HC Deb 17 May 1849 vol 105 cc589-631

moved that this Bill be read a Second Time.


would not oppose the second reading of the Bill, the importance of which could not be denied; but he begged to offer a few suggestions, in no hostile spirit, with respect to some of its provisions. He thought it had been prematurely prepared, and that the Government should have waited for the reports of the Committees appointed to inquire into the subject, and also for the opinions of the authorities in Ireland, who were conversant with the state of that country. The first provision of the Bill was the limitation of the rate to 5s. in the pound on the electoral divisions. The establishing of a maximum rate was certainly most desirable in order to give encouragement to those expectant proprietors to face the difficulties to which they would be exposed in Ireland, and to give them an assurance that no rate beyond a certain amount would be charged upon the land of which they might be the purchasers. He believed that the maximum rate of 5s. on the electoral divisions, and the 2s. extra rate on the union at large, had been practically condemned by official persons from Ireland who had been examined before the Committees. However well intentioned the measure, he considered it to be a very imperfect one, and a mere skeleton of a Bill. He should greatly prefer the maximum rate of 7s. being at once put upon the electoral division. He considered the power of calling upon the union at large to pay an additional rate of 2s. after the electoral district had been charged a rate of 5s., would be holding out an inducement to the board of guardians to impose a 5s. rate on the electoral district, in order that they might obtain the additional 2s. rate from the union at large. This, it was obvious, would altogether defeat the intention of the Government, which was that the new proprietors should have a security against being charged more heavily than the absolute necessity of the case required, and that in no case should that charge exceed 5s. in the pound. Another inducement for adopting this course would be that the guardians would find it far easier to collect a rate from the union at large, than from their own impoverished electoral district within the union. The Bill said, that the maximum rate of 5s. should be struck on the electoral district, but it did not say that it should be levied. There were eight unions mentioned in the Treasury Minute which authorised the expenditure of the public money in aid of the rate of those unions. Amongst them was the too well-known union of Ballina. Now, the amount of the rates struck for that union was 30,464l., but of which sum 7,502l. only had been collected. The full rate of 5s. was not imposed in any electoral district of that union; but, supposing it had been, then, whether the rate was levied or not, the board of guardians would have been entitled to go to the whole union for the additional rate of 2s. The very notion of a maximum rate necessarily involved the supposition that an amount beyond the maximum might be required in some particular union. If that should occur—and if the whole 7s. rate (the 5s. and 2s.) should be found insufficient, who, he would ask, was to bear the extra charge that might be required? Was it to be supposed that the sixpenny rate in aid was to be a permanent mode of providing for such a surplus expenditure after the maximum rate of 7s. had been obtained; or was it to be understood that every distressed union in Ireland was to be relieved from the Imperial Exchequer? There should be a distinct understanding as to how this difficulty was to be met; for, unless some provision was made, it was obvious that the parties requiring relief, under the circumstances to which he referred, must be left to starve. There was another point which required consideration, and that was, what were they to do in repect to those eight unions which, according to a Treasury Minute, were not in a condition to bear their own special burdens? For, though a rate might be struck in those unions, there was an obvious distinction between striking a rate and levying a rate; and, suppose a rate could not be levied, what was to be done for the support of the poor in those places? There was another case which frequently occurred, and for which no provision was made by this Bill. By the operation of the extended Poor Law Act, parties in possession of a house and a quarter of an acre of land were entitled to relief; and a question had arisen whether a tenant who, though possessing a lease of a farm containing more than a quarter of an acre, had ceased to occupy more than that quantity, was entitled to relief. An eminent lawyer in Dublin had given an opinion that a tenant so surrendering his land beyond the quarter of an acre was entitled to relief, though he (Mr. Grogan) must say he could not see how a party in such circumstances could surrender a part without surrendering the whole. The Poor Law Commissioners, however, had acted upon the opinion of that eminent lawyer, and therefore he begged to suggest, that in order to prevent the land so surrendered from lying waste and unproductive, some provision should be introduced into this Bill to enable the immediate lessor, upon producing a certificate that the tenant was in receipt of public charity, to take possession of the land, and occupy and till it, notwithstanding any lease or tenure against him. The hon. Member called the attention of the Government to several other minor points, in which he considered the Bill defective, and concluded by saying that there was one fatal omission, and that was, a provision for reducing the area of taxation, for, however well intentioned, and however necessary the other provisions of the Bill might be, they would be all quite ineffective without that one.


thought that the provisions of the Bill could be best discussed in Committee. Some matters in it might be objectionable, but he approved of it on the whole. What he chiefly disapproved of was, that it did not bear out its title in providing for the more effectual relief of the poor in Ireland. They were not properly relieved at present, and the Bill did not go far enough to provide effectually that they should be relieved. In order to reconcile indoor relief with the principles of common humanity, it was necessary that it should be administered in well-regulated workhouses. Now, the Irish workhouses were not well regulated. The condition of all was bad; of several it was really frightful—the filth, the disease, the overcrowding of the houses propagating disease of every description, until the destruction of human life became most awful. They had heard the other night the fearful condition of the Ballinasloe workhouse, and of the workhouses of Kenmare and Skibbereen, in the latter of which the paupers were crowded six and eight in a bed, the size of the beds being 6 feet by 3½, and the people placed, three with their heads at one end, and three with their heads at the other. Was it any wonder that the mortality was frightful? The condition of the poor and middling classes in Ireland, as described in the admirable report of the Society of Friends, was a disgrace to any country. Nor was the outdoor relief of any better quality. It was administered in the shape of a pound of yellow (Indian) meal a day; and even that, insufficient as it was to keep the poor creatures from starvation, they did not get. They were subjected to frauds of various descriptions. The relieving officers used false weights; some had been fined for so doing; so that the poor did not get even the small allowance that was intended for them. But, again, the great majority of those who got the relief had no houses to eat it in, and no fuel to cook it with; and by the evidence given before the Poor Law Committee it appeared that many of them consumed the entire allowance within the first four or five days of the week, so that they had nothing whatever to eat for the other two or three. The outdoor relief, too, consisted in food only; there was nothing for clothing, nothing for fuel, and so insufficient was the allowance of food that the people were dying of slow starvation. Was it intended that they should be gradually starved out? Was it intended that the relief should be insufficient? If the Government took proper steps the people would be profitably employed, and every penny laid out for them could be got back. There was no occasion to make grants. The ablebodied could be employed—the number of paupers diminished fully two-thirds, and the land made vastly more profitable than it was at present. As to the modes of remunerative employment, of reproductive works, there was their own—the Government—plan of arterial drainage. There were the unfurnished roads to be perfected; railroads to be extended; and he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would shortly lay before the House a proposition for aiding the making of railroads in Ireland; and there was the cultivation of waste land. To the political economists, he could say that Mr. Butt, the professor of political economy in the University of Dublin, agreed in opinion with him upon the subject of unproductive relief to the ablebodied poor being bad economy. They had idle men and idle land. They ought to put the idle men on the idle land if they carried out such a system there would be no fear of socialism. There was an excellent example set in that respect by the monks at Mount Melleray, in the south, who had reclaimed a barren spot, and made it fertile enough not only to support themselves, but to yield surplus produce. But what he complained of in the Bill before the House was, that it contained no provision for the more effectual relief of the poor of Ireland, although that was its title. There was no compulsion in it to prevent the continuance of that which they read of in the daily papers every day, the finding of dead bodies along the roads—the bodies of people who had died of starvation. Who, he would ask, was responsible for it? Why was not responsibility cast somewhere? Why was not responsibility introduced into the Bill? Nothing would stop the present frightful state of things, but the making of some one answerable for its continuance. They should make the guardians, or the Poor Law Commissioners, or the Government, responsible. When rebellion was rife in Ireland, the Earl of Clarendon promised the people that they should have the right of relief secured to them—that they should not be allowed to starve; yet they were, even now, starving. There should be some power given to compel the giving of sufficient relief, so as that people should not be refused. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland might say that there was compulsion already existing—that the relieving officer might be dismissed. But what was dismissal from a situation of 8s. a week, which was all that was paid to relieving officers in Ireland? It was not a very magnificent sum, scarcely sufficiently tempting to render the fear of dismissal strong enough to be a check? He hoped that when the Bill came before the Committee, the Government would be prepared to introduce some measure to protect the poor from being allowed to starve.


would not detain the House for any length of time at that stage of the proceedings; but he thought it would be necessary and right that some Member of the Government should inform them why, when a Committee was sitting upstairs to inquire into the Irish poor-law, the noble Lord had brought in a Bill upon the subject before the Committee had made its report. He thought it rather an extraordinary proceeding on the part of the Government. Why did the noble Lord go through the farce of sending a number of Gentlemen upstairs at the beginning of the Session, to whom he paid no attention at all? He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland should come forward, break through his habitual reserve, and say whether he was a Member of the Government at all or not, and give some reason for the Irish Government being so utterly neglectful. He (Mr. Osborne) did not oppose the second reading of the Bill, because he probably entertained peculiar opinions upon the subject. He thought it was utterly impossible to struggle to reduce the amount of destitution in Ireland under the present system of peddling legislation. A rate upon the land of Ireland would be altogether incompetent to afford any relief at all commensurate with the destitution existing there. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud had talked about the ablebodied poor of Ireland; but there were no ablebodied poor there. He (Mr. Osborne) regretted to be obliged to say that such a class did not exist. There were no ablebodied poor men, except those who were employed by particular proprietors, who kept them in regular work and wages. And when he spoke of 8s. a week as no very magnificent sum, he spoke under a total misapprehension of the value of money and employment in Ireland at present. Why, 8s. a week was a fortune to any man in Ireland now. Did the hon. Gentleman know that the average wages there never exceeded 5s. a week? [An Hon. MEMBER suggested that the average was only 4s.] He begged pardon, he had actually overstated it—4s. a week was the average. But he had to add to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman in regard to outdoor relief, that in the union of Cashel, in the very centre of Ireland, where they were now giving outdoor relief to 12,000 poor people, they were not keeping them alive; and some of the poor were actually selling their pound of yellow meal to obtain clothing. Yet, in the face of all this, the Government were determined to cling to their English system, which, even in their own rich country, had broken down, and which would bring them at last, in spite of themselves, to a national rate. But in Ireland they had not the elements from which to make unpaid boards of guardians, and the poor were better relieved when they had vice or paid guardians. He was for a national rate and paid boards of guardians. As to the Bill before them it might be materially improved in Committee, but he had made up his mind not to take any responsibility whatsoever upon himself concerning it. In the ninth clause he disapproved of the term of seven years. He thought twenty-one little enough to allow an improving tenant to have the benefit of his money. But there were many things that required alterations. At present the tenants of Grown lands in Ireland were not liable to poor-rate, which he thought they ought to be. But when the hon. Member for Stroud, who was entitled to great praise for the pains he had taken, and the sincerity he had shown upon the subject, spoke so much of what might be done with the waste lands of Ireland, he begged to ask him—was he aware that the monks of Mount Melleray found themselves so reduced, between the poor-rates and the barrenness of the soil they had undertaken to contend with, that they were actually obliged to desert their place? There was no use in locating people upon waste lands, unless the scheme would pay. The hon. Gentleman should, therefore, look more narrowly into the subject; for he (Mr. Osborne) feared that, with the hon. Gentleman's great ability and influence in the House, he was leading them astray. But, as to the measure under consideration, it was a delusion upon the people of this country and of Ireland to pretend that they could protect and support the destitute poor of Ireland by any peddling Bill to amend their previous Act.


complained of an omission in the Bill of all reference to the question of settlement, and called upon the Government to take that most important subject into their consideration, and to legislate upon it while the present measure was passing through Committee.


did not rise to offer any opposition to the Bill, but merely to make a suggestion, which he had been asked to do by several individuals who felt themselves aggrieved. It would be in the recollection of the House, that the former Poor Law Bill exempted the occupiers of Crown property in Ireland from the payment of poor-rates; but he humbly submitted that this exemption should now be done away with, and that the occupiers in question should be made to contribute their fair proportion towards the relief of distress.


said, the hon. Member for Middlesex had asked why the present Bill should be pressed through the House while there was a Committee sitting upstairs to inquire into the operation of poor-law in Ireland? He (Colonel Dunne) could answer the question. He believed that that Committee would not submit a report, and that they were doing nothing. It was composed, amongst others, of the hon. Member for Manchester, who, he was convinced, would do mischief—and who had the Committee completely under his influence. He confessed candidly that he had no confidence in the Committee, and he knew of his own knowledge that many witnesses had been examined by them on subjects which were totally irrelevant to the Irish poor-law. He should not oppose the second reading of the present Bill, because it contained several provisions of which he highly approved; but he was convinced that in itself it would be perfectly futile. It left the root of the evil untouched. It did not affect the expensive administration of the poor-law—a law which had aggravated the miseries of the sister country, and which so long as it remained unchanged, would not afford adequate relief to the suffering masses. He would oppose those clauses which introduced a principle that was contrary to common sense and justice—he alluded to the power they conferred of selling lands in satisfaction of the poor-rates. It was said that such a power already existed; but the House should recollect that it had never been exercised. In the first clause, which recognised the principle of establishing a maximum rate, he cordially concurred, and he was quite willing to admit that Irish property ought to support Irish poverty, provided that property was at their disposal. He would tax persons who held property and lived out of the country, and he would devote a portion of the money drawn from the soil in such cases to the support of the poor. He would also tax other property as well as landed property, and he would support the people by means of reproductive works.


said, the state of Ireland with regard to the poor-law was such that it could not be worse. For that reason he should oppose no obstacle in the way of the second reading of this measure, in the hope that in Committee it would be so amended as to be effective for some good. Union rating was the main principle of the Bill, as it was the most important principle of the poor-law: but it was attempted to be introduced in a roundabout and mischievous mode, which would render necessary more grants from the imperial treasury, or the people would die, as they were now dying, of starvation. He called upon the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland to state why the area of taxation in England, in its parishes, should average 2,000 acres, whilst in Ireland it averaged over 9,800 acres, including Ulster, where the parishes were smaller? Taking Ulster away, the average size was 11,000 acres. It was these extensive areas of taxation which caused the undoubted failure of the poor-law in many districts which would otherwise have supported themselves. The poor-law, as administered, had totally destroyed all energy in Ireland. On the 8th of May there were 3,282 indoor paupers in the union in which he lived, which was called a prosperous district, maintaining its own poor. There were also 9,700 paupers receiving outdoor relief, making a total of nearly 13,000 persons. Within three weeks ago the deaths were at the rate of 1 per cent per week; but they had since increased to the rate of 1½ per cent per week; and by the last return he found there had been fifty-two deaths in one week out of 3,280 persons. This was in a prosperous union, as it was called—a union which required no money assistance; and he found that in the same union there had been collected, in thirteen months, in one electoral division 14s. in the pound, 10s. in another, 9s. in a third, and in the lowest 6s. in the pound. The total amount collected in thirteen months, without the intervention of a policeman or a soldier, had been 40,680l. out of a valuation of 85,680l. a year. The union had paid its way, and did not owe a farthing. In 1847 the guardians of this union memorialised the Poor Law Commissioners to stimulate employment, by merely putting the law into force, and allowing the guardians to do their duty. Their representations, however, were neglected, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would state the reason of it. The consequence had been that at the present moment 13,000 persons were receiving relief, who, if the representations of the guardians had been attended to, would have been earning an honest livelihood. When people were thus dying of starvation, and the property of gentlemen was passing away from them, excuse might be made for strong language. When hon. Gentlemen opposite listened to the opinions of theorisers about disturbing a labour market which did not exist, instead of calling for the opinions of farmers and others in the district, and instead of carrying out their own law, he was justified in using warm expressions. Now, what was the case with the union of Tralee? It was hopelessly bankrupt. In 1847, the guardians memorialised the commissioners to carry out the Act. They asked to have the electoral divisions reduced, having regard to a proper distribution of the pauperism, and to the interests of the distressed districts. The size of the electoral districts in that union was 25,000 acres. Their representations, however, were disregarded, and now they had called for pecuniary relief. He charged the Government, then, with being the direct cause of this state of things. The Government alone had caused the honest, manly, independence of Ireland to disappear, and give place to hopeless beggary which had no resource but the imperial treasury.


said, the hon. Gentlemen the Member for Middlesex was rather inconsistent in the charge he had made with respect to the Committee. In proposing that Committee, he (Sir W. Somerville) remembered being told that it was the duty of Government to take the responsibility of proposing a measure at once, without waiting for the Committee's report. Now, when a Committee had been appointed, the Government would have been guilty of a breach of faith if they had not proposed its reappointment. But if the Government had waited for their report, which could not be presented before the conclusion of the Session, it would have been said, there was then no time to discuss its merits. The hon. Member for the city of Dublin had alluded to many of the objections which had been urged against this Bill, as had the hon. Member for Stroud, who had, he thought, rather wandered into subjects not intimately connected with the measure before the House. That hon. Gentleman had somewhat mixed up the question of relief to the poor with that of the employment of labour. The hon. Member had blamed the law and the administration of it by the Poor Law Commissioners, but it should be remembered that the Commissioners were only empowered to carry out the law. The gravamen of the hon. Gentleman's charge was that the Commissioners had not gone beyond the provisions of the second clause of the amended Poor Law Act, which, in fact, only enabled them to distribute relief to the poor. His hon. Friend who had spoken last had accused him of not answering a question which he had addressed to him on the subject of the reduction in the area of taxation. The hon. Gentleman said he had inquired why the unions should be large in Ireland, and small in England; but he assured the hon. Gentleman that he could not remember that question to have been put. He certainly remembered his hon. Friend to have asked him why the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland had not conceded the request made to them by the Killarney board of guardians to reduce the area of taxation; and his hon. Friend on two or three former occasions had attempted to do what he had again attempted to-night—namely, to fix upon the Government the responsibility of having interfered with the prosperity of the Killarney union, by not having so reduced the area of taxation. His hon. Friend seemed to labour under the impression that the Commissioners were bound to accede to the requests of boards of guardians, whatever they might be. That was not the case. Parliament, as had been properly remarked by Mr. Twisleton, had invested the Commissioners with a discretionary power with respect to all such memorials from the boards of guardians. But this question of reduced areas of taxation was not now being discussed for the first time. Last year he (Sir W. Somerville) had given his reasons why he did not think that a reduction in the area of taxation would have a very beneficial effect. In the instance to which his hon. Friend had referred, he was of opinion that the Commissioners had exercised a sound discretion in not giving effect to the memorial which had been presented to them: for it certainly did not appear to him to be in the province of the Commissioners to make such alterations as should remove taxation from the shoulders of one set of men, and place additional taxation upon the shoulders of another set. He had always been of opinion that the execution of such a plan as the reduction of the taxation area in Ireland, should proceed upon the recommendation of a commission specially appointed for the purpose. The Killarney board of guardians had recommended reduction in the area of taxation; but he could not help thinking that, when the collector came round, and the occupier found that, according to future arrangements, he would have to pay an increased amount of rates, he would regard the proposal with great dissatisfaction. A request similar to that of the Killarney board of guardians had been acted upon in a barony in the county of Carlow. In that instance there had been a division of the electoral district, upon a request as unanimously preferred as that of the Killarney board of guardians. But he remembered that when the alteration was made by which a larger amount of taxation was imposed, it gave rise to great dissatisfaction. The Government were accused of being actuated by unworthy motives in dividing the electoral district; and it was said that they desired to remove a certain amount of taxation from the shoulders of Mr. This, and transfer it to those of Mr. That. He need not say that there was no foundation for that charge against the Government; but the course which had on that occasion been taken had certainly given rise to very great dissatisfaction. He trusted, therefore, that his hon. Friend would acquit the Government of any desire to withhold consideration from the memorial of the Killarney board of guardians. [Mr. H. HERBERT: It was the memorial of the whole county.] He thought it had been the memorial of an union in Killarney. [Mr. HERBERT: I mentioned Tralee also.] That, he thought, did not make any difference. He considered that the Commissioners had acted wisely in not carrying that memorial into effect. He admitted that no suggestions should he be more ready to listen to than to any which might fall from his hon. Friend, for he was aware that this question of the area of taxation had engaged his particular attention. He well knew, also, that upon this question his hon. Friend believed that the efficient working and well-being of the poor-law in Ireland depended. Assuring his hon. Friend that the important question of reducing the size of electoral divisions had not been neglected by the Government, and that there was no indisposition on their part to give the recommendations of the boundary commissioners full effect, he would add that if these commissioners should recommend a more reduced area of taxation, or any other course, their suggestions should receive the fullest consideration of the Government.


thought it rather singular that all the discussion which had taken place on the subject before the House should have turned upon omissions in the Bill. His remarks would bear upon what was in the Bill—upon what he thought a novel and important principle introduced into it. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Middlesex in his censure upon the Government. He thought that the country was indebted to them for the first introduction of the poor-law, as opening up for consideration the entire question of relief to the poor; for some of the reports of the Commissioners had fully exposed the rotten social condition of Ireland. He looked for the report of the Committee now sitting on the subject with the greatest possible interest; but if, as everybody said, that Committee would come to no decision, he thought that the Government deserved praise for having come forward with an opinion of their own. He had not heard anything from Irish Members upon this maximum rate. Upon that, it seemed, they were all agreed. ["No, no!"] Then he was still more astonished that not one of them had mentioned a subject which to English ears had rather a formidable sound. An hon. Member had said, that what was good for England was good for Ireland; but a maximum rate had never been thought good. There was a silence in the Bill as to what the ultimate consequences of this measure would be; and he should like to know when this maximum rate had been expended, from what source the money would then come. Was it to be a national rate. The question was most important, for the present funds not only could be exhausted, but it was known that they were nearly exhausted. He thought that the hon. Member for Kerry was mistaken with respect to the objection which he alleged was entertained in England against union rating. Now, the principle of an union rate, as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, had been assented to by the House, although it had not been carried out. The hon. Gentleman had stated that there was no power in the English poor-law for effectuating the sale of land for arrears of rates. Now, he did not know whether that was the ease or not, but he apprehended that, in the first instance, the debt was considered as a personal debt; and that if personalties failed, there would be a claim on the land. He did not think that the sale of land in Ireland could take place under the present Bill. Under the Incumbered Estates Bill, the incumbrancer could proceed; but under this Bill there were no powers for selling in cases of arrears of rates. With respect to omissions to be found in the Bill, he would not now make any remarks. He trusted that the suggestions thrown out by the hon. Member for the county of Limerick, the other night, in the course of his valuable speech, for extending the powers of boards of guardians in Ireland for facilitating emigration, might be acted upon in the present Bill. He certainly recommended the hon. Member to consider whether he could not effect his object by incorporating his proposal in the measure now before the House.


said, his right hon. Friend who had just sat down had asked a very natural question, to which he would endeavour to give a reply, and he would also take that opportunity of addressing the House upon two or three of the points which had been urged in the course of the present discussion. The question of his right hon. Friend was this—How, considering that there was no maximum rate imposed upon England, but that it was now proposed to levy one upon Ireland, and avoiding all discussion at the present moment with respect to the incidence of rating in the electoral division or union—how, after this maximum rate had been exhausted, the poor of Ireland were to be relieved? Now, if it were the case that the poor of Ireland had been relieved by rates amounting to 8s., 10s., or 12s. in the pound, and that the House was now being asked to supply the excess of that rate over 7s. by any grant from the House, or by a national rate, he thought, with his right hon. Friend, that that would be a question which might lead to very serious, apprehension. But the fact was entirely different. The fact was, that unions which had been rated to an amount far from being excessive, had required sums from this country in order to supply their urgent wants. If that were so, it showed that an abstract declaration of the law that all the property in an union was liable for the relief of the poor, was no security that the people would be relieved. His right hon. Friend was of opinion that the present law afforded security because it had no limit—that if the whole pound were exhausted, still the poor would have a claim to relief—and that the whole property of the union would be liable. If the House approached the facts as they at present existed, they would find by papers laid before Parliament, with respect to the expenditure of the 50,000l. in the various unions in Ireland, that the highest amount spent, previously to the 1st of April, was 8,24l. in the union of Ballina. By the account which he held in his hand relative to the amount of rates raised in Ballina, he found that the last rate, which was called the second rate, was one of 3s. 1½d., and the date of it was the 21st of December, 1847. That account he had received only the other day, in accordance with a request for a return of the amount of rates in many of these unions of all rates made since the close of the month of March, 1847. He found by that return, that whilst there were some electoral divisions in which 11s. and 12s. had been collected, that those which had required the aid of grants to be made by that House, were those in which the rates had extended only to the amount he had mentioned. In some cases they were 3s., in some, 3s. 6d., and in others, 4s. 2d., but these were the general characteristics. Now, if this were so, it was a proof that you could obtain no security against being called on for your rate in aid by having this abstract declaration of the law. But it might be said, with respect to these union rates, that they were never fairly collected; and that, instead of 3s. or 4s., there should have been a larger amount collected. On an examination of the facts, however, it would be found that temporary inspectors, and persons who impartially administered the law, declared that the rates were fairly collected—that they were collected with a severity which, in many cases, prevented the due and proper cultivation of the land, and caused the loss of furniture and implements to those whose poverty removed them but slightly from the condition of paupers. What did he infer from these facts? Why, in the first place, that with a small amount of rate you might have a great amount of distress, and a deficiency of means which called for aid; and, in the second, that the collection of the rates to a very severe extent in many cases created alarm as to the cultivation of the land. It seemed to him, there-lore, to follow, that there was no better way in which the object of providing for the destitute poor could be furthered than by giving some security—by placing some limit on the electoral division or the union—by placing some limit which those who cultivated the land would know would not be exceeded. By so doing, the fund for the relief of the poor would be increased; and that seemed to be the great object in view. If it was said that there should be a declaration that all land in Ireland should be subject to poor-rates to the utmost extent, and that yet those rates could not be collected, the practical object which the House had in view, namely, the relief of the poor, would not be attained. Whereas, if the fund from which relief was to be derived were to be increased—if you increased the amount from 20,000l. to 30,000l., as the value of the rates of an union, and added, a 7s. rate on that, it was obviously the better course than to reduce the 20,000l. to 7,000l. or 8,000l., and then add a rate of 14s. The view which he took of this proposed maximum rate was, that by allotting only a certain proportion of taxable property for the purpose of relief to the poor, you would increase the relief funds, and promote the cultivation and improvement of lands in Ireland. But the question still recurred, however, that there might be many unions in which, after having collected a 5s. and a 2s. rate, there might still be an amount of destitution for which this rate had not provided; and his right hon. Friend asked him whether recurrence would be had to a national rate in aid in Ireland, or whether the burden would be thrown upon the Consolidated Fund? His (Lord J. Russell's) answer to that question was this. As a general principle, he did not think the rate in aid should be adopted as a system in Ireland. The present state of that country might demand it; but he certainly should never propose as a permanent measure, nor consent, as far as he was concerned, to the continuance of a Bill by which we had lately established a rate in aid in Ireland. With respect to the other question, whether or not a demand would be made on the Consolidated Fund, he conceived that that question could have no reference to the limit of the maximum rate now proposed. He did not think that it would be any ground for coming to that House for funds, to say that 7s. had been imposed on unions, and still that the sum had been found insufficient. He thought it better that relief should be given from those resources from which relief had been supplied before the introduction of the poor-law in 1837, than to allow such a large amount of taxation to be thrown on the Consolidated Fund, for he believed that the consequence of adopting the latter alternative would be, that there would be great waste and extravagance in the administration of the relief funds, and it would be found that the moneys would very soon be wasted. If the maximum rate were retained, he believed that the amount raised would be administered with economy; many persons who now received relief would be put off the list, and those really destitute would have a better chance of relief. He said, therefore, that he did not think the passing of this measure, with a maximum rate, afforded any reason for a national rate in aid on Ireland, or any charge upon the Consolidated Fund. He thought, on the other hand, that the effectual relief of the poor in Ireland would be better secured by increasing the cultivation of the land, and the amount of income derivable from it, and by so doing all classes in that country would be benefited. On these grounds he thought it wise to enact this maximum rate. The Irish poor-law had not, like the English poor-law, existed for centuries, and the greatest alarm existed as to the amount to which these rates might reach—alarm which caused great discouragement to the cultivation and occupation of the land in that country. This appeared to him to be a general defence of a maximum rate, without entering into the question as to whether it should be thrown upon the electoral divisions, or into the question of further relief. His right hon. Friend had alluded to some provisions with respect to emigration. In the propositions which he (Lord J. Russell) had brought before the Committee at the commencement of their sitings on the Irish poor-law, there was a resolution on the subject of emigration; but he had not felt sufficient confidence to put it in a shape in which it should be carried. The hon. Member for the county of Limerick had paid attention to that subject, and when the Bill was in Committee, he should be glad to have a clause discussed on the principle of the resolution which the hon. Member had advanced. He trusted that he might have the assistance of the hon. Gentleman in framing some clause which would have the desired effect in that respect. There was another point upon which he perceived there still existed a very great difference of opinion, kept up in a great measure by the very confusion inseparable from the terms used on the subject—he alluded to the area of taxation. One hon. Gentleman got up after another, and asked the Government whether they were about to introduce a small area, without defining what they precisely meant by a small and large area respectively. The hon. Member for Kerry said he considered the Government guilty of the poverty and distress now existing in certain unions, because the Poor Law Commissioners did not agree to a certain division of the electoral divisions in Ireland. Let him just conceive a case. The Commission is might suppose that in those places, by divisions such as they might recommend, they might aggravate the distress which these measures were intended to relieve. Let him suppose a certain proprietor told that he was to have an electoral division entirely to himself—that he would not be chargeable with the poor of any other district; and suppose such a change to take place. That proprietor might take one of two courses. He might think his land capable of improved cultivation, and that it would be profitable to himself and beneficial to the tenants to lay out a much larger sum on labour. But he might take quite a different course, and, thinking it a good opportunity for forever freeing himself from the burden of the poor, he might decide upon getting rid of the persons then living upon his estate, by having them dispersed to other districts, and making some disbursements to provide for them for more than six months, so that by the contrivance of keeping them more than six months out of the electoral division that formerly supported them, he would be enabled to disembarrass himself of his charge for the poor, who might go into the suburbs of the towns or other districts, and thereby become chargeable upon other parties. Let, therefore, the hon. Gentleman, when he taxed the Government with causing distress, remember that there were two sides to this question, and that if the Government had adopted these peculiar recommendations, find such had been the consequence, the Government would have been chargeable with causing distress by the very measures which he recommended. This question was not one to be decided by some hon. Gentlemen, who might say, "Here is an electoral division of 8,000 acres: let us cut it into four by drawing a straight line across the electoral division, and we shall have it divided into equal parts of 2,000 acres each." It required more care and deliberation than that mere operation with the pencil and compass. The Government had appointed a commission for the purpose of arranging the boundaries, and at its head was Captain Larcombe, as intelligent an individual as the Government could select. He (Lord J. Russell) had repeatedly seen Captain Larcombe since this subject came under consideration, who had now returned to Ireland for the purpose of carrying out the recommendations of the commission, and would draw up a paper stating what new unions he thought it absolutely necessary to make, and the electoral divisions that could be divided without the formation of new unions. When that had been done, and that paper had been received, the Poor Law Commissioners would then have before them a proposition as to what new unions were necessary, and the Government would afterwards be prepared to say what should be done for hiring workhouses, or building new ones, and what they thought fit to recommend as to the electoral divisions. If the unions had been originally drawn with reference to the poor-law of 1847, and if many of the unions had been smaller, and many of the electoral divisions been of less considerable acreage and population, it would have conduced better, he admitted, to the working of the poor-law. He made that admission, as called for by the result of Captain Larcombe's investigation, and the Government would proceed, as far as they could, upon that officer's recommendations. But these were points which it was not necessary to consider upon the present Bill. What must be done would have to be done on the recommendation of the Boundary Commissioners and the Poor Law Commissioners. He did not know that it was necessary for him now to refer to any of the other points raised in the discussion, because what he would have to say must relate to the details of the Bill, and he would be ready to state his opinions upon them when the measure was before the Committee.


The measure before us is the most important one of the Session, and deserves to be discussed as such; and I think we ought not to allow ourselves to be diverted from the great principles involved in it to a criticism of the acts of the Government, either in appointing the Committee which has been referred to, or legislating without waiting for its report. I am ready to adopt the opinion of the hon. Member for Kerry, that the Government have brought forward this measure with the best intention, and I adopt the sentiment with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland concluded his speech—that, forgetting other differences, we ought to unite now in what was for the benefit of the poor of Ireland, and the community at large. In the present circumstances of Ireland, an amendment of its poor-law is a reconstruction of its social system. Everything there is reduced to chaos: the relations of class to class—the rich to the poor—the proprietor and occupier to the labourer and the land—the well-being, the existence, of all depend on a wise amendment of this law. And the subject is hourly deepening in importance: we are reminded daily of the time which has been lost, and of the little time, with the possible approach of a good harvest, which may yet remain. After three years of suffering and experience, Irish legislation has yet to be commenced in earnest. Hitherto Parliament, by its well-meant but necessarily hurried efforts, has but aggravated suffering, and prolonged without preserving life; the means of Irish regeneration have yet to be determined, and when determined, applied. The fourth year of famine commenced with 1849. Enormous sums expended—a whole nation, as it were, sustained by charity—and what is our condition now? Confessedly worse than ever. Every one conversant with Ireland, official or unofficial, tell you the same thing. Mr. Power, your new Poor Law Commissioner, supported by a host of witnesses, describes the prospects of this year as worse than any that have preceded it. We hear of districts so utterly ruined, that magistrates will not be got for petty sessions; that those who were most active on the bench, are in hiding, or in gaol; that thousands of acres are left waste and uncultivated; and the tenantry and the capital have taken to themselves wings and flown away; that the condition of the poor is such, that a healthy looking ablebodied man is hardly to be met with—the deaths among them fearfully increasing—and gentlemen driving on the high road at noon-day stopping their cars, to have the dead and dying removed out of their way. And the moral scourge is still worse. Mr. Liddy, and Mr. O'Sullivan, the Roman Catholic priests, before the Committee tell you that their people have become indifferent to their religious duties, the places of worship less frequented, the sanctity of an oath diminished, and natural affection in families destroyed. The Poor Law Commissioners and inspectors acknowledge that your workhouses, now mainly filled by women and children, are scenes of such fearful contamination, that the poor many of them prefer dying outside to entering the walls; and Mr. Vandeleur Stewart sums up his admirable evidence by saying, that Ireland is on the point of becoming one vast lazaar house. Now, physically, or morally, was ever picture of devastation more complete than this? Have we ever known or read of anything surpassing it? A rich empire in a Christian age! One inspector likens it to a country devastated by an enemy; it is more as if the destroying angel had swept over it—the whole population struck down—the air a pestilence—the fields a solitude—the chapel deserted—the priest and the pauper famishing together—no inquest—no rites—no record even of the dead—the high road a charnel house—the land a chaos—a ruined proprietary—a panic-struck absconding tenantry—the soil untilled—the workhouse a moral pest—death, desolation, despair, reigning through the land. Is this not an occasion for England to arouse herself? And whether by a regard for our own interests, or our own honour as a nation—whether by the greatness of our empire, or the immensity of the peril and the stake—whether at the call of humanity and patriotism, or civilisation and religion—by our duty to our fellow-man, or our responsibility to God—by one or all of these motives—the urgency is so great, the interest so vast, that if we were to postpone by common consent every other topic, and devote ourselves day by day, to this one question of Ireland until its difficulty was mastered, I believe we should only be taking that course which sound national policy, even more than humanity, would recommend and repay. Opportunity, did I call it? Why, if famine had not occurred, if the potato had never rotted, every enlightened statesman must have prayed for some opportunity as available for cutting through the Irish difficulty: the tremendous evils under which social life laboured; the complexity of tenures; the bloody tribunal, and the assassin's justice; the increasingly destitute population; the political restlessness ever verging on insurrection: recall all this five years ago, and contrast the change now. It is from the greatness of the calamity we are told to draw hope; it is from the greatness of the opportunity I see motive for exertion. Your poor-law has broken down in Ireland; your whole social system is now dependent on that law; and its breaking down has aggravated the agonies of a great convulsion. You have now again to build up that law—to revive and strengthen it, not by one measure, but by a combination of measures, aiding, upholding, perfecting one another; it is only by a combination of remedies that you can meet a complication of disorders; and the attempt to meet them by single and detached measures must necessarily fail. Now everything which has since occurred, has confirmed the opinions I expressed in February, in the very first debate on Ireland, that the three great measures for you to adopt were to facilitate the sale of land, by giving simplicity of title—to establish limited liability for poor-rates—and, by well-regulated loans, to encourage small proprietors; but I held it then, as I hold it now, to be essential to their success, that these measures should be intimately interwoven—running out of and proceeding from one another—and forming a combination indicating one idea and one plan. In order to carry out the first of these objects, the Government have introduced an excellent measure, for which they have obtained much credit, though not more than they deserve. But I must repeat now what I said when that measure was introduced—that its success must depend on the other measures by which it is to be accompanied, and by which its operation must be aided. For it is of no use passing an Act to facilitate sales, unless you can also induce purchases; but that is what the Bill before us fails to do. There is no connexion, no sympathy, between the measures; they are rather antagonistic in character; the object of the one is to encourage sales-the tendency of the other to discourage purchases. And I think I can show this. For what is the object of a poor-law? To combine the due administration of relief with the security of property. But in Ireland the relations of capital to population are such, that additional legislative restrictions are necessary to prevent pauperism devouring property. The old proprietors cannot hold their ground, and new ones will not take their place unless you give them some guarantee against being eaten up by poor-rates. And one of the professed objects of this measure is to give that guarantee by assuring them of limited liability. Now, limited liability may be attained in one of two ways: either by letting the proprietor see at once the whole amount of the rate he may be called upon to pay, or the whole amount of pauperism he may be called upon to sustain. The first is attained by establishing a maximum rate; the second by establishing a limited taxing area. This Bill, however, has the unhappy peculiarity of achieving neither object; for while it affirms the principle of a maximum, it by no means insures its inviolability. The question was asked just now by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton—" When the 5s. rate, and the 2s. rate have been exhausted, where are you to go next for relief?" That is a case which will very soon occur; how is it to be provided for? The noble Lord got up to answer the question—and what was the answer? Divested of all circumlocution, it amounted to this—that the pauper must after that be left to chance—the Government has at present nothing further to propose. But is this not a proof either that you have not made up your minds on this point, or, having made them up, you will not divulge the secret for fear of destroying the confidence your maximum is to establish? Then, has the ratepayer not cause to dread that your maximum, after all, is but a nominal maximum to serve the purpose of the day; but if he trusts to it, he may find it, in the hour of pressure, a delusion and a snare. Then, again, what are to be the capabilities of the unions to which our new law is to apply? They have now, some of them, great arrears of rate—are they to drag on the hopeless burden of those arrears? or are they to start free of debt? This is an important question—have we made up our minds upon it? are those arrears to be remitted or enforced? One course or the other must be adopted: either is preferable to permitting them to stand over, a dead weight upon the energies and hopes of those districts. Then again, what are to be the boundaries of our taxing areas? Do we abide by the existing boundaries, or adopt the recommendation of the commissioners, and also build new workhouses? and if so, where is the money to come from? Before we contemplate fresh Government advances, we must in one way or other settle the outstanding debt for workhouses already built. The non-payment of that debt has been repeatedly, in the present Session, made a reproach against Irish Members. It is a shame that it should continue so. In common fairness and justice, we ought to make up our minds at once either to enforce or remit that debt. If it can be paid, compel the payment—if it cannot be paid, wipe it off. But there is neither kindness nor economy in perpetuating a bad debt; and withholding that stimulus to exertion which emancipates from difficulties, and hope substituted for despair, is calculated to impart. I hold, therefore, that, as regards these unions, you must in all cases clear your ground before you put in new seed—compel payment or remit it; but, at any rate, let those debts determine, and in the race of improvement let all start fair. So far, therefore, your Bill is defective at the outset, it does not enable the unions to see their way. The ratepayer is not sure of his present position, nor of his future prospects. He wants the certainty which alone can encourage him either to purchase or improve. But these are preliminary objections, and affecting details only; and for the sake of argument I will suppose them all got over—that your maximum, by a clause in the Bill is made impassable—that the arrears of debts for poor-rates and workhouses are both extinguished, and the unions start solvent. I come now to consider the practical objections to the maximum itself. The real objection to a maximum is well set forth in an answer of Captain Hamilton's to the Committee. "A maximum," he says, "would not diminish pauperism, it would only spread it over a wider surface;" and, indeed, by that means it tends rather to increase it, by diminishing the power of vigilance and control so necessary to meet it. This, then, is the first defect. The maximum forgets that there are two parties to be considered, and it takes into account one only; it aims at protecting the ratepayer; it puts altogether out of sight the rate receiver. And even the relief to the ratepayer is delusive; for while the same amount of pauperism continues, the whole rate to be paid is not only not diminished, but is actually increased; for as the fund from which the pauper is relieved becomes of larger and more indefinite amount, and the burden on the individual ratepayer less direct, the vigilance and economy of the one are lessened—the temptation to fraud and imposition on the part of the other are increased—and the burdens of the district are multiplied as its pauperism is extended. Your maximum, therefore, proceeds on an entire misconception of the disease: it confounds cause and effect—it aims at limiting taxation instead of reducing pauperism—it imagines that the landowner suffers from high rates, when in reality he is crushed by extensive pauperism: the rates are the effect, not the cause; pauperism is the real source not only of this but of many other and still greater evils by which the proprietors of Ireland are broken down. Look at the multitude of other evils inflicted on them by pauperism independently of taxation. What must be the demoralisation of a country in which, in 1847, 5,000,000 of the population were sustained by charity? What must be the insecurity of life and property when two-thirds of the population are, in periods of famine, in a state bordering on starvation; and in years of average production in a state bordering on insurrection? I have here a return laid on the table a few days ago of crime in Ireland during the last five years, which throws some light on this subject, as showing the relation between pauperism and crime:—

In 1844, Total number of convictions in Ireland was 8,000
1848, Total number of convictions in Ireland was 18,000
1844, Transported 400
1848, Transported 1,300
1844, Convicted of cattle and sheepstealing 175
1848, Convicted of cattle and sheepstealing 2,800

Add to this what the Roman Catholics examined before them, lament to the Committees; the wholesale demoralisation of their flocks—the extinction of natural affections among them; and call to mind Captain Kennedy's remarkable statement, that a new crime is becoming prevalent in Ireland—that the desertion of families by parents and husbands is now so common, that the workhouse of Kilrush must ere long become almost exclusively a refuge for deserted women and children. This is a state of things induced by pauperism, and from the mischiefs of which your ratepayers cannot be protected by any fixed legislation. A wise and efficient amendment of your poor-law should take thought of them, but your maximum overlooks them all. A host of witnesses, of whom the most prominent is Mr. Senior, insist upon it, that a maximum will be prejudicial to the whole neighbourhood by diminishing the motives to exertion and self-reliance; they warn you that every distressed electoral division will have a tendency at once to run its rates up to 5s.: and Mr. Power is of opinion, that the division will become careless when it has reached the maximum. If then it be admitted, as it must be, that the maximum has regard to the ratepayer only; that it does not diminish pauperism; if the advantage to be derived from it is in the best view an imperfect and fictitious advantage, how unanswerable on the other side are the objections to it—that in principle it embodies all the objections, and in operation all the mischiefs, of a rate in aid; that while it diminishes the motives for industry and frugality, it throws the burden of the needy and improvident on the industrious and frugal—lessens economy—discourages improvement—and aggravates that which is the root of every Irish misery—its overwhelming, all-devouring, pauperism. Such, then, are my objections to the Government mode of achieving limited liability; and now I turn to the other mode. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech last week, on introducing the Land Improvement Bill, stated the real want in Ireland. "What we want in Ireland," said the right hon. Gentleman, "is employment." Quite true; but how are you to get employment? By common acknowledgment, only in one way—by a considerable change of the proprietary—and that change can only be brought about by imparting to purchasers a confidence that they will be assured of limited liability, not of an uncertain character, dependent on the caprice of Minister or Parliament, but by a guarantee which to their own understandings and convictions will be valid and unassailable. Now, I will venture to say, that if the noble Lord at the head of the Government could collect all the solvent proprietors of Ireland and all the enterprising capitalists of England into a room together, and there ask them by what legislative measure he could most encourage them to purchase or improve, they would answer with one voice, "Reduce your area of taxation:" and why would they do so? Because it is notorious that our present areas are wholly at variance with the principles on which our poor-law is based, and render it utterly impossible that we should combine due relief to the poor with security to property.

The principle of your poor-law is local authority—local knowledge and supervision—local responsibility; and in order to carry all that out, you began by dividing the country into districts of intended manageable size, with a view of placing each under the administration of a capable and efficient board. Such was your principle, which was confessedly not carried out in Ireland. In Ulster you had a perfect Ordnance survey, and by means of that your divisions in Ulster were more judiciously made. Accordingly, in Ulster, that is one of the reasons why your law has been better administered—your workhouse accommodation has been more adequate, and the rates less burdensome. But in other parts of Ireland, where you had no Ordnance survey, the unions are of an extent which makes the proper administration of the law impossible. Paupers, living forty miles from the workhouse, seeking it for relief, die on the road. Guardians reside at such a distance that they cannot attend the board; and the proportion of workhouse accommodation to population is so small, that the workhouse test cannot be carried out. Those volumes of evidence are but one continued cry raised by poverty, experience, and common sense, for an amendment of the poor-law by a reduction of areas. There is no hostility to the poor-law itself: not one word of that. Every variety of opinion exists on other subjects; but not one single Irishman, before the Committees, has objected to the poor-law. Let that be noted. But they do complain, unanimously, of the faultiness of its machinery, which renders its right working impossible; and a comparison of the unions of England and Ireland will show their complaints to be well founded:—

Population. Unions.
England 15,000,000 584
Ireland 8,000,000 131

But to compare the relative population of England and Ireland is very deceptive. You must, again, analyse those populations—take the proportion in each of rate payers to paupers—and the disadvantage under which Ireland suffers will be aggravated tenfold. The question is asked by the noble Lord, "To what extent would you reduce the area of taxation?" and he describes the views of those who advocate a smaller area as extremely vague and unpractical. The answer which Captain Hamilton gives, and in which are embodied the views of the great majority of those who have studied the subject, is clear, sensible, and conclusive:— Taking into consideration" (says lie) "the size, the valuation and the population of each district; and having regard, as much as may be conveniently, to the boundaries of properties; you should make each area of such dimensions that every ratepayer should feel senibly and immediately the burden of the rate—that he should have a direct and inevitable interest in keeping down pauperism—that by good management his burdens may be individually diminished—that by bad management they may be proportionably increased—in short, give him the motive and the power to render his own exertions the measure of his own liabilities. Mr. Hamilton then proceeds to lay down more precisely what should be the actual size and population of taxing districts; but, without going into those details, I have no hesitation in saying, that if you adopt those principles, and appoint a commission to devise the right mode of carrying them out, they would have no difficulty in doing so, without either vagueness or uncertainty. Now, on this point there seem, by the line of examination, to have been two opposing parties in the Committee—one anxious for an area of taxation approximating to our English system; the other inclining to an union rating. Now, I can imagine our areas in England being deemed objectionably small; and when a Bill was introduced, five years ago, to establish an union rating, I gave it my support. But surely the case of Ireland is not at all analogous. In England our poor-law is no novelty: we have a wholesome and established state of things; the duties of property are more generally fulfilled; the relations of proprietors to each other are more equal. Our landholders, happily, are, for the most part, solvent; our farmers are capitalists, our ratepayers are a majority of the nation; and, above all, when his means are hopelessly reduced, the ruin of a proprietor is speedily followed by the sale of his estate. Reverse this picture, and you approach the truth in Ireland. The relation of capital to labour is entirely different: an enormously redundant population, without habits of industry or self-reliance; a wretched agriculture; a pauper tenantry; and, above all, an unhappy and ill-fated landlord class, ruined and improvident, yet clinging with a desperate tenacity to the ill-omened possession of domains which they cannot call their own. And here, Sir, I place my finger on the strongest point in all this argument. Here is my plea for a limited area—that it becomes a test of the ability of proprietors to fulfil their duty. The more closely and directly the burden of taxation is fastened on them—the more impossible their escape from it—the more assuredly do you compel those who cannot discharge the duties of proprietorship to make way for others, whose substitution will be a national benefit. The arguments, then, in favour of a small area of taxation seem unanswerable. It tends to an economical and efficient administration of the law, by making the areas of manageable size; it renders it the interest of every ratepayer to keep down pauperism by employment; it enables a small number of proprietors to combine for this purpose where a large number cannot do so; it compels ruined proprietors to sell; it encourages capitalists to buy; it stimulates the pauper to exertion, by making him dependent on a smaller fund, and the object of severer vigilance; it enables you, by a multiplication of workhouses, to carry out efficiently the workhouse test; and all these results are attained without any shock to your existing poor-law, or any violation of its established principle, or interruption of its harmonious working. "But," says the noble Lord, "there are two sides to every question; and although small areas may have some advantages, you must remember they are open to this grave objection, that they are certain to increase evictions." Now, I think the noble Lord having appointed a Committee of inquiry on the subject we are discussing, was at least bound to give due weight to the evidence they have taken and reported; and if he had done so, he would have found that the fact is the reverse of what he states; that it is universally acknowledged that evictions have ever been most common where areas were the largest; and not only so, but that such is proved to be the tendency of the present law; for a needy proprietor, by turning families off his estate, now casts them on the union at large, and a very small portion of the charge falls on him: his more industrious neighbours bear his burden. But by reducing the area, you not only increase liability, but, if you accompany that change by a law of chargeability, you compel every proprietor, in his own defence, and to ward off his own ruin, either to rescue the pauperism on his estate, or sell it. Another objection, to which the Member for the county of Kerry has already replied, is, that a reduced area impedes the free circulation of labour; but surely this also is an English argument transplanted unreflectingly to Ireland. I agree with what was well said by the Member for Kerry, that your object in Ireland is not to regulate labour, but to save life—to make the land feed the population, and to do so by getting the employer to employ, and the labourer to work. It is idle to talk of impeding the circulation of labour when labour does not circulate at all. The labour market of Ireland is a stagnant pool—it wants life and motion, and many years must elapse ere you can quicken it to such activity as to make it self-supporting. Mr. Hamilton tells you it is a struggle in Ireland between pauperism and property, and one must go to the wall. In England it is different: capital is abundant—the labour market not overstocked. But in Ireland it is a question of life or death: it is not whether proprietors can choose the best labour, but can they employ what there is?—not a question of luxuries, but of bread. Every motive has yet to be created—the disposition to work, and the ability to employ. It would be as reasonable for a surgeon to tie the legs of a patient whom he was treating for mortification in his extremities, lest, before he was cured, he should run away, as speculate on the labour market of Ireland becoming inconveniently active, when in reality it represents a corpse. There is one more difficulty in the way of small areas, to which the noble Lord, though somewhat indistinctly, referred, and that is the expense of new workhouses. Now, so far from more workhouses being an objection, they are in reality amongst the greatest recommendations for the change; for, as I am convinced that a poor-law is either good or bad for a country in proportion as it is well or ill administered, so am I sure that its good administration depends on a rigid application of the workhouse test. There is no economy, therefore, in a paucity of workhouses; on the contrary, it has already led to an immense sacrifice and waste of money—to a waste of far more than would have built all the additional workhouses of which you can stand in need. But the pecuniary sacrifice has been the least of all—that of life has been very great; but greater, more sad, more fatal than either, has been the sacrifice of moral character and feeling on the part of the unhappy poor. Wherever the rates have been the highest, the maladministration most gross, the mortality most fatal, there be sure has the moral deterioration of the people been most sad and grievous—there be sure that the areas have been largest, and the utter impossibility of due vigilance and control most evident and undeniable. I am prepared, therefore, to maintain that, as every improvement in Ireland must be sought by these two means—the employment of the ablebodied, and the rigid application of the workhouse test, so they can only be attained by reducing your areas of taxation to a manageable size, giving the ratepayer both the ability and the motive to employ the poor; and, in every case, exhausting the resources of a district before you allow it any claim for extraneous aid. Your maximum is an imperfect and isolated expedient, having no relation or connexion with other measures of improvement. The change to a smaller area of taxation becomes part and parcel of a scheme of policy: it furnishes a sound foundation for every further measure which must derive success from the combined operation of a solvent proprietary, and well-administered poor-law. For example, it gives immediate and active operation to your Encumbered Estates Bill—it imparts a new character to your Drainage and Land Improvement Bills, or advances for public works or emigration. Those advances of loans, with the population and the proprietary in their present condition, are most objectionable; because they are a part of no defined system, and lead to no certain result. But substitute a solvent proprietary, and a well-employed population—show that the country is in a transition state, and advances of public money are not only legitimate and proper, in order to aid that transition, but they can be vindicated on sound principles as essential to its progress and accomplishment. This, then, is the policy which I should propose for your adoption. You are about to establish a commission under your Encumbered Estates Bill; but you must begin by disembarrassing the unions of every past debt. In my opinion you should enforce payment of every farthing, and by selling the land wherever it is not paid. Reduce your areas to the limits proposed by Capt. Hamilton—build the requisite workhouses, and apply rigidly the workhouse test. Loans for purposes of improvement or of emigration have an altered character; and in selling land for poor-rates you have this additional advantage, you sell it in small lots—it is purchased, as you are assured it will be, greedily by small proprietors; and aiding them by Government advances, with strict limitations against subletting and subdivision, you obtain a new and valuable class of agriculturists in Ireland—the most industrious—the most enterprising—the most peaceful and orderly of all; and it will surely be a reproach to us if, with the advantages we possess, we cannot achieve all this; for let us remember that we have the three great elements of wealth for Ireland—land, population, and capital; but, unhappily, all in false and mischievous relation to each other. There is abundance of clear and fertile soil—a great accumulation of capital close at hand, seeking to be employed—and the population, if the land were well cultivated, not superabundant; with all these elements of improvement, of prosperity, of hope, are we to be told that when Providence has given us an opportunity of turning them to the best account, that opportunity is to be lost, because in the British Parliament there is not skill, energy, discernment, to readjust their bearings to each other? Are we to rest satisfied with a conclusion so discreditable to our intelligence, our patriotism, our common sense? One thing, and one only, is wanting, that Parliament should see and feel that it is presiding over one of the most striking revolutions which history records—that the interest of ages is concentrated in these few weeks—that the greatness and repose of the British empire are staked on the right development of this awful national crisis. History has recounted with awe and wonder mighty political convulsions; but the reconstruction of society itself, the very change of its primitive elements, are events of a yet more tremendous magnitude and interest: the dissolution of all organisation is but the setting free of elements from whence new combinations spring. From that letting free I draw hope, because I have confidence in Parliament discharging its duty; and as the result of that discharge, I say I draw hope. Because needy and worthless landlords are about to disappear—because pauperism, unable to maintain itself, however horrible the idea, is fast diminished under a providential dispensation which we cannot stay—because the cottier is passing into the labourer, and losing his inducement to shoot and murder—because British capital, and skill, and enterprise, are ready to invade Ireland, and reconquer the waste from civilisation—because, in the moral elevation of the Irish, I see the establishment of new sympathies with England, and the two nations, united in name, will be united in heart, in interest, and in character. I say, emphatically, in character, because I never can admit that inferiority of Irish character by which some seek to justify their indifference. As to the landlords of Ireland, I never hear imputations cast on them without regret; for I cannot but remember that they have inherited a state of things they did not create, but from which they have had no escape. They are to be felt for as the victims, not denounced as the authors of a system, in the midst of which it was their misfortune to be born. And as to the Irish labourer, why it is only on his own soil that you see him so degraded. Transplant him, and he is an altered being. See him among us here, his wonderful industry and self-denial; pursue him to the colonies, patient, laborious, advancing. His degradation in Ireland, then, is not his nature, and it is not accident; but let the Imperial Legislature probe its own conscience if it would ascertain the cause. But take the Irishman in any of his relations to you—who toils for you so unceasingly, endures for you so cheerfully, fights for you so gallantly, or sheds his blood for you so devotedly? Well has it been said by one of the most beautiful of Irish writers, that the brightest pages of British history have been set in gems of Irish produce—that Ireland has woven many a wreath for England's brow, without one leaf of the chaplet being given to herself. But I hope there is a brighter day dawning for Ireland; and I think I discern a prospect of that day, one that may fire the ambition of the highest statesman, or stimulate the zeal of the humblest labourer in this House. One cloud only do I see on the prospect—that abominable measure which we passed three weeks ago. In opposition to that measure I joined cordially with those who foresaw its mischiefs, and denounced its character. In support of good measures I will join cordially with any who appreciate the occasion, and will deal with it as it deserves; I will do so. not on Irish, but on imperial grounds. I wish to add to the security of England by the elevation and prosperity of Ireland; and, in pursuing that object, I enjoy this additional satisfaction—that while as regards England I make the only atonement now left to us for ages of cruelty and misrule, the darkest that ever stained the annals of a Christian nation—so as regards Ireland it gives me another opportunity, in accordance with every sentiment I have ever recorded, of testifying my sympathy with the sufferings, and my admiration for the virtues, of a generous and most afflicted people.


felt, that after the eloquent address of the hon. Member who just sat down, it would be unnecessary for him to dwell at any great length on the measure now under the consideration of the House. Undoubtedly the amendment of the poor-law had been looked for with the greatest anxiety on the part of persons in Ireland before the Parliamentary Session began; and undoubtedly the principal matter contained in the Bill under discussion was that connected with the maximum of rating. And it had this singular peculiarity about it, that the principle of a maximum rating was in contravention of the advice of every man examined before the Committee except one, and that man certainly had been rewarded for the advice he had given. When he looked to the law of 1838, he found a provision in that law of a totally contradictory character to the present proposition. By the law of 1838, a power was given to the commissioners to reduce the electoral divisions according to circumstances, because it was felt that it was impossible for Parliament to define the extent of the electoral division; whereas, under the present law, the electoral division for the purposes of a union rating was to be irrevocably fixed. He would refer to a case that occurred in the union of Ken-mare, to which he had alluded on a former occasion. In consequence of the redundant population on the property of the Marquess of Lansdowne, the poundage would come to 16s. in the pound on that property; but a man in a neighbouring division had to pay for the mistaken humanity of the noble Lord. That man gave employment to his people; but it appeared that he must sink or swim with his neighbours, and accordingly his fate did not depend on his own efforts, but on the conduct of others. There were two matters that should be kept distinctly, namely. the law and the administration of the law; and, in his opinion, the administration of the law was more important than the law itself. It was also important to consider the feelings of the people, and to explain what their feelings are. A man did not complain when he was taxed for a purpose over which he had a direct control, and had a voice in the assessment of the money and the spending of it; but he did complain when he saw his money spent to meet demands which were caused by the misdeeds of others. In the union to which he had referred, the affairs were managed by vice-guardians; and, at the beginning of the year, the proprietor to whom he had already alluded, asked to see the accounts, and, having got an order to inspect them, what was the fact he discovered? He found that from September, 1847, there had been no audit of the accounts of the union. During the whole of the year the union was under vice-guardians, and yet not a single account was furnished by means of which he could ascertain the number of persons in the workhouse. There was another case that had occurred in the North Dublin union. It turned out on examination there, that nearly 400 persons were on the register of the workhouse who were not in the workhouse at all. The accounts were then examined, and it appeared from the accounts ending March, 1848, that there had been supplied 1,723 bottles of port, 45 bottles of spirits, seven dozen of lemons, 45,937 lbs. of sugar, and 18,479 bottles of Guinness's double X. For the year ending March, 1848, he found the consumption had been 1,728 bottles of wine; during the next year it was reduced to 904. The spirits in the first half-year were 45 quarts; but in the second half-year they made up for the diminution of the quantity of wine by an increase in the quantity of spirits to 102 quarts. Of whisky, seven dozen bottles were consumed in the first half-year, and twenty-eight dozen in the second; and he found, upon looking to the increase in sugar, lemons, and whisky, that it had increased in precisely the rateable proportion required for making whisky punch. With regard to what were called the bankrupt unions, he had two advertisements which would show to the House the manner in which the affairs there were conducted. The advertisement requested tenders to be sent in— For the best port wine,—per dozen; the best sherry wine,—per dozen; the best arrowroot, —per lb.; the best mustard,—per lb.; the best tea,—per lb.; the best lump sugar,—per cwt.; the best XX porter,—per dozen; the best whisky,—per gallon; the best sweet oil,—per gallon; the best mould candles,—per dozen lbs.; the best white bread,—per 41b. loaf. These were the cases of unions under the management of vice-guardians, and subject to the control of the Poor Law Commissioners. Was it fair or just that the inhabitants of unions, who had to support their own poor, should, in addition to these charges, be compelled to pay for the support of such unions as those he had referred to? With respect to the auditing of accounts, he felt the difficulty of the position with respect to poor-rates; but he knew that it was the duty of every one who felt an interest in the affairs of Ireland, to give his honest co-operation in endeavouring to curtail as much as possible the lavish expenditure of the country. He wished to call the attention of the Government to another subject of importance in connexion with this Bill—the principle of a maximum rating. If they gave to the people of Ireland by the existing Poor Law Act a right to relief, upon what principle could they now fix a maximum rate of 5s. in the pound upon any division? If the property in any union or electoral division was held liable for the support of the poor in such union or division—for that was the principle of the law of 1838—upon what principle could they, when the rate for the relief of the poor in such division exceeded 5s. in the pound, compel other unions to contribute towards such unions? What, then, became of the right of the pauper to relief, founded, as it was, upon the principle that the property in any division or union in which he might reside was liable for his support? He could not see the justice of fixing a maximum rate of 5s., and then going upon other property for an additional sum. But it was said, in favour of this mode of rating, that if they relieved shattered property of some of its burdens, they would thereby facilitate purchases. He did not dispute but that it was a very good thing to obtain purchasers for property, but he did not see the justice, in a case where an incumbrance existed upon property, of shifting any portion of it upon other property. The effect would be, to elevate the value of one property by depreciating the value of another. Such a principle could not be a sound one. He could understand granting to bonâ fide purchasers a guarantee that the poor-rates should not exceed a certain sum; but this Bill, although it provided a maximum rate of 5s. in the pound, did not provide that this 5s. should he actually expended in the union, before they compelled other unions to contribute to its support. It was left discretionary with the Poor Law Commissioners to say when such assistance should be obtained, and these were not the most likely persons to form correct judgments upon such subjects. He objected to giving them any such discretionary power; at all events, it was their duty to exhaust first that which was primarily liable, before they imposed a burden upon others. There was one case which was wholly unprovided for under this Act, and that was the case of a tenant deserting the land. Oases of this kind frequently occurred during the past year, and where the land was left wholly unoccupied and untilled, and where neither the landlord nor any new tenant would enter upon it, because, by doing so, they would become responsible for the accumulated arrears of the poor-rates. He thought that some provision ought to be made in the Bill, for giving, in cases where the land was deserted, a summary remedy against the land, for the recovery at once of the arrears, and not allow them to run on and accumulate. The principle, therefore, of a maximum rate was one which he thought ought not to be sanctioned by the House, because it was not in accordance with justice or sound policy, nor with the spirit of the law of 1838. There was another clause in the Bill which was also deserving of serious consideration, with reference to jointures and clergy rent charges. By the operation of this Bill, the jointress would derive no benefit whatever from the improved cultivation of the land, because her jointure was a fixed and certain sum upon the property. With regard to the clergyman, he was the only personage who had all the poundage deducted from his income. In England a clergyman was only charged upon his net income; but in Ireland he would be charged upon his gross income. The remaining provisions of the Bill appeared to him wise and just; but, previous to its going into Committee, he would endeavour to collect those objections and suggestions which occurred to him, and would then lay them before Her Majesty's Government.


, considering the difference of opinion which existed amongst Irish Members, regretted that some one had not opposed the second reading of the Bill, because the discussion would then have been of a more beneficial character. He himself did not object to the second reading of this Bill; but although he was not opposed to a maximum, he was strongly against a low maximum, and as strongly opposed to the 2s. union rating. He regretted that in the debate this point had scarcely been alluded to at all, because it established a new principle. It was remarkable how different were the views of persons arriving at the same end, as to the best mode of accomplishing that end; and this was particularly exemplified with respect to the most efficacious plan for inducing capitalists to lay out their money in Ireland. No doubt a maximum rate would give the capitalist some security; but he must say that he disbelieved altogether that unions would run up their rates to 5s., in order that they might get the other 2s. to expend. He did not deny that a small rate in aid, far smaller though than 2s. in the pound, might be advisable. The extent of union charges was much greater than the House supposed. Out of 126 unions, it was only in 45 that the charges were so low as 25 per cent; in 67 they were from 55 to 57 per cent; and in 14 they were above 57. In Committee he therefore certainly should be inclined to lessen the rate upon the unions, and to increase it upon the electoral divisions. A question arose as to the instructions to he given to the boundary commissioners on their appointment; and after some consultation with the Irish Members it was understood that the area of the unions should be revised. Notwithstanding that, the House was yet in the dark as to what the commissioners were going to do, and all that could be learnt was that the noble Lord at the head of the Government was in communication with Captain Larcombe on the subject. Were these divisions to be revised, was a most important question; and he trusted that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who was present, perhaps would state how soon the House would know what was to be done with these unions and electoral divisions. He was strongly of opinion that the new unions ought to be formed at once, in compliance with the recommendations of the boundary commissioners; and, regard being had to the unions and electoral divisions in the west of Ireland, he thought that it would be very much better to constitute the new boards with as little delay as possible, and to give them instructions to send the paupers in their charge to the old workhouses, or to some places of temporary accommodation, rather than to wait for two years while new workhouses were being erected. When the Bill was in Committee, he would take occasion to propose that measures he taken without delay to carry into effect the recommendations of the boundary commissioners.


begged to remind the House of the proverb, "While doctors differs, the patient dies." Ireland at present was in the condition of a patient suffering under fever and great depression. He considered the present Bill was an improvement on the existing law, and therefore he should support the second reading, reserving for the Committee his observations on any amendments which he might think necessary. He was an advocate for a reduction of the area of taxation; but at present he would not offer any arguments in support of what he considered to be the only useful amendment of the poor-law in Ireland. He had opposed the poor-law from the first, and every year would more and more demonstrate its unfitness for that country, and the necessity of legislating for Ireland in Ireland itself.


was strongly opposed to the principle of a rate in aid, which was contained in the second clause of the Bill. In his opinion, it was so injurious to Irish interests, that he should think it his duty, even if only one Member went into the same lobby with him, to divide the House against the 2s: rate in aid which he found in this clause. He thought it also highly objectionable that a power should be given of selling the inheritance or property of a man for a debt which he did not himself incur. At the same time he allowed that there were several most useful amendments in the Bill of the present law, and therefore he was quite willing to support the Bill as a whole; but when the Bill got into Committee he should strenuously; oppose the clauses which contained these provisions. The circumstances of Ireland and England were so dissimilar, that the same law would not apply in each country, and therefore he was of opinion that in Ireland there ought to be an income tax levied on all property not rated to the relief of the poor, which should be applied to the building and maintenance of workhouses and the workhouse staff, while a separate rating was levied for the poor of each electoral division. With regard to electoral division, he must say that until the area of taxation was lessened, nothing would have been done to carry out efficiently the Irish poor-law. The larger the electoral divisions were, the more evictions went on. The hon. Member here entered into details explaining the causes of the increase of a poor population upon Irish estates, and argued that the landlords had no power to prevent it, although they were blamed for it, as well as for everything else, according to the usual system which prevailed of calumniating Irish proprietors. He then contended generally that Irish landlords were not to blame for the evils of Ireland, but the law and the Parliament of this country. Let legislators, therefore, blame themselves; they had always had a rampant majority in that House ready to do the bidding of the Minister of the day in everything relating to Ireland; and to what a state had they reduced her! Let them not blame others, for they had the management of Ireland. They had been her taskmasters and lawgivers. British Government and British legislation had made Irish land-lands what they were; they were guiltless, and the crime—if crime there was—rested not upon their heads, but upon those who had legislated for Ireland.


wished to call the attention of the Government to one or two points in the Bill which required explanation. First, no change was proposed at present in the existing law of chargeability, which inflicted great injustice upon the towns in Ireland. In Limerick, the number of paupers had exceedingly increased, and the ratepayers suffered much injury from the present operation of the law. If a pauper was turned off from the rural districts, and resided six months in the electoral division of Limerick, he became chargeable upon the union at large, and the city was rated at one-third of the rate of the whole union. He believed that this was among the main causes of the number of evictions. He next called the attention of the Government to the 7th Clause of the Bill, by which it was, proposed that the occupier should not deduct from the rent more than half the rate paid. Admitting the importance of every person in the union connected with the operation of the poor-law having a direct interest in the diminution of taxation, he thought he could suggest the means by which that object could be accomplished without the injustice which would be inflicted by this clause. It appeared by the report of the Committee on the townlands valuation of Ireland, that it was urged by most of the witnesses that the county cess and the poor-rate be levied together; and that the same principle as between landlord and tenant be applied to both. It would be highly advantageous that both taxes should be collected at the same time, and by one person; for then the tenant would receive compensation for the injury which he would receive from the clause as proposed, by being allowed to deduct half the cess from his landlord. He was obliged to the noble Lord for the observations he had made relative to the emigration clauses; and he (Mr. Monsell) would have those clauses drawn up before the time appointed for the sitting of the Committee. With respect to the question of a maximum rate and a union rate, it would be inexpedient now to discuss a principle which must be opened in the Committee, and which the House ought not to sanction without the most mature deliberation. Although the poor-law question was de-hated in England for twenty years before the amended law of 1834, he believed that neither Mr. Chadwick nor any person connected with the commission of inquiry had made any suggestion of a maximum rate. At the latter end of the last century such a rate had been adopted in some places, but had always been altered. He did not think it would afford that security for the investment of capital in Ireland which the noble Lord expected, or produce the results he seemed to anticipate. Those results could be produced only by improving the social condition of Ireland; for without some such measures as emigration and diminishing the electoral divisions, so as to give employment to labour, a maximum rate would prove utterly fallacious; and, indeed, it would be found impossible to maintain it. The noble Lord himself almost admitted as much when he said that when the rate had reached the limit, he did not propose any means of supplying the deficiency, for it could not be conceived that Parliament would allow the people in a union, where the rate was exhausted, to starve. It came to this—either the maximum rate must be changed, or recourse must be had to the Consolidated Fund. Nothing could be devised so destructive to self-reliance and exertion as the principle of the maximum rate suggested by this Bill.


said, he felt the force of the objections to this Bill, and that it would be delusive to suppose it could provide for the poor in Ireland without other measures to prevent the spread of pauperism there. He had hitherto been rather opposed to the principle of a reduced area of taxation, but he confessed that an attentive consideration of the evidence before the Committee had induced him now to think that the only resource they had was such a reduction of that area of taxation as would cause the owners and occupiers of land to feel that by their exertions they could diminish pauperism. Ejectments had much increased, and he was now disposed to try the other system of a reduced area. He felt that some means must be taken to check the alarming spread of pauperism, but this could only be done by a combination of measures. He should be glad to see a valuation made by competent and impartial persons.


observed, that many evictions had been made by the landlords from an apprehension that a change would be made in the extent of the area of taxation, and he declared it to be his Opinion that if that change took place, the number of evictions would be greater than ever.


congratulated the adherents of a small area of taxation, and the poor of Ireland, on the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale. He trusted it would have weight with the Government when a gentleman known as an excellent landlord, and as having devoted his time to the interests of the poor, came forward to declare his conviction that unless the area was reduced, all other ameliorations of the poor-law would be vain. No one denied the difficulty of the question, or that any arrangement of the electoral divisions must be accomplished after strict scrutiny and with due regard to particular circumstances and claims. He regretted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not answered plainly the question put to him by the right hon. Member for Northampton, when he asked where, when the maximum had been reached, the remainder of the funds necessary was to come from. He wished very much the noble Lord had answered that question, and the more so, as the history of the Irish poor-law in the matter of liability was quite anomalous. The I and 2 Vic, dedicated the whole of the property in Ireland to the maintenance of the poor; but now Government, as if convinced their course at that time had been wrong, proposed to let them off on easier terms—to compound with them for the payment of 7s. instead of 20s. The proposal of the Government to fix a maximum for the support of the poor, implied a limit to their number and their wants; and if Government could not fix a limit to either the number or the wants of the poor, he did not see how they could fix a limit to the means for their maintenance. He felt that the question before them was, how much of the property of a country might be dedicated for the support of the poverty of the country, without finally reducing all its inhabitants, both rich and poor, to the same level of misery. He wished the noble Lord had stopped at once with the electoral division as to the amount of rating, for if he reserved to himself the power of coming upon the union afterwards, he asked him what he should do for any thing extra that might afterwards be necessary? Would he resort to the Consolidated Fund or to an income tax for the supply of the extra wants of the poor? In fine, he thought it was desirable to diminish the electoral divisions as a means of stimulating to the employment of labour; and that if the guardians of any union wished to remodel the union, so as to erect now unions, the sincerity of their wish ought to be tested by binding them first to find the money required by the proposed change.

Bill read a second time.

The House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock.