HC Deb 21 February 1862 vol 165 cc548-92

rose to call the attention of the House to the existence of serious distress in Ireland. He had been for nine years a Member of that House, and never on any occasion had he greater need of its indulgence and forbearance than he had that evening. He relied on the spirit of fair play which always animated Members of that House to secure him a patient hearing while he endeavoured to defend himself, and to show that certain statements made in Ireland, and repeated in that House on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, were not founded upon accurate information. He seemed as if he were standing there upon his trial. His veracity had been impeached, and his statements declared to be grossly exaggerated or without foundation. He stood there to prove that all he had said was true, and that what had been urged on the other side was not justified by the facts. It was humiliating and painful for any Member to stand up to expose the miseries of his country, and nothing but an imperative sense of duty would compel him to assume that attitude. He yielded to no one in respect for the private character of the present Viceroy of Ireland; but that nobleman had an unfortunate habit of taking a one-sided view of public affairs, because he had not moral courage sufficient to look upon their stern and disagreeable side. He viewed the condition of Ireland through a species of Claude Lorraine glass, which allowed him to see nothing harsh or repelling, but represented everything as grateful to his fancy as to his feelings. In the month of April, 1861, the Lord Lieutenant took advantage of the meeting of a most important society to make a statement intended to rejoice not only the people of Ireland, but to afford the English people and the English press something pleasing to descant upon. Lord Carlisle stated that, no matter what might be the change in the agriculture of Ireland, a steady increase had taken place in the quantity of live stock in the country. At that very time he had in his possession—though he might possibly not have looked at them-returns from Mr. Donnelly, the Registrar General, which showed a steady, and, he would add, a painful falling off in the quantity of live stock in Ireland. In 1847 the number of acres under cereal crops was 3,313,563; in I860 there were only 2,639,384. The produce in 1847 amounted to 16,248,934 quarters; in 1860 to 10,905,662. The decrease in 1860 consequently amounted to 674,179 acres, or 5,348,273 quarters, representing a money value of £10,000,000. In 1861 a further decrease had taken place, amounting upon all kinds of crops, as compared with the previous year, to 81,373 acres. With regard to live stock, of which the Lord Lieutenant spoke as steadily increasing in quantity, the fact was that in 1860, as compared with 1859, there was a decrease to the extent of 8,137 horses, 216,363 cattle, and 54,958 sheep, making a total loss in money value, as compared with the previous year, of £1,473,212. [AN HON. MEMBER: What about pigs?] If the hon. Member were solicitous as to the swine of Ireland, he should be satisfied. The increase upon pigs in that year was under 3,000; but even in that particular the results of the returns for the year 1861 were very startling. In that year, as compared with 1860, there was a falling-off in horses of 5,993; of cattle, 138,316; and pigs, 173,096, making a total pecuniary loss of £1,161,345. The total decrease of live stock upon the two years, during which it was alleged by the Lord Lieutenant that the quantity was steadily increasing, represented a money loss of £2,634,557. The estimated de crease in green crops for the two years 1859 and 1860 was equivalent 4,214,610 tons. Under these circumstances, he felt justified in asking whether the Viceregal statements must not have had their origin either in forgetfulness or fallacious information. He would also ask hon. Gentlemen were not the statements which he had made, as to the falling-off in the capital of the country, more correct than those made by the representatives of the Irish Government? The House must not judge of Ireland as it did of England and Scotland. Fortunately for England and Scotland, they had thriving manufactures and extended commerce; while, except in three or four counties, Ireland had nothing like what would be called manufacturing industry. Her commerce was comparatively restricted, and Ireland depended almost entirely on the prosperity of her agriculture. If agriculture flourished, all classes of people in the country flourished; if it was depressed, all classes were depressed. If God blessed the land with good crops and an abundant harvest, the farmers were able to pay their rents and to employ labour, the landlord received his rent, and the shopkeepers and trades of the cities and towns, as well as the artisan, were benefited by the circulation of the money which all classes were enabled to circulate through the community; but if the harvest failed, labourers were badly paid, landlords could not spend the same amount in cities and towns, and depression and poverty made themselves felt all over the nation. It took one or two years before a purely agricultural country recovered from a single bad harvest. But, unfortunately, Ireland was now suffering from a double blow of this kind; the harvest of 1860 was deficient, and he was prepared to prove that the harvest of 1861 was a lamentable failure. An agricultural country was, in its normal state, an exporting country, but he deliberately asserted that, without the corn which had either been imported into Ireland already, or which might be expected within the next two months, one of the most fearful famines would be raging there at this moment which ever desolated a nation or destroyed a people. Last year Ireland exported £2,365,000 worth of corn, and she imported very nearly £6,188,000. Adding to the balance thus remaining £1,160,000 lost by the decrease in cattle, there would be a dead loss to Ireland in that one year of nearly £5,000,000. Therefore to tell him that there was prosperity in Ireland was to say that which was inconsistent with the facts or with possibility. He was about to refer to documents which had not emanated from agitators "interested" or disinterested, and which would show the House that he was not exaggerating the case. One of these was a circular from Messrs. Sturge, of Bir- mingham, the eminent corn merchants. They said— The way in which the people of Ireland have found the means to pay for the large quantities of foreign wheat and Indian corn imported since the famine has long been a mystery to us. It is now becoming evident that this has been done, in part at least, out of capital, as the last Government returns show a great reduction both in the number of cattle kept and the acreage under cultivation; for a time, the expenditure of English capital— The writer was wrong there. The entire bulk of the capital employed in the last dozen years had been Irish capital. Three-fourths of the property in the Encumbered Estates Court was purchased with Irish capital, and Irish capital was employed not only in the purchase but in the cultivation of land. For a time the expenditure of English capital in the purchase and improvement of estates prevented the drain of money being felt; but now we see its results in decreasing stock and diminished cultivation, which, if continued, must reduce a considerable portion of the country to a mere sheep-walk. Would Irish gentlemen regard that as a condition of things of which they would have reason to be proud? Messrs. Sturge add— The imports of Indian corn exceed those of any past year except that of the famine in 1847. One gentleman who has recently visited all the ports in Ireland estimates the stock at over 1,000,000 qrs.; others, 900,000. The latter quantity materially exceeds the annual average consumption of the last seven years; still, for the reasons before expressed, respecting wheat we do not look forward to any material decline at present. The total imports of all kinds of corn, meal, and flour, were 1,684,633 qrs. more in 1861 than in 1860, and 4,575,377 qrs. in excess of any other previous year. He did not think any gentleman interested in Ireland could congratulate the country upon the facts here stated, and any gentleman who came from a prosperous portion of the country should rather bless God that the mercy of Providence had been vouchsafed to his portion of the country; but he should not close his eyes to the fact that other districts of the Island had been blighted by the failure of the crops. He wished now to appeal to another authority—not an "interested and dissatisfied agitator "—Mr. Haughton, chairman of the Great Southern and "Western Railway, who, in a speech delivered on Saturday, Feb. 15, said— Let them now recollect the disadvantages with which they had to contend during the past year. When they met together last August all had fondly anticipated that they would have a bountiful harvest; but bad as had been the harvest of 1860, they had to deal with a worse one in 1861. From his own experience in the corn trade he felt himself justified in stating that there had never been an instance of two successive harvests so bad as those of 1860–1. There had been single harvests worse than either of them—for instance, that of 1817—but they never had two harvests in succession so bad. The consequence was, that this country was now relying for bread almost entirely upon foreign wheat. He should now quote some returns from two or three of the corn markets in Ireland, which, he thought, ought to bring conviction to the mind of any gentleman who believed that the description of the last year's crops had been exaggerated. He found that at the Wexford market, while 56,000 barrels of grain were brought in from the harvest of 1860 up to February, 1861, only 36,000 were brought in for the corresponding period ending in February, 1862, showing a decrease of nearly 20,000 barrels in that one market. In the Cork corn market, there had been a falling-off of 7,433 barrels of wheat, 11,058 barrels of barley, 43,754 barrels of oats; making a gross falling-off to the amount of 62,255 barrels for the last year. The falling-off in the Limerick market was 19,655 barrels of wheat and barley. Those figures showed that in the three markets of Wexford, Cork, and Limerick the supply for the present, as compared with last year, was deficient by 100,000 barrels. He was not afraid to state the name of his authorities. He did not quote any ex officio guardian who was afraid to have his accuracy tested by his identity. The gentleman who had furnished him with the Cork returns was Mr. Cantillon, who enclosed them in a letter containing some observations that still further bore out the assertions which, on a former occasion, he had addressed to the House. Mr. Cantillon was a gentleman of the highest character and position, and one passage from his letter would put the state of the crops and the condition of the tillage farmers in a painful light. He wrote as follows:— These figures will clearly show the shortness of the crops in this locality. It may, however, be argued against you, that six months afford no test that the farmers do not hold larger stocks in their farm yards this time this year than they did at the same time last year. But the reverse is the fact, for owing to the wet harvest, and the impossibility of saving the grain crops, they were unfit to stack up, and those who might have been able to hold their grain were compelled to send it into market, else it would rot. So it may be fairly inferred that the bulk of last harvest's grain is delivered, and out of the hands of the farmer; while on the 1st of February, 1861, the farming class held a very fair share of the produce of the previous harvest. Added to short produce per acre, the unfortunate tillage farmer had to accept miserable prices, for the quality was so bad that large quantities of wheat were sold from 15s. to 20s. per barrel, barley from 7s. to 10s and oats is. to 7s. And the entire produce of one acre did not frequently yield more than from 30s. to 40s. for the unfortunate producers. Of course, those who were lucky enough to have good dry grain—and I regret to say they were very few—obtained much higher prices than those mentioned above; but they too suffered, because the yield per acre was short. He could assure the House that he had no wish to set any one class of his countrymen against another. In the present condition of Ireland an attempt to do any such thing would be particularly culpable. If he ever had such a desire, the painful position of his country would sober his judgment and restrain his tongue. In a large number of cases the landlords were doing everything in their power to mitigate the sufferings of their tenants. But in many instances there was a race between landlords, bankers, mealsellers, and shopkeepers as to who should have the first grab at the money; and, though many landlords were doing all in their power to mitigate the sufferings of the people, many were endeavouring to obtain their rents by legal process. Magistrates in Ireland had jurisdiction over debts under 40s., and therefore much business was taken from the quarter sessions. Yet at the Bantry and Skibbereen quarter sessions for the West Riding of Cork, in January, 1862, there were 927 civil bill processes entered, compared with 529 in January of the preceding year, showing an increase of 398. In Skibbereen the numbers were—in October, 1860, 202; October, 1861, 407; increase, 205. In the East Riding of the county of Cork, in six months of three years, the numbers were—in 1859, 2,080; in 1860, 3,326; in 1861, 5,225. In the county of Kerry the numbers were—in 1859, 2,271: in 1860, 3,164; and in 1861, 7,367. For the last sessions alone, the stamp-master ordered £1,000 worth of stamps, which represented 6,000 processes. From a return moved for by the noble Lord the Member for Galway it was shown that the condition of the people in 1860 was not flourishing, but that severe distress was then felt both by the labouring classes and small farmers. The return gave the average rate of weekly earnings for the six months previous to the 1st of January, 1861. The returns were made by the county inspectors, who were not agitators after they got their places, at any rate, whatever they were before. Armagh—Labourers were badly off in the spring of 1860 for want of employment, owing to the wetness of the season. Carlow—The labour market was unsteady during harvest owing to the wet. Cork (county and city)—In the East Biding, in remote localities, the labour market was dull, and during winter farm work was done with yearly servants. Fermanagh—For at least half a year there was scarcely any employment for the agricultural labourer, who was in general a married man with a family, and was therefore in destitution; the markets were high. King's County—The demand for labour was limited; women and boys being altogether without employment. Leitrim—The labour market was overstocked. Longford—Market rates were high; labouring classes suffered much from the want of food and fuel during winter. Meath—"When the harvest terminated employment became very limited; were it not for the employment afforded by the making of the Dublin and Meath Railway, the labouring classes would have suffered greater privations than they had hitherto done. That return showed the wisdom of the policy of remunerative employment for the Irish people recommended by a noble Lord (Lord George Bentinck) whose death the Conservative party had great reason to deplore. Tipperary—Wages were unusually low, owing to the wetness of the summer. The labour market was fully supplied, if not overstocked. Labourers were much distressed from the want of employment, owing to the wetness of the season; but a more permanent effect on the labour market was produced by laying tillage land out for pasturage purposes. He had quoted sufficient to show that the state of things in 1860 was a bad and lamentable preparation for the more lamentable condition of things in 1861. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Peel) would probably urge, what any English Member would say, that the number of people in the workhouses was a fair test of the condition of the country. He asserted, on the contrary, that it was not, and he would explain the reason why it was not a fair or accurate test. It was like a delicate barometer, and if rightly under- stood would faithfully indicate the gradual increase of poverty; but the total number in the workhouses was no fair or accurate representation of the numbers who were suffering from destitution. In Ireland there was no out-door relief. [A VOICE: Yes.] He would tell the House what they had. One in thirty received out-door relief. In England six-sevenths of the relief given was out-door relief; in Scotland nineteen-twentieths. In England 4½ per cent of the people were relieved, in Scotland 4 per cent, and in Ireland under 1 per cent. One might suppose from this that Ireland, instead of suffering from distress and poverty, was bursting with wealth. But the fact was, that the Irish landlords, who were frequently Poor Law guardians, remembered the state of things in 1847, when property was swamped by the relief given. When poor relief was given in England, the guardians did not break up a man's family ties—take him from his home, destroy his social status, and brand him and his offspring as paupers; but in Ireland a poor person was obliged to forsake his home, and if he went into the poor-house he sank into a state of degradation which the poorest abhorred. As to the feeling of abhorrence entertained by the Irish poor of the workhouse, there could be no doubt. It was proved by evidence to which the Secretary for Ireland could not be insensible. Mr. Power and Mr. Senior were not, he believed, to be regarded as agitators, dissatisfied or otherwise; and yet what did they say? They, writing of the famine period, said that the unwillingness of some poor people to enter the workhouse was so great, that "they have sacrificed their own lives or the lives of their children by postponing acceptance too long, or by refusing such relief altogether." In fact, at that time many of the poor would sooner die in a ditch than enter the workhouse. But there was, in fact, a steady increase in the number of inmates in the Irish workhouses, which ought to excite the apprehensions and vigilance of a paternal Government. Compared with 1860, the increase was 20½ per cent, and compared with the preceding year it was 50 per cent. In corroboration of the unwillingness of the people to go into the workhouse, he found in the Clifden correspondence of a Dublin landlord journal (Sounder's) a statement that when the workhouse was offered to the destitute poor of the Island of Innisboffin, it was in every instance refused—the answer was, "I will die at home before I go to the workhouse." The observations of the Rev. Mr. O'Regan, of Kanturk, were worthy of attention: he said, that the poor people do not go to the workhouse was not the result of the absence of distress; but was owing to some inexplicable horror and detestation of being driven into the workhouse that such was the infatuation of the people in Ireland, in their horror of the workhouse, that they preferred to starve slowly outside the workhouse than enter it. He would now read letters which ought to satisfy any one not wilfully blind, that lamentable distress existed in many parts of Ireland, especially in the counties of the West and South. [The hon. Gentleman then read at great length extracts from letters and speeches in support of his arguments, the nature of which are indicated by the following brief references.] Dr. McEvilly, the excellent Catholic Bishop of Galway (and it should be noted that every one of the Catholic Bishops who had written on the subject, bore testimony to the energy and liberality of the landlords), speaking of Galway and its immediate neighbourhood, said that the Relief Committee, composed of men of every religious denomination, had worked cordially together for alleviating the miseries of the poor without any distinction of class and creed; that they had afforded relief, both in food and fuel, to nearly 1,300 families or 6,000 persons; and that had it not been for this timely ministration of relief, hundreds of those for whom accommodation could not be provided, even if it were desirable, within the walls of the workhouse, would have perished, or fallen victims to disease and sickness, from the want of food and fuel, during the usually inclement and severe winter through which we have passed. The Bishop states that the greatest distress exists in the districts of Oughterad and Oranmore; and he then says— But we are vauntingly asked, in disproof of the existence of distress, Are not the workhouses half empty, and are there not plenty of bread-stuffs and provisions to be had at comparatively low prices? Those who allege this in disproof of even extreme distress, must know very little of the condition and feelings of the Irish poor. A more fallacious test of distress was never applied than the extent of workhouse relief. To my own certain knowledge, hundreds of our poor people would prefer starving. They would regard death in its most painful form, death by starvation, as a lesser evil than the sustainment of life within the walls of a workhouse. He would only quote one letter from the County Mayo. The Catholic Archdeacon of Achonry, the Very Rev. Dr. Coghlan, writing on the 17th of February, of the parish of Kilmovee, says— I got the most worthy men to go to every tenant-farmer's house in my parish, and they made me a return of the quantity of food possessed by every one of them, to the truth and accuracy of which return they will make the most solemn declaration. The population of Kilmovee Parish, county Mayo, is 6,534—of which

272 have provisions for 4 months.
967 have provisions for 3 months.
2,613 have provisions for 2 months.
1,554 have provisions for 1 month.
1,138 have no provisions.
He (Mr. Maguire) was now going to allude to Sligo, and, perhaps, en passant, he might have an opportunity of removing what had been a cause of great mental excitement and agony to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Baronet had visited the town of Sligo, and in his rapid transit, happening to glance at the walls, he thought he saw a flaming placard, with the awful name of Paul Cullen attached to it. But really such a placard existed only in the right hon. Baronet's imagination, for it happened that a priest and a parson were just at the time cudgelling their brains, the one to prove that purgatory did not exist, and the other that it did; and the placard merely announced that in the Sligo Champion the crushing reply of the parish priest was to be given in the next number of the Champion, to the admiration of the local public. The right hon. Baronet thought it was a letter from Paul Cullen, denouncing him. On the authority of the proprietor of the Sligo Champion, whose I letter he had there, he was happy to say that the right hon. Gentleman suffered from an optical delusion. He (Mr. Maguire) was the more pleased at that, because, when the right hon. Baronet rushed down to Deny, and standing upon a platform where a Protestant bishop had been hooted for his liberality, and where a relative of the right hon. Baronet (Mr. Dawson), because he was a Conservative of liberal opinions, had been subjected to the grossest outrage and indignity—upon that platform, and before a kindred audience, the Secretary for Ireland, unbur- dened the woes of his breast, and told a sympathizing audience, for he had the chivalry and manliness there to assail an absent Catholic Prelate, that he shed tears when he saw the name of Paul Cullen; but lest they might sympathize too largely with him, he set down the commercial value of Paul Cullen's abuse at "two rows of pins" He (Mr. Maguire) was glad to relieve the anguished mind of the Secretary, and therefore he afforded him that explanation, not because he cared about the man, but he did about the Minister to whom the destinies of Ireland were intrusted. The right hon. Gentleman rushed into Sligo and rushed out of it.


I was in Sligo three days.


Very good; he was delighted to hear it. But why, on the second or third day, did not the right hon. Baronet look at the placard, and correct his first impressions? The right hon. Gentleman certainly had honoured Sligo, and Sligo ought to raise a monument—not to his memory, for he hoped he would live long in the land—but to commemorate his visit. But what had been the character of his tour, or progress through the country? The right hon. Gentleman himself described it, and lest there should be any mistake on a matter so interesting, he would quote his own words, embalmed in the pages of the Sligo Champion. The right hon. Baronet, speaking to a section of the Sligo corporation, who had outstripped their brethren, and who had the honour of a special interview with the Secretary for Ireland, said, as to the state of the country— I have no doubt now, after having traversed a very extensive range of country within the last three days, about three hundred miles, on an outside ear, with my friend Sir Henry Brownrigg, who I am sure is in a condition to know much better than any man in the country, &c. &c. How many horses he killed—how many cars he used up—the nerves of how many Irish jarvies he utterly disordered—the future historian of Ireland alone could tell. But upon the statements of the right hon. Gentleman himself not much reliance could be placed, according to his own showing, however truthful he might be with reference to matters of which he actually had cognizance. He defied any one to make a rush over three hundred miles in three days and to be able to form an accurate judgment as to the state of the district he traversed. He (Mr. Maguire) admitted that this was a grand feat, an unexampled feat—in locomotion; but this kind of Peter Wilkin's tour, this flying through a country, did not qualify the hon. Baronet to speak with authority as to the state of the country and the condition of the people. The right hon. Baronet was not a proper authority on the state of distress in Ireland; neither was the amiable nobleman who was Viceroy of Ireland, for while the latter stated that the country was making a gradual and steady progress, the contrary was shown by Mr. Donnelly's returns. Such testimony as that of Lord Carlisle reminded him of what was said by an unhappy Royal lady, who, when told that the people were starving, asked "Cannot they eat cakes?" But it was her incredulity on that and other points that brought the graceful head of Marie Antoinette to the block, and left the stain of her innocent blood upon the conscience of France. The right hon. Gentleman said that Sligo was in a good condition. He (Mr. Maguire) would refer the right hon. Gentleman to the statement made by the Most Rev. Dr. Gillooly to the Lord Lieutenant and the Chief Secretary on the 14th of January to show the destitute condition in which that district must shortly be placed. Dr. Gillooly, while making a tour in his diocese, wrote from Roscommon that the returns which he had received were by no means exaggerated; that— There are at this moment in actual distress, and in receipt of relief from our parochial committees—

In Athlone, about 250 families.
In Roscommon, about 200 do.
In Boyle, about 200 do.
In Sligo, about 900 do.
Note.—At 5 each—8,250 persons."
To the poor of our towns, and still more to the poor of our country districts, the workhouse is an object of horror and disgust—more hateful and formidable than death itself. We have given up advising them to go there; it is useless. Those who would urge them to do so they would regard as unfeeling and cruel. With the workhouse they associate sickness, death, disgrace, and the permanent disruption of family ties. To go there once is to make themselves paupers and outcasts for ever; not to go there is their only chance of preserving a home and family. Sir Gore Booth, a Member of the House, and Colonel White, a Deputy Lieutenant, bore testimony to the same effect; and Mr. Henry, a Protestant landlord, adds—"In the district near me not less than eight or ten deaths have taken place within the last fortnight or three weeks from want." He thought, then, he had made out his case as regards Sligo. In Carlow, in Wexford, in the King's County, relief committees were in active operation. The distress there was attributable to the unparalleled deficiency in the agricultural crops, and the consequent inability of the farmers to employ labour, however much they might feel inclined. He would pass now to Munster. He had received a letter from Mr. Coonihan, the proprietor of the Munster News, in which he gave a lamentable account of the destruction of the crop. In some of the best districts of Limerick the produce of the wheat-fields had been sold for 40s. or 50s. an acre, which in favourable years had brought £12 or £14; consequently the day labourers had no employment, because the occupiers could not afford to pay wages. Numbers had lost all—food, fodder, and fuel: a triple failure. There were districts without a potato, others without peat-fuel for a single fire, in none had there been a successful crop—even the green crops had in many instances been ruined by the incessant rains. Mr. Coonihan also refers to the enormous increase of processes by civil bill and the decrees obtained and executed. The Mayor of Clonmel, no mean authority, wrote that the prolonged rains had completely put a stop to out-door employment, and in consequence not merely the labourer but the artisan and their families underwent privations that Englishmen could scarcely comprehend; the cottier tenants suffered severely—the potato was their all, and that had been a dead failure: turnips had been plentiful, and it was a great mercy, for they had constituted a great part of the poor of Clonmel. The Catholic Bishop of Clonmel wrote— But, if the lot of the labouring classes is at all times a hard enough one—if what may be called their normal, every-day condition is a struggle for the necessaries of life—their condition at the present time is one of unusually deep distress, such as has not fallen upon them since the famine years, and imperatively demands of those having the ability to come promptly to their relief, that God's poor may not perish in the land. From the unpropitious nature of the seasons, the potato crop is in good part utterly lost, and what little remains is greatly injured; the cereal produce, too, of the land is both short in quantity and inferior in quality—so that, owing to this combination of adverse circumstances, even now, before we have passed out of the second month of the year, the people are crying out for food, and, to add to their distress, they are suffering from want of fuel, many having nothing to burn but the wretched brambles gathered from the roadside. That an unusual amount of distress prevails in town and country is abundantly evident from the extraordinary efforts of voluntary charity called forth by the necessities of the time. In a spirit of liberality which cannot be too highly praised, gentlemen have in different parts of the country thrown open their lawns and cut down their trees for fuel for the people. Why this unusual liberality, if not to meet the more than common privations arising from the want of a necessary of life? He now came to Cork. Dr. Keane, the Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, gave a most important statement as to the condition of his diocese, which consisted of the richest and best-cultivated portion of the county. He says that the proof's of distress are numerous and undeniable, that the loss of the crops last autumn, taking-wheat, barley, oats, hay, and potatoes together, was in some places fully one-third, in others one-half, and in some more than half: that the incessant rain prevented the people from saving their usual supply of fuel— The result of personal observation, and of anxious inquiry, is a firm conviction on my mind, that if this year the poor were as numerous as in '47 and '48, and if the corn-merchants were as little prepared at once to meet the pressing demands in the food market, the famine would lie as bad now as at that disastrous period. There will, however, be no famine. Death and emigration have taken away over two millions of the poor; and the supply of breadstuffs imported from other countries is general and abundant. But, there will and there must be great distress. The reasons are obvious. In the condition of tradesmen and labourers who happen to have constant, employment, there will be no change. With fair wages, and food not over-dear, they will have little to complain of. The large farmers, who had previously made some reserve, can also meet the difficulty with comparative ease. The classes on whom the pressure must bear most heavily, are the small farmers, the shopkeepers, the tradesmen and labourers, who are depending on occasional employment. These farmers, in many instances, have at the present moment neither food, nor money, nor credit. Shopkeepers of all classes, and in a special manner those in the drapery line, are doing comparatively little. And the tradespeople and labourers now idle have very little prospect of employment. Of the existing distress, the numbers in the workhouses afford no correct test. Unless for those who are thoroughly acquainted with the habits and feeling of the Irish poor, it is difficult to form an adequate idea of their unwillingness to accept Poor Law relief. The severest pangs of hunger, nay death itself, will be encountered by many of them, sooner than they would seek the chilling discomforts of workhouse accommodation. Mr. Uniacke Mackay, of Ballyroberts Castle, Fermoy, bears testimony to the deficient harvest of last year in his locality; and the Rev. Mr. O'Regan, writing from Kanturk, says that there is appalling destitution amongst the mechanics and labourers; that, the small farmers are flitting, and leaving their farms with the rents unpaid; that many are utterly unable to procure seed potatoes or seed oats, and that he has lately seen 600 acres, once fairly cultivated by a number of small farmers, on which they have not now a four-footed beast. Dr. O'Hea, the Catholic Bishop of Ross, writes, that in Skib-bereen, Rath, Sherkin, and Cape Clear Islands, Aughadown, Castlehaven, Kil-macabea, and Kilmeen, the people are in the greatest state of destitution; and how they would be able to feed themselves and their families until next harvest was a mystery to all: in the town of Skibbereen, with a population of 3,700, one-half were on the relief list. The Rev. Mr. Fisher, the Protestant Rector of Kilmoe, sent him a copy of a letter which he had addressed to The Times. Among several distressing facts as to the condition of things, he said that in his parish (which was twelve miles long) there was only a fourth of the usual crop of potatoes, while the corn crop was almost a total failure. Among his Protestant parishioners Mr. Fisher stated that over thirty families were in such distress that they could not go to church in the daytime, but went there only in the obscurity of twilight, to the evening service. "With pain," he says," I see them stealing into some distant corner of the church at evening service in the dark evenings, that, their rags may not be seen by the congregation." The relief committee of Bandon, at a meeting presided over by the Hon. Colonel Bernard, a Member of that House, reported that 1,500 persons in that small town were suffering great privation, and that the poor were pawning their clothing to escape the workhouse. The right hon. Baronet would doubtless be disgusted to hear that certain gentlemen of position in Mallow had been doing what he condemned so strongly—sending round the begging-box. Why the right hon. Baronet should object to such a proceeding he could not tell, for he had himself sot the people of Ireland a remarkable example of sending round that box. He had heard of a Turkish "hat" at which even pashas trembled and rajahs turned pale; but when the begging-hat, stamped with the name of the right hon Baronet he Chief Secretary was sent round in Ireland it excited the gratitude at least of those with whom gratitude was a lively sense of favours to come. [Laughter.] They responded at once to the outstretched palms of the begging Baronet. And for what was that begging-box sent round? Not to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, or to shelter the shelterless, but to support a fourth Queen's College. The Governmental screw was put on every man with a shilling in his pocket: but the appeal of the right hon. Baronet was flung in his face by the Catholic gentry. The right hon. Baronet had sneered at the begging-box; but let him never do so again, remembering that he had had recourse to it himself, and resorted to means that could not have had the approval of any sensible man en the Treasury bench. For where hostility was only dormant, he had evoked it, and where opposition was vague and timid, he, by his appeals, gave it strength and boldness. The right hon. Gentleman also sneered at agitators; but he himself was the most successful agitator who had everappeared in Ireland. With an expenditure of less time and less brains he had done more mischief than any of his predecessors: not that he had less brains, but that he had less time to expend them. In six weeks the peace of the community was blown to atoms. Ireland was at peace; the right hon. Baronet appeared, and in six weeks the peace of the country was blown to pieces. It was as if the noble Lord at the head of the Government had, in a fit of practical jocularity, thrown a bomb-shell into the middle of a peaceful community. He firmly believed that the right hon. Baronet had by his successful agitation done more to raise class against class and creed against creed than any agitator during the last ten years. ["No, no."] Hon. Gentlemen might say "no," but for the Chief Secretary to go into the midst of an Orange assembly, and attack a Catholic prelate, was not the way to promote peace and harmony in a country like Ireland, in which religious distinctions were, to say the least, strongly defined. To return to Mallow, which had sent round the abhorred begging-box, the Committee, presided over by a cousin of the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield), after stating that "the fearful number of one thousand beings" were in a state bordering on destitution, added— Those who know the aversion the labouring classes in Ireland have to entering the workhouse, will not be astonished to hear, that in order to avoid this alternative, and sustain life, they have parted and pledged every available article of furniture and clothing, reserving to themselves (in some cases visited by members of the Committee), literally nothing save a few rags to cover them. Of the city of Cork, he could quote a letter from the President of the Vincent Society, a gentleman well-known, and of the highest character and position, describing the state of want to which the depression of the times had reduced the working population and those who live by various branches of industry. The Catholic Bishop of Cork (the Bight Rev. Dr. Delany) adds most important testimony as to the state of things— I have been from the commencement an anxious observer of the progress of distress, and have arrived at the conclusion, formed, I believe, by almost every one here, that there will be extremely severe suffering endured by numbers of our poor people. All the small farmers are in the most deplorable position. No crops to pay their rents, nor money enough to purchase food or fuel for their afflicted families. The enormous deficit in last year's harvest will be destructive to the mechanics and poorer tradesmen, whose existence hangs on their employment, which depends on the produce of the soil, the foundation of almost all the trade and commerce of this country. Notwithstanding the imputation of want of self-reliance, ordinarily, but as in other cases unjustly, laid to the charge of the Irish people, the poor of this country generally will not enter the workhouse while the faintest ray of hope remains to them of sustaining life outside the walls of these institutions. The famine year demonstrated this. Tens of thousands perished within the precincts of the asylums prepared for them at enormous cost, simply because nothing could induce them to seek aid within their walls. When others did at last resort to this their only chance, they were so wasted by sickness and reduced by starvation, that medicine could not restore them, nor nutriment sustain them. He might proceed to quote a large number of other letters and documents in proof of what he had stated, but he would not further occupy the attention of the House. He had felt it to be his duty to bring forward the question as he had done, in vindication of his own truthfulness, and in proof of the brief statement which he had made on another occasion. He made no appeal ad misericordiam, he uttered no whine; he simply stated facts, and gave his authorities for them, and left the Government to act on its responsibility. He might, however, express an opinion that one of the best modes of alleviating distress would be to promote, by loan or otherwise, useful and reproductive works, such as railways, which would employ the idle and benefit the country. Two such lines might be assisted in the west of the county of Cork, a distressed district. The right hon. Baronet and his friends might say that agitators were endeavouring to exaggerate this distress; but the fact was, that he, for his own part, had pursued an entirely opposite course, having refused to allow any statements upon the subject to appear in the journal of which he had the control until despair had settled upon the mind of almost every man in Ireland, lest by so doing he should injure trade and damage individuals. But at length he had felt compelled to speak out, lest it should happen again, as in 1848, that there should not be time enough to act so as to avert a more extended suffering, and a more serious calamity. He would conclude by a single reference to the state of trade in Dublin, which would afford the House an idea of the general condition in Dublin. He had received two letters—one from a draper in Kingstown—the other from Mr. M'Swiney, of Dublin, of the extensive firm of M'Swiney, Delany, & Co. In these letters it was stated that in the linen and woollen houses in Dublin 25 per cent less persons were now employed than in 1859, and the salaries were also reduced by 25 percent. Mr. M'Swiney stated that the number of hands (clerks, &c.) out of employment during the past year was tenfold greater than the preceding year; and that Dublin was crowded with intelligent young men from the country offering themselves even for their keep, and willing to accept the humblest offices. The hon. Member thanked the House for the indulgence which it had shown him, especially as he had been compelled, in order to prove his case, to trouble them with a number of documents. He was most unwilling to have done so, but it was essential that he should rely on a number of authorities from various parts of the country. He was grateful for the patience and kindness with which he had been treated. In order to obtain the opportunity of reply, should such be necessary, he would conclude with moving that the Irish Poor Law Returns to the 15th instant be laid on the table of the House.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Irish Poor Law Returns up to the 15th day of this month, be laid before the House,"—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


Sir, the hon. Member has entered into a wide field of discussion, and has brought under the notice of the House a question which in years gone by was found well worthy to occupy the time and attention of Parliament, when it could be shown that there was no reason to apprehend that the statements adduced were tinged by exaggeration or prejudiced by faction. I believe the House of Commons would be just as ready now to listen to any statement calling for the sympathy, the advice, or the assistance of; Parliament. But before hon. Gentlemen pass an opinion on the observations of the hon. Member respectfully ask a few moments indulgence that I may have an opportunity of replying to them. I do not complain of the course taken by the hon. Gentleman; three times within a fortnight he has brought this subject under the notice of Parliament; but although I have abundant business of the department to transact at this moment, I shall always be ready to listen to him or any other hon. Gentleman who may bring forward in this House subjects bearing on the condition of the people, and especially of the poorer classes in Ireland. But it must have struck you, Sir, as well as many other hon. Gentlemen, that this lament, this cry of alarm, does not come—as it did in 1846, 1847, and 1848—from the landed proprietors in Ireland; it does not come from the tenant farmers; it does not come from the Parliamentary representatives of popular constituencies, or from the people themselves; it does not come, in fact, from those who have an opportunity of knowing what the real state and condition of Ireland is; but it is confined simply and solely to a very few persons in Ireland, of whom the hon. Member for Dungarvan is the representative in this House, whose opportunities of observation and whose knowledge of Ireland—I say it with complete Parliamentary respect—is, as every hon. Gentleman knows, of the most limited and subordinate character. In discussing the subject the hon. Gentleman, I am sorry to say, has gone into that most distasteful arena—personal attack. He has alluded to some things in connection with my visit to the West. He is quite at liberty to criticise that journey; but, at all events, it was undertaken with the best motives. As to my conduct at Londonderry, where I received the freedom of the city, as my father had done before me, I sec nothing whatever to retract. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into the region of personal attack; let us be above it. The cause I want to advocate—the cause of the people of Ireland—is based on a better and more solid foundation than can be acquired from the mere interchange of personal recrimination. But this I can tell the hon. Gentleman, that if I chose to avail myself of the opportunity, he has pretty well laid himself open to attack. But I will leave him to the enjoyment of an occupation which seems congenial to his own mind.

Now, in turning to consider the condition of Ireland, I must say, in the first place, that it is unfair towards the Irish Government to assert that it has not from the beginning been most sensitive of the actual state of the country. I bring to witness the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary in proof of my assertion, that from the very earliest moment I pointed out that considerable distress existed in Ireland; that there was failure in the potato crop; that the cereals were not such as they had been—in fact, that there were grounds to apprehend very considerable distress; and, to the credit, not of myself, but of the Irish Government, I will add that everything was done to meet any unusual pressure which might unexpectedly arise. The hon. Gentleman has sneered at my visit to parts of Ireland, but not two days after my return I wrote to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, telling him that I thought some things would be required to guard against the possibility of danger from famine. One was a steamer on the west coast of Ireland, for the purpose of relieving islands separated from the mainland by very boisterous seas, such as those in the Union of Belmullet, the islands of Arran, and other places. I also urged that in some remote districts, owing to want of accommodation, poor people afflicted with sudden distress would be unable to reach the workhouses where these were situated at some distance. The Government immediately replied that on the first call of necessity a steamer should be sent to the west coast of Ireland, and that twenty or thirty most admirably constructed carts—spring vans, which were made for the Crimea—would be forwarded to Dublin, for the purpose of being distributed to different parts of the country. They have been forwarded to Dublin, and have been instrumental in doing much good in places where no proper facilities of carriage existed. Subsequently I wrote to the Treasury expressing my belief that seven Poor Law inspectors would not be adequate to perform all the duties cast upon them in case any pressure arose, and asking whether they would sanction the additional expenditure requisite to make the four medical inspectors Poor Law inspectors. The Treasury wrote back to say, that to avoid all difficulty, they would at once grant the additional expenditure which might be necessary in case any pressure arose. Therefore, I must say that from the very earliest period we have sought to guard against the possibility of any undue pressure on the people at large. But more than that—early in September I sent 1,600 circulars to as many different parts of Ireland, urging upon the. parties with whom I was in correspondence to send me accurate and particular information, not only as to the state of the harvest, but as to the condition of the poorer classes generally. I think the House, therefore, will agree with me that in that respect the charges brought against the Government by the hon. Member for Dungarvan are most unfounded, and that we are justly entitled to the consideration of this House.

I will admit—in fact, I always have admitted—that the season in Ireland was most unfortunate. There is a registry of rain in the county of Galway, and it has been ascertained that the enormous quantity of upwards of fifty-seven inches fell in that part of the west of Ireland; and during the three harvest months of July, August, and September, more than twenty four inches of rain-water fell. It is, therefore, evident that the hay crop must have been seriously damaged. But, in the face of this unhappy state of things, I am glad to say that the sanitary state of the people of Ireland was never better. For, in addition to the inquiries made as to the food of the poorer classes, we have been most anxious to learn their sanitary condition; and I am glad to inform the House that in the four provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connaught, the reports of the public health are generally satisfactory. One from the province of Leinster, dated the 11th of January, states that the sanitary condition of the poorer classes has been favourably reported of by every medical officer in the district, and the affections incidental to the season are not more severe than in former years. In another, from Connaught, under date of the 7th of January, the Poor Law Inspector writes, "My district comprises six counties, with a population of 1,450,000;" and he speaks of the sanitary condition as admitting of comparison with corresponding periods of former years. From all that I can learn, there has not been that great suffering from ill-cooked food which was so prominent a cause of fever in the years 1847 and 1848. The hon. Member for Dungarvan admitted that there was a vast amount of apparent capital in the country, but his conclusions on the whole were very unfavourable. Now, I think the market and fair returns offer a tolerable criterion for hon. Gentle men to test the price of food in Ireland. There was a large fair held at Ballinasloe on the 11th of January, and the Report says, "The pig market was the largest ever seen in Ballinasloe, and the supply considerably in advance of this time twelvemonths." At the Kilkenny fair, in the same way, "there was a larger show of cattle of all kinds than was to be seen at the January fair in the previous year." Yesterday I received a letter from Cavan, and I shall refer to it, as the hon. Gentleman alluded to that place. [Mr. MAGUIRE: No, I did not.] I thought the hon. Gentleman alluded to Cavan; but, at all events, the communication is from a resident magistrate, and it states that on the 14th of February excellent potatoes were selling in the market of Arvagh in that county at from 3 3/4d. to 5d. the 14 lb. Another remarkable proof that there cannot have been any great apprehension of famine is afforded by the Returns of the contract prices paid for provisions in the different workhouses. It is a remarkable fact that, though higher than in 1859, they are about the same as the contract prices of 1860. In 1860 the contract price of Indian meal was £9 11s. 8d. a ton; it is now £9 11s. 11d.

Then we have heard a great deal of a fuel famine. No doubt there is a great scarcity in some of the places where peat is generally used; but I am glad to find that coal is used in Waterford and in other parts of Munster. In Ulster, it is much used in Londonderry, and also in some localities of Antrim, Down, and Tyrone. In Leinster it is used as the principal fuel in Carlow, Dublin, Kilkenny, Louth, Wexford, and Wicklow. In Connaught an immense quantity of coal has been imported by landlords and others. In Sligo much has been imported, and I have ascer- tained that there are about 115 coal depots in various parts of the west of Ireland. That speaks strongly as to the liberality with which the landlords have come forward. But the hon. Gentleman has read statements from a right rev. Prelate, Dr. Gilhooly, Dr. O'Hea, and several others, as to the sufferings of the people in different parts of the country. Now, I am sure I would not wish to claim the indulgence of the House in order to go into details at the length the hon. Member has done; but I shall read one or two extracts that will substantially test statements that have been circulated, and which have no foundation in fact. The hon. Gentleman particularly referred to the case of Roscommon. It is true that a deputation waited on the Lord Lieutenant with reference to the state of Roscommon. I was present at the interview between his Excellency and the deputation. Dr. Gilhooly certainly made a painful statement as to the condition of Roscommon; but I have received a letter from a working man in Sligo, who says that so far from the working men there being in a state of destitution, they are in the most comfortable condition that can possibly be, and that the Corporation of that town did not exaggerate in the statement which they made to me. I am told that in Sligo, at the very time that deputation from Roscommon was waiting on the Lord Lieutenant, the best Indian meal was selling at 1s. 2d. per 14 lb.; potatoes at 1s. 8d. the peck of 56 lb.; and new milk at 2d. per quart. Therefore, I say that the statements of Dr. Gilhooly were scarcely warranted by the facts. Then we have heard of the case of Berehaven, in the county of Cork, which is supposed to be one of the most destitute part of Ireland. Yesterday morning I received a letter from Castletown, Berehaven, written by the Chairman of the Board of Guardians. It is a complete reply to many of the assertions that have gained circulation about the place. It is; as follows:— I am the Chairman of the Board of Guardians of Castletown, Berehaven, a district considered to be one of the poorest in Ireland. When I, therefore, bear testimony to the general prosperity of my district, I think that the state of it may be taken as a fair criterion of the west of Ireland. … The present 'distress agitation 'is easily traceable… The landlords in this part of the country have shown great leniency to their tenants in the matter of rent, and have done their duty liberally in cases of real distress; and I think I express the opinion of most Irish landlords when I say that I should indignantly reject any external assistance (even from Government) for any of my tenantry or neighbourhood. I think that is a triumphant answer to the statement made at a public meeting, that the people were dying by hundreds. ["No, No."] It was stated that they were without food, and that if the Government did not come to their assistance, the landlords, instead of finding tenants, would not find a sheep to feed on their farms. There is a report from the Poor Law Inspector of the district which states that, though the farming classes have suffered, the number of paupers in the workhouse has not much increased. I have a letter from East Carbery, which is as follows:— Manch House, Enis Kean, County of Cork, Jan.10, 1862. Sir,—It becomes my duty to enclose a memorial to his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, unanimously adopted at a presentment session for the barony of the western division of East Carbery on the 6th inst. by the justices and cess- payers, to request a loan from the Government for the West Cork Railway. I have great pleasure to be able to state to you, for the information of his Excellency, that the labouring classes in this barony are fully employed at good wages, and that the famine cry lately attempted to be got up has proved a complete failure. The number in our workhouse is very few, I have the honour to be, Sir, DANIEL CONNER, J.P., Chairman of the magistrates and associated cesspayers for the Eastern Division of East Carbery Sessions. To General Sir Thomas Larcom. Now, there was a very remarkable statement made, with regard to the Headford tenantry, by Father Conway to the Tuam Board of Guardians. It was that in the Headford district there were hundreds of persons in such want as to require the guardians to supply carts to carry them to the workhouse in Tuam. "What is the answer made to that statement by Mr. Botterill, agent of Mr. St. George, the landlord of the Headford property— I was greatly surprised at the account given by him (the Rev. Mr. Conway) of the state of affairs in this neighbourhood (he writes from Headford, Nov. 27 (1861), of which I, for one, was completely ignorant, and I am glad to say, on reference to the books of the relieving officer, it appears that from the 1st of September to the 26th of November there have been but eight applications made to him for relief in his entire district, which embraces nine electoral divisions, an extent far beyond that of which Mr. Conway speaks, only three of which were from Headford property, and these applications were less by three than those made by the relieving officers during the corresponding period of I860. Expecting not to be answered, Mr. Conway goes forward, and makes that statement to raise a cry against the landlords. The hon. Gentleman read a letter from a clergyman named Fisher. The place to which it refers is the last I shall allude to. It is on the very extreme of the Roman Catholic diocese of Tuam.


No; the place I referred to is Kilmore, in the West Riding of the county Cork.


Is it? Well, the hon. Gentleman read a letter from Mr. Fisher. Now a Gentleman (Mr. D'Arcy) writing to a colonel in the array, gives to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman this triumphant refutation. He says— The fact is, an alarm has been raised by the priests to frighten the people and call in the aid of the Government, and thus local efforts have been checked. That I can perfectly understand. The writer went on to say— Because, although it is true that there has been pressure, and the price of fuel was raised—and I admit that several Roman Catholic priests were indignant at this—yet there has been no pressure with respect to food, and we have got a special coal fund. I have closely watched the state of the people, and I do not think I ever saw so large a market as we had last Saturday. That was at the end of December. Then, as regards Galway, I have the testimony of my hon. Friend the Member for Galway, who, without my requesting his opinion on the subject, wrote to me to the following effect:— I have taken some pains to ascertain how things stand in my part of the world, and, as far as I can ascertain the real state of the case, it seems that there will be a sufficient supply of food. The hon. Gentleman also referred to Donegal. I shall not, however, trouble the House by reading all the communications which I have received with regard to that district. I may at the same time be permitted to state that I have had a letter from Lord George Hill, who lives in the district of Gweedore, where great suffering existed, and who says he is satisfied a great improvement has taken place in his locality, and that the people all pay their rent. I do not know whether I need refer to any other district for proving to the House and the country that the statements that great distress exists in Ireland are by no means correct. The fact I believe to be that the condition of that country is sound and satisfactory, and I may be permitted to allude to one or two points which will infallibly prove to the House that the view of the subject which I take is correct. In support of that view, then, I may observe that in the year 1847, 20,986 cases of outrage in Ireland were reported to the Government, while last year the number was only 3,581. [Mr. MAGUIRE: But then you do not take into account the difference in the population.] The difference in the population is, no doubt, considerable, but I defy the hon. Gentleman, with all his agitation of the other day, to succeed in making the people of Ireland disloyal, or to cause them in any way to act against the Government of Great Britain. In 1833 the Government passed an Irish Coercion Bill, and I recollect well its being stated the year before that £12,000 in the shape of rewards had been offered for the capture of criminals in that country, and that only two small rewards out of that amount had ever been asked for. I may add that in that year 196 murders took place, while last year there were only twenty-four, four of which only could be said to be of an agrarian character. I shall now take the number of evictions, which will furnish a fair criterion of the increased prosperity of the country. There were, I find, in 1850 actually 74,000 persons evicted in Ireland, while in 1861 the number was only 3,349. I have beyond; these figures obtained comparative returns with respect to the counties of Lancaster and Cork which will, I think, afford a notable instance of the little reliance which is to be placed on the arguments with respect to the great distress prevalent in the latter county which have been used by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. I find from those returns that the number of persons in the workhouses in Lancashire—for, although unhappily there has been great distress in that county it has been nobly and generously borne by the people—is 15,900, the workhouse accommodation being for 20,858. I also find that the number receiving outdoor relief is 82,990, the population being 2,453,000; so that the percentage of the inhabitants of Lancashire in receipt of poor relief is four per cent, while in Cork it is only 1.48. But the hon. Gentleman will, perhaps, remind us that Lancashire is a manufacturing county, and that it is not fair to institute a comparison between it and Cork, which is agricultural. Well, then, I will take Norfolk, which I look on as an agricultural county, for the purpose of the comparison, and I find that in that county there are 426,000 inhabitants; that the number of in-door paupers is 4,740, the number of out-door 26,000; while there is workhouse accommodation for 9,557, the total rate percent receiving poor relief being seven, while in Cork, it is, as I said before, only 1.48. How then can the hon. Gentleman complain of the partial distress in Ireland, when there exists a still greater amount of; distress in this country, arising from depression in trade and other causes. I would also remind the hon. Gentleman, that when he speaks of Ireland as suffering from a depression of trade, he ought to recollect that there are in that country, 1,600,000 acres under cultivation more than in 1853, while the population has become less by three-quarters of a million. I have, I may add, this day received assurances from seven or eight lieutenants of counties in Ireland entirely corroborating the statements which I have made. These assurances come from Lords Bantry and Bandon, the Lord Lieutenant of the county of Mayo, who writes to me to say that the distress from want of food has not been severe or general. Lord Ross, the Lord Lieutenant of the King's County, said— I am happy to say that there is no distress in this county, except in a few of the poorer districts. Fuel is bad, but, fortunately, the winter is mild; food is abundant, and not above the usual price, but there is a want of good fuel. Lord Water ford stated— Unfortunate as had been the result of the late harvest, the amount of destitution in this county at least is not beyond the compass of local resources to relieve. The hon. Gentleman has attacked the Poor Law system in Ireland, and stated that its returns afforded no just criterion of the sufferings of the people. I maintain exactly the contrary, for I am satisfied that there is no better test of the pauperism of Ireland than the applications made for out-door relief in that country. I have a letter from Cavan from one of the most liberal-hearted Irishmen that ever lived, Lord Furnham, a man who from time to time has done immense good in his district, and he says— Provisions of every kind are considerably cheaper than they were at the corresponding period of 1846, and there is ample employment for able-bodied men, I am afraid I have trespassed too long on the time of the House in bringing under its notice these details to refute the statements which have been made with respect to imaginary grievances in Ireland. The time, indeed, once was when real griev- ances harassed and afflicted Ireland, and arrested her progress and retarded the development of her resources. I am, however, happy to think that the conciliatory-policy of successive Governments, and the wise forbearance of the House of Commons, have brought about a great change in her condition, and that the Ireland of to-day is no longer the same as she was when another held the position" which I have now the honour to occupy. I rejoice to see how vast are the strides which she has made in prosperity since the time when speculative doctrines of government and imaginary schemes of independence prevailed and were used as engines not for her welfare but to inflame the public mind and to stir up fresh sources of popular excitement. That time is at an end, and the people of Ireland now, I believe, have yielded to the good influences of the age in which we live, and to the efforts, for her regeneration, of wise and enlightened statesmen. Of the justice of that opinion no more remarkable proof can be adduced than that which took place the other day when there was danger of a rupture with America, and Ireland was filled with American emissaries who were trying to raise there a spirit of disloyalty. A meeting was then held in the Rotunda. I well recollect what took place there, at which a few manikin traitors sought to imitate the cabbage-garden heroes of 1848; but, I am glad to say, they met with no response. There was not one to follow. There was not a single man of respectability in the country who answered the appeal. And why is that so? It is because Ireland is changed. The thoughts of the present generation are, I am happy to say, directed into better courses. They are directed to acquiring sound principles of political economy, to the advancement of education, to the suppression of crime, to the reformation of criminals, and to the development of the resources of Ireland. Thus it is that Ireland is improving, and it is my firm conviction that the evidences of prosperity are daily becoming more apparent in that social and political harmony which happily now illustrates the union between Great Britain and Ireland. I thank the House for having allowed me to make these few remarks. If I speak every Friday night on the state of Ireland, I will do so with the greatest pleasure. But, at the same time, I will still continue, until facts are submitted to me to make me believe the contrary, to assert my deliberate and determined conviction that there is no famine—that there is no unusual distress in the sister isle.


said, that he had no desire to prolong the discussion, but no Irishman who was properly jealous of the honour of his country ought by his silence to admit that the destitution alleged by the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) on the first night of the Session and again that night was either so general, or of such a nature as to demand extraordinary intervention from the Legislature. He acknowledged that a great amount of distress had prevailed in consequence of the inclemency of the weather for the last two seasons, the partial failure of several crops, and the difficulty of saving and procuring fuel. He was willing to admit that the distress had not been confined to the western and southwestern parts, and that in the north of Ireland the weavers had suffered from a deprivation of their best market through the failure of the American trade, contemporaneous with a deficiency in the produce of the soil. While admitting a great amount of suffering, of which he had been a personal witness, he ascribed it to temporary and accidental causes, and he protested against any Imperial alms or rates in aid, while, as he believed, there were the means to provide relief within the compass and control of the resources of Ireland itself. It was only in exceptional cases of the direst necessity that it was the duty of the Government to feed a population, and he could not admit that this was one of those cases. In Londonderry, which he had the honour to represent, the actual number of paupers now receiving Union relief did not amount to a sixth of the number for which ordinary accommodation was provided. He had heard with pleasure the statement of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary, and he was glad to find that the statement of his right hon. Friend on a previous occasion, in which he avowed his reliance on the capability of Ireland, had been more than endorsed by the intelligent and reflecting portion of the Irish people. His right hon. Friend had truly stated that these were altered times, compared with the calamitous years 1846, 1847, and 1848, when a bankrupt proprietary had not the means, though he believed they had the inclination, to effect the salvation of the people, and that those who now possessed the rights of property were perfectly able and willing to discharge the corresponding duties which attached to their enjoyment of those rights. No one who remembered the history of those years of calamity could desire to see repeated the well-intentioned but utterly futile schemes to give employment to the people—schemes which resulted only in the demoralization of the people, and in a culmination of embarrassment on those who had the misfortune to possess land. He could assure his hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan that the citizens of Londonderry and himself were upon the best possible terms, and that they intended to remain so. His right hon. Friend had been most cordially received in that distinguished city, and would be received with the same warmth of feeling whenever he should visit it again. He hoped his right hon. Friend would continue to act upon his own, and those impressions, which were founded on the reports of persons best able to estimate accurately the condition and wants of the Irish people. He felt confidence in his right hon. Friend's administration of public affairs during an emergency which had already passed its worst stage, and, although he was not a supporter of the Government of which his right hon. Friend was the responsible officer, he admitted that he was proud of the sterling intrepidity of purpose which had characterized his right hon. Friend's administration, and which, if persevered in, as he believed it would be, must obtain the praise of all who recognised ability and success, distinct and apart from political and party considerations.


said, he thought the discussion had arisen entirely from the animus of the remarks of the hon. Member for Dungarvan and the eccentric qualities of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary. He did not see why distress in Ireland should be regarded in a different light to distress in England. There was distress in Ireland, but there was also distress in Manchester; in the one case it was a dearth of corn, in the other a dearth of cotton; but the people of Manchester did not come to that House for relief. There were the same local means of relief in Ireland as in Manchester, and he asserted that the landowners of Ireland were willing to supply the wants of the suffering population, and he was sure that it was the desire of every enlightened Irishman to work out his own deliverance. If the distress entailed so large a tax upon capital as to endanger the prosperity of the country, then, and then only, it would be the duty of Government to advance loans, insisting on repayment when the evil time had passed. That Ireland was an exception to the United Kingdom was the fault of the Government. The repetition of personal discussions, such as they had heard that night between the Irish Secretary and the hon. Member for Dungarvan, would not tend to raise the Irish people or the Irish representatives in the eyes of the country. The sooner such exchanges of courtesies were put an end to the better. He believed that Irish gentlemen were fully aware of their responsibilities, and were quite ready to meet them; but to come to Parliament asking for aid, until it had been shown that they had done all in their power to meet the distress, would be endangering the future prospects of the country.


said, he rose with much reluctance to take part in the discussion, but could not sit silent after the constant references to several localities in the county of Cork. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet should have imported into the debate topics which had no connection with the subject before them. He should not follow him into his "cabbage garden," or discuss "mannikin traitors" and "American emissaries." The question they had to consider was, whether there was distress in Ireland, and the extent of it. He did not understand how any person acquainted with that country could doubt the existence of great distress, though no one had asserted it was universal, or that there was danger of death from starvation. The Chief Secretary admitted that he had at one time apprehended severe distress, and had taken credit for active efforts to avert it; those efforts consisting in 1,600 printed circulars, some Crimean bread-carts sent into distressed districts, and a promise to send a Government steamer to the western coast of Ireland. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) had concluded with a formal Motion for the production of Poor Law returns. He thought it might have been better to have made some substantive Motion—which might yet become necessary—such as a Select Committee to inquire into the extent of existing distress, and the best mode of relief. The only applications which had been made for any Government aid, as regarded the constitu- ency with which he was connected, wore, that well-secured loans should be made out of public funds for the construction of two railways towards the west of the county of Cork, which ought to receive encouragement even in prosperous times, and would confer imperial benefit, by contributing towards the national defences of such assailable harbours as Bantry Bay and Crookhaven. It had been further suggested that the "War Office should expedite the erection of intended defence works at Bere Island. In no other form had he heard of any Irish begging-box having been presented to the present Government. He very much regretted that on this distressing subject any acrimonious tone should have been adopted by the combatants on either side; and he trusted such duels would not be renewed. The Irish representatives had no personal antipathy to the present Chief Secretary. Indeed, in one sense, he was rather a favourite with some of them; his excited style of address being more Irish than that of the Irish Members themselves. The right hon. Baronet had exhibited his inexperience most notably that evening by quoting, as conclusive authorities, Irish landlords and Irish police. He seemed to attach no importance to the deliberate opinions of half a dozen Catholic prelates, engaged in laborious visitations of their respective dioceses, as compared with the testimony of an anonymous working man at Sligo. He had also relied much upon a volunteer letter from the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory). In answer to that communication, he would now take the liberty to read another volunteer letter, addressed to the right hon. Baronet by one of the members for the county Cork— I have no wish whatever to raise or renew unprofitable controversies in the House of Commons, and I consider it the fairest as well as most useful course to communicate to you personally my grounds for believing (knowing, I might say) that extreme destitution now exists in some localities in Ireland; though freely admitting there is no absolute famine, and that many districts are still exempt from any unusual distress. The counties with which I am best acquainted are Tipperary, where I have property, and Cork, which I represent. As to those two counties (one-eighth of Ireland), I have already stated, as the result of local observation, that dairy and sheep farmers have had a good year, but that small tillage farmers had a miserable harvest; potatoes and wheat having failed, and oats being a deficient crop. Turf also could not be saved, owing to the wetness of the season. There may be sufficient supplies of foreign food and fuel, but many persons have not the means to purchase. Enclosed are printed appeals from relief committees established in the comparatively wealthy towns of Clonmel and Tipperary; Mallow, county of Cork, also a rich district; Kanturk and Skibbereen. Among the subscribers you will observe clergymen of both denominations, and other faith-worthy names, including, at Mallow, a distinguished gentleman closely connected with your department. At Sligo, also, you will notice the mayor and town council, with the resident magistrate and sub-inspector of constabulary, about twenty justices of the peace, two M.P.s, and one noble proprietor (Viscount Palmerston), who contributes the liberal subscription of £20. You will, perhaps, collect from those appeals, as well as from others which may have reached your hands, that there is some extreme destitution in various localities; but that with few exceptions (such as Bere Island), it is still chiefly confined in each instance to some populous town, into which has been concentrated the accumulated, pauperism of surrounding electoral divisions. Hence, as at Skibbereen, demands are again being made for union rating. I beg likewise to direct your especial attention to statements made at a public meeting in Kanturk by the Very Rev. Mr. 0'Regan, P.P., a gentleman whom, from long and intimate intercourse, I know to be incapable of misrepresentation. The Mansion House meeting, in the Irish Metropolis, with its Lord Mayor and Catholic Archbishop, confirm provincial statements. Having taken the liberty to submit these evidences of local distress in Ireland, in a temperate and friendly form, I trust they may assist your other information to judge rightly for the good of the country. He (Mr. Vincent Scully) had thought it his duty to address to the Chief Secretary that well-considered letter, accurately describing—perhaps rather understating—the existing distress. The right hon. Baronet had that evening heard a letter from the right rev. Dr. Keane. That Prelate, evidently writing under a sense of deep responsibility, and wishing to avoid exaggeration of any sort, after visiting his large diocese, which comprised about two-thirds of the county Cork, stated, that there should be no anxiety to prove too much or too little; there would be no famine, but distress severe and general had come upon the small tillage farmers, the shop-keepers in country towns, and the local tradesmen and labourers. The right hon. Baronet was rather too much addicted to act on his own impressions; and when he had formed that opinion, he not only did not care two rows of pins for all the Catholic bishops of Ireland, but, perhaps, had no greater respect for the opinions of those who sat with him on the Treasury Bench. The local gentry and larger farmers often went to Cork or Dub- lin for their goods; consequently, when the small tillage farmers were ruined, the local shop-keepers followed; and the labourers and tradesmen were involved in the common calamity. It might be asked, why did not the destitute classes avail themselves of the relief in poorhouses? As to the small farmers, it should be remembered that the Quarter-acre Clause was still in active operation, which absolutely excluded them from all poorhouse relief, unless on the condition of reducing themselves and their families to perpetual pauperism. The Very Rev. Dr. O'Regan, P. P. of Kanturk, had stated that he had often advised his poor parishioners to enter the poorhouse, and had remonstrated with them on their feelings of false pride. That reverend gentleman was well known to several Irish Members on both sides of the House, having attended here last Session, when he gave most valuable evidence before the Select Committee as to the proposed Registration of Births, Deaths, and Marriages in Ireland. There could be no better-informed or more reliable witness, and in a letter dated Kanturk, February 18, 1862, he wrote— I have been incessantly engaged in efforts to relieve the frightful miseries of some of our poor people. Now that our funds are exhausted, they will, many of them being brought to death's door, go into the workhouse. Be assured there is great and deep distress at the present moment, and that the small farmers were never since the famine years, nor even then, reduced to a more pitiable extent. Without meaning to suggest the least imputation, he (Mr. Vincent Scully) would merely make the general observation that classes and individuals instinctively pursued their own interests. It was the interest of many landlords in Ireland to avoid, on the one hand, any appearance of such destitution among small tillage farmers as might afford an excuse for not paying their full rents, and to hold out the other hand for generous contributions to avert increased poor rates Both in his present statements and in his letter to the Chief Secretary he had cautiously avoided all exaggeration or intemperate expressions. The letters read that evening by the hon. Member for Dungarvan had shown that the existing distress was rather more wide-spread than he had before supposed; but he understood the Right Rev. Dr. Gillooly to be of opinion that it did not as yet extend to more than 10 per cent of the population in his extensive diocese of Elphin. He trusted sincerely that the anticipations of the Secretary for Ireland would prove correct, and that increased pressure would not hereafter be felt. He greatly feared, however, that the distress had not yet reached its worst. Among other testimonies to the improved state of Ireland the right hon. Baronet might have mentioned that in no place had any attempt been made to break open corn stores or to stop food-carts, such as had been made in 1846–7, nor had any person so much as suggested any such riotous conduct. In conclusion, he would again emphatically deny that at Skull, Skibbereen, or elsewhere in the county Cork, had any attempt whatever been made to excite the tenants against their landlords. On the contrary, he would confidently appeal to his hon. Colleague opposite, who differed from him in politics, whether there had not recently been much fraternization between both classes. ["Hear!"] He trusted such mutual good feelings would prove enduring and sincere.


said, he could corroborate what had been stated in regard to the reluctance of even the most destitute persons in Ireland to enter the poor-houses. It had been asked why the same complaints did not arise in England, which was equally subject to the vicissitudes of trade and bad harvests, as in Ireland. The reason was that in England distress was relieved without compelling the destitute poor in every case to go into the workhouses. One great difference existed between the circumstances of Ireland in 1846–7 and at present. Then there was no food. Now there was no scarcity of food, and every labourer who could find employment would be able to maintain himself and his family. He hoped the worst of the distress was nearly over. After the middle of March there would be no want of employment; indeed, it was a general complaint that there were in general not sufficient labourers to be found for the work to be done. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Cork as to the expediency of giving relief in the shape of advances for public works; the experience of 1846 and 1847 was against the proposal, and he hoped the Government, warned by the results of the past, would not again fall into a similar error.


said, that whilst admitting the ability and honesty with which the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) had brought the subject forward, as well as the purity of the in- tentions and the warm-heartedness of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland, he thought that the truth in this matter, as in many other cases, lay between their respective statements. He would endeavour to avoid both Scylla and Charybdis by steering between the two extremes in expressing his opinions as to the actual condition of the country. It was true that distress to a considerable extent prevailed in different parts of the country, especially in some localities in the south and west of Ireland. He thought that amongst the authorities quoted by the hon Member for Dungarvan the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cloyne had stated perhaps most accurately the actual Condition of things. That right rev. prelate observed that, after the best consideration of the case, it was his opinion that there would be no famine in Ireland, but undoubtedly there was a considerable pressure. He (Mr. Longfield) would first refer to Skibbereen. He believed that the distress there was considerable, but he had the great happiness of knowing that that distress was met in the most proper way—namely, by the local exertions, the local energy, and the personal contributions of the landlords of the neighbourhood. They felt that the distress was an evil not brought about by man, but inflicted by Providence, and that the exertions of man were capable of mitigating it. He had a small property, unfortunately, there; he would that it were larger, and that it were elsewhere. As an Irishman, nothing gave him greater pleasure than paying a tribute of respect to a political enemy; and he was happy to acknowledge that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland had evinced his anxiety to serve the most distressed districts and to devolop the resources of Ireland generally. The conduct of the right hon. Baronet was most creditable to him, and he would probably accept that tribute of thanks with greater satisfaction as it came from one who was not an. habitual supporter, but an habitual opponent of the Government. The hon. Member (Mr. Maguire) had referred to the West Cork Railway. He (Mr. Long-field) had not, and he never would hold a single share; but as a gentleman resident in that part of the country, and well acquainted with its resources—who would never be benefited by that railway if it were made, nor injured by it if it should not be carried out—he had no hesitation in stating his concurrence with the opinion of the hon. Member for Dungarvan that there could scarcely be a more judicious exercise of the paternal care of the Government than by aiding the progress of public works which were calculated to develop the resources of a great locality rich in everything that constituted real wealth when properly developed. The hon. Member for Cork County (Mr. Leader) and himself, in company with two gentlemen from Skibbereen, had waited upon the Secretary for Ireland, for the purpose of representing the resources of the district to which he referred, and the advantage of Government aid being given for their development. They were received by the right hon. Baronet in the most kind and sympathizing spirit. They did not speak of their poverty, nor solicit alms, but they showed to him the nature of their claims for assistance. He should be much disappointed, indeed, if the result of that statement was not followed up by the aid which they required. If it were otherwise, he should be disposed to attribute the disappointment to this unfortunate discussion, which, perhaps, in the ears of the right hon. Baronet, might sound like threats, censure, and coercion. He certainly could not attribute the failure to any want of sympathy on the part of the right hon. Baronet, believing that he took a deep interest in the welfare of the country. In reference to the case of Mallow, he regretted to say that the statement of the hon. Member for Dungarvan was but too true. He had made the fullest inquiries into the condition of that town; and he found out of its 5,000 inhabitants 1,000 were suffering considerable pressure. With a feeling of some little humiliation he made that confession; at the same time it was with the greatest pride he alluded to the exertions and the noble self-sacrifices which were displayed by the gentry of the neighbourhood in the relief of the distress. He was happy to say that those exertions had been already attended with much success. He did not agree with the hon. Member for Dungarvan in thinking that the State of the workhouses was no indication of the condition of the country. It appeared to him that it afforded a strong evidence of the condition of the people, by enabling the House to draw comparisons of the distress which prevailed from year to year. In 1860, on the 7th of January, the number of inmates in the Mallow workhouse was 240. In 1861, at the same period, it was 283; and in January, 1862, the number had increased to 366. The relief committee formed there, consisting of Protestants and Roman Catholics, Conservatives and their opponents, were working most harmoniously and energetically together, and their benevolent efforts were fast attended with success. Already the number of inmates in the workhouse had been reduced by twenty, and the distress in the towns had also been alleviated. In a short time that distress and pressure, now unfortunately severe in Mallow, would, he trusted, be completely relieved.


said, that he had not intended to take any part in the discussion, but the speech of the right hon. Baronet would compel him to address a few observations to the House. The right hon. Baronet had told the House that "this lament," as he had called it, had not come in any way from the landlords, or from the tenant-farmers of the country, or from any one at all acquainted with the real condition of the people; he said that it had been tinged with exaggeration, that it had been urged by passion, that the knowledge of the parties with whom it originated was limited and of a very subordinate character. Such having been the language of the right hon. Baronet, he (The 0'Conor Don) felt that as a landlord in the west of Ireland, and in one of its most distressed counties, he could not sit silent. Another reason was, that he had had the honour of waiting on his Excellency, as the head of a deputation, to lay before him the condition of the country. That deputation consisted not of parties unacquainted with the condition of the people, not of persons whose knowledge was limited or of a subordinate character; it was composed almost entirely of landlords, most of them resident, most of them magistrates, and most of them ex officio Poor Law guardians. Now, the right hon. Baronet laid great stress on the statement of an ex officio Poor Law guardian, even without giving his name. He would briefly state a few of the facts which the deputation put before his Excellency. They presented petitions signed by the most respectable persons in fifty parishes of the counties of Roscommon and Sligo—men of every religious denomination and of different political views—and their statements were to this effect:—That there were about 5,000 persons holding small farms who were likely to be distressed, that there were over 9,000 persons in those fifty parishes who possessed no land at all, who were mere labourers, dependent on their earnings, and who were also likely to be distressed; also, that the failure of the potato crop was about three-fourths, that of the oat crop one-fourth, while there was a complete and total failure of fuel. Those statements were laid before the Lord Lieutenant, and the right hon. Baronet was present on the occasion. The right hon. Baronet had every opportunity of inquiring into the accuracy of those statements; the deputation did not wish that they should be taken solely upon their authority, but that every means should be adopted for testing their truth. What, then, was his astonishment when the only answer that the right hon. Baronet was able to give to those statements was simply a letter from a working man at Sligo—a working man whose name he did not communicate to the House? But the whole speech of the right hon. Baronet greatly astonished him. He was prepared to hear that the distress did not amount to famine, that it would not warrant the Government in giving any very extensive relief, but he was hardly prepared to hear that the sufferings of the people were imaginary, and that the condition of the country was sound and satisfactory. During the last autumn and winter he had been a constant resident in the country; he had had, perhaps, not very enlarged opportunities of discovering the condition of the people; but, as far as he could judge, he had come to the conclusion that the state of the country was very different from that represented by the right hon. Baronet. He thought it unnecessary to go again over the same ground as the hon. Member for Dungarvan had already occupied, but he desired the right hon. Baronet to go to the Quarter Sessions and ask the barristers who presided over the Small Debts Courts whether they believed that the condition of the country was sound and wholesome? If it turned out that they were obliged to continue their sittings longer than usual in order to clear off the extraordinary number of cases, he would ask the reason of that. Was it because the debtors wished to have the pleasure of paying the costs, or of patronizing some local attorneys? Certainly not. It was simply because they could not meet the demands made upon them. Let him ask the bankers, too, whether they had made no alteration in their practice of lending money, and had not refused credit altogether, because they feared to trust those whom they knew to be in abject distress. Speaking from his own experience, he could state that in that portion of his county (Roscommon) in which there were many small tenants and small landowners, the greatest distress prevailed in consequence of the failure of the potato crop, on which those persons and their families usually depended for subsistence. What, on the other hand, were the proofs adduced for the purpose of making the House believe that the condition of Ireland was wholesome and satisfactory? First, there was the experience of the right hon. Baronet, who told the House that he had witnessed with his own eyes the state of Ireland, and that he accomplished this feat by spending more than three days in travelling over 300 miles of the country. He would leave that testimony to the judgment of the House, and pass on to the argument respecting the number of people in the workhouses. Notwithstanding what bad fallen from the hon. Member for Dungarvan, the right hon. Baronet still maintained that the state of the workhouses was proof that there was no great distress, but the repugnance of the people to enter the unions, rendered that test, except incidentally, a perfectly fallacious one. It had been argued that, as there was abundance of provisions in the country, there could be no real or positive distress. That he did not admit. When the right hon. Baronet visited Sligo, a deputation told him that there was abundance of grain to meet the necessities of the country, but that there were certain poor people on a neighbouring mountain who had not got much money, and that the grant of a little would enable them to come down into the town and purchase at their stores. That last addition to their representation was sufficient to show that with plenty of provisions in a country there might still exist distress. But it might be urged that provisions were cheap—and he would admit that in the part of Ireland where he resided the price of oats was low; but that was rather an aggravation than an alleviation of the distress, for the persons who suffered most severely by it were the small holders of land, who, in consequence of the failure of the potato crop, which usually served as their means of subsistence, were obliged for their support to sell their grain at a depreciated value. Another consideration was that the crop of the previous year had been a bad one, and so when the present failure occurred the creditors came down upon the small farmers, and what crops they had were forced into the market, causing a fall in the price. That, however, instead of palliating the evil, proved its existence and aggravated it. These very persons might be compelled hereafter to buy at a higher price than they had sold for, and the corn merchants would then alone gain the benefit. Nor did he see that the distress was likely to become less as the season advanced, for the failure in the crops would not be remedied until the next harvest. If, indeed, the distress were confined to the labouring classes, it might be diminished as spring advanced and the demand for work increased. But it was not the ordinary frequenters of the workhouses who had suffered most. The statement of the right hon. Baronet as to the condition of the country was exaggerated. He did not mean to say that the distress approached that of the famine year, but in certain parts of the country there existed the utmost destitution and misery; and this had been recorded not by men whose information was limited and subordinate, but by those well acquainted with the country. He was no professional or disappointed agitator. He stated nothing from any other motive than because he believed it to be true. He was a landlord in one of the distressed districts, and had nothing to gain by making out the distress to be worse than it really was. The only proofs produced by the right hon. Baronet consisted of letters from different persons in different parts of Ireland, stating that they did not believe the distress to be so great as was represented. These statements might be correct, for no one had alleged that the distress extended over the whole country, but in other parts the existence of distress was undoubted. Then the right hon. Gentleman referred to the large number of pigs exposed for sale in Ballinasloe and other fairs, and inferred from this fact that the country must be prosperous. But the fact rather seemed to tell the other way, and to show that the people had been compelled to part with their pigs from the want of other food on which to support themselves. As to the argument that the Poor Law Inspectors in some districts had presented satisfactory returns, it might well be that the distress was confined to certain districts only; but if it could be shown that much distress prevailed there, it could hardly be said that the sufferings of the people were imaginary, and that the condition of the country was sound and satisfactory. He might be asked, "Why raise this cry of distress? Why drag before an English audience the sufferings of your country, if you do not expect thereby to alleviate those sufferings?" He confessed that he felt no pleasure in raising the cry of distress, and would much rather declare that the people were happy and prosperous; but when it was alleged here and elsewhere that exaggerated statements had been made on this subject by the clergy, by landlords, magistrates, and Poor Law guardians, he thought that Irish gentlemen were bound to state their opinions publicly in that House. To bewail or parade their grievances was not a characteristic of Irishmen. Irishmen would endure as much as any other people to preserve their character, and they had, he hoped, as high a sense of honour and as acute a sense of shame as any other nation. He, therefore, regretted the necessity of that painful discussion. It was humiliating to an Irishman to have his country pointed out as a country which was unable to support itself; while, on the other hand, if he admitted that the present severe distress was imaginary, he would be mocking the sufferings of his afflicted countrymen. When the appeal was made to foreign countries for the relief of the misery produced in France by the inundation of the Rhone, or when, not long ago, the inhabitants of British India appealed to the people of England and Ireland for the relief of their distress caused by famine, no one pretended that such appeals were disgraceful to those by whom they were I made. Nor, again, was there supposed to be anything humiliating in the fact that a subscription was opened throughout England and Ireland for the families of the sufferers by the unhappy catastrophe at the Hartley Colliery. Why, then, should the Chief Secretary for Ireland, when a dire calamity had befallen that country, get up in his place and taunt those who were endeavouring to elicit the sympathies of the humane with handing round the begging-box, or with doing what was humiliating and disgraceful? He entirely repudiated that imputation, and he would tell the right hon. Baronet that his speech was a lamentable failure, for it had not overturned, or even attempted to overturn, a single argument put forward by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. The statements that had been made respecting the distress in Ireland were substantially correct, and, at least, if they had been capable of refutation the right hon. Baronet ought to have refuted them. Some hon. Gentlemen, while acknowledging that considerable suffering existed, had yet maintained that the resources of the country were of themselves quite adequate to meet it. That, however, was not the spirit in which the right hon. Baronet had dealt with the question. He, on the contrary, asserted that the alleged distress was unsupported by any authority to which weight could be attached. [Sir ROBERT PEEL: "Hear, hear."] No doubt the right hon. Baronet was sincere in his own opinion, but he could tell him that the reports of distress were supported by the testimony of landlords, magistrates, and clergymen, who were well acquainted with the real condition of the country, and whose veracity could not be impeached. In conclusion, he had to thank the House for the patience with which it had listened to him, and to assure it that he would not have trespassed at such length upon its indulgence had he not felt that the question raised that night was not merely a question between the right hon. Baronet and the hon. Member for Dungarvan, but one in which every Irishman, and above all every Irish landlord, was deeply interested.


said, that he regretted that the discussion had not been allowed to terminate immediately after the close of the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary's able and convincing speech. He could not understand what object was to be served by prolonging the debate; and it was not pretended that a case had been made out for demanding assistance from the Imperial Exchequer. He had himself been much surprised to hear the hon. Member for Dungarvan's statements as to the alleged general and pressing distress in Ireland, and had felt strongly inclined at the time to get up and contradict some of them Coming from the centre of Ireland, he could state that food was abundant in that part of the country; and though fuel was certainly scarce, the deficiency of that article had been greatly made up for by the contributions of the landlords, especially of those whose estates were well-wooded. The right hon. Baronet had satisfactorily answered the allegation of the hon. Member for Dungarvan; and it was to be hoped that, while Ireland was quite able to relieve its own distress, its miseries would not be dragged unnecessarily before that House.


said, that he considered that, in the course of the debate, hon. Members had entirely wandered from the subject. The Government had been charged with ignoring the distress which they were called upon to relieve. One part of that distress, it appeared, arose out of unfortunate bill transactions into which some of the small farmers and dealers had entered; was the Government to interfere for the protection of parties who had placed themselves in that position? The whole case as originally stated entirely fell to the ground. There was one point, however, on which he wished the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland had been more explicit. Who had raised the cry of distress? The right hon. Gentleman should have traced the evil to its real source. He said it was not the landlords or the middle classes who had raised the cry; but he should have gone a little further, and either entirely acquitted the priesthood or boldly charged them with complicity in, or with having originated this most injurious agitation. He was afraid, from what occurred in 1847, that it was the priests, and the priests alone, who were at the bottom of it. At that time, he admitted, many of the priests behaved in the most admirable manner; but in the west of Ireland, where he went with many others to relieve the distress, he had heard it stated in more than one chapel that the million of money then subscribed was only an acknowledgment of the great debt which, as Mr. O'Connell at his monster meetings always told them, England owed to the Irish people, and that the mess of pottage then offered them was intended as an acquittance. That was the way in which the priests, trained and supported by public money, at Maynooth, forgetting their duty to the Government and the people, had spoken of the great exertions which were then made to relieve the distress existing in Ireland; and the very same parties now, for their own purposes, had raised the cry of distress.


said, that he sincerely regretted that any feeling of animosity should exist, or any personalities should be allowed to pass between hon. Members on different sides of the House, believing as he did that both had the welfare of the country at heart. He could not, however, admit that the distress existing in Ireland had been exaggerated. In that part of the country with which he was connected the distress was very great; and, as a proof, he could state that the number of cattle was less by one-third than it was five years previously. He hoped, therefore, that means would be taken to alleviate its pressure and encourage the people to bear up under it. He trusted that the present discussion, however disagreeable in some respects, would lead to good results.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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