§ Order for Committee of Supply read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ Mr. LUCAS said
Sir, I wish to bring before the notice of the Government and of the House a subject of which I have given notice, and which has been some time on the paper. Notwithstanding the advanced period of the Session, I hope the House will be of opinion that I need not 1007 make any apology in introducing so important a subject, and in pressing that importance upon their attention and consideration. If any apology of that kind were necessary, my excuse might be found in the repeated requests made on the part of the Government that I would postpone the notice which has for some time stood on the paper. But another excuse, if excuse were indeed called for in this matter, might be found in the treatment of the Irish Land Bills, which had been under the consideration of Parliament during the greater part of this Session. Looking at the very peculiar and anomalous condition of Ireland—I mean the social and industrial condition of Ireland—I think it must be obvious to any one who takes an interest in the condition of that country that the Parliament of the United Kingdom owes a debt to that country, and that the people of Ireland have a great claim upon the Legislature to do all that in it lies to place their social and industrial affairs upon a better footing than they have been for some time past, and on which they still continue. During this Session nothing has been done with that view. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Serjeant Shee), and those who act with him, have for the last two Sessions pressed for a settlement of the land question; but the noble Lord and the other Members of the Government within the last few weeks have given us to understand that they despair of bringing that question to a settlement. That being so, and seeing that the industrial population of Ireland have for the present Session nothing to hope from Acts of Parliament, we are driven back to attempt to find some remedy for the social evils arising out of that question by other means, if any such there be. I don't know whether the English Members of this House are in a position sufficiently to picture to themselves the peculiar evils under which Ireland at present labours. I have heard some English Members of Parliament state that Ireland is in an extremely prosperous condition. I have heard it said by Gentlemen occupying a very high position in this House, that there is hardly a country in Europe which is in so prosperous a condition as the sister kingdom. I think that this is a great mistake, and the influence of such a mistake upon the proceedings of this House is likely to be so adverse and unfavourable to Ireland, that it is necessary I should say a few words on the condition 1008 of that country. I am not now going into the subject in detail, but I wish to refer to one or two leading points which I take from official statements of facts that, I believe, cannot be contradicted, and that deserve, in my opinion, to be very maturely and carefully considered. In the first place, I find it stated in official documents, which I believe cannot and will not be contradicted, that Ireland is in this peculiar position with reference to her population, that the annual births which occur in that country are barely sufficient to balance and equal the annual deaths that take place in it; that, in fact, there is no increase of the population at present; and that the large emigration which is now carried on is a net annual loss of population unbalanced from any other quarter. This is a statement which will probably not be contradicted. This emigration is not like the great emigration which is at this moment going on from the Atlantic States to the western States of America, in spite of the magnitude of which the population of the Atlantic States is very greatly on the increase; but it is a great emigration taking place along with no increase of the population whatever, and the whole of that emigration is, I believe, a loss to the population of Ireland. The Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, taking notice of this lamentable state of affairs, as I consider it, in one of their latest Reports, inform us that this state of things is not likely soon to be brought to an end—that it is not like the case of an ordinary emigration having its origin in distress, but that it has its motive power on the other side of the Atlantic, and is kept up, not morely by distress at home, but by large funds furnished by persons in America to their family connections in Ireland, and by which those family connections are from time to time drawn across the Atlantic. They have estimated the increasing sums which year after year are applied to this purpose, and the figures, which I may shortly state, are these:—In 1848 the sum thus furnished amounted to 460,000l.; in 1849 it was increased to 540,000l.; in 1850 it was further increased to 957,000l.; in 1851 it was increased to 990,000l.; and in 1852 it had increased to 1,404,000l. I may say, therefore, as a matter of fact, that since 1848 the funds have been raised from less than half a million to a million and a half, for the purpose of carrying persons from Ireland to America; and the Emigration 1009 Commissioners say, "The emigration will not be averted by anything short of a great improvement in the position of the labouring population in Ireland." I know there are some gentlemen, not in this House, who look on this emigration with feelings not of absolute dissatisfaction. Their views are expressed in some of the organs of public opinion, and indicate a belief that the emigration consists entirely of Catholics, and that it will be a beneficial thing if this drain of the Catholic population of Ireland should proceed a good deal further. I don't wish in the least to go into any angry question between Catholics and Protestants; but I will refer to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland (Sir John Young), when the other night the hon. and learned Member for Ennis. (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) brought under the consideration of the House the condition of the police force in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman admitted on that occasion the fact that the emigration of Protestant policemen was much greater than that of the Catholic members of the force, and he eluded the inference drawn by the hon. and learned Gentleman of the ill-treatment of the Catholic policemen by attributing the fact which he admitted to the greater activity and energy of the Protestant policeman as compared with the Catholic. The fact, however, is admitted with regard to a section of the population which, so far as I know, possesses no peculiar features to distinguish it from the rest of the country, except this, that both the Protestant and Catholic members of that force are distinguished for their superior activity and energy, and that both of them are perhaps rather more disposed to the enterprise which results in emigration than other classes of the community. But we have at least this fact admitted, that in this respectable force, there is a greater emigration of Protestants than of Catholics. I only refer to this to show that the decreasing population affects all classes of the community alike—that it is an emigration which is going on to the diminution of all classes of the population—that it arises from circumstances which affect all classes of the population—and that it behoves all of us to see whether we can do something to put a stop to this frightful process, which, if it goes on at its present rate, will literally leave Ireland without a single inhabitant before the end of the present century. No one, of course, sup- 1010 poses that this consummation will actually be attained. Something will happen, of course, to arrest the evil; but when we are told that Ireland is in a prosperous condition, I cannot, for my part, consider a country in a prosperous condition of which it can be truly said that the tendency of the movement of its population is to come to an end before the expiration of the next fifty years. The Colonial Commissioners have, I believe, pointed out the only means which will really arrest that decrease—namely, a marked improvement in the industrial and social condition of the labouring classes in Ireland. It is the business of this House, I conceive, if it has any care for the social and industrial condition of Ireland, to do something to bring about that result; and it is our business, as Members representing considerable classes of the people of Ireland, to endeavour to press that subject on the attention of the Government and the House. Having to deal with an agricultural population, and believing that the only way to secure confidence in the industrial operations of that agricultural population was to improve the law regulating the relations of landlord and tenant, we have already done our best to find a remedy specially applicable to agriculture, and after two years of incessant labour in this House, preceded by labours out of this House not less strenuous, we have hitherto reaped no other reward of our labours than failure and disappointment. We have received the most disheartening reply from the noble Lord in reference to this subject; there is no hope, he says, whatever of bringing this question to a satisfactory settlement. The noble Lord shakes his head, and I am bound to think that I have misunderstood him; but I think I am authorised in saying that he expressed an opinion that it was extremely doubtful whether any legislation could be sufficiently precise to settle these disputed questions between landlord and tenant in Ireland. I think these were very nearly the words of the noble Lord, and there is really now by the Government no hope held out to us of raising the condition of the agricultural population by legislation bearing on the relations between landlord and tenant. Well, then, having failed for the moment on that side of the question, I think it is not improper for those who think that other legislation, not so directly bearing on agriculture, might have a beneficial result to bring forward any suggestion which they think holds out 1011 a reasonable hope of advantage to the community; and the suggestions which I have to offer are those which will raise no angry or hostile feelings between class and class—which will benefit Protestant and Catholic alike, landlord and tenant alike, the people of England and Ireland alike, and which can do evil or injury to no class of the community. The suggestion I have put on the paper of this House is in these words—On going into Committee of Supply, to direct the attention of the House to the propriety of instituting an inquiry into the best means of promoting Irish manufacturing industry by training or apprenticeship schools, and other similar establishments.It was difficult in the few words which were suitable for such a notice to express exactly what the proposition was that I had to lay before the House; but at the outset I would say that the proposition I have to lay before the House is, that the Legislature shall act much more directly in affording facilities and encouragement for establishing manufactures in Ireland than it has yet attempted to do. This is not a theory of my own—it is not a more speculation on my part; but I propose to lay before the House an account of what has been done within the last seven or eight years with the greatest success in a neighbouring kingdom. I wish the House to enable the people of Ireland out of their Own funds—for I make no demand on the Treasury; I am not asking for one single sixpence out of the public funds of the country—to do for themselves, and for their own benefit, what has been done with the greatest advantage and the most admitted success in the neighbouring kingdom of Belgium. In making such a proposition as this to the House, which is, I believe, in its main features perfectly new, I suppose I may have to encounter a good deal of opposition. I believe that opposition will arise mainly from the novelty of the proposition, and, as a necessary consequence, from the want of due consideration hitherto given to it by Members of this House. The great objection that has been urged against my proposition in private is, that for the State to interfere to promote the establishment of manufactures is to violate the principles of free trade. I believe if that difficulty were got over—seeing the experience which we have from Belgium—that really neither the Government nor the House could have very much objection to accede to my proposition. If 1012 that be so, it is proper that I should say a few words on the principle of free trade, as bearing on this subject. I believe the proposition I have to make does in no degree violate the principles of free trade. I make a great distinction between rules of protection which are intended to protect the permanent continuance of manufactures, and the interference of the Government in the first establishment, and in overcoming the difficulties which are found in the way of the first establishment of a new manufacture, especially in a country where very scanty manufacturing establishments are found. There is a passage in the report of Mr. Wallis on the New York Exhibition which is so exceedingly suggestive in reference to the point which. I am now discussing that I will read it to the House. He says—The mutual dependence of one branch of manufacture upon another is so wide-spread and universal that, at first sight, the difficulty in commencing some of them appears so great as to convey the impression that it is insurmountable. It is not, therefore, a matter of surprise that many skilled artisans have, from time to time, returned to Europe, after an attempt to establish a manufacture, since the embarrassments arising out of almost unaided exertions, and an isolated position, were too great to allow them to do justice to themselves, or to those employers whose spirit and enterprise might have induced them to embark capital in such undertakings. The pecuniary loss of the latter has frequently been inevitable; and the early history of nine-tenths of the various branches of manufacture now flourishing in the United States, and amply repaying the present proprietors, is that of ruin; or of enormous sacrifices on the part of those who had the hardihood to become pioneers in those arts which now promise to become, at no distant period, of vital importance to the well-being of millions of industrious men and women.Now, I think that with some limitation, though I don't wish to prove the parallel to Ireland in every respect, these sentences might have been written in reference to three out of the four provinces of Ireland. If it be true with regard to manufactures which give employment to thousands of industrious men and women, and which are the foundation of great and important trades in America, that the real history of nine-tenths of them was, that they were founded on the ruin of the pioneers of those manufactures, I think there is a clear difference between the capacity of a trade or a manufacture already established to subsist itself, without protection, and the capacity of a trade or manufacture to establish itself, in the first instance, without help. And this is the whole point of the proposition I have to lay before the House. To take the 1013 phraseology of Mr. Wallis, nine-tenths of the efforts that have been made to establish manufactures in America have been bad commercial speculations on the part of the original speculators; and, therefore, it is obvious that if the original pioneers, as Mr. Wallis calls them, had been guided solely by principles of commerce, and not by that ardent spirit of enterprise which, in the hope of great success, very often disregards prudential considerations, clearly those manufactures which now give support and employment to thousands of industrious men and women would never have had an existence in America. Now, what I want is, that where these difficulties exist some aid should be afforded by the machinery of the State—not by money taken out of the public funds—but by some local machinery to overcome those local difficulties that are insurmountable in the ordinary course of things. That being the general view I take of this question, I wish to say also if any objection is taken on the ground of free trade, or of the impropriety of the Government of the country interfering with regard to manufactures, I think that is not an objection that can fairly be taken either by the present Government or by any Government of recent years. We have voted of late years considerable sums at the instance of the Board of Trade for the purpose of promoting manufactures. No doubt these were generally for industrial schools, or for normal schools, which could not in strictness be called manufacturing establishments; but it was obvious that these sums of money were not voted simply for the purpose of education, or the schools for which they were voted would have been placed under the control of the Privy Council of Education, and not of the Board of Trade. Why does the Board of Trade interfere with schools of design, with the manufacture of lace, with wood engraving, and with the manufacture of porcelain? It does so because all Governments of recent date have recognised the duty of the Government to interfere with the view of promoting and encouraging trade; and in order to provide employment for certain classes of the community, it gives aid to a certain class of industrial occupations to hold their ground against the manufactures of foreign States. You have already sanctioned the principle that it is the business, not morely of the Committee of Education, but of the Board of Trade, to deal with the question of edu- 1014 cational training; and, therefore, you have sanctioned the principle that it is the duty of the Government to do such things as are prudent and feasible for the encouragement of trade and manufactures, even in this country. Well, then, all I say is, if you admit this, you give up the whole principle —you give up the whole preliminary objection; and the only remaining question is, whether the peculiar mode of interference which I propose for the Government is one which in itself is prudent and unobjectionable, and whether any objection can be taken to my proposal on the ground that it sins against principle. If it sins against principle, the conduct of the Government in proposing those Estimates equally sins against principle. It will be said that these are exceptional instances; but what do you mean by saying that these are exceptional instances? I don't understand how there can be these exceptional cases with regard to doing an injury to a community. The real question, therefore, between my proposition and that of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is, whether the proposal which I make is a prudent and proper one, and one likely to tend to the benefit of the community. I think I have now disposed of the preliminary objection taken to my proposition on the score of principle. I am unwilling to trespass too long on the attention of the House, but I hope the House, having regard to the importance of the subject, will bear with me while I point out some circumstances which, I think, show what a large part the State has borne in the history of manufacturing and commercial enterprise. Take this country, for instance. When a country attains a certain degree of manufacturing prosperity, I admit that it would be unnecessary to adopt a proposition such as I am now bringing under the notice of the House. There are large aggregates of capital, and the fullest knowledge and enterprise employed in manufactures in Great Britain, and there is at the same time the fullest means for carrying out any improvements in old manufactures, or in establishing new ones. But, even in Great Britain, go back to the history of industrial enterprise before the middle of the last century, and if you inquire how manufactures have been established there, what do you find? If you go to a period antecedent to the middle of the last century, when manufacturing industry was firmly established throughout this island, you will find, I think, three epochs at which this manu- 1015 facturing industry received a great impulse, and in each of those epochs the impulse was received from circumstances which had very little to do in their origin with commercial enterprise, but a great deal to do with the interference of the State. The first period to which I would refer is the fourteenth century, in the reign of Edward III. Up to that time you had no very considerable manufactures. At that period you have the birth of what for many generations was the great staple manufacture of the country, namely, the woollen trade. How did that originate? Why, it originated, not in private enterprise, but in the invitation to this country from the Low Countries of a number of weavers, dyers, and fullers, who introduced into London, Bolton, Norwich, and other English towns, the manufacture of fine woollen cloth which had no previous existence there. Two centuries later you have another great advance in the manufacturing industry of England. During the civil wars which desolated the Low Countries, and in which the city of Antwerp was sacked and destroyed by the Spanish General, the Duke of Alva, about one-third of the manufacturers and merchants in that city, who wrought and dealt in silks, damasks, taffeties, bays, sayes, serges, and stockings, came over to England, where they were hospitably received, and introduced a great many of those manufactures which did not exist here before. According to an English historian of our national industry the rise of the manufacturing industry of this country may be said to date from the fall of Antwerp. The third period is the end of the seventeenth century, when you have the revocation of the edict of Nantes. Then, something like 70,000 manufacturers and workmen were driven by the folly of Louis XIV. into this country, where they were hospitably received by the people and the Government. Large sums were spent to establish them here, and that not merely from motives of humanity and religious sympathy, but from motives of commercial prudence, and from the belief—and experience has proved that that belief was not unfounded—that the introduction of so many skilful artisans into manufactures which were imperfectly carried on before in this country, and of processes of manufacture not known here at all, would be of the greatest possible commercial benefit to this kingdom. And so it has proved; and I believe it will now be difficult to find any three manufacturing epochs in the history a England before the middle of the last 1016 century which are at all to be compared to the three periods to which I have referred, and to the events connected with them; and it may be truly said that, if you take away these three epochs, the manufacturing industry of this country would not have grown up to the high position in which it was found a century ago, and would not have experienced the extraordinary development which it has since received. There is no country in Europe which does not furnish me with examples of great leading branches of industry which have been introduced into them, not by private enterprise and prudence, but by the wisdom of States and monarchs taking advantage of political circumstances to introduce into their own countries trades and manufactures which had not before flourished there. What, for example, is the history of the silk trade? It came, as we all knew, from China. For a long period the manufacture of silk and the culture of the silkworm were confined to China. It was afterwards transferred to Constantinople about the sixth century, and thence to Greece. How did it get from China to Constantinople? Not by commercial enterprise. It was introduced into Constantinople by the Emperor Justinian, who was at considerable expense in inducing two Persian monks to bring over in canes the eggs of silkworms, and along with them the knowledge of the various processes by which the manufacture was conducted. From Constantinople it travelled into Greece, and from thence into Sicily and the south of Italy, where it was carried most unquestionably, not by commercial enterprise, but by an act of public rapine on the part of an adventurer, Roger, the Norman King of Sicily, who, being on a plundering expedition in Greece, brought home, as part of his plunder, several silk manufacturers, and established them in Palermo and in Calabria. The manufacture afterwards spread throughout Italy, and subsequently came into France—but how? Not by more private commercial enterprise, but by the act and patronage of the State —by the Act of Louis XI., who brought the silkworm to Tours—by that of Francis I., who brought it to Lyons—and by that of Henry IV., who brought it to Paris. I might cite many other instances, and if I do so it is because my case is very much supported by the general interference of States and Legislatures in introducing manufactures at different periods in the history of the world. Take, for instance, Geneva, in Switzerland, which is unquestionably the 1017 centre of a great manufacturing population, and which owes the origin of most of its manufactures, not to more commercial enterprise, but to civil convulsion, and to a wise prudence on the part of the Swiss community in taking advantage of those convulsions. The watchmakers of Geneva were originally citizens of Paris, but they were driven out of that city by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes; and by their means the watch trade of Geneva, and many other trades, along with great improvements in agriculture and gardening, were introduced into that part of Switzerland. The establishment of those trades was in great part completed after an interval of several generations by the French Revolution, which drove out the remaining artisans of that class from Paris to Geneva; and thus Geneva owes its commercial and industrial prosperity, not to the more spontaneous impulse of commercial enterprise, but to its citizens prudently and wisely taking advantage of political circumstances and hostile convulsions to introduce and settle among them many of those trades and manufactures which did not exist among them before. The last example with which I shall trouble the House is one very appropriate to the condition of Ireland. It is the case of Prussia. Long after the close of the thirty years' war Prussia lay devastated by the ravages committed during the war; many of its towns had been in great part destroyed —many of them had lost half, and others of them five-sixths, of their houses and populations. The country had become a perfect waste; agriculture was neglected, and trade and manufactures were entirely destroyed. How was the country revived? It was revived by the action of the Great Elector, as he was called, by his adoption of a course of policy almost exactly similar to that which the House is now asked to sanction. An opportunity was afforded for his entering upon that course of policy by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The moment that that great Sovereign—for he was one of the greatest Sovereigns of his time, and his name will never be forgotten in Prussia —learnt that the banishment of the Protestants from France was taking place, he issued an edict from Potsdam inviting them to settle within his territory. He sent his agents to Amsterdam, Frankfort, and Hamburg, who supplied as many as chose to avail themselves of his invitation with money, guides, provisions, and other means 1018 of travelling; he gave them houses and settlements in land, and furnished them with the means of living until they were able to establish themselves; and in the places in which they settled they afterwards carried on the various manufactures of which they were masters. The wealthiest and richest of them came to England and Holland; but the Great Elector was obliged to take the very poorest of them, and to maintain them for some time at his own cost; but by doing so, and by thus introducing the manufactures with which they were acquainted, he changed in a short time the very face of Prussia, and, after a generation or two, a country which, when he came to the throne, was almost entirely a desert waste, became able to encounter in the shock of arms the greatest potentates of Europe banded against her. I think the case of Prussia is of happy augury if applied to Ireland. Although Ireland is at this moment destitute of manufactures, and although her people are flying from her shores by thousands, I see no reason, if a proper policy be adopted towards her by the Government, why that decrease of the population should not be arrested, and why the whole country should not flourish with manufactures and agriculture, and should not become the home of a happy and a contented people. I now wish to say a few words to the House about the more immediate nature of the proposition which I have to make on this occasion. The example I ask you to follow is that of Belgium. I have been met with this objection, that it is not necessary to go to foreign nations to see what may be done in establishing manufactures, because in all industrial matters we are far before the Continent, and it is therefore quite enough to look at home. It is precisely because that is in a certain sense true that I go to a foreign nation. Ireland has not prospered. England and Scotland have prospered, but Ireland has not. I wish to take an example from a foreign country very much resembling Ireland, and very considerably behind England and Scotland in commercial enterprise and in accumulated capital, and, therefore, a much fitter subject for comparison with Ireland than Great Britain can be. There are many points of resemblance between the provinces of Belgium and Ireland. In Belgium you have a population in great part agricultural, with small farms, small capitals, and small manufactures. Up to a very recent period—up to less than ten 1019 years ago—almost the sole manufacture of the two provinces of Flanders was the manufacture of linen in its simplest shape. The manufacture was conducted by machines of the rudest kind, and for twenty or thirty years past it was the necessary, and, indeed, the inevitable result, that the people engaged in it should feel all the effects of competition with the great capitals and the improved machinery of this country. From 1831, and later, the Flemish manufacturers of linen were in a state of great distress. Many means were attempted by the Belgian Legislature to put an end to this state of things. They attempted high protective duties, but these failed and were soon abandoned. Then, after a little time, there came a disaster exactly similar to that which visited Ireland—the failure of the potato crop—and the weavers devoting part of their time to the cultivation of the land, and subsisting very much on potatoes, there were superadded to the distress to which they were subject by competition with the capital and improved machinery of other countries, the greatest extremity of famine, of which they were the victims. The Belgian Legislature endeavoured to meet this great calamity by means similar to those which were tried in the first instance in Ireland. They had industrial committees for providing food and work to the famished people, but the result was to disorganise still further the linen manufacture, and to aggravate permanently the evils under which the people were labouring. Eventually they came, partly by individual experiments, which were followed up with great prudence and judgment by the Belgian Legislature and Government, upon the very system to which I am now calling the attention of the House. An experiment was made at Routers, a town in Western Flanders, the object of which was, not to provide work without reference to the commercial circumstances of the case, but to introduce and establish the newest processes into manufactures already in existence there, and to introduce new manufactures. That was first attempted by the town of Roulers, and the experiment succeeded. Another experiment of a like kind was made by the town of Ghent, and with equal success; with so much success indeed that a general law was passed to carry out the principle. In a very short time after the experiment was tried at Roulers, at least eight or ten new manufactures were introduced, and are now 1020 flourishing there. [The hon. and learned Gentleman then read extracts from a Report showing the great advantages that had been derived from the introduction of the system in East Flanders, and in other parts of Belgium, the ateliers having been established in sixty-eight places.] Now, at what expense to the State have these enormous results been attained?—and I am persuaded that no Member in this House will deny them to be enormous results—at what expense, I say, have these results been brought about in East and West Flanders? Why, the total expense for five years, in the two provinces of East and West Flanders has amounted to 36,788l., or about two and a half per cent on the county cess of Leinster. Besides, the current expenses are diminishing. I find for the year 1850 those expenses amounted, for the two provinces, to 3,416l., or about one and a quarter per cent on the Leinster county cess. I am asking you now to introduce these establishments into Ireland at the risk of the people themselves—I am not asking you for any supplies from the public Treasury—I am asking you to give the counties of Ireland the power of managing their own affairs, and of taking steps like these for their own improvement at their own risk—and I am perfectly willing that this should be done, subject to some central revision on the part of Government to prevent fraud or mismanagement, if any person should be inclined so to act. I am not, of course, submitting at this moment any Motion to the House. The proposition which I have laid before the House is a new one; and it was necessary for me to find some opportunity during the present Session to make such a statement as this, in order to elicit from the Government some opinion upon the subject as to whether they think it practicable to accomplish anything in this way for Ireland, since an impression exists —which I still hope is an erroneous one—from the language lately held by the Government, that no encouragement is to be given to agriculture, which is the staple industry of Ireland, by any immediate settlement of the relations between landlord and tenant. I commend this proposition particularly to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, but most particularly to the noble Lord the President of the Council. The words of the noble Lord appear calculated to destroy, though I for one hope it is otherwise, any hopes that might be entertained, 1021 or might spring from the conduct of the Government, in reference to the land question. But should the words of the noble Lord fairly bear the interpretation that has been attributed to them, I would press it upon the noble Lord and the Government that they should at least hold out some hope that, in other industrial pursuits, a fair amount of encouragement and means of improvement will be afforded to the people of Ireland by that which Parliament and the Government can do for their benefit without incurring any expense, and almost without incurring any trouble.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that, before he made any observations respecting the early part of the speech of the hon. Member for Meath, he wished to make a very short statement with regard to what the hon. Gentleman had said as to his (Lord J. Russell's) opinion in respect to the land question in Ireland, to which the hon. Gentleman had more than once alluded. At various periods of late years measures had been introduced in reference to the subject of landlord and tenant in Ireland; and, last year, Bills were referred to a Select Committee, which, having afterwards undergone the consideration of the House, were sent up to the House of Lords, containing everything which was thought could be done in the way of justice to the tenant. Those Bills were not introduced this year in the House of Commons, but were originally considered in the House of Lords, who took a different view of the subject from that which had been previously taken by the House of Commons. Their Lordships passed Bills which they thought contained everything that could be done by legislation for settling all questions that might exist in dispute between landlord and tenant; but when the Bills came down to that House there was a general disposition, on the part of all those who thought there ought to be, on the landlord and tenant question, a Bill more favourable to the tenant than at present existed, to consider that those Bills had far better not be proceeded with, believing that, instead of settling the question, they would excite great discontent and dissatisfaction. Such being the case, he certainly inferred—and he did not think it required any great sagacity to arrive at the inference—that it was hopeless, or, at all events, extremely difficult, in the present Session at least, that any agreement between the two Houses could be arrived at that should be satisfactory to the people of Ireland.
1022 The hon. Gentleman had adverted to something which was supposed to have been stated by him (Lord J. Russell) on a former occasion, when those Bills were the subject of consideration. Now, he did not consider the question as hopeless, neither did he express himself to that effect. What he did say was, that he thought the best way in which to begin legislation on the subject was by taking care to provide in the fullest manner possible for encouraging and maintaining voluntary contracts between landlord and tenant; and that if that were done, there might be a hope entertained that the parties standing in the relation of landlord and tenant might be drawn near and more near to one another, and that the great landlord and tenant question might at some no distant day be set at rest. But he did not say, as had been imputed to him, that it was a question the settlement of which was utterly hopeless. Having said thus much with regard to the question of the land, he would now say a few words with respect to the proposition of the hon. Gentleman. He would not say anything that evening at all decisive upon the very interesting subject which the hon. Gentleman had introduced, as to the rise and progress of manufactures in Belgium. Without being more informed than he was as to the manner in which the linen manufactures in Flanders were founded, and what particular measures were introduced, and the mode in which they were carried into effect, he should not give any positive opinion on the subject. But it appeared to him that there were some clear principles to which the House ought to adhere, and that among those principles there was one, that education and instruction of any kind might come within the province of the Government; and that, therefore, as was the case in many manufacturing towns with respect to manufactures, and with respect to the general laws upon the question of machinery, instruction might be very well given under the superintendence of the Government. But it was quite clear that all instruction of that kind was given by an outlay and an expense on the part of the Government, and that it did not pretend to be a remunerative process. It was a general mode of instruction, from which all manufacturers, in whatever branch of industry they might be concerned, might derive advantage. It was, however, a totally different thing for the Government to carry on agriculture or manufactures of any kind as a branch of commerce. Govern- 1023 ment could not pretend to gain a profit by such a system. He was of opinion that one course of proceeding might be very wisely pursued by the Government, whereas the other course of proceeding would be very unwise, and had been uniformly found to fail wherever Government sought to interfere with the profits of industry, which should be the remuneration of individual labour and enterprise. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the number of artisans who had come to England, and who had gone to other Protestant countries —Prussia and Switzerland—in consequence of the Flemish persecution, of the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and of the French Revolution. But all that proved that freedom of conscience was a great advantage to a country, and that a Government which protected freedom of conscience protected at the same time the development of individual skill and industry. Those emigrations to this and other Protestant countries occurred not by reason of any persecution of manufacturers in Flanders or in France, but in consequence of those general principles of freedom, both civil and religious, which happily existed in those Protestant countries. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the flourishing state of the woollen manufactures both in Tuscany and in Spain, and which he partly ascribed to the encouragement on the part of the Government; but that, since the Government of those countries had changed, their manufactures had decayed; that a great woollen manufacture had been established in this country, while in Florence and in Seville it had died away. But all these changes were not owing to the one Government giving instruction in manufactures, and to the other Government neglecting it; but it was owing to the Governments of Florence and of Spain having become so bad that all individual enterprise was checked, while in this country, in consequence of the liberty which the people enjoyed, individuals had the means of carrying on whatever enterprise their talent and industry might lead them to engage in. He believed that these principles would ever be found of great advantage to a nation. Whether or not there should not be more instruction given on these matters was a question on which he did not wish to enter. He believed there were at the present moment schools of instruction under national boards in several places on the Continent. There was at Paris a great school of this kind; in 1024 Carlsruhe there were two schools—one for agriculture and another for manufactures; in Ghent and in Liege there were also similar schools. These schools might be worthy of imitation; and he was not prepared to say that like institutions might not be carried further in Ireland. But without giving any opinion as to any particular course pursued in Belgium, in Berlin, or in other countries, he thought they must always have regard to those principles which generally governed the course of nations in this respect.
§ MR. JOHN MACGREGOR
said, that the interference of the Government of a country, instead of aiding, suppressed the energies of a people. The hon. Member for Meath had alluded to Switzerland; but the manufactures of that country depended not on the aid of Government, but on individual enterprise. He was extremely anxious that no delusions on the subject should go forth among the people of Ireland, but that they should thoroughly understand that, unless manufacturing industry originated with the people themselves, and from their own thrift and skill, the interference of Government could do them no good. It was only under a government of civil, political, and religious liberty, and where the people were themselves industrious, that a nation could ever become a prosperous and a rich manufacturing and great commercial people.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, that, considering the position of the noble Lord, a statement had fallen from him to which he thought it proper to call attention. The noble Lord had said that the falling off of the manufactures of Tuscany was owing to the Government of that country becoming so bad that no industrial pursuits could flourish under it. He (Mr. Ball) was quite sure that that statement did not apply to the history of Tuscany within the last 150 years; it was, however, unhappily quite true, in reference to the state of Tuscany for the last year or two, and he deeply regretted it. But the general government of Tuscany had been considerably in advance of all the rest of the south of Europe, at least in the tone of its administration and in the spirit of its constitution.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL,
in explanation, was understood to say that he had alluded to the suppression of the laws and liberties of Florence in the time of Charles V., but had not referred to more recent times.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
thought the Government ought to have done something more than give a more passing notice of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Meath. They were ready to vote anything for the prosecution of the war, and, surely, the Government ought to make some effort for the restoration of a country which was a complication of disorders. Irishmen were constantly asked, why they were not industrious, and why they did not display the same energy as other nations did? But, what had been the history of Ireland for the last 100 years? He gave the present Government and their predecessors credit for having done everything in their power to promote education in Ireland; but the people required a different kind of education. The explanation of the noble Lord with respect to the landlord and tenant question was by no means satisfactory. If the noble Lord wished to hand down his name as a great statesman, and as one who knew how to deal with an unhappy country, he would earnestly grapple with the land question. There was a great manufacturing spirit going on in Ireland at the present moment, which required to be sustained. He called upon the noble Lord to turn his great mind towards the condition of Ireland, and to see that between this and the next Session some scheme be devised to carry out the views of the hon. Member for Meath.
§ MR. APSLEY PELLATT
said, that Ireland seemed to be an exception to almost all the principles of political economy, and Government appeared to be contributing to carrying out that exception. He had been over the farm at Glasnevin, and had examined the agricultural condition of Ireland, and he found that they were making progress, and that great satisfaction had arisen from the experience derived from that establishment. Seeing that the application of the principle contended for had succeeded in respect to agriculture, he was not aware of any strong reason why it should not be equally successful in its application to manufactures, as advocated by the hon. Member for Meath. It might be contrary to all principles of political economy, but if, notwithstanding, the principle had succeeded in Belgium, why should it not operate equally beneficially in Ireland?
§ MR. KENNEDY
contended that it was ungenerous to refuse this appeal, which demanded no pecuniary sacrifice from the State, but merely asked the House to give 1026 local authorities in Ireland power to try an experiment which had proved eminently successful in Belgium. There were 163 monster workhouses in Ireland, which might be rendered capable of doing enormous good to the people of Ireland in the direction pointed out by his hon. Friend. There was a great diminution in the number of inmates in those workhouses, and a further diminution was expected. He calculated that from one-fifth to two-fifths of the workhouses in Ireland might be spared in the course of two years, and made available for industrial schools. This would afford a nucleus for such operations as his hon. Friend suggested, They would, in the way he pointed out, be able to provide without cost sixty-four industrial schools in Ireland, or two for each county. These, in connection with the national schools, would be ample to carry out a substantial system of industrial training. It was his intention to bring the subject forward next Session.
§ Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.