HC Deb 02 March 1847 vol 90 cc676-8

wished to put two questions to the Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman stated a short time ago, that in the county of Mayo, an illegal combination had been formed to prevent the cultivation of the land. He had lately received several communications from that county in reference to this statement; one of them denied that any such combination existed, affirming, on the contrary, that the people were most anxious to cultivate the land, but they had not seed for the purpose. He wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman on what authority he made his statement, and who were the parties by whom the communication was made to him. He also asked whether the Government intended to furnish a supply of seed, or establish seed depôts in Ireland, provided the landlord became security for the repaying the cost?


said, he had not stated that an organized combination to prevent the cultivation of the soil prevailed generally in Mayo, but he had reason to believe that, partially, there was such a combination; he had made the statement on information received from a source on which he could rely. His correspondent added, too, that the spirit, if not checked, was likely to spread; he had, therefore, thought it his duty to state his opinion with respect to it to the House. But perhaps the best answer he could give the hon. Gentleman would be to read the communication itself in extenso; the House would excuse him for not giving the name of the writer; he was a person holding an official situation, and on whose authority he could place entire reliance. The letter was dated Feb. 9, 1847:— Sir—I regret being obliged to state, that to add to the misfortunes of this district, a systematic and organized plan is fast gaining ground amongst the small farmers and cottier tenants, not to sow the lands this spring; and, even had they a sufficiency of seed, I am inclined to think they would suffer the land to lie waste rather than cultivate it. Unfortunately, 19 out of 20 of the holdings in this county are occupied by the above description of persons. Various causes have tended to produce this result. I principally attribute it to the facility with which this class obtain employment upon the public works, frequently to the exclusion of the really destitute, who have no land; added to which, mischievous individuals, and of a better class too, are impressing upon these poor creatures that the Government cannot allow them to starve, and that if they till their lands, the produce will not satisfy the landlord's claim for rent and arrears, together with the price of the seed, and that it is better for them to remain upon the public works, which they are told, and foolishly believe, are to have no end. A large body of men, amounting to about 200, some armed, traversed a portion of this district on Thursday night last, warning all those whom they visited not to attempt to till their lands this year; the same party, on the same night, robbed several houses of arms. Should this system be carried out to any extent, Mayo will become a perfect wilderness next year; the sheep and cattle are fast disappearing, the owners killing and using them, and the distress and the deaths, from want and destitution, very much on the increase. Upon the whole, the prospect for the coming year is lamentable and gloomy in the extreme. Being in possession of information of this description, and the hon. Gentleman having called the attention of the Government to the condition of the county of Mayo, he thought he was not only justified, but imperatively called on, to state it to the House, and to urge those who had influence in that county to exert it in repressing this spirit, which it was obvious must lead to most lamentable results. He had reason to think that his having made that statement had not been without some effect; from communications received since he called attention to the subject, he trusted the notice taken of it would lead to the repression of the spirit that had partially, but not generally, prevailed. As to the measures the Government had taken for the distribution of a supply of seed, he had lately received a communication from a Member of the Irish Government which would enable him to answer the question; it stated— We have found it perfectly impracticable to get a sufficient supply of corn for seed without serious interference with the markets; green crop seed alone, therefore, will be supplied: forms of application and notes of repayment have been prepared, and we are now ready to receive applications; the first arrivals have been expended this day.

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