LORD J. RUSSELL
spoke as follows: Sir, I feel that I never had so much need of the indulgence of the House as I have upon the present occasion; but I feel, at the same time, that I never had so little need to ask for that indulgence, for I feel sure, from the temper which the House has already displayed, from the sense which prevails of the magnitude of the calamity that has occurred, and of the further calamity still impending—from its sense of the danger that would arise in now interposing any party feelings with the consideration of this subject—and from the forbearance which I have already experienced—I feel sure that I need not, on the present occasion, ask its indulgence, but that it will be voluntarily bestowed. In considering the question of the state of Ireland, I will first proceed to lay down the order in which I propose to treat the subject. I propose to notice, first, generally, what is the condition of that part of the United Kingdom in which this calamity has occurred; secondly, to make a general statement of what has been done during the recess of Parliament—what has been done in pursuance of Acts of Parliament—how far those measures have succeeded—how far I think they have been deficient; and then to state what we propose to do to meet the present emergency and at the present time. After having made that statement, I shall ask the attention of the House, while I proceed to invite some consideration of other measures which are calculated, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, to improve the general condition of Ireland, and to lay the foundations for permanent prosperity. I shall also 427 take the liberty of mentioning some other subjects which, although they have been under consideration, have not yet been so fully considered that measures concerning them have been matured; and I will state generally the view which we take of those subjects. I shall, in conclusion, ask the assent of the House to the introduction of two Bills, one for the purpose of rendering valid certain acts which have been done under the authority of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, as communicated in a letter of my right hon. Friend near me, the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant; and the second, a Bill for the improvement of private estates in Ireland, in the spirit of the Treasury Minute of the 1st of December, which is well known to this House and to the country. Sir, in proceeding to consider the condition of the country in which this calamity has occurred, I think it the safest course to use the guarded language of the report made on the inquiry respecting provision made by Poor Laws in Ireland, and to ask the House to infer from that report how great was likely to be the calamity if there should be a total failure of the potato crop in that country. In the First Report of that Poor Inquiry Commission—a commission including many persons of considerable authority, who were Irishmen, and well acquainted with their country—they give their reason for not making a report so soon as was expected, and they say—The great proportion of the population about and amongst whom the inquiry was to be made is constantly fluctuating between mendicancy and independent labour. In whole districts, scarcely one of that class of substantial capitalist farmers so universal in England can be found. The small resident gentry are but few, and the substantial tradesman is not to be met with at intervals of two or three miles, as in England; for there are but few towns of sufficient trade to create such a class. The clergy of the various persuasions, and the proprietors, when resident, are in many cases so much at variance with each other, or with the working population, upon political questions, that great caution was requisite in regard to the manner and degree in which we could avail ourselves of their assistance. Similar difficulties existed with regard to the constabulary, from the frequent collisions in which they are placed with the people; and parochial authorities can scarcely be said to exist.In their Third Report, which was the foundation of the measure that was then adopted, they state—It appears that in Great Britain the agricultural families constitute little more than a fourth, while in Ireland they constitute about two-thirds of the whole population; that there were in Great Britain, in 1831, 1,055,982 agricultural labourers; 428 in Ireland, 1,131,715, although the cultivated land of Great Britain amounts to about 34,250,000 acres, and that of Ireland only to about 14,600,000. We thus find that there are in Ireland about five agricultural labourers for every two that there are for the same quantity of land in Great Britain. It further appears that the agricultural produce of Great Britain is more than four times that of Ireland; that agricultural wages vary from 6d. to 1s. a day; that the average of the country in general is about 8½d.; and that the earnings of the labourers come, on an average of the whole class, to from 2s. to 2s. 6d. a week, or thereabouts, for the year round. Thus circumstanced, it is impossible for the able-bodied, in general, to provide against sickness or the temporary absence of employment, or against old age, or the destitution of their widows and children, in the contingent event of their own premature decease. A great portion of them are insufficiently provided at any time with the commonest necessaries of life. Their habitations are wretched hovels; several of a family sleep together upon straw or upon the bare ground, sometimes with a blanket, sometimes even without so much to cover them; their food commonly consists of dry potatoes, and with these they are at times so scantily supplied as to be obliged to stint themselves to one spare meal in the day. There are even instances of persons being driven by hunger to seek sustenance in wild herbs. They sometimes get a herring, or a little milk; but they never get meat, except at Christmas, Easter, or Shrovetide. Some go in search of employment to Great Britain during the harvest; others wander through Ireland with the same view. The wives and children of many are occasionally obliged to beg; they do so reluctantly and with shame, and in general go to a distance from home, in order that they may not be known. Mendicancy, too, is the sole resource of the aged and impotent of the poorer classes in general, when children or relatives are unable to support them. To it, therefore, crowds are driven for the means of existence; and the knowledge that such is the fact leads to an indiscriminate giving of alms, which encourages idleness, imposture, and general crime.Such was the description, given upon the most undoubted authority, of the state of the labouring classes in Ireland, even amidst times of comparative plenty: it may be easily imagined that when those who are best off, in the most prosperous years, earn scarcely sufficient, those who had then been on the brink of famine, must have been unable to resist the flood of destitution and wretchedness which has over-whelmed them by the failure of the potato crop. Such has been unfortunately the case in the present year, during the visitation of a calamity which is, perhaps, almost without a parallel, because it acts upon a very large population, a population of nearly 8,000,000—for the Irish have gradually increased to that amount—while the famine is such as has not been known in modern times; indeed, I should say it is like a famine of the thirteenth century 429 acting upon the population of the nineteenth. Such being the general condition of the population, and the nature of the calamity that has befallen them, I will state what is the course which was adopted during the past year and down to the present time. When Parliament met last year, it was apprehended, that the potatoes having been much injured, there was danger of a very great scarcity ill that country. That apprehension was not fully justified by the event. It was impossible, as I think, for any one exactly to say, what the extent of the misfortune would be; but the fact, I believe, was, there having been a very plentiful crop of potatoes in the previous year, that although there was a very great quantity of potatoes injured in 1845, yet the quantity of food in Ireland in the early part of last year was not very deficient. Parliament, however, took means very early in the Session to supply food to the destitute by means of giving employment upon the roads, and by public works. It was enacted, that upon presentment sessions being held in any barony, there should be a power to apply for money from the Treasury upon loan, and there should be a grant of money. Under this law, presentments were made to the extent of more than 1,000,000l., I think; the presentments to the 31st of August, I believe, were 1,372,000l.; what was recommended by the Board of Works amounted to 476,000l., and there was actually expended to that time 290,000l. Before the end of the Session of Parliament, upon the recommendation of the present Government, Parliament passed a further Act, by which, on the one hand, the Lord Lieutenant was enabled to require special barony sessions to meet, in order to make presentments for public works; and, on the other hand, as a check to what it was thought might be expected in the shape of extravagant expenditure, the whole was to be advanced by the Treasury, and all the money was afterwards to be repaid. Very soon after the Session of Parliament had closed, there was a desire in many parts of Ireland to have presentment sessions, and to have public works sanctioned by the Government, but more especially there was a great demand to have those public works continued and completed which had been authorized by the Act of the early part of last Session. There was some objection made on the part of the Treasury to that proceeding, because the harvest was just coming in; 430 there was a great demand for labour, and it did not seem to us, as these were works intended solely for relief, that it was advisable to complete them; however, it being put before us as a matter of good faith, an order was given that those works should be completed. But these operations, and the demand for new works, made it extremely difficult for the Board of Works, although it was reinforced by the addition of two gentlemen exceedingly competent, I believe, for the task assigned them, to make all their arrangements before these presentments came upon them in great numbers. Very soon, however, after the works were commenced, there came a complaint on the part of the proprietors and country gentlemen in Ireland, that these works were useless; that the roads which were presented for were not wanted; that other works were likewise in themselves useless; and that they were not reproductive measures. I own I do not myself attach any great value to that objection. I think, the object being relief, and to combine that relief with a certain amount of work which should show that industry was not entirely abandoned, that the productive nature of the works was a question of secondary importance, and that the use for which they were intended was to preserve the people, in the first place, from loss of life, and, in the next place, from the indiscriminate asking of alms. In this country, during the distress which happened four or five years ago, in the course of one or two years the poor rates were increased from 4,000,000l. to 5,000,000l., an increase of 1,000,000l. a year; but, if an examination were made into the manner in which that million was expended, it would not be found that there was any great amount of productive works to show for it; it must have been spent either in direct relief, or relief with such occupations as are given to poor men, in order to separate the man who is really destitute from the impostor. Therefore, I do not, I say, myself attach any very great value to the objection which was thus made; but, at the same time, as it was most desirable to obtain the co-operation of the landed gentlemen of Ireland, it was desirable likewise, if possible, to have the works productive. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with the consent of the Cabinet, after the case had been represented, sanctioned a plan by which the sessions were allowed to present for productive works in electoral districts. But this plan had not been long 431 adopted before there was a still further desire expressed for what was called a townland division, and that the works should be separately presented for townlands. Now, these townlands are of various sizes and dimensions in Ireland: some of them are exceedingly small, not above a hundred acres, others are of a tolerable size; but I believe, taking a general average of the whole townlands of Ireland, they do not contain above 350 acres each. The question was, whether it were possible to accede to such a demand. It was quite obvious that, if it were permitted that every person who was the proprietor or occupier of a townland should only make himself responsible for his own townland, there would be no general interest felt in providing for the destitute, and more especially that the possessor of grass land, or of land from which there had been clearance, would have some two or three destitute to provide for, while hundreds were pressing upon the means of other townlands, and ruining the proprietors. It appeared, therefore, to the Lord Lieutenant, and, as far as I have heard, it appeared to almost every person, even those who were at first advocates of this plan, that it could not be beneficially adopted. But it was said, that although that plan could not be adopted, yet there was another scheme which might, and which would prevent the evil of those who were ready to employ labour, ready to be enterprising, ready to improve their estates, being obliged to maintain the tenants and labourers of those who entirely neglected their duty towards them—and that was the plan of allowing the townland division to take place, but obliging the proprietors and occupiers of the townlands to employ a certain number of the destitute, so as to spend the whole amount of the assessment which was laid upon them. Now, upon this subject I do not know that anything better can be said than the observations which were made upon it in a public letter by Mr. Smith O'Brien, a Member of this House, in a letter to the proprietors of Ireland. He said that he thought it was better than the plan which was actually in operation; but he went on to say—It will, however, have the effect of still further pauperizing the labour of the country. To elucidate this result in the simplest manner, let us suppose that there are 100 labourers in a district which belongs to two landlords, whose income is equal, and one of whom now employs fifty independent workmen, whilst the other does not employ a single labourer. It is at present necessary to provide for the maintenance of fifty unemployed 432 labourers. These are now set to work upon the roads, and the expense of their maintenance falls upon the two properties in equal proportions. If the proposed plan be adopted, the improving landowner will naturally desire to exempt himself from taxation, without employing more hands than he at present requires. This he could do by dismissing all his present workmen. There would then be 100 surplus labourers in the district. As these must be maintained at the expense of the two properties, each proprietor would eventually be compelled, in self-defence, to employ fifty. The landowner who originally employed this number will thus escape taxation, without engaging more labour than he requires; but his labourers will cease to be independent workmen, chosen and paid by himself, and subject to his own control. They will be sent to him by the relief committee of the district; they will be placed under the superintendence of an expensive staff of stipendiaries, appointed by the Board of Works, and will be paid out of the funds raised for the relief of the poor. A system not very dissimilar to this was acted upon in several parts of England previous to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1831, and was found to produce effects the mest demoralizing to the labouring population—paralysing all the energy of independent labour and individual enterprise, and, in many respects, operating most unjustly upon particular classes of property.I conceive that these observations of the hon. Member for Limerick are perfectly justifiable. The experience of England was as he describes it to have been; the labourers sent by the parish upon the farm in the occupation of a farmer were not like the men whom he employed himself at his own choice; they were idle and improvident men, and almost every farmer who was conversant with that system would say that he would rather give 10s. a week to a labourer whom he chose himself, than 5s. to one of those useless men who were sent to him by the parish. I think, therefore, that the plans proposed in order to remedy the evil of having so many persons engaged in unproductive labour in Ireland were full of danger. I admit, and shall presently state, the great evils of the present system; but I think we should have incurred still greater danger, if, with a view of remedying those evils, we had done that which, I conceive, is one of the most pernicious things that can be done with the labour of a country—if we had confounded independent labour with poor relief—if we had rendered paupers those who ought to be independent labourers, and, by way of making our relief somewhat more efficient, had permanently injured the great and important class to which those labourers belong. Sir, the landowners and proprietors who were in favour of these alterations, not obtaining them, found great practical difficulty 433 in carrying into effect the instructions issued by the Lord Lieutenant. They found, when they came to deal with an electoral district, that while two proprietors in that district were ready to adopt the reproductive works, a third or a fourth utterly refused to have any money advanced to him for those purposes. They found, therefore, that their operations were useless; that they did but in a small degree diminish their liabilities; and therefore the proceeding, although it has been to a great degree acted on, has not been such a complete substitution for the system of public works as it was at first supposed that it would be. But, Sir, as the plans were carried out, the number of the destitute increased, and with the number of the destitute the difficulties were augmented of putting any plans of the kind into safe and beneficial operation. I should say that, in the first place, notwithstanding the pains taken by the Board of Works for the purpose of having efficient persons under them, it was found impossible to have trustworthy and efficient persons for works so extensive. It was found, in the next place, that the labourers very often refused to undertake the tasks allotted to them; and more than one of the persons who endeavoured to induce the parties employed to labour well for the wages given to them were maltreated; more than one were in danger of their lives, in consequence of their efforts to discharge their duty. But at length the plan has proceeded to such an extent that it is quite impossible for any public board efficiently to superintend so vast an amount of work. The establishment of the Board of Works—I shall not read all the particulars, the names and titles given of the officers, chief clerks, check clerks, and pay clerks, but the total number of the persons employed—amounts to 11,587. The number of baronies into which Ireland is divided is 360, and of this number 285 have held presentment sessions, and the amount of presentments sanctioned up to this date is 2,410,216l. The number of labourers has increased from 30,135 in the month of September, to 440,687 in the month of December. According to last week's account it was more than 480,000; and there is no doubt entertained at the present time that they amount to 500,000 persons. It is not to be supposed that there is not very great utility in having employed these persons. It is reckoned that five persons gain their subsistence from every person who is employed. 434 I doubt the accuracy of the estimate; but taking it at four, there are 2,000,000 of persons who are subsisted by labour on the public works. The expense at the same time has been enormous. The weekly estimate on the first week of December was 114,000l.; on the second week, 156,000l.; on the third week, 158,000l.; on the fourth week, 154,000l.; and, so far as we are acquainted with the three weeks of January which have elapsed, the estimate for the first week was 157,000l., for the week beginning the 9th, 156,000l.; and for the week beginning the 16th, 172,000l.; making the total amount 585,000l. in the whole of December, and 485,000l. in three weeks of January. It is estimated that the whole expense this month will be between 700,000l. and 800,000l. It is impossible to view this immense expenditure, in an undertaking of so vast a nature, without seeing that there must be great concomitant evils attending such operations. There must be great evils at any time, but there are peculiar evils in the present state of Ireland. One of those evils is owing to the difficulties I have just stated were experienced in procuring efficient labour from the people employed. When the works commenced it was generally reported to us by persons who had travelled through the country, that these people were to be seen loitering idly about the roads doing no work. The Irish Government said that task-work ought to be introduced. There was considerable difficulty in carrying out that resolution, and much resistance was made for the first two or three weeks. But the Lord Lieutenant was peremptory upon that point, and task-work was introduced. So far a good example was set. But a new evil sprang up, which was, that those men who became accustomed to task-work earned wages considerably more than any money wages which could otherwise be got. They earned 1s. 4d., and 1s. 6d., and 1s. 10d. a day, in some cases; and there was a very great run upon the public works, a general competition to be placed upon the public works; and the farmers could not obtain the labourers they wished to employ. But, more than this, a very great abuse sprang up; and farmers and persons holding 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 acres of land, obtained tickets from the relief committees, and placed either their sons, or men employed on their farms, upon the relief works, and received the money which ought to have gone to the really destitute. And thus, with an immense expenditure for the 435 relief of destitution, there were very great numbers of destitute persons who did not receive the benefit. Sir, I shall read part of a letter from Colonel Jones, who is at the head of the Board of Public Works, written so late as the 19th of January to Mr. Trevelyan. The Secretary of the Treasury, Colonel Jones, says—We are pressed for instructions by our officers to know how they are to act; those which now regulate their actions are no longer applicable to the altered state of affairs; if they refuse employment they are held up as the stumbling-block to the poor between them and the means of obtaining food. I am of opinion that it would be better in many cases to give food than to be paying money away as we are now obliged to do, at the same time the people are discontented at the small sums they are entitled to. The fact is, that the system of task-work is no longer beneficial employment to many; their bodily strength is gone, and their spirits depressed, they have not power to exert themselves sufficiently to earn the ordinary day's wages; this necessary outlay will be stigmatized as a wasteful expenditure, and the works will be left incomplete. Mr. Barry, our fishery inspector, has just returned from Glandore, near Clonakelty. The accompanying is a short statement of affairs in that district. You will perceive the great benefits derived from the soup establishments—and so very cheap in the preparation; the small amount of nourishment has a very great effect upon the famished individuals whose stamina are thus partially revived. So far as we are concerned, I believe our powers have attained the utmost. We have, I trust, made a good stand; but the numbers which are now forcing themselves upon us will incapacitate our officers from affording employment, and all our efforts, hitherto so successful, will be paralysed.Sir, the opinion of the Government, previously to the receipt of this letter, was, that the system had become so vast, and, at the same time, the destitution and the want of food had so greatly increased, that it was desirable to attempt some other temporary scheme, by which, if possible, some of the evils which they have now to meet might be mitigated, and with so vast an expenditure of money that more effectual relief should be afforded. It has appeared to us, that it will be desirable to form in districts—say electoral districts—relief committees, which relief committees shall be empowered to receive subscriptions, levy rates, and receive donations from the Government; that by means of these they should purchase food, and establish soup kitchens in the different districts; that they should, so far as they are able, distribute rations with this purchased food to the famishing inhabitants; and that, furnishing that food, they should not require as indispensable the test of work, 436 but that labouring men should be allowed to work on their own plots of ground, or for the farmers, and thus tend to produce food for the next harvest, and procure, perhaps, some small wages to enable them to support their families. After we considered this scheme, I communicated it to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. We have consulted the various officers of the Board of Works and at the head of the Commissariat. They are prepared to consider it favourably; and we shall endeavour, first by a preparatory measure, and next by a Bill, to be proposed to Parliament, to carry into effect this arrangement. There is a person in this country conversant with Ireland, having been long engaged in the public works of that country, who earned, not only the general esteem of the Governments he has served, but of the people among whom his operations were carried on. The person to whom I allude is Sir John Burgoyne. He is now inspector of Government fortifications in this country; and my wish was, that he should undertake this task. I sent for him the other day, in order to propose that he should undertake it. He told me that he had obtained three months leave of absence, and that, instead of devoting those three mouths to relaxation from the duties he was performing, he was quite willing to devote them to the service of the country, and go, at any time he was required, on the discharge of the duty which I proposed. He will be in communication with the Lord Lieutenant, and will have the co-operation of Colonel Jones, and the Board of Works, of the Commissariat, the head of the Poor Law Commission, the chief of the Constabulary, and of other persons who are competent and ready to give him assistance. In proposing this measure, with the view of affording, if possible, more efficient means of relieving the poor people who now are in want of food, and, at the same time, of setting loose great numbers of persons for the ordinary operations of agriculture, we must take care—and the Lord Lieutenant is prepared to take care—that the substitution of this system for public works shall be made as easy in the transition as possible. There will be no rude dismissal of the people at once, who otherwise might find great difficulty in obtaining subsistence; but when the arrangements are made for carrying the scheme I have described into effect, it will be provided that no further presentment shall be made, and no new public works undertaken. The 437 Lord Lieutenant says, in regard to many roads which have been begun, that, if now abandoned, they will be left in the most incomplete and inconvenient state, and that it is desirable to devise some mode in which that difficulty can be obviated, and these roads completed. With regard to the money which has been already expended, and is now being expended, upon these public works, a claim has been made, that the whole of it should not be a burden upon Ireland. The calamity is so severe and extensive, that, passing by the remote causes of it, and looking how heavily it has pressed upon the present possessors of property in Ireland—upon the whole, I think it right that the whole burden should not remain upon Irish property. We shall, therefore, propose, on a future day, that an arrangement should be made by Parliament, by which, in each succeeding year, when an instalment becomes due, upon half that instalment being paid, the other half shall be remitted. We propose, however, that the whole debt should be kept up till one half of it is paid; and that when the half of it is paid, the remainder should be remitted; and thus it will be provided, that one half of the whole charge should fall upon the public. I should state, on the financial part of this question, as regards the sums now issued, that they are issued out of the balance in the Exchequer—out of the Consolidated Fund; and that neither is there, nor has there been, any intention of making any new issue of Exehequer Bills to meet that demand. But it must at the same time be consider ed, that when I make such a proposition as that now laid before the House, it is one which places a very considerable burden upon the finances of this country; and that placing that burden upon the finances of this country, I do feel myself disabled from making some propositions I should otherwise have made, but which, considering the very heavy burdens arising from the destitution this present year, I should think it hardly fair to the people of this country to bring forward. It may be said, "Let the burden be borne by the Consolidated Fund—let it be borne by the Imperial Treasury and Exchequer." I must always recollect that those sums are not to be granted by Government or Parliament without the most serious consideration; that these are sums derived from payments by the people of this country; from the taxes which they pay on their soap, their sugar, their tea, their 438 coffee. It is that which forms the surplus by which we are able to come to the assistance of Ireland; and while I believe there is every disposition to do all that is liberal, I do think that we must, in justice to the people of this country, consider their difficulties and their privations, and by what hard labour they are earning their daily bread. As to the other part of this subject which I mentioned, namely, the advances made under authority of the Lord Lieutenant's order, and of the letter of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere)—the advances having been made to persons who really wished to assist in carrying this measure into effect, and to effect improvements, making their own estates liable—we do think it necessary that the terms of the Treasury Minute of the 1st of December should be applied to those who have accepted advances under Mr. Labouchere's letter, and that instead of requiring repayment in ten years, a period of twenty-two years shall be taken; that the provisions for carrying this proposal into effect should be in terms of the Drainage Act of last year; and that, in regard to its beneficial employment, the whole of that money will be expected to be paid as under that Act. Sir, I have stated what I think we can do for present alleviation. There is, however, another question on which I have to make a somewhat, I must confess, doubtful proposal; but upon the whole we think we are right in recommending it to Parliament. It is, that we should be empowered to advance a sum not exceeding 50,000l. in the whole, to be repaid before the end of this year, the 31st of December, 1847, to enable the proprietors to furnish seed for the land. I do not think it a safe course that the Government should make advances to small tenants. It is very dangerous that the Government should be introduced as the lender to a great number of cottier tenants and other occupants of small holdings; but if the money be advanced to the landlords, it may be given for their tenantry to purchase seed, and so may be most beneficially applied. In stating these measures, I wish at the same time to declare, that we cannot expect, and that we do not expect, to be able by any measures which the Government, or by any measures which Parliament may adopt, to ward off or prevent the effects of the awful visitation under which Ireland is suffering. It is not in the power of man to do away with the effects of such a calamity. Nor, Sir, should I think that any one would impose upon us 439 so impossible a task, or ask us to make so presumptuous an attempt, were it not that I have read in one of the newspapers an address signed by the Marquess of Sligo and Mr. Moore, both most respectable persons—both persons well entitled to deference on the part of their poorer countrymen—who write thus to these countrymen, having, as it said in the newspaper, travelled through twenty-seven counties in order to make their proposition popular and acceptable:—We, therefore, earnestly entreat you to meet at Castlebar, at 11 o'clock on Monday next, quietly, peaceably, and like men worthy of the rights you meet to demand—then and there to petition Parliament to take such steps as may insure an immediate, constant, and cheap supply of food for the people of this country during the famine that surrounds us, and the famine that is impending. We feel confident that a demand thus boldly but constitutionally made, will be promptly responded to, and that by a strong and decided effort in the people's cause, the people will yet be saved.I must confess I am astonished at this. I am astonished that, at a time of famine, men of education, that men who ought to lead their countrymen, should tell them that they were to demand from Parliament "such steps as may insure an immediate, constant, and cheap supply of food." Why, Sir, this is a task which is impossible for us—a task which they ought to tell their countrymen the destitution under which they are suffering has made impossible for man—a task which is beyond all human power; and that all that we can possibly do is in some measure to alleviate the existing distress—somewhat to lighten the dreadful calamity which afflicts them; and it is their duty to say to these people, "You are not to imagine that the Government can turn scarcity and even famine into plenty." But what surprises me more in this announcement is, that it so happens that at Castlebar, where the people of the surrounding country are requested to meet, there is an union workhouse, which union workhouse ought to contain 600 inmates, but which at present contains not more than 130, the doors being closed against other persons by the guardians saying that it is impossible for them to levy the rates in order to enable those other persons who are in want of food to come into the workhouse. Amongst those who have not paid their rates—who have not furnished the money by which the famine might in some degree be averted—are some of those who we cannot but suppose are fully able to pay what is due from them. Sir, I cannot 440 but see in this proposal an unhappy tendency—an unhappy tendency which I have more than once remarked—to recommend to others to do some vague and impossible duty — to call upon the Government or Parliament to do something the practicability of which has not been considered—to confer some benefit, it may be of a visionary and impossible kind; while the plain and practical duty of paying the rates for the assistance of the starving men, women, and children in their neighbourhood is left neglected and forgotten. Sir, I am obliged to say, therefore, that while we attempt all that we think practicable, we must, in the first place, refuse to make promises of doing that which is out of our power; and in the next place, we must call upon and expect those who have local duties to perform in Ireland, to perform those duties, and to assist the Government and Parliament in their arduous duty; and when I say that I expect this, I am quite sure that many will perform it, because I know that in many, very many instances, the resident proprietors in Ireland have been most ready with their money, with their time, and with their attendance in endeavouring to provide for the relief of their destitute countrymen. I proceed then to another part of the subject, and I trust that the House will give me their attention while I ask them to follow the proposal of other measures which we think may be beneficial, not only now, but permanently, to Ireland. Let me say, in the first place, that I think, that although, unhappily, we have been diverted from the observance of general principles with respect to these matters, yet I do think that we ought to observe general principles as far as possible, and that these general principles prescribe thus much with respect to the interference of the Government. That interference may be given in three ways, and these three ways ought, as far as possible, to be kept separate and distinct. First, the Government, with the support of Parliament, may grant assistance to individual proprietors for the purpose of enabling them to improve their private properties. Secondly, it may assist them in public works by making roads, or partly by grants in aid of public works, which are evidently of public utility. And thirdly, it may enact that relief should be given by law to the destitute. Now, I think that those three modes should be kept as far as possible distinct—that is to say, that when money 441 is advanced to private individuals for the purpose of improving their property, you should take security so far that it is used for that purpose, and not spent in extravagancies in Paris or Naples; but that beyond this there should be as little interference as possible with the outlay of the money—that there should be as little interference as possible, for instance, to compel the proprietors to employ a certain class of labourers, or to conduct their works in a certain particular manner which the Government may lay down as the best, or in any other way which would prevent the proprietors having the free use of the money advanced. Such is the principle of the first measure of which I am about to speak. It is a measure founded upon various Acts which have been passed by this House at different times up to the Drainage Act of last Session, and upon the terms given to the public in the Treasury Minute of the 1st December last. According to those Acts, and to that Minute, it is proposed, that where the improvement of estates by drainage, or by any other improvement, such as the reclamation of waste lands, will produce certain improvements in its value, so that the legal heirs might not be prejudiced—in that case certain advances shall be made from the public funds of this country. The usual rate for advances from the Treasury is 5 per cent; in the Drainage Act of last year it was 3½ per cent, with repayment in twenty-two years, making 6 per cent each year till the expiry of the twenty-two years, by which time the whole sum borrowed was to be repaid. Now we propose to take the terms proposed in the Drainage Act, and extend them to the various improvements mentioned. We propose not to confine the improvements to drainage, and to do away with certain technicalities which, according to that Act—but for which, I may remark, the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lincoln) was not responsible—(they were introduced after the Bill had left his hands)—made it difficult for tenants for life to borrow money. We intend to do away with this technical difficulty, and to advance money to enable proprietors to improve their estates—such advances to be at the rate of 3½ per cent, and on condition of its being repaid in twenty-two years; or, if it should happen to be more convenient for the borrower, in a shorter time. I am convinced that it will be much better to place in this Act now proposed a scheme of this nature, than 442 to continue the plan which has been laid down by the Lord Lieutenant, or to combine it with any plan for the relief of the poor, for the reason I have before stated, that the two plans ought to be kept separate and distinct. According to this plan, a great many men will find profitable employment, who otherwise might be excluded from the field of labour, or who would otherwise be destitute, and it will also be of great advantage to the proprietors. We propose, also, with respect to more general works, to consolidate and amend the Drainage Acts now on the Statute-book. According to those acts, in certain cases proprietors of a district may meet and agree to ask a loan for the improvement of their estates by drainage; and if the majority so agree, the minority are bound to join them. Now, in those cases, the drainage will be undertaken by the Board of Works, or carried on under their superintendence. But this alludes to drainage of a more general nature. It will not take place on the private estates of proprietors; it is applicable only to streams and rivers, and other operations of that kind, by which the country will be much improved. We propose, therefore, to consolidate and amend those Acts. It is on the same principle of performing public works that we propose to undertake the reclamation of a portion of the waste lands of Ireland. It has long been stated, in various reports of Commissioners, in reports of Committees of this House, and by eminent writers, that in many cases the reclamation of the waste lands of Ireland would produce profitable employment to the people, and make the lands of great value. Sir R. Kane, in his work On the Industrial Resources of Ireland, says, that the estimate that there are 4,600,000 acres of waste land in Ireland which might be reclaimed and formed into cultivated lands, was perfectly correct, and that it was by no means an exaggerated estimate. We propose to devote 1,000,000l. to this purpose, and we propose that the land should, if the proprietor be willing to part with it, be purchased; but that if he does not improve it by accepting a loan under this measure, or out of his own resources, and if he refuses to sell, there shall be a compulsory power to the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to take and improve waste lands which are below a certain value. The land which we propose to estimate, is land which is below a certain value, say 2s. 6d. per acre. [Mr. GOULBUBN: Is that the annual value?] 443 That is the annual value. We propose that such lands shall only be improved and reclaimed so far as general operations are concerned; that roads shall be made; that general drainage shall be effected, and the necessary buildings erected; but that no cultivation of the land shall take place under the direction of a public department; and that the lands having been so reclaimed, shall be divided into lots, which shall not be below a certain amount, nor above a certain amount. I am not at present prepared to fix this amount absolutely, but say that they shall not be less than twenty-five nor more than fifty acres, or some proposal of that kind; and that when these lots have been reclaimed, they may be either sold or let to tenants for a certain number of years, with a determination that the lands let shall be sold at the end of that time. It is intended that we shall not confine ourselves either to letting or sale, but to act as may be found expedient in each particular case. I own that I expect that great advantages will gradually arise from this plan, if it be adopted. I expect that a great number of persons who have hitherto been driven to despair, and many of them into crime, by the great demand for land, will be placed in those holdings, and be able to earn a comfortable living by the produce of their labour. I think likewise, with respect to those who purchase them, that we shall, by means of the land reclaimed and purchased, raise a class of small proprietors, who by their industry and independence will form a valuable link in the future social condition of Ireland. Let me say here, that I do not think—so far as I have been able to form a judgment—that such holdings are the great evil in Ireland. I believe that the particular mode in which land is held has very often been a source of evil in that country, but I do not think that the small divisions have been injurious; and I am the more confirmed in this opinion by finding, that one of the counties in which there is the greatest division—I mean the county of Armagh—is notoriously one of the most flourishing and best cultivated in Ireland. If you compare it or the whole province of Ulster with the province of Munster, you will find that there are many more small holdings, and that property is more divided in the former than in the latter. I believe, therefore, that in adopting a plan of this kiud, with the compulsory power I have described, a very great advantage will be obtained. I now come to the third class of measures; 444 but before passing to that, let me here make this observation, that in stating now the measures which we propose immediately, or almost immediately, to bring into Parliament, I am not stating all the measures which we have in contemplation, and which we may hereafter bring forward. But I am now stating the measures which are calculated, as we think, to promote the improvement of Ireland, by enabling the proprietors to obtain funds sufficient to make improvements on their estates, and also by affording means by which works of a more public nature may be carried into effect. I now come to the third class of measures to which I have alluded—that class of measures the object of which is simply to afford relief to the destitute. It will be remembered that when the Poor Law Commission of Inquiry made their Report, they advised that all of a certain class should be relieved; and in that class they included all those who were infirm and permanently disabled. We thought, upon the whole, that it was safer, in the first instance, to have workhouses erected in Ireland—not to confine relief to any particular class of persons, but to allow relief to be given to the destitute able-bodied as well as to the destitute infirm; but to confine that relief to the workhouses. It is not only the experience of the present state of things, but it is an opinion formed upon general views of the state of Ireland, that the poor law ought to be more extensive than it now is. I shall, therefore, propose to bring in a Bill—which is a Bill for the more effectual relief of the destitute poor of Ireland—which shall enact that the guardians of the poor be required to give relief, either in or out of the workhouse, at their discretion, to the infirm and to all those who are permanently disabled by bodily infirmity. I am convinced that this ought to be done, and it will be the means, in the first place, of enabling the guardians to make use of the workhouse for its proper function as a test of destitution; and in the second place, it will enable them to afford relief to that unfortunate class of persons in their own houses—a course which will be both more satisfactory to the general feelings of the people of that country, and more useful in the future working of the system. We propose, likewise, when the workhouse is full, that the Poor Law Commissioners shall have power to direct that in such cases the guardians may give relief out of the workhouse to the able-bodied poor. I am of opinion, however, that this 445 is a power which should be cautiously used. I am of opinion that the workhouse should always be kept as a test for able-bodied destitution. But at the same time, as we have seen, there are cases where the workhouses are insufficient to afford accommodation to all the unfortunate persons who are crowding round their doors; we think the Poor Law Commissioners should have power in these cases to make an exception. With respect to able-bodied paupers, I may remark that relief will be given in food only. We likewise propose that there should be relieving officers appointed, and that it should be the duty of such relieving officers, in cases of urgent distress, where there is a danger of starving on the part of persons applying, to give relief, either in or out of the workhouse, until the next meeting of the board of guardians, who shall make provision for such cases according to the general rules which they have sanctioned. Such, therefore, is the nature of the measures which we purpose to introduce immediately. There are, as I have already stated, other measures which have been, and are, under the consideration of the Government. Connected with the first class of measures to which I have alluded, namely, those which are to enable proprietors to make a better use of their property, to increase their capital, and to improve their estates, we have under consideration a measure for facilitating the sale of incumbered estates. There are two modes by which this may be done. One is by adopting the general principle of the Copyhold Enfranchisement Act. Every one knows that Bills are passed in every Session to allow certain individuals to sell portions of their estates, in order to enable them to pay off incumbrances. As one way of carrying into effect the principle to which I have just alluded, I would propose that there should be a general law giving commissioners power to examine into each case brought before them; instead of passing a private Bill in each case, that a general Bill should be passed in which should be included all such cases. Another mode of obtaining the same object has been under consideration, and this was solely by the authority of the Court of Chancery, upon application made to it for that purpose. I cannot, at this moment, say which mode will be finally prefered; all I can state is, that the subject is under consideration. We shall likewise propose a Bill by which those long leasehold tenures in Ireland which are renewable for ever may be 446 converted into freeholds. I must say that there is nothing with respect to the general state of Ireland—nothing with respect to its present unfortunate condition, more injurious than the mode in which property is held by various tenures and under various conditions in that country. It very often happens that the proprietor in chief, as he appears to be, of large estate, obtains only a small part of the rent; another head landlord of a great property leases it under him, and the leaseholder has again a middleman under him; so that it is almost impossible to say on whom the duties of property rest. This is a subject worthy of the attention of Parliament, and I hope it will consider how tenures in Ireland may be simplified, and whether it be not possible to establish the same connexion between the proprietor and tenant and labourer in Ireland, as exists in England and Scotland. It is to the want of that connexion I attribute the fact, that, with respect to many frightful cases of destitution in Ireland which have reached the ears of the public, when inquiry has been made as to the persons who were immediately responsible for the destitution, or ought to be called upon to subscribe for the relief of the sufferers, it has been found almost impossible to ascertain upon whom the obligation rested. That is not the case in England and Scotland. In the latter country, where great destitution unfortunately prevails at the present moment, though some of the proprietors' estates are heavily incumbered and charged with debt, yet such is their connexion and sympathy with their tenantry and labourers, that they have made themselves responsible for large advances of money, by means of which alone it was possible to avert some of the dreadful consequences of the impending calamity. Under the second head of public works come fisheries, which have attracted the attention of the Government; but with respect to which I am not at present prepared to make any definite statement to the House. In the course of last autumn three establishments, in the nature of depôts, were made for facilitating the curing of fish, it having been found that, although vast quantities of fish were taken, and still greater quantities might have been caught, the people utterly neglected the adoption of any means for preserving the fish, but threw them on the ground as manure, when by their sale they might have obtained a considerable sum. Although not now prepared with any definite 447 statement on the subject, I trust I shall soon be able to bring under the notice of the House a measure relative to the fisheries of Ireland. There is another subject, likewise, with respect to which I am not prepared to make any statement to the House, but upon which I know large expectations are entertained in Ireland—I allude to emigration. I confess I think that, although Parliament may assist emigration to a certain extent, the extravagant expectations which are entertained on this head can never possibly be fulfilled. It is stated by Sir Robert Kane, and truly, that when persons are removed from a locality by emigration, the number removed is never so large as to produce a sensible effect on the population. I do not believe that any emigration which may take place as the result of either private or public exertion, can ever, according to the ordinary amount of emigration, produce such an effect as to enable the remaining population to earn a competent amount of wages. But before we make extraordinary efforts to increase emigration, it is necessary to consider another important point. If we attempt to go beyond that which is the ordinary annual emigration, and to convey a million of persons at once across the ocean, you must look not only to the advantage which you suppose would arise from not having those persons in Ireland competing with other labourers, but you must also inquire what funds, what means, there are in the country to which they may be carried, to secure them subsistence. If by the public means, and a large addition to the public burdens, you convey a hundred thousand persons to the United States, that country would have just cause to complain of our having cast our paupers on her shores, to be maintained by her, when their maintenance was a primary obligation upon ourselves. Then, again, if we should attempt to introduce a hundred thousand emigrants into Canada, the market would be glutted by the redundant supply; and the labourers there, instead of obtaining a fair amount of the means of subsistence, as they do now, would enter into a fierce competition with each other; and thus a state of things would be produced in Nova Scotia and Canada in some respects similar to that from which the emigrants had fled at home. In considering the subject of emigration when I held the seals of the Colonial Department, I was, I confess, disposed to go further than I did, and the obstacle was of a financial nature rather than any unwillingness 448 on my part. It appeared to me, however, that the best mode by which emigration could be promoted was by taking charge of the emigrant, not at his present place of abode, not at the port of embarkation, but at the port where he disembarked, and then convey him to some field where he would find a market for his labour. Accordingly, I proposed for that purpose a grant of money, which has since been continued, being in some years more, and in some years less, by means of which many emigrants have been conveyed to Montrcal, to Kingston, and other places in the western part of Canada, and placed in situations where they could earn a subsistence. Now, the emigration which has been going on in this way of late years has been very large. In 1845 the number so emigrating to our North American colonies was 31,303, and to the United States 58,538, making altogether about 90,841. In the first three quarters of the year, 1846, which contains the great bulk of emigration, the number emigrating to the North American colonies was 42,404, to the United States 67,792, making a total number of 110,196. The character of the emigration in 1846 is very similar to that of the two previous seasons. Mr. Hawke, an emigration agent, stated, in his report, that he was not aware that the number of indigent settlers in 1846 had been much greater, in proportion, than usual; but there certainly was a large number of the Irish emigrants in a state of destitution as to clothes and bedding, far exceeding anything he had ever before witnessed. Mr. Buchanan, the agent at Quebec, stated, in his report—With reference to the subject of the prospects of the emigration recently received, as well as of that anticipated, I must refer principally to the annexed report from the chief agent for Canada West. I might, at the same time, quote the reports in general of the district agents of the department. They concur in representing that there is little, if any, distress among the emigrants of the last year, unless the consequence of their own fatuity. Employment is generally to be procured at remunerative wages, and provisions and necessaries are plentiful. Some of the public works, which have hitherto afforded employment for recent emigrants, are already, or will shortly, be completed. But other works of similar character are in progress. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railway, the Montreal and Lachine Railway, as well as other lines about being commenced in the western section of the province, will probably demand a large amount of emigrant labour in the ensuing season. Very general attention has been recently drawn to the minerals of the country also; and it is possible that one or more associations, for mining and smelting ore, may go into 449 early operation. The more closely the resources of the country are examined into, the more extensive appears the field for enterprise and industry.Seeing, then, that there had been a large amount of emigration last year—seeing that it was observed by the emigration agents that there were still a large number of pauper families from Ireland—I should be deterred from attempting to give a stimulus to emigration, which might have one of two effects: either of sending out a great number of paupers who would be unable to find employment, or, what would perhaps be equally objectionable, causing a waste of the public money by carrying at the expense of the country those who were able to obtain the means of paying for their passage, but who, instead of calling upon their friends and relatives in Canada and other colonies for assistance, would come upon the public funds. Such a system would be destructive of all habits of prudence and foresight. Sir, there are some difficulties in the way of emigration, occasioned by the provisions of the Passenger Act, under the consideration of the Government, which we hope to remove; but whatever measures we may bring forward to facilitate emigration, we wish it to be understood that we do not mean to propose any scheme of a great or extended nature. I know not whether Sir R. Kane's estimate of the resources of Ireland is to be taken altogether as a sober one; but he maintains that so great are her agricultural, independent of her other resources — so great are her mineral resources and means of manufacturing employment by water power, that no less than 17,000,000 of people could be maintained in that country. I will not enter into that calculation; but this I will say, that I do think, if a good agricultural system was introduced into Ireland; if there was good security for the investment of money in land; if the proprietors themselves would undertake the task of improving the country, and if other classes would co-operate with them—I say I do not think the present population of Ireland is excessive. I am speaking according to the opinion of some who have very well weighed the resources of Ireland; and before I conclude, if the House will so far bear with me, I will venture to allude to countries which apparently were once in as bad a state, as far as the general condition of the population is concerned, as Ireland is now, and which are at present flourishing in possession of order, peace, and security. I think it may be productive 450 of good to enter upon this retrospect, because I know that many persons, in contemplating the evils which have afflicted Ireland, especially at the present crisis, have been disposed to yield to despair. I do not despair of Ireland; I say there is no reason, unconnected with laws which happily have ceased to exist—unconnected with unhappy circumstances to which I do not like to advert, but which have been adverted to in the Poor Law Commissioners' Inquiry—I say that, unconnected with these circumstances, there is no reason why Ireland may not at a future day rise to a state of great happiness and prosperity. I will read the description of a country in which these evils were stated to occur by an old English writer:—The husbandmen be thrust out of their own, or else, either by covin or fraud, or violent oppression, they be put beside it; or by wrongs and injuries they be so wearied that they be compelled to sell all. By one means, therefore, or by the other, either by hook or by crook, they must needs depart away, poor, wretched souls—men, women, husbands, wives, fatherless children, widows, woful mothers with their young babes, and the whole household, small in substance and much in number; as husbandry requireth many hands; away they trudge, I say, out of their known and accustomed houses, finding no place to rest in. All their household stuff, which is very little worth, though it might well abide the sale—yet, being suddenly thrust out, they be constrained to sell it for a thing of nought; and when they have wandered about till that be spent, what can they then do but steal, and then justly, pardy, be hanged, or else go about a-begging?This was a description not unlike that of parts of Ireland, where wretched families, being turned out of their holdings, were driven at once either to the commission of robbery or to go about begging. Yet the description I have read is that given of England by Sir Thomas More—that was an account of England in his day. If any one should suppose this was an effort of the imagination, I can assure him that we have other authentic accounts which corroborate it; one written by a magistrate states, that in every county there were from 200 to 300 persons who lived by thieving; that gangs carried away sheep from the field; that husbandmen had no security against their attacks; and that 70,000 of these marauders were hanged in one reign; that is a description of a country in which we now see so much security prevail, in which there is such an almost total absence of the scenes described as constantly occurring by the writers of that day. This is a proof that the evils referred to had their origin in the state of 451 society, and not in the nature of the country. I will now read a description of another country, at a different period, namely, the end of the seventeenth century:—There are at this day in Scotland (besides a great number of families very meanly provided for by the church boxes, with others who, with living upon bad food, fall into various diseases), 200,000 people begging from door to door. These are not only no ways advantageous, but a very grievous burden to so poor a country; and though the number of them be perhaps double to what it was formerly, by reason of the present great distress, yet in all times there have been about 100,000 of these vagabonds who have lived without any regard or submission either to the laws of the land, or even those of God and nature, fathers incestuously accompanying their own daughters, the son with the mother, and the brother with the sister. No magistrate could ever discover or be informed which way any of these wretches died, or that ever they were baptized. Many murders have been discovered among them; and they are not only a most unspeakable oppression to poor tenants (who if they give not bread or some sort of provision to perhaps forty such villains in one day, are sure to be insulted by them); but they rob many poor people who live in houses distant from any neighbourhood. In years of plenty, many thousands of them meet together in the mountains, where they feast and riot for many days; and at country weddings, markets, burials, and other the like public occasions, they are to be seen, both men and women, perpetually drunk, cursing, blaspheming, and fighting together.Such was the description of industrious, sober, civilized, religious Scotland—such was the description of that country at the end of the seventeenth century. Shall we say that particular laws, that a peculiar state of society, have no influence on the condition of a population, when we find England and Scotland represented as being in this state, and afterwards becoming orderly, civilized, and prosperous? I think we should not be acting as becomes the representatives of this country if we despaired of the state of Ireland. I am not one of those who think that, apart from political rights—apart from other questions connected with political institutions, a merely beneficent Government can make a country flourish. It is my opinion that other measures will be required; and when the proper time comes for proposing such measures, I shall be ready to undertake anything which I think will be for the ultimate benefit of Ireland. But this I feel with respect to these and all other measures, that there are some things which the Crown cannot grant, which Parliament cannot enact—these are the spirit of self-reliance and the spirit of co-operation. I 452 must say plainly, that I should indeed despair of this task, were it not that I think I see symptoms in the Irish people both of greater reliance on their own energies and own exertions, and greater willingness to co-operate with each other. I believe, if they will encourage this spirit among themselves—I believe, if they will look to what has been done in this country and in its neighbour, Scotland, by industry, by perseverance, by never despairing of success—if they will go on, not looking always to the Government proposing this, and Parliament enacting that, but will see what is the task immediately before them, and set themselves heartily and strenuously to perform that task, that there are means, there are resources, in Ireland, which may bring these matters to a happy issue. There is no doubt of the fertility of the soil: that fertility has been the theme of admiration with writers and travellers of all nations. There is no doubt of the strength and industry of the inhabitants, for the same man who is loitering idly by the mountain side in Tipperary or Kerry, whose potato crop has just furnished him with occupation for a few days, whose wages and whose pig have enabled him to pay his rent and eke out a miserable subsistence, has perhaps a brother in Liverpool, Glasgow, or London, who in the sweat of his brow is, from morning to night, competing with the strongest labourers of England and Scotland, and earning wages equal to any of them. I do not think, therefore, that either the fertility of the land or the strength and industry of the inhabitants are at fault; but there have been faults, there have been defects, and happy will it be for us if we can lay a foundation of the means of curing those defects; happy will it be, indeed, if the Irish themselves take for their maxim, "Help yourselves, and Heaven will help you;" and then I trust they will find there have been some "uses in adversity." The noble Lord concluded, by moving for leave to bring in a Bill to render valid certain proceedings for the relief of distress in Ireland.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
wished to ask in what manner the local rate for the relief of the poor was to be levied, and who would have the power to levy it?
LORD J. RUSSELL
said, the rate would be levied by the guardians, but the local committee would administer relief, and would have the distribution of such subscriptions as might be received from this 453 country, from Ireland, and from the Government.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
thought the noble Lord had thrown some imputation on a Member of the other House of Parliament; did the noble Lord mean to imply that the Marquess of Sligo and Mr. Moore had evaded the payment of rates at Castlebar?
LORD J. RUSSELL
regretted the hon. Member had misapprehended him; what he said was, that the Marquess of Sligo and Mr. Moore called a certain public meeting at Castlebar, which happened to be a place where poor rates had been refused; he did not mean to say that the Marquess of Sligo and Mr. Moore had so defaulted.
MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
asked what course the Government intended to pursue with regard to advances of money to railways; and whether it were intended to proceed with the Tenants' Compensation Bill this Session?
LORD J. RUSSELL
could not enter into any details with respect to advances to railways; there were objections to making advances generally to those undertakings, but the subject was still under consideration. As to tenant compensation, no Bill would be brought in at present.
§ VISCOUNT CLEMENTS
wished to know if the Government intended to facilitate the employment of labour on the land in Nova Scotia and Canada, or to encourage in any way the outlay of capital in either of those colonies?
LORD J. RUSSELL
said, his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Department had forwarded a despatch to Canada, stating the willingness of the Government to advance money for the construction of huts and dwellings for the labourers while employed on railways there, if the proprietors or companies wished. But he did not know how the proposition would be received in Canada, and could not give the noble Lord a positive answer.
§ MR. FRENCH
commenced by stating, that an hon. Friend of his, high in the late Government, had crossed the House previous to the commencement of the debate, to say to him how much the Irish Members in general, and he (Mr. French) in particular, would disapprove of the measures to be brought forward. He had listened with fear and trembling whilst the noble Lord was speaking; but in place of opposing, he rose to express generally his concurrence with the views of Her Majesty's Government. He cordially approved 454 of the manner in which it was proposed to carry out the Treasury Minute of the 1st of December, to enable the landlords of Ireland to afford employment to the people, by the improvement of private property—the State advancing them the money to do so on fair and equitable terms. He should not enter into details, but he thought it would be more advisable if this principle was extended to the large drainages, and that in no case should the interference in the execution of works of the Drainage Commissioners be sanctioned. He had, through the assistance of his right hon. Friend the present Chief Baron of Ireland, succeeded in having, in the Drainage Act of last Session, in cases where the proprietors were unanimous, this principle recognised. In the proposed consolidation of these Drainage Acts he concurred: the national importance of reclaiming the waste lands he fully admitted: it would be for consideration, when the measure was before the House, whether the execution of their reclamation should be entrusted to the Government or to the proprietors. To the administration of out-door relief to the aged and infirm, he had no objection to offer—the expediency of extending it to the able-bodied he questioned. The assistance to be given, under proper limits, to emigration and colonization, as auxiliaries to the general improvement of the country, he considered of the utmost importance. He hailed with satisfaction the broad line of demarcation between the temporary measures to meet the present distress, and those permanent ones for the general improvement of the country. The measures most pressing in the present crisis were food for the immediate support of the people, and seed to enable them by the cultivation of the soil to provide against the recurrence of famine in the ensuing year, and were both embraced in the measures of the noble Lord. It appeared to him their difficulties were considerably enhanced by the course adopted in the late Session of Parliament by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth; and the evils under which they were suffering were considerably aggravated by the errors he then committed. His measures, according to his own Treasury Minute, were at variance with all the rules by which the well-being of society was ordinarily regulated. His tampering with the provision trade of the country, which Burke characterized of all things the most dangerous, might have passed without observation, 455 had not its mischievous results been tested by the real calamity of the present year. By it he created a feeling among the people of Ireland that it was the duty, and that it was in the power, of a Government to provide them with food. Hence the discontent and dissatisfaction expressed in the suffering districts against Her Majesty's present advisers for not performing impossibilities. It was not in the power of a Government, an able writer said, to provide food for us in our necessities, and it would be vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. Hence the state of feeling which led to such results as that of the coroner's jury in Galway, who, on an inquest on the body of a woman who died of starvation, brought in a verdict of wilful murder against Lord J. Russell and Sir Randolph Routh. Again, the right hon. Baronet appeared to him to have committed a serious error in administering out-door relief by eleemosynary employment, sanctioning, by the employment of the Board of Works, the principle of State interference in works of local or private interest, and, by the half-grant system, giving to that interference the mischievous operation which experience in that country had shown was attached to the rate in aid of wages. The right hon. Gentleman raised an insuperable obstacle to a return to the right path; he imposed on his successors an absolute coercion to go astray. How strongly did events show the wisdom of Burke when he told them—If the people are fed by the State, though but for one half-year, they will never be satisfied to have it otherwise; having looked to Government for bread, on the very first scarcity they will turn and bite the hand that fed them. To avoid that evil, Government will redouble the causes of it, thus it will become inveterate and incurable.That the noble Lord at the head of the Government saw the difficulties and was aware of the dangers of the position, was evident from his speeches—from his first Treasury Minute—from his letter to the Duke of Leinster—from his repudiation of all tampering with the provision trade—from his abolition of the half-grant system—from as large a correction of error as could be hoped for, under circumstances of such unusual and complicated difficulty; but the habit of one half-year had been established, and it was not possible to resist its urgency; and in the confusion of a newly-formed Government, and the haste of a concluding Session, the legacy of the right hon. Baronet became law. He wished to guard 456 himself in speaking of the Poor Employment Act from being supposed to cast blame indiscriminately on those by whom it had been administered. On the contrary, he was most ready to bear testimony to the great abilities and indefatigable exertions of Colonel Jones and Captain Larcom; but the system was so extremely vicious, that no vestige of it should be permitted to remain. By it the labour of the country had been diverted from the cultivation of the soil, 486,000 men were daily employed on works not alone useless, but in most cases positively mischievous; by it the roads of the country had been uprooted, and its communications seriously interfered with. On the road from Roscommon to Athlone, a distance of fifteen miles, which was usually driven in from an hour and a half to an hour and three quarters, the mail now takes four hours, and lately applied to the Post Office for an additional hour; and the same story may be told in every district, in every parish in Ireland. Walking a few days since near Stillorgan, he came on a road which appeared as if a plough had been run through it. He put the question to a man he met on the road—had the Board of Works been there? and was answered, "No, Sir; it was a flood that destroyed this road." It would require years to get the roads back to their former condition; and it was no exaggeration to call the board by the name they were generally known by in Ireland, "wholesale destroyers of Her Majesty's highways." In coming up to attend the meeting lately held in Dublin of landed proprietors, Lord Farnham was upset in the Enniskillen mail, the Lord Lieutenant of Sligo in the Ballina, and scarcely a person there had not some complaint to make. The second evil of the system was the enormous waste of capital—180,000l. a week on works not alone unproductive, but which, from their nature, could not give any profitable return—"corn would not grow upon roads"—and this, in a country, where all the intelligent agriculturists united in declaring, that by a proper expenditure in drainage, the produce would be increased from 25 to 100 fold. The third evil of the system was the demoralization of the peasantry; the destruction of all reliance on their own exertions—teaching them to trust to outdoor relief; and perpetuating that adscription to the soil which had hitherto been the bane of Ireland, encouraging amongst them habits of sloth and idleness, at a 457 time when no exertion should be spared to rouse their industrial energies. The fourth evil of the system was the disruption of the social ties, by the intervention of the board and their innumerable staff between landlord and tenant, employer and employed, making idlers of one class, and cyphers of the other. He heard with great pleasure the opinion given by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, of the necessity for an immediate and complete abandonment of this system; for a discharge of the 11,000 engineers and clerks, and the return of employment to its legitimate channel. In Ireland the outcry became so great from landlords who, under this system and its abuses, perceived their properties melting away—from tenant-farmers whose lands remained uncultivated from the impossibility of procuring labourers, who preferred idling under the Board of Works to labouring for them, that the Lord Lieutenant was forced to issue that document, usually called Mr. Labouchere's letter, and for which his right hon. Friend had been threatened with impeachment by the hon. Member for Limerick. The noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government had not correctly stated the nature of this document, nor the reasons why, though framed with the best intentions, it was utterly valueless. In order to encourage the substitution of reproductive for unproductive work, it enabled the baronies to be divided into the electoral divisions of which, under the poor law, they consisted, and presentments to be made for those drainage or other private works, provided, which the noble Lord omitted, the proprietors undertook the repayment of the money so presented. Now, as drainages, owing to the expensive staff of the Board of Works, would cost, if undertaken under this letter, double the amount they could be executed for under the control of the proprietor; and if the entire sum presented was not undertaken, the residue was to be levied for public works, for the cost of which the undertaking proprietor was to be taxed equally with the others; the landlords of Ireland very prudently declined to avail themselves of its provisions, not choosing to subject themselves to a treble taxation. The Treasury Minute of the 1st of December then made its appearance; the first step taken in the right way, and one of the most important documents in its consequences it would prove Ireland had ever seen, supported as it was to be by the different 458 measures announced that evening. He should not, as he stated, go into details on those measures, nor even at that stage announce the portions of them he was not disposed to support. No captious objections should, however, be offered by him to any of them, nor should he offer any objection when he was not prepared to suggest an improvement. He fully agreed with the noble Lord, there was no cause to despair of Ireland, lamentable as was her condition. After her sufferings were passed, he trusted a better order of things would arise. It appeared to be a law of nature, that the amelioration or final settlement of a system, was usually preceded by a movement more or less violent and extraordinary in its character—an oppressive and pestilent atmosphere was purified by a thunder-storm. In the human body, worn out by excess or fatigue, perfect restoration to health frequently followed the crisis of a fever—in the body politic, a settled and well-balanced constitution had seldom, perhaps never, been arrived at by any nation, without being preceded by the violence and peril of a revolution; but the converse of the proposition was far from holding good. Whenever, indeed, the operation was free from the intermeddling of man, the cause and the consequence were certain. After a storm always came a calm; but a fever unskilfully treated, ended in death; and a revolution unguided by the hand of a statesman, or attempted by a people unfit for freedom, led not to a constitutional settlement, but to an abyss of anarchy or despotism more profound than that from which it emanated. Ireland, hitherto the opprobrium and difficulty of British statesmen, had now to be dealt with, and it was but just to say, that he believed all parties in that House were disposed to act fairly and liberally. They had an opportunity, which if lost, would never return. The inscrutable decrees of Providence had done that which neither kings nor parliaments could accomplish—gave them a fair and open field to work out the regeneration of Ireland; and as they availed themselves of it, so would the results of the present crisis be regarded as a blessing, or as a grievous ending curse.
§ MR. BELLEW
had heard the statement of the intentions of the Government with great satisfaction. He considered, as the most advantageous of the measures to be applied to Ireland, the making the property of Ireland responsible for the poverty of Ireland. England and Scotland 459 had already felt the benefit of an enlarged poor law; and Ireland, when such a law was extended to her, would no longer be in the position of a burden upon the Imperial State. Under the present system, when the maintenance of the poor was not derived from the land, society had been in an unnatural and in a diseased state; and he hoped that the policy now announced by the noble Lord would prove to be at least the foundation of a better state of things. The Government would now wisely make the Irish landlords feel that the existence of a wretched and pauperized population must not be a matter of indifference to them, and that the owner of land in that country must be compelled to discharge the duties annexed to such a position elsewhere. When they found that in Ireland the land paid only 6d., and that in England, proportionately, it paid 2s. for the support of the poor, they might without difficulty account for the difference to be discovered in the irrelative conditions, and draw the conclusion, that if the welfare of the sister kingdom was to be the object of their legislation, they must very speedily effect an alteration. He was far from thinking, as had elsewhere been asserted, that the landlords of Ireland, in this time of distress, had done their duty; he totally denied the fact; they had, as a class, neglected their duty, and their excuse invariably had been that they were too embarrassed in their circumstances to afford that relief to the people which the people had a right to expect from them, Why then, he said, that if a landlord was so situated as to be incapable of executing his trust and stewardship, he should cease to be the responsible owner of the land; he should be relieved from the duties he neglected. If a merchant, a banker, or a shopkeeper became insolvent, his estate was sold; and why should not the same be the case of the holder of land? If an Irish landlord did not properly discharge his duties to his tenants, it was hitherto considered to be a sufficient plea if it could be said of him, "Oh, he is a very poor man, he has not got the money to do so." He approved of what the noble Lord proposed to do as regarded the proper employment of the people. The landlords would now be enabled, as they had not hitherto been, to give employment which should be a benefit to both parties, both to the employers and to the employed. He was happy to say that one of the measures of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, viz., 460 the Drainage Act of last Session, was producing excellent effects throughout Ireland; but he at the same time hoped that the noble Lord now at the head of the Government would carry out his intention of amending the Drainage Act. He (Mr. Bellew) thought that it was desirable that when an officer of the Board of Works inspected a district, and was of opinion that certain public works should be commenced, notice should be given to the landowners of the district to hold a sessions to consider the desirableness of such works; and in case of their approval, he was of opinion that the officer should be authorized to commence the works, whether the landowners agreed to the necessary rates or not. He was also of opinion that the money which had been already expended in public works, would tend to conciliate the affections of the people of Ireland, by inducing them to believe that the Government were anxious to promote their welfare. At the same time the Irish landlords must be given to understand distinctly, that they would in future be compelled to discharge, equally with the English and Scotch landlords, all the responsibilities which attached to their estates.
§ MR. LEFROY
wished to know whether the Government proposed to take any measure which should ensure an early and large supply of food in Ireland? He did not doubt that an excellent selection had been made in the person of Sir J. Burgoyne, to carry into execution the Ministerial plans; but he doubted if the efficacy of what was proposed to be done would not be lessened, should not steps be taken to convey into the country a sufficiency of food. He wished also to ask, in what way would the 50,000l. to be advanced for the providing seeds to tenants be made available?
LORD J. RUSSELL
With regard to the first question, if the hon. Gentleman means to inquire, does the Government intend to import food from other countries into Ireland? I beg to inform him that it is not the intention of the Government. Having, by the measures which we have introduced, taken steps to facilitate in every way an unchecked importation of food, we think it far better to leave the supplying of the people to private enterprise and to the ordinary trade. The second question involves points of detail, and I would prefer deferring, for the present, an answer to it.
The EARL of LINCOLN
, concurring in what seemed to be the general opinion of the 461 House, that it was advisable to postpone any lengthened discussion of the subject under consideration to a future day, rose simply to ask the noble Lord two questions connected with the question of the relief of distress in Ireland. First, as regarded the advance proposed to be made to landlords, for the purpose of enabling them to undertake the improvement of their properties, he desired to know if the intention of the noble Lord was to extend the operation of the Million Act of last year? In that Act, 2,000,000l. were apportioned to England and Scotland, and 1,000,000l. to Ireland; and he now sought from the noble Lord if he purposed naming any limit on the advance to be made to the landowner; or if, from time to time, such sums as might be required would be advanced without any limitation? The second question he wished to put had no immediate reference to what had fallen from the noble Lord; but the subject was of the utmost importance, and the intelligence received within the last few days from Ireland made it most desirable that the intentions of the Government should be fully known. He alluded to the information recently obtained, that there was an alarming increase and spread of fever in many parts of Ireland. It would be remembered that the late Government, at the early part of the last Session, were so impressed with the consequences which might follow upon an extension of sickness and fever among the distressed population—fever being invariably the consequence of the absence of food among a people—that they had passed a Bill called the Fever Act, which would expire in September next. Under that Act power had been given to the Lord Lieutenant to constitute a central board of health, and Sir Philip Frampton and Dr. Corregan had been appointed; but the present Government, under the impression that the board was unnecessary, had abolished it. He (the Earl of Lincoln) now desired to know if the Government, with a view to affording the requisite relief to the fever patients in those parts of Ireland where sickness was most prevalent, did not think great good would result if they reconstituted that board of health, either in the former or in some other shape? He also wished before sitting down to be informed, from the noble Lord, when the Bill would be proceeded with, preliminary to a further discussion, and when the House might expect to have laid on the Table those papers referred to on a previous evening by the Chancellor of 462 the Exchequer, and again that night by the noble Lord? The House was in possession of the letter of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, and of the Treasury Minute of December last; but he (the Earl of Lincoln) understood that the Government was in possession of an immense mass of information which threw great light upon the existing condition of Ireland, and which on that account the House would desire to be fully acquainted with.
LORD J. RUSSELL
With respect to the first question, we propose now to separate the Act for facilitating the advance of money to landed proprietors; instead of having one Drainage Act, giving 2,000,000l. to Great Britain, and 1,000,000l. to Ireland, we propose to pass two separate Acts—one for Great Britain, somewhat enlarging the powers granted before, and another Act for Ireland, which I shall shortly move for leave to bring in; and though the sum to be advanced by that Act is to be limited to 1,000,000l., yet I apprehend there will be no hesitation on the part of the Government [as we understood] to aid the owners of land in such undertakings as may conduce to useful ends. As to the Fever Act, I believe there was some practical difficulty in carrying it into operation. With respect to the third question which the noble Lord has asked, I do not know if I may precisely fix the day. The papers will be presented on Wednesday, and I think I can name Monday for the discussion of two of these Bills.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
would state the reason which had induced the Government to abolish the board appointed under the Fever Act, referred to by the noble Lord, and the unwillingness which was now felt to reconstitute that board. The noble Lord was aware that under the ordinary provisions of the poor law, fever hospitals, with the consent of the guardians, might be attached to workhouses, and that by an Act called the Contagious Diseases Act, every precaution was empowered to be taken in workhouses and elsewhere to provide against the spread of fever, and for the comfort and cure of fever patients. These Acts had rendered unnecessary the central board of health; and it had been found, in numerous instances and by multitudinous complaints forwarded from every part of the country, that this board was the occasion of so many abuses, at a useless expenditure of so much money, that it would have been inconsistent with the real prevention of disease to continue any longer 463 that board in the exercise of its needless functions. It had been thought better to depend upon the ordinary law; so far there was no cause to call for additional powers; and he could assure the noble Lord, that the attention of the Government was anxiously directed to the subject. He would add, that though in some cases fever had accompanied a want of food, yet that Ireland was at this moment free from any fever arising from such circumstances. The accounts given to the contrary were, to a very great extent, undoubtedly inaccurate. Dysentery had been found to exist in various districts to a deplorable degree; but with this exception there was no fever or disease in the country so wide-spread and so alarming in its results as to ensue in loss of life.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
had only to remember the short speeches of several Irish Members, and to look to the deserted state of the benches, to be convinced that it was the determination to adjourn the discussion; but he should be especially unworthy of a seat in that House did he allow such a speech as that delivered that night by the noble Lord to pass without the expression at least of his cordial approbation. It was a speech as remarkable for what had been stated as for what had been omitted; for, even with all the experience of the noble Lord in the art of driving, he had felt it necessary, it might be supposed, in dealing with Ireland as a subject, to take example by the fate of his predecessors, and to avoid those difficulties and obstructions over which they had attempted to drive their state waggons, and by which those waggons had been nearly, if not entirely, overturned. The noble Lord had, however, been sustained by his own sense of duty; he had conciliated, as he believed, the confidence of both sides of the House, and had succeeded in evading any apparent opposition from any quarter. Upon one point in the noble Lord's speech, he must, however, be permitted to express some doubt, and to question if this might not be reconsidered with advantage. The noble Lord sought to introduce a new system of land tenure into Ireland. The calculation was, that there were no less than 4,500,000 acres in Ireland remaining to be reclaimed; and these acres the noble lord proposed to divide into sections so inconsiderable, that, in the most purely politico-economical view, he was preparing to establish a pauperized population, and day by day to deteriorate agriculture. These 464 sections were to consist of not more than twenty or fifty acres; and if this scheme were persevered in, he warned his noble Friend that he would raise up in Ireland that which had proved to be such a curse elsewhere—a population unprepared even to cultivate the soil. There would neither be capital nor science; agriculture would be neglected; and surely there was nothing in this result which could engage the approval of the noble Lord. They had only to glance at France, where this system prevailed so extensively, and where in consequence a gradual deterioration was taking place, to learn how many evils there were involved in and attendant on the measure suggested by the noble Lord. And when they were introducing a new system for the maintenance of the poor in Ireland, he would ask if it were not worthy of their consideration if they would not tax something more and something else than land?
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
said, that concurring with hon. Members who thought it was better not to discuss the measures of the noble Lord, which were numerous and extensive, till there was time for considering them attentively, he only rose for the purpose of asking two questions explanatory of the statement of the noble Lord. The first was this: He understood from the noble Lord that pending the passing of the Act for constituting relief committees, and authorizing them to give food, it was the intention of Government to take means for doing so? He hoped he was right in thus understanding the noble Lord, and that this relief in food would be given with the greatest promptitude. And the second question he had to ask was this: It was admitted on all hands that the tillage of the country was neglected, and that from this neglect there was serious apprehension of a scarcity next year. Now, although the poor people were blamed for neglecting the cultivation of the land, he believed that they could not help doing so. The small farmer of five acres, who depended entirely on the potato for his support, and had now lost it, was obliged of necessity to go to the public works, in order to earn money wages for his subsistence. The noble Lord had announced his intention of lending money to proprietors to improve their estates. He (Mr. Hamilton) believed there was no way in which a proprietor having small tenants of five or ten acres could apply the money more usefully for himself and for his tenantry, than by employing 465 those poor people in tilling their lands. He wished, therefore, to ask whether the loans under the Treasury Minute would be applicable to this purpose?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
With regard to the temporary relief in anticipation of the operation of the permanent legislation to be provided by the Government, the relief and local committee would administer funds derived from rates imposed by the board of guardians, the money subscribed by private benevolence, and also the funds advanced by Government. As to the application of the money advanced by Government to the cultivation of private estates, as suggested by the hon. Member, it was not proposed that proprietors should be enabled to borrow money from the State to carry on the ordinary cultivation of their land. The Million Act would enable them to borrow money which would be applicable to drainage purposes.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
inquired whether it was the intention of Government to bring in a Bill to enlarge the provisions of the Fisheries Act for Ireland, and whether it was the intention of Government to take any steps in consequence of the survey they had been making of Cork harbour. This last question he had been requested to ask by a large and most important meeting of the city of Cork.
§ MR. GRATTAN
could not sufficiently press upon the House the importance of immediate and energetic relief being extended to Ireland, which was, in some parts of it, enduring such appalling sufferings, that the dogs were tearing to pieces dead carcases in the fields, and the rats devouring them in the houses. And, while scenes like these were occurring in Ireland, what was the fact as regarded the supply of corn sent into that country? It appeared, from papers which had been laid on the Table of the House, that Great Britain had imported from foreign countries no less than 3,700,000 quarters of grain up to December last; that she had imported from Ireland 1,776,000 quarters of grain; and that, at the time when the Irish were dying of starvation, the English had imported into Ireland only 47,000 quarters of grain. And this occurred at a time when the country had a surplus of income over expenditure of 2,800,000l. The price of oatmeal in Ireland was 4s. 2d. a stone, while the wages of those who had employment did not exceed 8d. and 9d. a day. 466 He did not mean to say that the people of Ireland had been sold to the merchants of London and Liverpool; but honest, fair dealing had not been shown towards them. If Government had sent a few thousand quarters of meal to the south parts of Ireland, great relief would thereby have been afforded to the people. In many places, even where the people were paid their wages, they had no depôt for provisions to which they could resort. The noble Lord in his speech went further than the proposal of remedial measures for the present,—he proposed permanent measures for the relief of Ireland. But, if the noble Lord meant to tax the landlords of Ireland, let him mete out a fair measure of justice to all, and let him tax the men who had abandoned their country. The noble Lord talked of properties and rights; but he held that if a man ran away from his property, and left people to starve, he ought to be compelled to contribute largely towards their support. He wished to know why such men as Earl Fitzwilliam, the Marquess of Headfort, and others, possessing large property in Ireland, some of them to the extent of 50,000l. a year, without residing in the country, should not be heavily taxed for the support of the poor of Ireland? In the time of one of the Stuarts, who were the very worst enemies of Ireland, a clause was introduced into all title-deeds to the effect, that if the owner did not reside in Ireland for six months in the year, he forfeited all his property. He hoped that, in establishing a permanent measure for Ireland, the noble Lord would not be afraid, but would act upon the broad principle of equal justice to all, and that a measure which would promote the happiness and prosperity of all classes of the people would be brought forward, and, in beneficial operation, before a war between this and any other country should arise. In the meantime, however, it was their first duty to save the people from the miseries of famine and starvation.
§ SIR W. VERNER
wished to address a few words to the House on this important subject. He stood there, in every sense of the word, an independent Member, and was ready to give his vote upon every question solely with a regard to its own merits, and without the slightest consideration as to how it might affect the interests of any party. He was open to one bribe only—whoever did best for Ireland would win his gratitude — personally and 467 politically. He sincerely hoped that whoever undertook the great task of saving Ireland would judge of the people of Ireland gently, whether landlords or tenants, and would not be led away by false representations in the reports of those who unjustly maligned them. He would just advert to one circumstance that had not been noticed in the course of the evening. In his opinion, the exertions on the part of the constituted authorities in Ireland had been greatly marred by the sanction and encouragement given to the people to supply themselves with arms. He could not be persuaded that this was purely an accidental thing; it was so extraordinary that a nation in a state of starvation should call for an importation of arms to such an extent that the manufacturers were unable to supply them. He had a letter from a person of great respectability in the county which he had the honour to represent (Armagh), which had been highly commended that evening by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell), in which it was stated, that in one part of that county 1,000 stand of arms had been sold since the month of November last; and he added that in that same district not one shilling of rent had been paid. Another fact which he would lay before the House related to a tenant who had 2l. of rent returned to him by the agent upon the estate on which his farm was situated. The tenant, on leaving the office of the agent, was heard to say that the 2l. would buy him a fine gun; and, in point of fact, he believed that this man did lay out the money for the purchase of a blunderbuss, instead of appropriating it, as it was intended he should do, to the wants of his family. He was aware that it was alleged to be impossible to prevent private traders from disposing of arms; but he would suggest to the noble Lord that this was a subject which deserved the serious attention of the Government. He read in the newspapers, a few days ago, that between the 6th and 9th of the present month, 315 loads of oatmeal were imported into Liverpool from Ireland; and he thought it was a strong proof of the patient and pacific disposition of the Irish people, that they allowed flour and meal to be sent out of the country without making some effort to detain it. Before leaving home, he authorized his steward to purchase a stock of meal and flour, and he had to-day received a letter, in which his steward informed him that he could only get half a ton of each, and that the price which, when he 468 left home, was 16s., was now 23s. He hoped that nothing would be left undone by Her Majesty's Government and by the House to relieve the frightful distress which now existed in Ireland.
§ MR. TUITE
wished to make one observation with reference to a statement which had been made reflecting upon the landlords of Ireland. The noble Lord had stated that instances had occurred of farmers holding twenty, forty, or even sixty acres of land, being employed on the public works; and he also stated that the sons of such persons were in some cases receiving the relief money which was intended for the distressed poor. Now, he (Mr. Tuite) had attended very closely to the working of the relief committees in that part of Ireland in which he resided, and he was perfectly satisfied that such a circumstance as that alluded to by the noble Lord could not have taken place without the sanction of the relief committee of the district. He thought it was due to those relief committees who had done their duty, that persons who would sanction so gross a misappropriation of charitable funds as had been mentioned by the noble Lord, should be exposed; and that the names of the committees by whom such disgraceful proceedings were tolerated, should be printed and published. The circumstance referred to by the noble Lord could not have occurred unless the persons relieved had been approved of by the relief committees, and returned to the relief officers appointed by the Government as proper persons for employment on public works. He was strongly inclined to think that such an occurrence could only have taken place in a district which was suffering from the great curse of Ireland—absenteeism. It had been stated that public officers had been attacked and impeded in the discharge of their duties by mobs of the refractory poor who had not received payment for their work. Now he was aware that it was quite impossible for the Board of Works to attend to the immense business they had to transact with perfect regularity; but he must say, in defence of the people of Ireland, that, to his own knowledge, instances had occurred where delays of eight or ten days had taken place in the payment of the poor after their work had been performed; and when they considered that these persons were depending upon their daily hire for the purchase of food to save themselves and their families from starvation, he did not 469 think it surprising that in some few instances a spirit of dissatisfaction and insubordination should have been manifested. He regretted that the further consideration of the measures proposed by Her Majesty's Government should have been deferred until Monday; for he thought that under the circumstances they deserved and ought to receive the immediate attention of the Legislature. He must express his wish that some day this week could be named for continuing the debate.
§ MR. HUME
said, that with some exceptions the statement of the noble Lord had given great satisfaction. There were one or two points, however, on which he wished to throw out a few hints for the noble Lord's consideration. The noble Lord had, with great candour, stated the evils which had arisen from the interference of the Government agents in their attempts to employ the people; and he (Mr. Hume) thought sufficient had been said to justify the opinion that this system had done as much harm as good. That opinion was entertained by many persons, and he thought the noble Lord ought to be prepared to dispense with the system as speedily as possible. The noble Lord had stated that he would be prepared, on the part of the Government, to take charge of unreclaimed land. He (Mr. Hume) considered that any attempt by the Government to take up waste lands, with a view to their improvement, was one of the wildest schemes imaginable. He would candidly tell the noble Lord, that if he would bring forward immediately two of the measures which he proposed to render subsidiary measures, namely, plans to simplify the titles to property and to facilitate the sale of land, and to compel proprietors to maintain the poor on their estates, he would confer a far greater benefit upon the Irish people than by endeavouring to reclaim waste lands. The fact was, that wherever there was land worth cultivating, capital enough might without difficulty be found for its cultivation. Government never meddled with pecuniary matters in Ireland without losing a great deal of money; and the misfortune was not confined to this loss of money, for their interference prevented private individuals from embarking in schemes for the advantage of the country. He had to-day seen two gentlemen, land agents, from Ireland, who assured him that any amount of land might be sold in Ireland, provided the titles could be made out easily without expense. It 470 was notorious that the present registry of land in Ireland was greatly in need of improvement, and he wished to see it placed on as efficient a footing as the registry of land in Scotland. He begged to suggest to the noble Lord the importance of reconsidering this question. The noble Lord must be aware that the money markets, both in England and on the Continent, were not in a condition to be trifled with; and if the Government had to procure 7,000,000, 8,000,000, or 9,000,000 of money for the improvement of land, they would be obliged to go into the money market to obtain it—a step which he would greatly regret to see them taking at the present time. He had been gratified to hear the observation of the hon. Member for Oxford (Sir R. Inglis), that there was a prospect now of the landlords of Ireland looking to the interests of people living on their estates, and that the land of Ireland would be made to maintain the poor residing upon it. The people of this country were now called upon to support the poor of Ireland, but they surely would not be called upon to support the gentry of Ireland. If the landed proprietors in Ireland had more property than they wanted, and had incurred debts they were unable to meet, let them act as any private individual would do—sell their property and discharge those debts. He had been informed that there was one individual in Ireland possessed of a surface of 300,000 acres, who did not derive from it an income of 1,000l. a year, and who would not sell one acre. Now he would call on such individuals to sell their property and discharge their incumbrances; and if this were done, he would not despair of regenerating Ireland. He hoped the noble Lord would persevere in the course he had now taken; for by acting with confidence upon sound principles, he might confer the most important benefits upon Ireland.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
wished to put a question to the noble Lord on a point of extreme importance to Ireland, with reference to the contemporaneous jurisdiction of the relief committees and the boards of guardians. He wished to know whether it were the intention of the Government that these relief committees should cease to exist when the extended poor law came into operation, or whether it were intended that they should continue at the same time with the boards of guardians? And, if they did mean the relief committees to continue, what were to be the separate 471 jurisdictions of those committees and the boards of guardians? He was connected with both those bodies in the county of Clare; he was a member of the board of guardians, and chairman of one of the relief committees. The duties those two bodies had to discharge were not precisely similar; but the duties of the officer of a relief committee were more nearly analogous to those of relieving officers than of members of a board of guardians in England. Having heard several charges made against Her Majesty's Government of apparent neglect and indifference to the sufferings of the Irish people, he could not sit down without expressing the very strong feeling he entertained, that however they might blame a Government for introducing a particular measure, yet when that measure had been passed with the tacit or expressed assent of the House, the Legislature were bound to share with the Government the responsibility of such a measure. He thought, therefore, that the charges brought against the Government for passing the Labour-rate Bill were very unfair, inasmuch as it had now become an Act of the Legislature; and he was quite willing, not as an Irish Member, but as one who had property in Ireland, to take his share of the blame of absenting himself from Parliament when that measure was adopted. He thought it would be very unfair in him—after having left town, and so in some measure abandoned his duty at the time the Bill was before Parliament—if he were now to turn round upon the Government and charge them with the whole culpability and responsibility of the measure. The noble Lord had wisely acquiesced in the suggestion to postpone the consideration of the measures which he had to-night submitted to the House; and he (Mr. A. S. O'Brien) would not enter into any discussion on the subject now. He desired, however, to record his firm conviction that what the noble Lord had said of the owners of land in Ireland was true in all its parts, and to all its extent; and as one of those landed proprietors, he (Mr. A. S. O'Brien) desired to recognise that they could no more be free from the penal consequences of the errors of those who had gone before them, than they could be wholly free from the legal engagements which were left binding upon them by their predecessors. He begged to proclaim his strong conviction that the utmost efforts of the Legislature, however wise and benevolent, must fail and be entirely 472 frustrated, unless those who held land in Ireland were prepared to second and co-operate in those efforts with self-denial, energy, and exertion, which were not to be confined within common bounds, or stinted within the limits of ordinary duration. He must, in justice to the landlords of Ireland, remind the noble Lord that if he found, after the consolidation of the Drainage Acts, after the inducement he (Lord J. Russell) had held out to landlords, especially in Munster, to advance capital for improving their estates, that they were backward in requiring these advances, and feared to enter into these liabilities, it was because they must recognise the existence of an agrarian law in that province, which placed the landlords of Ireland (whether by their own fault or by that of their predecessors) in circumstances of extraordinary difficulty. All those who had anything to do with the tenure of land in Ireland, and the management of landed property there, must be well aware, that to come to a tenant and ask him to submit to an advance of rent for improvements in the property, was a very difficult question to put, and one likely to meet with only one answer. Though the extended poor law for Ireland might super-induce a recognition of just rights, and other measures might excite zeal for the promotion of agriculture, still they must be prepared to find a slow operation of those measures; and they must not too hastily judge the landlords of that part of Ireland with which he was more immediately connected, if they found a difficulty at first in obtaining those guarantees from their tenants which would alone justify their appealing for loans to the Government. The hon. Member for the county of Armagh (Sir H. Verner) had referred to the quantity of oatmeal which had been exported from Ireland to this country. Now, although his sentiments on the subject of protection were unchanged, yet he felt it was of the utmost importance that the trade should be perfectly, totally, and completely free between the counties of England, the towns of England, and the islands of this country, subjects, as they were, of one common Sovereign, and bound by one common law. He might mention, in connexion with this, a circumstance which had occurred within his own experience. The district in which he spent the latter part of the summer, and the early part of the autumn, was divided into two parts—one district was the rich alluvial soil of the 473 river Shannon, and the other was the mountainous district which rose from those plains, and formed a great part of the county of Clare. He found the poor people in those districts where wheat would not grow entirely dependent upon oats; but it was well known that in that part of Ireland the yield of oats for oatmeal was uncommonly short this year, so that the poor people could not grind the oats they grew. The consequence was, that these poor people wished to take their oats to Limerick to sell them at the market there, and with the money obtained for them to purchase wheat exported from England for the support of themselves and their families. Now if a system restricting the importation of oats from Ireland into England had been established by the Government, the consequence would have been that these poor people would not have had sufficient subsistence for themselves and their families. The price of oats was at the time very good, and the interchange of commodities was mutually advantageous to both parties. He had felt it his duty to say thus much, and to express his entire concurrence in the general views laid down by the noble Lord, and in the necessity of what was now generally recognised, that the property of Ireland should support the poor of Ireland. The repeated calamities and misfortunes of Ireland proved that it was to the landlords of Ireland, and to every class of the people in Ireland, that that country could look for its social and political regeneration.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
understood that it was the wish of the House that Members should not then enter into a discussion of the plan proposed by the noble Lord; he could not help, however, expressing — though not stating his entire concurrence in the views which the noble Lord had taken—if the noble Lord would permit so humble a person as he was to do so, his approbation of the tone and the manner in which the noble Lord's statement had been made, and the feeling that characterized the whole of his speech. He was anxious to express his unbounded admiration for the kindness and consideration which that speech manifested for the people of Ireland, and for that manliness which he thought ought to characterize every statesman who governed this empire, He gave his humble praise to the noble Lord; but he could not permit the world at large to think that the noble Lord would find it easy to carry out all parts of his elaborate scheme. The noble Lord had divided his 474 scheme into three separate parts. One was for the immediate relief or alleviation of the great calamity which had fallen upon Ireland. That was a part which for the present he would not touch. The next portion of the plan had reference to the regeneration of the people of Ireland—to create such a desire and feeling among them, to place them in such a position as that they should not be subject to such calamities as the present, and which they had all seen to occur more than once. In the ends which the noble Lord had in view he concurred, as he believed they all concurred; but then he could not connect those ends with the theory which the noble Lord propounded to carry them into effect. It appeared to him that any scheme by which money was to be taken from the people of England for the purpose of fostering the condition of the Irish landlords, and of aiding them in the management of their estates, was a mischievous error. He had never seen money advanced for Ireland, however proposed to be advanced, that it was not given instead of being lent. ["No, no!"] Yes, he had seen many times money agreed to as loans; but he had not heard of its ever being repaid. He had seen loan advanced after loan—he had not seen any of them repaid. He recollected certain moneys being advanced under the name of "The Million Fund." He had not yet heard that it had been returned. Why, a grant was about to be made. Half only of the money proposed to be lent was to be got back. That was a part of their proceedings which he desired to guard himself from sanctioning on the present occasion. He agreed as to the necessity of their having a poor law in Ireland—an English poor law in Ireland. The noble Lord's plan was somewhat elaborated. Still he was not disposed to find fault, seeing what had been done—that, at last, the blow had been struck—that the land of Ireland was bound to maintain the poor of Ireland. Though there were parts of the noble Lord's plan to which he had great objection, still the scheme was one which, as a whole, he would be ashamed to oppose. Four-and twenty hours would not, however, pass away until objections were made to it; and he hoped, as they arose, that the noble Lord would exhibit that gallant bearing which he had already evinced; and if he did so, he might rely upon it that the people would support him, and he would find himself sustained in his effort to have the poor maintained. He did not think 475 that the noble Lord would be able to mitigate the harshness of the remedy which he was applying to the Irish landlords; for, let the noble Lord do what he might, there would still be bitterness in the draught. ["No, no!"] He was unwilling to trespass on the attention of the House. He would not go further than to say that he believed that any attempt to make the measure agreeable to the Irish landlords, by taxing the people of England, might make it agreeable to the Irish landlords; but it would add to the noble Lord's difficulties, by raising objections in this country to the proposition of a good measure; that creating that difficulty in England would not lessen the opposition he would be sure to meet with from the landlords of Ireland. He begged the noble Lord would recollect that there was a large population—a considerable weight of public opinion—which must be considered by him, even when legislating for the landlords of Ireland.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, before answering the question of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stafford O'Brien), he begged to express the pleasure with which he heard his speech. There was a tone and temper in that speech which commanded his full approbation. It was not the intention either of the noble Lord or of any Member of the Government to cast censure upon the Irish landlords. He could assure the House that the Government knew enough of Ireland to know that these landlords had many difficulties to encounter, and that if they had not hitherto done so much as Gentlemen on this side the water thought they might be able to accomplish, it was not altogether their fault. The hon. Gentleman had asked what were to be the distinct functions between the relief committees and the boards of guardians? In answer to that he would say, that it was not intended by these Bills in any way to affect or alter the functions of the boards of guardians. They would remain in each union; and they would have the power to levy the rates and to superintend the administration of the poor laws as at present. But it was also intended to form in each electoral district of the union a relief committee sanctioned by law. The guardians would be ex officio members of those committees, as well as the magistrates of the districts. The rates would then be levied by the board of guardians, and the rates required in each electoral district would be advanced from the funds of the union to 476 each district. He wished further to say, in reference to what had fallen from a noble Lord opposite, that no fewer than twenty-six depôts for food had been established in the south and west of Ireland: and most of them had been in operation for the last four weeks. The one in Skibbereen, in particular, had been open the whole time during which the transactions the noble Lord alluded to had taken place. He had lately received a letter from a commissary on the spot, stating that not only were there considerable sales of food from private sources, but that the depôt established by the Government there had been the means of feeding 3,000 persons. With reference to what an hon. Gentleman behind him had said of the delay experienced in bringing in these Bills—as if relief were stopped till the measures were passed—he would state that the very reverse of this was the case; because all the time measures were in progress for the establishment of soup-kitchens, as well as for selling food at a cheap price; and by reports recently received from the counties of Cork, Clare, and Leitrim, it appeared that these depôts were becoming exceedingly popular, and, by the assistance of the Government, were now generally extending throughout the distressed districts. It was, therefore, not true that relief was stopped. He might add, that a steamer had been sent round the coast with a supply of boilers to facilitate the making of soup; and he would only state further, that since the announcement of the Government measures, the price of corn had already fallen in Dublin; and there could be no doubt that when the ports were opened all the corn now in bond—500,000 quarters—would be brought to market.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
Perhaps I should say, in answer to the noble Lord (Viscount Clements), that the course I propose is to ask leave to bring in the Bills I have mentioned; and the Bill which renders valid the proceedings under Mr. Labouchere's letter will be immediately printed. I think it better not to ask the House for its opinion on that Bill until it is printed, and then I shall ask for the second reading. It will be printed by Wednesday; and if hon. Members wish for a general discussion, it can be taken on Monday. The other Bill will be hardly prepared in time to be in the hands of hon. Members before Thursday; and we shall be better prepared to enter into the discussion after seeing the Bill. Besides, there are very voluminous papers 477 to be presented to the House either to-morrow or Wednesday. This is to be said likewise with respect to any immediate measures which have been pressed upon us, that the system of relief on public works is to be altered by another system we propose to establish, by committees of relief in electoral districts. That is a process which will take some time, and it will be carried out by the Government before the Bill has been passed through Parliament.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
I concur, most willingly, in the praises that have been bestowed both on the tone and temper, and the beautiful language, that characterized the speech which my noble Friend has addressed to this House. With respect, however, to the measures themselves, which he has proposed, I do not intend to enter at any length into them. I certainly am not disposed to do so, unless it be to refer to the compulsory power of which my noble Friend spoke, as to the sale of waste lands in Ireland. But if I were to find fault now with those measures, it is, that, in my mind, they fall short of the necessity which the occasion demands. When the noble Lord spoke of 50,000l., for supplying the want of seed in Ireland, I cannot but remark, that it is scarcely sufficient to sow five baronies in Ireland; about as much as would sow 25,000 acres of oats, or what might sow about 5,000 acres of potatoes. I am afraid, in the present state of matters in Ireland, that a grant of 50,000l. will be about like doing nothing at all. As to public works, I had hoped that my noble Friend would have brought forward measures by which the employment of English capital might be stimulated in Ireland. There is, for instance, one safe manner of employing capital, which must occur to every one — I mean the construction of railways. I had hoped that my noble Friend would have come forward with a well-digested scheme for establishing railways. I know of no other means by which, at so short a notice, so many persons might be brought into profitable employment; and I beg leave now to state, that it is with regard to the promotion of railways in Ireland that I am prepared to introduce a measure—one to which my noble Friend will give, I hope, that same careful consideration—the same calm consideration, which this House will be willing to give to all the measures of my noble Friend. I do not propose to introduce this measure in hostility with, or even as rivalling, those 478 of my noble Friend; but I propose it only as an auxiliary to the measures of Her Majesty's Ministers, especially as it does not clash with those of which the noble Lord has given notice. The hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck) has deprecated the idea of fostering the Irish landlords, in cultivating their estates, as a mischievous measure. Sir, I totally and entirely dissent from the hon. and learned Gentleman. I know of nothing that could be more advantageous than fostering Irish landlords to the very utmost in the cultivation of their estates. I saw, not long ago, a statement to the effect, that by the advance of 24,000l. by the Government to Lord De Freyne, he had been able to produce an absolute improvement in his estate of 3,000l. a year. I cannot conceive that England could do better than advance, not 24,000l., but 24,000,000l. to Ireland, if we could thereby raise the incomes of the Irish landlords. It appears to me, that if we sought to put out our money at the most profitable interest, this would be the most profitable. Believing, as I do, that you cannot separate your interests from those of Ireland—that if there be any improvements in Ireland, such as there has been, and to so enormous an extent, as by the advance of 24,000l. to one landed proprietor—if there be a profit of 10 per cent upon such an advance, nothing could tend more to the improvement of Ireland at large than such advances. And, to me, the only matter of regret is, that we have not ten thousand Lord De Freynes to come and ask the Government for 24,000l. each. As to an alteration of the poor law in Ireland, I gather, from the reception which was given to the observations of my noble Friend, that the House will concur in his propositions. As regards emigration, I am not one of those who think that the way to strengthen the empire is to transport its best men to a foreign country. Who, Sir, are those who do emigrate? They are not the weak, the feeble, the inefficient, and the unenterprising: no; but it is the very bone and sinew of the country that are taken out of it. Instead of the country being thus made richer, it is rendered poorer — instead of being made more powerful, it is rendered weaker. You should look to other means to strengthen the industry, increase the wealth, and add to the prosperity, of the nation. I concur in thanking my noble Friend for what he has done; but I do not think he has gone far enough. 479 With respect to the facilities which my noble Friend has proposed as to the sale of estates, and the conversion of long leases into freeholds, I look to them with great satisfaction and great admiration. As, however, I said before, I regret that my noble Friend did not bring in a great measure for the promotion of railways in Ireland. As I am prepared with such a plan, I trust my noble Friend will give to it his full consideration.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Bill brought in, and read a first time.