said, he rose to call attention to the fact that several Deaths from Starvation have occurred recently in Ireland; to ask whether the Government have received official information of such cases having occurred; and, if so, whether they have taken or are about to take any steps in consequence; also, whether they have any objection to lay upon the table all the Reports, Communications, and Correspondence in reference to such cases? Referring to the notice which the hon. and 1135 gallant Member for North Lancashire had given as to the state of distress in the cotton manufacturing districts, and to the very cordial manner with which the House had received that notice, he expressed his conviction that every Member of the House deeply sympathized with the severe distress of the people of Lancashire. The distress which existed in Lancashire was not, however, so much to be attributed to the dispensations of Providence as to the evil passions of man. As an Irish Member, he felt the greatest interest in the alleviation of that distress; but, at the same time, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that there was as wide or wider spread distress in Ireland. He was sorry to say that every circumstance which had recently come to his knowledge only confirmed the existence of that distress, and showed the probability of its increasing rather than diminishing during the next three or four months. There was now a state of things in Ireland which should command the sympathy of every man who had a heart to feel for human distress. Several deaths had already occurred from destitution. He begged to call attention to the fact that Ireland was purely an agricultural country, and that her prosperity almost entirely depended upon the state of her harvests. The last two harvests had been very bad ones, especially in respect of the potato crop, which the people continued to cultivate with the greatest pertinacity. Since 1845 there had scarcely been a good potato harvest in the country; but for all that, He believed the people would not relinquish the planting of that valuable esculent, but would trust to Providence to grant to them at last the fruit of their labours in a wholesome and abundant harvest. Cobbett, were he alive, might denounce them for persevering in the cultivation of so precarious a crop; but he (Mr. Maguire) could not blame them for thus showing an abiding trust in the mercy of God. He would beg to remind the House of an important fact—namely, that Ireland, from being an exporting country, had recently become an importing country. During the year 1861, while she exported but £2,000,000 worth of grain, she imported about £6,000,000 worth, leaving a balance against her of £4,000,000. Her loss in live stock—that is the diminution of her live stock—amounted, in two years, to nearly £3,000,000. And judging by the analogy of former years, her actual loss 1136 from the partial failure of the grain crop, and the general failure of the potato crop, could not have been less than £20,000,000 It should be also remembered that there were in Ireland some 450,000 small landholders or farmers, who occupied farms not exceeding 30 acres each; and if an average were taken of the number in each family—say the occupier, his wife, and three children—the gross number would represent a very large proportion of the agricultural population of the country. Upon this class the loss of the potato, and the deficient grain harvest, fell with the greatest severity. None of this class were in position to employ the labourer; and even the better class of farmers were in many instances deeply embarrassed, and had not the means of employing labour to any extent, as they were accustomed to do in better seasons. In many of the towns of the South and West of Ireland trade had utterly collapsed, the shopkeepers doing almost nothing, in consequence of the farmers and labourers being unable to purchase the usual articles of clothing and other necessaries, with which they were in the habit of providing themselves and their families in other years. There was not a class in Ireland, from the lowest to the highest, that did not feel the general pressure; for it was useless for the humane landlord to attempt to obtain the whole of his rents from an impoverished tenantry. There were hon. Gentlemen present who had assured him of the impossibility of succeeding in any such attempt, were the attempt to be made. With those facts before him, exhibiting serious and widespread distress and depression, he did not address himself to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland and his Colleague, in an angry or a captious spirit; on the contrary, for the sake of those whom he desired to serve, he addressed him in a spirit of kindness and conciliation, and he only wished that on this occasion the stubbornness of the official would be broken down or laid aside, and that the man should alone be heard. He made every allowance for the position of the Irish Secretary. He was but recently called to his present office; but for the last half-dozen years it had been the habit of the noble Viceroy, his superior in the administration of affairs in Ireland, to harangue the people of that country and the public of this country upon the wonderful prosperity of Ireland. Addresses had been periodically delivered by the noble Viceroy, 1137 proving that Ireland was running a race of unparalleled progress, and was, in fact, becoming the model country of the world. Every official who wrote or spoke, wrote or spoke in the same strain; and every organ that represented the Government joined in singing the same joyful hymn. He felt assured that the right hon. Gentleman might not have taken the course he had done if he had not found himself the representative of a system of pertinacious denial that distress existed, which was far from credible to the candour of the noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government; and he implored the right hon. Gentleman to fling-aside all those miserable official shackles, which strangled every generous emotion, and to turn a dead ear to those mere red-tapists who did everything and dealt with everything by the rules of office. On a former occasion he had asserted that widespread distress existed in Ireland—a statement which he now repeated, and was prepared to prove. He should adduce the verdicts given at the coroners' inquests to show that several deaths had occurred in Ireland from want of the necessaries of life. And the worst was not past. If ever the Government was to do anything, to show any sympathy for the suffering people, or stretch out a hand to aid them, now was the time. In former years of distress it was well known that the worst periods were the months of June, July, and August, before the new harvest could be cut, and especially in the parts of the country where the harvest was late. Generally speaking, the harvest in Ireland was later than in England; and this year, he feared, they would not have till late in August a supply of food for the people at home. The Poor Law, as administered in Ireland, was utterly inadequate to meet the distress that pervaded the country. In Lancashire there was a different state of things from that which existed in Cork or Connemara. In England there was a system of out-door relief; in Ireland there was none. It thus happened, that while in England in any pressure from which the working classes suffered, as at present in the cotton districts, the Poor Law was equal to their immediate relief, in Ireland the Poor Law was not, as now administered calculated to meet the pressure of times like the present. It might seem extraordinary to English Members, but there were masses of people in Ireland who would rather die in their cabins or on the roadside than go into the workhouse. The statement might 1138 appear to be an extravagant one, but it was still literally the fact, and could be proved not only by numberless instances in point, but by the deliberate records of officials. Before he gave any particular cases that proved the severity of the suffering, the House would allow him to state what had been done to relieve it. A number of persons in Ireland had had the audacity—the criminal audacity—to say that the appeals made to Irish charity had been got up by agitators, and that a cry of distress was raised for evil purposes. To that assertion he gave a positive and solemn denial—he would not say an indignant, but a sorrowful denial. It was totally without foundation, or a shallow of truth. Who best knew the condition of the people? The Catholic clergy—those who had given relief from their own scanty means, and ministered to them in the time of hunger and wretchedness. Not a single word had been said by the Catholic clergy that had not been justified by the official Reports laid on the table of the House. In consequence of these appeals several district relief Committees had been formed in Ireland, and a central Committee at the Mansion-house, presided over by the Lord Mayor of Dublin. The central Committee had raised about £2,200, and the district Committeer £6,000; and of that sum above £4,000 was contributed, not by landlords, but by townspeople, strangers, and occupiers, many of whom were themselves suffering under the pressure. The Mansion-house Committee had done great service in eliciting public feeling, and inducing those who otherwise might have been hard and grasping to be merciful and considerate. But that Committee had started into existence almost under the ban of the Government. It had gone on without the patronage of the Government, though the result of its appeal had saved many human lives and diminished the record of deaths by destitution that would have been piled up as a terrible accusation against the Government of the day. He would read a letter from the Catholic Bishop of Galway, Dr. M'Evily, dated April 17. The letter was addressed to the Mansion-house Committee. Dr. M'Evily was under the impression, common in Ireland, that the Government did not wish this question of distress to be mooted. He said the coming three months would sorely try the people, and he did not see what was to become of them during that time. His Lordship thus continued — 1139One of the most painful aggravations of the sufferings of the people is that a general impression has gone abroad that the Government, whose first duty one would think it is to save the lives of the people—(for what other purpose do they hold the reins of Government—to what other purpose do the taxation, the armaments, &c, of the country tend?)—not only neglect this duty themselves, but regard with disfavour every effort to save them. It seems to be generally understood that the truly patriotic and charitable exertions of the several relief Committees, without whose interference thousands would have died of cold and hunger, are opposed to the views of Government; and no Government official, no expectant of Government favours, it would seem, can take any part in them, or even publicly contribute to their funds. No doubt we enjoy very great liberty in this country. Where is there any other country on the face of the globe where there is such liberty to starve?That was the opinion of the Catholic Bishop of Galway; and no wonder, since the Government had endeavoured to disprove the fact that there was widespread destitution in Ireland. He (Mr. Maguire) would go farther, and say, that that opinion, whether rightly or wrongly founded, was entertained by the great majority of the people of Ireland. He would give a few instances which, while exhibiting the distress prevailing in the districts referred to, would at the same time indicate the felling entertained in reference to the pertinacious incredulity of the Government. Hero was a letter from the Rev. R. Prendergast, the parish priest of Newport, Mayo—Newport, Mayo, April 26, 1862.Dear Sir,—You will perceive in the public papers the resolutions adopted by the clergy of the Westport Deanery, on the 23rd inst., proclaiming to the Government the appalling distress now terribly felt by the people of this mountainous district. I beg respectfully to draw your attention particularly to the deplorable condition of my parish. This parish numbers 1,090 families, scattered over an area of 21 by 10 miles, principally mountainous—all chiefly subsisting on the potato crop. There has been a complete failure of this staple food of the people—add to this dire scarcity of food during the winter, and you will form some estimate of the people's sufferings. The pressure arising from the two-fold calamity has now come to such a crisis that, unless the Government immediately intervene to aid the people, death from starvation will be the inevitable consequence. There was every effort made by local contributions to meet the scarcity of fuel in the parish during the past season; but at present no amount of foreign or local charity can cope with the prevailing want of food.I hope you will earnestly press upon the Government the necessity of attending to their claims.—I have the honour to be, your obedient humble servant,RICHARD PRENDERGAST,P.P., Newport, Mayo."J. F. Maguire, Esq., M.P."
1140 In reply to those who said there was no distress, he might advert to these resolutions of the deanery of Westport, which stated that no description of the appalling distress of the people of that extensive seaboard and mountainous district could give an adequate idea of the sad reality, and that, as ministers of God, they felt it an imperative duty to proclaim it to the Government, and to urge upon it the necessity of taking effective measures to save the lives of Her Majesty's subjects from death by starvation, otherwise inevitable. They also stated that the present condition of the country was not the result of indolence, or want of industry on the part of the people, but owing to the calamities of the season, the failure of the crops, the dearth of fuel, and also a malignant disease amongst pigs and cattle, combined with rigid exaction of rents. The last resolution, which he would read, was in these terms—That the false representations of Government officials, and others who studiously endeavour to conceal from the gaze of the civilized world the real state of the country, are equally inhuman and unchristian, and deserve the unqualified censure of every enlightened man, no matter of what land or country.Whether those expressions were justified or not, he was convinced that they were the prevailing sentiments of a majority of the Irish people. Even Belfast was not without suffering from the depression of the times; for he saw, by a statement in the Belfast News of the 16th of April, that a meeting of Protestant clergymen had been held in that town, at which meeting the prevalence of distress among the working population was fully admitted and strongly represented. It was also stated in the News that the classes now suffering were hitherto the best customers of the traders, who ought to assist them in their distress; and after ridiculing the prosperity reports of people connected with the Poor Law, the writer Stated that those who were suffering would endure any privations rather than degrade themselves by entering the workhouse. He (Mr. Maguire) was rather proud than otherwise of this horror of the workhouse entertained by honest and industrious men. He might refer to a letter from the Rev. F. Kenny, P.P., dated Moycullen, Galway, April 30th, as it reflected credit upon the decent pride and self-respect of a suffering people. The writer said—That for a considerable time past the people of his parish had been enduring the most trying 1141 privations without his knowledge or any out spoken complaint. As long as credit lasted, and any articles of dress, bedclothes, or furniture upon which they could raise money, he heard not a word about cold, hunger, or any privations. It was only when the sacred duties of Easter brought him into close and daily intercourse with them that he learned the extent and severity of their distress, which their proverbial and characteristic, though mistaken pride, could no longer conceal. Not more than five or six families out of about 550 had provisions up to the date of the letter, and by far the greater number of them were buying food since the beginning of the year, and many since last November. There was not much employment in the parish, as nearly all the landlords were absentees; and the landholders, with one or two exceptions, had only small farmsThe writer added—So you may easily judge of the condition of my flock, and of the dreary prospects before them. The Government, it appears, is still deaf to the cries of the indigent, as well as to the appeals made in their behalf.In further confirmation of the distressed condition of the people, he might quote from a communication received from Mr. Murphy, of Bantry, which stated that on Saturday, the 26th of April, a poor man; went begging from door to door in the town of Bantry. He was not an ordinary; beggar, in all probability had never asked alms before in his life; but his case is equally illustrative of the misery of his class and the operation of the Poor Laws, The name of this man is John Shea, of Faha, parish of Clonlawrence. He has a; wife and eight children, one of them, a boy, then lying in a helpless state from the effects of starvation. His family were refused admission to the workhouse unless he consented to go with them; but as he is struggling desperately to sow a bit of ground—his only chance of social salvation—he refused to accept indoor relief, and preferred making an appeal to the charity of the public, in which he was fortunately successful. The Rev. J. O'Reilly, the parish priest of Clonlawrence, bears testimony to the truth of this statement, and states that Shea and his family are suffering from want of food, fuel, and clothing; and the gentleman who sends the case says, "There are some hundreds of such cases in and about this neighbourhood." He now came to the list of deaths by starvation, proved to be so by unquestionable evidence. He could enumerate as many as twenty inquests on persons who had died in different parts of Ireland, but chiefly in the west, between last November and the 26th of April, and in all of which the verdicts returned were, that death had 1142 been caused by exposure to cold and starvation. Some of them were attended with the most painful circumstances, and all evidenced great and prevailing distress. He would not attempt to quote all the cases at his disposal; but he would content himself with enumerating some, giving the name, place, date, and verdict—or, in other cases, the circumstances.
November 12th, 1861.—At Manish, near Ennis, co. Clare, on a man unknown. Verdict—"Death caused by exhaustion, starvation, and exposure to cold."
November 20th, 1861.—At Oughterard, Galway on Mary Sullivan, who was found dead on the hearthstone of a cabin where she had sought refuge for the night. Her body was leaning over the ashes of a few burnt sticks. Verdict—Death from exposure and want of food."
The death of the child of Anthony Preudergast, which happened in the public street of Athlone, on the 7th of December, was thus described by the correspondent of a Galway payer—Anthony Prendergast, having consumed the last meal of potatoes, and burned the last fire he could place on the hearthstone, with his wife and throe children, abandoned his wretched cabin, and proceeded to the town to seek employment. The father carried one of the children on his back, the mother bore another folded in her arms, while the third child followed, with bleeding feet and a wail of suffering, which told of the pain and hunger he endured. They had scarcely entered the town when the exhausted mother complained that she felt a cold weight pressing on her heart, and, taking aside the rags in which the child was rolled, she found it was his corpse. He had died in her aims of hunger and cold. It was truly a spectacle of woe to see that emaciated, naked, shivering group bewailing that little departed creature in the centre of a public street.December 18th, 1861.—Enniskillen— Rebecca Liddy, who died in the public street. Verdict—"Want and exhaustion."
January 28th, 1862.—Gal way—James Murphy, who died in a roofless house in Cross Street. The case of this poor man exemplified the horror of the workhouse felt by many even of the most destitute of the Irish poor. His story is thus told by the Galway Vindicator—In an entry, off Lower Cross Street, there is an old house, for years forsaken by tenants of any grade of society. In the cellar of this dilapidated building (the ceiling of which was but partially covered) lay a poor man, named James Murphy, in the arms of death, he had suffered long from the want of the necessaries of life, ending in a series of other complaints, which brought him to an untimely grave. An old woman, who came from time to time to attend him, told us that she advised him to go to the poorhouse before he died, and his words were, Throw me out into the sink 1143 there, but don't bring me to the poorhouse.' Poor Murphy was between thirty-eight and forty years of age, and was well known about the city as a good, honest man.January 28th, 1862.—Athlone—Poor man, name unknown, who was found lying on a dung-heap, and died immediately on his removal to the workhouse hospital. Verdict—" Died from want and exposure to cold."
February 14th, 1862.—Galway—Anthony Walsh. Verdict after post mortem examination—"Died from exposure to cold, and want of food."
February 18th, 1862.—Athlone—Bernard Boland, a poor schoolmaster, died as he was being conveyed from Cushala, in St. Peter's parish, to the workhouse of Athlone. Verdict—"Death caused by want and cold, the exposure developing disease of the heart."
Same place and date.—John Barron, weaver. On returning from a neighbour's house, where he had been to obtain some firing, he fell lifeless at the door of his own wretched house. Verdict—" Death caused by want of food and fuel."
March 11th, 1862.—Glenarm, county Antrim—Owen Dogerty, aged eleven years, Verdict—"Death from cold, and scanty and impure food."
The Rev. Thomas Walsh, P. P., Rusmuck, county Galway, writing to the Connaught Patriot on the 17th of March, says—I am exhausted visiting the sick and dying, and it is with feelings of the deepest regret I have to record the names of Edmund Concannen, Robert Sullivan, Mary Nee, Honor Mannion, and others, who have died within the last five days for want of food or nourishment.The Rev. Michael M'Dermott, P.P. of Templeboy, Dromore West, county Sligo, writing in the end of March, when sending a petition in favour of certain amendments in the Irish Poor Law, adds in a postscript—I have this week administered the rites of the Church to four of my poor parishioners, who died of starvation.And in answer to my request, that he would give me particulars as to names and dates, he thus writes on the 8th of April—The following persons died from starvation in this parish within the month of March last:— John Taylor on the 15th; his wife Bridget on the 16th; Mary Kilcullinon the 21st; Thady Stein, on the 28th.The writer adds—These poor people were beyond recovery when I was called on to administer to them the rites of the Church. I have no doubt but many others will meet with an untimely grave, unless immediately succoured. My scanty resources are ex- 1144 hausted, and what to do, or how to remedy this evil, I know not under heaven. May an Almighty Providence look to their necessities, as we cannot hope for or expect aid from our rulers.On a former occasion the Secretary for Ireland read a letter from a gentleman of large means and high position in Castletown Berehaven, co. Cork. That gentleman, Mr. Puxley, chairman of the local Board of Guardians, gave a flourishing description of the prosperity of the district. But the following letter, written on the 5th of last month, gave a very different idea of the actual state of the locality:—Castletown Berehaven, April 5th, 1862.My dear Mr. Maguire,—A woman of the name of Neil died a few weeks ago near this town, and her friends assured me that her death arose from a total want of such food as she could in her illness make use of. It was I who prepared her for death, and while I was in the house I made a close examination of it, and could not discover one particle of any kind of provisions. At this time the family (eight in number—four adults, and four children) were obliged to subsist on 1½ stone of meal per week, allowed them by the Vincent de Paul Society. This very day an inquest was held in the next parish, Kilcatherine, on the body of a girl named Mary Murphy. Her father swore that for several days his family had but one meal, and that an insufficient one, per day to live on; that on Saturday the 29th July. he gave his child a little stirabout, which she at once threw up again; that at this moment he had not a morsel of food nor a penny in his house; and that his mother-in-law and another child of his died about a month ago from the same want of proper food. The child's uncle, James Shea swore that for the last three months this family was always without a sufficiency and often without a particle of any kind of food.The M.D. swore that Mary Murphy had scrofula and disease of lungs, which could be super induced by bad and spare diet, and that her death was greatly hastened by said insufficiency of food. All who were examined swore that such scenes as occurred in this family were now to be found commonly in the district. Those present at the inquest subscribed a small sum each for this poor Murphy. The coroner declared he never saw so many symptoms of distress.I am writing in much haste—these are the facts—make the best use of them.Do you remember Mr. Puxley's (our Chairman of Board of Guardians) letter to Sir R. Peel? I answered it most strongly in the Examiner, and he had not a word to say in reply. In a short time we will have more startling intelligence to send you.—Yours sincerely,JOHN O'LEARY, R.C.C.Dr. O'Brennan, writing on the 6th of April, from Tuam, says—On Friday evening a man named Sweeny died of exhaustion from want of food, in the outskirts of Tuam. I was at Mass on Sunday by the side of a man who, as soon as he reached his miserable home, fell on the floor from exhaustion. I don't wish to give his name, but I saw the case. I am sure, if inquests were held, it would be found that many, many had died of destitution.1145 At a recent meeting of the Tuam Guardians, four persons were mentioned to have died of destitution, namely—Mary Coleman, Catherine Monaghan, Bridget Spelman, and John MacHugh. These were in the Headford division.
The Rev. Mr. Conway, writing from Headford—the same district respecting which they were told by Dr. Brodie that there were no applications for relief—gives a fearful account of the condition of the people. His letter is dated "Palm Sunday." He says—But this moment I am after performing the funeral service of our holy religion in the church over the remains of Margaret Larkin, who died on yesterday in the village of Ballyconlaught. A few days since she was found on the roadside by a carman, who charitably placed her in his cart, and conveyed her to the house where she died. She applied for relief some months since, but was refused (though she was after receiving the last rites of her religion), unless she went to the workhouse, which is a distance of ten Irish miles.…After I attended her I sent for the doctor and the relieving officer, who lived miles off. The doctor certified she could not he removed to the workhouse, and she got provisional relief. On the Tuesday following she got 3s. worth of bread and some tea. The Tuam Board of Guardians considered her case on Wednesday, and on the following Friday late she got some relief, and the next morning she was a corpse.The Rev. Mr. Conway refers to other cases—On the day after, I attended a poor starving man named Kelly, who got shelter also from Mr. Wilson, near Headford. On the same day I administered to the father, the mother, and the daughter (their names were Walsh), in the town-land of Bally hale. They were stretched in a little room, sick of malignant fever. They did not want for food, but they wanted fuel, as the nurse could not procure as much fire as would warm for them a little milk. The mother and daughter are since dead. On the same day, and in the same village, I attended a man named Gray, who lay in a hovel six feet by ten, and in it was the bed of his daughter, her husband, and child. Even during the awful famine of 1846–7 I never met such an object. The doctor certified that he was unfit to be removed to the workhouse. Still the committee which was appointed by the Poor Law Commissioners for Headford refused him relief. And in the same village, and on the same day, I visited a family named Glynne, and on yesterday.I woman named Joyce was buried who walked three Irish miles to see the Headford relief committee and tell them her state, but there was no committee meeting. She came home, lay down in her cabin and died, and after her death the relieving officer sent her provisional relief.He would pass over a number of other cases, and conclude with one so late as the 26th of April. An inquest was held in Gort on the body of John Ford, whose case was worthy of every sympathy. It was that of a poor man who bravely strug- 1146 gled on to the last, until he was struck down by sickness caused by destitution. The particulars are given by a correspondent of the Morning News—The wife of the deceased deposed that she brought him some food at three o'clock p.m., of which he was unable to partake. Being in a weak and sickly condition, she urged him to desist from work; but he replied that he would ' try and finish his day, as if he did not, what would she and the children do?' He made another attempt to work, got still weaker, and at length fell senseless in the field. He was placed on a car by some neighbours working in an adjoining field, and brought home, when, after lingering for some hours, he expired. This witness added that during the winter and spring deceased and his family were on many days without a meal, and could not have subsisted only for the assistance rendered them by the Gort relief committee; hut that since the committee, compelled by the exhaustion of their funds, struck off from the list of recipients the families of all labouring persons, deceased and his family were reduced to a starving condition. She also stated that they were not in possession of any bed-clothing, and that deceased used to sleep with no other covering than the remnants of an old coat.The doctor stated that he had no doubt death resulted from the effects of starvation and want of bed-clothing. The jury returned the following verdict, in the propriety of which the coroner expressed his concurrence:—We find that John Ford's death was caused by the utter state of destitution in which he continued to exist for the past winter and spring, being nearly always destitute of food and bed-clothing.We are further of opinion that a judicious distribution of out-door relief to the labouring poor, who entertain a strong aversion to entering union workhouses, is very desirable, and would enable them to hear the severities of this trying season, with which private benevolence is entirely unable to contend.He could give a much longer list, but he thought he had given a sufficient number to prove that the existence of serious distress in Ireland was a painful reality. Now, it might be said that Catholic clergymen occasionally indulged in exaggerated statements, the result of strong sympathy with sufferings and miseries with which they were not equal to cope; and it might even be said that a famine cry was raised for unworthy purposes. But people do not die of starvation merely to prove a case—and these poor people would not have died if they could have had their own wish. Their deaths proved beyond doubt the existence of wide-spread misery, which was not alone likely to continue, but to increase. It was not creditable to the Government that such cases should have to be recorded, and it was less creditable 1147 to them that they so long persevered in denying the existence of serious distress. If similar cases could have been recorded as occurring under the King of Naples, the Duke of Modena, or the Pope of Rome, it would have been said that the Government was mal administered, because it afforded no protection to human life. And what are we to say when they occur in this great and powerful empire? By the end of the present month there would be no employment, save in rare instances, for agriculturists in Ireland. For two terrible months gaunt famine would stare the people in the face. It was the duty of the Government, as the guardian of the lives of the people and of the prosperity of the country, not to persist in denying that there was distress, but to take some active measures to relieve it. No doubt the Government would do something in reference to the relief in Lancashire, and every Irish Member would bless them for their interference; but he desired that they should also be able to bless the Government for adopting measures for the relief of Irish distress. He had stated the case of Ireland calmly and without exaggeration. There his duty ceased. He was not a Member of the Government, but a private and independent Member of the House; and the responsibility of action did not rest with him, but with the Government. He might, however, suggest to the Government that they could relieve the sufferings of the people by assisting local enterprise and promoting useful works. For instance, there were railways as yet on paper—tramways as yet in the same position—harbours to be constructed or improved—public works to be undertaken or completed. Now, loans on liberal terms to reproductive works would ensure that which the Irish people, as the men and women of Lancashire, most desired, and that which was the greatest gift that could be conferred on the industrious classes of the community—remunerative employment. The people of Ireland did not ask for alms; they wanted work, and the Government might, if so inclined, assist in providing it for them. In his own city—Cork, of which he happened this year to be Chief Magistrate—the public boards were making every effort to Supply employment by promoting useful public works; but still, in spite of their exertions, numbers of the working classes were suffering great distress from the pressure of the times.
1148 After giving instances of the anxiety of the working classes to obtain employment instead of alms, the hon. Member continued: Many landlords were anxious to give relief by employing the labourers and small farmers in making improvements on their property, and not a few of them had applied to the Board of Works for loans to enable them to do so. It appeared, however, that the Board of Works had reduced the amount of the loans given by them, and he wished to know why they now insisted on giving a smaller amount than they were accustomed to give formerly. He begged to call attention to the following letter, dated April 5th, addressed to him, and signed "A Landlord"—but written by a respected nobleman of the South, whose name he was ready to communicate to the right hon. Gentleman:—I am desirous to call your attention, and that of other Irish Members, to the position in which landlords, especially those who are life-tenants of their estates, who wish to improve their estates and employ the people, are now placed. From some unaccountable reason the loans from the Board of Works, which were originally fixed not to exceed £10,000 on any estate, are now limited to £5,000; consequently those landlords who may have expended that amount are now restricted from further improvement. In my own case I applied originally for the full sum of £10,000, which was granted, and I calculated of course on carrying out improvements to that extent. I find myself now suddenly stopped. It appears to me, that as Government call upon us landlords to assist the people in trying seasons, they should at least carry out the measures and means which they originally offered to us.He hoped the right hon. Baronet would interpose and would induce the Board to adopt a course that would enable those landlords to give the necessary amount of relief to the people. Having now brought this case before the House without exaggeration, and proving every case by the best evidence of which it was susceptible, he did not mean to say that the state of Ireland was anything like so bad as in famine years; but it was and would be for the next three or four months unusually severe and trying while the Poor Law it was demonstrated, entirely failed to reach those in distress. The Poor Law officials who boasted of the prosperity of the country had not been out of Dublin, and the Chief Commissioner had never been in a single workhouse in Ireland. These officials only spoke from the reports they received; and if the right hon. Baronet relied on their fallacious statements, cold-bloodedly written in their own offices, he must go wrong, and the people must 1149 suffer. He would only say, in conclusion, that the responsibility entirely rested on the Government to take such steps as the nature of the case required; and if the Government and Parliament felt themselves called on to interfere in the case of South Lancashire, they were equally bound to interfere in the case of distress in another part of the United Kingdom; and if they actively intervened for the assistance of one class of Her Majesty's subjects; in England, as they ought to do, they were; bound to do the same for another class of Her Majesty's subjects in Ireland.
said, that there could be no question that a succession of inclement seasons, a deficiency in the produce of the soil, and a diminution of trade in the manfacturing districts had given rise to considerable distress. In certain parts of Ireland an amelioration in the condition of the people had not been contemporaneous, as might have been hoped, with the advance of spring. There had been a serious, but he trusted only a temporary, depression, which, though severe in some places, was not, in his opinion, sufficient to retard either advancing prosperity or the general improvement of the country, He had endeavoured to collect the best information he could with respect to the condition of the people, and his belief was, though there was great want in many places, no famine existed or need be apprehended. Markets were low and plentifully supplied; food was abundant; and the wages of daily labour were not in amount reduced. If applications for Poor Law relief were to be taken as any test, there had been in all the unions in the north of Ireland, and he believed in other parts, a reduction, gradual certain but still sensible, in the number of admissions. He had always regarded the Poor Law as the only safe and creditable public machinery for the administration of public relief. Local assistance from private benevolence had been liberally given, and would be continued so long as a necessity for its exercise existed. It was their duty, however, to curb rather than foster the disinclination to accept Union relief, for it was always attended by order and discipline. Whether the poor-rate might not be made lovable on all descriptions of property was a subject which had lately engaged the attention of many philanthropists in Ireland; and he believed the plans for extending its operation and facilitating its collection might well occupy the attention of that House at 1150 a future time. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) laid great stress on the inadequacy of the Poor Law to stave off the present misery; but if the hon. Member had succeeded last year in carrying his Industrial Schools Bill, it would have laid: on the Poor Law an intolerable burden, which would have been absolutely crushing to the ratepayers. Doubtless he was now reconciled to his disappointment in legislation, for the scheme which he proposed would have been attended with additional pressure upon the ratepayers. The great distress in the north of Ireland existed among the weaving population, owing to the decrease of the trade with America; but in that part of the country he had never heard of a single proposal to ask for Imperial assistance. The system of rates in aid had proved manifestly unjust. The industrious and self-relying parts of the country ought not to be burdened for the sustentation of those who did little to help themselves. Moreover, the mode in which relief was given during the great famine of 1847 by providing public employment proved a lamentable failure and had exercised a demoralizing influence which was not yet extinct. It might have been proper for the State to assist the execution of the great main lines of railway; but those lines were now completed, and it would be expedient for the Government to encourage the making of branch and extension lines—the only works of the kind which remained to be carried out. While the alleviation of the severe distress of Lancashire was still left to private benevolence, he could not admit that it was the duty of the Government to maintain the population of either kingdom at the public charge. An impression prevailed in the north of Ireland that much exaggeration had been indulged in on the question, in order to damage the administration of his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary. Those attempts had, however, signally failed; and there had been evinced in the province of Ulster a determination to do justice to the motives which had actuated his right hon. Friend in according to Ireland credit for an equal capacity with the rest of the kingdom to extricate herself from her own difficulties, if her energies had only fair play. If those measures of social and internal improvement which the Chief Secretary had brought forward, such as those dealing with markets and fairs, the registration of births and deaths, the settlement of the marriage law, and several 1151 other questions, only received the approval of that House, and became law this Session—of which there would be a better chance if the Irish Members would only moderate the excessive number of their amendments—then those measures would effect far more for the solid advantage of Ireland than any amount of discussion like that raised by the hon. Member for Dungarvan could possibly produce.
said, he confessed he was astonished at the tone of the gallant Member who spoke last. Had the speech of the hon. Member for Dungarvan been intended as an attack upon the Government, he should have expected the hon. and gallant Gentleman to address the House in his character of a relation of the Chief Secretary. But the hon. Member for Dungarvan had had no such intention, nor had he presented himself in any way as a mendicant to the English Treasury or people. If the Irish people only received reasonable aid, in the shape of loans from those Imperial funds to which they equally contributed with the rest of the kingdom, they would be able to tide over their period of difficulty. It had been said that the relief works carried on during the famine lamentably failed; but their failure was due to the want of foresight and proper management rather than to any other cause. There was no reason to suppose that under a better system they would not answer their object. The main lines of railway were those which least required encouragement from the State. The branch and extension lines, on the other hand, which, though useful, could not be looked upon as a profitable investment, had a claim to such support. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was by that time impressed with the opinion that there was great distress in Ireland, which would doubtless be much increased within the next few months and what the people of Ireland asked was not charity, but employment, through the medium of advances for reproductive works.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he wished, before the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary replied, to put before the House a few statistics which, he thought, would go a good way to disprove the statement so often put forward by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland regarding what he was pleased, erroneously, to call Irish prosperity, and with which he appeared to have indoctrinated the Chief Secretary. The latter was not, perhaps, so much to be blamed on first 1152 going to Ireland if he had erroneous ideas; but there could be no excuse when he had the benefit of his own powers of observation, that when he went on what he miscalled his mission of charity last year, he should, instead of making it one, do all that lay in his power to shut up the fountains of charity that had begun to flow for the relief of Irish distress. It would not be denied that great misery existed in 1847; it cost Ireland over two millions of her people, and was caused altogether by the loss of twenty millions worth of food. In 1861, startling as it might seem, Ireland really produced less of the necessaries of life, or the means of procuring them, than she did during the period of that desolating famine. To prove this he would alone rely on Government returns, and it seemed quite incomprehensible how, in the face of them, the Earl of Carlisle could venture to speak of the prosperity of the country. For the information which he was about to furnish the House he was indebted to the admirable letters lately addressed to the Lord Lieutenant by Mr. Joseph Fisher, proprietor of the Waterford Mail, which were published in some of the London journals, in which he very clearly proved, by statistics arranged with great care and ability, that Ireland, in an agricultural point of view, was retrogading instead of advancing as the Lord Lieutenant would endeavour to make the world believe. The loss of the potato crop last year was fully half what it was in 1847, say ten millions sterling. In 1847 the produce of the grain crop was sixteen and a quarter millions of quarters; in 1861 it produced only eleven millions, leaving a loss, as compared with the former period, of nearly five and a quarter millions of quarters, worth fully eleven millions sterling. So far then, Ireland, in point of the produce of crops fit for human food, was something worse off than in 1847. As it might be urged that there was an improvement in other articles, he would deal with them. In 1847 there were exported of cattle 190,000; in 1860, exported 255,000, showing an increase of 65,000. Sheep exported in 1847, 324,000; sheep exported in 1861, 407,000, showing an increase of 83,000. But against these two items of increase they should place the diminution of pigs. In 1847, 480,000 live pigs were exported; in 1861, 358,000. The average exports of bacon during the five years from 1841 to 1845 was 152,000 bales, containing two pigs each; and in 1860 it amounted to 133,000 bales, so that 1153 there were 170,000 less pigs now exported than before the famine. As regarded butter, 777,000 firkins were exported in 1851, and 734,000 only in 1861. So that there was a falling off of forty three thousand firkins. Previous to 1846, on a five years' average, Ireland exported four millions' worth of corn; but in 1861 she imported that quantity, making a difference of eight millions sterling; and to mend the matter, when the people were more numerous and prosperous, just previous to 1847, they paid only four millions in taxation; and now, when in a worse condition,: the Chancellor of the Exchequer compelled; them to contribute seven millions. It was boasted that Ireland was enriched every year for the last five years by a million a year sent from emigrants in America to their kindred at home; but the Chancellor took care to impoverish the country by the same amount in income tax. England imported eleven millions of quarters of grain annually. How much better it would be if the twenty-two millions that cost were expended amongst the farmers of her own kingdom; and that could be done without not only ultimately costing the State a penny, but adding very much to the Imperial Exchequer. It had been asked to what good end was the Motion of the Member for Dungarvan likely to tend; did the Irish want alms again? He answered on the part of his poor countrymen, certainly not; all they sought was labour for their arms, and to be permitted to raise the means of life out of their own soil. There were thousands upon thousands of acres of land in Ireland which, if reclaimed, would more than produce all the grain England now brought from foreign countries, and which would give a living to two millions of people more. Let the House only regard the matter from a British point of view, and they could not fail to see how England would be enriched by this. Suppose each of those people used four pounds worth of British manufacture in the year—which was a very moderate calculation—the English manufacturer would sell eight millions more of his goods, and, altogether, twenty-two millions of money would remain in the country. And all this might be accomplished, and the House of Commons no more troubled with tales of Irish distress, if the Legislature would only pass a measure to protect Irish industry in the first place, and to encourage the reclamation of land by drainage and otherwise. He did not wish to speak dis- 1154 respectfully of the Lord Lieutenant; but if his Excellency would only examine the question, he could not but see that he had not sufficient grounds for representing the state of Ireland what he was so fond of doing at public meetings; and the Chief Secretary was as little justified in denying the deep distress that existed. They both incurred a deep responsibility by doing so, as a careful and dispassionate examination into the state of Ireland should convince them that at no period since the unfortunate Union was it more incumbent on those occupying their position to endeavour to urge on Government to devise measures to prevent a recurrence of those disasters which, if not averted in time, would sweep away the remnant that remained of the Irish people.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he quite concurred with the hon. Member for Dungarvan in the opinion that the question which he had raised was one in dealing with which all party feeling and personal prejudice ought to be laid aside, inasmuch as it was one which appealed strongly to every feeling of humanity and of charity. The question was one, indeed, which was calculated to interest every man whose attention had been directed—and whose had not?— to the wants and privations of those portions of the community who, during a season of, he readily admitted, an exceptional character, had chanced to he more exposed than others to its inclement influences and effects. To the able, calm, and moderate statement made by the hon. Gentleman who had brought the subject forward he had listened attentively, and he must say that when he had sat down he had felt considerably relieved, because he had been given to understand that the hon. Member would be in a position to submit to the House from sources of information from which they were debarred what was termed a very strong case against the Government; but he rejoiced to find that the hon. Gentleman had failed to make out any such case. He would admit, however, that if one tenth part of the insinuations that had been thrown out and accusations made against the Government by some had been justified by facts, serious censure and blame would rightly attach to that portion of the Government of which he was the organ in the House of Commons. He, of course, gave the hon. Member for Dungarvan credit for being animated by the best motives in adopting the course which he had that evening taken; but notwithstanding the 1155 full publicity which he had given to the circumstance that it was his intention to bring the subject forward, even to the insertion of special advertisements invoking aid to supplement his own limited means of information, he rejoiced to say the case against the Government which he was able to establish was far from being so bad as some hon. Members were, perhaps, inclined to suppose; nay, more, he hoped to be able, before he sat down, to show to the House that the state of things to which the hon. Gentleman had more particularly referred was calculated, fairly viewed, to place in a favourable light rather than otherwise, before the public, the zeal and active supervision of that department of the Irish Executive whose duty it was to investigate the subject. The Irish Government, he might add, had nothing to conceal in the matter, and therefore he would at once say that the papers for which the hon. Gentleman asked would be most readily and freely given. He must, nevertheless, observe that it was a most painful thing for any man to have to comment by way of reply on those cases of alleged death from destitution which the hon. Gentleman had adduced. A person fairly arguing against the assertions which were made in support of the Motion was liable to misapprehension; but although he might deem it to be his duty so to argue, he could assure the House he sympathized as warmly as the hon. Gentleman himself in the distress and suffering which existed in many parts of the country, and had it been in his power or in that of the Irish Government in any way to alleviate that distress by means of the ordinary resources at their command, they would have rejoiced in applying them to the purpose. How difficult it was to administer extraordinary resources the House was aware. His hon. Friend (Mr. Dawson) had not addressed the observations which fell from him in capacity of relative, but as sharing the opinions entertained, as he believed, by a great many people in Ireland, and he deprecated the application of the extraordinary resources of the State to the alleviation of distress. In 1846–7–8 £6,000,000 had been expended in that shape for the relief of distress in Ireland, but it had been laid out badly and on works that were unproductive. What was the consequence? All the hospitals, infirmaries, and workhouses were crowded to suffocation. The grand jurycess, he believed he was justified in saying, had risen at the time nearly 1156 one hundred per cent in many cases, while the poor rate had progressed in such a ratio in some counties as to have multiplied at the rate of five hundred per cent in a period of four years. The amount of outdoor relief which was then given was so great indeed as to be hardly credible. Over three millions of people were absolutely at one time—during the month of August—in receipt of outdoor rations in Ireland. To that state of things the present distress in the country, much as it was to be lamented, bore no comparison, as he trusted he should be able to prove. The cases of death by destitution by no means escaped the notice of the Government. The constabulary reported the deaths, an inquiry was instituted, the union authorities were bound to report all such cases, and thus no instance of death from starvation could escape the notice of the Government. The hon. Member had entered into details, and had mentioned names of persons who were alleged to have died from starvation and destitution. Upon that subject he would make a few remarks, and he hoped he should be able to convince the House that he had satisfactorily disposed of all the cases that had been quoted. The hon. Member for Dungarvan had issued a circular letter calling the attention of the people of Ireland to the distress prevailing in that country, and asking for information upon the subject. It was to be regretted that in that circular letter, and again in his speech that evening, the hon. Gentleman had thought fit to make unfavourable allusions to the noble Earl the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was not his duty to defend the head of his department, but from his own personal acquaintance he must say, that while the noble Lord was a man of cultivated mind, he was also a most warm-hearted and generous sympathizer with all who suffered in Ireland or elsewhere. The hon. Gentleman had received many answers to his letter, and he had indulged in taunts against official insensibility and incredulity. Such imputations were most unfair, and the hon. Member could not have made them had he known the anxiety of the Government concerning the state of Ireland during the last six months.
The hon. Member had alluded to four cases, the particulars of which he gave upon the authority of the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott, the parish priest of Templeboy, in the western part of Sligo. In reference to 1157 those four cases, he (Sir R. Peel) would state the particulars in each instance, and from them the House would derive some idea of the nature of the general returns which had been made to the hon. Member for Dungarvan. The Rev. Mr. M'Dermott wrote a letter on the 25th of March, saying that in his parish four people had died of starvation, that he expected more would follow in the course of a week. Up to the 23rd of April, the date of the official inquiry that had been made, he was glad to say there had not been a single death from starvation or destitution. An official inquiry had been directed into the statements of the Rev. Mr. M'Dermott, and from the sworn testimony given upon the occasion the House would be able to form an opinion of the real facts. The first case was that of a family named Taylor, and the landlord of the man in his sworn evidence stated—I reside about 150 yards from where Taylor and his wife lived in Lugdoon, and I have known the family well for the last three years. They hold conacre from me, and they have a free house in Lugdoon. Taylor had been in a bad state of health, to my knowledge, for the past nine months. I should say he was a man of seventy years of age. They had a good crop of potatoes, which was not consumed a short time previous to his death, as I saw them digging potatoes in their conacre field. In consequence of Taylor's illness I forgave them a great portion of the rent they owed to me. A few days after Taylor took to his bed I thought that some sort of delicacies might be of use to him, and Mrs. Fenton and I sent him plenty of bread and tea morning and evening. The wife died about a week before Taylor, and they were getting some subscription for a coffin. A demand was made upon me to subscribe. I refused it, on the ground that the daughter was able to give 2s. 6d. to Mr. M'Dermott the priest for masses for her mother's soul, which I thought would have ! been better laid out in getting a coffin for her. On getting a summons yesterday I sent for Mary Taylor. I asked her if her father died of starvation, and she said he did not, that all the neighbours were particularly kind to him. She said she was summoned to attend here to day; that she was desired to put on the worst clothes she had and go without shoes. She had then shoes on her, and she comes to-day without shoes. Her conacre ground is well set with both oats and potatoes.The medical officer of Templeboy stated that he had seen no indications of famine in his district, and that Taylor was a worn-out old man, who bad not long to live. In the case of Mary Kilcullin, a witness in whose house the deceased had lived swore that she was not in want of food, as the family had a stack of oats worth about £2 or £2 10s., and they received £1 from a relative in America about a week before her death. The witness was sure the 1158 death did not arise from starvation. In reference to the case of a man named Thady Stein, the medical officer stated that the deceased was an infirm man with a severe cough, which was really the cause of death. He thought the House would perceive that the answers to the cases brought forward by the hon. Gentleman were conclusive. In none of the cases was there the slightest ground for the allegations that had been made. The hon. Gentleman had also referred to a case of Mary Murphy, and had said that the jury found a verdict of death from starvation.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he did not remember the exact words he had used, but he thought they were to the effect that the deceased died of scrofula superinduced by starvation.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I have here the finding of the jury. The verdict is distinct that she died of disease of the lungs and scrofula. The hon. Gentleman says he can produce forty cases of death from starvation. I maintain he cannot find one-tenth of the number.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
The hon. Gentleman referred to this case as one of death from starvation. The jury did say certainly "hastened by want." There were, however, thousands of deaths in this country which were hastened by want; but they were not of a nature to be brought under the special notice of Parliament.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he would beg the right hon. Baronet to read the statements of the coroner and other persons as to the condition of the people in that district.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he thought it would occupy too much time to read them, but he would do so if the House wished it. He would next refer to a case which merited the notice of Parliament as an instance of gross misrepresentation to excite sympathy.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
Will not the right hon. Baronet give some answer to the other cases I have brought forward, I challenge him to do so. [Order, order !]
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, that the hon. Gentleman had referred to a case in his own place—Dungarvan, he presumed.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
said, he had referred to Cork, of which city he was chief magistrate, and he had stated that there existed great want and misery among the working population.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he wished to 1159 refer to the Globe newspaper of the 1st of March. In that paper there was published the following letter from the parish priest of Kilmore, in the county of Mayo:—Sir,—The population of my parish, Kilmore, county of Mayo, declared, is 6,534: of these 272 have food for four months; 767 have food for three months; 2,613 have food for two months; 1,514 have food for one month; 1,134 have no food; total population, 6,534. Those who have no food are begging, borrowing, and pawning not only their day clothes, but also their scanty night clothing (when a pawn-office will receive them), to procure Indian meal to keep them from starvation. They have a just horror of going into or rearing their children in a workhouse, into which they will not be admitted until they give up possession of all they hold dear, the shelter of the roof under which they were born and reared. I confidently appeal to the generosity and charity of the British public to assist me in saving from starvation as moral, as sober, and as industrious a people as any on the face of the earth.He made a special inquiry with respect to that advertisement, and this was what he learnt in reference to it. Dr. Brodie, the Poor Law Inspector, reported—The parish of Kilmore includes three electoral divisions of the Swineford Union—namely, Kilmore, Urlaur, and Kilkelly.… A large portion of the three electoral divisions above named is the property of Lord Dillon. His agent, Mr. Strickland, allowed a large quantity of timber to be cut down for firing.…It is very difficult to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the condition of the people, judging merely from the appearance and condition of their houses. Persons having money laid by or other sufficient means of support reside in the most miserable cabins. Cases were mentioned to me illustrative of this fact, one in particular. A man named Dillon was found during the past month lying dead in a field; the appearance of the body, as well as the miserable hovel occupied by him, led to the belief that his death was caused by starvation. An inquest was held on the body, and it appeared in evidence that he was at the time of his death possessed of over £200.…The police-sergeant told me that he finds bags of meal in some of the wretched hovels. He does not deny the existence of individual cases of distress, but he considers the idea of 1,134 persons being without food as a very extravagant exaggeration.Dr. Brodie went on to say—I am unable to arrive at the conclusion that any extraordinary measures of relief are at present required in this district.The hon. Member for Dungarvan had asked that the other cases alluded to by him might be referred to in detail; but without going into very lengthy details he thought he could not do better than read to the House certain remarks which he had received that day from the Chief Poor Law Commissioner, Mr. Power, who, whatever might be said by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, was a gentleman incapable of making any 1160 assertion which he could not strictly vouch for as fact. That document was interesting as referring to every case brought under the notice of the Government by the police, coroner's inquests, or newspapers—There have been 31 cases of inquiry into alleged cases of death through want, from the first of November to the present date, the first of May, embracing six months. The number of inquests included in the above cases was 25. In several of the cases of inquest the verdict did not allege death through want or destitution, but was erroneously stated as doing so in some newspaper, and this led to inquiry being made. In most of the other cases of inquest the verdict does not directly allege death from destitution or starvation, but alleges death through sickness, attended or preceded by exposure or other kind of privation. In many of these cases the verdict was borne out by the subsequent official inquiry, but in some cases it was not. In those cases in which the verdict was borne out by the facts, the case was generally that of a mendicant or person not having any fixed place of abode, often of very advanced age, and overtaken by sickness in wandering about from place to place, never making application for Poor Law relief, and in most cases refusing it when tendered. Even in this class of cases the death has not been traced in any instance to sickness caused by absolute want of food, but to sickness attended by want of suitable food, nursing, and other comforts, which could only be supplied in the workhouse. In many of the cases food of the ordinary description (as bread, meat, &c.) or the means of procuring it—namely, small sums of money—was found upon the person. A very few among the thirty-one cases are cases of death through sickness which occurred in the families of the peasantry and were attended likewise by want of suitable food and nourishment and the absence of any application for relief in the workhouse, the only available mode of preventing or retarding death in those cases. Occasionally the evidence obtained by the Inspector shows the existence of great pecuniary distress among the small farmers in some districts; but the same evidence negatives the existence of any state of things approaching to famine, or any description of famine disease, such as the prevalence of fever, dysentery, or the like. The cases inquired into are, in fact, such as occur, more or less, in ordinary seasons; and it is worth remark that they are scattered over the whole surface of the country; showing clearly no connection with aggravated distress in any one particular district.He thought that letter important as showing the real state of the case. He did not mean to deny that there existed considerable suffering and distress, but he maintained that there was no justification for the allegation that deaths from starvation had occurred in consequence of the neglect and disregard of the Irish Government. The House, too, knew what some coroners' inquests were. He had a letter from a magistrate who described the little reliance to be placed on the verdicts of coroners' juries. The gentleman was one of two 1161 magistrates present at a coroner's inquiry relative to one of these cases of alleged death by starvation, and he wrote as follows:—The jury found a verdict contrary to the charge of the coroner, contrary to evidence, and contrary to common sense, from personal feelings; and" (added the magistrate) "I refused to act on the verdict, and so did the coroner as to issuing a warrant. The extent to which 'charitable feelings,' falsely so called, will lead the class from which such juries are usually formed is hardly to be imagined. Some time ago I examined eight jurymen on oath, and it was distinctly proved that they had sworn falsely; and then they stated in open court that they conceived 'the charitable object' which they had in view when they concocted their story would atone for perjury.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, he spoke from his own authority. [Mr. MAGUIRE: No, no ! and cries of Name!] The hon. Gentleman had himself read letters without stating names.
§ MR. SPEAKER
stated, that at present the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland was in possession of the House; and when he sat down, it would be competent for the hon. Member for Dungarvan to make an explanation.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
said, nothing was more interesting on this subject than the official returns during the past few week. It was highly gratifying to the Government to know that on the 5th April last there was a decrease of 203 in the number of recipients of relief through the whole of Ireland; on the 12th, a decrease of 673; and on the 19th, a decrease of 638. He also had in his hand a statement of the number of persons in the workhouses in Ireland at the close of each week from February to May in each year from 1852 to 1862, and it showed that the condition of the people at present was not one calculated to excite alarm or serious anxiety on the part of the Government. In l852 there were, at the beginning of May, 186,000 persons in the workhouses in Ireland; in 1853, 143,500 persons; in 1854, 102,400 persons; in 1855, 83,800 persons: in 1856, 65,800 persons; in 1857, 52,900 persons; in 1858, 47,800 persons; in 1859, 41,300 persons; in 1860, 43,000 persons; and in 1861, 47,500 persons. He believed that at the present moment the number in the workhouses was 59,000 persons. From these returns it was evident that though there 1162 was much distress in Ireland it was not so wide-spread as some hon. Gentlemen would wish the House to believe; and as the last six months were always the worst part of the year, they might hope that the distress would gradually diminish. It was a remarkable fact that the price of food in Ireland during the last six months had been considerably less than it was in the preceding year; and the sanitary state of the people was also reported to be satisfactory at this moment; there being no appearance of fever epidemic, although there was a popular apprehension of one. The Board of Superintendence of the City of Dublin prisons, in a recent report, had congratulated the council of the city and their fellow-citizens, upon the satisfactory state of the prisons under their control, adding—The distress prevalent in the country had led the Board to the anticipation of a large increase of crime in the city, but happily their apprehension has not been realized.He might also be permitted to allude to the annual report of the Poor Law Board, which had been just published, and would shortly be laid upon the table, as it contained some facts which ought not on such an occasion to be overlooked. The Commissioners said that the year 1861 and the previous year had been exceptional years—but the six months beginning with September were always the worst period of the year, and now that period was passed a great diminution of pauperism had taken place, as shown by the returns, and there was reason to expect that the distress would gradually diminish. 1859 was the most satisfactory year as regarded the state of Ireland. In that year there was less pauperism and less relief given under the administration of the Poor Law than in any year since the Poor Law had been established. 1860 was marked by considerable loss of capital in the south and west of Ireland, the effects of which the country, and the small farmers and labouring population especially, were now feeling. But although, in the early part of 1862, there was a scarcity of fuel, the price of food was less last year and this than in any other since 1851. And with regard to the alleged deaths from want, the Commissioners said that they had in every one, whether communicated to them through the press, by the constabulary, or in any other way, and in every case of a coroner's jury, instituted an inquiry upon oath. With regard to the sanitary condition of 1163 the poor, the Report declared that upon the whole it was last year satisfactory, and still continued so. There was no disease of an epidemic form; no cholera of an epidemic character; and although fever existed in some places, yet upon the whole the health of the population gave no support to the alarming expectations which had been in some quarters indulged in. These facts were satisfactory, and the state of things in Ireland would be still more satisfactory if there did not, unfortunately, prevail on the part of some persons a practice of calumniating the workhouses and the system of administration in them. He declared, without fear of contradiction, that many lives had been sacrificed through the refusal of persons in extreme poverty, influenced by the exaggerated statements which were made on the subject, to enter a workhouse. Under a system of indoor as compared with outdoor relief, the poor and sick received constant medical attendance, and constant nursing, and every description of medical comfort; and such a system must be more efficacious for the recovery of health and the preservation of life than outdoor relief could be, however administered. But owing to the prejudices excited by a certain party in Ireland, who—for what reason he could not understand—had put themselves in opposition to the policy of the Government, the destitute and sick poor were dissuaded from availing themselves of the relief so easily obtained by admission to the workhouses. The first general denunciation of workhouse relief was to be found in a document published in August, 1859, signed by twenty-eight Roman Catholic bishops, who said—As the fathers of the poor, the widow, and the orphan, we complain, and we hare cause to complain, of the administration and working of the Poor Law in Ireland. Need we say that the physical condition of the poor in our workhouses is wretched in the extreme, and that it contrasts most unfavourably with their condition in times gone by, when, under the dispensation of Catholic charity, they were cared for with the utmost tenderness.Now, to what period in the history of Ireland this allusion was intended to point it was impossible to say. Certainly during the whole of the present century, previous to the introduction of the Poor Law, there was in Ireland a state of the greatest misery, breaking out periodically into famine and pestilence of the most fatal character. Still more recently attempts 1164 had been made by the Roman Catholic hierarchy to dissuade the poor from accepting workhouse relief. In a letter addressed to Archbishop Cullen by Bishop M'Evily from Galway, published on the 25th of February last, the writer said—I need not inform your Grace that the amount of relief given in the workhouse is no test of distress. The people are determined to die sooner than enter these charnel-houses. For my part, until the whole Poor Law system is totally changed, I will never advise them to enter institutions where the lives of the old and the morals of the young are not safe.Now, he believed that no hospital was con ducted with more medical skill, liberality, and success in the treatment of disease than that attached to the workhouse of Galway; and such a statement, therefore, as that of Bishop M'Evily was greatly to be regretted. Again, in a letter addressed by Archbishop Cullen to the Roman Catholic clergy and laity of the diocese of Dublin, published on the 25th of February last, the writer alluded to "The huge Bastilles—those ovens of corruption which disgrace the north and south side of our city;" and added, "true charity and religion are to be oppressed in order to promote the system which is effectually destroying, degrading, and demoralizing our poor in the workhouse." Now, he (Sir Robert Peel) would appeal to the hon. Members for the city of Dublin whether they knew of any hospitals in Europe more admirably and successfully conducted, or more liberally supplied with all necessary comforts for sick patients, than those of the North and South Dublin Unions, which were alluded to in this passage? In a letter written by Archbishop M'Hale, which was also published last February, the writer said, "The workhouse system still bears the taint of the infidelity, the inhumanity, and the immorality of the origin from which they sprung." What was meant by this he did not exactly know. Then, last of all, Archbishop Cullen, in a speech made at the Mansion-house at Dublin on the 17th of February, said the feeling of the Irish people was that "they preferred to die of hunger rather than go into a workhouse, and they have very just reasons for doing so." Now language like that, used by a high ecclesiastical dignity at a moment of great pressure and anxiety, was not altogether such as he had expected or desired to hear. The hon. Gentleman read a letter from Dr. M'Evily, who had stated that an impression had gone abroad that the Government not only neglected 1165 its duty but regarded with disfavour every attempt to alleviate the sufferings of the people, and that the exertions of the charitable committees were opposed to the views of the Government, although without their interference thousands would have died of cold and famine. Was it possible that a bishop should have used such language, or have supposed—for he evidently referred to him (Sir Robert Peel)—that there was any truth whatever in the allegations? He was sure the House would bear him out when he said that it was impossible to make a more false and un founded assertion. The fact was, the Government had great difficulty in doing its duty, owing to such language. He had recently read a circular addressed by the Minister of Justice of the Italian Government to the magistrates and people of Italy, and he would draw the attention of Bishop M'Evily and Archbishop Cullen to the language which it contained. Conforti said—They must take into account the difficulties of the times, and, watching over the conduct of the clergy, they must be careful to check every excess on their part which might prove injurious to public order and the laws of the country, so that while guaranteeing to the clergy the most complete liberty in all spiritual matters, they must not permit them to abuse such freedom to the prejudice of the liberty of others, and to the detriment of the national institutions.How truly might that language be applied to Ireland. There they saw the Poor Law, as administered by the Government, working great good, and yet there were persons who could stand up and insult their national institutions. Now, with respect to the different modes of relief, he was firmly impressed with the conviction that outdoor relief was demoralizing in its effects, it struck down the spirit of a man, injuriously affected his character and his self-reliance, and tended to the permanent increase of pauperism. By means of indoor relief, on the other hand, the really destitute, and the really destitute only, might obtain a shelter from the storm. might seek and receive that assistance which was solicited; and when better days came, he might, without disgrace, and with a grateful heart, leave the refuge which the State in its liberality and humanity had provided, and he might hope to be able to earn once more, by honest industry and the sweat of his brow, that daily bread for which all must labour. He would maintain that from the judicious administration of the Poor Laws in Ireland dated the de- 1166 cline of Irish pauperism, and by discriminating between real and simulated destitution, by not elevating the condition of the pauper class above the condition of the honest independent labourer, which an indiscriminate outdoor relief inevitably tends to do. Ireland had shown that it could place confidence in that administration and in the resources which were at hand to meet all ordinary claims. He hoped he had succeeded in showing that the sanitary condition of Ireland was satisfactory; that though there were deplorable cases of destitution, there was no foundation for the statements made by the hon. Member of deaths from starvation; that food was cheap, and that the alarms of famine which had been raised had not been justified by facts. He trusted, however inefficiently he might have replied to the accusations of the hon. Gentleman, he had convinced every man of a fair and impartial mind that the Government had done its duty during a season of very exceptional want and pressure, not confined only to the poor of Ireland, but extending to the industrious operatives of Lancashire and Cheshire, and to many parts of the continent of Europe. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the condition of Lancashire. The difficulty of obtaining a supply of cotton had led to half time, and half-time meant half-wages; and in all the trades and occupations subsidiary to the staple manufacture a reduction in the means of living and in the earnings of the chief portion of the population in Lancashire and Cheshire, and in some part of Scotland—for instance, in Lanarkshire—had been severely felt. In the town of Blackburn eight mills, which used to employ above 20,000 people, had at that moment 7,000 out of work, and many of the remainder were only partially employed. There was£6,000 less weekly wages distributed now than before, and there were actually 9,000 persons in receipt of Poor Law relief in Blackburn. He might be forgiven for having taken that opportunity of meeting the unfair and unjust charge made against him personally by certain gentlemen in Ireland. The Bishop of Galway had thought proper to allude to him in a manner which he did not deserve. He hoped, whether as a public man or a private individual, it would never be truly said of him that he looked, with a cold and heartless eye on the wants and sufferings of those who, in the dispensations of Providence, and 1167 for reasons we cannot divine, were more exposed to want than those were who chanced to be placed in more favourable circumstances. He maintained that neither he nor the Government of which he was a member had forgotten their duty in this respect, or had withheld that aid and assistance which the necessities of the case demanded at their hands. If in former years the Government of the day felt it incumbent upon them to give with a lavish, and not a niggardly hand—and if, on the present occasion, the expenditure of 1846, 1847, and 1848, was not repeated, it was not that the Government were less alive than heretofore to the responsibility which attached to them, but because, aided by the judgment and experience of those who had the best opportunity of seeing the true state of the case, and knowing how much the statements of the distress were exaggerated, they declined, for the sake of an ephemeral popularity, to take a course which they believed to be neither necessary nor politic. They preferred to leave the case to the ordinary means which Parliament had provided for meeting such recurrences of pressure, having full confidence that the Poor Law, properly administered, would be sufficient for the purpose. It is true, affliction had lately fallen upon many in this land; it had bowed down the Sovereign in the palace, and had overtaken the industrious in their humbler tenements. But as regarded the poor and indigent in Ireland, if all the exertions of the Government and of the public had been unavailing to remove all the distress that existed—if all their anxiety and careful supervision, if all the charity of their countrymen, and all the applications of all the ordinary resources at their command, were unavailing to bring plenty and prosperity, as they had certainly been unavailing, to the homes of all—all he could say was that they must bow humbly to the dictates of an all-wise Providence, and must acknowledge that it was above the power of man to arrest the dispensations of His omnipotent will.
§ MAJOR O'REILLY
said, he would congratulate the Irish Members and the people of Ireland on the change that appeared to have taken place in the opinions of the right hon. Baronet. A few months ago, the right hon. Gentleman stated, boldly and confidently, that there was no distress whatever in Ireland.
§ MAJOR O'REILLY
said, he would bow at once to the correction of the right hon. Baronet, that he never said there was no distress in Ireland. But if he remembered rightly, he said, in effect, that there was no reason to apprehend any extraordinary distress, or anything beyond the distress that always existed in all parts of the world. The right hon. Baronet, of course, never meant that Ireland was such an Elysium that no distress existed there; but he said there was no unusual distress—nothing like severe pressure. It was therefore with decided pleasure he had heard him express a great sympathy with the existing and wide-spread suffering, the existence of which he had acknowledged that evening. But the right hon. Gentleman had put forward several arguments to show that the distress was not extending; with that view he had pointed to the diminished number of paupers in the workhouses; but Dr. Brodie, the official Poor Law Inspector, stated that the number of persons in the workhouse afforded no test of the amount of destitution in a district. The right hon. Gentleman also compared the number of the inmates of the workhouses now with the number ten years ago; but he forgot to make allowance for the diminished number of the population. Another proof that distress was not extending in Ireland was, he said, the diminished amount of crime in that country. He (Major O'Reilly) accepted the testimony with pleasure, but some portion should be set down to the good character of the people of Ireland. It should not all be put down to the absence of destitution. Again, the right hon. Baronet argued that the price of food was not higher now than in former years. He admitted it; but could that be any relief to those who had no money to purchase food at all? The price of food was an indication of the degree of distress over a whole country, but not of the distress of particular localities. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland then passed on to a general assertion that the allegations of distress in Ireland were due to a small and peculiar party who, since 1859, had made a virulent attack upon the Irish Poor Law, and associated the objections to the administration of that law in Ireland in some mysterious manner, which he (Major O'Reilly) could not understand, with the universal politics of Europe. He could only say he had never known that in this country men were to be supposed to attack the whole Govern- 1169 ment and institutions of the country because they objected to the details of a particular law; but was it accurate that the opposition to the Irish Poor Law dated from 1859? He believed the objection on the part of the Irish poor to go into the workhouses existed long before 1859; and, in fact, the feeling had rather diminished than increased since that date. The right hon. Baronet appeared much grieved by what he thought an accusation against himself, made in a letter from the Bishop of Galway. But were priests de barred from a free exercise of opinion on the laws of their country? He disdained to answer the attack made on the clergy, because they had exercised their rights as citizens, and criticised the administration of the law. He did not, however, believe that the letter from the Bishop of Galway, read by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, was intended as an attack on the right hon. Baronet. The letter said "it was understood" that the Government looked with disfavour on subscriptions for the relief of the distress in Ireland. The Government did not think such subscriptions were necessary. That fact was patent, for in the long lists of subscribers they might look in vain for the name of any official person; and he could state within his own knowledge that a gentleman—a member of the legal profession, very recently appointed to a considerable office—declined to take any part in getting up a subscription, or contributing to it; he concurred in the object, but said the subscription would be looked on as an act of opposition to the Government. He would not go minutely into a discussion of the individual cases of death from destitution. The hon. member for Dungarvan had mentioned several cases in which coroners' inquests had been held, and for the first time they had heard that the institution of the coroner's inquest could not be relied on. They had heard the opinion of an anonymous magistrate, that the verdict of one particular coroner's jury was unfounded. But it appeared from the very letter quoted, that the cause of death in that case could not have been starvation, as the magistrate said they "declined to issue a warrant." The accusation made by that magistrate was one of unmitigated perjury against the jury. The right hon. Baronet declined to name the author, though the letter contained a sweeping accusation of perjury against coroners' juries. He had little desire to 1170 follow the accounts of the actual deaths from destitution, and the case would be fully made out if not one man or woman had died from the absolute want of food. It was now admitted that sharp and bitter distress prevailed in particular districts. It was not alleged that the distress was universal throughout Ireland. Thanks to a merciful Providence, in the greater part of the country the inhabitants had been able to support their own poor and even to give some assistance to their afflicted neighbours. But in certain districts in the south and west of Ireland, where a wild and mountainous country had not a single resident landlord, not a single wealthy yeoman, not a single large farmer, and was cultivated only by small cottiers, the industrious and struggling population had been totally unable to resist the pressure of two such bad seasons as the last. As an instance, he would cite the Island of Bofin. It consisted of 3,000 acres, and was valued at£500. The population was 1,200. They gained their livelihood by fishing, and by cultivating the soil. The landlord, an English gentleman, had done all that he could to alleviate the distress, and had expended £200 during the year in labour. Yet, the Rev. M. Walker, the Protestant clergyman, reported that there had been four or five deaths from dysentery during the last four or five months, and they all knew that dysentery was a disease which resulted from bad and insufficient food. The Poor Law Inspector stated that there was not a bit of baker's bread, not a drop of milk, not a pound of fresh meat on the island. Indoor relief was totally inapplicable, because in Bofin it meant transporting the population twenty-five English miles to the poorhouse, and leaving the boats unmanned when the fishing season commenced, and the ground unfilled for the coming harvest. The Poor Law Inspectors understood the reluctance of the people to enter the workhouses, although the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland did not understand it. In many of the unions local committees had been formed, and funds raised to relieve the want of the people. Those who were best acquainted with the country, when they had witnessed two bad harvests and a wet season, which destroyed the fuel, declared six months ago that they looked forward with apprehension to the effects of the winter. Whether every word which they used was reasonable, whether every proposition was prudent, and whether 1171 every suggestion was practicable, was wholly immaterial. What had the Government done? The right hon. Gentleman told the hon. Member for Dungarvan that he would have abstained from hinting that the Government was insensible if he had known what was passing within their bosoms. The right hon. Gentleman assured them that the Government had done everything they could to avert this distress. He roused himself to gather what those efforts and exertions had been, but he heard them not. When in the last autumn endeavours were made to obtain local and extraneous aid, he well remembered what the representative of the Government did. He had no wish harshly to canvass the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman, but surely he could not look back mith unmitigated satisfaction to the hasty tour which resulted in the sweeping statements made at Belfast and elsewhere. The assertions that no unusual distress was to be apprehended, and that there was no reason for unusual exertions, either on the part of Government or of individuals, certainly tended materially to check the current of public and private benevolence. If the right hon. Gentleman had then admitted, as he did now, that there was reason to apprehend grievous distress in particular districts, private exertions would have been encouraged and stimulated, and many of the sad consequences would have been averted which they could now only deplore. He believed that the private benevolence of England which had so abundantly succoured the the Irish people during the great famine years would not have been appealed to in vain. The House had now seen the change which had taken place in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman. Six months ago, according to the Secretary for Ireland, distress did not exist, or, if it did, was only of such a character as was to be found in all large communities. It was now admitted by the Government that the distress was severe and poignant, and that it had accelerated and caused several deaths. The House were now told that the distress in Ireland had absorbed the undeveloped sympathies of many members of the Government. He wished they had known that before, because, while he could understand the sense of responsibility which prevented the Government from advocating changes in the law or the application of the public funds to the relief of distress, he could hardly enter into the feeling which 1172 had led them to deny its existence, with consequences so lamentable to the suffering poor. He would appeal to hon. Members acquainted with Ireland whether the worst had yet passed, and whether the period of the greatest destitution was not always the later months of spring, after the spring was over, and before the summer work ceased. He did not envy the feelings of those who, when the distress had become poignant, impressed the public with the idea that there was no distress to be re-relieved, and thus dammed up and impeded the flow of that noble charity which a benevolent public would have poured out for the relief of the great distress that existed in Ireland.
§ MR. M'MAHON
said, he lamented to find, from the tone adopted by the representative of the Irish Government, that there was no disposition on their part to adopt measures for the alleviation of the distress prevalent in the sister country. The right hon. Baronet had referred to 9,000 people in Lancashire who were receiving poor relief, but it was outdoor relief; and if the same facilities were accorded to the poor of Ireland, the House would not have these constant discussions renewed. If the authorities in Ireland received power to administer outdoor relief, and if the quarter-acre clause, which prevented persons who held a small portion of land obtaining temporary relief in time of need, were repealed, a very beneficial alteration of the law would be effected, and much of the evil which resulted from the present system would be guarded against. If, on the other hand, the Government would not render any assistance, he hoped the Irish Members would adopt other means to present their case to the people of England. He would, however, implore the Secretary for Ireland to turn his attention to the reclamation of waste lands, and to the advance of a small sum for the drainage of the soil, for by these and other means employment might be furnished. He begged also to express his deep regret that the Secretary for Ireland had taken occasion in the course of his speech to attack the Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland for the steps they had felt it incumbent upon them to pursue at this crisis. He could assure the right hon. Baronet that he would not succeed in changing the opinions of the Irish prelates by means such as those resorted to by the Italian Minister with the episcopacy of Italy.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he had heard it observed that the difference between an 1173 Irish and a Scotch debate was this, that Irish discussions generally turn on questions of fact, which are positively asserted on one side, and as positively denied on the other; whereas in a Scotch debate the facts were admitted, and the discussion arose on the deductions to be derived from them. This accounted, in some degree, for the somewhat unpleasant tone which occasionally characterized debates on Irish affairs; and, in the present instance, the same unpleasantness had arisen. The Irish Members, in such a case as the present, had no agreeable task before them: they were forced to appear as applicants to the Government, stating that considerable distress existed, and calling upon the Government to take measure to relieve it; if the facts were denied or not proved, they stood in the position of sturdy mendicants or impostors. For himself, although he earnestly besought the attention of the Government to the severe distress in several parts of Ireland, he utterly repudiated the idea that Government should relieve that distress by giving alms to the people. He would be the very last man to suggest to the Government any system of relief that would deteriorate the principle of self-reliance and courage; two qualities which, of all others, his countrymen most required to be taught. English Members would be puzzled what conclusion to arrive at, as regards the alleged destitution in Ire land, because even among Irishmen great difference prevailed as to the amount of distress. The pressure from want in Ireland was so local and so exceptional, that one man might be of opinion that the very greatest destitution prevailed in his district, and another person might be of opinion that there was no such thing as destitution, because within some thirty or forty miles absence from great privation existed. In the county of which be had any knowledge, namely Galway, he was bound to say that, from his own personal experience and investigations he had made, he believed there was a very great amount of destitution and distress. It was attempted to be shown, from inferences as to the numbers in the workhouse, that there was much exaggeration; but the number of the inmates of workhouses was no criterion, for the class most suffering at present were the small farmers, who, because they held land, could not obtain relief, and who would undergo any amount of misery rather than enter 1174 the workhouse with their families. He thought, however, such destitution might be counteracted by the adoption of very slight measures on the part of the Government, and that, too, without offering any gratuitous relief. They only required a fair day's wages for a fair day's work till the next harvest came in. Such distress existed even in the middle of the county, but it was more general and more severe in the western parts, where the failure of the potatoes and the turf had deprived the people of both food and fuel. An unmistakable proof of the distress which prevailed was to he found in the existence of the local relief committees. When men were perfectly acquainted with their neighbours, as in the case of rural districts, they would not, for the sake of mere sentimentality, or in order to spite the Government, contribute very largely for the relief of simulated distress. The local committees were composed of men of all religions; and when he saw persons of all persuasions acting together, and appealing for assistance in consequence of the destitution of those around them, he was forced to the conviction that such destitution really existed, and that, if practicable, some means should be adopted for arresting its progress. The time had not come when the real pressure would be felt. Spring labour was now going on, and the real want and suffering of the people would not commence until about the end of the present month. What he should propose, by way of assisting the people until next harvest, as far as his own county was concerned, was this—that works of a remunerative character should be set on foot: the drainage of the low lands flooded by the rivers Suck and Shannon would give great employment. In Galway itself a large number of able-bodied men might be employed, should the Government feel disposed to give a loan for the enlargement and improvement of the harbour. A loan to any railway which had got its Bill, would enable the company to proceed with, vigour, and a loan might be made for the establishment of a tramway from Galway to the western part of the county. In all these cases security could be obtained for the repayment of the money lent, and he was confident that this expenditure would keep the wolf from the door till the harvest came in. This mode of relief was the best he could suggest: it was not almsgiving—it did not involve mendicancy; and he took that opportunity of saying, that he 1175 believed the greatest curse that could be inflicted on Ireland would be the extension of outdoor relief, that it would result in the paralysis of every honest exertion, and reduce the peasantry of the country to the level of shameless habitual mendicancy.
§ MR. BRADY
observed, that no doubt the hon. Member for Dungarvan in his statement intended to convey to the House an exact idea of the present state of Ireland, which he was well fitted to do from his intimate acquaintance with the distressed districts, and from the reliable sources of information he possessed. His object was to call attention to the fact that deaths had occurred, and that serious consequences had resulted from the poor not having been able to obtain sufficient nourishment; and it was no answer to say that the cases of death occurred from disease, and were chiefly among infants. He had heard with surprise the statement of the right hon. Baronet when he denounced one of the oldest of all our institutions, the coroner's inquest, and almost charged the jurors with perjury. If there were any inference to be drawn from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, it must be that coroners' inquests in Ireland ought to be totally abolished. Again, the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman, based on the relative numbers in the workhouses in 1852 and at the present time, were utterly futile, because at the former period the population of Ireland was between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000, while, according to the last Census returns, it was now a little over 5,000,000. He denied that an impression unfavourable to workhouses had been created by the denunciations of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; abhorrence of those institutions was one of the innate feelings of the Irish tenantry. It was absurd to suppose that outdoor relief was unnecessary in Ireland when in England, with its innumerable charities, six-sevenths of the funds raised in connection with the Poor Law were expended in that form. The right hon. Gentleman had introduced a religious element into this discussion, and had attacked the Catholic hierarchy. It was not their design to denounce the Irish Poor Law; but, at the same time, its operation had been shown to be wholly unsatisfactory and incapable of carrying out the great objects for which it was instituted. The attack which the right hon. Baronet had made on the Catholic hierarchy showed him to be totally unworthy of the position he held. He hoped the discussion would 1176 do good, and rouse the Government to active sympathy with the suffering people of Ireland, but he should consider himself unworthy of a seat in that House if he did not state that distress was largely extending throughout Ireland; and his belief was that the moment the spring work was over the distress would be found very great and the results most serious.
§ SIR. GEORGE BOWYER
observed, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland had quoted a despatch from the Piedmontese Minister in which the clergy of Italy were confined to duties strictly spiritual. From The Times of that day it appeared that Minister lay under the serious accusation of having embezzled a large sum of money belonging to what he (Sir George Bowyer) should still call the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, as it was so called by every country with the exception of England and France. If Government intended to act towards the clergy of Ireland as the Government of Sardinia were acting, in the spirit of restriction and persecution, towards the clergy of Italy, let them boldly avow their intention. The people of Ireland would soon understand it, and take matters into their own hands. The Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench would then very shortly see the termination of their official career. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary the other night opposed a. clause for muzzling the dogs of Ireland, but he was for muzzling the priests of that country. For himself, he protested against the servile doctrine that the Catholic clergy, whether in England, Ireland, or any other country, were not to perform the functions of their sacred office without listening to the dictation of any Minister of State; and he asserted the right of the priesthood to follow what they believed to be their duty as the protectors of the religion, the morals, and the temporal welfare of the people.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he regarded the fact of the existence of great distress in Ireland as set at rest by that discussion, inasmuch as every hon. Member who had taken part in it but the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had admitted it. What, then, had been done by the Government to relieve it. The right hon. Gentleman had given the House no satisfactory information on that point. When a similar state of things prevailed in 1858, the late Government exercised the special powers intrusted to them to save the lives of the people; and according to the Report of the 1177 Poor Law Board not a single death bad then occurred through privation. Stores of oatmeal were placed at the disposal of the relieving officers, and by that means eighty individuals were saved from starvation in the single union of Bellmullet. The present Government might have followed the example thus set them by their predecessors under the authority of the 7th section of the 10 Vict., c. 31, but they had failed to do so. The Chief Secretary had denied that any deaths from starvation had occurred at Headford. Now, an official inquiry took place on the previous Wednesday in the court-house at Headford, the result of which had arrived in London only within the last few hours, and it fully confirmed the statement of the hon. Member for Dungarvan. In his sworn testimony the dispensary medical officer at Headford stated that several persons to whom he had given the certificate required by the Act, declaring that they were unfit to be removed to the workhouse, died without being relieved by the committee. The Chief Secretary, going beyond a general denial, had contradicted the individual cases cited by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. One poor woman, whoso name had been mentioned that night as having died of starvation, had, it now appeared in evidence, received something from the relieving officer, but that something was a coffin. Another poor woman, named Larkin, also died from destitution at Headford. The relieving officer deputed another person to take food to her, and the deputy again delegated the duty to a third person. Well, what was the sworn evidence of the second deputy? That witness said that having been asked to take relief to Larkin he had done so, but that when he reached her cabin it was dark night, and that she died before morning. It was, moreover, stated in evidence that the relief had been ordered on the 9th of April, and that it was not until the 11th that it had been sent. Now, such was the state of things of which his hon. Friend complained, and, for his own part, his only hope of the termination of distress in Ireland was based on the application to that country of the same law which existed in England, He had no doubt, for instance, that the distress which existed in Lancashire was greater than that which prevailed in Ireland; but then the difference in the law applicable to each case caused the destitution in the latter instance to assume a more aggravated shape. He might add that he 1178 was surprised to hear the Secretary for Ireland, in his attack on the Irish Bishops that evening, speak of them as being the first to denounce the workhouse system. The right hon. Gentleman, when he did so, surely must have forgotten, that in the Report issued by the Commissioners who had been appointed in 1837 by Lord John Russell to inquire into the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland, it was stated as their unanimous opinion that the workhouse system would not do in that country; and that in 1844 Mr. Stoney, the Protestant chaplain to the Board, in a letter published in the Report for that year, stated there was a universal outcry against it. He might further observe that Lord George Bentinck in 1846 said he saw no salvation and no peace fur Ireland until a liberal and generous Poor Law on the same footing as that which existed in England should be carried into effect, on the principle that no person should be allowed to starve in the former any more than in the latter. In conclusion, he would ask from the Government some explanation as to the non-employment of the special powers given under the section of the Act, and as to why the steps which had from time to time been pressed upon them by their own officials had not been taken? He held in his hand a report of a Poor Law inspector, of great experience, who recommended the employment of the people on public works, which, especially drainage, were, he contended, much needed in Ireland. How was it that recommendation was not carried into effect? But, be the answer to that inquiry what it might, it was obvious that something more was necessary to be done than had been contemplated, not only to alleviate the distress, but also to vindicate the character of the Government in Ireland.
SIR HENRY BRUCE
said, that as representing a constituency in the north of Ireland very different in its condition from the one alluded to, as it was described by the hon. Member for Dungarvan, he would beg leave to observe that he believed that neither of the Members of the city of Cork complained of the distress to which the hon. Member had alluded; and he was quite sure, if distress existed in Belfast, there was sufficient charity, wealth and intelligence in that town to remedy the evil without applying to Parliament. If his (Sir H. Bruce's) part of the country had been in such a state of suffering as was described, it was not in that House that he should have endeavoured to raise sym- 1179 pathy and obtain relief; and Members of that House would consider it a strange proceeding if, on every case of destitution which occurred in this wealthy metropolis, as he regretted to see did occasionally occur, the Home Secretary were to be arraigned at the bar of this House, or at any rate at the bar of public opinion, as is the case of the Chief Secretary for Ireland when a case of distress occurs in that country. For his part, he did not believe the supposed great destitution did exist, although, of course, there were isolated cases of great privation. If there was any general destitution, it would not have been necessary for hon. Gentlemen to drag up reports of inquests held in all parts of the country to show that unfortunate wayfarers had died from starvation; and in support of his statement the hon. Member had not shown to the House any district of country sunk in this deep distress, but merely scattered instances, certainly much to be deplored, but not under the control of Government or of this House. With regard to the Poor Law Commission, they had been told that one of the Poor Law Commissioners never visited the rural districts, and therefore could not give the Government accurate information; but they must not forget that there was another Commissioner, Mr. Senior, who had been Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, residing in the country for many years, and who was a man of great intelligence and who could not be charged with a disregard for the interests of the poor, but rather with a disregard for that of the ratepayers in his desire to help the poor. He did not rise for the purpose of defending the Government of Ireland, nor of assailing it; but he must say he thought that the right hon. Baronet would have done better to have abstained from religious remarks, and from alluding, as he had done, to the conduct of the Roman Catholic prelates in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet might be assured he made these remarks in no unfriendly spirit, as might be concluded from the opinions which he was known to hold—opinions which his hon. Friend the Member for Galway a few years ago had told the House disqualified him for holding a certain office in Ireland. Such an allusion he thought ill-judged, as the introduction of religious subjects was quite unnecessary for the complete refutation of the much exaggerated statements of the hon. Member for Dungarvan, who said he did not intend to make any charge against 1180 the Irish Government; and he (Sir H. Bruce) was quite willing to believe that the hon. Member was actuated only by motives of charity; but, on the other hand, the House must recollect that the hon. and learned Member for the King's County, who supported him, distinctly stated that he made it a direct charge against the Government. But as to the management of the workhouses, having regularly attended the Board of Guardians, he knew something of them. Not long since there was a complaint in regard to the workhouse with which he was connected, that the people were kept too well; he therefore inquired into the matter, and was kindly supplied with most valuable information by Mr. Doyle, one of the English Poor Law Inspectors, and he was happy to say he found that the workhouse at Coleraine compared favourably with those of England in regard to its dietary; and he could safely say that in Ireland the paupers were kindly treated and well fed, and whilst he would applaud the desire of people to keep out of the poor-house, at the same time, if they would not enter the workhouse, they must not complain that it was not open to them. The local distress, he felt sure, was capable of being alleviated by local means, without Ireland being brought before the House in the form of a mendicant, begging for relief from the Imperial purse. In one observation of the hon. Member for Dungarvan he quite concurred. He could not see why the grants for drainage should be limited to a certain money amount, irrespective of the extent of property. That was a subject that was deserving the attention of the Chief Secretary, and he hoped it would receive his consideration.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he thought the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Hennessy) would be satisfied there was not complete unanimity among the Irish Members upon this subject. There was no doubt that in particular parts of the country considerable distress did exist, but not only in Ireland; for in the west of Scotland, among a similar class of population, distress prevailed owing to the wet season of last year, which had injured their crops. There was also much distress from other causes in Lancashire and other parts of England. But the only question for the Government and Parliament was, whether the distress was so severe and urgent as to demand the interference of Government or of Parliament, or whether 1181 a judicious exercise of the powers of the Poor Law, aided by local assistance, would not suffice to meet the emergency. He did not see what was the precise object of the hon. Member for Dungarvan in bringing the question before the House. If it was to show that distress existed in certain districts, that was admitted. The hon. Member for King's County said that the Government were to blame for not adopting the course taken by the Earl of Derby's Government in 1858, who sent out special relieving officers to administer relief in extreme cases. The hon. Member was mistaken in that assertion, for no such special officers were sent to any part of Ireland. All that was done was to desire the relieving officer in an island on the west of Ireland, where there was severe local distress, to confine his attention to that particular spot for some time, in order to afford relief. But the present Government had done more than that, for they had increased the number of relieving officers, in order that relief might be administered more promptly than by the ordinary staff in the distressed districts. With regard to the demands that assistance should be given for drainage and other works, he could only understand them as implying an opinion that Parliament should make a grant for carrying those works into operation; but he must say that what was done in 1847–8–9, and the complaints which arose in consequence, served rather as a warning to the Government and Parliament not to have recourse to the same means of employing the population on a large scale without the clearest case of necessity. Allusion had been made to the limit supposed to be placed by the Board of Works in Ireland on advances for the purpose of drainage. The limit was placed by Parliament, and not by the Board of Works. At first the rule was that no landlord should borrow more than£10,000; but that sum had afterwards been reduced to£5,000. Application had recently been made to the Government to extend the limit again; and the subject was under the consideration of Government; but if any change were made, it would have to be done by Parliament, not by the Executive. It was a mistake to suppose that there was no outdoor relief in Ireland. At the present moment between 6,000 and 7,000 persons were in the receipt of relief not administered in the workhouse, but it was de- 1182 sirable not to extend that outdoor relief beyond the necessity of the case. He had heard with much satisfaction the opinion expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) of the extreme inexpediency of holding language which encouraged the Irish people in refusing that relief which was afforded them in workhouses, which he believed was administered in a humane way. It really ought not to be held up to the people of Ireland as relief which they were almost bound, in consideration of their own character, to refuse. No one who had attended to the working of the; Poor Law in Ireland, and who knew the character of the gentlemen in whose hands its administration was placed, but would feel that they had done everything which the law enabled them to do to relieve that distress; and he still hoped that the administration of the Poor Law, in connection with local resources, would be found sufficient for that purpose, and that Parliament might be saved the necessity of having recourse to that system which in the years of famine was resorted to, and which was attended with results which they must all wish not to see repeated.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he knew that very severe distress existed amongst the small cottiers. They did not want the Government to make any grants of money to these districts, but they considered under the present exceptional circumstances the Government should be more liberal with respect to loans for constructing railways, improving harbours, and effecting drainage, by which loans the public Exchequer would not lose one shilling. Although it was perfectly true that great evils followed the money grants given to Ireland in 1848, yet of the loans made at that time to railways every shilling had been repaid to the Exchequer with interest. He earnestly trusted that the Government would take the matter into serious consideration, for: the real time of severe trial in the distressed districts would arrive when the spring agricultural work should be over. The suffering was something far beyond what was described in the able letters in The Times signed "A Lancashire Lad," as prevailing in the manufacturing districts of England. He was sure that the distress might be satisfactorily relieved by the means of loans such as he had alluded to, and he deprecated any extended system of outdoor relief as being simply destructive 1183 to the country. What they asked for was exceptional interference from the Government in the shape of aid for reproductive works, by which the Treasury would not lose one sixpence. At all events, they had gained one advantage from to-night's debate, inasmuch as the Secretary for Ireland, who on the last occasion seemed entirely to ignore the existence of distress, now completely changed his tone, and admitted that in some districts of Ireland distress existed in a most aggravated form.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he was in Ireland in 1847 and 1848, and saw the way in which the grants made at that time were used, and he afterwards in the House urged that those grants should not be repeated, in consequence of the improper mode in which they were expended. He thought that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Monsell) ought to receive favourable consideration. Another practicable remedy for the distress was lending money to landholders for improvements.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
in explanation said, he was willing to give to the right hon. Gentleman the name of the writer of the letter which, had been referred to.