§ On the Motion of the CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER the House resolved itself into Committee on the above subject, Mr. Bernal in the Chair.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he rose, in pursuance of the notice he had given, to move that the Committee agree to a vote for the purpose of affording relief to certain unions in the west of Ireland. Gentlemen would probably recollect that a similar vote was proposed at the end of last Session. When the failure of the potato crop was apprehended, questions were put to his noble Friend and himself as to the course the Government intended to pursue; and they were urged at that time to bring forward some measure for the purpose of affording relief to the destitution prevalent in some parts of Ireland. The answer they gave was, that they did not think it expedient at that time to bring forward any large measure whatever; and that if circumstances should be such as to render it necessary, it would be their duty to call Parliament together before any step of that kind was taken; but they did ask the House to entrust them with some small discretionary power, in order to enable 375 them to take measures, if they should turn out to be necessary, for the preservation of human life. That course seemed to meet the acquiescence of the House; and he recollected that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) whom he did not now see in his place, afterwards stated that he entirely concurred in it. His first duty would be, to give an account of what had been done since the close of the last Session in pursuance of this plan. Hon. Gentlemen had probably seen the report published by the British Association of Relief extended to certain unions in Ireland in the course of the years 1847 and 1848. A state of things very similar to that of the former year existed in the course of last autumn, for although a larger quantity of potatoes was planted in many parts of Ireland than in the year 1847, the failure had been nearly as general as in the year 1846, and the quantity available for food was not greater than in 1847. It had become, therefore, absolutely necessary in some few instances to afford relief. It turned out, however, that there were available funds remaining from those collected by voluntary subscription by the British Association. These had, to the extent of 12,000l., been issued to some of the unions; but when they were exhausted, the Government were called upon to make some further advance. They had made an advance to the amount of 3,000l.; that was the extent to which they had exercised the discretion entrusted to them by Parliament after the funds collected by the British Association were exhausted. At the earliest possible moment of the new Session, they were desirous of stating what had been done; and he should next proceed to inform the House what they proposed to do, under the present circumstances of Ireland, and particularly of the western portion of that country. The papers which had been delivered yesterday morning, were by no means all they might have laid on the table of the House: but they thought it far better to lay on the table a few papers which Gentlemen probably would have time to read, than to call on them to wade through the interminable pages of a large blue book. It was certainly very satisfactory to have to state that, with the exception of a very small portion of Ireland, he did not believe that any assistance whatever was either wished for or necessary; the greater portion of the cast and north of Ireland was not more 376 distressed at this moment than parts of the south of England. The rates were collected as easily as in many parts of the south of England. In other parts of Ireland there was not the least need of assistance if proper exertions were made. He might refer to the case of the union of Listowel, in which the collection of the rates had fallen into some disorder. An active officer was sent down, and within six weeks the demands over due were not only paid, but a balance of 700l. remained in the treasurer's hands. It was, notwithstanding, imperatively necessary, un-less they wished to see hundreds perishing from starvation in certain districts of Ireland, that some assistance should be given by this country. He thought it indispensable that the distribution of that assistance should be administered under the most stringent and rigorous regulations, in order to prevent fraud. Hon. Gentlemen complained of the poor-law, and attributed to it all those evils which now afflicted Ireland—evils which might more justly be attributed to the dispensation of Providence in the failure of that main article of food on which so large a proportion of the population of Ireland depended. He perfectly agreed in the observation of the hon. Gentleman behind him, that the present state of things in Ireland was abnormal, and not such as the poor-law was calculated to relieve. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was not surprised at the statements he had heard of the extreme unpopularity of the poor-law in all parts of Ireland, not only amongst those who paid the rates, but those who received relief. No doubt to both parties it would be infinitely more agreeable that relief should be afforded from the treasury of the United Kingdom. Those who paid rates would naturally prefer not having to pay, and those who received relief, now rigorously administered as it was, in order to prevent abuses, would infinitely prefer to receive it in the shape in which it was administered in the year 1847, when there was no machinery adequate to the purpose of correcting the abuses which prevailed from one end of the country to the other. He thought, judging from the experience of the last two years, that the machinery of the poor-law was that best adapted to afford the relief which he believed to be necessary. He considered that the evils which prevailed in Ireland were in no degree to be ascribed to the poor-law, as the effect of that 377 law was to mitigate and palliate the evils which arose from the failure of the food of the people. A letter of Mr. Lang, relief inspector, from the Bantry union, very clearly explained the effects which had recently occurred on the condition of the population:—That the Commissioners may have a clear conception of the grounds on which I found my opinion, it may be expedient to give a brief sketch of the circumstances under which a largo proportion of the landed property of the union had been placed for many years previous to the failure of the potato crop. When this was a potato-growing country, and the crop flourished, the landlords and the middlemen found it an easy and certain mode of increasing their incomes, to permit every tenant or branch of his family to erect hovels of any description on every patch of and among the glens and rocks of the mountains or along the sea-coast, and rather to countenance than discourage the establishment of swarms of cottier tenants on their lands. These contrived, either by taking con-acres from the larger occupiers, or by cultivating patches of their own holdings, to grow sufficient potatoes to fatten a pig or two to pay the rent. Hordes of this class of cottier tenantry, when they had planted the patch of potatoes in spring, shut up their cabins or left them in charge of the aged and infirm, and led an idle, vagrant, bogging life throughout the summer months. To some of these cottier holdings was attached the privilege of grazing a cow, and a few sheep or goats, upon the adjacent mountains—and from each of these tenements the landlord or the middleman contrived to squeeze out a rent from 1l. to 5l. yearly; and these rents were better paid than any stranger to the country and the habits of the people could have believed it possible to exact from such a class of tenantry. Hence, the greater the amount of population a proprietor could locate on his estate, the larger became the rent-roll. The consequences of the failure of the only crop upon which these masses subsisted and depended for the payment of rent, may easily be conceived; they became one and all paupers, and were thrown on the rates for support: large tracts of land became waste and unproductive, from which there is now neither rate nor rent to be obtained—the landlords had exacted the last farthing. At no period could such a class of tenantry accumulate any capital or means to fall back upon for subsistence; and the whole system induced and inculcated those idle and vagrant habits, and that indisposition to fixed and steady habits of industry, so generally complained of, and now falsely attributed to the operation of the poor-law, and its demoralising influence. But the same apathy and want of energy and exertion existed always and were the natural consequences of the system. It was then only seen—now it begins to be felt.He believed this description applied to a large portion of the western districts of Ireland, and coming from an eye-witness was well worthy of attention. The consequence of this state of things was, that a certain portion of the higher class of ratepayers had no longer the means of paying 378 rates, and that others who formerly had paid rates became themselves dependent for support upon the rates. If any hon. Gentleman attributed this state of things to the poor-law, he would ask of him to consider what the position of affairs would be if the poor-law did not exist? It was obvious that if there had been no poor-law in Ireland during the late season of famine, hundreds of thousands of persons must necessarily have died of absolute destitution. Robbery and plunder must have prevailed to a frightful extent; for it was not to be expected that the rights of property would have been respected by starving crowds, and probably something like a servile war would have broken out. The efforts that would then, no doubt, be made to put that down, would have been attended with much greater expense to this country than any that they were now called upon to bear. After the destruction of the potato crop, it became evident that for three consecutive years the amount of the population and the amount of food were no longer adequate to each other, and that the former must be diminished or the latter increased before the country could be restored to a state of safety. The diminution of the population had gone on. It was impossible to deny but that many persons bad died, if not from actual starvation, at least from disease brought on by an insufficient supply of food. But, in addition to this, emigration had gone on to a considerable extent, to nearly half a million in two years, principally to America. He had before him the papers that had been just laid before Parliament relating to the aid afforded to the distressed unions in the west of Ireland, and he had also some connected with the Ballina union, which had arrived that day, and were, he regretted to say, not in time to be printed with the others. From these documents it appeared that an extraordinary diminution of the population had taken place in some unions. Captain Kennedy, the temporary poor-law inspector, wrote to the Commissioners on the 7th of November last, respecting the Kilrush union:—I do not believe that there are a sufficient number of labourers in this union to bring it to the same degree of cultivation and productiveness as some parts of the county of Down and Antrim: and yet the whole labouring population are starving, while hardly an acre is drained or improved. At a very moderate computation I believe that four times the quantity of food might be produced.Now, if they did not get wages, how could 379 the people buy food? It was right to add, however, that Captain Kennedy stated in his report that—The rates are being well and cheerfully paid, and the influential classes, however embarrassed they may be, do not evade their payment, or encourage others in opposition.Captain Kennedy in the same letter thus described the utter apathy of the owners of the soil in the Kilrush Union:—The utter absence of employment of any kind throughout the union is almost incredible, and where such is given it is in exchange for food alone, a very limited number of persons in the union giving wages. I can see no solution of the difficulties and distresses of this union save by a well-directed effort on the part of proprietors and occupiers to give reproductive employment; such, however, under existing circumstances, will not or cannot be given, though all practical men agree in its necessity, and that a finer or more profitable field for labour cannot be found. The Land Improvement Act has conferred no benefit on this union, a very trifling sum having been applied for or taken under it. A universal distrust and want of confidence exists between all classes, which prevents the useful efforts of individuals having their desired effects. The extensive dispossession of the small landholders, and consolidation of farms, will require time to produce their anticipated good effects, while the suffering and embarrassments are immediate and undoubted.Every exertion was being made, in order to secure the due and proper administration of the poor-law; but from the people having been turned out of their holdings in large numbers, a very large proportion of the population, indeed, had become do-pendent on the rates. He alluded to this matter in order to show that the complaints which were so constantly made of the existence of a great superabundant population in Ireland were by no means universally true. As to the Ballina union, which was also one of the most distressed unions in the country, the opinion not only of the poor-law inspector, but of two or three other gentlemen who had been examined, and whose evidence was before him, was that the population was not too large, not merely for the cultivation of waste lands, but of the lands actually under culture. Colonel Knox Gore, a large proprietor in the county of Sligo, stated thatThere is quite enough of land in this district to employ all the ablebodied population, without taking into account the bog and mountain land that might be reclaimed; the improvement of which, with very few exceptions, I believe to be a ruinous speculation.It is notorious that emigration had been carried on to a most remarkable extent, and it so happened that this emigration had proceeded most extensively in 380 those unions in which the greatest distress prevailed. The consequence was, that estates had, in the more impoverished districts, been relieved from the great number of cottier tenants with which they had been crowded, and who had been always spoken of as the great and insuperable obstacle to the improvement of the land. Alluding to this subject, Colonel Knox Gore said—I have lost nearly one-third of my smaller tenants since 1846. Most of them have emigrated to America, or have become labourers, occupying cottages and gardens.Major Gardener stated that he had lost seven-eighths of his tenants principally by emigration. Now, when the reduction of the population had taken place to so great an extent, he very much doubted whether it would be for the advantage of the country to encourage any farther removal of the people, who were absolutely necessary for the proper cultivation of the soil. The great decrease in the number of small tenements, and the increase in those of larger size, were, in some instances, most satisfactory. In the union of Ballina the number of tenements valued under 4l. in 1846 was 17,216, while in 1849 the number was 10,354, showing a diminution in this class of tenantry of 6,862; and in the case of tenements valued under 8l. there had been a decrease, in the same union, of 7,676, within the same period. In the two poorest electoral divisions of the union, there was, at the same time, an increase in the number of large tenements; the increase in one of these districts—that of Belmullet—being from 77 to 98, for the year 1849, as compared with 1846. The result of this state of things was, that in those unions where the greatest distress prevailed, they were approaching a state when there was every ground to hope that improvement would take place. The extra population was removed from them, and what was now wanting was a supply of capital in the hands of active proprietors or tenants, able and determined properly to cultivate the land. He had already quoted the evidence of Colonel Gore before the poor-law inspectors, and further on he found the following remarks on this part of the subject. Colonel Gore stated that—I look entirely to the improvement on the waste lands to give me enough to feed and clothe my family: for as to carriages, wine, and other luxuries, I have long since given them up, and my establisment is now like a mere rent-paying farmer, struggling to pay by exertion of skill and industry a high rent, which the rates and county cess are on waste lands.381 He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) might mention a still more melancholy case; that of a gentleman, Colonel V. Jackson, who for some time exerted himself with the greatest success as a guardian of the Swineford union. The sacrifices which that gentleman incurred, and the ruin which came upon him in consequence, obliged him to apply to the Poor Law Commissioners for employment; they were too happy to serve him; he was appointed to a district in the south of Ireland, where he proved himself to be a most efficient officer; but he was sorry to say that he very shortly caught a fever in visiting the Ennis workhouse, and the country had been deprived of his services by death. While so many attacks were made—perhaps in some cases with much justice—on the gentlemen of Ireland, for attempts to evade the liabilities of their position, he felt very happy to take that opportunity of doing justice to a nobleman whose name had been mentioned on a former occasion in that House with some blame. He meant the Earl of Lucan. That nobleman had, he was glad to be able to say, devoted himself with great success to the cultivation and reclamation of the land. He had employed a large number of people on his estates, and had removed a portion of the remaining population to America. His improvements had been carried on over a great tract of country in the Castlebar union, and with every possible success. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would now read to the House the conclusion of the report from the inspector as to the Ballina union. It had not yet been printed; but he could assure the House that it was well deserving of their attention:—In conclusion, I may state that up to the present the rates have been comparatively light in this union, but they have been as heavy as could have been borne. As I before said, I am surprised that they have been paid so well, considering the state of the union—a state which I do believe requires to be seen to be believed. At all events, I have seen nothing to equal it, although I have no doubt there are some of the neighbouring unions just as bad. I do not attribute the present insolvent state of the ratepayers to the amount of rates which they have been called upon to pay; neither do I attribute the present deplorable condition of the recipients of relief to the potato failure of last year. The ratepayers will, no doubt, be benefited; but I do not believe that an improved condition of the majority of the recipients of relief is at all contingent upon the success of the potato or any other description of crop. What the latter classes require is the circulating medium, without which they cannot honestly profit by an abundance of food at any price. If the labourers were inclined to work hard, and employers 382 were inclined and able to encourage them by paying fair wages, there is more than an abundance of profitable labour for every labourer in the union, and the rates might be considerably reduced. At present the labourers are badly able to work; they have suffered so many hardships in various ways, that a robust healthy-looking man is rarely to be met with. Most of the landlords cannot afford to pay for work; those who can are in dread of the undefined prospect of rates; and, with two or three exceptions, are doing as little as they possibly can. Whether the future success of the potato crop would enable and induce the landlords to pay fair wages for fair work, is, I think, very doubtful. It appears to me the tendency would be rather to return to the old state of affairs, notwithstanding the bitter experience of the last three years. I can, therefore, see no other remedy for the present and probable state of the union, but a great change and importation of proprietors; and I think that moderate rates on the average for a time will effect this sooner than rates which cannot be paid, and which will effectually prevent any person worth having from settling or investing capital in this union.The rates in that union amounted to 2s. 10d.; but that fact gave a very inadequate view of the real state of pressure from taxation, for the rate in the pound on many electoral divisions was much higher, and in many it was almost impossible to make any collection. He might continue this description by referring to many other parts of Ireland; but he thought it was better for him to confine his remarks to one or two of the unions; and he had taken Ballina union as being one of the worst in the country. He thought that he had entered sufficiently upon the question to show that in the present state of these unions employment to a large extent, in proportion to the remaining population, might be given; but during the suspension of that employment, and in the present depressed state of the unions, he would ask, how was this country to stand by and see thousands of their fellow-subjects starving, and left without the means of supporting life—a state of distress which could not possibly be prevented by any local efforts for some months to come. In the Ballina union the last rate struck was between 16,000l. and 17,000l, and to the collection of this large amount, so far as it had gone, no obstruction had been offered, or no evasion attempted, on the part of those who were at all able to pay. But if hon. Gentlemen would turn to pages 14 and 15 of the returns, they would find that there was a large proportion of the land waste, and in which it was utterly impossible to collect the rates by any means whatever, He would read a few of the returns of the defaulters, in order to show how they were 383 circumstanced, and whose actual condition was but too truly described:—Denis Bingham, esq., Binghamstown, 194l. 17s. 6½d.—There is an execution against Mr. Bingham's body for the former rate due by him.Daniel Madden, esq., Ballyeastle, 69l. 17s. 8d. These properties are nearly all waste; there is not, I believe, 20l. worth of stock on them.Mrs. William Bingham, Belmullet, 41l. 8s.—Mrs. Bingham has hardly the means of supporting herself. I understand some tenants, who possess stock, have lately taken farms from her. The collector will distrain the lands as soon as he can legally do so.Mr. Short is in distressed circumstances. The collector will serve a fifteen days' notice. There is hardly anything on the lands.Mr. Fowler died lately. There is hardly anything on the lands.In another case—The lands are a complete waste.As to several other cases, the observation is—These lands are nearly all waste. It would be useless to take proceedings against any of the parties; they have scarcely the means of supporting themselves.If hon. Members would now turn to page 21, they would see a list containing the names of the twelve highest ratepayers in the electoral division of Kilcrohane, in the Bantry union; and it appeared that out of those twelve there were only four from whom there was the slightest chance of obtaining payment, the remarks in the other eight cases being, "Lands waste; tenants run away; no distress; tenants paupers;" and so on. He would now refer the Committee to one more union—the Clifden union. At page 45:—
These two last sums make 11,122l., being nearly eleven-nineteenths of the whole valuation unproductive as to rates."
The not value of union £19,986 Ditto, at and under 4l. 7,434 Ditto, given up to landlords, not occupied, and now waste 9,449 Ditto, of holdings, the occupiers of which are so poor that it is impossible to recover rates from 1,673
Hon. Gentlemen would see from these statements that in the greater portion of this electoral division it was utterly and altogether impossible that the rates could be expected. The facts of last year with regard to many of the unions were conclusive as to the present, because it was not to be supposed that the conditions of these unions would be better for this present year than they were in the last. More of the lands would be left waste, and the capacity of those who paid in the unions be diminished both in number and in power. But if hon. Members would refer to page 384 10, they would see the expenditure in some of those unions for the last year, and the sums that had been collected. Assistance had been given to those unions by the Government, principally from the produce of the voluntary subscriptions of the British Association. If anybody would compare the expense incurred in those unions, together with the amount collected, and the amount that it had been necessary to advance, they would be convinced that it was, utterly impossible to obtain from those unions the sums that were required. In the union of Ballina the amount required was 52,282l., and the amount advanced in aid by the British Association was 36,260l. He saw no prospect that the sum required for the relief of the poor would be less this year than it was last. He had already stated that 10,177l. had been collected last autumn in the union of Ballina, which left a deficiency of about 6,000l. More might possibly be collected in the course of this summer. But it was not easy at that period of the year to make any great collections; and even if they were to double the sum, it would be utterly inadequate to the maintenance of life among the paupers in the union. So also with Ballinrobe, Castlebar, and the others. This state of things, however, did not apply to Ireland generally. The collection of poor's-rate throughout the country had been very large. If hon. Gentlemen would turn to the last page of these papers, they would see, that taking Ireland throughout, a very large part of the rates had been collected. They must remember that this was a new measure in Ireland; and though he was not disposed to be lenient where the rates could be collected, yet he felt that where it was utterly impossible to collect them, that House must come forward to their relief. The amount of poor-rate collected in Ireland was—
He thought that it would not be denied, therefore, that great exertions had been used, that rates had been collected to a considerable amount, though they certainly were not adequate to the wants of the poor. In nine-tenths of Ireland, he believed, the people were perfectly capable to pay the rates, as much so as they were in England. That being the state of the case, her Majesty's Government, after various statements had been made to them, 385 of which what he had read were samples, had come to the conclusion that it was necessary to give assistance from the public funds to those unions. He quite agreed with those who thought that assistance ought to be given under the most stringent and rigorous supervision, as he believed that nothing but such regulations would prevent the grant from being abused. He was willing and anxious that the sums so applied should be only given to prevent starvation, to prevent loss of life to a degree that would be perfectly frightful. The means by which he proposed to do this was, not as last year, by a vote of supply, but to take the money out of the Consolidated Fund; and the reasons why he proposed such a course were those: they had, in the first place, received a sum of 78,000l., in repayment of advances made to relief committees, that was to say, they had received this from those unions which were in a better condition than others in Ireland, and had to that extent repaid their advances. In the next place, of the sum which had been issued to Sir John Burgoyne's Relief Committee they were enabled to reserve 106,000l., independent of the sum of 100,000l., which he had saved out of the same fund last year. He had, therefore, been able to carry the sum of 106,000l. to the account of the Consolidated Fund. More than that, he was happy to say that the revenue of the country had so improved in the course of the autumn, that he had every reason to hope that the sum which he had thought it necessary to borrow to meet the current expenditure had not been required; the current revenue would be found equal to the expenditure of the year, and therefore that sum was still in the Exchequer, as it was not wanted to defray the expenditure of the year. [Mr. GOULBURN asked what was the total amount of the sums alluded to?] Hon. Gentlemen would remember he had stated last year that he had reduced the expenditure within 292,000l. of the estimated income of the year. He believed now that the estimated income would equal the expenditure. The sum which was voted to what was called Sir. John Burgoyne's Relief Commission was 1,700,000l. Of that sum, 106,000l, yet remained, which might not unfairly be considered available to the relief of the distressed unions. In addition to that, there was the 78,000l. repaid by certain of the unions, making together an available fund of 184,000l. And this sum was, it 386 must be understood, entirely exclusive of the repayments for relief works, amounting to about 39,000l., which for a certain time would be available for the execution of further works of a similar description. He proposed now to take a sum not exceeding 50,000l. from the Consolidated Fund: he did not mean to say that that was all that might be required in the course of the year, but he thought it would be inexpedient to name a larger sum, because he thought it would excite hopes and expectations which would be unfavourable to the moral condition of the people. He wished to obtain the sanction of Parliament for that sum, leaving it with them to grant or to withhold any future sum which might appear to be necessary; and of course, be must have the sanction of the Legislature, and an Act of Parliament, for every grant that was made. The sum which he now proposed would enable Government to afford assistance for a certain time; and before any further grant could be made, it would be his duty again to come down to Parliament and to ask for their sanction. The vote which he now proposed to put into the Chairman's hands was—
In the year ending Sept. 29, 1846 £371,846 In the year ending Sept. 29, 1847 638,403 In the year ending Sept. 29, 1848 1,627,700That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland be authorised to direct the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of the said United Kingdom of any sum, not exceeding 50,000l., for affording relief to certain distressed Poor Law Unions in Ireland.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
apologised for presenting himself so early in the debate; but as this was a vote for the disbursing of funds from the Imperial Exchequer, he thought that an English Gentleman was entitled to express his opinions upon the subject. He thanked God to find that the Government had discovered at length the futility of relying upon the voluntary exertions of the Irish landowners, who as a body either would not, or could not, or at any rate did not employ the people, or apply a remedy which was fitted to rescue them out of their present horrible condition. He had placed a Motion on the Paper to-day which he should now press in the form of an Amendment to the present Vote. He by no means dissented from the proposition that it was necessary for the Government to step in and advance public money for the relief of these distressed unions. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) that it was impossible they could support themselves, 387 and that multitudes would die of starvation unless they were supported by extraneous aid. The difference between him and the right hon. Gentleman was not as to the source from whence the funds were to be derived, but as to the mode in which it was to be given; whether it was to be made an absolute present to the people of those districts, or whether it was to be given on conditions which would ensure, in the first place, that the money would be spent in productive labour on the land; and, in the second place, and as a consequence of that productive employment, that the money so advanced should be repaid from the land. He knew many persons would say, "What! repayments from Ireland!—how is that to be expected? We have already lent them 6,000,000l. or 8,000,000l., and in the course of six months afterwards we were obliged to excuse the half of them, and the recovery of the money from the other half of them is highly problematical." Now, he believed that these advances would not be repaid if they were spent as the last had been, in feeding paupers in idleness. But he believed they would be repaid if they were spent in the cultivation of those rich and fertile lands which they had heard were now lying waste. The evil was, that when money was advanced, the Irish gentlemen spent it upon anything and nothing, because they never expected that the sums were to be repaid. But it would be a very different thing, if the money was spent in the draining of bogs, and bringing land into a reproductive state. The proposition which he was about to make to the House consisted of two parts: first, that the money should be advanced only upon loan, and that a strict lien should be taken for it upon the rateable property in the union; and, in the second place, that the money so advanced should be productively expended, not in feeding idle paupers, whether in or out of the workhouse, while the lands were lying waste. The proposition appeared to him to be so undeniable, that he could hardly conceive how any one could object to it, if it were not for the fact, that up to this time for the last three years the system pursued by the Government had been the very reverse. The money was indeed nominally lent, but it was really given, and it was spent in the most unproductive manner. Ablebodied labourers were employed on works that were of no use whatever, and the consequence was that the infirm poor, who could not work, died in vast 388 numbers. Then came the system of soup kitchens, which of course was unproductive—3,000,000 of people were fed in that way, while about 700,000 ablebodied paupers were left useless in the workhouses. In some of the unions—those in which the whole number of applicants could not be accommodated—the inspectors had recommended the principle of giving the preference in admission to ablebodied men, with whom, in several instances, the workhouses were filled. What a condition for a district to be reduced to—the greater portion of the ablebodied labourers cooped up in a workhouse, useless to themselves and to society! In some districts the inspectors had introduced, but only to a very small extent, the principle of the self-supporting system, and in these instances that system had worked admirably. In the Kilrush union the ablebodied paupers had been employed upon the workhouse farm; but this was a breach of the general rule laid down by the Commissioners; but owing to the intervention of Captain Kennedy, the experiment was allowed to be tried. Let the Government follow that example, or let them imitate the Quakers of Mayo, who had taken up about 500 acres of land that had been left waste, and had produced admirable crops from it. He did not care whether they operated upon what was commonly called "waste land," or upon land which had been left waste. In either case, by so employing the paupers of Ireland, they interfered less with private property and private industry than by employing them in any other way. This would be an immense advantage in a moral point of view, and the expenses incurred would be no heavier than they were at present. The only species of labour which the Commissioners were willing, however, to sanction, was stone-breaking within the workhouse. What was the result of this system in an economic point of view? He (Mr. P. Scrope) had been assured by a gentleman who was a witness to the fact, that upwards of 100l. had actually been paid to the peasantry for breaking a heap of stones, which, in the ordinary payment for labour, would have cost only 30s. Surely digging and building in the open air formed as good a task as breaking stones within a workhouse. He put it to the hon. Members whether they would not execute with great repugnance a work which they knew to be unprofitable? Would they not look upon it as a peculiarly offensive and unthankful task? Would they not, in the 389 present instance, be inclined to consider that the test of unprofitable labour was nothing but a sort of punishment for being poor. It was scarcely necessary for him, after what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to refer to the enormous resources which existed in many Irish unions for the employment of the pauper population. He might mention, however, that in a group of eight unions the expenditure for the relief of the poor, ending September 1848, had been 222,311l., while the rates collected in these eight unions for the same period amounted only to 44,195l, leaving an amount of upwards of 160,000l, or four times the amount of rates which had been collected, to be made up by Government grants, and by the exertions of the British Association. In fact, the assistance thus afforded amounted to a rate of 8s. 6d. in the pound. This statement showed the amount of distress in the unions in question. Now then, on the other hand, what were the resources of the unions in question? The area of these eight unions was 2,228,000 acres. In the year 1847 the extent of land, out of that great superficies which was under cultivation—including in the estimate all the meadow, grass, and clover land—amounted only to 221,000 acres, being less than 1–10th of the whole area, the remaining two millions of acres being loft in a state of absolutely unprofitable waste. Thus it would appear that in many cases 9–10ths of the area of the unions for which the House was called on to grant money was absolutely unproductive. Now, surely this fact was sufficient to prove that money ought to be advanced as loans, not as gifts. Granting money without hope or prospect of repayment in such circumstances as those to which he was alluding, was actually putting a bonus, not only upon mismanagement of the poor-laws, but upon mismanagement of land. What reasons had they for supposing that if this system were to go on the state of matters would over improve? They had heard of vast tracts of land left waste, from which no rates would or could be extracted. Why, then, it was quite clear that if they extracted rates from land productively employed, and excused land not in cultivation, the evil of which they complained would spread, until every union would become one unproductive waste. What was the remedy which he proposed to employ? It was, that the House should insist upon those waste lands being 390 cultivated, and that the ablebodied paupers should be employed for that purpose. Why should not a measure be passed compelling boards of guardians to expend, in this useful and profitable way, the labour which was now wasted? Such a plan would be productive of no interference with private industry or enterprise, as the land to be thus cultivated would otherwise lie waste. Let it never be lost sight of that they were obliged to maintain an immense mass of labour, whether they used it or not. Was it not then better to employ it profitably than to maintain it in useless idleness? Let them look to the abuses to which the present system gave rise. There was the case of the Westport union. The inhabitants of that union lately applied to Government for assistance, and Mr. Redington, in reply, sent them a debtor and creditor account of their monetary relations with Government, from which it appeared that within the last two years they had received 93,000l. of the public money in grants, and 40,000l in loans, making 133,000l. spent in the union to make up the rates; while the ratepayers had only raised and expended about 4,000l., or, according to the Marquess of Sligo's account, 8,000l. Upon this subject, however, the Marquess of Sligo's answer was—It is not we of the Westport union who have expended this money, but it is the Government who have insisted on spending it unproductively, and in the establishment of soup kitchens, the consequence of which is that we are not able to repay you your money, not aide to maintain our poor, and are getting less able to maintain them every day.He (Mr. Scrope) thought that the noble Marquess had perfectly cleared himself by that statement. 26,000 of the population of the Westport union were at this moment wasting the food that they ate, and were prevented employing themselves by the system which the Government adopted. Now it was said by many that the system which he was advocating was a Louis-Blanc system; but, far from his proposal resembling the schemes of the French theorist, the only true parallel which could be afforded to the workshops in Paris was the case of the workhouses in Ireland, where they were cooping up ablebodied labourers, who wasted their energy in unprofitable toil, or lived in a state of sloth, idly toasting their shins by the fire. The system was demoralising the people. It was teaching them systematic idleness, instead of industry. (He (Mr. P. Scrope) had the highest opinion of the industry and energy 391 with which the Irish people worked at ordinary labour. No people under the sun worked better. But they were being physically and morally lowered and incapacitated for labour by the present workhouse system. It had, besides, a most grievous effect upon the health of the inmates. There were some places in which the mortality amounted to a fourth of the entire number of inmates in the course of each week, so that they would be completely emptied by death twelve times in the course of each year. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: These were all the deaths.] At all events the proportion of deaths was frightful and horrible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had alleged that the present state of the Irish people was an abnormal one. If so, it required an abnormal remedy. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be looking for the time when a total change of the proprietary of Ireland would take place. But when would it take place? How long were they to wait for it? He thought that something should be tried as soon as possible; and with the view of making a distinct proposition, he would move an Amendment—to add the following words to the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer:—But that no appropriation of Monies taken from general Taxation be applied in aid of the Poor's-Rate of Irish Unions, except on condition that its repayment be secured by a lien on the rateable property of the Union.In conclusion, he should only say, that he did not pretend to point out the exact mode in which his proposition should be carried out. He only asked that in some way or another there should be a lien given upon the land for the repayment of loans, and that some means should be taken by which productive employment should be supplied to the Irish poor.
The question having been put by the Chairman,
§ MR. CHRISTOPHER
said, that the House was again asked to vote relief to the Irish poor out of English means. He stood there as an English representative, and he said he was not prepared to concur in such a vote. When they considered that it was only a very short time ago that this country stept out of its usual course, and granted no less than four millions of money to the people of Ireland; when the House had agreed to grant in the way of loan an additional four millions to the people, a very small portion of which had been repaid, and, 392 considering the state of the country, he ventured to predict that a very small portion would ever be restored to the Treasury; when he considered the present state of the labouring poor in this country; when he considered that the workhouses were rapidly filling with ablebodied paupers (he could speak from a knowledge of his own county); when the gaols were being filled with mendicants, and when, in a gaol in his own district, they had been obliged to fit up the chapel to form dormitories for the reception of those mendicants—how was it possible for the people of England to acquiesce in the present vote? It was laid down as a rule, when the four millions were granted, and when an additional four millions were given as a loan for the relief of the poor of Ireland, that in future Ireland should maintain its own poor. Was it not too much to ask the House now completely to reverse that principle, and to grant, out of the Consolidated Fund, a sum of money for the relief of the poor of Ireland? Although the grant was only 50,000l., apparently no very great grant, yet the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the House to understand that he might possibly come forward and ask for more. They must now stand on this principle—was Ireland to maintain her own poor, or were the people of England to be called on annually to contribute to the relief of their necessities? He (Mr. Christopher) stood upon the original principle laid down, and he would vote no more money for relief to Ireland. He preferred upon the present occasion the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), because it opposed the grant, although it did not express his opinions; but if any hon. Gentleman would stand boldly upon the broad principle of refusing any further grant to Ireland, he should have his (Mr. Christopher's) support. He ventured to predict, also, that we should have the right hon. Baronet detailing the same condition of the people in many of the southern parts of England. Anticipating such a state of things, was it right to ask the House to break through the principle which he understood was established when they granted a sum of money for the relief of Irish distress, and tax the overtaxed people of England? In reality the condition of the people of England was beset with greater difficulties than the Irish. The House should recollect that the people of Ireland paid no assessed taxes. They had no in- 393 come-tax; whilst in some districts in England the poor-rates were heavier than they were in the most distressed parts of Ireland. He hoped the House would come to the resolution that the people of Ireland should in future he compelled to support their own poor.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
said, that, notwithstanding the strong language of the hon. Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher), the Imperial Parliament would always be ready, if necessary, to make advances from time to time for the relief of the people of Ireland. He thanked the right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) for his sympathy with the western parts of Ireland; but begged to tell him that it was the Government's present specific, the poor-law, which was destroying the farmer, demoralising the peasantry, annihilating the property of the landlords, and which would not leave a vestige of the capital expended by the Imperial Parliament ill that country in improvements. He regretted the right hon. Baronet had followed the bad example of attacking the landlords of Ireland, and that he should have quoted for that purpose the report of Mr. Inspector Lang, a gentleman who had only been stationed at the Bantry union a month, and had, therefore, very naturally mistaken the circumstances under which the population was suffering. He considered Mr. Lang's opinion as worthless; and he thought the House would concur with him, when they referred to page 21 of the report, and saw what was the opinion of the vice-guardians of this very same union, with which they had had a long and intimate acquaintance. They stated that the rate was willingly paid by those who could pay; and that the landlords in some cases allowed the entire rate, to enable the tenants to pay. Was this, then, a fit district to select for the reprobation of its landlords? With regard to the credit taken by the right hon. Baronet for the beneficial operation of the poor-law during times of distress, he denied its justice altogether. He did not say the law aggravated the present distress; but he denied that it had ever alleviated it. Distress had visited Ireland; but, after it had been surmounted, it had never left the people in the condition they now were. The law had destroyed all the self-reliance of the people. The poor-law had universally failed in every portion of the kingdom which required it; and it was only in districts which did not require it that it stood 394 at all. In the north of Ireland—the most prosperous part of the country—the poor-rate was far above the average of England. In the south of England the poor-rate was 1s. 10½d.; the average of all England was only 1s. 6½d. [Mr. CHRISTOPHER: I pay 5s. 8d. in the pound.] Yes, you may; but I am right as to the average. But in Ireland there is one very material consideration always overlooked in these comparisons: the value of the land has very much decreased since those rates were laid, in consequence of the failure of the potato crop, and difficulty of getting rents at all. If, then, he paid 5s. 8d. in the pound, it was upon an imaginary pound. The 5s. 8d. was real, but the pound was altogether imaginary. With regard to the mortality in the workhouses, he would only, to place the melancholy fact in as striking a light as possible, state, that the deaths per week in the workhouses of Ireland equalled the mortality of London with its 2,000,000 of inhabitants. The following extract from the abovementioned report relative to the aid afforded to the distressed unions of the west of Ireland, relative to the Bantry union, and more particularly to the division of Kilcrohane in that union, states, that in the Kilcrohane divison—Tenants running away, having sold their effects, and many overholding possession, rents unpaid, lands waste, the gentry and people equally distressed, famine increasing, and the taxation of the poor-rate crushing the few who endeavour to adhere to the land—everything in such a state as will render the country a desert.Within this year two rates have been struck in this division; one at 3s. 10d.; another (now in progress of collection) of is. 7d.; making 8s. 5d. in the pound, on a valuation based on a false foundation. It is true, a portion cannot be paid; for many have abandoned their lands in apprehension of utter ruin from its collection. A poor-rate was never calculated to meet a famine which arises from a total failure of the crop. The poor-rate falls upon the land, which, in such an event, produces nothing, and, by pressing on the resources of the ratepayers, whose sole support is derived from the soil, reduces all to one general state of pauperism. The land, waste and deteriorated, is again taxed: the landlord or immediate lessor, who receives no rent, is hold responsible, and he suffers the cruel hardship of a double loss—the loss of rent, and being compelled to pay for what produces nothing. General ruin is impending; and, even supposing other proprietors to come in, they will labour under the same dire difficulties, as, by a rigid administration of a law to a famishing and populous country, you will ruin the inhabitants, extirpate the gentry, and desolate the land.From constant observation on the condition of the parties seeking admission to the workhouse, from our intercourse with those within the House, and from our frequent attendance, with the relieving 395 officers, at each of the electoral divisions, we are of opinion that the most extreme misery exists, as well in Kilcrohane as throughout the entire union, and that the condition of the whole people is immeasurably below what the most heartless would consider the lowest depths of wretchedness.This was a fair description, not only of Kilcrohane, but of the entire of the west of Ireland. The present poor-law had had the effect of making the people rely on eleemosynary aid. The hon. Member concluded by objecting to the proposition, as one of temporary relief, since the only hope for Ireland was to stimulate her people to rely solely on their own energies and not on British alms.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
could not remember having been called upon to give a vote on any question which involved so many considerations of pain and difficulty as the subject now engaging the attention of the House. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had strongly appealed to the feelings of the House, and had drawn an unexaggerated picture of the appalling distress which was now prevailing throughout the greater portion of Ireland. It was important for the House to recollect that they were not dealing with small portions or obscure quarters of that country, but to remember that, out of the 131 unions into which Ireland was divided, twenty had been pronounced, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be in a state of bankruptcy; that ten or cloven more of those unions were in a state bordering upon bankruptcy; and that there was reason to believe that nearly one-fourth of the population of the sister country were at this moment involved in absolute ruin. The question which the House was now dealing with was not a light one; and the proposition of the right hon. Baronet should receive the most deliberate consideration. The hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher) had truly stated that England herself was in no flourishing-state, that she could not boast of much prosperity, that we had a deficient revenue, and that many classes of our population were themselves involved in deep distress and suffering, and had to struggle against great privations. He (Sir J. Walsh) fully concurred in those remarks, and therefore felt that it was the bounden duty of the House, at this present moment, to exercise the strictest vigilance over every sixpence of the public money. In addition to the natural difficulties which beset this question of relief to the people of Ireland, it 396 should not be forgotten that political agitators in this country practised the most incendiary arts to prevent the raising of money, even for the most legitimate purposes, and for the most absolute and imperative necessities of the Government, and that therefore the course of Ministers was made one of extreme difficulty. But he believed that if that House wished to preserve that moral force with the country which should enable them to come to the assistance of the Government, when assistance was really required—to proffer that support which might be thought absolutely necessary for the support of the State—it was imperative upon them to scrutinise a proposition of the kind now before them, and determine whether it was a just one. In that spirit he would ask whether, with the experience of past grants to Ireland, fresh in the memory, there was a reasonable ground for hope that the present grant was either wise in itself, or would prove beneficial to the people of that country? The eight millions, so bountifully voted by the House of Commons two years ago, had excited little gratitude in the people of Ireland; but that was because the money had conferred no benefit. He believed that Ireland was worse off, in consequence of the application of that money, and that it would be found that by the operation of that grant, society had been disorganised, and the habits of the population corrupted; that works had been scattered over the country, which, because they were uncompleted, were rather an injury than a benefit; and that the counties had been saddled with a lasting incumbrance of debt. Had the proposition of the lamented Lord G. Bentinck been carried into effect, even to a small extent—had a portion of the money which the noble Lord opposite raised been applied to the purposes of emigration, and to the removal of the pressure of a surplus population—he (Sir J. Walsh) believed that Ireland would have been in a much better condition than that in which the House now found it. What results did the Chancellor of the Exchequer anticipate from this measure? Did he expect that some six months hence, after 50,000l., or four times 50,000l., had been applied to the alleviation of Irish distress, that the condition of Ireland would be substantially improved? What was the probability of any substantial amelioration? The right hon. Baronet had described how, throughout large districts, landlords were ruined, how 397 tenants had become bankrupt, how those who had formerly possessed or occupied land were now the recipients of relief. He had dwelt upon the numbers who had emigrated, and had referred to lands which were deprived even of their ordinary cultivation. Under these circumstances, and bearing in mind what this country had already done in the shape of relief to the people of Ireland, how could the House anticipate that the causes of Irish distress would be permanently removed? He begged earnestly to impress upon the attention of the House the communication to the Relief Commissioners from the guardians of the Bantry union. The state of things described in that communication was not confined to that district, but might be said to apply to the greater part of Ireland. Would not the House, by granting this sum, be making a fixed charge upon the resources of the country? and was there any hope that, by the moans the House was asked to adopt, we should revive the industry of Ireland, and develop those resources in that country which were now either paralysed or lying dormant? The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) had failed to show the possibility, under the pressure of this poor-law, of developing the resources of the country. The resources of Ireland, in fact, were extinguished under this poor-law. How did Ireland at present stand with respect to that law? It was curious to observe, that throughout that country at this moment there were two poor-laws in operation. There was the poor-law of 1838, and the poor-law of 1847. It was a fault of the Legislature, that, adhering, as it appeared to do, to the provisions of the first law of 1838 as the groundwork of its legislation, not venturing to repeal or abrogate that law, it introduced by the law of 1847 a power virtually to set that of 1838 entirely aside, and that it vested the initiative in the hands and the arbitrary power of a body of commissioners who were deputed to carry into effect the law of applying the system of outdoor relief to certain unions. What had been the result of this system? The result had been exhibited in the returns which formed part of the appendix in the report—that in 23 unions of Ulster no outdoor relief was at present at all required. Seven unions in Munster were excepted from outdoor relief, and three in Leinster. Outdoor relief was established throughout Connaught. In a great portion of many of the pro- 398 vinces the system had obtained to a very limited extent. It was very important, in watching the working of this poor-law, to ascertain what effects it had produced where it had been in full operation. The poor-law of 1847 had only been pushed to its full extent—it had only borne its legitimate fruits in those provinces of Connaught and parts of Munster in which it was almost in universal operation. That was the answer to those Gentlemen who were so fond of drawing general averages, and then saying that the poor-rates in Ireland did not exceed those in force in England. To understand the Irish Poor Law properly, Ireland must be divided into two parts, and we must watch the separate effect of each of these two systems of poor-law upon those parts of the country respectively under their operation He (Sir J. Walsh) would repeat what had fallen from the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French), that the valuation was taken upon what was the value of the property previous to the imposition of this poor-rate—previous to the failure of the potato crop—previous to the immense destruction of the value of all property which had followed since these events—and that, in point of fact, the valuation, which was in the first place a moderate valuation, and amounted to the rent of the farms, exceeded it now twofold. The great evil to be guarded against in any system of poor-laws, was an undue pressure upon industry and enterprise. He felt compelled to designate the proposal of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a miserable attempt to palliate a great evil; and if the right hon. Gentleman thought he could meet the march of this destructive disease of pauperism by a grant of 50,000l., he was much mistaken. If the House once entered upon the path proposed, they would be compelled to take further steps in the same direction. If once they went the length of saying that they would support the destitution of Ireland, the whole pauper population of that country would be thrown upon the Imperial Treasury. He should like to hear from the Government whether, in the event of this grant being sanctioned by the House as a temporary expedient, they intended to make it a permanent source of relief? He should certainly like to know their general intentions with respect to these poor-laws. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland (Sir W. Somerville) had the other night moved 399 for a Committee; and he (Sir J. Walsh) must confess that he could not remember any Motion of similar importance to have been introduced in so meagre a shape, or with so little information bearing upon it. The right hon. Gentleman seemed merely to say, "You asked us for a Committee last year, which we refused; if we grant it this Session we will keep it in our own hands." At all events, the House well knew of what pliable materials Committees upstairs were made, and how ready they were to shelve any measure which the Government might not like to bring to light. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had certainly been a little more explicit, and had, in answer to the questions of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), afforded some index to the views of the Government. He (Sir J. Walsh) understood the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) to have said that the Government intended to adhere to the main provisions of the law as it at present existed, and to have intimated that, although as absolute perfection could not be expected in any system of poor-laws, the ingenuity of the Committee upstairs might possibly suggest some improvements in the details of the law as it at present stood, yet that in all its leading provisions the present law was to be adhered to, and maintained by the Government. Now, he (Sir J. Walsh) was convinced that unless great modifications were introduced into the working of the poor-law, and unless it was subjected to a thorough revision, to be approached by that House under the spirit and deep persuasion that it had committed great mistakes, and was called upon, in the first place, to reconstruct the remedial measure brought in two years ago, the law as it at present stood would pauperise the whole of that country. He felt persuaded that the pressure on the springs of industry, and the confiscation and destruction of property that now went on, were such that no reasonable hope could be entertained of any improvement in the state of Ireland whilst the present state of the law was allowed to continue. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to claim that some sort of progress towards a better state of things had been attained, because a considerable amount of devastation had occurred at some of these unions. He appeared to argue on the principle that matters must first come to 400 their worst before they can grow any better. Having established, as he (Sir J. Walsh) thought, very clearly that matters in many unions had got as nearly to their worst as they could be, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to draw the inference that they must therefore be approaching to something very like an improvement. Now, he confessed he could not comprehend the force of the right hon. Baronet's reasoning; nor could he either understand by what process of argument the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) arrived at the conclusion that if they throw an amount of rating on the waste lands, and if that rating remained as a charge on these lands, supposing any cultivator to be enterprising enough to bring them again into a state of active fertility—he could not understand how it was possible that such a state of things could promote the improvement of Ireland. It appeared to him (Sir J. Walsh) quite certain that the present working of this law, constantly charging the land as it did with incumbrances which it was utterly impossible could be met, and charging it also, as it did, with those arrears of rate, after it was quite clear the land no longer grew crops, or had any live stock, or had any other means whatever of satisfying these rates, must have inevitably the tendency to suspend and destroy not only all present improvement, but also the possibility of any future good for that country. The more those arrears were suffered to run on, the more the pressure was constantly thrown upon those few better-circumstanced landlords or tenants who might still be able to struggle on; and to be quite certain that this process was one that was now constantly and rapidly going on and ruining Ireland, they had only to refer to the returns read by the right hon. Baronet in the course of his address. The case of Mrs. Bingham was a specimen illustrative of the general evil; and, he would ask, could the wit of man have devised any-thing more calculated to destroy and root out all prosperity—and not only that, but to render even the most ordinary cultivation of the land impossible—than the system entered upon and followed up by the Government, in consequence of the introduction of the fatal law that was now to be maintained without amelioration, or any intention on the part of the Government to modify its leading provisions? For what object, in point of fact, was the present grant asked for by the right hon. Baronet? 401 Why, only to bolster up this pernicious system, and to enable them to drag on a system that contained within itself not only the seeds of its own destruction, but which would obviously, if suffered to go on, destroy the country subjected to it. He (Sir J. Walsh) would refer to an instruction from the Home Office, dated 6th January last, and sent to Ireland. It was at page 30; and there the right hon. Gentleman stated that he approved of the steps the Commissioners were taking to enforce the collection of the outstanding rates, and requested that the guardians should make out their rate-books for new rates. And this was the way in which things were to go on—they were to continue to make new rates, whilst it was utterly impossible to collect the arrears upon the old ones. The right hon. Gentleman's instructions also stated, that it was essential for the local resources to take upon themselves exclusively the burden of supporting their own poor, and strongly inculcated the necessity for discouraging the unions from entertaining any expectations of any advances from the public treasury. And yet under the operation of this system they were doling out from the national funds just enough to keep the vicious system alive; whilst at the same time the Government did not adopt any measure sufficiently bold or comprehensive to give any hope of improvement or amelioration in any one of these unions. Could they ever think that this small pittance would go any length to prevent the paupers from becoming more numerous? Would it remove a single man from the poor-books, or diminish the pressure of the rates in the smallest degree? Evidently not; it was not even intended to do so; he believed hon. Gentlemen opposite disclaimed having any intention of producing such a result by the grant; and it was clear that while the existing law, on the one hand, was only pauperising the country by its continuance, on the other, by this miserable pittance of relief, they were only perpetuating and aggravating a fatal and destructive system. He (Sir J. Walsh) had a large stake, and took a warm interest, in the welfare and prosperity of Ireland, and could assure the Irish Members of that House, that although the resources of England were already very heavily taxed, and made it imperatively necessary that the strictest and most vigilant economy should be exercised with regard to the application of those resources, yet if any measure could be pro- 402 pounded to the English and Scotch Members of that House that really contained within itself the elements for effecting any permanent improvement in Ireland—if any grant of public money, however large it might be, could be shown to be calculated to lay a real foundation for the social well-being of the sister country—he (Sir J. Walsh) believed it would be cheerfully supported in that House as a wise measure of not only national policy, but also of prudent economy. His objection was not as to its amount, although he felt that England had already been fearfully taxed for the same purpose; but he felt confident that the only effect of granting more money would be temporarily to bolster up a system which must ultimately ruin the country for whose permanent benefit it was intended. On the other hand, if even a large grant of money were made the foundation of a new and better system, he, for one, should not oppose it, as he felt that it would not only be sound national policy, but a wise economy, to put affairs in Ireland on a footing different from that in which they stood at present. If any Gentleman on the opposite (the Ministerial) side of the House had such a measure to propose, it should have his warm support; but believing, as he did, that the present vote was a paltry expedient, a miserable sop thrown to the Irish Members to prevent them from urging on any reform in the poor-law, he should throw upon the Government the entire onus of granting it, and give it his most decided and strenuous opposition.
LORD E. HOWARD
felt called upon, as the representative of a borough situated in a poor agricultural district, to make a few remarks on the important question before the House. It was with regret he had heard the opinion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Christopher), because he believed it expressed the opinion and policy of a large and influential party, which policy was, not to agree in a vote in favour of the proposition of the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He (Lord E. Howard) regretted, when a moderate sum of money like the present sum was asked to provide for urgent distress in another part of the kingdom, that a strong objection should be raised to it. He was not ignorant of the quantity of money which this country had already voted for the relief of Ireland; but when they read the accounts of distress which appeared in the papers before the House, he thought it 403 was impossible to deny what the Government asked. If hon. Gentlemen opposite intended to refuse the grant, on them must rest the blame and the consequences. He (Lord E. Howard) should never regret having opposed them to the utmost of his power for the purpose of relieving Irish distress. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Christopher) spoke of distress elsewhere, and referred to the distress existing in England which had filled the workhouses and gaols. He could not doubt the truth of those statements, and he regretted the necessity of having to admit their accuracy. No man was more sorry to see the industrious people of England in distress than himself; and no one would more encourage or more promote the virtue, the happiness, and the wellbeing of his fellow-countrymen. But when he found in the papers before the House the cries for relief of urgent distress; and further, that property in Ireland had done its utmost to relieve it but had failed; how could he refuse his support to a measure which was to afford help to the suffering? During the last two years there had been the deepest distress in Ireland. There had been a famine, and in addition diseases of the most appalling character; but at the same time there had been quiet and tranquillity. Though suffering the greatest distress, and experiencing all the horrors of disease, the Irish people under such circumstances were calm and tranquil. But then, might it not be supposed that this calm and tranquil feeling would not always exist? If the poor perishing people of Ireland were to see that hon. Members disregarded the request which Government made to subsidise their great distress, might they not say, "On the last occasion when distress overtook us—when our wives and children were dying of disease and hunger—and when, in some districts, there were hardly enough people left alive to bury the dead—we were quiet, and this is all we get by it. Now, however, as another period of distress has arrived, and we ask you for some small relief, which you refuse, can you ask us again to exhibit the same conduct as before, when it has proved of no use to us?" He did not wish the House to think he was advocating rebellion, or the exhibition of any other conduct than the Irish people had hitherto manifested under their sufferings. He should be sorry had any other line of conduct on their part been pursued; for he was satisfied the only result would have been an increased loss of 404 life and suffering to the Irish people. In the remarks he had made, he only wished to show to hon. Gentlemen opposite, if their opposition to the vote proved effectual, what might possibly result from it. He (Lord E. Howard) was not going to enter into the details of the question, because he was aware there were many hon. Gentlemen present more competent to the task than himself. To them he left the matter, and for this additional reason, that he found it would be a difficult task if he felt inclined to do so, because it appeared that every hon. Gentleman who spoke on the subject, particularly those who came from Ireland (those hon. Gentlemen must excuse him for saying so), seemed all to entertain views widely differing from each other; and he (Lord E. Howard) must leave it to abler hands than himself to enter upon the turbulent waters of such a mass of hostile opinions. But it appeared to him that some blamed the Government because it assisted the people of Ireland; others censured it for assisting them too little; and others again found fault with their Irish policy in sundry and divers other respects; but he wished to remind all those hon. Members who were so ready to condemn the conduct of the Government, that the grant now under consideration was only intended as a temporary means of affording relief. The Government had, only the other night, asked for a Committee to investigate the subject of the Irish Poor Law; and was it unreasonable that the House should be asked in the meantime, until the result of that inquiry was attained, to grant the people of Ireland a certainly temporary, but still very necessary, measure of relief? He did not profess to be well versed in Irish affairs; but he had found, from the newspaper statements of the day, that charity was not uselessly thrown away upon the Irish people, as some persons seemed to imagine. They knew that when those individuals who had been most conspicuous in their acts of charity, and in the excellence of their mode of administering it (he meant the companions in religious belief of an hon. Gentleman whom he did not then see in the House—he alluded to one of the hon. Members for Leicester, a member of the Society of Friends)—when they wont in a practical manner, and with the greatest generosity and self-sacrifice—in which respect they had also been laudably imitated by various other persons—they applied money for the relief of the Irish 405 people in a manner that could not fail of ultimately conferring the greatest benefit upon that unfortunate country. It might be said by some, that it was of no use to relieve the Irish—the Irish could not relieve themselves—they were always begging and coming to the English people for money. Then, with respect to the labouring people themselves, where was to be found a harder working man than the Irish labourer, in this and in all other countries? He believed that whenever an Irishman had a fair chance of getting a fair day's wages for a fair day's work—whenever he could gain the means of supporting himself in the midst of his daily toil, he would be found to be as industrious and willing to work as the native of any other country. He was not an Irishman, and therefore he might be supposed to give an impartial opinion. He would say that neither an Irishman nor any other man had a chance of getting a fair day's wages for a fair day's work in Ireland; and the reason why Irishmen were so lazy in their own country was, because they were in such a state of poverty—really and truly they might be said to exist in a state of starvation. He had already intruded at greater length than he had at first intended, but he could not sit down without declaring that though he advocated relief for Irish distress, he did not wish to encourage idleness. He knew there was great distress in Ireland; he also knew there were great faults. Capital had been misapplied to a great extent; landlords had no means of doing what was required from them; some had been extravagant, and some reckless. But though he admitted that landlords had much to answer for, yet, speaking of the landlords of the day, he was not prepared to say how far it would be fair in this case to visit the sins of the fathers on the children. He trusted, however, that the landlords of the present day would derive a salutary lesson from the landlords of former days, and that the country would see, as they had in some instances seen, the landlords setting about a better system and a better example—by becoming residents in their own country, and employing labour for the benefit of the poorer inhabitants. He would say but little more, except humbly to entreat hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, before they opposed the proposition of Government, to consider what they were about to do. At present they had Ireland in a state of tranquillity—of slumbering 406 tranquillity, but whose slumber might be disturbed if, by any large majority the proposition of the Government was rejected. He had approved of the proposal of Government to continue the Habeas Corpus Act for a limited period; but, he reminded hon. Gentlemen, that if they did anything which was likely to drive the people of Ireland to despair, it was not the continuance of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act which would suffice—everything would be thrown into confusion; and, without referring to higher motives which should actuate them, he would remind them that that confusion would not be subdued except at a far greater expense for additional troops, whose services the occasion would justify, than would be caused if the present vote were agreed to. He meant nothing harsh towards any hon. Members in his remarks, nor did he wish it to be understood that he thought hon. Members unfeeling, because from a mistaken though conscientious sense of duty they opposed the proposal for relief to Ireland. But he wished them to consider well before they pursued a course which might load to such a result, so much to be regretted and deplored.
§ MR. HUME
was not sorry that he had given way to the noble Lord (Lord E. Howard) who had just sat down, because he would hold out his speech to the House and to the country as an example of that which had hitherto led the country astray, and what would, he apprehended, lead it still further astray. He had no doubt that the motives of the noble Lord were most humane, and that the distress in Ireland was as great as he said; but the question the House had to decide was, whether the principle on which they were called upon to vote this money was the principle that would benefit Ireland? He was sorry to hear the last part of the noble Lord's speech, where he said that if they did not give money to the Irish people they would rebel. But what did their experience teach them on that point? In the year 1847 they gave them seven millions of money, and they rebelled in 1848. He held that the doctrine announced by the noble Lord was founded upon the principle of communism; the principle of supplying the idle and lazy with money at the expense of the industrious. Need he add to that the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope)? It was adding to it Louis Blanc's principle of supplying money to create workshops. The House should cautiously take care what they were 407 now about, for this was the commencement of a new system and of a new period, and he asked were they not to avail themselves of the benefits resulting from the experience of the past? No man felt more for the misgovernment of Ireland than he did—no man had oftener within the last thirty years raised his voice against the oppressive system pursued there; but all his advice to improve the country had been invariably set at nought. The practice of the Irish differing amongst themselves and of the Government fostering that difference—dividing the Irish party that they might control the whole—that had brought the country to the lamentable state in which it was now placed. He (Mr. Hume) was not one of those who would join in blaming the landlords of Ireland generally. He blamed some of the landlords of Ireland; but many of them were driven into their present position by the misgovernment of past ages, and it was not generous to charge them in the day of their calamity with all the evils that Ireland was suffering. [Lord EDWARD HOWARD dissented from the construction put upon a portion of his observations by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose.] He did not think he was attributing to the noble Lord (Lord E. Howard) anything he had not said. What he stated was, that the noble Lord had advised the House not to refuse this money in charity, because there was distress in Ireland, and if they did not relieve the distress they might be called upon for an additional number of troops. If he had misstated the expressions of the noble Lord, he did not mean to do it; but he protested against such a principle, as being certainly not likely to improve Ireland, but as being likely to bring Scotchmen and Englishmen into the same state. Was the principle of the State undertaking to feed the people a principle on which they ought to go?—and in considering that question let them not lose sight of the example they had in a neighbouring country, where, with the best intentions, no doubt, the public money was given to support the able and unemployed. He would put this question to the noble Lord: if the present advance was in order to relieve distress in Ireland, would it not be right to relieve all the distress in that country? He would tell the noble Lord that the whole revenue of the empire would not suffice for such a purpose. Let them now consider what it was Government proposed to do, and what were the circumstances which induced them to come 408 to that House for more money. Looking at the amount of rates collected in Ireland, it would be found, from the papers in their hands, what the average for the whole of Ireland was. It was necessary to look at these matters before they gave away money in charity. They ought then to stimulate industry, and induce those people to provide for themselves. On no principle of government he had ever known, could he admit that the State were to feed the people. It was the people who should sustain the Government; and by the promotion of a system of good management amongst them, they could only hope for results favourable to the peace and comfort of the community. The noble Lord (Lord E. Howard) had alluded to the Quakers of this country, and to their praiseworthy and charitable exertions; but the Government were in a different position. Those men, out of their own pockets, much to their honour and credit, and to the credit of the country, came forward to do the work of charity; but the Members of that House were the stewards of the public, and could not deal with the money in their possession from humane motives as those individuals had dealt with their own. However, he did not object to the proposed grant because of its amount, but he objected to it on principle. He warned them, before they made up their minds to advance one single shilling under such circumstances, to consider to what an extent the system might proceed, not only in Ireland, but in Scotland and in England. He was not clear but that the time might arrive when many of their countrymen, both in the north and south, would be in a condition requiring assistance. If they were once to give way to the principle of humanity, the period might not be far distant when they would be called upon for a similar grant—and were the Government prepared for that? The principles on which they should desire to promote the welfare of the country forbade it. He asked the House, therefore, not to give one shilling to Her Majesty's Government for the purposes of charity. It was destroying the very individuals for whom they gave the money. He would ask those considerate Irishmen who had marked the progress of their money advances in Ireland, whether they would not concur in the statement he made, that the waste of ten millions of money in Ireland had deranged industry, and tended to make the distress of Ireland so extreme and lamentable? Let no more money be wasted 409 at the expense of the public, entailing a permanent debt on the country, without conferring any benefit on Ireland. The first vote which they were asked to pass amounted to 50,000l.; and he remarked that he found a very curious paragraph in the paper before him. The Commissioners were, it appeared, to make an estimate of what advances the unions should require. If they were not able to collect the rates in a particular union, they were to present their estimate to the Government, and the Government were to come forward to aid them, without, in the meantime, having laid before the House one single measure for the permanent improvement of the country. When the vote of ten millions was proposed for Ireland, he protested against that vote unless the Government brought forward measures to remove those radical causes that had produced the misery of the country; and a promise was given that such measures would be introduced. He had concurred most cordially last year in giving adequate powers to the Government to maintain the peace of the country; but he did so under a promise from the Government that they would bring in measures as speedily as possible radically to remove the evils that existed. He believed that they would have no rebellion. [Mr. J. O'CONNELL and other Irish Members: Hear!] Gentlemen were in a hurry in crying "hear;" he thought they should have in no country discontent, amounting to anything like rebellion, without some cause existing. He could show the causes that existed in Ireland, and, in fact, had often shown them to the House. Had Her Majesty's Ministers, he asked, fulfilled the promises they had made to the country, or sought to correct the vicious system that had led to the present lamentable state of Ireland? One Bill, indeed, had been brought in, but had been so cobbled and mutilated in its progress as to be of no use whatever. Had anything practical been done? He answered emphatically, no; and as long as they gave to a Ministry—he did not refer to one particular Ministry more than to another—measures of coercion and money, they never would have anything beneficial done for the country. They were now called upon to vote this 50,000l, because it was said that certain portions of the people of Ireland were unable to support their own poor. What proof had they of that? He found, by the paper in his hand, that the average of the whole rate of Ireland 410 during the last year was only 2s. 9d. in the pound; but in parishes in England the rate was higher in the last year than any rate in Ireland. In the parish in which he (Mr. Hume) lived, in Norfolk, the rates were 16s. 6d. in the pound; and the last quarter's rates was 4s. 6d. During the last year they had made advances to Ireland to the extent of 231,450l. Of that sum Ulster had received 6,000l. or 7,000l., Munster 24,000l, Leinster 7,000l., and Connaught 184,000l. What did the rates amount to during that time? In Ulster the rating was 2s., the expenditure 1s. 8d., and the amount collected 1s. 10d. in the pound; in Munster 3s. 7½d. was the expenditure, the rating 3s. 3d., and the difference was made up by the public money; in Leinster the expenditure was 2s. 4½d., and the amount collected 2s. 1d.; in Connaught 5s. 8d. was the expenditure, and only 2s. 7d. had been contributed from the poor-rates, the rest being made up from the public money. Now, he asked the House to get the returns from Paisley, or many of the towns in England, and let them have them on the table before agreeing to this proposition of the Government. With such a light assessment, compared with what was paid in England, were they prepared to adopt such a vicious principle as thus giving money to maintain the poor? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) had moved an Amendment which recommended that the money should be given, and employed for reproductive purposes—
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I merely pro-pose that the money should be lent, and not given.
§ MR. HUME
The hon. Gentleman asked that the money should be lent to employ the people; but on what security was it to be lent? They were told the land was worth nothing. If there was property that could be sold, he would say there was a fair claim for a loan; but otherwise, he would say it was giving the money. Let not his hon. Friend deceive himself into the belief that it was not giving the money; and the Government must know it was giving the money. He protested against giving that money, and would state to the House what ought to be done. They should negative the proposition of the Government, and to come to that they must first negative the proposition of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Poulett Scrope). 411 He believed the measure of the Government, if carried, would be injurious to Ireland, and would not produce the effect anticipated by its supporters. He should, therefore, oppose the proposition of the Government. No man wished better to Ireland than he (Mr. Hume) did; but one of the most dangerous proceedings would be to begin by voting 50,000l., as now proposed. He was unwilling thus to waste the public money, without in any way remedying: the existing evils.
§ MR. STAFFORD
praised the tone and temper of the speech of the noble Lord (Lord E. Howard); but before the noble Lord proceeded to pass such a severe censure on hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, he should have recollected something of their former conduct in respect to the Irish Poor Law, when it came under discussion. It was then stated that this poor-law contained a fatal principle in some of its provisions. The principle on which the electoral divisions were to be divided was most important, and one on which the whole question of equitable taxation rested. When the Irish Poor Law was introduced, a clause was inserted, in the House of Lords, directing the Commissioners so to divide the country as to stimulate productive employment; but that, except in Ulster, had not been carried out; and it would be found that all measures of improvement—emigration, the sale of encumbered estates, or the question of relief from the public treasury—all hinged upon that one principle of the area of taxation. It was only fair for him to state to the House, from his knowledge of the districts referred to in the book that had been submitted to them, that so far from things having come to the worst, they would, in every succeeding year, if the present system were sanctioned, be under the absolute necessity, not only of repeating the grants from the public treasury, but each of such grants would be larger than the former. When money was first asked for Ireland, he had, at the risk of personal unpopularity, ventured to predict what would be the result. He had said that the money would evoke no gratitude and do no good. As men of business, let them look to the working of the present system in the province of Connaught. If they referred to one part of this book they would find the number of unions; in another part they would find the population of those unions; and he had been at the pains of adding up the population of those 412 unions. They were aware that thirty-one unions were in a state of great difficulty; and twenty unions were in a state of absolute bankruptcy. The population of those twenty unions, according to the last census return, amounted to one and a half million of people; and the result of the working of the present system was that the province was laid desolate, and out of the population one and a half million were in a state of bankruptcy, and another half-million were likely to follow. With reference to the Motion that had been made a few nights previous, for the appointment of a Committee, although on some points it might be necessary to have inquiries made, still the urgency of the occasion was one that ought not to be met by the mere appointment of a Committee: this was not a case to be met by this instalment of relief. It might be said that 50,000l. was a very small sum to be granted; and those hon. Members who supported the proposition of the Government had very strong grounds in the appeal made to humanity upon the present occasion, and which, he must say, gave him the greatest possible difficulty to resist. He would, however, ask hon. Members who made use of that appeal, to consider the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had stated fairly and openly that this would be by no means the last grant for which he would have to apply during the present Session. The phrase, "Let the property of Ireland support the poverty of Ireland," was one very easy to be used, and when first used in the House produced cheers. But that phrase produced no cheers now, because hon. Members were beginning to suspect its meaning. He wanted to know how it was, according to that principle, that in the unions of the west of Ireland, the poverty of Ireland, dammed up by artificial barriers, overleaped its boundaries and found its way into the adjoining province, or came to the Consolidated Fund for relief? It was quite certain that the rates of the province of Ulster were not very large; but they joined the province of Connaught to Ulster, and then said, "Look at the average." If the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had had an opportunity during his severer studies of attending to the lighter literature of the day, he would find in one of the publications which were popular, the case of an elderly gentleman proposing to a young lady: he was seventy, she was twenty. The lady objected on the score 413 of age; upon which he replied, "Yes, but when we are united we shall be one. I am seventy, you are twenty; united ages, ninety; average, forty-five." By a forcible union of the province of Ulster with Connaught a similar result to this was produced. If hon. Members would refer to the 10th page of the report, relating to the aid afforded to the distressed unions in the west of Ireland, he would find that in the electoral division of Clare Island the poundage on one year's expenditure was 41s. 9½d. in the pound; Achill, 37s. 8¾d.; in Islandeadey, 20s. 8¼d.; in Louisburg, 20s. 8¼d. in the pound; and it surely would be hard upon those ratepayers to hear that in the unions of Belfast and Londonderry the rate was only 5d. in the pound. With respect to the Encumbered Estates Bill, he would ask hon. Members who had spoken of the working of that law, and of its ineffectiveness, who would go and invest their money in any of the unions of Connaught? One gentleman had informed him that he had a hundred acres of as fine grazing land as any in the country; he had also 400l. in the bank. He said that his first view was to invest this money in the purchase of stock for this grazing land; but, understanding that there was a heavy rate in arrear upon the land, and that the moment he had invested his capital in stock for that land that stock would be seized for the rate, he found it more convenient to invest his money in the Three per Cents, and wait for a better time, or live upon a part of the capital and the whole of the interest, so long as he was able to keep body and soul together. There was not a single district of the whole of those unions that was not liable to enormous rates; and the moment any stock was put upon the land, or any corn had arrived at maturity, to a certainty it would be all seized for the rates. He had warned them previously how it would be, and now it had come to pass. First of all, the former Parliamentary grant had failed, and that was dead-lock No. 1; then the British Association money failed, and that was dead-lock No. 2; and now the grant proposed by the right hon. Baronet (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would also fail, and that would be dead-lock No. 3. He called upon the House, therefore, in the very words of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume), to force on Ireland the necessity of maintaining its own poor. He was satisfied, on the principle of philanthropy towards Ireland, 414 totally regardless for the present of the English constituency he represented—he was satisfied, on the general principle of finance, that the 50,000l. now proposed to be granted would leave Connaught more poor than she was at present. If he thought that the proposed grant of money would even leave Ireland where it was, he would have less scruples than he had; but he had no hesitation in saying that by every grant they only increased the misery and poverty of the country. He (Mr. Stafford) had resided for some months in every year, during the last fourteen years, in Ireland; he had watched over the working of the poor-law in one of the largest unions of Ireland—that of Limerick. He had devoted since the recess three days in every week to the examination of the operation of that law, and he told the House, as a result of his experience, that the area of taxation was at the root of all the evils connected with the working of the poor-law in Ireland. Let not the House consider these observations as undeserving of attention because they were brought forward by an independent Member. His interests were bound up with those of Ireland, and the conclusions to which he had arrived were the results of personal experience and inquiry. As a proof of the change of opinion which had taken place in Ireland, he would state that, having proposed at the Limerick board of guardians, two years ago, a resolution upon the subject of the area of taxation, the feeling of the guardians was so strong against him that he did not dare to bring it forward. In the month of October in the last year, however, he brought forward that same resolution, only more strongly worded, and the guardians, so far from resisting it, did not even comment upon it, and the resolution was passed by acclamation by the whole board. They said all their fears with respect to clearances were at end; it was impossible for the system of clearances to go on at a more awful rate than they were now going on; and they felt that when the country was a desert, the towns would become a ruin. It was quite clear that there must be some alteration in the area of taxation, and where necessary a rate in aid might be made. There must be some alteration of the system which prevented persons from improving their land, in consequence of the arbitrary increase of the assessment in such cases. Till alterations such as these were made, they might double the national debt, by payments to Ireland, 415 and at the end there would be nothing done, and they would not have even the commonest gratitude, because the people would not find the least benefit from the course they had pursued. This being the actual state of things, and this being the difficulty—either to seem to turn a deaf ear to the appeal of their suffering fellow-countrymen, or to sanction a principle which he believed to be a most vicious one—he again expressed his regret that the Government had not thought fit to meet Parliament with better measures than a vicious grant, and a dilatory Committee, to grapple with the evils of Ireland.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, he felt that his hon. Friend (Mr. Stafford) who had just sat down had been guilty of some little contradiction: for he had submitted that the pith of the whole law, and its improvement, depended on the settlement of the question of the area of taxation. Now, he (Sir W. Somerville) begged his hon. Friend to remember that the Government had separated those two questions—that the area of taxation had been separated from the other details of the Bill; that a Commission was appointed last year to enter into that particular part of the operation of the poor-law; that that Commission made a report; that that report was laid on the table of the House; and that, therefore, that vital part of the poor-law, which involved a very grave question, need not be submitted to the consideration of another Committee, but that it was ripe for the adoption of the House now, if the House conceived it right to adopt it. Therefore, so far as the area of taxation was concerned, that question might be considered settled. He fully believed the statements made by English Members with reference to the proposition of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he admitted that it was no doubt a painful thing for the Government to come down there and ask for the present grant. It was a painful position for the hon. Members for England or Ireland either to refuse a grant asked as this had been asked for, or to sanction a system which an hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stafford) had deemed vicious in principle, particularly after what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that he would not undertake to say that he would not increase the grant now proposed at some future day. Now the House might turn and twist the question asked by the hon. Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) as 416 they pleased, but there was only one answer to that question, and that was—that this grant was necessary if the House wished to preserve the lives of the people. It might be painful to make it. The House might blame the Government, and say that they ought to have done this and that; but there was only one answer to the question, and he firmly believed that not one of the remedies proposed there that day—that not one of the remedies propounded on so many occasions by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) would have prevented the present or any other Government from coming down and making a similar proposition with that now made, and ask this country to come forward and save the lives of the people in Ireland. He also thought that the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French) was in error in attributing the present state of things to the poor-law. It seemed to be forgotten that Ireland at this moment was suffering under the greatest calamity which he (Sir W. Somerville) firmly believed had ever befallen any country in the world. They had there a population living upon the lowest character of food—the potato; and that food had now been destroyed for three consecutive years. How was that population to be supported? Where was the food to come from to supply that food which had been destroyed; or, if the food were supplied, where was the money to come from with which the population was to purchase it? Hon. Gentlemen seemed to think that such a calamity as this was to take place, and that the ordinary operations of society were to go on as heretofore—that the social machinery was to proceed as hitherto—that nothing was to clash, that the Government need not come down and propose grants, and that it was impossible, in fact, but that things must go on in their ordinary course, and no special remedy be applied. He begged of the House to consider the state of things in Ireland for a moment, and to remember that they could not remedy it all of a sudden. Do what they would, the process must be a long one. And until things took a better turn, and some change took place, if they did not step in with some temporary aid, as now proposed, the consequence would be, as he had already stated, a destruction of human life; and when that destruction had taken place, he knew, from his own knowledge of English character, and the feelings of hon. Members in that House, that they would blame 417 themselves for having rejected the present proposal. Now, there had been two objections advanced to the course which his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought proper to pursue. First of all, there was the objection of advancing any money at all, to which he had already alluded, and which he could not express surprise at; and then there was the objection of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) who had said that the money ought to be lent, not given, and employed in reproductive operations. Now the question was, if they employed this money in reproductive operations, would they be able to meet the difficulty for which the money now asked, and hereafter to be asked, was required? His belief was, that if the House attempted to employ this money in a reproductive manner, it was not 50,000l. that would be asked, but 500,000l.—and from his knowledge of Ireland, he warned the House, and he entreated those who thought with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), to pause before they mixed up relief to the destitute poor with the employment of pauper labour on great reproductive works. Now, he would just state this fact to the House, and allow hon. Members to deduce from it whatever argument they pleased. Under the Labour Rate Act, as it was called, there were at a certain period 700,000 ablebodied men in what might be called the pay of the Government, because they received daily wages from the money voted for that purpose by the generosity of that House; but at no period had there been more than 65,800 persons receiving relief from the poor-laws, Now, if the House were to connect the poor-laws with the reproductive employment of pauper labour, they would treble the number of 65,000 persons under their relief plans. Then his hon. Friend had said that reproductive labour prevented demoralisation; but his (Sir W. Somerville's) belief was, that if they employed pauper labour on reproductive works, they would demoralise the paupers to ten times the extent. Besides, there was something repulsive in extracting from a pauper his labour, which was to produce a large return; and then, as compensation for his labour, giving him nothing but his daily rations. This was a system that would not be tolerated. It would be considered more unfair than the present system, and he was perfectly convinced, as he bad already said, it would be more demoralising; and, therefore, so far 418 as the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope) was concerned, whatever the House might do with the main question now proposed, he hoped that, so far as any proposition of lending money was concerned, in order that it might be employed in reproductive labour, it would not meet with the sanction of the House. The hon. Member for Stroud had alluded, in the course of his address, to many other topics. He had alluded to a correspondence which had lately taken place between the Under Secretary of State in Ireland and the Marquess of Sligo, with reference to the Westport union; and he had quoted a passage from a statement made by the Under Secretary, in which an average was taken of the rate collected in the Westport union, that average being stated at a very small amount. He (Sir W. Somerville) wished to take that opportunity of stating, in the same frank manner in which it had already been officially stated in Ireland, that there was an error in the return made by his hon. Friend, the Under Secretary for Ireland—that his hon. Friend immediately wrote to the Marquess of Sligo on discovering the error—that in the first instance he did not give credit for a further payment of rates than to the amount of 7,000l.; but that when he discovered the error, he frankly acknowledged it to the Marquess of Sligo; and as his letter on the subject had not appeared in the papers, he (Sir W. Somerville) felt it right to make this statement to the House. Now, in his opinion, the hon. Members for Lincolnshire (Mr. Christopher), and Montrose (Mr. Hume), had not argued fairly when they alluded to the amount of rates paid in this country as compared with the amount paid in Ireland. It was very easy to speak of so much in the pound paid here and there, and it was very easy to strike averages; but he was greatly afraid, when they talked of so much in the pound, that that pound was a very imaginary thing, and that a large number of gentlemen in the west of Ireland did not get it. And then as regarded the inequalities of the rates, nothing was so fallacious as the founding of an argument on that. The expenditure for the province of Leinster had been 2s. 0¼d., and in Ulster, 1s. 8¼d. Now, in these provinces, the burden on the poor could not be considered as oppressive; but in Ulster there was one union, that of Glenties, in Donegal, in which the expense was 9s. 10½d. in the pound—nearly one-half the valuation of the whole union; and 419 if hon. Members looked at some of the other divisions they would find the disproportion still more glaring. In Munster the average was 3s. 7¼d.; in Kilrush it was 7s. 4d. in the pound. In Connaught the average expense was 5s. 8d. in the pound; but the expenses in the Westport union were on the average 14s. 1¾d. In Clare they were 36s. 7d. in the pound; and in the Clifden electoral division of the Clifden union the rate was 43s. 1d. in the pound. Then what was to be done? Suppose they were to adopt the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), why, before his reproductive works produced anything, half the population would be dead. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. French), who possessed feelings of the greatest humanity, had observed upon the great numbers that were upon the rate-books; but he ought to remember that if those numbers were not upon the rate-books, they would be in their graves. The same hon. Member had also observed, that the present state of things in Ireland was not new—that it had happened before; but that was a mistake. True it was that there had been partial failures of the crops in Ireland before, and that the charitable people of this country had then come forward to alleviate the distress thereby caused; but never before for three consecutive years did it happen that the whole of the produce throughout Ireland had totally and entirely failed. He had read that, about a century ago, in the year 1744 or 1745, there had been a total and entire destruction of the potato crop in Ireland. He knew not exactly what the population of the country was at that time, but it must have been small compared with what it was at present. It probably was about 2,000,000, and the calculation was, that 400,000 of the people died a death of famine in that year. Now, if that was the state of things at that time, and if since then there had not been a general failure of the potato crop until now, the House might form some judgment of what the result would be if there was no poor-law in Ireland, and no compulsory provision for the support of the destitute inhabitants of that country. He knew not that he could add anything to the statements already made by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in proof of the misery which existed in Ireland. He hoped that whatever the result of the general question might be, at all events the Amendment of the hon. 420 Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), would not receive the assent of the House. He firmly believed that, take what ulterior measures they might—and it was a very difficult thing indeed to say what those measures ought to be—it was most necessary that measures of temporary relief and alleviation should now be passed. He believed that if the generosity of that House did not step in, there would be a loss of life in Ireland frightful to contemplate; and that if such a catastrophe happened, the Members of that House, and the British people out of doors, would deeply re-grot that they had offered any opposition to the Motion of his right hon. Friend, and that they had not come forward to stop and arrest the march of death in Ireland.
§ Mr. H. HERBERT
felt, in common with many other hon. Members, and with the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford), that he had a right to complain of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. He, however, came to this conclusion, that if the House should reject the proposition of the Government, it would be a sentence of death upon starving people. He believed that the distress which was detailed in the papers before the House arose, if not wholly, yet in a great degree, from the neglect of Her Majesty's Government, who had turned a deaf ear to every suggestion which had been made to them by the Gentlemen of the country, who had forewarned them of the fatal consequences of the system which they were pursuing. He begged to say, that he disclaimed any sympathy with those who were of opinion that there ought to be no poor-law in Ireland. He found in the union in which he resided, which he had constantly attended for the purpose of doing his duty, that, with two exceptions only, it had paid the largest amount of any union of Ireland. The average amount of the collection was 5s. 10d. in the pound. He need hardly say that was a fictitious pound—it did not find its way into the pockets of the landlords. If he looked to the other column before him, he found that in the two other unions there was a greater amount of taxation, but they were deeply in debt and not able to meet their liabilities. Now, the union of which he spoke had money of their own, therefore he did not call attention to a district which had no resources. But he complained that, contrary to the remonstrances which had been made on the subject of a real taxation, the Government had paralysed the exertions of the 421 landed gentry and those who had endeavoured, like himself, to do their duty. He had, at the close of last year, himself, spent ten days, from morning till night, to get at a description of the property in the union, in order to get at a unity of action. What was the result? After ten days' severe labour, he found it impossible, from the adoption of the areal taxation, to do any thing. It ended like the reports of Her Majesty's Government, in a voluminous report on paper. The right hon. Secretary (Sir W. Somerville) told them that they had the report of the Boundary Commissioners. He (Mr. Herbert) did not complain of those gentlemen, but he complained that they had too many reports. For the last twenty years they had nothing but blue books and reports; and now the Government, instead of making up their minds, told them they were to have another Committee. It had been stated that the poor-law in Ireland was looked on with detestation by all parties. Now, with reference to that assertion, he would state one circumstance which had happened in his own union. A gentleman in proposing at the board some memorial, used some expressions indicating that he was an enemy to the poor-law. The chairman said he could not concur in any resolution, which, even by implication, made it clear that they were enemies to the poor-law. That sentiment was responded to by every gentleman present. While on the subject of taxation, he would add one word. It had been said that there was no argument more fallacious than that of comparing the amount of rates in England and Ireland. In Ireland the rate did not represent the state of the unions. He found that of eight unions, there was only One union in Munster where the average taxation was 3s. 5¼d. in the pound, whilst in Connaught it was only 2s. 7d. Therefore, if they judged by the amount of taxation, Munster was in the worse condition. In the union he was interested in, the expenditure was 5s. 10d. in the pound, and they did not ask for money! They only asked the Government to give them free scope and fair play. The country did not want a report, but some action. They did not require another blue book, but action on the part of the Executive.
§ Mr. E. B. ROCHE
would support the proposition of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not because the right hon. Gentleman had suggested the best remedy that could be devised, but because 422 it was the most immediate remedy at the present period. At the same time he could not shut out from his recollection that it was but a stop-gap. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had said that he would not give the public money to relieve the Irish people, though they were in a state of destitution, because the grant would be against the principles of political economy, and because Ireland had not hitherto been governed in a wise and statesmanlike manner. As, however, they were in a state of starvation, he (Mr. Roche) could not refuse to vote this 50,000l. The hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) recommended the reduction of the area of taxation; but he did not see how that would meet the difficulty in the administration of the poor-law, or how the difficulty, in respect of the twenty bankrupt unions would be disposed of. As the question had been raised, he must say that he doubted the efficacy of the hon. Gentleman's specific, and he hoped that the Committee upstairs would not adopt the suggestion without a long and serious inquiry into its probable effect. The hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), on the other hand, insisted upon it that reproductive employment ought to be given, and the land sold where that was not done. But to make a sale, there must not only be a seller, but a buyer; and he must say that he did not believe that any man of property in Ireland would buy landed estates at five years' purchase on the rental. But even if the plans which had been proposed by private Members of the House could be carried out, they would not meet the pressing necessity of the moment; and, therefore, if the grant were refused, he would leave the House to bear the responsibility.
§ SIR G. GREY
wished, before the question was put, to say a few words in reference to the charge brought against the Government by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Herbert) for not having introduced a Bill with respect to the reduction of the area of the rateable districts. The House had heard from his right hon. Friend (Sir W. Somerville) near him, as well as from other Members, that nothing could have been easier than for the Government to come down to Parliament with a Bill for that purpose, and that the requisition of Government for more convenient boundaries might have been prepared and at once presented to Parliament. He wished it to be understood that to accomplish this 423 object the Government did not contemplate the possibility of effecting a change in the poor-law by means of townland rating. They proposed merely to keep to the revision of the present existing districts, with the view to an improved arrangement in some of the southern and western districts. Previous inquiry was necessary for this purpose, so as to prevent similar inconvenience arising to that which had arisen, and which they were now called upon to consider. With respect to the Commissioners appointed for this purpose, he was glad to find that the names of the gentlemen appointed for this purpose last year gave general satisfaction, as well as the instructions as to the mode in which they were to conduct the inquiry. The utmost attention had been paid to the principal object of Inquiry, which object was not the introduction of the townland principle of rating, but to consider whether they could not with advantage make reductions in the area of the unions which existed in some parts of Ireland. He thought, as was stated by his right hon. Friend (Sir W. Somerville) the other night on moving for the appointment of the Committee, that this subject would not come before that body, but that Commissioners were inquiring into the matter quite Irrespective of the Committee. The first report of the Commissioners, which contained an investigation as to a small portion of the country, had already been presented, and it had been referred to the Poor Law Commissioners with the view of ascertaining whether the recommendations embodied in it might not at once be carried into operation. The present Act of Parliament would allow this to be done; it therefore would be a mere waste of time to introduce a new Bill to effect that object. Power was given to the Commissioners in the original Act to revise the extent of the unions; and under the amended Act, the 9th and 10th of Victoria, they were enabled to revise the boundaries of the unions without any further express authority for the purpose. The first report of the Commissioners had only recently reached the Government, and if the recommendations embodied in it met with the approbation of the Poor Law Commissioners and the Government, they would be carried into effect without delay. Under such circumstances, there would be no necessity for Government coming to Parliament for a Bill for the purpose alluded to. He (Sir G. Grey), therefore, did not think that the 424 hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) had acted with his usual fairness and candour towards the Government, in requiring that this subject should be referred to the Committee. It was out of all question resorting to townland areas. The number of the present electoral districts was 2,090, while the number of townlands was upwards of 7,000. No doubt there might be some townlands belonging to individuals in which there was no pauperism; but if, in consequence of this circumstance, this principle of rating was adopted, there would be great districts in Ireland which would be perfectly overwhelmed with poverty, He would say no more with regard to this branch of the subject. With respect to the proposed vote, he wished to say a few words in justice to the Irish Government. It was brought forward with the view of averting starvation from the pauperised unions, and it was brought forward at a moment, and this sum was asked for, under very different circumstances from those which existed when they asked for the first grant. At that time it was said, and very justly, that they were paying a large amount of poor-rates in England, a considerable portion of which was devoted to the relief of the destitute Irish in this country, but that the amount of the poor-rate collected in Ireland was very small. At that period the whole amount of the poor-rate collected in Ireland was 300,000l., while, during the last year, not less than 1,600,000l. was collected. He did not, then, think that it could now be said with justice that the Irish proprietors endeavoured to avoid the charge of the burden of supporting the poverty of Ireland out of the property of that country. He believed, whatever arreas of local taxes might exist in the west of Ireland, that they had arisen from the peculiar circumstances of the last few years; and that the extent of pauperism was such as to require additional aid. It had been stated by his right hon. Friend (Sir W. Somerville) that some years ago 400,000 persons, out of a population of 2,000,000, were allowed to perish from starvation in Ireland, and that the then Irish Parliament took no other steps than to pass an Act to secure the payment of arrears of rent, and did nothing for the relief of the people. He was glad that a different state of feeling existed now, and he believed that the House would take upon Itself a very heavy responsibility, if they rejected this vote after a knowledge of the circumstances of the case, 425 being aware that rates were being collected, and that they would be enforced on those able to pay them. Circulars directing strict attention to be paid to this had been addressed by the Government to the inspectors appointed under the Irish Poor Law, and he had no doubt as to the instructions being attended to. Under these circumstances he trusted that the House would not withhold the grant.
§ Mr. H. HERBERT
, in explanation, said, that he had not declared that he was an advocate for townland areas. He had alluded chiefly to his own union.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
observed, that he could assure the Committee that he had listened to the discussion with great interest, and it was with some difficulty that he had arrived at a conclusion as to the vote which he should give. From the opinion of the House, expressed in the discussion which took place the other night on the Sessional Orders, it appeared that brevity was to be the future rule for the speeches in their debates. He, therefore, would at once get rid of all extraneous matters. He would not go into a discussion on the provisions of the Irish Poor Law; nor would he enter into the question of the area of taxation; nor would he advert to those matters which yesterday had been referred to a Select Committee. He would strictly confine himself to the two questions which were then immediately before them. The first question was the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope), to the effect that if any money was voted on the present occasion, it should be in the shape of a loan. He distinctly differed from the hon. Gentleman as to his first proposition. He was extremely jealous, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, of the relations of debtor and creditor between England and Ireland. He would rather give a grant to double the amount than a smaller sum as a loan which was not likely to be repaid, or which was to be recovered by a process quite inconsistent, as he (Sir J. Graham) thought, with the peace of Ireland, and dangerous to the best interests of the country. He firmly believed that it would be altogether impossible to reclaim the money; and it would be only loading Ireland with burdens in addition to those which she was now found unable to pay. On this ground he would much rather consent to a grant than to a loan. The second proposition of the hon. Member was, that the sum to be advanced should be laid out in reproductive 426 employment. He thought that the arguments of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) were irresistible on this point. He thought that the principle had been tried, not far from home, in the recent attempt to establish national workshops, and which had been a signal failure. He, therefore, was strongly opposed to any proposition of the kind. He now came to the proposition of the Government, and his vote would be determined by the circumstances stated by two Irish Members. In the first place, he agreed with the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert), that this was a most important decision which they were about to come to. He had looked into the report which was presented yesterday, as to the state of the distressed unions in the west of Ireland, and which embodied the suggestions of the Poor Law Commissioners. He found it there stated, that of the advances made in these unions from October, 1847, to July last year, 256,000l. was raised by charitable contributions; and when that sum was expended, 132,000l. had been given by the Government out of monies placed at their disposal by Parliament; and the Poor Law Commissioners—Report that without this timely aid it is probable that not less than 200,000 persons would have perished last year for want of food in the distressed districts.They went on to state, that the destitution arising from the failure of the potato crop last year was greater and more decisive than that which prevailed in 1847; and it adds—It must be expected that the charge upon those distressed unions for the relief of the poor during the present season will again exceed the amount of rates which, in their present exhausted state, it will be possible to collect.It appeared, then, that if no advance was made, the case must be hopeless, and the consequences must be that a large number of the people must perish from starvation. He therefore agreed with the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert), that the refusal of the vote at that moment on the part of the House, would be equivalent to passing a sentence of death on multitudes of people. He knew that the English Members objected to grants of this kind, and that they were urged on the subject by their constituents; but he was sure when they made up their minds, if they did not regard the report before them as a false statement of the facts of the case, that he should not misrepresent his humane feelings and the Christian 427 principles of the British people, when he expressed his conviction that they would accede to the proposition of the Government. With respect, therefore, to the grant of money, as this was only a temporary measure, he should give it his sup-port. In saying this, he trusted, however, that there was no chance of another vote of this description. He regarded it as the last. ["Oh, oh!"] He repeated, he gave his assent to the vote distinctly on the understanding that this was the last vote of the kind. He was clearly of opinion that the time had arrived when the Government must carefully review the whole subject of local taxation in Ireland, and that they would soon come forward with a proposition, not only with reference to this, but to many other local taxes, and submit to our consideration a comprehensive settlement. Looking to all the circumstances of Ireland, considering that the Irish people paid no property tax, that they paid no assessed taxes—that with reference to the excise they were exempted from some duties, and also that the tax upon spirits was lower there even than in Scotland; and that with respect to tithes, a few years ago, there had been a remission—perhaps made improvidently—to the landlords to the amount of 120,000l. a year; he felt, that if taxes were to be levied for local purposes, the collection of the rate in aid should be made in Ireland. But as to the form of a measure of the description which he had alluded to, it was necessary that it should be undertaken by the Executive Government; and it was also necessary that they should have time to prepare a measure of this magnitude. It appeared from the discussion of this morning—if they were not aware of the circumstance before—that the time had arrived when a vote of this kind, a mere temporary expedient to meet a permanent evil, was no longer to be expected from that House. He trusted and believed that Her Majesty's Government would take a comprehensive view of the whole circumstances of local taxation in Ireland, and would deal with the subject in a manner worthy of an Executive Government. He had had some difficulty in making up his mind, but after the fullest consideration of the subject, he should vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope); and, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, he could not refrain from giving his support to the proposition of the Government.
said, that he concurred in opinion with the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, that that was not the occasion to discuss the poor-law. He would, therefore, not follow his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Herbert), nor the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Stafford) into that difficult question, nor would he discuss with them the area of taxation project. He admitted that the opinion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire was entitled to great weight on that question, by reason of his experience as a poor-law guardian; but still, when the proper time came, he (Mr. Fagan) was not afraid to enter into the discussion. He was connected with the oldest union in Ireland, and being a guardian since that union was formed, he felt himself competent to express an opinion on the point to which the hon. Member attached so much importance. But the present question was, whether the population of twenty-one unions should be saved from starvation by the vote of this House; and to that he should direct his attention. He regretted his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) should feel it consistent with his duty to vote against the proposition of Her Majesty's Government. He did not know whether the hon. Gentleman was connected by property or otherwise with Ireland, or whether he was connected by property with the West Indies; but he asked him whether he divided the House last year on the vote for the West Indies? That vote was for increasing labour in those colonies; the vote of to-night was to save a whole population from starvation; and yet the hon. Member allowed the one to pass without resistance, and now strenuously opposed the other. The hon. Member was a Scotchman. Did he come annually to that House and oppose the vote of 14,000l. for the Scotch fisheries? He was a long time in that House; did he oppose the vote for the Caledonian Canal? [Mr. HUME: I did.] Did he oppose the vote for Perth Harbour? Did he oppose the votes for the making of bridges and roads in his own country? The hon. Member instituted a comparison between the amount of poor-rate paid in England and in Ireland. The poor-rate in England amounted sometimes to over 5,000,000l. a year on a valuation of 67,000,000l. The rate in Ireland last year amounted to near 2,000,000l. on a valuation of 13,000,000l. Was it just, then, to institute any comparison between them? or if instituted, was not the 429 balance fairly in favour of Ireland? The right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir James Graham) brought back the House to the consideration of the real question before the House, namely, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope). He (Mr. Fagan) had on more than one occasion in that House vindicated the benevolent motives which influenced the hon. Member in the part he took in reference to Ireland, and he solicited him whenever he felt it his duty to bring the negligent or oppressive landlord before that House; but he must say that his Amendment to the proposition of the Government was not consonant with the motives for which he (Mr. Fagan) and the people of Ireland gave him credit. There was no person who heard the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or who had read the paper on the distress in the west of Ireland, now in the hands of the House, but must see how utterly impossible it was that repayment of any loan now made to any one of the twenty-one unions for which it was intended could ever be made. The hon. Member for Stroud spoke of the Westport union. Did he know that in one division in that union the expenditure for the destitute for one year was 41s. in the pound? Did he expect that any aid given now to our electoral divisions would ever be repaid? Those twenty-one unions now owed a debt of 123,985l., independent of their current engagements. Well, they had now quite enough to do to pay that debt, without repaying any money now given by that House. The union of Clifden, one of those to which assistance will be given, had last year nearly 86 per cent of its population on the poor's-rates, and this year 63. Did the hon. Member think that Clifden union would ever be able to repay the money that Government might allocate to it? He would draw the attention of the House to nine unions of the twenty-one to show their condition, and he would then ask, could they repay any money that was given them? In Westport, the electoral division of Achill was valued at 9d. an acre; the population was as three to every 1l. of valuation, and the population to every square mile of crops, before the failure of the potatoes, was 10,240. In Clare Island division, the valuation was 2s. an acre, the ratio of population four to one, and the population was 7,040 to the square mile of crops; and so in rather a less degree with the unions of Ballina, Castlebar, 430 Ballinrobe, Gallwey, Clifden, Scariff, Kenmare and Bantry. How was it possible that the properties on these unions could repay the grant, or be sold for its repayment? In his opinion even the repayments of loans under the Labour Hate Act, or the Temporary Relief Act, could not be enforced from those unions. The hon. Member spoke of employment. Now that was good as a principle; but the question now was, to save the lives of the people, and mere reproductive employment with a few thousands could never effect that object. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French) expressed his gratitude to the Government, and yet he objected to their proposition, and he went on to attack the poor-law, attributing the distress to that law instead of to the famine. In the same manner the hon. Baronet the Member for Radnorshire (Sir John Walsh) opposed the vote, and yet he drew a frightful description of the electoral division of Kilerohane, in the Bantry union, of which the inspector had thus written—That the condition of the whole people is immeasurably below what the most heartless would consider the lowest depths of wretchedness.He would now come to the proposition of the Government. He confessed he considered the vote quite inadequate to the purpose. He estimated the demand for the twenty-one unions for the next twelve months was 568,829l., and the largest amount of rate that could be raised was estimated at 293,481l., therefore there would be 295,348l. to be provided for twenty-one unions from extraneous resources. The Government proposed to give but 230,000l. It was clear then that even for the twenty-one unions that would not he sufficient. But the Government, in the coming spring and summer, would not be able to confine themselves to these unions. The British Association last year granted 236,487l. to thirty-five unions in addition to the aid given by Government—one of these unions not in the list of twenty-one he knew would require aid that year—he meant Skibbereen: that union got 12,000l. from the association last year, and it would require at least as much this year from the Government now that the resources of the association were exhausted. He spoke disinterestedly on this question, for his union required no such aid. Fifteen out of the twenty-one unions were in Connaught, a part of Ireland with which he had no connexion or no knowledge, yet he felt it his duty to support the proposi- 431 tion of the Government; at the same time that he was convinced more unions would have to be relieved, and the grant made larger; and he was glad it was the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to propose a further vote if found necessary.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I rise to make a suggestion to the Government, which I do not despair they will accede to, and it is, that they will not on this occasion call upon the House to give a vote. I think this is an instance in which the House has not enjoyed that opportunity for consideration which is requisite on so important an occasion; and even if it were only to avoid the inconvenience of an adjourned debate, I should be glad if the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) would rise and appoint another day for the discussion of this question. I cannot agree, myself, in the belief expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Ripon (Sir J. Graham), that this is the last vote that we shall he called upon to give on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman has qualified that conviction, because he says that he has no doubt Her Majesty's Government are prepared to bring forward a comprehensive measure on the subject of local taxation in Ireland, and indeed upon other Irish subjects, and it would, therefore, be extremely agreeable to this (the Opposition) side of the House to hear from Her Majesty's Government that such is their intention. If Her Majesty's Government would come forward and say, "This is really only a solitary vote, and if you accede to it we are prepared to call your immediate consideration to a comprehensive measure which we have matured, and which will render it unnecessary for us to apply to the House for further votes of this description," no doubt it would very much influence the conduct of hon. Members in giving their votes; but I have not heard any intimation of that kind from any Member of Her Majesty's Government, and, indeed, I collected from what I did hear an inference very much the reverse. But if that be the intention of Her Majesty's Government, and if they would so frame the vote that the House could clearly understand that this is the only vote of the kind about to be taken, and that a measure is about to be brought forward which will render unnecessary any future appeal of this kind, I have no doubt we should come to a satisfactory conclusion. But we must recollect that the only question now under consideration is put before 432 us by Her Majesty's Ministers, and not by that distinguished Member—I will not say of the Opposition—but of the House of Commons—who has given us his opinion on the subject. We are called upon to grant a vote which is to support a population amounting to 2,000,000, and that vote is of a very diminutive amount compared with the population. No one can suppose that when we deal with those 31 unions, two-thirds of which are in a state of bankruptcy, and which are occupied by a million and a half of human beings, that the sum of 50,000l. can be of any efficiency, unless it be coupled with that subsequent legislation of a comprehensive character which it has been intimated to the House may be adopted. Sir, it is difficult in questions of this kind to resist the appeals that have been made to the House by the Members of Her Majesty's Government; but these appeals are also a reason why the House should not be taken by surprise in questions of this kind. The very papers in our hands have been there only a few hours; but the most remarkable thing is, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer founds his case upon manuscript information. And that is another reason why some delay should take place—that we should at least have that manuscript information printed and circulated and considered. Besides, Sir, we must always recollect that a Minister is inclined to make appeals to the House in questions of apparent exigency which it is, perhaps, rash on the part of independent Members too easily to accede to. It is not a year ago since we heard Her Majesty's Ministers making appeals of a similar description with reference to a proposal very much to increase the income-tax. According to the solemn declarations of Ministers at that time, the security of the nation and the maintenance of public credit depended upon our acceding to that proposition. Fortunately, we did not accede to it; and today we have received our reward, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that the revenue of the country is prospering extremely, notwithstanding we did not accede to his proposition. Considering that this proposition for a vote of 50,000l. is necessarily and avowedly on the part of the Government but the first of a series of similar grants; that it is a question of magnitude, because it really is whether the people of England are to pay, not only their own poor-rates, but the Irish poor-rates too—considering also that 433 the printed information has been in our hands only a few hours—and I will honestly and frankly admit that I have not given it that consideration which I could desire, for the details are complicated, and already I have seen many which require elucidation—considering, also, that the case of the Minister who introduced the measure was founded on manuscript information, which he himself admitted had been received so very recently that he had not had the opportunity of circulating it amongst hon. Members—considering, also, that one of the most important supporters of the project of the Government supports it only because he assumes that a comprehensive measure is about to be introduced with respect to the local taxation of Ireland, without which, he confesses his vote would be quite unjustifiable—and that we have received no intimation from Her Majesty's Government that this comprehensive measure is really in preparation—I think I am not asking too much from the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) when I express my hope that he will not call upon the House thus suddenly to vote upon this important subject, but that he will appoint an early day for our future consideration of the measure which has been brought before us to-day.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that the considerations which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), who had just spoken, submitted to the House, as to the proposition being new, and as to the papers having been only lately in the hands of Members, and there being naturally therefore some doubt upon the question, were undoubtedly reasons why the further consideration of this vote should be postponed. On the other hand, he (Lord J. Russell) thought it was the bounden duty of Her Majesty's Government, in accordance with the Treasury Minute, dated Jan. 16, to lose no time, so soon as Parliament should have assembled, in laying before the House of Commons what they had done, and what they proposed to do. Otherwise they would have been placed under the necessity of refusing any grant or loan in Ireland, thereby exposing the distressed millions in that country to great loss of life; or they must have incurred the responsibility of granting the public money during the sitting of Parliament, without coming to that House for authority. With respect to the subject itself, he thought the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) 434 had hardly stated the case fairly for Ireland, nor fairly for others, when he said that the question was, whether the people of England were to pay the poor-rates of Ireland in addition to their own. In the year 1822, there was a loss of food in Ireland, although not so general as that which had occurred in other years; and in that year the House consented to both a loan and a grant, for the sake of the starving people. No poor-rates then existed. In 1846, propositions of the same kind were made at the commencement of the Session for grants and for loans; and, during the course of the Session, the total amount was frequently referred to, and stated as a proof that the Government and Parliament were not indifferent to the distress in Ireland. At that period there was a very limited poor-law, which only gave relief to the destitute within the workhouse, thereby excluding all outdoor relief. In that case likewise—in 1846 as well as in 1822—the grants were consented to, and no such reproach was uttered as that which was now made. But when the Irish representatives had given, with others, their consent to a law under which 1,600,000l. had been raised for poor-rates, then hon. Gentlemen turned round in this particular year and said, "Nothing is done for Ireland—our poor-rates are paid by us, and, in addition, we have to pay the Irish poor-rates also;" thus casting that reproach, not when Ireland really paid nothing for the support of her own poor, but when there was a poor-law in the country, under which the amount he had stated had been collected. Adverting now to those comprehensive views which had been alluded to by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), he could only say that he could enter into no such pledge as that which the hon. Gentleman wished. Neither could he say that this would be the last grant that would be proposed on this account. Nor would he say that a comprehensive measure was now prepared by which he could do away with the necessity for any further grant of this kind. He should regard it as exceedingly wrong, if circumstances of great emergency should arise; if the question, for example, should arise whether 200,000 people should be allowed to starve, or the Government should come down and ask for a grant to save them from famine. Upon that subject, therefore, he disagreed with the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. He would not say that a sense of public duty might not induce him to ask 435 for such a grant at some future time. Neither would he say that a measure was now prepared by which all grants of such a kind would be rendered unnecessary. But this he would say, that, having heard many propositions made upon the subject of Irish poor-laws, and having many measures urged upon him within the last two years, which he had been reproached for not accepting, it turned out in many instances that the authors themselves of these very propositions had entirely given up and abandoned them. Such being the case. Her Majesty's Government having deliberated upon what, as they conceived, were the best amendments that could be made in the Irish Poor Law, had considered also that if such amendments should be made, other consequences would follow, which would bear upon the rating of property in Ireland; and, therefore, when the Poor Law Committee met, he should be prepared to state his views and opinions upon that subject fairly to the Committee. He would not say that those views and opinions might not be modified by the opinions of Gentlemen who were representatives of Ireland; and who, although he might be as well acquainted as they with the general principles of a poor-law, were better versed than he could pretend to be in the mode in which the poor-law had worked in certain districts in Ireland, and also how particular provisions of that law would locally operate. There could be no more difficult subject than a poor-law in any country. Various amendments had taken place in the poor-law of England from its first enactment, in the 43rd of Elizabeth, down to the alterations in the Act passed some fifteen years ago. What were difficulties, then, attending this kind of legislation, even in a flourishing and wealthy country, must certainly be still greater when attending the introduction of a poor-law into Ireland—a country to which it was new, where the machinery was hardly fit for its proper working, and, above all, whore property had never before been subjected to its operation. He would not say that he was so possessed in opinion with respect to all the details of that poor-law, as to be prepared to make a proposition to the House for its amendment, and to say that nothing but that proposition should be adopted. He did not pretend to any such thing. When the Committee met he should be prepared, cither with the consent and approbation of the Committee, or according to convictions of his own, 436 notwithstanding the opinions of the Committee, to state to the House what he thought it would be advisable to do. He could say no more than he had now stated. He repeated, he thought this vote was necessary in order to prevent the direful effects of famine in the most distressed parts of Ireland. He thought that the poor-law, although it might have succeeded according to expectations in some parts of Ireland, had in other parts been found unequal to contend with the distress. The difficulties in making amendments in that law, and in the rating of property, were matters on which he would rather take the opinions of the Committee, and he was ready to postpone the further consideration of the vote for the present.
It was then arranged that the further consideration of the vote should be taken on the 9th instant.
§ House adjourned at Six o'clock.