HC Deb 15 March 1847 vol 90 cc1345-414

On the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate, or that the Speaker do leave the Chair to go into Committee on the Poor Relief Bill,


said, that the main object of the Bill before them was the extension of the existing poor law in Ireland, by rendering it legal, under certain circumstances, to administer relief to the able-bodied poor out of the workhouse. That was the principle involved in the Bill, and it was therefore the question to which their attention should be confined in its present stage. There were, no doubt, questions of detail in the measure, such, for instance, as the area of liability of contribution; whether it should be the union or the electoral districts to which the hon. Member for Northamptonshire had called their attention. But, however important, still these were questions of detail, and as such might be more conveniently discussed in Committee. He should confine himself, therefore, to the consideration of the great question of out-door relief. Now, in discussing this question, it appeared to him that the opponents of the Bill had overlooked one most important consideration. They had all dealt with it as if, immediately on the passing of the Bill, all able-bodied and destitute persons would have a right to relief. The Bill gave no such right, or gave it only through the intervention and on the authority—an authority to be perpetually suspended and renewed—of the Poor Law Commissioners, who were for this purpose invested with very large discretionary powers—powers perhaps of unexampled extent; for they must not conceal from themselves that the Bill before them, taken in combination with the Bill for the temporary relief of the destitute poor, which had already passed that House, conferred very extraordinary power on the Executive Government. By the Bill now before them, the Poor Law Commissioners might, in the event of want of room in the workhouse of any union, order out-door relief to able-bodied persons being destitute. As in the present state of Ireland it was certain that the great majority of unions would be so circumstanced, it was clear that the Bill did in reality vest in the Commissioners the power to impose, or to abstain from imposing, on the property of Ireland whatever amount of taxation might be necessary to maintain the far larger portion of able-bodied but destitute poor. But then again, by the Temporary Relief Bill, it was in the power of the Government, acting through the intervention of the Relief Commissioners, wholly to supply this demand, to provide, from the Imperial Exchequer, the entire funds necessary for the support of the able-bodied poor not received into the workhouses, without calling for one shilling of contribution for this purpose from the parties liable to poors' rate in Ireland. In other words, by these two measures they were about to invest the Government with the power of raising, or not raising, at their discretion, taxation amounting to millions; and if the Government decided to raise it, then equally at their own discretion of deciding whether it should fall on the people of the whole empire, or on one portion only of that people. No doubt these were very large, very unconstitutional powers—powers which he believed no Government would willingly accept; which he believed the Government of the noble Lord accepted most reluctantly; and which nothing but the clearest conviction of their necessity could have driven them to seek at the hands of Parliament. But in his (Sir William Clay's) opinion, that necessity did exist; and, so far from blaming, he highly applauded the manliness and courage which led the noble Lord and his Colleagues not to shrink from the responsibility which the possession of powers so large involved. In what position were they placed? Ireland must have a poor law—not such a poor law as that now in existence, which provided for the support in the workhouse of some 100,000 sufferers out of millions perhaps equally suffering—not a poor law by which some 400,000l. per annum, or 6d. in the pound, was raised for the relief of distress out of a rental of 13,000,000l., or rather half of 400,000l., for the other half was taken from the occupying tenant—but a real, an effectual law for the relief of the poor; a law similar in its essence to the poor law of England; a law which shall prevent human beings dying of famine, while on the fertile fields of Ireland one stack of grain was reared which could be devoted to their subsistence. All considerations of reason, justice, humanity, in his opinion, alike pointed to the necessity of such a law in Ireland; but independently of those considerations, the introduction of a poor law into Ireland was inevitable from the present state of opinion and feeling in this country. There existed, he would not say a general, but an universal determination on this head. The people of England were contented to make the great sacrifices which the calamity that had fallen on their fellow-citizens rendered necessary. They were aware that those sacrifices could not terminate with the present year, but would probably be renewed year after year; that they might for a long series of years be called on to contribute from their hardly and honourably earned savings to the relief of the distress of Ireland. He believed that they were aware of, that they were prepared for, such a necessity; but they were equally determined that in the long run, as the permanent condition of the empire, Ireland should maintain its own people from its own resources; that as the poor of England were maintained from the property of England, as the poor of Scotland were maintained from the property of Scotland, so the poor of Ireland should be maintained from the property of Ireland. Ireland, then, must have a poor law—a real, an efficient poor-law. But how was it to be introduced—by what process was it to be applied? His hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bath, and others well deserving of attention, would tell them to apply the English poor law at once, as it now stood on the Statute-book, to Ireland, and give every destitute person in that country, able-bodied or otherwise, a right to relief. He believed the right to relief to be an essential part of a perfect poor law; but he confessed he was not prepared at the present moment for a step so decided with respect to Ireland. It appeared to him one full of peril, not only to the property, but to the interests of the poor of that country. What made it safe in England to give every man a right to relief? Why, this circumstance, that as a general rule there was employment for every man willing to work. An able-bodied and industrious man out of work was the exception to the rule. Society was divided into two great classes, labourers and the employers of labour; and such was the wholesome relation of capital to labour, that, generally speaking, every man willing to work might get a day's wages for so doing. But did any such state exist in Ireland?—it should be their one great object to create such a state; but did it exist now? did anything analogous to it exist in Ireland? On the contrary, the sound and wholesome relation of capital to labour which prevails in England is scarcely known. It is rare that a labouring man works for money wages all the year round for an employer. The vast majority of the humbler classes subsist by the cultivation of a potato plot; those who work at all for others, working only to the extent which will pay their rent. But if to a class so circumstanced it be said, their ordinary source of subsistence failing, you shall have a right to maintenance whether you work or not—if the classes which have to pay the poors' rate be told, you must at once find employment for this vast accession of labour for which there exists at present absolutely no market, would it not have the tendency to encourage in the one utter helplessness; to overwhelm the other with utter despair? What, then, was their alternative? To introduce a poor law, but to introduce it gradually. To watch the growth, to assist the development of a sounder system. On the one hand, not hastily nor rashly to relax any of the motives that may urge the labouring poor to find employment and maintenance for themselves by their own exertions—on the other, to enforce on the payers of rates, by a pressure on their resources, rigorously applied, the wisdom as well as the humanity of providing employment for their poorer neighbours. But for the accomplishment of such a task, no à priori regulation, no rules which could be laid down by Act of Parliament would suffice. The mode in which a poor law can be safely and advantageously applied in Ireland, may vary with almost every county, almost with every union, and its introduction, therefore, can only be safely entrusted to a varying and elastic authority. Such an authority was proposed to be created by the Bill, and therefore it should have his support; not because it was a perfect poor law, but because it was a substitute for a perfect poor law—because, as it appeared to him, it was the only poor law of which Ireland at this moment was susceptible; the only law fitted for her state of social transition. In making this avowal, however, in giving his support to the Bill before the House, he would not wish to be misunderstood. His firm conviction was, that ultimately the laws for the relief of the poor in Ireland and England must be assimilated; that the destitute poor of Ireland, as of England, must have a right to relief, guard the exercise of that right by what precautions they pleased; but a law which rendered it certain that no human being should perish by want, must form a part of the civil polity of Ireland, if they ever hoped to see security of life and property, and consequently peace and prosperity, exist permanently in that country. It might, perhaps, be supposed—indeed, it had been said in that House and elsewhere—that the zeal of the people of England to inflict, as it was called, a poor law on Ireland, was quite new born, and sprung solely from their own pockets being touched by the effect of the recent calamity. He believed this to be altogether an error. The conviction, the profound and general conviction, in the minds of the people of England of the necessity of a poor law in Ireland, had been, like all those great changes of opinion which influence the social condition of nations, of slow and silent growth; recent circumstances had only given it greater earnestness and roused it into action. The surprise, perhaps, should be, not that the people of England now entertained this opinion, but that they had not entertained and acted upon it long ago. All reasoning, all experience, pointed to the necessity of such a law. Upon no other ground could they call on mankind to give up their natural right to take by the strong hand the food which would prevent their perishing, than that society should itself undertake to protect its members against that dread extremity. Accordingly, it had everywhere been found necessary, since the progress of civilization and refinement had abolished the status of domestic slavery, to provide by law for the relief of the destitute. Poor laws, in some shape, had formed part of the domestic polity of every State in Christendom at least, with the exception of Ireland. In Ireland alone, to the eternal disgrace of Ireland and England alike, it had been possible for human beings to perish by the wayside, without one human law to appeal to for succour. And they were astonished at the social condition of Ireland—that whiteboyism, that riband associations, that illegal combinations existed—that terror, that assasination stalked through the land—that their Arms Acts, their Coercion Acts, their proclaiming districts, their police, their military force, failed to produce tranquillity. Their surprise should rather have been, that such means had had even partial success; that one universal servile war had not vindicated the rights of outraged humanity. They called the Irish peasant lawless. Had they ever given him reason to love or respect the law? He had but one security for himself, his wife, his children, against death by famine—the possession of a potato plot. Could they wonder that he clung to it with deperate tenacity—that he defended it at the peril of his own life, by the sacrifice of the lives of others—that crime for such an object found universal sympathy among those exposed to similar calamity—that the assasin, fresh from the slaughter of his victim, retreated slowly, unimpeded, through approving crowds, who saw only in his dread crime an assurance of protection from that last extremity of suffering against which the laws of their country failed to provide them protection? Give to the Irish peasant the assurance that he, that those dearer than himself, shall by law be secure in any case against perishing by want, by that one enactment they would deprive the assassin of sympathy, and give security to property. Why, the facts were so clear, so patent, so palpable, that those who ran might read. Ireland abounded in every element of wealth. They needed not the fresh evidence of the admirable work of Dr. Kane, to convince them that in her mines, her fisheries, her water power, her millions of unreclaimed and fertile acres, she possessed resources of national prosperity which long years could not exhaust, and which would suffice to maintain in comfort, not only her present, but twice her present population. Why were such elements inert; why were such means of prosperity valueless; such resources unavailing? For one single reason—the insecurity of life and property, in a country where the people never respected or supported the law, often were banded together against it. By no force could they render the law efficient, unless it possessed the respect and affection of the people. By no means could they procure for it that affection and respect, except by convincing the people that their lives, their well-being, were the object of its solicitude. But these conclusions brought them to a poor law. He was not one of those who were disposed to speak with harshness of the Irish landlords. It was as unjust as it was unphilosophical to charge on individuals the faults of a system. The landlords of Ireland, like the landlords of England, were only what the respective and widely-different legislation of the two countries had made them. If in England, as in Ireland, the law had permitted the rich man to look on, and see his poorer neighbour starve, in England also we should have had the dreadful spectacle of dogs being pampered, while human beings in view of their kennel perished of want. It was in no spirit of hostility, therefore, to Irish proprietors that he advocated an efficient poor law. On the contrary, he was convinced that they would ultimately be gainers, not only in security and peace, but in wealth, by the enactment of such a law. The right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin recently instituted a comparison between the counties of Mayo and Norfolk, which were, he said, nearly of the same area, each above 1,300,000 acres, while the rental of Norfolk was 2,000,000l.; of Mayo 326,000l.; and he urged this great difference as a reason why Mayo could not support an equal amount of taxation. But did the comparison suggest to him no other results? Did he not consider why there was this difference of wealth between these two similarly sized portions of the same empire? Did it not occur to him that the labourer of Norfolk was protected by law from perishing of want; that life and property were, therefore, secure in Norfolk; that capital was, therefore, invested in the sandy plains of Norfolk, and in the manufactories of Norfolk? If he could refer to the period when Norfolk had as yet no provision by law for the poor, he would find that county probably yet poorer, yet less secure than Mayo now. The same right hon. Gentleman on Friday evening quoted from reports of Parliamentary Committees and other sources opinions adverse to the expediency of out-door relief. With respect to many of those expressions of opinion, and especially with reference to the most important of all, that contained in the report of the Poor Law Commissioners in 1834, it should be borne in mind that they were fully before the Legislature and the public when Parliament passed the great Act reforming the English poor law; and by that Act out-door relief to the able-bodied was not taken away, but subjected only, as it always should be, to the control of some central authority, and, as was intended far more stringently by the present Bill, to guard it from abuse. And what had been the result of the working of that great measure? Why that, at the present moment, two-thirds of the entire sum expended in the relief of the poor in England was expended in out-door relief, and, as he believed, wisely so expended. No one could have attended boards of guardians in England without being satisfied that, vigilantly guarded from abuse, out-door relief was a most efficient and humane mode of assisting the distressed poor, and was indeed the only mode, by which any great and sudden destitution could be met. It should be borne in mind that at the time of passing the new English poor law of 1834, and during a series of years immediately preceding it, the attention of the public had been very forcibly drawn to the abuses of the old law, and, as might have been expected, had become less alive to the immeasurable benefits which, with all its faults, it had conferred on the country. By the way, another hon. Gentleman, the Member for Dublin, in referring to the well-known resolution of the magistrates of Berkshire, in 1796, which afforded the first opening to these abuses, seemed to him completely to have misapprehended the real bearing of that resolution. It was not because it enjoined out-door relief that the interference of the magistrates at that time was dangerous, but because it led the way to the making up wages out of the poor rate—two matters wholly distinct, the one from the other. He had already said, that almost universally throughout Christendom, with the exception of Ireland, there was more or less of interference of the State for the relief of the destitute; in none was that interference so ample or complete as in England; and let them learn the results in the words of Mr. Senior (no very favourable authority to out-door relief), in the conclusion of his report on the poor laws of foreign countries:— On comparing these statements respecting the wages, subsistence, aud mortality of those portions of Continental Europe which have furnished returns, with the corresponding statements respecting England, it will be found that on every point England stands in the most favourable, or nearly the most favourable position. With respect to money wages, the superiority of the English agricultural labourer is very marked; it may fairly be said that his wages arc nearly double the average of wages on the Continent. One word by way of digression on a subject which had occupied a large part of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—the vituperation of Irish landlords in that House and by the public press. Now, he was not prepared to adopt all the violent language he saw in the public papers; he was not able to approve even of all the sentiments that fell from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bath, whose most sincere friends perhaps would be most disposed to wish that he could more frequently curb the vehemence that lessened the effect of his great abilities, and occasioned a false estimate to be formed of his character and feelings. But of this he was quite sure, that it was precisely those Irish proprietors who would have the best right to complain of the severity of his hon. and learned Friend's strictures, that would be the least disposed to consider them uncalled for. Against The Times and the Tablet, moreover, might he not set the Nation?—against the polished, though stern invectives of his hon. and learned Friend against one class of the Irish people in behalf of the people at large, might he not refer to the rabid denunciations of Conciliation Hall against the whole English people? But, after all, what was the use of referring to such things? Ought they to permit their deliberations to be influenced by such considerations? Did the right hon. Gentleman really think that the Parliament of England, the people of England, were acting an unjust, an ungenerous part towards Ireland? The right hon. Gentleman said, these discussions, by the acrimonious tone in that House, and of the press, would tend to promote ill feeling between England and Ireland. He differed from him utterly. He believed, on the contrary, that recent events would go far, had already gone far, to enlighten the people of Ireland as to the friends on whom they could rely, and the counsellors they ought to trust. No doubt that people had shown a wonderful aptitude to be misled; but he thought they must be dull as the sod on which they trod if the utmost pains could again arouse their hatred and mistrust of the Saxon, and cause them to prefer to that English people who supported them in their utmost need, and were now about, by giving them similar laws to their own, to raise them from the dust, those leaders who had denounced a poor law, and held out the phantom of repeal. With the sentiments he had expressed as regarded the landlords of Ireland, it would be readily understood that he was quite prepared to make them the main agents in the social regeneration of that country. He thought it would not be either just or politic to refuse to afford them the opportunity of becoming so. He had given, therefore, his willing assent to the measure for promoting the improvement of landed property in Ireland. No doubt objections on economical grounds might be taken to that measure, as well as to some others that had been proposed—that, for instance, for the temporary relief of the destitute through the agency of the relief committees and Government officers—but the case of Ireland at the present moment was exceptional, and must be met by exceptional measures. They could not look on and see the people perish. There might be faults in the measures proposed by the Government; but no one had come forward to prepare better, in that House, or indeed elsewhere. He bore this testimony the more willingly as he could not consider Irish measures at such a juncture as falling within the category of party obligations; and, much as he approved of the Government of the noble Lord, and desirous as he was to support it, if he had heard from any quarter—from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, the noble Lord the Member for Lynn—even from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Limerick—any proposition more likely to benefit Ireland in this dreadful emergency, he should have felt bound to support it, however much in opposition to the Government. In one other particular also, he was bound to give to the Government the humble testimony of his approbation: on no occasion had they given reason to suppose that they were not aware of the true principles by which their policy should be guided, though they had felt themselves compelled by the emergency of affairs temporarily to depart from them. He could not forbear alluding especially to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, which were as much characterized by the enunciation of sound principles as by a generous sympathy with the sufferings of the Irish people. Seeing that such were the principles by which the Government was animated, he felt confidence that they would restrict within the very narrowest compass what was exceptional and contrary to sound principle in their policy. He trusted, and he believed, that they would do what was best, under the emergency, for Ireland, and that they would not lose sight of justice to the people of England. He believed the noble Lord had the inclination thus to act. He was sure he had the power. He had the people of England—of Ireland, indeed, too—at his back. He had but to breathe one word, and he would receive a support which would enable him to resist, to coerce, to overthrow any amount of opposition, in whatever quarter arising. No doubt the successful working of the measure would mainly depend on the mode in which it was carried out; but it was right in principle, and therefore it should have his hearty support.


begged to be con- sidered as not belonging to the class of Irish Members who did not admit the great exertions and the noble charity of the people of England towards the relief of his unfortunate countrymen. For his part he could never adequately express his opinions of the charity displayed by the English people; and he should say the same with respect to the exertions of the Government. If the Government had not taken the steps which they had, and if the Irish Secretary had not written his letter at the time he had, the loss of human life would have been far greater. But he still felt it necessary to offer a few observations with regard to the statements made by the noble Lord, and especially with regard to that relating to the amount of poor rates levied in Ireland. The noble Lord had stated that the average assessment amounted to no more than 5¾d. in the pound. But supposing that that were so up to the close of the year 1845, to the 1st of January, 1846, it did not show what the charge would be upon the property of Ireland at the present moment, if it were chargeable with the entire support of the poor. If the noble Lord would look to the returns, he would see that up to the 9th of January, 1847, there were 101,189 paupers in the workhouses, whilst on the 1st of January, 1846, there were only 43,764. Now if a rate of 5¾d. in the pound were sufficient for the 43,764 in January. 1846, it was plain that a rate of about 14d. would be required for the 101,189 in January, 1847. But they had another clement to consider. The cost of maintaining each pauper in 1846, was estimated at 1s. 3d. per week, whilst it could not be taken at less than 2s. at the present moment. The hon. Baronet who had just sat down, had treated all the Irish Members as if they were opposed to the Bill before the House; but it was not so. He thought that the poor law as it stood was sufficient for Ireland up to the end of the year 1845, but that it now required a further extension. He was no party to the resolutions of those noblemen and gentlemen of whom so much had been said, although to a certain extent he agreed with them as to out-door relief. But he thought they should have worded their resolutions differently. They should have commenced by declaring that the people of Ireland were entitled to relief out of the property of Ireland, and they should then have stated the nature of the extension of the poor law which was in their opinion required, or which they thought would be found practicable. His own opinion, formed long before these measures of the Government were contemplated, and long before the very great distress which now prevailed had come on, was, that an extension of the poor-law system in Ireland was absolutely necessary. He thought that there should have been a right of relief given to every man who presented himself at the poorhouse, and was willing to take the workhouse test; but he was not willing to agree to the giving of outdoor relief at that time. He had, however, since much modified his opinions upon the subject. But if they gave outdoor relief, they would have hardly a single poor family that would not expect some one at least of its members to receive some sort of relief. Now they ought not to place persons receiving out-door relief in a better position than a class of the ratepayers; but by the present Bill as it stood they would place the recipients of out-door relief in a better position than many of the ratepayers. The noble Lord had made use of one expression, that "outdoor relief should be given when the workhouse was full." Now, if that were meant by him as an explanation of the mode in which the Act was to operate, and if, as he (Captain Jones) understood the noble Lord, it was not intended to give out-door relief until the workhouses were full, he would be satisfied. And if the noble Lord would alter his two clauses so as to make it imperative that no out-door relief should be given so long as there was room in the workhouse, he would support the measure.


was desirous of offering a few observations, in consequence of the circumstance of finding that his name had been attached to a protest against the Bill before the House, which protest had been the subject of much animadversion. He begged to say he had never given any authority for having his name attached to that document. On the only occasion upon which he had had an opportunity of expressing his sentiments on the subject, he had said that in his opinion some sort of out-door relief should be given. He could not, therefore, account for the circumstance of his name being attached to the protest, otherwise than by supposing it to have been a mistake of the Secretary. When he found that charitable supplies to the amount of 1,000,000l. a year, which used to be distributed amongst the people of Ireland had totally failed, he thought that nothing short of out-door relief would meet their wants. But he could not sanction the charges that had been made against the guardians of the poor in Ireland by some hon. English Members. Their motives could be explained; and he appealed to those Irish Members who heard him, to say whether his statement was not correct, and whether there had not been originally a great degree of jealousy on the part of the guardians toward the Poor Law Commissioners, in consequence of the great power which was placed in the hands of the Commissioners by the law. The jealousy was occasioned by the manner in which those gentlemen at first conducted themselves towards the poor-law guardians, of whom they tried to act altogether independently. Even on the question of the fittest sites for the workhouses, and other arrangements, they threw over the opinions or recommendations of the guardians altogether; and the guardians had in many instances to complain of the manner in which the buildings had been erected, and of the extravagance of the cost in comparison with that for which they themselves could have had them built. These were some of the causes of the indisposition which had been exhibited by guardians to take possession of the workhouses after they had been erected, and of the smallness of the sums that had been levied by them as rates. Another cause operated against the filling of the workhouses, arising out of the indisposition of the poor people to enter them, or allow any of their friends to go in, preferring rather to share with them their last potato than suffer them to become recipients of relief upon the terms of the law. His impression was most strongly in favour of out-door relief, and he defied any one who had the misfortune to be a dispenser of relief in an overcrowded workhouse, and who had beheld the unfortunate creatures who presented themselves there, appealing for assistance, to think otherwise. He, for one, would do his best to take means for the alleviation of their distress. Now, that the potato had failed, the present law, as it stood, was a perfect farce. Another should be substituted. It might be necessary that other measures should be introduced as an assistance to it; an extensive plan of emigration, for instance. He would not deny that it might be the utter ruin of many; but he would not join with those who went to the noble Lord and said they could never consent to give statutable outdoor relief to the able-bodied poor. The hon. Gentleman concluded by saying that he would give his warmest support to the measure.


said, that before entering at all upon the general question of the safety or expediency of extending out-door relief to the able-bodied in Ireland, as part of the poor-law system, he was anxious to make a few observations in reference to the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall). He was sorry to say, he thought the whole tone and tenor of that speech afforded a strong confirmation of what his right hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. Shaw) had stated, and which statement the hon Baronet had denied, namely, that amongst a certain class in this country—a class represented by the hon. Baronet, and the Member for Bath—there was a strong prejudice and an acrimonious feeling of hostility towards property and proprietors in Ireland, and that the present outcry for what was called a stringent poor law was, in a great degree, founded upon that prejudice and hostility. Perhaps it was not a matter to be complained of, that the hon. Baronet, after having been challenged to do so, should have named certain gentlemen who, as he considered, had failed in performing their duty as landed proprietors in the neighbourhood of Mallow. On the contrary, he was strongly of opinion, that of all the injustices that could be perpetrated, in the House or out of it, perhaps the greatest was that which, he was sorry to add, was not uncommon in the House, and which he thought the hon. Member for Stroud had committed last night, namely, that of making a charge, on anonymous information, against a person not named, and drawing from that accusation an inference against a whole class. If hon. Members had charges to make against individuals, it was much more manly, and much more just, to name the individuals charged, as the hon. Member for Mayo and the hon. Baronet had done, and the accuser, in order that if the charge was unfounded, a refutation might be offered. But what he complained of was this, that the hon. Baronet, if he had meant to impugn the conduct of individuals, and hold them up to public odium, as he had done Mr. Cotter and Mr. Courtenay, for alleged neglect of duty, and harshness, and want of charity, should not have had the fairness to communicate beforehand to those gentlemen his intention, and the nature of the charges, in order that he might himself have the opportunity of judging justly, by hearing both sides; and that, with the charge, the explanation, if any, should go before the public. Now, he thought and believed, that if there was one characteristic more than another which belonged to Englishmen, it was the love of fair play and justice, and that the accused as well as the accuser should be heard before a verdict was pronounced. But the hon. Baronet, on ex-parte evidence, without the opportunity being afforded of defence, or explanation, or refutation, had taken upon himself to condemn two gentlemen, and to inflict upon them that which after all was no slight punishment—the holding them up to public odium and indignation. He knew nothing of the facts of the case—they might be true or they might be false; but he hoped the House and the public would act more justly than the hon. Baronet, and suspend their judgment till the accused parties had the opportunity of stating their case. In reference to the accusation brought by the hon. Baronet against the proprietors in the union of Kanturk, in the county of Cork, he (Mr. Hamilton) had that morning received a letter from a gentleman, Mr. Leader, a landed proprietor in that union, which, in justice, he felt himself bound to read to the House. Mr. Leader stated— I perceive some observations made by Sir Benjamin Hall, relative to the smallness of the contributions of the landlords in the union or electoral division of Kanturk. Before the English public condemn the landlords of Ireland, let them know the facts. In the union of Kanturk, at a presentment sessions in October, a sum of 51,000l. was voted to give employment to the destitute. On the 24th of December, another sessions was held under Mr. Labouchere's letter, at which 12,000l. was granted. In the month of February, the relieving officer and engineer of the Board of Works applied for a further sum of 24,000l., in order to complete works already in progress; thus making a total of 87,000l. At the time these sums were voted, it was believed the whole amount would have to be repaid. If it be said, at the time these sums were voted, it was not intended to repay them, I strongly contradict it. On former occasions large sums had been advanced in this district by Government on public works, and been repaid. Now, turn to the levies under the poor law, and of which, it must be borne in mind, more than two-thirds are paid by the landlords. In the electoral division alluded to by Sir Benjamin Hall, a rate of 1s. 6d. in the pound was paid in November, and another rate of 3s. in the pound is now in course of collection; and the average rates levied in this union will amount to 2s. 6d. or 3s. in the pound. Thus, between poor rates, and the monies voted under the 9th and 10th Victoria, the sum of 100,000l. has been granted for the relief of the destitute, a sum exceeding the rental of the union. During the distress of last summer, liberal contributions were made and the evil met. But this winter the magnitude of the calamity was so tremendous, that the very largest amount of private subscriptions would have been totally inadequate. The Government undertook the task of relieving, and has generally been well seconded by the proprietors. It appears most illiberal and unfair to produce individual cases of neglect or avarice as characteristic of a whole class. In making such assertions as Sir B. Hall did the other night, it were but common justice to require that he should name the parties acting with illiberality. In one instance I am certain he has been misinformed, as there is not one individual possessing property in the union of Kanturk to the amount of 6,000l. a year. It is more than probable the 15l., alluded to by Sir B. Hall, was in proportion to the property held in the electoral division. The largest proprietor in that division is Sir Edward Tierney; and you are yourself aware that there is no man more likely to fulfil his duty than he. I am, dear Sir, yours very truly, "N. P. LEADER. He thought it unnecessary to allude to Sir E. Tierney, as the hon. Baronet had stated that he had subscribed very largely; but he felt bound to say, that having visited Kanturk when on the Land Commission, he was enabled to assure the House that there was no landlord who spent more money, or devoted more care in the improvement of his tenantry, than Sir Edward Tierney. After the very able speeches of his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin, and his right hon. Friend and Colleague, it was unnecessary for him, and he would not trespass upon the House by entering at all upon the arguments against the extension of out-door relief to able-bodied labourers, founded upon authority, or the case of England, or the opinions of Commissioners or Committees. His right hon. Friend had stated that the present measure was brought forward unwillingly by the present Government, and contrary to their recorded opinions. He certainly believed that the true cause of its being proposed at the present time, was the pecuniary pressure upon England in consequence of the famine, and the approach of the general election. But for these two circumstances, he did not think the House would have ever heard of a plan for out-door relief to the able-bodied in Ireland. These, no doubt, were cogent reasons for inducing Government to bring the measure forward; but he could not admit, as an Irish Member, that they were reasons for legislating at a period of such excitement upon a question of such danger and difficulty, and one so materially affecting the future condition of Ireland; and seeing that no Member connected with Ireland had objected to any of the temporary measures for the relief of the starving poor, by which temporary measures Irish property would be charged to the extent of at least five or six millions, it was, he thought, most unjust that if they objected to out-door relief to the able-bodied, as part of the poor-law system, they should be accused of indifference to the sufferings of the people. All that they required was that the workhouse test should in every case be retained; and the deputation which had waited upon the noble Lord had stated to him in the strongest terms, although the noble Lord had not mentioned it, that they were willing to give powers to any extent, and any amount, to enlarge or increase the number of workhouses as tests for the able-bodied. The noble Lord had stated, in reference to the dilemma in which he considered he had placed the deputation, that whatever might be the dangers or objections to the giving of out-door relief to the able-bodied labourers, the economical question and difficulty remained. Now, in the few observations which he meant to address to the House, he would endeavour to confine himself as nearly as possible to that part of the question. In looking at the economical question—looking at the great question of the social condition of Ireland; and believing, as he believed, that the House and the public in England were at present acting under excitement and impulse, arising out of this appalling calamity, rather than in the exercise of a calm and dispassionate judgment, he would ask their attention for a few minutes, while he brought before them a few facts and considerations which he thought would be found to bear upon the economical part of the question. And, first, he thought it would be useful to revert to the condition of Ireland previous to this great calamity. It was far from his intention to under-estimate the extent of that calamity; he believed, on the contrary, it was impossible to over-estimate it, either as regarded its extent, or its effects upon the whole social system, or the importance of meeting such a calamity by legislation. But there were some features in the state of Ireland as it was, before this calamity had come upon it, which ought not to be overlooked. The first he would advert to was this: the Land Commission, of which he was one, consisting of gentlemen, differing in politics, and belonging to different parts of Ireland, having examined 1,100 witnesses, and having visited almost every part of Ireland, had arrived at the unanimous conclusion that there was a ma- nifest and rapid improvement taking place in all classes in that country, except the very lowest. The lowest certainly were not improving, and they constituted, he admitted, a large proportion of the population; and their condition the commissioners had described truly in the strong language which had been so often quoted. But with respect to all other classes, the commissioners stated that in almost every part of Ireland unequivocal symptoms of improvement continually presented themselves, and that at no former period did so active a spirit of improvement prevail, nor could well-directed measures for the attainment of that object have been proposed with a better prospect of success than at the present moment. Every person, or nearly every person, who had had the opportunity of knowing Ireland, confirmed this statement; and the improvement, and spirit of improvement, among all classes but the lowest was discernible even during the present calamity; and might, perhaps, account in some degree for the two circumstances which seemed to surprise the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, the increase in the savings' bank deposits, and the increase in the duties of the Customhouse in Ireland, even up to the present time. It was this which now constituted the mainstay, and indeed the only hope, for Ireland; and he would implore the House to take care lest by hasty legislation, at such a time as the present, this spirit of improvement, which was yet but tender, and required to be cherished, were checked or destroyed. If it should be, they would lose Ireland. The next consideration he would advert to was this—that if Ireland was ever to be raised from her present prostrate position, it must be by the Irish cottier being converted into a labourer, paid in money wages, learning to be industrious in his own country as he was in this, and no longer depending on the potato, but upon his own labour and the sweat of his brow for subsistence. He implored the House to beware, lest by legislating hastily, at the present time, they taught him a different lesson. Considering the awful visitation which had befallen Ireland—a visitation, he believed, quite unparalleled in the history of the world—for who ever heard of a country impoverished like Ireland, being deprived in one night of the food of four millions of her population, and of having property destroyed to the extent of, at least, 16,000,000l., and represented now by 30,000,000l.?—he certainly should have thought that the first duty and business of Government, looking to the question merely in an economical point of view, would have been to have cherished the spirit of improvement, and to have encouraged the industry of the people. It was because he thought this measure—the most prominent of the measures of Government—brought forward at such a time when it was impossible it could even have a far trial, for it began with the workhouses full, and 700,000 persons the recipients of out-door relief—would have necessarily the effect of checking the spirit of improvement, and paralysing the industry of the people, that he objected to the outdoor relief to the able-bodied. When the noble Lord spoke of the economical difficulty, he was bound to say it had not yet been shown in what manner the economical difficulty would be removed by the measure of the noble Lord; and he would adduce a few facts which would illustrate the social condition of Ireland, and then ask the noble Lord to solve, by means of his system of out-door relief, the economical difficulty connected with that state of things. There were now several means and public documents by which, or by a comparison of which, if hon. Members would take the trouble of examining them, an accurate view might be obtained of the condition of the social system in Ireland. There was first the census of 1841, a most valuable public document, prepared with great care and by most competent persons. It exhibited the population in various places—density of population, home accommodation, education, property; then there was the Government valuation of each county—and there were also the poor-law returns, giving area, population, valuation, and number of persons rated, with their classification in each union. He held in his hand the result of an examination of these documents in reference to several counties in Ireland. He would just take one or two instances—he would take the county of Mayo. It was a large county in point of extent—1,360,000 acres; he would, in round numbers, to simplify his statements, say, the precise area was 1,363,034 acres, the population in 1841, excluding towns with 2,000 persons, was 370,000. Now, in looking at the character of this population, as regards education, which, of course, constitutes the foundation of social order, and independence, and industry, and improvement, it appears that, without deducting from the population children under five years of age, which, if deducted, would of course reduce the 370,000 considerably, there are no fewer persons above five years old than 255,987 who can neither read nor write. This is the first element in the economical question which the noble Lord would have to deal with. The next aspect in which he would regard them was their condition as respects house accommodation and family arrangements. It appears the population of Mayo consists of 66,945 families, and these families are thus distributed. The census commissioners divide their houses into four classes. The first class, of course, are the best houses, comprising the houses of the clergy and gentry; the second class are farm houses; the third class mud cabins, with mud floor, but having more than one room and having windows; and the fourth, mud cabins, consisting of one single room, mud floors, and no windows. Now, the 66,945 families of Mayo are thus distributed: there are 217 first-class houses, and these 217 houses contain 231 families—an aggregation of families even in the first-class houses; there are 3,012 second-class houses, and they contain 3,306 families—here you have 300 more families than houses; there are no fewer than 22,000 third-class houses, containing 22,605 families; and of the fourth-class houses, mud cabins, consisting of a single room, there are 40,008, containing 40,803 families. This is the social condition of the population the noble Lord has to deal with. Next as to their means: here again the census commissioners adopted a classification:—1st. Families whose means enable them to live without labour, including professional men and farmers of more than fifty acres. 2nd class. Families and artisans who have some means, but who are not exempt from labour, including farmers between five and fifty acres. 3rd class. Heads of families without capital, either in money, land, or acquired knowledge—labourers, in fact, and farmers up to five acres. Now, in this point of view, the 66,945 families are divided as follows:—1st class, 809; 2nd class, having some means, but not exempt from labour, 9,761; 3rd class, labourers without capital in money, land, or knowledge, 54,982—the last class constituting about 300,000 persons. He would now turn to the valuation of Mayo. The valuation of Mayo, including the towns of Castlebar, Westport, Ballina, Ballinrobe, and Clare, the population of which towns exceed 2,000 each, and which are excluded from all the previous statements, is returned as 299,851. Of course, if the towns were deducted, the amount would be considerably less. The first deduction to be made from this are the county rates, which in 1846 amounted to 39,400l., leaving the value of the county at about 260,000l. subject to tithe rent-charge, to quit or crown rent, to agency fees and expenses, to losses and necessary repairs, and to the present labour-rate, to say nothing of incumbrances of any kind, for the spport of a population of 67,000 families, consisting of 369,000 individuals, of whom 255,000, above five years old, can neither read not write—63,000 out of the 67,000 families living in mud houses, 41,000 of them consisting of one single room. If he was not wearying the House, he would like to take the case of one of the unions in the same county, of which the House had occasionally heard. He would take the case of the Westport union. This union contained 341,000 acres; its population was 77,952; the number of persons rated was 13,122; of these 13,122, no fewer than 11,156 were rated under 4l. each. Now it might be assumed that all of those poor people rated under 4l., all, at least, who still survived, must now be employed on the public works, and, of necessity, they would fall upon the rates. What, then, was the valuation of the union? It was valued at 38,875l. So here there is a union, valued at 38,800l., and that valuation subject to county rates, rent-charge, crown rent, agency fees, repairs, and losses, and the present labour-rate, to say nothing of incumbrances—for the support of 78,000 individuals; of whom 11,000 families, or about 60,000 persons, are rated under 4l. per head. The Land Commission had received some curious evidence with respect to the state of cultivation in this very union; and he (Mr. Hamilton) would conclude his statement by reading a short extract from it. It was given by a gentleman of no ordinary intelligence and ability, and one whose authority would not be questioned; it was the very rev. John Lyons, the late Roman Catholic Lean of Killala. The commissioners had visited Dean Lyons when they were in the county of Mayo, and seen his improvements. He was a man of great learning, and great energy and intelligence—he died about a year ago, and his loss must be deeply felt by the poor people in that remote district. Lean Lyons states— The arable land is generally held in common, in such a way that it is impossible to improve it. It is divided by lot every two years. Supposing it of three sorts, good, middling, and bad, a man gets a ridge of middling, and a ridge of bad, in different parts of the field. Are those ridges paid by the landlord or by the people themselves?—By the people themselves; all the tenants are liable for the rent. How often does a change take place in the occupation?—Every two years, owing to their mode of tillage, which is very singular; they grow their crops on very wide ridges, which are formed into inclined planes, one side of the ridge being two or three feet higher than the other; the seed is spread upon the ridge, and it is covered from a furrow always dug from the high side, so that every year the mould of the field is moved, by the breadth of a furrow, from one side of the field to the other—hence the necessity for a change every two years. What crops do they take off the land?—Potatoes the first year, and oats or barley the next, and then return to potatoes again; they do not plough, and they seldom dig the land for potatoes, but they take eighteen inches off the high side of the ridge, and throw it over to cover the seed. Now, in this state of things was the economical difficulty with which he would meet the difficulty suggested by the noble Lord. The noble Lord had asked, supposing outdoor relief to the able-bodied abandoned, what do you propose—how do you propose to meet the difficulty? But he would ask the noble Lord seriously, did he expect that his system of out-door relief could be applicable to such a state of things as he had presented in the county of Mayo. Why this morning's paper afforded a commentary upon the plan of the noble Lord. He had seen in the Times an extract from a Mayo newspaper, in which it was stated that it was impossible to get labourers who are inclined to do an honest day's work—one of the consequences of being supported for so long a time on unproductive public works. The noble Lord was supported by the hon. Member for Mayo. He would like to see him try his system; first, by way of experiment, as to the efficacy of his own plan of removing the economical difficulty in the county of Mayo. Why, no one could doubt that the noble Lord's system would break down before six months were passed. Instead of introducing great measures for absorbing surplus labour—instead of cherishing the spirit of improvement, and promoting industry and developing the resources of a county like Mayo, and throwing light into, and vivifying and stimulating the energies of that mass of population, and taking advantage of the present occasion to break up the habits and indolence of ages, you are going to practise a cruel delusion upon the people. You are promising relief, which there were not the means of affording them; and if an attempt should be made to afford it, begin with the Westport union. That union would be bankrupt in six months. The pauperism of the Westport union would then extend itself to the whole county of Mayo. It would not be difficult to reduce Mayo to the same condition. The adjoining county of Roscommon was not much removed in its condition from the state of Mayo. Leitrim would soon share the same fate; and he firmly believed that the effect would be what his hon. Friend the Member for Dublin had so well described, that in the end Ireland would be one pauperised union, and the Minister of the Crown the relieving officer.


said, he agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last, that he should much prefer seeing Her Majesty's Ministers meeting the present emergency by some temporary measures, however strong. The noble Lord in the early part of his speech repeated the measures which had been suggested to the Government for meeting the distress, and all of which had met with refusal; and the noble Lord was cheered by the House when he included in this list the proposal for employing the people in the cultivation of the soil. At that time, a fortnight ago, the accounts of the delay in the cultivation of the land were alarming; and since then they had not been mitigated but fearfully aggravated. He had received a great number of letters upon this subject, short extracts from which it would be his duty to read. In the letter accompanying the petition which he presented on Friday, from the Catholic clergy of the deanery of Swinford, diocese of Achonry, there occurred the following sentence:— If Government do not give a supply of spring seeds, the land will not be cropped; and the consequence must be a more dreadful famine next year than even that of the present year. The allegation of an organized combination among the peasantry not to till the land is most unfounded. This was from the west of Ireland. The accounts from the south were to the same effect. The following was from the columns of the Tipperary Vindicator:— It should be perfectly, plainly, and explicitly understood by Government that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, the smaller farmers can do nothing; that their horses—such of them as have not gone to the tan-yards—are incapable of field work; and that they themselves cannot afford to lose the day's pay which the public works contribute. We impressed upon the Government the imperative necessity of help where succour is so much needed, and not throw a re- sponsibility upon the landlord, who may himself be struck to the earth by penury; or who, though morally resposible for the condition of his tenantry, is not now within reach to prevent the gloomiest forebodings from being speedily realized. We were anxious that the true state of affairs should be placed in its revolting hideous-ness before all parties interested in the salvation of Ireland, from horrors that have never before entered the imagination. It is a time in which nothing should be concealed—in which nothing should be postponed that could be spoken. We felt this. We feel now under the same urgent influence. He had also received letters from Dublin, stating the condition of things in the richer and more settled province of Leinster, in one of which it was said— The small holder and the poor man with five acres are not making any attempt to till the land; nor are they able. My business being the corn trade, brings me into communication with several counties in Leinster, where I learn there is no sign of the class above-named being able to sow. Some fear the landlord would take the crop, but the bulk are utterly unable. They are prostrate. If instant measures be not taken, the result will be disastrous, and this truly awful year is but the harbinger of another of such increased misery, that the present destruction of life will come to be looked upon as nothing to the frightful circumstances of 1848. Letters from other places corroborated these alarming accounts. He feared, therefore, the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see cause before autumn approached to regret the strength of his decision, in refusing to furnish seed at a period when private efforts were certainly not made, but when the interference of Government could scarcely be said to prevent private efforts being made, and when the time was passing so rapidly in which the ordinary operations of spring must be undertaken. He thought, he said, the noble Lord would regret his decision in refusing to supply seed, when he found there would be a certainty of more universal destitution than was at present prevailing. There was one statement in the speech of the noble Lord which he could not have perfectly understood, or that the construction he put upon it could not be the true one. He understood the noble Lord to say, that on the 20th March no less than 20 per cent of the labourers employed upon the public works would be dismissed. It appeared to him that the noble Lord spoke not of the temporary relief afforded by the soup-kitchens; but that it was his intention to have the dismissal effected in districts where the new temporary relief measures had not come into operation. If this were the intention of the noble Lord, he (Mr. J. O'Connell) must declare his strong conviction that anything more perilous, or more certain to produce the most frightful calamities in Ireland, had never been resolved upon by any Government. The resolution would create a violent insurrection in those counties where it was put into execution, for the people had absolutely nothing to fall back upon. If the object was to compel a supply of labour for the farmers, it might be attained by a regulation to the effect that those parties only who refused to leave the public works when they could have farm labour, should be dismissed; but if, by one act, 20 per cent of the whole number now employed were discharged, he feared it would be impossible for private means of employment to absorb them; and if the gratuitous relief arrangements were not ready, the resolution would be found one of the most dangerous that could be conceived. The consequences must be deplorable; and if he were right in the construction he put upon the noble Lord's language, he implored a reconsideration of the decision of the Government in this respect. One word as to the Vagrancy Act which was announced. The extent to which it would go, and the details of the measure, were left for future consideration; but he could assure the noble Lord that in the opinion of those who knew Ireland best, anything like a strong effort to check vagrancy and medicancy would not only be fruitless, but would be the cause of an enormous amount of outrage, violence and crime. The noble Lord had been urged that small occupiers of land should not be allowed to receive relief. He begged the noble Lord to be cautious how he adopted this advice, for the consequence of such an enactment would be that the small farmers would throw up their farms, fall into the class of the utterly destitute, and by additions to that class it would be perfectly impossible to supply the requisite amount of employment. As to the Bill now before the House, he had already said that he must vote for it, not for the reason which the noble Lord had assigned for it, and certainly not for those which the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) had chosen to put into his mouth, namely, pressure from without. He was perfectly conscious that anything Government had yet done, or what they meant to do, would be insufficient to meet adequately this great calamity; and he was ready to snatch at the poor law as a means of saving even a few lives. It would ulti- mately work evil, though it might temporarily be of benefit in the way of relief. He supported the Bill, in the present distracted condition of Ireland, as a forlorn and desperate hope, and not from believing it could ever be successful, or otherwise than ruinous, if it remained upon the country. But he thought that such Irish Members who supported the poor law would have a right to call upon the noble Lord not to raise obstacles in the way of the satisfactory working of the measure. He greatly feared there was some intention of doing so, whilst the inevitable obstacles in its way were quite sufficient already. What, for example, was the case in England? In England there were 1,400,000 paupers, who were supported at a cost of 5,000,000l. It must be recollected that in Ireland they set up a poor law with a pauper population of between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000. Now, if in England it took so large a sum of money as 5,000,000l. to support 1,400,000 paupers, what an enormous amount must be absorbed from the impoverished property of Ireland to support between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 paupers! In the next place, this Bill must produce another inevitable injury—it must crush down the small ratepayers. This had always been his objection to a system of poor law, especially in Ireland. If you could but hit those among the owners of property who were not discharging their duties properly, there would be no objection; but that principle was not attempted to be introduced into legislation. But if you struck at the owners of property, whether resident or absentee, you must hit the class of small ratepayers — a very large body, who would add enormously to the existing mass of pauperism. Already, in numerous districts throughout Ireland, the rates could not be collected from the poorer ratepayers. If, therefore, the outdoor system were extended to them, with its larger demands, he confidently predicted they would be cut down, and that instead of aiding to support paupers, they would themselves become paupers, and thus increase the burden upon property. In addition to this difficulty, he would ask the noble Lord to recollect the fine predictions made in that House when the original poor law was brought in. The predictions of Mr. Nichols with respect to this measure, had been entirely falsified by the result. No person could say before the present famine came—even before 1845—that in any part of Ireland there was any percep- tible diminution of pauperism, or that any perceptible good had been done by the present poor law. To the other difficulties of the subject, the noble Lord had added one of his own; namely, the enormous addition he proposed of ex-officio guardians. On this subject he had received a number of letters, several from clergymen in various parts of the country. The letter of the right rev. Dr. Cantwell had already appeared, and it was entitled to great attention. In the very county where the power of these ex-officio guardians was greatest, the right rev. prelate said, that a noble Lord and an hon. Baronet had been excluded from among the number returned by the magistrates upon account of their politics; and he (Mr. J. O'Connell) must now mention that one was the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of the Home Department (Sir W. Somerville), and the other was the Marquess of Headfort. The letters he received from every part of the country upon this subject depicted the worst results from the contemplated increase of ex-officio guardians. He would read a few extracts from one or two. One letter said— Every opposition ought to be given to that most iniquitous clause proposed by Lord John Russell, equalising the number of ex-officio and elected guardians on the boards. It is the paramount duty of every Irish Member, at least, to exert his utmost to prevent the insertion of that clause into the Amendment Bill. Such a clause will furnish additional evidence of the incapacity of a British Parliament attempting Irish legislation. Another writer said— I implore of you to offer every opposition in your power to the increase of the number of ex-officio guardians, as the very worst and most calamitous measure that could be adopted. It will be alike disastrous to the temporal and spiritual welfare of the unhappy paupers … The ex-officio guardians are that class to whom the people are indebted for their privations; and instead of controlling them in their misdeeds, new powers are boing granted, that additional misery may be inflicted. Another gentleman thus wrote— If the clause increasing the number of ex-officio guardians be introduced, it will render the whole system of poor laws inoperative. In addition to and in illustration of these letters, he had received reports of a great number of cases, where the miseries of dissensions upon religious subjects had been revived and seemed likely to be perpetuated by disputes between the ex-officio and the elected guardians. Now, if anything ought to be avoided, it was these wretched differences; but instead of that avoidance, there had been many and many cases of interference by ex-officio guardians with Catholic paupers, with the education of Catholic children, and with the proper treatment of Catholic chaplains; of which, when the House came to that part of the Bill in Committee, he should be prepared to bring forward several very striking instances. He held in his hand a return, showing the constituency from which the ex-officio guardians were taken. It was not an official document, but it had been prepared from competent sources; and it contained the numbers of Catholic and Protestant magistrates in Ireland. From this paper it appeared, that in every county the Catholic magistrates were a very small minority; and that in three counties, Donegal, Fermanagh, and Tyrone, there was not a single Catholic magistrate! The total number of Protestant magistrates was 4,623, of Catholics 419—a marvellous proportion. He knew it appeared invidious to allude to these subjects; but he contended it was the duty of Irish Members to give the Catholics of Ireland every protection in their power, by showing in that House that they had not the means of admitting an adequate number of ex-officio guardians of their own faith to watch over the Catholic paupers in the workhouses. He did not advocate any privilege or advantage either for Catholic guardians, Catholic children, or Catholic paupers; he only wanted perfect equality and strict non-interference. He had put an Amendment on the Paper, which he should move in Committee, to obviate entirely all chance of collision upon religious subjects, which was inevitable unless the Bill gave security to prevent it. On every ground, upon the ground of safety to the religion of the paupers, of safety to the education of poor pauper children, and of enabling the law to work so as to give relief to the poor, he prayed the House not to add to the number of ex-officio guardians. These men might be the best men that could be found—still they were but men. They had to tax themselves, and it was human nature not to burden themselves too heavily. At all events, here was a Bill brought in to make up for what was considered a dereliction of duty on the part of owners of property in Ireland; yet, with strange inconsistency, the carrying of it out was put into the hands of the very party who had the power of rendering the measure null, and of no effect. Though he (Mr. J. O'Connell) was not bound to reply to the noble Lord's question, as to what the Irish party would advise in place of poor laws, not being of them, yet he did not hesitate to say, he should in the first instance have adopted some strong temporary measure, instead of forcing the present doubtful Bill upon Ireland, without there being time for a proper consideration of it. The loan which the Government had granted, ought, he did not hesitate to say, to have been increased three or four fold. That should have been one of the first measures of the noble Lord, for the present loan would be entirely inadequate for the support of the people. If Irish Members were to be taunted by English Members about a loan, again he replied to them that it was no more than the money of Ireland, of which it had been deprived under the operation of an Act carried against its will, which Act had itself been violated to the prejudice of Ireland. The provisions of that Act, which gave some chance that some of the money of Ireland might have been spared to her, had been grossly violated. He denied the assertion which he had often heard repeated, that the people of Ireland had been unduly relieved from taxation; and now, when he brought forward the suggestion that the proper measure at this crisis would have been a large loan for Ireland, he was prepared to state the reasons why he regarded it as a measure of simple justice. It was declared at the Union that it would be manifestly unjust to put the debt of England then existing upon Ireland. There was then an excess of 16 millions of annual debt charge paid by England, over and above the amount paid by Ireland. That amount of excess was of course to be paid by England separately; and the respective payments to the common expenses were fixed to be in the proportion of two parts by Ireland to fifteen parts by England. In 1816 it was declared that the proportion was unjustly heavy towards Ireland. The Act of Union had provided for the revision of the proportions at the end of twenty years, and especially provided that Ireland should not be subjected to the liability of the English debt, unless it should be found that Ireland had so improved in her circumstances as to justify a proposition for equalising the amounts. The Consolidation Act was brought in and passed in that year, subjecting Ireland to those equal liabilities, although at the same time it was distinctly confessed that Ireland, so far from being so improved in her condition as to enable her to bear that tax, had become poorer and still more in debt. He, asserted, then, that the United Parliament, in 1816, did that which, according to the terms of the Act of Union, it was not competent to do. It violated the terms of the Act of Union, by which that United Parliament sat, and it did an illegal, unjust, and unconstitutional act in subjecting Ireland to the debt of England. But for the Consolidation Act, England would have borne that 16 millions debt herself by separate taxation, instead of having made any portion of it chargeable upon Ireland, which she did even now, as the English separate taxes were only 12 millions, and before the income tax they were but seven. If then, instead of a loan, it were an absolute grant, it would have been but justice. But it was only a loan. They were taking the security of the lands of Ireland for one half of the amount, and the other half came out, not of the taxation of England alone, but of Ireland also, unduly swollen as it was by the English debt charge which had been unjustly thrown upon the common taxation of the two countries. Therefore, when the noble Lord said, "Is England niggardly now?" he said, that as represented by private individuals she was most munificently liberal and generous, but when represented by acts of that House she was neither one nor the other. If the Government had made a large loan at once, in order to construct Government railways, as in France and Belgium, or in order to extend the plan for the reclamation of waste land, much good would have been done; but the present measures were far too small to fill the vacuum occasioned by the destruction of the potato, of seed, of the stock on the land, and of manure. The noble Lord ought to have come forward with a proposition to tax the absentees. No fairer tax than that could be imposed; and though it might be called a strong measure, he reminded the House that the emergency of the times required strong measures. They ought, he said, to do their duty fearlessly, as against the rich absentee, instead of calling upon the poor ratepayer, whom they were now unjustly bearing down, whilst they allowed the rich absentee to go scatheless. Some hon. Gentlemen had been taunting the Irish Members, and asking them what they would do if they had the repeal of the Union? Now, he must say, whatever might have been the faults of their own unreformed Parliament, it would have been impossible for any legislation of their own to have reduced their country to a worse condition than the United Parliament had brought it. Had they possessed a Parliament of their own, they would have prevented their country sinking so low as she now was. Their own Parliament, acting upon the influence of the popular mind, would have taken care of the people and improved the condition of the country; but the popular mind of Ireland had no influence in that House; and hence the course of pernicious legislation which had been pursued with regard to that country. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath had threatened them with a restoration of their own Parliament, and had tauntingly asked what they would do if they were told to shift for themselves? He (Mr. J. O'Connell) would readily accept the offer, for he knew there were resources enough in that country, if they only had their own Parliament to develop them. To show how imperfectly developed the resources of Ireland were, let him refer to three taxes which were equally imposed on England and Ireland—he meant the customs, the post-office, and stamps. These taxes produced in England between twenty-seven and twenty-eight millions; whilst in Ireland they only produced three million, instead of twelve millions, which they ought to have produced, in the proportion of the populations as eight to eighteen, had the condition of the people been properly improved. He had heard it said in that House now more than once, that they ought to increase the taxation of Ireland, and that this poor-law taxation which they were going to impose was just and equitable, because there should be an equality between the two countries. But how did they begin that equalisation? They began with the burdens, instead of with the rights and political privileges which should be equal between the two countries. Before going into Committee, he wished to press upon the mind of the Government, that they were sowing the seed of fruitful discontent and of religious dissension, by the introduction into this Bill of the ex-officio clause. It had been advocated in that House as the means of giving peace and tranquillity to Ireland; but he warned them that the contrary would be the fact, and he told them that if his prediction that relief would be impeded by increasing the number of ex-officio guardians should not be fulfilled, it would only be because the people, exasperated and maddened, would bring the pressure of agrarian outrage to bear upon the ex-officio guardians, and would frighten them into giving relief.


, as one connected with Ireland, although not resident there, and therefore, he supposed, coming under the designation of absentee, was anxious to state that he should give his sincere support to the Bill now before the House. If, as some had done, he could look at the Bill as one framed to meet a temporary emergency only, he should feel bound to oppose it, as entailing absolute ruin on Ireland in the circumstances in which she was now placed. Or, if he could look at it as a measure separate from those which had already been placed on the Table, and those others which he soon hoped to see introduced, then he should also feel that it would be calculated to do mischief. But, regarding it, as he did, as the most important of that set of measures which had been introduced by the noble Lord, and which were intended to operate concurrently and contemporaneously, he felt justified in reckoning on it as a most important instrument in the moral and social regeneration of Ireland. After listening to the statement of the hon. Member who had spoken before in the course of the evening, with respect to the county of Mayo, he would say that if they depended an the Poor Law Bill alone, not only Mayo, but all Ireland, would be ruined. He wished that he could impress on hon. Members, whether representing Mayo or any other county, that it rested on the landlords of Ireland to avert the impending ruin of Ireland, by availing themselves of the resources which were now afforded them for giving increased employment to the people. Not only, however, must they now exert themselves to avert the impending ruin, but they must also ultimately bear their just share in the exertion that was necessary towards the general improvement of the community. He believed that this extended Poor Law would not only be a necessary stimulant to the landlords, but that it would also ultimately effect a most beneficial change in the habits of the people. One question, however, did not seem to him to have been answered—it was, what was to be done with the existing state of things in Ireland? The noble Lord, in his speech the other night (a speech which left an impresion on the House that would not easily be effaced), told them he had put that question to the deputation which the other day presented a memorial to him; and what replies were made? No satisfactory answer to his (Lord Courtenay's) mind had yet been given in the course of the debate. No answer had been given; but the fact remained, that there were two or three millions of people in Ireland, who if not employed or relieved must starve. He was not one of those who would defend, in every point of view, the working of the Labour-rate Act of the last Session. That measure had been spoken of as a gigantic system of out-door relief; and, no doubt, it did establish a system of out-door relief without the safeguards provided by the Bill now before the House. He had always thought that the Labour-rate Act would have worked better if the Government had gone a step further, and had taken the smaller divisions for the purposes of taxation. But, though he differed in opinion from the Government on that point, yet, having had practical experience of the operation of the Labour-rate Act, in an important district of Ireland, he thought it right to say, that that Act had been the means of saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in that country; and, considering the crisis the Government had to meet, he thought it was unjust and unfair to deem that measure—as some hon. Gentlemen had declared it—a complete failure. But in the out-door relief contemplated by the Bill now before the House, he saw safeguards and provisions which were not contained in the Labour-rate Act. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to imagine that immediately on the passing of this Bill the 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of destitute persons in Ireland were at once to be placed upon the books of the unions, and to receive out-door relief. He thought, however, that if those hon. Gentlemen would carefully study the first two clauses of this Bill, they would see that the principle upon which it was sought to legalize out-door relief, and the conditions by which it was to be restricted, would guard as far as possible against abuse, and allow the administration of such relief only in those cases to which he considered justice, policy, and humanity required that it should be extended. This Bill, as he understood it, admitted that right to relief of all destitute persons, not being able-bodied, either within or without the House, at the discretion of the guardians. The Bill also recognised the right to relief of those destitute persons who were able-bodied; but that relief was subject to such conditions and tests as the Commissioners and the guardians might think fit to impose. The Bill admitted out-door relief only in these two cases—first, in case of there being want of room in the workhouse; and secondly, of the workhouse being unfit, by reason of fever or other infectious disease, for the reception of inmates. He must say that he thought the most wise and prudent course for the guardians to take, rather than commence a system of out-door relief to the able-bodied, was, if they saw reason to believe that the workhouses would be full, to give out-door relief to the aged and impotent, and to make room for the able-bodied in the workhouses. He considered that the Legislature ought to take care that no destitute person in Ireland should starve, but that, by the law of the country, every destitute person should have a right to relief. If they stopped short of this they would, in his opinion, fail to produce that respect for property, and that moral improvement, which he believed might be expected to result from the measure now before the House; they would fail also to give that stimulus to employment to which he looked as a collateral result of this Bill; and they would deprive themselves of the right of imposing a law of vagrancy, which would be one of its legitimate consequences. He supported this Bill, because he believed it to be essential to the welfare of Ireland; and because he thought it would impose a most fair and equable absentee tax; for under such a tax as would be the consequence of the poor law, absentees would be subjected to an equal burden with those who resided in the country, and this might induce them to endeavour to mitigate that burden by providing employment for the poor. Without committing himself to all the details of the measure, he would cordially support the general principle of the Bill.


said, it was his intention to support that part of the Bill which referred to the giving of out-door relief. He believed the present emergency was but temporary, and thought it much better to enable the board of guardians to meet that emergency by supplying outdoor relief, than by going to the expense of erecting workhouses, which the permanent condition of the country would not require. He thought the objection made by the hon. Member for Kilkenny to the disproportionately small number of Roman Catholic magistrates as compared with Protestant, might be in some measure removed by constituting all magistrates ex-officio guardians. The hon. Member for Maryle- bone had made an impression the other night to the disadvantage of the Irish gentry, when he referred to an act of liberality on the part of a servant of Colonel Gardiner exceeding that of many of the landlords. It was stated that Colonel Gardiner's servant had subscribed 5l. towards the relief of the poor of Mallow; but he had since ascertained that the servant had saved that sum owing to his having become a member of the Temperance Society, and that he sent the money to his father and mother, and not to the poor generally. That was a very excellent trait in his character; but it was a very common one amongst the Irish, and should not be quoted for the purpose of contrasting the benevolence of the lower classes with that of the landlords. He thought, however, that under existing circumstances every man in Ireland was bound to diminish all unnecessary expenditure. The man who kept hunting or racing horses was equally culpable with the man who kept hounds; when so many of our fellow-creatures were in such great distress, champagne should be dispensed with, and every article of luxury abandoned. This was the duty of Irish landlords; but, at the same time, Englishmen should recollect that since the conquest of Ireland by Henry II., that country had not been in a prosperous condition. The Englishmen since that time had their own governors in Ireland, and only such laws were enacted as pleased themselves. Yet that country was now in such a state that it was a disgrace and opprobrium to England. Now, however, when the thing touched the breeches pocket, Englishmen began to look at the state of Ireland; but instead of asking, "Have we mismanaged this country, or how is it that, while we have progressed in prosperity and happiness, these people, whom we call our brethren, and a part of the United Empire, should be in the miserable state described by the hon. Member for Marylebone?"—instead of asking, "Are we not answerable for the condition of these people?" you (said the hon. Member) make the Irish landlords the scapegoat to bear the burden of your transgressions. You say, "Here are the men who caused all this misery." But have not the Irish landlords been your tools? Did we not conquer Ireland for you? Did not we maintain it for you? What is it that has put us in the position in which we now stand? There are few landlords in Ireland who are not Protestants, and who are not looked upon with some degree of disgust by the people of Ireland. What is the cause of that? Is it not because we have been doing your dirty work in Ireland? Have we not been carrying out your own views in that country? Was it not for your sakes that we kept down the Catholics? Did you not make the Protestant landlords your instruments in keeping down the Catholics of Ireland? How many years did you keep us in this position? You knew right well you were making us act as taskmasters over serfs, and the natural consequence has been that we have been abhorred by those serfs. You used us as long as you could for your own purposes, and now that you do not want us you turn round upon us, and accuse us of being the cause of all the evils by which we are surrounded. Recollect, the English landlords inherit their estates subject to poor rates, and they have altered the poor laws to diminish the expense of maintaining the poor. We in Ireland inherit our properties with a wretched mass of pauperism around us. We did not create that pauperism. We received it from our forefathers, to whom it was transmitted by their predecessors. A tax (continued the hon. Member) was now going to be imposed on the Irish landlords for the relief of the poor of Ireland, and the landlords were not disposed to offer any resistance to a measure which bid fair to remedy some of the evils of that country. He hoped that the English Members would, before they voted upon this question, fully inform themselves of the present condition of property in Ireland. They would find on inquiry that by the present system the poor of the country were driven into the towns, and that the owners of houses and property in the towns were unjustly obliged to support them. He was of opinion that the electoral division system of rating would inflict great injustice on the owners of property. After the proprietors of land in the country had cleared their estates of paupers, and driven them into the towns, they called upon the proprietors in towns to support them. Now, as the proprietors in towns were but very inefficiently represented, he hoped that the English Members would act justly in reference to this Bill, by duly acquainting themselves with the facts of the case before they voted upon it. This Bill would inflict a great injustice unless it were made to operate retrospectively, and extend to the last four or five years, so as to make landlords liable for the support of the poor whom they had ejected from their estates within that period, and thrown upon the towns for relief. He was afraid that he should not be able to be present when this Bill was in Committee; but he earnestly appealed to the justice of the English Members to take care that a clause was inserted which would compel the owners of those cleared estates to take their just share of the burden of supporting the poor of Ireland. He would support the Bill if such a clause as he had suggested were inserted.


admitted that the charges which had been preferred against the Irish landlords the other night by the hon. Member for Marylebone, and by other English Members, were well founded as regarded a few persons; but he denied that they were just as regarded the Irish landlords generally. For every one of the individual charges which the hon. Member for Marylebone had brought against individual Irish landlords, he could bring ten, aye, twenty, landlords who had exerted themselves to the utmost in behalf of the poor of Ireland, who had spent their money and their fortune, who had devoted their time and exerted their best energies to endeavour to stave off the evils with which Ireland was at present afflicted. The chief charges that had been made against the Irish landlords were, first, that in their public capacity of guardians of the poor, there had been a great dereliction of duty. The next charge was, that they had not given a sufficient employment to the people, and thereby produced, in a great measure, the pauperism with which Ireland was afflicted; and the last and most important charge was, that they had not contributed sufficiently to the wants of the people of Ireland during the present crisis. With regard to the first charge, he would refer the House for an answer to the blue books which had been laid before them with respect to the present condition of the workhouses in Ireland. It would be found that in one workhouse that was built for the accommodation of 658 individuals only, there were at present located therein 950 recipients of relief; in another, which was built for the accommodation of only 950, there were 1,001; in that at Clonmel, built for the accommodation of only 660, there were at present 805; and a similar state of things at present existed with regard to the whole of the workhouses in Ireland. He was himself a guardian of the poor in Ireland, and during the time that he was in that country, instead of witnessing any disposition on the part of the guardians to keep open the present workhouses for the relief of the poor, he saw on all sides a most unanimous desire on their part to extend the accommodation of the workhouses, and to contribute, as far as they possibly could, to the support of all those who were considered proper objects of relief. Now, with regard to the next charge, viz., that of their not having employed the people, and thereby thrown them upon the public works, he could only say that the Irish landlords had employed the poor of Ireland during the present crisis to a very large extent, in draining their lands. He had seen in all parts of the country the greatest disposition and anxiety amongst the landlords to employ the poor people on their lands. It would be found by the blue book on the Table of the House, that as soon as the receipt of Mr. Labouchere's letter, works of drainage were commenced throughout the country to a very considerable extent; that at every presentment session which was thereafter held, large sums of money were voted for the drainage of the lands of the landed proprietors. He would quote to the House an instance or two in which such had taken place; in Cork, between September and January, presentment sessions were held, at which 8,400l. were voted for public works, whilst 85,000l. were voted for drainage. At Donegal, 4,700l. was voted for public works, whilst 16,000l. was voted for drainage; and in Queen's County, 9,000l. was voted for public works, and 21,000l. for drainage. With respect to the charge that the Irish landlords had not contributed sufficiently towards the relief of the people, he had documents showing that last year there had been above 100,000l. subscribed by local committees for the relief of the poor; and he might say, in consequence of information derived from correspondence and other private sources, that the sums subscribed generally throughout the country doubled or trebled that amount. If, then, as he hoped he had shown, there had been no remissness on the part of the landed proprietors in contributing to the relief of the poor, why, he would ask, should the House impose upon them the dangerous experiment contemplated by this Bill? They had the evidence of Mr. Twisleton, the officer of the Government in Ireland, that the proposed labour test would operate prejudicially to the interests of Ireland. Many English Members had said, "Why should not Ireland be taxed for the support of her poor as heavily as England was for the support of her poor?" But they appeared to forget that the same principle which existed in England could not with justice be extended to Ireland, on account of the difference in the rental of the two countries. He was firmly persuaded that, if they insisted on carrying into effect the proposed out-door relief test for the able-bodied poor, they would impoverish the landed proprietors of Ireland; they would considerably increase the pauperism of that country; and they would soon see Glasgow, Liverpool, and Bristol inundated with the poor population of Ireland; and that country, instead of being the right arm of England, would then become an everlasting burden and incubus upon the best energies of England.


fully agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, that it would have been happier for the House and for the country, if, instead of attacking the landlords of Ireland, a closer attention had been paid to the circumstances of the calamity with which they had now to deal in Ireland. He thought the noble Lord the Member for South Devon (Viscount Courtenay) had taken a very fair view of the subject. The noble Lord had declared, that, though he felt some apprehensions as to the poor law, he nevertheless approved of those other measures which Her Majesty's Government had introduced for the alleviation and improvement of the social condition of Ireland; and that, though connected with property in that country, he would on that occasion give to the Government his support. He (Major Layard) was one of those who, ever since he had known Ireland, now fifteen years, had been convinced that no good would ever be done there without a poor law. He had prophesied, when the poor law which now existed was passed, the necessity would very shortly arise for the adoption of a measure of a wider character and a more extensive operation. He, for one, was an advocate of a system of out-door relief. If such a system were not now brought forward, how could they expect any law, situated as Ireland now was, to be beneficial to the people? The workhouses could not now receive one-twentieth of the applicants for relief; and many thousands would inevitably perish, if they were compelled to wait while the poorhouses were being built. He admit- ted that many very great difficulties surrounded this question. He acknowledged that from the position in which they were placed, many of the landed proprietors of Ireland could not but grudge taking that part which they were called upon to play in coming to the aid of their countrymen; but the majority of the people should be the consideration for that House to decide upon; and though it might be proved that some few would suffer, still the good of the many must prevail. It was not the fault of the people that they needed the charity of the House. There were industrious men who had no opportunity of earning a livelihood by the sweat of their brow; and there were the wretched and the pauperized, who by no exertion of their own could rise from the state to which they had been reduced. The Government deserved great credit for proposing the 10th Clause of the Bill, by which it would be enacted, that after 2s. 6d. in the pound had been paid out of the borough rate, the expenditure would then come on the electoral district. The towns would then be relieved of an enormous burden of vagrancy and mendicancy, and the tax would be equably divided over the land. He had heard hon. Members threaten to bring forward a Bill to impose an absentee tax; but their object would effectually be attained by the measure now before the House. A poor law was the best absentee tax. When a poor law was carried for Ireland, it would be the interest of many proprietors to remain resident on their own estates, in order that, by extra care and carefulness, they might compensate themselves for that loss to which they would be exposed when they had to maintain the poverty of the country. Their only alternative would be, to furnish employment to those dependent on them; and in this way the great capabilities of the country would be fully developed. They would not be able to carry an absentee tax for Ireland, without imposing one also upon Ireland. Hitherto, the poor had supported the pauper; the rich had not contributed in proportion; and as the great mass of the people were now equally destitute, the time was come to put the saddle on the right horse, and to insist that the property should support the poverty of Ireland. He did not believe that those hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords who had protested against the principle of outdoor relief, represented the real sentiments of the majority of the Irish people. Upon this poor-law measure must necessarily de- pend the successful working of every other measure introduced with the view of bringing about a change. Their primary object was to find employment for the thousands of labourers who now were idle; and that would never be effected until they made it the interest of the landed proprietor to give employment and to improve his estate to the utmost extent. He felt some diffidence in speaking on this point. He himself possessed but a small property in Ireland, and it might therefore be said of him, that he could afford to approve of the measure, inasmuch as it would but slightly affect him. Such, however, was not the feeling, he could assure the House, which actuated him. The burden on him would be heavy in proportion to his income; and it did not matter whether a man's property were small or large, so only that he proved himself willing to pay according to his means. He had always been anxious for such a law as this. He thanked the Government for having introduced it. No other Ministry had ever attempted so much; and they might rest satisfied that, in proceeding thus boldly, they had earned the blessings of the poor of Ireland. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn had expressed a hope, when speaking on the Railway Bill, that, if it were passed, it would be the means of feeding the hungry with good things. He (Major Layard) trusted that this measure, in conjunction with other measures, would tend to the same end, and that the rich would not turn the hungry away empty-handed.


said, the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) who commenced the debate had introduced the subject-matter of it with a brief sketch of the other measures which the Government had proposed, or were about to propose, not only for the temporary relief of the present destitution in Ireland, but also for the permanent amelioration of the condition of that country. He trusted, therefore, he might be excused if he prefaced the very few observations he intended to make on the Bill before the House by some remarks on those other measures—measures, indeed, which were intimately and practically blended with the consideration of the Bill more immediately under their notice. He agreed most entirely in the opening remarks of the very able pamphlet of Mr. Godley, on the subject of the Irish poor law. Mr. Godley said, that neither this nor any other poor law could ever be of avail unless great and comprehensive measures were carried into effect for the absorption of that great mass of unemployed labour which the social revolution in Ireland would drive out of the customary channels of labour. Herein consisted his (Lord J. Manners') dissent from the doctrines of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), and the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), and that school of exact philosophers who seemed to think, so at least he gathered from their speeches, that when they had enacted a generous poor law for Ireland, and declared the absolute right of every poor and destitute person to relief, they had accomplished everything. He, on the contrary, believed that unless they, at the same time, did a great deal more, they might as well do nothing. In his opinion, the number of poor persons who were to be dependent for a permanent subsistence on the poor law was so great as to absorb and crush all the means and machinery by which that poor law, when alone, could be carried out. It seemed to him to be a mockery to the Irish people to say, that by this measure alone they proposed to ameliorate their condition. No one, for instance, in his senses, would say that now, at this present moment, this or any other poor law could support that enormous mass of people at present dependent on the State provision for the means of obtaining food. It consequently became their duty, in considering the poor law, to weigh and calculate and foresee how the circumstances of Ireland could be made to accommodate themselves to the permanent existence of a system of poor-law relief. He would proceed to ask what were the measures which the Government had proposed for the purpose of meeting that state of things which now stared them in the face? They knew what the great facts of the case were. They had it on the authority of the Poor Law Commissioners, that a population of 1,200,000 able-bodied men were in the habit of procuring a subsistence from a system of potato cultivation, while a population of only 300,000 would find the means of subsistence from what he might call a corn system in England. It was admitted that this potato system had come to an end, and that it should not, even if it could, be restored. Supposing, then, the calculation of the Poor Law Commissioners to be correct, they had it as a fact that, for the future, 900,000 heads of families were deprived of the ordinary and heretofore-accustomed means of employment and subsistence in Ireland. Now, admitting that there was exaggeration in this statement; admitting, as he was prepared to admit, that the land of England might beneficially employ a far greater proportion of labourers than it at present employed; admitting, as a consequence, that the land of Ireland may beneficially employ a far greater number of labourers than this estimate would allow; admitting all these things, and making every deduction, still, he maintained, we could not, taking the most favourable view of the case, arrive at any other conclusion than that at least 600,000 heads of families would, for the future, be deprived of their usual means of support. Then, did any person mean to say, that as a permanent item in the Irish social economy, 600,000 heads of families could be maintained by a system of poor-law relief? He believed that no one would be sufficiently bold to hazard such an assertion. And he now came to consider those measures which Her Majesty's Government had concurrently brought forward to enable this system to work at all in Ireland. He granted, and he was happy in doing so, most unreservedly, that these measures, in his humble opinion, were good. His only complaint against them was that they were most inadequate. The noble Lord, the Prime Minister, in his first great speech this Session, in developing those measures which he deemed calculated to benefit Ireland, laid considerable stress on a scheme for the cultivation and reclamation of waste lands in that country. In his speech the other night, however, the words "waste lands" were never uttered; not the most distant allusion was made to that proposal. He did not know if they were to conclude from this ominous silence that the scheme had been abandoned. He would fain hope and believe that such was not the case; but supposing that it would be persevered in, and admitting that it would be crowned with all that success which had been anticipated by the noble Lord — yet, even taking the noble Lord's own figures, they could not delude themselves into the conviction that it would effect any considerable influence on that immense amount of unemployed labour of which he had spoken, and which was to be a permanent feature in Irish society. The noble Lord proposed to expend a million of money in cultivating the waste lands of Ireland; the lowest estimate at which he (Lord J. Manners) believed such a plan could be carried out would be 10l. per acre; and this would enable the noble Lord to cultivate about 125,000 acres. The noble Lord proposed that thirty acres should be the average size of the farms—and that would create a class of peasant-farmers amounting to 5,000 souls. They had, therefore, 5,000 heads of families subtracted from that number, which he put very lowly at 600,000. His noble Friend the Member for Lynn, whose accuracy in such matters no one in that House would attempt to dispute, made the calculation still lower—at 3,500; but he (Lord J. Manners) was anxious to give the noble Lord the benefit of every doubt; and he would take so high a number as 5,000. But after the manner in which that proposition had been received—after the contemptuous allusion to it of the hon. Member for Wycombe—after the still more ominous ridicule of the right hon. Member for Tamworth—he could not be sanguine that it would ever be carried into effect; still he would admit that 5,000 heads of families were to be provided for by this scheme of waste lands, and he would now come to consider what the noble Lord proposed by any scheme of colonization. The noble Lord informed them on the first night of the Session that he did not propose to extend very largely the system of Government aid for emigration. He believed they were to have an increased grant for that purpose; but the noble Lord had not said how many heads of families would be provided for by that vote. He believed he would make a large allowance, however, if he set the number down at 10,000. Then they were to have extended fisheries and employment on public works, and the expectation was held out that the Irish landlords would employ more labourers than hitherto they had done, owing to the loans which they were to receive from Government; but here he must remark, that when they considered that the Irish landlords had been receiving for the last two years a very small amount of their accustomed rents, perhaps it might be found that the loans would merely reinstate them in the position they were in three years ago. Admitting, however, that it would enable them to employ an additional amount of labour—admitting that the employment on the fisheries and the public works would take up a considerable number of people—taking the Government schemes all together—the system of waste lands and emigration, and loans to landlords, and fisheries and public works, he could not arrive at any conclusion more favourable than that 100,000 heads of families would be employed. Then, what was to become of the 500,000 heads of families still left, embracing a population of 2,500,000? His noble Friend the Member for Lynn had proposed a scheme that would have employed the people of Ireland, and tended more to promote national works and the cultivation of the soil in that country than all the propositions of the noble Lord put together; but, in order to save a Government which his noble Friend did not wish to endanger, the House thought it right to cast out that proposition. On this point he would not at present say more, as he believed, that after Easter an hon. Gentleman (the hon. Member for Wycombe), whose opinion, like his own, had been more and more strengthened by reflection as to the necessity of that great measure, would bring that subject again before the House. In the meantime, they had still, after all the deductions which had been made, 500,000 heads of families to provide for. The noble Lord and his Colleagues had laid, on all occasions, great stress on the indirect efforts which the landlords of Ireland might be expected to make to provide for these people. He agreed with all that they had said on that subject; they had a right to expect increased exertions from the landlords of Ireland, and they might fairly expect from the increased cultivation of the soil an increased attention to the employment of the people. But it was because he agreed with the noble Lord's language and advice on this subject, that he was bound to dissent from an important part of the Bill now on the Table of the House. If, however, they were to rely greatly on the exertions of the Irish landlords for the employment of this enormous array of dislocated labour, they were bound to take every precaution that the system of poor laws which they were extending to Ireland was such as should encourage and stimulate, not depress and prevent, the exertions and industry of all classes of Irishmen. More especially did he think it important that they should guard against anything in the Bill that would depress the energies of the Irish landlords. Now, in approaching this question of a poor law for Ireland, he felt that it was the most important question, perhaps, they could be called upon to decide. This was no temporary measure, but a measure which, if its provisions were calculated to call out and stimulate the energies of the Irish people, might at no distant period enable Irishmen of every grade to look back rather with feelings of consolation, than of sorrow and despair, to the great calamity that had fallen on their country; but, on the other hand, if it was a measure the provisions of which were calculated to depress and keep down the exertions of the people of Ireland, though every one of its clauses might appear advantageous on abstract principle, they would yield but little consolation to any one who assisted in passing them when it was known that they led to the ruin and depression of that unfortunate country. Now, the operation of this Bill did tend in the most direct manner to repress the exertions of the Irish landlords. He agreed with the view so happily maintained by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. A. S. O'Brien) the other night, when he objected to that part of the Bill which put the good and bad landlord on the same footing, that made no discrimination between the landlord who improved his estates and attended to the wants of his territorial dependants, and the landlord who squandered all the income of his estates at Bath or Naples, wholly unmindful of the welfare of those whose happiness it was his duty to promote. It was impossible that they could shut their eyes to the public facts now exhibited before them. They saw on every hand the lamentable results of a system of out-door labours pursued by the Government; and they invited every English Member to resist the imposition on his Irish brethren of a burden which he himself did not bear; they called upon him to resist the imposition of a burden which, if put on the Irish landlord, must also come to fall upon him, and thus put an end at last to that ancient territorial and parochial system with which so much of the glory and grandeur of England had been from ancient times bound up. The effect of the proposed system would be, that when a man had done all he could do, and had placed his property on a comfortable and satisfactory footing, he would be compelled to bear that share of the burdens which should fall on his avaricious or careless neighbours. Just let the House conceive the feelings of such a man, who, after raising the condition of the peasantry around him to that of a cheerful and contented tenantry, after having forborne to place them as a burden on his country, was waited upon by the tax-gatherer, who admitted that he had done all this well, and that he had acted a patriotic part towards his country; and then pointing to the broad acres of his neigh- hours, or of some one, perhaps, beyond the adjoining mountains, who had won, it might be, the last steeple-chase at Paris or on the Campagna, and whose tenants only knew of his existence by the visitations of his agents, told him that because that man had burdened his country with unprovided poor, therefore he, who had discharged his duties aright, must share with him the penalty of his neglect. He could not support a system of poor law that would lead to conclusions like this. He did support, with the noble Lord, the principle of outdoor relief in Ireland, guarded as it was by the Bill. He did not think any poor law would be efficient without it; but he objected to the system of making a man who did his duty pay for the man who did not. Unless the House would show on this subject more wisdom than had hitherto been shown by Her Majesty's Government, and make the property of Ireland answerable for its poverty, in such a manner so as not to depress and annihilate that property, on which its prosperity must depend, they would be inflicting a curse rather than conferring a boon on Ireland. He agreed with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in the hope that the old feuds and old jealousies of bygone years would be extinguished in Ireland. He hoped that in this great affliction that had fallen on the nation, those old jealousies would be buried in oblivion; and that the future historian, after recording the sad struggles between the two rival communions and the two hostile races; and after painting the horrors of this eventful winter, would be able in a new chapter to say— Henceforth all discord ends, One common woe hath made two rivals friends. But if (said the noble Lord in conclusion) by insisting upon the large area of taxation, you reduce the good and bad landlords of Ireland to the same level, and simply confiscate its property in the vain hope of supporting its poverty—if you resist the advice of those best acquainted with the condition of Ireland—be not surprised if, as year after year Irish misery and Irish discontent continue to supply a never-failing theme of discussion in Parliament, we answer the question Bishop Berkeley asked 100 years ago, "Whose fault is it if poor Ireland still continues poor?" by a sad and somewhat reproachful reference to the Government and Parliament of 1847.


thought the House would do well to confine the discussion in the present instance as much as possible to the questions involved in the main principle of the measure now before them. He would not, therefore, follow the noble Lord who had just sat down into the question of whether the poor-law rating should be placed in unions or electoral districts; nor should he advert to the observations made by hon. Gentlemen on the proposal to increase the number of ex-officio guardians, because, instead of mixing up all these subjects in one discussion, he thought it would be a wiser course to consider them in detail in Committee, when the various clauses were brought forward; and that they should on the present occasion confine themselves to the main principle of the measure. That principle was one of a most important character. It was, simply, whether the right to out-door relief should be, however qualifiedly, extended to the able-bodied poor in Ireland. He confessed he should be perfectly willing to rest the justification of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government on the speeches that had been made in vindication of that principle, by Gentlemen connected with Ireland who had addressed the House. He alluded particularly to the speeches made by the noble Lord the Member for South Devonshire (Viscount Courtenay), by his hon. Friend the Member for the county of Waterford (Mr. V. Stuart), and by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Londonderry (Captain Jones). These Gentlemen, as they were well entitled to do by their experience as Irish landlords, and their acquaintance with the whole concerns of Ireland, as well as the honest anxiety they had always shown in their respective localities to improve the condition of the people around them—these Gentlemen, so well entitled to express opinions that should have weight with the House on this occasion, had come forward and expressed their views. And what were these Gentlemen? They were no theorists—not Gentlemen animated by a disposition that some had attributed to English Members, to pursue this subject in a spirit reckless of Irish interests. And what was it that they had concurred in saying was necessary in present circumstances for Ireland? They all concurred in saying, that this House should affirm the proposition which he had already stated to be the principle of the Bill. One of them had said, that he had always been opposed to the extension of out-door relief to able-bodied persons in Ireland. The Govern- ment had considered this as no light question. The great calamity which had afflicted Ireland had totally changed the condition of the destitute people of that country. Relief by almsgiving was at an end; the potato was at an end; and the great body of the labouring poor of Ireland must starve unless they were able to earn wages, and support themselves by their labour. It was impossible that the support of this great body could be left to chance; something must be done by the Legislature for the support of these persons; and he must observe that, although the House had arrived, he hoped, nearly at the end of this discussion, they had heard no satisfactory answer to the frequent question put by his noble Friend to the House, and especially to that portion of it who objected to the measure, namely, what was to be done; what was proposed to be substituted for this Bill? No one had said that the destitute people of Ireland were to have a permanent right to be supported at the expense of the Imperial Treasury; on the contrary, all had admitted that whatever future assistance might be required by the destitute in Ireland, it should fall upon Ireland; that the destitute people of Ireland should be supported by the property and the soil of Ireland; and that was the principle of this Bill which the House was asked to affirm; and he had no doubt that the House would, by an immense majority, of Irish as well as English Members, affirm that principle. The noble Lord who had just sat down, had based his objections, not so much upon the measure itself, as upon the ground that it was not accompanied by other measures of a large and comprehensive description, which, he said, should have been introduced at the same time. He agreed with the noble Lord so far in his views, that this measure should be considered as part of a general scheme for the amelioration of Ireland; but he could not help suspecting that the noble Lord alluded to one particular measure (which was a great favourite with him), namely, the railway scheme of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; and that the loss of that measure was the chief foundation of his opposition to the Irish Poor Law Bill. He should not be tempted upon the present occasion into a discussion of that measure. He differed from the noble Lord the Member for Lynn in respect to the value of that measure. He did not undervalue the advantages that would accrue to Ireland from the making of railroads there; but he could not persuade himself that the adoption of the noble Lord's measure would afford the relief to Ireland which he expected. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Shaw), in his objections to the measure, had pointed to the condition of certain parts of Ireland, and especially to Mayo, and had asked, if the distress there was so great, whether, under the poor law, the proprietors and property would not break down altogether? If the right hon. Gentleman put the question to him (Mr. Labouchere) he would put the case thus: if such were the present condition of Mayo, when there was no poor law at all, and supposing its condition remained the same, if he asked whether that county could support its population, he should say it was impossible, and he should despair of Ireland; but with his knowledge of Irishmen and Irish energy, it was his belief that the poor law would prove a stimulus, and, instead of crushing, would rouse and invigorate them. With respect to Irish landlords, he had never joined in the sweeping invectives which had been uttered in that House against the conduct of the landlords of Ireland as a class. He agreed with many of the Irish Members that great injustice had been done to them in the House, and that it was most unfair, in considering their conduct, to put out of view their great and peculiar difficulties. His belief was, that if as much pains had been taken to bring to light the conduct of those Irish landlords, who, under circumstances of great discouragement, had exerted themselves to improve the condition and save the lives of those around them, as there had been to hold up to obloquy those who had neglected their duty, a very different impression would have been made upon the minds of the public. He had been particularly struck with the conduct of persons of small property in this respect; and he would venture to say if the conduct of all the clergy of Ireland were known—if the House could but see how many of these unobtrusive clergy had given up their incomes—how sold their books—how laboured day and night for the poor—and how they and their families had been employed assisting them, and managing and maintaining soup-kitchens, and how much of this unpretending exertion had taken place—they would feel what deep injustice had been done them. In many instances the gentry had not supported the Government as energetically as they might have done, nor seconded the exertions of the Executive with as much earnestness as might fairly have been expected from them; but it frequently happened that those who were liable to this charge were exceedingly active in their own particular locality, and amongst their own neighbours. The Government had perhaps a right to complain of them as public men, doing public duties; but the cause of this defection was, that in Ireland those public duties were for various reasons exceedingly arduous and difficult of accomplishment, whereas the works of unobtrusive charity and benevolence were congenial to their nature, and did not subject them to trials of a very severe character. Hence it was, that while they failed in the one case, they acquitted themselves most commendably in the other. He was very much averse to the practice of mentioning individual names and particularising individual benefactors in instances of this kind; but so frequently had the names of gentlemen connected with Scotland been quoted, and so often had their names been mentioned with commendation, and most deservedly so, in that House, that he felt it due to the gentlemen of Ireland, that he should particularise at least one of their class—a gentleman of whom he did not hesitate to assert that his exertions in the cause of suffering humanity would bear a favourable comparison with those of any man, not only in Scotland, but in any other portion of the British empire. He was confidently assured that this benevolent gentleman did not stand alone; on the contrary, he was convinced that he was only one of a numerous class whose deeds were equally calculated to challenge admiration. He knew nothing of the gentleman whose name he was about to introduce, until he received the letter which he was now about to submit to the consideration of the House. That letter was written by a Government officer, who felt it to be his duty to take notice of the extraordinary efforts which a single proprietor was making in the county of Sligo—a district where the pressure of distress was felt most severely—to mitigate the sufferings of his fellow-creatures. He repeated, that of the gentleman himself he knew nothing personally, nor should he have been made acquainted even with his name, were it not that his exertions in the cause of humanity attracted the notice, and of course the admiration, of a Government officer. The gentleman in question was Sir Robert Booth, respecting whom Cap- tain O'Brien wrote a letter to Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Board of Works, descriptive of his exertions on behalf of the poor in his neighbourhood:— Sir Robert Booth's estate is large, and the supplies he has procured would keep those of his own well enough, were he not pressed also to find his neighbours' tenants. At his own place, Lissadale, he has established two soup boilers, which make each 140 gallons of soup; and I calculated the cost of the soup in each boiler to be about 32s. 6d. He gives, gratuitously, 280 gallons of this soup per day, including Sundays. He sells, six days in the week, 150 loaves per day, each being four ounces larger than the fourpenny loaf sold in Sligo, and sold by him at 2d. per loaf. He also sells 30 tons of Indian corn per week, at a reduced price, and gives a portion of Indian corn to 30 persons daily. In this manner he has provided for the poor, and sold, through the agency of his chaplain, Mr. Tiffcote, since the 29th of August—Indian meal, 393 tons; barrel flour, 70 tons; whole wheat flour, 40 tons: biscuit, 9 tons; rice, three tons; oatmeal, 12 tons; total, 527 tons. He has still a good deal in hand, and he has ordered on his own account, in addition—Indian corn, 2,375 tons; new seed oats, 81 tons; hogsheads of flaxseed, 10 tons. He has now at this moment in Greenock, ready to be shipped, but he is in difficulty respecting freight—200 quarters of oats, 23 quarters of barley, 200 loads of beans, 18 tons of peas, 100 barrels of flour, 180 barrels of wheat, 99 tons of oats, 25 tons of barley meal. Much good would be done, if the Government could assist Sir Robert Booth in having this large quantity of food transported into Sligo. What he has done for the part of the country in which he resides has been so well done, that it would prove a real blessing to enable him to do more The Government, he was happy to say, had been enabled to afford some facilities to Sir Robert Booth, by placing steamboats at his disposal for conveying the provisions which he purchased on so munificent a scale, for the benefit of the perishing people. It should be remembered, that all this had been done by Sir Robert Booth without ostentation or parade. He never took measures to have his actions made known through the medium of the newspapers, nor did he permit his name to be brought ostentatiously before the public; and yet without meaning the slightest disrespect, or the least disparagement to any gentleman in Scotland, he would take the liberty to say that Sir Robert Booth's exertions deserved to be mentioned as quite as meritorious as those of any one in that country. He did not believe this to be a solitary instance. In all parts of Ireland it was to be recorded, to the credit of that country, that persons were to be found who dedicated their resources, nay their very existence, to the generous object of relieving the terrible destitution by which they were surrounded. This admission he was delighted to be enabled to make; but it was equally true (and it was right that the whole truth should be known) that while there were many proprietors in Ireland who nobly discharged the duties which were attached to the possession of property in this season of unexampled calamity, there were others who had not done so; others who, though they derived great incomes from the country, were absent from it in foreign lands, when their presence at home was imperatively required, and who were totally neglectful of the duty they owed to themselves and their native country. But it was not the least valuable of the recommendations of the Bill now under consideration, that it would force proprietors of that class to contribute in purse to the relief of Irish distress; and that it would give them a selfish interest, at all events, in keeping down destitution by affording employment to the poor on their estates. If they neglected doing so, they would know that they would have the shame and sorrow of supporting those poor people out of their own pockets. This he considered a most valuable provision, and he was sure that it would be so regarded out of doors; for however willing the people of this country might be to contribute to the relief of distress in Ireland on particular occasions, the general feeling was, that they ought not to be called upon to do so until they saw that Irish property contributed its fair share to the burdens of the country. These were the general reasons which induced him to assent to the principles of this Bill. The details could be discussed in Committee, and he hoped they would receive the mature deliberation their importance deserved. On those details he would not upon the present occasion enter; but in a general manner he had endeavoured to convey to the House the considerations which induced him to give his cordial support to the proposition of going into Committee on a measure, whose great and vital principle was this, that it made Irish property chargeable with the support of Irish destitution.


admitted that it was impossible to exaggerate the munificence of individuals in England towards Ireland; but he would not hesitate to declare his conviction that the Government, having at their command, as they had, the resources of the richest country in the universe, might have done much more on behalf of the Irish people. He could not resist the conclusion that if they had from the first pursued a policy sufficiently liberal and enlightened, Ireland might have been guaranteed against the calamity of death by starvation. If the five millions which had been spent on unproductive works had been advanced by way of loan for railways or other great national enterprises, Ireland would be in a very much better condition than she at present occupied. They could not have adopted a wiser course than to have undertaken to advance, for works of great national importance, a sum commensurate with what might have been raised by private capitalists; but they were now in the sixth month of the famine, and no reproductive works worth talking of had as yet been undertaken. Evening after evening was wasted in making attacks on the Irish landlords. He was not there to defend them; but he would say that if individual instances of their neglect of duty were made the groundwork of a general onslaught on them, it was not by any means just that private instances of a faithful discharge of duty should have been wholly disregarded. He maintained that instances, like the one alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, should be received as indicating the spirit of the class. He could mention many similar cases; and amongst others that of the late lamented Mr. Saunders, one of the most accomplished and most highly cultivated gentlemen in the south of Ireland, who fell a victim to his efforts to relieve the distress. The "Irish party," to which he had the honour to belong, had also been attacked in that House; but he was sorry to find that it should be imputed to them as a reproach, that instead of upbraiding one another across the floor of that House, as was too often their habit, they united together in a season of calamity to consider how they might protect their country. He feared that owing to the influence of English party considerations, the "Irish party" might not be of as much service as they might otherwise be; for such considerations too often enervated the patriotic purpose of Irish Members, as was evidenced in the discussion on the Railway Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, when a threat of resignation from the Minister induced some of them to forget their country and remember their party. He wished it to be understood that he did not commit himself unreservedly to all the movements of the "Irish party," and he did not concur in their resolutions respecting the Bill now under discussion. He was in favour of out-door relief under certain regulations. With reference to the able-bodied poor, he was not for affording them eleemosynary support. It was employment, not alms, they wanted; but this principle ought to be observed. The poor should be secured a livelihood in the land in which they were born; and Ireland had no right to call on England to support her people. Unless, however, there was some concomitant subsidiary measure, he feared that the present Bill would amount to actual confiscation of the property of the landowners. He did not approve of increasing the number of ex-officio poor-law guardians, and thought the reasons assigned for the proceeding inadequate. The proposal to levy a rate upon each estate separately would hold out a premium to landlords to clear the people from their properties; besides which, it would operate very unequally, amounting to confiscation in some instances, and in others imposing merely a nominal charge. At the same time, it would be impossible to maintain the present mode of rating, which was unjust in its operation. The Government would find it necessary to revise the existing system of rating by electoral districts, and to apportion population more fairly in the several electoral divisions. If the Government should not attempt to effect that object, he would, in Committee, propose clauses upon the subject. As regarded the main question, the support of the population of Ireland, he was prepared, as an Irish representative, to support a proposition which he believed to be just, and to abide by the consequences.


said, that the House would perhaps pardon him if he endeavoured to vindicate the opinions which he had taken the liberty to express on previous occasions. The right hon. Member for the University of Dublin had challenged him to take this course, for the right hon. Gentleman said he had discovered the motive for his conduct. The right hon. Gentleman's ingenuity or charity had suggested that he was by only one motive, namely, spite. Spite! Against whom? Against what the right hon. Gentleman was pleased to call the landlords of Ireland. Now, he had taken special pains during the whole of these discussions to say, that he did not know who the landlords of Ireland were. He had never been able to make them out exactly; but, for his part, he thought that the real landlords of Ireland were the tax-gatherer and the mortgagee. Now, he had never expressed any opinion against the tax-gatherer or the mortgagee. He had, indeed, said that gentlemen who professed to be the proprietors of land—who called and fancied themselves the possessors of large properties, and who had not the means of fulfilling the duties of those properties, had much better be removed from the very unpleasant and false position in which circumstances had placed them—that they should cease to be the nominal proprietors of land—that Ireland should get rid of the encumbrance of those who were really a dead weight upon its resources—and that the real proprietors of the soil should, at once, be called into active exertion to support the interest which they possessed in that country. Why did the House pause in its proceedings, and how was it that the question before it appeared to be surrounded with so much difficulty? Because, he ventured to say, there were, on the present occasion, two very different things before them. Two very different things were aimed at by the Gentlemen who spoke upon the question, and who, whilst aiming at one, pretended to be endeavouring to discover the other. Gentlemen said that they were agreed upon every point excepting that of out-door relief, and yet, one after the other, they proceeded to make speeches against any poor law whatever. If the House would permit him, he would, in a few moments, run over the points of coincidence, and then he could get at the real thing in dispute. But before doing that it was necessary to understand whom the House was endeavouring to relieve, and the mode by which it sought to effect its object. At the present moment there happened to be in Ireland this remarkable condition of the people. A large portion of those who were called her labouring population did not subsist by labour, but their very lives depended upon the produce of small portions of land: the parties to whom that land belonged were connected, indeed, with Ireland by birth, but living for the most part in this country, between whom, therefore, and the people, there existed no sort of tie or connexion. If anything like what had happened last year in that country should occur again, the same circumstances would continue, and the same results would follow, namely, a large multitude of persons would be dependent upon small portions of land, returning very minute portions of produce to maintain a large number of individuals; and if there should be a failure in that produce, it would not be only the failure of one, but the failure of all: the calamity would be general, and universal distress would prevail. That condition of things had been brought about by a system of dividing the land. There was this peculiarity belonging to this minute division of the land—all the disturbances which agitated that country arose from agrarian disputes, and not from national or religious differences. It was not because one part of the population was Catholic, or another portion of the population was Celtic, that agricultural disturbances had taken place; but it was because the population had always felt and distinctly understood that their holding a portion of land was absolutely necessary for their very existence. They felt that the law had not been their protector; therefore was it that they had had recourse to that system of self-protection to which they had been driven by dire necessity: the exigencies of their situation had driven them to assassination. A man holding one or two acres of land in Ireland from an imperious landlord did not find, as in England, that in the hour of distress the poor law would sustain him, and the workhouse afford him shelter, but starvation and famine stared him in the face. That poor man, having to determine what to do for self-preservation, resorted, with his fellows in suffering, to a system of secret conspiracy to avenge themselves of the law which crushed them. It was well known—for it had often been proved—that all the conspiracies concocted by the people in Ireland, had been for the purpose of maintaining their holdings against the domination of their landlords. From one end of Ireland to the other, those conspiracies extended—they reached from shore to shore; and to carry out that wild spirit of justice to which their sufferings had goaded them, aid was brought from the north and from the south, through the agency of this widely-spread secret conspiracy. And what was all this work to accomplish? Why, to maintain the poor man in his wretched holding; to maintain him in that miserable condition which was the lot of a very large portion of the population of Ireland. But a great calamity had befallen that country; and England, brought by her own wants and suffering condition to look narrowly into the condition of the people of Ireland, had at length discovered the real cause of all the evils that afflicted that country. "It is understood now," she said, "what is going on there; to prevent, therefore, this dire condition of the people, and stay men from appealing to that wild spirit of justice, that unhappy and unchristian mode of merely maintaining their existence, we will introduce into that country the mild spirit of the English law, and make it the means of producing in the people a disposition of submission and obedience to the constituted authorities, and a readiness to act in accordance with the law of the land." This was the will of England, and in a spirit of mildness and gentleness she sought to inculcate public morality among the people of Ireland. Who were the opponents of this righteous proposal? The landlords of Ireland. On the one hand there were men who, putting aside all considerations of self, of party ambition, of personal aggrandizement, forgetting that they were apart from this calamity, devoted themselves, to the best of their ability, and for the purpose of promoting the happiness of their fellow-subjects, to devise a well-digested scheme of legislative relief. On the other hand, even while they were debating, there was to be seen a body of men, who were rich, banded together for the most selfish purposes against the poor, and bringing to bear all the power which their station and intellect could command, to resist that which to a generous mind should be an imperious duty. Might he not ask the House to look upon this picture and upon that? They were the counterfeit presentment of two brothers; very different indeed in all the lineaments he had traced; for by the words he had used he had faithfully described the gentlemen of England and the gentlemen of Ireland. It was said, indeed, that the law of England was not applicable to the circumstances of Ireland; but he would defy those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had maintained that argument, after all their virtuous talk, to prove to him that there was aught in the condition of Ireland which would make what was a beneficent act of legislation for England, an unfit measure for Ireland. But that was an argument which had been very strongly put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Shaw). Ireland, said that right hon. Gentleman, was ruined. He should like to know what the right hon. Gentleman meant by Ireland. Did he mean the millions of her working population, or the narrow-minded sects, of one of which he had been a favourite born child—sects that instilled feelings of the bitterest hostility against the English into the mind of the Irish people? By the way, that right hon. Gentleman took upon himself the other day to act a part which would make him feel himself to be in a most painful situation were he ever to come under that right hon. Gentleman in his judicial capacity. The right hon. Gentleman had acted both as judge and jury; and when he made a statement upon the authority of parties whose names he had given, that Irish landlords kept packs of hounds in high condition, while human beings were perishing from want at their own gates, the right hon. Gentleman, first of all saying that he knew nothing of the parties, declared that he had such confidence in the character of an Irish gentleman that he was sure the statement could not be true. But what happened? Up got the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. D. Callaghan), and from his own personal knowledge verified the whole statement. That hon. Gentleman said, that the gentleman in question, who kept seventy dogs in such excellent condition, lived twenty miles from the starving population, and that he had a capital set of dogs, and that they were kept in capital order; that it was a capital country, and that the dogs were in admirable condition, and all fit for a good fallow coursing country. Did the English gentleman who might be living in Yorkshire measure the number of miles that he might be living from the destitution of Ireland, and find his benevolence diminish in a geometrical proportion: but did he not also feel that he owed a duty to his neighbour as well as to others? The right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of Dublin, said that he knew he (Mr. Roebuck) was wrong, and, acting in the character of judge and jury, condemned him in preferring his own high estimation of the character of an Irish gentleman to the facts stated in evidence, and yet afterwards came forward a self-convicting witness, and proved the case against himself, and the truth of every word that he (Mr. Roebuck) had uttered. [Laughter]. However they might-laugh, this was a lamentable exhibition to be made before the whole of the great European and civilized world; but that lamentable exhibition was not made by those independent English gentlemen who were insisting on measures for the benefit of the poor Irish, but that exhibition was made by those who were fighting this question, as it had been admitted by an hon. Member on the opposite side, against time, so that the poor should be put off, and the benefit be conferred upon them at as distant a period as possible, by their continuous efforts of talking. He would repeat, the exhibition was not by those who were determined, however persevering hon. Gentlemen opposite might be, to bring within the pale of a poor law, founded on English feeling and common sense, the destitute people of Ireland. [A cry of "Divide!"] Divide! there would be no division; there would be much talk, but no man had pretended that this question would go to a division. Now, he would ask what it was those Gentlemen were really fighting for? The Gentlemen of Ireland, who now represented in that House the landlords of Ireland, said they were willing to have a poor law for Ireland. Now, a poor law meant that there should be a right on the part of the destitute poor to receive relief. A right!—a right to receive relief somewhere and in some fashion. That involved a law of settlement—that involved a law of removal—that involved the whole administrative portion of the poor law as we had it in this country; so that there was now no quarrel in respect to the administration of the poor law, in respect to settlement or to removal, or to the maintenance of such of the poor as might be disabled from working by actual incapacity, whether arising from old age or sickness; so far they were all agreed. Therefore they had got all the machinery of a poor law; they had got the houses—they had got the settlement and the removal, and what they were disputing about was simply out-door relief. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had explained the other night—and indeed he had on several occasions explained—that on this point what he was about to introduce into Ireland was pretty much the law which we had in England, namely, that there should be some means devised of determining whether a man who applied for relief was really in want or not; but he understood the noble Lord to state at the same time that there should be no thrusting of the poor into the workhouse indiscriminately without some means being adopted of ascertaining what were the real circumstances of each case; and he (Mr. Roebuck) would therefore put this consideration to the gentlemen from Ireland:—Suppose a pauper was idle and would not work, what was to be done with him; was he to be fed at all events? No, he (Mr. Roebuck) said, they ought to have some test—something to show that the man was really in want, previous to his obtaining relief; and that there were peculiar circumstances which furnished the grounds on which that man wanted some assistance. He thought they ought not to thrust any man at once into the workhouse without inquiry. An inquiry ought to be instituted in every such case; and if, after that inquiry, a suspicion existed that the man was not a deserving person, then they ought to put the question to him, "Will you come into the workhouse, and work there, since, as you say, you cannot find work elsewhere?" He had put that case to Dr. Collins, who was a highly respectable enlightened person, and his reply was, "But suppose the workhouse is full, and that we cannot there maintain the poor, who are really and substantially in want, and calling on us to maintain their existence?" His (Mr. Roebuck's) answer was, that the law of England, and that which ought to be the law of Ireland, was, that they should not turn round upon the people and say, "The workhouse is full, and therefore you cannot have relief." At this moment they were paying for outdoor relief to the poor to a pretty large extent, with very little test of the necessity of the case in each individual instance; there were now nearly 700,000 persons receiving that species of relief. But there never had been heard a murmur against this out-door relief, so long as the Irish landlords were not called upon to pay the expense, and there never would have been. That was the whole question. Ireland in these Gentlemen's mouths meant themselves and their purses, and when they talked of Ireland being ruined by out-door relief, they meant their own estates being ruined. But when the landlord of Ireland was told that he would be obliged to do that which his property entailed upon him as a primary duty and a serious and solemn obligation, he could not think that could be the ruin of any country, much less of such a country as Ireland. He thought that Ireland was just in the position at this moment to advance in the progress of civilization and improvement, as the right hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Shaw) had expressed it. He had seen some little symptoms with respect to Ireland which he thought were far more important as indicating progress in those re- spects than anything which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw) had mentioned. He (Mr. Roebuck) had lately seen large importations into Liverpool from Ireland of a very different breed of pigs and cattle than he used to see them twenty years ago—a far more significant symptom of the real state of the country than was contained in any of the lachrymose statements of hon. Gentlemen opposite. The fact was, in his opinion, that the country had improved more in the last twenty years than any other country in Europe in the same time. What was all this crying out they had heard so long from that country? Why, that very outcry was a symptom of national advancement. It was not those men who were in the lowest state of degradation that complained, but those who were in an improving condition, and saw scenes of better prospects opening out before them, which they wanted to reach, that were wont to complain. That was the reason of this continued outcry. "But," said the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Smith O'Brien), "give us a national Parliament, and all will be well." Now, perhaps he (Mr. Roebuck) could conceive the hon. Gentleman all at once endued with the great qualities of an Irish representative, marching up the streets of Dublin, to take his place in the national Parliament; but reverse the picture, and see him when he was called on to open his own nation's purse for the good of the people of Ireland. The other hon. Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. G. A. Hamilton) had told them of the number of presentments that had been made somewhere in Ireland, to the extent of 86,000l. But that sum was all paid out of the English Exchequer; and yet the hon. Gentleman stated that 86,000l. as being 2s. in the 1l. on the estates of the landlords of the district—a most Irish way of making out an account truly. But then it was said the landlords were to repay it. He (Mr. Roebuck) never trusted to that repayment. There was nothing like the utter carelessness of a broken-down man as to what he promised to repay. A shilling in hand was worth 20s. in promise. Some one reminded him that the country was not broken down. True, but the landlords were. If not, why did they refuse then-assent to this measure? He must have them on one of the horns of that dilemma. If they were not ruined, they ought to pay to the relief of the poor; and if there were an honest co-operation of all parties in Ireland for clearly benevolent purposes, he should be the last man to offer any strictures on the conduct of the landlords of that country; but the fact was, the only agreement that took place among the parties into which that unhappy people were divided, took place when they came to England to get something from England's purse. The moment that Irish questions arose amongst them, the different parties flew off from their alliance, like some antagonist forces driving in opposite directions. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Smith O'Brien) darted across Palace-yard, declaring he would not be a party to this measure; Lord Monteagle went across to the Treasury, assuring them he would be no party to that measure; other Gentlemen went off on various other measures; and at last there were found assembled in Palace-yard only two Gentlemen, who called themselves "the national party of Ireland." The unity of these parties was that unity which subsisted between persons who were leagued together to attack another man's purse. Such illustrations were not wanting in other times of the history of Ireland. If, however, he could see the right hon. Member for Dublin University lying down like a kid with the lion, the hon. and learned Member for Cork (Mr. O'Connell); if he could see those Gentlemen humanely conferring together, and engaged in gentle schemes of a really benevolent intention, he should feel some reliance on the truth and sincerity of the reconciliation of Irish parties; but when he saw the fire of intensely burning bigotry still as strong in the mind of the right hon. Member for Dublin University as it was ten years ago, when he spoke in that House on the subject of a Coercion Bill for Ireland, and when he recollected how lately the right hon. Member's zeal had blazed up, he was persuaded that those embers had at present the curfew cover put over them only to be lighted on the morning when the bell rang. The fire there was smothered for the present only, in order to blaze out by and by as fiercely as ever. That was proved the other day. When the hon. and learned Member for Kinsale brought forward his proposition to rend away the last wretched rag of bigotry, in what spirit was the measure resisted? Why, were not these significant symptoms of what was going on in Ireland? The fact was, that the safeguard of that country was to be found in the good sense of the English and the Scottish nation. It was to be found on this side of the Channel; and he warned the Irish Members to beware, lest they stretched the tie too tight by which they were allied to England. He felt that every hour in which he acted as a representative of this country, the pressure from without was coming upon him; he found that from every part of the country it was asked, how it was that in an assembly like that, representing the hardworking millions of this country, they were asked to throw their shield before that part of the Irish people who refused, in the language of the noble Lord, to do their duty in the situation in which they were placed? The right hon. Member for the University of Dublin, in casting about for the motives which hon. Members could have for supporting this Bill, had thought he had found one in popularity-hunting; he had insinuated that it was to gain the goodwill of the people of England that they were attempting to pass a poor law for Ireland. Now, what did this mean? It meant, the attempt of good men to obtain good will for good deeds. When he wanted his countrymen's approbation, he tried to do justice. Well, he did seek his countrymen's approbation, and he believed he would obtain it by doing justice to Ireland. He believed he did justice by imposing upon Ireland a fair and stringent poor law, which should make the landlords of Ireland understand their own interests, and provide for the real destitution of the people. If any hon. Gentleman felt this to be an imputation on him, he only asked that hon. Gentleman to meet his fellow-countrymen, as he was ready to meet his, in any part of England; and he felt quite sure that if in any assembly of his countrymen the question was put, whether the landlords of Ireland should have a poor law imposed upon them, and whether there should be equal taxation laid upon Ireland as upon England, not a man would dare to hold up his hand against it. One of these propositions had, nevertheless, been negatived in that House; but it was only deferred; for, as sure as the sun would rise to-morrow—and he had little doubt of that event—he felt that complete taxation for the Irish landlords would take place, both as respected the national exchequer and the support of the destitute poor. He felt that this was a great act of justice due to the Irish people, due to them by England, which had too long fostered the pernicious system which had invariably tended to demoralise the Irish landlord, as had been stated by the hon. Member for Limerick. He felt that it was due from England, which had long done this wrong; and as the wrong had been done by her, he saw that in her alone lay hope for the people of Ireland; and as he did hope that it would be a real benefit to Ireland to have an effective poor law, he meant to support to the utmost of his power the proposition which had been made to the House. The time would come when he should have to criticise that measure from beginning to end, and to show how inadequate at present, and yet how fruitful of future benefit, was the proposition of the noble Lord, which he now most cordially supported.


remarked, that the Bill professed to provide for the destitution of Ireland. It seemed to him, however, that it was better calculated to create destitution than to provide for it. He could not from any data existing estimate the number of persons who might apply for relief under the Bill; but he felt certain that the poor farmers occupying from five to ten and fifteen acres would be irrecoverably borne down by the pressure of the heavy rates upon them. He considered the proposition to be unjust, because it was unequal. It threw an oppressive burden on the proprietors and occupiers of land, and let the moneyed man go free. Now, he maintained that it was only fair and proper that the persons holding official situations should take their share of the tax as well as the farmers and labourers, who worked with their hands for the support of their families; and not only them, but he felt that the fundholder, who possessed perhaps thousands upon thousands, should also be obliged to contribute his share. It had been said that they ought to support the Bill because no person had suggested a better. This did not appear to him a good argument. He had wished to see a measure to which he could cordially assent—he had desired to see a measure upon which all the talent and wisdom and experience of the Government were combined; but he regretted to say he had not yet seen such a Bill. He did not say that such a Bill would not prove beneficial to Ireland; but he wished to hear the sentiments of persons on all sides of the House expressed on it; and he hoped that before it passed it would be made as fair as possible, and such as Irish Members could cordially agree to, which he feared they could not do at present.


, in reference to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, said, that what he complained of was, not the fact of hon. Gentlemen in this country supporting a poor law for Ireland; but that, in the course they thought it consistent with their duty to take in so supporting that principle, they should introduce matter into these discussions unfortunately too popular with a section of the people of this country, namely, indiscriminate attacks upon the landlords of Ireland. For his own part he was as ready as the hon. and learned Gentleman to give his support to this measure; but he was not willing to join in attacks upon Gentlemen who, though they might sit on the other side of the House, had thought it their duty not to support this proposition. With respect to the attack of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, or the right hon. and learned Recorder of Dublin, he considered he had done the right hon. Gentleman great injustice; and when he accused him of bigotry, he would put it to the House—he would appeal to all who heard him—whether there was any man among them who, in the discussion of Irish questions, had shown a greater forgetfulness of past party and political differences than had that right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had voted against the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn for an advance of public money in promotion of Irish railways, and had supported the Government on that occasion, for a practical reason; and now the hon. and learned Member for Bath said, that, though that might be the case, still he voted against the measure of the hon. Member for Kinsale (Mr. Watson) for the repeal of the penal statutes against the Roman Catholics. He certainly could not but regret that vote on the part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman; but it would not be fair or just to accuse him of bigotry in having so voted, as it was known that he had only voted consistently with his principles and former votes, and in accordance with what he considered the honest and conscientious discharge of his duty. The hon. and learned Member had also attacked the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. S. O'Brien), for that he and other Irish Members spoke against time on these Irish questions; but he thought that that was hardly fair when the hon. Member he had attacked, was going to vote on the same side as himself (Mr. S. O'Brien). With reference to the Bill itself, and the ques- tion of whether the rating should be taken over the union, or the electoral divisions, he should, when the 10th Clause of the Bill came before the House, give his vote in favour of an union rate, although he was ready to vote for the other principle, provided that its advocates could show him, what he had not discovered from any of the arguments used in support of it, that it could be carried out without a confiscation of property. It appeared to him that hon. Members who opposed the clause for giving out-door relief, had fallen into a very extraordinary mistake. The first clause in the Bill enacted that out-door relief should be given to the helpless poor at the absolute discretion of the boards of guardians; and the second clause provided that out-door relief should be given to the able-bodied poor with the sanction of the Commissioners, and for a period of only two months at a time. Now, in his opinion, it was the first and not the second clause that was most calculated to excite well-founded alarm in the minds of Irish proprietors; and yet it was against the second clause that all the attacks of the opponents of the measure had been directed. For his part, he hoped that the principle of the first clause would be very cautiously carried into effect, for he believed that it might otherwise not only impose a grievous burden on property, but might lead to the demoralisation of the poorer classes in Ireland. There was, however, not much in out-door relief to give alarm to his country; and he believed that the Irish party—or the "happy family," as they were called—had come to the conclusion at which they had arrived on that question in the most honest spirit; but he regretted that they had come to that conclusion. He wished to see the first clause rendered more stringent, but he would support the second as it stood. With respect to the other details of the measure, he would not go into them on that occasion; but before he sat down, he wished to express a hope that though the Irish Members did differ upon the question of the poor law, they might be found, in the discussion of these measures, to show some forbearance to each other, and an honest forgetfulness of party differences. The hon. and learned Member for Bath talked of lamentable exhibitions. This Session had certainly been witness of many lamentable exhibitions; but of none, in his opinion, more lamentable than that in which, at a time when Ireland was suffering under so grievous a calamity, and the good and generous of England and Scotland were doing all they could to assist her; honourable, eloquent, and able Gentlemen—he knew not for what motive—made use of such an occasion to rake up past party and political disputes and differences; to throw the apple of discontent among them; and to awaken the national antagonism of the English and the Scotch against the Irish people. The speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, he would only add in conclusion, might amuse as mere eloquent displays; but, for his own part, he considered they would be very dangerous models for legislation.


wished to call the attention of the House to two points in the poor-law system the noble Lord was about to introduce into Ireland. The first was, the giving relief to certain classes out of the workhouse; the other, the alteration in the construction of the boards of guardians. He was not one of those who were opposed to giving relief to the poor in the same form as in England; and though, under the peculiar circumstances of Ireland, this might amount to a virtual confiscation of property in Ireland, yet, as such a measure was become necessary, he was willing to bear his share of that odium. What he objected to in the Government proposition was the other point, the allowing relief to be given to the poor, without the control of the ratepayers, by irresponsible magistrates acting as ex-officio guardians. He could understand why there should be ex-officio guardians; but the noble Lord had given no reason why the number should be so greatly increased, and he was decidedly opposed to it. He thought the noble Lord was not right in introducing measures only adapted to the present moment; for if the present state of things should continue for another year, they would find they had been making Acts of Parliament for nothing. In the town he represented, the poorhouse was built for 2,000 paupers; but there were now within it 5,600, and 1,200 more received relief out of doors. Moreover, in one street of the same town, two-thirds of the shopkeepers had become insolvent. He entreated the noble Lord not to listen to this party or that, but to give the country an efficient poor law; and to take care that the ratepayers had efficient control in deciding what the rate should be, and in administering it.


approved of out-door relief with certain modifications; but he thought at the present time, when 700,000 or 800,000 were receiving out-door relief on the public works, a measure like the present would be most fatal and dangerous to the interests of the country and the moral character of the people. They might rest assured that those upon the public works would not be satisfied to return to their former position in the country: they would expect to receive out-door relief, and would naturally come to the conclusion that this measure was brought forward by the noble Lord to afford them the means of living without any adequate return on their parts. Another ground on which he objected to the measure was, that he saw no security whatever that the poor should derive their maintenance from the property on which they were reared; and he thought it was not just or fair towards gentlemen who did all they could for the interests of the poor, to saddle them with the poor of the absentee proprietors, or those who habitually neglected them. He would postpone any observations on the details of the measure until it should be in Committee. He could not, however, sit down without expressing his strong disapprobation of the language held by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, which was scarcely what he should have expected from any Englishman, whose characteristic it was never to strike a man when he was down. How different was the tone of the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, and the noble Lord at the head of the Government, actuated by all the fine and manly feeling of an Englishman. There was one point on which the noble Lord appeared to have been misinformed, namely, with respect to the liberality of Irish landlords, whose contributions he had set down at from 100l. to 300l. The noble Lord would find, if he would inquire into the matter, that a very large proportion of the Irish landlords had contributed as many thousands; and although, in many instances, there existed reasons for not putting their names forward before the public, he knew many instances of such liberality. He knew one instance, in which a gentleman lost one or two vessels which were coming home laden with corn, for the relief of the people.


said, he had received a letter from Lord Monteagle, calling his attention to an omission in his speech, as to what took place when the deputation of which the noble Lord formed one, waited upon him some short time since. He had omitted to state that one of the deputation, on being asked what remedy was proposed besides private charity, said, that the landed gentry of Ireland were willing to submit to any charge on their property for providing in-door relief, and the extension of workhouses. The expression certainly did not make much impression on him at the time, or he certainly would have adverted to it for the purpose of showing how impracticable such a scheme would be. It was, however, only justice to Lord Monteagle to say, that his statement, in this respect, was perfectly correct.

House went into Committee, pro formâ, and resumed. Bill to be re-committed.

House adjourned at One o'clock.