by that House with a view to put an end to them. He perceived by the latest Dublin newspaper which had arrived, that there were reported in one number no less than eight inquests upon persons in the county of Mayo, the verdict in all the cases being "Death by starvation," whilst the same paper gave an account of a family that had been subsisting for some time upon horseflesh—carrion which had been abandoned by the dogs and the wild birds of the air. He was asked, in common with the House, to say, by assenting to the Address, whether he were prepared to say that the Government had been altogether guiltless of having produced that frightful state of things; and if he were called upon to affirm that everything had been done by the Government which might have been done by them, he would answer that he believed it was in the power of the Government to prevent one single individual from dying of starvation in Ireland. He did not mean to impute to the Government any wilful intention of bringing about a state of things so disastrous; but it was his opinion, and the opinion of others in Ireland, that the Ministers had not introduced those measures which they might have adopted—that they had neglected to bring forward measures suitable for the condition in which Ireland had been placed, and had thus produced that state of things which was now witnessed. He would call the attention of the House to the declaration of the noble Lord opposite last Session—namely, that there was to be no legislative interference with the price of food, and he did so because he believed that to that declaration they owed many of the disasters which had taken place in Ireland. It would have been far better if the noble Lord had pledged himself that, so far as the Government was concerned, no human being should be permitted to die of starvation in Ireland. He trusted, hnwever, that by this time the noble Lord had seen that the commercial resources of Ireland were such as could 78 not, without extraordinary aid, be deemed sufficient to meet the emergency, and that the capital employed in the provision trade, in milling, and in baking, could not be made applicable to the support of five millions of persons. When they looked to the capital and commercial enterprise of this country, in reference to the present state of things in Ireland, and as capable of meeting the demand, he would ask, would any one say that it would be possible in two months to direct the course of trade from this country to remote places in Ireland, where no such trade existed before, and thus to supply those districts with food? It was the duty of the Government, instead of leaving the supply to such means, to ransack every part of the civilized world, for the purpose of introducing every kind of produce into Ireland, and particularly into those places which were remote from markets, so that food might be placed within the reach of every individual in the country. When, therefore, the noble Lord at the head of the Government called upon him to give his approval of the course which the Government had taken, by asking him to affirm the Address, he would answer that he was not aware of sufficient supplies having been introduced by the Government into any place in Ireland; and consequently he could not express his approval of the course which had been taken. With respect to the duty on corn, he thought the proposition which the noble Lord now made was bold enough; but he would ask, why were not those restrictions removed three months ago? Why was not the necessity of which they were now speaking sufficient three months ago to justify removing the duties upon the importation of corn? Why was not Parliament called together three months ago for the purpose of suspending the navigation laws, and of prohibiting the use of corn in distilleries—of permitting the use of sugar in distilleries, and of employing Her Majesty's navy in the introduction of supplies of food to those parts of Ireland to which there existed no other means of supply? If the noble Lord asked him (Mr. Smith O'Brien) to affirm that the Government had done its duty in these respects, he could not acquiesce in such an affirmation. Then, with respect to the employment of the people, every one who was acquainted with Ireland—and he regretted that he was addressing an audience five-sixths of whom knew little or nothing about that country—every one acquainted with 79 Ireland was aware that the great number of labourers who required support could not be employed out of the ordinary resources of Ireland—that the gentry had suffered from diminished rents, some had none at all, and therefore were unable to give the usual amount of employment to the labourers—and that the farmers could not employ the usual amount of labour, in consequence of the great losses which they suffered from the failure of the potato crop—and that the absentees, whom the Legislature refused to tax, would not come forward to employ the people in their proportion. Such was the condition of Ireland. Such had been the effect of the system of government which had been pursued towards Ireland, that for several months in the year great numbers of the people were without employment, even when potatoes were most plentiful, and therefore there was the greater necessity for putting money into the hands of the people by means of employment, in order to enable them to purchase food this year, when their ordinary supply, the potato crop, had altogether failed. In such a state of things, it was only natural that the Government should provide resources of a temporary character. But what had they done? They had placed upon the Statute-book at the end of the Session an Act of Parliament usually known by the name of the Labour-rate Act, which gave a power to the Executive to undertake such works, with a view of employing the people as might be sanctioned by the presentment sessions to be held under the Act; but it provided that those works were to be of a public character alone. The gentry assembled in all parts of the country to carry that Act into effect, and the consequence was, that the country was consigned to barrenness, whilst the people were employed in all directions in destroying the roads, and cutting up fertile land: and thus the country was necsesarily involved in very great loss. He did not blame the Government so much for having passed an Act of that description with such precipitation, and in the absence of a great number of Irish Members. The Government might have been taken by surprise, as the Irish Members themselves had been, by what had occurred; for in August last it was impossible to foresee the extent to which the calamity had since reached; but there was no apology whatever for the Government not having taken more effectual measures as soon as they saw the extent of the calamity—no apo- 80 logy or excuse for its not having called Parliament together to meet the exigency. That would have been the constitutional course; and if the calamity existed in this country instead of Ireland, it was the course which would have been adopted. There was no excuse for the Government not having called Parliament together in November or October, for there were general remonstrances from every part of the country as to the expenditure of such large sums of money as those which were required under the Labour-rate Act, and for such useless, or rather such injurious, purposes. Instead, however, of doing that which was the duty of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Labouchere) took upon himself to supersede the Legislature altogether, and did so without consulting the Irish Members, who were the legitimate representatives of Irish opinion. The right hon. Gentleman took it upon himself to declare by an official letter what the law was in Ireland under an Act which affected property in Ireland in the minutest manner, whilst the declaration of the law in that letter was couched in language which it was exceedingly difficult to understand. In his opinion, such a Minister setting such a precedent—for let it be remembered it was a precedent which might be used for future purposes—was deserving of impeachment. That was his opinion, and he would express it, though he stood alone. He would add, that the recommendations urged in the letter by the right hon. Gentleman had not even the merit of being practicable, at the same time that they were calculated to throw the country into confusion, and to prevent the exertions which might otherwise be made from private resources. Indeed, few works comparatively had been undertaken in accordance with that letter; for although exertions had been made to act upon the letter, it was impossible to carry out its recommendations. What they (the Irish Members) asked was, that the employment of the people should be no longer directed to works which were of an utterly unproductive character. At the present moment there were hundreds of thousands of men employed in destroying the roads, whilst, in consequence of that mode of employment being adopted, the land was left untilled; and if such a state of things were to continue, he had no hesitation in saying that the famine of the next year would be infinitely worse than the famine of the present year. They looked, then, with 81 great interest to the course which the noble Lord would propose to adopt—on the one hand, to provide food for the people; and on the other hand, to provide reproductive employment; and he would say, that one hour ought not to be allowed to pass without letting the people of Ireland know what was to be their doom. With respect to the public works, the whole of them were undertaken upon the responsibility of the Government, so that the local boards of guardians and country gentlemen were not allowed to interfere at all in their direction, the whole being under the superintendence of the Board of Works. It was no wonder that much incapacity was exhibited in the administration—that was but natural, as it was impossible that a sufficient number of efficient functionaries could be found in so short a time; and the result of this was, that there had been a great deal of waste and of useless expenditure. It was evident, therefore, that the system which had been adopted by the Government was incommensurate with the evil which it was desirable to remedy in Ireland; for, notwithstanding that the Government had taken the whole responsibility of administering the Labour-rate Act throughout the country, there were whole districts in which its provisions had not been brought into action, and in which the people had been allowed to starve. Would the right hon. Gentleman opposite say why for the last two months the people of Skibbereen and other parts of the county of Cork had been allowed to remain, as was notorious, in a state of actual starvation? He did not suppose that in those districts there was any indisposition on the part of the magistrates and cess-payers to do what had been done in other parts of the country, and borrow money in order to give employment; and he should, therefore, be glad to hear what reason the right hon. Gentleman could state for not applying any remedy for the distress of Mayo and Skibbereen. It was stated in the public papers that the gentry in Mayo had taxed themselves at the presentment sessions for the purpose of providing employment for the people, and yet the machinery for carrying on public works had not been brought into operation, in consequence of which the people were dying by hundreds. There was another point with respect to which the people of Ireland ought to be afforded information at the earliest possible period, namely, was this to be considered as a local calamity, or was it to be con- 82 sidered as a national calamity? If the Irish Members were legislating in an Irish Parliament, it would be considered by them as a national calamity, and all classes—the fund-holder, the office-holder, the mortgagee, the annuitant — would be called on to contribute to the general exertion to alleviate the distress. He wished to learn whether the House considered this an imperial calamity or not; and whilst he, for his own part, refrained from any supplication to the imperial treasury, he could assure the House that there were millions in Ireland who did not consider the Union a union in which all the advantages ought to be on the part of England; and since England had the advantage of the Irish absentee rents, and of applying all the resources of Ireland, they did not consider that it ought to be looked upon as a union for the advantage of England alone, and no union when it was for the interests of Ireland. Nothing could be more outrageous, than that one class, who suffered most from the disasters which had taken place, namely, the landlords of Ireland, should be called upon to hear the whole burden of this calamity. He would ask the House to imagine five millions of the manufacturing population of England to be thrown out of employment by circumstances over which they could have had no control—by a foreign war, or any other circumstance which was calculated to produce such an effect—would any Member of that House say that, in such a case, the whole manufacturing property of the country ought to be confiscated? Yet that was said of the landed interest of Ireland. He was sorry to be obliged to commence the Session by remonstrance; he would rather have cause to approve of the conduct of the Government, for he had no desire to be placed in opposition to them; indeed, he was more inclined to acquiesce with them than with any other party in the House; but he felt bound to deny that justice had been done to all the interests of his country, or that proper means had been taken to prevent those evils which must continue, unless Parliament interfered to provide a remedy. He would abstain from entering into details; the committee which had been sitting in Dublin during the last month, had already laid before the country a variety of suggestions, which were in the possession of Government and of the people; and he was contented at the present moment to 83 rest upon that document, and call upon the Government to carry into effect the measures, an outline of which was there presented. There were undoubtedly some additional measures which he should wish to see enacted; and he had no hesitation in saying that, provided these steps were adopted as preliminary, he, individually, was prepared to consent to an extension of the present Irish Poor Law, and should be glad to see an absentee tax coupled with those measures. But, abstaining, as he had said, from these details, his whole object in rising had been to elicit from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) something like a declaration as to what was to be the course of policy adopted by the Government under the present circumstances of Ireland; whether he adhered to that fatal pledge which he made, that there should be no interference with the course of trade in reference to the supply of food in Ireland; and whether starving multitudes, when they approached the Government, were to be met, not with relief (which they might expect), but with pamphlets such as he held in his hand. It would really seem enough to deny the people their request, without adding mockery and insult to the denial; but this was one of a number of pamphlets which were handed to the deputations from different parts of Ireland, when they came to represent to the Government the famine existing in their districts. They were presented with extracts from the 5th chapter of the 4th book of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations. Other extracts of a similar character had been given them; they were referred to Sir Randolph Routh, and presented with extracts from Adam Smith and Burke, when they brought accounts of the sufferings of the people. He had to apologize to the House for having undertaken a task which he knew to be not at all acceptable; he know that his opinions with reference to the political economists of the House, and the duty of the Government and of the Legislature, were not acceptable there. He had no hesitation in repeating what he had often said elsewhere, that if the Irish people were allowed the management of their own resources, he should, for one, be most happy to relieve that House from the responsibility of voting one single guinea for their protection from famine; but, so long as the English Government administered Irish resources and revenues, so long he could not think them justified in shrinking from the responsibility which belonged 84 to that station; and he must throw upon the Government the responsibility of every death which occurred, if they did not take such measures as might justly and fairly be expected from them.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
had had no intention of addressing the House; but as the hon. Member (Mr. S. O'Brien) had spoken in a manner which would probably call forth some explanation from the Government, as to the course they had taken with reference to the distress in Ireland, and as the hon. Member had refrained from calling attention to one branch of the question in which he felt considerable interest, he might perhaps be permitted to ask that the explanation be extended to that point also. The hon. Member had been speaking of the means which the Government had put in force for insuring employment, and through employment a maintenance to the able-bodied population of Ireland suffering under the loss of the potato crop; but he said nothing as to the means that might have been taken for affording relief to that large portion who had been necessarily unable to work for their subsistence—that class, perhaps larger in Ireland than in any other country, called the impotent poor, consisting of the aged, the infirm, the sick, the widows, the orphans, the young women, and, in fact, women of all ages, that had not a husband to provide for them. Assuming for the moment, that the measures of Government were sufficient for the maintenance of the able-bodied population in destitution, it must be remembered that the proposal was limited to giving as low a rate of wages as possible to those employed—a rate calculated at first, he believed, at some fraction under the ordinary rate of wages in Ireland when the population subsisted upon cheap potatoes, but which it was quite impossible to suppose could maintain a labourer with an average family under the high price of the grain food to which he had been obliged to resort. But, even if the able-bodied labourer could maintain his family upon the wages obtained on public works, what was to become of the infirm poor who had no able-bodied person to work for them? As far as he understood, the scheme of the Government was confined to this—that for the destitute infirm poor they looked to the relief to be afforded by voluntary contributions, or the workhouse system which was in force under the law of 1837. Now, first, as to voluntary contributions, how could it have been expected that these 85 should be adequate to this purpose? They were to be collected by the relief committees; but those committees were interdicted from using the money for the maintenance of the infirm poor: they were required to sell provisions only at cost price to those who were able to buy them. That was the meaning of the instructions to them in the autumn, as far as he could make out; if he were wrong, it was the very point on which he wished to be corrected; at all events, the relief committees were so far interdicted from giving food away, that, if they did so, they put themselves out of the possibility of receiving that moiety or equal grant from the Government which was promised to them in case of their confining their contributions to the course indicated by the Government, viz., the employment of the poor, or selling food at prime cost. The experience of past years ought to have taught the Government that it should not place reliance upon the voluntary contributions of the wealthy classes of Ireland. That source had always failed, whether in ordinary or extraordinary times. It had been absolutely necessary, whenever there was a failure of the crop upon which the Irish were in the habit of subsisting, to have recourse to the charity of England; and he could not understand how the Government could have supposed it possible, in an emergency like that which they were called to anticipate last autumn, that adequate voluntary contributions should be forthcoming. But then there was the workhouse system. Now, what did that amount to? One hundred and thirty workhouses were established in Ireland, and they were built to contain the one-hundredth part of the population; but since we maintained in England, out of our poor rates, 10 per cent of our population, we might expect full that amount of destitution in Ireland in ordinary times, and in extraordinary times a much larger. He (Mr. P. Scrope) could not, therefore, for a moment suppose that the workhouse was expected to be adequate to the destitution. The fact was, that in a vast number of cases, if we might believe the published reports, the workhouse had been so crowded that the guardians had been obliged to shut their doors and refuse admission to any more; and before this they had admitted so many that fever had got a footing in the wards, and propagated itself and assumed a contagious character, till the workhouse had become, instead of the means of relief to the poor, the means of 86 destroying them. There was almost a certainty that a fever would be communicated to them, and carry them off. He did not wish to bring any charge against the Government; he merely asked for an explanation why they had not interfered in a more vigorous manner, and why they had not authorized or required the local authorities established over the whole country under the poor law of 1837, to become responsible for the maintenance of the population, and most especially for saving the infirm destitute from starving? That that had not been done, was evident from the facts brought before the public during the last few weeks. He by no means wished to throw on the Government a responsibility, as the hon. Member (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) had done, for these horrible events; but he thought, certainly, they must have mistaken their powers, or mistaken the resources at their command. He could not but believe that if Ministers had applied a proper remedy—if they had last year imposed upon the local authorities the duty of preventing starvation in their own neighbourhoods—aware as those authorities must be of the amount of destitution, great misery would have been prevented. Those authorities might either from their own means, or the means afforded or lent them by the Government, have provided such supplies of food as would have prevented starvation. We should not then have heard of Skibbereen and other cases, in which the poor seemed to be left to die, to be swept off the face of the earth as might happen, without having any one to assist or care for them. These points required explanation; he brought them forward without any view of causing the slightest uneasiness to the Government; but, feeling very strongly that measures had not been taken which might have been taken to avert the misery which had occurred, and was now existing in great part of Ireland, he should have felt himself wanting in his duty if he had not taken the earliest opportunity of calling the attention of the Government to the matter.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Sir, although during the many years for which I have now had the honour of being a Member of this House, I have frequently experienced its kindness, I confess that I never rose under a deeper sense of the responsibility which lies upon me, or under a stronger impression how much I shall stand in need of the kind indulgence of the House during the short time I shall have to address it. The hon. 87 Member for Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) has in very strong language described the misery which at present prevails in Ireland. I wish it was in my power to say to the House that I thought the hon. Member had overcharged the picture. There has been, doubtless, in particular cases, in the accounts that have gone forth to the public, great exaggeration; there have been many mistakes. But if I am asked whether the picture which has been presented to the House is an overcharged representation of that which has taken place, and actually is taking place, I cannot, consistently with truth and with my duty to the House, say that it is exaggerated. I ask the House, before they do, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) proposes—before they throw upon the Government the responsibility of these calamities, and say that every death which has taken place ought to weigh upon the consciences of Ministers, what is the calamity which has reduced Ireland to a state of famine? Consider, first, what is the ordinary condition of Ireland? What was the country in which this calamity has taken place? It was a country of which it was no exaggeration for Lord Devon's Commission to say, that the people were the worst housed, the worst fed, and the worst clothed of any in Europe. It was a country of which I derive this account, as regards a great part of its population, from a most unexceptionable source, the Report of the Commissioners of Poor Law Inquiry made in 1835:—That there are 1,131,715 agricultural labourers whose average earnings do not exceed from 2s. to 2s. 6d. a-week; that one-half of that number are destitute of work during thirty weeks in the year; and that these with their families make a total of 2,355,000 out of work and in distress thirty weeks in the year.This is the ordinary condition of Ireland; and on a country thus circumstanced in ordinary times, what must be the effect of such a calamity as that which has occurred? I believe it is without a parallel in modern times. By the visitation of Providence the food of the great body of the people has been swept away to such an extent that experience has proved it to be almost a total failure. I have endeavoured to obtain, from sources on which I can place reliance, some calculations of the loss which the people of Ireland have sustained, as regards both money and food, from the failure of the potato crop. I asked Mr. Griffith, one of the highest statistical authorities to whom reference could 88 be made, for an estimate of the loss. In the return which he has given me, Mr. Griffith calculates upon the produce of 1,500,000 cultivated acres, usually yielding a crop of the value of 15,000,000l., a loss of three-fourths, or 11,250,000l. The crop next in importance, the oat crop, also failed to a very considerable extent; and particularly in the most distressed districts. Mr. Griffith told me that he could not calculate the loss on that crop at less than one-third of the ordinary produce. The old crop he calculates as yielding, on 4,000,000 acres, produce equal in value to 14,000,000l., making a total loss of 4,666,000l.; so that the whole loss to the people of Ireland on the potato and oat crops amounts to no less than 15,916,000l. Mr. Griffith stated that, by estimating the area of productive land in Ireland at 14,000,000 statute acres, the annual produce, under ordinary circumstances, has hitherto been nearly as follows:—
|Potatoes, 1,500,000 acres, at the average value of 10l. per statute acre||£.|
|Oats, 4,000,000 acres, at the average value of 3l. 10s. per statute acre||14,000,000|
|Wheat, flax, and green crops, 2,000,000 acres, at the average value of 7l. per statute acre||14,000,000|
|Pasture and meadow, 6,500,000 acres, at the average value of 1l. 5s. per statute acre||8,125,000|
§ or say 16,000,000l. It is the mere money value of the produce which is estimated in this statement; but here is another calculation of the loss of produce by weight and measure, which I have received front Mr. Griffith:—
|LOSS OF PRODUCE CALCULATED BY WEIGHT AND MEASURE.|
|Potatoes, 1,500,000 of acres, produce||11,250,000|
|Oats, 4,000,000 of acres, produce 24,000,000 barrels of 14 stone.|
|Loss, one-third = 8,000,000 barrels; in quarters, 5,227,000.|
§ But the House will form a very inadequate conception of the calamity which has befallen Ireland if they look to the loss merely of money, or to the quantity of human food abstracted from the stock available in ordinary years. I shall not 89 enter into details; but if the House considers how the cultivation of the potato is mixed up and interwoven with the whole interests of Ireland, you will have some idea of the effect which the total destruction of the potato crop has produced. If you consider its effects upon the cottier, its effects upon the small conacre farmer, who has not only to raise food for his own consumption, but has a family to maintain, which, under existing circumstances, he is totally incapable of maintaining—its sad effects upon the farm labourer, whom the farmer was accustomed to keep in his house and feed upon potatoes, but is now obliged to turn off and throw upon society; any one acquainted with the structure of society in Ireland, who duly considers the operation of the causes which have recently been at work upon the social and agricultural system of Ireland, may be able to form some idea of the extent of the calamity which has fallen upon Ireland. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) described the deaths in Mayo, and charged the Government with having occasioned that misfortune. What is the ordinary condition of Mayo? Wretched as Ireland is, that county stands pre-eminent in wretchedness. Looking at the Report of the same Poor Law Commissioners from which I have already quoted, I find this expression used by one of the witnesses, that "the county of Mayo alone could furnish beggars to all England." Am I to be told that the Government is to be charged, as it has been, with the sufferings of the people, on the assumption that they were able to avert a calamity, the extent of which I do not seek to hide or diminish, but for which their conduct is subjected to criticism, unjust exactly in proportion as I know their accuser has had opportunities of judging what are the real circumstances of the case? The hon. Gentleman went on to attack my noble Friend the First Minister of the Crown, because he said he adhered to a pledge given at the end of the last Session of Parliament, not to interfere with the ordinary supply of food. In the first place, I do not think the hon. Gentleman has accurately stated what was the pledge. It was that the Government would not meddle with the import trade in provisions from foreign countries. And I say, now, looking to the whole that has happened since, that Government has firmly and under much obloquy persevered, that I know nothing more criminal in a Government than, against their reason and conviction, 90 to abandon the course to which they have pledged themselves, to reverse their policy on such a matter, unless they are satisfied that it is for the public good. Of this I am quite sure, that if the Government had adopted the recommendation of the hon. Gentleman, and turned importers on a large scale, the attempt would have utterly failed. A short period of artificial abundance would have been followed by all the horrors of famine, aggravated by the clumsy expedient to which the Government would have had recourse. The hon. Gentleman speaks as if the powers of Government were unlimited. There cannot be a more complete and utter mistake. I am quite ready to allow that in extraordinary circumstances the Government may step out of its way, and afford facilities which in ordinary circumstances are rather to be avoided. But they are called upon to set aside the laws of trade altogether, and to reduce prices, on a great scale, below their natural level. Such an attempt could never have been successful. The population which has to be supplied in Ireland amounts to 8,000,000: and who does not know that if the Government had turned merchant, the consequence would have been that in a very short time all trade would have been paralysed? So absurd an attempt on the part of Government would have ended in complete failure, and would have aggravated the misery it was intended to alleviate. The pledge of the Government was, that they would not import corn from abroad into Ireland under any circumstances. It was necessary to speak out upon that point. The conduct of the previous Government excited the fears of the import merchants. They said, "It is but fair to let us know what you intend to do. Do you mean to go to the American market?" And I do rejoice, after what has taken place, that my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) spoke out—that he gave that pledge—that he adhered to it; and of this I am assured, that any other course would have been disastrous. But he gave that pledge with a modification to which I would call the attention of the House. He said, "I will not interfere with the import trade." He said, also, "I will not interfere under ordinary circumstances with the retail trade." But there are parts of the country where there is a want of retail traders. There is always a balance of difficulties and dangers when the question of interference is raised. When you do interfere, you are apt to drive away the 91 private trader. On due consideration, we came to the conclusion, that it was advisable to interfere; but that we ought to draw this distinction, that in the country west of the Shannon, and on the southern coasts of Cork and Kerry, as well as in the north from Donegal, there was really such a state of circumstances, owing to the difficulty of communication, that the Government would do more good than harm by interfering; but that in Ireland, generally, not only do I believe that the Government would have done a great deal more harm than good by interference, but that such interference was an absolute impossibility. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. S. O'Brien) reproached us for not following the example of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth (Sir R. Peel), when he, as First Minister of the Crown, had to deal with a calamity of a similar description. The circumstances, however, were entirely different. We were under a system of restriction, and the right hon. Gentleman took the very useful and praiseworthy step of introducing Indian meal, which was then altogether prohibited, to accustom the Irish to that new article of food, to which private traders had not resorted; and the effects were very excellent. The right hon. Gentleman conducted that experiment with entire secrecy, because to be successful it must be secret. But could that experiment be repeated? I recollect the express declaration of the right hon. Gentleman when this matter was under discussion last year, that this might be done once very properly, but he would not do it again. The circumstances were not at all parallel; the comparison was altogether fallacious. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. O'Brien) went on to criticize the manner in which the Government had applied those means which Parliament had afforded for giving employment to the people. I need scarcely remind the House of what has taken place in this respect. My noble Friend's Government came into office at the close of last Session. There were even then indications of a severe scarcity in Ireland, and we had to consider how we should meet it. The Government which preceded us had adopted a system which received the sanction of this House, and which was to operate by affording employment to the mass of the people through the medium of payments for labour on public works. Undoubtedly, that system, as adopted by the late Government, was open to great abuses. But, upon the whole, doing our best to 92 check such abuses, we proposed to give the poor employment as before. But we never expected and never recommended this measure as one which in itself was intended to provide for the whole labouring population. We were in hopes that the effect would be to stimulate the landed proprietors to employ the labouring population upon useful reproductive works rather than upon public works. In that anticipation we in a great degree have been disappointed. I believe the magnitude of the calamity has had a great effect; but I heard with great surprise the hon. Gentleman, an Irishman, talk of impeaching the Government for having acted on their own responsibility when they found things taking such a course, and a mass of labour thrown on the public works—for having, with the unanimous voice of the landowners of Ireland in their favour, tried, on their own responsibility, to supply a remedy. If he is prepared to propose that I should be censured for having put my name to the letter in which the resolution of the Government was announced, I believe he will not find another Irish Member to second his Motion. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that this system of public works was cumbersome, and full of evils. The officers employed were accused of incapacity. I must say, if that observation is meant to apply to the officers of the Board of Works, no censure could be made more unjustly and undeservedly. [Mr. SMITH O'BRIEN: I meant the persons they employed.] I do not deny that some of these persons may have been incompetent to the discharge of the duties which they had undertaken to perform; but this testimony is owing on my part to the officers of the Board of Works generally, that I believe it impossible for public servants to work with greater assiduity, with greater zeal, or with greater success. Will the hon. Gentleman consider on what a scale these operations have been carried on? I believe that at the moment that I am addressing the House, not less than 450,000 persons are employed on the public works in Ireland. In September last there were about 30,000 persons employed; in October there were 150,000; in November, 285,000; and in December, 440,000. The hon. Gentleman says, that the officers of the Board of Works are not all competent persons; but I will just state what an army of them there are. Of inspecting officers there are 74; there are 36 engineers, 385 assistant surveyors and engineers, 2,832 check 93 clerks, 6,894 overseers, and 495 pay clerks. This, Sir, shows the gigantic effort which has been made by the Government to meet the calamity which has fallen on Ireland. I can understand Gentlemen saying that we did not act in the right direction—I can understand the Government being blamed for the course which they adopted; but I confess I cannot understand how any one can blame us for not having used vigorously and effectively the means which Parliament placed within our power to mitigate the calamity with which we had to deal. I have no doubt that our efforts have had an immense effect in mitigating this misfortune. It is undoubtedly true, that all that we have done has not been able to prevent famine and disease in many parts of Ireland; but it does not follow that this state of things would not have been worse if they had been left to themselves, and if the enormous efforts which we have made had not been undertaken with a view of meeting this misfortune. I have no hesitation in saying, that the great expenditure of money, and the employment provided for the people, have had an immense effect in enabling the people of Ireland to resist the pressure of the calamity. The hon. Gentleman then went on to ask, whether we considered this misfortune as a local or a general one?—whether we considered the question as one which exclusively belonged to Ireland, and the whole pressure of which should be borne by Ireland? or, whether we considered it one which had occurred to the whole British empire, and to which, as such, the resources of the British empire should be brought in aid? I have no difficulty in answering that question. I do not intend to anticipate the discussion which will take place more properly when the measures which the Government have to propose regarding Ireland have been laid before the House and the public, and which my noble Friend has promised in the course of a few days; but I have no hesitation in saying, that, looking to the extent and the peculiar manner in which the calamity—although affecting England, and still more Scotland, partially—has afflicted Ireland, so utterly out of proportion to its own resources, and to the manner in which it has fallen on other parts of the empire—I repeat, that I have no hesitation in saying to the House, that I consider it an imperial question, and that we shall be prepared by all just and legitimate means to assist the people of Ireland to grapple 94 with the distress. I hope that all parts of the empire will do their duty. I think that Ireland is perfectly right in expecting that England and Scotland will assist her. On the other hand, I think that the gentry and people of Ireland will be expected to show their disposition to leave nothing undone, on their part, to contend with the calamity which has overtaken them; and they may be assured that the willingness of the people of England to assist them will be in exact proportion to the willingness which they find on the part of the landlords and gentry of Ireland to do their duty. And, for my own part, I must say, that I have seen in Ireland a very improved spirit in this respect springing up. In many instances there was at first a feeling of discouragement, which was perhaps natural under the circumstances, felt by many landowners; but I believe that they are now awakening to the conviction that the safest way of meeting the disaster is by the immediate instrumentality and agency of Ireland's own children. I am sure that they will find, not only the warmest sympathy in England and throughout the British empire, but the most cordial willingness to assist them; but their assistance can only be given usefully, can only be given honourably, can only be given safely, provided the cordial co-operation of those in Ireland, whose property and station enable them to assist the Imperial Legislature and Government in carrying into effect those measures which they may be prepared to recommend in the circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) next asked a question on another branch of the subject; and to the best of my ability I will give him an answer. At the same time, I think that the greater part of his speech rather anticipated a discussion which will doubtless occupy the attention of the House on a future occasion—I mean the question of the Irish Poor Law—than bore any direct reference to the present condition of Ireland. My hon. Friend asks what measures Government have adopted to provide, not for that class of the people of Ireland, namely, the able-bodied labourer who was thrown out of employment, but for the enormous mass of destitution which, under all circumstances, was constantly found in Ireland, and which, on the present occasion, had swollen to an extraordinary extent, namely, the sick and infirm poor? Now, I have to state, in reply, that the principal weight of dealing with this class 95 of society fell upon the relief committees. The present poor law was obviously inadequate to grapple with the calamity; and I will add, that I think any poor law would have been unable to grapple with it. I believe, that if at the instance of my hon. Friend the Legislature had passed last Session a poor law for Ireland exactly similar to that of England, it would have entirely broken down in the attempt to provide for the present destitution in Ireland. Those Gentlemen who are acquainted with the difficulty which has been found in providing for the poor in the most destitute part of Ireland, will have some notion what would have been the result if the whole pressure of that destitution had fallen upon the poor law. I believe, indeed, that the thing would have been utterly impossible. The Government must have come to the relief of the community in some shape or another, whether or not there had been a poor law of the kind referred to by my hon. Friend. I therefore say that the destruction of human life which has unfortunately taken place in Ireland cannot be traced to the circumstance of this House not having passed such a poor law. I am not now giving any opinion upon the subject of a poor law for Ireland. That is a grave and serious question, and it is a doubly serious one under the circumstances in which the House will have to discuss it. All I say is, that my hon. Friend's panacea would not have been found of any avail in Ireland, and that an English poor law would not, under present circumstances, have been found sufficient to avert starvation and death from the destitute poor in that country, unless Government had come to their relief and assistance in some extraordinary manner in addition to the operation of a poor law. Now my hon. Friend wishes to know what course we have adopted in those parts of the country where there was great destitution. My answer is, that we have called in the principle of relief committees—which we consider the only safe principle, viz., to entrust the relief of destitution to some local authorities, and to avoid undertaking, through the machinery of Government officers, everywhere, to dole out food and provide employment for the suffering poor. But we said to those relief committees, "You will exert yourselves. If you raise money by local subscriptions, and relieve the distress out of the funds thus collected, we will give money to aid you in your endeavours to mitigate this distress." And I can assure the House 96 that in this way much good was effected by these relief committees. The amount of human suffering which has been alleviated,—the number of human beings who have been kept alive by these means—is immense; and I am sure, if I could lay an accurate statement before you of the good which has been effected, the House would at once see that the machinery has not been unavailing for the purpose for which it was instituted, and that the frightful misfortune has been greatly mitigated. What was the principle which the Government adopted in dealing with these relief committees? I assure my hon. Friend that he has entirely misapprehended it. We began when the distress was not so severe as it is now, by making grants to the extent of one-half of what the committee collected; that is to say, for every 100l. they collected we gave 50l. When the distress had increased, we stated our willingness to give pound for pound with them; that for every pound collected by the local societies we should give another pound; and in some cases we offered even to exceed that proportion. In this way we were enabled to do good to an immense extent. You hear of deaths here and there arising from starvation, but you do not hear of the multitude who have been saved by the relief committees. I admit with sorrow that famine has produced deaths in Ireland; but how can we expect, when we look abroad and find what both France and Germany have suffered from the pressure of famine, that in such a country as Ireland, where it has pleased Providence to visit the people so heavily, any efforts of Government, or any measures of the Legislature, could prevent the calamity producing such results as those to which I am alluding? My hon. Friend has said, that we made it an indispensable requisite, on advancing money to the relief committees, that they were neither to sell nor give away food under cost price. I assure my hon Friend that it was not so. We drew this distinction with respect to the sale and giving away of food. We thought we ought not to sell food except at the market price; and we did so for this reason—that we did not wish to drive away the retail trader. The Government could not have acted otherwise, for it was of the utmost consequence that the retail dealers should not be undersold. There is now a retail trade slowly but steadily growing up in Ireland, which it is of the utmost importance to foster, both as regards the present and the 97 future condition of that country. Ireland can no longer exist without possessing such a trade. The people of that country must hereafter be a people receiving money wages; they must receive cash with which to furnish themselves with the necessary supplies of food, instead of depending as hitherto solely upon the potato for subsistence. If such be the case, the means of procuring food with their money must be placed within their reach. This can be only permanently and beneficially accomplished by fostering the growth of an extensive retail trade in Ireland. If the Government of this country is not to supply food to the people of Ireland at all times—if Ireland is to be put in a position in which she can subsist her own population, it would have been questionable policy in the Government, to say the least of it, to have taken any steps inconsistent with the growth of such a trade. But whilst Her Majesty's Government sought to avoid doing that which might have proved inconsistent with the security and growth of a retail trade in Ireland, it did not preclude the committees from giving relief in those cases in which an absolute necessity for such relief might appear; nay more, it gave them assistance to enable them to give relief. There appeared to be no danger to the retail trade from these merely eleemosynary gifts to those who were starving. We thought that this principle of eleemosynary relief had its own natural limits, and that it could not produce any bad impression upon the trade of the country. This was the system adopted by the Government, and it was a system which I believe was, on the whole, both sound and just. But my hon. Friend thinks that nothing very effective to meet the existing calamity was accomplished under this system. But I can assure my hon. Friend that he vastly underrates the good effects which proceeded from it. Through the instrumentality of the relief committees, soup kitchens, with cheap but wholesome modes of preparing food, were established over the country, particularly in the distressed districts of Mayo and Cork, where the existing calamity has appeared in its most alarming aspect, and to the greatest extent. I can further assure my hon. Friend that through the instrumentality of such establishments much good has been effected, much suffering has been relieved, and much crime prevented. Before I sit down, as I shall not have another opportunity of addressing the House on the 98 present occasion, there is one part of the condition of Ireland to which I am desirous of adverting—a part which is alluded to in Her Majesty's Speech, and to which it is of the utmost importance that the attention of the House should be directed. Her Majesty states in Her Speech that outrages have taken place in various parts of the country, and that the public peace has been subject to frequent disturbance. This, to a great extent, has been the case before; and I think that it is not surprising that now, with famine desolating the country in the manner which I have described, that the bonds of society should become relaxed, and that outrages against the laws should be committed. But Sir, whilst I admit this to be the case, and whilst it is but right that the attention of the House should be earnestly directed to it, it is also most important that the House should form no misconception of the real nature of the outrages which have latterly been committed. The general character which may be given of the present state of Ireland in this respect, amounts to this. There has been an immense increase in the number of outrages generally. But if we analyse the catalogue of these outrages, we find that the increase has principally taken place in crimes connected with attacks on property. The old agrarian outrages, which once formed so heavy and melancholy a proportion of Irish offences, instead of increasing have actually diminished. This cheering result may also be noticed. There is now to be found little or none of that sympathy with the offenders which formerly so extensively prevailed. There is now no difficulty, therefore, in getting convictions when parties are guilty—no difficulty in enforcing the law. Nor is there, as before, any difficulty in getting prosecutors to come forward, in finding witnesses, or in getting jurors to convict. I venture to say that during the sessions which are even now going on in Ireland, the law is administered as regularly, and executed as effectually there, as in any other part of the British empire. This is a most remarkable, as it is a moral, feature in the condidition of Ireland, and one which the House should not lose sight of in considering the measures which it will be the duty of Her Majesty's Government shortly to lay before it, for the present relief and permanent amelioration of Ireland. On comparing the state of crime in December, 1845, and December, 1846, I find that in December, 1846, the number of burglaries 99 were 167, whereas in December, 1845, they were only 36; that highway robberies in the former period were 115, and in the latter, only 26; that the number of cases of cattle-stealing in December, 1845, were only 80; whereas in December, 1846, they were 1,389. I find, also, that the crime of robbing people on the high roads, and of breaking into houses for the purpose of stealing money, which were crimes almost unknown in Ireland until a very recent period, now constitute a very serious item in Irish crime. Now, on the other hand, I have here a return, showing the number of agrarian outrages in 1844, 1845, and 1846—from which I find that in 1844 there were 2,000; in 1845, 1,920; and in 1846, only 1,304. I have said that it is a gratifying circumstance in the condition of Ireland that there is no difficulty in vindicating the law. A remarkable instance of this occurred in the autumn of the past year, when it became the duty of the Government to prosecute the persons who were engaged in the violent assaults upon the bakers' shops, and other riotous proceedings in the town of Dungarvan. The persons who were put upon their trial for these offences all pleaded guilty, and their ringleader was subjected to the punishment of imprisonment for two years, while the rest were allowed to escape with very moderate punishments. I mention this to show that in the present state of things in Ireland, we find no difficulty in obtaining that support in courts of justice for the law which the Government are entitled to expect; and I call the attention of the House to it as a most gratifying circumstance, that amidst all the present distress in Ireland, there is no occasion to propose a law of a more restrictive character than at present. My noble Friend (Lord John Russell) reminds me, that among the other charges of the hon. Member for Limerick against the Government was this one—that we ought to have called Parliament together in November—and that at least we ought to have called upon the Irish Members to give their opinion on the subject. I can say, that I was in Ireland at that time, and was in the habit of seeing Irish gentlemen, both representatives and others, in great numbers, and of asking their opinion freely on Irish matters; and I do not recollect a single person who said it was advisable to call Parliament together in November. The general advice I received was, "For Heaven's sake do not 100 call Parliament together just now." They said, "Take on yourselves the responsibility of doing what you think right and necessary; but if you call Parliament together in the present condition of the country, you will lead everybody to suppose that some new scheme is to be introduced. A stop will thus be put to the progress of public works, and everything will be thrown into confusion." This was the language universally addressed to the Government. On every side we were told to act for ourselves, and trust to Parliament for indemnity and justification; and were assured that, if Parliament were at that time to be assembled, everything in Ireland likely to afford employment to the people, would be hung up in suspense. I said before, that I did not think the hon. Member for Limerick would find a seconder for his Motion of impeachment against me; and I now say, that I do not believe he can find another Irish Member who concurs with him in thinking that Parliament ought to have been called together in November last. It would be improper in me to advert more particularly to those measures which the Government will soon lay before Parliament. Undoubtedly a graver, a more difficult, or a more complicated question, has never been submitted to its consideration. I feel perfectly convinced, that whatever judgment the House may ultimately pronounce respecting the measures which are about to be proposed by the Government, the Imperial Parliament will approach this grave question in a spirit worthy of the subject. I feel satisfied that hon. Members will bring to its consideration no party feeling—no local jealousies; there will be no question as to English, Scotch, or Irish interests, but all will be actuated by the desire of doing what is just and right. I have before stated my conviction that the nature of the calamity which has fallen upon Ireland is such—its peculiar pressure and extent are such—as to justify the people of that country in not asking the assistance and support of the British empire as a boon, but claiming it as a right. That assistance will, I am sure, be given to them in no unfriendly spirit. Short as my official connexion with Ireland has been, I have known enough of the country to excite in my mind the greatest sorrow for her misfortunes, and I hope that the landlords of Ireland will justify the exertions of the Government and Parliament of Great Britain, by showing their own determination to leave no- 101 thing undone—nothing untried, and to omit no exertion to grapple themselves with the calamity which has befallen their country. All the power and influence of Great Britain—vast as it is—will prove unavailing to meet the danger if not aided by Irish co-operation and exertion. I myself would place no limit to the assistance which the empire should give to Ireland in her hour of misfortune, except this—that it would be disastrous to Ireland herself to foster in that country the feeling that she is to rely altogether on this country, and that her own children are not called upon to exert themselves courageously and manfully to serve themselves. I think we should be teaching a bad lesson to Ireland, and doing her the greatest possible injury, if we were to encourage such a feeling as that. I am sure the Irish Members will have no cause for thinking that their country is treated in an unkind and unfriendly manner; but, on the other hand, they must show that they are determined themselves to meet the calamity which has befallen their country. I feel that it is unnecessary for me to detain the House further on the present occasion. I will conclude by saying, that when the measures upon which the Government have resolved shall be laid before the House, I believe it will be found that they have been properly framed with a view to meet the misfortune which has visited Ireland, and also promote local improvements of a permanent nature. It is painful to contemplate the present condition of Ireland, but yet I am not without hope that out of evil good may come. There is much that is vicious in the social system of Ireland—much that is productive of misery; and I feel that it is consistent with the most sincere compassion for her misfortunes, to express a hope that such good results may flow from her present misery as may prevent the recurrence of it.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: Sir, I have listened with attention to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just addressed to the House, and I beg to say, in the name of the party with which I act, that they have no desire to make Ireland the battle-field of party. My Friends feel, and I am deeply sensible, that Ministers have been brought to the government of Ireland under circumstances of peculiar difficulty. We feel that we have had some share in putting them in possession of the reins of Irish government, and at a period so shortly previous to this calamity coming 102 upon Ireland, that they have not had fair play in dealing with the difficulties with which Ireland is oppressed; and, more than that, we feel that it is due to Her Majesty's Ministers to look upon with indulgence and treat with leniency those measures and those acts with which we may not altogether concur. It will be unnecessary for me to say, that we deeply sympathize in the miseries with which Ireland is afflicted—that we deeply sympathize with Her Majesty's concern for Ireland—and that we shall be prepared to give our calmest and best attention to any measures Her Majesty's Ministers may be prepared to bring forward as remedies for that destitution which unhappily exists. But, Sir, at the same time, we must be expected to deal frankly with the conduct of Ministers; and whilst we are not disposed to say that Ministers acted wrongly in declining to call Parliament together—not disposed to censure them for having overridden the law, and superseded the duties of the Legislature itself—we are disposed to say, that the measures to which they have had recourse are not those in which we can altogether agree. It is impossible to view the operation of their Poor Employment Act, and say that it has answered any good purpose. We are told that the effect of the administration by Her Majesty's Ministers of that Act has been, that upwards of 400,000 persons have been employed in works altogether useless, and worse than useless; we have been told by the Inspector General of Works in Ireland (Colonel Douglas), that the only effect of these works has been to obstruct the public conveyances; and that in consequence of the mode in which that Act has been administered, the people have been withdrawn from the cultivation of the fields; and it is, therefore, impossible for us to give our approbation to such employment of the people. With respect to the supply of food to the people, I, for one, cannot agree altogether in those principles of political economy which have been advanced by the right hon. Gentleman. This political economy of non-interference with the import and retail trade may be good in ordinary times; but in times such as the present, when a calamity unexampled in the history of the world has suddenly fallen upon Ireland—when there are no merchants or retailers in the whole of the west of Ireland—when a country of which the people has been accustomed to live upon potatoes of their own growth, 103 produced within a few yards of their own doors, is suddenly deprived of this the only food of its people, it was not reasonable to suppose that suddenly merchants and retailers would spring up to supply the extraordinary demands of the people for food. Therefore, I should say, that this was a time when Her Majesty's Ministers should have broken through these harsh and severe rules of political economy, and should themselves have found the means of providing the people of Ireland with food. The right hon. Gentleman has said, that Ministers have done wisely in adhering to their decision; but I think differently from him. When every day we hear of persons being starved to death, and when the right hon. Gentleman himself admits that in many parts of the country the population has been decimated, I cannot say that I think Ministers have done all they might have done to avert the fatal consequence of this famine. I have at this moment in my pocket a letter from the Protestant clergyman of Skibbereen (the Rev. Richard Boyle Townshend), in which he says that between the 1st of December and the 1st of January there have been 140 deaths in the workhouse of that town, and that the poor starving creatures are entering the workhouse, as they themselves say, "that they may be able to die dacently under a roof, and be sure of coffins." He also states, that on the Sunday previous, in his own parish churchyard, fourteen funerals were waiting whilst the first was being completed; that in the next parish there were nine funerals at once in the churchyard; and that in two others there were six funerals at once in each. How can it be said, then, that the people have been supplied with food in the way in which it was the duty of the Government to provide, when such occurrences as these have taken place? The same rev. gentleman also states that he does not exaggerate when he said that the poor law union of Skibbereen, whose population had been 100,000 souls, had, up to the 8th of January, when he wrote, been decimated. If this, then, be true, that in one poor law union 10,000 persons, up to the 8th of January, have perished from famine, can it be said that Ministers have done all that they could have done to supply the people with food? At this moment, we know that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 quarters of corn in stock on hand in the three ports of London, Liverpool, and Glasgow. I want to know, then, what 104 was to have prevented Ministers from sending any part or all of this food to the west of Ireland, to feed the starving population there? What would have been the effect of their so doing? It would have been the same as it was in the course of the early part of last year, when Her Majesty's late Government sent food to those parts of the country where prices had been unduly raised. It would have been the same as occurred in 1831, when the Government of Lord Grey, under my Lord Stanley, the then Secretary for Ireland, supplied the people of that country with food. It would have kept the retailers, the engrossers, and the forestallers in order, and prevented them from availing themselves of the famine to obtain undue prices. What do we see with regard to Indian meal? Why, Indian corn is at this moment selling in Now York at 3s., and at Liverpool and in Ireland at 9s. per bushel. Can anybody doubt that if Ministers had interfered and supplied Ireland with food, it would have reduced the enormous profits of these retailers? I say, then, it was the duty of Ministers to have broken through their severe code of political economy, and to have supplied the west coast of Ireland with food, in order to keep down the prices of corn. Then, with regard to the mode in which Ministers have employed the people, I, for one, cannot think that the employment of the people upon roads, or any such unproductive works, was the best course they might have adopted. It was competent for them to have enabled the landlords to have employed the people upon productive works on their own estates. But the course of the right hon. Gentleman was such as necessarily to discourage the landlords from applying their money to the improvement of their estates, inasmuch as the landlord who was disposed to employ persons upon his estate in productive works, was not released from the obligation of supporting the poor of other estates, the landlords of which were not so well disposed. I come now, Sir, to the measures Her Majesty's Ministers are about to propose for the relief of the people of Ireland; and I will touch first upon the proposition to remove the 4s. duty upon corn. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Address remarked that it might be said there was a compact between Parliament and the agricultural interest. I, for one, repudiate the idea of any compact between the Parliament or the late Minis- 105 try and the agricultural interest. We do claim a compact in 1842 with the late Ministry, which was broken in 1846. But we have never consented to any compromise in 1846, and we release altogether Her Majesty's Ministers and the Government from any notion that the agricultural interest considers, upon the one side, that the Government of the country is bound by any compact to them; or that they, upon the other, are bound to any compromise with the Government. It is not our intention to place any obtacle in the way of Her Majesty's Ministers in repealing that 4s. duty. But when we say this, we do not admit that the repeal of that 4s. duty will confer any benefit whatever upon the consumer. That it will be a loss to Her Majesty's Exchequer no one can doubt. But if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to say that the revenues of the country are in so prosperous a condition that he can afford to spare three or four hundred thousand pounds, it is not for us to oppose him. But it is our opinion, that every farthing of that 400,000l.—of that 4s. duty—will go into the pockets of these corn-merchants and forestallers, of whom the people of Ireland have just reason to complain; that it will go into the hands of men who, whilst they buy at 3s., will sell to the starving poor only at 9s.—that it will go into the pockets of the American merchant and American agriculturist. I said just now the price of Indian corn at New York was 3s. per bushel, and 9s. at Liverpool. Something like that applies to the price of wheat, which is 40s. at New York, and nearly 80s. at Liverpool. Who is getting the difference? Those into whose pockets will go the 4s. duty you are about to give up. Better by half to retain the 4s. duty, and give the money accruing from it to Ireland to feed the people with. With respect to the interference with our navigation laws, I do not expect to see much benefit derived from it. It is too late in the day now to assemble ships of foreign nations to send them to America; for it is from America you must get your supply. If it were proposed to make a permanent alteration in those laws—which I do not believe is intended—I should have felt it my duty to oppose any such proposition; but I understand distinctly from Her Majesty's Speech that the alteration is intended only to be temporary. But is the difficulty not to find grain, but ships to bring it? There is an opportunity of which Her Majesty's Ministers 106 might avail themselves if they should think fit, late rather than never, to cast off their too devoted regard for the principles of political economy. There is an opportunity for them to purchase in the markets of New York, New Orleans, Boston, and Baltimore, grain at the prices I speak of, and there are eight ships of the line, measuring on the average something like 2,500 tons, and capable of carrying at least 2,000 tons of grain a-piece; and I have the authority of one of the finest seamen in the British service (the Earl of Hardwicke), that if Her Majesty's Ministers would give him the commission, in little more than twenty-four hours, he would have the guns out of all of them, batten down their ports, and caulk them up, go to the United States, and before ten weeks are over bring back 80,000 quarters of grain to the west coast of Ireland. I am aware the Government have already employed in carrying grain forty-four ships of war, measuring 27,000 tons; but when I see that although there is grain in the country, the people cannot get it, because the corn merchants in Ireland will not sell at reasonable prices; nothing appears to me so simple to remedy the evil as for Her Majesty's Ministers to employ these ships of the line, now that all danger of a rupture on account of the Montpensier marriage is over, to carry food from America to the people of Ireland. Certain it is that the 80,000 quarters of corn these ships could bring, and the four voyages they could make before harvest, making together 320,000 quarters of grain, would be a very material supply for the suffering people of that country. There is at this moment in bond and stock between 300,000 and 400,000 quarters of grain in London, Liverpool, and Glasgow, which if Her Majesty's Government pleased might in the meantime be sent, and I do not doubt would speedily reduce the price of grain, and bring it within the reach of the people. But while I make these observations I feel that Her Majesty's Ministers have been placed in very difficult circumstances, and I, for one, am not disposed to second the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Smith O'Brien) in any impeachment.
I now pass on to the other matters treated of in Her Majesty's Speech. With respect to the foreign policy of the noble Lord opposite, I am sure that it is matter of great regret with the country at large, that the result of it should be that we have already become on bad terms with the King 107 of the French. I think that the policy which this country most desires to see maintained, is that of a good understanding with the King of the French; and although I am glad to find that the noble Lord has not protested against the Montpensier marriage, and has softened down the correspondence we have seen in the newspapers, and no longer holds the Treaty of Utrecht as a bar to that marriage, I cannot but express my deep regret that anything has occurred between the Governments of England and France to produce bad feelings between the Monarchs and people of the two countries. I do not believe the people of England take any interest in this Montpensier marriage, or sympathize at all with Her Majesty's Ministers. The commercial part of this nation would have been far better pleased had the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs directed his attention to the Spanish carrying trade rather than to the Spanish marriages. I come next to the paragraph in the Speech which states that there has been "a manifest violation of the Treaty of Vienna." Sir, that is a grave charge to make against the three most powerful Sovereigns of Europe—against those three Sovereigns, with whose predecessors, if not with themselves, we fought but a few years back the great battle of European liberty. I am at a loss to understand how it is we can see a manifest violation of the Treaty of Vienna in the infraction not of one of its fundamental articles, but of one out of seventeen supplementary articles, which the Ministers of this country have never signed in chief. If the incorporation of Cracow with the dominions of Austria be a manifest violation of the Treaty of Vienna, I wish to ask how many violations of the Treaty of Vienna had taken place before? I know we were signatory witnesses to these articles when they were incorporated with the Treaty of Vienna; but as to the infractions of that treaty, I should like to ask what was the severance of Belgium from Holland? If this be an infraction of the Treaty of Vienna, what was it when this country joined with France to produce that separation, and sent her line of battle ships to blockade the Scheldt, while France cannonaded the walls of Antwerp? I, therefore, deeply regret that my noble Friend has thought it his duty to express in the Speech from the Throne, in such strong language, condemnation of three of our old and most powerful allies, the natural friends of this country. It is not for me now to enter 108 more into the merits of the case; but, for one, I cannot so deeply sympathize with the people of Cracow. I believe if the truth were known, the people of Cracow themselves, at least the well-disposed and loyal, and those who wish for peace, are greatly delighted at this incorporation with a powerful monarchy. Hon. Gentlemen may smile, but I believe it will prove greatly for the advantage of that country, which now for sixteen years has been in a state of continual distraction. It cannot be denied, however the press of foreign countries may write against the incorporation, that the announcement of it was received with universal acclamations by the people, and a general illumination of the city of Cracow. With respect to the other topics in Her Majesty's Speech, it is not necessary for me to say much on the present occasion. We must wait to see the measures to be propounded by Her Majesty's Ministers, and I trust that they will be found to be upon a scale adequate to the necessities of the case—adequate to the calamity which is threatening the destitute people of Ireland. I am reminded that I have not observed upon the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to admit sugar into distilleries and breweries. My Friends do not intend to oppose that proposition. We do not expect that any great good will be derived from that measure; for if you intend to make use of sugar instead of barley, you will, whilst you are reducing the price of barley, raise the price of sugar; so that in the balance the people of this country will lose as much as they will gain; and I do not expect that you will succeed in again driving back the people of England to barley bread as their food, and that, I presume, is the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers. ["No, no!"] But with respect to the other measures proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers which have not yet been propounded, all I will say is, that I trust they will be measures of such a description as will encourage the employment of capital in Ireland. It is not by grants and by gifts, and additional taxes upon the people of this country, that the permanent interests of Ireland can be promoted. Her Majesty's Ministers must propound some large measures by which enterprise shall be encouraged in Ireland; some great measure by which English capital may be induced to pour itself into Ireland. I hope the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers will be such as, without any interference from my Friends, will at- 109 tain that object. I know nothing as to what they may be; but if Her Majesty's Ministers should not bring forward some comprehensive measures of this kind, I give notice to the House that at the earliest opportunity I shall, with the advice of my party, bring forward a large comprehensive measure for this purpose. With reference to what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said, that he trusts that Parliament will look upon the present calamity of Scotland and Ireland as an imperial calamity, to which the people of this country are bound to lend their aid to remove it as much as lies in their power, I heartily concur. Her Majesty's Ministers shall have our support in assisting the landlords of Ireland in paying the costs of this extraordinary calamity. Whatever we may read in the public press, I cannot believe that it is the feeling of the English people in general that the properties of Irish landlords alone should be confiscated in order to pay the cost of feeding the people, under circumstances so extraordinary as those which mark the present crisis. Therefore if Ministers should propose that this country shall pay its due share of the cost of the unprofitable employment of the Irish people during the present winter, they will, I believe, have our assistance and support. But at the same time let it be clearly understood that we do think that for the future Irish property of one description or another is bound to maintain the Irish poor. This we look upon as being for the general good, when hereafter Irish landlords shall have been left to their own resources. But we do think that it is a hard case for Parliament to step in, or for Government to step in and say, "You shall employ two millions of people as we order you—you shall feed the people in a way which can return you no profit; you shall supply the people in a way which, so far from adding to the means of the country for the future, will, I fear, be the cause of preventing its cultivation and thus creating another famine;" and then turn round on Irish landlords, and saddle them with such a monstrous expenditure, saying to them, "You are responsible for all this; it was your duty to find employment for your own people, and you alone unaided by us must pay the entire cost."
§ MR. ROEBUCK
should not, had he consulted his personal feelings, have risen to address the House on the present occasion. But not having heard, and for the 110 moment not wishing to hear, what Her Majesty's Government intended to do for Ireland; he desired, in a few words, to state what he believed to be for the general good in the present condition of the two countries. He was quite prepared to credit all the miseries described as existing at present in Ireland; in those miseries he deeply sympathized, and if it were in the power of any one man to say they should cease, there was nothing he should not be willing to do to obtain the people's release from them. But a Government had to attend to other considerations; a Government had to consider what came within its legitimate functions—a Government had to ask itself the difference between a temporary and a permanent application of a law, and it had to consider whether the present condition of the country should be regarded as merely temporary, or regarded as likely to become a permanent one. Not having heard any explanation on this point from the noble Lord and his Colleagues, he rose to warn him against the danger of allowing that which should be a mere temporary expedient to be a permanent mischief for this country. He knew what sympathies might be appealed to; he knew what it was to come a-begging for Ireland. Yes, he expressed it in those terms; and before he had done he would illustrate the expression by very many examples. When the right hon. Gentleman who now sat opposite (Sir R. Peel) prepared last year against the coming evil, he expected what would follow; but he was quite prepared, he might say parenthetically, to pay his meed of admiration to the right hon. Gentleman for the foresight he then displayed of what was about to happen; and, though the misery then was not so great as he anticipated, yet amid all the misery of the present year the right hon. Gentleman must derive some satisfaction from the memory of the measures he then proposed. But there was then this inconvenience in those measures, that they were likely to lead to the mischief he had anticipated. Why? Because no Government can propose to itself to furnish the food of a people. He laid that down as an axiom from which no wise statesman would ever deviate. Pressing circumstances might arise calling for some extraordinary expedient; but no Government could by any possibility feed a people; and it was a legitimate consequence of all that cant they had seen in every newspaper in this country and Ireland, that they were now told the 111 people had a right to be supplied with labour and provisions. He denied both propositions. No Government could constantly provide labour for a people; no Government could pretend constantly to pay wages to a people. They had, to be sure, one example in history—the aristocracy of Rome paid the Romans; but what the consequences were they well knew. And, as certain as the sun would rise to-morrow, if the Government attempted to pay the people of Ireland, all the misery, depravity, and wretchedness of ancient Rome would be a mere nothing—a mere speck on the horizon, compared to the direful calamities that would befall this country. He knew the difficulties of the case; he knew the charges he should expose himself to. He knew the obloquy to which he should be exposed by expressing these opinions; but as a duty to the people of England, whom he represented on this occasion, he was prepared to meet all this obloquy, and to say the people of Ireland should not be paid at the expense of the people of England and Scotland. Were it for one year, or for any given and specified time, he would lay down all he possessed to pay the people of Ireland for that period. Last year the right hon. Gentleman anticipated a famine; it did not come; but this year it had come; and it had come aggravated by the knowledge that England would provide for every bawling demagogue who wanted to exacerbate the miseries of his country. Well, England came forward then—she has come forward now—and the Parliament of England was prepared to make any possible sacrifice of a temporary nature; but he protested against voting a permanent provision for the Irish people. A word now about Irish landlords. He had no doubt the term would excite some sort of feeling. He did not mean an Irish landlord who had become one on a sudden—he meant the Irish landlord for whom the British Parliament had been legislating for the last three centuries; and during that time, they had been legislated for, as a body, against the people of Ireland. They had wrought always for their own personal purpose, unmindful of the wants of the people of Ireland. And let him explain in a few words how this had been done. When an Irish landlord came into possession of an estate, he built cottages here and there, intending, by letting them, to obtain what to him was a very necessary extra percentage. He built those cottages for the pauper population, con- 112 tinuing the characteristics of that population. Were there a poor law in Ireland he dare not do this. Some Irish landlords would perhaps deny this; but he would affirm that they had in this way ministered to the desire of the people to possess land, and that they had on their estates a pauper population, for whom they had done nothing beneficial, because they had been legislated for and supported in all sorts of privileges by the House of Commons. Acts of Parliament had been carried for them; of those Acts the landlords had taken advantage, and by them the people of Ireland were reduced to a state of pauperism, universal and extreme. And now, after all this, the Irish landlords came to England to maintain, not only them, but the paupers also, whose condition was the result of their neglect. Such a proposition was adverse to the feelings and the common sense of the people of England, and as an English representative he declared his opinion that it was the duty of the Imperial Government to insist that the land of Ireland should maintain the people of Ireland. He was prepared to vote for, and, if the Government should propose, with all his humble endeavours to support, any measure, or series of measures, having for their object the bringing about of the fullest and most perfect equality of rights and law for the Irish people. The definite line for a Government was to maintain the security of life and property; a Government could not go beyond that, either to feed the people, to increase profits, or to make the earth fertile; but a Government could keep peace in a country, and he was prepared to go any length to preserve peace in Ireland. And if the House of Commons should be prepared, with that view, to give to the people of Ireland an equality in freedom which should leave no room for cavil, then he would say, give them power to govern themselves, to legislate as a distinct people for themselves; but let them, further, then maintain themselves. For so much was he prepared; and he would explain to the Irish landlords how he would act as regarded Ireland. They, in that House, were about to renew the English Poor Law; and he believed there was a section in the Act which said that its operation should extend to so much of Great Britain and Ireland as was called England and Wales. Now, he wanted to add the words, "and Ireland." He wanted nothing more—not another syllable. That was all he would ask, and he would be content if that were 113 granted. They should have that Act of Elizabeth, which had been so much talked of and praised, extended to Ireland, and then, at least in that respect, there would be an equality between the two countries. Let perfect equality, in every other sense, be compelled, and if that was also demanded, let the number of representatives of Ireland in that House be increased; even of that result he had no dread. Then, to obtain this equality, let them go still further; let there be the same taxation in amount, if not in manner; and after they had done away with the reservation in the Act of Parliament which applied now only to England and Wales, they would have taken some steps to settle accounts with the landlords of Ireland. To all this he would agree; but he was not prepared to vote for any measures which taxed the hard-working, sober, industrious, peace-loving, law-obedient people of England, merely for the purpose of perpetuating that huge and antique anarchy which he saw prevalent in what, by a wonderful misapplication of terms, was called "the sister kingdom." He had heard it stated within the last few days, by one who called himself the representative of Ireland, that all the measures of relief dictated by the earnest sympathy and overflowing benevolence of the people of England had proceeded from an intention on the part of the English Government to buy Protestants in Ireland. He had never so clearly perceived and felt the inferiority of one man who had been pushed into consideration by the pressure of extraneous circumstances as during the last six months. Ireland had wanted a man, and, unfortunately, Ireland found no man for her purpose. She had not possessed a man who could forego personal interests, and resign personal pelf, and in that hour of danger merge himself in the people of Ireland. Such a man, so called for, she had not met with; but, in his place, a man was found to exacerbate all the evils in existence—who could create, if he did not find them, and if he found them could exaggerate all the prejudices which ignorance of each other only had produced, in order to separate the two countries of England and Ireland. Was such a man to be accepted there as a representative of the people of Ireland? No, certainly not; he believed the people of Ireland to be a great and an honest people; and he could not think that their sentiments were the sentiments of the man he had spoken of. If such men were the re- 114 presentatives, in fact as well as in name, of the Irish people, why had they not come forward to inform that House of their intentions for the future, and what were the bases on which they desired hereafter to legislate? Surely there was to be some change, some variation in the mode of dealing with distress on the other side of the Channel. As had been said last Session, when relief was granted, was this to last for ever? Were the existence and prosperity of 8,000,000 of people to be always dependent on a favourable potato crop? Was it to be said, when Providence visited the land with a fatal disease in vegetables, that the 8,000,000 Irish should come crawling as beggars to the shores of England? Should not that people, or the representatives of that people, indicate, in such circumstances some respect for themselves—should they not develop some energy, and prove that they had some power within themselves to maintain themselves? If they were really "a people," wishing for distinct nationality, was there not some man among them who would raise the standard of Irish independence in the simple way of ceasing to be a mendicant? If that climax were achieved, they would have succeeded in doing much for Ireland. They would have taught Irishmen to depend on Ireland. There was danger to Ireland in the constant cry for sympathy to England; and if it were not for the too near neighbourhood of England, Ireland—instead of having 8,000,000 of people living in a chronic state of famine—for now it was only an acute form of the old disease—would be, comparatively with England, prosperous. England had been to Ireland what the benevolent lady was in the parish. She was always there to apply to, and she created pauperism around her. The English had been industrious and successful, he allowed, but out of their overflowing they had fed the people of Ireland. But this could not go on for ever; they must be ready for a casualty; but to maintain, at any time, 8,000,000 of people he held to be totally impossible. As a practical man he drew a conclusion, which he desired to press upon the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) below where he sat, and he desired to press upon the attention of Her Majesty's Ministers, the futility of any attempt, by Government regulation, to feed the entire population of a country. The main-spring of life—the jack weight of the social clock—was private interest, personal consideration; if you took that away you dislocated the whole 115 social system, and you had no right to expect the machine to go on. He warned the noble Lord, at this present juncture, not to give in to any trifling emergency. He was well aware of the noble Lord's civil valour—the only peculiarity of the noble Lord to which he paid great deference, and for which he acknowledged admiration—and he did hope the noble Lord would resist the clamour of his Irish supporters, and remember that he had to legislate, not for Ireland alone, but for three kingdoms. He trusted to the noble Lord to conquer the emergency, and to establish the great, leading principle—that a people, to be maintained, must maintain themselves. If they once departed from that principle, there was no end to the misery they would engender; if they disavowed that principle in regard to Ireland, they must resign the application of it in England. If they once deviated from that rule, there was no end to the misery which they created—no end to the dreadful calamities they prepared, because, he told them, that every pauper in every parish in this country had a right to say—"You feed the Irish people, feed me." And this was but common reason. How were they to prevent it? Were they to permit Irish landlords to be continually coming to them with accounts of the misery of Ireland, and supplicating relief? He knew how he should be met. Hon. Gentlemen would state particular instances of misery. They would hear in one case of so many women dying—in another of grown men starving—in another of children perishing for want—all, no doubt, well calculated to excite our commiseration. He admitted it all—he knew it all. Apart from the consideration of there having been a dire visitation from Providence, against whose decrees we could not murmur, he must attribute the consequences which had followed from that visitation to the Irish landlords. [Mr. GRATTAN: What do you say of the English Parliament?] He admitted that the landlords had been backed by the English Parliament. But how? By assisting the power of the Irish landlords as contradistinguished from the great body of the people of Ireland. But he called upon the Legislature of Great Britain, when making laws for Ireland, to place them in precisely the same position as the people of England. Let them give to Ireland an English poor law, and see what the landlords would say to that. He would show what would ensue from the adoption of the new system. The Irish landlords 116 at the present moment were nominally the landlords of Ireland; but that was a mistake. Their estates were extensively mortgaged, and the mortgagees, not the mortgagors, were the real proprietors of the soil. Give an English poor law to Ireland, and place the landlords there on an equality with the landlords at home, and the consequence would be, in nine cases out of ten, that the nominal Irish landlord would be swept away; the mortgagor would give place to the mortgagee, and the latter would have to admit all the responsibilities and perform all the duties of a landed proprietor. The English labourer supported himself and his family on 9s. a week; and why should the Irish landlord come here and ask us to maintain the Irish poor in addition to our own? He had heard it whispered, indeed, that if we did anything that could have the effect of removing the Irish landlords, we should rob the country of all the elegance, all the luxury, of all that usually characterizes a civilized State? His reply was, that he desired to see a happy state—a state of plenty and content. He did not see that the Irish landlord, as he now stood, contributed to such a condition of the people; and in the cases where he did so, he could maintain those who, by position, depended upon him. That was all he wished to say with reference to the propositions to be brought forward by the noble Lord for the alleviation of the distress in Ireland. As to any temporary expedient for opening the ports, he was perfectly prepared to vote for its adoption; he rather thought that that course should have been taken two months ago — not that he considered it would do any good, that was to say, any great good—not because the matter was in itself momentous, but because he would not hesitate, in any shape, to express his sympathy in the misfortune afflicting Ireland. He could not anticipate that provisions, such a measure being accepted, would flow in more freely, or that if they did they would be more easily obtainable by those for whose requirements they were intended; he believed, after an examination of the state of Europe, that there was no more corn, in any of the ordinary markets, to export; if there had been, France would have got it, and if the measure were good for anything, it would have been two months ago, when we might have come into direct competition with France. He knew that much was expected from the supplies in America, but he had good reason for sup- 117 posing that, in the present state of the American corn market, they were in effect shut out. Next year they might have a large exportation from America, but not, he believed, until then; and, therefore, though prepared for the suggestion of the noble Lord, it was with the conviction that the expedient would prove of little or no avail. He did not suppose either that anything important would be gained by granting permission to those concerned to use sugar in breweries and distilleries; if he gave his approval, it was not because it should be done now, but because it should be done at all times. He thought the traders were the best judges of all such measures, and therefore he would support any measure which gave them liberty to act as they liked. All this was good, so far as it went, but he regretted he had not had the opportunity of expressing an opinion of "the great and comprehensive measure," as it was termed, which had been announced by the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) opposite. His attention had been aroused, and his curiosity had been excited to discover the meaning of the noble Lord's hint. He had waited to find in the noble Lord a regenerator of his country and time, as he was of his party. He had relied upon obtaining from the noble Lord some grand panacea for all evils, something, in a word, that should astonish them like gun-cotton. But a cruel deception had been practised upon him; he had heard nothing of the scheme more than its title. The noble Lord had talked of himself as the leader of his party, had spoken of "our intentions," and what "we" would support, of "our" resolves on this and on that, but nothing was proposed, though everything was promised, and no one could form an idea as to the nature of the measure, or could comprehend its comprehensiveness. It was an easy thing to criticise, but in this case there was no field for criticism, and that was annoying. He (Mr. Roebuck) would recommend to the noble Lord the next time he placed himself at the head of a party and criticised the schemes of others, to let those others know what were his measures, and what, were the noble Lord Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would do. The party of the noble Lord had indeed disappointed him; he had waited for many to arise from whom much was expected; he had looked for great things, and he had never been more deluded. There had been nothing in all that intensity of extra- 118 ordinary gesticulation and wonderful emphasis; there was nothing apparent in the exhibition but a dislike to somebody that was not named, and who could not and would not be liked under present circumstances. Had there been suggested any measure tending to the benefit of the people of Ireland, he would have given to it anxious consideration. The noble Lord led a party in that House—not very powerful, but still a party—and, as it aspired to the reputation of being an intellectual party, it would only have been satisfying the claims upon them to have proposed something. Perhaps the deficiencies of the noble Lord would be remedied by his second, and the House would then have an opportunity of forming an estimate of the comprehensive measure which the future was to disclose. The noble Lord might think, that as he (Mr. Roebuck) was equally wanting in bringing forward any substantial scheme, he was unfitted to censure the course which had been taken; but he (Mr. Roebuck) had never spoken of "our" resolves, he had never been one of a Government, and never expected to be one of a Government; he had no expectation of being in the place of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), and that made all the difference between him and the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) opposite. A right hon. Baronet, when having similar expectations, used to say, in speaking, that he had not yet been called in, and though the noble Lord was quite ready to be the state physician, he had not yet been called in; and, if he might prophecy, the noble Lord was not likely to be called in. If the Irish people had so little to expect from an expectant statesman, they would, he thought, be more inclined to place their trust in the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) or in the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel)—rather in the established parties of the country than in the minute section led by the noble Lord opposite. And he sincerely hoped that in the combination of the exertions of those two great parties there would be no ministering to that mischievous belief on the part of the Irish people that the Government was bound to maintain them. If the prosperity of the country were not left to the instigation of private interests and private enterprise, Ireland would continue to be what she had been for centuries—the curse of the empire, torn by the violence of her party dissensions, and weakened by the unending poverty of her population. Let it be forgotten that the Channel 119 was between England and Ireland, and let there exist in both countries the most absolute equality of rights and privileges. He could not sit down without saying one word in reference to our foreign relations; and he would do so in anticipation of what might take place hereafter on this subject. In the present state of this country, if they had reference to no other, to be at peace with all the world was of the greatest moment to the people of England, as well as to the nations of the world at large. He hoped they were coming to a full understanding of the blessings of peace, and a full understanding also of the mischief which that man would effect, who, for any idle purpose, should disturb the peace of the world. Her Majesty's Speech referred to the late transactions in Spain—to the marriage of two young ladies, one the Queen of that country, and the other the Infanta. He thought that with that, as English politicians, they had little to do. They had a right to assume that other nations felt as they would feel themselves on such a matter; and that, as the people of this country would not permit any interference with their own royal marriages, so they would not interfere with other nations. He did hope that these transactions would end with the correspondence that had taken place; but he called the attention of the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to one or two circumstances which must have been caused by his misreading the Treaty of Utrecht. He passed by all the statements respecting what was alleged to have taken place in the Chateau d'Eu. They had nothing to do with the Chateau d'Eu, or to the statement of what had been agreed upon between two illustrious Personages there, but with what had happened between the Ministers of the two countries. He, however, could not help observing that much mischief would ensue, if any Minister of England permitted any correspondence between royal personages to interfere with the national concerns. This observation, it might be said, could not apply to the present Ministry; but he said, without reference to any particular Cabinet, that no Minister ought to allow others to take a part, or permit any personal correspondence to influence him in such a matter. And the sooner constitutional sovereigns were told and taught that such a principle was the rule and pride of constitutional governments, the better. He made these allusions with all respect to the parties to whom he 120 referred, and he was now speaking his sentiments as a monarchical politician, having in view the interests of a constitutional government. He found it stated in a newspaper, that the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary had taken such umbrage at the marriage of the Infanta of Spain, that he had entered his protest against the power of inheritance on the part of the children of the Infanta to the throne of Spain. Now, he did not care whether the noble Lord had been outwitted, or not, by the King of the French or M. Guizot. He thought he had, and that was the reason for his showing some ill temper in the matter. But the noble Lord's despatches were not what might have been expected from a practised hand: they seemed a jumble altogether; a rough undigested mass of compilation, which ought not to have emanated from a writer who was placed in the high position of Foreign Minister of this country. At the same time, he did not speak as a critic. A critic of the facts he was, undoubtedly; but he would not now speak as a critic of the noble Lord's style. It was very bad, no doubt; but he would pass it by with that remark. The noble Lord, as he had stated, being beaten in diplomacy, protested against the legality of the inheritance of the Infanta's children to the throne of Spain. Now, could anything be more unwise than for the noble Lord to enter such a protest? What had this country to do with the succession to the throne of Spain, or to the question whether the Queen of Spain might be fruitful or not? To say that the issue of this or that marriage should or should not be heirs to the throne of Spain, was surely beyond the limits of the noble Lord's official duties as Foreign Secretary of this country. Could France or Spain interfere with respect to the succession to the throne of England? France did so interfere under Louis XIV., and, as a constitutional government and people, they rose as one man against such an attempt. He wanted to know the authority for the noble Lord's interference. He quoted the peace of Utrecht. Did he ever read the treaty made after that peace? By that treaty Louis XIV., for himself and his descendants renounced all right to the throne of Spain. Why, the French ambassador at that time told Lord Bolingbroke that he demanded an invalid security when he insisted upon such a clause in the treaty; that the renunciation he required would be invalidated by the municipal law of Spain and France. Bolingbroke said, "Never 121 mind about that; give us the renunciation." "Take it," said the French ambassador, M. de Torcy, "with the understanding that the renunciation of these two parties cannot bind their successors." The noble Lord, when he declared that the children of the Duke de Montpensier should not succeed to the throne of Spain, had forgotten that maxim of political as well as social life, "Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." He was sowing broadcast the seeds of war, and doing his utmost to create dissension between the Powers of Europe. As a wise, patriotic, and benevolent statesman, the noble Lord would not have anticipated and sown the seeds of future dissension, which might rise up in the shape of war at any time when it might be most unwished for. Now, he would ask that House, as men of common sense, whether it would not have been better that the noble Lord should have foregone his little pique at being outdone in negotiation, and said, "The matter shall go no further?" But no, the noble Lord wreaked the vengeance he felt against M. Guizot, upon the unborn children of the Infanta. He maintained, in opposition to the noble Lord, that the Treaty of Utrecht was not now binding on any Government of Europe; and that the marriage of the Duke de Montpensier did not touch any existing treaty. The peace of Utrecht was made for the purpose of preventing the two crowns of France and Spain from coming upon one head; but the political face of Europe was then very different from what it was at present. There were then an Emperor of Germany and the States of Holland; but no King of Bavaria, or Emperor of Austria; no King of the Belgians, or King of the French. The relations of all the parties to that treaty had been altered; and wars had followed which had altogether destroyed it. Writers on international law had laid it down that war annulled a treaty, and that it was necessary distinctly to recognise and renew that treaty in subsequent treaties, without which it ceased to be of any effect. What subsequent treaty, he wished to know, revived the Treaty of Utrecht? That treaty provided that if the two crowns devolved upon one person, that person was to renounce one of them. Louis XIV.'s immediate descendant married an Infanta of Spain; and M. Guizot mentioned two or three other cases in which similar alliances had been contracted. To protest against the issue of such a marriage coming to the throne was mere mischievous interference. 122 It was an idle exhibition of something like disappointed vanity; and he trusted the Parliament of England would disown such a vile exhibition of personal mortification. He would conclude by repeating his hope that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would insist on the Irish being maintained out of the resources of Ireland; and that the Foreign Secretary would do the people of this country the ineffable benefit of being quiet in his office and guarding them against war.
§ MR. H. GRATTAN
observed, with regard to the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, that acid poured on the best tempered weapon caused it to lose its lustre; and the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the Irish people were certainly not remarkable either for their brilliancy or novelty. The hon. and learned Gentleman, in referring to Ireland, had been interrupted by the hon. Gentleman who sat near him (Mr. B. Osborne), who coming lately from Tipperary appeared to bring with him some instrument not unfamiliar in that locality, for the moment the hon. and learned Gentleman caught his eye he appeared as if touched by the spear of Ithuriel, andShook from his horrid hair pestilence and war.The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke in contemptuous terms of the Irish as beggars. Did it ever occur to him that Irish money had been expended in building Buckingham Palace? Did he know there was annually drawn from Ireland a large sum to beautify this metropolis? That such mansions as those of Hertford, Lansdowne, and Devonshire had been built from Irish estates? Did he forget that this country destroyed the manufactures of Ireland, and seized on the five millions of her revenue? If the Irish were beggars, the hon. and learned Gentleman must be satisfied with the alternative that his own countrymen were the cause of it. As the right hon. Secretary for Ireland admitted—the Irish were entitled to ask for assistance as a matter of justice, and not of charity. Great stress had been laid on the danger of this country being brought to feed the Irish people. But, as a member of the relief committee, he could announce that 11,000l. was the sum received from England in Ireland. The hon. Member for Bath talked about history and the King of the French; but there was one thing he omitted to say—he did not tell the House that the King of the French 123 declared he had sent abroad for corn to feed his people, and that he had procured corn for that purpose. Was the hon. Member aware that when the French and Italians had between fifty and sixty vessels at Odessa, in which they carried away 250,000 quarters of wheat, there were only six British vessels at the same port, which were freighted with the corn that the King of the French had left there? The landlords of Ireland had been calumniated by the hon. Member, as if they were the cause of the calamities of Ireland; but they had done every thing in their power to relieve the people. They had sold their cattle and their horses in order that the consumption of corn might be diminished, and they had reduced the quantity of food for these horses which they kept. Hon. Members might laugh at this; but they could not be aware of the amount of grain consumed in this way if they undervalued the fact. When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland spoke of the use of sugar and molasses in breweries, he did not say there would be any prohibition of grain in those establishments. It was an object of importance that distillation from grain should be stopped. In Mr. Roe's distillery 1,000 barrels of oats were consumed every day. These would go a great way in feeding the people. The hon. Member for Bath attacked the Irish landlords in a most shameful manner. Had they made no sacrifices? Had they not sacrificed their political animosities? Had they not sacrificed their party antipathy and their religious differences? They had cast aside all their former feelings, and had met in that House to support their country, under circumstances of unparalleled misery and distress, and to put an end to a system of public labour which completely demoralized it. In pursuit of these objects, they would agree in avoiding the advice and the example of the hon. Member for Bath. It had been said, that great occasions required great minds. He thought the present occasion had found Her Majesty's Government wanting. They had the heart but not the head for a calamity like that which existed in Ireland. When the people were starving, the Government told them they must die by the rules of political economy; but he, in such a case, would fling political economy to the winds. It was not that he wanted. He asked for food. If they talked to him in that strain, he said, "Give me back my legions. Give me my money. Give me my wealth. 124 Restore me my absentee landlords, and then do as you please with your economy." The conduct of England had been different on former occasions. In 1822, no less than 500,000l. had passed through the hands of the committee to relieve the people. Instead of contenting themselves with such measures as they had devised, Her Majesty's Government should have sent the experimental squadron to convey food to Ireland. They should have sent 1,700 vessels of 500 tons each to Smyrna and New York for grain. The American papers stated that there were 300,000,000 bushels of Indian corn ready for shipment, and which could come into the market if vessels were ready at New York to meet the supply. If Government had taken these ships they would have saved the lives of many people. At this moment they were dying by wholesale. He held a paper in his hand, by which it appeared that at an inquest in Cork six deaths were reported, at another in Mayo five deaths, and a third in the same county six more, and at another in the Queen's county, seven. The assistant barrister for Waterford declared to him that the faces of the people appeared to him as if they had been taken out of their graves, and that the whole population, men, women, and children, looked as if they had been just unburied. The understanding between parties in that House, that the 4s. duty on wheat should be repealed, and that the navigation laws should be suspended, was not enough for the people of Ireland. The Labour-rate Act had demoralized the people, and was destroying the country. The public works were ruinous, and they had actually shut up his own house in the country, not far from Dublin, so that he could not get to the door. The people would not work hereafter as they had been accustomed. The public works would unfit them for agriculture. They would say to the farmers, "I'll work for you as I did for the Queen;" but that would not do for tilling the land. The Government must provide against this demoralization, and not follow the dogmas of political economists, who gave different opinions to different parties, and advised the Tories in the beginning of 1846 one way, and the Whigs at the end of 1846 in another. The gentlemen of the Commissariat were imbued with these doctrines too; they had become political economists, instead of being Her Majesty's purveyors. They had not given the people bread, but they had treated them, if not 125 with stones, at least with fine quotations scriptural and temporal. Sir Randolph Routh at one time declared that depôts should be established to keep down the price of food, and bring it close to the doors of the poor; but that same gentleman, in answer to Lord Sligo, denied that doctrine, and said that the Government must not establish depôts, or interfere with the prices. And what was the consequence? Meal was 3s. 8d. and 3s. 6d. a stone, while wages were at the old level. It had been proved that in Mayo the labourers received but 4d. a day; and it was evident that no man could maintain his family on that sum, when a stone of meal, for which he would have to pay 3s. 6d., would only support them for a day and a half. In Kildare, the committee of which he was a member, sold meat to the people at 1s. 8d. a stone, paying the difference—bad landlords as they were said to be—out of their own pockets. It was evident that the present state of things would not do, and he submitted that the First Lord of the Treasury should send 100,000l. to the west of Ireland at once. Not twenty-four hours should be lost in doing so. The Irish Members did not come here to beg, but to ask for their right. They asked for a portion of their money to be expended to feed them, and they did not ask Government to send fifty-seven military officers, majors, captains, and ensigns, to distribute meal to those unfortunate wretches. He thought it rather ominous that these gentlemen should be sent on such a mission. The Irish Members had banded themselves together, not to try if the Government were made of squeezable materials, but to get justice and food. He never would believe that the people of England were hostile to the just demands of the people of Ireland. They demanded a union of heart and sentiment, not a union of parchment. They were united in no factious opposition to Government, but in watchfulness for the interests of their country.
MR. DILLON BROWNE
said, he should not have addressed the House, if it had not been that the hon. Member for Bath had taken occasion, in his usual fashion, to void the acerbity of his waspish and dyspeptic disposition, by stating that Ireland was a curse to this country. He trusted that that expression would not be responded to by hon. Members of that House. He trusted that it would not go forth to the people of Ireland, under their present circumstances 126 of extraordinary affliction and distress, that this expression, so calculated to give them pain, met with the approbation of that House. But the hon. Member for Bath had also reproached them with being beggars. If they were beggars, they had been reduced to their present condition in consequence of the evil government of their country by the British Legislature; and if they would restore to the people of Ireland their native Legislature—if they would restore them those funds which they had contributed to the national debt — they would be prepared not only to provide for the present contingency, but also to legislate for the future well-being of the country. He trusted that the party headed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government—he trusted that the party so ably led by the noble Lord opposite—he trusted that the party which supported the right hon. Baronet opposite, would not join in the sentiment that Ireland was a curse to the empire. If they did, the people of Ireland would be justified in taking any steps, however dangerous they might be, which would place them in a position of independence and of separation from a country and a Parliament which entertained such degrading opinions respecting them. The hon. Member for Limerick, who might be said to have opened this debate, had made many remarks with which he had cordially concurred. But he must dissent from one remark which the hon. Member had made, that it would have been better if Her Majesty's Government had called Parliament together, than to have issued a proclamation altering the Labour-rate Act. By doing that act, he thought the Government deserved, to a certain extent, the gratitude of the people of Ireland; they had incurred great responsibility by the act, which rendered it necessary that they should now seek an indemnity from Parliament. If they had called Parliament together, questions might have arisen which might have prevented the thing from being done at last with that promptitude which was necessary to meet the emergency. With respect to the noninterference of Government with private speculation in Ireland, he felt confident, after the declarations made at the end of last Session, that it would have been dangerous to do so. The present sufferings might perhaps have been relieved by Government interference, but a fearful amount of evil would have been afterwards created. Extensive orders for food had been given to 127 America by private speculators; and if Government had gone into the market, the private speculators would have gone with their cargoes into the other markets of Europe; and thus, though a temporary relief might have been created for the few months now passed, yet he felt confident that greater misery would thereby have been created after Christmas; for the private supplies would have been carried to other countries, and the Government would come to a deficient market. There was no analogy between the state of matters last year and the present. The failure of last year was only partial, and confined to potatoes; this year the whole potato crop had been destroyed, not only in Ireland, but also in England. There was a famine in many parts of Europe; so that it was comparatively easy for the Government to interfere last year, though not in the present. Then, again, he would ask whether the vast mercantile resources of England were not more competent to provide a supply of food for the people than that fractional portion of their resources which was raised from the taxes? He believed that the landlords of Ireland had not fulfilled their duty, and that they were only stimulated to present exertion by an apprehension that they themselves would be buried in the universal ruin. He thought the landed gentry were called upon to come forward in the most strenuous manner to assist the Government of England in their endeavours to place Ireland beyond the recurrence of such a calamity as that with which it was now visited. Temporary relief would be of little avail. Something permanent must be done for that country. The landed gentry must endeavour to create employment for the people, and must employ their vast capital derived from rentals in encouraging enterprise and industry. As a means of recalling Irish landlords to a sense of their duty, he thought the first Act passed by the British Parliament should be to give to every one of their tenants an absolute title to relief under an extended system of poor laws. This was the most constitutional way of taxing the property of the country for the benefit of the people of the country. He felt confident that if Parliament evinced a disposition to legislate for the people of Ireland as they did for those of England and Scotland, they would have, as the reward of their labours, the establishment of social order in Ireland, and the advancement of that country to such a position 128 that no one would dare to say "she is a curse."
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
did not know whether the circumstance of his being an Irish landlord would have any effect in inducing the House to listen to him, after the attack which had been made upon that body by the hon. Member for Bath. He would leave the speech which had been delivered by that hon. Gentleman to the hon. Member for Mayo; but as his hon. Friend (Mr. Grattan) had made an allusion to Ithuriel's spear, he would beg the Government not to follow the hon. Gentleman's (Mr. Roebuck's) advice; for if they did he would certainly turn out to be the toad in the ear of Eve. He considered that the attack, or attack by implication, made by the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last on the Irish landlords—for though the hon. Gentleman repudiated the language of the hon. Member for Bath, he followed it up by a sweeping attack as to neglect of duties—was not warranted. [Mr. DILLON BROWNE had not spoken of the present, but of the past.] But surely they were not to go back to the old forty-shilling question; for this generation, at least, Irish landlords had been an improving class. If the hon. Gentleman chose to move for a return of the number of duels fought, of crops of grain or turnips raised, or iron ploughs used, in the various counties within specified periods, he would find that the Irish landlords of the present day were an improving class. Looking to certain passages in the Speech delivered that day, he must say, that a speech of greater discomfort, and of a more chilling nature, had never fallen from any Ministers than the one made on the present occasion, which would be conveyed by the next post to the people of Ireland. It announced to the country that outrage and disorder had been repressed in Ireland, as far as might be, by military and police. Now, what would have been the right way to repress outrage and disorder in Ireland during all the time that had elapsed? Why, by pouring in food. The Chancellor of the Exchequer shook his head; but let him remember that on the 26th of August, in his place in Parliament, he had promised meal to the people of Ireland at 14d. a stone; Indian meal was to come in at that price; whereas now, in the district where he lived, near the town, it was 2s. 6d. a stone, and in the mountain districts it was 2s. 10d. Ireland was now in the condition of a city besieged by the 129 direst of all foes—by famine; and it was impossible that private charity could answer all the calls that were being made upon it. The Speech recommended Parliament to take into their serious consideration the policy of opening the ports and suspending the navigation laws. He wanted to know why the noble Lord, who, if he was famous for anything, was famous for what the hon. Member for Bath called civil valour, did not, four months ago, by an Order of Council, open the ports and suspend those laws. He feared not to say, that Government had been guilty of gross misapprehension — that was the mildest term — in coming down on the 19th of January, when the people were dying of famine, with a recommendation to open the ports. What relief would that afford to the people of Skibbereen; or to those who were dying universally throughout Ireland? He told them most solemnly, it was his firm impression, that, until they took some steps for throwing food into Ireland, all the schemes they might form for the future — emigration, or plans to put the people on the same footing—would be of no avail, for Ireland would be one vast charnel house. He had observed a very general disposition in some quarters to treat the subject of Ireland with a sort of sneer, which did not befit the occasion. Yes, he had seen that spirit exhibited in a most misplaced manner. The noble Lord who spoke from the bench below him (Lord G. Bentinck) had told them that 10,000 people had already died in Ireland. He did not know what data the noble Lord had for the statement; but he believed it to be under the mark. It had also been stated, on the authority of the Dean of Cloyne, that in the county of Cork 5,000 people had died of absolute starvation. In short, the people were dying right and left; but he would frankly tell the House and the Government, that there were people in his neighbourhood who said that they would not lie down and die: he supposed the allusion to military and police pointed to that portion of Tipperary in which the inhabitants made these avowals. He wished to ask the Government if, having delayed for four months to introduce food into Ireland, this was the only point that was to go forth? he wished to know distinctly from the Government what other measures they meant to bring forward for Ireland. Was the opening of the ports or the suspension of the navigation laws all? Had they any hope of getting provisions in that 130 way? Every man must know there was none. He did say, that, unless Government were prepared to do something further—unless they would say something more explicit as to their intentions, he thought that some man of greater weight than himself ought to move an Amendment to the Address, stating that the House had no confidence in Her Majesty's Government. They might have confidence in individual Members of that Government; but he believed that Government were not now acting for themselves. He believed that the strings were pulled by some persons in the Treasury — that Ministers were acting on the politics — economical theories — of others, and not exerting their own minds on this subject. He had reason, indeed, to believe, that they were acting on the theories of Mr. Trevelyan, which were inimical to Irish interests. At all events, they had committed the grossest blunders on the very first principles of political economy. He should resume his seat, feeling perfectly confident, that unless Government should have measures in store which would offer more certain resources to the people of Ireland, that people would be little inclined to lie down and die in silence.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
said, that, much as he had previously wished to catch the Speaker's eye, he doubly wished it after the closing sentences of the speech which the House had just heard, because those sentences referred by name to one whom he felt it an honour to call his friend—he meant Mr. Trevelyan—and referred to him by a description which he solemnly believed was as utterly inapplicable to him as it could be to any individual whatever. The hon. Member, in total ignorance, he was sure, of the real character of Mr. Trevelyan, had described him as "inimical to Ireland." Independently of the highest intellectual qualities, and (what was far more important) the highest moral principles, which in themselves would be a guarantee against his being inimical to any of his fellow-beings, Mr. Trevelyan was (to his, Sir R. H. Inglis's, knowledge) chargeable with the fault, if it were one, of being only too partial to Ireland. He spoke in the presence of those who must necessarily know far better than himself, and to them he appealed to bear him out when he said that Mr. Trevelyan had in the course of the last six months not merely discharged with zeal his most laborious official duties with respect to Ireland, but 131 that he had in addition taken the most active part in promoting measures of individual exertion to relieve the distress. As a private friend, he felt it his duty, in justice to Mr. Trevelyan, to take the earliest opportunity of vindicating him, in the presence of that House, from a charge at variance with facts, and which should not have been made at all against any individual in his position by name. He now turned to the hon. Member for Mayo. That hon. Member had begun his speech by giving utterance to his apprehension of the effect likely to be produced in Ireland by a certain expression as to that country being "a curse to England," which, he said, had been used by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. Now his own mind and memory did not supply any such words so used by the hon. and learned Member; and having consulted three or four others, who were equally unconscious of having heard the words, he could not but believe that the hon. Member for Mayo had mistaken them, and that it was, therefore, altogether unnecessary to have appealed, as he had done in succession, to the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury, to the right hon. Baronet who lately filled that office, and to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, imploring each not to sanction any such description of Ireland. The hon. Member for Meath declared that Ireland demanded relief as a claim of right, as the discharge of a debt, and not by way of appeal to the better and kindlier feelings of Englishmen. The hon. Member said that all our public buildings had been raised by the Irish people. In one sense they were. Every one who had read the Rejected Addresses knew in what sense Drury-lane Theatre was built by men of that nation, designated by an epithet which he (Sir R. H. Inglis) would not then repeat. The hon. Member specified among these fabrics Lansdowne House, and what he called Devonshire Palace. Perhaps the amount expended in Ireland from English money on such works, or at least expended in the construction of public works in Ireland, was at least equal to the amount extracted from Ireland and so laid out in England. At all events, these were not matters of debtor and creditor account, upon which the House was called to legislate. The people of Ireland were to be relieved freely and nobly by the people of England; but it was not to be claimed as of right. And here he could not help adverting to the speech of the 132 hon. and learned Member for Bath. Whenever he rose, the House expected the bitterest sarcasm and the most acute reasoning, though, as it was not always founded on the soundest premises or on the justest principles, as he (Sir R. Inglis) might think, it was not always very conclusive in effect. Never had he less disappointed the House than on that night. His speech was divided into two parts, that which related to the foreign relations of the country, and that which related to Ireland. The first part, which related to Ireland alone, proceeded altogether upon a misapprehension of what was desired by hon. Members, except the few who might represent in the House the "United Irishmen of 1847;" because he himself had said, that, if this were a demand for the present year only, he would cheerfully meet it at any personal sacrifice; but that it was because he regarded it as a systematic attempt to impose upon the people of Great Britain the exclusive burden of maintaining the people of Ireland for ever, that he rose in his place and repudiated such a claim as a right. Now, though such a claim might be directly urged by some, and be the legitimate inference of certain orations and resolutions elsewhere, it had not been put forth by any one as yet in this House. For his own part, while he did not deny the paramount claim of Ireland to the attention of the House, (and it had almost wholly, with two or three slight exceptions, occupied the first seven speeches of the night,) he did deny its exclusive claim; and he felt, that those who had listened to them all might almost have fancied that they were on College Green, and that Ireland had as great a share of the time of that House as if they were now sitting in Dublin. He regretted that not one word should hitherto have been uttered with the slightest reference to the inhabitants of another part of the empire, who were now enduring the calamity by which they had been visited with a Christian patience not unworthy their profession of religion. [Cheers.] He thanked hon. Members on both sides for that generous cheer, which acknowledged that he was not describing too strongly the sufferings and patience of their countrymen, the people of Scotland. It was true that the people of Scotland had not banded themselves in, or enjoyed the advantage of, "United Scotchmen" meetings, or of being represented by such deputations as had come 133 from Ireland; for they had been patient under their misery in their own country, and not clamorous out of it. He could appeal to the representatives of Scotland for the truth of the fact which he asserted, that the inhabitants of the West Highlands and Islands had suffered almost as much as those of Ireland, and had borne it with a Christian patience which did honour to their profession of religion. He would now advert to the second part of the hon. Member for Bath's speech, which had certainly relieved the debate from the almost uniformity of its character in reference to Irish affairs. His noble Friend the Member for Lynn had, indeed, touched upon two points of foreign policy to which attention had recently been directed. But before he pursued this subject, and quitted that of Irish distress, he must not omit to notice that the hon. and learned Member for Bath had specially referred to another part of his (Sir R. Inglis's) noble Friend's speech; namely, that, if the measures to be proposed in respect to Ireland next Monday by the Government should not be satisfactory, he (Lord G. Bentinck) would then be prepared to produce a comprehensive plan for the settlement of that question. "Where is your plan," said the hon. and learned Member, "where is your comprehensive plan?" Why, by the very terms in which it was mentioned by the noble Lord, it was not a plan which was absolutely and necessarily ever to come before the House; and the hon. and learned Member could not fairly call upon his noble Friend to produce that or any other plan, or blame him for not stating that, which at the beginning he had declared to be contingent upon the failure of the Government plan. He would now advert to the foreign questions, on which his noble Friend, as well as the hon. and learned Memder for Bath, had touched. He (Sir R. Inglis) agreed with the noble Lord that the question of the Spanish marriages was not one on which the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs would carry the people of England with him, if he made the infraction of the Treaty of Utrecht the ground of a war. Not that the hon. and learned Member for Bath appeared to him to be correct in deprecating any reference to the Treaty of Utrecht, as if it were a dead letter; on the contrary, it was not only not a dead letter, but had been referred to in diplomatic intercourse between England and Spain within the last two years, as a sufficient ground of international appeal: 134 it was, in fact, at this moment, as adequate a ground of appeal as in the year after it was signed. He admitted, then, that the Government had a fair right to refer to the Treaty of Utrecht, as still binding upon all the parties; and he admitted further, that the actual reference was justified by the facts of the case. It was not the intention of the contracting parties to that treaty, that, at any period whatever, so far as human beings could foresee or bind future events, any descendant of Philip V. should have the power of sitting upon the two thrones of France and Spain: and there was the remarkable expression used by Philip V. on his renunciation, which was included in that treaty, that the exclusion of the lines of Orleans and Berry, and the preference given even to the house of Carignan, was not to be a mutable arrangement, but was, like the needle of the compass, to remain invariable in one direction. So far as the good faith of treaties was concerned, the Treaty of Utrecht had been violated; inasmuch as one of the cases contemplated by that treaty had occurred; and had, therefore, legally justified the remonstrances of the English Government. But though the Government were thus justified, he (Sir R. Inglis) did not think it expedient that the peace of Europe should have been risked, and that cordial good understanding with our neighbours, expressed in two words by them, should be, perhaps, for ever lost, by any remonstrance, however just, by any reference, however clear, to the Treaty of Utrecht, when the event practically contemplated by that treaty as the great evil to be avoided, namely, the union of the two crowns on one head, was so remote a contingency; as every calculator must admit on the principles of his own science. We might, therefore, be perfectly justified by all the usages of diplomacy in referring to the Treaty of Utrecht; but the object was not to be put in competition with the maintenance of the peace of Europe, which we had risked by laying such stress upon that treaty. The object, however just, was not to be put in comparison with the maintenance of the peace of Europe. With regard to Cracow, he saw with great regret the measures which had been adopted towards that unfortunate State. He could not think, because certain illuminations had taken place at Cracow, at a time that it was in military possession of the troops of the Emperor of Austria, with the certainty that the two nearest Powers were 135 ready to throw their armies in to repress any manifestations of public feeling—he could not think that an illumination of the city, even assuming it to have been far more general than it was, could have been interpreted as a proof of the acquiescence of the people of Cracow themselves in the sacrifice of their independence. They might or might not have been so degraded as to acquiesce in the sacrifice of their independence; but it was for that House, and for Englishmen in general, to say whether they would rest satisfied with the violation of the treaty, and whether those who had violated the Treaty of Vienna in this particular instance, might not only themselves proceed to violate it in others suitable to their own convenience, but whether they had not given a direct sanction and encouragement to France to violate that treaty on its own part whenever it might be convenient. No individual Member on either side had attempted to raise any objection to the unanimity with which he trusted the Address would be voted; and with respect to any disputed point of policy, he would at present abstain from saying anything, as other opportunities would present themselves. But he could not conclude without expressing his hope that a Session, which had certainly opened with less prospect of comfort than almost any Session of late years, might yet be so guided, that by the providence and grace of God the evils which now appeared to us inevitable, might by His mercy be averted. He was sure that no one could look at affairs, either at home or abroad, without feeling how completely all the prospects of happiness and security in which they had indulged a few short years ago appeared to have been cut off. He would not say that the day, though dark and cloudy, was yet without a sun behind the cloud; but he trusted that all present would, in their individual characters, whether in or out of the House, feel more strongly the necessity of maintaining those principles by which alone they could hope for the permanent honour and well-being of their common country.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
thought he should best discharge his duty by saying as little as possible on the various points proposed to their consideration in the Speech that day delivered. He yielded to no one in the sincere desire he felt to benefit those portions of our fellow-countrymen who were now suffering so severely. Ministers, with the view of meeting that melancholy state 136 of things, proposed to the House to suspend for the present the small duty now levied on imported corn, and the operation of the navigation laws. They had heard from several Gentlemen whose opinions were entitled to great weight, that those measures would not produce much practical good to the Irish people. He was afraid this opinion was likely to be verified by events; and if the measures he himself proposed should be subjected justly to the same criticism, he should feel at least satisfied with having discharged his duty. It was well known to the Members of that House that during both last year and the present, many European States had been suffering from a similar want of provisions, and had thought it right and wise to prohibit, as far as they might, the exportation of corn from their respective countries. He was informed, on the highest authority, that within the last ten days there had been lying in the Seine no less than twenty-seven English vessels, freighted with English corn, whilst the population of a great part of the British empire were suffering from all the evils now known to the whole world. It did appear to him that such a state of things ought not to be permitted; and that while suspending the navigation laws and duties on importation, we should follow the example which had been set by other nations, and prevent the exportation of corn. With respect to the Spanish marriages, he should not say a word on that topic now, did he not think it incumbent on him not to allow one day to pass without directing the attention of the House to one passage in a despatch which had been published, casting, he must think, a most unwarranted imputation on an illustrious Personage now resident in this country. He wished to draw the attention of the House to the following despatch, written by M. Guizot, dated February 27, 1846—a despatch, in which he stated, that the candidates for the hand of the Queen of Spain were limited, and reduced in such a manner as might not inappropriately be called Hobson's choice:—The sons of the Infante Don Francisco de Paula are also exceedingly compromised—first, by their false proceedings; secondly, by their intimacy with the Radical party, and their antipathy of the Moderado party; thirdly, by the ill-feeling of the Queen Mother and of the Queen herself. The sons of Don Carlos are as far as the present goes at least impossible; first, by the opposition loudly proclaimed by all parties; secondly, by the exclusion formally pronounced in the constitution; thirdly, by their own dispositions, constantly far removed from the conduct which could 137 alone give them chances of success. The present situation of the descendants of Philip V. in the question of the marriage of the Queen of Spain is therefore become a bad one."The French Government," M. Guizot said, a few lines lower down in the same despatch, "had done all in their power to render the sons of Don Carlos possible;" he begged the House to bear in mind that the date of this was the 27th of February, 1846. Would they believe that until June, 1846, the French Government, so far from taking any steps to render the sons of Don Carlos possible, had taken no steps whatever even to ascertain the dispositions and principles which guided the conduct of that Prince, whom M. Guizot thought fit thus to mention. In June, 1846, M. Guizot, sending for the first time to the Marquess of Villa-franca, submitted to him a paper containing six propositions, saying that if the Count de Montemolin would sign that paper, the influence of the King of the French would be used to procure the hand of the Queen of Spain for the Count. To that paper the Count refused to attach his signature. He would not now detail to the House what those six propositions were. He would content himself with saying, that the first of them was of such a character, that, consistently with his own integrity and honour, the Count de Montemolin could not sign the paper. So far, however, from expressing any opinions which could warrant M. Guizot in thus characterizing unfavourably his conduct and disposition, the Count de Montemolin, in refusing his signature, stated his earnest wish to enter into such arrangements as might be consistent with the honour and dignity of both the great parties of Spain, for the purpose of terminating the struggles of their unhappy country. That was the only point he thought it right thus early to bring under the attention of the House; and he did so mainly for the purpose of inducing the French Government, if possible, to lay before the French Chambers the answer submitted to them, he believed on the 28th of June, by the Count de Montemolin, in order that the world at large might know that if civil war breaks out again in Spain, to the further injury of that unhappy country, and to the disturbance of Europe, the blame must rest, not with that injured Prince, who suffered so long an unjust captivity at Bourges, but must be laid to the charge of those Ministers who did not hesitate thus unfairly to characterize the conduct of one whom they had deeply injured, in order to 138 gratify what he was afraid must be termed the fatal ambition of the Napoleon of peace.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
In rising, Sir, to address the House at a period when a great calamity afflicts part of the United Kingdom, I must thank the House for the disposition it has shown to-night, not only to agree with unanimity to the Address which has been proposed, but to consider both the extent of that calamity and the measures that it may be thought proper to introduce for its remedy, in a fair spirit, without any mixture of party bias; without any disposition, I may say, to blame the Government more than a difference of opinion may justly lead men to blame them, and thus to render that which is a task exceedingly difficult under any circumstances, somewhat less difficult than it would be if the course which I have described had not been pursued. I cannot wonder that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick should severely take to task the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, because his opinion is so diametrically opposite to theirs, that if his views are well founded, no doubt they have been guilty of a great neglect of duty. But what I have to maintain is, that the policy of the hon. Member for Limerick, which I think was supported in a similar spirit by my noble Friend the Member for Lynn, is a policy which no Government ought to undertake—which, if undertaken, would lead only to failure. To try it by the most severe test, and at the same time the fairest which can be applied, I think it would lead to a greater number of deaths from famine than the course we thought it our duty to pursue. Sir, the opinion of that hon. Gentleman was, that the Government ought to have ransacked the world for food; that they should have appeared as buyers in every market of Europe and America, and should have attempted to feed the people of Ireland with the produce they procured. Now, I think in the first place, it is evident that no sooner had that intention been declared—as declared it must have been, because every person disposed to enter into those concerns asked of Government before the conclusion of last Session what should be their policy—I say, if such had been declared, there would have been an end at once of all private enterprise—an end at once of all application of the capital of this great country—of the means and of the skill which our merchants are so well known to possess—and that 139 everything would have been abandoned to the care of the Government which had been so presumptuous as to undertake such a task. With a limited supply in each of those markets—and I regret to say that it was a limited supply—what would have been the aspect of affairs when the English Government appeared as the purchasers—as the bidders for the whole of the grain in those markets? The noble Lord talks of a rise from 3s. to 9s. for the bushel of wheat; but what would have been the rise had the English Government declared that it was prepared to feed the people of Ireland—that it was responsible for that duty? I think that that would have limited and impeded the operation of the Government? But suppose that by means of our vessels a supply had been brought into Ireland, then the next thing to have been undertaken would have been what would, in fact, have amounted to the whole retail trade of that country—to have supplied every person who was unable to procure food from his ordinary resources. We have heard enough of the enormous staff which was required for the public works; but what a staff would be required to distribute that food throughout the whole of Ireland! It would then have been demanded, and naturally demanded, as, indeed, it has been, that the price of the grain should have been somewhat under the cost price, so as to enable the very poorest to obtain food. But what, I ask, would in that case have been the consequence to the rest of the population of the United Kingdom? In proportion as we had been robbing other parts of the kingdom of the supplies of corn, which would otherwise have naturally gone to them, we should have been increasing the price to our own consumers in England and Scotland. And how could we justify the act that we were affording food to Ireland at a certain low price, while the labouring people in our country were paying an enormous price for food, in consequence of the enhancement occasioned by the act of the Government? Would not they have turned round justly, and have said, "Do not do this by half measures; if you, the Government, undertake to feed the people—if you fly in the face of all that has been recommended by such men as Pitt and Ricardo—if you persist in your determination, let all the labouring classes of the three kingdoms procure food at the same low prices, and do you make yourselves responsible for the whole." Sir, I say that the mere narrative of what the Government would 140 have had to do, shows how unwise and impracticable it would have been for the Government to have undertaken any such responsibility. Gentlemen have said, however, that in some parts of Ireland this system has been carried out. It is true, that in a few places where there has been no trade in provisions, where the roads have been unfrequented, and where there has been a general difficulty in obtaining food—in such cases, I say, the Government has thought it right to make exceptions; and in twenty-one or twenty-two places west of the Shannon we have established depôts where corn might be supplied by means of Government steamers, and retailed. You may say that there should have been more than twenty-two such depôts; others may think that there should not have been so many. That is a question only of discretion and degree. What we endeavoured was, to supply those places where it was most unlikely food would otherwise be sent, and to interfere as little as possible with private trade. And I will not say that even the interference we have occasioned has been without its evils; for we have seen that, with regard to one of those places at least, immediately the Government depôt was established, persons who were about to set up shops for the sale of meal and flour at once relinquished their intentions of doing so. But we did take means to supply those depôts, and for that purpose 200,000 quarters of corn have been purchased from time to time without disturbing the markets, and without taking upon ourselves the task of feeding the whole people of Ireland. But then there are many complaints made of the measure which we did attempt to guide in pursuance of an Act passed last Session, by which the poor were to be employed under the Board of Works, and upon public works of one kind or another. Now no man can be more sensible than I am of the very great imperfections of that scheme applied to so great an extent as it has been. Nobody can be more aware than I am—because I have had to watch it from day to day—of the abuses that crept in, and of the imperfections that prevailed, or of the difficulty of remedying those imperfections, and removing those abuses. But, at the same time, I must say that in principle—were not the calamity so extensive—were it not that such vast numbers of persons had been obliged to have recourse to that mode of relief—the measure is a sound and a just one. For it must be remem- 141 bered that the question is not, as many gentlemen in Ireland seem to have supposed, and as some here have repeated, whether or not the works on which the men were employed were useful or useless. The question is, whether it were not the best mode of ascertaining who were destitute, and of furnishing those persons with the means of procuring food without destroying their industry. Now see how the system works in England. It has been frequently found to be the best, almost the only way of meeting cases of great distress when the workhouses have been full, and there has been no suitable employment for persons in their usual occupations. In such cases in this nation, which is by no means an extravagant nation with regard to industry, which generally calculates pretty well what would be the profits to be derived from the employment of industry, it has been quite common, in Nottinghamshire, for example, and elsewhere, to set men to break stones in considerable numbers and for a long period of time—not that broken stones at such periods are particularly required, but because it is thought desirable, whilst you feed the people, not to interfere with the ordinary trade and labour of the country. But we have found in England whenever this system has been introduced, that there has been a disposition on the part of those employed, immediately a demand for labour has sprung up, to leave those employments which were about the hardest in labour and the worst rewarded, to obtain private employment. Thus when trade revived, the demand on the poor rate ceased, and men returned to their original occupations. In Ireland, I am obliged to say, we have had to contend with two difficulties. One was, that, at the commencement of our operations, a great proportion of the persons employed did not really attempt any effective labour—their labour was hardly real—they were, in fact, idle and loitering on the road. Then, to remedy that abuse, task-work was introduced. That was a remedy for the immediate evil; but then, by task-work, and weekly wages, the greater portion of the men earned more than they could obtain from their ordinary occupations. Thus, instead of being the very worst market to which they could bring their labour, it has proved in many cases the best, and men have preferred that labour on the public works to any they could obtain from their landlords. I have mentioned these as some of the evils. There are many others, 142 which the House will see have sprung up from time to time. For example, when we had to employ some 300,000 or 400,000 men, it was necessary to supply a vast number of persons to superintend them; and it was impossible to do that without admitting some who were either not worthy of trust, or who were not otherwise fitted for the employment. But, as I have stated, the real object is not so much to procure useful work as to enable persons to earn sufficient food, to preserve them in habits of industry, and yet not to make the employment preferable to such as is offered by private individuals. But when we reflect upon the employment of 470,000 persons, representing with their families, I should think, a population of not less than 2,000,000, with a payment of 158,000l. in one week, I cannot regard that as an indifferent circumstance; and I cannot but think it shows that the Government of this country have been anxious—whether they have been in error or not remains to be seen—but have been anxious, by means of the resources of the empire, to keep the destitute of Ireland from the sad fate which impended, and which would have fallen on them had not measures been adopted to meet the sad calamity. Let us, if we can, adopt better measures—let us most anxiously consider these matters. I am quite willing to say with my right hon. Friend near me, that I consider what has occurred in Ireland as a "national calamity"—and I think that the national resources are fitly employed in endeavouring to meet it. I must admit, at the same time, that I do not think, considering the state in which the people of Ireland have been found by this calamity—considering that numbers, as have been stated by my right hon. Friend, in that country, are ordinarily for thirty weeks in the year without wages—considering that many of these persons frequently live, in ordinary years, upon one meal of potatoes a day—considering that this was their state in ordinary years, I cannot think that any measure which the Government can advise, or the Legislature can adopt, will prevent very severe suffering, and in many cases even mortality. I must confess, seeing that the people of Ireland have not the ordinary resources which the people of this country possess—that they have neither comforts to deny themselves, nor food of which they can partake less sparingly, but that their food has never been more than sufficient—I fear that no measure 143 will completely reach the pressing nature of the present calamity. I should say, at this time, that with regard to all we have done, we must consider ourselves, especially those who are more nearly connected with those departments, entirely responsible for the measures we have undertaken; that we do not consent that any subordinate officer should bear any part of our responsibility. But I must say, that whilst Mr. Trevelyan has acted with intelligence, with judgment, and I am sure with indefatigable and most untiring zeal, yet, with regard to the orders he has received, if any blame is to be laid—if any censure is to be cast, let that blame and that censure fall upon us, and not upon our subordinate officer. With regard to part of the measures proposed, it has been said that though the admission of foreign corn without the payment of duty, and the suspension of the navigation laws, might now be of some advantage, yet that those steps should have been taken in the month of November last. Why, Sir, this matter was very seriously considered at that time, and with regard to one part of the question, viz., the meeting of Parliament, we had to consider that if we did meet the Parliament, we should be acting against the opinion of the Irish Government, and against the opinion of almost every one I saw connected with Ireland, who thought that to take away at that time—at the commencement of the severe pressure—every person connected by property with Ireland, would inflict a very great injury upon that country; and that, consequently, Parliament should not be called together at that time. Then, Sir, I had to consider whether the evil were really so great as to make it necessary that Parliament should be called together in order to suspend these laws. In the first instance, with regard to the Corn Law, it was no longer a duty of 14s. or 12s. a quarter that we had to contend with, as was the case the year before; for by an Act passed last Session, that duty had been reduced to 4s. a quarter. And I am of opinion with those who have already spoken upon this view of the subject, though I think it right to recommend it, though I shall earnestly recommend it to the adoption of this House, that the practical effect consequent upon opening the ports will be nothing very considerable. But, in the next place, there was at that time, according to all the opinions I could collect both from America and elsewhere, an impression that 144 the price of wheat was not going to be very high; and in support of this impression we found that for two or three weeks it fell, having risen to 62s., to 58s., and there did not appear to be any prospect of a rise. With these reasons, seeing that the benefit to be derived was not so very considerable, that the pressure was not so very great, and that there was a general impression that an injury would be done to Ireland by calling Parliament together at that time, we certainly did think proper to advise Her Majesty further to prorogue Parliament until the month of January. I do not think if we had adopted these measures in November that they would have had an effect sufficient to have induced us to have assembled Parliament at that time, still less do I think it would have been justifiable after a deviation from the Act of Parliament, which the Lord Lieutenant had sanctioned, to have interfered by an Order in Council to set aside our laws without the sanction of Parliament. There are only two or three points in connexion with the Royal Speech on which I think it necessary to address any remarks to the House. The hon. and learned Member for Bath has entered rather fully into the subject of the Montpensier marriage, and he has read some translations, I presume, of articles in French papers, which I think give a very incomplete and imperfect view of the case. He has given at once credence to these papers, and he conceives that any succession of the children of the Infanta is not contrary to the Treaty of Utrecht—that it is of the utmost importance to maintain our friendly alliance with France—and that we should not express any opinion on the subject. Now, I do not wish to enter much into this discussion until the papers are produced. I shall be quite willing to leave the defence of any conduct I may have pursued on this subject, for which I shall be responsible as a Member of the Government, to the despatches of my noble Friend, which will be laid before the House. But I cannot quite accede to those doctrines which seem to imply that no matter of this kind is worthy the attention of the British Government; and I own I am the more inclined to differ from that opinion, because I think that there is generally an indifference in the people of this country to foreign politics, and that public opinion does not act with that degree of warmth and energy which characterizes it in matters of domestic policy. This I know, however, that if the Government were to ex- 145 hibit a similar apathy, and if some years afterwards it should be discovered that serious injury had been done to the power and station of this country, public opinion would blame, and I think would very justly blame, the Ministers of the Crown for their apathy. The people of this country would say, "We reposed in indifference, and did not show any great interest in these matters, trusting that our Government, which was charged with our foreign relations, would take care that no essential injury was done." Now, Sir, I cannot but regard this matter as one of very serious importance. I think that any expectations which may be formed by the French Government, will very probably be disappointed; but I cannot but think that such an attempt as was made by Louis XIV., and again by Napoleon, to govern the destinies of Spain, might be repeated, and that the union of France and Spain in one system of foreign policy would be more likely to lead to hostilities in Europe, than if those two countries continued separate and independent, each having regard only to its own interests. I am stating what appears to me to be a general and, at the same time, an important fact. It has always been our object to prevent such a preponderance of authority in Europe as might tend to the destruction of the balance of power. We have always considered it our duty to endeavour to prevent any mischiefs which we could foresee, and prevent dangers from arising which might happen in a few years; and I cannot but think that such a course is a wise one, and that it would not become any Government to neglect it. But, let it be recollected, that the Government which preceded us took also an interest in the question; which was not a question, as the hon. Member for Bath says, merely between sovereigns. It was Lord Aberdeen, when at the head of Foreign Affairs in this country, who commenced the correspondence with M. Guizot on the subject; for Lord Aberdeen thought, and thought rightly, that it was a matter in which England had an interest. He received, during that correspondence, assurances which led him to think that it would not be necessary to take any urgent step with respect to the subject of communication. The ground which he then took was, that if the Queen of Spain preferred a descendant of Philip V., and that the people of Spain affirmed that choice, England would have no objection to it, but that England could not propose a candidate who should 146 be disagreeable to the Spanish people, nor could she agree that a marriage should take place between the Queen of Spain and an immediate member of the royal family of France, or between the immediate members of the royal families of France and Spain. I believe that language was perfectly correct, and, therefore, when we came into office, and the foreign policy of the country came under our consideration, we felt it right to follow the course which had been laid down on the part of this country on that occasion. I do not mean to say that with respect to all the particulars of this correspondence I was thoroughly informed, for during the communications which had taken place with Lord Aberdeen, the French Government had done much by letters and conversations, of which no trace was anywhere to be found. This I was fully determined on, that, agreeing to the line laid down by the former Government, the present Government should state that it had no wish to propose an English candidate; and with respect to one prince in particular, namely, Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg, the Government of this country never entertained for a moment a wish to put him forward, or support any pretensions he might entertain with respect to the throne of Spain; and I must say, that in any advice which I felt it my duty to offer to the Sovereign upon this subject, I found the greatest readiness and willingness to sanction this view, for Her Majesty never wished that Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg should become a candidate for the hand of the Queen of Spain, supported by England. I state this, because I know it has been industriously set about that this is in reality a dispute between the royal families of France and of this country, in consequence of the course taken by the royal family of France with respect to the throne of Madrid, and of a counter attempt of ours to place one of its members on that throne. As far as we have been concerned, and so far as I know with regard to the late Government, there was no foundation whatsoever for such a statement. I do not know what Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg would have said if a proposition on the subject had been made to him by the Government of Spain; but I have been told that he would not have been likely to entertain it. We made up our minds not to recommend to Spain a candidate of our own, or to make ourselves in any way concerned with the internal government of that country. When, how- 147 ever, engagements which had been voluntarily entered into were departed from, and it appeared to us that there was danger of an alliance being formed which might at a future period be prejudicial to the balance of power in Europe, we had no hesitation in stating what our opinions upon the subject were. The hon. Member for the University of Oxford seems to say, that although we were right in our arguments, and correct in our opinions, it would have been better to have allowed the alliance to proceed without any observation on our part either to France or Spain, but quietly to acquiesce in the course that was taken. Now, I hold it to be more frank and becoming the character of this nation to state openly the view which we entertained, that we, as a Government, could not consent to a course which might lead to future evils. What we said in substance and spirit was, that we saw danger that hereafter disputes with respect to the succession might arise from this marriage, and we could not consent to it. Such wasour opinion; and when that arises, England will take the course most consistent with her honour, with her station amongst the Powers of Europe, and most conformable to the will of the people of Spain. I perfectly agree in thinking that if the choice of the Spanish princess was one to which we could not object on the clear grounds of treaty, that the wishes of Spain should be considered paramount. At the same time every one will see, that with regard to such a principle there must be limitation. Even those who most dispute our interpretation of the Treaty of Utrecht, admit that one and the same prince ought not by that treaty to reign in France and Spain. That is a case, however, which you must leave to time. For my part, I will say, that it is with the most sincere regret that I find myself opposed in opinion to what has been done by the Government of France. I feel how desirable it is that this country and France should be on the closest terms of friendship. We have never done anything which, I think, was calculated to disturb that friendship. I sincerely lament, if, as I think, by the fault of others, there has been that separation between us with regard to the Spanish marriages. With regard to the other subject of foreign affairs, the extinction of the free State of Cracow, I think there is so little difference of opinion in this House, or anywhere else, upon the nature of that act, that I really feel it 148 unnecessary to say more, than that it seems as if the taint which originally attached to the first partition of Poland—that unholy act, which is perhaps the most to be condemned of any act amongst nations in the history of modern Europe; that that taint seems to have attached itself to this, the last remains of a Polish State, and to have induced the Powers who were parties to the incorporation of the free State of Cracow with the dominions of the Emperor of Austria, to forget all their obligation, and to have most precipitately, and, as far as appears to me, without any justifiable ground, abused their power, without considering the relations of justice which they were bound to observe. I know not that I need address the House further, with respect to any other parts of Her Majesty's Speech. I shall have an opportunity very shortly of bringing forward the separate points therein adverted to. On Monday next, I propose to give the House an outline of the various measures which we have in contemplation with regard to Ireland. These measures will afterwards form the subject of separate Bills, and be placed fully under the consideration of this House. If my noble Friend the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck) has any better plan to propose, let him state it to the House, and let us all endeavour to find those measures which may be most calculated to raise Ireland, to unite her more closely with this country by sympathy and affection, giving to her not only all that bare justice would require, bnt also that help in her necessity which I think any part of the United Kingdom is entitled to demand. I believe that much injury has been done—that I must say—much injury has been done with regard to the feelings of the people of this country, by the language that has been used in Ireland, with respect to the conduct of England in past years. I believe that that language has indisposed many from making such exertions as they would otherwise be disposed to make in behalf of Ireland at this moment; but still I believe that the general wish of the nation is to do everything that is possible, and that may be useful to Ireland. I believe that it is the wish and the desire of this House also. I lament that there has not been in Ireland at the present moment so much of general combination of exertion as has taken place in Scotland, in those parts of that country which are suffering from a similar calamity. But I rejoice to see, in- 149 dependency of the spirit of the resolutions proposed, and the various plans propounded, that at a meeting lately held in Dublin, men of all parties united—men of all religions were combined, endeavouring to concur in plans which they thought would be useful to their country. I thought it was a good sign for the future fate of that country. Irishmen will allow me to say, that what they have often reason to complain of is, not so much the hostility of England, as the hostility of some parties of Irishmen themselves. I believe likewise, that in that meeting there was, with scarce an exception, a total abstinence from any language of asperity, either towards the Government, or any others with whom they might differ, with respect to the remedy to be applied. I trust when we come to discuss this measure in this House, there will be a similar spirit; and that however great her present calamity may be—however appalling to the imagination—however horrible to the feelings, the details of her present suffering may be, I may be confirmed in the hope that there may be reserved to Ireland many future years of prosperity; and that in strict union with England she may present the spectacle of a country where freedom and civilization have made rapid progress.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the noble Lord had addressed the House in a tone which he (Mr. Disraeli) wished he could imitate, and which he would endeavour to follow. The noble Lord had stated, with reference to one subject in this House, there would be no difference of opinion upon it. For his part, he believed that debate had shown there was certainly one subject upon which there no longer existed a difference of opinion—he meant the desire of that House and all parties in it to assist in the settlement of Ireland in a manner which would conduce to the happiness of that country, in bringing, on this occasion, to the consideration of the measures of Her Majesty's Government, not only a temperate but an indulgent and sympathizing spirit. But unfortunately that was not the subject on which the noble Lord had anticipated there could be no difference of opinion. He had, indeed, imagined that it would not have been brought before their consideration that night, though the course the debate had taken had more than once threatened it. The noble Lord had laid down some principles of foreign policy with which he thought no person there could disagree. All that he said, for ex- 150 ample, upon the importance that France should not exercise a predominant influence in Spain, was a series of propositions which everybody had long accepted, though few might express them in language so felicitous as that of the noble Lord. All the noble Lord said on this subject was perfectly true, but it was not perfectly apposite. For it did not follow that the recent Spanish marriages led to this predominance. They knew from sources of information which were not before the House, but which were sufficiently authentic not to admit of its being doubted, that there was an estrangement between the two countries of France and England. They were told by the Speech from the Throne, that the Infanta of Spain had been married to a French prince, and that in consequence some correspondence had taken place between the two countries. One would naturally suppose that the correspondence would be of a congratulatory nature. They were not, however, informed in that instance of what they knew to be authentic—viz., that the noble Lord the Secretary of State (Lord Palmerston) had protested, with respect to this marriage, against the infringement of a treaty by one of the greatest Powers of Western Europe; and they were informed in the paragraph immediately following, that he had protested against the violation of another treaty still more important, by the greatest Power of Northern Europe. Those were circumstances which, in his opinion, should scarcely be allowed to pass unnoticed when the House met after a long recess, and when the attention of other legislative assemblies in Europe was directed towards them. He was of opinion that there had been no violation of treaty in either case. He laid that down merely as a point of international law. He was not viewing the question of policy with respect to France or Poland. He spoke only of the law. It was possible that the destruction of the political independence of Cracow might be a great blunder, as the destruction of Poland might have been a great crime. It might be contrary to our interests and our policy that a French prince should marry a Spanish princess; but all he wished the House to concede was, that if it were politic to interfere by protest, we ought to have done so upon unequivocal grounds, and with correct views of our rights and the stipulations of treaties. With regard to the Treaty of Utrecht, he thought it right to state that, in his opinion, the view of the noble Lord opposite 151 and of the French Government, were both erroneous—the view of the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) was a misconception, and the view of the French Government was an exaggeration. He did not agree with the English view of the object of the treaty; namely, that it was intended to prevent the intermarriage of the two families: or with the French, that its object was to preserve the throne of Spain to the descendants of Philip V. The object of the treaty was to prevent the union of the two crowns on one head, and that object was positively declared in the 6th article of the treaty; but what were the real intentions of the persons who signed the treaty, how it was to be carried into effect, and whether the interpretation of the noble Lord was correct, it was in their power to decide. If they looked to the renunciation of the Duke of Orleans, they would find that the Duke of Orleans laid down a policy for the future regulation of Europe. It was the reaction of the policy of Louis XIV., but highly interesting as the expression of opinion of one who was subsequently placed in a position to carry it into effect. Subsequent events proved the sincerity of those opinions. The object of the policy of the Duke of Orleans was to maintain the cordial feeling between England and France, so often spoken of. What was the first act of the Duke of Orleans—this prince who proved that he sincerely wished to fulfil his engagements—after the Treaty of Utrecht? To marry his daughter to a Spanish prince: and so frequent were such alliances between the descendants of those who signed the renunciations and the Spanish royal family, that there was not a Spanish prince alive who was not disqualified to sit on the throne of Spain, according to the interpretation of the noble Lord. Suppose a Spanish princess resigned her rights to the throne of France—for in spite of the Salique law she would have claims on the part of her offspring—and then married a French prince, who resigned his right to the throne of France, then, according to the view of the noble Lord, their offspring would be deprived of their rights to either throne. The 6th article of the treaty expressed its purport; the conduct of the signatories of the renunciations in immediately intermarrying with the Spanish house—conduct that was not impugned at the time—proved the intention of all parties to the treaty as to the mode in which it was to be fulfilled. He now came to the Treaty of Vienna, and in doing so he would look 152 only to the legal merits of the case. It was unnecessary for him to remind the House of the mode of transacting affairs at a congress, although it would be convenient if they were recollected. The result was not, as too often supposed, a single treaty. After a general war, the various Powers of Europe assembled and settled their different treaties as between themselves. For instance, at the Congress of Utrecht, as the noble Lord well knew, there were nine treaties, all of which were Treaties of Utrecht, although the one we quoted was only that between France and England. When the Treaty of Vienna—that great instrument which we called the Treaty of Vienna—was signed, there had been previously negotiated seventeen treaties of the highest class of diplomatic interest; and it was recited at the commencement of the Treaty of Vienna, as the noble Lord well knew, that the Powers at the Congress, anxious to conclude the general settlement of Europe, and also to enforce their various negotiations with reciprocal ratifications, had agreed to include them in a common instrument. The consequence was, that in the Treaty of Vienna there were many sections of an original character, and others merely copied or quoted from other treaties; and in order to prevent misconceptions, in the 118th article, as the noble Lord well knew, these seventeen treaties were declared to be portions of the final act of the Congress. The three Polish treaties were included in these seventeen, nor was there any stipulation in the final act other than contained in these treaties, or in sections which were verbatim copied from the original instrument. If they admitted any violation of any clause in the Polish treaties as a violation of the Treaty of Vienna, they must, upon the same principle, admit that the violation of any clause in any of the seventeen treaties so included, was equally a violation of the Treaty of Vienna with the affair of Cracow. Then, let the House see what a position we should be placed in. In the first place, the treaty which settled the domestic constitution of Germany, which originated the present diet, which secured certain tribunals which had never been established, guaranteed the provincial estates—any omission on any of these heads, upon the principle of the noble Lord, being a violation of one of the seventeen treaties, was equally a violation of the Treaty of Vienna. For instance, the instrument that regulated the navigation of the rivers of Germany, was one of 153 the seventeen treaties referred to, which was in the same category as the Polish treaties. He might say their stipulations were almost parochial, for at this moment the German princes affected by them could not appoint an inspector or sub-inspector of rivers, except for his life; and if this officer was appointed de bene merito, and not for life, that was a violation of the treaty. Difficulty was experienced at the Congress of Vienna in arranging the order of precedence. That affair was settled by one of the seventeen documents; but if a Minister violated these rules, the Treaty of Vienna was violated. The King of Sardinia agreed, as one of the bases upon which he should receive Genoa, that he would observe certain regulations with regard to the privileges of the university of Genoa. Five years after the King of Sardinia had signed the Treaty of Vienna, the privileges of the university of Genoa were violated. The treaty by which the King holds Genoa, is one of the seventeen treaties? Is then the Treaty of Vienna violated? The only mode to guide ourselves amid these incoherent inconveniences, is to resort to the acknowledged principles of public law. It was an acknowledged principle of public law that a superior instrument could never merge in an inferior one. This was the principle, and he could refer to great and authentic precedents to substantiate it; but he would refer to one, and one only. He referred to the Peace of Westphalia, which was the foundation of the public law of Europe until the French Revolution, and had been only superseded by the Treaty of Vienna. This was an analogous instance—a case in point. The Powers of Europe were in the same situation then as they were placed now. The question was discussed by the greatest jurisconsults of that learned age. The House would recollect that the Peace of Westphalia was negotiated at a congress at Munster. Germany had been the battle-field of a great war which was then terminated. The cases were parallel. It was even a thirty years' war. When the great Powers met to apportion territory, and settle the great questions as regarded the balance of power, they found it totally out of their power to deal with the affairs of Germany. It was therefore, agreed that they should be arranged at a separate congress, to be simultaneously held at the city of Osnabruck, at which the Emperor and the German Princes should alone be present. There a treaty was signed by the Emperor of Germany, 154 the Princes of Germany, and the King of Sweden, who had become a German prince; and this treaty was then carried over to the chief congress at Munster, and there included in the treaty in chief, as the Polish treaties are in the final act of Vienna. What happened under this treaty? The free and imperial cities of Germany were placed in the same situation as Cracow. Through the influence of the King of Sweden they had obtained political existence. Sweden obtained for them the right of voting in the diet as every other sovereign State. But the Emperor and Princes never allowed the right. The free cities alleged a violation of the Treaty of Munster, and called upon the great Powers who signed it to vindicate their rights; the claim was amply discussed, but it was held by all the authorities, that the guarantee of the Treaty of Osnabruck, though included verbatim in the chief Treaty of Munster, bound only the signatories of the collateral treaty. But take a modern instance. Look at the disruption of the kingdom of the Netherlands. The kingdom of the Netherlands was not created by the Treaty of Vienna, but only by one of the seventeen included treaties. When the King of the Netherlands was in distress, did we interfere on account of the violation of the Treaty of Vienna? Not in the least. We did not pretend that the Treaty of Vienna was violated. We called the great Powers together who had signed the treaty with the Prince of Orange making him King of the Netherlands, and by virtue of that treaty they formed themselves into a conference. True, France was subsequently invited to join, for her presence was indispensable, and as a signatory of the final act of Vienna she had a right to interfere. But not because the Treaty of Vienna had been violated. If that were the ground of her appearance, why were not the other great Powers who had signed that treaty also summoned? It might be fairly asked, then, what was the use of the great Powers signing the general treaty? What position did they stand in with regard to the seventeen included treaties to which they were not parties? The position was intelligible if they would follow the principles of international law. Any contracting party to those treaties might appeal to them as witnesses and arbitrators. But Cracow was not a party to any treaty. It might be said that this was special pleading, and that it was intended the existence of 155 Cracow should be guaranteed. But he would show the noble Lord the extreme danger of leaving the path of public law. The Treaty of Vienna included the treaty by which the present Government of Germany was established. Well, the mediatised princes were promised political rights under that treaty which had never been granted—was that also a violation of the Treaty of Vienna? But they were not parties to the German treaty, and Cracow was not a party to the Polish treaties. The noble Lord overlooked the distinction between original articles and those that were merely quotations. He confessed he was alarmed at the state of our foreign affairs, when he found the noble Lord was not aware that a complete guarantee of Saxony to Prussia was contained in the Treaty of Vienna. The subject was not very agreeable to pursue, but it was of the deepest importance, whatever might be our opinions about France or Russia, that we did not found the conduct we recommended or the sentiments we expressed upon perverted views of treaties. We should most distinctly comprehend what the engagements of the Powers of Europe were to us, and what our reciprocal engagements were to them. Nothing was more important to Europe and this country, than that the great settlement at Vienna should be respected; but on the principles laid down by the noble Lord, the Treaty of Vienna was not only worthless, but it had always been worthless. But if they took the sound principle that the superior instrument could not, merge in the inferior—if they distinguished between the Treaty of Vienna and the included treaties, they would adopt a distinction recommended by law, by historic precedent, and recognised by modern practice, even by that of the noble Lord himself. On the other hand, the inconvenience in which they would involve themselves if they hastily adopted the noble Lord's version of the Treaty of Vienna would be such as was not within the power of language to describe, or modern statesmanship to extricate us from. He put before the House this sketch only of his argument; but he trusted they would reflect upon it, and especially the noble Lord, whose phrase, that this treaty had been "manifestly violated," clearly showed that he thought there might be considerable doubts upon the subject, for if a treaty has been violated it was sufficient so to state without having recourse to epithets and 156 strained expressions. He should be glad, therefore, if they would rest upon that basis which had been relied on from the days of Richelieu to our own time, and was the only safe one—namely, acknowledged principles of public law, and the gravity of weighty precedents. It was of importance at this time to be on the best terms with our allies. He had not the common jealousy of the influence of France in Spain, and Russia in Germany. To suppose that great Powers like France and Russia would not have their own ambition to develop, as England had hers, was to expect the impossible. But what was the use of the power of England except to combat those influences, whether in Spain or elsewhere, if they found them aiming at an inconvenient preponderance? He often heard that peace could only be maintained by a cordial understanding between England and France, or a secret understanding between England and Russia; but peace could be maintained by England alone, if she understood her position, and did not underrate her power. The two systems that pervaded the Continent were rival systems, but they need not look on them in a litigious spirit. England held exactly the same position now as she did in the days of the rivalry between Frances I. and Charles V.; England held the balance, and if she was conscious of her position, and exercised her influence with firmness and discretion, she might obtain and enjoy the blessings of peace, and hand them down to posterity, better than with partial alliances with either of the rival Powers, by a good understanding and a generous friendship with both.
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
only rose to defend the Irish landlords from the bitter attack of the hon. and learned Member for Bath. In justice to the county he represented, he was bound to say that, considering the extreme sufferings of the people, a more ungenerous and insulting tone could not be adopted, and if anything would prevent them from enduring their sufferings longer, it would be the language of the hon. Member for Bath; who, at the same time, exhibited the grossest ignorance, ascribing to the landlords of Ireland, with great virulence, what arose from the dispensations of Providence. The people of Ireland were suffering from the non-interference of the Government. He had witnessed the effects of this non-interference with pain and regret. In his part of the country the Commissary General had written a letter, which was not meant to be offensive, but was 157 ridiculous and absurd. When the people asked him for food, he told them to go to the mills, which did not exist. He exhorted the noble Lord not to adhere to theories when the subjects of the Crown were suffering for want of food. He did not want them to give it them for nothing; but to introduce it into the country, for wages could not be converted into food on the western coast of Ireland for want of mills. He should be sorry to embarrass the Government, and he was willing to bear witness to their desire to meet the evil to the utmost of their power. In the part of the country he represented, the prices of every thing were full three times what they would have been in ordinary times; landlords did not receive half their rents, and generously relinquished the difference. He adjured the noble Lord to give political economy to the winds, and to listen to the submissive voices of a starving people.
§ SIR R. PEEL
Sir, I am not about to interrupt the unanimity with which there is every prospect that this Address to the Grown will be carried, nor am I about to protract the discussion which has arisen upon it. There is scarcely one of the topics introduced into the Speech from the Throne, which may not be more advantageously debated upon a future occasion, the speedy advent of which has been promised us by the noble Lord. The noble Lord has stated, that with respect to the diplomatic transactions which were adverted to in the Speech from the Throne, concerning the marriage which has been entered into between the Son of the King of the French and the Infanta the Princess of Spain, the whole of that correspondence shall be laid before the House. The correspondence which has already appeared in the French papers is, I apprehend, only a part of the correspondence which the noble Lord intends to lay on the Table. I hope that the noble Lord will lay all the documents before the House which he can produce without detriment to the public interest, including all the documents which will be explanatory of the views and conduct of the late Government. Considering that the discussion of this subject will be more satisfactory on a future occasion, I shall abstain from any other reference to it than to confirm entirely the statement of the noble Lord, that, during the time the late Government were in office, no effort was made on the part of England to bring forward a Prince of Coburg as a candidate for the hand of 158 the Queen of Spain. Sir, speaking for myself, I deprecate any such connection. I do not think that the interest of England would be promoted by such an alliance, the natural consequence of which might be to involve us more deeply in the domestic concerns of Spain than would be at all desirable. My belief is, that it would be for the interests of England and of Europe that Spain should be really independent; that she should maintain the high position which she once held among nations, without tolerating the interference in her internal administration of any foreign Power; and I hope to see the day when Spain will place herself in such a position of independence. But, Sir, speaking of the late Government, I repeat, that neither directly, by any official act of that Government, nor, by any indirect means, was any attempt resorted to by any party for the purpose of advancing the interest of a prince of the house of Coburg. I shall say but little on this occasion with respect to the extinction of the independence of Cracow, because I expect that we shall be soon in possession of more information on that question. But I cannot avoid expressing my deep regret that the extinction of the independence of that State has taken place. And here I would wish to make an observation on the statement of the hon. Gentleman who spoke last. Supposing that statement to be correct, supposing there to have been instances wherein the stipulations of conventions incorporated in general treaties have not been strictly observed, still there cannot be a doubt that by the Treaty of Vienna a public assurance was given to Europe, at the period when the settlement of its affairs took place—a public assurance as binding as any formal engagement could be—that that last remnant of Polish independence should be respected, and that Cracow should not be destined to the fate to which she is now doomed. There has been a virtual departure from the engagements then entered into. The Act itself, independent of the violation of the Treaty, is a most impolitic one. For three great Powers to declare they are unable to protect themselves from the dangers with which they may be threatened within the territory of Cracow, is sufficiently humiliating. Even after the recent disturbances, it would have been wiser to restore to Cracow, in the greatest plenitude, every right and privilege accorded and secured to it by the Treaty of Vienna. Had such rights and privileges been again abused—had the 159 three great Powers proved their inability to take effectual precautions against machinations concocted in Cracow—then, upon consultation with France, Great Britain, Sweden, and the other parties to the Treaty of Vienna, and upon its being made manifest that there existed on the part of Cracow a deep determination to disturb the peace of its neighbours by countenancing machinations against them, the public feeling of Europe would have seconded those Powers in making a new arrangement for the government of Cracow, and the consent of France and of England might have been obtained to the measure which, without their participation, has now been carried out. As it now is, I think there is no sufficient proof of danger to those Northern Powers to be apprehended from Cracow, which can be accepted as a sufficient justification of the act committed, without concert or communication with other Powers, parties to the Treaties of Vienna. Austria is the last Power of Europe which should set an example calculated to shake the confidence of Europe in the permanent maintenance of the provisions of that treaty, which forms the basis of the present settlement of Europe. Now, Sir, with regard to other portions of the Speech from the Throne, I regret some omissions; I am sorry that no reference is made to the state of the revenue. I should have been glad to know, before we were called upon to consider the extent of the expenditure, what were the views of Her Majesty's Government; and I think it would have been as well had some reference been made to our financial matters. I have heard one subject adverted to with great satisfaction—that it is the intention of Government to direct the attention of Parliament to the sanitary condition of the kingdom. With the exception of Ireland, I can conceive no subject deeper or more vitally interesting to the happiness, to the health, and permanent welfare of the great masses of the population of this country, than improvements in the sanitary condition of the towns. I hope that the measure will be an extensive one; not confined to the populations of large towns merely, but extended to small places; and that the municipal authorities of all towns will have power to make those improvements which are most wanted, and the absence of which is highly prejudicial to the comfort and health of the inhabitants. Now, with respect to Ireland, on a full recollection of all the difficult- 160 ties which encompass a Government, in having to deal with such a crisis as we now witness in that country, so far from entertaining any hostile feeling, I am disposed, on the contrary, to make every allowance for the position of those who are responsible for meeting such an emergency. I know what is the peculiar embarrassment with which they had to deal—how difficult it is, at an early period of the year, to ascertain the exact amount of distress—what danger there may be, either by taking superfluous precautions, of causing undue alarm, and of disturbing the ordinary course of mercantile operations; and, on the other hand, what danger there may be in apparent negligence, from the too sanguine expectation of abundance. I know how heavy is the responsibility that falls on the Government having to contend with famine and its fearful consequences; and, therefore, not only on account of the recent period at which the right hon. Gentlemen have been called upon to administer public affairs, but from the real difficulties with which any Government has to contend, I am disposed to make every allowance for any error they may have committed. We should recollect that we are now made wise by the event, and that it may be easy for us now, seeing the extent of the evil, not only impending but actually present, to suggest some mode of combating the enormous difficulty before us, more likely to succeed than that which was resorted to at a period of doubt and uncertainty. We ought to place ourselves in their position in the month of September last, and then consider whether we would, in the then state of our knowledge, have been able to suggest any better course than they adopted. Sir, I do not blame the Government for not calling Parliament together earlier. I believe that nothing can be done or will be done in Ireland without the active, and earnest, and unremitting co-operation of the landed proprietors of that country, and that their withdrawal from Ireland at a critical moment might have increased the evil. Sir, I believe also that it might have been unwise to create alarm by too early an interference on the part of Parliament. As events have turned out, I regret that the measures now proposed were not proposed at an earlier period; but I cannot but feel that though no compact was entered into on the subject, still that after the recent arrangement made with respect to the corn laws in the last Session, the noble 161 Lord and those with whom he is acting would be unwilling to disturb the decision and arrangement that had been so recently come to. Again, with respect to the Labour-rate Act, we are now fully aware of the magnitude of the evil that has grown up under that Act; but, as I said before, in order to judge of the intentions of the Government, we are not to test them by the circumstances now existing, but by the circumstances and prospects of the time when the measure was introduced to Parliament. The right hon. Gentleman has, however, convinced me by his speech to-night that the sooner we disturb the present relations between the labour and the Government of the country the better. When he states, that many thousand persons are employed in superintending this labour, he only the more convinces me of the danger of such a system. I can conceive what it is to have a staff of thousands of head clerks and engineers in Ireland—what the difficulty of selection must be—and, with every care on the part of the authorities, how little qualified for their duty must be the majority of ten thousand public officers hastily appointed. I am satisfied, therefore, that the sooner the right hon. Gentleman can restore these gentlemen to their ordinary occupations, and save the expense of their salaries, the better both for this country and for Ireland. The first object to which we ought to direct our attention is, the restoring to its natural state the relation between labour and those who employ it. When there are 430,000 persons employed in Ireland by the State at the enormous expense of 158,000l. a week, it is clear that something should at once be done. We should endeavour to direct this labour first to the immediate cultivation of the soil, in order that we may have the prospect of a future harvest; and then, when this prospect shall be tolerably certain, to the permanent improvement of the soil—a subject, though of inferior consideration to the former, still of much more importance than any public works. There are instances in which Government can employ labour in Ireland with great advantage upon public works; but where the works themselves are not beneficial, the diversion on an enormous scale of labour from its ordinary occupation can entail nothing but evil. Therefore the first effect which I hope will be realized by the measures which the noble Lord contemplates will be to restore the natural relation between the employer of labour and the employed; and I do hope 162 that the landed proprietors of Ireland and the occupying tenants also will feel that it is of the utmost importance to assist the Government in diverting the labour of the country, in the first place, from what are now called public works, to the cultivation of the soil, and afterwards to its permanent improvement. The noble Lord proposes three measures: the suspension for a time of the existing duties on the importation of corn—the suspension of the navigation laws—and the permission to use molasses and sugar in breweries and distilleries. It is my intention to give my cordial support to these measures. The advantages to be derived from them may not now be so great as if they had been introduced at an earlier period, and before the French and other Governments had entered into the market as purchasers of grain. Still we are bound to do everything in our power, by reducing the duty, to increase the supply of food. As stated in the Speech from the Throne, there has been a great deficiency of food in other countries—in Germany, Belgium, and France; and as measures have been devised in those countries to increase as much as possible their supply, it is possible that cargoes which might be diverted to other countries by the 4s. duty here, may be retained in this country by the abolition of the duty. With regard to corn the produce of Egypt, and other distant countries, a temporary suspension of the navigation laws may be highly advantageous. But feeling enters into this question as well as reason; and seeing the rapid rise in the price of corn; seeing that there are—I won't say hundreds, but—many persons daily dying from starvation in Ireland; seeing that, although outrages exist in greater number than before, on the whole these severe privations have been borne with great patience; looking to the state of that suffering but uncomplaining country, Scotland; knowing as we do that in the Western Islands and Highlands of that country the severest distress exists, although it is scarcely brought under our cognizance by a murmur: seeing all this, I shall not object, to the immediate adoption of any measure, which those responsible for rescuing the country from its perilous position, may think it necessary to advise and recommend. With respect to measures of a permanent character for the improvement of Ireland, it would be premature at this moment to enter upon any discussion of them. The 163 noble Lord has promised, on an early day, to make a statement of these measures to the House; and I am unwilling to embarrass his course by provoking any discussion prematurely on the matter. But we must not be too sanguine in reference to the immediate efficacy of such measures of permanent relief. The evils which we are now called upon to combat are of long standing, and no instant remedy can be applied to them. Take a very favourite suggestion, for instance—emigration to other countries. The relief from it must be partial and remote. Before such a system can be pursued to advantage, you must have previous communications with those countries to which you direct the emigrant, whom you cannot turn loose in any colony without previous preparation. That a well-considered system of emigration, gradually adopted, and steadily pursued, would add to the strength of British power in the colonies, and operate as a relief at home, cannot be denied. But he would be too sanguine who would suppose that any scheme immediately adopted, no matter how extensively and eagerly carried out, would tend very materially to mitigate the present evils which press upon Ireland. The present misfortune is one of so surpassing a magnitude, that it would be unjust as well as impolitic to make Ireland alone responsible for it. I am willing to consent that this part of the empire shall bear its proportion of the burden. But it must be recollected that the Government has no fund of its own from which relief can be obtained, and that a grant of money for the purpose of relieving Ireland is neither more nor less than an increase to the taxation which presses upon the different classes of this country. But, on account of the peculiar nature of the present emergency, I am sure that the people of this country will not refuse to bear their share in mitigating the evils which at this moment are so heavily pressing upon certain portions of the empire. At the same time I must say, that nothing could be more injurious to Ireland herself than misplaced and ill-judged liberality toward her. Ireland should feel it incumbent upon herself to make great exertions for the maintenance of her own poor. An habitual dependence for relief upon this country is not only unjust to us, but fails to benefit Ireland herself. Every class in that country should entertain a due sense of their several obligations, and assisted, as they have a right to be, by wise and 164 provident legislation, they should neither seek nor require to transfer to this country the burden which properly appertains to themselves. I shall certainly approach this whole subject, when it comes more in detail before us, in a spirit such as is properly recommended in the Speech from the Throne—a spirit free from all party feelings or considerations. Our own interests are most intimately connected with the welfare and prosperity of Ireland. Ireland cannot be a depressed suffering country without England suffering almost to an equal degree. We have, therefore, the highest interest in promoting the welfare and conducing to the prosperity of Ireland; and I, for one, shall sincerely congratulate Her Majesty's Government, if, respecting the rights of property, they may be able, by wise and provident legislation, to make permanent provision for the improvement of Ireland.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I rise, Mr. Speaker, to say a few words in reference to the Treaty of Vienna, which has been brought forward so conspicuously by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shrewsbury (Mr. Disraeli). It is not my intention to enter at present into any discussion of the whole subject, or to refer very particularly to the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, inasmuch as this is not the proper opportunity for so doing. But, Sir, it is impossible for me to acquiesce, or appear to acquiesce, by silence in the interpretation given by the hon. Member for Shrewsbury, to the stipulations of the Treaty of Vienna. It seems to me, that if his interpretation of the treaty be just, there is no treaty at all. The hon. Member has so disconnected the details of that engagement, that if the treaty has any existence at all, I am curious to know what portion or portions of the instrument he considers to be valid. The hon. Member stated that the Treaty of Vienna was only a compilation of separate and distinct instruments, contracted by different parties, at other times, and in other places, and that it was a sort of general registry, which involved no obligations; and then, on the other hand, the hon. Member contended that several of the parties to it stood in the relation of guarantees. There is no general guarantee in the Treaty of Vienna. There is a special guarantee for certain arrangements between Prussia and Saxony; but with regard to the other arrangements of the treaty, the contracting parties thereto are 165 not guarantees. There is, therefore, no obligation pressing upon these parties to take active measures to enforce the stipulations of the treaty. They may have the right to do so, but they are not obliged to do so. The hon. Gentleman is mistaken in regard to the bearing of the Treaty of Vienna upon the question of Cracow. He fancies that the arrangements by which Cracow was erected into an independent and free State, are entirely contained in a separate treaty between the three Powers, to which the other parties were not contracting parties. If the hon. Member will look into the Treaty of Vienna, he will find that this is not so. He will see that the 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th articles of the general Treaty relate to, and constitute the free and independent State of Cracow. [Mr. DISRAELI: They were copies.] They were articles of the general treaty, and were as much portions of that treaty, as it was signed by the contracting parties thereto, as were any of the other stipulations which it contained. But if this is so, the hon. Member contends that the arrangements with regard to the free navigation of the rivers must also be a portion of this treaty. It has been so construed by all the Powers of Europe. In the same way, the regulations with regard to the precedence of diplomatic persons must be part of the treaty. Ministers took precedence according to the date of their arrival at the Court to which they were accredited. That was a portion of the Treaty of Vienna, and any violation of the rule would of course be considered a violation of the treaty. Now, Sir, with regard to what passed about Belgium, I may state that it was not Earl Grey's Government which established the conference. The two first protocols were signed, not by me, but by Lord Aberdeen. But that separation of Belgium from Holland was effected not in the way in which the extinction of Cracow has been attempted. It was effected by long negotiations, to which all the Powers interested were parties, and was the result of a regular treaty signed by those Powers interested in the transaction to which it related. As regards the Treaty of Utrecht, it has been stated by the noble Lord opposite, that the renunciation of the Duke of Orleans and the Duke de Berry, were not valid, because they were not part of the municipal law of France and Spain. But the noble Lord was mistaken, for these renunciations were in fact part of the municipal law of these two countries. [Lord 166 G. BENTINCK: It was not I who said they were not.] Well, then, some one else in the course of debate did; but the assertion is not consistent with fact, and I wish it to be clearly understood that the ground taken by Government is not that there was anything in the Treaty of Utrecht which forbade marriages between the royal families of the two countries. The ground taken is this: that the renunciations of the Treaty of Utrecht, and the laws by which they were sanctioned, prevent the succession to the Crown of Spain of any descendant of the Duke of Orleans. As I said already, it is not my intention to enter into a discussion of these transactions. I shall be prepared, when papers are laid before the House, and hon. Members are in possession of the facts, I shall be prepared to defend the conduct of Her Majesty's Government; but I could not allow the interpretation put upon these treaties to pass, without offering a few dissentient remarks.
§ Address agreed to, and a Committee appointed to draw it up. To be reported to-morrow.
§ House adjourned shortly after One o'clock.