HC Deb 04 June 1850 vol 111 cc723-52

rose to bring forward the resolutions of which he bad given notice with respect to the Irish Poor Law. He knew the subject was distasteful to the House in consequence of the apparently fruitless character of the numerous discussions which had already taken place. The frequency and insufficiency of advances of money by way of loan, the effect of which must be to diminish the employing capital of the country—the consciousness of English Members that, with the best intentions, Ireland had suffered much ill treatment at their hands—the apathy amongst the Irish Members, resulting from despair at the disregard of their many and various suggestions—rendered all parties more inclined to trust to time and chance to unravel the difficulty, than to apply their minds to its thorough comprehension, with a view to remedy it. The poor-law, on its introduction, was intended to ameliorate the condition of the Irish population. It was the object of the Government that that amelioration should be called into effect by means of the resources of Ireland; and it was also the object not alone of the Government, but of the Members representing English constituencies, that no further claim for the support of the Irish people should be made on the funds of this country. In each and all of these particulars this Bill had been a total and complete failure. He had opposed the present poor-law, and said it would be as useless in ordinary years as it would be inefficient in times of famine, and would tend to demoralise the people, and absorb, without any beneficial result, the entire capital of the country. Such was still his opinion, and subsequent experience justified every anticipation he had made. The measure was introduced on the assumption that the annual expenditure would not exceed 280,000l; but last year it exceeded 2,167,000l, whilst the causes of that increase were left untouched. Parliament offers a bounty on pauperism, and are yet astonished that paupers multiply; they cast an unlimited weight on property, and appear surprised at property being unequal to the burden. In England, when the 43rd of Elizabeth was 145 years in operation, the amount levied under it on an average of three years amounted to 689,971l.; but the reason of that was, that at that time the administration of the funds was left to the persons interested in them—the ratepayers and magistrates of England. In 1785, the annual value of England as rated to the land tax was 77,864,855l, the poor-rate on which amounted to 2,100,000l.: about the same amount as was now paid by Ireland on a rental of nine millions. Had England been subjected at that time to a taxation such as was now forced upon Ireland, capital, intelligence, and industry would have fled from her shores, and she never would have risen to that pitch of prosperity she has since attained. The rate of increase in the expenses of the various poor-law unions in Ireland was most extraordinary. Among other instances he might refer to the Ballina union, where the expenses had increased in two years from 2,939l. to 52,282l.; in Ballinrobe, from 1,132l. to 37,653l; in Castlebar, from 1,417l to 27,000l.; in Clifden, from 612l. to 23,405l.; in Galway, from 2,926l., to 33,810l.; in Kenmare, from 2,162l. to 12,663l.; in Westport, from 2,970l. to 27,418l. He knew that it might be said that this great increase was owing to the failure of the potato crop, and that the increased expenditure had been in a great measure defrayed by the various sums which had been advanced from time to time by this country, and more particularly by the loan of 8,000,000l. In addition, however, to that loan, there had been very largo sums raised by other parties. The British Association had advanced 400,000l., the Society of Friends 190,000l., from other private sources not less than 200,000l. had been received, and the landed proprietors of Ireland had subscribed a sum of not less than 300,000l. The total sums expended for the relief of the distressed, including the remittances of emigrants, had not been less than 1,500,000l., exclusive of the loan of 8,000,000l.; a million and a half, if properly administered, would have done more to relieve the distress of Ireland than had been accomplished by their overpaid staff of 15,000 officers. In 1822, a few hundred thousand pounds sufficed to stem the famine. 60,000l. of the money sent over to Ireland was returned, and with the balance of private subscriptions, the charitable loan funds were established. Such would have been the case in 1846, had not hasty and ill-timed legislation held up the property of the country for destruction. The truth was, the whole property of Ireland and the Exchequer of England were placed within reach of the Irish multitude, protected only by the slight barrier of the presentment sessions, and as a natural consequence, the former was grasped at and destroyed by immediate demands and the burden of a debt of five millions sterling, while the latter was permanently loaded with a sum not less than that amount. Had the policy of 1822 been followed, the resources of the time would have been made to bear the temporary exigency, and none of these results, ruinous to both countries, would have been known. His object in bringing forward the present Motion was not in any way to overthrow the system of the Government, but to mitigate its injurious effects upon the property of the country, to ameliorate the condition of the people, and to render the poor-law in Ireland more workable. Little as Ireland had benefited—much as she had suffered by the course which had been pursued, he was perfectly prepared to acknowledge that nothing could be more beneficent than the intentions of the Government in the measures which they had proposed, or more munificent than had been the conduct of Parliament in acceding to them. The resolutions of which he had given notice were first— That it is the opinion of this House that no permanent system for the relief of the poor of Ireland can be carried out safely and beneficially to receivers and ratepayers, without a return to the principle of the original poor-law of 1838, by the strict application of indoor relief to all classes of paupers. In support of that resolution, he would refer the House to the evidence of various officials of the poor-law in Ireland, and to the opinion of several Members of the Government, upon the injurious effects of the adoption of outdoor relief. He might fairly ask Her Majesty's Government why should a principle be continued which was admitted to be a wrong one, which no person ventured to defend, which had swamped the industrious classes, and spread pauperism indefinitely, and which, had the Bill of 1838 contained it, it would not have received the sanction of the Legislature. The earliest authority he would cite was the report of the Commissioners of Poor Enquiry, published in 1836:— They could not recommend outdoor relief, a system which offered bounties to the improvident, and which, if introduced, would bring all down to one level, and the whole of Ireland would soon have to lean on Great Britain for support. The view taken by the Poor Law Commissioners of this question might be judged from the following minute, contained in their sixth report in 1840, when a deficiency in the potato crop had produced great alarm and distress, scarcity of fuel was apprehended, and the necessity of outdoor relief urged on them:— Thoroughly convinced of the sound policy of the Legislature in prohibiting all relief, except in the workhouse, the Commissioners cannot, in any way, sanction or encourage an application to Parliament, having for its object the abandonment of that resolution. A Committee of the House of Lords, in 1846, gave, upon the fullest examination, a decisive opinion as to the danger and inexpediency of adopting such a system of relief. Mr. Gulston, an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, long resident in Ireland— States his conviction, that without a stringent workhouse test, the property of Ireland cannot bear the poor-law." He says, "There is a power of expansion in the present law as regards relief to tile ablebodied, which is most mischievous; the application of the strict workhouse test affords the only possible mode of escape from the confiscation of a large portion of the landed property of Ireland: this is my confident opinion, derived from a long experience of the administration both in England and Ireland." He goes on to say, "The barrier once broken down, the flood of pauperism must inevitably overwhelm the whole property of the locality in which outdoor relief is attainable—Parliament ought to retrace its steps. Mr. Otway, another Poor Law Commissioner, declares— That, with the cessation of the exceptional case of famine, the practice of outdoor relief ought to cease, otherwise I do not think Ireland would be safe. I do not think the United Kingdom would be safe if the practice was continued beyond the exceptional case. The frauds committed under this system are admitted by all the witnesses examined to have been most extensive as well as most dangerous. Mr. Power, the Chief Commissioner in Ireland, whose able and conciliatory administration of the law is universally appreciated, says— When relief was authorised to be given to widows, multitudes represented themselves as widows who were not; it relief was to be given with respect to a certain number of children, children were hired to create a right under this order. Captain Kennedy, a Poor Law Inspector states— That amongst the most clamorous for outdoor relief in Kilrush were persons who were found to have large sums of money in their possession: single and deserted women applied for relief as widows, with children borrowed for the occasion: the absence of truth and honesty is most lamentable, and quite as painful to contemplate as their physical destitution. Mr. Bourke, the Inspector for Connaught; Mr. Brett, and other public officers, give the same testimony. Colonel Clarke, speaking of outdoor relief, says— Its effect is to demoralise the people: there is robbery, wilful perjury; and every vice that can be imagined follow in its train. I am firmly convinced the workhouse test is the sole salvation of the country. Mr. Fairfield, an English witness, speaks to the great change which has taken place in the feelings of the peasantry—" There is no shame about receiving outdoor relief, and, shortly, I believe, there will be nobody who will not take it if they can get it." A friend of his (Mr. French) had lately pointed out to him in the market of Cork several persons disposing of cart loads of corn and potatoes, who, as long as outdoor relief was administered, were recipients of it, I and only brought out their stores when it was discontinued; this was not a solitary instance, the practice was almost universal. Mr. Senior said, "If outdoor relief was introduced into Ireland, it would, in ten years, produce in that country, all the evils produced in this in three hundred, and would amount to an entire confiscation of Irish property." Mr. Gulston said, "Outdoor relief would rather aggravate than diminish mendicancy, and had no hesitation in giving his decided opinion that any approach to it would soon swamp the whole property of the country." Mr. Twisleton (the late Commissioner) said, "It would be a fatal step to introduce outdoor relief to the ablebodied paupers in Ireland." Mr. Nicholls stated, "that outdoor relief would not only diminish the value and destroy the security of property in Ireland, but would demoralise the entire labouring population." The Under Secretary for the Home Department says— The introduction of outdoor relief into Ireland would be a most disastrous measure, however guarded the law might be—however trustworthy and intelligent the administration, it would in a few years absorb all the surplus produce of the soil, and deteriorate the condition of those persons for whose benefit it was introduced. The Marquess of Lansdowne declared outdoor relief to be a system of vicious character, which, if adopted, must tend to the confiscation of property in Ireland. Earl Grey said, if the rate went up to 2s. 6d. in the pound, he should despair of the country. The noble Lord at the head of the Government stated that such a law, in place of relieving the miseries of Ireland would tend to perpetuate them. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth stated, the only hope of the poor-law working was, by abolishing this system, and returning to the provisions of the Act of 1838. Even during the present Session, on the occasion of Lord Desart's Motion, Ministers alleged they did not attempt to justify this measure, and could only excuse it on the plea of necessity. Had the condition of the people been improved by this law? Let the report of the Committee of the Society of Friends say:— The health of the people is not maintained—their physical strength is weakened—their mental capacity is lowered—their moral character degraded. Many families are suffering extreme distress, who, three years since, enjoyed the comforts and refinements of life, and administered to the necessities of those around them. The flood of pauperism is evidently more and more engulphing one class after another, rising higher and higher in its effects on society, until it threatens to swallow all ranks and classes within its fatal vortex. The sinking condition of the parties hitherto contributing to the relief of distress, applies to every class; and Mr. Bewly declares he cannot see any other than that the condition of the country will continue rapidly to grow worse. Mr. Otway says, that if the present state of things should continue, he anticipated a complete confiscation of property—the throwing the land out of cultivation—and the ruin both of occupiers and proprietors; from which melancholy condition, he infers, not only Ireland but the united kingdom itself would not be safe. The opinions of the Catholic clergy may be judged from the Vicar of Galway's evidence. The Rev. Mr. Daly says— Under the administration of outdoor relief the people have died in thousands, and have suffered calamities it is scarcely possible to conceive; outdoor relief does not save the lives of the people, and is the most destructive system to their morals that can be conceived. Let them ponder on the testimony lately given by a Catholic clergyman from Donegal, who says— I have seen men unstricken by disease, sink by the agonising death of famine into a premature grave; I have seen the strong and the stalwart labourer, the prop of his family, beaten down by weakness and paralysed from long and bitter days of famine; I have seen a mother and child, the aged and the young, alike withering off the earth from sheer hunger, in the face of this mis-named hollow and miserably inefficient poor-law. After testimony such as this, would any person venture to assert the people were interested in the maintenance of such a law? If you allow this state of affairs to continue, Ireland would not be the only sufferer, the words of your own Commissioners would shortly be realised—"the whole of Ireland will have to lean on Great Britain for support."

Mr. Reade, writing to me from Scariff, says— This union is valued at 21,000l. a year. The number of indoor and outdoor paupers amounts to 5,600, and the establishment charges alone were augmented by the vice-guardians from 2d. to 2s. in the pound in one year. I have had an estimate made of the probable expenses of each electoral division for the ensuing year, and with the exception of two, where the rate will be only 5s. 6d., the others will all vary from 11s. to 1l. 11s.—the average being from 17s. to 18s.—to levy which would leave this miserable union a complete waste. Surely no Government could carry on a system actually amounting to confiscation. The following letter would show the reliance to be placed on returns furnished to the House. It was written by one of the most intelligent men in Ireland—Vice-Chairman of the Union of Castlerea—on seeing a return stating that no rate had been levied in the electoral division of Ballymoe in the past year:— With respect to the Ballymoe division there was a 3s. 11d. rate struck at the end of 1848, and a 3s. rate in March, 1849, making 6s. 11d. I have a farm in that division which only yields me 40l., on which I paid 13s. 10d. in the pound poor-rate. No Legislature has a right, under any pretence, or for any purpose, to impose such a burden as would break down society; no despotic Government dare do it, and its effect is marked under English rule—by the flight of the population from such gross oppression and wrong. We cannot obtain any information in reference to the accounts of contractors with the Castlerea union, during the time of the late vice-guardians: we are obliged to ask them what remains due to them, and to take their words for the state of their account; the vice-guardians left our union in a deplorable condition. In the Boyle union, I see by the papers, there are nine relieving officers paid 355l. a year for distributing 1l. 14s. 1¾d. weekly. The proportions are nearly the same everywhere. [The hon. Member read several letters to the same effect from different parts of the country.]

Here was a system condemned by the chief Members of the Government and Legislature; denounced by those charged with its administration, and manifestly useless for its professed purpose. Would Parliament continue that system?

The second of the resolutions which he intended to propose was—" That the system of appointment of vice-guardians with unconstitutional and unlimited powers of taxation has proved most objectionable and should be forthwith abolished." Vice-guardians would not be submitted to in England, vesting, as the system did, the power of taxation in the bands of irresponsible persons named by Government, separating classes of society, disusing from the conduct of public affairs that class of persons without whose exertion no safe administration can be relied on. If this unconstitutional appointment of vice-guardians had been made for the purpose of preventing either jobbing or extravagance, it had certainly been a most extraordinary failure. The following increase of debts under the management of vice-guardians had taken place in—

Listowel—in one year from £5,472 to £12,881
Ballinrobe 3,232 8,507
Castlebar 3,876 8,791
Clifden 564 6,898
Galway 7,492 12,315
Newcastle 4,986 10,206
Scariff 5,998 11,603
Tuam 4,064 11,368
Kilrush 2,170 12,834
Innistymon 1,030 12,992
Ballina 2,438 21,444
The merits of their administration might be judged from the way they left the unions entrusted to their care. In Scariff, such was the state of the house that, in the probationary wards, 23 persons were seized with fever in one night. There was a deficiency of food and clothing for the paupers, and frequently neither bread nor milk for the sick in hospital, who also lay in unlighted wards, and without linen. In Mohill, the vice-guardians were in the habit of signing blank cheques without any entry being made on their minutes, of payments of money. They violated the law at their pleasure—did not exhibit the books as they were bound to do for the inspection of ratepayers—these books were so irregularly kept as to be useless—the warrant for the collection of rates was signed in the gaol of Carrick, and not in the board-room of Mohill, as one of the vice-guardians was a prisoner for debt. In Carrick-on-Shannon, the contracts entered into by the vice-guardians were of the most extravagant nature; after wasting the funds of the union, during their administration, by the grossest negligence, they attempted, and but for the interference of the Lord Lieutenant would have succeeded, to continue the exorbitant expenditure by entering, just before leaving office, into contracts to bind their successors. One of the vice-guardians was in the habit of dealing for his own necessaries with those contractors, and when his official duties terminated, he was processed by four of them, and left Carrick without paying his rent. The books were so kept that 196 persons' names were on them, and for whom rations had been drawn for six months when not one of them were in the house. The coals and provisions were constantly delivered short of weight. The milk was a spurious mixture, the contractors had no cows. The straw in the pauper beds was unchanged for seven months, and filth and disorder had accumulated to a frightful degree. 4,372 articles of clothing and furniture were missing, and to prevent infection, clothing, to the value of 60l, had to be burned. [The Hon. Member referred also to abuses in Listowel, Boyle, Castlerea, &c., &c.]

The third of his series of resolutions was— That the present system of the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland is unnecessarily extravagant, unsuited to the diminished resources of that country, and tends considerably to the demoralisation of the people. Upon that point it was unnecessary for him to detain the House, as the noble Lord who would follow him would have an opportunity of going more fully into the subject. He would therefore only briefly call the attention of the House to the numbers relieved, to the cost, and to the progressive and rapid increase of both.

In 1849 the Poor Rate was £2,177,693, divided thus— Indoor Relief £797,294
Outdoor 679,604
Establishment charges 700,752
Number Relieved Indoor 932,284
Outdoor 1,210,482
In 1846, the Expenditure was £435,000
1847, 803,684
1848, 1,835,310
1849, 2,177,693
These sums were collected from the country, with the exception of aids from the national Exchequer, amounting
In 1848, to £242,677
1849, to 310,660
How is the outlay to be met in future? There are no longer to be public grants—a paltry rate in aid of 6d. in the pound, to be wrung out of the resources of unions not yet completely pauperised, is all that is to be depended upon.

His last resolution was— That it is unjust to throw on one species of property, and that the most suffering, the entire support of the poor in Ireland. There could not be, he apprehended, any diversity of opinion as to the injustice of such a system, and such was its expensive character, that he believed even if the Society of Friends, with all their practical and frugal habits, or gentlemen belonging to the Manchester School, were to become possessed of land in Ireland, they would eventually sink under the baneful effects of a system which imposed upon landed property the entire burden of carrying out the poor-law. By the Act of 5 and 6 Vict., c. 92, this burden upon land had been increased to an alarming extent, and holders of tenements rated under 4l., to the number of 533,000, had been relieved from all care with respect to the economical management of the poor-law by the transfer of the incidence of their rates to the landed proprietors. This latter change in the law, he would say, was the true cause of the numerous evictions which had scandalised the country, but which were the inevitable and patent result of a system so contrary to sound policy and the good of the poor themselves. The selling of the land in cases of non-payment of the poor-rates was also a system which did not exist and never could be tolerated in England. It was opposed to the first principles of political economy, and was neither more nor less than the payment of current expenses out of capital. He regretted not to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer, eminent as he was as a professor of political economy, in his place to expound this paradox in his science: he supposed it was only explicable on the principle of its being applied in Ireland. But he complained of sins of omission as well as those of commission on the part of Her Majesty's Government. No measures for the employment of the people, such as were declared essential for the working of the poor-law by Mr. Nicholls, and promised by his noble Friend, had yet been introduced; no steps had been taken, or were about to be taken, to carry out any of the remedial recommendations of the Committee of last Session. To one of those he would more particularly allude. It was— That where the ratepayers of any district within an electoral division voluntarily undertake to support a number of poor, to an amount of a fair proportion between the value of such district, and the number of poor and valuation of the electoral division, and fulfil such undertaking to the satisfaction of the guardians and the Poor Law Commissioners, they shall be exempt from any other rate than that for the charges of the union establishment. Had the principle of this recommendation been acted upon, hope would have been roused in the minds of many proprietors now crushed by the weight of their neighbours' distresses in addition to their own; employment would have been stimulated, and the burden of the poor-rate generally lessened throughout the country.

In fine, the sum of his argument was, that all experience demanded that at least Ireland should be relieved from the evils that had been superinduced upon the poor-law of 1838—evils which, he contended, were but a continuance of those which from the days of the Plantagenets had been imposed in various shapes upon Ireland by England. The policy had ever been, when the latter country was dealing with the former, to violate justice, to trample upon rights, and to disregard all interests that appeared to be inconsistent with those of England. In the course of that policy, ills had been inflicted to which the quaint description of Baron Finglass was as applicable now as in the reign of the third Edward—" They would destroy Hell itself, if they were used in the same." He would conclude by quoting a passage from a recent number of a journal, which was supposed to express the opinions of those in whose power it was at the present moment to mitigate these great evils. The Edinburgh Review thus spake:— Although much of the distress of Ireland arises from famine as a primary cause—yet its formidable intensity—its extension, and the risk of its perpetuation, are occasioned mainly by ill-considered, though well-intended laws. In a country where real property constituted even in the most prosperous times 13–20ths of the national wealth, such property has been depreciated from 60 to 40 per cent, whilst taxation has increased in a still more alarming ratio. In a country where house property is lamentably deficient—rates thrown exclusively en the landowner, even in cases in which no rents are paid—has produced the destruction of innumerable houses—the same measures have led to the eviction of tenants, and the multiplication of paupers over districts where insecurity and wretchedness have been amongst the most active causes of crime, thus adding to those lamentable causes and fatal effects. Capital and industry are forcibly driven out of a land which the hotter description of emigrant farmers quit in despair. Incumbrances have been largely created by Act of Parliament—even upon well-conditioned estates—the accumulation of uncollected rates cast on the land as a primary charge—the owners rendered liable for debts not contracted by themselves, put by others, has brought the rights, and almost the existence of property into danger. In a community where the increased production of food and increased demand for labour were most required, our laws have converted hundreds of thousands of acres into desolate wastes, and whore the want of a resident gentry was most complained of, a widely-spread insolvency has been extended among that important class. If we persevere in a course condemned on its introduction by the authority of science, and now unequivocally condemned by subsequent experience, we may live to see a country within four hours' sail of our shores, and in 1841 containing a population of eight millions, become by degrees one great pauper warren, our burden and our reproach, and the most pressing danger to the prosperity of the empire.

Motion made, and Question put— That it is the opinion of this House, that no permanent system for the relief of the poor in Ireland can be carried out safely or beneficially, to receivers or ratepayers, without a return to the principle of the original poor-law of 1838, by the strict application of indoor relief to all classes of paupers. That the system of appointment of vice-guardians with unconstitutional and unlimited powers of taxation has proved most objectionable, and should be forthwith abolished. That the present system of administration of the poor-law in Ireland is unnecessarily extravagant, unsuited to the diminished resources of that country, and tends considerably to the demoralisation of the people. That it is unjust to throw on one species of property, and that the most suffering, the entire support of the poor in Ireland.


, in rising to second the resolutions, said, that he was prepared to admit, to the fullest amount, the improvement that had taken place in Ireland with regard to the working of the poor-law. He rejoiced in that change, and was willing to give every praise to those through whose exertions that beneficial change had been effected. But still he was bound to say that the state of the laws relating to the relief of the poor was far from being satisfactory to the people of that country. He must remind the House that the improvement manifest in some respects was the result more of a comparative mitigation of misery than an absolute return to prosperity The mere assuaging of almost intolerable agony must not be mistaken for an actual restoration of health and strength. He believed the system of outdoor relief could not be continued with any safety to the country. He could add little to the weighty arguments of the hon. Mover on this subject; but he must beg the House to recollect that this system had been condemned by officials and statesmen, as well before as after its passing into law. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, the right hon. Members for Tamworth and Ripon, Messrs. Twisle-ton, Nicholls, Seymer, Power—every man connected with the administration of the law—had concurred in saying that it was unsuited either to the character or resources of the Irish people. Many might say that this Motion was ill-timed—that, because outdoor relief had immensely diminished, there was no occasion to take legislative measures to extinguish it. He could not concur in that opinion. When popular feeling was still set against it, when boards of guardians, ratepayers, and commissioners, all condemned the practice, then was the time for the Legislature to step in and withdraw a power so universally disapproved of—and indeed he would read to the House extracts of a letter, to show how dangerous was the power—how, as long as that power remained, it might be made a fertile source of agitation; and how the evil-disposed might, for the worst purposes, place such a pressure on boards of guardians, that they would be unable to resist the demands of affected distress. A chairman of a union in one of the most distressed districts wrote thus. The letter was dated during the last month:— There was a desperate attempt made to force us to give outdoor relief promiscuously as of old, and a pressure was kept up for some weeks—six or seven—of the most embarrassing nature. The applicants in one week amounted to two thousand, or near that number; and they were so far taught their work, that they accepted the house almost universally when offered as a test; and though we all felt that at least nine-tenths were not in want, it was impossible from out of the list of ragged (and sometimes even painted) applicants, to discriminate the really distressed. We gave Way; but the commissioners very wisely and sensibly refused to give outdoor relief. They saw more clearly at a distance than we did. Their answer was excellent. They would send us money to fit up more workhouses, but not to give outdoor relief. This stopped the imposture, and in three electoral divisions we have stopped outdoor relief, by ordering in the paupers on outdoor relief—doing one electoral division at a time, so that no combination could be got up. Now, we have every board day a number of imposture cases of illness to get outdoor relief; and cases have often, or at least not seldom, occurred in which they have feigned sickness, and received extreme unction, and on the doctor visiting them next day after their getting outdoor relief, he has found them working on the farm which they still held. This would be sufficient to show to the House, in a far stronger manner than any remarks of his, how great was the peril of continuing the power that might be used for such fatal purposes. Now, with regard to the vice-guardians, he would quote unanswerable instances of the gross misconduct of those persons, but would not weary the House with them. He would merely take the total return of the financial state of the thirty-nine unions, whose affairs had been entrusted to the care of those persons:—

RETURN of the Amount of Debts, Claims, and Liabilities (exclusive of those owing to Government), against each of those Thirty-nine Unions;—
At the commencement of the month in which elected board of guardians was dissolved £134,152 0 0
Commencement of month in which administration by paid guardians terminated 258,635 0 0
Increase of debts, claims, and liabilities during the administration of paid guardians £124,483 0 0
Now, though he would fully admit the necessity that existed in many instances for the appointment of these officers, he believed that the Commissioners were much to blame in not instituting a more rigid inspection into their conduct. Their case was very different from an elected board; they were raising and distributing monies in the economy of which they had no personal interest, they were responsible to no power but to the Commissioners; and it is a cause of serious blame to that body that they allow such gross abuses to exist, without attempting to exert any real control over their own officers. The 3rd resolution was one which he thought almost as important as any. He believed that the principal object of a poor-law was to relieve those persons who from bodily afflictions, sickness, the absolute impossibility of obtaining employment, were deprived of the power of obtaining the common necessaries of life. But there was an ulterior object, that he believed a well-regulated poor-law might be capable of effecting, namely, the amelioration of the general condition of the lower classes of the people. In the first object, the Irish poor-law had very partially succeeded—in the second, it had utterly failed—nay, more, its whole tendency had been in the opposite direction; a cessation of industry, a want of self-reliance, a general demoralisation of the people had been caused by the working of the present law. He admitted that this was in many respects the effect of the law itself; but with regard to one class, and that the most helpless one, he thought that much blame attached itself to the commissioners for this disregard of circum-stances that are well known to all. He alluded to the contamination to which the children in the workhouse were subject. In Ireland at present there were 119,000 children, under the age of fifteen, in the different workhouses; up to that age, he believed, they were pretty well instructed and cared for, but on attaining the age of fifteen they were indiscriminately drafted among the ablebodied of both sexes; and the result was that they were brought into constant contact with the worst characters—the effect of this upon the girls was awful to contemplate. He must, even at the risk wearying the House, read some communications he had received on this subject. A Roman Catholic priest, the chaplain of a workhouse, in one of the best unions in Ireland, wrote as follows:— There have been instances, in the past year, where some females of the worst class who had left the house, again obtained admission, for the purpose (as was ascertained) of inducing young girls to leave the workhouse, to follow their own wicked course of life. Again, a gentleman who had been most successfully engaged in administering the affairs of a southern union, writes— It has been often reported to me by the relieving officers of Waterford that young females have been induced by some of the bad characters in the house to leave, for the purpose of going on the town. I have no doubt that this has frequently occurred; but the evil consequences of contamination by such society cannot be denied. In former years the evil was not so great as at present, the majority of the inmates being of the lowest class, but of late a very different class have unfortunately been obliged to avail themselves of the shelter of the workhouse; and it is now melancholy to see persons who had been in comfortable circumstances obliged to associate with the refuse of society. I fear this will increase. But the most appalling account of this, the worst feature of the poor-law, is given by a gentleman of well known philanthropy, a gentleman who has devoted much time and attention to the administration of the law, I mean Mr. David Charles Latouche. Mr. Latouche says— If the destruction of all self-respect and decency were the end professed and aimed at, more effectual means for that purpose could not be adapted than those at present practised—I speak especially of the union I am best acquainted with, the South Dublin union, where, although we possess the advantages of good officers, and particularly of a very conscientious and active matron, the demoralisation, especially among the young women, is frightful; it cannot, indeed, be otherwise, when it is known that the young girls, inmates of the workhouse, whenever they attain the age of fifteen years, are drafted, by order of the commissioners, amongst the ablebodied women, who are almost all prostitutes: and a continued circulation, from the workhouse to the brothel and streets, and back again to the workhouse, is thus kept up in a vicious circle of increasing profligacy. There are about 1,000 children in the South Dublin union, the girls each in their turn undergoing this dreadful process. This is a subject demanding the instant attention of Government. The class so exposed are perfectly helpless: they are principally composed of orphans and of children deserted by their parents, always with the brand of poverty, and frequently of illegitimacy, stamped upon them. They have been guilty of no crime—in no way responsible for their helplessness; they have been, by misfortune, made the children of the State, and the State has taken the best course to ensure their temporal and spiritual ruin. He would earnestly implore the Government to look to this before it was too late; the commissioners have refused to know any distinction among paupers, they resist any attempt at classification. Virgin innocence and the most degraded prostitution are by this system treated alike, and the result is, the loss, for time and eternity, of thousands of the most helpless of our fellow-creatures. He would now inquire very briefly at what expense this system was carried on, and it would be well that English Gentlemen would consider the startling facts he was about to adduce. In 1845, the second year of the poor-law, the poor-rate for the whole of Ireland amounted to 316,025l.; in 1849 it was 2,177,650l. But he would take two years—1845 and 1848—as it might be said that the last year was the worst, and that it was not likely we should sec such another; and hero it might not be out of place to show what the whole local taxation of Ireland was during those years. In 1845—
The Grand Jury Rate for Ireland was £1,149,898
The Poor Rate was 316,025
Total £1,465,923
In 1848—
The Grand Jury Rate was £1,241,854
The Poor Rate 1,835,310
Total £3,077,164
making an average poundage on the first year of 2s. 2½d., on the last mentioned year, of 4s. 8d. on the valuation of thirteen millions of 1841; but assuming the value of rateable property to be reduced to ten millions (though most people thought it was much, really much lower,) the poundage would he increased to 6s. 2d., or nearly one-third of the rental. Now, take the case of England for the same year, 1848—
The Poor Rates amounted to £6,180,765
Highways and County Rates to 1,750,000
Total £7,930,765
or a poundage of about 2s. 4½d. on the value of rateable property of 67,000,000l. So that in point of fact Ireland pays in local taxation 6s. 2d. in the pound, England 2s. 4d. There is this difference between this calculation and that made by the Earl of Rosse—that his Lordship took his from the value of English property rateable to the income tax, while this has been taken on the property rateable to the poor. He (Lord Naas) had, he thought, now shown a sufficient cause why the House should agree to these resolutions. His whole object was a return to the principles of the law of 1838. He wished not to overthrow but strengthen the poor-law. With all its imperfections, he would rather have the present poor-law than none at all; but let not that House show any indisposition to assist those who were using their best endeavours to administer rightly the provisions of the law; let the House show by its vote to-night that it is not unmindful of the great difficulties in which the people are placed; let the Legislature do its duty, and he would answer that the Irish people would do theirs.


said, it was impossible to deny the importance of the Motion under consideration, but undoubtedly the subject was not one to which the House had shown itself in any way indifferent. A Committee had sat upon it last Session, which continued its labours for several months; and the whole of these resolutions received at that time the most ample consideration. Subsequently, also, when a Bill was brought before the House embodying certain of them, many, if not all of these subjects, were again fully debated in the House, and a decision pronounced upon them. The hon. Gentleman who had introduced the Motion had admitted that he was opposed altogether to the system of poor-laws as they existed in Ireland, and therein he differed from the noble Lord who had followed him; but he had been particularly urgent in his condemnation of the system of outdoor relief, on account of the expense on the country, and the demoralisation to which it exposed the pauper. His hon. Friend, however, had omitted to tell the House in what way the lives of the people were to be, or could have been, preserved without the administration of outdoor relief during the calamitous years the country had lately gone through. He (Sir W. Somerville) was no admirer of outdoor relief. He would not administer it except under the pressure of the most overwhelming circumstances; and at the present moment there was not a single outdoor-relief order in existence in any union in Ireland. He found from a statement on this subject, which he held in his hand, that there were relieved in the week ending the 12th of May, 1849, under the first section of the Act, which authorised the distribution of outdoor relief at the discretion of the board of guardians, 513,908 persons, and in the corresponding week of 1850, under the same section, 125,215 persons, showing a decrease of 388,693. That, he thought, was a very satisfactory result, so far as the exertions of the hoards of guardians were concerned; and he must say, that they were conducting the affairs of the unions at this time with a spirit and energy which had not been the case heretofore, and from which he anticipated the most salutary results. There were relieved under the second section of the Act, which applied to the able-bodied poor, in the week ending the 12th of May, 1849, 168,050 persons, and in the corresponding week of 1850 only 102 persons, being a diminution of 167,957. The total charge for outdoor relief in the week ending the 12th of May, 1849, had been 17,433l 9s. 2d., and in the corresponding week of the present year, 2,693l. 16s. 8d., showing a diminution of 14,740l 2s. 6d. In indoor relief there had been a slight increase. On the 12th of May, 1849, there was workhouse accommodation for 247,225 persons, and on the 11th of May of this year for 280,366, showing an increase of 33,141 persons; and the actual increase in the number in the workhouses was 35,967. The decrease in the total expenditure of the quarter ending the 31st of December, 1849, was 122,019l., and of the quarter ending the 30th of March, 1850,197,427l., showing a total decrease in the expendi- ture for the six months ending March 1850, as compared with the same period of 1849, of 319,446l. He thought, therefore, that he was warranted in saying that the expenses of the poor-law were rapidly diminishing. At the same time, he had the satisfaction of stating to the House that the sanitary condition of the workhouses had much improved, whilst the weekly coat of maintenance had been diminished. The average weekly cost per head, exclusive of clothes, which, in May 1849, had been 1s. 2¼d., had been reduced in May of the present year to 1s. per head. Concurrently also with this there had been a great diminution in the mortality, the deaths averaging, in May 1849, 11 per thousand, and in the corresponding week of the present year only 5 per thousand. He repeated, that the necessity of the case alone was that on which he justified the practice of outdoor relief; but as his hon. Friend had failed to state how he would provide for the poor in the case of a calamity such as that of the last few years, he did not think it desirable to adopt the course which his hon. Friend had recommended. He believed that it would lead to no useful end; and therefore he thought the House would act wisely in refusing to sanction the first resolution. With regard to the second resolution, relative to the subject of vice-guardians, he might mention that there existed at present in Ireland no vice-guardians; and he admitted that the system of appointing them should not exist, except under the pressure of the most absolute necessity. He thought it due, however, to the gentlemen who had held that most difficult and responsible office, to trouble the House with one or two observations upon this part of the subject. And, in the first place, he must say, that a comparison of the liabilities of a union when they entered office with the liabilities when they quitted it, afforded no proof that they had discharged their duties in an unsatisfactory manner. It was quite true, as had been stated, that in 35 unions the liabilities had increased during their tenure of office from 115,010l. to 225,317l, being an increase of 110,307l. That was true; but the fact of vice-guardians having been appointed was a proof, in the first instance, that they had a very difficult task to perform, for it was to the most distressed and worst-conditioned unions that they were always appointed. Moreover, that expense had been principally incurred in providing additional workhouse accommodation, of which the restored boards of guardians were now reaping the benefit. In addition to this, he found that in 10 unions where there were no vice-guardians the liabilities had increased in the same period from 27,252l. to 101,051l., being an increase of 73,799l. in 10 unions—a much larger proportion than an increase of 110,307l. in 35 unions; still he did not say upon that account that the affairs of those unions had been maladministered. It only showed what difficulties those who administered the poor-law had to encounter during the calamitous period to which he had referred. His hon. Friend had not insisted much upon his third resolution. His noble Friend the Member for Kildare, however, had dwelt upon the demoralising effects of the workhouses in Ireland, and in that respect had somewhat contradicted the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion, who was altogether for workhouse relief, and no other. With respect to the alleged demoralisation, he was quite sure that his noble Friend had proceeded upon what he conceived to be reliable authority; but he (Sir W. Somerville) could not help thinking that the evils had been greatly exaggerated. With respect to the last resolution, "That it is unjust to throw on one species of property—and that the most suffering—the entire support of the poor in Ireland," he begged to say, that that was a question which last year underwent a very long discussion in that House, and the Bill, as it now stood, had received the deliberate sanction of the House. He thought, therefore, that after so recent a discussion of that question, it was unnecessary to enlarge more upon it at present. He hoped he had said enough to show the House that they ought not to affirm the resolutions of his hon. Friend. They would lead to no practical result; and he thought they ought to wait a little longer, until they had had an opportunity of judging of the result of the recent changes which the Government had made, and were still making, in the administration of the poor-law in Ireland, before they placed upon the Journals of the House a series of resolutions condemnatory of the existing system.


said, that his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland had stated that this subject had already been repeatedly debated. He admitted this to be the case, but the importance of the matter fully justified him in again bringing it before the House. He had marked the perfect indifference with which this question had been treated by the Treasury bench, and other parties in the House. On a late occasion, on a Motion of great importance to Ireland, the Ministry in general quitted the Treasury bench, and left the Irish Members to debate the subject with the Irish Secretary; and most of the English Members followed their example. Now he (Colonel Dunne) had no objection to debate subjects exclusively Irish with the Secretary for Ireland and his colleagues from this country, but he must protest against a practice of the Ministry and its adherents absenting themselves from a debate, and then coming down to the House and overbearing the decisions of Irish Members, an interest exclusively their own, by an unscrupulous majority. If this was the case now, while they had a Lord Lieutenant and a separate Administration, what must they expect when the proposed change took place, and a fourth Secretary of State, resident in London, was appointed to take upon himself the administration of Irish affairs? It had been asserted that the object of the Irish poor-law was threefold: first, to promote the amelioration of the condition of the people of Ireland; secondly, that this amelioration should be effected by means of the resources of Ireland; and, thirdly, that they should not come upon the resources of this country for the maintenance of the Irish poor. If the Irish poor-law had succeeded in these three objects, it might have been asserted to have been a successful measure; but it had notoriously failed in every one of them, and the condition of the people of Ireland was worse now than it was before the introduction of the poor-law. It was possible that by its operation the lives of some might have been saved; but it had reduced large numbers to a state of beggary. In his opinion, the resolutions of his hon. Friend did not go half far enough to meet the evil; but still their adoption might lead to a beneficial change. He denied the position taken up by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, that the increase of debt in the unions under vice-guardians was no proof of mismanagement, for he would assert that half the debt of Ireland arose in those 35 unions to which vice-guardians had been appointed. The enormous expenditure attending the administration of the poor-law had never been sufficiently discussed. By the returns he found that the indoor relief had amounted to 797,294l., and the outdoor relief to 699,604l., while there were establishment charges amounting to 700,750l.; so that the last charge literally amounted to nearly the sum for actual relief in food and clothing given within the workhouses. Before the recent calamities fell upon Ireland, the estimated rental was 13,000,000l.; but according to the opinion given last year before the Lords' Committee by Mr. Griffith, it had been reduced to 9,000,000l. There was about 6,000,000l. in debt, and taxes of various descriptions, of which 4,000,000l. must be deducted from the 9,000,000l. rental. Then, if jointures and mortgages and all other incumbrances were considered, there was not enough left for the support of the gentry, the farmers, and at the same time to provide employment for the poor in Ireland; and it was therefore a most unjust inference from the facts to say that the entire burden of the poor-law should be borne by the land. If the House wished to preserve the poor on Irish soil, they must allow Ireland to use her own resources and means; but in no one instance were the people permitted to take the administration of their own affairs into their own hands. Now, these resolutions were not formed from any peculiar views of the hon. Member for Roscommon; they had been long since put forward and assented to by a majority of the Irish Members. The first resolution proposed by the hon. Member was actually taken from the report of the Lords' Committee, which report was signed by seven of the Ministry, of whom five were in the Cabinet. The Prime Minister had recognised its necessity, yet refused to give it his assent. For himself, he would be most unwilling to withdraw any relief from the poor if he did not at the same time afford them the means of supporting themselves by employment; but he felt assured that a system of employment would be desired which would increase, not diminish, the resources of the country; the second had been admitted to be just by the noble Lord at the head of the Government; and he did not even attempt to deny that the power of unlimited and irresponsible taxation was unconstitutional and objectional. He could not deny that the paid guardians had in many, if not in all, instances exercised this power most injudiciously and destructively. The reports placed on the table of the House, the indebted state of the unions over which they had been placed, and whose affairs they managed in the most ruinous manner, and the unanimous opinion of the Irish Members, and still more of the Irish people, fully bore out the second resolution of his hon. Friend. But while the noble Lord made these admissions, the noble Lord refused to assent to the clause empowering the appointment of paid guardians with powers which he admitted were unconstitutional. He told the House that the Commissioners did not now appoint paid guardians, and seemed to think this ought to satisfy Irish Members; but it would not satisfy Irish Members, and they insisted on removing from the Statute-book a power to appoint these officers who had exercised their functions so destructively to the interests of the country. And as to the third, no one could look over the papers without being convinced of its truth. He (Colonel Dunne) had pointed out the relation of the cost of management to the actual relief afforded in the workhouses; and it would be seen that they were not far from equal. Could this wasteful expenditure continue even in the richest country? If not, how must it overwhelm one of the poorest? The fourth resolution affirmed the injustice of placing the burden of this monstrous expenditure on one species of property, and that property now the most depressed in value. The owner and occupier of land suffering from the late visitation of Providence, from the low prices consequent on recent legislation, were obliged to pay the mortgagee and other creditors the full amount of their demand, and to be saddled with a new and enormous tax from which they were exempt. He confidently hoped that the resolutions would be sanctioned by the House. Every English Member who thought that Irish property should support the Irish poor, ought to support these resolutions. If the Irish people were prevented from cultivating their own resources, how could the House stay the Government from coming down for fresh grants, as the result would be if things went on as they were, for there would be nothing produced from Irish resources, and the Government must draw on English resources, or leave the starving people to destruction?


said, that the first resolution called upon the House to return to the strict application of the principle of indoor relief. The law of 1838 was called a law for the relief of the poor, but it prohibited outdoor relief under whatever circumstances of distress. Now his opinion was, that any poor-law which pro- habited outdoor relief was a mockery and a delusion, and he could not contemplate the idea of a return to the original poor-law of 1838, which by its inhuman limitation would have left the people to starve under the late calamity. He could not, therefore, affirm that resolution. And what had occasioned the enormous expenditure alluded to in another resolution—what caused the potato famine to operate with such excessive severity? It was because Ireland was prepared for that calamity by the treatment she had previously received under the relations of landlord and tenant law, which had reduced the people to be dependent on the lowest class of food. When the relations between landlord and tenant gave to the people a general security for the reward of their labour, then there would be no pressure upon the poor-rate, and the House would see Ireland improved, and her people employed. He acknowledged there had been mismanagement in the relief of the poor, in not employing them on profitable works, and that the expense of administration might have been reduced, if those who administered had applied themselves to rendering pauper labour more remunerative. The second resolution referred to the appointment of vice-guardians as unconstitutional. Vice-guardians might possibly have been appointed in many places contrary to the principle of the poor-law, and in violation of the constitution; but he would not assume that there were no extraordinary cases in which it was not necessary to take that step. The last resolution, alleging that it was unjust to throw the entire support of the poor of Ireland on the most suffering property, was not correct, for the manufactures and trade in towns paid their share. With these views he would not support the proposed resolutions.


said, the real question was, how the poor could be most efficiently supported consistently with the safety of the ratepayer. Under the Act, which declared that no relief should be given except within the walls of the workhouse, there was no protection for the lives of the poor, hundreds and thousands of them perished every year, until the Act of 1847 was enacted, it having become manifest that no alternative remained other than the adoption, in certain cases and to a certain extent, of outdoor relief. There was the question, too, whether, even under ordinary circumstances, outdoor relief was not, in certain cases, preferable to indoor relief. The noble Lord the Member for Kildare admitted that the introduction of juvenile paupers, especially of females, into workhouses, was most demoralising. When his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland spoke of the reduction in the weekly cost of the paupers, he had somewhat heedlessly, perhaps, interposed a remark that this reduction might have some connexion with starvation. It did not follow that he had meant absolute starvation. In some unions in Ireland the poor had been fed upon turnips and a very small ration of meal. But were the other arrangements of the workhouses, besides the amount of food given, such as insured the comfort of the inmates? A return had been delivered that morning, containing a report made to the guardians of the Castlebar union by Dr. Ronayne, the medical superintendent of that union, which showed the wretched and disgraceful state of the poor in the workhouse. The report stated that there were in the workhouse, on the 13th of April last, 1,428 persons, although an order of the commissioners declared that the number of inmates should be restricted to 840. In one small room, a bath-room 22 feet by 14 feet, in the probationary ward, there were 136 persons. A bath and boiler occupied 35 feet of the surface of the room, and the boiler being without a lid, diffused its steam throughout the room, and, together with the respiration of the overcrowded inmates, and the exhalation from their compressed and ragged bodies, rendered the air of the apartment offensive, sickening, and oppressive. Children were screaming for drink, and the women stated that they had to give them some of the warm water out of the boiler to allay their thirst. The inmates had only an average space of two square feet each—a confinement which he would venture to say had not been equalled in any slave-ship. They had neither beds, bedstraw, nor bedclothes, and in that state many of them continued for eight days without any change of clothing. Dr. Ronayne, in making this report, had done his duty as an honest medical superintendent; but what had been the result? When his report was presented to the board of guardians, the first resolution they passed was, that it should not be placed on the minutes. They refused to take it into consideration. And what was their next resolution? It was to the effect that Dr. Ronayne should be mulcted in a third of his salary, and cut down from 100l. to 70l. a year, as a consequence of doing his duty in reporting the state of the workhouse. Could anything be more monstrous than that? This was the consequence of an officer's doing his duty in reporting the wretched state of the workhouse to the guardians. He certainly considered that if the right hon. Secretary for Ireland did not supersede guardians who acted in this manner, he failed in his duty as a Poor Law Commissioner. The law provided that due relief should be afforded to all classes of the poor, and especially to the infirm poor; but could this, he would ask, be called due relief? He believed that the greater number of workhouses in Ireland were well regulated, and the relief was fairly administered; but he thought it would he better to confine relief to indoor relief exclusively, rather than to administer outdoor relief as it had been administered. The outdoor relief given in almost every union in Ireland, had, he believed, been afforded chiefly to the infirm poor, and had been confined to food alone. Now, under the Act of 1847 it was provided that relief to the ablebodied poor should be confined to food, but that the infirm poor, who constituted nine-tenths of those receiving outdoor relief, should be duly, sufficiently, and fully relieved. But had the relief afforded to the infirm poor been equal to their necessities "? No; in no case had it exceeded 1 lb. of meal per day, without any allowance for shelter, clothing, and fuel. The consequence had been, that from the inclemency of the weather, and the want of shelter and fuel, many of them had died of starvation. Who, then, was responsible for this? If the guardians did not discharge their duties, the Poor Law Commissioners were empowered to remove them, and to appoint vice-guardians; but it appeared that they had never done so. He wished to call the attention of the House to the false economy of the present system of relief. The object of the poor-law was to afford relief to the destitute poor in such a manner as not to destroy but to improve the resources of the country. But he maintained that the manner in which the poor-law had been administered, especially among the ablebodied classes, had tended to injure and detract from the resources of the country. Instead of adopting the self-supporting system, and providing employment for the able bodied, a mere eleemosynary system of; feeding the people had been carried on for three years, in a most ruinous and wasteful manner. Though always an advocate for the extension of a compulsory poor-law to Ireland, yet so long ago as 1830, twenty years back, he had said that the curse of Ireland was the general want of employment for its inhabitants, and that any poor-law applied to Ireland that merely provided relief for the sick, without containing as its foremost provision the setting to work—and that productive work—of every man capable of work, the rendering labour a condition to be fulfilled before subsistence was administered, would be not only useless but ruinously injurious. The truth of that statement had been proved by the discussions that had lately taken place; and yet, while the ratepayers were impoverished, the poor were, in truth, inadequately relieved. In some of the unions in Ireland, deaths were occurring day by day and week by week, in consequence of the insufficiency of the relief, whether indoor or outdoor, afforded. He had received statements of the most appalling character from medical men and coroners in some of the western unions, declaring that relief had been refused in numberless cases to hundreds of persons, and that many had consequently died. He wished to ask the right hon. Secretary for Ireland why prosecutions had not been instituted against the boards of guardians or relieving officers who appeared, upon the verdicts of coroners' inquests, to have refused relief? He could corroborate his statements by a letter he had received from a clergyman in the county of Clare, who stated that four or five coroners' inquests had been recently held in the Ennis and adjoining unions upon persons who bad died from starvation through being refused relief in time to save their lives. One man, Michael Ryan, had travelled three times to Ennistymon workhouse, sixty-six miles in all, and was not heeded by the guardians; on the third time of his return he fell on the way from want, and expired a few days after. The paupers of the Corofin union were at present lodged in the Ennis workhouse; but although after repeated applications they might succeed in getting tickets of admission, yet, after crawling three or four times to the workhouse, they were sometimes refused entrance, and crowds of them who were unable to leave slept at the workhouse gate for the night, where death sometimes overtook them. Lately a large number of paupers went from Ennis to the Ennisty- mon workhouse, where they were refused admission; and on returning to Ennis workhouse, a distance of eighteen miles, the doors were closed against them, and they had to wander about in search of weeds for subsistence. Sufficient accommodation might be easily provided, but the guardians objected to the expense, and while they were practising that cold and cruel economy the people were withering on the earth. The famine at Jerusalem, according to the account of Josephus, was rivalled by what had taken place to the writer's knowledge within the last four years in Ireland. Such a poor-law was a mockery of relief. It failed to provide the destitute with food fit for the inhabitants of a Christian country, and therefore did not carry out the principle on which a poor-law ought to be founded. He could not concur in the resolutions of the hon. Member, who wished to go back to the time when there was no poor-law at all, and he called on the House rather to enforce the law passed in 1847, for, if they allowed such things to go on, Ireland would have but the shadow of a poor-law—not a substantial law to save people from perishing of famine.


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had given them a very fair specimen of the ridiculous stories and misrepresentations which were told every day about Ireland and the poor-law. For instance, he told the House of 136 poor people, who had only two feet square—the hon. Gentleman ought to have given the number of cubic feet—to live in. Were they to believe such a story? Any one would know it was impossible, at all events with the race of people whom he knew to be coming for relief in that country. The hon. Gentleman had read passages from the report of a doctor, which appeared in a Parliamentary paper of that morning; but it would have been better if that doctor had gone to the board and stated the cases of which he complained. Indeed, it was his business to have done so, or to have exercised his power of redressing those evils without going to the board of guardians at all. Instead of going to the master or matron of the workhouse, he wrote an invidious report to be put in a local paper as a piece of scandal against the guardians. It was in that way the poor-law in Ireland was defeated. By those misrepresentations—by this wickedness, and by this cruelty—for in making those statements, injustice was caused to the really poor—while many were reduced to poverty who had been in comfort—it had come to pass that the law could not be carried out. The hon. Member had read a letter from a Roman Catholic clergyman with whom he (Sir L. O'Brien) was well acquainted. He would say this of that gentleman and of his rev. brethren, that they had rendered it impossible to work the poor-law in Clare. He knew who were the hon. gentleman's correspondents. One of this kind of persons had actually recommended persons for relief who were dealing in provisions at the time in his (Sir L. O'Brien's) own village, and it was a long time before it came to his ears, though every one knew it. If the Roman Catholic clergy would come forward and assist the gentry in the administration of the poor-law, the country would be able to get through the most trying times; but if such a pressure was maintained on the guardians, it would be impossible to work it, and the people who had to pay rates would be ruined utterly. Why, he had seen persons as well dressed as hon. Gentlemen, who, when the board met, hired rags, and came in before them limping and lame, with their backs bent and doubled up, for the purpose of getting relief, though the guardians knew them to be well off. The relief of Clare cost 160,000l. last year—more than one-half the valuation of the county, and which would require rates of at least 12s. in the pound to pay. But that county was not the worst. In the union of Newcastle, in the comity of Limerick, the rates and taxes were 21s. 6d. in the pound; and Mr. Caird quoted the case of a farm in Kanturk which produced but 24s. an acre, on which the rates and taxes came to 25s. an acre. How could any country get on under such circumstances? If the hon. Gentleman turned his time and his talent to assist the guardians in carrying out the law, he could make his knowledge of the subject really of service; but his speeches and writings, day after day, were setting one class against the other, and rendering it impossible to carry out the law at all. All the people thought of was to grasp at as much as they could, and they were taught to hate the rich, and regard them as enemies. In that way they had heard aspersions against the justices of the peace, who had to discharge the most serious duties, and those aspersions naturally tended to embarrass them and to excite the people. But the people were beginning to find out the truth, and his return to the House was a proof that they did not regard the representations which were made to them; they were coming to discover who were their real friends. It afforded a proof that the lower classes were beginning to appreciate the real state of the case, and were prepared to throw aside those who had pursued the base, degrading, low, and unworthy policy of seeking popularity at the expense of their miserable country.


observed, the hon. Baronet might have a chance hereafter of proving what he stated with respect to the Roman Catholic clergy. From what he (Mr. 0'Flaherty) knew of that body, he could not think those assertions were true. He would support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon in which he agreed generally, though he would not take away the power of outdoor relief altogether. The House ought to do something to prevent the total destruction of Irish property.


explained, that he had no intention of imputing to the Roman Catholic clergy any desire to obstruct the law. He lived with them in harmony and good feeling, and did not wish to make any charge against them; but he would say they were sometimes driven too far by the circumstances under which they were placed.

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 90: Majority 25.

List of the AYES.
Archdall, Capt. M. Herbert, H. A.
Arkwright, G. Hildyard, R. C.
Bateson, T. Hudson, G.
Bentinck, Lord H. Jocelyn, Visct.
Best, J. Jolliffe, Sir W. G. H.
Boldero, H. G. Jones, Capt.
Boyd, J. Keogh, W.
Brisco, M. Leslie, C. P.
Broadley, H. Lewisham, Visct.
Brooke, Sir A. B. Long, W.
Bunbury, W. M. Mackenzie, W. F.
Burke, Sir T. J. Macnaghten, Sir E.
Burrell, Sir C. M. Maunsell, T. P.
Cole, hon. H. A. Monsell, W.
Dick, Q. Napier, J.
Dickson, S. Neeld, J.
Disraeli, B. Neeld, J.
Dunne, Col. Nugent, Sir P.
Forbes, W. O'Brien, Sir L.
Frewen, C. H. O'Connell, M.
Galway, Visct. O'Flaherty, A.
Grace, O. D. J. Plumptre, J. P.
Grogan, E. Prime, R.
Guernsey, Lord Sadleir, J.
Halsey, T. P. St. George, C.
Hamilton, G. A. Smollett, A.
Hamilton, Lord C. Stafford, A.
Stanford, J. F. Villiers, hon. F. W. C.
Stanley, E. Waddington, H. S.
Stuart, H. Walsh, Sir J. B.
Sullivan, M. Young, Sir J.
Trevor, hon. G. R. TELLERS.
Trollope, Sir J. French, F.
Verner, Sir W. Naas, Lord