§ The House having resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House,
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
rose and said, that during the recent protracted debates on the Rate in Aid Bill, the state of Ireland had been so fully discussed that he should not feel it necessary to say much on that subject in prefacing the resolution which he had to submit 1261 to the Committee. He confessed, however, that with a few exceptions, the real state of the country had hardly been sufficiently adverted to. In the anxiety of some hon. Members for certain amendments in the poor-law, the real destitution of a large population in the west of Ireland had almost entirely been lost sight of; whilst, on the other hand, those who were unwilling to consent to further advances to Ireland also lost sight of the immense extent of starvation which existed, and the numbers of people on the verge of famine. He was quite sure that the House would regret it if no attempt was made by it to apply some remedy to this state of things. Believing, therefore, as the Government did, that such was the state of a great part of the west of Ireland—and he referred in his observations almost exclusively to the western districts of that country—it was their duty in the first instance to provide means, either by grant or advance, to prevent the fearful calamity of the starvation of many thousands. The Government, at the commencement of the Session, believing such to be the state of the people in the west of Ireland, took steps to avert the danger, first, by procuring a grant of 50,000l., and, subsequently, by bringing forward the Rate in Aid Bill, on the credit of which a further advance of 100,000l. might be obtained. Other measures had already been presented to the House relating to encumbered estates, and to the amendment of the poor-law; and the proposal he was now about to make was for the advance of money for the improvement of the condition of a portion of Ireland, and for the employment of a portion of the Irish people, in a manner which would tend to preclude the necessity of eleemosynary aid, and improve the state of the labouring population, as well as benefit the estates on which they were to be employed. Before, however, going into the details of the proposal he was now about to make, he wished to say a very few words on the present state of Ireland. He entirely differed from those hon. Gentlemen who seemed to conceive that all at once, by legislative measures, the whole state and condition of Ireland might be changed. Nobody acquainted with that country could fail to see that the change required was a total change of the social system—of the habits, and of the ways of acting and thinking, in all classes of the population. That change could not be effected in a 1262 moment, and it could not be effected by the Legislature, though the Legislature might aid in bringing it about; but such a change, produced in course of time, he believed to be essential to the prosperity of the country. At the same time, he thought that no view could be more mistaken than to despair of the amendment of that part of the country to which he referred; and he believed that those who held out the expectation of brighter prospects for it formed a more correct judgment of the state of affairs. No doubt a bitter period had been gone through in the last two or three years, and great suffering still existed in many parts of the country; but bitter as the lesson had been, he believed that the adversity which had been experienced, would prove ultimately to have been the best school for improvement. Hon. Gentlemen must be aware that one of the chief evils in Ireland bad been the number of small tenants living on a bit of ground, and clinging to the land with the greatest obstinacy. All attempts to get rid of that system had hitherto failed; and he confessed he doubted whether anything short of what had happened could have removed that cottier tenantry from the land, and rendered those who owned the land the masters of their own estates. But it was not to be denied that the change which had been effected had been attended with fearful calamities. It was notorious that, till a recent time, the rent of the landlord depended on the number of his tenantry; the landlord depended on the middleman, the middleman on the tenantry, and the tenantry on the potato; and when the potato went, therefore all those classes suffered. He had on a former occasion read a remarkable extract from a communication from a poor-law inspector in Ireland, pointing out the necessary consequences of such a system; and he would now read a quotation from a report made by Captain Kennedy, on the 22nd of January, in reference to the Kilrush union, which conveyed in a short and conclusive manner the nature of the accounts received from many parts of the country. Captain Kennedy said—The facile mode by which the landlord or middleman hitherto obtained exorbitant rents, and the labourer or peasant a wretched subsistence, has unfitted each for energetic exertion. The greater portion of this union was essentially a potato country, yielding the most prolific return. The peasant's life was passed in planting his potatoes in spring, digging them up in autumn, and dozing through the winter over the turf fire which 1263 cost him nothing. His potatoes are now gone, and with them his pig and means of buying clothing. He must now go naked and starve, unless he gets employment or gratuitous relief, The means of the occupiers are, I cannot doubt, much exhausted by paying a potato rent for land that will no longer grow them. Those who have means are, from various causes, averse to lay out the capital necessary to the successful growing of other crops. Of the proprietors there are but few resident—I cannot speak of their means—I only know that there has not been any amount of poor-rate levied in this union seriously to injure them; no more than any man of common humanity ought voluntarily to bestow in disastrous times. That they are, generally speaking, embarrassed, I fear is a melancholy truth, and goes far to account for the existing want of employment and consequent destitution. The destitution in this union is a mighty and fearful reality; it is in vain to strive to falsify or forget its existence; yet no combined effort, and hardly an individual one, is made to alleviate or arrest it. A few philanthropic individuals continue to afford their mite of relief and employment, but their example is not taken. There is a general lack of energy; the better part of the community seem, for the most part, as apathetic as if the country were comparatively prosperous; while demoralisation, disease, and death are spreading like a cancer. I see the masses of the people starving, and the land, which could be made to feed treble the number, lying all but waste. I think an amount of rate sufficient to keep the union for three months between this and harvest could with difficulty be levied. This leads me to the inquiry, what are the precise causes of the destitution existing in this union? Simply, want of employment and wholesale evictions, and the land being left scarce half tilled. Why naturally fine and fertile land should be left undrained and unimproved, when hundreds of labourers can be had for 4d. or 5d. per diem, and many for their food alone, is difficult to understand.That he believed to be a faithful picture of the state of Ireland, and it was confirmed by various other reports. It was obviously a state which no legislation could possibly remedy. They might indeed facilitate the sale of some of those estates which were so encumbered that the proprietors were without means; but to imagine that any law could relieve the condition of the whole population, was to suppose that to be possible which no law could possibly effect. Obviously what was wanted was the employment of capital by those who were willing to employ it; and, so far as the Government could, they were ready to supply capital to some extent to those who were anxious for it. What he had now referred to was no doubt the dark side of the picture; and he was happy to say that, looking to other parts of the country, there were many symptoms of an amended state of things, which might infuse hope even into the most desponding—symptoms of an amendment appeared to him the most wholesome of all— 1264 of individual energy and individual exertion. He could not give a more striking instance of such exertion than that to which he had formerly referred, of the manner in which the Earl of Lucan had, in Mayo, removed a number of the people by emigration, employed others in throwing together farms, and was introducing an improved system of agriculture. But even in other parts of the country there were many similar instances to be found. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, in that remarkable speech which he made some weeks ago, alluded to a gentleman, the brother of the hon. Member for Leicester, who had taken a quantity of waste land in the Clifden union, with the view of cultivating it on the English system. He had also heard that another member of the Society of Friends had taken a large farm, in the same neighbourhood, and he must say that the exertions made by the members of that society were most laudable. Their efforts had been conducted in the most exemplary and praiseworthy manner; and they were deserving of all possible credit not only for their humanity and the interest they had shown in the improvement of that country, but for the practical good sense with which they had always acted. He had also heard that in another of those western counties, three farmers of Norfolk had accepted terms which were beneficial both to the landlord and themselves; and he had heard, from a gentleman in Mayo, that other parties had been in treaty with him for the purpose of introducing an improved system of cultivation. He would now refer to another union which had obtained some celebrity in Ireland—the union of Ballina, which had hitherto been considered to be in the most hopeless condition. The Committee might remember that in one of the papers laid on the table early in the Session, it was stated by Col. Knox Gore, that the extent to which the tenantry had emigrated was so great that a large quantity of the land was lying waste for want of labourers. He found also, in a letter addressed to the Poor Law Commissioners, by Colonel Vaughan Jackson, in January last, the following passage:—In the Ballina union I hope the worst is arrived or passed. In the Ballina union, emigration, through money sent from America, has had an important influence in relieving pressure. On one day in November, twenty-nine persons left the parish I lived in for America; on another day, within a short period, nineteen left. In the 1265 winter of 1846–47, masses went to America; they have sent, and are now every day sending, for their friends and kindred. In the Ballina union, arterial and other drainages, and employment given by the gentry, largely assisted the poor.Such was the opinion of that gentleman in the month of January, when he thought they had at length arrived at the worst. He had received a letter yesterday from Mr. Burke, one of the inspectors in the Ballina district, in respect to this union, the contents of which he was sure would be hoard with great satisfaction by the House:—It has been my duty so frequently during the past two years to report, in unfavourable terms, of the prospects of the county of Mayo, and especially of the Ballina union, that I feel peculiar pleasure in being at length able to state to you that, in my opinion, there appear to be some signs of improvement in this district, and that the alarm and despondency which have heretofore paralysed almost all exertion, seems to be giving way to a feeling of hope, which is leading to increased industry and energy. During the last week I have had opportunities of observing the general appearance of the country in this union, and of conversing with persons competent to form a just opinion of the state of affairs, and I have arrived at the conclusion that a spirit of activity prevails throughout the greater portion of it, und that strenuous exertions are being made by all classes to draw out the resources of the soil, and increase the means of support. Much of the land which during the last year remained uncultivated is now under tillage, and anxiety is shown to invest capital and labour in the improvement of land, where before the greatest apathy prevailed. All accounts that I have received agree in representing that more land has been sown with corn than during the past year, and a very considerably larger quantity of potatoes has been planted than is usual at this early season. In several instances I have heard of farmers increasing the size of their holdings, and becoming tenants of unoccupied farms adjoining their own, and, in some cases, land has been taken by persons from a distance, who are investing their capital in its cultivation. I think, also, that I can perceive that a better and more careful mode of husbandry is gradually being introduced, and, calculating upon a certain amount of turnips, and other green crops, being sown at a later period, when the time for their operation shall arrive, I think we may hope to see a very great change for the better in the appearance of the country at the next harvest. These results have been arrived at during a period when money has been peculiarly scarce; and I think it affords just grounds for hope that, if the produce of the crops now planted shall prove ordinarily good, the increase of food and wealth which it will occasion will lead to renewed exertions in the same direction in succeeding years. And these exertions, which have now produced but little corresponding benefit to the labouring classes—for in consequence of the poverty of the small farmers, their agricultural operations have been chiefly executed by themselves or members of their own family—yet hereafter, when their means are increased by the 1266 return of their present labours, the effect will undoubtedly be felt by the labouring classes, whose assistance will be required to carry on the work which has now been commenced.That was one of the most satisfactory accounts he had yet received from Ireland, for it showed that in one of the worst districts individual exertion had gone far to remedy the existing evils, and the anticipations of a gentleman well acquainted with Ireland of an improved state of things had been fully borne out by subsequent experience. He would here state, with regard to some measures which had been suggested for securing the more efficient administration of the poor-law, that perhaps hon. Gentlemen were not aware that there were at this moment forty-three temporary inspectors employed almost exclusively in the west of Ireland, under whose superintendence the poor-law was administered, without whose application no sums had been advanced, and without whose sanction no money could be applied to the relief of the unions, so that there was every security for the economical distribution of the funds. He wished now to state, that it appeared, from all he had heard, that what was now most necessary was employment for the people. He believed that the time would come when the means of giving that from private resources would be adequate, and he believed that it would be well worth while for this country in the mean time to make limited advances for that purpose, in order to foster the industry of the country, and by setting an example of the wholesome improvement of the land to show what advantages might be derived from pursuing such a course. The first purpose for which he proposed to ask the Committee to consent to an advance of money, would be under the Land Improvement Act, which he believed would provide the most wholesome mode of employing it. In that case the natural relations between master and labourer, and between landlord and tenant, were entirely preserved, and the interference of the Government was as small as possible—merely to see that the money was duly paid according to law, and that the works were properly executed. The landlord employed his own labourers, and the wholesome state of relation between landlord and tenant was maintained unimpaired. He would state very shortly what the effect of that measure had been up to this time. The amount of advances applied for was 3,074,000l., and the amount 1267 sanctioned was about half that sum, 1,544,000l. There had been given up by various proprietors loans to the amount of 112,000l., and there had been re-sanctioned loans to the amount of 59,000l., so that sums were now sanctioned and allocated to the amount of 1,491,000l.—leaving a reserve of about 9,000l. Of the whole sum there had been issued 548,000l., and therefore there remained as a fund for the employment of labour during the three or four ensuing years 952,000l. It was proposed by the vote of that evening to increase that sum by 300,000l., which would give 1,252,000l. as the total sum to be employed in that manner. An hn. Gentleman stated some time ago that the distressed counties had derived little or no advantage from that source. The hon. Gentleman found afterwards that he was mistaken, and he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would now state what those distressed counties—principally the counties west of the Shannon—actually had received. Applications were made by them to the extent of 1,600,000l.; and loans were sanctioned to the amount of 800,000l. Moreover, of the actual issue, which amounted to 548,000l., more than one half, 265,000l., had actually been issued to those counties. He had stated that the greatest benefits had been derived from the expenditure of money in that way. The inspector of Tipperary, Clare, and King's County reported that—In no part of the world is steady employment, even at the lowest rate of remuneration, more highly appreciated than in this district; and the employment provided by the Land Improvement Act is now peculiarly valuable, when the country is in a state of transition between the old vicious system of paying the labourer, not in cash, but by making him a sort of jobbing farmer, working under an oppressive rack-rent, to the more correct arrangement of giving him steady employment and regular payment in money wages. Heretofore the lands were in the hands of the class called "farmers," but who had never expended one shilling in either draining or deepening the soil; they confined their exertions to planting and digging out potatoes, or herding a few head of cattle. Owing to the failure of the potato they became destitute, and numbers would have perished were it not for the employment afforded under the Land Improvement Act. In many instances lands, which three years ago were not worth 2s. 6d an acre, are now good value for 10s. either for tillage or pasture.He would read one more extract, because it was a very striking one, relating to the county of Leitrim:—Out of a great number which have come within our knowledge, we shall quote one decisive example of the pecuniary advantage derived from 1268 thorough draining. The townland of Gortreas Keagh, in the county of Leitrim, the estate of Mr. James Whyte and Lieutenant-Colonel J. J. Whyte, which contains 175 acres 1 rood 33 perches of arable land, and 12 acres 1 rood 25 perches of bog, making altogether 187 acres 3 roods 18 perches, was, previously to draining, let in small tenements to a number of poor tenants for the sum of 125l. 12s. 6d. per annum; the tenants were removed either by emigration or transference to other lands, and subsequently the sum of 805l. 11s. 10d. was expended on improvements, the interest on which, at 6l. 10s. per cent per annum, amounts to 52l. 6s. 6d. When the works were completed the lands were re-let at a rent of 206l. 9s. 1d., being an increase on the original rent of 80l. 16s. 7d. per annum, or 10l. per cent on the outlay.On this part of the subject he did not think it necessary to state more, to show the advantage to this country of the improvement of Ireland, as well as the advantage to the labourer and the landlord in Ireland from that species of employment. He proposed, therefore, to take for that purpose an advance of 300,000l., and to place it at the disposal of the loan commissioners for the purpose of being advanced to the landlords, to enable them to improve their estates under the Land Improvement Act. He now came to another purpose for which he proposed that an advance should be made, and that was for the promotion of arterial drainage. Upon this subject there certainly had been no inconsiderable misconception of the intentions of the Government, and as there had been very great disappointment expressed that there had not been an unlimited supply of money from the Exchequer, he would state what the intention of the Government originally was. [Mr. F. FRENCH: We want nothing of the sort.] Not want it? He could only say that every day for the last three weeks he had had applications from Ireland upon the subject. It was not the original intention that it should rest upon the Government to find the funds for river drainage; and, accordingly, up to July, 1847, the advances made by private parties amounted to 127,000l., and no more than 36,000l. had been advanced from the public resources. In that year of great distress, it was found that this species of undertaking presented the easiest mode of setting the people to work in the existing circumstances of Ireland, and the sum of 370,000l. was voted accordingly, it being distinctly stated to be to find employment for that year. Now, very great fault had been found with the conduct and management of the Board of Public Works; but Gentlemen must remember that, in 1847, 1269 works were undertaken in many parts of Ireland with a view to affording relief in the manner which was at that time adopted—works which would not have been undertaken but because it was desirable to give general employment in distressed districts. Cases bad occurred in which, in consequence of the improvement of the stream above, the banks of the lower part of a river were flooded. In 1846 it was thought so desirable that works of this description should be undertaken, in order to afford relief, that the then Secretary for Ireland introduced the Summary Proceedings Bill, with a view to facilitate the previous survey, and to allow of works being undertaken without going through the long process of survey theretofore necessary; and the consequence was that an insufficient survey and estimate were sometimes made, in order to avoid delay in providing for the unemployed and destitute labourers, and that upon more careful inquiry it was found that increased expenditure was necessary. But still, when the House heard what was the amount of expense, after all, they would hardly say that it was so very heavy. As to the whole of the engineering staff, it had in no instance exceeded 5 per cent upon the outlay on the works completed. Two or three statements furnished to the Government upon this subject, would best show the result of this river drainage, which was the foundation of all subsequent improvements, for it was impossible for landlords to drain their land properly until there were sufficient outlets. To take, first, a general statement. One of the commissioners reported:—A lively and gradually diffused sense of the benefit is evidenced by the tenants opening up their minor drains, spreading the soil from the cuttings on their land as top-dressing, and tilling the reclaimed land. In some cases those low lands which were formerly subject to frequent and destructive floods are already thorough-drained, and fine crops are at present growing on lands which could not formerly be calculated upon as affording even a coarse meadow.That was the general report. He would now read an account of three drainages which had been quite completed. The first was the Blackwater:—Land upon which, previous to the drainage, grass was cut to be used as litter, was let in 1848 at 5l. per Irish acre. Other lands in this district which were used as grazing in the year 1848, after having fed what was considered a full quantity of cattle during the season, yielded so abundant a produce that the cattle was unable to eat it down, and the occupier had it mowed in August, and estimated that he would have a ton and a half of 1270 hay per Irish acre, in addition to feeding his cattle during the season. In addition to the above, there have been wheat, oats, turnips, potatoes, cabbages, and mangoldwurtzel, grown on lands which, a few years ago, were under floods for half the year. For the improvement effected, the proprietors will have to pay about 5s. per acre for 20 years.The hon. Member for Roscommon could hardly complain of the cost of that. The account of Oranhill district, in the county of Gal way, was as follows:—A quantity of flooded land, which was let to tenants at will for 15l. per annum, and which in the most favourable season previous to the drainage works would not produce more than 30l., was given up to the landlord from the uncertainty of getting anything off it It now produces 150l. for the season's grass, and some of the adjoining tenants estimate the produce at 200l. at least. For the improvements effected, the proprietors will have to pay 5s. 6d. per acre for 22 years. Some of the lands of the district which have been frequently under floods for 10 months in the year, had, amongst other crops in 1848, a crop of white carrots, which the owner valued at 20l. per Irish acre after all expenses of cultivation were paid.Let one more case be taken, for it was right, when the House was asked for further funds for this purpose, that they should hear to what extent the funds already advanced had benefited the country, and at how small expense to the landowners. This is the account of the Borrisokane district:—The flooded lands of this district have almost all been cultivated before the works were completed, and had crops of oats, rape, potatoes, turnips, golden pleasure cabbages, on them. Two men, holding jointly about 35 acres of land that was in a very bad state previous to the works, stated that the first year's crops of oats and rape would more than pay the entire sum chargeable to their lands, although one-half the lands, subject to floods, was not cultivated. Many of the occupiers admitted that their crops of rape cleared from 15l. to 25l. per Irish acre, and this on land that could never, before the drainage works, be cultivated. A portion of this land was valued at 2s. per acre previous to drainage; was taken by lease, after the drainage, at 13s. per acre; and the tenant then thorough-drained and fenced it, and had turnips and oats on it in September, 1848. The annual sum to be paid for the improvement effected on these lands will be about 5s. per acre for 20 years, when the whole debt will be paid off.He must say, in spite of all the statements made against the Board of Works for the mode in which they administered these funds, and executed the works, under the extraordinary circumstances of the last two years, he did not think that the expense was such as to frighten proprietors from carrying on these works. He should propose to the House to advance a further sum of money for the carrying on of arte- 1271 rial drainage. He had obtained from the Board of Works an account of the works commenced in the distressed counties in Ireland, those for which the preliminary proceedings had been completed, and a similar return for the remainder of Ireland; and what he proposed was, to advance this year the sum which they reported could be expended upon those works which had been commenced in the distressed counties, and also the sum which would be required this year upon those works in the same counties which had not been commenced, but the preliminary proceedings for which had been completed; and as to the other parts of Ireland, he proposed to advance a sum equal to one half of what could be expended in the year on those works which had been actually commenced. In those parts of Ireland which were not considered distressed districts, there were many works that had been commenced and were now stopped for want of funds, and the stoppage of which works was most prejudicial not only to the country around, but to the works themselves; and at the same time it was not fair that we should be called on to do that which was contrary to the spirit of the Act—supply the whole of the funds. He meant, by "the distressed counties," Mayo, Gal way, Clare, Roscommon, Leitrim, Cork, Cavan, Kerry, Sligo, Limerick, part of Longford, Westmeath, King's County, and Tipperary. The whole sum which he believed could be advantageously expended in the course of this year upon these works amounted in round numbers to about 270,000l. An Act was passed last Session enabling the Government to reissue sums repaid by counties on account of the relief works, and to that extent it was not necessary to ask Parliament for a vote; the total repayments which had been made to the Paymaster of Civil Services under the various Acts passed since 1846, amounted to 300,000l., of which' the sum of 100,000l. was reissuable under last year's Act; a portion of it might be required for completing other works, but he was inclined to think that a very large portion of it might be available for this river drainage. He proposed, therefore, to ask only 200,000l. for this purpose, which, with the money thus reissuable, would, he believed, more than provide the sum that could be expended this year. These were the votes he had to propose: to add 300,000l. to the funds at the disposal of the loan commissioners for the purposes of the Land Improvement Act, and to ad- 1272 vance 200,000l. for the purpose of river drainage, applying to this latter purpose also a further sum reissuable under the Act of last Session. He had intended to apply for a vote for the Great Western Railway, feeling that it was of the utmost importance to facilitate the means of communication in the district; but the state of the arrangements with the parties concerned made it proper to delay this till there had been further communication with them; the intention was postponed, not given up. He had only to add that he believed the introduction of the mode of employment which the proposed measures would encourage, to be one of the most essential steps for the regeneration of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving—1. That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorised to direct the advance of sums, not exceeding in the whole 300,000l., out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, for the purposes and under the provisions of any Act in force to facilitate the Improvement of Landed Property in Ireland by the owners thereof.2. That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorised to direct the advance of sums, not exceeding in the whole 200,000l., out of the said Consolidated Fund, to be applied by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, for making Loans under the provisions of any of the Acts authorising the said Commissioners to make advances for the extension and promotion of Drainage and other works of public utility in Ireland,
§ MR. W. O. GORE
said, the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken great credit to himself for the advantages that Ireland had derived from the system of drainage. He (Mr. Gore) held in his hand a return which had been made to him by a surveyor who had measured the length, depth, and breadth of the drainage of some lands of his, which were not very wet, but required some drainage, in the county of Leitrim. The quantity of land drained was 6 acres and 20 perches, and there was a claim made upon him by the Government for this drainage of 200l. Now, this was a specimen of the excessive advantage that the Government had conferred upon Ireland, and this was what they claimed credit for—200l. for 6 acres and 20 perches. The drains were 2 feet 6 inches deep, and 1 foot 2 inches over, and the cost amounted to 32l. 13s. 1¼d. per acre. He would say no more than that the work was executed by the Government's own officers, and that they had never been interfered with in any way whatever. [The CHANCELLOR of the 1273 EXCHEQUER: Was that under the Land Improvement Act?] It was under the Drainage Act.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
thought the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not fairly dealt with this question. No one felt more alive than himself (Mr. French) to the advantages derivable from a judicious system of drainage; but he would appeal to the House whether this plan of the Government, which would involve an outlay of at least 52. per acre, could be otherwise than ruinous to those who should be so foolish as to accept a loan from the Government for the purpose of land improvement. He would undertake to prove that 30l. out of every 100l. advanced for arterial drainage was lost to the landowner by the mismanagement and unfairness of the Board of Works. He could set forth many instances in which landowners, after having applied for advances, refused to accept them in consequence of the extraordinary and extravagant estimates of the Board of Works, to whom the Act assigned the entire control over and expenditure of the money advanced. There was one instance in which a landowner who applied for an advance of money, was told by the Board of Works that their lowest estimate to effect his object was 1,800l. He refused to accept it, and subsequently effected himself, by means of a private loan of 800l., greater improvements than were contemplated by the Board of Works for a cost of 1,800l. He (Mr. French) could quote many similar instances. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the commencement of his speech, admitted that the landlords of Ireland were bankrupt, and that the tenants were starving, and yet he now came forward with a proposition which was calculated to still further depress rather than benefit Ireland. That country had been going from bad to worse for many years, and all the plans of improvement which the Government could suggest were injudicious loans and rates in aid, which directly counteracted the development of Ireland's resources. If England had been treated as Ireland had been by English statesmen—if a heavy incubus had been placed upon England in the time of Henry VIII.—could any one pretend to say that England's prospects would not have been blighted like those of Ireland? England would never have been the country she now was if her statesmen had dealt with her as Ireland was now being dealt with 1274 by the British Parliament. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had boasted of the many letters which he had received from the west of Ireland, couched, as he represented, in glowing terms, as to the future prospects of that part of the country. But he (Mr. French) could not find in the extracts read from those letters anything more than vague expressions as to the writer's "hopes of reviving prosperity." He would tell his right hon. Friend that he laid too much stress on those hopes, for they were founded only on the chance of an abundant potato crop. The people of Ireland had risked everything on the potato; and if that root failed them this year and the next, the famine would be tenfold more severe than Ireland had experienced during the last few years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had spoken of works executed by the Government commissioners at Borrisokane; and he (Mr. French) wished to call his attention to this fact. The estimates of the Government commissioners for those works amounted to 3,486l., but 6,612l. had been already expended, and 500l. more was required to finish them. He sincerely wished that he could, on the part of himself and of Ireland, thank the right hon. Gentleman for the measures which he had introduced for the amelioration of Ireland; but justice compelled him to tell the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that Ireland was being ruined by their policy; and that they had utterly failed in their duty in not proposing some great and comprehensive measure, calculated to grapple with the evils. The measures which they had proposed only placed additional burdens upon the landlord and tenant classes, which it was impossible for them to bear. The state to which the country had been reduced was almost beyond belief. A Roman Catholic dignitary writes—To attempt anything like a true description of the universal misery that prevails, would be futile; I have no heart to do it, nor can I say I know one hundredth part of the misery that exists, or the number of deaths that are daily and hourly taking place—one of my curates gave the same morning the last sacrament to thirty-seven persons in the auxiliary poorhouse, and remarks, 'I have four curates.'Another clergyman writes—Awful as was the destitution of the poor for the last three years, comparatively speaking, their state was good to what it is at the present time; to form a correct estimate you should witness the squalid misery and wasted forms of our starving and half-naked poor. All persons are 1275 disgusted with the puerile and bungling policy pursued by the present Government relative to the affairs of Ireland.Mr. Brett, the county surveyor of Mayo, states that the infants and children" seem almost like animals of a lower class; they are wasted and wan." He states, the entire county of Mayo to he in a state of insolvency—that the unencumbered properties are not only unable to give employment, but suffering great privations themselves. Would this state of affairs be allowed to continue in England? And why had not the Chancellor of the Exchequer assisted those gentlemen on the same principle they had at various times, by the public credit, supported and got through their difficulties the commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural interests of England? Had he attended to the representations made to him on this subject, a famine, which he (Mr. French) feared was inevitable in 1850, would have been avoided. The hon. Gentleman then quoted at considerable length, from a pamphlet recently published by Mr. Eneas M'Donnell, on the present condition of the land, &c, of Ireland, from which it appeared, that in a district in the county of Mayo, not less than 50,000 acres of available land had become entirely waste during the last two or three years, because the proprietors, encumbered or free, had no means of cultivating it. Had such a case occurred in England, Parliament would immediately have furnished the proprietors with ample means for the cultivation of the soil and the employment of the tenantry. The whole county of Mayo was in a state of hopeless insolvency, and, in a little time, every one who had the means would fly from that scene of desolation. But if the Government afforded sufficient means, there were still abundant natural resources for the support of a dense population. There was an inexhaustible supply of fish upon the coast; turbots, that would feed ten or twelve people, could be purchased for 6d.; but in consequence of the want of means of conveyance to a distant market, the fisheries were of little service to people of that district. In order to give them some idea of the afflicting condition of Mayo, he might mention that a gentleman, one of the largest landed proprietors of that county, had recently traversed districts, on which, twelve years ago, might be seen flocks to the value of 200,000l. The same district now presented a wild scene, on which not a living creature 1276 could be seen. Even one of the commissioners of the Government reported that Ireland now presented scenes on which no humane man could look unmoved. But, as that commissioner had reported, there were still sufficient resources in Ireland to give ample support to her people, if encouragement was afforded to the development of those resources. He (Mr. French), was of the same opinion. All Ireland required was not loans, but that England would take off her heavy hand from her, and permit her unrestricted to develop her great natural capacities. There were now vast districts in Ireland in which no tenants could be procured for the cultivation of the land; and notices of surrender were continually pouring into the hands of the landlords. Mr. Kincaid, in his evidence before the Select Committee of the Lords, states that he has in Roscommon, Sligo, and Mayo, several thousands of acres of the best grass land, upon which there is no arrear of rates due, and yet for which it is impossible to obtain tenants. The tillage farms are invariably thrown on his hands in a very deteriorated condition, full of weeds and exhausted. The House of Barrington and Co. have 400,000l. worth of property on sale, and are unable to find a single purchaser. Under these circumstances, Mr. Kincaid thought the class of magistrates and grand jurors would be utterly swept out of the country. The Catholic clergy themselves had began to despair of the country, and within the last few days, the Rev. Mr. Maher, a priest, residing in Carlow, in one of the best districts in Ireland, had announced his intention of leading a monster emigration, and had declared that his brethren were ready to co-operate in similar projects. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to say, that this Government drainage scheme was nothing more than a most prejudicial delusion. The loan commissioners were the sole judges as to the proper sum to be expended on the improvement of the land, in respect of which a loan might be asked. To them was given the entire and exclusive control of the expenditure of the loan; and they had exceeded their own estimates, by as much as 3,000l. in an estimate for 8,000l. It must also be recollected that one-half the proprietors of a district could compel the other half to concur in the obtaining of an arterial drainage loan, and to pay their quota of whatever sums the Board of Works might require—their lands within a mile of the works being liable for the costs 1277 equally with those immediately benefited. In the transaction, the Board of Works were the designers and executors, the contractors and the auditors; they planned the work to be done, and appointed their own officers to do it, and had despotic power to enforce the payment of charges the most exorbitant and unnecessary. In addition to these objections, it was his opinion that the gentry had received a lesson which would prevent them from availing themselves of the proposed loans. They had found that their only effort was to sink the proprietors deeper into embarrassments; and it appeared from the evidence of Mr. Hamilton, and was, indeed, notorious, that lands drained and improved, could not be let. "I have spent 15l. an acre," said Mr. Hamilton, "upon land, and much of it is lying totally unproductive." In conclusion, he protested against a continuation of the tinkering loan policy, which but held up Ireland to public view as a perpetual beggar. She could live upon her own resources, if she was permitted freely to use them: that she was not so permitted was the fact, and would be proved by going into the account of taxation between the two kingdoms. The noble Viscount the Member for Downshire had demonstrated the state of that account; and he trusted it would be held in mind, that in doing so he had shown that while England paid to the State 3s. in the pound, on a value of 100,000,000l., Ireland was forced to pay 8s. on a depreciated value that now is little over 9,000,000l. By going a little further, it would appear that on the whole revenue of the empire, England paid 52,000,000l. on a value of 250,000,000l., while Ireland contributed 5,000,000l. on a value of 20,000,000l. As to the railroad proposition, he would only now say, that the loan proposed was contrary to the principles laid down by the Government; and, as they proposed it, would be of no manner of use.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that he was not going to offer any observations either in opposition to or in approval of the proposition made by his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but there were a few points on which he thought it desirable that some explanation should be offered. He should like, in the first place, to know whether the Irish Members concurred in what had been said by his right hon. Friend, that those who opposed these advances proposed by the Government, lost sight of the state of Ireland. He confessed 1278 that he had himself expressed his opposition to any renewal of the 50,000l. loan; and one of the consequences of the opposition which the Government met with on that occasion was, that his right hon. Friend found out that the money could be provided in another way. He wished to know from his right hon. Friend whether the instalment on the money hitherto advanced under the Land Improvement Act had been regularly repaid; and if not, whether the provisions of the Act to enforce repayment had been put in force? He understood his right hon. Friend to say that double the sum granted had been applied for; but from the return moved for by his right hon. Friend the Member for Waterford, it appeared that the amount as yet expended showed by no means so large an expenditure as that statement of the right hon. Gentleman would imply. He wished to know, also, what opportunities would be given to the House for discussing this proposition after due consideration.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
wished to be allowed to explain, in answer to the questions put by his right hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, that he had not stated that those gentlemen who voted against the 50,000l. had done so in disregard of the sufferings of the Irish people; but what he said was, that the real condition of the people had been a good deal lost sight of throughout the whole debate. They were now in this awkward position—that the 50,000l. had been already expended, and every day that he did not hear of some fearful additional calamity he considered as a day gained. His right hon. Friend was mistaken in supposing that he had stated the whole fund applicable for land improvement as being exhausted. He had stated that 900,000l. and upwards, out of the 1,500,000l., had been issued, and that the remainder, or 548,000l., had been allocated, with the exception of a small sum, for future years. That sum having been allocated for the completion of works on hand, it was obvious that no portion of it could be applied to the giving of employment during the present year, and that additional funds should be provided if the House wished to give any increased aid to the employment of labour this year. His right hon. Friend appeared to think that there was some discrepancy between his statement and the return moved for by the hon. Member for Waterford; but such was not the case. What he had said on this 1279 point was this: the total amount of applications for advances under the Land 3Improvement Act was 3,074,000l Of these, advances to the amount of 1,544,000l. were sanctioned, out of which 112,000l. had been given up. But of that, 59,000l. had been reappropriated or resanctioned, leaving only 9,000l. unallocated, and yet at the disposal of the Government. His right hon. Friend wished to know how far the rent charges had been paid. The rent charges on account of advances due on the 10th of October last were 4,989l., and of this sum 4,935l. had been paid, leaving only a balance of 53l. still payable. Out of the charges due on the 5th of April, somewhat about 2,000l. had been paid in immediately on becoming due; but as the returns had to be made out within a few days after the 5th of April, no general result could have been expected. In reply to the last question of his right hon. Friend, he had only to say that as it would be necessary for him to bring in a Bill after the resolutions were agreed to, ample opportunity would be afforded for discussing the subject in detail.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, no person could doubt the advantage of arterial drainage, but the question to be considered was whether this measure was calculated to give any very extensive relief to destitution. He believed that it tended to have that effect; but he was convinced that every measure of this kind that they could adopt, would be thwarted while they retained the present large area of taxation. It was said that they underrated the grievances of Ireland; but what they complained of was that Her Majesty's Government did not themselves appreciate the magnitude of the evil with which they had to grapple. In the union with which he was connected, they had raised 40,000l., out of a valuation of 85,000l., for the relief of the poor. They had now 3,000 in the workhouse, and in the auxiliary workhouse, and there were 7,000 or 8,000 additional receiving outdoor relief, and a great portion of this vast pauperism was owing to the present area of taxation being so large and unwieldy. In his own union the Poor Law Commissioners were invited to exert their power to effect that object—the people there telling them that if it were done, that union would not want advances of money, because great numbers of persons would be immediately induced to come forward and meet the crisis. It had been alleged against the Irish Members that they had 1280 but one panacea for all the evils of Ireland. It was not true that they relied upon a single remedy to meet those evils; still it was perfectly consistent with common sense that when they knew there was one great principle at the bottom of those evils, and which was the cause of the failure of the poor-law in many districts of that country, where, but for the operation of that principle, it would be successful—it was, he repeated, but common sense for the Irish Members to endeavour to impress upon the House that by reducing the area of taxation that principle would be destroyed, and the evils it entailed upon the country would consequently be removed.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
hoped that there might be some opportunity afforded to hon. Members for making themselves acquainted with facts before the vote now proposed, and the Bill to sanction it, should have passed that House. The question of Irish distress was every day becoming more painful, in consequence of the extreme differences of opinion that existed respecting it. There was one thing which he should certainly like to know before the end of the Session, and that was—what was the subject which the Irish Members really did agree upon? The English Members did agree upon a great many subjects, though he would not say that they were of one opinion in respect to this vote; but the extrordinary thing to him was, that the Irish Members did not even agree upon the single question as to receiving the public money. Apparently they did not, though he doubted whether, notwithstanding they spoke against it, they would not in substance be quite willing to accept it. They had one hon. Member taunting the Government with throwing away the public money without doing any good; another Member saying "No money will do us good; give us good laws, and take away your poor-law; "while a third exclaimed, "We don't want your money, but give us something that shall afford employment to the people, and save them from starvation." But what was that something? He strongly suspected that when they came to a division, not one Irish Member would be found to vote against it. He himself should certainly speak against it, although he should vote for it. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer had justly said that the prominent feature in the present case ought with all of them to be the miserable, wretched, starving, and dying condition of the people of Ireland. 1281 That was the foundation of these grants; and that alone was the reason why Her Majesty's Government called upon the English Members to support them. Thus appealed to, there was not, he trusted, any English Member who would refuse this aid. He wished, however, that money could be better applied, and that those who had the application of it could be relieved from the obloquy of wasting and throwing it away. He had no confidence in the Board of Works, than which a more expensive or wasteful board had never existed in the united kingdom. He had the authority of the hon. Member for Shropshire for stating that drainage which had cost the Board 32l. per acre, might have been done by the landlord at 5l. the acre. Why should not the thing be managed in Ireland as it was in England, the money given to the landlord, while the work was inspected by a Government superintendent?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
thought a little explanation would save a great deal of discussion; he would therefore inform his hon. Friend that the two Acts under which he proposed to advance this money were the Land Improvement Act, and the River Drainage Act. Under the first, the works were performed by the landlord, and inspected by the Government officer. Under the latter the Board performed the work, as the rivers going through many estates rendered it difficult by any other means. It had been found impossible to procure agreement among the proprietors as to the apportionment of the work, and therefore the Board had been obliged to undertake it. The observations of the hon. Member for Shropshire applied to neither one Act nor the other, but to works which had been undertaken simply for relief purposes under what was called Mr. Labouchere's Act.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, the question he had asked the right hon. Gentleman was, how the money was to be applied; whether it was to be applied by the Board of Works? to which an answer in the affirmative was returned. Had a distinction been made upon that occasion by the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the mode of application, he (Mr. Aglionby) should not have advanced the observations which he did; but upon this he had distinctly come to the conclusion that he never would invest any power in the hands of the Board of Works in Ireland. And he would tell the House the reason. They were all 1282 aware of a case in which English money had been subscribed and laid out in the sister country; and, with respect to that case, there was a complaint against the right hon. Gentleman. A company had provided money to the extent of 15,000l., but the Irish Members had repudiated sums from an independent source, and therefore they ought not to be given any Government advance. The company had for its object the Lough Corrib drainage. A tender of evidence had been made to the right hon. Gentleman, with the view of showing that he had been entirely misinformed relative to the company in question, and that he had been acting under a misconception; but if report were true, he had refused to listen to the testimony. The Lough Corrib drainage was intended, as he said before, to be carried out by an English company. ["Question!"] He was speaking to the question—an Irish question.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
rose to order. The drainage of Lough Corrib had been debated on a former occasion, when a private Bill was before the House.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
contended that he was speaking to the question, if he succeeded in showing that the Irish might have money from other sources, and that they refused it. His point was this—that, when they refused money offered to them, they had no right to come to the House and say they would take it from the Legislature. He believed it would be shown to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that what he had been informed about the Lough Corrib Company was untrue. It was believed that they had not proceeded with their works. The fact, however, was, that although they were prevented for some time by circumstances over which they had no control from being able to carry on their operations, it was a mistake to suppose that the 15,000l. had all been laid out in law expenses. Most of it had been expended in hard cash upon Irish labourers, who were in the habit of assembling in the marketplace on a Saturday evening to receive their wages; and this expenditure would have gone on until the Board of Works stepped in and came to issue with the company. He hoped this subject would again be discussed, and that the conduct of the Board of Works would not escape investigation.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that a direct charge had been 1283 advanced against him of having refused to receive information, and of thereby having committed an injustice. He wished his hon. Friend the Member for Cockermouth had taken the trouble to make some inquiry, and ascertained the real facts of the case, before he advanced a charge of the kind. When he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) went down into Yorkshire during the recess, he stated to a gentleman from the Lough Corrib Company, who had called upon him, that, as there was a legal question pending in the Irish courts respecting the company and the Board of Works, it was desirable to have that question settled before any legislation upon the subject took place. The gentleman then showed him a letter from the company to the effect that it was improper to introduce the Lough Corrib Bill pending the legal inquiry. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) observed in reply that he was glad the company took the same view as he did himself upon that subject. The gentleman having then requested that no unnecessary delay should take place in settling the question in the courts of law, a promise was given him that his request should be complied with, and a letter in accordance with the promise was immediately written to the Board of Works.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
admitted that he owed an apology to the right hon. Gentleman for not having, in common courtesy, informed him previously of what he had heard. He dared say he might have misunderstood the parties; but they certainly showed him some documents with the view of proving that the right hon. Gentleman had been misinformed as to the expenditure of their money in nothing besides law proceedings; and when he asked one of them in the lobby of the House whether a deputation had been sent to explain matters, the reply was that information had been declined.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
might have told them that he did not see any advantage in going into the merits of the question until the proceedings in the courts of law had terminated.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
expressed his gratitude to the Government for their conduct upon the present occasion, and said that they would have the grateful thanks of thousands, whose condition would be improved by the works that were to be carried on under the proposed arrangement. The noble Viscount then proceeded to quote, at considerable length, letters from 1284 various correspondents, clerical and lay, in the western districts of the county of Cork, showing the dreadful state of the destitution to which the people were reduced, and said that his object in rising was chiefly to point out to the Government the great difficulties they would have to contend with. It was the want of co-operation amongst the landed proprietors. That want of cooperation and agreement amongst themselves it was which rendered the former Drainage Acts inoperative; and the only way in which the difficulty could be surmounted, would be by the Chancellor of the Exchequer obtaining a compulsory enactment, which should enable the Government to lay out the works to be done, and to have them done, no matter who dissented. It would be impossible to get proprietors to agree upon a system of arterial drainage, for example—many persons would be prevented from draining into the upper part of a river by the opposition which they would receive from those whoso property lay lower down, and the only way in which the matter could be settled would be by a general and compulsory system. But the best mode of employment for the labouring population, and the system which would conduce most to the general welfare of the country, was the making of railways. They would open up the resources of the country, and enable the fisheries to be carried on profitably. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, he hoped yet to see Ireland prosperous and happy. But to bring about the condition of prosperity, it was necessary to give the country a strong stimulus to carry it through its transition state. As to the effect upon the united kingdom of loans for public purposes, he (Viscount Bernard) begged to say that every such advance of public money had been attended with an increase to the revenue of the country. Even the labour-rate did not seem to have failed in producing some benefit.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, he might congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House upon this, that amidst the dismal accounts which were daily received from Ireland, a bright spot at last appeared. He gave Her Majesty's Government credit for this at least, that they had taken the affairs of Ireland into serious consideration. There were many measures which might prove beneficial to the country; they formed, indeed, a part of the scheme of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, 1285 but it would redound to their credit if they were carried out. He gave Her Majesty's Government credit for good intentions and honesty of purpose. Now, though the Government under these measures had the power to sell estates, they must find purchasers for them. But they could not find purchasers for these estates—they could not find purchasers unless they altered the whole system of management in Ireland. So long as the present system of poor-law was permitted to he worked in Ireland, so long would all legislation be in vain in respect to the improvement or sale of lands.
§ MR. TRELAWNY
must oppose the proposition for advancing British money for the purpose indicated by the resolution. He altogether deprecated the system of going on advancing sum after sum, and think that they were benefiting Ireland by so doing. The Irish Members, he thought, had not exhibited any particular sagacity in saying anything about the matter to-night. They ought to have taken their cake in silence; but the present system was one which would not be long continued. Since he had been a Member of that House, upwards of 10,000,000l. had been advanced in Irish loans. Now, either the productiveness of the soil must be brought up to the amount of the population, or the amount of the population must be brought down to the standard of the productiveness of the soil. The policy adopted by Government, however, was by no means suited for bringing about either the one or the other of these consummations. If he had any hope that this would be the last grant that would be demanded, he would be ready to accede to it; but there appeared to be no chance of anything of the kind. The pressure of the famine was over now, and if the sum of 5,000,000l. would clear us at once and for ever of Irish liabilities, he would be ready to vote for granting it; but the case seemed altogether hopeless. There was a reaction against free trade going on in many parts of the country—a reaction which was caused by the distress produced amongst the people by continued Irish grants; and he feared that if they were to go on exhausting their energies in this manner, a powerful argument against free trade would be the result of their proceedings. The hon. Gentleman concluded by stating it to be his intention to divide the House on the resolution.
§ MR. STAFFORD
observed, that the 1286 objections of the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken to the grant, seemed to be based upon certain objections which it was stated were made to our recent free-trade policy. The fact was, that the hon. Gentleman had to choose between preserving the lives of the Irish, and advancing his own system of economic philosophy, and he had not hesitated about sacrificing the one for the promotion of the other. The hon. Gentleman had assured the House that the Irish famine was over. [MR. TRELAWNY explained that he had referred to the potato famine.] What was the meaning of the potato famine being over? Had the potatoes come back to Ireland? He found that the hon. Gentleman was as incorrect in his facts as in the theory which he sought to found upon them. He (Mr. Stafford) denied that the Irish Members had exhibited anything like importunity in reference to this grant. He contended that the advance, received as it was conditionally, and without much expression of gratitude, showed that the present measure had not been very eagerly sought after by the Irish Members. An hon. Gentleman had stated that it was his intention to divide the House on the resolution. Now, in one point of view, he (Mr. Stafford) certainly saw much to disapprove in the policy at present being pursued. He saw great risk in making Ireland so great a debtor to the imperial treasury. If they were to sum up all which Ireland now owed, and all it was likely she would owe, he thought the House would agree with him that it became a serious question how far they had acted wisely in plunging one portion of the British dominions so deeply in debt to the imperial treasury; as it was probable that Ireland would soon be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer should remember, when he charged Irish Members with offering obstructions to the passing of remedial measures for Ireland, that it was only by making long speeches that they had been enabled to pump up any measures of relief. The hon. and learned Member for Cocker-mouth, a year or two ago, had taunted the Irish Members with not having made up their minds as to what measures were necessary for Ireland. Now, looking at the Votes of last year, it would be found that on the 28th of February, 1848, on the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Portarlington, the Irish Members were unanimous in expressing a strong and earnest remonstrance to the Government for a Com- 1287 mittee to inquire into the operation of that poor-law which they then found was working so badly. He regretted to have found the name of the hon. Member for Tavistock amongst the majority of English Members on that occasion; and he thought it came with an ill grace from those who had voted with the majority to taunt Irish Members with a want of unanimity. [Mr. AGLIONBY: I voted with you.] Yes, and exhibited, in conjunction with his constituents, who did not seem able to make up their minds on the subject, much greater discord than could be charged against the Irish Members. The hon. Member had spoken one way and voted another, showing a tendency to hyper Hibernianism of which the Irish might be declared, on that question, to be free.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
indignantly repudiated the attacks which Gentlemen of the free-trade school were in the habit of making against Ireland. Free-traders in that House said, that neither grants nor loans should on any account be made by the British Parliament for Irish purposes. He trusted that the Irish Members would not forget that sentiment. To exhibit the ignorance of the Gentlemen of the free-trade school on this question, he quoted from a return which had been placed on the table of the House within the last ten days, showing that during the last few years nearly 8,000,000l. had been granted by Parliament for various public purposes in England. The money had been expended in the making of canals, bridges, harbours, docks, roads, breakwaters, and on other objects. He could not refrain from reminding the House of this fact, when there seemed to be a disposition to deny a paltry sum to the relief of the necessities of Ireland. Ireland was as badly off at this moment as she had ever been: the famine of the last three years not only dragged down the poor, but the rich also. He had received accounts from that country within the last few days which exhibited Ireland as being in the most destitute condition. Mr. Villiers Stuart, a gentleman not unknown in that House, writing as chairman of the Garrick-on-Suir union, stated, that in the course of a single day 194 paupers over and above the usual number had applied for relief. A letter from the Mayor of Waterford stated that at the time it was written there were in the workhouse of Tipperary 579 ablebodied men. The sum of 500,000l., now proposed to be voted, would fall far short of the neces- 1288 sities of the case. The Board of Works in Ireland had applied for 3,000,000l.; the Government had allocated only 1,500,000l. To call the sum now to be granted a gift, was to miscall it. No loan had ever been better secured. Similar loans had been made to England and Scotland when the occasion had not been nearly so urgent. He begged to offer a suggestion or two to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the distribution of this loan. He should certainly recommend its being divided into sums in no instance exceeding 1,000l., and being spread over as large a surface as possible. And considering, also, the great want of employment at present felt in Ireland—the large masses of ablebodied paupers at this time in the poorhouses, he would recommend that the parties borrowing the money should be compelled to disburse it within a period of twelve months. He could not agree with the censure which had been cast upon the Board of Works in Ireland. Bearing in mind the extent of the labour imposed on them, he thought they had carried out the drainage expenditure in that country with as much economy as could be expected. Having freely opposed the Government when he thought that they were not by their measures advancing the interests of Ireland—having, for instance, opposed them in the rate-in-aid question—it was with pleasure that he could express his opinion that the step they were now taking was one in the right direction. This loan on credit, while it would not injure the public resources of this country, would confer an immediate benefit upon Ireland, and indirectly improve the resources of the empire at large.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, he would address the Committee for two or three minutes, and upon only two or three points. Giving the Government credit for their proposition, and admitting that some good might result from it, he, nevertheless, thought that they had overlooked one or two important features in the present condition of Ireland. The first step the Government should take should be to stop the wasting of life, which, in defiance of the poor-law, was now going on. The people could not subsist on one pound of yellow meal per diem for each pauper. Such a scale of relief ought to be raised; and if the Government found it necessary to raise additional sums for that purpose, they should brave public disapprobation, if such existed, and come forward boldly and ask for the money. He also thought 1289 it of importance to secure the tenantry of Ireland in the enjoyment of the fair fruits of their labour. If that were done, that class of persons would cease to think of emigrating to America. His appeal to the Government at this moment, however, was for food for the present, and security for the future.
§ MR. REYNOLDS
felt bound to state that he heard the plan of the Government with feelings of unmixed satisfaction. The well-toned and equally well-timed speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was certain, would be well received on the other side of the Channel. The money to be advanced was to be expended in the employment of labour, and he had expected that Irish Members generally would have hailed the plan as one likely to benefit the country. Though they might regret that the grant was not larger, they must rejoice that the national exchequer was not to be for ever hermetically scaled against the distress of Ireland. He had that day heard the clerk of the Limerick union examined before the Irish Poor Law Committee, and the details he gave were most harrowing. He stated that numbers of ablebodied men in the workhouse had previously offered to work at twopence per day. He (Mr. Reynolds) rejoiced to learn that the subject of an advance to the Gal-way railway was still under consideration. The other remedial measures would be incomplete, unless the means were given for improving the internal communication in the west of Ireland. He had had some experience of arterial drainage in Galway; the suspension of certain works there had been most injurious, and it was essential that they should be resumed as early as possible. In making the grant now proposed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be certain, not only of its repayment, but of the interest being regularly paid. An hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for Shropshire, had complained of his having had to pay 200l. for the drainage of six acres of land; but, if he had done so, it was his own fault, for he might have employed his own hands, the Board of Works merely sending an inspector to see that the work was properly executed.
§ The votes of 300,00l. and 200,000l. were severally agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported on Monday next.