MR. P. SGROPE
, pursuant to notice, rose to call the attention of the House to the social state of the union of Kilrush, in the county of Clare, and to move the appointment of a Special Commission to inquire into the same, and into the means that may be adopted for its amelioration. He proposed to give a history and to describe the state of one of those distressed unions in western Ireland which, he feared, was but a type of many others in similar circumstances. He did not bring this matter before the House simply for the sake of exciting their barren sympathy; but he trusted that his statement might have the effect of causing some suggestion to be made which might have the effect of rescuing that unhappy population from the fate which impended over them. The union of Kilrush formed the western extremity of the county of Clare; it projected into the Atlantic, in an acute angle. It was about forty miles in length from east to west, and scarcely three miles in its widest diameter across from sea to sea. The surface of the union was undulated, but not mountainous; it was land of various qualities, and he was informed that though there were some irreclaimable bogs, the land generally was capable of cultivation. Its area was about 150,000 acres; the population in 1841 was 80,000; and the valuation in 1845 was something under 60,000l. The poor-law inspector who, for the last two years and a half had managed this district was Captain Kennedy, whom he could not mention without expressing 466 his admiration at the manner in which he had performed the arduous duties of his office. Captain Kennedy stated that the population are an amphibious people, as much fishermen as they are farmers, not following any regular course of life—occupying potato land, the rent of which was, occasionally, as much as 3l. an acre, though perhaps not worth more than 15s., subject to the casualties of the seasons, and receiving no assistance from their landlords. In fact, he produced it as a specimen of the strongest possible character of those mismanaged properties on the west and south coasts of Ireland. It was no wonder, therefore, that a population so circumstanced should have felt the pressure of the potato failure in 1846 and 1847 with overwhelming severity. Not only did they lose on that occasion the main subsistence of the population, but they remained exposed to the pressure of those exorbitant rents to which he had alluded, and to which they were legally liable. All classes suffered; and it was not to be wondered at that when the relief of 1847 was offered, there was a general scramble for it. The House would hardly credit it, that in the county of Clare alone the expenditure for the relief works amounted to 470,000l., and that in the union of Kilrush alone the expenditure in relief works, in about six months, amounted to no less a sum than 110,000l.—nearly double the rental of the union. Those Gentlemen who had looked into the reports of the Commissariat Department, and of the Board of Works Department, would be quite aware that in the union of Kilrush the relief intended for the destitute poor was not received by them alone, but was, in great part, distributed among friends of the relief committees. The temporary relief granted subsequently in the summer of 1847, under what was called the Soup Kitchen Act, amounted to 23,500l.; add that to the 110,000l. expended on relief works, and it will appear that in one year, ending August, 1847, this union of Kilrush received of the public money no less a sum than 133,000l. If that money had been well expended, he should not have objected to the amount; but it was expended in a manner that tended rather to increase destitution than to make the union self-supporting. At the close of the Session of 1847, the Poor Law Extension Act having been passed in that Session, the union of Kilrush, like the other 467 Unions, was thrown upon its own resources. As the House was aware, he had always advocated the extension of the poor-law to Ireland as it existed in England; but he never for a moment imagined that in a union like Kilrush the poor-law alone would suffice to succour the distress. In 1846, he urged the introduction of a scheme for the reclamation of waste lands, which he hoped the noble Lord would introduce as a concomitant to the poor-law. But unfortunately nothing of the kind was done. The poor-law, and nothing but the poor-law, was passed. And what was the consequence? In August, 1847, the hoard of guardians of Kilrush entered upon their office. In the preceding month, no less a number than 51,000 of the inhabitants had been relieved under the Soup Kitchen Act, a proportion almost equal to two-thirds of the population. That was a mass of destitution to deal with that was enough to embarrass and to frighten any body of men, and he was not surprised that the board of guardians found themselves incapable of dealing with it. In August, 1847, they struck a rate, but the warrants were not issued for some months for the collection of that rate. It was perfectly well known that it was only in the autumn that either rents or rates could be collected in Ireland. The guardians of that union were themselves landowners or agents, and of course their great object was to collect their rents. The consequence was, that when Captain Kennedy was appointed on the 10th of November, 1847, as the inspector of that union, he found it in this state; he said that no rates, or next to none, had been collected; that the rate collector's warrants had been issued too late by a month, and that there was great distress in consequence—that there was nothing given but indoor relief—that deaths occurred frequently in the union house—that there were 21 in one week—that there had been 535 deaths altogether in the six months preceding—and that there was great want of clothing for the inmates. And he reported shortly afterwards that the arrears of rates were chiefly due from the guardians themselves. But while there was great slowness in the collection of rates, there was no hesitation in the creation of pauperism. Captain Kennedy was informed that no less than 6,000 notices to quit had been served in the union. In consequence the workhouses became overcrowded. The tide of destitution rolled in. Those 468 who were leaving their holdings in consequence of these notices came for relief, and some were admitted into the workhouses. The usual course was to admit them by way of testing their destitution, and then to turn them out for outdoor relief; but in the meantime their cabins were pulled down. Where were they to go to? Where did they go to? Why, into the bogs and the ditches. He feared the greater number of them had perished there through exposure to the weather in winter, with insufficient shelter, clothing, or fuel In the middle of the winter of 1848, in January, there were 1,250 inmates in the workhouse, and 7,000 were receiving outdoor relief. The impotent were turned out of the workhouse to make room for the ablebodied. He wished to call the attention of the House to this point in particular. The impotent poor had a right to due relief under the existing Act, and that relief surely included lodging and clothing, as well as food, these being quite as much necessaries of life as food. But these people were relieved out of doors with a pound of raw meat a day for each; they were almost without any clothing, some of them having been for two or three years in a state of destitution; many of them were without any covering at all by night or day, beyond platted straw, or remnants of rags falling to pieces. Upon this point Captain Kennedy remonstrated with the guardians; he urged them to make an allowance so as to enable the paupers to find shelter as well as food. They refused. He then applied to the Commissioners, who returned for answer that relief in food was not sufficient for the impotent poor, and that an allowance should be made to enable them to procure lodging and clothing. That was, however, refused, and the result was an amount of mortality fearful to contemplate, arising from the exposure of these poor people to the inclemency of the weather. The misery inflicted on the evicted poor was frightful. Captain Kennedy reported on the 18th February, 1848, that evictions and house levelling were going on most fearfully, and that on one estate alone 200 houses had been levelled within three months. In one small townland twelve died in one week, and five out of six in one family. He was confident one-third of the outdoor poor would be swept away by the ensuing summer. On March 7, 1848, the board of guardians was superseded, and vice-guardians were appointed, who, he believed, did 469 their best; but, at the same time, the amount of destitution was daily on the increase, in consequence of these evictions. On the 30th of March, Captain Kennedy reported that 1,000 cabins had been levelled in that union within the last three months, and that he looked for a steady increase of paupers. On one small property twenty-three houses were demolished in one day, and the number of houseless paupers was beyond calculation. The evicted families crowded into some neighbour's cabin, and thus disease was generated. Meantime the workhouse and the fever hospital were crowded to the utmost extent. In a single winter, he reported that 900 houses had been levelled, and he expected that 500 more would be so. A list of evictions then made out, and authenticated by Captain Kennedy, showed that 2,801 persons had been evicted up to April, 1848; and upwards of 15,000 in the following thirteen months. That number had been largely increased since, but the publication of the lists then ceased. The frightful destitution thus caused might easily be conceived by the House. These returns of Captain Kennedy had been quarrelled with, and it was possible some mistakes as to individuals might have occurred. But it was said these persons had not been evicted, but had left their houses of themselves. The fact was, in some cases they had been proceeded against by civil bill, and arrested for the rent, in which case they were glad to compound for their liberty by agreeing to pull down their cabins. In other cases this had been done in their absence; or they had been bribed, by a gift of 4s. or 5s., while in a state of starvation, and while relief was refused to them, to give up possession and pull down their houses. These details were of a nature to command attention. In January, 1849, the evictions then going on, Captain Kennedy described the mass of the people as still starving, and the land lying waste. He (Mr. P. Scrope) attributed this state of things to the want of employment, and the land being left uncultivated. He implored the attention of the House, as men and as Christians, to these statements. Mr. Phelan, the medical officer of the Poor Law Commissioners, had been sent to examine this Union, and his report fully confirmed that of Captain Kennedy. It was evident that the amount of outdoor relief given was insufficient to preserve life. This destitution had continued through 1849. He (Mr. P. Scrope) had visited 470 the district himself, and seen the process of eviction going on. Not only did he see whole villages that had been left destitute, but others where the visit of the sheriff was expected every day. No country ravaged by a hostile army could have been reduced to a more deplorable condition. Had the county of Clare been invaded and overrun by an enemy, no doubt the Government would have stepped in; but in this case the Government itself was the agent in effecting the devastation. In many cases the landlords were the originators of the process of eviction, and in others the Court of Chancery; but in all cases it was the Queen's officers who gave the order for the destruction of the houses, and the magistrates, police, and Queen's troops were brought to the spot to prevent any possible resistance. But no resistance was given, and the unfortunate people suffered with a degree of patience which was worthy of more attention from a paternal Government. In the month of October, 1849, the vice-guardians of the union quitted office, and the board of guardians entered upon their functions, but they neglected for some time to make a rate, and, in consequence of the slowness in making and collecting the rate, they found themselves in want of funds, and the union became bankrupt. And, then, what was the resource? They at once discharged all the outdoor poor from relief, amounting to 11,500; but several verdicts of "death from starvation" having been recorded, the board of guardians became alarmed, and again began to give outdoor relief, not to 11,500, but to 12,500 outdoor paupers. Again, on the 19th of January the relief was discontinued, as if for the purpose of an experiment, to ascertain how many persons would die, low many live without food; but at the end of ten days or a fortnight it was recommenced, and had continued to the present time. Meantime, the workhouse was in a deplorable state; food was wanting for the inmates; for a week they were fed on turnips alone; and the deaths in consequence increased from 21 in November to 71 in December, and 140 in January. These deaths were chiefly from diarrhœa, proving the insufficiency of the food. Crowds who came from a distance of fifteen or twenty miles to go into the workhouse were compelled to wait all day in the sleet or snow, and then return without an atom of food. Amongst those thus refused admittance, several deaths had occurred. Those who could not get relief 471 had to return in the night across an arm of the sea; and on one night thirty-five were drowned, from a crazy boat sinking with them. He must ask the noble Lord who was responsible for this refusal of relief? The guardians threw the responsibility on the commissioners, and the commissioners on the Government. The Act of 1847 was imperative in requiring the guardians to give outdoor relief; but they had refused to do so, and thus had caused many deaths. In England it had been held that the administrators of relief were criminally liable for the consequences of refusal; and the same construction had recently been put on the Scottish law. In Ireland the responsibility clearly rested on the guardians. It might be said that funds were wanted, that the rates could not be collected, and that the rate in aid was insufficient. But it might fairly be asked if all the powers given by the law had been enforced. Guardians might sell the land in arrear; but had this been done in any case? The whole amount of rate collected in the Kilrush union had been only 3s. 6d. or 4s. in the pound. The Government was highly blameable in not enforcing the means they had provided of ensuring relief. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton, when Secretary for Ireland, had said it was the first duty of Government to see that no one died of starvation; language to the same effect had been held by the Earl of Carlisle; but it was a fact capable of proof that thousands had died of starvation in Ireland; and hundreds, he believed, in the union of Kilrnsh alone. It had always appeared to him, that in the case of such unions from the first, two courses were open to Government—either to strike rate after rate, for the necessary relief of the poor, according to the principle laid down by Sir C. Trevelyan, until the proprietors performed their duty of employing the poor, for which there was so much room in the improvement of their estates; or they might, in the event of a union like Kilrush declaring itself unable to support its poor, have advanced money to employ the population, and, if the guardians refused to do so, have taken the matter into their own hands, and charged the owners of the estates with the cost of the improvements. Sir C. Trevelyan had stated, in a letter written in 1846, that that was the course which the Government meant to pursue in the Highlands; and had they acted on either of these principles, the course would have been successful. 472 But they had taken neither course; they had not enforced their duty on the landlords, but had continued to dole out driblets of money from month to month, giving the landlords the best opportunity of clearing their estates by evictions, whereby thousands upon thousands were driven upon the rates, which never rose to above 3s. or 4s. in the pound, the Government making up the deficiency. This system had gone on to the present day; and in a short time the House would be called on to vote another grant for continuing it in this and other unions for perhaps other three years. There was but one mode of remedying the evil—to call on the landed proprietors to employ the ablebodied poor in works of arterial drainage, land reclamation or other improvements, &c., or else for the Government to do it themselves, and impose a lien on the land for the repayment. What he proposed, however, at present, only was, that a commission should be appointed to inquire into the facts he had stated, and into the condition of the Kilrush union. He had no doubt that many valuable suggestions would be obtained from such a commission as to the means of saving great numbers of the poor of that union from starvation and death. He had heard the noble Lord at the head of the Government the other night with great pleasure, when he described the many blessings which the poorest of Englishmen enjoyed under the constitution. The people of Ireland were equally entitled to the blessings of the constitution; but he should like to know from the noble Lord what the blessings were which that constitution conferred on the people of Kilrush. When an intelligent foreigner, M. de Beaumont, then Ambassador from France to this country, visited Ireland, he remarked as the result of his observations in that country, "that the Irish peasant died of hunger, though he was subjected to the law; and thus he had neither the freedom of the savage, nor the sustenance of the slave." He (Mr. P. Scrope) believed that he had proved this evening with respect to one portion of the peasantry of Ireland, that to be a true statement, and he therefore called on the Government to appoint a commission, and to send persons to inquire into the condition of the Kilrush union, from whom they might receive such suggestions as would be the means of rescuing the unhappy population of that district from the graves which now yawned before them.
Motion made, and Question put—
That an hnmble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Special Commission, to inquire into the social state of the Union of Kilrush, and into the means that may be adopted for its amelioration.
§ SIR W. SOMERVILLE
thought his hon. Friend did injustice to the House when he said there was an indisposition to listen to him whenever he attempted to call attention to the miserable state of a certain portion of the population of Ireland. But whatever reflection might rest on the House, certainly none rested on his hon. Friend himself, for he had on every occasion done his duty in calling the attention of the House to the unfortunate state of things which prevailed in certain parts of Ireland. In the present instance it was impossible for him (Sir W. Somerville) to allude to every particular brought forward by the hon. Member for Stroud, who had before him a long correspondence contained in the different series of blue books which had at various times been presented to the House, and had gone into a great variety of details, which it was impossible for him, unprepared as he was at that time, to answer. No person could read the correspondence contained in those blue books without feeling most painfully the distressed condition of this union. But, at the same time, no hon. Member could fail of perceiving that the condition of that union, even before the famine, was anything but flourishing, and that the famine, following as it did over the whole of Ireland, fell with increased severity upon that unfortunate district. The duty of the Government, then, was, as far as it possibly could, to meet that distress. Nothing could be more painful, as showing the intensity of the distress of that union, than the reports of Captain Kennedy; and the compliments which had been paid to the ability of that gentleman by the hon. Member for Stroud were well deserved. In order to meet the distress arising from the great extent to which evictions were carried on in that union and other parts of Ireland, the 11th & 12th Vic, c. 47, was passed, having for its object the protection and relief of the destitute poor evicted from their dwellings in Ireland. He was aware that it might be said that the Act had not been very efficient for its purpose; but it showed, at all events, that the Government had not looked upon this state of things without concern. 474 The hon. Member for Stroud had stated that these evictions were carried on by the Government, and that the Government were responsible for them. The Government was bound to administer the law as they found it. Was the hon. Member prepared to say that in all cases the Government should step in and prevent any step being taken to enable the proprietor of the soil to take possession of the soil, while those who occupied it did not fulfil their engagements? Such was the excited state of feeling upon this subject, that he felt it was difficult ground for him to touch upon, lest it might be said that he was an encourager of this state of things. But when the hon. Member charged the Government with the guilt of these evictions, he was bound to ask the hon. Member whether he thought the Government could step in to interfere between the relations of landlord and tenant, in the mode he had just described? His hon. Friend had traced the history of the Kilrush union through the last two or three years, and had cast a censure upon the commissioners with respect to the conduct of the board of guardians in that union in 1849. The facts of the case to which the hon. Member had referred, were, that the board of guardians had lost their credit, they had no funds, and they applied to the commissioners for relief to enable them to carry on the affairs of the union. The commissioners were of opinion that the board of guardians had failed in the necessary duty of collecting the rates; and, as it was a rule with the Treasury not to advance the public funds to any board of guardians which had not shown due exertion in the collection of the rates, they declined to advance the funds, and persisted in throwing the responsibility of that state of things upon the elected guardians of the Kilrush union. He believed that if the commissioners had recommended an advance to the union from the Consolidated Fund, the hon. Member for Stroud would have been the first to blame them for so doing. The hon. Member for Stroud next adverted to the second stoppage of relief on the 19th of January in the present year. That was a step which the commissioners were of opinion had been taken by the board in error, and they were desirous to avoid, as far as possible, having recourse to the extreme step of dissolving the elected board of guardians and appointing paid guardians in their stead. The hon. Member had concluded by moving for the appointment 475 of a special commission to inquire into the case of the Kilrush union. He (Sir W. Somerville) did not see what practical good could attend the appointment of such a commission. It was impossible that the duties of such a commission could be confined to the Kilrush union; the inquiry would of necessity extend to the other unions in Ireland; and the returns, reports, and other information applicable to all the other unions, which were at hand, would afford a sufficient amount of information on this subject. The appointment of such a commission as that moved for by the hon. Member would only excite hopes which could never be realised, and would tend to prevent that self-exertion and self-reliance which must be the foundation of any great improvement in the Kilrush union, as well as in other parts of the country. He was aware that many hon. Members were very sensitive on the subject of the improved condition of the people; and if he were to express any opinion to the effect that an improvement had taken place in the Kilrush union, he would, no doubt, be instantly cried down as a prosperity-monger, indulging hopes for which there were no foundation. The facts, however, were, that the rates were now in due course of collection; the guardians were fully alive to their duty, and were exerting themselves creditably in the performance of their duty. The rates collected in the week ending December 29 amounted to 732l., and the total sum collected in the two months after the rate was put in course of collection was 4,656l. So far, therefore, as the collection of rates was concerned, the progress was satisfactory, and there was no lack of funds at present in the hands of the guardians for carrying out the law in the union. Considerable advances had been made by Government from time to time to the Kilrush union, amounting in the two years ending December 29, 1849, to 23,000l. Since that period a sum of 500l. had also been advanced, towards enabling the guardians to give increased accommodation to the indoor paupers. Additional accommodation was afforded to 550 persons beyond the 3,162 who were before inmates of the house. During the week ending 23rd February, there were still upon the outdoor relief lists in the Kilrush union 12,470 persons. On the 9th of February, 1850, the number of persons receiving outdoor relief in the whole of Ireland was 140,000. In the province 476 of Connaught the numbers were 15,000, and in Kilrush and in the other unions of Clare the number was 35,000. Provisions were at present cheap; there was an unusual activity in the cultivation of the land, and the quantity of potatoes sown was fully as great as even in the period before the famine. If the hon. Member had any proposal to make on the subject of the improvement of the union, he (Sir W. Somerville) should be most happy to give it his full consideration; but with respect to the appointment of a commission, his opinion was that it would be attended with no practical good whatever, and would only excite hopes and expectations which, after all, might be doomed to disappointment. All that the Poor Law Commissioners could do in the matter should be done. There was an efficient inspector in Captain Kennedy, and if the guardians did not perform their duty in a manner calculated to meet the destitution which existed, the Government would be prepared to act upon their responsibility, and take such steps as the occasion might require. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would not press his Motion.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he could not agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland as to the improvements which he stated had taken place in the Kilrush union. From the latest accounts he (Mr. Monsell) had received from that union, things were worse instead of bettor; and he was afraid that unless the Government were prepared to adopt some totally new and exceptional system as to that union, there was no hope of its condition being improved without the perishing and death of a considerable part of the population. As to the present state of that union, he could not do better than refer to the statement of Mr. Major, the assistant barrister, who a few days ago was holding the quarter-sessions. That gentleman said—That admitting there had been considerable improvement in other parts of the country, in this union our fellow-creatures are reduced to a condition unexampled in any time or country. The poor present a spectacle of wretchedness, which would be insupportable to the feelings of men, if they were not, as it appears to me they are, beginning to forget that these poor people are their own fellow-creatures. In the whole course of my life I never witnessed such patient agony. I protest that the sufferings of the poor in this union are beyond human endurance.With respect to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman of the increased room at 477 that moment in kilruah workhouse, he must call his attention to the fact that hundreds of people had come from distant parts of the union, some sixteen miles, and had been allowed to remain the whole day at the door of the board of guardians seeking admittance to the workhouse; that their claims in many instances had not even been investigated; and that, without a single meal or the slightest assistance, they had been compelled to wend their miserable way. What chance was there, if the present system continued, of the condition of the people of that union being ameliorated—he said of the people, because he did not deny that undoubtedly the prospects of the union would be improved by the paupers dying off, as there would then be no rates to pay; and he believed that in many instances that was the way in which there had been an apparent improvement in the condition of certain unions. In Mayo, particularly, he believed it had been so. But he could not conceive they had any right to allow a system to prevail which only permitted prosperity in the social state to increase on the graves of a considerable number of the people. He had gone through the union of Kilrush twice, and had investigated the circumstances of it, and he believed that there was a sort of dead level there which Gentlemen who lived in the happier parts of Ireland could not imagine. He solemnly protested that a person might go for miles in that union without seeing the house of a man who deserved to be called a farmer: the miserable people, in the middle of a district capable of great improvement unable to work the land, and merely scratching up little patches near their houses—the only cultivation he believed in that district. How things were to come round under the present administration of the poor-law he could not comprehend. The only way to deal with this question was to admit that the present system was not suited to that district, and to adopt a new one. Let not the House imagine that the people in that union were not capable of working. There was no doubt they could soon be turned into useful labourers. Count Strzelecki, speaking of another union, which—with the exception, perhaps, of Kilrush—was about the worst in Ireland, said, he visited it in June or July last, and that he found there from 350 to 400 people cutting a canal; they were under the superintendence of an engineer 478 from Plymouth, he believed, and the engineer informed him that when he first went amongst those people they were in so abject a state that they could do no work at all; that the first thing he had to do was to feed them for a fortnight, and after that he had never met with so many men together who did better work, or were better conducted, or had more esprit de corps among them, or gave more complete satisfaction to their employers. If, therefore, some plan could be devised to bring the labour of these people into connexion with the land, the problem would be solved; but without it he was satisfied there would be no solution of it. Why should they not make an exceptional case of the people of Kilrush, as they did in the case of any great crimes that were committed, and supersede the ordinary operation of the laws in that union, and place the union in the hands of some person in whom the Government had confidence, as Mr. Twisleton or Count Strzelecki, giving him powers to tax the different portions of the union, and to decide to what purposes the money should be applied; some, perhaps for emigration, some for drainage, some for the cultivation of the land; and to have the power of charging it on the district that was so benefited by it? An hon. Friend of his had witnessed one of those evictions to which the hon. Member for Stroud had referred. Two or three persons were ejecting the whole district. He (Mr. Monsell) went about a week or fortnight afterwards to that district, and asked to be shown the people who had been turned out. If he could only make that House conceive the condition of the people, he was sure that they would at once decide that the present system should be abandoned within twenty-four hours. There was a yard not half so large as the floor of the House; a number of miserable cabins had been erected in it; and there were collected together seven, eight, or nine families in each of those cabins, without bedclothes, with hardly any clothing to cover them in the day, with nothing but the cold ground to lie on, without sufficient food, exposed to a number of miseries—any one of which he should have thought enough to kill them—and with a fever raging amongst them. They could not consent to such a state of things being allowed to go on. If these people had been employed—if there had been some person with arbitrary and dictatorial power in that 479 district to apply the labour of those people to the land, they would not have been called upon to pay 22,000l., as they did last year; nor would they have been called on to pay to that extent this year, as he feared would now be the case; and those miserable people, instead of being an utter disgrace to the Government of any civilised nation would have been in comparative prosperity and happiness. He entreated the Government not to dismiss the proposition of his hon. Friend, but to allow a commissioner in whom they had confidence to proceed to Kilrush, and to inquire whether some such plan as that which he had endeavoured to sketch out could not be adopted. And he would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary whether he could get up in that House and state his belief, that under the existing system that union should be brought round without the sacrifice of the lives of hundreds who were now living in it?
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
My hon. Friend who has just sat down has made a speech describing the natural effect of the scenes he has witnessed in Kilrush, and which undoubtedly does credit to his benevolent wish to improve the condition of the people of that union; but when I attempt to consider what the hon. Gentleman proposes as a measure which Government and Parliament should adopt, I own I am appalled at the evils which such a measure would lead to, because, in fact, what the hon. Gentleman says is, that the people of Kilrush being in a miserable condition, and the landlords appearing to neglect all the duties of landlords, and being only active in evicting the wretched people who had hitherto lived on a produce which no longer exists, the farmers being entirely without skill and capital, and only scratching the ground to obtain a crop, the State should step in and take the whole management of those affairs which are usually conducted by individuals—that the State should step in, and, in the first place, provide all the seed that might be required, all the agricultural implements that were necessary, and all the wages that might be required to enable the farmers to cultivate the land properly; and, having done this, and having gone to a vast expense, no doubt with immediate benefit, that I will not deny, by producing a good crop for the present year, and employing the people who are now living on miserable alms, then the proprietors of the land shall have the whole benefit 480 of their land being improved, the whole of this expense to which the State shall go of doing all these things ending in giving the fruit of it to the landlord.
§ MR. MONSELL
begged the noble Lord's pardon for interrupting him, but the noble Lord had misunderstood him. He did not suggest that the State should give the funds; quite the reverse; the funds were to be raised on the electoral division in which they were expended, and he would also suggest the propriety, if the rate were not paid, of carrying out the very wise law passed last Session, for selling the land for payment of the poor-rates.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
The way in which the hon. Gentleman stated, and as I understood, his plan, it would end in very great mischief if it were practicable; but as he now states it, it is, I think, quite impracticable, because you are now able to get the rate only with very great difficulty, and the amount is insufficient for the mere purpose of keeping alive those who would otherwise perish. It is, in fact, the State undertaking to farm the land, and to do what individuals ought to do, thereby incurring immense responsibility which the State ought not to incur, and immediately the hand of the State was withdrawn, all those evils would again arise. Why, in this very case, I myself read an interesting letter from a gentleman who has passed through some counties in the west of Ireland, and who has lately been through some of the best parts of that country, and he said that in those parts of the west in which there was the greatest misery there is a spirit of exertion, a determination to employ their utmost energies in obtaining a crop for the present year, which gave him very great hope of improvement; and it is curious enough that this gentleman began his letter by saying he had seen a report of a statement of mine in this House that some parts of Ireland were improving, which he disbelieved, and thought must be an exaggerated statement of the prospects of Ireland, but that he was now convinced by his own eyes, after this journey was made, that there were grounds for hope of improvement. But if you say, "Here is this union which shall have special assistance, which shall have a special fund devoted to its improvement—that the State will undertake to improve the farms," would they not say in other unions, "What is the use of our exertions in attempting to improve our lands, if those who neglect their duty are much better treated 481 by the State, and get all the benefit which we are denied?" I think that although the hon. Gentleman's plan might have success for the present year, with regard to the state of Ireland it would be of the most serious injury afterwards; and no longer should we have the hope that some of the most distressed parts of the country had passed through the worst crisis of that distress, and are now in the course of improvement. I regret to say there are other, and parts not hitherto so distressed, which do not give the same hope; but I must say on this occasion, as I am obliged also to say with regard to many other parts of Ireland, that there were certain exertions and duties to be performed which were not for the Legislature or the Government to perform. They are the duties of landlords and tenants to one another, and to their labourers, and when those duties are not sufficiently performed, no Legislature or Government can perform those duties for them. There is a change now going on in the operations of the Incumbered Estates Act of last year. If the operations of that Act were to extend to the Kilrush union—if it should so happen that the estates of the union were to be sold, and persons would buy them, I believe there is no superabundant population in that union. All the reports I have seen have stated that if the population were employed on the land, there are not more than sufficient for its due cultivation. I believe that when it is found, as the hon. Gentleman said, that there are labourers who would be quite ready to give their utmost exertions for nothing more than a very moderate and fair reward for their labour, that by means of the Incumbered Estates Act that union must be greatly improved. But I do not think that such a remedy as the hon. Gentleman proposes, of making an exception of that union, and cultivating the land by the resources of the State, would do any-thing more than set a bad example, and afford a mischievous precedent, which instead of improving, would end in making things much worse than they were before.
§ MR. HORSMAN
thought that the Government could not be aware of the serious state of affairs in the Kilrush union, or the amount of responsibility which devolved upon them with regard to it. He had visited the union during the resess, and he believed that if any person had travelled through Europe during his whole lifetime, he would never have witnessed so much misery arising from the same cause 482 as he (Mr. Horsman) saw concentrated there in the course of a single week. It seemed to him that the right hon. Gentleman who followed after the hon. Member for Stroud stated a strong fact in confirmation of the necessity of inquiry, when he admitted that one-fourth of the outdoor relief administered throughout Ireland was administered alone in Clare. The noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government had asserted that the State should not step in and do that which ought to be done by private individuals. But were they not every day doing that which the noble Lord asserted they ought not to do? Were they not at that moment advancing large sums of money to the Kilrush union, or at least postponing the payment of sums previously advanced? If, unable to support itself, that union came to look for assistance, was not the Legislature bound to couple the favour of a grant with certain conditions, in order to secure that in future a like occurrence should not take place, but that the funds so granted should be devoted to the improvement of the land and the employment of the people? He believed the absence of employment was the great evil. There was no indisposition on the part of the people to work; but the amount of money wages was so incredible that he would not shock hon. Gentlemen by mentioning it. In his opinion the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland addressed himself more to the effects than the causes in meeting the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud. He spoke of the rates being collected, and of there being plenty of outdoor relief; but his (Mr. Horsman's) hon. Friend the Member for Stroud wished to ascertain the cause of outdoor relief, and the necessity for collecting such heavy rates as compared with those levied in other localities. In dealing with the question of evictions, the right hon. Secretary for Ireland took delicate ground, and seemed disinclined to question the propriety of them, as well as to speak a word in vindication of them. It was all very well to speak of the "rights of property," but were there no rights of humanity or rights of life? If they went to first principles, who would deny that property was for the benefit of all, not the few? There was no law which told human beings they should die in hundreds. Under the circumstances in which they were placed, then, he thought they were justified in asking whether the cause of such misery as was described should not be traced, and 483 whether means could not be taken to attach certain useful conditions to the grants they were making? He confessed that the state of things was so much beyond parallel, that they ought not to refuse inquiry; for a state of things that did not arise from common causes, should not be dealt with in a common manner.
§ MR. HUME
agreed in the statement of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown that any attempt on the part of the Government to become wholesale gardeners, and provide seed and labour, would be impossible. But that was not the question submitted to them. The question before them was, whether any portion of Ireland, Kilrush for instance, was unfortunately circumstanced, and whether there were any peculiar circumstances, and what they were, which had led to that miserable state of things. It was a fact that they had advanced money; and public money should should not be given unless for purposes of improvement. Now, in granting a portion of the public money to Kilrush, might it not be well to inquire if the advances made to other unions had been repaid, why were they not repaid by Kilrush union? It had been stated that there was no spot on the civilised world that could be compared with Kilrush. Now was such a state of things creditable to the country or to the Government? Ought they not under the circumstances, as creditors of the union, to take every means of doing away with such a state of things? If the commission were granted they could repair to the spot and ascertain if the proprietors possessed capital, or were in a condition to employ that capital in the tilling of the land and employment of the people. If the state of things was found not to be so, he presumed the result would be a recommendation that the lands be sold, with a view to prevent further loss to the public. That was a course that might with safety be taken. If they found other places reviving and regenerating, and Kilrush retrogressing, surely that House would not be stepping out of its course in seeking information as to the cause of such retrogression. He, therefore, felt disposed to think that inquiry should be granted. They could not be worse off than at present; but the chances were they would be far better, and that they might arrive at a conclusion most satisfactory in the abolition of such a state of things.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, that there was no man in that House, and certainly no 484 Irishman, who would refuse a commission if it would do the least good. The statements already made in the House showed that the distress in the union of Kilrush was unparalleled, and consequently one object of the commission was already attained. The other object of the commission was to suggest a remedy for that distress. The House had heard several remedies proposed within the last hour; but he did not believe that any one of them would be of the slightest use. The hon. Member for Limerick county proposed to place the union under the management of one commissioner, with unlimited power of taxation over the land. Well, but at this moment the district was in the hands of two Government officers, who raised what rates they pleased. He believed there was great mismanagement, and the report of the guardians showed it. He was opposed also to the principle of selling the land, for he was not aware why the people of Ireland were more responsible for the state of their country than the legislation which had been applied to it.
§ LORD NAAS
said, that concurring in the views of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that it was impossible for the State to interfere with the employment of the people, yet still, after what he had heard of the unprecedented state of misery that existed in the Kilrush union, he conceived that House would not be doing its duty to the unfortunate people if they did not show them that at least they were inclined to take some steps for their improvement. If the present were a scheme that required a great outlay of money, the success of which might be uncertain, they would not be justified in entering on such an undertaking. When it was merely for a commission of inquiry as to the actual state of affairs in a union, with a view to see if anything could be done to remedy them, he could not take on himself to vote against the proposition, no matter as to how he doubted of its success. It was plain, from everything they had heard, that the resources of the union were exhausted, and, consequently, that relief must come from extraneous aid. Captain Kennedy, in closing a correspondence with the Poor Law Commissioners on the subject of the Kilrush union, remarked "that the resources of the union were wholly inadequate to carry out the proposed measure of the commissioners." If the Government had come forward and stated that in the spring of the year measures 485 would be adopted by them for the improvement of the country, there would be reason to hope. [Lord J. RUSSELL: There are various measures now in contemplation.] He had not heard mention made of one. However, as regarded the sale of land under the Incumbered Estates Bill, he believed if the property of the Kilrush union were disposed of to-morrow, and the product applied for the relief of the poor, the union would not be in as favourable a condition as it was in 1845. He begged to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that the noble Lord who had just spoken had expressed his despair that anything could be done to improve the condition of the union of Kilrush, although the commission was granted. Was there then any ground for supporting this Motion, which could load to no practical results, and could only awaken fruitless expectation? Was it possible to have more perfect information with regard to the existence of the distress there than would be found in the papers which were already before the House, and the papers which had been moved for by his hon. Friend behind him? If any further information was required, they had two eyewitnesses in the House, the hon. Member for the county of Limerick, and the hon. Member for Cockermouth, who had laudably devoted a part of the recess to a personal inquiry into the condition of the union in question, nor did he know any one more fit to suggest plans to remedy it than those two Gentlemen. Was it likely that any commission appointed by the Government could be more capable of suggesting a practical measure of improvement than those hon. Members? But the noble Lord the Member for Kildare stated one other reason for voting in favour of the Motion, and that was that no measures were in contemplation by the Government for providing a specific remedy for the evils existing in the Kilrush union. It was certainly true that the Government did not contemplate any measure which had a special reference to the union of Kilrush, but there were measures in contemplation which were designed to promote improvement throughout the whole of Ireland, which he trusted would be of advantage to the Kilrush union. There could be no doubt that there had been a remissness in the performance of their duty by the proprietors of the soil in that union, and this was the precise class of 486 cases which were in the contemplation of Parliament when it was proposed to effect by legitimate means the transfer of land from persons who had not the means of giving employment to those who were able to employ labour. If land could be so transferred, he believed that the benefit would be felt not only by the population generally, but by the tenant farmers and the landlords themselves. And when his hon. Friend the Member for Limerick spoke of State control, he would remind him of what had taken place under the Labour Rate Act. His hon. Friend the Member for Montrose proposed that the Government should take possession of the property in the Kilrush union, and that it should be confiscated. [Mr. HUME: No, no!] Then, did his hon. Friend mean that the property should pass under the Incumbered Estates Act? If that was the case, he did not see how his hon. Friend could support the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud. They had been told that the Government had gentlemen in connection with them who were fully competent to suggest other projects. He was not satisfied as to whether it was necessary to resort to other means, but he trusted they would rely upon the operation of the Incumbered Estates Act at present to see what effect would be produced. It was not the case, as the noble Lord the Member for Kildare supposed, that the Government was indifferent to the present state of things, or that they did not wish to encourage the employment of labour in Ireland; but they were unwilling to pursue a course which would encourage hopes and expectations which could not be fulfilled. He did not agree with the noble Lord that the resources of the Kilrush union were exhausted, but he believed that under the operation of the Incumbered Estates Act there would be a transfer of property from proprietors who were unable to perform their duties to those who were both able and willing to do so.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
concurred in the reasons which had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for Kildare in support of this resolution, and, in addition, another reason which would induce him to do so was, that there was a disposition on the part of the Government to underrate the difficulties which existed in the circumstances of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland referred to the prosperity of most parts of Ireland; but without 487 calling him a prosperity-monger, he (Mr. Herbert) believed that there were many districts which were gradually getting into a worse condition. There were some districts which appeared to be better off in consequence of the diminution in the rates; but this had arisen from the circumstance of the death of a great number of persons in them, so that there was a smaller number of destitute persons to relieve; but still the greatest distress existed in these places. He believed, also, that there were districts which had not hitherto received relief from the Government, the resources of which were so much reduced that if something were not soon done, they would be by this time next year in a bankrupt condition, and the House would be called upon to vote them either a grant or a loan. He believed also that there were other unions in nearly as bad a state as that of Kilrush, and he would mention that of Listowel as an instance of what he meant. He recollected what had taken place last year as to the condition of some of these unions, and the observations that then fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What then took place showed him (Mr. Herbert) how little dependence could be placed on the reports of the Government officers who had been deputed to investigate the condition of these unions, and who appeared to have transmitted to the Government reports of what they, or rather what the Government, wished to be the case, than a description of the real state of things. If the poor-law was left in its present shape, the unions of Listowel and Kanturk would soon be in as bad a position as that of Kilrush. While he was on the subject of the poor law, he trusted that he might be allowed to address the House, for a few minutes, in answer to some observations made on a former occasion by the hon. Member for Manchester, and in doing so he was not going to make any allusions in a spirit of hostility to the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman had made a statement in reference to an hon. Member of that House, and he had come forward with great candour to withdraw the charge which he had made when he was shown to be in error. He (Mr. Herbert) had been requested by one of the gentlemen who resided, and who was possessed of property, in the union alluded to by the hon. Member, to read an explanation as to the peculiar circumstances of that district. Unless it was a matter of absolute necessity to mention the name of the gentleman who 488 had sent him this communication, he would wish to decline doing so, as that gentleman had mentioned circumstances to him which struck him as being amply sufficient reasons why he should not do so. This gentleman, however, assured him, if the accuracy of his statement was contravened or disputed, he was perfectly ready to join issue on the matter and give his name, and also the authorities for the facts he stated. It was a statement regarding the Clifden union. It had been stated by the hon. Member for Manchester, that in this and other unions there were large arrears of poor-rates due by the owners of estates, and not by the occupiers of land. It was also stated that this was one of the unions in which the greatest portion of the property belonged to the magistrates—[Mr. BRIGHT said, he did not allude to this district when he made that observation.] At any rate the hon. Gentleman said that in this union a large amount of poor-rates was owing by the owners of the land, and also that a fair rental had been offered for some of the property, and had been refused by the proprietors. He was not about to say anything personal respecting the hon. Gentleman. He would read the letter, and previous to doing so he must express his belief that nothing could be more mischievous than to make statements in that House which would induce the House to take a different view of the state of things in Ireland from what they really were. The document was as follows:—Clifden Union, County Galway.—Three estates, each of large extent, comprise about three-fourths of this union. The principal one is a part of the Martin estate, lately offered for sale in London. It is, and has for a considerable time been, in the hands of the Law Life Insurance Company, London. The nominal proprietor does not derive any income whatsoever from it, it continues for sale. The estate next in value had been for a considerable time in Chancery (though it formerly discharged all its engagements with perfect case), and was taken thence by the Commissioners for the sale of Encumbered Estates, who now have it. Its proprietor has derived nothing from it since 1846; this is deposed to on oath in Chancery. The third estate has been for some years in Chancery, and is for sale. The present proprietor derives nothing from it. Up to the year 1845, the commencement of the famine, the tenantry on these estates were solvent, industrious, and well clad, and an excellent description of cottages was being built in several districts. The barony then was rapidly improving to a greater extent than any other part of Ireland. The town of Clifden was amongst the most rising. The landed proprietors were all residents, and the value of property increased. The peasantry were always well conducted. The kelp trade had been most lucrative until free trade put it down; it was 489 succeeded by the sale of sea weed to the interior and to other countries in such quantities, that, by a printed return to the Board of Works, it appears the tenantry of one estate sold 2,000l. worth annually. The export of grain from Clifden port was considerable, and goods which paid into the public exchequer 3,000l. in various duties were consumed in Clifden and its vicinity. Surrenders, pestilence, distress, alarm, and emigration, each year since the famine commenced, left townland after townland waste, whilst poor-rates continued to increase on the unlet as well as on the few occupied farms. The proprietors are censured by some uninquiring or unreflecting persons, for not having let their lands permanently at the rate they fell to whilst famine was raging. They would gladly have made temporary reductions, and anxiously desired a new valuation, for they were (and are) rated on rentals which no longer existed; but letting lands which are under the jurisdiction of Chancery could be done only by that court, not by the proprietary; and the affidavit of one of its receivers is on record to the effect that the value of the lands (even at their depreciated rate) had not been offered, and that the object of both tenantry and of new bidders seemed to be to take and to keep only as much as would not leave them liable to poor-rate. He wished particularly to call the attention of the House to what follows. In 1848 one of these proprietors tendered to the Hon. Mr. Twisleton, the Commissioner of Poor Laws, 1,000l. a year worth of land, which was then covered with two years' grass, to pay 400l, poor-rate due then, as people could be got to put grazing cattle on it if the collector of rates would undertake not to distrain untill they had the benefit of the grass, when they would pay him as if it were rent, and the court would have consented, as it was for the advantage of the estate, and, of course of all claimants on it. The Commissioner expressed his regret that he had no power to prevent the instant seizure of the cattle, and expressed sympathy with the proprietor. The lands have been waste ever since, and the poor-rate has gone on increasing. Gutting the grass would only have been making bay for the collector, and those who did the work would not have been paid, as he had no authority to pay them. On the day the first stone of a huge poor-house was laid near Clifden, there were not five native beggars in the barony, and not twelve persons who would have accepted admission to a poor-house there. That large poor-house is now full, and three large auxiliary houses have since been taken; one of them is the castle of one of the oldest families in the province, who first opened a communication between connemara and the inland part of the country by a road of thirty miles, and this family, the longest established in that district, will soon be expatriated. The mansion of the chief proprietor is now an inn. The proprietors of Connemara spent every shilling of their incomes in their native land—they never were absentees from Ireland. The family of the founder of Clifden Town, a man who spent his whole life in devising plans for the improvement of Connemara, will soon be left without one acre there.He did not know this district personally, but he had thought it only fair to the gentleman who requested him to read this paper to do so, and it was only fair to prove to the hon. Member for Manchester, 490 who in his speech on a former occasion complained of the delinquencies of Irish landlords, and had shown them up, that he might make charges which were capable of a satisfactory explanation. He (Mr. Herbert) believed, if any class were interested in showing up the conduct of the owners of property who really did neglect their duty, it was the class to which he belonged, as much evil had arisen from the exaggerated and false statements that had been put forth. It was most mischievous, because a part of the proprietors of the land neglected their tenantry, that a charge should be made on the whole body. Let those who do not do their duty be pointed out, but do not make the charge in such a way that it should include all; for during that sad calamity which had afflicted the country there were many instances in that body of men who did their duty under the most difficult circumstances.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I cannot offer the least objection to the statement which has been read by the hon. Gentleman; for it does not, in truth, appear to invalidate anything which I said on a former occasion, with regard to the unions in the west of Ireland. Every statement which I made was made on authority which I believe to be quite as good as that which the hon. Member has just cited; and although, with regard to one point, having reference to a Member of this House, I have, on the authority of what I believe to be a trustworthy statement of that hon. Member, retracted what I had said in this House, yet with regard to the general statement of the non-collection of poor-rates from proprietors, and the fact that in certain unions the main part of the rates in arrear is due from the proprietors, and not from the occupying tenants, I believe that that statement is perfectly correct. Its accuracy may be proved by a reference to the newspapers of the west of Ireland; to the office of the Poor Law Commissioners; to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, and to the authorities of Dublin Castle. But this is not in reality the question before the House; and I am rather surprised that the hon. Gentleman, supporting as he does the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud, should have introduced this subject to-night, instead of reserving it, as I had understood that he would do, for the occasion on which the Advances Bill will be brought under discussion, when I had intended to enter into the matter more fully. From the speech 491 of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, it might be inferred that some very serious propositions had now been made. I will not say that propositions have not been put forward by some hon. Members in which I cannot concur; but the terms of the Motion which is before the House, and on which we are about to divide, are these:—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Special Commission to inquire into the social state of the Union of Kilrush, and into the means that may be adopted for its amelioration.Well, now, I have heard a great many sensible, and some not very sensible, propositions with regard to Ireland from various Members of the House; but I never heard one yet, during all this period of calamity, which is more perfectly in harmony with the practice of the House, or which I should have thought more likely to meet with no objection from the Government, than that under consideration. Notwithstanding all the inquiries which we have had in reference to the condition of Ireland, I believe that the actual condition of that part of the county of Clare, to which the Motion refers, is but imperfectly known to the House. The inquiries which have taken place have not entered at all into the causes of this calamitous state of things; they have at most merely described the fact of certain evictions having taken place. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary is in the habit of instituting inquiries with regard to a variety of matters. He does not hesitate to order an inquiry with respect to an explosion in a coal mine, or an accident arising from the fall of a mill in Lancashire, or the bursting of a steamboat boiler on the Thames. Why then did he object to an inquiry in the present case? I have heard from very well-informed persons that, on a moderate calculation, one death is caused on the average by the eviction of one family in Ireland. I do not say that that statement is correct; but I think it might be easily shown that there is not much exaggeration in it, especially in an inclement season; the present condition of parts of Ireland being such, that when whole families are turned out, there are very few persons who are in a sufficiently comfortable condition to give them refuge by night, or food by day. There is one proprietor in this district of Kilrush who has evicted not less than 1,025 492 persons; that will give about 200 families, and if there be a death for every family evicted—and several persons have stated to me that such is the case—it follows that about 200 deaths have resulted from the evictions on this one estate. Now this estate is not the property of an embarrassed person—it is not in Chancery—it is not in difficulties, except indeed, the difficulty of being owned by a man who has, I take it, neither heart nor head. It is time that the attention of the Government were turned to this subject, in order that the population may find the means of obtaining a livelihood. Whether we have regard to political economy as a science, or whether we have regard to the morality of Christianity, the owner of that estate has no right whatever to come and sweep from the estate the population which exists there; and if he be not embarrassed, if he have money at his disposal, I say there is not a human being in existence who ought to be more generally scouted from society than the individual who could commit atrocities like those which have been brought before the House. Besides this estate, there are many others in a different condition. Many of the estates in the Kilrush union may fairly he described as bound up with settlements, entails, jointures, mortgages, and judgments, to such a degree, that it is impossible for them in their present state to be properly cultivated. It has been said, that some of these proprietors had never been absentees, but have spent every shilling that they had in Ireland. Why, that is precisely their fault: they have spent every shilling which they had themselves, and every shilling which they could get from anybody else. They are now in a position of irretrievable ruin, and the population, which would prohably have been comfortable had they (the landed proprietors) been prudent, are in the lamentable condition which has been described. The hon. Member for Portarlington has a wonderful degree of sympathy for the landed proprietors of Ireland. I have equal sympathy for them myself so far as they have performed, or are willing to perform, their duty. The hon. Gentleman says, the Government, though it may tax, ought not to confiscate, the land. I am of the same opinion. I do not wish the property of Ireland to be confiscated; but when it can he shown that the position of the union in question is such as has been described, I say that the proprietors concerned have no right to 493 ask for, or to expect, the sympathy of this House. The landed proprietors of Ireland are of two classes. There are men there—scores and hundreds, I believe—who are just as good in their class as any proprietors in the world. If it had not been or that, the whole country must have been in absolute convulsion long ago. It is partly for the sake of the character of this good class of landlands, that I am anxious that the bad class should be exposed. Moreover, I say that if laws were passed by this House at former periods, which are unsuited to the times in which we live, and under the sanction of which landed proprietors in Ireland have, through a long course of extravagance, brought ruin upon themselves and upon the districts in which they reside, it is the duty of this House and of the Government, without exhibiting so much squeamishness as is constantly exhibited here when the interests of landed proprietors are in question, to grapple with this state of things. I know perfectly well that if the question were one which affected the millowners of Lancashire, there would be very little of this sympathy. It has been stated that a rate of three shillings in the pound is paid in the district now under consideration. I should like to know what rents are paid in the Kilrush union. Three shillings in the pound is not a sufficient rate to levy whilst the proprietors of that union are continually coming to this House and asking for grants to the amount of 20,000l. or 30,000l. per annum. We have been offering a bonus to the proprietors to exterminate the people, and to neglect the cultivation of the land. The Government would act wisely if, through the medium of the Poor Law Commissioners, they were to send some honest and courageous person to the union to take the affairs of the union under his control. The moment the landed proprietors found the Government acting resolutely, they would rally round the guardians, and the affairs of the union would be managed better. A determination would be formed that the people should not starve, and increased employment would be afforded. The proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud appears to me to be of a very simple and unobjectionable character. He asks merely for the opportunity of obtaining more information on the case. I hope we shall also have more of the causes of these facts; for whether an inquiry be conducted by Count Strezlecki, by Captain Kennedy, or by the Devon Commission itself, I find a 494 glozing over of the real question. They never go into the operation of the laws passed to maintain what is called our territorial system. The causes of the evil are never sifted; the sore is never probed. The starvation of the people is always attributed to the potato and to Providence; whereas I believe it is traceable to the permanence which is given by the legislation of this House to old and stupid customs which were established long ago, and which are totally unsuited to a period when the population is so dense, and when, if the people are not employed in the cultivation of the land on commercial principles, nothing remains for them but starvation, and nothing for proprietors but an increase of poor-rates.
§ MR. O'FLAHERTY
was not going to defend the landlords of Ireland, for he knew that there were some of that body who had neglected their duty, but others had exerted themselves to relieve the distress, but had not been able to do so much as they wished. As regarded the Motion of the hon. Member for Stroud, he admitted the humane feelings which had prompted him to bring it forward, but he doubted the expediency of appointing a commission to institute an inquiry into the state of this single union, as other unions were as badly off as that of Kilrush. With respect to Clifden, there was very great difficulty in dealing with the circumstances affecting it. He was the chairman of the union, and he could tell the House that the mortgagees of that large property to which so many allusions had been made, and who were now in possession of it, did not discharge their duty as landlords, for they had not paid one single farthing in the shape of poor-rates, although the other owners of property in the union had to pay up to the very last. This London company had taken possession of the land, but they would not do the least thing for the relief of the destitute poor on it. He was glad to be enabled to say that the poor-law was working in a more satisfactory manner than it formerly did, and also that the Incumbered Estates Act had been productive of much good.
§ MR. MOORE
said, the only argument that had been urged against the Motion was that offered by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the proposition of the hon. Member for Stroud, and in particular the plan of the hon. Member for Limerick, would operate as a bonus and premium to those who neglected 495 their duty. He (Mr. Moore) believed, on the contrary, that the result of the plan would be just the precise reverse; inasmuch as the intent was that the onus and penalty shall fall on those who neglected their duty. For this reason he should support the Motion.
The EARL of ARUNDEL and SURREY
observed, that no Member had refused to admit the extent of the distress in the union of Kilrush, and that it had never been exceeded, and also that the faults of the landlords in it were great, although the House did not actually know the circumstances which had led to the present lamentable results. He wished to join in the expression of praise that had been uttered with respect to the energy and humanity of Captain Kennedy, and at the admirable conduct he had manifested under circumstances of great difficulty. He must observe, that there was one landlord in the union of Kilrush who, he was happy to find, was an exception to the remainder. The gentleman to whom he alluded resided in the county to which he (the Earl of Arundel) belonged, he meant Colonel Wyndham, who, in the trying season of difficulty, had taken the utmost care of his tenantry, and every attention had been paid to their well-being, and the farms were in good condition. Therefore it was only an act of justice that this gentleman should not be combined with the other owners of property under the name of bad landlords, He should like to see an account of all the frauds and delinquencies which they had been told had been practised in these unions, and how the estates alluded to had been dealt with for a number of years back, so that any measures, however stringent, should be adopted, so as to prevent people dying from starvation. The people were in such a condition that, humanely speaking, he really did think they were not responsible for what they did. He would not have said this, if he did not feel strongly for their condition. The Motion, if carried, would show that there was a feeling of sympathy in that House for the condition of these poor people, and every friend of humanity should be obliged to the hon. Gentleman for having brought the subject forward.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
stated that most of the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken on this occasion had admitted that this was a proper case for inquiry; but, from the course taken by the Government, it appeared that 496 nothing was to be done, but they were to go on in the same way year after year, as hitherto, against all hope. He believed this state of things might be put an end to if a sensible and firm man was sent down and opened the affairs of this union. Much employment might be found in this union in the form of arterial drainage, and in labour of that kind; and there would be ample security for the repayment of any advances of public money that might be made by the sale of this improved property. As to the Incumbered Estates Bill, he did not think there was an estate in the district that would come under it.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
wished, before the House divided, to correct a mistaken statement made by the hon. Member for Manchester, who asserted that the rents in Ireland were fairly paid. [Mr. BRIGHT: I said nothing of the sort.] At all events, the hon. Gentleman endeavoured to persuade the House that the rents had been fairly paid. Now, in the west of Ireland, it was a common case that no rents whatever had been paid In some places, upon the best managed property, two out of three years' rent had been lost. He was one who had never considered that the Government had taken a correct view of the working of the poor-law in Ireland, but, nevertheless, he saw no good object to be answered by the appointment of a commission of inquiry into facts that were already notorious, and that had been fully inquired into already. The appointment of the commission would, he thought, be more disastrous to the people than the rejection of the proposal.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 76: Majority 13.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Armstrong, Sir A.||Gore, W. O.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Grace, O. D. J.|
|Bennet, P.||Harris, R.|
|Blair, S.||Heald, J.|
|Blake, M. J.||Henry, A.|
|Bright, J.||Hood, Sir A.|
|Brisco, M.||Horsman, E.|
|Brotherton, J.||Hume, J.|
|Buck, L. W.||Keating, R.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Kershaw, J.|
|Collins, W.||Lewisham, Visct.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Meagher, T.|
|Duncan, G.||Mahon, The O'Gorman|
|Ellis, J.||Monsell, W.|
|Evans, Sir De L.||Moody, C. A.|
|Evans, W.||Moore, G. H.|
|Ewart, W.||Mowatt, F.|
|Fagan, W.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Fox, W. J.||Naas, Lord|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Sullivan, M.|
|O'Connell, M.||Talbot, J. H.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Tenison, E. K.|
|Packe, C. W.||Thicknesse, R. A.|
|Perfect, R.||Thompson, Col.|
|Pilkington, J.||Wakley, T.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Prime, R.||Wawn, J. T.|
|Rawdon, Col.||Williams, J.|
|Stanford, J. F.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Stuart, Lord D.||Herbert, H. A.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Abdy, Sir T. N.||Hobhouse, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Jones, Capt.|
|Alcock, T.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Armstrong, R. B.||Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baines, rt. hon. M. T.||Langston, J. H.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Lewis, G. C.|
|Berkeley, Adm.||Martin, J.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Matheson, Col.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Melgund, Visct.|
|Blackall, S. W.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Morris, D.|
|Brockman, E. D.||Paget, Lord C.|
|Campbell, hon. W. F.||Parker, J.|
|Clay, J.||Peel, F.|
|Clive, H. B.||Pelham, hon. D. A.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Pigott, F.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Price, Sir R.|
|Dick, Q.||Rice, E. R.|
|Duncan, Visct.||Richards, R.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Romilly, Col.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||Romilly, Sir J.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Evans, J.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Fergus, J.||Somerville, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Ferguson, Sir R. A.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Fitzroy, hon. H.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Foley, J. H. H.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Forster, M.||Thornely, T.|
|Fox, R. M.||Trelawny, J. S.|
|Freestun, Col.||Tufnell, H.|
|French, F.||Turner, G. J.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Willcox, B. M.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Wilson, M.|
|Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.||Bellew, R. M.|
|Hildyard, R. C.||Grey, R. W.|