§ MR. MAGUIRE
—Sir, the attention of Parliament has been already frequently engaged during this Session in the consideration of distress prevailing in the Lancashire district; but there is another portion of the Empire in which distress of a grevious nature exists, and which is justly entitled to the consideration of this House. Much soreness has been felt and expressed in Ireland, that while in 592 Speeches from the Throne allusion has been made, last year and this year, to the state of things in Lancashire, no notice whatever has been taken of the distress which last year was generally felt in many counties in Ireland, and is this year far more general and severe, in consequence of three successive bad harvests —in fact, three failures of the staple industry of that country. English Members, to understand the case of Ireland, must consider that there is no possible similarity in the circumstances of England and Ireland. While England, happily for herself, has many industrial resources, Ireland, may, as a rule, be said to have but one—that is, her agriculture—raising from the soil its various natural productions. With the exception of a few branches of manufacture, one of which is confined to a certain district, she has scarcely anything to depend upon save her agricultural industry; and if that fail, as it has for the last three years, the consequence must be severely felt by all classes of the community. During the last three years, unfortunately, Ireland, instead of advancing as other countries have done, has retrograded in material prosperity, in live stock, and in agricultural produce. This is proved beyond doubt by the Returns supplied by Government, and whose general accuracy has not been questioned. In the quantity of land under cultivation there has been a serious falling-off. The number of acres under cultivation in 1841 was 7,000,000, while in 1862 it was but 5,751.195, showing a decrease of nearly a million and a quarter acres. Comparing the year 1862 with the year 1861, the decrease in the number of acres under cultivation was 138,841. The decrease in the value of live stock in the same year, as compared with the year previous, was £1,564,710. Comparing the year 1862 with the year 1859, when the condition of the country was comparatively prosperous, the falling-off is somewhat fearful. In 1859, the value of live stock was £35,363,000, and in 1862 it was £31,204,000—showing a decrease of no less than £4,164,000. Another most important fact must be taken into consideration with respect to the downward progress of the country. Ireland, instead of being a grain-exporting country, has become a grain-importing country—instead of raising sufficient food for her people, and being able to send a large surplus to the markets of this coun- 593 try, she has come to depend for her own supply upon corn imported from abroad. Thus, in the year 1861 Ireland imported foreign corn to the amount of more than £6,000,000, while her exports were but £2,000,000 of her own produce. I have not the exact returns for last year; but assuming, which is not probable, that a less quantity was imported in 1862 than in 1861, and that I set it down for fear of exaggeration at but £4,000,000—it is clear that Ireland has, in two years, imported for her own use no less than £10,000,000 of foreign corn. Add to this the melancholy fact that she has lost in three years live stock to the amount of £4.164,000. If these facts do not show that Ireland is steadily going back, then, Sir, I do not know what value there is in figures. During the recess a distinguished Member of this House, writing under the signature "M.P." in one of the London morning papers (The Star), expressed his wonder how the people of Ireland paid for these enormous imports. The fact is, they were, as I have shown, paying for them out of their capital, instead of out of their income—in other words, they were eating up their substance. A few nights since, the annual Lord Mayor's banquet was given in Dublin. On that occasion, the Lord Mayor used these words—"The bad harvests of the last three years have produced great calamities in this country." The Lord Lieutenant has been, for a long time, accustomed to describe the state of the country in rather roseate hues, but during the last two years he has been obliged to dip his pencil in more sombre colours. In his speech on that occasion, his Excellency spoke as follows:—On some previous occasions it has been my good fortune in this place, and on these occasions, to dilate upon the favourable condition and satisfactory aspect of the country. On some previous occasions, I say, it has been my good fortune, without contradiction or objection to do so. Last year I was not enabled to take so sanguine a view, and this year I feel more strongly, in common with the Lord Mayor, who has already addressed some observations to you on the subject, that three moist and ungenial summers have left their traces upon the land and upon those who live by it. I concede that it is impossible to deny that considerable pressure now rests upon most of the agricultural classes. It has not, I am proud to think, made them indifferent to wide-spread distress in other quarters, and I trust that they will find such alleviation as may be requisite in local benevolence and in local exertions, whether in the form of increased attention to drainage or other methods of agricultural 594 Improvement……The city of Dublin has naturally had its share in the pressure of the times which has been felt by the country at large.Now, Sir, it is because I believe that "local benevolence and local exertions" cannot meet the necessity of the case, that I venture to submit this statement to the House; and I think I can show, by indisputable evidence, that the condition of Ireland is such as to demand not only the sympathy of Parliament and the country, but the active interposition of the Government. I shall read a few lines from a letter addressed by a wholesale firm in Dublin to the Mansion House Committee, on the 20th of January, enclosing a subscription. The letter is from Thomas Downy and Co., and contains this passage—We have had a long business acquaintance with all parts of Ireland, and the writer traversed the land in its length and breadth for many years by modes of conveyance which gave an opportunity to become acquainted with its state and condition, whilst of late we have regular reports from our agents and others. The reports this season, with the state of trade, satisfy us that excepting the famine years of 1847 and 1848, there is, and will be, more difficulty felt by the small farmer in paying his rent, tilling and cropping his ground, by the small shopkeeper in meeting his engagements, and by the labourer and artisan in supporting themselves and families, than there has been for many, many years.That is the letter of a practical man, who is thoroughly acquainted with the state of the country. The Mansion House Committee issued an address, and depicted a gloomy state of things. Now, I may here remark that so impressed was he with the existence of the distress represented by the Committee, that Her Majesty's Attorney General for Ireland sent a letter of sympathy, in which he enclosed a cheque for £25. The Committee in their report say—Having thus shown that population and agricultural production were largely on the decrease last year, we turn in vain to any branch of industry, trade, or commerce which would indicate a result less discouraging. The savings banks, the loan fund, the pawn office, unerring tests of popular comfort or depression, the county courts — where ejectment and civil bills, for small sums, are tried—the bankrupt court, personal and real property, funded property, our banks, our railways, our few branches of manufacture, our trade, our commerce, the condition, singly as well as cumulatively, of every industrial and mercantile interest in the country, indicates a depression such as had not been reached in Ireland since the close of the famine period. One important element, however, has considerably increased, and that is taxation.595 The last sentence contains a most important allusion—to the rapid increase in the taxation of Ireland; but, as my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Dunne) intends to bring that subject specially forward, I shall not in any way allude to it now. Nor, indeed, shall I be induced to travel for one moment from the object which I now have alone in view—to prove I the existence of severe and wide-spread distress in Ireland. I have received a short and pithy letter from a Protestant Gentleman, Captain Knox, Proprietor of The Irish Times, who takes a most creditable part in endeavouring to promote the relief of distress in the country. Writing on the 13th of February, he says—In the course of my business I am brought into contact with persons of almost every class and of every shade of politics, and I have no hesitation in saying that for years past there has not been so much stagnation in trade, and destitution in the country, as exists at present. While the spring work will, to some extent, though in a very small degree, relieve the labouring classes, it will do but little towards ameliorating the condition of the small landholders and small shopkeepers. The present state of this country demands the earnest attention of the Government; or, if they continue to pursue the policy which they have hitherto adopted on this question, then I trust that the Legislature will see the necessity for some action being taken. What is greatly to be feared is, that these periods of distress will not only completely impoverish the country, but that they will become chronic.Having quoted a Protestant authority, I may now quote an eminent Catholic authority; and few, if any, know the condition of Dublin more accurately than the Most Rev. Dr. Cullen. I shall only read the following extract from a letter dated the 18th February:—I regret to state, in reply to your queries, that there is great and general distress in Dublin. The Sisters of Charity, who are constantly engaged in ministering to the wants of the poor; the gentlemen of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, who occupy themselves in the same work of benevolence, and the parochial clergy, who are called at every hour to visit the resorts of misery and sickness—all agree in stating that the destitution now prevailing, is almost equal in extent, and intensity, to that of the years of famine. Vast numbers of poor people, driven from their little holdings in the country, have come to seek for the means of existence in Dublin, and have thus increased the amount of misery, which was already very great. In the mean time there is little employment for the labouring classes; trade is bad, and the shopkeepers and merchants have suffered a great deal in their business on account of the general want of money in the country, occasioned by three bad harvests. In every part of the city you meet with thousands of poor people evidently suffering from the want of food, and almost naked. 596 Indeed, there is more misery in Dublin, under the care of the British Government, than you could discover were you to examine all the poorest towns of Belgium, France, and Austria. The people of Rome would be horrified were they to see so many barefooted women and children as are met with every day in Dublin…. The population is greatly reduced, the agricultural produce is considerably diminished; whilst the country is so far from becoming "the mother of flocks and herds," as some political economists would wish her to be, to the destruction of human beings, that the value of live stock is now less by several millions than it was some years ago.I shall now glance rapidly at other portions of Ireland. As to Tipperary, the Most Rev. Dr. Leahy thus describes its condition in a sentence—The distress is much worse than last year, and cannot be questioned, is not questioned, by any but those who, for sinister purposes, deny open facts.As to Limerick, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for that county (Colonel Dickson) has already described it to the House, while corroborating my statement on the first night of the Session; and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the City of Limerick (Major Gavin) has, on more than one occasion, assured me that he has seen sights of misery and horror, within a few miles of the city, such as he had not witnessed for ten years previously. I might adduce the testimony of a distinguished Member of this House— the Member for Horsham (Mr. Seymour FitzGerald) — who informed me that he was in the constant receipt of intelligence from the counties of Limerick and Tipperary, which described the condition of those counties as most appalling. I have the authority of the hon. and gallant Member for Roscommon (Colonel French) for saying that nothing worse than the present state of things has been in his county since the famine; and my hon. Friend, the junior Member of the county (The O'Conor Don), who has just left to discharge his duties as High Sheriff, fully corroborates that statement. Again, a meeting was to have been held yesterday in Sligo, to take into consideration the distress of the county. The county of Galway and the city are also in a sad condition, but it is unnecessary to enter into details. In Kerry the distress is so goading and keen, that it occasioned some opposition to the movement for the relief of Lancashire. The state of things was bad in Kerry last year, but it promises to be much worse this year. Now, turn to the county of Cork, and first to its Western districts. I have several 597 letters in reference to various districts, but I shall only quote from one, especially as it describes what is common to the entire. The Right Rev. Dr. O'Hea, the Catholic Bishop of Ross, thus writes on the 16th of February, from Skibuereen—The labourer and the tradesman have had no employment. Some of that class have taken refuge in the workhouse with their families, and have thus forfeited any claim to the wretched cabins in which they lived. Others hold on to their little dwellings, struggling hard against every sort of privation. It is not unusual with them to come to me after a fast of twenty-four hours, craving for one meal for themselves and their families. Every morning the Sisters of Mercy, at their convent, give a breakfast to some thirty children; and it is my conviction that many of those young creatures must rest satisfied with that one meal. Distress, pinching distress, prevails in this town, and is likely to prevail until next harvest…. There is another class here worse off than those to whom I have alluded; for they are indeed ashamed to beg, and to ask even for temporary relief. I mean the class of small farmers, and that class includes many in this part of the Carberies. It is a mystery to me how they have struggled on to the present. I cannot believe that they can hold on much longer. They will not be able to seed their little holdings; consequently, next harvest can bring them no relief. They have no credit to get from the merchant. They have already parted with the horse, the cow—often the very furniture of their houses has been sold. Every other available article has been lodged in the pawn-office. They are reduced to the last extremity, living on turnips, for these are the cheapest kind of food. To know the reality, it would be necessary to visit their houses, and see things with one's own eyes.…. Should there be a cessation of hostilities between the Northern and Southern States of America, it is my conviction that half the population of Ireland would be across the Atlantic in a few months.I now turn to the better-circumstanced districts of the County Cork, and quote the following important letter from the Right Rev. Dr. Keane, the Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, who is thoroughly conversant with the condition of the people of his diocese. Writing on the 18th of February, he says—I regret to be obliged to say that there is great and general distress. At the end of three successive bad harvests, the last the worst, it could not be otherwise. In dry limestone districts, the potato crop was good in quantity and in quality; but in wet and retentive soils, the produce, in every instance short, often failed to cover the expense of cultivation. The corn crop was, on the whole, perhaps the worst ever known. On the most favoured lands, the wheat, as a rule, was scarcely half, and in many instances less than half, of a fair average; while the barley and oats were either worse, or did not ripen at all. Towards the end of October, there were, in various places, fields of corn 598 lodged and blackening, on which day after day heavy rain continued to fail. To the poorer farmers the extent of loss cannot be overrated. The result to them and to others is, that they have neither money nor credit; the shopkeepers are without business; and the tradesmen and labourers are not employed. It is not easy to explain how the working classes, dependent on occasional labour, have got over the last four months. On the countenances of the children attending school may be noticed, as during the famine of '47 and '48, unmistakable proofs of destitution and of hunger.In his Lenten Pastoral, the Bishop has this most touching passage—We regret, beloved brethren, to be forced to say, that Lent, or no Lent, fasting will be this year the rule for the greater number of the working classes. In the midst, then, of the saddening statements made to us by those who thoroughly understand their position, we need not exhort them to the practice of fasting, which has already become a matter of stern, unadvoidable necessity.As to the city of Cork I shall only quote a line from the last report of the Vincent Society, who really constitute a most important institution through which the best form of out-door relief is administered. Their last year's expenditure was £1,754, or £500 over the average. The report says:—"Unfortunately, we are now entering on a year of still greater destitution." I think, Sir, I have now adduced sufficient evidence to show, that if the operatives of Lancashire deserve the sympathy of this House, the sufferings of the people of Ireland equally deserve their sympathy, as well as the respectful and earnest consideration of her Majesty's Government. After three bad harvests, and the last the worst of the three, what else could there be but a state of great destitution in the land? I solemnly believe, that if Ireland should unfortunately have another bad harvest, in succession to those which we now deplore, the people will be reduced to such a condition, that they will take the first opportunity to flee from its shores in masses. Now, some Gentlemen may think it better that the population should leave their native shores in that manner; but for my part I should view it as a great calamity—a great calamity for Ireland, and a great calamity also for the Empire. Sir Robert Kane proved, when Ireland had more than 8.000,000, and perhaps 9,000.000, of inhabitants, that the land, if properly cultivated and its resources duly developed, might support a much greater population than that. I think his calculations went nearly to 599 twice that number. It is sad therefore to think that a much diminished population should have no other resource but in quitting their native land. I hold, Sir, that the people of Ireland are as fully entitled to the consideration and assistance of the Government and the country as the people of Lancashire, who, I need not say, have had my warmest sympathy. The suffering in Ireland arose from natural causes, not from the passions of man; and why, therefore, because Providence, for its own wise ends, has again grievously afflicted them, are they not as much entitled to sympathy as if their sufferings arose from the consequences of a war in a foreign country? The suffering of Ireland has arisen from no overtrading, but is due to causes quite as much beyond the control of those who have to endure it as the cotton crisis in Lancashire. It will be no answer to me to say that in some unions the rates are still apparently moderate. In many they are high; but were they apparently moderate in all, it would be really no answer to my statements. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), the other night, said, he should deplore any great increase of the poor rates in Lancashire, because it would drag down many of the ratepayers to the level of the paupers. The same remark would apply to Ireland. In districts where the rates appear comparatively low, they yet fall with crushing weight upon the small farmers, and even upon the shopkeepers, whose resources have been greatly reduced, and who, in fact, have scarcely the means left of supporting themselves. Nor has the distress by any means reached its height. It is a cruel policy to throw a people upon their unaided resources; when those resources are so fearfully diminished by three successive failures of their staple industry. There will be, to a certain extent, relief afforded to the labouring class by out-door employment during the next month or two; but from the month of May to the month of September, when the harvest will be got in, I am afraid the sufferings of the people will be fearful. The effect already has been terrible. Country towns, once the seats of happiness and prosperity, are literally collapsed, and trade is in those towns utterly annihilated; and if things progress in the same sad direction, the result will be that half the towns in Ireland will become in a short time heaps of ruins. Sir, if the Government are satis- 600 fied that the state of things in Ireland is such as has been described in the statements which I have quoted, they are bound in some way or other to come to its rescue. I may be asked, what are they to do? Well, it is I who ask the Government if they have in their contemplation any remedial measure—for I can assure the right hon. Baronet that his Registration Bill is not a measure of relief, and will do nothing to meet the difficulty of the times. The Drainage Bill of my hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Dickson) will, no doubt, effect much good; but even it, if now passed, could not afford immediate relief. I still could suggest that much could be done, were there the desire to do it. For instance, in many parts of the country, fishing, which is an important branch of industry with the large coast population, cannot be carried on in safety in consequence of the dangerous and unprotected nature of the coast; why should not small harbours be made or improved, and piers be made in such localities? Then there is another description of useful work, which would be of enormous advantage at this moment. I am told that in certain districts of Ireland distress does not prevail—why? Because a railway is being carried through, and it affords extensive employment. Now, in consequence of the prevalent depression, railway enterprise languishes in many districts, and the works are still unproceeded with. I could point out two in my own county, which would pass through poor districts—from Cork to Macroom, and from Bandon to Skibbereen—and which would be of great benefit to the districts through which they are to pass. Are there, then, no railway enterprises in Ireland which could be stimulated by being assisted? Surely, by lending money on easy terms, such undertakings could be materially promoted. Why should not the Government aid in giving life to these languishing enterprises—which are good for all classes and for all interests—good for the country, and good for the empire. Then, there are works which the Government may themselves undertake in various localities. But why enter into particulars? If the Government are convinced that distress exists in Ireland, and are in earnest in their sympathy, the means of affording relief could be found. In the other House, a few nights since, the Pope's Government was taunted with the defect of being a "paternal" government. Well, Sir, I 601 confess I should prefer a little more of the paternal in the dealings of our Government with the people of Ireland in the hour of their necessity; and I sincerely trust that they will take the condition of that country into their best consideration in order to avert a calamity which is not only impending, but seems inevitable. I trust I have not too long occupied the attention of the House, and that I have strictly redeemed my promise by confining myself to the sole object for which I have risen on this occasion—which is, to draw the attention of Parliament and the country to the present state of things in Ireland, and to elicit from the Government some explanation on the subject. I now, Sir, beg to ask of the Irish Secretary the Question of which I have given notice—namely, Whether the attention of the Government has been directed to the distress now existing in Ireland; and, if so, Whether it is in their contemplation to adopt any measures for its relief?
said, he wished to return his thanks to the hon. Gentleman for having brought forward this subject. It must be admitted on all hands that deep distress existed in Ireland, and he wished to impress on the right hon. Secretary for Ireland the necessity of taking some step to prevent its continuance. It was not only in the agricultural districts, but in the country towns that the distress was felt. The commercial interest also was suffering. The proprietors of large concerns, possessed of good capital, in considerable towns, had informed him that the season last winter had been such as almost to induce them to shut up their establishments. He entirely approved the suggestion which bad been made of affording assistance to railways in course of construction. In connection with all such works there was a large amount of capital locked up, and the right hon. Baronet might well turn his attention and that of the Government to the desirability of unlocking some of that capital, and rendering it available for the construction of the works. Great stress had recently been laid on the amount of poor rate in some parts of England, and provision had been made that when in the distressed districts the poor rate rose to 3s. 6d. in the pound rates in aid should be collected in the adjoining district; but in many parts of Ireland the poor rate this season had considerably exceeded that amount. He had no wish to draw comparisons between the distress hi Ireland and 602 that in Lancashire. He was proud to think that his countrymen in Ireland had not been behindhand in their subscriptions for the relief of distress in Lancashire. They recollected the provision made for them in former years, and wished to return the kindness which had been shown to them. But, while attending a meeting in his own county to collect subscriptions for that purpose, he could not but feel some compunction in asking his countrymen to subscribe to relieve a population whose poor rates did not exceed 3s. 6d. in the pound, when there were parts of Ireland where the poor rates were 4s., 5s., and even 6s. in the pound. That was a serious state of affairs, and he hoped the Government would take it into anxious consideration. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland had at length discovered that things were retrograding in that country. It was not in the power of private individuals to relieve or mitigate the distress that existed. That was to a great extent within the power of the Government; and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would insist on their allowing him to introduce some measure to prevent the population of Ireland from longer suffering such misery and distress.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, I have listened with great attention to the remarks by which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) prefaced his Question, and I am bound to admit, speaking on behalf of the Government, it is evident there never was any intention to deny that, consequent on three successive deficient harvests, naturally a state of things exists in Ireland which must not only cause considerable pressure on those to be relieved, but on the small farmers, and especially the shopkeepers. The hon. and gallant Officer (Colonel Dickson) has stated that my noble Friend his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant has at length admitted the distress, but surely he must acknowledge that no more benevolent and kind-hearted nobleman exists, or one who would be more disposed to come forward and give his assistance if it were thought expedient on the part of the Government. I do not quarrel with the right of the hon. Gentleman to bring this question before the House and Parliament. I am bound to say no one is more entitled than he is to bring it forward, when I recollect the position he took recently in the county of Cork to arouse a feeling of sympathy towards those who were suffering distress in Lancashire. The Dublin Relief Com- 603 mittee, of which I was an attentive member, could not refrain from expressing our admiration of the conduct of the hon. Gentleman as Mayor of Cork. The words which he used on that occasion entitle him to the warmest respect, for, placed in the position which he occupied, he was surrounded by considerable difficulties. With what might have been the excuse of considerable pressure and suffering in his own country, he came nobly forward and said—Let us recollect the sufferings we underwent in the famine years, and let us stretch forward a liberal hand for the relief of our suffering fellow countrymen.… There are in every manufacturing town of Lancashire thousands of the same blood and race as ourselves who this day appeal to our sympathy in their misery, to our compassion, to our humane and Christian feelings.And he went on to say—We shall give this day to our countrymen what we can afford, and we all meet as Christian men, on a common platform, to do a common act of Christian kindness.The result of the appeal was a magnificent subscription in Cork, and no man, therefore, is better entitled than the hon. Gentleman to come forward now and lay before Parliament and the country the condition of Ireland at this moment. I can only reply to the hon. Gentleman in the language used by the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. Over the causes that afflict Ireland we have no control; they are the result of inclement seasons, of atmospheric influences, that it would be impossible to circumscribe or prevent; while the distress in Lancashire springs from human causes, which, God knows, we all desire should come to a termination as speedily as possible. When the hon. Gentleman endeavours to frame a comparison between the suffering in Ireland and Lancashire, we must remember, that terrible as have been the trials in Lancashire, no public grants of money were made. The destitute have been supported partly by the rates, partly by the liberal generosity of persons in all quarters of the world; and therefore, if in England we have not come forward with any special grants, I think the hon. Member and other hon. Members will agree with me that it would be very difficult for the Government and for me, speaking as an humble and subordinate Member of that Government, to propose grants for the alleviation of distress in Ireland. I must call the attention of the hon. Member to a report 604 issued by the Dublin Central Relief Committee, in which they state that—£8,000 have been received by this Committee; besides which, upwards of five times that sum have been allocated by local authorities engaged in the same humane duty.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
—The report was issued, I believe, in the mouth of September. I have also learned by the Australian newspapers that an amount exceeding £7,000 has been subscribed by the inhabitants of Australia towards the funds in the hands of the Dublin Committee. I do not for a moment deny that a period of very severe pressure does exist, and that it will require great care and vigilance to overcome it; but it is not an occasion on which Government ought to come forward with special loans or grants of money. I am justified in saying that there are only three unions in Ireland— Cork, Limerick, and the South Dublin Union — where there is any pressure on the accommodation which the workhouses afford. There has been a large increase of out-door relief lately, consequent on the more lenient action of the Poor Law passed last year, but I must say that the state of things in Ireland bears no comparison with the position of affairs in Lancashire or with the facts disclosed in the Earl of Derby's speech. The hon. Member for Rochdale stated that in that town alone, with a population of 38,000, there are 20,000 persons in the receipt of poor relief and assistance from other benevolent channels: while in Ireland, with a population of 5,700,000, the total number in receipt of indoor and outdoor relief is 75.000. I admit that the number, even at that limit, is unfortunately too great, and that the present moment, perhaps, does not afford a fair criterion; but, taking the comparison as presented by the Poor Law figures, I am disposed to believe that the state of Ireland does not justify the melancholy picture which some persons are disposed to draw. The hon. Member also referred to the statistics of Irish prosperity, and observed that the number of acres under cultivation had decreased, while the live stock had increased in number. That is perfectly true. Owing to successive bad seasons, the farmers have thought it better to turn their holdings into pasturage than to expose themselves to the losses entailed by bad and defective crops. It was contended by the hon. and gallant Member for Limerick 605 that the rates in Ireland were very heavy —I think he said over 3s. 6d. in the pound, in a very great number of in stances. It is important that I should put my hon. and gallant Friend right on that head, because I have just received a return from Dublin showing the average poundage on the rates now in course of collection in Ireland. It says—There are fifty-four electoral districts where the rates exceed 3s. in the pound, and there are eight where the rates exceed 5s.; but the average poundage on the rates in Ireland does not exceed move than 1s. 2d. in the pound.That does not show a very heavy pressure generally on the rates; and I would observe, that with all this suffering, I am informed by the best authority that the: sanitary condition of the people was never better. A great deal of harm, in my opinion, is done by speeches and discussions in the public press as to "how Ireland may be saved." They are calculated to exercise the worst possible effect on classes of persons whose condition is undoubtedly improving. ["No, no!"] Well, of course, that is a matter of opinion, and I hold my opinion very strongly. No doubt much distress does exist, but in every case where the slightest appearance of undue pressure has been reported to the Government I lost not a moment in taking every step to excite attention to the circumstances, and particularly to incite the Poor Law Inspectors to active measures. I do not wish to make the slightest allusion to my personal exertions; but as the hon. Gentleman refers to the precautions which the Government ought to take, I am compelled to do so. In one district in the County Cork great and sudden pressure existed, and a most charitable lady, whose name can never be mentioned except in connection with some noble action, wrote to ask whether I could give her any information with regard to that part of Ireland. The House will at once understand that I allude to Miss Coutts. I told her, that if she would communicate with a most respectable resident clergyman, Father Leader, I had no doubt he would give her every assistance. I believe she did so, and that the priest in the locality gave her the most satisfactory and complete information. That lady, out of her own pocket, paid the emigration expenses of numerous destitute families, and thus relieved the poverty of the district. That case, and others which I could mention in the 606 County Galway, will show, that although I had no funds at my own disposal, no time was lost in taking every step which I was legitimately entitled to adopt for the purpose of attracting attention to cases of destitution. The subject is one well worthy the attention of the House and of Parliament, and I am glad the hon. Member has brought it forward. On the part of the Government, however, I can give him no answer but that which the noble Viscount has already done. I hope the depressing influences of past seasons may be ameliorated in the present year; and I believe we have passed the worst period of pressure. The Poor Law Commissioners write this day that they believe the climax will be reached in a fortnight or three weeks; and I am assured by other persons that, so far from the condition of Ireland deteriorating in the manner that some are disposed to believe, its state is sound and satisfactory; and that if the depressing influences of the time were past, the native energies of the people would rouse themselves, and we might look for an opening season of increased prosperity.