HC Deb 09 February 1848 vol 96 cc312-27

said, he rose to put to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland the question of which he had given notice. He considered that the present condition of Ireland had not received proper attention. He believed that many of the inhabitants of this country, if they were called upon to render any further aid to the people of Ireland, would say, "We have passed a poor-law to relieve the miseries and distresses of the Irish people; let that poor-law take its course; let it be carried oot effectually: let the landlords of Ireland, by the help of that poor-law, settle the matter themselves; and do not trouble us on the subject, or, at all events, don't ask us for more money." He would, therefore, claim the indulgence of the House for a few moments, while he called their attention to some of the statements which had appeared in the public journals with reference to the misery and destitution which existed in Ireland. He would not refer, as his authorities, to the repeal journals, which might be disposed to represent matters in their worst aspect, but he would read some passages from a newspaper which was supposed to be the organ of the Government—the Dublin Evening Post, to show the condition of the people in many parts of Ireland. The hon. Gentleman read an extract from the Dublin Evening Post of Saturday last, stating that the intelligence from the western counties was most appalling; that on the preceding Tuesday the town of Roscommon was crowded with destitute persons; that the workhouse already contained 1,100 inmates, and that 2,000 more were vainly seeking admission; that from the number of destitute peasantry who crowded into the town the inhabitants became alarmed, and the workshops were closed; and that several of these people died before they could leave the town, while hundreds were strolling about suffering from fever, spreading disease wherever they went. The hon. Member also read, from the same journal, a communication from Galway, stating that on Wednesday 3,000 starving individuals were in the streets of that town almost destitute of clothing and clamorous for food, and that three children died in one night from exposure to the severity of the weather in the streets. It was evident from these and other similar statements with which the Irish local journals were filled, that a very large portion of the population of Ireland were still in the most extreme destitution, and on the very verge of starvation. He referred to these accounts in order to draw the attention of the House and of the public to the necessity of some inquiry into the operation of the poor-law of last year, and in order to ascertain if it were true that, notwithstanding that law, which gave the destitute poor of Ireland a title to relief, the people of that country were now dying by scores, and were likely soon to die by hundreds, for the want of that relief which the law professed to secure to them. It might be said these were only newspaper stories. But he could produce statements of a more authentic character to show that so long back as three months ago the Irish people were deprived of that relief to which they were entitled. He wished it, however, to be understood that he brought no charge against the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, or against Her Majesty's Government. But he did say that it was necessary that these facts should be either explained or denied; and that it should be made known from authority whether the poor-law was really effective as a resource against the starvation of the poor or not. He had this morning received a letter from a gentleman in the county of Limerick, asking whether, under the late Act of Parliament, if a person who had applied for relief to ex-officio or elected guardians, died for want of such relief, as was the case in many instances, the relieving officer was liable to prosecution? The fact was, that the people of Ireland did not understand what the law really was; they were not aware whether the law with regard to the granting of relief was imperative or not; and he thought that some public declaration should be made by the Government on the subject. Let it be remembered that up to July last one-third of the population of Ireland were fed at the public expense; and if it was not intended that the relief afforded under the poor-law, which was substituted for that system, should be compulsory, he contended that it was most unjustifiable to discontinue a system of relief by which alone 3,000,000 of the Irish people were saved from starvation. The Poor Law Act of last year expressly required that the boards of guardians should make provision for the due relief of all destitute poor persons; and the Poor Law Commissioners, in a circular dated the 26th of July last, warned the boards of guardians that they were absolutely required from that time forward to give due relief, according to their necessities, to all classes of the poor of Ireland. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland was reported to have declared, in a speech he recently made at the Mansion-house, that the Poor Law Act of last year did, for the first time, give to the poor of Ireland a right to relief which would preserve them from starvation. The highest judicial authority of Ireland, the Lord Chief Justice, in opening the special commission at Limerick, prefaced his charge to the grand jury by stating, as an aggravation of crimes of an agrarian character, that a law had been passed giving a certain and effectual relief to every destitute poor man in Ireland, and that such a measure ought to have the effect of taking away all apology for crime. This was the language of that learned Judge:— As I have adverted to what may be fairly termed the principal object of these illegal confederacies, I may observe that at no period does there appear to be less reason on that account for interfering with the rights or remedies of landlords, because you are all well aware that the principle that every individual has a right to be supported by the land is not only an acknowledged principle, but has been embodied in an Act of Parliament in full execution, by which Act the most stringent measures are provided for making effectual provision for the poor under all circumstances, and that, too, at the cost of the very class of persons against whose rights there is this general opposition. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the intention of the Legislature, and the letter of the Act, as interpreted by the highest authorities, have given a legal right to relief in destitution to the Irish poor. But is it effectual? Is this just and righteous law enforced? That was the point and marrow of his question. He must ask the House to hear with him for a short time while he called their attention to the manner in which the Irish Poor Law had been carried out; and, in doing so, he would not mention any cases which were not authenticated in the papers which had been before the House for some time past. Those papers only referred to events which had taken place up to the middle of November last; they contained no account of the occurrences which had taken place within the last two months; but they afforded ample evidence that for the preceding three or four months the greatest misery and destitution had been experienced by the poor of Ireland, in consequence of that relief to which they were entitled under the Poor Law Act being withheld from them. The first case to which he would call attention was that of the union of Ballina. In that union, which was one of the most extensive in Ireland, no less than 65,000 rations were issued daily in September; and, including the barony of Erris, at least 80,000 poor were receiving public relief daily in that district. From that time forward, however, all these persons were thrown upon their own resources—that was to say, they were entirely dependent upon the poor-law for support. Now, what did the House suppose was the condition of the Ballina union in the middle of October? It appeared from Mr. Bourke's letter, dated the 13th of October, which was given given at page 75 of the Printed Papers, that four months previously a rate of 13,869l. had been declared necessary and voted, and that on the 13th of October only 868l, had been collected, leaving 13,000l. still due. Mr. Bourke stated, that "persons of the highest consideration and position in the county of Mayo" had refused to pay their rates. The names of the defaulters were given; and though he (Mr. Scrope) did not wish to mention names if he could avoid doing so, he might state that in the list he found the names of several persons of the highest rank, and of the greatest respectability and wealth in the county. The month of October passed, and the month of November were on; and it appeared from a letter of Lieutenant Hamilton, written on the 13th of November, that at that time—five months after the rate had been signed—some of the guardians themselves owed a very large amount of rates. But while the guardians were thus refusing to pay their rates, what was the condition of the poor in this union? It appeared from the statement of Mr. Tuke, a gentleman belonging to the Society of Friends, who visited Mayo in the autumn of last year, that at that time evictions and clearances had been rapidly going on. Numerous roofless dwellings met the eye in all directions, destroyed at the instance of the landlords, after turning adrift the miserable inmates. [The hon. Member here quoted from a work by Mr. Tuke a specific case; but as the hon. Member, on a subsequent day, before our report was sent to press, retracted the statement, and added, that Mr. Tuke's pamphlet had been withdrawn from circulation, we have suppressed this part of the hon. Member's speech.] What then was the result? These poor wretches, in some cases, had to struggle fifty miles to the workhouse to seek relief. When they arrived there, what did they find? The doors closed against them. It appeared from the authentic report of the poor-law inspector, that at this very time the guardians of the Ballina union had passed an illegal resolution not to admit nor to give relief in any shape to a single poor person from the barony of Erris, the most distressed part of the whole union, on the ground that the rates were not paid for that district. So that the very landlords who were evicting their poor tenants by the non-payment of their rates, occasioned the refusal of relief to them when houseless and starving through their act. These miserable beings then endeavoured to retrace their steps home; but it appeared from the report of the poor-law inspector that several of them died on the way. It was stated by Lieutenant Hamilton that at this time the poor even within the Ballina workhouse were in a state of starvation—that they were actually dying for want of sufficient nourishment. The report of the same gentleman also stated that in another portion of the barony of Erris, Bingham's-town, the people were in a most destitute condition; that their only sustenance was turnips, and the supply of this food was limited; and that the relieving officer had several hundreds on his books, but the poor people were afraid to venture a second time to Ballina, the distance being forty miles. It appeared that at this very time the proprietor of Bingham's-town, a gentleman named Bingham, was in the defaulter's book for poor-rates, to the amount of 119l. 3s. 8d. He (Mr. Scrope) wished to call the attention of the House to the fact, that at this time the union of Ballina and the county of Mayo were in a state of perfect tranquillity; even those poor wretches who were refused relief, and who died by the road-side, respected the property of their neighbours, and outrages were seldom heard of. He was aware the landlords of Mayo had found great difficulty in paying their rates, that some of them were involved in embarrassments, and that many had been unable to obtain payment of their rents.


rose to order. He was very unwilling to interrupt the hon. Member who was addressing the House; but he must remind that hon. Gentleman that he had merely given notice of his intention to put a question to the right hon. Secretary for Ireland. He was quite aware that any hon. Gentleman, on the Orders of the Bay being read, might enter into the discussion of any subject; but if such a course were pursued, it would occasion great inconvenience and waste of time. Several hon. Gentlemen had come down to the House prepared to discuss a Bill which stood on the paper (the New Zealand Bill); but the hon. Member for Stroud had opened the book of Ireland, and was entering into statements which would require answers and explanations. He understood that Her Majesty's Ministers had not received any notice of the intention of the hon. Member to enter into this question, and that they were consequently unprepared with documents which would enable them to answer his statements. He, therefore, put it to the hon. Gentleman whether it would not be more convenient if he gave notice of his intention to bring the state of Ireland under the consideration of the House on a future day, and allowed the debate on the New Zealand Bill to be proceeded with.


complained of the interruption of the hon. Member for Montrose. He conceived that no question could be brought before the House more deserving of their immediate and serious consideration than the subject to which the hon. Member for Stroud had called attention; and he thought it was a reproach upon the House that they should have allowed a single day to pass after the commencement of the Session without considering that question.


hoped the House would not suppose that there was any desire on the part of the Government to stop the discussion of this question, although they certainly were not prepared with documents which would enable them to answer any statements that might be made—that was to say, they were not prepared to enter fully into the question of the administration of the poor-laws. The hon. Member for Stroud had stated that he had given due notice of his intention to put a question to the Government on the subject of the Irish Poor Law; but he must observe that the hon. Gentleman had not intimated that he would put that question on reading the Order of the Day. He was not surprised that his hon. Friend (Mr. Scrope)—although probably he had only intended to occupy the attention of the House for a few minutes—should have spoken for nearly an hour; and he thought there was not much prospect that the hon. Gentleman would soon bring his remarks to a conclusion. He considered, therefore, that the interruption of the hon. Member for Montrose was not very unreasonable, especially as several hon. Gentlemen had given notice of their intention to bring the subject to which the hon. Member for Stroud was referring distinctly under the consideration of the House. He would put it to his hon. Friend, whether it would not be more convenient if he confined himself to the question of which he had given notice, and allowed the House to proceed with the business on the paper. He had no idea that a discussion would have been raised on this subject to-day; his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and other Members of the Ministry, were absent from the House; and he certainly thought it was scarcely fair that a question of this importance should be mooted without the usual notice having been given.


observed, that many hon. Members had come down to the House prepared to take part in the discussion on the New Zealand Bill: and it would be a most inconvenient course if a subject so important as to which the hon. Member for Stroud had called attention was brought before the House without notice.


considered that the subject to which he was referring was one of paramount importance, and possessed stronger claims on the attention of the House than either the New Zealand Bill, or the measure for removing Jewish disabilities. He had said that the poor of Mayo had exhibited a patience and forbearance from crime quite extraordinary under these frightful sufferings and unjust refusal of legal relief to them. A neighbouring county, however, under similar circumstances, was not equally exempt from crime. He would now advert to the union of Carrick-on-Shannon, in the county of Leitrim. There the workhouse, though not one-third full, was closed against the admission of paupers for three or four months up to the end of November. Captain Wynne said, in his report— The poor-law cannot be said to be in operation in this union;" and on the 29th of November he added, "there are now wandering about the union 1,600 persons or more waiting for admission into the House. It was in this union about this time that Mr. Lloyd was shot. The persons suspected of that crime had, he believed, died of fever in prison; but if they had been tried, the Chief Justice could not have said, in opening the commission, as he did at Limerick, as an aggravation of such offences, that the benevolence of the law had taken away all possible apology for crime by securing every poor man from perishing through want, and giving him the certainty of relief in destitution. To proceed to a third instance, where there could be no excuse made of extreme and general poverty—the wealthy union of Cavan in the province of Ulster. The condition of the Cavan union on the 21st of December is thus described by Messrs. Robinson and Bates:— The valuation of this union, of which Lord Farnham was chairman, was 127,000l. a year, whilst the poor-rate collected in twelve months up to December was only 5,890l., or less than 11½d. in the pound. And yet in this union the rates still, in December last, remained uncollected, while the poor were allowed to starve unrelieved. He could not refrain from alluding particularly to one case which occurred in this union—that of Catherine M'Evoy and her children. This woman on being turned out of a fever hospital with two of her children in a state of convalescence, the family erected a but in the neighbourhood of a wood, where, with the assistance of neighbours, they endeavoured to support existence. On the 23rd of October one of the children died, and a coroner's jury which sat upon the body returned a verdict, declaring that the child had died from starvation. The verdict was sent to the Commissioners, who returned it to the board of guardians, with injunctions to them not to allow any of the survivors of the family to fall victims to starvation. Notwithstanding this, the woman died on the 23rd of November, and a coroner's jury which sat upon the body declared that she, too, had been starved to death. For weeks previous to her death the woman's screams had been heard by her neighbours, who were themselves too destitute to afford her sufficient relief. Now, he begged to ask whether the Cavan board of guardians could not be punished for their conduct in this case? In England the law provided a punishment for parties who should act in a similar manner, as would appear from the following passage in Russell on Crimes and Misdemeanors:Thus, where an indictment stated that the defendant, an overseer, had under his care a poor person belonging to his township, but neglected and refused to provide for her necessary meat, &c, whereby she was reduced to a state of extreme weakness; and afterwards, through want of such reasonable and necessary meat, &c, died, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to a year's imprisonment. And where an overseer was indicted for neglecting to supply medical assistance when required to a pauper labouring under dangerous illness, the learned judge before whom the indictment was tried held that an offence was sufficiently charged and proved, though such pauper was not in the parish workhouse, nor had previously to his illness received or stood in need of parish relief. In Blackstone's Commentaries, also, it was stated that —"if a man does an act of which the probable consequence may be, and eventually is, death, such killing may be murder, although no stroke is struck by himself, and no killing may be primarily intended (as was the case of the son who exposed his sick father to the air by reason whereof he died), as was the case of the parish officers, who shifted a child from parish to parish till it died for want of care and sustenance. Was not the law in Ireland the same? It might be said that it was necessary to make allowance for the circumstances in which Ireland was placed—for the difficulty which landlords experienced in obtaining their rents—and for all the drawbacks attendant upon the administration of a new law. But was any allowance made for the poor men condemned to perish for the infraction of the laws on account of the circumstances in which they were placed?—was any allowance made for the poor men about to be hanged this week in Limerick, or for those who were sentenced to be otherwise punished for helping themselves to a sheep or a loaf of bread which did not belong to them, in order to save them- selves and their children from the most agonising deaths? If allowances were not made in those cases, why should they be made in favour of the wealthy, who, by their infraction of the law, or resistance to its operation, not only endangered but actually destroyed the lives of the poor? If Ministers found themselves unable to enforce the poor-law with sufficient vigour to enable them to fulfil the engagements to which they were bound, they ought at least to provide a substitute, and in some other way do that which the poor-law promised to do—namely, to secure relief to the destitute, for want of which so many died during the last few months. The hon. Gentleman concluded by asking the Secretary for Ireland whether any and what legal proceedings have been taken against such boards of guardians or relieving officers as have neglected the duties imposed on them by the Act 10 and 11 Victoria, c. 31, of affording due relief to the destitute poor?


said, the hon. Member for Stroud had given him notice of his intention to put three questions respecting the unions of Cavan, Carrick-on-Shannon, and Ballina, but he had spent more than an hour in addressing the House before he came to the subject-matter of those interrogatories. He (Sir W. Somerville) had not come down to the House prepared to enter into a discussion on the Irish Poor Law; but he was the last man in that House who would complain if any hon. Member should come forward to call the attention of the Government to the distress which unhappily prevailed to so grievous an extent in Ireland. He was of opinion, however, that the hon. Member for Stroud had done very great injustice to that House and to the country by stating that there existed either within the walls of that House, or outside of them, any disinclination to administer as far as was possible to the necessities of the destitute poor of Ireland. Since he had come to this country, many parties who were aware of the position he held in Ireland as one of the Commissioners for carrying out the provisions of the poor-law in that country, had made many inquiries of him which satisfied him that the deepest possible interest was felt throughout England as to the manner in which the Irish Poor Law was working, and as to its capacity to relieve the wants of the destitute. He did not complain of the tone of the speech made by the hon. Member for Stroud; but he did think that the hon. Member, in touching on this question, had left entirely out of view the enormous difficulties which the Government had had to contend with. There was no one connected with Ireland who had watched the operation of the poor-law in that country, and who was aware of the intricate and complicate machinery by which it had to be worked, who must not be cognisant of the vast difficulties which they had to contend with who were engaged in the administration of such a measure. The system of relief which existed in Ireland before the introduction of the new poor-law, was carried on through the instrumentality of commissioners and finance committees in each of the electoral districts; and the relief administered under that system was brought home, it might almost be said, to every poor man's house. That system was suddenly put an end to, and the poor-law came into operation, worked by a machinery more complicated, more extensive, more difficult, and which, moreover, had to be put into immediate operation. Those who knew the great aversion of the people of Ireland to go into a workhouse, and the amount of destitution which had to be relieved in that country, and the extent to which that destitution was permitted to advance before the poor could induce themselves to make application to the parties, whether guardians or relieving officers, to whom the administration of the law was confided, could not but be aware that it was extremely difficult, nay, that it was actually impossible, to make the machinery of that law available to effectually meet the enormous destitution with which it was so suddenly called upon to deal. With respect to the particular instances of distress alluded to by the hon. Member for Stroud, the only answer he could give him was, to refer him to the sequel of the correspondence from which he had quoted a portion to the House. It was true that a number of gentlemen attended the meeting of the board of guardians in Ballina, and there made an appeal to the assembled authorities, stating that it was not in their power to meet their liabilities, and discharge their duties. He would beg leave to refer the hon. Member for Stroud to the answer of the Commissioners to that representation, which was to the effect, that the Commissioners, looking to the financial state of the Ballina union, and to the necessity of maintaining the destitute poor, were of opinion that no considerations of such a kind as those made to the guardians by the gentlemen who had appealed to them, would justify any delay in the enforcement of the rates due by landed proprietors in the union; and they concluded by giving directions that the guardians should proceed to enforce the payment of such rates, let the consequences be what they might. The regular boards having shown their reluctance to comply with this admonition, paid guardians had been appointed in their stead, who had left no effort unaccomplished to collect the rate, and provide for the maintenance of the poor. The great size of the unions in Ireland constituted another difficulty in the way of the effective operation of the law. No union had suffered more in that respect than the union of Ballina; but the Commissioners, sensible of the fact, had done all in their power to remedy so unfortunate an evil. They had divided the union into two, and there was now a separate workhouse presided over by paid guardians in Erris, which was the most destitute district of the entire union. A separate inspector had also been appointed in the person of Mr. Hamilton, whose special duty it was to attend to that district. With reference to Carrick-on-Shannon, there, too, complaints had been made of the non-collection of the rate; but the Commissioners resolved that every practicable effort should be had recourse to to enforce the payment of all solvent arrears. As to the general question of the liability to punishment of persons engaged in the administration of the poor-law, in the event of their neglecting their duty, he believed that the proposition did not admit of a dispute. He believed that there could be no question that a relieving officer, neglecting his duty or refusing to give relief when he had it in his power to grant it, and had been applied to for it, was liable to an action; but the hon. Member for Stroud had not brought forward any such case of misconduct on the part of a relieving officer, nor did he think that such a case was to be found in the correspondence of the Commissioners. Great backwardness to discharge their duties had been manifested by the board of guardians in Cavan; but their dissolution had been the consequence, and a very different state of things had now arisen. The amount of rate collected by the paid guardians of the Cavan union since their appointment had fallen little short of 10,000l. He was sure that the correspondence thereafter to be laid before the House would show a progressive improvement in all the unions of Ireland, and would prove that no effort had been left untried to collect the rates, in order that the means of subsistence might be procured for the destitute poor; but he firmly believed that it was impossible for a poor-law machinery, called into operation so suddenly at the termination of a system which brought home to every poor man's house prompt and immediate relief—he repeated that it was impossible for a machinery thus severely and suddenly taxed, to cope effectually with the enormous mass of misery which was thrown upon it.


said, that when there was a general charge made against Irish Members of not bringing forward practical measures with regard to distress in their own country, he thought the House owed a debt of gratitude to the hon. Member for Stroud for the effective, but, at the same time, calm manner, in which he had introduced the present question. He concurred in the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland that it was difficult to bring so complicated a machinery as that of the New Poor Law system suddenly into perfect operation. He was aware, from his own experience of the character of the people of Ireland, that when the Government took away from the landlords of that country the great powers and patronage which they had hitherto possessed, perfect chaos must intervene before order could be restored. There were, however, two questions now before the country on which he congratulated Her Majesty's Ministers: one was an announcement which he had seen in the Times newspaper of yesterday, that arrangements had been completed for an application to Parliament for the incorporation of a company, under the sanction of the Earl of Clarendon, for establishing a "small-farm system" in Ireland. If the Government should give their aid to the noble Earl in carrying out his intentions, but few causes of distress in that country, and but few just grounds of complaint, would then remain. The other question to which he alluded was that of tenant-right, on which he wished to reserve his observations until the question came regularly before the House.


did not wish to lead the House into a premature discussion on the Irish Poor Law, although he thought it was a subject quite as deserving of the early attention of the House as a new constitution for the colony of New Zealand. His object in rising chiefly was to make an appeal to the Government, not to allow the people of Ireland to die as they were now dying. There was not a post that arrived in this country from Ireland that did not bring accounts of the people starving there. It was no answer to say that it was the fault of the guardians, of the Poor Law Commissioners, or of the landlords. Whosever fault it might be, it was the duty of the Government to see that the people were not suffered to perish. If the boards of guardians neglected their duty, protection ought not to be afforded them. As to the Commissioners, he confessed he was not able to unravel the system by which they conducted their proceedings. But there were many subjects well deserving the consideration of the Government besides the due administration of the poor-law; subjects which had often been suggested to Her Majesty's Ministers, but which had hitherto failed to engage their attention. Up to the present moment nothing had been done with regard to the waste lands in Ireland; on the contrary, it appeared that the object of the Government, and of the Poor Law Commissioners, was to render the large expenditure upon the poor of that country as unproductive as possible. He was afraid that after expending millions the result would, on looking back, be found to have been a mere waste of money, and that its expenditure had been productive of no other consequence than that of the demoralisation of the people. Last year he pointed out the impracticability of carrying into effect the poor-law system, in consequence of the unions being too large. His admonitions on that occasion were not attended to; but he was glad to find that since then the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland had changed upon that subject, and that he was now convinced that unions of a smaller area were necessary to the efficient working out of the new law. But it would not be enough to divide the unions; greater powers were required to be given to the public to scrutinise the claims of applicants, for the purpose, on the one hand, of protecting the ratepayers against impostors, and, on the other, of being assured that every deserving object, on making application, obtained relief. There was another portion of the present system which operated in a most painful and distressing manner—he meant the exclusion of all persons as recipients of relief who occupied a quarter of an acre of land. He had no hesitation in. saying that the quarter-acre system would have the effect of ejecting from their holdings many thousands of persons in Ireland. He considered that all the arguments which were made use of last year for the suspension of the operation of that enactment were equally applicable to the circumstances of the present year, and that Government ought to bring forward a measure for repealing or at least suspending the application of that system.


was desirous of making a single observation. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said, that no question was more deserving the attention of the House than that concerning the Irish Poor Law. Now, it was on that very ground he regretted that this Motion had been brought forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud. It was because he was desirous of going into a discussion on the very questions which the hon. Gentleman had mentioned respecting the reclaiming of waste lands, the doing away with the quarter-acre system, and so forth, that he considered this to be a most inopportune and ill-advised moment to bring forward the subject, there being no opportunity on such an occasion as this for entering upon any such discussions. He, therefore, protested against its being supposed that because English Members declined going into the consideration of those questions on the present occasion, there was any want of feeling on their part for the distresses that at this moment afflicted the people of Ireland.


concurred in what had fallen from the hon. Member for West Surrey. He was quite ready to go into the subject of distress prevailing in Ireland, but he would not do so on such an occasion as this, because he did not wish to encourage so inconvenient a mode of dealing with great public questions. He was anxious that a day should be appointed when the subject should be brought fully and deliberately under the consideration of the House; and, whenever that might happen, he should be prepared to give it his best attention.


would be the last Member in the House to encourage any act calculated to interrupt the public business of the country; but as to the observation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose, that this discussion would interfere with the New Zealand Bill, he would say it was of more importance that the lives of the people of Ireland should be saved, than that their time should be taken up in mending the constitution of New Zealand. He (Mr. Reynolds) thought he should be justified in calling the attention of the House to Irish destitution, at least once a week. It was a question of life and death. The people were dying in thousands, while that House was relying upon that which appeared to be a rotten reed, namely, the working of the poor-law. He had already declared that he was favourable to the principle of the poor-law; but he believed that Her Majesty's Government, and a majority of the Members composing that House, placed too much reliance on its good effects in Ireland. It was time the Government should direct their attention to the profitable employment of the people. He would remind the House that the waste lands were unreclaimed; that the resources of the country were undeveloped; and that it was profitable employment the able-bodied poor required, and not to be fed in idleness.


would not detain the House for one moment, but was anxious to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland to the oppression which was now practised under the quarter-acre clause.

Subject at an end.