LORD J. RUSSELL
said: Before you leave the chair, Sir, I wish to state generally to the House what have been the latest proceedings of the Government with respect to the calamitous state of affairs now existing in Ireland; and at the same time to call their attention to one or two of the principal provisions of the Bill before the House. Sir, in the midst of the present calamity in Ireland, I think it is due to the House to acquaint them with the steps that have been taken from time to time, and the measures which may at a future period be taken, and which may have a serious influence upon the destinies both of that country and of England. The House is acquainted with the steps which we had adopted before the commencement of the Session, and likewise with the refusals which we have made to entertain some other measures of large import to which our attention has been repeatedly called. Thus, while we agreed that with respect to the supply of provisions there should be an amount of about 10,000 tons always in store in various depôts, in those parts of Ireland where there were no regular markets established, we declined to undertake the feeding of the people of Ireland by the importation of provisions from abroad. Likewise, Sir, while we consented that a sum of not more than 50,000l. should be laid out for the purchase of seed—which it was believed might be more easily procured by Government than by individuals—we steadily refused to undertake the cultivation or the sowing of the land of Ireland. Thus, also, while we have augmented to a very small degree the sum which is applicable for the removal of emigrants and of destitute persons from Quebec to Montreal, and to other places where their labour may be more in demand, we have refused to become responsible for conducting or promoting emigration in general from this country. In making these refusals, we have been of opinion, in the first place, that the scarcity of corn and of provisions of all kinds would be greater if that trade was interfered with by the Government, than it would be if we had no interference with the trade; and day by day confirms me in that impression. 1245 We were of opinion, also, that the cultivation of the land would have been impeded, rather than promoted, by any undertaking on the part of the Government to cultivate it, and that the cultivation would be best left to those who ordinarily discharged that duty. We are of opinion, likewise, that the number of emigrants from Ireland to the United States, and to the colonies, will be more considerable if the Government does not propose any large advances for that purpose, and leaves the emigrants either to their own means, or to those that may be furnished them by their friends or landlords, than if we were to propose a large grant for the purpose of promoting emigration. On these topics, I will do no more than state what has been our opinion, and what has been our course. With regard to another question, it has been thought that we have unduly interfered with the employment of the people by devoting large sums in the shape of advances from the Treasury, in order to furnish labour for the destitute people of Ireland. It is undoubtedly true, Sir, that those advances have been very great, and I will now state what has been the amount, up to the end of February, of the sums expended on the relief works. The sums expended in the months of September and October, amounted to 54,878l.; in the month of November, 298,799l.; in the month of December, 545,054l.; in the month of January, 736,125l.; and during the month of February, it is stated to be 944,141l. This expenditure is entirely independent of the expenses incurred through the commissariat and public departments for the same general object. The numbers employed during the last month have very much increased. In the week ending the 6th of February, there were 615,055 persons employed; in the week ending on the 13th February, there were 605,715 persons employed; in the week ending the 20th February, there were 668,749 persons employed; and in the week ending the 27th February, there were 708,228 persons employed. Now, on looking back to these proceedings, I am persuaded, that unless a very large outlay had been made from the national Treasury, many of those persons who have been thus employed, and who have received wages, would have died from utter want of the means of procuring food. I think this very large outlay was to be justified, and is to be justified, by the very great urgency of the case; and the dread of allowing so large a number of 1246 persons to die from want of food in Ireland, was a sufficient reason why the means we employed should have been enormously increased. But while, during the months of November, December, January, and February, and one half of March, we have continued these works on so great a scale, we have never been insensible to the evils that are attendant on those works, which evils have spread just in proportion as the works have increased, and are now considerably aggravated compared with what they were at the beginning. And here let me say, that the immense increase of the number of persons employed—a number which has increased from 30,000 or 40,000 to 708,000—has made it impossible for the Board of Works, however that board may exert itself, to keep that good order and regularity which ought to be observed. Let me say, at the same time, that the degree to which good order and regularity has been observed, is a matter not only of praise, but, as I think, of astonishment. This has been done, in the first place, by the exertions of the officers of the Board of Works; and, in the next place, by the exertions of the military officers who are placed on the commissariat of the Board of Works; and, lastly, by the Executive Government of Ireland, and the military and constabulary who are at the disposal of the Government. And this order and regularity has been kept, notwithstanding the great increase of the number of people employed; though it must be apparent that it is impossible to say, with so great a number of persons at labour, whether the due quantity of work has been performed, seeing there could not be employed a sufficient number of officers to overlook them all. Yet there has not been any general confusion; there has not been any confusion at the works; the regular payments have gone on from week to week, without any instance of the money for pay being intercepted, and without instances of dishonesty or peculation on the part of the clerks; without, indeed, any failure in the payment of the money to those labouring at those works. I make this as a general statement, not denying that there may be some exceptions, but stating it, on the whole, as a general result highly honourable to the parties engaged in all the departments, who, without previous preparation, and without experience of any kind, had thrown upon them the responsibility of the management of this great machinery. 1247 But whilst such regulations are in progress upon the public works, another evil arises: the men employed upon those works are becoming weaker from the want of due sustenance, and physically unable to perform that amount of task-work by which they might be enabled to procure a sufficient sum of money to obtain the necessary quantity of food; and the overseers and Government officers, very naturally, are unwilling to oblige these men to perform the full amount of task-work, or to pay them a sum which is insufficient to enable them to earn their daily means of sustenance, and this reduces the relative quantity of task-work, so that the amount of task-work actually performed has not been in proportion to the value paid for the work, but payment has been made rather according to the quantity of work which the individual could perform. This leads to every kind of irregularity; a great many who are capable of working object to the performance of their task, though perfectly fair; and, with regard to many others, they take advantage of this laxity of the task-work to come at late hours — 10 or 11 o'clock in the day—and require, nevertheless, that they should be paid as if they had worked for the regular number of hours. But a further evil, and which is peculiarly felt at this particular season, is thus described by the Board of Works, in their report for the last month:—Every exertion must be made to encourage private employment, but the people evince no readiness, at present, to avail themselves of it; nor will it be wholly practicable at once to convince them that the works which remain in progress are no longer to be considered merely as relief works.Employment from the farmer is, at present, offered in vain, because the men employed on the road works, on account of their numbers, can rarely be sufficiently attended to, and are consequently suffered to idle; as well as because where task-work has been introduced merely as a means of affording higher wages, in the first instance, the ordinary prices of manual work have been gradually increased to enable the increasing numbers of unhappy, ill-fed, or unwilling labourers still to earn from 1s. to 1s. 6d. per day.In consequence of these representations, which are corroborated by a very great number of reports from individual officers employed in various parts of the country, and in various departments of the Commissariat and the Board of Works, the Government came to the determination that it was necessary to reduce as far as possible at this time of the year, when ploughing and sowing should take place—at this 1248 time of the year, I say, the Government determined to reduce, as far as possible, the number of persons employed on the public works. Upon these grounds, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department wrote to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, desiring that, as far as possible, the number of works should be diminished, and that new presentments should not be made, unless upon very special grounds, to be reported to the Secretary of State. The Treasury has likewise directed that notice should be immediately given—That from Saturday, the 20th of March, the number of persons employed on the relief works will be reduced by not less than 20 per cent, and that the remainder will be further diminished by successive deductions in the proportions and at the times to be hereafter fixed by this board, until the new system of relief, under the 10th of Victoria, cap. 7, shall have been brought into full operation. The necessary steps for carrying this arrangement into effect will be taken by the Board of Works in the following manner: Persons holding 10 acres of land and upwards are to be discharged from the 20th of March, even if they should exceed the proportion of 20 per cent. If the number of such persons should not amount to the proportion above stated, those persons are to be discharged who hold the largest amount of land (although less than 10 acres), or of other property of any description. If, however, rations of soup or provisions of other kinds can be supplied either by relief committees constituted under the 10th of Victoria, cap. 7, or from other sources, for all destitute persons in any district, the relief works in that district are to be entirely suspended; and if rations can, for the present, be supplied only to a limited number, a proportionate reduction is to be made of the persons employed upon the works.And, as various means have been adopted for putting the Act of this Session into operation, it is hoped that, before long, all the arrangements will be completed, and the number of relief works will be very considerably reduced. We trust to these measures for enabling the farmers to procure the number of labourers necessary for the cultivation of the soil; and as the labourers, in certain cases, will not have the resources of the public works to go to, they will be more ready to accept the terms of the farmers than they would be whilst the relief works are in operation, affording nearly the same rate of pay for a smaller quantity of labour. Sir, I need hardly take any notice of other measures now in operation to remedy a state of distress existing to so great an extent, and of a kind so totally unexampled and so appalling in its magnitude; those other measures, in regard to drainage, and those mentioned in Mr. Labouchere's letter, and 1249 the improvement of the fisheries and of the ports and harbours, are deserving of great attention, but it is unnecessary for me to dilate upon them; and I do not do so at this moment. What I have stated will enable the House, having before it the Treasury minute and other official papers in a voluminous shape, to know the course we are pursuing. I now turn, Sir, to what is the proper business of this evening, and on which I think it necessary to say a few words, in consequence of a representation which has been made to me in a memorandum signed by no less than 64 Peers of Ireland, and 43 Members of the House of Commons. I have not, at any time that I can remember, made a general explanation of the object and enactments of this Bill, as now amended; the importance of the document I have alluded to is such that I think it would be respectful to the persons who have signed it to take some notice, before I ask the House to go into Committee upon the Bill, of the representations made by them. Sir, the 64 Peers and 43 Members of the House of Commons form a list of persons who, having resided in both countries, well know the state both of this country and of Ireland; but, Sir, when I read their representations, I confess I could not agree in them, nor in the doctrines they lay down, which would preclude this House from entering at all into the question of out-door relief to the able-bodied. Their third resolution is in the following words:—That the principle of giving out-door relief to the able-bodied labourer of Ireland, has been condemned by the various Parliamentary Committees and Commissions, as well as by the public officers appointed to consider the subject; and that the experience of the last twelve months, by which it has been shown how relief, even though accompanied with work, has interfered with ordinary agricultural labour, and endangered the future production of food to the people, demonstrates conclusively how much more fatally a system of gratuitous out-door relief to the able-bodied labourer will produce and perpetuate the same lamentable consequences.Now, with regard to the first part of this statement, I have nothing to say, as I do not wish to enter into any examination of the grounds of the reports made by the Committees and Commissions referred to; but with regard to the other part, I have some general observations to make. Sir, I do not think that the relief which has been given during the last twelve months accompanied with labour, does at all "conclusively" prove "how much more fatally a system of gratuitous out-door relief to 1250 the able-bodied labourer will produce and perpetuate" any "lamentable consequences." I think there are reasons enough why the system which we were compelled to carry into effect should be liable to abuses, which were necessarily attendant upon what we undertook to do, and does not at all belong to a plan of a poor relief law in Ireland for the people of Ireland. In fact, these "lamentable consequences" have come from a too great readiness to present for advances from the Treasury for public works, and a too great readiness to recommend persons to be put upon those public works. We were for a long time averse from this system of advances; but being pressed by the immediate wants and by the immediate outcries of the distressed and famishing people, we did not consider that we should be justified in refusing, upon the guarantee of the ratepayers in Ireland, to make some advances from the public Treasury, though such advances, for many reasons, were liable to great abuses. Amongst other abuses, for example, I have read within the last few days of relief committees putting on the public relief works persons many of whom were well able to maintain themselves, having many acres of land, and that persons have offered themselves and been so employed to a considerable extent who call themselves farmers. But if we provide for the support of the destitute by the imposition of a rate, a greater vigilance will be exercised by the ratepayers, who will find their interest in it, and they will adopt means to prevent those impositions and those who are well able to provide for themselves from being placed upon the list of the destitute; and that list will be more narrowly watched, and confined to those who are the proper objects of relief. For these reasons, I think that the experience of the last twelve months affords anything but a conclusive argument against this plan. In the next place, the resolution states that the experience of the last twelve months has shown—"how much more fatally a system of gratuitous out-door relief to the able-bodied labourer will produce and perpetuate the same lamentable consequences.Why, nothing in this plan, or this Bill, makes it at all necessary, or, I will say, probable, that out-door relief given to the able-bodied will be gratuitous out-door relief. I propose that the board of guardians and the Poor Law Commissioners should have the power of requiring from persons 1251 applying for relief, such work, or putting them upon such employment, as may be adapted to their situation, and as the Poor Law Commissioners and boards of guardians may think fit. We all know it is the case in England, when the workhouse is full, and able-bodied labourers are to be supported, they are supplied with some work, which is given as a test of their destitution; and that work, so given, has the effect of limiting the number coming for relief. We do not intend that there should be any other system in Ireland. We intend that the Poor Law Commissioners and the guardians should make any rules that they think fit, to enforce the work of the able-bodied when out-door relief is given to them. But there is a further question to which I must refer. When I had the honour of conferring with the deputation from the Peers and Gentlemen who favoured me with their resolutions, I said to them—It is quite true that it is very difficult to prevent the granting of out-door relief in Ireland being attended with abuses; it is very true that there did exist very great abuses in England, and it may be true that the system may not be at present without abuse. But what I say to you is this: we see a vast number of people in the greatest state of destitution in Ireland; and I have been told by gentlemen connected with Ireland, that the state of destitution in Ireland, though it has been greatly aggravated by the failure of the potato crop, is not unusual or accidental in Ireland; and when we see this destitution, if it is not to be provided for by out-door relief when the workhouse is full, what objection would you offer to my plan in the House of Commons, or what other plan would you propose?And to this question, which really seemed not to have been expected, I got an answer from one member of the deputation, who said, that private charity in Ireland was so extensive, that it was not likely that any person would be allowed to starve. Another member of the deputation immediately observed, that he did not think that with the great distress throughout the country, and the great calls which had been made upon the resources of individuals, private charity could be hereafter exhibited to the same extent. I confess I fully agree with the last member of the deputation. I admit that there has been an immense extent of private charity in Ireland; that that charity has been generally afforded by the poor to the very poor; that there has been charity on the part of the small farmer towards the labourer, and of the farmer and the resident gentry to the mendicants and those who asked for alms. 1252 Until the passing of the Poor Law Act for Ireland, which I introduced, and now propose to extend, I do not believe that any burden fell, on this account, upon the large landed proprietors who did not choose to contribute to private charity, or upon the great absentee proprietors, who did not see the misery reigning about their estates, and who, if they chose to avoid altogether contributing to private charitable funds, got rid of every payment of this kind. Then, if that is the case, I ask the question again, seeing that the totally destitute in Ireland, who cannot be supported in the workhouse—who had been supported by the voluntary charity of the classes resident in Ireland, and chiefly by their own class, can no longer be supported from that source; that the farmers, owing to the failure of their potatoes, want the means of supporting the mendicants in the manner they have done—I ask, when the cultivation of the potato shall be greatly diminished, so as to alter the social state of the country altogether, to whom are the destitute persons to look for support? I must say, that the deputation at once rejected the notion that they could come again to the Imperial Exchequer, for either loans, advances, or grants; not one of them expected that that would be the case. But I must say, that the economical question still recurs: who is to explain, or how is it to be explained, in what manner these destitute persons are to be sustained? I know no way in which it can be done, unless we resort to the measure now before the House; guarded with all the cautions and by all the limitations which we can devise. If a person is starving, and he has recourse to the workhouse for relief, he will be admitted there if there be room; if not, the workhouse being full, he will receive relief out of doors. That is the proposition we make to the House. And, Sir, in making this proposition to the House, I can place it on very fair grounds. I can place it, in the first place, on the ground that after what I have stated no man can accuse this House of Parliament, or indeed the other House of Parliament, or Parliament collectively, of being niggardly to Ireland in its extremity. No person can say that in this time of need, considering the contributions that have been made—whether collected in the taxes compulsorily levied from the people of Great Britain, or whether collected in gifts voluntarily offered by them—whether we consider the millions we have proposed to vote, or the hundreds 1253 of thousands which are now being collected—whether I take the one sum or the other—no person, Sir, can accuse the people of Great Britain of want of generosity or want of liberality in the present day of suffering. I am justified in saying this, perhaps, under present circumstances, when under different circumstances I would hardly refer to it. I should scarcely say it, if it were not that such repeated charges are made—not against the Government, for the Government is a fair target for any such attack — but when such repeated charges are made against the Parliament of Great Britain, and against the people of Great Britain, who, I must say, deserve no such accusation. But, Sir, in the next place, I say that what I propose to you as a permanent law for the relief of the poor in Ireland, is a permanent law which we in England have thought consistent with the wealth of this country—which we have thought consistent with the security of this country—which we have thought consistent with the fair regard that is due to property in this country. We have for a long time past had a poor law which does provide, not only for the sick, but for the infirm and the aged; and provides also that the able-bodied should be set at work, and thereby, on being so set at work, shall receive relief. And, Sir, let it not be said that that poor law, and the poor rates that were levied under it, were abuses continually complained of in this country, because a reform was made of those abuses. Many persons in this country think, that reform has been very searching and very stern; and yet at present, in the ten years since that reform was brought about, England and Wales have spent no less a sum than 49,000,000l. sterling in the relief and maintenance of their poor; and, as I believe, not only with a view to humanity, not only with a view to religious and moral duty, but with a view to pure economy, and a consideration of the welfare and security of the country. Sir, it has been good economy for the people of this country to lay out 50,000,000l. sterling for such a purpose. I have here various extracts from different reports which have been made to this House, showing the numbers of persons who have received relief under the Poor Law Amendment Act in England at various times, since the enactment of that statute; and I find that in the year 1840, the total number of the paupers relieved in England and Wales was 1,199,000 and odd hundreds; in 1841 it was 1,299,000 1254 and odd hundreds, showing the number was increasing by about 100,000. In 1842, the number relieved was 1,470,000 and odd hundreds, making above nine per cent of the population of this country receiving relief under the poor law. Now, the mode in which these numbers of persons receiving relief were increased, and the reasons why they were increased, was this, that during these years, which were years in which we had deficient harvests, there were a number of people in want of employment and in want of food. Immediately that that took place, relief and employment were provided by the poor-law unions and the parishes; and thus it happened that the rates for the relief and maintenance of the poor were enormously increased throughout England and Wales. I have here a statement which I have taken from a speech of the hon. Member for Bolton (Dr. Bowring), made in this House, I think, in the year 1842 or 1843; and he states, with regard to the mortality of the population of England, that in the year 1839, the number of those who died in Leicestershire, was 1 in every 48; in the year 1840, it was 1 in every 39 persons. In Nottinghamshire, in 1839, the proportion was 1 in 42; in 1840, 1 in 35. In Lancashire, in 1839, the proportion was 1 in 35; in 1840, 1 in 31; but the poor rates, which, in the years 1835, 1836, 1837, had been 11,900l., rose in 1842 to 16,740l., being about 25 per cent, or 5s. in the pound. Now, that is the mode in which, in England, the law meets the distress of this country, in a year in which there was distress in this country—I will not say resembling that which now exists in Ireland, but distress of a more than ordinary pressure, owing to an unfavourable season and a considerable want of food and want of employment. Now, the plan of Her Majesty's Government, and what I propose to the House, is, that Ireland, with regard to her future permanent condition, should, when from good harvests and tolerable employment her people are less in want, be led to save the means for supplying their wants in cases of deficient harvests, so that the same mode of relief which is given in England to the destitute, should also be given in Ireland. In saying this, however, I do not propose that exactly the same means should be applied in Ireland as in this country. I do not propose that some parts of the Poor Law of England, which I think were connected with the abuses which have arisen 1255 under the old law, should be introduced into Ireland. I also think that in introducing this law into Ireland, we have a great advantage in having workhouses already established and in operation in that country. The abuses which have arisen under the old law in England, chiefly took place when the workhouse test was abandoned. That was about 1796, I think. But we took care when we introduced the present Poor Law into Ireland to establish the workhouse test in the first instance; and therefore the guardians of the poor will, in that country, under the measure we are now proposing, always have that test, and always have it in their power to say to the pauper who applies for relief, "If you are a destitute person, come to the workhouse, and you shall be provided for there." I do not think myself, that when the infirm and the aged, and those who are unable to work, are removed from the workhouses, those workhouses will be full, except in times of extraordinary distress; and I think that in ordinary times those workhouses will operate as an effectual check against imposture and the demands of idleness. But there is another part of the question which I do not propose to touch in any detail, but which I think it desirable briefly to advert to. That part of the question, however, forms with me, I must say, a very cogent reason for pressing this measure on the House. I quite admit that the present calamity in Ireland is so great that no attempt on the part of a poor-law board would at the commencent of the year 1846 have been able to meet the emergency we had to grapple with. I do not believe it would have been possible to meet the evil by that means. It is most unfortunate for Ireland, that by, as it were, a general connivance of landlords, tenants, and labourers, there has grown up its numerous and miserable cottier population. Add to that, the immense army of mendicants which infests the country, as portrayed in the reports of the Poor Law Commissioners; and I do not think it can be conceived that such a population, always existing on the borders of famine, were in such a state as could have been met and provided for, under this calamity, by the proprietors and gentry of Ireland with adequate measures of relief in the present state of the law in that country. But I must say, that though great numbers of the resident gentry have done their utmost, have exerted their best energies, and been contented in some instances to 1256 forego their usual mode of living, and even many expenses necessary for the education of their families, in order to be able to give more in the relief of distress; yet, I do not think that, taken as a whole—as a body—residents and absentees, who own the two parts of that 13,000,000l. sterling of assessable rental which forms the annual value of the land in Ireland—the exertions of property in Ireland for the relief of distress have been what they ought to have been. I collect this from the frequent statements that have been made, that while some of the resident gentry in a distressed district have been munificently giving to the relief fund their 100l. or 300l., as their circumstances allowed, many of the non-residents, to whom applications have been sent, have not contributed at all. I think there are persons among the non-resident gentry of Ireland who are ready to go further than a mere trifling contribution; who not only give largely, but who practise abstinence from those things which may be considered as luxuries, for the purpose of aiding their suffering countrymen. Sir, I will not go further into this part of the subject. I felt bound to state what I have stated, for I felt it pressing on my mind, and I think what I have stated is a reason why we should not leave the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland to hazard in the time of calamity. I am told indeed that, with regard to some parts of Ireland, the population is so great, and the rental so inadequate to their subsistence, that property must be altogether broken down under the obligations which this law will impose upon it. Sir, I do not believe that that will be the case. I believe in the capacity of the soil of Ireland. I believe in the willingness to labour of the people of Ireland. I believe that soil may be made far more productive than it is at present; and I believe that the general produce of the industry of Ireland may be made much greater than it is now. I confess that, as matters now stand, payments to the destitute poor in that country, if made in a proper proportion, must take a large proportion of the rental which is obtained from that country; but if we cannot say that such is at present the case, I think we may at least attempt to give some further proportion of the rental than of late years has been allotted to the relief and maintenance of the destitute poor. In 1841 the expenditure in England and Wales for the relief of the poor was 5,039,703l., being at the rate of 1s. 7¼d. 1257 in the pound on the annual value of the rateable property of the country. In that year, in Ireland, the expenditure for the relief of the poor was 298,813l. on rateable property to the amount of 13,203,234l. in annual value, being at the rate of 5¾d. only on the annual value. That calculation is made on the annual value of 113 unions out of the 130, being the majority of the whole number of unions in Ireland. But let not anybody suppose that I am charging any violation or evasion of the law upon the proprietors of land in Ireland with respect to these small payments. They only acted, in this matter, in conformity with the existing law; and if they made further payments for the relief of the destitute than this small per centage on their property, the Poor Law Commissioners would have told them that those sums could not be received nor expended by law. I make no charge; but I quote the fact in order to show that there does remain still, in Ireland, an amount of property which ought to be made available for the relief of the destitute poor, and which we may fairly call upon to submit to an assessment for that purpose. Sir, I think that this is not the moment when the landlords of Ireland can justly urge that they are too much taxed. Sir, with regard to a poor-law union in Ireland which has lately attracted great public attention in this country (I mean the union of Skibbereen), an union which has furnished details of deaths that have shocked every one, and where there are great numbers of persons living in a miserably destitute condition, and without any likelihood of obtaining the means of subsistence, I wish to mention that a gentleman who lately called upon me, and whom I have every reason to trust, gave me a letter from a person resident in that union, stating, that though the property within the union is rated to the poor as of the value of 8,000l. a year only, its actual value is no less than 130,000l. a year, and that, until September last, no rate had been made exceeding 6d. in the pound; but that, in November, a rate was made of 9d. in the pound; but that rate has never been levied. Now, from the correspondence (which has been laid on the Table of the House) of the Poor Law Commissioners, with various unions in Ireland, we have evidence that even with the present law there has not been in Ireland either that due assessment or that due levying of the poor rates that there ought to have 1258 been; and I say these are reasons for the enactment of the Bill I propose to the House. I am aware that in proposing that measure I am proposing a measure differing in one important respect from that which is now the law in Scotland. The law for the poor which was enacted in that country shortly after the Revolution in 1688, did make a provision which would have been applicable for the relief of the able-bodied poor; but, under the interpretations of the courts of justice, it has been confined practically to the relief of the infirm and the sick poor only. But there has not been such a state of things with respect to the relief of the poor, either in past years or even in the present year, as would induce me to wish to alter or amend the existing Act for the relief of the poor, which was introduced by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester two years ago; for I believe that that Act is conformable to the habits of the Scottish people, and I believe there is that union of all classes in Scotland as to induce the people in periods of distress to give the utmost assistance in their power to each other. To such an extent is that feeling carried, that I know at the present moment many proprietors in Scotland have been very nearly ruined by the benevolent exertions they have made in order to save their people from starvation. I believe the Scottish proprietors think an obligation lies on them, if not legally, at least morally, to make every exertion to save their people from destitution; and in order to effect the same end in Ireland, I think that the law for the relief of the poor in Ireland ought to be made more conformable to the law of England. I do not think that the people of England would be safe if there was not a law which entitled the able-bodied poor to relief. I was much concerned, in the year 1834, with the Bill for the Amendment of the Poor Law; but I do not remember that while we were reforming that law, the Government of the day ever contemplated that the starving able-bodied poor should not have a claim to relief. I believe that is necessary to the peace and security of this country. I believe a similar law would be for the peace and security of Ireland. We must expect a great change in that country when the culture of other classes of food shall have taken the place of the culture of the potato; and I think that it is right to look forward to the condition of those who will take the place of the present race of able-bodied labourers when they 1259 may happen, from time to time, to be thrown into distress. I believe that this measure will induce the farmers of Ireland to give the labourers a greater quantity of employment than is given now. When they say to themselves, "This man must be maintained either in doing good and useful work, or in doing nothing, and be paid out of our rates for doing nothing," they will much prefer the former, and thus the able-bodied poor will be found a great assistance to the beneficial working of the measure. There are other points in the measure to which I need scarcely allude at length. There is one point in it which in Ireland, as well as when I stated it to this House, has produced considerable dissatisfaction—I mean the provision that one half of the whole body of each board of guardians should be constituted by magistrates as ex-officio guardians. I believe that the objection to that arrangement is founded on the old belief to which I see one of the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church still clings, that those persons who are in the position of magistrates in Ireland are hostile to the religious rights and political freedom of their country. Sir, if I thought that feeling was to continue in the minds of the magistrates of that country, who holding property there were always to be considered by the class of farmers and labourers as their enemies, I should doubt the propriety of placing in the same body equal numbers of the two classes. But I believe we are on the eve of great changes in Ireland, and I think that the resolutions to which I have already alluded, and the meetings which have taken place, and the accounts which we have from time to time of the working; together of the clergy of different denominations, are symptoms of that great change. I think that the Protestant class, both in England and Ireland, sought for a long time for supremacy and for exclusion. In England the Protestant class had no adversaries to contend against; but the Protestant class in Ireland was brought into immediate collision with the most numerous class of their fellow-countrymen. Sentiments of ill-will grew between the two classes by reason of the Protestant class endeavouring to maintain that which they considered the due attribute of that pre-eminence which they had gained at the time of the expulsion of the Stuarts, and which, at the same time, they valued as a security for the permanence of the constitution of these realms; the other class thinking—as I believe most 1260 justly—that they were entitled to equal privileges in the land of their birth, and that no class ought to claim privileges or monopoly of any kind against them. But I trust that these questions, most of them being already solved, are all of them in the way to their solution, not only by legislative enactments, but by the working of popular feelings. I should indeed despair of the working of this or any other Bill of the kind, if I thought that class was to be against class, and clergy against clergy in the future as in past times in Ireland; but I do hope, though the transition may be accompanied by some reaction, we are in the transition to better times, when the Irish will act together for the benefit of their country, and acknowledge that we English have no wish to debar them from any right, any privilege, any object of ambition, which naturally is their due. And undoubtedly, seeing those symptoms, I do hope, with respect to the boards of guardians, and with respect to other relations of society in Ireland, that we shall see the Protestant and the Catholic—that we shall see Tory, and Whig, and Radical, and Repealer—differing, as no doubt they will do in future times on political questions, yet blending into social harmony, and continuing to act together in the common and usual and yet most important business of life—in administering justice, in conducting public works, in carrying on agricultural improvements, and in relieving destitution; and that in all social measures of this kind, they will act as persons of the same nation, and that no distinction will make one bear ill-will towards another. It is with this hope certainly, and not with the view of giving a supremacy to the ex-officio guardians, that I have introduced this clause into the Bill. Sir, I have now explained the general views of the Government with regard to the Bill now before us. It was stated the other night, that there were in the Cabinet Irish proprietors, and their names were mentioned; that there were two, or three, or four Irish proprietors who have seats in that Cabinet; and that they may be supposed to influence it in a determination favourable towards the Irish proprietors, so as to create an undue bias towards the claims of the landed proprietors of Ireland. Sir, those Members of the Cabinet are parties with us in proposing the Bill; if it imposes any burdens on the property of Ireland, they add the weight of their authority to its introduction; they are ready 1261 to bear the burdens which it imposes; and it is with that authority, and in the name of the Government to which I belong, that I ask the House to go into Committee, and propose that you, Sir, do now leave the chair.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
said, that it was not a mere compliment to bear his tribute to the ability with which the noble Lord had addressed the House, and the good feeling, the true dignity, the earnestness, and the calmness with which he had brought the subject under their consideration. He must observe that the statement just made by the Prime Minister, was one which called for most anxious and careful consideration, addressing itself, as it did, not only to the entire British empire, but to the whole civilized world; and appealing most powerfully to the feelings of all who in any quarter of the globe wished weal or woe to England. The noble Lord had stated that the present expenditure for the relief of the poor in Ireland, was at the cost of a million sterling per month, or 12,000,000l. per annum—a million more than the entire rental of the country—while, notwithstanding the extent to which the resources of the nation were thus applied, it appeared that many of those who were receiving the relief which the Government afforded, were actually so weakened as to be unable to work; and that hundreds (perhaps thousands) had been obliged to lay down and die of famine. This, then, was the result of all our boasted civilization. This was its result in a country so close to our own shores, and which had so long professed to enjoy the blessings of Christianity. At the same time they had to remember the difficulties of a Government called to office at such a juncture, and to make all excuses for them if they failed. The noble Lord had divided his subject into two parts: in one he treated of what had been done to meet the present calamity; and in the other of what they were doing for the future in the Bill then before the House. Now, as to the former part of the subject, he could not help saying with respect to the Labour-rate Act, that—for those Members who had absented themselves from Parliament while that measure was being passed, and who withheld the advantage of their assistance in preparing it—for them to throw the entire responsibility of its failure upon the Government, was neither just nor fair. But when the Government had undertaken to supersede the operation of that Act, by 1262 measures of their own taken upon their own authority—and for which they had been obliged to ask Parliament to pass an Indemnity Bill—they exposed themselves to a larger scope of criticism, and to censure more severe. Now there were two great errors which the Government had committed, and he did not enter into them from any desire uselessly to complain of what had passed, but as a warning for the future. With respect to the first error, he called the attention of the House to the letter of the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) to the Duke of Leinster. So long ago as in October last, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, writing to the Duke of Leinster, had alluded to the labour rate as a failure. And why had not the Government then followed the advice of those best informed on Irish affairs? That letter proved that the Labour-rate Act was a failure; and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, when he wrote what was called Mr. Labouchere's letter, was compelled to make the same confession. The great objection to that Act was, that by taking too large an area for taxation, it operated as a bounty to the proprietor who neglected his duty, and was thereby an injustice to the man who performed it. That was so great a fault in the Act as almost to vitiate the whole benefit of the measure; and, taking as an instance of this the county of Clare, he had no hesitation in saying, that had the right hon. Gentleman made the area of taxation sufficiently small, there would not have been half so great a number of persons to employ on the public works there, or half the number of acres now uncultivated in that district—a great portion of the money now spent in unprofitable works would have been better employed, and many a fruitful occasion of mischievous organization prevented. The next error which the noble Lord had made, was one, the subject of which he had pressed on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland at the time, and in reference to which a question was long ago put by Colonel Jones—a matter which had caused the waste of so much public money, and given rise to so much jobbing—viz., the question, "who are the labouring poor?" No answer had been given to that question until the 23rd of October; and then came out a circular from Mr. Redington about a 6l. rating. He (Mr. S. O'Brien) had suggested that valuation, and not quantity of land, would be the better test of poverty. Those were 1263 the two great mistakes. He did not blame or criticise the Government for the non-supply of food; there was, and ought to be, entire freedom of trade between the two countries; a total absence of all obstruction; and, therefore, whatever share of blame fell to the noble Lord for his non-interference with trade, he (Mr. O'Brien) must take a full share with him, and was liable with him to the charge of hardheartedness, if any such could be made. The noble Lord had alluded to some resolutions agreed to by certain influential and powerful parties, and which were numerously signed. He had never joined that (the Irish) party; but he had seen those resolutions, and they were signed by several who were not only powerful and influential, but who had done their duty well during the present crisis. Their arguments, therefore, deserved to be well and seriously considered; but the great question which the noble Lord had put forward was that of out-door relief, with regard to which there was no notice of any Amendment to be proposed placed upon the books of the House, with the single exception of the one which he had himself given. He should say that in the main he agreed entirely with what the noble Lord had said upon the subject; and, looking at all the circumstances of the case together, he did say that that great experiment must be tried in Ireland. But seeing the great anxiety which was felt in Ireland upon the subject, not only by the middling classes, but by many of the highest, who thought it would absorb the whole property of the country without relieving the poor, he hoped the noble Lord would guard the proposition with every possible precaution. Perhaps the noble Lord might be induced to accept his suggestion with regard to the second clause. The noble Lord had said, and said well, that in consequence of what had been stated with reference to the conduct of England towards Ireland, he should bear testimony to the munificence and liberality which had been exhibited by England towards the sister country. And whether they tried that munificence and liberality by the test of the freedom with which assistance was afforded, or by the amount of the contributions, by neither would the result be such as to leave the liberality anything to be ashamed of. He thought it would be only fair and just towards England to try that liberality by both tests, and to consider both the loan which had been raised compulsorily, and the amount 1264 of subscriptions that had been so liberally given freely and voluntarily in addition. Taking the amount of the two modes of contribution together would be the only way by which they could test the liberality of England towards Ireland. Turn whither they might, there were none who did not hear of some instances of individual exertion or great self-denial practised by persons here in favour of that country. Even in this great metropolis, the inhabitants of which had been said to be the most unfeeling, the most unconcerned towards the miseries and unhappiness of Ireland, he could say that even in the hour of festivity the name of Ireland was never mentioned, without calling forth, not only expressions, but proofs of sympathy with, and liberality towards it. They might hope that one result at least of such exhibitions of generous feeling would be the drawing together the bonds between the two countries more firmly; and they might hope that any bitterness or animosity which exists in the hearts of Irishmen towards England would be extinguished, when they found so much liberality exhibited towards their country. The noble Lord had referred to the English law as the standard and criterion for the law about to be extended to Ireland. After his own experience both in England and Ireland, rather than run the risk of what that Bill would be when it left that House, he would take the whole English poor law clause by clause, and letter by letter, and extend it to Ireland. He knew that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland did not come to the same conclusion. He knew the difficulties of the question of rating; but so far as the purposes of the poor law were concerned, the electoral divisions in Ireland were practically the same as the parishes in England. There was a Bill before the House which had been brought in by the hon. Member for Suffolk in reference to the relief from rating of small tenants in England. By that Bill, the minimum for rating was proposed to be fixed at 6l. Now, he was willing to take the whole English poor law for both countries with the same limitations. Let them apply the same tests to both, and the same system of settlement and of exemption, and let them have one board of commissioners for the management of the whole law. He believed it would be the best mode of poor relief that could be established in Ireland, and that by it they would have the best security for the collection of 1265 rates. It did not become him, as an English Member, to urge the matter upon the House. It ought to be done by the Irish Members; and if the Irish Members were united amongst themselves upon the subject, he believed the noble Lord would give way to their suggestions, because he would know that there was a strong feeling upon the subject on the part of the English Members. However, if the House preferred, as he supposed it would, to go on with the Bill before it, he would give its details the best attention in his power, out of deference to the noble Lord, and to the extreme importance of the subject. He had before stated that he agreed with the noble Lord, that out-door relief should be given in Ireland; and he believed that those who would benefit most by the noble Lord's arrangement of having one-half instead of one-fourth of the boards of guardians, ex-officio, would be the poor. Irish landlords had many faults, but he believed that as a body they were not to be treated as undeserving of trust. At all events, they were at present learning a great lesson; and it should be remembered, that whatever may have been their standard of munificence and liberality, it was not as high as it was in England. When they made the area of taxation very large (as the noble Lord had said in his letter) they alarmed the landlords, who fancied they saw ruin staring them in the face. And what had been said by a Roman Catholic prelate as to the landlords of Ireland was perfectly true. Where there were good and bad landlords—where the tenantry of the absentees and of the residents were called together by baronies, it of course would happen that the population from the properties of the bad would attend in the greater numbers; and thus it was that, as Dr. Cantwell had observed, they—"brought the terror of the starving multitudes to exercise its salutary influence on men familiar with cruelty, and hitherto deaf to the cries of the widow and the orphan.Now, it should be observed, that it was quite impossible for gentlemen with families and incumbrances to have come forward in the month of September last and improve their estates, where the area of taxation was so large as to include with them the properties of others which were neglected. He was quite certain that Parliament would fail, unless it legislated so as to give encouragement to the good landlords. He felt that the only chance for improving the condition of Ireland was through the land- 1266 lords; and that chance would be lost, if the area of taxation were inconveniently raised. He observed the other day in a newspaper, an observation that the great difficulty of making the railroad to Shipley was carrying it through Bingley Bog, which had consumed from 80,000 to 90,000 tons of earth, thrown in as filling, without exhibiting the least sign of being satisfied; but still, like Oliver Twist, crying out for more. Now, what he most earnestly desired was, that the Bingley Bog might be no type of Ireland, and that they were not to have England giving million after million, impoverishing herself, pandering to the worst passions of Ireland, and at the end leaving that country worse than it was at first. The sole restriction placed upon the Poor Law Commissioners under the existing law, was not to divide any town-land in the formation of the electoral divisions. The extent of the unions in Ireland varied as much as from 507,154 acres to 38,000 acres; and the electoral divisions from 145,598 acres to 534 acres. Making all allowance for the poverty of mountainous districts and for large cities, this, he submitted, was a state of things that called for a complete revision; and he thought that when the noble Lord was bringing in a Bill of such magnitude as that before the House, he ought not to increase the risk and difficulty of its working by making further changes based on this arrangement, but leave the matter for further consideration. Considering that the Commissioners had the power of altering any electoral division at any time they wished, and considering in the next place that every board of guardians had the power of uniting the rates for all the electoral divisions, and rating the union at large in one union rate, he thought that some attention ought to be bestowed on what had been already done in this respect. In order to judge of the popularity of the noble Lord's measure in Ireland, it might be as well for the House to know how many boards of guardians had availed themselves of this legal enactment to which he alluded. There was but one board in all Ireland that availed themselves of the power thus given—that of Dunmanway, in the county of Cork. All he desired was to leave the Commissioners and the boards of guardians in possession of the power which they at present possessed, and not to force on them a plan which he knew was objected to by all those who had sigeed the memorial, by most of the Poor Law Commissioners, and by a large ma- 1267 jority of the Members from Ireland, or who were connected with Ireland in that House. The question in dispute was not between one electoral division and another, but it was a question of the country against the towns. It was chiefly the towns that pressed for the alteration which the noble Lord proposed to make; but he was prepared to show that their case was not borne out by facts. The amended Act of the late Secretary of State for the Home Department required a twelvemonth's residence out of eighteen in a particular division to constitute a claim on that division; but though it had been contended that the previous law induced the landlords to drive numbers of their pauper tenants into the towns, a reference to the returns would show that the rating bore about the same proportion between the electoral divisions now as it bore before the passing of that Act. They heard much about clearing of estates, and of the poor wretches who were expelled being driven into the towns; but he believed the poverty existing in the towns had far less to do with the clearing of estates in the unions to which the towns belonged, than most persons imagined. In a petition that had been presented from some members of the board of guardians of New Ross, favourable to union rating, it was stated that a great majority of the poor charged on the town came originally from remote places, in numerous instances, without the union. Now, that allegation cut the ground from under the feet of the petitioners; for how could they, after that, ask the House to charge these poor on the rural districts of their own union, which had nothing whatever to do in bringing those poor wretches to the town? Again, in a petition from Kilkenny it was stated that the clearing of estates had been extensively put in practice in distant localities, to the great increase of the pauper population of the town. But how that could be a reason for charging the adjoining electoral divisions with the maintenance of these paupers, he was at a loss to conceive. The principle for which he contended was that which guided the Poor Law Commissioners in striking out their boundaries. It was stated by one of these Gentlemen that one of the main principles which guided them in forming the electoral districts, was that of respecting, as much as possible, territorial divisions, and thereby giving the landlords an immediate interest in their own district. If the Government did not act on that principle, and 1268 make the territorial divisions so small that every proprietor should have—he did not mean an interest merely in the poor of his own estate, but have—his self-interest on the side of his duty, they could not hope to succeed. If they did not adopt that principle, he wanted to know what other principle they were to have. Let them, if they wished, establish a national rate, or place the poor of both countries upon the Consolidated Fund; but between such an extreme and the principle for which he contended, he could see no just medium. If they looked at the state of the most extensive unions, such, for instance, as the unfortunate union of Skibbereen with its 236,000 acres, they would find that from the large area of taxation the landlord could not find it to be his interest to do what he otherwise might effect for the employment of the people. They had one union, that of Scariff, in the county of Clare, in which the union rate exceeded the electoral division rates, the proportion being 174 for the union rate to 114 for the electoral division rates. He believed that was the only union in Ireland in which the experiment of union rating in contradistinction to electoral division rating had been carried out. But what was the condition of that union at present? On the 10th of February, 1847, Mr. Redington, the Under Secretary for Ireland, wrote to Sir William Somerville, the Under Secretary for the Home Department, enclosing, for the information of the Home Secretary, a copy of a letter from the Poor Law Commissioners to the board of guardians of Scariff, which was as follows:—The Poor Law Commissioners have received a resolution passed by the board of guardians of the Scariff union on the 2nd inst., requesting that the Commissioners will sanction the guardians borrowing from their treasurer the sum of 3,000l. for twelve months, the interest not to be charged to the rates of the union; and in reference thereto, I am directed by the Commissioners to state that, under the peculiar circumstances of the union, they will raise no objection to the proposal of the guardians to borrow 3,000l. for twelve months, the interest not to be charged upon the rates of the union; at the same time the Commissioners wish it to be distinctly understood that it is the duty of the guardians not to relax their exertions in enforcing the payment of the rate by the present ratepayers; and they confidently expect that the guardians will make use of all the powers entrusted to them by the law to compel the solvent parties who are in arrear to pay what is due from them.To that letter the hon. Baronet (Sir William Somerville) replied—I am directed by Sir Grey to acknowledge 1269 the receipt of your letter of the 10th inst., enclosing for his information a copy of a letter from the Poor Law Commissioners to the board of guardians of the Scariff union of the 5th inst. Sir George Grey perceives that the Poor Law Commissioners have sanctioned the borrowing of 3,000l. from the treasurer of that union, and have, at the same time, informed the board of guardians that the interest would not be charged upon the rates. In your letter you allude to the proposal of the Commissioners allowing interest on such advances; but as it does not appear from what funds the interest is to be paid, I am to request that you will inform Sir George Grey how it is proposed that the payment of interest in such cases is to be defrayed.He was sorry to say that no answer had been given to that letter. Some of the petitions in favour of union rating mentioned difficulties, which not only Mr. Redington, not only the Under Secretary, not only the Home Secretary, but the whole assembled Senate of Great Britain, would, he thought, find it extremely hard to settle. If they took the charge of the establishments on the Consolidated Fund, paid the expense of the erection of workhouses, and in addition undertook to pay half the rates, or even the entire amount of the rates, still they would leave Ireland worse than they found her; because they would not have created that self-reliance among the Irish people which the Government was so fond of preaching, but which the noble Lord, if he followed the course he now so earnestly and impressively advocated, would be very far from promoting. He did not ask the House to leave any one in Ireland to starve: all he asked was, that the 10th Clause should be omitted from the Bill. They were about to extend the poor law in a season of distress, which affected not only the poor but the rich; and he wished them to be aware, that whilst on the one hand they ought not to hesitate in extending relief to the poor; upon the other hand, a poor law passed by which a great number of the gentry believed they were to be ruined, should leave as much untouched as the nature of the case would admit of. He would, however, spare his objections to the 10th Clause until it came into Committee. ["Hear."] Did the hon. Member who cheered wish him to go into the clause now? In conclusion, he must request the noble Lord at the head of the Government to consent to the omission of this clause; for he had greater hopes of persuading the noble Lord than the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, who was considered to be a strong and unflinching political economist. The noble 1270 Lord knew the vast importance of this subject; but if the noble Lord chose to persevere with the clause, and the House supported him in it, he could have the satisfaction of knowing that he had disregarded the warnings and refused the counsel of those upon whose aid alone he could depend for mitigation of present evils, and attainment of future prosperity in Ireland.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
thought it would have been better if the hon. Member who had just sat down had deferred his observations upon the 10th Clause until the Bill arrived in Committee. The question referred to by the hon. Member was a most difficult one in the present peculiar condition of Ireland; and he (Mr. P. Scrope) was not quite sure whether it would be desirable to introduce the plan mentioned by the hon. Member. In his opinion there was no medium between a wide area and an estate area, in reference to assessment to the relief of the poor. With regard to the great question of out-door relief to the able-bodied, he must take the earliest opportunity of expressing his deep and heartfelt gratification at the speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The speech of the noble Lord would find an echo throughout England; and he believed the echo would be repeated through the greater part of Ireland, for the great principles that for the first time, in reference to legislation for Ireland, he proposed to introduce into the Bill. The people of England were unanimous on this question. They were of opinion that Ireland had long enough been free from liability to local taxation for the relief and maintenance of her poor, which in England had been borne now for many centuries, and to which was attributable the wealth, prosperity, and successful industry of this country. Indeed, he could not conceive it possible for the empire to hold together without the existence of the great principle of the English poor law. To attempt to remove that particular portion of the poor law relating to the able-bodied, would plunge this country into that restless disposition, and that turbulent discontent, which was the main cause of the poverty of Ireland, and of the non-development of her magnificent resources. The consequences of the absence of such a law in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and her father rendered England at that time a sort of Tipperary. There were then crimes of an agrarian character, for which the only remedy was adopted by the wise statesmen of Elizabeth—the simple 1271 remedy of giving to every honest, industrious man the certainty of being able to live—the certainty that, if he obeyed the laws, and was able to labour for his livelihood, the means of it should not be taken from him, or at least that he should not be exposed to the risk of starvation and destitution. Let such a law be enacted for Ireland, and at once an end would be put to those horrible crimes which had so long desolated that unhappy country, and a state of things would arise in which there would be security for English capital to develop its resources. But he wished to call the attention of the House to some points which had strongly impressed themselves upon his mind, inasmuch as, having the same object in view as the noble Lord, he was inclined to doubt whether the provisions of the Bill would be adequate to carry out his design. The noble Lord, much to his gratification, said he was desirous of proposing some mode whereby relief should be given in Ireland as in England. This was precisely his object. He had long felt strongly upon this point; and this must be his excuse to those Irish Gentlemen who seemed to have considered him somewhat pertinacious in so frequently intruding upon the House the necessity of adopting in Ireland the principles of the English poor law. This was quite as much an English as an Irish question. It was in vain to expect to improve the mass of the population of England or Scotland, or indeed to prevent it from deteriorating, unless they began by making legal provision for the poor of Ireland. The interest of the question became still more important to the people of England when the present condition of Ireland was considered. In ordinary years great numbers of Irish labourers—he did not mean those for the harvest—came into this country, depressing the wages of the English labourer, and creating a large burden upon our poor rates. In Liverpool there were usually between 60,000 and 70,000 permanently established; in Manchester, between 80,000 and 90,000; and in the metropolis, no fewer than 100,000. In England and Scotland together the Irish population could hardly be reckoned at less than 500,000. It might be said that so long as British freedom prevailed, their removal could not be prevented. He acceded to the justice of that remark; but it was the very circumstance of being unable to prevent this immigration that made it so unwise to maintain a state of law in the two 1272 countries which had the effect of forcing Irishmen to leave their homes. If it was hard upon the Irish to be driven from their own country, it was still harder that they should come here to depress English labour and burden English rates. And this question assumed still greater importance from the increase of immigration which was now going on upon a large scale. In Liverpool and Glasgow immigration was enormous. The authorities at Liverpool, alarmed at the prospect of having to maintain a vastly increased, number of Irish poor, 50,000 of whom had landed there within the last three months, had sent trusty agents over to Ireland to ascertain whence the people came, and why they came. The report of these officers was to the effect that the roads in the direction of England were filled with persons making their way here; and their explanation was, that they were starving in Ireland, but that in England there was a law which prevented any one from starving. The only place open to these poor people was England, many of whom had been ejected by some of the landlords of Ireland. Here then was a prospect of the most formidable character to English ratepayers; for not only had the Irish who came over a right to relief as casual poor, but last year an Act was passed giving the right of irremovability from a parish after five years residence. This was tantamount to a permanent settlement for every Irishman and his descendants who now came over; and if the number who arrived reached to a million, the burdens upon the local rates might easily be conceived. He, therefore, asked all who took an interest in the welfare of England as well as of Ireland, to exert themselves to take care that the Irish poor should have the same right to relief in their own country as they had here, in order that the great and mischievous differences between the institutions of the two islands, where the population of one and the ratepayers of the other were materially prejudiced, might be removed. The potato being destroyed, Ireland would require a greater amount of labour than hitherto, in order to cultivate grain; for it was a fact that the transition from potatoes to grain would require increased tillage in the proportion of three to one. He disapproved, therefore, of all propositions of emigration, being convinced that, in a short period, instead of finding her labour redundant, the terms for labour in Ireland would equal those in England. Now, with regard to out-door relief—as far 1273 as he understood the Bill of the noble Lord—the able-bodied were not to be entitled to out-door relief until the workhouse was full. He hoped the noble Lord would be induced to reconsider that point. When the Bill was first introduced, it contained clauses, which he infinitely preferred to the present provisions, giving power to the Commissioners to order out-door relief when any union was in such circumstances as appeared to them to require it. He much preferred that provision, and should be glad to see it reintroduced into the present Bill. Nor did he stand alone in his view upon this matter; for he was strongly supported by many who were best able to give an opinion upon it, and, amongst others, by Mr. Shafto Adair, who had published an admirable work on the subject, recommending the application of out-door relief to the able-bodied in the shape of labour. Unless this course were adopted, he feared the poor would look upon workhouses in the light of prisons, and the law as regarded the able-bodied poor would be rendered a dead letter.
§ MR. GREGORY
gave every credit to the hon. Member for Stroud for the conscientiousness and benevolence of his views; but he begged to state, that the landlords of Ireland, who were resident on the spot, saw every fact of the case, and every phase of the disorder—their nerves were daily and hourly wrung by witnessing the sufferings of which Englishmen only read. But because they did not propose by a stroke of the pen to cure evils which were so deeply rooted in Ireland, and objected to propositions which they believed would cause increased debility, if not the actual dissolution of the country, they were represented as shortsighted and interested landlords, or flinty-hearted political economists. But he must say, without offence to the hon. Gentleman, that he had invoked to his aid a false spirit of humanity, and an unreflecting compassion. He wished to argue this question of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor upon general principles; for he feared the temper of the House was such that it was not enough to show that by the sanctioning of this principle all the property in many parts of Ireland would be entirely swallowed up—he feared that, with many Members of the House, that would be the chief recommendation of the measure. The object of the hon. Member for Stroud was to ensure to every man in Ireland a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. Now, that was 1274 going much farther than the principle of the amended English poor law, which only sanctioned the practice of the relieving officer in giving relief until the next board day, when it was to be settled what should be done with the pauper. But if the right to relief and the setting to work were to be enacted, he believed that consequences so serious would follow that they would find it impossible to retrace their steps. If, in Ireland, the hon. Member wished to see his nostrum carried out in full vigour, and extended over the whole surface of the country, he should come and see the operation of the present system of public works. The same intimidation which was exercised at the county sessions would be exercised against the magistrates and the poor-law guardians. What had caused the great rush to the public works in Ireland? The majority, no doubt, were driven by the pressure of famine; but did not the accounts from every inspector in every county in Ireland tell them that there were men, well to do in the world—men with money in the savings' banks, holding land, and possessing cattle—who rushed as eagerly to the public works as the wretch who was starving. The accounts of every inspector in Ireland contained the information that the habits of self-reliance and the hope of exertion had disappeared in every district in Ireland where the labour-rate was most rife. If there was not a formal combination against the tillage of the land in the county of Mayo, as had been stated by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, there was, at any rate, a kind of childish reliance upon something or somebody—whether Providence, or the Government, or their landlords — there was a heartless apathy, a Turk-like fatality among them, which was even more dangerous than open discontent. This was the state of mind even among the tenantry who had experienced nothing from their landlords but kindness and forbearance. There was no intention among them either to better their condition or to remove out of the country. That was the condition of his own tenantry last winter. He had instituted works upon his estate which he did not want, in order to keep his tenantry off the public works. He gave them task-work in making a new avenue to his house, and paid them at the rate of 1s. 4d. a day every Saturday, with soup twice a week from his own kitchen. Yet these men, being in the habit of passing by the place where their neighbours were 1275 employed on the public works, one day unanimously left his employment, and proceeded to the inspector at Cork, where they obtained employment on the public works, at the rate of 10d. a day. This was a state of things which the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud, and which he feared the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for London, would extend and perpetuate in Ireland. The only difference between their propositions and the operation of the Labour-rate Act would be this—that under the Labour-rate Act a man would have to calculate his chances of obtaining employment on the public works, and believing the chances to be favourable he neglected the land and became indolent; whereas, in the other case, he would have no chances at all to calculate; he would be certain of support, and therefore he would be certain to be indolent. After all, this proposition was nothing else than a reproduction in Ireland of all the evils under which England had groaned under the old poor law, which had the effect of pauperising and demoralising many districts in England and he was satisfied the effect of its introduction would be, that the Irish peasant would cast himself upon the public funds. He would find that public works afforded a light and easy occupation, and, being surrounded by his friends and neighbours, he would have no idea of degradation; but he would laugh at his toiling, struggling neighbour, and congratulate himself with the thought that whether there was scarcity or plenty in the land, it was all alike to him. In 1808, Napoleon, who appeared to agree in opinion on that subject with the hon. Member for Stroud, proposed to employ a large portion of the population of France at public works, fertilising and embellishing the territory of France. Workhouses to the number of thirty-seven were built for the reception of those persons, and they were employed as Napoleon had directed; but after six years' experience, the unanimous voice of the departments cried out against the system, and it was abolished. If that was the result in thrifty and laborious France—if it were calculated to produce evils in thrifty self-relying, and wealthy England, what would be the effects in Ireland? The effect of such an extended system of out-door relief and employment on public works as that to which he alluded, would be to produce in Ireland all the bad effects of the old poor-law system of England. The proportion of destitute poor in Ireland was so great as compared with those 1276 in England, that the same law could not be fairly applied to both countries. In fact, the whole rental of Ireland would not suffice for the relief which must be required under this Bill. If you were to provide for 2,500,000 casual poor, estimating the expense at 1s. 9d. per head (the average given by the Poor Law Commissioners), the entire expenditure would amount to 11,875,000l., a sum nearly double—not the net income given in that return—but the real income of Ireland. It was not for the purpose of shirking the duty of supporting the poor that he opposed the system of giving out-door relief; but he opposed that proposition in consequence of his knowledge of the country, and the character and disposition of the people. The hon. Member for Stroud talked of the immigration of 80,000 or 90,000 Irish paupers into Liverpool and Glasgow; but did he think that a Poor Law Bill would stop this immigration? If he did, he had much mistaken the nature of the increased facilities of steam communication, which had rendered St. George's Channel nothing more than a bridge between this country and Ireland. The same principle that brought the Hill Coolie into the Mauritius, would always bring the Irish poor into England. The hon. Gentleman also spoke of the increased amount of productions which would be derived from the soil by setting the people to work in the manner proposed by the Government; but in his (Mr. Gregory's) opinion there were three causes for the non-employment of the Irish people, and, consequently, for the poverty of the country: the first was a want of inclination to work; the second, a want of capital; and the third, remunerative industry upon which that capital might be employed. Would the Bill before the House meet those wants? On the contrary, would it not, by absorbing the capital of the country, have the effect of diminishing wages, and reducing the labourer and the artisan into the ranks of pauperism? The Irish landlords did not want to shirk the burden of supporting the poor, who were ready to submit to the workhouse test. Tax property, confiscate it, if they would, for the purpose of affording increased workhouse accommodation; but do not inflict a Bill on the nation which, he believed, would be more prejudicial to the poor than the rich. He would conclude by reading to the House a quotation from a modern writer, which ought to be engrafted in the mind of every man engaged 1277 in the business of legislation. This writer said—It is necessary to impress on the mind of the poor that they are the arbiters of their own fortunes, and that anything that other people can do for them is but as the dust in the balance compared with what they can do for themselves, and that the best and the most tolerant Government, and the wisest institutions, cannot shield them from poverty and disgrace, without a proper degree of forethought, prudence, and good conduct on their part.
MR. DILLON BROWNE
said, that the great objection to the measure was that it was not a full and comprehensive measure of relief; it bespoke a hesitating policy; it did not show a disposition to grapple with the real nuisance, the irresponsibility of property in Ireland to meet the full amount of its destitution; and it did not apply a full and equivalent remedy to the evil. Her Majesty's Government appeared to be swayed by two considerations, and to be oscillating between both: on the one hand, universal feeling in England, which insisted that property in Ireland should bear the full burden of its distress and destitution; and on the other hand, they were influenced by the disposition on the part of the landlords to escape from their liabilities. The Bill was introduced to satisfy the sense of English justice; but it was clipped and mutilated, and confined to satisfy the Irish landlords. Why introduce those clauses which were calculated to complicate the working of the measure, and to let the landlords creep out of their responsibilities? Why make the possession of land beyond a certain amount an exception to the title of relief? He thought that every person ought to have a title to relief unencumbered by any conditions, provided destitution were proved. Let absolute destitution give an absolute title to relief. By creating those distinctions the effects of the Bill would be neutralised—it would not be a perfect measure; and they would have to propose amendments next year, when the battle would have to be fought over again, and not upon the same vantage ground. He conceived that every man, woman, and child who required food, raiment, and shelter, had a claim upon the State for those necessaries as far as they were requisite to satisfy hunger and to preserve life; and making it compulsory upon the rich to cater for the poor in these respects, would hold out an inducement to the former to assist the latter by means of employment, in placing them beyond the reach of such extremity. This would give 1278 to the higher classes a direct interest in the welfare of the humbler classes of society. It would bring agrarian wealth and agrarian industry together; for the wealth would diminish in proportion as industry was unemployed, and poverty and destitution accumulated, under an extensive system of poor law. The Irish landlord would feel that it would be better to pay a shilling a day to the tenant for remunerative labour, than to support his whole family in the workhouse, from whence there would be no return whatsoever. Therefore, he was opposed to any restrictions which could not make this a comprehensive measure. Excluding those from relief, even those who possessed above four acres of land, would very much neutralise the effect of the Bill in Connaught. It would throw throw nearly half a million of people, who were subject to destitution, out of the scope of the Bill. It was an established fact that persons holding from one to five acres in Connaught were subject to destitution; for instance, the man holding four acres, what was his condition? Two acres of his farm sown with oats paid his rent; two acres sown with potatoes supported his family, so that if the potato crop failed, he would be in a perfect state of destitution. Besides, he would be frequently obliged, in order to enable him to pay his rent, and to purchase seed for the land he kept for his own use, to sublet his farm to others for the season, so that the part that he retained to himself for his bonâ fide benefit might not be as great as what would admit him to relief under the Act, but still he would be excluded as the nominal and permanent occupier of the whole. These evils arose in consequence of the rack-rent system in Ireland; and it was necessary to consider it before there could be proper legislation in the way of provision of the poor. The competition for land in Ireland assisted the avarice of the landlord, in placing all the profits in the pockets for the latter, after the family of the occupant had sufficient to keep body and soul together, so that there was no profit to the smaller tenant, from which he could have aught in seasons of plenty, to fall back upon in a year of scarcity or famine. The letting of land in Ireland was the most dishonest, grinding, inhuman system ever known; while the avarice of some landlords and their agents, and the necessities of others, placed a higher pressure upon the bone and sinew of labour in Ireland for a less reward than was received 1279 by any other people in the world. A noble Lord the Member for the county of Down (Lord Castlereagh), during a late debate, had defied hon. Members to prove the case against the landlords. He would state one instance in the county of Mayo which would shock humanity. Mr. Vesey, a large proprietor in that county, and an absentee landlord, let, some twenty or five-and-twenty years ago, a tract of bog land to a number of tenants, who reclaimed it, and raised its value from being worth nothing, except for snipe shooting, to be worth upwards of 1l. an acre. He then ejected them, though they offered to pay the same rent as the incoming tenants, and placed them upon another tract of bog, promising to give them leases when reclaimed, at a specified rent. However, when they raised this tract to the same value as the former farm, he attempted to eject them again. He processed them for that purpose to the assistant barrister's court, who dismissed the processes, holding the parole agreement to be good. But if there had been no evidence of it, these unfortunate wretches would have been thrown upon the world; and would that then not be a fair system which burdened the property of the heartless landlord to the full amount of providing for the destitution he had caused? What did the Earl of Lucan do the other day? He tried to eject some tenants in the neighbourhood of Ballinrobe—he tried in vain to unearth the unhappy wretches, and finding that he failed, he tore the roofs from over their heads during the present awful crisis and the inclement weather of last week. It was said that the Earl of Lucan expended his rents upon his property; he might to some extent do so upon his domain, but not for the benefit of his tenants, except to the inconsiderable amount of labour that he gave. Respecting the payments of rates on the part of the noble Earl, he (Mr. Browne) begged to read the following extract from the Castlebar Telegraph:—
§ "Westport Union.—At a meeting of the Westport board of guardians, held on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 1847, it was unanimously resolved, that in accordanee with the resolutions of the 17th inst., with reference to the application of Mr. G. Ormsly, on the part of the Earl of Lucan, we have been duly informed by the rate-collector of the electoral divisions of Aughagower, Kilmeena, and Kilmaclasser, that he has duly furnished the necessary stated accounts from the rate-books to the office of the Earl of Lucan, in March, 1846; and subsequently, through the solicitor of the board, Myles Jordan, in July, 1846, who also furnished a copy of the same. These lists have been 1280 returned from the office of the Earl of Lucan, with observations which, in the opinion of this board, do not exempt his Lordship from the liability of discharging. That similar rate-accounts have been furnished to the offices of the Marquess of Sligo and Sir R. A. O'Donnell, Bart., which were duly discharged to the board. Resolved—That similar lists were furnished by the rate-collector of the Westport and Clare Island electoral divisions to the office of the Earl of Lucan, in the month of January, 1846; and also to his aforesaid solicitor, in July, 1846, which has not up to this period been attended to, with the exception of 10l. odd paid by his Lordship's bailiff to the aforesaid collector; and that we now feel it our duty to call the attention of the commissioners to these facts.
§ "R. A. O'DONNELL, Chairman.
§ "F. BOURKE.
§ "FITZGERALD HIGGINS.
§ "GEORGE CLUDDINING.
§ "GEORGE HILDEBRAND."
§ It would be seen that the solicitor of the union, who it was to be presumed, in consequence of the doubt raised, was fortified by the opinion of counsel, made this demand upon the Earl of Lucan, who refused to attend to it, though the Marquess of Sligo, Sir Richard O'Donnell, and other gentlemen, did not demur to the payment. At all events, this was not a time to fall back upon nice legal distinctions; this quibbling was not becoming in such an emergency. He would call the attention of the House to what happened in another place in Mayo, which would give the House a proper idea of the disposition of the landlords to act fairly by the people. At an extraordinary sessions in Ballinrobe, on the 2nd of March, a vote of thanks was proposed to the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and unanimously adopted. After this the Rev. Mr. Anderson, the incumbent of Ballinrobe, and Mr. Close, the curate of Kilmain, proposed the adoption of a petition to the Board of Works, praying that the labourers should be allowed 8d. a day; which the chairman, Mr. Lyndsey, of Hollymount, refused to put it to the meeting, stating it was irrelevant to the objects of the meeting; but it certainly was as relevant as the vote of thanks to the noble Lord; but the duties of the chairman were superior to the claims of poverty, but not to the interests of party. Some landlords, he granted, could not do their duty to their tenantry from their necessity, because they were only agents to their creditors; and any system which created a change in property, and gave to those really in possession of the rents an avowed and bonâ fide interest in the soil, so as to enable them to meet the contingencies of an ordinarily bad season, or a calamity like the present, would be most 1281 desirable. Exclusion in consequence of the possession of land would create great delays and confusion in a country like Ireland, where there were so many joint-tenants, and such an extent of sub-letting. Destitution might be perfectly established to the conviction of the board of guardians, yet they could not grant relief without considerable delay, as the applicant might be a joint-tenant, who parted with the goodwill of his holding; thus the claimant might perish of destitution before the inquiry could be made, and, consequently, the sources of charity be fatally sealed against him by such a clause. But the condition of the occupant, in some instances, could not be tested by the extent of land he held; for in some remote parts of the country, a tract of land was in some localities only worth from 1s. to 5s. an acre; while elsewhere a similar extent might be worth from 30s. to 40s. an acre. He objected particularly to the increase of the number of ex-officio guardians—to paralysing the electoral principle in the Bill—and increasing the numbers of those who would be responsible to the country for the discharge of their duties. The elected guardians had, he would grant, in some cases obstructed the working of the measure; but in these cases, he frequently found they were the tools of the landlords and the ex-officio guardians; therefore increasing the number of the latter was obviously not remedying the evil. This clause would be most unpopular in Ireland; it would lead to general discontent, and impede the working of the measure: the imperfections of the details might even create a prejudice against the principle of the Bill, and in future the Government might find it very difficult to carry out any measure of poor law, however perfect. He was sorry to see a reformed Ministry introducing this clause, which was not even a finality, but a retrograde movement; and he hoped that the Irish Members would resist this invasion, which might be a precedent for future attacks upon the principle of self-government. As to uniformity of rating, there was much to be said for and against it, and much to be said in favour of small territorial divisions, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. It was most desirable that individual property should bear the burden of the taxation, if it did not lead to clearance of properties and extermination, and militate generally against the charity, by inducing guardians to refuse relief, lest the charge 1282 for the claimants might be assessed upon their respective localities. He knew a certain perversion of the Act to take place in many unions in Ireland. It was frequently the habit first to determine what electoral division was to be made liable for the charge of the claimant's support, before he was admitted generally as a proper subject of relief. He had heard ex-officio guardians say, in particular instances, that they were very willing to admit a pauper from their own neighbourhood, if he were placed upon the union at large; but they would not, if placed upon their own electoral division. Out-door relief was one of the best features in the whole Bill; for outdoor relief was the test of out-door labour, and would combine two objects upon which the permanent prosperity of that country essentially depended. But as regarded out-door relief, why was it only to be extended to the disabled, from old age, or other defects and infirmities, when permanently afflicted? A destitute person temporarily afflicted might be bedridden for a time, and unable to crawl to the workhouse, where life could be preserved through the means of temporary relief. Indeed the exception should be in favour of those who were temporarily afflicted; for forcing them to the workhouse would be apt to degrade them in their own estimation, and to deprive them of that self-respect calculated to sustain them in the after struggles and pursuits of life. In conclusion, he begged to call the attention of the Government, though it was foreign to the subject, to applying labour in Ireland immediately to the cultivation of the soil, or there would be another appeal to that House next year, and another fatal pressure upon the finances of the country. It was useless to depend upon the landlords doing their duty, and experience proved the futility of such reliance. Let the Government supply the people with seed, and make it a first charge upon the land. Dependence upon the landlords would be a very sorry excuse for the Chancellor of the Exchequer next year, when he came down to that House to demand fresh supplies to meet a new calamity, which a little timely expenditure might have averted. This was not alone a matter of philanthropy with the people of England, but it was a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. Let them pause ere it was too late, and refrain from being penny wise and pound foolish.
§ MR. BATESON
, as an Irish Member, wished to give the noble Lord at the head 1283 of the Government credit for the very best intentions, believing that the noble Lord had shown every disposition, and even great anxiety, to mitigate the calamity with which it had pleased Providence to visit Ireland. He feared, however, there was some under-current at work somewhere, which prevented the noble Lord from carrying out his good intentions. The Amendments which the noble Lord had made in the Bill the other evening had certainly removed some of his objections to the measure; but still he agreed with the hon. Member for Dublin that outdoor relief should not be given to the able-bodied. He could not understand how English Members could have so far forgotten the effects of such a vicious principle in England, as to sanction its application to Ireland. If in a wealthy and thriving country like England, that system had proved a miserable failure, how could they hope to apply it successfully to Ireland, where poverty existed to such an alarming extent, and where, in a great number of instances, the circumstances of the ratepayers were little removed from those of the paupers? If once the right of outdoor relief to able-bodied paupers were established by law, pauperism would be encouraged, the whole property of the country absorbed, and the population demoralised. Having brought the country into this state of insolvency and ruin, the whole of Ireland would be one monster union, and the Prime Minister of England the head relieving officer. He was anxious to provide comfortable maintenance for the aged and infirm, leaving it to the discretion of a properly constituted board of guardians to decide whether the aged and infirm, as well as those temporarily disabled, should receive relief in or out of the workhouse. He would also support the noble Lord in every measure which he might introduce to extend workhouse accommodation for such able-bodied paupers as were willing to submit to the workhouse test. He hoped some improvement would be made in that part of the Bill, which was calculated to confound the good with the bad, by feeding the drone at the expense of the industrious. He was proud to see the exertions that the great majority of resident Irish landlords were now making to promote the welfare of the poor, notwithstanding the foul and malignant calumnies that had been so industriously circulated against them. He really could not understand how any person could have 1284 listened to the very able speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. S. O'Brien), on a former occasion, as well as on that evening, when he urged the necessity of reducing the present area of taxation, without being convinced of the force of his arguments. He felt confident that the system proposed by his hon. Friend would be the surest and safest way to prevent destitution and to obviate the necessity of relief, inasmuch as every individual landed proprietor could give as much employment as would have the effect of reducing to a very great extent the amount of the poor rates which he might otherwise be called upon to pay. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland objected to the plan of his hon. Friend, on the ground that it would be impossible to carry it into effect. But the right hon. Gentleman, when he stated his objection to the proposal of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, appeared to have forgotten that that was the very system which was now being carried out in this country. Each parish in England was obliged to support its own poor. Before he sat down, he wished to observe that he regretted the Government had not manifested a greater intention to induce emigration from Ireland, because he feared that, however excellent in itself, the proposed poor law might be, yet, unless it were accompanied at the same time with facilities for emigration, it would fall short of the mark, and prove comparatively useless. For a length of time emigration had been carried on to a considerable extent in that part of Ireland with which he was connected; but he regretted to say that the great majority of the persons who had so emigrated had been of the enterprising and industrious class. Their departure from their native shores he considered to be a national loss. The spontaneous emigration upon which the noble Lord at the head of the Government appeared to rely so much, deprived Ireland of its very bone and sinew. Why did not the noble Lord hold out some inducements for emigration to the cottier class? Was the noble Lord prepared to extend the 55th Clause of the present poor law, which provided for emigration, in such a manner as would enable the boards of guardians to carry out efficiently the emigration of the cottier class? The Government might advance money, or give some pecuniary assistance towards enabling them; they might apply in that manner a certain portion of the 8,000,000l. which they had 1285 so liberally voted for Ireland, and it might be laid out much more profitably to the present and permanent benefit of Ireland by such means, than by making and repairing roads. They had been told that one of the tendencies of this poor law would be to diminish the present number of small holdings, and that hundreds of thousands of that class of farmers would be reduced to the condition of labourers. He would not attempt to deny that it would have such an effect; indeed, he believed that those small farmers would, when reduced to the condition of labourers, be in a much superior condition to that in which they were at present; but where could they procure employment for all the redundant labourers which would be created nnder the proposed law? It was impossible that they could all be employed in the cultivation of the soil; there were no manufacturing towns in Ireland; and they could not, therefore, be employed in manufacture. What then was to become of them? Unless the Government held out some inducements for them to emigrate, they must become an incubus, pressing heavily on the ratepayers. He would not deny that an extensive system of emigration must be attended with a very considerable expenditure; but he contended that that expenditure would not be so great as that which must be incurred in carrying out the Bill in its present shape. He thought that no measure which had yet been proposed—no Bill for the temporary relief of destitution in Ireland—no Bill for the improvement of the land—no poor law—would or could adequately provide for the amount of distress which at present prevailed, or for the permanent relief of Ireland, which did not at the same time provide means of employment and support to the surplus population for whom they had voted such an immense sum. But he trusted that, notwithstanding all those circumstances, notwithstanding the present crisis, which was as frightful as it was unprecedented, there were still brighter days dawning for Ireland. He hoped that by the judicious aid of the Government the present calamity might be turned into a means of national prosperity, which would raise Ireland to her proper position in the scale of nations. But should the Government unfortunately act without a due consideration of her present state, and the means by which she might be raised to prosperity, that unhappy country must sink still lower, and all classes of her po- 1286 pulation would become confounded in one odious mass of destitution and despair.
§ SIR W. MOLESWORTH
Sir, the question is one of so much importance, that I cannot content myself with merely saying that I concur generally in the views of the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. I must ask permission to state my opinions. The question is, ought the Irish Poor Law to be altered and amended; ought out-door relief to be given, and to what classes of paupers? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin asserted that if out-door relief were given, the owners of Irish property would be ruined, and that there ought to be no alteration in the Irish poor law. I ask the hon. Gentleman what was the object for which the Irish poor law was enacted? Has that object been attained? The object of the Irish poor law was to make sufficient provision for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland. It was hoped that by providing security against starvation, a poor law would take away the motive to those agrarian crimes which had their origin in the fear of destitution, and which rendered life and property insecure in Ireland. It was likewise expected that a poor law would gradually diminish and ultimately put down the mendicancy that prevailed throughout the country, and which engendered and fostered habits of idleness and intemperance among the people. In this manner it was believed that a poor law would improve the moral and social condition of the Irish peasantry; and that its remoter consequences would be peace, good order, and security; whence would follow accumulation of wealth, influx of capital from this country, and the gradual development of the agricultural and commercial resources of Ireland; with ample and profitable employment for the people, who, ceasing to be a pauper tenantry, would acquire habits of steady industry, and become independent labourers for wages. These were the results which were anticipated by the original proposers and framers of the Irish poor law. Have any of these results been attained? Agrarian crimes are as common as ever; mendicancy universally prevails throughout Ireland. With an exportation last year of two millions of quarters of corn and other grain, with an exportation in the same year of one million head of cattle—in all sufficient food for two millions of people for one year—and with increasing deposits in the savings' banks, 1287 a large portion of the Irish peasantry would die of starvation were it not for the relief afforded by England. I contend, therefore, the Irish poor law has been ineffectual. I contend that the legal provision which has been made for the relief of destitution in Ireland is insufficient to meet the ordinary amount of destitution which exists in that country, and is therefore wholly inadequate for any extraordinary emergency. I come to this conclusion from an examination of the returns which have been laid before Parliament by the Poor Law Commissioners. Amongst those returns there is an account of the number of paupers relieved in the poor-law unions of Ireland, and an account of the expenditure thereby incurred; there are likewise similar accounts for England. On referring to these accounts, I find the most extraordinary difference in the number of paupers relieved, and the amount of poor-law expenditure in the two countries, as compared to their respective populations. Now, as I believe that there is, on ordinary occasions at least, as much real destitution in Ireland as in England—as I consider that the legal provision for destition in England is not much too great—I am compelled to come to the conclusion that the legal provision for destitution in Ireland is much too little. In order to bear out this conclusion, I must beg the attention of the House whilst I state a few facts from these returns. In the year 1845, the Irish poor law was in full operation in 113 unions in that country. The population of those unions in the census of 1841, amounted to about seven millions and a quarter. In the course of the year 1845, about 112,000 paupers were relieved in them, or about fifteen in every thousand of the population received relief under the Irish poor law. In the same year in England and Wales, the number of poor-law unions was 585; their population in the census of 1841 was thirteen millions and a half; the number of paupers relieved in them during the quarter ending Lady-day, 1845, amounted to a million and a quarter; or about ninety-two in every thousand of the population received relief under the English poor law in the course of one quarter of a year. In proportion, therefore, to population, at least six times as many paupers annually receive poor-law relief in this country as in Ireland. In 1845, the expenditure upon the relief of the poor in the Irish unions was 300,000l., or about 9¾d. a head of the population of those 1288 unions. In the English unions, the expenditure exceeded 2,760,000l., or 6s. 6d. a head of the population. Thus, in England, on an average, every man, woman, and child annually contributes eight times as much for the legal relief of the poor as in Ireland. Sir, I think, as I have already said, that it cannot be denied that there is, on ordinary occasions, at least as much real destitution in Ireland as in England; it follows, therefore, either that there is not sufficient legal provision for the poor in Ireland, or that there has been absurd and lavish expenditure upon the relief of the poor in England. I do not think it necessary to inquire whether the expenditure under the English poor law has been extravagant. In fact, many persons consider that the administration of the English poor law has been too parsimonious; and that the great principle of the administration of that law is a harsh one, namely, that the condition of the pauper should be made less eligible than that of the independent labourer. Sir, I am quite of a contrary opinion. I maintain that that principle is a sound one. I consider that the Poor Law Commissioners have incurred unmerited obloquy on account of it; and in my opinion it should never for a moment be lost sight of in any modification of the Irish poor law. I recommend an alteration in that law simply on the grounds that, differing from the English poor law, it is insufficient for the relief of the ordinary amount of destitution which exists in Ireland. It may be said that the Irish poor law is of recent date; that it has not had a sufficent trial; and that if it were properly administered, it would be adequate for all ordinary occasions. I believe, Sir, that the Irish poor law has not been well administered; that the guardians of some of the unions have been very unwilling to relieve the destitute poor. In some instances they even refused to levy a rate and to open the workhouses. In other instances the guardians have refused to admit into the workhouses paupers who were clearly entitled to relief. I make these statements on the authority of the Poor Law Commissioners, who were examined last year before a Committee of the House of Lords. I have no doubt, Sir, that gradually the administration of the Irish poor law would improve; that the guardians of the unions would learn what were their duties, and would perform them; and that more relief would be given to paupers. But I contend 1289 that if that law were administered in the best possible manner, it would still be insufficient to relieve the amount of destitution which exists in Ireland, supposing, as I do, that the ordinary amount of destitution in that country is as great in proportion to the population as it is in England. This position can easily he proved, by a mere statement of the number of persons who could receive relief under the Irish poor law. Ireland is divided into 130 poor-law unions. In each union there is a workhouse. Out of that workhouse no relief can be legally given, or is given. Not only the healthy and able-bodied man who, it may be supposed, would support himself if he were willing to work and earnest in seeking for it; but the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the sick, the widow with her orphan children, all must enter the workhouse; and when the workhouse is filled, the law says let the remainder of the destitute perish. With such a law it is evident that there should be a sufficient amount of workhouse accommodation to relieve the ordinary destitution of the country. Does that amount of workhouse accommodation exist in Ireland? The Irish workhouses are calculated to contain about 100,000 persons; and it is estimated that with that amount of accommodation 200,000 paupers might receive in-door relief in the course of a year. If, therefore, poor-law relief be required in the course of a year for more than 200,000 persons in Ireland—that is, for more than twenty-four in every thousand of the population—it follows that the Irish workhouse accommodation is insufficient. Now, I have already said that in the English unions ninety-two in every thousand of the population received poor-law relief in the course of three months in the year 1845; as a considerable number of these persons were permanent paupers, it is estimated that fully one-third more, or 120 in every thousand of the population of England and Wales, received relief in the course of that year. I consider this estimate to be a low one; but supposing it to be correct, and assuming that the amount of destitution in Ireland is not less in proportion to population than in England, it follows that, with the present Irish poor law, it would be necessary, in order to relieve the average amount of Irish destitution, that there should be a fourfold increase in the amount of workhouse accommodation. It may be said, that by far the larger portion of the poor-law relief which is given in England is out- 1290 door relief, and that it was intended, under the Irish poor law, only to provide relief for an amount of destitution equivalent to that which is relieved in the English workhouses. This is true; and it appears to me to have been a great mistake on the part of the framers of the Irish poor law. Mr. Nicholls found that workhouses, which would contain one per cent of the population, were sufficient for all purposes of indoor relief under the English poor law; and thence he calculated that the Irish workhouses should be able to contain one per cent of the Irish population, or 80,000 persons. I have already said that the Irish workhouses will contain nearly 100,000 persons, and would thus afford relief, in the course of the year, to 200,000 paupers. This, then, would be sufficient workhouse accommodation for Ireland, if the Irish poor law were the same as the English; for I find that, during the quarter of the year ending Lady-day, 1845, the number of paupers who received relief in the workhouses of the poor-law unions of England and Wales was about 180,000; and therefore, in the course of the year, the number must have amounted to at least 240,000. The equivalent number for Ireland would be 140,000. For this number of paupers there is sufficient workhouse accommodation in that country. But that accommodation is wholly insufficient, if any considerable portion of those classes of paupers who receive out-door relief in England, are to receive relief in Ireland. Now, what are the class of paupers who receive out-door relief in England? Are they to be denied all poor-law relief in Ireland? Are they to be left to starve, or to depend upon the voluntary contributions of the charitable? I think I can show that they are as much entitled to poor-law relief as any other class of paupers. The Poor Law Commissioners have most properly, in my opinion, laid down very strict rules with regard to the giving of out-door relief; and they have enforced those rules in a large proportion of the English unions. They permit outdoor relief to be given first to the aged and infirm—to persons wholly or partially disabled. Of this class about 300,000 persons received out-door relief during the quarter ending Lady-day, 1845. Secondly, to widows, and wives abandoned by their husbands, with children under the age of sixteen dependent upon them. This class consisted, in the quarters to which I have already referred, of about 50,000 women, and 140,000 children—in all 190,000 in- 1291 dividuals. Thirdly, out-door relief is given to able-bodied persons on account of sickness or accident. Under this head, about 140,000 adults received relief in the quarter ending Lady-day, 1845; the number of children dependent upon them is not stated in the returns; they could not, however, have been fewer than 140,000. These three classes, therefore, make a total of 770,000 persons who received outdoor relief in the poor-law unions of England and Wales in the quarter ending Lady-day, 1845. In addition to them, 290,000 other paupers received out-door relief in the course of the period in question. A large portion of these persons were without doubt vagrants and able-bodied men and women, to whom the Poor Law Commissioners endeavour as much as possible to refuse out-door relief; but a considerable number were orphans, foundlings, lunatics, and idiots. As, however, there is no specific return of their respective numbers, I shall omit them from my calculations. Confining myself, therefore to the three classes to whom the Poor Law Commissioners sanction and even command that outdoor relief should be given, I repeat that of those three classes 770,000 individuals received relief in the poor-law unions of England and Wales, in the quarter ending Lady-day, 1845; and consequently the number for the year could not have been less than one million. Assuming that on ordinary occasions there is an equivalent amount of similar destitution in Ireland, these three classes would consist of 760,000 persons, for whom there is no sufficient provision under the existing poor law. Now, I ask, are such persons entitled to poor-law relief? I ask, are the aged, the infirm, the disabled, the sick, the widow, and the orphan, entitled to relief under a good system of poor laws or not? If they are, and you intend to relieve them under the existing law, then you must increase the number of your workhouses threefold. If they are not to be relieved, then are they to starve, or are they to depend upon the voluntary contributions of the charitable? Sir, I thought one of the first objects of an Irish Poor Law was to put down mendicancy, and to substitute an equal rate upon the whole property of the country for that most unequal tax which is levied by mendicants upon the charitable, and especially upon the poorer classes in Ireland. I have thus attempted to show that the Irish Poor Law is insuf- 1292 ficient to relieve the ordinary amount of destitution which exists in Ireland. In order to prove this position, I have proceeded upon the assumption that, generally speaking, there is at least as much destitution in proportion to the population in Ireland as in England. I have shown that of the class who receive in-door relief in the poor-law unions of England and Wales, there must be at least 140,000 persons who would require relief in Ireland in the course of a year. I have shown likewise that of the three classes to whom the Poor Law Commissioners as much as possible confine the giving of out-door relief, there cannot be less than 760,000 paupers in Ireland who would require relief in the course of a year. Adding these two numbers together, their sum, 900,000, is a low estimate of the annual amount of the destitution in Ireland. Consequently, to relieve this destitution, either the number of workhouses in Ireland must at the lowest estimate be increased threefold, or the provisions of the Irish Poor Law must be amended. The question is whether the amount of workhouse accommodation in Ireland should be increased to the extent that I have mentioned, or whether the Irish Poor Law should be made similar to the English one? Though much might be said in favour of the former alternative, I think it must be rejected at once on account of the great expense it would entail. Without an efficient poor law, the wave of Irish destitution will break on the cities of our western coast, and, overwhelming them, spread pauperism and pestilence throughout the land. Now, the people of England are willing to make great sacrifices to assist the people of Ireland in the present emergency; but they justly expect that as the property of England must bear the burden of the pauperism of England, so the property of Ireland should bear the permanent burden of Irish destitution. I entreat hon. Members from Ireland to dismiss from their minds—to eradicate as speedily as possible from the minds of their fellow-countrymen—the notion that the people of England will consent permanently to support the poor of Ireland. Let them give up the vain hope of shifting the burden from their shoulders, and prepare manfully to support it. They cannot permit their destitute to starve. They must support them either by voluntary contributions or by an efficient poor law. Now, a system of voluntary contributions is the most expensive and unequal mode of re- 1293 lieving the destitute. For alms are given not only to the aged, infirm, disabled, and destitute, who would secure support under a good poor law; but contributions are levied from the charitable and humane by the sturdy beggar, too lazy to work; by the cunning impostor, who feigns misery; by the loud, and clamorous, and complaining, to whom the workhouse would be a sure test of destitution, and a strong stimulus to exertion. In addition, therefore, to the cost of relieving the destitute, a tax is levied for the benefit of the idle. That tax falls most unequally on various classes of society. It presses most upon the charitable and humane; it is a grievous burden upon the lower and poorer orders, themselves on the verge of destitution; whilst the higher and richer classes, especially those who do not reside in the country, escape. The remaining alternative is an efficient poor law. I have already stated what, in my opinion, should be the principle, and what the provisions of such a law. Without an efficient poor law, agrarian outrages will never cease—mendicancy and vagrancy will never diminish—life and property will never be secure—steady industry will never be known—and the Irish peasant will continue to be the most degraded and the most miserable being in Europe, annually on the brink of starvation, periodically famished—a disgrace to the empire, and a heavy burden to the industrious people of Great Britain. In recommending that the Irish Poor Law be amended, it must not be supposed that I think that a poor law alone would be a remedy for all the evils under which Ireland labours. Subsidiary measures are required even to give efficacy to the poor law itself. Mendicancy and vagrancy should be prohibited and punished. Neither the able-bodied man, nor the aged, nor the infirm, should be permitted to beg. For the aged and the infirm, the poor law should afford sufficient relief; and to the able-bodied man the poor law should offer the workhouse as a security against starvation; and the workhouse relief should be such as to render the condition of the able-bodied pauper decidedly less eligible than that of the independent labourer. But if it be right, as I believe it is, to employ such means to induce the able-bodied man to seek employment, and if he cannot find it in his native country, it is but just that he should be furnished with the means of finding employment elsewhere—I mean in the colonies. Therefore, Sir, in my opinion, in conjunction with an 1294 amended poor law, a measure of systematic emigration is required. I believe that a most effectual system of emigration might be carried on, at little or no expense to the imperial treasury, by applying the proceeds of the sales of waste lands in the colonies to the purposes of emigration. This plan has been submitted to the consideration of the House on several occasions by my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, by myself, and others. I will not, however, trespass upon the patience of the House now, by entering upon the subject of emigration, but content myself with observing that there are two problems to be solved with regard to Ireland, neither of which can be solved separately—the one is to make the able-bodied Irishman desire steady and continuous employment; the other is to give him that steady and continuous employment. An efficient poor law, and a law against mendicancy and vagrancy, may do much towards inducing the Irish labourer to work. Systematic emigration, and other measures, may open to him new fields of employment; but the Irish proprietors are the persons who must exert themselves, and must provide employment for the great bulk of the Irish population in the cultivation and improvement of their estates. It is said that a large portion of the Irish landowners are too poor—that their estates are so burdened by debts, mortgages, settlements, and other incumbrances, that they are merely the nominal possessors of those estates, and receive but a trifling portion of the rents. In fact they are bankrupts, and the existence of this class of bankrupt proprietors is one of the greatest curses of Ireland. They are unable to discharge the obligations imposed upon them by the seeming possession of their estates. They bring discredit upon their whole order, and upon all its members, however meritorious some of them may be. They must be got rid of. They must be treated as bankrupt merchants and tradesmen are treated in this country. Their estates must be sold, the proceeds divided between their creditors, and then it may be hoped that their successors will do their duty as landowners. Depend upon it, Sir, the salvation of Ireland can only be worked out by the efforts of Irish landowners and proprietors; if they exert themselves, are bold and courageous, they may convert the present hideous calamity into a great moral and social revolution for the benefit of Ireland, and the people of England will gladly 1295 assist them by every means in their power; but if they are fainthearted, craven, negligent, and apathetic, then God help them, for man cannot.
§ MR. SHAW
had risen after the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in the early part of the evening, as the noble Lord had so pointedly alluded to the deputation of which he had formed one, who waited upon the noble Lord on the subject of the Bill, and the noble Lord had even done him the honour to quote some observations that had fallen from him; and as he had not then caught the Speaker's eye, he had since had the opportunity of looking into documents which he thought had an important hearing on some of the remarks of the noble Lord. He was sorry the noble Lord had found it necessary to commence the proceedings of a Committee on the permanent poor law of Ireland by opening a general discussion on the present calamity with which Ireland was afflicted; and it afforded to his mind a further proof of the entire unfitness of the present occasion of excitement and uncertainty for the calm and deliberate consideration of that important—he felt, vitally important—question, a good permanent poor law for Ireland. Any temporary measure, however stringent, that the Government might have asked for the emergency, he would not have refused. As, however, the noble Lord had gone at length into the subject of the Irish distress, and a defence of the conduct of the Government in reference to it—he was bound to say that he had never joined in the outcry against the Government to which the noble Lord had alluded. True it was that the Labour-rate Act, the Temporary Relief Act, and the whole system then in operation in Ireland, were open to the gravest objections in principle, and necesssarily liable to great abuses and evils; but they had been only caught at in the midst of an unexampled emergency, when the cry was for life, and the object of the moment, at any hazard, to save the people from perishing of want. It was much easier, under such circumstances, to find fault with the measures of the Government, than to propose sufficient substitutes. He did not believe it was possible for a Government to supply the food of a nation. They must reverently regard a famine, such as then unhappily pervaded Ireland, as a visitation from Providence; and when famine or pestilence visited a nation, as when disease or death were sent to their own houses, they flew to every remedy to 1296 avert, and every expedient to alleviate them; but, after all, they could but humbly acknowledge that the issues of life and death were not in their hands. He could not make the same allowance for the noble Lord, in respect of the permanent measure then before them, either as to the time of introducing it, or still less for making a portion of it—that system which, he believed, the noble Lord for the first time in his life had ever advocated—namely, outdoor relief to the able-bodied. It was against all the known opinions, all the recorded convictions, of the noble Lord. He could regard it as little less than a breach of faith towards Ireland by that House, but, above all, by any member of Lord Grey's Government, then to propose outdoor relief for Ireland. He was one of those who, against the opinion of many of those with whom he generally acted in Ireland, had assisted in passing the existing poor law for Ireland in 1838; but should he, or any thinking man who knew Ireland, have done so, had it been supposed that in less than ten years, before the law, struggling with many difficulties, almost overcome by them, had had a fair trial—that it would have been attempted to super add out-door relief to the able-bodied—a system which the noble Lord knew as well as any man had nearly destroyed both property and the poor in England? The noble Lord had referred to the English Poor Law Amendment Act, which at that time had been only four years passed; and he was ready to contend, not only from all the debates, the reports, and every concurrent authority of the time, but from the very terms of the English Act, particularly the 52nd Section, that the intention and policy of that Act was as soon as possible to put an end to outdoor relief to the able-bodied in England. What did Mr. Nicholls, the Commissioner of the present Government, on whose reports the Irish Poor Law was founded, say upon that point? He said, in his second report—To establish out-door relief in Ireland would be to act in direct contradiction to English experience, and to the spirit of the English law. It would introduce a practice in one country, under the prejudicial effects of which the other has long been suffering. It would be establishing different and opposing principles of action in the two countries; for out-door relief is at present only tolerated in England, as an evil unavoidable for a time, and which is to be gotten rid of as speedily as possible.And Mr. Nicholls added— 1297The consequence of any such a tempt must be in Ireland, as it notoriously was in England, not only to diminish the value and destroy the security of property, but also to demoralise the whole labouring population.The noble Lord had referred at some length to the resolutions presented to him from the Peers and Commoners of Ireland who had subscribed them. He was one of that number—he had gone on the deputation to the noble Lord, and he was prepared to stand by those resolutions. The noble Lord had adverted particularly to the third—it was the all-important one, that which related to out-door relief to the able-bodied; and in answer to the noble Lord's challenge, he would take it under the two heads into which the noble Lord had divided it. The first was—That the principle of out-door relief to the able-bodied labourers of Ireland has been condemned by the various Parliamentary Committees, as well as by the public officers appointed to consider this subject.The noble Lord had rather slurred over that important point of authority; but he had, since the noble Lord spoke, refreshed his recollection of those authorities. The difficulty was in the multitude of them—for they ran in one uniform current—to know where to make a selection. If the House would bear with him for a few minutes upon that, the really vital point of the Bill, he would read some extracts, taken from different periods and the most authentic sources, and principally from the mouths of those persons who were likely then to be called upon to administer the very system they had unequivocally condemned. He found the first report on the subject, after the Union, in 1804, was against the introduction of such a system into Ireland, and declared it would be highly injurious to the country, and disadvantageous to the lower classes. The first recommendation of the Poor Law Commission, of 1834, upon which the English Poor Law Amendment Act had been founded, was—"That all relief to able-bodied persons should cease, other than in workhouses, which was the spirit and intention of the Act of 43rd of Elizabeth;" and they added an observation which applied with peculiar force to the case then before the House, namely, "That the bane of all pauper legislation was legislating for extreme cases." The Committees of that House of 1817 and 1819, upon the Poor Laws, and the Condition of the Poor, reported against out-door relief, to the able-bodied; but he was unwilling to tres- 1298 pass on the indulgence of the House by reading quotations from them. He could not, however, pass by the report on Labourers' Wages of 1824, because that was supposed to be the report of the noble Lord himself (Lord John Russell), and that stated, speaking of out-door relief—That the worst consequence of the system is the degradation of the character of the labouring class. The principle of free labour produces industry, frugality, and sobriety; that of poor-law labour or out-door relief, idleness, imprudence, and vice.That was the noble Lord's opinion in 1824. Again, the Committee of 1838, which had made a most voluminous inquiry on the subject, took the same view of out-door relief to the able-bodied, and declared—Your Committee find, on the evils of out-door relief an uniform opinion has been expressed by the Committees of this House, and the reports all concur in deprecating it.The last quotation on that subject with which he would trouble the House was from the report of the Lords' Committee of the last year, 1846, on the Irish Poor Law. It contained the following opinions of the best-informed persons on the subject of out-door relief. Mr. George C. Lewis stated—My belief is, that the introduction of a system of out-door relief in Ireland would be a most disastrous measure. I think it would impoverish the rich, without improving the condition of the poor.Mr. Senior said—I believe, that if to the existing poor law in Ireland were superadded out-door relief, all the evils produced in England in 300 years, would be produced in Ireland in ten. It would be an entire confiscation of property.Mr. Twisleton, the resident Commissioner in Ireland, gave on oath the following opinion:—I conceive it would be a fatal step to introduce any system of out-door relief for the unemployed population of Ireland I am convinced it would be attended with the most disastrous consequences, and seriously aggravate the misfortunes of Ireland. I believe it is morally impracticable to devise a system of out-door relief for an agricultural population, receiving low wages, which shall place a pauper in a worse condition than that of the independent labourer.Mr. Gulston and Mr. Clements, assistant commissioners in Ireland, fully confirmed the foregoing; and the Committee add—That they concur in these opinions, and do not hesitate to say, that the introducing any system of out-door relief in Ireland would be dangerous to the general interests of the community, and especially to the interests of the very class for whose well-being such relief was intended.Such, then, were his proofs that all the 1299 recorded authorities condemned the principle of out-door relief to the able-bodied. The second branch of the resolution in question was—That the experience of the last twelve months, by which it has been shown how relief, even though accompanied with work, has interfered with ordinary agricultural labour, and endangered the future production of food for the people, demonstrates conclusively how much more fatally a system of gratuitous out-door relief to the able-bodied labourer will produce and perpetuate the same lamentable consequences.He maintained that that was perfectly true, and it was only that day he had received letters from Ireland to the same effect, like many that he had before received, stating, that offers were made to the labourers on the public works of taskwork, at a rate by which they might easily earn 10s. a week; but they preferred the laziness of the public works at 5s. He verily believed that nearly the whole of those now employed on the public works—and not much less than half the population of Ireland, were depending for subsistence on them—would fall upon the system of out-door relief about to be provided by that Bill; and, under that weight, the whole poor law must necessarily break down. The noble Lord seemed to think that the numbers likely to seek relief were not so greatly disproportionate to the rateable property as they really were. Look to a return published that morning, and it would be found that in six western counties, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, and Leitrim, the number of families of the whole population was 305,000; the men employed on the public works 257,000, and the entire rateable property 1,722,000l.; so that more than five-sixths of the whole population were depending on the public works, individually numbering about 1,300,000; and the entire property of the district would yield them about 27s. a head for their year's support. The noble Lord had not stated that the deputation had informed him that those whom they represented did not object to the right to relief in the workhouse, or to out-door relief to the permanently disabled, which the Bill provided; and that while they did object to out-door relief to the able-bodied, they were willing to bear any burden that might be necessary for affording increased in-door relief by adding to the workhouses. When the noble Lord asked, "What will you do if such another emergency as the present arises?" the answer was, that, at all events, the remedy of his Bill could not meet it— 1300 that a permanent poor law could not be adapted to an extreme exigency—and that you might as well mock a thousand starving men with the offer of one loaf of bread, as the millions that you would by that Bill lead to expect out-door relief from the Irish Poor Law, by sacrificing to them the entire rateable property of the country, assuming it to be all free from previous incumbrances. Notwithstanding all—despite of authority—of experience—of reason—the measure, he had no doubt, would pass. Many causes would combine to produce that result; but he verily believed there would be wanting from among them the calm and sober conviction of any one person who understood the subject, that the measure would serve the purpose it professed to have in view. Many would support it from a sort of unreasoning and desponding benevolence, as regarded Irish affairs; the Government were constrained by the pressure of circumstances, and the want of that intrinsic strength that could resist them, to propose a measure which he was persuaded they could not approve of; but the real and proximate cause was the clamour that was raised in England, and had found its way into that House, against the Irish landlords, and, indeed, against Ireland generally. He admitted the generous liberality of the English people towards the calamitous distress of Ireland; but at the same time, he must say, that the tone of the public press in England—of some Members of that House—and even of the legislation which he believed was about to be forced upon them, was very hard to be borne. He would not, on ordinary occasions, quote extracts from newspapers as authority in that House; but of late the language of some leading journals towards Ireland was so remarkable, so much concurred with the line taken by some Members in that House, and so disclosed the principle and motives by which he believed that Bill was urged forward, that he could not help referring to them. The leading-journal of the metropolis day after day described the landlords and the people of Ireland as without hearts or feeling. The question, it said, before the Legislature was, whether—"the industrious classes of England were to sink into drudges and slaves for the sole purpose of maintaining the landlords of Ireland in disgraceful luxury, and the peasants in disgraceful barbarity and sloth:That—Robbery was deliberately planned against that 1301 industrious nation; that the working men of England were marked out for pillage; and the Irish landlord was counting the millions he could extract from British industry, as coolly as the butcher anticipates in fancy the cutting up of his bullocks and sheep.(The right hon. Gentleman also read an article from the Tablet newspaper.) He only had read it in consequence of the conclusion to which it came, namely—When, therefore, we hear it urged as an objection to the poor laws, that a compulsory system of out-door relief will ruin the landlords, we answer, that this is its best possible recommendation;"—an object which, he was obliged to say, he believed was shared in by many both in this country and in that House. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath was not in his place, therefore he would not allude to that hon. and learned Member; but there were other Members in the House of whom he thought those representing Ireland had just cause to complain. Those Gentlemen seemed not to think it beneath them to rake up anecdotes of the private or domestic habits of particular Irish landlords, who had kept more horses or dogs than those Gentlemen approved of, and not given as much as they thought they should have done to the poor. He had no doubt that there were many in both countries who spent more than was necessary on their own establishments, who might otherwise have a considerable overplus that might be devoted to purposes of charity. But what would be thought of Irish Gentlemen, if they pried into all the residences of Grosvenor or Belgrave Squares, or the country seats of the English aristocracy; and then, when they found money spent in luxury or extravagance, that might be, at that time, given to the starving poor of Ireland, held up individuals who so acted to obloquy in that House, and exhibited them as specimens of the entire class of English landlords? ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, English Gentlemen might exclaim against that; but what he wanted to know was, if they would not bear such conduct from Irish Gentlemen, why were Irish Gentlemen to bear it from them? There were limits beyond which men of feeling and spirit could hardly be expected to submit. It would have been difficult to bear at any time; but it was peculiarly difficult, when they saw their people dying around them, to be called butchers, robbers, and wolves, ready to devour the poor, when their hearts were bleeding for the poor, and when those who 1302 made the charges were living in comparative ease, peace, and plenty in this country; while the Irish Gentlemen, their acquaintances, their friends, their families in Ireland, were spending their time, their every energy, their whole means, to alleviate the overwhelming misery that surrounded them; and were caring for, and weeping over, the poor dying people, when all their means failed to sustain them. They might easily succeed in destroying the landlords of Ireland; but the most sanguine, as well as the most spiteful Member of that House, might depend upon it, that if, by the means he was then deprecating, they ruined the landlord, they would equally demoralise the people — banish every hope of independence or self-reliance from amongst them—desolate Ireland with universal pauperism, and cause greater shoals than ever of her then more hopelessly miserable population to crowd the shores and seaports of England. He was a sincere and conscientious supporter of the Legislative Union; he never could see but one alternative—either an United Parliament, or a dismembered and separated empire. But this he must say, that, while he agreed with the noble Lord that the calamity which had visited Ireland had softened asperities in that country, and brought together those whom party differences and religious dissensions had before kept asunder, cordially to co-operate in administering to the wants and sufferings of their distressed and starving fellow-countrymen; yet, while he acknowledged the pecuniary liberality of England, he must assert, that the tone and temper of the public press and the public sentiment in England, as also in that House, towards Ireland in her present calamity, were such as he, though now no short time a Member of that House, had never before witnessed, and such as must have the effect of estranging the feelings of the different parts of the United Kingdom from each other. He was sorry to have trespassed so long upon the House, and to have felt bound by his duty, as an Irish representative, to express sentiments which might have been distasteful to English Members. He would not then observe upon the other provisions of the Bill to which the noble Lord had referred. He considered them unimportant compared with that of outdoor-relief to the able-bodied labourer: and upon the principle of that provision he was determined, at the proper time, to record his own opinion, and to divide the House, 1303 small as might be the minority which would support him.
reminded the House that the question which the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had put to the Irish Members of that House, respecting the principle of the present measure, had never yet been answered, still less had they stated how Irish destitution could be provided for out of the property of Ireland unless by some measure of the description now before the House. The right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had entered into a long detail of the grievances which the landlords and the Irish nation supposed themselves to have a right to complain of from the present state of feeling in this country. He did think his right hon. Friend might as well have abstained from quoting opinions from certain journals of this country, which he knew were little shared by Members on any side of the House. The opinions of the Tablet newspaper, he was sure, were not shared by Members of any side of the House. But when the right hon. Gentleman went beyond this, and complained of the unjust feelings of the people of this country towards Ireland—when he said that not only the feelings of the Legislature and of the people, but the character of our legislation of late years, had been adverse to the interests and adverse to the character of his own country, he had surely forgotten what had been the course of that legislation. From the passing of the Catholic Relief Bill till now, measure had succeeded measure, granting, if not equal privileges on all occasions, as nearly equal as was consistent with the state of opinion in this country at the time; and the state of opinion had been so gradually but steadily progressing in liberal feeling towards Ireland, that he believed at this moment there were very few men, either in that House or in the country, who were not of opinion that the principle to be adopted in all our legislation for the government of Ireland, should be equal rights and equal privileges. With respect to the measure before the House, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that it was founded upon a feeling of hostility to the Irish landlords. If there was such a feeling existing with respect to the Irish landlords, he begged to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether there was not some ground for suspicion with respect to their conduct in the recent distress in Ireland? It was very convenient, perhaps, for the right hon. Gentleman to make a distinction between the resident and non- 1304 resident proprietors; but the public of this country looked to the proprietors of Ireland as a whole; and had a right to expect from them, as a whole, the fulfilment of their duty in the same way as it was performed by the landlords of England and Scotland. When he heard the hon. Member for Mayo describe a scene which had occurred in that county with respect to the cultivation of a portion of wild land by certain poor persons who were ejected the moment they had brought it into a state of fertility, in order to be placed in another barren spot, merely to resume their fruitless labour, to be ejected again in similar circumstances—when such statements as these were made, not by Englishmen, but by the right hon. Gentleman's own countrymen, did the right hon. Gentleman think that they would not produce an effect upon the feelings of this country? The proprietors of this country were heavily rated for the support of their own poor. He had been informed, for instance, that Lord Hood had been rated for his property, near Coventry, to the extent of 40s. an acre, in times of less distress than the present. Was it wonderful then, when the landed proprietors of this country were obliged to make such exertions for the relief of their own poor, and when they saw the consequences arising from the want of a proper system of relief for the destitution of Ireland, that they should turn round and say, "As the present system has failed, let us see whether a new system will remedy the evil?" This was the cause of the feeling of which the right hon. Gentleman complained. He called upon the right hon. Gentleman to reflect what this country was now required to do. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had stated that he was called upon to raise large sums of money by way of taxation for the relief of Ireland. The public had also contributed largely, generously, and voluntarily, towards the same object. But, beyond this, we had at this moment the Irish poor pressing upon the rates of this country. The case of Liverpool had been often referred to; but let them also look to Bethnal-green and the west of Scotland, and they would find that three-fourths in some cases, and one-half in others, of the local rates were levied for the relief of Irish destitution, which was absolutely unprovided for at home. The right hon. Gentleman need not therefore have gone so far as he had gone for a reason why the people of this country were determined to put an end to this state of 1305 things. The public would hear with sincere gratification the statement of the noble Lord that evening. For himself, he had heard with great satisfaction the determination of a united Cabinet to carry this measure as a part of their policy towards Ireland. He had had no doubt on the subject himself; but the sincerity of the Cabinet had been doubted by others. He had even heard statements in that House impugning it, and he was therefore delighted to hear his noble Friend boldly assert that it was the determination of Government to carry through this great measure—a measure from the passing of which, whatever opinion the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) might have upon it, he believed Ireland would date the commencement of her regeneration. The right hon. Gentleman had gone into a long statement of the reasons and arguments which a great many able men had adduced, who had generally concurred in lamenting the necessity, if not in resisting the enactment, of out-door relief; but since that opinion had been promulgated—and he did not stand there to quarrel with the reasoning upon which it was founded—but since that opinion had been promulgated, what had been our experience on the subject? Human nature could not be cut and carved with square and compasses to precise rules; circumstances must be taken as they arose; and this present measure would no doubt require revision from time to time to meet circumstances as they should arrive. He was content with it as a great step towards a better state of things; he did not pretend to say it was perfect. With respect, for instance, to the question whether rating should be by electoral district or by union, it would probably be found by experience ultimately that we should be obliged to adopt one rule with respect to the great towns, another with respect to the rural districts, and perhaps a third with respect to the rural districts where there were small towns. It might be wrong to separate a city like Cork into electoral divisions; but where a landed proprietor had been spending his whole life in improving his neighbourhood, it would surely be wrong also to ruin him by uniting this neighbourhood for rating purposes with that of a proprietor who had entirely neglected his tenantry. Experience would enable us to adapt the law to meet the varying circumstances of the country; but we must commence this great reform with some new system. One word with respect to a sub- 1306 ject to which allusion had already been made—the state of the poor law for Scotland. The Government, it seemed, foresaw no necessity for an extension of this principle of out-door relief to Scotland. He must say, that he too saw no necessity at present; and he must admit, that much as he objected to the existing plan when it was proposed by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), he had been more than satisfied with the working of it. This, however, might be partly owing to the good management of that very efficient officer, Sir J. M'Neill, in superintending the Board of Edinburgh; much remained to be done, and that law also might be found to require amendments and extensions. He thought that in the lowland districts of Scotland the time might be far distant when it would be necessary to extend the law with respect to relief to the able-bodied poor; he might probably have a different impression with respect to the highland districts. The noble Lord had rightly said, that the original principle of the Scotch law was probably the best upon which a system of poor laws could be founded. The persons entitled to relief were the impotent and perfectly infirm and destitute; the vagrants were very summarily dealt with; and the race of beggars that now infested Ireland was put down by the vigorous execution of the law; able-bodied men were not entitled to relief from poor rates; but every man upon every estate who was out of employment had a right to demand from the proprietor of that estate food in return for labour. That was the ancient poor law of Scotland, and better principles were not likely to be very soon discovered. He (Mr. Ellice) was convinced that the Bill before the House was not brought forward out of hostility to the landlords; but simply from a conviction that the destitution of Ireland must be provided for out of its property; and till he heard a better plan suggested for effecting that, he would support this measure.
§ SIR B. HALL
Mr. Speaker: When the noble Lord the Member for the city of London intimated to the House that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce a Bill for the Amendment of the Irish Poor Law, and stated that it would contain clauses providing for out-door relief to the able-bodied poor under certain restrictions, he expressed an earnest hope that when that measure was brought forward, it would not only have the acquiescence, but the cordial support of hon. 1307 Members connected with Ireland. I well recollect the very significant silence with which that announcement was received, and I was prepared for the opposition which was threatened on Monday last by the right hon. and learned Member the Recorder of Dublin (Mr. Shaw), and which he has manifested so strongly this evening. But, whatever opposition I could have expected—whatever might be the nature of the amendments to be proposed by the right hon. Gentleman—I never could have supposed that he would have made such attacks as he has thought proper to make upon my noble Friend at the head of the Government—attacks as unfounded as they are unjust, but displaying the weakness of the cause which is advocated so strenuously by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says that the noble Lord at the head of the Government has brought forward this Bill against his own conviction, and for the sole and especial purpose of ruining the Irish landlords. I was glad to find when the right hon. Gentleman uttered these sentiments, that they did not meet with any response from the House—that not one solitary cheer greeted such an assertion; and I will undertake to say that there is not a man, either in this House or out of it, however much he may differ from my noble Friend in political opinions, who would accuse him of such dishonesty of purpose, and such unworthy motives. The right hon. Gentleman complains of the noble Lord for having stated, his views as to the future progress of this measure: he finds fault with the noble Lord and Gentlemen on this side of the House for having discussed the great features which are contained in the Bill. But what does the right hon. Gentleman desire? Docs he wish a Bill of this nature to pass without discussion until he arrives at the clauses which he objects to? Does he think that he will stifle discussion—that he will prevent hon. Members expressing their opinions in this House, and letting those opinions go forth to the public through those channels of communication by which the public are daily informed of all our proceedings? I tell the right hon. Gentleman that this is the proper time for discussion. The second reading was passed almost sub silentio; and the only other period when a full discussion could with propriety and convenience be taken, is when the Motion is made for going into Committee. My noble Friend did right in opening the discussion. The right hon. 1308 Gentleman has followed him, and I will endeavour to reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. When we last discussed Irish subjects, the right hon. Gentleman made great complaints against those who had ventured to animadvert on the conduct of the Irish landlords. He said, "Do not deal in generalities. If there are such hard-hearted persons as you describe, if such landlords do exist, let us hear who they are—give us some instances—tell us your authority for the statements you make, that we may have the power of meeting you." And now to-night, fearing, I suppose, that we shall act as he desired, he tells us that it is wrong to enter into what he terms the intricacies of private life. But I accept the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman. I will give him names and circumstances, as he first demanded, and I will leave the House and the public to judge whether or not I had grounds for the accusations I made. I am most willing and ready to admit that there are some most excellent landlords in Ireland—men who are making the greatest sacrifices to alleviate the distress in their neighbourhood; and if I name such landlords as the Marquess of Londonderry, the Marquess of Waterford, and the Marquess of Lansdowne, as Members of the other House, and my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Palmerston), and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Donegal (Colonel Conolly), and say that they are amongst the best landlords in Ireland, I am sure they will not consider that I am disparaging their great exertions if I say that I believe that there are hundreds who are vieing with them in their works of charity. But I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the great body of landlords do not follow these bright examples; and with the indulgence of the House I will endeavour to prove this assertion. I will first begin with the boards of guardians; and these represent, to a great extent, the landlords in the several unions of Ireland. If any hon. Member will take the trouble to look through the Twelfth Report of the Poor Law Commissioners, which was laid upon the Table of the House last year, he will there find that they make the greatest complaints at the conduct of the guardians, in not opening their workhouses and levying rates after they had been compelled to open them. The Commissioners, after stating that they had great difficulties with the authorities of the Clifden union, an- 1309 nounce that they had at last persuaded them to open the workhouse for the reception of paupers. In the cases of the Westport and Castlerea unions, they were obliged to press proceedings in the Queen's Bench for the purpose of making the guardians open the workhouses. The guardians at Westport showed cause against the rule. The guardians of Castlerea also opposed; and finally, when a rule for mandamus was made absolute, they passed a resolution to open their workhouses; and then, in defiance of the Poor Law Commissioners, struck a rate of only twopence in the pound. In the Tuam union, the guardians showed cause against the writ of mandamus; the Court gave judgment against the return, with full costs, and the guardians on the 20th March, 1845, put in course of collection the rate which was due in 1842. The conduct of the guardians, both in Tuam and Castlerea, was so bad, that they were dismissed by the Commissioners, and the boards dissolved. I will now proceed to show the House what has been the conduct of other boards. In the following unions only one rate was struck from the formation of the unions to the 5th of August, 1845: In Castlerea, one rate at 4½d. in the pound. Enniskillen, Kenmare, Listowell, one rate at 7½d. in the pound. Bantry, Killarney, Swineford, Westport, one rate at 10d. in the pound. Dunfanaghy, Inishowen, Lowtherstown, one rate at 1s. in the pound. The right hon. Gentleman may say, "Very true; but these unions have only been lately formed." That, however, is not the case; some of them were formed in 1839, and the most recent formation was on the 20th July, 1841. But when, upon a former occasion, I addressed the House on Irish subjects, I rose in consequence of a speech which had been just delivered by the hon. and learned Member for Cork (the cause of whose absence at the present time must be a source of much distress to his friends). That hon. Gentleman, after giving a frightful picture of the state of his country, proceeded to say that he considered the English landlords answerable for the lives of no less than two millions and a half of his fellow-countrymen. It was impossible for me to hear such a statement, and allow it to pass off in silence. I ventured to repudiate any such assertion: I said, that so far from the responsibility resting with us, that the landlords of Ireland had not done their duty—that England was doing every thing, and Ireland comparatively nothing. 1310 I showed to the House how unfounded was such an attempt to throw the responsibility upon us. I proved that in some unions the guardians actually refused to maintain even the in-door paupers, and that some of those union-houses were not nearly filled at that time; that the neighbouring districts and baronies were inhabited by men capable of paying their rates, and they had not paid them; and when I mentioned the unions of Castlebar, Ballina, Westport, and Ballinrobe, I was attacked for so doing by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Bernal Osborne), and the hon. Baronet the Member for Mallow (Sir Denham Norreys), for having made such selections. The former said, that they were not a fair example of what had been done in Ireland; and the latter made use of the courteous phrase, and told me that in citing these unions, and giving an account of the horrors which existed in Skibbereen, I was "pandering to the vicious taste of the British public, and that I ought, instead of citing four unions only, to look at what has been done in the other 126 unions of Ireland." I will proceed at once to the task assigned me; and when I have performed it, I will tell the hon. Baronet, and I will tell the House, what has been done in his own union of Mallow. I think the fairest way of meeting this object, will be to select certain counties in England, having the same rateable income as Ireland, and show what has been done here, and then compare with it what has been done in the sister country. I will make no particular selection. I will take the first thirteen counties in England, beginning with Berkshire, and ending with Gloucestershire, for I find the rateable income of those counties and the rateable income of the one hundred and thirty Irish unions was, in the year 1845, very nearly of the same amount:—In the thirteen first counties in England, taken alphabetically, the population amounted to 3,154,485. The annual income assessed to the poor's rate was 13,553,336l. The amount levied and collected for the relief of the poor, exclusive of police and county rates, &c., was 1,169,376l.; being about 8 per cent of the income; and the number of paupers relieved was 308,490, being nine per cent of the population. In the 130 unions of Ireland there is a population of 8,174,268. The annual income assessed to the poor's rate is 13,204,234l. The amount levied for relief of the poor was 298,813l.; being about 2¼ per cent of the rateable income; 1311 and the number of paupers relieved was 125,774, being about 1½ per cent of the population. So that the result is, that whilst that portion of England having the same rental that Ireland has, pays 8 per cent to the poor, Ireland pays only 2¼; and whilst England, with a smaller number of paupers, relieves nine per cent of her population, Ireland, with a larger amount, relieves only 1½ per cent. But I will proceed another step, and I will show the two hon. Members that Wales, with a population of only 911,603, or one-ninth of all Ireland, and with a rateable income of only 2,854,618l., or little more than one-fourth of the income of Ireland, expended in the same year 385,375l. for the poor, being more than 25 per cent beyond what was collected in Ireland; and if I chose to multiply instances to show the neglect of duty in the Irish unions, I could name counties in England paying more poor rates than the whole of Ireland. And now, I beg the hon. Baronet's attention, whilst I proceed to show what has been done in Mallow; and I must say, that when the hon. Baronet got up and accused me of "pandering to the vicious taste of the British people," and presented himself as a champion of Irish landlords, I was led to suppose that his own neighbourhood might afford a specimen of good management—that the landlords had done their duty—that want and misery were, comparatively speaking, unknown in the district—and if inquiry was made, I should find that Mallow was a bright example to all other unions. But what is the result? I hold in my hand a copy of the Report of a Select Committee appointed to inquire into the statistics of Distress in the Parishes of Mallow and Rohan. It it a printed document, and has been drawn up with great care by some of the most respectable inhabitants of those places. I shall have to make some quotations from this document, and I will at the same time fulfil my promise to the right hon. Recorder of Dublin. Before I do, I think it better that I should at once put the House in possession of the authorities I have for the statements I am about to make. The House has already been informed that a deputation of the Roman Catholic clergy came over to this country a short time since, for the purpose of having an interview with the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the subject of the Bill now under our consideration. These reverend gentlemen during their stay in this metro- 1312 polis, did me the honour of waiting upon me, and they gave me the information which I am about to detail to the House. They assured me that I might most thoroughly rely on the accuracy of the statements, and relate every word without fear of contradiction. You have heard from several Members who addressed the House on Monday last, and who are acquainted with the Rev. Dr. Collins and the Rev. Justin M'Carthy, that they are most estimable and most respectable gentlemen. It would, therefore, be absurd in me to offer any further eulogy, or to hesitate in receiving their assurance of the truth of the statement I am about to lay before the House. I find from returns made to this House, that the parishes of Mallow and Rahan form part of the union of Mallow, and were so united on the 11th of March, 1839. The population of the whole union amounts to 63,282, and the rateable income is 122,709l. The rates struck, aver-age annually only 5¼d. in the pound; but I have not any accurate statement of the amount actually collected. The committee of these two parishes of Mallow and Rahan, commence their report by stating the amount of destitution in certain lanes in the town of Mallow. They describe in one return sixty-six families, or 304 individuals, as not having any potatoes or fuel, whilst their clothing and bedding were bad, and, with few exceptions, they were without employment. The next return comprises fifty-three families, or 279 persons, in the same sad condition. And I wish the House to remark, that this state of misery in the town of Mallow existed previous to the summer of 1846. I will now point out what is the condition of the farming peasantry in the neighbourhood of Mallow. On the 8th of August, the committee of that town assembled, and examined one James Neagle, who says, that he lives at Ballymagooley, in the parish of Rahan, and that he is a farmer. He is asked—
§ "Do the landlords of the district take much interest in the improvement of farming in your neighbourhood?—No interest whatever, except in getting the rent.
§ "Do they give much assistance to their tenantry in improving or working their farms?—There are no tenants get any assistance, except the Rev. George E. Cotter.
§ "Did you receive some assistance from the Rev. Rogerson Cotter?—Not a farthing.
§ "Are you well informed on this subject? Do you think you would have heard if he had assisted his tenantry?—I certainly should, for there is scarcely a day that I have not some communica- 1313 tion with his tenants. He has neither assisted them, nor given them any abatement in the rent. A tenant of his went to him last week, and told him that all his potatoes were black; and he said, 'If they are black, I did not blacken them," and told him that he did not want such people at all on his ground.
§ "What is the nature of the Rev. Mr. Cotter's land?—Nothing but bad mountain bog, which belonged to the people themselves a few years ago; and he being a man worth ready money, purchased their claim of grazing on the ground, then let it out at a very high rent.
§ "At what rate does Mr. Cotter let this land?—At from fifteen shillings to a pound an acre.
§ "What do you think is its proper value?—From three to five shillings an acre.
§ "Do the tenants get any assistance in reclaiming this land, in making ditches, or draining it?—No allowance whatever; but when the term of those who have improved the black bog, is out, the rent is raised on them five or ten shillings an acre.
§ "What is the principal food of the people in this neighbourhood?—Of late they have had nothing but Indian meal. I have often known them to have nothing but nettles and corn-kail, the weed that grows among the corn: a woman in Bally-magooly, about a fortnight ago, after she and her family had fasted twenty-four hours, broke her fast on meal of corn-kail.
§ "What is the woman's name?—Betty Barry.
§ "On whose property does she live?—Mr. Courtenay's."
§ I beg the House will bear this name in mind, because I shall have to mention it again in a few minutes. The examination proceeds:—
§ "Has Mr. Courtenay given any assistance to those poor people, who hold small houses from him in Ballymagooly?—After Mr. M'Carthy's letter, we heard his agent was willing to give employment, and was ready to engage twenty men. I therefore took up twenty men with me to his gate; but the steward told me they were not wanted, that it was only two or three women and small girls he wanted, for weeding. 'We only want two or three men for a few days,' says he.
§ "Is this all the assistance he gave to these starving people?—This is all.
§ "What is the amount of his property?—Many thousands a year."
I will now proceed to show what some of the landlords in these districts have done. [Mr. SHAW: Are there no bad landlords in England?] The right hon. Gentleman asks me if there are not any bad landlords in England? There are plenty of them, I have no doubt; but that is not the question before the House. The right hon. Gentleman has challenged me to produce some proofs of bad landlords in Ireland, and I will do so. The right hon. Gentleman said, the tone that was taken in this place about Irish landlords, was most distasteful to the Irish people. I beg to differ from the learned Gentleman; it may be distasteful to certain landlords, but I believe that
the people are really obliged to those Members who will put the case clearly before the public, and the good landlords cannot find any fault with us for so doing. But first of all, I will read a letter from Mr. T. M'Carthy to the Rev. D. M. Collins, one of the deputation from the Catholic clergy assembled at Fermoy. The letter is dated, Mallow, March 2, 1847, and the writer says—
Everything is going on pretty well, thank God, as far as the pressing duties of the parish are concerned. We have many sick calls; no day under thirteen or fourteen. Yesterday we had sixteen, seven or eight of which were in the poorhouse; but we manage to attend them all. Several have died since you left of starvation. I applied to the coroner to hold inquests on two of the most extreme cases, when of my own knowledge I knew death to have been caused by hunger and cold, and that too, under circumstances the most distressing of any I have yet witnessed. The husband dropped on the works, and was brought home—the wife was ill for some days previously. When I called, they were both lying on the same bed—the latter dying of morbis pedicularis, the most loathsome object I ever beheld—her whole face covered an inch thick with these disgusting vermin. The only coverings they had, were the rags they were during the day, which scarcely sufficed for the decent covering of their persons. The wretched woman had not even a chemise. It was near ten o'clock when I visited them, and they were both corpses before morning. The coroner, on my application to have an inquest, informed me the coroner of the county had come to the determination to hold no more inquests on persons dying of starvation, the number had become so great of late.
I will now read an extract from another letter, dated Midleton, March 1st:—
As to the amount of donations received from landlords from January, 1846, to January, 1847, deducting Lord Midleton's subscription, they are indeed very small. Mr. Courtenay, with a property of 6,000l. per annum, subscribed the munificent sum of 2l.; Longfield, of Castlemany, with a property of 10,000l. per annum, subscribed 5l. The landlords, if left to themselves, will suffer the people to starve.
The Rev. J. M'Carthy, in a note addressed to me says—
In reference to Mr. Courtenay mentioned in the letter of the Rev. Mr. Murray of Midleton, though he has about 500l. or 600l. per annum in Rahan, near Mallow, he gave last year not one halfpenny to the relief fund. He has at his gate and on his property one of the most wretched hamlets in the county, and he feeds at this place a number of hunting dogs with meal and new milk so luxuriously, that the poor people often say, 'It would be well if we were Mr. Courtenay's dogs.'
Mr. M'Carthy adds—
Near 600l. were collected for the relief of distress in Mallow in 1846. One excepted, who gave 50l., all the others owning landed property
in the district gave only 74l., though the annual valuation in the rate-book was about 30,000l.
I may now, however, state one bright exception. Colonel Gardiner, an officer who has distinguished himself most gallantly in Her Majesty's service, not having any land in the district, but only a mortgage, sent 50l., and his servant also sent 25l. to his family. I have another letter from the Rev. T. Collins, dated Mallow, 3rd March, which corroborates the statement of Mr. M'Carthy. Mr. Barry, of Kanturk, also says—
That up to the 1st March, the gross collection was 444l.; of this there was subscribed by the Society of Friends, 20l., by the Central Relief Committee, 40l., Lord Lieutenant's donation, 186l.; and Sir E. Tierney gave 100l.
The other landlords he enumerates are, Mr. Longfield, with 6,000l. a year, who gave 15l.; Mr. Russell, 2,000l. a year, gave 5l.; Mr. Leahy, 1,500l. a year, gave 5l.; another Mr. Leahy, with 600l. a year, gave 5l.; and other landlords, having 13,500l. per annum, gave 25l.; so that at Kanturk these landlords, with 23,600l. per annum, gave only 55l. I could enumerate some other cases, but I will not trouble the House with them. But let us consider for a moment what was the condition of the peasantry in this district in the years 1824 and 1825, and let us see if any improvement has taken place at the present time. Mr. O'Driscoll, a barrister, who was examined before a Committee of this House in the former year, gives this following evidence:—
Will you describe to the Committee, generally, the condition of the people, and their habits of living.—In that part of the country (county Cork) that I am best acquainted with, the condition of the people is the very worst that can possibly be. Nothing can be worse than the condition of the lower classes of the labourers, and the farmers are not much better. They have nothing, whatever, I think, but the potatoes and water—they seldom have salt.
§ The right rev. Dr. Doyle, Roman Catholic bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, also says:—
§ "What is the state of the lower orders of the people in your diocese?—I can safely state to the Committee, that the extent and intensity of their distress is greater than any language can describe; and that I think the lives of many hundreds of them are shortened by this great distress; it also enervates their minds and paralyses their energies, and leaves them incapable of almost any useful exertion. Thus they drag out an existence, which it were better terminated in any way than to be continued in the manner it is!"
§ "R. De la Cour, Esq., county Cork: What is the condition of the peasantry?—Wretched in the extreme.1316
§ "Are the habitations of the people of that country exceeding miserable? Miserable, with very few exceptions."
That was the condition of the peasantry in the years 1824 and 1825. I will now show you their condition at the present day; and I beg the attention of the hon. Member for Mallow, for he ought to be well acquainted with the locality. The name of the tenant whose case I bring before the House is Michael Sullivan; he lives on the townland of Glounaviga, in the parish of Rahan, and the following statement is the result of a visit made to Sullivan and several other tenants, whose condition is precisely similar:—
A high bank of earth appears to constitute part of the front wall and one of the gables of the cabin. The front and back walls of the cabin are five feet high. The doorway is not quite four feet. There are no windows, or window holes, in the cabin. When the door is shut the light is supplied through a large open chimney, and through the holes in the roof and the chinks in the door. The house consists of one small apartment. On entering the house two children started up, perfectly naked, from a bed of stones, raised like a blacksmith's fire-place behind the door. The stones are but thinly veiled, by a slight sprinkling of hay. This bed of stones is the only bed for the whole family. The only covering is an old sheet. It is now twelve o'clock. The children have eaten nothing since the previous morning. The mother is out amongst the mountains seeking food for the family. A child twelve months old, belonging to the family, died about a fortnight ago for want of proper food. The mother had no suck, and no means of procuring milk. The two naked children on the bed of stones look pale and emaciated. They are evidently sick. The writer asked for a chair. There is no chair: one is borrowed. He looks about for a table to write upon. There is no table fit for such a purpose. The bellows, "the universal" writing desk, is produced. The furniture of the cabin is one table, one coop, two pots, one box, one stool, two basins, and three plates, and the bed of stones and hay with the old sheet for a covering. Michael Sullivan, the occupant of the cabin, pays 1l. 15s. a year for his cabin, and 2l. 5s. for half an English acre of potato garden. He pays his rent with his labour at the rate of sixpence a day; it therefore requires, deducting the Sabbaths, 160 days, or more than half a year's labour, to pay for his miserable hut and his half acre of mountain bog. The mother from a distant mountain spied a crowd around her house, and fearing for the two children she left behind, bounded down the mountain and ran through bog and swamp to learn the cause. She arrived at the threshold of her own door exhausted, just as the writer was leaving it. Finding that her children were safe, she sunk down fainting on a heap of dry manure by the side of the door. A piece money was thrown into her lap. She did not seem to heed it, for her eye was directed towards the bed where her "treasures" lay. The family consists of husband, wife, and three children.
Could any one, after reading this tale of horror, get up and say that the Irish landlords were doing their duty? and could any one doubt the truth of this tale? I defy the most fertile imagination to invent such a recital; to paint such a picture it must be copied from real life. And what did the rev. Mr. Collins say, when I read this account, and expressed a hope that it was an isolated case—that surely such unparalleled misery could not exist generally? He said, "I assure you that this is not an isolated case. It is a fair sample of the peasantry in our part of the country." Such, then, is the condition of the people now, and such it was in 1824 and 1825, and so it will continue unless the landlords are compelled to do their duty. I will now proceed to show the House, not from any observations of my own, but from the writings of two of the most able Irish authors, what they thought of the conduct of the landlords of their own country. Dr. Swift, nearly a century and a half ago, in his causes of wretchedness in Ireland, under the head of an Irish squire, says—
Every squire, almost to a man, is a racker of his tenants, a jobber of public works, proud and illiterate; their tyranny and oppression are visible in every part of the kingdom, and they delight to see their vassals in the dust.
That was the opinion of Dr. Swift in the year 1710. Now, let us see what is said by a right rev. bishop, I mean Dr. Doyle—a man who was beloved and respected by all who knew him, and who, by his excellent conduct as a Christian minister, left a bright example to those who might come after him and occupy that nigh station in his Church which he so admirably filled—Dr. Doyle, about the year 1825, thus describes the Irish landlords. He says—
The Irish gentry has as many grades as there were steps in Jacob's ladder. Those of them who are possessed of large estates, and whose education and rank should lift them above local prejudices, and bless them with a knowledge of men and things, are, for the greater part, absent from the country; they know not the condition of their country, unless from the reports of their agents; some of whom, to my knowledge, are most excellent men; whilst others of them are unfeeling extortioners, who exercise over the tenantry an inconceivable tyranny, and are the very worst description of oppressors. The next class of our gentry are the men of large fortunes, who reside in the country, and are anxious to improve the condition of the people. Of this class there are several who cannot afford to make such sacrifices as would be necessary to enable their tenantry to acquire capital, or who have suffered their lands to be so divided and subdivided as that extreme want arises, almost necessarily, out of the num-
bers of the people, and the want of capital to afford them employment.
But the great mass of our little squires, who are called gentry, are men of much pride and little property, possessing a few hundred pounds a year. They are made up of every possible description of persons. I could delineate them accurately and minutely; but I think it better to state generally, that a great portion of these men are the very curse and scourge of Ireland. They are numerous, they are very ignorant, they are extremely bigoted, they are exceedingly dishonest, they tell all manner of falsehoods—and so frequently as to assume with themselves the appearance of truth.
In a word, they could not be intrusted with your honour or your purse, and multitudes of them have no regard for the sanctity of an oath; they are these men who often obtain the commission of the peace, and trade by it; who get all the little perquisites arising from grand jury jobs, who foment discontent, who promote religious animosity, who are ever ready to impose taxes, to share in their expenditure, to forward addresses, to pray for the Insurrection Act, or any other Act which might seem to oppress the people, and render permanent their own iniquitous sway.
These men oppress, and aggrieve, and insult the people; they affect to look upon them as of inferior condition, a conquered race, and whose rightful inheritance is slavery.
They see the people starving; but they see it unmoved. They behold them naked without a feeling of compassion; never having seen a peasantry enjoying comfort or independence, they have no idea of what that condition ought to be.
Without exaggeration, they are the slave drivers in Ireland, and very much resemble the beings of that description in Barbadoes or America.
So much for the Irish landlords, who seem to have improved as little in one hundred years as their peasantry in twenty years. [Mr. CALLAGHAN: But these are the squireens.] Be it so; but then, unfortunately, the squireens form a very large proportion of the landlords, and I doubt if they are always the very worst; but do not let the hon. Member think I am now giving my opinion: the opinions I have read are those entertained by Dr. Swift and Dr. Doyle, two of the most eminent men of his own country, and one of them a bishop of his own Church. We then come to the question—who is to maintain the poor; and out of what source are they to be maintained? This question has been asked twice before in this House, first, by the hon. Member for Montrose, and next, by myself; and no one has responded within these walls; but parties have met out of this House. I will now refer to four of them: first, we have the Repeal Association; next, "the Irish Party;" then, the great meeting of the Catholic Clergy of two dioceses at Fermoy; and, lastly, the Grand Jury of Westmeath. Let us for a moment consider the conduct of these par-
ties; and, first, I will take the Repeal Association. The members of this body meet weekly, and make long speeches, and the question of a poor law is often a subject, not for discussion, but for condemnation. I was, therefore, extremely surprised on the last occasion that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) came down to this House to hear him say he was going to support the noble Lord on this measure. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. R. D. Browne), who is also a member of the Association, told the House that he too was going to support the Motion of the noble Lord, and expressed his regret that it did not go far enough. This was the only fault the hon. Member found with the present Bill. The conduct of these Gentlemen seems to me most extraordinary. I have often read in the public journals the proceedings of the Repeal Association, and have always understood that body to hold two opinions: one, that repeal was a panacea for all the evils of Ireland; the other, that the greatest curse she could have would be a poor law. I hardly know what course they are going to pursue on the present occasion; but I remember perfectly well, that in 1837, when the Speaker put the question, that he should leave the Chair to go into Committee on the Poor Law Bill, the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell) made a most able speech on the subject, objecting to it altogether, and moving that it should be considered that day three months. From that time to the present, with the exception of their recent speeches, those Gentlemen of whom I speak have been always the most determined opponents of a poor law for Ireland. They exclaim, "We don't care what provision there is for the poor of the country, we are the friends of the people, and, at all events, they shall not have a poor law." The hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. J. O'Connell), too, another member of the Repeal Association, said he was going to support the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but in one of those weekly catalogues of lugubrious complaints and grievances which were sent over to Ireland, addressed to the secretary of that association, the hon. Gentleman says, "I am going to support the new poor law, but I do not like it at all. I am entirely of the same opinion that I was before; nevertheless, I shall support it." Now, I think, if the hon. Gentleman really entertains these opinions, it would be much more manly, a much more straight-
forward, a much more statesman-like course to declare at once, "I care not for extraneous pressure, I will hold to my own opinion; I have always considered that a poor law would be a curse to Ireland, and I think so still, and I will vote against it." This would be intelligible; but the hon. Gentleman argues, "I cannot help myself; this Bill is forced upon me by the English Parliament, and I have no alternative." This is very poor reasoning. If the hon. Gentleman gives his vote in favour of the Bill, and if there is a division, and he walks out into the same lobby with my noble Friend, do not let him suppose the people will believe he is forced into such a course of conduct. His vote is his own voluntary act, and if he does support the Bill, I think we have a right to demand, if he has any influence in Ireland, that he will so exercise that influence as to ensure the advantageous working of the measure. The next party to which I will call attention is the "Irish party." Of all the strange mixtures ever met with or heard of, that party is the strangest. I never met anything like them. They remind me of an exhibition called the "happy family," that used to stand opposite the National Gallery, where they had birds and animals of the most opposite and contending natures living in perfect harmony. Upon the topmost perch of the cage too they used generally to see, seated in grave solemnity, a bird of wisdom that seemed to be the President of the Council; and so it used to be in Palace-yard. In that place there were Members of the other House of Parliament, from both sides of the Woolsack, and the cross benches into the bargain. There were also Members from both sides of this House. There Gentlemen of the most opposite principles used to be seen assembled in perfect harmony, and there used also to be seen a noble Lord, of lofty title, seated upon the highest perch, as President of that Council. "Alte fert Aquila" is the motto of the noble Lord—what were the resolutions they came to? Without attaching any improper motives to their proceedings, they seemed certainly inclined to get everything they could get for their own benefit; but when they came to the permanent measures that were to make them pay for the maintenance of their poor, they would not undertake to support any such plans. They sent a deputation to my noble Friend; and then, no doubt, the noble President of the Irish party, as he walked up Downing-street,
sung "Happy Land!" The deputation is ushered into the presence of my noble Friend; he is presented in due form with a copy of the resolutions. The noble President of the Irish party states their object, and, "full of wise saws and modern instances," he cited reports of Committees of both Houses of Parliament to prove that the new Poor Law Bill would lead to the confiscation of property and the ruin of Ireland. My noble Friend asks, "If you object to my plan, what is to maintain the poor?" and one of the deputation answers, "The charity of the landlords;" and another adds, "But we cannot expect the same amount of charity another year that we have had in the present." But who, I ask, would desire that the poor of Ireland should be dependent on these landlords? I, for one, protest against any such dependence, and I think after what I have shown you of that charity, the House ought to distrust its very existence. I now come to the Roman Catholic clergy assembled at Fermoy; and I must say it was a most legitimate object for them to meet about; and if any one would look at the resolutions they passed, he would see that these rev. gentlemen had confined themselves strictly to the object for which they were assembled. They decided that the poor must have relief; first in the workhouses, and when those receptacles were filled, out-door relief must be administered. What was the consequence of these resolutions? Why, they found that as soon as it was ascertained these clergymen had decided in favour of "the curse of Ireland," the repeal panacea was heard of no more, and the Repealers came to vote for the measure. They saw also the Irish party dispersed, and an end put to all their demonstrations; and on Saturday last, when the chairman, Lord Monteagle, went to the meeting, he found nobody there but the hon. Gentleman who has just left the House (Mr. Smith O'Brien). It was a case of "dearly beloved Roger!" I now come to the Grand Jury of the county of Westmeath; and what do these gentlemen say? They pass several resolutions, concluding with this sentence:—
We deem it just that not only all classes deriving a direct income out of the land should bear their share of the poor rate, but also that all available reproductive capital, such, for instance, as the funds, should be taxed for that purpose, and that they should be made available for workhouse purposes," &c.
This is the opinion of the landlords of
Westmeath! and I congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon having obtained his loan of eight millions before such doctrines were broached, if they could possibly have had any weight; but they are too absurd to dwell upon. I have now shown the House the views entertained by these parties; but in my humble judgment there is but one answer to the question, that is, that the land is the resource from whence the relief of the poor is to be obtained; and that those who derive a beneficial interest from the soil are the parties who must provide such relief. But the moment anything of this kind is broached by English Members, they are immediately told, "You are an English Member; you cannot by any possibility know anything about Ireland;" and they proceed to say, "The country is incapable of sustaining its present charge;" "land will be depreciated in value;" "property will be confiscated;" and "the amount of population is so great that it cannot bear any addition." But these are mere assertions, which are open to contradiction, and I will endeavour to refute them. They may be regarded as facts in Ireland, but they are looked upon as excuses and subterfuges in England. They may be subjects for discussion here; but unless they stand upon a firmer basis than that which I assign to them, they will not carry with them the conviction of truth. I have already shown you that the rateable value of property in Ireland is about thirteen millions and a half sterling. By a return circulated this day, we find that the average annual amount of rates ordered to be collected for the poor in that country is 5¾d. in the pound, whilst the rating in England is 1s. 7½d. Before such assertions are made, let the landlords rate themselves to the same amount, or to 2s. and 3s. in the pound, which has often been the case in this country. Then as to the depreciation of the value of land. There was a great sale of landed property in the county of Kerry, a few days ago, and subsequent to the introduction of this Bill, and although the estates were let at high rents, they fetched on an average twenty-seven years' purchase; and when a friend of mine (not a Member of this House) was complaining to me of the conduct of the Government in bringing forward this Bill, I advised him to sell his land if he feared the deterioration of its value, telling him he would get twenty-six or twenty-seven years' purchase for it. His reply was, that he should be very sorry
to sell it at such a rate, and that if he did not get thirty years' purchase for it he would not be contented. Well, then, they said that the poor law would cause the land to be confiscated. I do not believe it. If a man holds his own title-deeds, and has his property clear, there is no fear whatever of such a result. But if people have been extravagant, and have mortgaged their properties up to their very hall doors, and are living on large nominal incomes, and have, in fact, but very little of those incomes clear, the sooner some change of property takes place the better; and whilst I rejoice to hear that the Lord Chancellor of this country, and the learned Gentleman who fills the same office in Ireland, are preparing a Bill to facilitate the disposal of encumbered estates in that country, I cannot refrain from expressing a hope that they will make the provisions of that Bill as extensive as they can be, compatible with justice and equity. Then, as to the population being too dense: I have no doubt that there are many gentlemen who fancy that the population according to extent is much greater in Ireland than it is in England. Such, however, is not the case. In England the number of acres is 31,770,615; and the population, 14,994,138, being one person to two acres and one-sixth. In Ireland the number of acres is 20,808,271; and the population, 8,175,124, being one person to two acres and one-fourth. It must not be forgotten also that there are vast tracts of waste lands which may be beneficially brought into cultivation, and which would afford employment and food to thousands of people. But then we are told that we must give more English capital. This is the old cry, which is now becoming too well known, and the fallacy of which is daily becoming more manifest. In the course of the debate on the noble Lord's Railway Bill (Lord George Bentinck), several quotations were made from a most admirable volume, written by Dr. Kane, on the Industrial Resources of Ireland — a work well worth the attentive perusal of every person, whether connected with Ireland or not. That learned author, in speaking of the Irish landlords waiting for English capital, says—
There is another circumstance so popularly counted on as a most material obstacle to the development of industry in Ireland, that I cannot leave the subject without briefly adverting to it—that is, the want of capital. This has been the bugbear of Irish enterprise. England has capital,
Ireland has not; therefore England is rich and prosperous, and Ireland is poor and idle! But where was the capital when England began to grow rich? It was the industry that made the capital, and not capital the industry. An idle or an ignorant man will lose his capital, where an active or intelligent man will create a capital. We have our fields in barrenness, our mines unwrought, our powers of motion unapplied waiting for English capital. Labour is capital; intelligence is capital; combine them, and you more than double your amount of capital. With such capital England commenced, as Ireland must commence, and once that we have begun and are in earnest, there will be no lack of money capital at our disposal.
It would appear, then, that the Irish landlords have the best description of capital; and if they can be brought to believe that they must be dependent on their own resources, that England will not advance any more of her capital, or submit to such an unequal pressure of taxation as she now endures, I have no doubt they will find it for their interest to bring that capital into employment. I hear Irish gentlemen say, "We have the finest peasantry in the world:" I will not argue the point with them; but this I will admit, that they have the most patient, the most suffering, the most enduring peasantry in the world; and yet so rapid is the transition of their spirits from misery to mirth, that they are the gayest and most light-hearted peasantry in the world, exhibiting, at one moment, the extreme of abject want and wretchedness, and at the next, the height of gay good humour. And yet the landlords are not proud of the peasantry of which they boast so much: if they did take any pride in them they would cherish them; they would endeavour to ameliorate their social condition; they would improve their minds; they would enlarge their understandings; they would elevate their feelings; they would teach them that to live and board with swine was degrading to human nature; that man was intended by his God for higher and for loftier purposes; they would teach them to respect the laws, and not to screen, but rather to deliver up the malefactor to the hands of justice. Why do they not do all this? Because they are not proud of their peasantry. But if they would attempt it I am sure they would succeed; it is a task not difficult to accomplish; and what would be the result of this most laudable, most desirable, and easily attainable object? They would be happier, because they would see those around them happy; they would be more prosperous, because they would derive essential gain and benefit from the
prosperity of their peasantry. Instead of being greeted with low and ominous murmurings, they would meet with loud and ardent welcomes. They would strike the murderous weapon from the hand of the assassin, and replace it with the implement of husbandry, and each day they would take a still increasing pride in the peasantry, because they would see them improving in happiness and in virtue under their own superintending, fostering care. The noble Lord, in the admirable speech which he made at the opening of this debate, spoke of the dark cloud which now threatens Ireland. I see also a sad prospect for this country; but I agree with the noble Lord that there is no cause for despair. I believe that if the noble Lord is warmly supported by his friends, if he receives assistance or meets with forbearance from hon. Gentlemen opposite, who may in certain cases be politically opposed to him, and merge all minor differences; I do believe that the noble Lord, guided by his own good sense, and aided by that boundless extent of moral courage which throughout the whole political life of my noble Friend has so characterized his conduct and actions, will not only be able to meet but to surmount the difficulties that at present beset the country. I expect that great benefit will result from the passing of this measure—I consider that it is necessary for the salvation of Ireland. But whatever may be the result, whether it will equal or surpass the most sanguine expectations of its warmest supporters, of this I am firmly convinced, that a good example on the part of the Irish landlords—a determination to ameliorate the condition of the peasantry, and an anxious desire to identify their interests with those of the people, will tend more to the regeneration of their country than any Act of Parliament, whether it emanates from an imperial or from a domestic Legislature.
§ Debate adjourned.