§ MR. HORSMAN
The Session was drawing 835 to a close—the years legislation was about to terminate—and the question that naturally occurred to them all, in reviewing the six months' labours was, "what have we done for Ireland?" Ireland had been truly described as one adjourned debate. The discussions on it have been prolonged—in what had they resulted? Their legislation had been active—what had it produced? They found Ireland prostrate in February—had they raised her in July? Her condition was one almost of despair when they assembled—was it one of hope as they dispersed? For the healing of her many wounds—for a lasting supply of her many wants—for an enduring amelioration of her unparalleled wretchedness, what had they, after all, accomplished? That question would be put to Irish representatives who were about to recross the Channel; it was one which the representatives of England, also, to whom Ireland was chained, even if she became a corpse, must sooner or later answer to their constituencies, and their own conscience. He would endeavour to answer it not by opinions but facts. At the commencement of the year the state of Ireland was one of increasing distress. She was entering on the aggravated trials of a fourth year of famine. All her social state was disorganised; the ruin in some districts was so complete that 60 per cent of the population were receiving relief—the burden of that relief had broken down those who had to pay it. While the landlords were ruined, the tenants absconded, and their lands were left waste with the rents of the landlords had vanished the means of employment; and with no means of employment there was no produce from the soil. Pauperism increased as the moans of supporting it diminished; and the evils of famine perpetuated themselves in new and aggravated forms. The moral contamination of the workhouses, as described by Mr. Twisleton—the demoralised condition of their flocks, as lamented by the Roman Catholic priests—the extent to which workhouses were now becoming a refuge for deserted women and children—pointed out by Captain Kennedy, as evidence of the weakening of all natural affections in families—was not new to the House; he had himself, on former occasions, dwelt upon it. Colonel Clarke says before the Committee—One of the most wretched features of the times is the wretched and emaciated appearance of the children. They come into the workhouse 836 clothed with rags, and they die very commonly within twenty-four hours after their admission.The physical condition of the labourers," (says Mr. Bourke,) "is so reduced that except from the sons of the wealthier farmers you cannot find a man of such physical strength as in any other part of the world you would select to perform any amount of agricultural labour.But the suffering is not confined to the poor.It is notorious," (says Mr. O'Shaughnessy,) "that owing to the general depreciation of property and the distress, the attendance of magistrates in the discharge of their ordinary functions is rendered impossible; and if the present state of things continues, we shall have no magistracy to discharge the duties of the court. Similar inconvenience will arise with respect to the holding of petty sessions—the attendance of grand juries and the performance of other civil duties. …. Every institution—every public officer—every contractor, and all Government debts are unpaid.In some instances," (says Count Strzelecki,) "where priests were confined with fever, I found nothing in their cabins—nothing available beyond stirabout for their own sustenance—no tea, no sugar—no provision whatever. In some of their huts the wind blew—the snow came in, and the rain dripped; and they were undergoing distress as great as that suffered by any of the poor people: there was no difference between them.And he concluded by adding—No records of mortality have been kept. Still the painful and frequent occurrence of corpses in the streets and on the great roads stamps that distress with a severity far exceeding that which accompanied and resulted from the great famine in Tuscany in 1340–7–9 as narrated by Sismondi.Such were the statements as to the ruin, and misery, and death, and demoralisation worse than death, going on in Ireland. Crime had multiplied enormously; but, though there was the criminal, where was the judge?—himself a fugitive from justice. And there was the death-bed—but where was the priest? Alas hunger had made no exceptions—pauper and priest were dying one death, and without rites were huddled into one grave. The members of the Society of Friends had lately published an address to the British public, giving this picture of Ireland:—The paupers are merely kept alive in crowded workhouses, or in alarming numbers depending on outdoor relief. Their health is not maintained—their physical strength is weakened—their moral character is degraded—hopeless themselves they offer no hope to the country except in the prospect—abhorrent to human nature and Christian feeling—of their gradual extinction by death. Many families are now suffering extreme distress who three years ago enjoyed all the comforts and refinements of life, and administered to the necessities of those around them. Thus we have seen 837 the flood of pauperism widening more and more—engulphing one class after another—rising higher and higher in its offects on society until it threatens, in some of the worst districts, to swallow up all ranks and classes in its fatal vortex.Such were the facts and such the prospect published to the world by men who were not to be suspected of exaggeration; and who had themselves witnessed and alleviated as far as they could what they described as passing among our own people within a few hours' distance of the richest metropolis in the world. He made no apology for once more dwelling on this picture of ruin, wearisome and distasteful as he knew it might be to the House; but he wished now, while there was no escape from the facts, to give Parliament no escape from that which had hitherto been evaded, an investigation of the cause. And if the true cause were recognised, he did not despair of a remedy, even at the eleventh hour. And he could imagine that some Gentlemen were surprised when he proposed to investigate the cause; for to careless eyes, that did not look beneath the surface of things, the cause was plain enough—"The famine to be sure," they said; "every one knew the famine had done it all: the poor-law was working capitally till the famine came; but under that unexpected pressure, of course it broke down. But we have propped it effectually," they add, "by maximums and rate in aid; and when the famine is over—and it cannot last for ever—all will be right again," And some there were, who, regarding the potato failure as the cause of all the misery, looked to its revival as the cure for all. Now, it was this superficial view of the matter which had reconciled them to the legislation of the present Session. He denied that the famine had caused the disasters which they had been deploring—the famine no more caused the poor-law to break down, than a storm causes the sinking of a leaky ship which put to sea with a cargo far beyond her tonnage. Bad legislation, careless legislation, criminal legislation had been the cause of all. Their poor-law was from the first a rotten poor-law. And then they applied it to purposes, and made it carry a burden, which a poor-law was never meant to bear. Every thing which occurred since had been foretold, with the distinctness of history rather than prophecy: every subsequent catastrophe had but confirmed the truth of principles which they had acknowledged only to disregard, and the unerring wisdom of an 838 experience which had already taught them lessons, that in the case of Ireland it was convenient to forget. They had determined, in 1837, to establish the poor-law in Ireland. He would not then stop to ask whether Ireland was fitted to receive it. The question had been considered by various Committees and Commissioners, since the commencement of the present century, and all had decided against it. The Archbishop of Dublin's Commission, in 1836, took the same view. Mr. Nicholl, to whom the question was next referred, only sanctioned it if accompanied by other aids and securities which had been entirely neglected. Yet, in 1837, Parliament determined to hazard the experiment, and in direct opposition to every authority on the subject—for what was then the condition of Ireland? Of a population of eight millions, there were (as the Archbishop of Dublin's Commission stated) no less than two millions three hundred thousand for the greater part of the year out of work and in distress. And such was their physical prostration, that in the four poorest counties, the average duration of life for the ten years preceding the famine, was twenty-six years. Now, without taking into account the notorious insolvency of many of the class above, was it not evident that a population so in excess of the means of employment, must ever have been on the brink of some great convulsion? Was that convulsion at no distant period not inevitable? On the population so circumstanced the famine fell—and Parliament, at the outset affording to be just, fully acknowledged that a poor-law bore no relation whatever to a famine, and that imperial resources only should meet an imperial calamity. But the system of public relief resorted to was so mistaken and pernicious—the waste of public money so enormous—that even imperial resources could not long stand the drain. An army of 700,000 labourers; a staff of 15,000 superintendents; and an outlay of 40,000l. a day rapidly increasing opened the eyes, while it alarmed the pockets of the English—and then That happened? The sin of all that waste was visited on the Irish, and every prejudice was excited against them, notwithstanding the fact that the Irish gentry were the first to protest against the outlay, to predict its mischiefs, and to hold themselves absolved from the results. But we would not hear them—we compelled them to borrow our money to be laid out as we dictated; that it should be laid out 839 in unproductive labour was the main condition—that the country should be no better for the expenditure. And though the gentry had complained, though protests and remonstrances were sent up from the provinces—though a meeting of 700 of them was advertised to take place in Dublin—when at last their predictions were verified, and we were compelled to abandon an expenditure which judiciously laid out would have blessed Ireland for years to come, the whole blame was cast on those who alone were not responsible: we reproached them with our munificence and their ingratitude, and excited against them a prejudice on which our Parliamentary majority has traded ever since. And exaggeration had not been wanting to aggravate injustice. England bad given 10,000,000l. (it was constantly said) to these ungrateful Irish. England had done no such thing. She lent about that sum, and on those strange terms, that the borrower was to have no control over the money: he was compelled to take it against his wish, to be laid out against his interest. Subsequently 4,000,000l. of this debt was remitted. And in the same year in which we boast of this magnificent donation from the imperial exchequer to save a nation from starving, we had authorised the outlay of no less than 260,000,000l. in railways. Now, he attached much importance to this history of the relief works, as furnishing the key to their subsequent legislation. It was the prejudice created on the English mind by that disgraceful system which prepared Parliament for any measures, and reconciled the country to any legislation which the Ministry might propose. Accordingly, Parliament, in 1847, under the influence of this feeling, England, weary and impatient of Ireland, and not disposed to keep any terms with a nation whose pauperism was so insatiable, and character so irreclaimable, retracted its first just decision, that the poor-law was not applicable to a famine. The cry of Irish property sustaining Irish poverty was again got up, and by its aid the Extension Act of 1847 was passed—an Act which, he repeated, had its origin in the disgust previously created by the relief works, and for its consequence those wide-spread calamities which they were then deploring. Now, with respect to that Act of 1847, which was passed against all principle, to satisfy the clamours of the press, as an easy solution to incompetent statesmen, who dared not go to the bottom of 840 the subject—as a sop to the English public, at the cost of unpopular Irish landlords—and, above all, as a peace-offering to English selfishness, by telling it that in future the Irish should maintain their own poor—of that Act he would only say, that he had studied with some care the history of our Irish legislation; he knew something of the folly and cruelty of past days; but, taking into account the character of their own times, the opportunities they enjoyed, the responsibilities they acknowledged, he thought hardly any parallel could be found for the injustice and folly of the Extension Act of 1847. It perpetrated a double injustice—it threw on the poor-law the burden of a famine, and at the same time it added to that poor-law a new provision, that of outdoor relief, which had been lately discarded in England on the express ground, as he would immediately show, that it was tending to a confiscation of property. Yet, in defiance of principle and experience, they threw this double burden on Ireland, first, of meeting a famine by a poor-law; and next, of opening a door to outdoor relief during that famine. Now, as to the first point, he begged to ask, where was there any authority for applying a poor-law to a famine? He could adduce numberless authorities against it, but he would satisfy himself with one, because it was one to which the Government, at least, could not take exception. What said their own Commissioner, Mr. Nicholl?—I have always considered it to be impolitic, if not impossible, to legislate for a state of famine in any district. A famine is the consequence of the earth's ceasing to yield its produce—if there be no produce from the land, there can be no value on which to levy a poor-rate."—" There are different degrees of famine—it may be more or less continuous—and it may be more or less intense. In Ireland, it has been not only very intense, but very continuous.And this was common sense; for the object of a poor-law being to combine administration of relief with security to property, it sought to attain that object by placing the administration of the law in the hands of those who had to bear the burden, and thus gave them the means of lightening that burden by their own prudence and economy. If humanity were the solo end of the poor-law, there was no reason why a proprietor on the spot should be taxed for the poor, any more than a proprietor at a distance. In that case, a national rate would be more equal and just in its operation than a parochial one. But reducing 841 pauperism being equally an object with its relief, the proprietor on the spot, by giving-employment, and the exercise of due vigilance and economy, can protect himself from an undue burden. The poor-law, therefore, by enabling him to foresee, and provide beforehand, for the pauperism of the district, imposed on him a burden which fell in time, was proportioned to his own good management, and so ceased to be an injustice. But a famine he could not foresee, and could not provide against—it baffled all calculations, subverted the established order of things on which legislation was built, and as the ratepayer was a fellow-sufferer with all the world, it threw on him a sudden increase of burden with as sudden a diminution of resources; and to compel him, in such a case, to support the pauperism around him, was only to compel him to become a pauper, and, by his ruin, aggravate the ruin of the district. Yet this was what they did in Ireland, and contrary to their first admissions. They punished the ratepayer for no fault of his, destroyed him for an act of Providence, and the pauper only died the more surely from the destruction of his employer. That was their first injustice. But what was to be said of their proceeding to establish that system of extensive outdoor relief which they had so lately, from an experience of its evils, condemned in England? He would show what that system had been, as described by the Minister who introduced the amended poor-law. This was the language of Lord Althorp:—He had already said that the effects of the poor-laws had been injurious to the landed proprietors, injurious to the farmer., and, above all, injurious to the labouring population. He would now assert that the effect of the poor-law—ho meant the present administration of the poor-law—tended directly to the destruction of all property in the country. It had been said that this would lead to an agrarian law—it would lead to worse than that—an agrarian law was the division of all property; but the present state of the poor-laws in this country tended to the destruction of all property. At present some parishes had been actually abandoned, so heavy was the pressure of the rates, and so great the evils of mismanagement. The consequence was, that the neighbouring parishes were compelled to support the poor of the deserted parishes; and they, too, would soon be reduced to a similar situation, and thus pauperism would stride with increased, and every day increasing, rapidity throughout the land.Was that not the description given by every witness of the state of Ireland under the joint Act of their outdoor relief and their rate in aid? Such was the language of 842 Lord Althorp in the Commons; but the organ of the same Cabinet in the House of Lords bore also his testimony. After describing, like Lord Althorp, Lord Brougham went on to say—That unless the progress of this system be arrested, it must go on till we gain that precipice towards which we are hurrying with accelerated rapidity—that the circumstance of one parish being thrown out of cultivation, inevitably and immediately tends to lay three or four others waste, and that this devastation, gaining strength as it proceeds, must needs cover the land, no man who consults that body of evidence before your Lordships can entertain a shadow of a doubt."—" Stand where we are (he adds) we cannot. I might say with others, whose minds are filled with despair and the dread of coming events, that I could be content never to have things better, so I were assured they would never be worse; but this, even this wretched compromise is impossible with the frightful scourge that is ravaging our country.He might be told that the allowance system in England was different, inasmuch as money was given to the pauper; but the principle in both cases was the same—it was, that ablebodied pauperism should be entitled to relief at the charge of the community; and whether that relief was afforded in money or bread, the effect was the same on the pocket of the ratepayer and character of the relieved. Such, then, was the ruin with which their system of indiscriminate relief threatened wealthy and prosperous England. Even the strongest constitution was not able to survive the poison, yet they administered it to the weakest, and in a moment of unwonted disease. "We have the advantage," says Lord Althorp, "in legislating on the question, that we are not now working in the dark." No; they had the light of experience. Why was Ireland excluded specially from the benefits of that light? Had they no warning? What said Mr. Senior? These were the words: "I believe that by the system of outdoor relief, all the evils produced in England in 300 years, would be produced in Ireland in ten." "Would you conceive," he is asked, "that in that case the poor-law so operating would be a heavy burden on the land?" "It would be an entire confiscation." And Mr. Gulson, also much experienced in the poor-law, said, "I have no hesitation in expressing my decided opinion that any thing approaching to outdoor relief in Ireland would very soon swamp the whole property of the country." And what was the fact? Was it not so swamped? The net rental of Ireland before the famine was 6,000,l., according to the 843 Archbishop of Dublin's communication—6,000,000l. before the famine—and yet 1,600,000l., or more than one-fourth of the net rental of the country even in its better days, was collected last year for the poor—not all paid, indeed, by the land, as the towns contributed, though in a small proportion—yet 1,600,000l. was collected, the net rental having been at the outset 6,000,000l., and that every day diminishing, destitution spreading, many landlords having received no rents since the famine, and the loss of agricultural produce in those years exceeding the whole net rental of the country for the same period. Were Lord Althorp, Lord Brougham, Mr. Senior, and Mr. Gulson not borne out in saying that a poor-law, in such circumstances, must result in a confiscation of property? Were his friends around him to be accused of exaggeration when they said that it was now producing confiscation? Now, he had dwelt at great length on these points, but it was important to know how they had arrived at their present unhappy condition. He wished to show that at the outset. Parliament, when there was no pressure, had the virtue to affirm sound principles of poor-law—it acknowledged that a poor-law was not calculated for a famine, and that outdoor relief would result in confiscation; but when the enormous waste on the relief works, which was our doing, had irritated the public of this country. Parliament then took advantage of English prejudice and Irish helplessness, and as the easiest solution of their own difficulties—the readiest cloak for their own deficiencies—in violation of all principle, they inflicted upon the Irish deliberately all those evils which experience had taught them to fly from in England, and which every authority warned them must be oven more rapidly fatal to Ireland. And now it was said that it was all the famine, when the evils were predicted before famine was thought of, and experienced in England when famine was unknown. He thought, then, he had succeeded in showing that famine had only been so far the cause of the present misery in Ireland as it led to the legislation which had produced the most deplorable results. The question arose, what were they to do now? The necessity for legislative interposition was acknowledged at the commencement of the Session; but Parliament determined, with a wholesome distrust of its own incompetence, to inquire as well as legislate. But with the propensity to blunder which has signalised its 844 Irish policy, it legislated first and inquired afterwards. Then the inquiry proved that the legislation was all wrong—that maximums and rates in aid were all stale devices, long ago tried and condemned in England, but exported, like damaged wares, to an inferior market, as not suited to fastidious England, but quite good enough for Ireland. Nevertheless, the evidence taken on that inquiry was too valuable to be lost; and though those whose inaction it rebuked, and incapacity it exposed, might desire to put it out of sight, it was too precious a textbook for Irish legislators to be so lightly treated—its causes and its cure for existing evils were the groundwork of his Motion. Let them examine first the real extent of the ruin they had practically to deal with; and let him simplify this by taking a single union in illustration. In Ballina they would find a compendium of all the difficulties under which the distressed unions were suffering, and he would take Ballina as a specimen of their general state. And he selected Ballina because they were familiar with it as the one which the Chancellor of the Exchequer quoted as showing signs of improvement. In Ballina the population was 120,000, and the distress had been so great that Mr. Hamilton, the poor-law inspector, said, "That in the whole district a robust healthy looking man is rarely to be met with."
That was the financial condition of the union. "Of fifty-one proprietors in the Erris district," says Mr. Crampton, "only thirteen are not pauper." "Eighteen estates exclusive of the Erris district," says Mr. Inspector Hamilton, "are in the hands of receivers." "Many of the most active magistrates," says Colonel Knox Gore, "are in gaol or in hiding." "A considerable portion of the union has been unproductive for three years in the miserable barony of Erris," says Mr. Crampton; "49–50ths of the land has been lying waste for two years." During that period no rents paid; and tenants gone off with their capital to America. "I would not take an estate for nothing," says Colonel Knox Gore, "with the present set of proprietors—a complete change is necessary." 845 Now, it was obvious that with this state of things existing in March, any one telling the Chancellor of the Exchequer of improvement in April, must have been trifling with him. They were all permanent and deep-seated difficulties—proprietors getting no rents—lands untilled—tenants absconding—enormous expenditure—increasing debt—in no one respect could there be improvement without the introduction of capital and employment—and both were yet wanting. Such was the state of Ballina, and, though in a somewhat less degree, of the distressed unions generally. Now, for the long-standing cause of it, as described by Mr. Nicholls, it dated farther back than the famine. "Ireland is now suffering"—he wrote when the poor-law was being introduced—" under a circle of evils producing and reproducing one another: want of capital produces want of employment—want of employment turbulence and misery—turbulence and misery insecurity—insecurity prevents the introduction or accumulation of capital; and so on, until the circle is broken, the evil must continue and probably augment. The first thing to be done is to give security—that will produce or invite capital, and capital will give employment. But security of persons and property cannot coexist with general destitution. "On that last paragraph he took his stand: that was the truth which he wished to drive into the ears of Her Majesty's Government, and which both they and Parliament had forgotten in their legislation—it was written previous to the famine. Security of person and property could never coexist with general destitution, and general destitution was now the distinctive character of Ireland. How, again, had that general destitution been perpetuated and promoted? The answer was easy. By a bad agriculture—by the too general cultivation of the potato—by a system which, teaching the poor man to depend on land rather than wages for his support, and on earning his daily bread not by his daily labour, left him half the year in idleness—which became the parent of turbulence and misery: adding idleness to pauperism it superadded recklessness and crime to idleness; and, giving to the gentry a fictitious wealth, and to the labourer a precarious food, it entailed on the country a ceaseless insecurity under the alternations of famine and insurrection. It was from this accumulation of ills—the growth of ages—that every English statesman turned in despair. They were beyond man's strength to cope 846 with—and man's genius must fail in the endeavour. But what human agency could not achieve, the providence of God, in an unexpected moment, stepped in to deal with. As suddenly almost as the plague smote Egypt, did the scourge from Heaven smite Ireland: it smote that which was at once man's reliance and his curse—the source of his misery and the parent of his crime; and, passing like a destroying angel over the land, falling heavily on man and beast. It bade the old pass away, and the finger of God pointed the British statesman to Ireland, and bade him, under happier auspices, build up the new. They arrived then at a correct diagnosis of the disease—pauperism, hatched and nurtured by exclusive reliance on the potato, had been the social curse of Ireland. By the interposition of Providence, that curse had been for the time abated. Be it their task to discourage its arrival. It might be that their powers were limited—that they must still endure it as an evil; but let it be so regarded. But if any man cling to it as a hope and a desire for Ireland—as an extrication from difficulties, and a cure for present sufferings, he said he was a mistaken man. Sooner than that the potato should again become the life and soul of Irish agriculture—if there were no alternative but its destruction, or a return to the old pernicious state of things—if he were compelled to make a choice between those two evils, he should prefer the utter extermination of the potato now and for ever as the least evil of the two. But if a bettor agriculture were substituted, there was this difficulty—one acre of potato would give as much sustenance as three acres of cereal produce; and if Ireland was already over-populous with a potato culture, what must she be when the sustenance from the land was reduced two-thirds? Must not pauperism be greatly increases; and could their poor-law sustain this additional burden? Of course it could not; nor could it ever sustain the burden which was prepared for it from the first. Every day's experience only confirmed the fact, that Ireland had not undergone the necessary preparation for a poor-law—that she was not fitted for it when it was placed upon her—and that without the accompaniments recommended by Mr. Nicholls, it must have broken down. It was admitted, that in many of the districts of Ireland, the population was excessive—that it was out of all proportion to the means of employment. When that was the case, the 847 natural relations of capital to population were not to be restored by a poor-law; for the action of a poor-law was permanent—it dealt with habits—established certain sentiments—and so tended to ruin; for to tell a population in great excess that the law guaranteed food for any number that might be bred and reared, constituted the peculiar vice of Socialism—the attempt to maintain large unproductive masses of able-bodied men at the cost of the remainder of the community. A population in great excess must do one of two things—it must be got rid of by death and emigration, or it must ruin the country. This last was the process actually going on in Ireland—only the demands on it were so overwhelming that even the poor-law was unable to avert the other calamity, namely, the destruction of the people by famine. But still the truth remains—a population greatly in excess of employment could only be dealt with as he had said: it could not be absorbed by independent labour. When healthy and self-supporting employment was the normal state of a country, a poor-law was justifiable; but it was not justifiable as the agent for effecting the transition. These were the principles acknowledged by Mr. Nicholls, when the poor-law was projected for Ireland: a diminution of pauperism, he told them, was essential to the safe working of the new law, and that diminution was to be achieved in two ways—by additional capital increasing the demand for labour—by diminished population reducing the supply of labour; and both these operations he insisted on as an essential accompaniment of the poor-law—but both had been neglected to this day. The first of these, the increased demand for labour, might be created either by old proprietors laying out more capital in improvements, or new proprietors being induced to come in and purchase and employ; and Parliament had in the present Session affected to give facilities to both these classes of proprietors. But Mr. Hamilton of St. Ernans, one of the most spirited proprietors in Ireland, told the Committee that he had laid out a great deal of money from loans under the Land Improvement Act; and after incurring an expense of 15l. an acre, he could not let an inch—tenants were not to be got, he said, and landlords around him would no longer take loans or lay out money, because they were liable to unlimited poor-rates. Other witnesses of great intelligence and experience told the came story; and the same fear which deterred 848 them from improving, would of course deter prudent capitalists from buying. Before a prudent man would lay out a sixpence in purchasing or improving, they must secure him limited liability for poor-rates, and towards that limited liability they had not yet progressed one step. He did not want now to rediscuss the maximum, but would remind them of the fact, that the maximum was tried under great advantages in England, and failed. And was it not obvious that, if they could not retain a maximum in England, they had still less chance of maintaining it against the flood of pauperism in Ireland? But even if they could, there stood the fact—sixty-three per cent were paupers in some of those unions: how was it possible to have a legal limit with unlimited pauperism? What capitalist would settle in a population of which sixty-three per cent were paupers? In the misery, the lawlessness, the insecurity of such a population, he incurred risks and losses far greater than those against which a maximum would secure him. He repeated, therefore, that as regarded limited liability, which was essential to purchasers and improvers, the legislation of the Session had left it yet to be discovered. But, again, Mr. Nicholls said, that they must not only increase capital, but diminish the supply of labour; and this was proved especially by the state of the Kenmare union. The pauperism was excessive, but the proprietors all rich. Mr. Orpen said, that Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Hartopp, and Mr. Mahony were all affluent—no change of proprietors would do good there—and yet it was impossible to employ the population. Emigration, then, as recommended by Mr. Nicholls, was their only resource. And here he could not help expressing his astonishment that another year should have been suffered to pass by without a system of emigration having been insisted on by Parliament. Every Committee on the affairs of Ireland in 1822–3–4–5–6–7–1830–36–37–42–46, had strongly pressed it. "I cannot expect," said Mr. Bourke, "any permanent improvement in those unions without emigration being used as an auxiliary to other measures." "I believe there are only three alternatives," Mr. Bourke adds, "sending food or money to the people—sending them where they can get food or money—or allowing them to die." At the introduction of the poor-law it was understood to be a necessary accompaniment, and shortly before its introduction 849 the present Secretary of State for the Colonies, then the organ of the Colonial Office in this House, thus expressed himself:—
The expenditure last year was £52,282 The rate collected 10,667 The debt to contractors by last distress papers 20,000 The estimated expenses for seven months, ending October 1, 1849 48,000 Total, debts and expenses on October 1 68,000 Estimated expenses being per month 4,000Before any measure could be introduced for the permanent relief of the poor of Ireland, it would be absolutely necessary to relieve that country from its superabundant population. The transfer of our superabundant labourers to the colonies would be equally beneficial to all parties; to the labourers, by diminishing the overwhelming competition under which they now suffer; to the settler, by affording him the means of cultivating his land; and both to this country and to the colonies, by relieving much of the distress now existing in the former, and by adding to the productive industry of the latter.And subsequently, in 1845, he stated—He thought it of the greatest importance that emigration should be encouraged to a much greater extent than at present, and he believed it was in the power of Her Majesty's Ministers to take measures that would give much greater extension to the system than it now possessed.But this was not an Irish question; it touched them, let him say, very nearly at home; the Irish pauper would not stay at home, the question was between his emigrating to the colonies or to England. "The tendency of the existing state of things," said Mr. Kincaid, "is to promote to an enormous extent the immigration of the Irish poor into this country." "That migration of Irish labour," said Mr. Nicholls, "into this country is productive of serious mischiefs in various ways, tending to lower wages, and ultimately to force the habits of the labouring classes in England, to the lower level of the Irish labourer." The Committee of 1820 said—The question of emigration from Ireland is decided by the population itself; and that which remains for the Legislature to decide is, whether it shall be turned to the improvement of the British North American colonies, or whether it shall be suffered and encouraged to take that which will be and is its inevitable course, to deluge Great Britain with poverty and wretchedness, and gradually, but certainly, to equalise the state of the English and Irish peasantry. Two different rates of wages, and two different conditions of the labouring classes, cannot permanently coexist. One of two results appears to be inevitable: the Irish population must be raised towards the standard of the English, or the English depressed towards that of the Irish. The question whether an extensive plan of emigration shall or shall not be adopted, appears to your Committee to resolve itself into the simple point, whether the wheat-fed population of Great Britain shall or shall not be supplanted by the potato-fed population of Ireland.Well, then, they had in Ireland an enormously redundant population wanting food 850 —they had in the colonies magnificent fields of industry and enterprise seeking labour. "At no time," says the Legislative Council of New South Wales, "has there been so great, so urgent, so pressing a demand for labour as at the present moment." "The desire to emigrate from Ireland is intense," said Mr. Fairfield, "everybody who can get out of the country is trying to do so." And yet while the cost of an emigrant does not exceed a year's keep in the workhouse—while he is starving in Ireland—and his labour would be a source of wealth to them abroad—while the supply of labour to the colonies would add to their wealth, and create new markets for their manufactures—while if slavery was permitted, they would have Ireland full of dealers, greedily competing for those men who, as Mr. De Vere told them, were in many parts of the country dying like rotten sheep—while the fact which he dwelt on could not be denied, that if emigration had been undertaken in a right spirit two years ago, many thousands would have been now happy and thriving in the colonies who are now in their graves in Mayo—with all these inducements on the score of economy—policy and selfishness even more than humanity—England still obstinately and stupidly set herself against systematic emigration, and had to pay for that folly sums uncountable, not only in the burden directly thrown upon herself, and in the loss of the markets which she might establish; but, in spite of her immense wealth, her vast empire, her unbounded resources, and unexampled contributions of money, she was compelled to see Ireland ruined in all her classes, and a destruction of life absolutely unparalleled except by the direct invasion of pestilence. Was there ever such waste—such blindness—such crime? He would not stop for a moment to discuss the fallacy of voluntary emigration being stopped by systematic. It was notorious that it was the men of capital who were now being scared away from Ireland; precisely the men went whom they wished to stay, and those stayed whom they wished to go. And Mr. Hamilton of St. Ernans states a remarkable fact—that finding that several of his tenantry were about to emigrate, he raised a sum of money and emigrated a large number of paupers: his tenants then stayed, and he felt it more for his interest that the paupers should be exported at his expense, than the tenants should emigrate at their own. Now, the 851 proprietors of Ireland were quite ready to set about the work of emigration in earnest—what proportion of the expense should be defrayed by them was still a question for consideration; but they were ready to originate it at their own expense, and in the same manner as they paid for other improvements on their estates. "A debt contracted for such a purpose," said Mr. C. Buller, in his remarkable speech on emigration, "is not unproductive waste of capital—it is rather to be compared to the debts which wise landlords often deliberately incur for improving the value of their estates." "It is as necessary to drain off the surplus population," says Mr. V. Stewart, "as to drain off the surplus water, and both should be done by the same means." Then the proprietors were as ready to undertake this as to undertake every other improvement on their estates; but for the outlay of capital they must again have the security of limited liability for poor-rates. Without limited liability, no purchasing—no improving—no employing—no loans—no emigration. Without limited liability the Incumbered Estates Bill was a dead letter. Now, as to this, which had been acknowledged throughout the Session as the basis of all agricultural improvement, he had already said, no adequate provision had as yet been made. Every forced and artificial limit upon the rate must fail—for it was obvious that the amount of poor-rate must in the long run be determined by the amount of pauperism; and that again in the end must be paid by the district. No law could long prevent that. They might devise artificial barriers, but the flood of pauperism would bear them down. The rates of the district must pay for the pauperism of the district, and those rates could only be reduced by reducing its pauperism. They must seek, therefore, for limited liability in the only means by which it could be legitimately secured—in a healthy tone of society—in the safe action of a well-ordered poor-law, which imparted to each proprietor the interest and the ability to keep down pauperism by employment. It was to the agency of human motives and propensities that they must address themselves; the nature and habits of men were of more force than any Acts of Parliament. And this was what the Irish landlords were now asking for. There was no objection amongst them to a poor-law—quite the reverse: not one complaint through all that evidence—but they asked 852 for a poor-law based on true principles, and capable of a sound administration. They asked for the English poor-law. Give us, they said, the amended law of England, as it now exists; not the old bad law which you yourselves discarded. And let him show how reasonable this prayer was. He had before endeavoured to prove to the House that of all the institutions of England, there was none at this moment deserving of such anxious consideration and threatening such serious evils as the poor-law. He admitted that as far as vigilant and economical administration could go, those evils were kept down; and yet year by year they were encroaching upon them to an alarming extent. If that was the case in England, it was obvious that a poor-law must be yet more perilous in Ireland—its administration more difficult—and the consequences of a defective administration more fatal. But let him show them once more, while they had been keenly alive to the dangers of a poor-law in England, in what a careless spirit they had turned them all loose on Ireland. He had already said that a country's fitness to receive a poor-law at all depended entirely on the relations between capital and population—that is, on its ability to employ its labour. Compare for a moment the capabilities of England and Ireland in that respect. England, with a population of 16,000,000, had relieved 1,500,000, on an average, since 1840; or eight per cent of the population. Ireland, with a population of 8,000,000, began her poor-law with 2,300,000 in distress and unemployed during the greater part of the year; so that while the population of England was greater than that of Ireland, the pauperism of Ireland was greater than that of England. But now for the means of each country to sustain its poor:—
So that again, while the pauperism of Ireland was double that of England, the rated property of Ireland was only one-eighth that of England; and the whole property rated and unrated one-twelfth. Let them remember again that Ireland had no manufactures to absorb her surplus population—that while 46 per cent of the English population were employed in manufactures, and only 22 per cent 853 in agriculture—in Ireland, 64 per cent were agricultural labourers, and only 18 per cent employed in manufactures. With half the population, the total number of agricultural labourers in Ireland was greater than in England; it was twice as great relatively to cultivated land, and four times as great relatively to produce. As to the relative wealth of the two countries, without troubling the House with figures or details, let him take three points of comparison from a return he held in his hand:—
The rated property of England was £100,000,000 Ditto ditto Ireland 13,000,000 Unrated property of England 140,000,000 Ditto ditto Ireland 7,000,000
Taking, therefore, these most obvious and infallible guides to a comparison, as showing the means of employment in the two countries—and the means of employment were the best test of a country's ability to support a poor-law—the rated property of the two countries—the public revenue—and the commercial wealth as indicated by exports and imports—saying nothing of the condition of the landed gentry, and Mr. Butt's conjecture that one-fourth of the whole area of Ireland was under receivers—they had this fact established, that the property of Ireland—a poor and embarrassed country—had to support, under the poor-law, a greater amount of pauperism than all the property of wealthy England; and yet even wealthy and prosperous England cried out under the burden which, but for good management, must produce speedy and inevitable ruin. What then must it do in Ireland, where they had made good management impossible? A poor-law, as Lord Althorp showed in 1834, must destroy the character of the poor, and confiscate the property of the rich, unless accompanied by certain sefeguards—the two most indispensable of which were a field of healthful and independent labour, and a stringent test. In England their efforts had been directed to these two essentials; and to secure them they had concentrated their administration to some extent, and individualised responsibility by adopting for each area of taxation the smallest territorial divisions known to their law, not only taking parishes, but even subdividing the parishes into townships, hamlets, and hundreds, for poor-law purposes, where the parishes were large. Smallness 854 of area, therefore, leading to individual responsibility, vigilant control, and economical administration, had been recognised in England as the main barrier against pauperism, as the defence of the rich, the stimulus of the poor, by instilling into one the motive to employ, and depriving the other of all facilities to fraud. The small area—the very smallest they could select—had been deliberately adopted in England as the foundation of all poor-law administration. Experience had, in the eyes of the majority, proved the necessity, the security, the wisdom of that adoption. Why did they deny that security to Ireland? Were the difficulties of administration less? the temptations to fraud fewer? the motives to economy less urgent? or the boards of guardians more capable? If common sense and all experience were in favour of small areas in England, what were the peculiar characteristics of Irish pauperism which justified their withholding such essential aids there? How stood the fact? Let him repeat what he had more than once before stated, but what could hardly be stated too often—in England, with a population of 16,000,000, but a far smaller amount of pauperism, there were 584 unions; in Ireland, only 131 unions, and Larcom's Commission proposes fifty more. In England one union to every 25,000 of population; in Ireland one union to every 61,000 of population. In England, average size of union 54,000 acres; in Ireland, average size of union 147,000 acres. England has thirty-one unions, or more than one half, under 40,000 acres; Ireland not one under 40,000 acres. England has 482 unions, or five-sixths, under 30,000 of population; Ireland has only ten, or one in thirteen, under 30,000 of population. England—average extent of parish 2,000 acres; average population 1,000: Ireland—average extent of electoral division 10,000 acres; average population 4,000. So that, while in Ireland the population was so redundant that they could not employ the ablebodied, so also were the workhouses so few, and so distant from each other, that they could not possibly apply the workhouse test. And yet in a country like Ireland, what was the tendency of a poor-law? With an idle population, interminable pauperism, and a weak administration of the law, and neither a field of independent employment nor a test, must it not, as Lord Althorp said, result in confiscation? Let them consider the character of the Irish population, with-out 855 habits of industry or self-reliance—the position of the Irish gentry, the ruined and the rich so intermingled as to make all cooperation impossible—the novelty of the poor-law, and the inexperience of the boards of guardians—and then say if a poor-law in Ireland did not require to be fenced about with more precautions, if its administrators did not stand in need of far greater auxiliaries, than their law in England. He admitted freely that in England they might enlarge their areas, and he was ready to assent to their doing so. But an area of half the size in Ireland was beset with ten times the difficulty; and when the Irish proprietary implored of them to give them areas of taxation similar to their own in England—if they had asked them of half the size, it would have been a reasonable request; but when they implored of them to give them the English area, it was impossible to understand how they could refuse their prayer. Only one plausible objection had ever been made to that change. He put aside at once the expense of new workhouses; it was obvious that a poor-law assumed a test, and a test assumed workhouses, and the multiplying of workhouses, where needed, was the wisest of all economies. But they were told that small areas would encourage evictions. Now, he did not know how any Gentleman who had read the evidence and the papers laid on the table this Session, could repeat that objection; and no one who had not been at the trouble to read those papers, ought to pronounce against it—indeed, it argued a neglect of duty on his part which altogether disqualified him from giving an opinion. One would suppose, from what Gentlemen said in objecting to a reduced area, that there were no evictions in Ireland now, and that they were proposing to inflict on it an entirely new and unheard-of danger. But what said Captain Kennedy of the Kilrush union?—
The official value of English imports by a return of 1846 £66,000,000 Ditto of Ireland 2,000,000 Exports, England 53,000,000 Ditto Ireland 240,000 Revenue of England 50,000,000 Ditto Ireland 4,000,000There is a concentration of misery and suffering in Moyferta almost beyond the possibility of grappling with, and daily on the increase. … On one estate little short of 200 houses have been tumbled down within three months, and 120 of this number, I believe, within three weeks, containing families to a greater number, many of whom are burrowing behind the ditches without the means of procuring a shelter. … We admitted a considerable number of paupers, among whom were some of the most appalling cases of destitution and suffering it has ever been my lot to witness. The state of most of these wretched creatures is traceable to the numerous evictions which have lately taken place. … The pressure, however, 856 is coming and will continue; and this will not surprise the commissioners when I state my conviction that 1,000 cabins have been levelled in this union within a very few months.…. 20,000, or one-fourth of the population, are now in receipt of daily food, either in or out of the workhouse. Disease has unfortunately kept pace with destitution; and the high mortality most distressing—all aggravated by the system of wholesale evictions. …. I calculate that 6,000 houses have been levelled since November, and expect 500 more before July.Such was the system now going on, and not in one union only; and Kilrush, be it observed, was one of the larger unions. But if they answered him that, bad as the system now was, reduced areas might aggravate it further, he referred them to the Poor Law Commissioners and inspectors for a reply, and he did not quote landlords. He kuew it was said this was a landlord's question, therefore he took impartial and experienced men; and what did they say? That evictions had been ever most frequent in the largest unions; and were they content with stating that part? By no means; but they added, not only that such was the fact, but such it must be, the largeness of the division giving the proprietor a direct interest in evicting. Such was the testimony of various poor-law inspectors; but Captain Larcom put the matter so clearly before them in one of his answers, that he would read his words:—The tendency to evictions augments in proportion as the labour on the estates is burdensome and unprofitable; the landlord will not have the same motives to employ labour in a large electoral division as he would have if every labourer whom he employed was a labourer the less for whom he would have to pay a poor-rate.Now that answer exhausted the whole question: the true mode, the only one, of stopping evictions was by making it the interest of the proprietor to employ. Give him the reduced area. Throw directly upon him the burden of the rate—individualise his responsibility and his charge—let him feel that his burdens would be lightened by good management—would be increased by his improvidence—that he could no longer cast his poor as a tax upon his neighbour—and they gave every solvent proprietor the best of all motives to employ, and the needy proprietor they compelled to sell. While the objections to a small area, therefore, were groundless, and proved by the most competent witnesses to be imaginative, its advantages were numerous and undeniable. There was a weight of concurrent testimony in its favour unexampled on any other subject 857 except perhaps that of emigration. It had the grace of concession to a just prayer of almost all classes in Ireland—to have the same area of taxation as in England. Not only did it tend to a more economical administration of the law by making it the interest of every proprietor to keep down pauperism by employment and emigration, but by showing them at once the whole extent of the pauperism for which they were liable, it made it safer for them to purchase or improve, and east on the needy proprietor, by allowing him no escape from the burden, an additional obligation to sell. And as he had more than once stated before, the multiplication of workhouses would of itself be an immense advantage, by rendering the application of the workhouse test more easy and certain. The true principles of a poor-law, then, were restored by the English area—the superabundant population was got rid of, absorbed by employment or emigration—relief to the destitute was combined with the security of property—work was the condition on which the poor man earned his food; and finding him that work, was the title by which the rich man possessed his estate. The smaller area then, he repeated, was in Ireland the basis of all agricultural improvement; other measures with regard to land must follow; but as the exclusive reliance on the potato had been, in an agricultural sense, the curse of Ireland, so, with the poor-law in operation, the reduced area was essential to its salvation. He expressed these opinions strongly, he maintained them confidently, because they rested on higher authority than his. They were those of the highest economical authorities, whether writers or statesmen, and were borne out by the concurrent testimony of the most practical men of their own day. Who were these men? The most important were such as Captain Larcom and Mr. Senior, whose knowledge of poor-law principles had been perfected by large official experience in the working of the law in Ireland; and next to them were the best witnesses that Ireland could furnish—men of the greatest intelligence, many the most enterprising regenerators of their districts—who had shown the greatest zeal, cheerfully sustained the heaviest sacrifices—who laid out most in their lands, had been the best and most economical administrators of the poor-law—who understood its working best—who set the brightest example, and who must be, under any system, the hope of the 858 country. Why send for these men and ask their counsel on a question of such infinite magnitude, and then not even submit their proposals to a discussion? Was that Committee intended from the first to be a sham? Their valuable evidence had, however, made it a reality, and their views must either be answered or adopted. They showed them the present state of Ireland as they had seen it, and its future as they would make it—a well-ordered poor-law working harmoniously with the country, an improved agriculture, a solvent proprietary, and a population reclaimed from misery and crime. On the other hand, what was their nostrum? A revival of the potato, and a restoration of the ordinary state of things. What was that ordinary state of things? Let him show them by taking the intervals at equal distances since the Union. Lord Clare, in 1801, thus described the Ireland of that day:—Nothing was to be seen over the country but pillage, murder, and conflagration. Happy would he be if he could go to his bedchamber without entering an armoury, and could close his eyes without apprehensions of having his throat cut before morning, and of seeing his wife and children butchered before his face. Let noble Lords opposite take a journey to Ireland, and he would engage to give any six of them a villa and a small farm each, if they would consent to reside in it.He doubted their surviving. Fourteen years after, the Home Secretary, introducing a Coercion Bill showed that no improvement had taken place in Ireland; and he read a memorial, signed by thirty-six magistrates of the county of Westmeath, stating that assassinations were perpetrated in places of worship at noonday, and in the face of large congregations, without the slightest resistance. Another fifteen years passed, and the same Minister, on introducing the Emancipation Bill, made this statement:—In 1800, we find the Habeas Corpus Act suspended, and the Act for the suppression of rebellion in force. In 1801, they were continued. In 1802, I believe, they expired. In 1803, the insurrection for which Emmett suffered, broke out. Lord Kilwarden was murdered by a savage mob, and both Acts of Parliament were renewed. In 1804, they were continued. In 1800, the west and south of Ireland were in a state of insubordination, which was with difficulty repressed by the severest enforcement of the ordinary law. In 1807, in consequence chiefly of the disorders that had prevailed in 1806, the Act called the Insurrection Act was introduced. It gave power to the Lord Lieutenant to place any district by proclamation out of the pale of the ordinary law—it suspended trial by jury, and made it a transportable offence to be out of doors from sunset to 859 sunrise. In 180T, this Act continued in force, and in 1808, 1809, and to the close of the Session 1810. In 1814, the Insurrection Act was renewed; it was continued in 1815, 1816, and 1817. In 1822 it was again revived, and continued during the years 1823, 1824, and 1825. In 1825, the temporary Act intended for the suppression of dangerous associations, and especially the Roman Catholic Association, was passed. It continued during 1826 and 1827, and expired in 1828. The year 1829 has arrived, and with it the demand for a new Act to suppress the Roman Catholic Association.Such was the story down to 1829; and since 1829, has there been any change? Let the proceedings of the Imperial Parliament answer that question. He would continue the history. In 1830, there was an Arms Act; in 1831 it remained in force. In 1833, Lord Grey's Coercion Bill; in 1834, ditto; 1835 to 1839, Punishment of Offences Act; 1836, an Arms Act; 1838, an Arms Act; 1840, an Arms Act; 1841, the same in force; 1843, another Arms Act; 1844, another ditto; 1845, the same in force; 1846, an Arms Act proposed by two Governments; 1848, the Habeas Corpus suspended; 1849, ditto, ditto, constitution still suspended, and a greater military force in Ireland than there had been, he believed, since the days of George III. He was not commenting on these Acts; he was stating facts; and he appealed to any English representative in that House, such being the past and present of Ireland, and an opening afforded for an improved future, was there ever such a call on the time, the thought, the statesmanship, the conscience of England? He appealed to the Member for Montrose, the vigilant guardian of the public purse. What were all the possible savings of financial reformers, compared with what better administration would save in Ireland? He appealed to the commercial Gentlemen, to the representatives of the West Riding and Manchester. What would they think of the future destinies of England if Yorkshire and Lancashire were blotted from its map? and yet the loss of Yorkshire and Lancashire was not to be compared to the loss they suffered from the extinguisher they placed on the resources of Ireland. He appealed to Gentlemen opposite, the protectors of agriculture—when were landed proprietors ever doomed to such ruin and confiscation as this ill-regulated poor-law was inflicting on Ireland? He appealed to the higher feelings of the House whether the present condition of their fellow-subjects in Ireland was not a reproach to their character and 860 country, and a scandal to their age and their religion? and let not any of them calm their consciences with the miserable belief, that the evil was curing itself as the Irish were dying down, for unhappily capital was disappearing even faster than population; and in that diminution of the capital of Ireland, there was, unless their legislation were more profound, a new danger in the distance. And, after all, supposing that only four millions of population were surviving instead of eight, would the four millions be more manageable than the eight had been? and did they think that the dying agonies of half a nation would not leave a curse behind them? But he appealed more strongly to the representatives of Ireland, for on them the heaviest responsibility rested. He had drawn their attention only to some portion of the ills of Ireland—to those social ones that were connected with its famine and its poor-law. He knew that there were other causes of misery of long standing and deeply seated, and which he did not mean at the proper time to overlook. But they were questions on which differences among Irishmen themselves had constituted at once their weakness and their reproach. He wished them for the moment to be forgotten, and that while this crisis lasted, Irishmen should exhibit that union and forbearance which would alone carry them safely through it. It was for them now, with one voice, to ask the Minister of the country what was the policy he had in store for them, and compel him to say now, that his inquiries were exhausted, whether his devices were exhausted too, and he had nothing to propose to rescue their country from despair. They had a right to an answer to this inquiry; and they might rest assured that, sooner or later, the representatives of England would assist in getting it, for they know that their interests were so inseparably bound up with those of Ireland, that motives of selfishness, if not of generosity, must drive them to a wiser policy. Let the representatives of Ireland be but true to themselves, and England would be just to them; for while in the misery of Ireland is England's danger, so in the prosperity and happiness of Ireland is the security of England at home, and her strength among the nations abroad.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her to take into Her gracious consideration the unhappy state of Ireland, representing
that a crisis of unparalleled magnitude is afflicting that most wretched country; that the chief food of her population and the main product of her agriculture has failed to a most disastrous extent for several years; that thereby all classes of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland have been involved in ruin; that much of its soil has gone out of cultivation; that the moral and physical condition of the people is lamentably degraded, and in spite of unexampled aid from England, vast numbers of our fellow-subjects have actually perished from want:
That it is the conviction of this House, that the very vastness of the calamity furnishes a well-founded hope that a wise legislation, apprehending the peculiar opportunity hereby offered, and skilfully availing itself of the elements now set free for the reconstruction of agricultural relations in Ireland, might lay the foundation of a prosperity hitherto unknown to that country:
That the House is confirmed in that conviction by the evidence given before Parliament by witnesses of the highest intelligence and of the profoundest knowledge, of the actual state and undeveloped resources of Ireland:
That on a review of that evidence, this House is constrained painfully to acknowledge that while the Acts specially framed for the relief of distress since the commencement of the famine, have not realised the benevolent intentions of Parliament, neither have those of a more permanent nature been characterised by a true discernment of the peculiar features of the present crisis, and the establishment of any comprehensive policy adequate to the emergency:
That this House humbly prays Her Majesty to direct the special and careful attention of Her Majesty's Government to the Evidence which has been laid before Parliament, feeling assured that the ability, information, and practical suggestions therein displayed, furnish ample materials for a legislation at once solid, profound, and regenerative.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
said, that much as he felt compelled to dissent from a great part of the hon. Gentleman's speech, no part of it had struck him with more surprise than his assertion that the House had shown an indisposition to consider Irish affairs. Whatever fault might be found with the House or the Government for the mode in which they had legislated for Ireland, he thought there could be no difference of opinion as to the industry, patience, and indefatigable attention with which everything relating to that country had been considered in that House. Nor could any one deny that the attempts to legislate for her benefit, had been forwarded by every individual in it. The hon. Gentleman himself was an instance of that very zeal and devotion. At the close of a weary and prolonged Session, which had been occupied—be would not say exclusively, but to a great extent—with the affairs of Ireland, 862 the hon. Gentleman, on what might be called the last day of the Session, came down to the House, and, not having ever set foot on her soil, superseded the Irish representatives in their legitimate functions, and undertook to advocate her interests without knowing anything of her people. The hon. Gentleman presented himself, not, he said, to censure the Government, but the Parliament; but, in doing so. Government must impliedly share his censure, for they were responsible for the measures which had been adopted. But the contradictions of the hon. Gentleman's own speech must have been visible to the House; and certainly had struck him with surprise. The hon. Member commenced by laying to the charge of the measures which had been adopted for the relief of distress, such as the Labour Rate and Poor Relief Bills, the evils which afflicted Ireland; but in a very short time after adverted to what was indeed the real cause of those evils—the social state of Ireland. It was quite true that the famine found the people of Ireland in the midst of their vicious system of potato culture and potato reliance. It was all very well to point out retrospectively the defects of any measures adopted in such an emergency; but when they were introduced, no voice was raised against them. Where was the hon. Gentleman then? When he took upon himself now to come down and find fault with everything that had been done, he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman why he had not objected to everything at the time? It would not do to say the gentry of Ireland waited on the Lord Lieutenant, and called for an alteration of the Labour Act. They should have been in their places when the Act was passed to amend or to oppose it. They were responsible if the Act did not meet the pressure of the moment. But could any one deny it had saved hundreds and thousands of lives? No system of direct relief could have prevented the evils which had occurred in so sudden a crisis, and the House would have asked for some test and evidence of destitution before they gave money to the people of Ireland. The next measure was what was called the Soup-kitchen Act or Destitute Poor Relief Bill. It did what the Labour Act did not—it stayed the famine and saved the lives of the people. But that could not go on for ever. It was necessary to take other measures. It was in expectation of the cessation of that Act that the Poor Law Extension Act of 1847 was introduced. Before 863 he addressed himself to that part of the subject, he must observe that the hon. Gentleman, in depicting the misery and wretchedness of certain districts of Ireland, had somewhat overcharged his case. Far he it from him to seek to lessen the sympathy due to the sufferings of the people in those districts; but when he heard the hon. Gentleman talking of the mortality which there occurred, and the coffins which were lying about the road, and of priests and paupers being thrown indiscriminately into one grave—without doubting that such information had reached the hon. Gentleman, he must tell him fairly that it was an exaggeration, and that such a state of things did not exist. It was very easy to deduce a case of that nature from the mass of evidence taken before a Committee upstairs; but it was not fair to insist upon those particular points. By adopting such a course, almost any assertion might be proved. He would now proceed to consider the introduction of the poor-law of 1847. The hon. Gentleman had designated that poor-law as being introduced for the purpose of meeting the famine. He (Sir W. Somerville) did not conceive it to be introduced for any such purpose. What reason was there to suppose in 1846, that the famine of that year would be continued in 1847? There certainly was no ground for any such expectation at the time of the passing of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman would look at the date at which the Bill received the Royal assent, he would find it was on the 8th of June, 1847, a period of the year when it was impossible to foresee that another famine was coming upon them. Therefore, to say that the poor-law of 1847 was to meet a state of famine, was a statement not borne out by the facts as they occurred. He had always been of opinion that the old poor-law of 1838 was insufficient, and he had long felt that the provisions of that law should be extended, and he was one of those who, in 1847, proposed the extension of that Act. He had always thought it was a very great misfortune that so immediately—upon the introduction of a measure of such vital importance—there should have been suddenly and unexpectedly thrown upon it, by the famine which supervened in the autumn of 1847, a demand which its machinery was not calculated to meet. He fully admitted that the Bill was not equal to meet this pressure. But that was a very different thing from saying that the law of that year was passed for the purpose of 864 meeting that famine. The hon. Gentleman had drawn a comparison between the Irish Poor Law of 1847, and the Poor Law in England as it now existed, and said that they had introduced the English poor-law into Ireland. But that was not the case; the poor-law in Ireland was much more stringent. Outdoor relief in England was the general rule; in Ireland it was the exception. You could not give outdoor relief in Ireland until the workhouse was full: that was not the case here. Neither in Ireland could you give outdoor relief, except in kind: that was not the case in England. Outdoor relief in Ireland could only be administered under a special order of the commissioners, and that only for the period of two months; no such order was necessary in this country. Therefore it was obvious that the hon. Gentleman was totally mistaken in drawing a comparison between the system of outdoor relief to the ablebodied poor in Ireland, and the system in England, to the disadvantage of the latter, as regarded the stringency of the law. Would the hon. Gentleman repeal the law? Was he prepared to come forward and say that no outdoor relief should be given to the poor of Ireland at all? Was he prepared to say that? If such a proposal were adopted, it would be a sentence of death upon thousands. But the hon. Gentleman was not prepared to advise that course. That was just the part of the hon. Gentleman's speech which he had listened to with the greatest attention. He expected, at least, when the hon. Gentleman came down to the House, and thought it necessary at this period of the Session to call their attention to this subject, that they would have some one practical recommendation to discuss; but he had listened in vain. There was not a single point in the speech of the hon. Gentleman which had not been over and over again debated in that House. The question of outdoor relief, and the propriety of at once abolishing the distinction between the ablebodied and the aged and infirm, was brought forward by the hon. Member for the city of Waterford. He did so, not because he wished to do any thing which was calculated to increase the miseries of Ireland, but because he thought it would be for the general benefit of that country. But when his hon. Friend was asked to propose a remedy, and say what he would do when outdoor relief should cease, he was unable to give an answer. He (Sir W. Somerville) believed that the 865 hon. Member for Cockermouth would be equally incapable of answering that question were it now put to him. He believed that if they were to abolish outdoor relief in Ireland, it would be tantamount to a sentence of death to thousands of those whose interest that hon. Gentleman had now come forward to advocate. The hon. Gentleman had taken the union of Ballina as a sample, but that was not a fair sample. The union of Ballina was an extreme case. But, nevertheless, there was something even in the case of the union of Ballina which led him to hope that matters were on the mend, and that they had seen the worst. By a return which he hold in his hand, he found that outdoor relief in Ballina for the week ending the 30th of June, in the present year, was granted to 27,700 persons—an enormous proportion of the population, certainly, and an amount calculated to convey a most grievous impression to every man's mind; but when he turned to the number to whom outdoor relief was granted in the corresponding week of the year 1848, he found it to be, not 27,700, but 41,000. He would mention an interesting circumstance which happened in the union of Ballina. A gentleman told him that he was lately in the district of Ballina, and he saw a largo crowd gathered round the post-office. He inquired what was the cause, and be was told that the people were there for the purpose of receiving the money which had been sent to them by their friends through the post-office from different parts of the world; and he ascertained that there had been as much as 800l. received in Ballina in one week by money orders sent to the wives and families of those who had loft the union to seek work elsewhere. Those money orders were sent not from America merely, but from England and Scotland, wherever the parties could obtain work. He need not dwell upon the credit which such conduct reflected upon the people, who thus cared for, and ministered to, the wants of their relatives and friends. It was conduct which deserved the approbation of the House of Commons. No doubt the diminution of outdoor relief in Ballina might have been occasioned in some degree by the dispersion of those poor persons who obtained work in different parts of the country. The hon. Gentleman had denounced the maximum rate, and had attributed uncharitable motives to those who advocated the principle. Now, he could produce to the 866 House letters containing proposals to take land in Ireland upon condition that it should be exempted from poor-rates, or that a certain sum should be fixed beyond which the poor-rate should not go. No sum was fixed by the parties, because they said they did not seek profit, their whole object being to benefit the interest of agriculture in Ireland. This was a most benevolent object, and no doubt the conditions were proposed under the impression that the poor Law Commissioners had the power to fix a maximum rate. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to the question of emigration. A great deal of ignorance was to be found, not only out of doors, but among Members in that House, on the subject of emigration; but it would require far more time than he could afford to discuss the question then, and he had the best reasons for refraining from doing so on that occasion, because his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick bad already made a special Motion on the subject. And when the hon. Gentleman made use of such harsh terms as he had that night against those who did not promote emigration, he (Sir W. Somerville) had a right to ask where that hon. Gentleman was when that Motion was introduced? The hon. Gentleman should, at all events, give some practical proof that he felt a lively interest in the subject when he accused others of the crime and folly of not promoting emigration. Although the hon. Gentleman had alluded to every possible topic, he had not recommended any practical measure which the House could adopt. He, among other matters, adverted to the much-debated question of the area of taxation. There were two views in which that question might be considered. There were those v/ho said that the electoral divisions were immeasurably large, and that if they were smaller the guardians would be better able to direct their attention to the wants and desires of those who in connexoin with the poor-law were subject to their charge. The hon. Gentleman said that the reason he wished to diminish the area of taxation was, that be might individualise the responsibility; and he argued that the proprietor of an estate would have an interest in the welfare of the pauper or labouring poor, if the whole weight of their support devolved upon the estate. In that practical view of the case, he entirely differed from the hon. Gentleman. He thought the notion that a reduction of the area of 867 taxation would individualise responsibility so as to make the proprietary have an interest in the case of paupers, was a delusion. He did not think they would ever be able to carry it out; because, if the argument were carried out to its legitimate extent, they must have areas of taxation conterminous with the estate. The argument involved as much, and they must ultimately come to an estate area of taxation. But he would show presently that they could not stop there. They could not stop with a mere estate area, for, when they had arrived at that, what would they have done? They would merely have done this—they would have reduced the Irish peasant to the same condition as the Russian serf, and they would have to sell him with the estate. Was that the way to improve the habits of the Irish labourer? Was it a proper plan to improve the condition of the labourer to say that he should always live on the estate, and that the farmer must employ him whether he was a good labourer or not? The hon. Gentleman forgot that there was a great difference between Ireland and England as regarded taxation for the poor. In this country the whole of the poor-rates were paid by the occupier, but not so in Ireland, He wished to show the hon. Gentleman that he would not obtain his object even if he were to reduce the area of taxation to the size of an estate; because there might be as much difference between two farms on one estate, as between two different estates. Some estates might be well managed, and some very ill managed; but if that were not so, you were not the least nearer to a solution of the problem which the hon. Gentleman wished to solve. And so twenty farms might differ in condition on one estate, as twenty estates might differ in one electoral division. Therefore, upon the principle of individualising responsibility, you must reduce the areas of taxation, not to estates only, but to the size of farms. He would ask how, under such a state of things, it would be possible to carry on the poor-law at all? It must necessarily lead to a state of confusion, whatever might be the law. He hoped the hon. Gentleman did not forget that at this moment a commission was sitting whose duty it was to diminish the size of the electoral divisions in Ireland. That commission had sought for information on all sides; and it had sought for suggestions from gentlemen whose local interests entitled their opinions to consideration. He 868 hoped, as far as regarded divisions of an unmanageable size, measures would betaken by the Boundary Commissioners which would prove a considerable improvement on the present system; but as to any attempt being made to reduce the electoral divisions in accordance with the views put forward by the hon. Gentleman, that he (Sir W. Somerville) conceived would be a proceeding not only most injurious, but most pernicious, and one which would lead to indescribable confusion. Did the hon. Gentleman know what were the opinions of persons in this country upon the subject? He could assure him that there were many intelligent men in England who were in favour of a very large area of taxation. At all events, there was quite sufficient opinion of an opposite character with regard to this question in England, to make the people of Ireland pause before they gave their assent to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. He had trespassed upon the attention of the House longer than he was wont to do; but he could not, under the circumstances, avoid saying somewhat upon a subject which had engaged the attention of the House so often. He would not now enumerate the different measures which had been adopted by Parliament during the previous and the present Session with a view in some degree to stem the current of distress which unfortunately had so long been flowing in Ireland, because, do what they would, it was impossible to undertake to dry that current up, or minister support to all who were overtaken by it. But those measures had been offered by this country with no niggard hand. Without, therefore, enumerating those measures, he would say, that whatever had been done was generously done, and with a view of acting for the best. To recount those benefits, or to dwell upon their merits, he felt would be an ungenerous act. The hon. Gentleman began his speech by asking what hope there was for Ireland? Now, he (Sir W. Somerville) was not a very sanguine person. He admitted that everything for a long time, as connected with Ireland, had been gloomy in the extreme; but he did think there were grounds for hope now presenting themselves, and which, with the blessing of Providence, might warrant them in looking forward to a brightening future. First, they had the prospect of a bountiful harvest. Let it not be supposed that he reckoned with any great reliance on the potato crop. He quite agreed with 869 the hon. Gentleman that the potato was not a fit food for a people to rely on for their sustenance, though he did not agree with him in wishing that the whole of the potato crops throughout the country might be destroyed; because he considered that a plentiful harvest, even of the potato, would afford them time to look around them, that they might consider those more permanent measures which it would be necessary to adopt to enable them to meet any calamity that might hereafter occur, should a failure of that crop at another season come upon them. The reports which had reached him that morning induced him to believe that things were on the mend. The papers which were then before him very clearly showed that the numbers of deaths of paupers in workhouses had greatly decreased, and were gradually decreasing. He ventured to hope, therefore, that we were on the eve of better times. In the month of May the number of outrages reported by the police was 2,034, while in the month of June they amounted only to 1,490. He conceived that that condition of the criminal returns gave indications of a greatly improved state of things. That was the only statistical document that he intended to read, for he felt even in the few remarks he had made, that he had trespassed too much already on the time and attention of the House; but he could not sit down without reminding hon. Members then present that the measures of the Government had been adopted by very large majorities—that the feeling of the House was that Ministers had acted for the best—and that neither the House directly, nor the Government impliedly, deserved the censure which the hon. Member for Cockermouth had sought to cast on them; he should therefore meet his Motion by a direct negative.
§ MR. HORSMAN
rose to explain. He had never said absolutely that he wished to see the potato exterminated—lie merely put an alternative which was this, that rather than that the potato should be the life and soul of Irish agriculture, he should wish to see it no more.
§ MR. STAFFORD
said, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland calculated rightly when he supposed he should enlist the sympathies of all in the expression of joy by his reference to do-tails in proof of the return of prosperity to Ireland, however those details might be qualified. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman had told them the number of 870 inmates in the workhouses, and the number of deaths during the previous weeks, and if he had told them by what other circumstances than fever deaths had occurred, be confessed the details would to him, and those about him, have been more satisfactory. Nor could he rejoice with confidence over the returns from the constabulary of the outrages, until he knew what those outrages were. For when he remembered that outrages small and great were reported in the same way, and that one outrage of a serious character was of more consequence in estimating the state of a country than ton inconsiderable crimes, such as petty larceny, that went to swell the gross number thus reported, he felt he could not speak of the deductions that ought to be drawn from so unsatisfactory a statement as that made by the right hon. Gentleman. The Secretary for Ireland said truly that it was out of the power of any Government to deal with so great a calamity as had afflicted Ireland; but he might be permitted to remark that that difficulty was greatly increased by the way in which the famine was at first met. It was entirely owing to the Government that those difficulties had been increased, and that the visitations of Providence had been-aggravated by the legislation of man. The responsibility of the Government was increased with the greatness of the opportunity presented to them. For there never had been a time in the history of Ireland when barriers to good legislation in that country had been more entirely removed than during the three years for which the Gentlemen opposite had held office; and never was there a time when party spirit and religious contentions were more entirely allayed; and when he asked what had been the conduct of Members on both sides of the House, and whether the legislation for Ireland was not more entirely owing to the Government, he recollected that they had the support of large majorities, and he considered that those large majorities proved the absence of all factious opposition, casting thereby the great responsibility of the remedies proposed for Ireland upon Her Majesty's Ministers. They were the makers of the 9th and 10th Victoria. It was not the first time that he had regretted his absence on that occasion, and taken blame to himself on that account; for he felt that however protracted the Session might be, and at however late a period of it measures might be brought on for discussion, Members could not absent them-selves 871 without blame, or throw off by their absence their responsibility, whilst Government were passing dangerous measures in their absence. The responsibility of another great step rested solely with them, when the Government determined at one time to violate the Act to which he had referred—when they overruled its operation, and acted so much in violation of the law that they felt it necessary to come to the House and ask for an Indemnity Act in consequence. He said the responsibility of Mr. Labouchere's letter of the 7th Oct., 1847, rested entirely with them. As to the course which had been pursued by hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, since the right hon. Gentleman had not thought fit to advert to it, he might be permitted to trace their conduct with regard to the measures which Government had brought forward. He should follow the example of the hon. Member for Cockermouth, and would not advert to the Church question, ministers' money, and one or two questions that had been brought forward in the House during the present Session. He would look only to those measures which had reference to the social improvement of Ireland—a subject which had occupied their attention so largely during this Session, and by so occupying it proved to the country that, in the opinion of the House, the great difficulty of Ireland was social and not political. One of the measures that came extensively before them, was the Incumbered Estates Bill. So important was that measure considered, and so likely to work for the benefit of Ireland, that no fewer than four Acts had been introduced this Session to carry out that law more effectually. They passed the Bill by majorities enormous, in great haste, and with much appearance of anxiety. For himself, he looked at that measure as a Bill to facilitate the sale and transfer of landed property, the principle and provisions of which might with advantage be extended to England. As to the Registration Bill of the noble Lord, he did not think it was necessary for him to say any thing after it had been withdrawn; but he considered the noble Lord could not have done otherwise, after the evidence of Mr. Griffin as to the great inequalities which prevailed in the rates levied in different localities. That very inequality of rating was a circumstance which deserved the careful consideration of the noble Lord during the recess. To hon. Members who had looked 872 from day to day into the Notice Papers, it would be unnecessary for him to remark that two notices appeared regularly, and seemed to follow closely throughout the Session, although they came to nothing, as might be expected, considering in whose hands they were. They must have considered the connexion that appeared to exist between these notices. It had been often said that the taxation of the two countries ought to be similar and identical; but he might say that the taxation could not be separated from the representation of the country. Accordingly, when the hon. Member for Glasgow wished to have two Members for Kensington, and the hon. Member for Limerick, on the other hand, wished to have two Members added to the representation for Ireland, that was a question to be decided by the different ratio of taxation levied on the two countries, or on any two localities. It was during this Session that one of the hon. Members for Berkshire brought forward a Landlord and Tenant Bill for England, and the hon. Member for Kerry moved a clause extending the operation of the Bill to Ireland. That proposition was acceded to unanimously; and now he therefore asked the noble Lord, if his attention should again be called to the subject, to remember that the House of Commons had placed the Irish landlords in the same position with the English landlords, and had thus far asserted that both ought to be legislated for together in the same Bill, and on the same principles. As for the Savings Banks Committee, which was opposed by the Government, notwithstanding the great interest which the subject possessed for those localities where branches of these institutions had existed, be could assure the noble Lord that additional interest was concentrated on that Committee by his opposition to its appointment; and he hoped the noble Lord would now do what was necessary, and bring the inquiry to a proper issue. He now approached the Irish poor-law; and he said, however great were the evils of that poor-law—however ill-advised the legislation of the Government on that question, no blame could attach to those on his side of the House for absence during the discussion of the question, or for being barren of suggestions and of plans, whereby, in their opinion, the difficulties of the case might be met. Aware, practically, of the condition of Ireland, and foreseeing what would happen, they had asked for a Committee of Inquiry 873 into the working of the poor-law, and all the Irish Members voted for it; but the noble Lord voted against such inquiry. The consequence was, as might be foreseen, the noble Lord met the Parliament in 1849 without a Bill upon the subject. Well, the first Bill the noble Lord brought in, he grafted upon the rate in aid. It was then, when they saw that nothing was to be done for Ireland until she had herself made the utmost exertion, that the Member for Cockermouth moved the extension of an income tax to Ireland. He refused previously to have a rate in aid; and he said it became him as a wise man to choose the least of two evils, and, therefore, the Government were advised to extend the security they were seeking by the rate in aid over all the property in Ireland, and especially to lay the tax upon that kind of property which was most able to bear it. Why the noble Lord opposed that Motion, they knew not, except from the proceedings in the memorable Parliament of Downing-street—that Parliament of twenty minutes' duration, and the summary speech in which the noble Lord addressed his Irish audience. In the debate on the Poor Law Amendment Bill, it was clearly shown that the maximum just came to be the minimum, and that the proposal inferred almost necessarily in future time that very disagreeable process known as "cooking the accounts" in the district. During all those debates, however, he could not but recollect that those right hon. Members who sat on the bench which he himself occupied, three of them at one time or another Secretaries for Ireland—he meant the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge, and the noble Earl the Member for the Falkirk boroughs—had never one of them exhibited, by their presence or their participation, any interest for those over whose destinies they had presided. That poor-law dealt with the whole property of Ireland, enabling three men to lay on taxes at the rate of 12 per cent—to dismiss the whole of the municipal bodies in certain localities, or to alter the composition of those bodies, or to force loans upon them; yet against all these processes no appeal was allowed, and no delay was permitted. The decision of these three men was final. With such provisions before them, they had attended night after night; but the Irish Members had been swamped by the union of English Members against them. Nearly 874 contemporaneously with that Bill, was another for the amendment of the English poor-law; and during that discussion the slightest suggestion of the English landlord was attended to, and the provisions modified to suit the wishes of the landlords, and made to square with the condition of their property. That indicated to him that there were two governments for the two countries. He said that the Bill for Ireland, which they had sent to the other House, was equivalent to a vote of want of confidence in the middle and upper classes of that country. It was said the fault lay with the landlords. Their fault had been that they had acted upon the dogma of buying in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest. They had sold their land for the largest price, and bought their labour for the lowest wages. They looked upon the potato as the cotton plant of Ireland, and competition was stimulated to the highest point. That was their fault, and dearly, deeply and long, would they rue their implicit obedience to the vain dogma which they were told was to regenerate the world. But if they wished to keep those landlords as bad as they said they were, let them deal with them as they said they dealt with their tenants; show them no confidence, and by the different Bills passed in that House treat them as an alien race. He was satisfied that local self-government for Ireland was the only course of policy for that House to pursue. That principle had been violated and destroyed by their legislation; but he was convinced that a return to it was the only way to regenerate Ireland. He asked those who had brought forward a Registration Bill, and who showed by the provisions of the Irish poor-law that they had not the slightest confidence in the boards of guardians, with what pretence of consistency they could propose to such a people an extended suffrage? Were those who were incapable of managing their own affairs fit to take any part in the management of the affairs of the empire? Whilst these people were offered an 8l. franchise, they were insulted with a 12½ per cent tax. The more, then, he considered the subject, the more was he convinced that a return to the principle of local self-government was the only way of regenerating Ireland. The right hon. Gentlemen had entered at length into the question of parochial divisions. Against estate rating it was easy to make out a case; but it was in the power of the noble Lord, 875 even now, without the interference of the Boundary Commissioners, to make electoral divisions smaller. ["Divide, divide!"] He saw an hon. Gentleman calling for a division, who, upon the anniversary of the patron saint of his own country, demanded that Wales should be included in the Irish poor-law. He knew not whether the wish of the hon. Gentleman had survived the festivities of that day; but if he were still desirous that Wales should be considered as an electoral division of Ireland, and would state his reasons, at least from him (Mr. Stafford) the hon. Gentleman should have a patient hearing.
§ MR. SHEIL
I shall not forget that this is the 23rd of July. How does it come to pass that of the Irish miscellany by which it is supposed that this Motion is supported, not one has thought it judicious to originate a proposition of an analogous kind? It is not because they are conscious of their inadequacy to the performance of the task which has been assumed by, or has devolved upon, the Member for Cockermouth. It is not because they are utterly destitute of that self-reliance of which my hon. Friend affords a model—it is not because they are not aware that the hon. Gentleman has no sort of connexion with Ireland excepting that which an amiable but somewhat speculative sympathy can supply. It is because his utter ignorance of Ireland is countervailed by his distinguished talents, and more especially by those peculiar faculties which render him the most appropriate exponent of dissatisfaction, and the faithful mirror of discontent. But it is not to the use of caustics that the talents of ray hon. Friend are confined. He can praise as eloquently as he can condemn. In the course of last Session, when he proposed the extension of the income tax to Ireland, he pronounced an admirable and most just panegyric on the distinguished Nobleman at the head of the Irish Executive. It is not undeserving of remark that those who are most lavish of their incongruous praises upon Lord Clarendon, seldom vote in favour of the Ministry on whom he reflects a lustre. On the occasion to which I am referring, the commendations of my hon. Friend extended to the Government. He frankly stated that they had great difficulties to contend with. Where indeed, is the man, whose mind is not the prey of the most virulent partisanship, who will not acknowledge that a large allowance is to be made for those almost insurmountable impediments 876 which result from disasters to which in the annals of national calamity I do not believe that a likeness can be found? But, notwithstanding this acknowledgment, my hon. Friend calls on the House to record its condemnation of the temporary measures to which the Government resorted at the commencement of the famine. I do not consider the Government to be faultless. I am not one of those who pronounce every Government to which they belong to be perfect, and every Government to be imbecile to which they un-happly do not appertain. I am not an optimist of the Treasury bench. But while I admit that the Government may have been betrayed into error, and that, in the suddenness of a great emergency, charity in its precipitancy may have lost its way, I utterly deny that the benevolence of England has been baffled. Whatever mistakes may have been committed, they are as nothing when compared with the vast relief which was afforded. If the calamity was unexampled, so was the preservation. But, give me leave to ask, why it is, when the hon. Gentleman confesses that the measures to which he alludes were temporary, and that they are past and gone, that he calls upon the House to pronounce a retrospective and a useless condemnation of proceedings, the recurrence of which he does not apprehend? Of proceedings defunct for ever, why does he set down a damnatory paragraph? The object is one which it requires some intrepidity to deny, and some simplicity to doubt. The hon. Gentleman proceeds to condemn the measures of a permanent character adopted by the Legislature; of those the poor-law is the chief. It would be preposterous to enter into its details. The evils of the poor-law are as clear as its necessity. Nothing could be worse than the enactment, except the non-enactment of a large measure of relief for the Irish poor. The Government were compelled to choose between the workhouse and the charnel-house, and preferred the first. The interests of property were postponed to the rights of life. It is quite natural that the Irish landlords should have complained with bitterness of the misfortunes that befell them. They deserve compassion for their sufferings, while we are compelled to withhold acquiescence in their views. I do not blame men for consulting their own interests, but in forming an estimate of the value of their opinions, I take those interests into account. I listen with 877 courtesy, but with caution, to a county Member, when he talks of the corn laws; to a Manchester manufacturer, when he talks of a Ten Hours Bill; to a West Indian, when he talks of sugar duties; and to an Irish proprietor, when he talks of the poor-laws and the narrow area of taxation. My hon. Friend, having disposed of the past and the present, advances on the future. He informs us that the calamities in Ireland will be conducive to its felicity. I envy the imagination of the man for whom a vision of prosperity ascends from an abyss of woe. How is it to be realised? By solid, regenerative, and profound legislation. Mem Fodlon, the great Irish legislator, was but the precursor of my hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman speaks also of comprehensive policy. What does his comprehensive policy include? On how questions of paramount importance has a significant taciturnity been observed by my hon. Friend? I shall not enter into any details of the hon. Gentleman's profound and unobjectionable legislation; indeed. Sir, I am persuaded at this moment, the most urgent and pressing evils of Ireland are of that character which laws cannot "make or cure." The wounds of Ireland cannot be healed, excepting by the Almighty baud by which they were inflicted. By successive plenty, successive famine must be countervailed—the earth must bring forth her increase; the prayer with which our deliberations are preceded must be granted; Ireland must teem with fertility again; the mysterious and sightless influences by which one of the finest islands in the sea has been three times blasted, must be inhibited—and before anything great and good can be accomplished by human legislation, by the great Lawgiver of the world, a preliminary mercy must be shown.
§ The O'GORMAN MAHON moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.