HC Deb 22 July 1857 vol 147 cc220-4

Order for Second Heading read.


said, he rose to move that the order for the second reading of this Bill be discharged, and in doing so he thought it only just to say that an hon. Friend of his, no longer a Member of that House, but who recently sat for the county of Mayo, had done everything in his power to bring forward this question at an early period of the Session in order to have it considered by the House, but that he had been unsuccessful in the ballot. He (Mr. Maguire) himself and many other Irish Members with whom he acted were deeply interested in the success of the Bill, but they thought that there was no advantage to be gained by a protracted discussion at the present moment. A deputation had waited on the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord's reply, though not so satisfactory to his hon. Friends as they might have hoped, was yet such that they felt they should best serve the interests of the cause by withdrawing the Bill. He firmly believed that this question could only be settled by the Government, and that no private Member, whatever his influence or his following might be, could deal with it so as to bring it to a final and successful issue. He contended that it was the duty of the Government to bring a question of this great importance forward, and not allow the hopes of the Irish people to be tantalized and disappointed year after year. He would respectfully appeal to the Secretary for Ireland to take up the subject. That right hon. Gentleman had a prosperous and happy tenantry, and from what he (Mr. Maguire) knew of him, he could say that his dealings with them were fair and equitable; but, the right hon. Gentleman knew, that there were many landlords in Ireland who did not act with equal fairness towards their tenants, and who were animated, besides, with the insane desire of taking the lands out of their hands and sending them abroad in the world. That was a course of dealing fatal to the prospects of Ireland, and detrimental to the stability of the whole empire. According to the census of 1851, there were 6,552,000 human beings in Ireland; now there were not 6,000,000, and in two or three years hence they might be further reduced by another million. That did not augur well for the strength of the country. In 1854 the Government were driven to such straits to get recruits that they sought them among the people of a friendly State, and were involved in some altercations (not to our credit) with America, for the sake of a miserable squad of thirty Germans. Now, from Ireland, our army could always be recruited, for the martial spirit of the Irish eminently fitted them for soldiers. Was it wise, then, looking to the present state of India, and the constant drain of troops, by an act of impolicy to drive the people from the country, and so wither the right arm which was ready to save her in the hour of danger. He would earnestly call on the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, to take this matter into his serious consideration during the recess, and to place a Bill on the table next Session, which, after full discussion by the House, might be passed for the great benefit of the people of Ireland.


said, that having, with many other hon. Members for Ireland, been returned upon the express understanding that he would support this much-required measure, it was necessary that he should state that he concurred in the reasons given as to why it would be useless to attempt to carry it this Session. At the same time he said it was more called for at the present moment than at any other time. It was a truism that the great strength of England lay in her manufactures, but those manufactures could not be carried on in the face of a competition with the whole world without cheap labour, and if the supply of labour went on decreasing as it had done for some years past in Ireland, our manufacturers would find themselves driven out of more markets than they had already been by the competition with which they had to contend. The population of Ireland according to the census of 1851, was 6,552,285, and down to the present year it had been reduced by 754,334. If that had been the case in the years immediately preceding 1851 his argument would have gone for nothing, but the decrease had taken place in years of undoubted prosperity in Ireland, and especially agricultural prosperity; and what were they to expect if the present system of emigration from Ireland was allowed to go on? It was true that of late there had been a general decrease of crime among the Irish people, and in some districts it had disappeared altogether; but if a question of this kind was allowed to remain from year to year unsettled, the bad feelings of the people, which were sleeping but not dead, might be roused at any moment under a bad harvest or the pressure of some other form of distress. A large majority of the Irish Members had been returned on the solemn pledge to their constituents that they would support a measure of this kind, and he called upon the Government to give them, at the beginning of the next Session, a practical opportunity of fulfilling that pledge.


said, that nothing would have induced him to consent to the withdrawal of this Bill but the absolute certainty that it could not pass in the present state of public business. So urgently was the measure required that he sincerely hoped the Government would take it up next Session, and that hon. Members on all sides would agree to pass a measure which might well be termed one of justice to Ireland, for until this grievance was removed he did not think the people of that country could go forward in the cause of prosperity now opening to them. Large and valuable properties were now held on the mere sufference of the landlord, and the interest of parties was absolutely sacrificed. He said this in relation to reclaimed land, which had been put, as it were, out of the pale of the law. It was desirable that the question should be settled to the satisfaction of all parties, and, when the matter was brought forward again, he hoped the Government would defer considerably to the feelings and wishes of the Irish people and of their representatives in that House.


said, the character of the deputation, which recently waited upon the First Lord of the Treasury on this subject, was such that it could no longer be said that among the advocates of tenant right there were to be found few persons possessing a large stake in Ireland. He hoped the Secretary for Ireland would find it convenient to make some statement as to the future intentions of the Government in reference to this matter. He would say, but in no threatening spirit, that so long as this question remained unsettled, so long would it be a source of agitation in Ireland; and the Irish Members had the example of the House of Commons to justify them in resorting to agitation in carrying such a measure.


said, he could confirm the opinion which prevailed in Ireland that the only way of bringing this question to a satisfactory conclusion was by its being taken up and dealt with by the Government of the day, and that it would never be advanced one step so long as it was pressed upon the House by any private Member, whatever might be his weight or the number of his followers. When the deputation waited upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government there was no dissenting voice among the hon. Gentlemen composing it with respect to the principle of the Bill brought in by Mr. Moore; and, though there were some observations made at the interview in which he (Mr. Hatchell) could not concur, the principle of affording some certainty of tenure to the occupier of the soil, and some security with regard to improvements, was recognised and adopted by every one present. When that was the state of feeling on the subject among the Irish Members, and when the large number of petitions on the table of the House showed that, they were supported by the nation, he could not understand why the government should hesitate to bring forward a measure based on that principle.


said, he must decline to give any distinct pledge on the part of the Government. The former discussion on this subject showed how difficult it was of settlement. He would recommend Irish Members to be moderate in their demands on behalf of the tenants, and if any Bill were brought forward next Session, he could assure them that the Government would give that serious consideration to the subject which its importance required.


said, this was the only subject which the Government had not promised to consider during the recess, and upon which the Government had not promised to bring forward a Bill next Session. He inferred that they had no intention to bring forward any measure at all, and it was admitted that it was impossible for a private Member to introduce a measure with any chance of success. He hoped Irish Members, in the present prosperous and tranquil state of that country, would seriously consider whether they might not be mistaken in some of the principles upon which they had attempted to legislate, and abandon a cause which, by the concurrent testimony of the Government and of those who advocated it, was utterly hopeless.

Order discharged. Bill withdrawn.