§ MR. SCULLY
rose to move a Resolution to give effect to the employment of the inmates of workhouses in reproductive labour, so as to endeavour to make them self-supporting. He said, his strong conviction was, that the existing system was injurious, not only to the ratepayers, but to the morals and habits of the inmates of workhouses. There were two leading objections taken by the Government and the Poor Law Commissioners to the employment of the inmates of workhouses on reproductive labour. They stated, in the 376 first place, that the uniform effect of the introduction of such a system would be to derange the discipline of the workhouses; and, in the second place, that it would bring the labour of the paupers into direct competition with that of the industrious classes out of doors. These were serious objections, if true; but he was prepared to show that they had no foundation in fact, and that the introduction of a wise and judicious system of employing the able-bodied poor in workhouses was attended with effects the very reverse of those contemplated by the Poor Law Commissioners. In those workhouses where it had already been carried out—such as Cork—the result was very remarkably in opposition to that anticipated by the Commissioners. The master of Cork workhouse stated, that previous to his appointment, the system adopted in the house had been a total failure, but that the employment of the inmates during the last two years on productive labour, and the use of a training school, had been attended with the most signal success; a marked change for the better had taken place, and one of the most significant proofs of this was, that the prison cells had been taken down, and workshops established in their stead. Indeed, it appeared that, if allowed by the Legislature, this workhouse could manufacture not only for its own wants, but for those of other workhouses in Ireland. He could mention other workhouses where similar effects had been produced, though the principle had not been carried out to the same extent. In Clonmel, according to the statement of the master, the industrious employment of the inmates had given increased facilities for maintaining discipline instead of deranging it; and the same effect had been produced at Waterford and other workhouses. These facts were a complete answer to the objection of the Commissioners, that the discipline of the houses would be interfered with. The other argument they made use of, viz., that it would bring the labour of paupers in workhouses into competition with that of the industrious poor out of doors, would be a very serious one if the case of Ireland was similar to that of England. But they were, in truth, very different. He should be only too happy to see manufactures extended to Ireland; but, virtually speaking, the south and west, and a great part of the east of Ireland, were wholly devoid of manufactures, and it was only in the north that manufac- 377 turing industry prevailed. How, then, could the inmates of the workhouses compete with the labours of the poor out of doors; and were they to maintain them in idleness in the workhouses from some imaginary fear of a competition that did not exist? There were in the workhouses of Ireland from 90,000 to 100,000 poor just at that age when they might be made, by proper training, useful members of society; but instead of being taught to become independent members of society in after life, they were so treated as to render them burdens to the different Unions of Ireland, to become paupers for life, and to leave no other remedy in the hands of the guardians but that of emigration. They were employed in breaking stones, picking oakum, and other occupations of that kind; and he would put it to the House whether that was employment suitable for the able-bodied poor of Ireland? In one of the Dublin Unions there were over 800 women, and how did the House think they were employed? They were absolutely engaged in bands of fifty driving capstan mills—a kind of employment on which it was disgraceful to have women employed, one that tended to make them lose all self-respect and correct moral feeling. The numbers at present in the workhouses of Ireland were enormous, and, he was sorry to say, they were on the increase daily. He found, from a return he held in his hand, that the number of paupers in the workhouses in the county of Tipperary had increased from 12,500, in 1848, to about 23,800 last year. But, though the paupers were thus increasing, the work provided for them was not increasing in any thing like the same proportion. It had been clearly shown by correspondence with the Poor Law Commissioners that had been published, that the officers of the Boards of Guardians were anxious to carry out the system of employment which he now recommended. One reason he would urge in favour of his Motion was, that it would make the inmates of workhouses, instead of becoming emigrants, the means of teaching others in their own country works of a useful nature, not only in agriculture but in manufactures of different kinds; and he was satisfied that the great evil in Ireland, as regarded manufactures, and one of the chief obstacles to their progress, was the want of skilled hands.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That, in order to lighten the severe pressure of Poor's Rate in Ireland, it is expedient to faci-
litate by every means the employment of the inmates of workhouses in reproductive labour, so as to make these establishments, as far as possible, self-supporting; and that it is the duty of the Poor Law Commissioner to see so desirable an object fully carried out.
§ MR. O'FLAHERTY
seconded the Motion. He would appeal to the good feeling of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was a Poor Law Commissioner himself, and entreat him to pay attention to the statement which had been made as to the condition of the workhouse paupers in Ireland, and the means by which that condition might be ameliorated. He held in his hand a return from the Union of which he was himself the Chairman, showing that the only way of carrying out the Poor Law in that country without pauperising the whole community, was by adopting the self-supporting system. In his Union it had proved to be a most successful experiment. They had saved in the space of about eleven months upwards of 1,000l. in the expenses of the workhouse. He hoped, therefore, the Commissioners would not throw any unnecessary impediments in the way to prevent its being extended all over Ireland.
§ SIR WILLIAM SOMERVILLE
could assure his hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder of the Motion, that he was fully alive to the importance of the subject to which the Motion referred. It was at all times of great importance, but at the present moment, considering the crisis through which Ireland was still passing, and the great pressure which that country had to sustain, by reason of the poor-rates, it became particularly important. The Motion referred to two distinct matters—1. The industrial employment of the pauper; and, 2. The reproductive labour of the pauper. Now, the Poor Law Commissioners had always been desirous of giving useful employment to the paupers in the workhouses, and that upon the self-supporting principle; but when it was proposed that the paupers should be employed in what was called reproductive labour—that was to say, that the produce of their labour should be taken into the market, and there compete with the produce of free labour—that the pauper labourer should compete with the independent labourer—the question then assumed a totally different aspect. It must be remembered that the inmates of a workhouse were found at the public expense with lodging, food and clothing. If those inmates were to be employed in 379 manufactures, and the produce of their labour were to enter into the markets and there be sold in competition with the produce of free labour, it was evident that free labour could not successfully sustain that competition, and that the independent labourer must, in his turn, become the inmate of a workhouse. A distinction had been made between agricultural labour and manufacturing labour; but it seemed to him that the principle equally applied to both descriptions of employment. Supposing an extensive farm were attached to a workhouse, and, by means of pauper labour, large quantities of wheat, oats, potatoes, and other articles were produced, it was quite clear that that produce might be carried into the market, and that you might at any time undersell the farmer. Was it not obvious, then, if the principle contended for by the hon. Mover were extensively adopted, great injury might be inflicted upon the agricultural interest of Ireland? The successful experiment referred to by the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. O'Flaherty) in his own Union, was a case confined to the self-supporting system—that of maintaining the inmates of the workhouse out of the produce of their own labour. So far from the Commissioners throwing impediments in the way of that system, they had always encouraged it. In many of the Unions the Guardians, by virtue of the 11th and 12th of Victoria, had attached twenty-five acres of land to the workhouses for the employment of the paupers. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution (Mr. Scully) had made one suggestion which was deserving of consideration. The hon. Gentleman said that it might happen that in certain workhouses there might be a surplus of goods manufactured by the inmates, and that one mode of disposing of them might be, not by selling them in the open market, but by sending them to other workhouses. Now, that was certainly a very different thing, and if it could be done, he at present knew of no objection to its being adopted. But, after all, he thought it would be better to leave the whole matter in the hands of the Commissioners, and allow them to exercise their own discretion on the subject. It was evident from the course they had hitherto pursued, that the Commissioners were not disposed to carry their powers further than what a due regard to the general interests of society demanded. To bind the Commissioners by a pledge such as that contained in the 380 Resolution now proposed, would be a most objectionable proceeding. To convert all the workhouses in Ireland into so many great manufactories, was a system which no Parliament could sanction. It had never been adopted in England; and wherever it had been partially acted upon, it had been found to be detrimental to the interests of free labour. However, he did not deny that such a system would, unquestionably, work better in Ireland than in England. For the reasons he had given he could not consent to the Motion, and he hoped the House would leave the matter in the hands of the Commissioners, and not pledge them to the dangerous principle involved in the Resolution.
§ MR. ROCHE
hoped the House would not leave so important a question to be decided by the Poor Law Commissioners in Ireland. That House was the proper place in which the question should be decided. And what was the question? It was, whether the Legislature would carry out the principles of political economy in all their integrity as regarded the support of the paupers in Ireland or not? He nevertheless concurred with the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland in the distinction which he had drawn between employing pauper labourers in the workhouse, for the purpose of teaching youth, and accustoming them to industrial habits, and employing them for the purpose of what was called reproductive labour. It would be very right to employ paupers in the workhouse; but it would neither be useful nor right to convert the workhouse into a manufactory for the purpose of competing with free labour out of doors. The real difficulty they had to deal with, after all, was the great excess of pauperism in Ireland. The only mode of meeting this difficulty was by applying themselves, one and all, to the great productive sources of the country. On a former occasion he called the attention of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer to the great benefit that might be conferred on Ireland by encouraging the cultivation of flax in that country, and by extending advances of public money which he allowed for the building of farm houses to the building of scutching houses for flax. If that were done, considering the great demand there was for that article in England, remunerative employment might be given to every single man in Ireland. But how was his proposition met? Why, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer came 381 down to the House with a great majority at his hack, and literally pooh-poohed the question. What he on that occasion asked the right hon. Gentleman to do was to allow a portion of the loan which he was applying to the erection of farm buildings in Ireland, to the erection of buildings for the preparation of flax in that country. But the right hon. Gentleman would not listen to the proposal, and it fell to the ground. Nevertheless, that was one of the means by which encouragement might be given to manufactures in Ireland, and by which the great difficulty of pauperism in that country might be met. It would at the same time be a most legitimate mode of encouraging reproductive labour. The Government was responsible for a great portion of the pauperism in Ireland, for they introduced no measures to diminish it. He hoped the hon. Member (Mr. Scully) would not divide on the Motion, as he felt he could not support him if he persisted in extending his Motion beyond the self-supporting system.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
said, it seemed to be [taken for granted by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland that political economy was opposed to the employment of the paupers in reproductive labour. But there was nothing in political economy which advocated the employment of useless in preference to useful labour. Merely employing paupers for employment sake, for instance, in breaking stones, was false political economy, and could not have any support from him. The argument of the right hon. Baronet would have come with great grace from the other side of the House; for it was the strongest Protectionist argument he had ever heard, to contend that people were to he prohibited from competing with their neighbours because they had greater advantages. As it was, the argument was worthless; because at present the Irish pauper was fed on foreign corn, and clothed in English manufactures, so that it was clear they would not compete with their own countrymen. At the same time, he believed that there was a strong prejudice against the competition of paupers with the productions of independent labourers; and, therefore, he would suggest that the Motion should be confined to the self-supporting system, where their labour would not come into the general market in the same way as he observed the Government were now employing the convicts on public and spe- 382 cial works, which did not enter into general competition.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, that if he had understood the hon. Member's Motion to be for a large grant to establish a poplin manufactory at Tipperary, or a silk manufactory at Belfast, he should be the first to oppose such a principle; but he did not understand him to propose anything of the kind. [Mr. SCULLY: Hear, hear!] He understood him to suggest the employment of persons confined in workhouses in some productive labour, as a better application of time than allowing them to remain utterly idle, and without any labour at all, He (Sir J. Walsh) could assure the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland he need not fear that any labour of this description would have a tendency in the least degree to displace free labour. On the contrary, if, for instance, flax could be manufactured in the workhouses of Ireland by the inmates, and the experiment were successful, and of which he had very little doubt, it would give the greatest possible stimulus to free labour. The case of Ireland was different from that of England. The paupers of England were only a small proportion of the population, and the labour was only intended to deter idle persons from becoming inmates of workhouses. But in Ireland, by the pressure of circumstances, by the unhappy results of calamities by which that country had been visited, a vast percentage of the population had been thrown into the workhouses. It was then a point to be considered how they could be employed with benefit to themselves, and without injury to the rest of the country. And, guarding himself from agreeing to any application of Government funds, or large capital to carry on considerable industrial establishments, he could not see any possible injury from assenting to the proposition of the hon. Member for Tipperary.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
was convinced that the principle contained in the Motion of the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Scully) was absolutely necessary for carrying out usefully any poor-law in Ireland. He was opposed to making workhouses large manufacturing establishments; but believing that paupers were most usefully employed when supporting themselves by productive employment, he should cordially vote for the Motion.
had listened with attention to the three last speakers, and could not help believing that, upon ex- 383 amination, they would be found to be right. If the House would allow him, he would illustrate his view of the question in this manner:—Suppose the inmates of a workhouse in Ireland or in England were to grow cauliflowers, which being not peculiarly adapted for the consumption of paupers, they sold in the market. The result would be some increase of the quantity of cauliflowers in the cauliflower market, and some diminution in the selling price of cauliflowers, and consequently in the reward of labour in that particular production. But the money taken for the cauliflowers would incontinently be sent into the potato market, and there cause an exactly equal increase in the demand for potatoes, and consequently in their selling price, and in the reward of labour bestowed on potato-growing. So that in the aggregate there was as much good as harm. If friends from Ireland would "chew upon this," he thought they would be able to make something of it. And he would go further, and inquire what would be the consequences of stopping the pauper growth of cauliflowers, and taking the price of the potatoes from the ratepayers instead. There would not be the influx of cauliflowers into the market, to the terror of the growers; but at the same time there would be a deduction from some other dealers, of what would have been expended on them by the ratepayers if the money had not been taken from them for the rates, which must work those dealers as much woe as the others had of joy. So that in the aggregate, the naked result was, that the ratepayers got nothing, instead of something, for their money. And this was the way in which the support of paupers was a damage to a country, namely, that without affecting the rest of the industry of the country in the aggregate, it took the whole amount out of the ratepayers, as much as if they were obliged to throw it into the sea. He thought this argument would in the end be found to stand good, and that we should by degrees come round to the opinion that it was advisable to employ paupers in workhouses in all ways which could be made profitable.
§ SIR LUCIUS O'BRIEN
said, it was perfectly ridiculous the idea of the market being overstocked, to the injury of the agriculturists, by the small quantity of produce which even several poorhouses might be able to raise. He admitted that there were difficulties in employing the poor in productive employment; but he thought 384 these difficulties might be overcome by a careful superintendence by the Board of Guardians. He should vote for the Motion.
§ MR. SHARMAN CRAWFORD
considered it a sound principle that every man supported by the State should work, and, if possible, make a beneficial return for his labour. He supported the Motion on the ground that the reproductive employment of paupers would be a far less evil than any to be apprehended from a displacement of the labour market. He was willing to admit that there might be evils connected with the course proposed; but he thought that, under the circumstances, the evils would be much less of allowing the paupers to be usefully employed, than in allowing them to remain in idleness.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, there was one view of the question which had not been touched upon in the course of the discussion, and that was the immense advantage which resulted from the industrial education received by the youth of Ireland within the walls of the workhouses. He knew of scores of instances where, in consequence of the industrial training received within the workhouse, young persons had been enabled not only to maintain themselves, but to take their relatives out of the workhouse. This was not simply a question of political economy. Ireland was at present in a state of transition; and if the question was to be met by cold abstract principles, the difficulties under which she was labouring would be increased. He did not wish to see large tracts of land inclosed, as if agricultural industry was alone likely to be productive; but he wished to see all kinds of industry encouraged, and not forbidden and thwarted, as it was constantly, in the ease of trades, by the Poor Law Commissioners. He thought the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Scully) entitled to their gratitude for bringing forward the subject, and he hoped the House would receive the proposition with that favour which it so well merited.
§ MR. J. WILSON
said, that the proposition divided itself into two parts, on one of which they were all agreed, while there was a difference of opinion on the other. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Scully) who brought forward the question, deserved great credit for calling the attention of the House to the industrial training of pauper children. Two years ago an Act was passed enabling different Unions to join together to establish schools, and he believed it had 385 been attended with the greatest advantages; but he thought the House ought to pause before recognising the principle laid down by the hon. Gentleman with regard to pauper labour. About five years ago, after the famine had taken place in Ireland, a great mistake had been committed in endeavouring to give outdoor labour on public works to Irish paupers. No one could deny that the effect of giving Government aid in that particular way was to create an undue and unfair competition between the pauper and the independent labourer, and to reduce large masses of the people to the condition of State paupers, who would otherwise have been earning independent wages. The rights of the independent labourer ought to be most carefully guarded. If this system were established, there would instantly be a competition between pauper and independent labour, and for every pauper that was fed indoors, a new pauper would be created out of doors by withdrawing a portion of the labour on which the free labourer had previously existed. Hon. Members would also recollect the error of the old poor-law system in England, for as long as the practice was for the parish to find employment for the pauper, the effect was to create pauperism, until, in some particular parishes, every farm labourer was hired out by the parish officers. In Ireland, as in England, it would diminish the wages of the labourer out of doors, and increase the number of indoor paupers. The same system had been tried not only in England, and in the public works in Ireland, but also in Holland and Flanders. In Holland more care had been taken in this matter than in any other country in the world, and the result had been the most miserable failure. Similar attempts, without any more success, had been made in Flanders. There was nothing more injurious to the independent labourer than this sort of fictitious competition created by persons being partly supported by charitable institutions, or by institutions supported by public funds. The value of labour must find its own level, and it must not be by encouraging pauperism that they could expect to improve the condition of the labourer. He saw no objection to the establishment of industrial schools for children, or even to industrial employment for the purpose of recreation or for procuring food for the people in the workhouse; but as to workhouses entering into competition on a large scale with free labour, either in agriculture or in manufac- 386 tures, he believed that to support such a proposition would be fostering a very dangerous fallacy. The system that was now proposed was no doubt very popular in Ireland, because it seemed to be a very short cut to a remedy; but short cuts often proved to be the longest road to arrive at a desired point. He hoped the House would look to the results of the experiments that had been already made of this system, and hesitate, before coming to a conclusion, to pass a resolution of this kind, which would sanction, in his opinion, a most illusive and dangerous doctrine.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, he must congratulate the House and the country on the fact that a talented and influential Member of the Government had now described as a failure their policy in Ireland, and the measures of relief adopted amid the protests of every man of sense, persevered in in the midst of remonstrances, and, he would say, without meaning it offensively, almost in spite of common sense—in spite of prophecies and repeated warnings. It was extraordinary to hear those acts quoted and pointed at as a warning to hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, which the Government were told at the time by hon. Members on that side would be mischievous. He begged English Members to bear in mind that the properties of Irish Members had been mortgaged to pay for that pernicious system, which was now described as a failure, but which was then adopted in spite of every entreaty and every warning. He also begged English Members to consider that it had taken three years to induce the Government to adopt a system recommended almost by every man of common sense in Ireland—he meant the reduction of the area of taxation. It took three years to establish that principle, and at the end of the first year, for the first time, the Government was able to point out a beneficial alteration in the working of the Poor Law in Ireland.
§ MR. J. WILSON
begged to explain. He had not said anything about the general policy of the Government with regard to Ireland, but he had stated that the system of employment in public works that was first attempted had been immediately abandoned. These public works had been undertaken with the unanimous consent and sanction of that House.
§ LORD NAAS
thought it would be a dangerous principle to allow workhouse produce to come into the market to compete 387 with that of the independent labourer; but he did not believe this was contemplated by the Resolution, and he should therefore support it. It was a great disadvantage to the governors of workhouses to have no means of employing the paupers in useful labour. He could not help congratulating the House on the extraordinary solicitude of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite benches in favour of home produce, and did not see how they could be in dread of such produce in a few workhouses.
§ SIR HENRY BARRON
said, it was most desirable to encourage manufactures of a certain description. In the Union with which he was connected, no less than seventeen trades were carried on in the workhouse. The inmates made all their own clothing, male and female, and made the furniture required. The great advantage was in the improved moral feeling which had been thus excited; when the paupers left the workhouse they turned their industrial training to account, and earned their own livelihood. Training masters were employed in the different trades at considerable salaries; nevertheless, the Union found a saving in this course. The hon. Member for Westbury (Mr. J. Wilson) had confounded this industrial training with quite a different system. The fact was he had got so thoroughly imbued with a certain political dogma, that it entered into his thoughts on every subject. It was absurd to apply political economy learned from books to a country in such a state as was Ireland at the present moment. The system adopted in Holland was no other than a vast system of outdoor relief. Here the question was one of reproductive employment for those immured within the walls of workhouses. Equally distinct from it was the system in operation in England prior to the enactment of the present Poor Law. It was nothing less than misrepresentation to make such comparisons; it was making a very bad use of political economy. There were many kinds of labour carried on in the workhouses, which were not followed in Ireland at all. In one case it had been contemplated exporting the produce of the pauper labour to America. Would that injure the labour market of Ireland? Every honest man wished to see the pauper become a useful member of society, and contribute something towards his maintenance. They did not want him to go into the public market to compete with the honest labourer, but simply to be employed 388 in the workhouse at such trades as would contribute to his support without interfering with public labour. It would be an exceedingly wholesome state of things if the whole of the people could be brought to support themselves without being obliged to go to other countries for the common necessaries of life. The question brought forward by the hon. Member for Tipperary (Mr. Scully) resolved itself into this—were the people in the workhouses to be supported in idleness; or were they to have the means of contributing something to their own support by useful and reproductive employment?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the hon. Baronet (Sir H. Barron) had found fault with the hon. Member for Westbury's (Mr. J. Wilson's) false notions of political economy, and the confusion of his ideas, because he told us that it was a great mistake to suppose that this Resolution meant anything but labour within the walls of the workhouse. He thought, however, that the hon. Member for Waterford had not heard what had taken place in the early part of the debate, because if he had listened to the arguments about the inmates of workhouses raising their own food, he would hardly suppose that the sole object of the Motion was to give them employment in the workhouse. He could hardly tell what it was intended by the hon. Baronet to do in Ireland; but the people of this country grew their corn outside of the workhouse. He wished hon. Gentlemen I to consider the practical result of the measure on which they were about to vote. Any intention of giving outdoor relief was disavowed. He should like to know what the hon. Member for Waterford would have, and what the employment of paupers in cultivating farms attached to workhouses could be, if it was not outdoor relief under another name. What would be the result of it? The hon. Member for Waterford (Sir H. Barron) said, there was no similarity between the system of raising corn out of the workhouse, and the system adopted in Flanders and Holland; but the system in those countries was to employ paupers in raising crops by their labour. He should like to know the difference between the cultivation of farms by paupers out of a workhouse, and a system of outdoor relief. With respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. H. Herbert), I he must say that no person justified the 389 relief works in Ireland, except as the means of saving life. The hon. Gentleman referred to the decrease of the Irish population, and attributed it to the measures of the Government. Sorry as he was to see such a decrease as had been shown in the population in Ireland—a decrease of which a great portion was to be attributed to the disease and distress recently prevailing in that country—he thought this proved that the Government were justified in what they did; for though they had not been successful to the extent they wished in saving human life, yet there was no doubt life had been saved to a very great extent through the various means adopted by this country. Did the hon. Member mean to say that if the people of Ireland had been left to the unassisted exertions of the people of Ireland, there would not have been ten times as much misery and mortality as there had been? But coming more immediately to the question before the House, he would ask, if it was intended to do that which the Resolution purported to do, namely, to employ the inmates of the workhouses in reproductive labour, and so to make them self-supporting? If so, there was great danger of doing away with the principle, that to the able bodied relief afforded in workhouses should be made distasteful? He would ask whether it was right to employ the paupers in such outdoor labour as a farm attached to the workhouse would give, or in trades which they might exercise much more beneficially elsewhere? For himself, he held that to render the labour the same there as elsewhere, was contrary to the whole principle on which the test of the workhouse was founded. Ireland might learn from the experience of England, and in England we had been led to adopt the test to prevent fraud—to prevent parties going on the rates when they could maintain themselves. Nothing would countervail the permanent injury done to Ireland, to labourers as well as ratepayers, if they abandoned the principle of making the workhouse test as severe as possible. He believed that the security of property depended on their maintaining it in full vigour, and therefore should object to any change in the law which took away from its stringency. He warned the Irish Members that any present trifling gain which might be obtained by the employment of inmates of workhouses in the manner proposed by the hon. Member for Tipperary, 390 would be more than counterbalanced by the dependent spirit which that employment would create amongst the distressed districts of Ireland.
§ MR. HENLEY
could not at all understand the argument of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, for whilst he quite agreed that nothing could be more dangerous for Ireland than to break down the workhouse test, he could not ascertain by what necessary connexion of terms the employment of the people in the workhouse broke into that test. It might, indeed, depend on the quality of the labour given—whether, that was to say, it was agreeable or disagreeable; but he could not see how its being productive or unproductive could make it more or less of a test to the labourer. He could not see, within the terms of the Motion, what difference it could make, if a man was employed in breaking oakum, whether he did it so as to get something for the workhouse or not, whether it was reproductive, or whether it should be worth nothing; and the words of the Motion only went to that—that so far as might be, the labourer was to be employed in productive rather than in unproductive works. To anything which broke down the test, no man would be more opposed than he was; but that this proposition would do so had not been shown. He thought that the Government had been rather hardly pressed in the matter of Irish relief, because he recollected that in the autumn of 1846, when they came into office, and stated that they should follow up what had been commenced by the preceding Government, no objection was taken by the Irish Members to the mode of the relief, but only that it was not likely to be sufficient. He could only look at the Motion in the terms in which he found it, and if the House went to a division, he should certainly vote for it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that every Gentleman who intended to support the Motion seemed anxious to explain away its obvious meaning; and it had been said that it only declared the course which the Irish Poor Law Commissioners had hitherto pursued. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Henley) seemed to think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's objection was solely against pauper labour being productive; whereas, as he put it, the question was, as to the adop- 391 tion of this principle, whether the Poor Law Commissioners were to turn their attention to an inquiry how paupers might be put to work not primarily and stringently as a test, but primarily intended to be reproductive. Then he thought it would be most objectionable, if the House considered the course pursued by the Irish Poor Law Commissioners to be substantially prudent, to affirm a resolution which raised at least a supposition that the House desired some new principle. He certainly thought that whatever temporary relief might be given to the ratepayers by making the Irish poorhouses a colossal workshop, the ultimate injury that it would entail on Ireland in all respects, morally and otherwise, it was impossible to calculate. Reference had been made to the relief measures by which the Government, under the appalling circumstances in which Ireland was placed in 1846, endeavoured to mitigate the fearful calamity which fell on that country. He had never underrated the frightful extent of the pressure on Ireland in consequence of the blast of the potato root; but, notwithstanding his deep impression on that point, he had seen with the most painful feeling the lamentable account of the diminished population in Ireland afforded by the census. However, in reference to the measures taken for the relief of the calamity which visited Ireland, it was more easy to criticise them, now the emergency had passed away, than to devise measures to meet the circumstances at the time. He believed that nothing could exceed the desire which at the time pervaded every class in England to go to the rescue of Ireland. At the time he supported the measures which had been alluded to, he was convinced that they could not be adopted without great concomitant evils, and he remembered that in 1846, when the Government took up the measures of the late Sir Robert Peel's Administration on the subject, he (Mr. Labouchere) exposed himself to a good deal of reproach when he stated that he expected great evil from them; but that all his objections disappeared when he saw the necessity of interfering with the frightful destruction of life which must take place, without some remedial measures in Ireland. Even now, he was far from being convinced that those measures with respect to relief in Ireland were not in the first instance the best, though after a time it was impossible to go on with the system on account of its concomitant evils, and then 392 what was called the soup-kitchen system became a most excellent substitute.
SIR DENHAM NORREYS
rather distrusted the object of the Motion, and could not disconnect the hon. Member who brought it forward from the proceedings of certain Boards of Guardians in Tipperary, who were in the habit of selling the surplus productions of the workhouse labour in the public market, so that the Motion seemed open to all the objections urged against such a system. He thought, however, that the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had confounded the employment of the poor in the workhouse precincts with the outdoor system. He hoped his hon. Friend would not divide, as he was certain all were agreed, at least upon the general principle.
§ MR. SCULLY
said, he must deny the statement just made by the hon. Baronet (Sir D. Norreys), as to the Tipperary Boards of Guardians selling the products of workhouse labour in the public market. All that was desired was, that the Guardians should be at liberty to employ the poor in productive labour. He was against any competition of workhouse labour with free labour in agriculture.
§ Question put. The House divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 64: Majority 22.
|List of the AYES.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Bankes, G.||Jones, Capt.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Bateson, T.||Langton, W. H. P. G.|
|Blair, S.||Meagher, T.|
|Blandford, Marq. of||Miles, P. W. S.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Milton, Visct.|
|Boyd, J.||Mullings, J. R.|
|Burroughes, H. N.||Naas, Lord|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||O'Brien, J.|
|Dunne, Col.||O'Brien, Sir L.|
|Farrer, J.||Power, Dr.|
|Forbes, W.||Prime, R.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Thompson, Col.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Goold, W.||Walsh, Sir J. B.|
|Granby, Marq. of||Whiteside, J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||TELLERS.|
|Henley, J. W.||Scully, F.|
|Herbert, H. A.||O'Flaherty, A.|
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.