§ MR. G. H. MOORE said
I come before you to-night with a claim which I make in the name of a whole people, and which deeply affects the material condition of a whole nation. I do not doubt that the subject is one in which all parties in this House feel interest and solicitude, and to which all men, without distinction of party, are prepared to give at least a just consideration. But I feel deeply the responsibility that devolves upon myself in stating it, and as a first instalment of justice, I venture to entreat that you will extend to the cause which I am endeavouring to plead that indulgent attention which, under other circumstances, I might not be in a position to claim; because the House will see that this is entirely a question of fact and of detail. It does not rest upon any broad principle on which men may have already made up their minds; the claim which I come forward to urge is either just or unjust, reasonable or unreasonable, precisely as the facts of the case may render it the one thing or the other; and if the House is to pronounce a just judgment upon the matter, it is absolutely necessary that those facts should be fairly heard, in order that they may be justly considered; and I intend to argue this question solely 734 on the score of justice. I come before you with no beggar's petition; I will not condescend to make the distressed state of Ireland, or of any unions in Ireland, the basis of a charitable appeal to the Consolidated Fund. If, after taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case that I shall lay before you, you do not think me entitled to a verdict on the ground of sound policy, equity, and honour, I have no wish that you should yield to importunity what you are not disposed to accord to justice. In the first place, I have to call your attention to the high and commanding authority which warrants me in bringing this claim before you. When this claim for a remission of the Minute providing for the debts due in counties and unions in Ireland by the imposition of a Consolidated Annuity was first brought under the consideration of the Legislature, the Lords appointed a Select Committee to examine into all the matters connected with the subject, and to report thereon to the House. This Committee was appointed by Her Majesty's Government, and with the implied and generally understood consent and sanction of both Houses of Parliament. Now let us look to the composition of this Committee, and I trust I shall not uncandidly represent its character. No doubt some of the noble Lords upon that Committee were interested in the matter they had to try; but, on the other hand, there were associated with them many others, of the highest position and political reputation in the country, who not only could not have been influenced by any personal consideration in arriving at the conclusion, embodied in the Report and recommendation of the Committee, but who, in many instances, entered on the investigation with feelings highly hostile to that conclusion.
When I say that on that Committee there were such men as the Earl of Clarendon, the Earl of Derby, the Duke of Newcastle, the Marquess of Lansdowne, the Marquess of Salisbury, the Earl of Harrowby, and Lord Ashburton, it is not too much to assert that men more capable or more worthy to try and report upon the subject could not be found in the empire. And what was the degree of difference which prevailed in a Committee so constituted, as to the adoption of its ultimate recommendations? If I found that any great discrepancy of opinion existed as to the conclusions arising out of the evidence and the facts of the case; if we found the 735 Committee nearly equally divided; above all, if we found the English Members outnumbered but not convinced by those who might be suspected of being interested parties, then, indeed, although we might regard the Report itself in some degree valuable, on account of the great ability and information it displays, we could scarcely consider it as the united and informed verdict of impartial men. But I find that, so far from that being the case, no difference whatever existed as to the ultimate report and recommendation of this Committee; that the evidence which has been reported for our guidance produced the same conviction on the mind of every Member of the Committee; and that all, without exception, no matter what might have been their previous impressions, concurred in the recommendation which is here made to Parliament. I think myself justified in stating, therefore, that unless this report and recommendation are regarded as paramount primâ facie evidence of the justice of the case, no Committee of either House can be entitled to the smallest consideration. Because the House will please to recollect that this is not a question in which any great public principle is involved, and on which it might be perfectly natural and legitimate for the Committee to hold one opinion, and the House of Commons another; this is entirely a question of fact and evidence, and of the general equity of a case resting on facts and evidence. In this matter the Committee was, in reality, a jury appointed by the country to try the case; to hear the evidence; to inform themselves of the facts; and, on that evidence and those facts, to pronounce a verdict which, when we consider the character of the jury, the character of its proceedings, and that of the evidence on which its judgment was based, is as well entitled to be considered final on the merits of the case as any verdict that ever was pronounced by any jury in the world. And what was the character of the evidence which led the Committee to its final conclusions? If anything could add weight to the opinions of such men as I have named, it is the testimony upon which those opinions were sustained, proceeding from a body of witnesses unimpeachable in point of character, unrivalled in complete mastery of the subject, invested with the authority of official position which had been obtained by untiring study of the matter at issue, and bringing before 736 the Committee all the knowledge and experience that both study and official position had bestowed. In the words of the Report, p. 111—The Committee have primarily selected the witnesses whom they have felt it their duty to examine, from individuals who, from their station in the public service, were best enabled to take a comprehensive view of the questions under consideration, and who, from an absence of local bias or personal interest, were entitled to have weight with the House and the public. Among them will be found the Commissioners of Public Works; the Chief Commissioner of Poor Law, and the inspectors under his authority; General Sir John Burgoyne, late Chairman of the Relief Commission; the Commissary General, selected and employed as accountant; the Secretary to the Board of Audit; and others intrusted with important duties under the late system of Relief.But there is another witness that I have not yet named, and whose evidence, in another sense, is still more valuable than any of these, inasmuch as it is in itself a complete guarantee that the Members of the Committee were fully informed on every point that could possibly have led them to a different conclusion from that at which they ultimately arrived. When I say that Sir C. Trevelyan not only favoured the Committee with the length and breadth of his opinions in sixty of these enormous pages, but furnished them besides with an elaborate written document in which he recapitulated all he had ever said or written or done in connexion with this subject, I think every hon. Member acquainted with that gentleman will feel satisfied that nothing was left unstated that was calculated to persuade the Committee that the Irish Consolidated Annuities Act was a perfect monument of human wisdom and justice; that nothing was left unsaid or unwritten in inculpation of all classes of Irishmen, and in unlimited laudation of Sir C. Trevelyan himself, and all with whom he was connected. From one end of his evidence to the other, this self-satisfied functionary seems utterly unable to conceive the possibility of his having ever made a mistake, even the most trifling. To be sure nothing that he undertook succeeded—nothing that he anticipated came to pass—disaster followed every scheme he originated-and he aggravated every disaster by the remedies he applied. The conclusion to which he is led by these undeniable facts is, that every one was to blame except himself; and that Irish landlords, Irish ratepayers, Irish priests, Irish paupers, and a special divine providence for Ireland, were all in league to baffle the unerring sagacity of 737 Sir C. Trevelyan. I would not thus pointedly allude to the evidence of this particular witness were I not aware of the influence which he has exercised, and which, as I believe, he continues to exercise over the counsels of Government in its administration of Irish affairs; and I own I can have but little confidence in the proper government of Ireland, as long as I see a dogmatist that no experience can instruct—a theorist that no evidence can enlighten—a practical blunderer, whose self-complacency failure only hardens and confirms, permitted to lean, if not to dominate, over the affairs of a country in which he is regarded by every class, sect, and party, with unanimous jealousy and distrust. I do not deny the abilities and energies of Sir C. Trevelyan; still less do I doubt the rectitude of his motives and intentions; but energy in a mistake is only an aggravation, and the rectitude in which a great injury is inflicted is but a small consolation to the injured. At all events, if there was a man in the country more willing than another—if there was a man more able than another, to dissuade the Committee from adopting the recommendation contained in this Report, it was undoubtedly Sir C. Trevelyan; and any one who has taken the trouble to read his evidence will see that he spared nothing, and scrupled nothing, to effect that object. I have, therefore, a right to assume that the Committee learned everything that could be learned on the subject, before it arrived at its decision; and, although I do not venture to argue that Parliament should be bound by the verdict of any Committee, I think that it is on no light grounds that we should go behind such a verdict as this—that it is not without good cause shown that we should pronounce a decision contrary to the recommendation of such men upon such testimony; and that any hon. Gentleman who has not thoroughly informed himself on the facts of the case, would do well to pause before he refuses me a vote which I ask on such overwhelming probability of its justice. And what is the substance of the recommendation to which such men as these have unanimously agreed? I will endeavour to state it as succinctly as possible, and I will not add a single word of comment. The first head into which they divide these charges is that of the debt due for building workhouses, amounting to 1,122,706l. They express their opinion 738 that the whole of this sum has been expended indispensable to the due administration of the poor-law, and that there appear no grounds why the whole of this debt should not be discharged.
The debt due for temporary relief advances, 10 Vict., c. 7.—The principal sum due under this Act is 783,228l., to be repaid with interest at 3½ per cent. This fund was advanced for the purpose of relieving distress, by a direct distribution of food. The expenditure was economised; it relieved distress, and maintained the health and physical well-being of the people. The Committee are therefore of opinion that this sum should be discharged.
Debt for advances for works, under 1 Vict., c. 21, and 9 Vict., c. 1.—These advances, though liable to considerable objections, the Committee consider to have been administered with more caution than was practicable at a later period, and under a more imperfect law; and, though they state also objections to a transfer of the original charge from the occupier only to the owner and occupier jointly, they recommend no remission of the debt, and no alteration in the law. The debt amounts to 170,282l.
Debt for advances for relief of distressed unions; 13 Vict., c. 14.—This debt amounts to 284,224l., applied in aid of thirty-nine distressed unions, and 15,700l. in aid of particular electoral divisions in the south and west of Ireland. These sums were applied to strictly poor-law purposes; and the Committee, for this reason, are not prepared to recommend the remission of the debt, although falling exclusively on those parts of Ireland that are least able to bear the burden.
Labour Rate Advances, 9 & 10 Vict., c. 107, 2,231,000l.—The debt incurred under this Act is the most important branch of the subject referred to the Committee; and, for various reasons, the statement of which occupies nearly the whole of this Report, the Committee feel it their duty to submit to the House the consideration, in equity as well as policy, of abandoning this claim.
These are the recommendations made by the Committee, and these recommendations are substantially embodied in the Motion I now make to the House.
But I think it right to show you that we come before Parliament, not only with strong evidence and overpowering recommendation, but with clean hands; that the 739 Irish people have never sought to repudiate a just debt, or called for the remission of any loan that they had voluntarily contracted. The aid of the national credit, and of public funds in the promotion of Irish interests, was not introduced for the first time in the relief measures of 1845; on the contrary, for many objects of public utility, advances from the Treasury have been habitually made; and the conduct of the Irish communities with regard to their repayment, fairly becomes a question of evidence. Now, without referring to the testimony of many distinguished witnesses as to the scrupulous honour with which all those loans have been repaid, I will just mention that, from the year 1843 to 1852, no less a sum than four millions of money have been advanced in the aid of Irish interests, every shilling of which has been punctually and unhesitatingly repaid. And if so large a sum as four millions has been repaid by Ireland in ten years, including years of suffering unparalleled in modern history, I hope a fair and favourable opinion will be formed of the willingness of Irishmen to satisfy their just engagements, even under circumstances of the greatest difficulty. Upon what grounds, then, do we now ask for the remission of any part of the loans embodied in the Consolidated Annuities Act? What essential difference exists between the loans which were repaid with such punctuality and promptitude, and those of which we now seek the remission? That question is to a certain degree answered by Sir J. Burgoyne, when he declares, in his evidence, that "he had always found the people of Ireland most scrupulous in fulfilling any engagements to the State into which they had voluntarily entered;" and that "he made a great distinction between voluntary and involuntary contracts." But I am not satisfied with this distinction—which I think is both doubtful and insufficient—because I do not deny the right or the duty of the State, in times of emergency, to compel the community to be a party to a contract which is necessary for its own preservation; and I do not for a moment question the right of Parliament to charge the land of Ireland with such sums as may be necessary to save the lives of its people. But I think it will hardly be denied, on the other hand, that the State becomes proportionably responsible for the use of such an arbitrary and extraordinary control over the pro- 740 perty of the subject; and that, if Parliament assumes to itself the prerogatives and functions of property, and deals with the vested rights of proprietors, at its own discretion, it is bound to show that it has exercised that discretion, not in intention only, but in fact and deed, to the greatest advantage to the community, and to the least detriment to the proprietor, whose discretion it has assumed, and whose responsibility it has arrogated; and if it can be proved that, whether through insufficient information, through want of reasonable foresight, or through a deficiency of administrative capacity, Parliament has exercised the discretion which it assumed, to the least possible benefit to the community, and to the greatest disadvantage to property, I think every candid man will admit that to charge upon the sufferers the evil exercise of a discretion which the State had arbitrarily assumed, would be the most tyrannical abuse of executive and legislative power. Now the Committee of the Lords, in their Report, unanimously declare that it has been proved in evidence before them, and I trust I shall prove to you before I sit down, that the mode of relief under which the greater part of these charges has occurred, was, in itself, utterly unsuited to meet the exigency with which it had to cope: That it was adopted, and set on foot, after due and timely warning of its inadequacy and inevitable failure: That it was persevered in, long after it had been proved and admitted to be not only inadequate and unfit for the preservation of life, but destructive to property, and subversive of society itself: That when it was found impossible to expend these loans on works of public utility, it was stipulated, as the next best test of their fitness, that such works should be at least useless to those who were ultimately to pay for their execution: That not only were works so executed no test of destitution, and no fit mode of relieving famine, but that they enticed multitudes from their regular employment; and while they generated disease and death among the feeble and infirm, they deteriorated the value of property, and shortened the future means of human subsistence, by greatly diminishing the agricultural labours that would have otherwise contributed to the coming harvest. These are grave allegations; but they are every one proved in the evidence taken before 741 the Lords, and it will be my own fault if I fail in proving them to you.
In the autumn of 1845 the potato disease first appeared in force, and heralded the coming famine; and, with a wise prescience, the great statesman who then held the helm of public affairs, prepared in time to meet it. Considerable quantities of Indian corn and other provisions were imported, to meet, in some degree, the failure of the potato; and legislative measures, founded on the 1st Vict., c. 21, which had been passed in 1837, were put into operation, and amended by the 9 Vict., c. 1, in the following spring. I will not stop to contrast the provisions of these Acts with that of the labour rate which followed, because I am bound in candour to admit that Sir Robert Peel's Act would have been equally a failure with that which succeeded it if it had had to cope with a similar calamity. The total expenditure in the season of 1845–6 did not exceed 476,000, and the daily average of labourers did not amount to 85,000; whilst in 1847 the expenditure well nigh reached four millions and a half, and the daily labourers greatly exceeded 700,000. But, although this first exigency was comparatively manageable, and was administered with the greatest ability, we have Sir E. Trevelyan's testimony to the fact, that even in what he calls "the rehearsal of the play," the elements of failure were quite perceptible, and quite sufficient to operate as a caution. Even when engaged in duties so limited, great apprehensions were expressed by the Board of Works to the Government; and in the month of April, 1846, I find that a letter was by them addressed to the Treasury, to the following effect:—"We ought not to deceive the country or ourselves in the expectation that we shall be able to find engineers or superintendents equal to take charge of such a multitude of works as will be forced upon us, and follow in such numbers as have been already sent in." Such was the experience of the great administrator of the Labour Rate Act in 1846—such was the warning given by the Board of Works at so early a period; and yet, although Her Majesty's Government were fully aware, before Parliament separated in August, 1846, that a much greater exigency than that of 1845 had arisen—that an exigency more overwhelming than men dared to contemplate was within the limit of probability—they were yet contented to entrust the fortunes of a whole people 742 to the provisions of an Act even more inefficient than that which, under far more manageable circumstances, it was found impossible to put in effective operation. The disease in the potato, which had partially destroyed that crop in 1845, utterly swept it away in 1846; and the corn crop was at the same time so seriously injured, as greatly to increase the extent of the calamity. The loss to the people of Ireland that year, has been carefully calculated by Mr. Griffiths to have amounted to sixteen millions of money in potatoes and corn alone. To meet this disaster, by which a whole people were deprived of subsistence, the 9 & 10 Vict., c. 107, commonly called the Labour Rate Act, was passed. It authorised, and in point of fact required, the Lord Lieutenant, on any representation of distress existing in any district, to call together extraordinary presentment sessions, composed of the magistrates and ratepayers, who in their turn were required to pass such public works as might be necessary for the relief of the poor. According to the opinion of the law officers of the Crown, the only works upon which labour could be equally employed under the provisions of this Bill, were the works permitted to be undertaken by grand juries, that is, the making of new and the repairs of old roads; and, equally in accordance with its provisions, no human being could get relief, except by employment upon such works. It was of course impossible that Her Majesty's Government, when they passed this Act, could have been aware of the extent of the disaster. They could not have intended that nearly a million of human beings should have been employed in making roads, in a country which had already too many. They could not have intended that, all seeking relief, no matter of what age or sex, or suffering from what bodily infirmity, old and decrepid men, shivering women and children, should be all turned out in the snows and rains of winter to die of cold and exposure, in order that they might be saved from famine. They could not have intended that these works should be protracted until the coming summer; that the labours of agriculture should be forestalled and circumvented; and that the husbandman should be saved from death one year, only on the condition that he should make no provision for living during the next. And yet these were the results, the necessary and inevitable results, under the iron provisions of this 743 cruel and senseless law. I entertain no doubt, and if my memory serves me right, the noble Lord the Member for London has himself asserted, that when the Labour Rate Act passed, Govenment had not, and could not, have had any idea of the real extent of the calamity. I am sure that in the month of August the full extent of the disaster was not known or apprehended. But in the month of November no doubt could have existed in the minds of Her Majesty's advisers. Then, at all events, the plague of famine, in all its accumulated horrors, had been laid bare before the public eye—then, at all events, the utter inadequacy and unfitness of the Labour Rate Act to cope with the exigency, and the waste of life and treasure that was daily becoming more extravagant and appalling, were fully recognised. "The system of public works," according to Sir C. Trevelyan, "utterly broke down under the pressure of the calamity;" and its complete and acknowledged failure is confessed in every page throughout this bulky volume. Then, why was not Parliament assembled to stay the tide of treasure and of life? Parliament was assembled together the following year, on account of a pecuniary pressure in the City. It assembled together again in November last, to report progress upon the elections, and to try the strength of parties. Surely the lives of a whole people were as worthy of consideration as either of these matters, important and interesting as each undoubtedly was in its way. But Parliament did not meet, notwithstanding; and the Labour Rate Act, with all its exposed and admitted iniquities, was allowed to proceed on its course of prodigality and death until the spring. I state these circumstances, not in exculpation of the Government then in power, nor even in condemnation of the course that they deemed it their duty to pursue, but in order to establish my position that the Executive and the Legislature acted, in the first instance, not without warning, continued to act afterwards in the teeth of conviction, and became therefore responsible for the consequences that ensued. Now, what were the consequences, as detailed and proved in the evidence that has been reported to the House? First, the Committee report that "the uselessness of a great proportion of the works exceeded their incompleteness, and the enormous waste of labour and capital which they produced are proved by the great majority of the wit- 744 nesses." "Another cause of the waste of capital," says the Report, "may be traced to the extreme indisposition manifested by the Treasury to adopt useful works, lest perchance they should confer any special benefit on individuals." And in proof of this it is stated, in Sir C. Trevelyan's letter of the 12th of August, that a Treasury direction was given that no works were to be undertaken but such as "would not be likely to be required except for the purpose of giving employment to the distressed poor;" and in the same memorandum it is further stated that, "as labour is the test of individual destitution, so the only satisfactory test of particular relief works being required for particular districts, is that the works should be of such a nature as will not benefit individuals in a greater degree than the rest of the community." Now I submit with great respect, that we have no right to spend the money of others in this fashion. If Parliament in its wisdom, and in the name of the empire that it represents, had thought fit to expend millions of Imperial treasure in the manner that it considered least beneficial to the owners of property in that country, to the empire alone it would be responsible for such waste of its resources. But to profess to lend men money to be repaid with interest, and at the same time to insist that it shall be spent in the manner least profitable to the borrower, is a mode of dealing between man and man which it requires all the omnipotence of Parliament to justify. But it may be said that even if these works were of no great public utility, and conferred no private advantage, at least they were not more unprofitable than if the money had been gratuitously bestowed. To this argument I venture to take exception; and I will endeavour to show that the loss sustained by the Irish nation, through this mode of employment, amounted to not much less than the whole amount now sought to be repaid. In the Report of the Committee before us it is stated, p. xxii. that—During the continuance of these works, the land subject to increased burthens was depreciated in value by the irresistible impulse given to the desertion of farms and the abandonment of agricultural labour.And this statement is fully justified by the evidence before them, and by the facts of the case. On the 16th of January, 1847 the Chairman of the Board of Works reported to the Assistant Secretary of the 745 Treasury that "the want of food was driving everybody to the works, and that the public works offered a direct premium to labourers to quit their natural useful occupation; they in fact afford subsistence to the agricultural labourer on condition that he leaves his work;" and again, "It will not be possible much longer to find work of the nature now provided, even for those who are now employed, and of course still less for the large remainder." And yet in the face of these impressive statements, the number of the labourers was nearly doubled, between January and March. Captain Larcom, the present Under Secretary for Ireland is asked, p. 241—Did not this disposition to quit other employment show itself in the spring of the year, by a very considerable reduction in the cultivation of the lands?The answer is—Yes! it was universally reported to us that there was very little tillage going on; that the land was not tilled.He is again asked (Q. 2197)—Was not the cause of the land being left unoccupied, this, that the occupiers were starving, and obliged for their present subsistence to be on the public works, and that they were therefore not able to cultivate their holdings, inasmuch as they were obliged to attend to the public works, in order to earn sufficient for their present support?"—"That is true, to a great extent.Now I find that in the months of March, April, and May—in which agricultural operations are for the most part conducted, there were on an average 440,000 men constantly employed on the public works. A fourth or fifth part of the agricultural labourers of the country were thus diverted from their ordinary useful employments; and I find there was a proportion. ate diminution in the tillage of the country. I do not of course maintain that the whole of that decrease was attributable to the public works; but I am authorised by Major Larcom's evidence in saying that to a great extent it was. The loss in the subsequent harvest was, according to Mr. Griffiths' valuation, not less than six millions of money; and what part of that loss is to be attributed to the wilful continuance of the population in this employment, after the express warning of the Board of Works, is a grave question, on which the decision of the Legislature in this matter ought greatly to depend. "These melancholy facts," the Committee 746 remark, "obtain a double proof from comparing, or rather contrasting, the effects of the labour rate with those of the direct administration of relief through food." When Parliament at last met, the Act, commonly and honourably known as the Burgoyne Relief Act, was passed. The labour test of the doctrinaires was exploded; charity was permitted to do her own good work in her own good old way; food was gratuitously distributed to all who were in want of food; the scandals of the Labour Rate Act disappeared; great economy of life and money ensued; and between two and three millions of human beings were supported for five months for less than two millions of money, or at the rate of little more than a penny a day each. All the witnesses concur in declaring that this change was mainly instrumental in restoring health and saving life; and when a penny a day was considered a favourable change, who shall say that the Irish people were exacting? But another measure was passed pari passu with the Burgoyne Relief Act, and which is destined to exercise a far more permanent influence over the condition of the Irish people. An efficient and substantial poor law was passed—defective, no doubt, in many of its provisions, susceptible of improvement in many of its details, but still containing the essential proviso for the inviolability of human life. That the ultimate effects of that law will be most beneficial, I do not doubt; that it was necessary to introduce it even at that time, I do not deny; but I think I can show that the State has something to answer for, and some reparation to make for the time and manner of its introduction. Up to the very famine there was no substantial poor-law in Ireland. Not only were the labouring classes reduced to the last limit of existence, but no provision was made that that limit should not be exceeded, and that poverty should have a claim upon property at least for life. Nothing, perhaps, could be worse than such a state of things, and probably the remedy could not have been too immediate. But surely the Legislature which, for more than half a century had had the uncontrolled administration of a country so situated, became responsible for the manner and the time in which a great change, amounting almost to a reorganisation of society, should be introduced; and if property was to be subjected to burdens which it never before had to bear—if it were necessary to subvert a social system upon 747 which all the arrangements of property had been adjusted—it was incumbent upon the State to have introduced those changes at the time and in the manner in which they might have been most advantageous to all the interests concerned. And if, for reasons of Imperial expediency, for reasons connected with the management of Parliamentary government, those changes were deferred to the time most disadvantageous; if, in consequence of that delay it became necessary, for reasons of Imperial expediency, to put them in operation under circumstances which made them most burdensome and disastrous—surely the Legislature and the Empire, whose convenience had been consulted both in the tardiness and haste of the alteration, become in some degree responsible for the loss that their own tardiness and haste have entailed on the parties concerned. It cannot be said that the evil day came upon you without warning. The distresses of 1817, 1822, and other calamitous years, afforded ample proof, not only of the periodical deaths, but of the normal and annual distresses to which the Irish peasantry were subjected. The function and province of a poor-law is not so much to provide against extraordinary scarcity as to control the ordinary pauperism of the country; and yet we find that this question of an Irish poor-law was never mooted in the Legislature, except after those periods of extraordinary distress which threw the support of a part of Irish pauperism upon the ever-generous, but naturally protesting charity of England. As long as the misery of Ireland was confined within her own bitter cup, it did not offend the nostrils of the empire; it was only when it overflowed the Irish brim into the lap of England that the Legislature condescended to regard it as a nuisance. I do not introduce these observations in a bitter or reproachful spirit; but, on the contrary, with a feeling of reliance on the wisdom and justice that have lately characterised the proceedings of this House, that you will fairly and frankly look back with me into all the circumstances out of which these disasters and these charges have arisen, and enter on a consideration of the subject, not as a question between England and Ireland, but in a large and imperial spirit. If the Legislature had done its duty to Ireland, as it seems now disposed to do—if by a just consideration of the relations of landlord and country, it had protected the operations of husbandry—if 748 by a sound and effective poor-law it had regulated and controlled pauperism—I do not say that the failure of the potato would not lave been a deep disaster to Ireland; but I believe it would have been a disaster against which they might have made a stout unaided struggle. I think, therefore, that we are bound to have some regard to the time and circumstances under which we laid this new burden on the land of Ireland; that we ought not to forget that we called upon property at the lowest ebb to which property ever seemed, to bear a greater amount of poverty than property ever bore. I find that the poor-rate actually collected in Ireland amounted to six millions of money collected in four years of the greatest suffering that ever a country endured. And this is the burden that you now propose to tax! for no one in the House can be ignorant that these Consolidated Annuities are in reality a tax upon the poor-rate of Ireland. Now, I call upon you not to tax the first measure that you have passed for the relief of the poor in Ireland. I make this proposition, recommended by the most eminent of our statesmen, supported by the evidence of the most experienced officers of the Government; and although I cannot but feel that I have embarrassed my case by the imperfect manner in which I have brought it before the House, I am sustained by the hope that no one will oppose my Motion that has not read the evidence and the recommendation on which it is based; that every one who has read them must pronounce in my favour.
§ MR. FITZSTEPHEN FRENCH
seconded the Motion, and said he should endeavour to show that the Report of the Lords' Committee was not only a just but an extremely moderate Report. But before referring to it further, he must express his regret and surprise that this Motion should have been permitted to be made, for he did not think that the Irish Members by whom it was supported had been fairly treated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In pursuance of a resolution, signed by upwards of seventy Members representing Irish interests, it had been deemed advisable to request an interview with the right hon. Gentleman; and he was kind enough to appoint a time for the reception of the deputation. At the meeting, the right hon. Gentleman listened to their statements with the utmost attention; and he promised that their representations should have his immediate 749 and earnest attention. The right hon. Gentleman said that his own individual judgment should be exercised in arriving at a decision upon the merits of the question, for he admitted they had a claim to an immediate or speedy reply. The right hon. Gentleman further stated that he would, as the deputation had asked him, decide on this question from considerations totally independent of the Budget he was about to bring in. The right hon. Gentleman more than once made that statement on the question being presented to him as one of justice and not of favour, which was of necessity unconnected with the Budget—that, if the claim were a good one, the Government were bound to attend to it, independently of the funds at his command as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since that interview two communications had been made to the right hon. Gentleman. To the first he returned a reply that the subject was under his consideration, but at that moment he was not in a condition to give a more definite reply, but he expected to be able speedily to give an answer to it. Finding that this promised answer had not been received, Lord Monteagle thought it necessary to call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the subject; and his Lordship received an assurance in reply that the answer, whatever it might be, would be given upon the 18th inst., the day announced for bringing forward the Budget. Now he (Mr. French) maintained that this reply did not satisfy the promise made by the right hon. Gentleman, that the subject should have his immediate consideration, nor fulfil his pledge that its decision should not be connected with the Budget, for it happened that the right hon. Gentleman had selected the very same day for giving his answer that he had appointed for bringing forward the Budget. He was far from bringing any charge against the right hon. Gentleman, but he must impress upon him the necessity of making up his mind when he gave a promise. It might be thought that 6the question was in no way prejudiced by delay. That was a mistake; because if the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Budget, and his decision was different to what the Irish Members expected, it would be impossible for them to interfere with effect. With regard to the money advanced under the 1 Vict., c. 21, and the 9 Vict., c. 1, 80,0001. of that sum had been repaid by the baronies to the Treasury previous to the striking of these Consolidated Annuities, although in strict- 750 ness the claim for repayment did not arise till the works were completed, which, in the great majority of the cases, had not yet been done. He should now proceed to show that the recommendations in the Lords' Reports were both just and moderate. Indeed their Lordships might have gone much further, and called for the remission of four out of the five items of which these annuities were made up. Many counties in Ireland felt extremely and protested strongly against the pressure and the injustice of this claim. The county he had the honour to represent was called upon to pay money for works which were not only not completed, but which it was not intended to complete, although the presentments were made, and the works undertaken on the plans furnished, and the estimates made by the officers of the Board of Works at rates which, had private parties been allowed to tender, they would have been completed for. Why should not the Board of Works be held, like other contractors, responsible for the completion of its own works? Why should they not, in justice to the parties with whom they dealt, be compelled to fulfil their engagements? There had never been, on the part of the counties, any objection to present instalments for any debts for which they were legally answerable; and on their part he declared their willingness to present for every shilling of such debts. But let the works for which they were called upon to pay be completed, as they ought to be, according to the original contract; and let not the debts which could not be legally claimed against one portion of the county be enforced against another. It was under circumstances such as these that the Committee of the House of Lords felt justified in expressing doubts whether the Irish Unions or baronies should be called upon to repay. He not only agreed with the recommendations of the Lords' Committee, but, totally independent of the question whether a national calamity should be met by other than national resources, he was prepared to show that the amount claimed as due by the Board of Works Commissioners was not due. That amount was not sustained by the returns which had been made to the House by the Board itself; and he contended, on the most favourable consideration, there was a deficiency in them unaccounted for of 1,100,000l. But he maintained that the system ought not to have been administered according to Sir 751 Charles Trevelyan's English notions. Had it been administered as it was in Ireland in 1822, little more than one-fourth of the sum actually expended would have been required. A sum of 2,000,000l., or 2,500,000l., administered under the direction and with the experience of the local gentry, would have been sufficient for the purpose; but there was a total disregard of the feelings of the Irish people, and the experiment which Sir Charles Trevelyan had commenced was carried on at all hazards. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London was answerable for much of the evil that arose, for he supported the views and the system of Sir Charles Trevelyan. It might be asked how had the money been expended, if not upon roads? This was a fair question, and he would give the House a case to show how far the money returned under the head of labour had been expended. He would take the case of the Union of Newcastle, in the county of Limerick. It was well known that a presenting sessions could only be called by the Lord Lieutenant, upon the representation of persons connected with the locality as to the necessity of providing employment for the people. A presenting sessions was called at the request of the proprietors in that Union; it was held, and a sum of money was voted by the magistrates and cesspayers sufficient to give employment to all the people who required it in the barony. But, to the great astonishment of the parties, there appeared in the newspapers some months afterwards a requisition from the Lord Lieutenant for the magistrates and cesspayers to consider the voting of additional works for the employment of the people. Lord Monteagle saw the Earl of Clarendon upon the subject, and the Lord Lieutenant said he had issued the proclamation at the request of the officers of the Board of Works. Lord Monteagle then went to the Board of Works, and asked if this was the case. His Lordship was assured it was the case, and then he was told—You have presented for certain roads of great utility, but the sum is not sufficient for the completion of the works: we think it would be disadvantageous to the interests of the county if the works remained incomplete; and under these circumstances we thought it advisable to ask for a second session, in order that the money required for the completion of the works may be put into our hands.This appeared so just and beneficial, that the magistrates and cesspayers assented to it; but the House would hear with aston- 752 ishment that not one single sixpence of the money had ever been expended by the officers of the Board of Works; it was placed in account to meet a deficiency in their expenditure they could not account otherwise for, yet the entire amount was now claimed from the barony. This was one instance of how the people of Ireland were called upon to pay; but he did not think that even Sir Charles Trevelyan would venture to assert that it was dishonest to refuse to pay the claim. With regard to the 782,000l. expended under Sir John Burgoyne for rations, it had been honestly and fairly expended, and no person could offer the slightest objection to its repayment; but he did not think that the interest should be charged. As to the advances made to Mr. Nicholls for building workhouses, the Committee of the House of Lords reported their opinion that money advanced for poor-law uses should be paid out of the poor-rates; but there were peculiarities in the case which rendered it by no means so simple as it appeared to be from their Lordships' Report. Mr. Nicholls having been sent by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) on a six weeks' tour in Ireland, stated in his Report, which was adopted by the House, that at the most 100 workhouses at a cost of 7,000l. each would be sufficient. There were now 163 workhouses in Ireland. Mr. Nicholls estimated the cost of supporting those houses, assuming that they would be constantly full, at 312,000l., and that moderate expense enabled the Government to obtain support of many Members on the Conservative side of the House; but as the number of workhouses was so largely exceeded, the estimate of the expense was of course utterly fallacious. Taking Mr. Nicholl's estimate, the gross charge in the eleven years since the Poor-Law was established, would be 4,132,000l., and he admitted, if that amount had not been paid, it would not be easy to dispute the payment of these annuities; but they had actually paid 9,850,736l., and therefore no claim could be fairly made out. The people of Ireland did not sue for the remission of money justly due. They said the money had been paid, although they were no parties to the borrowing it. So ill did Mr. Nicholls discharge the duty of builder-general for Ireland that Mr. Pennethorne was sent over to inspect the workhouses, several of which he found without waterage, and several without sewerage, whilst the whole were badly built on sites 753 which were badly chosen; and the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham), who was then Home Secretary, decided that 47,000l., about one-fourth of the remission Mr. Pennethorne's report fairly entitled them to receive, should be taken off the estimate of Mr. Nicholls. With respect to the advances to the distressed Unions, they were not made at the request of any parties in Ireland, but to cover the maladministration of the poor-law officials. The Poor Law Commissioners dismissed the Board of Guardians, and placed the management in the hands of their own nominees—men without experience or ability—and the result was these promises plunged into financial difficulties almost every Union in the country. They had levied rates at their pleasure; and now, after all this, the Government called upon the people of Ireland to pay a sum of money to meet their wasteful expenditure. The next charge was a very curious one, which he had never heard mentioned before, even by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood), who was not likely to let such things escape him —he alluded to the charge for interest. With regard to one of these items, indeed, although an extension of time for payment had been permitted them, it was expressly provided that no interest should be charged. But it might be asked what claim the Irish landed proprietors had for an extension of time, if they did not mean to pay at all? But the time was extended, not for their accommodation, but for that of the Government, and for this accommodation the Government proposed to double the debt. The Government last year admitted these annuities could not in the distressed Unions be demanded, and devised a scheme, which for absurdity could not well be surpassed, declaring that all Unions, when the management for the poor was conducted with thrift and economy, should be held liable for them, whilstt hose where wasteful expenditure and mismanagement prevailed, should be exempted from payment. Then it was said that the people of Ireland did not pay assessed taxes or income-tax, and that they did not therefore bear their fair proportion of taxation. This he denied. The fallacy of supposing that taxation in Ireland was less oppressive than in England was ably exposed by Lord Rosse in 1849, who deliberately protested against the Rate in Aid Bill, because "from the best sources of information it appeared that Ireland paid a larger percentage on 754 income than Great Britain, whilst she sustained a heavier amount of local taxation." The noble Lord gave the figures; he estimated the gross income of England at 250,000,000l., of Ireland at 20,000,000l., and the gross revenue at 52,000,000l., showing that the proportion Ireland ought to pay was 4,160,000, while, independent of the tea duties, Ireland paid 4,164,264l. The local taxation the noble Lord put down at 12,000,000l. in Great Britain on property rated at 105,000,000 a year, whilst in Ireland it was 3,270,853l. on property rated at 9,890,566l., or at the rate of 6s. 2d. in the pound in Ireland, as against 2s. 3½d. in the pound in England. The statistical tables of Mr. Kingsley, and the pamphlet by Mr. Cornewall Lewis, make the taxation of Ireland double that of England: difference of taxation did not necessarily mean inequality of taxation. If the question which by this Motion it was intended to decide, affected any other country but Ireland, he should have no doubt of the result. But Sidney Smith had said, "The moment Ireland is mentioned, John Bull bids adieu to common sense and common justice, and acts with the barbarity of a brute and the fatuity of an idiot." He hoped the House, however, by assenting to the Motion of his hon. Friend would show that such was not the characteristic of Englishmen.
Motion made, and Question put—
That, in the opinion of this House, it is the duty of Her Majesty's Government forthwith to take into consideration the Irish Consolidated Annuities, in order to effect a more equitable settlement of the claims for which those Annuities were granted, by remitting the amount charged on account of the Labour Rate Acts, 9 & 10 Vict., c. 107, and 10 & 11 Vict., c. 87, whilst the repayment of the Workhouse Loans, the Advances for Temporary Relief Act, 10 Vict., c. 7, the Advances for Public Works, under the Acts 1 Vict., c. 21, and 9 Vict., c. 1, and for Aid to the Distressed Districts, under the Act 13 Vict., c. 14, are fully provided for.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, before he made any remark on the subject matter of this Motion, he must express the very sincere regret with which he had listened to that portion of the speech of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) in which the hon. Member treated this as a question between Ireland on the one hand, and Sir Charles Trevelyan on the other. Everything done, of which the hon. Member complained, he laid on the shoulders of Sir Charles Trevelyan, and described that public servant, whom he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) did 755 not hesitate to characterise as an eminently able, upright, honest, and indefatigable man, in terms which he had never heard applied by any Member of Parliament to one of that most valuable class of civil servants of the country who were the advisers of the Executive Government, who had no means of defending themselves in that House or otherwise when attacked, whose useful advice and successful propositions invariably redounded to the credit and honour of the Ministers of the day, whose advice and propositions ought to be laid to the charge and the responsibility of the Ministers, and ought not to be made the basis of a gross personal attack. It was with surprise and regret that, for the first time during some experience, he had listened to such terms as those in which the hon. Member described Sir Charles Trevelyan as "a dogmatist, a theorist, a practical blunderer, who spared nothing, and who scrupled at nothing." He was satisfied there were few men in that House who would have made such an attack, and he doubted very much whether the hon. Gentleman himself would hereafter repeat it. Whatever Sir Charles Trevelyan had advised or done in this matter, it ought not to be laid to his door; it was to be laid to the door of the Government of the day who adopted the measures which he advised; and if the measures were not sound in principle, or had been found unsuccessful in practice, it was the Government only on whom the blame ought to be laid. He might personally remark on the peculiarity of this discussion. He did not recollect the case of a financial proposition of great importance made to the Commons House of Parliament, and supported almost exclusively on the basis of the Report of a Committee of the House of Lords. He did not mean to say that when justice and good sense were involved in the proceedings of a Committee of the House of Lords, they ought not to be attended to; but he entirely demurred to the description which the hon. Member for Mayo gave of the Report of that Committee, when he designated it as a high and commanding authority. Now he was not disposed to admit the doctrine that the Report of a Committee of the House of Lords upon a question of finance was to be urged in the House of Commons, not merely as a matter reasonable and deserving attention, but as a high and commanding authority. He was much more disposed to think that the Report of a Committee of that chamber of the Le- 756 gislature which was not the taxing chamber, ought to be received with some jealousy by the body to whom was entrusted the functions of taxing the people and deciding upon the burdens to be cast upon them; at the same time they ought to consider whatever merits it might have in reference to the standard of reason and justice. He was bound to say that, when he described the Motion as supported entirely by a Report of a Committee of the House of Lords, he misstated the case, for the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion (Mr. F. French) went beyond the Committee of the House of Lords, and was of opinion that these Consolidated Annuities, involving large sums of money due from Ireland to this country, ought to be remitted, although the Committee of the House of Lords declined to make any such recommendation. In the view of the hon. Gentleman the Committee did not go far enough, and the hon. Gentleman urged what the House of Lords declined to urge in their Report. The hon. Gentleman argued that because it was estimated the expenditure for the relief of the poor in ordinary years would amount to a certain sum, and that sum was exceeded, that would constitute a valid claim for remission. He demurred to that doctrine; but he declined to notice it further, not because the hon. Gentleman was not entitled to use it, but because it did not come within the scope of the Motion before the House, and therefore the House would forgive him if he passed by that portion of the hon. Gentleman's speech. The hon. Gentleman who made the Motion (Mr. G. H. Moore) did not ask for the remission of the money as a boon, or as a matter of equitable consideration, but on grounds of strict justice; he founded it on charges which he made against the Government and Parliament of this country, both of which he said were guilty of great misdeeds, the consequence of which misdeeds Ireland ought not to bear. For reasons which he should state by and by, he should not enter into any statement of the views of the Government on this question. He should not refer to the judgment of the Government with regard to it, but to the arguments raised by the hon. Gentleman, that the remission of 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. expended under the Relief Act of 1846, ought to be made on grounds of strict justice, and because the exaction of it would be a wrong inflicted on Ireland. There, again, he did not think the two hon. Gentlemen had made good 757 their case. The statement seemed to be that the Parliament and Government of this country had intruded into the position and usurped the functions of the landed proprietors of Ireland—that the mode of relief given by the Relief Act of 1846 was condemned by the people of Ireland, by which was meant, condemned at the time —that the parties to that Act had caused deaths from starvation that would not otherwise have taken place, and had diminished the amount of subsistence for those who were entitled to it—and then that a bill was presented, which Ireland had to pay, in consideration of the wrongs which Parliament had inflicted upon her. Now, first, as to the statement that Parliament had intruded itself upon the functions of the Irish landed proprietors. It had before done so when it passed the Irish Poor Law without the approval of the Irish landowners, yet few now thought that Parliament had erred in passing that law. He thought that Parliament owed a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) for that measure. [Mr. G. H. MOORE: Hear, hear!] Yes, but the hon. Member had made it a crime that Parliament had put itself in the place of the Irish landed proprietors, and he wished to quote an instance where Parliament had done so, and to show that it was better certain duties should be discharged by Parliament than that they should remain undischarged. It was now made a great charge against the Government that its officials were placed in the position of the landed proprietors. He wanted to show, that in passing the poor-law, the Government and its officials were put in the place of the landed proprietors under the pressure of very strong necessity—absolute necessity—for the welfare of the people of Ireland; and therefore it was not a conclusive argument against the proceedings of Parliament if he showed that in the instance they were now discussing, the Government assumed the functions of the landed proprietors the better to discharge those functions for the benefit of the people. He did not admit that Parliament did so. He did not admit that the law was forced upon Ireland. What were the provisions of the law? It began by stating that the Lord Lieutenant should direct extraordinary presentment sessions for the baronies—that such sessions should be held by the Justices—and that they should record presentments of such public works as they approved. They were required to 758 send up a list of presentments of public works, such as they approved, to the Lord Lieutenant, who forwarded them to the Treasury, and no public work was undertaken except it was first approved by the extraordinary sessions, by the Lord Lieutenant, and by the Treasury. Would any one tell him that the structure of that Act betrayed any disposition on the part of Parliament to set aside or neglect the landed proprietors of Ireland? The Lord Lieutenant was not authorised to act except upon presentments made by the sessions, consisting of the landed proprietors of Ireland—he had no power of acting independently of them. The hon. Gentleman quoted some cases in which he seemed to allege that presentments had been extorted from the local parties by influence, and the works executed somewhat against their wishes. The figures would distinctly show that such cases were the exception and not the general rule; because what were the facts? By extraordinary presentment sessions in Ireland, under the Labour Act of 1846, presentments were made amounting in all to 6,647,000l. Let the House remark the import of that. Presentments were made by the landed proprietors for public works to the extent of 6,647,000l, What was the extent of the works executed? The extent executed was 4,460,000l.; therefore it appeared 2,000,000l. were presented by parties locally interested in Ireland which were never sanctioned at all. [Mr. FRENCH: The Board of Works were to select.] Pardon him, the Board of Works were to execute. The presentment sessions were to select, and they approved works to the extent of 6,000,000l. Why should the hon. Member complain of the selections made when the local parties had approved? At any rate, if it was charged that these works were executed either in defiance of the will or without the will of the landed proprietors of Ireland, and that the landed proprietors on whom the burden must ultimately fall were set aside, he said, on the contrary, the structure of the Act showed the utmost anxiety on the part of Parliament that the landed proprietors should have as much discretion as possible, and that the utmost precautions were taken to prevent their having reason to say that they were set aside, and these charges forced upon them in spite of their own different opinion. He believed he might with confidence refer to the discussions in the Houses of Parliament when the Act passed. It was very 759 easy to be wise now after the fact. The famine came on with giant strides, and spread over the land with a rapidity and raged with an intensity which no man could foresee, and the machinery broke down. When Parliament met again, they recognised the failure of the machinery, and set about applying remedial measures. No doubt, great mischief had been done, but everybody had been deceived, and everybody had miscalculated. The charges which were made against the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir C. Wood), were, that he was hampering the Act with too many restraints and conditions, and that the number of presentments would be less than they ought to be. If, then, that was the language of the Irish representatives at that period, with what justice could they now seek to exempt themselves from their fair share of the responsibility of an erroneous judgment—an error which, it should be remembered, implied no discredit either to them or to the Government, because it pleased Providence that the calamity should be such as to baffle all human calculation and to exceed all human strength? For the various reasons which he had stated, he demurred to the proposition made by the hon. Member for Mayo, that any remission was due to Ireland on the score of justice; for, even if he could have proved that Parliament had been deliberately wrong in the matter, still he thought it would have been necessary to show that Ireland, by the mouths of her representatives, had protested against it. But to that point the hon. Member did not address himself. All that he had succeeded in showing was, that laws were enacted to meet the great calamity which took the management of the remedial provisions out of the hands of those who were primarily and most directly interested—namely, the landed proprietors of Ireland. He would now refer to the imputation which the hon. Gentleman had made against him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). The hon. Gentleman said, that if he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) made a promise to give an immediate reply, he ought to keep it. So far he agreed with the hon. Member in that opinion. The hon. Member had said that on the occasion when he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had the honour of seeing him in Downing-street, along with several noblemen and gentlemen connected with Ireland, he promised to deal with this subject irrespective of the Budget. Now, he was sorry to 760 say that he could not agree with the hon. Member in the accuracy of this representation. Not only did he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) not make that statement, but he made a statement the very reverse of it; and he begged to say that he was now speaking from the written record which was made in the presence of the deputation. As he could refer to a record of what passed, he would tell the hon. Gentleman what he did say on that occasion. Lord Monteagle stated to him that there had been a conversation in the House of Lords on the night immediately preceding the interview, which would seem to show that the question had been postponed for reasons of Parliamentary convenience, and then he went on to say that the Government had no right to tax the poorest part of the Queen's dominions—namely, Ireland—with reference to any question of surplus or deficiency in the annual income of the State. In reply, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) stated that the Earl of Aberdeen, in the speech to which Lord Monteagle had referred, merely said that the question was not to depend on the surplus or deficiency of the year. That statement he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) made at the time, and that statement he now repeated. The hon. Member, in stating that the answer which he had promised to give was to be quite irrespective of a surplus, represented him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to be out of his senses. If the hon. Member really believed that within three or four weeks after coming into office, and when almost every question of taxation and fiscal administration that could possibly enter the mind of man was being raised and pressed upon his attention from every quarter, he received a deputation upon a subject with respect to which a settled arrangement of a complex character, and involving 5,000,000l.—if the hon. Member really believed that under these circumstances he told the deputation that he would give them an immediate answer, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) could only say, that if he was capable of giving such a promise, and then breaking it, the hon. Member would have been entitled to be even more severe in his censure than he had been that evening—and more especially if, after having made the promise, he had failed to fulfil the expectations he had thus rashly succeeded in raising. But the fact was, that he did not only not give any such answer, but he stated the reasons 761 why he could not give such an answer—namely, that in the view of the Government the question of the Consolidated Annuities was connected with the financial arrangements of the Government; and that it was not the intention of the Government to give their ultimate judgment on the subject of the Consolidated Annuities, except in connexion with their financial arrangement. To that statement he had now simply to adhere. It was the view of the Government that they could not, in conformity with their public duty, announce their final intentions in respect to the Consolidated Annuities of Ireland, except in conjunction with the other financial questions which they had to dispose of. He was now speaking on the 7th of April; on the 18th it would be his duty to state his views on the whole of these questions. He trusted, therefore, it would not be deemed disrespectful to the hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the Motion, if he declined at present to enter into any further discussion on the subject. His public duty absolutely bound him to silence for that short period. It would then appear whether the Government were justified in suspending the treatment of this subject until the treatment of the general finances of the country. If the hon. Member should think that they were not so justified, it was open to him to censure the Government for the course they had pursued; but at present he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had no option but to act upon the conviction which he entertained, that this was not the proper time to state definitely the view which the Government took of this question. At present, therefore, he had no more to say, except that in his opinion the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion (Mr. G. H. Moore), and the hon. Gentleman who had followed him (Mr. F. French), had not made good the case which they stated their intention to prove—namely, a case of wrong and oppression on the part of the Government against Ireland at the period of the famine; upon the ground of which wrong and injustice they claimed a remission of 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l. of money, not as a matter of mere equitable consideration, but as a matter of strict restitution due on the ground of right. With these observations he should sit down by saying, that he should feel it to be his duty to oppose the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. H. HERBERT
said, that as far 762 as he was concerned he entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to the Poor Law. He had always stated that to his mind the fault of the English Parliament was, not that they had passed the Irish Poor Law, but that they had not passed it many years before, for his conviction was, that if they had passed it fifty years before, English Members would have been spared the pain of listening to, and Irish Members the pain of stating, many of the evils which had since occurred; and he had no hesitation in declaring that to the firm administration, not merely of a Poor Law, but of the present Poor Law, he looked for the future regeneration of Ireland. What he and other Irish Members had complained of was, not that the Poor Law had been passed, but that it had been administered in such a manner as to paralyse the hands of every man who was able and ready to work in that country—that the Legislature had tied the people hand and foot, and cast them into the stream, and then mocked them by standing on the bank, and calling upon them to swim. The right hon. Gentleman had stated his belief that no dissent was expressed in Ireland from the passing of the relief measures of 1846. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: I said in Parliament.] Well, the reason why so little dissent was expressed was probably this, that a great number of Irish proprietors felt themselves bound to be in Ireland, in order to meet the calamitous circumstances they saw pressing upon them. But he found it stated in the Lords' Report:—Urgent applications were made to Her Majesty's Government, and to the Government of Ireland, representing the fatal consequences of this system, if persevered in. This conviction had been already expressed in resolutions of the landowners of the county of Limerick, on the 23rd of August, even before the passing of the Labour-rate Act, and was communicated to the First Lord of the Treasury by the Earl of Devon.If representations were not made in Parliament, surely the representations of a man like the Earl of Devon should have met with more attention.On the 25th of September the same course was taken by the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland" [a body whose opinions were also entitled to respect]; "it had already been taken by the Lord Lieutenant and forty-six magistrates of the county of Mayo on the 12th of September. Indeed, from the whole tenor of the evidence, this sentiment seems to have been nearly universal.He begged the attention of the House to 763 the wording of some of the representations which had been made. There was one, for instance, which was transmitted to the noble Lord then at the head of the Government by the Earl of Devon, and which contained the following extract from a letter by the present Clerk of the Ordnance (Mr. Monsell), dated August 22, 1846:—Let the Government plan be adopted, and you render improvement impossible; if a man who is ready to employ more than his fair proportion of labour is to be obliged to contribute towards the support of those labourers whose landlords will not employ them, he must give up his plans of improvement. He cannot stand the double drain upon his purse; he cannot employ all his own and a portion of his neighbour's poor; in self-defence, he must let the whole poor of the district be supported by the public money. I repeat it, no more effectual plan to check private exertions than that proposed by the Government could be devised. Let us suppose a district on which 5,000l. would be required to support the unemployed poor, equally divided among ten proprietors; each proprietor's share of labour would amount to 500l. If one of these proprietors, who spends 500l. on his own poor, is, in addition to this, to pay one-tenth part of the 4,500l. which the other proprietor's poor require to be expended on their maintenance, it is manifest that he will be most unjustly dealt with. No man will stand such injustice; he will rather say, 'I am quite willing to employ my own people; but I cannot afford both to employ them and those who belong to my neighbours; therefore the whole lot must go to the public works.Now, so exactly did this letter prefigure the state of things which actually did happen, that it might be almost regarded as prophetic. Much had been said about the Irish landlords. He had no intention of entering upon any elaborate defence of that body. He admitted that in many respects they had failed in their duty; but at the same time he felt bound to say that at the period in question no body of men could have been more determined to do their duty than they were, if the Government would only have allowed them. What was said, for example, in the very letter from which he had just quoted?—I am firmly persuaded that the only plan upon which the wants of this country can be relieved is one by which it can be made the interest of the rich to employ the poor; this can only be done by compelling the owners of land to support the poor who belong to their land, by compelling every landlord either to employ his people on productive or unproductive labour.One word with regard to the presentment sessions. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was perfectly correct in stating that the Government could not initiate any particular works; 764 and that it was necessary that they should originate at the sessions. But was the right hon. Gentleman not aware of the state of the country? Did he suppose that, when the onus of carrying out the Act was placed upon their shoulders, and when they found themselves surrounded by a starving population, who had been led to believe that the Act contained provisions for their relief, the landlords could be considered as free agents? It had been stated by Captain Kennedy, the inspecting officer under the Commissioners of Works, that, "as a general rule, the presentment sessions were a scene of confusion and intimidation throughout the county" (Meath), that the courts were "crammed to the greatest possible density—you might have walked over the people's heads." He added—I recollect upon one occasion, at the presentment sessions at Kells, there was a great deal of excitement; there had been some popular movement, and speeches made before the sessions; and there were 400 or 500 men brought from the neighbouring county of Cavan, for the purpose of intimidating the magistrates. It became late in the evening, and the candles were at last put out by the bench; a scene of riot ensued, and the magistrates were obliged to take refuge in the jury room for some time; and on leaving the sessions-house one or two gentlemen were very roughly treated.And what did even Sir Charles Trevelyan say—a gentleman who, he agreed with the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) in thinking, had manifested the greatest hostility to the Irish landlords as a class? He said—I felt all through this disastrous time, when I was sitting in my room in the Treasury, and was there from morning till night, and long after night, that, however much oppressed I might be by multiplicity of business, still I was my own master, and was able to do the business according to the dictates of my own judgment; and if any unreasonable applications were pressed upon me, I had only to make a reasonable answer to them; but those who were labouring in the same cause in Ireland were brought face to face with the starving multitudes—that is an immense difference; and the popular ordinary leaders of those multitudes—I mean those who habitually exercise influence over them, in case of any apparent hesitation in order to discriminate between the works asked for—would immediately appeal against that delay, which they said was starving the people and their wives and children. That was the state of the case, and to observe that is sufficient to put the whole matter in its true light.Sir Charles Trevelyan concluded his evidence by giving in a list of the public officers who fell victims to the Irish famine and workhouse fever, stating that another, much longer, might have been made of all 765 the clergymen (Protestant and Roman Catholic), medical men, and noblemen and country gentlemen, including Lord Lurgan, Lord Dunsandle, Lord Clare, Mr. O'Lochlen, of Corofin, and many others. In the face of these facts it could hardly be questioned that the landlords, on the whole, had not done their duty as far as was practicable.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of saying a few words in answer to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and also of some other hon. Members who preceded him. I thought it was time now, after a lapse of nearly seven years since the famine in Ireland occurred, to look at least dispassionately at the conduct which had been pursued at a period of unexampled difficulty by all parties—by the Government, by Irish proprietors, by the Board of Works, by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and, in short, by every person officially connected with the transactions now brought under review, not omitting Sir Charles Trevelyan—and to look without prejudice on the difficulties that all were exposed to by the disastrous events of 1846; but I am very sorry to find that that is not the case. Now, for my part, with regard to the great part of the document which has been so frequently alluded to—the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords—I think the statements therein made are but too well founded, and give a natural picture of the occurrences to which they relate; but I think there is a total omission of what the Government of the day had to encounter. The main subject they had to consider was the great calamity that had fallen on Ireland, and that it was the bounden duty of everybody who had any influence, to endeavour to mitigate the horrors of that calamity, and to do that in any way, by endeavouring to save the lives of the persons who were starving. Well, Sir, I must say that in that Report the Committee do not seem, but now and then—and that incidentally—to allude to the fact that the lives of the starving people were to be saved at any rate. But that really was the great subject. The question, after all, was, whether the Government could or could not in a great degree save the lives of those persons, and whether, in fact, the lives of a great number of persons were not saved. Let us look at the state of the case. It is represented, for the purposes of this Motion, that there was an undertaking, on the part of the Government of this 766 country, to adopt a system of relief very onerous to the Irish proprietors and the Irish people, without the consent of those proprietors, who were very much interested in the matter. But the hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. H. Herbert) has partly accounted for that. He says, in one part of his speech, that when the petty sessions met, and the magistrates were asked to give their votes for relief by works, such was the public clamour, and such the desire to obtain relief some way or other, by the multitudes outside, that the magistrates had not the power to act at their own discretion, nor were they able to exercise an impartial judgment, therefore their votes were carried away, as it were, by the exigencies of the dreadful emergency in which they were placed. Well, Sir, I quite admit that; but then it is not consistent with the other part of the hon. Member's statement that those gentlemen were debarred from taking any share in the distribution of those works. You cannot charge the Government with having done all this themselves, and then say the country gentlemen and magistrates in Ireland were forced to give their votes for those works. Those charges cannot be both true. The charge as to the latter statement is the truth, but then it does not follow that the Government or the Legislature were wrong in making the provision they had for this purpose, because it was impossible to foresee the extent of the calamity that ensued. In the Lords' Report mention is made of my late lamented friend the Earl of Bessborough, who is commended for his knowledge of Ireland, and his sagacity. Now the main principles of the Relief Act were founded upon his recommendation; because, when I came into office in 1846, finding that measures of relief had been already partially adopted, it was necessary to bring in a fresh Bill, and we naturally—the Earl of Bessborough having, for his knowledge of Ireland and his sagacity, been recommended to Her Majesty— we naturally asked him to come to our meetings—and there were several meetings—on the occasion, and his was the voice that at those meetings was most listened to. The fact was, that the immensity and urgency of the calamity were greater than any measures could control. I quite admit, viewing the various causes, viewing the immense extent of the calamity, and the impossibility that those gentlemen could come to a fair decision as to useful works, 767 I agree that the Labour Rate Act failed in the effects expected from it, but it did not fail in a great degree relieving the sufferings of the people, which, I must again say, was the principal subject for consideration. On the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords, and what followed, great discussion took place as to whether the works in question were useful works, or whether they were properly chosen, or whether the Board of Works in Ireland took the proper measures to carry them out. These might be interesting subjects for discussion; but the real question was, did those works provide relief for those persons who were starving at the time? Having found this Act to fail, in a great respect, we began to turn over the various measures that might be put in its place, and we proposed that plan which Sir John Burgoyne was named to carry into effect. But let the House consider what was the great operation we had to conduct, of which the Government of the day laid down the leading principles, and which Sir Charles Trevelyan, and the Board of Works in Ireland, had to carry into operation. When the Government met the Parliament, at the beginning of the Session, there were 700,000 persons employed on those works in Ireland. It was a great matter how that vast number of people was to be reduced. It was a great wonder we were able to reduce that large number of persons then performing those works, and turn them over to another system of relief; and I felt myself very much comforted when I received an assurance from Colonel Jones that he would be able to do this without disturbing the peace of the country. Of course Colonel Jones did not say the thing could be done at once—that 700,000 persons could safely be dismissed on the 15th of March. The manner in which the operation was conducted was by discharging 50,000 or 100,000 at a time. In June 3,000,000 of people were receiving rations. If we had not this matter fresh in our recollections, the very statement that 700,000 persons were in March employed on public works and paid wages, and in June 3,000,000 were receiving rations, would show the immense extent of the duty the Government had to discharge. I am ready to admit my own part of the errors of that legislation, as I dare say would many others; but the immensity of the evil outran our anticipations, and I do not think that any other person—that any of those per- 768 sons engaged in carrying out those measures, either in this country or in Ireland, are deserving of any blame on account of the part they took on that occasion. Of the persons employed in the Board of Works, in Ireland, many were new to the duties, and unfit to fill the position in which they were placed; but that also was unavoidable, and, in short, the whole matter had been one of very great difficulty. I do not wish to throw great blame on any parties; but I rejoice that so many lives were saved, and that so many of those persons have since been able to support themselves either by works in their own country, or by going to another country. With respect to the immediate Motion before the House, I only rose because I was charged with the conduct I pursued in 1846; but with regard to the immediate Motion, I trust the statement which has been made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be sufficient to induce the House not to proceed to any formal Resolution at present. This subject, as well as other matters, is under the consideration of the Government; and my right hon. Friend will be ready in little less than a fortnight to state the views of the Government generally; but what I cannot concur in is, the statement that, because the Government of this country took upon themselves the carrying out of those measures, that, therefore, the whole of this debt should be now sought to be evaded. But when my right hon. Friend shall state the views of the Government, then will be the proper time to discuss the matter; and I do hope it will be discussed with the consideration of what was best to be done for Ireland at the time, not who was to blame for what had been done.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
said he must beg to explain that in stating his views upon the subject, he had not had the slightest intention of making any attack on the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell).
said, he was sorry to observe that no Irish Member connected with the Government was at that moment upon the Treasury benches. Whether they deemed their duty to their country, and that which they owned to party considerations, were so antagonistic as to render their attendance inconvenient, he could not pretend to say; but he was of opinion that, with sufficient notice that the subject then under the consideration of the House would have been brought forward that evening, 769 those hon. Gentleman, in his opinion, ought to have been present. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had read a long lecture to the hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French), for having made some strong observations upon the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan. Now he (Col. Dunne) was ever ready to acknowledge the services of those gentlemen who held subordinate positions in the administration of the affairs of this country; and he should be sorry to hazard any severe remark upon the proceedings of Sir Charles Trevelyan, had that gentleman confined himself simply to the execution of the duties of his office; but he had not done so, and he (Col. Dunne), for one, thought that the criticisms which had that evening been passed upon him were most just and most fair. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had also stated that the hon Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) had not satisfactorily proved the justice of his cause. If such was really the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, he (Col. Dunne) should confess that he was inclined to expect but little justice at his hands upon any subject; for, in his opinion, never had the equity of a claim been more fully substantiated by evidence than in the case which the hon. Member for Mayo had that evening brought under their notice. The grounds upon which the present appeal was made upon behalf of every Union in Ireland were, that the works which had been executed were useless to that country; that they were executed against the will of every class in Ireland; that the disposal of the funds for those works was taken out of the hands of the Irish people; and that the plans for their construction were inefficiently carried out. If any man would turn to the evidence before the Committee, he would learn what was the opinion of the Government officials themselves with respect to the utility of those works. Sir John Burgoyne gave it as his opinion that they were but of little use, and such was also the opinion upon the matter of Mr. Griffiths and Captain Larcom. It had been also stated by another gentleman, whose authority was of considerable weight, that out of 949 works constructed in different portions of Ireland, it was impossible, even if finished, that they could be of the slightest advantage to the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had further said that no remonstrance had been made upon the part of the Irish Members at the time when the measures, which they were 770 then protesting against, were passed into law. Now it was well known that most of the Irish Members were in Ireland at the time of the passing of those Acts, in order by their presence in that country to endeavour to avert the great calamity which was impending over it, or to mitigate, as far as possible, the disasters which were likely to follow in its train. The landlords of Ireland, however, had passed resolutions pointing out what they thought would be of advantage in that great emergency; and it was, therefore, not exactly fair to say that the Government of that day were altogether unacquainted with the opinions of the Irish people. He regretted to find that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not see the justice of the arguments which had been adduced by the hon. Member for Mayo and other Gentlemen, in favour of their views upon the question now before them; and he trusted that upon a reconsideration of the subject, the right hon. Gentleman would deem it advisable to come to a different conclusion with respect to it from that which he seemed to have arrived.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, he could not agree with the hon. and gallant Colonel in regretting the accession of the present Government to power, merely because they did not take the same view as he did on this question. He could not forget that ten months did not enable the late Government to make up their minds on the question. He must, however, say that he had heard the statement of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer with much regret. Having in an humble capacity been connected with the working of the measures of relief in Ireland in the years 1846 and 1847, he felt that it would be not only unbecoming but unjust upon his part to let it be supposed that he gave the slightest assent to any remarks casting censure upon those who were charged with the duty of meeting the dreadful calamity which afflicted Ireland during that period. He believed that in the main, both in England and in Ireland, there prevailed a very anxious desire to take the most just and efficient means to combat the disasters which the failure of the potato crop in the latter country had occasioned. He felt bound to state, however, that the measure which had been first resorted to to meet those disasters, namely, the Labour Rate Act, was one most injurious in its immediate operation, as well as in its ultimate 771 effects. No man, of course, could have at the time realised to himself the extent of the calamity which impended over Ireland; but, as a simple matter of fact, the representatives of that country were not responsible for the passing of the Act to which he had referred. It was not until the Bill passed to the House of Lords that a single voice was raised against it; and it was due to the noble Lord who at the time presided over the Committees of that House (the Earl of Shaftesbury), that he alone warned the Legislature against the consequences of the measure which they were about to sanction. Upon what grounds, he would ask, was the repayment of the sum which had been expended under the Labour Rate Act demanded from Ireland? It was not contended that any advantage worth speaking of had been conferred upon any class in Ireland by the expenditure of that money, which could in any way justify the imposition of 2,000,000l., with the interest thereupon, now charged under the name of the Consolidated Annuities. Was it for the relief which had been given that that demand was made? They had the evidence of the public servants who had been employed in the administration of the relief fund, that the measure of the Government was a disastrous measure—that it aggravated the sufferings of the people, and to a great extent demoralised the nation. In fact, so much had that been the case, that he was not quite sure whether, in strict justice, Ireland was not entitled to demand compensation from the Legislature for the miseries and injuries which their Act had inflicted upon her. Now, there was a belief that the condition of Ireland was rapidly improving, and Her Majesty's Government might in consequence be led to suppose that a temporary remedy for the present state of things in that country would suffice. He sincerely hoped that there would be no more patching up in reference to Ireland, and that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), would, in dealing with the condition of that country, place his legislation, whatever it might be, upon a permanent footing. Let the people of Ireland be informed, once for all, what amount of taxation was to be in reality laid upon the land with which they were connected, and let doubt and uncertainty, upon a point which it was of so much importance to the interest of the agricultural portion of the population to have settled satisfactorily, be for ever removed. From what had fallen 772 from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he (Mr. Ball) was inclined to believe that Her Majesty's Government might possibly have some idea that in striking off a portion of the taxation in the poorer districts in Ireland, they would be justified in imposing an equivalent amount upon other districts in that country which might be better able to bear the burden of taxation. Now, if justice and expediency rendered it advisable that Government should relieve the poorer portions of Ireland from a burden which pressed too heavily upon them, he confessed that he did not think a transfer of those burdens to other localities could be a proceeding in accordance with either justice or common sense. Such an idea might be entertained by a Chancellor of the Exchequer who was placed in a position of great financial difficulty; but in the present instance, such, fortunately, was not the case; and he trusted, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman would not place upon any portion of Ireland an amount of taxation to which in fairness it ought not to be subjected.
§ CAPTAIN LAFFAN
said, he should not have risen to address the House were it not for the statements which had been made in the course of the evening with respect to a very distinguished officer in the civil service. He (Captain Laffan) had not the honour to represent an Irish constituency, but he had been born and had received his early education in Ireland, and he could not listen in silence to the assertion which had been made—that every Irishman was disposed to think unfavourably of the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan in reference to Ireland. He entirely dissented from such a statement. He looked upon Sir Charles Trevelyan as a man of the highest honour and ability, and was happy to have an opportunity of recording his testimony in favour of that gentleman. Having said thus much, he would merely add that he would support the Resolution of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore), although from some of the arguments which the hon. Gentleman had advanced, he felt himself called upon to dissent. It appeared to him (Captain Laffan) that no Member could have used stronger arguments in favour of the Resolution than those which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell) in opposition to it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had 773 stated that the famine which, in the years 1847 and 1848, prevailed in Ireland, was a calamity which surpassed in its disastrous results all expectation; that it was a visitation whose frightful consequences all parties had miscalculated. If such were the case, it was but fair that all parties should bear a share of the burdens incidental to a calamity so unprecedented. In his (Captain Laffan's) opinion, the position which the Irish Members had assumed upon the question before the House, was perfectly in accordance with the statement which had been made by Her Majesty's Ministers. He regretted that the hon. Member for Mayo should have lowered a great national question into a mere personal attack on Sir Charles Trevelyan; but he would repeat that he felt bound to support his Resolution.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that the feeling in Ireland with respect to the injustice of this claim, was quite as strong now as it had been two years ago. The charge which was principally complained of was that created by the Labour Rate Act of 1846, amounting to something more than 2,000,000l., and the question was whether Ireland was not entitled, in justice and equity, to have that charge swept away. At the time the charge was created, Ireland was already taxed far beyond her powers; in the year 1849, she suffered to the extent of 16,000,000l. in the article of potatoes alone, according to the estimate of Mr. Griffiths; and in the six years of distress she must have suffered, in the article of potatoes, to the amount of 40,000,000l., besides a large sum in oats, corn, and in cattle. He believed the losses of Ireland during these six years had been not less than 100,000,000l., and he had conversed with eminent statists, who estimated that amount as under the mark. All this was independent of the loss of 2,000,000 of inhabitants, who, if they were set down at 50l. a head, would make up another 100,000,000l. These were facts which bore indirectly upon the question whether, as an act of strict justice, the people of Ireland ought to be called upon to pay this sum of 2,000,000l.; or whether England could not very well afford as towards an impoverished nation like Ireland to give up this sum. The grounds upon which the people of Ireland raised their claim for exemption from the charge under the Relief Act of the 28th of August, 1846, were those which appeared in the Lords' Report, and which no one could read without 774 being convinced of the justice of the claim. The system introduced by that Act was based upon a letter dated August 1, 1846, written by Sir Charles Trevelyan. In that letter Sir Charles Trevelyan laid it down that the sums advanced should be expended on public works, but that no work should be included which was intended to benefit private estates; and he entirely discouraged the employment of labour on productive works of any description which had for their object the benefiting of one person more than another. That was, in fact, to exclude all works which could be of the slightest use. On this principle the Bill was passed, and they were told by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer that it passed with the tacit consent of the Irish Members. That was not entirely the case. Irish Members were at the time very properly in their own country, ready to face the advent of the famine, and endeavouring to devise means to stop its ravages; but the hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell), now Clerk of the Ordnance, on reading the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord John Russell), in introducing this Bill, had immediately addressed a letter to the Earl of Devon, in which he expressed the horror and dismay he had felt on learning the nature of the Government scheme, and laying down the principle that the advances ought to be expended on productive employment, and on improving the resources of the country. Those sentiments were shortly afterwards approved of at a meeting of landowners in the county of Limerick, in resolutions which were forwarded immediately to the noble Lord then at the head of the Government. The Bill, therefore, could not be said to have passed without any protest on the part of Irish landlords. The scheme, however, failed, as was well known; which failure, in a letter of the 28th December, in the same year, Sir Charles Trevelyan attributed to the conduct of the Irish landlords. The object of the Relief Act was to save the people's lives, but no discretion was allowed in the expending of the money, and little foresight was displayed in the measures which were devised. There was no value given in return for the amount charged upon the proprietors. The evidence bore him out in saying so. In addition to this, the works were nowhere completed. Yet the money was given for specific works to be effectually executed. He asked whether, as the contract under 775 the Act of Parliament had not been performed, the people of Ireland had, in these circumstances, incurred any liability? He should be glad to hear some distinct statement from the Government that they would take the subject into favourable consideration, though, indeed, he did understand the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) to say that he concurred in the recommendations of the Lords' Report.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, that if the Government had announced their serious intention of taking into their favourable consideration the proposition of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G.H. Moore), he should not have troubled the House with any observations in addition to those which had already been made; but as the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London (Lord J. Russell) had led him to the directly opposite conclusion, he must be permitted to make a few remarks. It appeared to him that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord had avoided grappling with the arguments which had been urged in favour of the Motion; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had charged the hon. Member for Mayo with seeking a remission of these annuities as a matter of right. Every one knew that the demand could never rest upon such a ground, for, as all were well aware, those grants of money had all been made under the authority of most stringent and cogent Acts of Parliament. Why, he himself had been among the first to demur against the refusal to repay the advances as long as the Act of Parliament remained upon the Statute-book. Now, he wished to disabuse the public mind of this country of a feeling which seemed to exist—namely, that the people of Ireland desired to evade the payment of their just obligations. He believed that if the people of England would only take into consideration the enormous sums which had been repaid by Ireland, they would be completely estopped from coming to any such conclusion as that the Irish people wished to repudiate their debts. He found that in the very teeth of the most adverse circumstances, from 1837 down to 1852, during the whole of which period the liabilities of Ireland had been increasing, that country had paid the largest amounts to England; and it was an astounding miracle how, during famine, and want, and pestilence, the Irish people had been able to pay such 776 amounts. Between 1815 and 1845, the county rates of Ireland had increased from 618,543l. to 1,149,849l. The poor-rate, which, in 1845, commenced with 208,000l. had, in 1851, increased to 1,039,173l. Between 1843 and 1851, the Irish people had actually been assessed and paid 90 per cent upon the enormous sum of 7,770,000l. of poor-rates. The rate-in-aid amounted to 423,000l., and at the time the last report was made not 10,000l. remained unpaid; and at this moment, he believed, not as many hundreds remained to be paid. He thought these circumstances showed that there was no indisposition on the part of the Irish people to pay their just burdens when taxes were assessed for the benefit of the country; and when loans had been obtained from England on the application of the Irish people, they had been as readily paid. Between 1837 and 1852, advances made by England to the extent of 6,065,075l. had been repaid. But Ireland had done much more. Instead of being a loser on these dealings, England had been a gainer, because from the increased interest charged to Ireland on loans, compared with the interest paid by the Government, a large amount of profit had been derived by England from these transactions. According to the statement of Sir John Burgoyne, on the sums advanced to Ireland up to 1845, there had been a clear gain to England of 30,000l., arising from the difference in the rate of interest; and supposing the profit on loans during the subsequent seven years' loans to have been in the same proportion, the actual gain to England must have been from 80,000l. to 100,000l. It appeared from a statement put forth in a morning journal, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer could borrow money in the City at 2 per cent, or even 1¾per cent. Now, he asked, was it fair or equitable that England, borrowing money at such a rate, should lend it to be repaid at the increased rate of 3½ per cent? Under the original Arterial Drainage Act the loans were advanced at the rate of 5 per cent, and the sum of 4,500,000l. advanced under that Act, amounted now in annuities to 7,734,000l. He wished to bear his testimony to the working of the Relief Act in Ireland, and he must be allowed to say that the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, had sought by a side-wind to divert the attention of the House from the question at issue by assuming that which was not the real object of the 777 Motion. It was not the object of the Motion to impeach the conduct of Ministers, because the party to which he belonged were willing to make every allowance for the acts of the Government at a period of unprecedented difficulty as regarded Ireland. The noble Lord said the landlords were equally culpable with the Government, because they had the power to control the works and check the expense. As a magistrate of the county which he had the honour to represent, he, in common with others, had used every possible effort to check the ruinous expenditure of public money which had taken place; and the reason why it had been so overwhelming was, the statement made by persons in authority that the blood of the people would be on the heads of those who did not follow the suggestions of the Government. The whole question was this—whether, in the proceedings that then took place, there was any blame imputable to the Government or to the magistrates? Now, he was ready to admit that the Government had acted from right motives, while he asserted that they had come to wrong conclusions. He would ask the House whether it was fair that the whole burden should be thrown upon the landlords when they were not permitted to have any act in the measures which imposed such burden? That, he submitted, was a fair subject for equitable consideration. It might be asked what was the object sought by the Resolution now under consideration? He, for one, did not think the terms of the Resolution adopted by the House of Lords would meet the exigencies of the case, and he trusted that if the Government did undertake to consider the matter, they would turn their attention to other subjects beyond the Labour Rate Act. He thought the question of the poor-houses deserving of attention, and trusted the Government would consider whether a certain portion of the expenditure incurred in that respect should not be borne by the Consolidated Fund, particularly as the expenditure had so greatly exceeded all the original calculations. With reference to the Temporary Relief Act, it had been assumed that the monies raised under that Act had been applied for poor-law purposes, and ought to be paid by Ireland. Now, when a local calamity was remedied by national resources, Ireland ought to be considered as much an integral part of England as any part of Great Britain itself, and he 778 thought that some portion of those sums ought to have been borne by the State at large. They had strong grounds, based upon the Lords' Report, for coming forward, and he should consequently vote on a division for the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo.
said, he could bear testimony to the admirable conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan from personal experience, and could affirm with certainty that if he had not always acted with sound discretion, he had uniformly exhibited the most entire devotion and energy in the discharge of his duties. The rate-in-aid was, indeed, nothing more nor less than a contribution to save life. In some parts of Ireland, indeed, it had been worse than nothing, so far as the landlords and proprietors were concerned. The sums advanced to Ireland were as much for the purpose of saving human beings as the voluntary contributions from this country, and, regarding them in that light, he was sure the House would join in asking the Government to put their seal on the magnanimous act of the people of England, and remit the amount altogether.
§ MR. I. BUTT
said, he did not mean to make many observations upon the question now before the House; for he must say he thought that the course which had been taken on the part of the Government made it impossible to arrive at any satisfactory decision upon the subject that evening. He would ask the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. G. H. Moore) to withdraw his Motion, if he felt that this was an ordinary case; but when he (Mr. Butt) heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ask his hon. Friend to postpone the question until he had made his financial statement, he felt that the right hon. Gentleman was asking the advocates of the Motion to give up an essential principle, which it was impossible that they could forego. If they had any claim—he would not say if Ireland had any claim; but, speaking more correctly, if certain distressed districts in the United Kingdom had any claim—upon the national resources of the country at large, it was one that was founded upon the purest principles of justice, and was therefore not one which ought to be regulated by any consideration of finance. If, then, the hon. Member for Mayo went to a division upon his Motion, he should support him. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked them to make this 779 question dependent upon the convenience of the Budget, he asked them to do one of two things: either to admit that the claim put forward was not one of justice, but a question of the expediency of taxation; or to vote that the concession of a claim of justice was to depend upon the convenience of the Minister of Finance. The right hon. Gentleman had placed the Irish representatives on that occasion in such a position that he (Mr. Butt) felt it was impossible that the question could be satisfactorily settled that night. He, for one, would not accept of the decision for which the right hon. Gentleman asked, because he had distinctly asked the House to rest their decision upon other grounds than any opinion they might form of the claim as a matter of justice. That was a question which could not be decided by any adverse vote to-night. He had listened with due attention to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London. It was not for him to say what the conduct of the Government had been when those measures upon which they were commenting had been passed, because he looked upon it as utterly beside the question whether the Government of 1846 were or were not successful in the way in which they dealt with Irish distress. If that were the question, he would venture to tell the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) that the success of such a policy should be tested, not by the number of lives that had been saved, but its utter failure should be tested by the number of lives that had been sacrificed. If the noble Lord imagined that be had triumphantly vindicated the policy of his Cabinet, because by a lavish expenditure of the public money many lives of the people had been saved, he (Mr. Butt) felt that he might reasonably ask him how many of the people of Ireland had died of starvation during that period of unprecedented distress, and also how many Irishmen had been driven to seek that relief in a foreign country which had been denied them at home? As, however, he had said before, he thought that such a consideration was altogether beside the present question. He must say he did not think that the noble Lord at all met the question by simply saying that he had saved so many lives. Was the expenditure under the Labour Rate Act to save life or to benefit the property of Ireland? If in the smallest degree it had benefited the property of Ireland, he would admit that the property of Ireland was bound to pay it back. But 780 let the House recollect that the landlords of Ireland had no control whatever over the expenditure of this money. They were not allowed to influence the expenditure in the way they thought it could be made available for the relief of the people. Their power was altogether limited at a period when the people around them were starving, and when it was most important that their exertions should be unrestrained. The Legislature had issued their mandate that the people must be employed upon works of a certain character, and upon nothing else. Now, what were those works? They were limited by the Imperial Parliament to works of what were called public utility, similar to those presented by the grand juries—namely, roads and bridges. He submitted to the House how utterly impossible it was to find employment of a useful character for the Irish people at a time when they were compelled to have 700,000 men breaking stones upon the roads. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find that his (Mr. Butt's) statement so far was quite correct. They compelled the ratepayers to employ the paupers upon useless and worse than useless works, and they negatived the most urgent applications of those to whom it was now said this money was lent, to be allowed to apply the labour to any purpose that could give the smallest prospect of a return. Let the House observe what the Irish people did during that period. He was not now speaking of any course taken by the representatives of Ireland in that House. He (Mr. Butt) had not then the honour of a seat in that House. He was not called on to vindicate the course taken by those who then represented Ireland. Nor did he blame them for this either; and for the Government, he said at once, the very greatest allowance must be made. Whatever legislation was adopted was adopted under the pressure of extraordinary circumstances—circumstances wholly unprecedented in the history of civilised countries. Still, they must ask what had been the effect of this legislation? They must ask, too, what had been said and what had been asked by the Irish people out of doors—by those from whom they were now forcing the repayment of the money thus advanced? That people had, in formal memorials to the Government—in petitions to the House of Commons—protested against the mode in which the money advanced for the relief of the 781 famine was expended, and had earnestly asked permission to employ the people in what were termed "reproductive works." He (Mr. Butt) earnestly asked of the House to remember the fact, and the nature of this demand. A great meeting was held in Dublin, at which the landlords from all parts of Ireland were fairly represented. All parties at that meeting were for once unanimous in their resolution to present a petition to that House, in which they pointed out the utter uselessness of those Government works. They said, in effect, "You are pledging our properties to provide funds for the employment of the people: do so, but give us the labour for which you are compelling us to pay. You have masses of men breaking stones upon the road, while the field on the other side of the hedge is untilled. Let us take the labourer over the hedge, into the field, and then tax our properties to pay his wages. This will equally provide him with food—it will equally meet the calamity of the famine; but if we must pay him for his labour, let us make the most we can of it." This was the demand, the reasonable demand, of the Irish landowners of all parties of politics. It was unattended to: Government persevered in their rule, that the men employed under the Relief Act should do nothing but cut up, destroy, the public roads. To this hour, any gentleman travelling in Ireland would find the remnant of the obstructions made in their roads. Was it just to trust money thus dealt with as a loan to these very landowners? This was not all. At another meeting in the city of Dublin, the mercantile classes of the community assembled: the claim of the landowners had been rejected. When they asked that, if Ireland must pay these labourers, they might be set to construct railways, by which Ireland would be improved, you insist upon setting them on roads. Be it so; let it be on the great iron highways of modern civilisation. This, too, was disregarded; and in defiance of the avowed and strongly-expressed opinion of all classes in Ireland, an amount of labour was squandered upon cutting up our roads that would have made the earthwork of a railway from the Giants' Causeway to Cape Clear. These were the facts connected with the expenditure of the sum which these annuities were imposed to repay. The demand of the whole Irish nation had been clear and distinct, that if they were to pay for the labour, they might be permitted to employ it so as to benefit 782 the country. This demand, too, was refused. It was refused on the principle that reproductive employment would interfere with the ordinary supply of labour. He would not at the present juncture discuss that question, although, had he had a seat in the House at the time, he might have done so. The question now under discussion was this: Considering the manner in which the Government proceeded, whether rightly or wrongly, having taken the matter into their own hands—having refused these demands of the Irish landowners and people—having converted this assistance into a matter of pure benevolence, and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London having pledged himself that the expenditure on account of the famine should be an Imperial expenditure, was it right or just to throw the burden of repayment upon Ireland? He asked the House to consider whether Devonshire would be similarly treated, if such a calamity had visited that county? The question was not merely an Irish question, but a question between certain distressed parts of Ireland and the whole Empire. He asked again, if Devonshire had been afflicted by famine, and reproductive employment had been withheld, would not Devonshire have resisted the claim to repayment? An hon. Friend, who had just now spoken, had drawn a distinction between England and Ireland, which he (Mr. Butt) regretted. If an Englishman, he should desire to speak of Ireland as, being an-Irishman, he desired to speak of England. Nothing could be more fatal to the welfare of this Empire than to treat the two countries on a different principle. This claim to relief from these annuities was not brought before the House without the most urgent necessity. Whole districts in Ireland were weighed down by the enormous pressure of local taxation. In the Report of the House of Lords, so often alluded to during the present discussion, he found it stated in evidence that out of 106 unions in Ireland, in twenty the poor-rate had exceeded 15s. in the pound; in thirty-six more it exceeded 10s. But he confessed he should have been better pleased had the Chancellor of the Exchequer met this claim on grounds wholly independent of the question of finance, and not put these annuities into his Estimates, except as a part of the expenditure of the nation, to be provided for in the Estimates as any other just claim upon the Exchequer. When the right hon. Gentleman, however, came down to the House 783 and told them that he would wrap himself in Ministerial reserve, and that when he stated his Budget he would intimate whether he would remit the annuities or not, he took a course which would produce the impression in Ireland that he was dealing with them not according to the justice of their claims, but according to his convenience as a Finance Minister. The right hon. Gentleman might rest assured that no decision of the House to-night could set this question at rest. He (Mr. Butt) relied entirely on the justice of that House, and if he found its decision against him, he would bow to it; but he could not consent to hear that convenience, and not the justice of the case, was the one thing to be consulted. The course taken to-night obliged him to say that the subject would continue to be pressed upon the notice of the House until they could obtain a decision grounded upon a consideration of the justice of the claim, and not merely of the convenience of the Minister of Finance.
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
said, that considering the ground upon which the Motion was brought forward, he agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, that it was perfectly impossible to come to a decision that night on any of the points that had been suggested. The hon. and learned Gentleman had said that, whatever might be the decision of the House that night, he should not consider that it would decide the question one way or another; but, surely, to come to a vote that would decide nothing in the opinion of those who brought forward the proposition, was a useless proceeding. One thing, however, he was glad to observe, that during the latter portion of the debate there had been an avoidance of that personality which had marked the earlier portion of it, when the discussion seemed to be one rather upon the character of Sir Charles Trevelyan, than respecting these annuities. He was glad to hear the exertions made by Sir Charles Trevelyan for the relief of Irish distress spoken of in the terms that had been used by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley); No man could bear testimony to the exertions of Sir C. Trevelyan with a greater knowledge of the facts than himself, and he must say that those exertions had never yet been sufficiently appreciated. It was not right to attempt to fix a responsibility upon Sir Charles Trevelyan which it was not his part to bear. With regard to anything Sir Charles Trevelyan had said or 784 written, for that he was properly responsible; but for the measures introduced to the House, and the execution of those measures, the Government were responsible. It was not right to put on one of the permanent officers of the Government that responsibility which the Government ought to bear, and which they were not disposed to shrink from. But he did not think it was fair to judge of the conduct adopted by the Government at that time by the knowledge they now possessed. What were the circumstances when the measure for the Labour Rate was passed? The potato crop had failed in 1845, and the first Act of the Session of 1846 was an Act for the relief of distress in Ireland by means of relief works. The two great steps then taken were the introduction of Indian corn on the part of the Government into Ireland, and the establishment of public works. The success of the Act was the subject of almost unanimous eulogium, including the Irish people. Objections were taken on the ground that the Government should not enact the part of merchants, and that claims to have public works executed had been put forward where distress did not exist. The then Government acceded to office in the month of July, 1846, and early in August they received intelligence from Ireland, which certainly alarmed them, and alarmed everybody, respecting the second failure of the potato crop. What the extent of the failure might be, no one could tell; but the Government thought they were called upon to pass some measure to provide for the probable consequences. The ordinary mode of relieving distress in Ireland had always been by public works. That course had been adopted in the preceding year with a success admitted by all; and he would say it was the natural course that the Government should again enact a measure that had succeeded in the preceding year, with such amendments as the experience of that year would suggest. They did so; but taking precautions against the two objections which had been taken against the former Act. It was said the measure was carried against the opinion and protest of the Irish Members. Some objections, no doubt, were made, but that was after the prorogation of Parliament, when it was not possible to alter the measure. It was said, during the debate, by an Irish Member, from one of the counties (Mr. D. Browne) where the measure was most 785 likely to be largely applied, that, if anything could convince him that a local Parliament was not necessary for Ireland, it was the proposition and speech of the noble Lord, in introducing the Labour Rate Act, and the way in which they had been received by the House. It was agreed, on all hands, that it was right that the whole cost should be imposed on Ireland; and no Irish Gentleman in that House made the least objection to that proposition. No doubt, in the House of Lords, Lord Monteagle objected to it; but what did the Earl of Wicklow say? Why, that he thought no measure could be adopted which was better prepared, or more constitutional, than the one which was then proposed. Surely the hon. Gentleman (Mr. G. H. Moore) would not repeat the statement that the Bill was passed against the warnings and protests of Irish Members. He (Sir C. Wood) was prepared to admit that the measure did not answer the expectations of those who proposed it; but he would submit to the House that the circumstances under which it was brought into execution were such as to overpower the best scheme which the wit of man ever devised. Such a calamity had never befallen a civilised nation. But what was the cause of failure? The co-operation of two parties was necessary to the success of the measure: first, the local bodies—the presentment sessions and the relief committees, who had to point out the parties to be employed; and, secondly, the Board of Works, who had to employ the persons so pointed out. All he asked hon. Members opposite to admit was, that the presentment sessions and the relief committes—he would not stop to inquire into the reasons—were wholly unable to discharge the duties assigned to them. This, indeed, was partially admitted by the Irish Members. The result, was, that the whole of the duty was inevitably thrown on the officers of the Government, which, in any district in England so circumstanced, would have been discharged by boards of guardians, magistrates, and vestries. If then the Government officers failed to do what was not their duty, but the duty of the local parties, their failure in this respect was no ground for relieving the districts. For any mistakes on the part of Government, the remission of half the charge was more than ample compensation. This remission, however, was entirely lost sight of in the debate by the Irish Members. The truth was, that the calamity was of such a 786 magnitude that it wholly overwhelmed one of the parties embodied to meet it, and nearly overpowered the other. The object of the Act was to relieve distress in Ireland, and the execution of the works was the means to that end. Let. hon. Gentlemen opposite remember that it was to save life in Ireland that the Act was passed. That life was saved at enormous expense, it was true; but that the Government of the day saved life was indisputable. It had been objected that many of the works had been begun under circumstances under which it was, next to impossible that they could be carried to a completion; but it must be remembered that relief, and not utility, was the primary object for which those works were undertaken. He repudiated the notion that England should bear the whole of this charge. The United Kingdom had furnished no less than 4,400,000l. for the purpose in question; but the sum charged on the districts in Ireland, which had received the relief, did not exceed 3,700,000l. He would ask, was there ever an instance known in which a grant of that kind had been made to relieve the people of any district in England? One Irish Member complained that they had not been treated as Devonshire would, if such a calamity had happened there. Had such distress occurred in Devonshire, or in any other county of England, the county would have supported its own poor. It could not be denied that Ireland had received grants of money on this occasion in such a manner as never had been made to any other part of the Empire. Hon. Members had talked of the enormous rate of interest imposed on Ireland with respect to these loans by the Consolidated Annuities Act. But if Parliament allowed the day of repayment of these loans to be postponed for ten, fifteen, and twenty years, was it not reasonable that Ireland should pay interest for that forbearance? It was provided, for instance, that loans, which were to be repaid in ten years, with 5l. per cent interest, should be repaid in a longer period with interest at 3l. 10s. per cent. He did not think that the people of Ireland had any right to complain of this arrrangement. They had their choice: if they had liked, they might have taken the loans for short periods. The hon. Member for Roscommon (Mr. F. French), made an appeal to him on the ground of the punctuality with which former loans to Ireland had been repaid. He (Sir C. Wood) had never said a word 787 against the honesty of Ireland in the repayment of loans in former years. Quite the contrary: he had frequently borne testimony to her honesty in that respect, and he quite agreed that loans for public works had been repaid with a punctuality that had surprised and gratified him; but this Motion was a new feature in the mode of dealing with loans to Ireland. They now for the first time attempted repudiation, and claimed the remission as a matter of right. He must say that as a matter of right they had to claim at all. The whole charge was due from Ireland; but in consideration of their distress, one half had been made a free grant. The great failure in the execution of the proper cure to prevent abuses, was on the part of the Irish local authorities, and not on that of the Government officers; and they could clam no right to further remission on this ground. He would say, however, to the two hon. Gentlemen whom he saw opposite, and who had taken a different ground from that on which the hon. Member had based his Motion, that nothing his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said implied that the Government were excluded from fairly and equitably considering this subject. On the contrary, his right hon. Friend had said that within ten days he would announce to the House what his determination on this question was. Under these circumstances he thought, if hon. Gentlemen meant to vote on the Motion on the ground of strict justice, it was their duty to oppose it; and if they put it on the lenient consideration of the Government, then they could hardly support it in its present form.
§ MR. NAPIER
said, the right hon. Gentleman (Sir C. Wood) had stated that if the calamity which befell Ireland on the occasion in question had alighted on any district in England, that district would have been left to support itself, which he (Mr. Napier) thought was tantamount to putting the Irish people in the condition of mendicants. Now, after asking that this question should be allowed to stand over for the consideration of the Government, the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone on to argue that there was no ground whatever for insisting that there was any claim on the part of Ireland for a remission of this labour rate. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had omitted to argue the question, and contented himself with asking that the matter should be postponed after his pledge to 788 consider it, then he (Mr. Napier) would have said it would have been no more fair to accede to the request. But that the right hon. Gentleman had not done. He (Mr. Napier) considered that the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo were most proper and wise; and in supporting this claim he (Mr. Napier) imputed nothing to the Government, nor did he mean to reflect in the slightest degree on the conduct of Sir Charles Trevelyan. He would never be a party to any such reflection. It had fallen to his lot to have had many interviews with that gentleman whilst the calamity was in existence, and he retired from every one of those interviews with the most perfect satisfaction. He thought there was no ground to impute anything of a personal character to Sir Charles Trevelyan. Now, what was the real question? What was the confession of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood)? He said there was no misconduct on the part of the Government; but he admitted that the whole of the Act had been a failure. The question was, whether, after the evidence of what had occurred had been considered by an impartial tribunal like the Committee of the House of Lords, who had decided that Ireland had a special claim in this matter, those who came forward to ask the Government to take into consideration the propriety of making a more equitable adjustment of the matter, were to be told in reply that if this had occurred with respect to an English county, that county would not have come forward to make this demand, or if it had, that the demand would not have been listened to? It had been urged by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the landowners had complete control over the presentment sessions when these works were sanctioned; but Mr. Griffiths, in his evidence, stated that the presentment papers were frequently written out in court amidst the greatest confusion, and handed up to the Court, and passed without any previous notice having been given; and that when the works were partly executed, the grand juries had no control whatever over them, but were bound, under a decision of the Court of Queen's Bench, to present for whatever sums the Board of Works certified as necessary to be spent upon them. In fact, as had been well said by the present Under Secretary for Ireland, the whole affair was nothing but a gigantic and 789 clumsy attempt to establish a system of outdoor relief. He granted that it was intended as a boon to Ireland, as a means of saving life, as a Parliamentary contribution to the relief of that distress for the alleviation of which the whole world was sending its aid; and under these circumstances the real question was, whether the House was not bound to separate the expenditure which had taken place under the Labour Rate Act from all other expenditure which had taken place, and deal with it as a peculiar case? He had never, and would never, come forward to support any claim which was made on the part of Ireland in a spirit of mendicancy; but he believed that as to this claim there never was one founded on sounder principles of justice and equity, and he should therefore support with his vote the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo.
§ MR. MOORE
said, that he should not have exercised his right of reply had it not been for the remarks which had fallen from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to what he had said relative to Sir Charles Trevelyan. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had made a personal charge against Sir Charles Trevelyan. What did he mean by a personal charge? Did he (Mr. Moore) make a charge against his private character? He spoke of him as a public character, and limited his remarks entirely to his public conduct, and to his published evidence; and the right hon. Gentleman arrogated a great deal too much for public servants if he thought that Members of Parliament should be prevented from arraigning their conduct when they exceeded their public duty. The right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer said that Sir Charles Trevelyan was not in that House to defend himself; but he was everywhere else—whether as an official or a pamphleteer, whether in his public or his secret correspondence, he seemed to have devoted his leisure hours to the noble art of self-defence, which meant in his case, as in that of others, the art of assailing others. The Members of the Government who had spoken upon this question admitted that the Labour Rate Act failed. But when? He had proved that the Government knew it had broken down in November, and yet six months afterwards he found 500,000 men in daily employment under it. He had brought this Motion forward on the highest possible recommendation; for it was impossible that such men as composed the Select Commit- 790 tee of the House of Lords would have agreed to the recommendation which had emanated from them had they not been convinced that it was sound in principle. With regard to the statement of the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer with respect to his intentions, and to some observations which he made with regard to a statement of his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (Mr. French), all he (Mr. Moore) could say was, that if the hon. Member for Roscommon misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, Lord Monteagle misunderstood him too. Subsequent to that, and wholly independent of it, he (Mr. Moore) had a conversation with the right hon. Gentleman, when he explicitly promised that immediately after Easter, previous to the Budget, and, as he (Mr. Moore) understood him, irrespective of the Budget, he would state the intentions of the Government on this question. If the right hon. Gentleman would now say that he was willing to take into consideration the Irish Consolidated Annuities in order to effect a more equitable adjustment of them, he (Mr. Moore) would withdraw his Motion; but if not, he would take the sense of the House upon it, and if the House decided against him, it would then be for the right hon. Gentleman to take what steps he pleased.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 95; Noes 143: Majority 48.
|List of the AYES.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Forester, rt. hon. Col.|
|Ball, E.||Fox, R. M.|
|Ball, J.||Fraser, Sir W. A.|
|Bateson, T.||George, J.|
|Bellew, Capt.||Greene, J.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Greville, Col. F.|
|Blair, Col.||Hamilton, G. A.|
|Bland, L. H.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Bowyer, G.||Hardinge, hon. C. S.|
|Brady, J.||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Bremridge, R.||Henchy, D. O.|
|Browne, V. A.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Bruce, H. A.||Higgins, G. G. O.|
|Burke, Sir T. J.||Hume, W. F.|
|Butt, I.||Jones, Capt.|
|Cairns, H. M.||Keating, R.|
|Caulfeild, Col. J. M.||Kennedy, T.|
|Clinton, Lord C. P.||Kirk, W.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Coote, Sir C. H.||Laffan, R. M.|
|Corbally, M. E.||Lennox, Lord A. F.|
|Cotton, hon. W. H. S.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Devereux, J. T.||Lucas, F.|
|Duffy, C. G.||Macartney, G.|
|Dunne, Col.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Fitzgerald, J. D.||MacGregor, J.|
|Fitzgerald, Sir J. F.||M'Mahon, P.|
|Fitzgerald, W. R. S.||Maddock, Sir H.|
|Malins, R.||Shee, W|
|Manners, Lord J.||Smyth, R. J.|
|Maxwell, hon. J. P.||Spooner, R.|
|Meager, T.||Stafford, A.|
|Miles, W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Michell, W.||Swift, R.|
|Murrough, J. P.||Taylor, Col.|
|Napier, rt. hon. J.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Towneley, C.|
|Norreys, Sir D. J.||Tudway, R. C.|
|O'Brien, C.||Tyler, Sir J.|
|O'Brien, P.||Vane, Lord A.|
|O'Flaherty, A.||Vansittart, G. H.|
|Peacocke, G. M. W.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Power, N.||Waddington, H. S.|
|Robertson, P. F.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Russell, F. W.||Whiteside, J.|
|Scully, V.||Moore, G. H.|
|Seymour, W. D.||French, F.|
§ The House adjourned at a quarter after Twelve o'clock.