said, he rose to bring before the notice of the House the present depressed condition of Ireland, together 817 with the amount of taxation imposed on that country, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the causes of such depression and the effect of the taxation which it now bears. It had been his desire to bring forward his Motion at an earlier period of the Session, and he should have had an opportunity of doing so but for the adjournment that took place on the death of Sir George Cornewall Lewis. He was sorry to say that the smallness of the attendance of hon. Members forced him to the conclusion that the House took but little interest in the condition of Ireland; but he held that her condition could not be considered alone, but must be coupled with that of this country, and that the destruction of one must be the destruction of the other. Any one who made a careful investigation of the subject could hardly doubt that the prosperity of Ireland had been on the decline for some years. Notwithstanding the fact that some writers were in the habit of denying that distress in it existed, and representing the prosperity of Ireland as something fabulous, any one who took a candid survey of the period since the Union must admit that the prosperity and improvement of the country had not been as great as might have been expected. He was not about to raise the question, nor to state and urge objections to the Union. He entertained no wild ideas in regard to repeal by violent measures. He rather wished to show at the present moment the means which would conduce to cement the Union, but he held that the only basis on which any Union could properly be maintained was that of mutual interest and perfect equality. In considering the state of Ireland, the first point to which he would refer was the decrease of population, for he did not hold the opinion of some that a great decrease of population was a sign or a cause of prosperity. The population of Ireland decreased from 8,178,000 in 1841 to 5,714,000 in 1861, which was but little more than the number of the inhabitants at the period of the Union The population of England had doubled since 1800. In 1811 it was 10,164,256 and in 1862 it was 20,091,725, while it Scotland in the same period it had increased from 1,805,864 to 3,061,251. He would ask whether there was anything in the soil or climate of Ireland to account for this difference as regarded the increase of population in the two countries. Neither was the cause to be attributed to any wan of industry in the people, for they pros- 818 pered elsewhere. The decrease had been occasioned by famine, disease, and emigration; but it was a question that must strike any one, and he now proposed to discuss, and he believed He could show, why it was that the country had become impoverished during its connection with the richest country in Europe? In the second place, the official Returns showed beyond doubt there had been, moreover, a marked diminution of agricultural progress, both in respect of crops and stock. The agricultural exports had fallen off seriously since 1847; and the extent of land under cereal crops was also less. By these it was shown that between the years 1847 and 1861 there had been a decrease in cultivation of cereals of 678,806 acres, and still further in 1862—or of 6,630,836 quarters of different kinds of corn, which would not be of less value than £10,000,000. Ireland used to send £15,000,000 worth of agricultural produce to England, and £2,000,000 worth to London alone. The value of the exports of corn in the years 1841–2–3–4 averaged £4,000,000; in 1847 it had declined to £3,317,000; and in 1861 to £1,402,000; whilst at the present time, instead of exporting to other countries, Ireland was importing corn and cereal crops to the value of between £4,000,000 and £5,000,000. As almost everything depended on agriculture in Ireland, these results were indicative of great depression; for it should be borne in mind that 66 per cent were in Ireland employed either directly or indirectly in agriculture, and a large proportion of those who traded were dependent on its prosperity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself admitted that between 1856 and 1860 there had been a decrease of above £12,000,000 on the principal items of agricultural wealth in Ireland. There was also a decrease in the acreage of meadow land, as well as in other different branches of agricultural industry. But it was said that there was an increase in the quantity of stock, and that if there was a diminution in the value of the produce of cultivation, Ireland had gained by the increase in her cattle, sheep, and other descriptions of animals. That was not correct. Since 1853 there was a decrease in cattle and horses. The decrease between 1861 and 1862 alone amounted to £1,500,000 in value. He reckoned the decrease of stock at £13,000,000 between 1841 and 1861: from 1841 to 1847 there had been an increase; but stock had undoubtedly decreased, and he regretted to anticipate a 819 still further diminution. Then, with respect to green crops, which were mainly consumed by stock, there was also a decrease; and although a professor who had lately written a pamphlet, and who had endeavoured to show that there was no distress in Ireland, had declared that there was no falling-off, but rather an increase in green crops, he denied that statement; but even if there had been an increase in quantity, there could not be an increase in value, from the simple fact that there were less Cattle to consume those crops, and it was obvious that the value which a farmer received from green crops was from the increase in the condition or number of the cattle which consumed them. The quantity of potatoes had decreased from 2,548,795 tons in 1847 to 1,858,633 tons in 1862, while in 1855 the quantity had been 6,139,201 tons; and it must be borne in mind that potatoes were the food of the Irish people raised by themselves, but now it is corn, in a great measure the Indian corn purchased from a foreign country. It was true that the distress did not this year reach the point of starvation—that the labourer, when he could get work, and could obtain food cheaply, was paid sufficient to enable him to live; but it was the class of smaller farmers who had suffered greatly. In 1841 it was stated one-sixth of the stock in Ireland belonged to small farmers? but that state of things was changed, and now nearly all the stock belonged to large farmers or graziers, showing that the poorer farmers were now poorer than ever, even were it admitted that the stock in the hands of the former class had increased, which, however, was not the case. He found also that there had been a diminution in the amount of deposits in the savings banks, which was a clear indication of increased pressure among the humbler classes. Then, to show a further diminution of the wealth of Ireland, he had to point out to the House that in the public stock transferred between England and Ireland, the balance was formerly in favour of Ireland, sometimes to the extent of one to near two millions; but for the last three years the balance of transfer had been entirely against that country. The professor to whom he had alluded, in his pamphlet, to show the increased prosperity of Ireland, referred to the increased amount of railway property in Ireland; but of course, railways being a recent creation, there had been an increase in property of that nature in every country; 820 and although the employment given by their construction, as well as the facility of communication, benefited Ireland, as it did every other country where they were introduced, much of the capital employed and the profits, of course, were held by Englishmen. But even in this species of property in Ireland there was a decrease, for the chairman of the Great Western Railway Company of Ireland had recently declared that there had been a great diminution in the value of railway property, and other authorities had stated the same fact. The exports and imports would afford a test of the condition of Ireland. It was not possible to state exactly the amount of the exports and imports, between England and Ireland, because accounts were only kept of certain articles. But one fact was clear, that with respect to foreign trade they were as well off at the period of the Union as they were now—indeed, he might say better. There had been no increase in the trade, and any foreign products which Ireland received came for the most part through England. In 1790 Ireland exported to foreign parts to the value of £1,012,516; in 1800, £528,111; but in 1860 our exports to foreign countries amounted only to the value of £278,062. No doubt the imports from foreign countries had increased; but as they were to the value of £5,000,000 for food alone, that increase was another proof of the impoverishment of the country. Then as to manufactures, he found the inspectors' reports showing a continual decrease in the number of mills, and a diminution in the number of persons employed. In fact, manufactures had almost wholly ceased in some parts of Ireland. The growth of flax had certainly increased, but flax was not a crop which good agriculturists would prefer to see increasing, as its tendency was to deteriorate the soil. In 1778 Arthur Young had stated this, and stated that in Ulster, from this cause, in no part of Ireland did the soil exhibit such a state of beggary and desolation; but, at all events, Mr. Baker, Inspector of Factories, reports that in six counties in Ireland, since 1836, cotton manufactures had disappeared, and in none increased; and in all Ireland the number of cotton mills had diminished, between 1839 and 1862, from twenty-four to nine, and the number of persons employed in them from 4,612 to 2,732. In the woollen trade we had but four mills, employing 100 people, and in the same period the persons employed fell from 821 1,231 to 862, and in worsted we had one mill employing 100 persons. No doubt, however, those employed in flax manufacture had increased from 9,017 to 33,525 in the same period. He might add that it was no proof of the absence of distress in Ireland that the number of paupers in the workhouses had not increased, because, as long as the Irish labourer could live outside, he would not enter the poor-house; and the poor had in great numbers been disposed of in former years by famine, disease, and emigration by about 2,000,000. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of his Financial Statement, had admitted a diminution in the capital of Ireland, and a prevalence of distress in that country, and he would now call the attention of the House and of the right hon. Gentleman to another point—that the only thing which had increased in Ireland was taxation. The first thing to be ascertained was what Ireland paid. In 1861–2 the Customs were about £2,294,000, the Excise £3,269,000, stamps £589,000, income tax £918,000, and Inland Revenue £573,000; and other items brought the total amount to more than £7,000,000. But that would not he a fair statement of the account, because Ireland had a very small direct foreign trade in tea, wine, and other consumable articles; and although a portion of those articles was brought to Ireland in bond, the greater part came from England after paying the duties, and England took credit for so much of the taxation which was really borne by Ireland. The best-informed persons assured him that it would be a moderate estimate if, for that reason, he doubled the amount of Customs and Excise; and although he should take a much more moderate estimate of the addition which Ireland had a right to put to her account of taxation on those heads, yet with other additions to which he should refer, it seemed to him fair to set down the total amount of Irish taxation at nearly £11,000,000. There was another element in the calculation when they were considering whether Ireland had to bear more than a fair proportion of the taxation of the Empire, and that was her share in the Woods and Forests revenue, in a proportion of the payments by Colonies towards their own support, in a like proportion of the payments by foreign Governments, and in the returns from old stores, in all of which Ireland had as good a right to participat 822 as England, since there was a partnership between the two countries, and those sums belonged to the Empire and not to England exclusively. Our produce from the Woods and Forests had been £64,000: sales had diminished this sum, but we were entitled to the interest of the purchase money, and to the proportion of Miscellaneous Receipts, which were about £2,500,000. These, with the other claims to which he had alluded, would entitle him to estimate the real Irish taxation at least£11,000,000. At the time of the Union two-seventeenths was settled as the proportion of payments to be made to the Imperial Treasury by Ireland. But this proportion, as well as the measure itself, was carried against the wishes of the people, by means of which no Irishman could be proud; and protests having been made against the unfairness of the amount, it was agreed by the Treaty of Union itself that at the end of twenty years there should be a new arrangement of taxation. Lord Castlereagh considered it an injustice to Ireland in calling on her for an equal taxation; in 1802 the first Sir Robert Feel "cautioned the House against addition to Irish taxation." Mr. Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated "that Ireland was not able to boar the burdens of Great Britain, nor was she called on so to do;" in 1805, Mr. James Fitzgerald said, "It was obvious Ireland could not discharge her part of the unequal contract, and England would ultimately pay all." Mr. Parnell, also a Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that "the proportion imposed on Ireland was greater than she ought to have paid." Mr. Wellesley Poole said the expenses of the Empire, when the Union was made, were twenty-five millions; now (1813) they were seventy-two millions, and Ireland could never have been expected to pay two-seventeenths of this sum; but it is needless to add to the authorities who protested and asserted that Ireland was not called on to submit to such an excessive amount of taxation, which the country was unable to bear. In 1816, Mr. Vesey Fitzgerald proposed a consolidation of the Exchequers, but that was not an equalization of taxation. By the 7th Article of the Treaty of Union it was arranged that the English Government at the end of twenty years should make a new calculation, and see what was fairly to be contributed by Ireland to imperial taxation, and the basis on which this calculation is to be made is laid down in the 7th Article of the Treaty. But no such thing was done; they con- 823 solidated the Exchequers, and imagined that they had secured equal taxation. Seeing, however, that the taxation had been at various periods one-twelfth, one-seventh, and one-tenth of the Imperial taxation, and that up to the present moment there had been no re-adjustment, he charged the English Government with a glaring infraction of the Treaty of Union. The Irish had a right to a re-adjustment of their taxation. He therefore hoped the House would take the matter into consideration, in order to determine whether Ireland was justly or unjustly taxed. They were bound by the Act of Union to treat Ireland fairly, and that had never yet been done. The proportion of sums borrowed for prosecuting the Peninsula and other wars with Napoleon Bonaparte had been, as it appeared, made on no fixed principle, but a large debt had been assigned to Ireland. There was a Return connected with the subject, produced on the Motion of Mr. Macgregor, which he could never understand, and yet it was clearly and palpably false. Indeed, this was evident, for there was another Return relating to the same matter, and there were some hundred thousand pounds of a discrepancy between statements as to the amount of debt attributed to Ireland in each. What he wished, therefore, was to have some means by which they might arrive at a proximate rate of fair taxation, and apportionment of the debt due by each country. The debt of Great Britain at the time of the union amounted to £457,000,000, and the debt of Ireland to £13,000,000, the total being £470,000,000. He considered that the fair way to calculate the proportion of each country would be to deduct these sums from the present debt of the United Kingdom, and then to take two-seventeenths, the proportion established at the Union, if they would not re-adjust the proportion for the present time for the debt now due by Ireland. But it was but fair that a re-adjustment of debt and proportion of taxation should even now, at the third recurrence of the stipulated period, be made. England was never freed from that obligation, and the proceedings of this House showed it was not considered that the consolidation of the Exchequers in 1816 had that effect. By the Treaty of Union no additional tax was to be placed on any article subject to Excise in Ireland, which exceeded that paid in England. It appeared this had been done, and in 1823 the House determined to repair this infraction of that 824 treaty. How did it proceed? The Treaty of Union was formally read, and in accordance with the 6th and 7th articles of this treaty the 4 Geo. IV. was passed, empowering the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Revenue to take measures to bring the provisions of these articles into effect. Nothing could be more solemn than this recognition by the Commons (in 1823) of the Treaty of Union, and that after the consolidation of the Exchequers, which took place in 1816. Could anything be more conclusive than that we should now proceed to the re-adjustment of the taxation of the two countries, which would show a contribution of at most £7,000,000 yearly as against £11,000,000, under which she at present struggled? If he obtained his Committee, which he was most anxious the House should grant, it might be possible to enter on the subject; and Government ought to turn their attention to it. Ireland suffered from the immense pressure of taxation, and that was one principal reason why the country was exhausted of its capital. A great portion of the taxation of Ireland was drawn out of the country, and spent in England. It was different in England; of the Imperial revenue he could not see that more than £10,500,000 was spent out of England, and therefore she continued rich. What was drawn by taxation from one man enriched another. The expenditure on dockyards, arsenals, and all public works was expended on the working classes, and the aggregate wealth of the country was not diminished; but in Ireland the drain was continual, and to add to it we had to add £4,000,000 for the annual drain caused by the income of absentees. Out of the taxation of Ireland scarcely £5,000,000 found its way back to that country. How could Ireland be otherwise than she was? He repeated that it was the duty of the Government to look narrowly into the subject. He had endeavoured to state the reasons why he thought the Committee should be granted. He had not gone into many details, which he knew would be wearisome; but he was perfectly certain, so long as the present system of taxation was pursued with regard to Ireland, her condition would not be materially improved. He regretted to see the population of Ireland falling off—many of her industrious sons were flying to other countries. He hoped that things might be placed on that basis that they would be enabled to support a population much larger than what existed 825 in Ireland. That it was for the advantage of England to keep Ireland in her present state he did not believe. They had all the freedom and advantages of England in every other respect; but when they came to that House for some small subsidy, such as the Galway subsidy, there were Scotch and English Members who were most reluctant to grant a single shilling, and he even believed every means had been taken to induce the Government to avoid the completion of that contract. One of the most impolitic things the Government could do, was to deny justice in these matters. Ireland's connection with this country must be based on equality and justice. He had now brought the subject before the House—he apologized for having done so. He had endeavoured to be as short as possible, for he feared it might be said that a soldier was not perhaps the best fitted to deal with such a question.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the causes of the present depressed condition of Ireland, and the effects of the taxation she now bears,"—(Colonel Dunne,)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I am quite sure it was needless for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to offer to the House any apology for the time which he occupied in bringing under our consideration the subject of his Motion. On the contrary, I would say, that considering the magnitude of the subject, he has been extremely brief in dealing with a question which involves so many details, and which ranges over so many years. The question itself is one which I confess I am very glad should be brought under the serious notice of the House of Commons. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has observed that in submitting to the House on the part of the Government the financial statement for the present year I admitted the existence of distress in Ireland. I accept unhesitatingly the statement of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, taking exception however, as I may fairly do, to the word "admit," which scarcely does justice to my object. An admission is said to be made by a man who is dealing controversially with a subject, whereas my simple 826 object was to state the exact truth as it had come under my observation, and to lay fully before Parliament the case as it stood in connection with a state of things which I deemed to be intimately connected with the general prosperity of the country and the condition of the revenue. The facts to which I on that occasion referred were undoubtedly of a very grave order; nor am I disposed to endeavour to detract from their due weight, because I cannot concur with the hon. and gallant Gentleman in all that has fallen from him with respect to some abstract opinions which he has advanced, or the practical application of those opinions. I am very much inclined to question a proposition which I understood him to lay down, that taxation is no diminution of the wealth of a country, provided the money raised by its means is spent in the country in which it happens to be levied. I do not know that this is the time or place to discuss a point of political economy, but I may observe that I regard that proposition as a fallacy. In my opinion, taxation which is unnecessary for the real purposes of Government is an entire waste of public money and leads to bad consequences, whether it be spent in the country in which it is levied or not. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has alluded to another point—the question of what is popularly called absenteeism—which is, I grant, of very great interest to Ireland, but which it would be presumption on my part to attempt to argue with him, except in so far as it has special relation to the department over which I have the honour to preside. I can well understand how the subject may be one of painful consideration to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and those whom he represents; but I confess I can hardly see how it can be met in detail as a matter arising out of the relations between Scotland, England, and Ireland. If it be true that Irish landlords reside less on their estates than the landlords of Scotland, or Yorkshire, or Devonshire, that may be a circumstance to be much regretted, but I do not believe there is any way in which this House can address itself to the cure of so serious an evil. I know of no way in which this House can address itself to correct that evil except by endeavouring to do every thing in its power to improve the social and economical condition of Ireland, and give its people equal rights and advantages with the rest of the kingdom in 827 regard to the security, confidence, and freedom of their enjoyment and disposal of their property. That is the only mode in which we can act upon what I fully admit to be a great evil—namely, the general or extensive non-residence of the proprietary body, not only whose expenditure, but whose social and moral influence, we must look upon as absolutely essential to the welfare of the country. With respect to the present depressed state of Ireland, the hon. and gallant Member dwelt mainly upon the effect of taxation, and the remedy he proposed was the re-adjustment of existing financial arrangements on principles which I confess I felt considerable difficulty in following. To one of his arguments I must demur. He appeared to assert a right in the various parts of the kingdom to have public money expended on what I may call geographical principles; that the taxation raised in Ireland was to be computed, and against that taxation a counter claim was to be lodged on behalf of Ireland for the expenditure of the money so levied within her own limits. If that doctrine is good, it will be difficult to confine it to Ireland. It will travel into Scotland, it will come back into England, and we shall have the south, the north, the west, and the east making their separate claims. Wales will begin to consider how much it pays and how much is spent within its limits. This strain of argument is very much in vogue in the Ionian Islands, and there carried to very great length. The people of those seven little islands cannot, in fact, understand that taxes should be raised to meet certain purposes connected with the general well-being of the whole group; and they continually contend that each almost parochial circumscription has a right to have expended upon itself the same portion as it contributes to the general revenue. I will not say it is not wise to consider leniently and equitably cases where Irish feeling, or Scotch feeling, or any local feeling happens to be warmly and deeply engaged; but I hope I shall not be thought harsh or unjust if I cannot assent to the general proposition that the taxation of the country is to be like a local shower, drawn for awhile from the surface of the earth by evaporation, and then descending on it again with fertilizing effect at the very spot from which it first rose.
Now, Sir, the distress in Ireland I do not attempt to extenuate. I am very glad the subject has been brought forward, and 828 hope, if necessary, it will be again and again brought under our notice. Ireland, I am afraid, has been suffering very deeply. That is to us a matter of very deep concern. The chief consolation we may have is that she has been suffering by one of those visitations of Providence, which, coming within the usual limits of the vicissitudes of the seasons, appears to bear on the very face of it the note of a temporary character, and that the weather and improved temperature of two or three years may, I trust, replace, and more than replace, all that she has lost by the extreme severity of the last few seasons. That, however, is no reason why the hon. and gallant Member should not investigate this subject, and show, if he can, that the impoverishment of Ireland is due to any injustice with which she may be treated in matters of finance. It is not, I think, a capital point in this question to inquire in what proportions the public money is spent in the three countries; but, entertaining that as a mere secondary matter, I am bound to say, that as far as what may be called our optional expenditure of the public money is concerned, Ireland appears to enjoy a share of that expenditure which it is somewhat difficult to account for if compared with the share of England, and more especially if compared with the share spent among our uncomplaining friends in Scotland. It is very difficult to try the question accurately as between Ireland and England, because in England there is a considerable expenditure made, not for English purposes alone, but for the benefit of the entire empire. But the sum, as far as I can ascertain it, which is voted for civil services for Ireland, specifically and exclusively, and without reference to any want or purpose except what is strictly confined within her own limits, is £1,551,000. The proportion between that sum and our total miscellaneous expenditure shows that Parliament has not been disposed to be niggardly in its supply for the local advantage of Ireland whenever money can be justly voted for such objects. The amount voted for England, apart from those direct expenses of Government which are essentially necessary for the three countries alike, is, compared with the £1,551,000 for Ireland, not more than £2,200,000 or £2,300,000—a difference between the two, I need hardly observe, which is altogether trivial, with reference to the proportion between the population of the two countries, because the propor- 829 tion between the population of England and Wales and that of Ireland may now be placed at nearly four to one; whereas the Votes of Parliament for services specifically English appear to be only in the ratio of three to two, as compared with those specifically Irish. Exception may, however, be taken to that statement, because there is also a considerable expenditure in England, as, for example, the expenditure connected with the Houses of Parliament, the Government offices, and so forth, which actually takes place in England, although it is made for the wants of the three countries in common. Well, let us look to Scotland. Its population is more than half that of Ireland—namely, about three millions, while that, of Ireland does not greatly exceed five millions, or between five millions and five and a half millions. [Expressions of dissent.] I am speaking of Ireland in 1863, when the population has undergone some diminution, I believe, below the point it stood at in 1861. The special votes for Ireland are, as I have said, £1,551,000. The special votes for Scotland, as far as I can make them out, are not more than about £360,000.—[Mr. HENNESSY: What are the items?]—The legal and judicial establishments for Ireland, including the constabulary, cost £957,000; the charge for education is £291,000; and the charge for public buildings or parks, £96,000. These are the three largest items, and then come the Votes for Nonconformist ministers, the Dublin hospitals, the Poor Law Commission, the Office of Works, and so forth. Coming to Scotland, I have not the means of dividing precisely the charge for education there, but I take it at about £90,000 or £100,000; then the charge for the judicial, legal, and police establisments is £171,000; and there are other miscellaneous items amounting together to some £90,000 more, making up the total of £360,000. I do not regard these as decisive or cardinal elements in this question. I only quote them to show that the hon. and gallant Member is not justified if he wishes it to be understood that Ireland is illiberally treated in respect to public expenditure for local purposes.
I am reluctant to enter now upon the subject of the Galway contract, on which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has spoken with some—and perhaps natural—warmth, and I am far from desiring to make it a matter of controversy. I will only say, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, 830 what we are prepared at the proper time to prove—that we have exacted nothing from the Galway Packet Company which we would not have exacted in the case of an English or a Scotch company, and that concessions have been made in favour of that company which have hardly ever, if ever, been made in favour of any English or Scotch company.
I now come to the general subject of taxation. I shall endeavour, in the first instance, to canvass the computations of the hon. and gallant gentleman, and then I shall try to make as fair a comparison as circumstances will admit of the taxation of the two countries. The hon. and gallant gentleman admits, I think, that the revenue returns do not show that Ireland pays an undue share of taxation? [Colonel DUNNE: I admit nothing of the kind.] I understood the hon. and gallant gentleman to say, that although Ireland paid in round numbers £7,000,000, he did not intend to dwell upon that as a proof that she suffered injustice. What he alleged was, that she really pays a great deal more, though I think he was rather cloudy in that portion of his speech in which he contended, that although the figures only showed £7,000,000, yet Ireland pays £11,000,000. He said, with respect to the Customs revenue, that according to the Returns as they appear upon paper, Ireland contributed £2,286,000 in 1861; but that, he maintained, is utterly fallacious, because Ireland receives an enormous amount of duty-paid goods from England, whereas the £2,280,000 only represents the goods which she imports herself, or else the goods which she receives from England under bond. The hon. and gallant gentleman said that it would be a very moderate calculation if, in consideration of the duty-paid goods which Ireland receives from England, he doubled the amount set forth in the Returns; and in that way he raised the £2,286,000 to near £4,600,000 for Customs. All I can say is, that the calculation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman refutes itself. In the first place, Irish tradesmen know the value of capital much too well to send to England for great quantities of duty-paid goods. All tradesmen in all parts of the three kingdoms are taught by their own instincts to get goods in bond as near their own doors as they can; and as we have now a considerable number of bonded warehouses in Ireland, the Irish tradesman, like the English or Scotch tradesman, 831 does not take his goods out of bond before he needs them. In the second place, I have always understood that Ireland is a poorer country than England; but if Ireland really pays £4,600,000 of Customs revenue, she must be a richer country than England. She certainly pays the same Customs duties, and if she consumes a larger quantity of goods per head than England—if she pays a greater tribute per her head to the Customs revenue than England—then the ground of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is cut away from under his feet by his own calculation. But I will now look at the Revenue Returns—I mean the actual figures as we find them in the papers—for I contend they represent the true state of the case as to the relative taxation of the two countries. In Great Britain the payment of Customs revenue amounts to 18s. 7d. per head; in Ireland it amounts to 7s. 10d. The Excise payment in England is 13s. 6d. per head, in Ireland it is 9s. 10d. In stamps, for England the payment is 7s. 6d.; for Ireland it is 1s. 10¼d. For land and assessed taxes the payment in England is 2s. 11d. per head, whereas in Ireland it is nothing. In England the payment for income tax is 9s. 1½ d., in Ireland it is 2s. 6¾d. So far, therefore, as the apparent incidence of taxation goes, you cannot draw from the actual figures any presumption or any tendency towards the proof of a presumption, that injustice is inflicted upon Ireland.
But it may be said that the returns do not prove that Ireland is more lightly taxed than England; and I admit that the figures I have quoted might be compatible with a system under which Ireland should be subjected to unequal taxation, and to the payment of higher rates of taxes, arising from the extensive poverty of her population. As a matter of fact, however, is Ireland unequally taxed, as compared with England? The hon. and gallant Gentleman has quoted an old Act of Parliament, which says that no higher duty shall be paid upon any article in Ireland than is paid in England. Is there any higher duty levied in Ireland? Is there any form of taxation among all those varieties which the ingenuity or necessities of financiers have caused them to invent, under which Ireland is subjected to a higher charge than England? The hon. and learned Member for Youghal (Mr. Butt) thinks he has discovered a spirit licence by which Ireland is subjected to a higher rate. All I can say is, that if he 832 makes good his case, if he produces the Act, chapter and verse, and if we are in favourable circumstances, probably that matter may be adjusted. Meanwhile, let us look at that question broadly, and in doing so I think it may be asserted generally that Ireland pays no tax that England does not pay; but, on the other hand, that England and Scotland both pay a considerable number of taxes that Ireland does not pay. The labouring population of Ireland, who are the poorest class relatively to the labouring population of the other two kingdoms, have at last attained to that first condition of political equality—equality of taxation; and the remissions enjoyed by Ireland at the present moment, which are considerable, are unhappily remissions affecting the classes which possess property. The duties upon tea, sugar, tobacco, spirits, beer, and all those articles in which the labouring population have an interest, we have raised, I think for good reasons, to an absolute equality in Ireland as compared with England; and the exemptions and privileges which remain are maintained, not on behalf of that portion of the community which in Ireland is excessively poor, but on behalf of that portion which is no poorer in Ireland than anywhere else. Men who can keep horses and carriages, or who have considerable estates in Ireland, are as rich as the same class in England. They are richer, indeed, because an income of £1,000 a year is worth more in Ireland than in England, and gives a higher social position there than here. We have in England duties on hackney coaches, horses, railways, and stage carriages, amounting to £700,000 or £800,000 per annum. All these duties are levied in England and Scotland, but not one shilling of them is paid in Ireland. We have also the assessed taxes, the land tax, and the inhabited house duty, which produce about £3,250,000 to the Exchequer in this country. Not a single shilling is paid in respect of any one of these duties in Ireland.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Then they form no part of the 833 taxation of Ireland. Whatever the Crown may receive it receives as a landlord, and I am not a farthing the richer for it. Although the classes possessing property are not less capable of paying in Ireland than in England, yet in adjusting the income tax, as far as the great mass of Irish property is concerned, very considerable mitigations have been granted to Ireland. I have nothing to say about Schedules D and E, but in England the income tax is assessed upon the rack rental of the estate, with only trifling deductions. In England the landlord pays upon the full nominal rental, no other deduction being allowed than the land tax and sewer rate—that is, he pays upon more than he receives, because no allowance is made for repairs. In Ireland the landowner pays upon less than he receives, because he is assessed to the income tax, not upon the rack rental, but upon the Poor Law valuation, which is arrived at after various deductions, which are by some persons estimated to amount to one-third. That may be an exaggeration, but, at all events, the deductions are considerable With regard to houses, the case is still more marked, because the cost of repairs is much larger. Nor does it stop there. Schedule B, which deals with the profits derived from the occupation of land, is that which in England is most liberally constructed, because the tenant is only charged with income tax upon one half of his rent; and if he can show that his profit is less than that, his assessment is reduced. In Ireland it is still more favourable, because the tenant pays not upon one half of his rack rental, but upon one third of the Poor Law valuation. No doubt it may be said that in Ireland rents are higher in comparison with the share of the produce which the tenant enjoys than they are in England; but, at any rate, this is a proof that Parliament has made a liberal allowance to the tenant in Ireland as compared with the tenant in England. A man holding a farm in England, at a rent of £500 a year, would pay upon £250 a year. In Ireland the deductions under the Poor Law valuation would reduce the rental to £375, and he would be taxed upon only £125. Certainly, it can hardly be supposed that such a tenant in Ireland only gets one half of the share of the product which he would receive in England. As far as I am able to judge, I do not think 834 that it is possible to show that there has been any want of consideration, or, if I may say so, of liberality, in the legislation of the united Parliament with respect to Ireland upon matters of taxation. I have a great suspicion of all liberality exercised in the shape of creating fiscal inequalities on behalf of one country as against another; and though I do not presume to teach Irish gentlemen their duties or their interest, I am profoundly convinced that equality of taxation lies at the very root of full political equality, and that it is in vain without equality of taxation to attempt to claim the exercise of full political equality.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not, I think, directly contested the positions which I have been stating, but he falls back upon the state of things which immediately followed the Union. He thinks that we ought to ascertain the proportion which the debt of England bore to the debt of Ireland at a certain time; that instead of our present basis, we ought to take the relative state of the two countries at the Union as our starting point; that as far as they were separate and distinct, that separateness and distinctness ought to be maintained, and those fiscal arrangements ought to be made fixed and permanent. But I am sure he must feel that in using this argument he is not arguing against me or against any Government or Parliament of the present day; he is arguing against the state of things which has prevailed in this country ever since the Peace of 1815. It was about that time that the Exchequers of the two countries were consolidated; and though I hold both offices, and have to pay fees as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Ireland as distinct from the Chancellor of the Exchequer in England, the distinction is now merely nominal. You have by the unbroken consent of a long line of Parliaments, extending over half a century, got a system of complete unity. Therefore, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman wishes to raise the question which he has shown a disposition to open, he must move for the repeal of the Act which establishes one Exchequer system; and it is not until that is done that we can revive that former and almost antediluvian state of things which prevailed before that consolidation was carried out. He must either take that course, or he must show in what way our present laws bear upon the face of their enactments injustice to Ireland. I do not think that he will find it practicable to do either the 835 one or the other. Certainly, as respects our laws, I think that what I have stated proves the equity, liberality, and fairness, whether or not it proves the wisdom, of the course which has generally been pursued by Parliament.
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks me whether, admitting the distress of Ireland, I have myself anything to offer in the way of boon, I must be very guarded in my answer. I have said that I think fiscal inequalities on behalf of any country are injuries even to that country itself. We must look to the influence of good laws, liberal legislation, and thorough and hearty equality in our endeavours to apply the principles of justice and freedom to all three countries, for the only means by which we can really confer benefit upon Ireland. Still, there is one admission which I should be disposed to make to my hon. and gallant Friend. I do not think that it is at all unfair to recognize a principle which we have already recognized to a great extent—that of exercising greater liberality in assisting enterprise in Ireland by loans of public money, where the security is unexceptionable, than in England or Scotland. No difference ought to be made between the three countries in point of security, because, if it was, this assistance would become a fountain of gross corruption. Take, for instance, Irish railways. Considerable loans have been made to such 'undertakings in Ireland upon very easy terms, whereas, if any one in England comes for a loan for such an enterprise, they are required to pay considerably more for it. There is no danger and no serious inconvenience in that method of proceeding; and it is fair to entertain the question in what cases such a principle as that may be applied, because the advantage of a scheme of that kind is that you assist in putting in motion the enterprise of Ireland itself, and all real and permanent benefits which she is to derive must be, not administered from without, like a dose of physic, but must be gained by the exercise of her own energies and her own powers. Whenever these can be stimulated by a somewhat more liberal extension of assistance such as I have described, I must confess that, without being prepared to say that any wholesale system of that kind ought to be adopted, I think that this would be a fair measure, and one that would be attended with considerable advantage.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has referred but slightly to his Motion for a 836 Select Committee to inquire into the causes of the distress, and I gathered from his speech that he does not intend to press that Motion. It is one which would be very serious at any time; and the commencement of an inquiry at the present moment, when we could make no effectual progress with it, could only have the effect of exciting hopes, as it were, simply to disappoint them. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will not think that it is an indication of any indifference or coldness on the part of the Government that we decline to concur in such a Motion. I even venture to trust, that although he may differ from me in thinking that fiscal re-adjustments can lead to the summary removal of the evils under which Ireland has been suffering, he will believe that I am not insensible to those evils, but am most warmly and anxiously desirous that they should disappear. Although I am now speaking of the last three years as a period of continuous suffering, I am fully aware that other causes were at work. I do not overlook the augmentation of rents and the diminution of the population. In one point of view, however, this affords a signal proof that the population which has remained must be a population improving in wealth, and all the statistical and social research with which I have had the opportunity of becoming acquainted does show that until a very recent period Ireland was making great and clear progress in everything connected with agricultural and manufacturing wealth. I sincerely trust the interruption to her prosperous career may be brief, and may soon entirely disappear, and I hope that Ireland has before her a future of continuing and uninterrupted prosperity.
§ MR. LONGFIELD
said, he thought a debt of gratitude was due from everybody connected with Ireland to the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had brought forward the question, and whose manner must have impressed upon the House the fairness of his views, and the sincerity and entire absence of passion with which he put them forward. The questions for the House to consider were these—was there great and general distress in Ireland? what were the causes of that distress? and what ought to be the remedies? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted the first part of the case very fairly, and expressed a hope that prosperity might again dawn on the land, The existence of distress was fur- 837 ther proved by the figures which his hon. and gallant Friend had adduced. Tested in every possible way, these figures established that there had been a decrease in the funded property of the country, a decrease in agricultural produce, a decrease in the live stock, and ultimately a decrease in the population. Turning then to the causes of the distress so plainly existing, they bad to consider whether these were afflictions sent by an all-wise Providence, or the natural results of bad and unequal laws. If they could fix a time up to which the condition of Ireland was improving, and beyond which its prosperity began to decline, a clue might be obtained to the causes to which that decline was fairly attributable. Now, what were the facts as disclosed by the statistics? Until the year 1852 the prosperity of Ireland was increasing; but from that date to the present time the growth of taxation had been rapid and uniform, and the country had drooped under the additional burden. Blame could not be laid upon the law of landlord and tenant, the grand juries, or the Established Church, for all these things were in existence prior to 1852, and in spite of them the prosperity of Ireland was progressive. It had recovered from the blight and failure of the crops in 1846–8, the productive powers of the land were being stimulated, and the inhabitants were not flying from the soil with the eager haste they had since exhibited. Clearly, therefore, the reason for the change must be sought in events subsequent to 1852. In that year the population of Ireland was between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000, and its taxation scarcely amounted to £4,000,000. In 1862 the proportions were reversed; the population little exceeded 5,000,000, and the taxation had amounted to very nearly £7,000,000 Instead of paying only 10s. a head, each member of the population contributed upwards of £1. With the single exception of the assessed taxes, the uttermost strain of fiscal imposition was put upon the weakness of Ireland. The best writers on political economy laid it down that mode rate taxation might prove a stimulant, but that in excess it was one of the greatest evils which could afflict a country. He would read a passage in that sense from a Whig writer, Mr. M'Cullagh—Taxation should be slow. To render an increase of taxation productive of greater exertion economy, and invention, it should be slowly ant gradually brought about; and it should never be carried to such a height as to incapacitate indi- 838 viduals from meeting She sacrifices it imposes by such an increase of industry and exertion as it may be in their power to make, without requiring any very violent change in their habits.Mr. M'Cullagh went on to say that an excessive weight of taxation, as it was deemed impossible to meet, will not stimulate, but destroy exertion—Instead of producing new efforts of ingenuity and economy, it will only produce despair. Whenever taxation becomes so heavy that the produce it takes from individuals can no longer be replaced by fresh efforts, they uniformly cease to be made, the population becomes dispirited, industry is paralysed, and the country rapidly declines.In Ireland, taxation had been exactly doubled within ten years, and the results predicted by Mr. M'Cullagh had come to pass. There could be no doubt that the repeal of the Corn Laws, although a great benefit to the British Empire, bad operated most injuriously to the agriculture of Ireland, and in many places had nearly ruined it. The full effect of the change was not felt till several years after 1846; and though—speaking abstractedly—he would not, be a party to the re-enactment of the Corn Laws, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that the predictions made at the time, as to the injurious effect of their repeal, had been actually fulfilled in Ireland, to the very serious detriment of Irish agriculture, the most important interest in that country. There were other interests, indirectly connected with agriculture, which had also suffered. A few years ago, there were ninety five thriving distilleries in Ireland, which not only supplied the home consumption, but exported large quantities of spirits, previous to the last change in taxation introduced by the right hon. Gentleman. A Return lately made to an order of the House, showed, that instead of ninety-five, there were only twenty distilleries now in operation. Clearly, the stoppage of these seventy-five distilleries must have been attended with serious consequences to the commerce and general interests of the country. Such establishments were valuable, not only in the returns brought into the country for what they exported, but as affording good and accessible markets to the growers of corn. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that taxation was a thing grievous and heavy to be borne, and that it should be imposed only from necessity; but his hon. and gallant Friend went further, and stated that the relative proportions of taxation ought to be adjusted according to the Articles of the Union. All 839 that his hon. and gallant Friend had said was, that taxation had a great deal to do with the decline of prosperity in Ireland, and the remission of taxation might have much to do with a revival of prosperity. He would therefore support his hon. and gallant Friend, should he go to a division. At all events, there would be one good result from the debate. It would show the sympathy that was evinced for Ireland by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he wished to take advantage of the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend for the purpose of calling attention to an issue less wide than that which had been raised by him—namely, to the lamentable condition of the western parts of Ireland. In the year before the last there was a failure in fuel and food, and the privations of the lower classes were extreme. Last year, so far as fuel was concerned, the state of affairs was better, and food was cheap, but the poor were unable to avail themselves of those advantages in consequence of the inadequacy of employment. It was easy to account for that. The better class of farmers had lost so heavily by the great mortality among the sheep, owing to heavy and incessant rain, and by the deficiency in the wheat crop, that they were unable to give more employment than was absolutely necessary. The landlords in the west were similarly situated; they had not received their rents, and their means of giving employment were circumscribed. When the Irish Members represented that state of things, they were told they were exaggerating, and bringing forward fictitious cases of distress. The hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. Maguire) was told that his facts and figures were quite fallacious, and his complaints were dismissed with uncommonly little ceremony. In fact, the Irish people might have been addressed in this way—O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona nôrint,Agricolas!But they did not know their happiness, and they went about exaggerating the evils of their condition. But the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when bringing in his Budget fully substantiated all that his hon. Friend and the other Irish Members had stated. It was not a pleasant thing to be told, if not in so many words, at least by hints, that they were like beggars standing in the highway, simulating fictitious diseases and asking for alms. 840 But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had done away with all those imputations, for he informed the House that within the last three years Ireland had lost no less than £12,000,000 worth of her agricultural produce, or, in other words, a sum equal to the whole annual valuation of the country. Suppose such a calamity had fallen upon England, what would have been the consequence? When, not long ago, a calamity fell upon Lancashire every hand in England was outstretched, and even in Ireland they contributed with a hearty good will, though their means were too scanty to add much to the contributions of this country. In Lancashire there was the richest community in the world, and the people who had to support the calamity were men who for years had been extending their operations and accumulating vast fortunes. But the landlords in Ireland were in a totally different position; they had not the means, however anxious they might be, to alleviate the distress. He had received letters day after day from gentlemen in the west of Ireland, in whom he placed the utmost reliance, and they informed him that in Connemara and along the western seaboard the privations which the people were enduring were something terrible. The relief committee of the town of Galway, which was composed of persons of all religious denominations, stated in its report of the 23rd of January last that the aspect of the town was positively frightful; that there were 850 unemployed artisans, 756 unemployed labourers, 1,100 orphans and infirm persons, representing altogether 9,130 of the population of Galway and the vicinity in absolute destitution. A subscription list was opened, and nearly £1,000 was collected. At the same time, those privations were borne with exemplary patience, and there was an almost total absence of crime in the town of Galway. This was the alternative which the Irish labourers had—that if they stayed at home, they stayed to be starved; and if they emigrated to America, they went probably there to be shot or to waste away their lives in the swamps of Tennessee and Georgia, or to be instrumental in killing brave men who had ever received their countrymen with hospitality. It might be asked, if the Irish labourers were in so distressed a condition, how could they find the means of getting to America; but he replied, that at that moment ample inducements were offered to active men, able to handle a rifle, to set 841 out for America. It was sad that the sister of a wealthy and happy country like England should he in such a state of perpetual misery. Earl Russell, in writing to Mr. Scarlett, recently said that discontent, if general, must he well founded. At the present moment, whatever might be the cause, there was no doubt that discontent prevailed throughout the whole of Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he could not admit what he called a geographical expenditure, and that equality of taxation was the basis of political equality. He had also talked of the difficulty of sending down a local shower of wealth upon a particular part of the community. Now, he (Mr. Gregory) did not ask for such a shower to be poured over Ireland; but what he complained of was that Ireland, like the fleece they read of in the Bible, remained dry while everything else around it was saturated with the descending dew. What was given to Ireland was, in the first place, given grudgingly; and, in the second place, it was given, as far as possible, in a manner to prove nugatory. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Galway subsidy, and seemed to imply that the Government had made a very great concession on the matter, and had behaved with remarkable liberality to Ireland. Now, it was supposed that that contract (which the noble Lord at the head of the Government expressly stated was given because, though public expenditure for similar purposes was widely spread through England, there was no public expenditure of the same kind in Ireland) was a new contract. When it was pointed out that the contract, by an accidental admission, contained the same time table for summer or winter, the Government insisted on treating it as an old one; but when it suited the purpose of the Government, they treated it as if it were a new contract. That was part of the system of which the people of Ireland complained. There was an endeavour made in the west of Ireland to obtain a loan from Government for a most important public work, which would have caused a vast deal of employment—namely, the construction of a large harbour of refuge; but by the mode in which the Government treated the Galway contract it was found impossible to carry this intention into effect. He was sure that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland was anxious to alleviate the distress in Ireland, and with his knowledge and experience of 842 that country he might have considerable influence in doing away with all those petty obstacles and impediments which were raised, not by the heads of departments, but by subordinate agents. If the right hon. Gentleman would do that, he might avert a vast amount of mischief, and even loss of human life, in the west of Ireland, and prevent another great exodus, like that which took place during the year of the Irish famine. The House must bear in mind, that the people, when thus driven from their country, took with them a feeling of enmity to England, which not only rankled in their own breasts, but which they bequeathed to their children. Though the House had cried out upon the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) for saying that every Irishmen who went abroad carried with him a feeling of bitter animosity against England, the statement was perfectly true. The rule of Lord Eglington, however, showed that discontent was not a perpetual element in Ireland; and if the Government manifested a disposition really to ameliorate the condition of that country, the House would not again be troubled with debates such as the present.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he thought that to go the root of Irish distress they must discuss the relations between landlord and tenant. He cherished no extreme opinions on the subject, but he thought that they would not pay due attention to the feelings of the people unless they took that matter into consideration. It was idle to talk about taxation in connection with distress. Taxation related to those who had got money in their pockets. A distressed man was not taxed at all, because he had nothing to pay with, and therefore relief from taxation would do him do no good.
§ MR. COGAN
said, it was truly a melancholy duty for an Irish Representative to be compelled to confirm the statements of the hon. Member with regard to the distress in Ireland. He (Mr. Cogan) came from one of the counties in Leinster, which were in better circumstances than the west of Ireland, yet even in the most favoured counties he felt that there was considerable distress—a fact which had been admitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his financial statement, though he regretted to say some of the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues had denied it, and had thus damped the efforts that the benevolence of the county might have made for its alle- 843 viation. They had had three bad seasons in Ireland, which of course in a great degree accounted for the distress which prevailed in that country. He would, however, remind the House that they did not ask for a grant from the Consolidated Fund, but only for an inquiry before a Committee of the House into the causes of the distress, and the question of the taxation of Ireland. There were permanent causes in operation, and remedies were required, one of which was the settlement on a satisfactory basis of the relation between landlord and tenant—a matter of great difficulty, but still not impossible to be achieved. Another cause of the want of prosperity in Ireland was the want of religious equality in that country. If there ought to be equality of taxation, there ought to be equality in regard to religious rights. In England there was a Church, which was the Church of the vast majority of the people, endowed by the State. In Ireland there was a Church which was a Church of a very inconsiderable portion of the Irish people. Whilst such an anamolous state of things existed, he did not think we could hope that Ireland would increase in a proper ratio of prosperity. It was no doubt a cheering circumstance for that House, and particularly for Members from Ireland, to see that the right hon. Baronet was at last about to identify himself with movements in Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had been represented in the papers as having taken a part at a meeting in the City yesterday, the object of which was not to raise £50,000 for the relief of distress in Ireland, but for the purpose of sustaining a peripatetic system of proselytizing. It was cheering to see that a change had at last taken place in the conduct of the right hon. Baronet. That was the only relief to be given to the people in West Connaught, and the right hon. Baronet thought it becoming in him to identify himself with that aggressive movement against the faith of a large portion of the Irish people He would ask whether it was becoming in a Minister to take such a part? So far as his experience and his reading of history went he thought that a Minister in the delicate position of the right hon. Gentleman, who was sent over to Ireland to preside over a Roman Catholic people—for the people of Ireland were a Roman Catholic people—the majority were Roman Catholic—should be more prudent. If the right hon. Gentleman were to seek peace, and to endeavour to soften down the reli- 844 gious animosities which prevailed in Ireland, and which were the root of so many evils in that country, it would be far better than proselytizing. The position of the Chief Secretary was one which required extreme prudence, and that quality the right hon. Gentleman had not exhibited while in office. He deeply regretted the the right hon. Gentleman had taken the step upon which he (Mr. Cogan) had taken the liberty of commenting. The right hon. Gentleman had denied the existence of distress in Ireland, but the House now knew that great poverty existed there, and that that placed the people in a position of great temptation. He would not attribute to the right hon. Gentleman that he believed that the people of West Connaught would be better tools to work upon while suffering from poverty; but he would say that the removal of the right hon. Gentleman from the office which he filled would be among the remedies for the removal of the distress in Ireland.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
Sir, this debate has rather extended beyond the original limits contemplated by the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite. According to his notice, he directed attention only to the question of the taxation of Ireland, to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I think, conclusively replied. After the discussion had followed its legitimate course my hon. Friend the Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory), without any notice, introduced the question of distress in the west of Ireland and made a lengthy statement as to the Galway contract; and now the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has deemed it proper to make a very severe attack upon myself for having, as he alleged, taken part in a movement for proselytizing West Connaught, and having refused to relieve the distress in order to assist that object.
§ SIR ROBERT PEEL
I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman say so. I can hardly suppose that there is any one in this House who knows me who could imagine me capable of such conduct. I must, however, boldly avow, that when I accepted the position of Chief Secretary—which I know I fill very unworthily; at all events, in the eyes of the hon. Gentleman—I never intended to give up my 845 own feelings in regard to religious observances. It is true that I attended the meeting yesterday; but when I entered the room, I had no intention whatever of addressing it. I went there merely because I had read a book called Good News from Ireland, and I was anxious to hear what could be said in support of the cause. It was only after Lord Harrowby had spoken that I took any share in the meeting. The noble Lord said, that having taken a part in all the great Liberal measures, such as the Catholic Emancipatian Act and the grant to Maynooth, he did not feel himself precluded from attending such meetings. I went there merely for the purpose of listening to the views of gentlemen deeply attached to their own religious faith, but, on the same ground as the noble Earl, I did not think myself precluded from moving a vote of thanks to the chairman. So far from making any allusion to an aggressive movement on the Roman Catholic faith, such an expression never fell from my lips, and I am bound to say that I consider myself perfectly free to attend meetings of that sort where both the Primate of England and the Primate of Ireland are present.
The question of the taxation of Ireland has been fully disposed of by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman dwelt very much on the decrease of population in Ireland between 1841 and 1861, which he says amounts to at least 2,000,000. I cannot say that I look upon that diminution of population altogether with feelings of regret, because it is quite certain that it was owing in a great degree to the fact that the people did not find adequate remuneration for their labour. Still, I entirely dissent from the opinion of the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) that the Irish who emigrate to foreign countries carry with them a feeling of hatred to this country. I believe they carry with them feelings of strong regard and sympathy for England. [A cry of "Oh, oh!"] Well, then, those who do not, do no harm to the realm in carrying their disaffection elsewhere. I candidly admit that a great emigration has taken place, and even at the present moment a great amount is still going on. The emigration of the present time far exeeds that of last year and the year before. No doubt, great inducements are held out to strong and vigorous young Irishmen to take service in the United States. It is impossible for the Government directly to in- 846 terfere, but we have taken pains to point out to these people that the fact of their being invited to assist in railway works did not preclude their being# asked to enlist in the service of the United States as soon as they land in America—a service in which Irishmen are treated not in the fairest manner. The decrease in the population between 1841 and 1861 amounts, I believe, to 2,751,000; but the population at that time was not proportionate to the wealth of Ireland, or to the fund from which labour was to be paid. In 1841 you had 13,464,000 acres of arable land under cultivation; in 1851 there were 14,802,581; and in 1861, 15,320,000; showing an increase of nearly 2,000,000 acres of arable land under cultivation, as opposed to a diminution of the population of 2,751,000. My hon. Friend behind me has said that I expressed my disbelief as to the existence of distress in Ireland, or at least that I had talked of fictitious cases of distress being brought forward—that I had said it was exaggerated, and that I had no sympathy with them. Such, I can assure the House, is not the case with me. An hon. Gentleman brought forward cases of alleged deaths by starvation, and I certainly showed that in those particular cases, at all events, he was mistaken. But I never denied in this House that there had been considerable pressure, and I would frankly own that for a time there was a greater amount of distress than there has been for some years. But if Providence will only bless the produce of the land for this season, I confidently anticipate that the harvest will be so abundant and that fuel will be so plentifully housed for the winter service, that we shall not have that pressure upon our poorer classes which has undoubtedly afflicted them for the last few seasons. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has alluded to the question of savings banks, and told us that there has been a diminution in the amount invested in those banks. I have taken the opportunity of making some inquiries into this question, and I have ascertained the number of depositors during the four years 1857 to 1860. In 1857 there were 57,756 depositors; in 1858, 59,853; in 1859, 65,504; and in 1860, 69,294; thus showing that there has been a regular and permanent increase in the number of depositors during these years. As to the amount of deposits, in 1857 the amount was £1,775,000; in 1858, £2,804,000; in 1859, £2,530,000; and in 847 1860, £2,142,000; showing a slight diminution in later years, but not to that extent which one would have supposed; and it must be remembered, too, that in these years Post Office savings banks were not established. We are doing what we can to promote their establishment, and no doubt they will be as successful in Ireland as they have been in this country.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was rather cloudy in the matter of the statistics of taxation, and certainly if he was cloudy on that, I cannot pretend to follow him in his statistics of the decrease of the average yield of the crops. You would hardly believe what a rainy country Ireland is. I have here statistics as to the rainfall of Ireland, and I find we actually had, in 1862, 221 days, or rather more than seven months of rain in Ireland. I ask, then, how is it possible that wheat can come to perfection under such circumstances? Though there may be a decrease in the total extent of laud under cereal or other green crops, there has been a great increase in the amount of flax cultivation. The total amount of land under flax cultivation in Ireland amounts to 147,957 acres. I am quite ready to admit that the district of Erris and some parts of Mayo are much exposed to the vicissitudes arising from variety of climate, and to suffer from the want of sufficient means and from defective sustenance; but I believe exertions have been made, and exertions are being made at this moment, to my certain knowledge, to relieve that distress. My hon. Friend read a Report which referred to a state of things that existed on the 30th of January in the present year; but things have greatly improved since then. Many thousands of pounds have been contributed through the generous charity of others, and have gone into the district to which that Report refers. [Mr. GREGORY: The spring work is over now.] Yes, the spring work is over, and I dare say there is some pressure, but the pressure is nothing like what it was. The annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners shows, that whilst the annual ratable value of property all over Ireland is £12,570,000, the average poundage of the rates made in 1861 was 1¼d., and the average poundage of the rates made in 1862, 1s. 2d., being an increase of only three farthings; and in the 14th section of that Report the Commissioners state— 848Comparing the last year with the present in other respects, and keeping in view the condition of the indigent classes only, as distinguished from the lowest of the farming-class, we have, during the present season, the advantages of much greater cheapness of food, abundance of fuel instead of great scarcity; and notwithstanding the stormy and wet weather in December and January, there has been, on the whole, a season free from any severe degree of cold; and the spring, so far as it has proceeded, has been unusually mild and fine. The favourable influence of these circumstances on the condition of the labouring poor is already observable in the progressive decline in the number in the workhouses, the maximum number appearing to have been reached on the 14th of February 1863, or three weeks sooner than in 1862, and having since decreased from 66,976 to 64,619,Of course, I cannot be supposed to go into the question of the Galway contract at this moment; but I think that business has been disposed of in a manner that is satisfactory to the Irish people; and I have always supported them in their applications on the subject. I hope the contract may be a source of immense improvement to Ireland. I look forward to it with my best wishes that the town of Galway, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Galway County must feel so interested, may have its resources developed to the greatest extent possible. I am unwilling to trouble the House at greater length, seeing that my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) is anxious to speak; but though I may be travelling somewhat out of the matter under discussion now, I will just observe that there is another question on which I had not an opportunity of addressing the House, and the further discussion of which will, I trust, be delayed till next Session, when the case can be gone into in a more satisfactory manner. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Queen's County commenced his observations by saying he thought that since the Union the prosperity of Ireland had decreased. I do not think that a reference to facts and statistics will bear him out in that view. I believe, that with the exception of the last three years, no country in Europe probably has made such immense strides in the material characteristics of civilization as Ireland has since the year 1852. Between the years 1851 and 1861 the population decreased in a most remarkable degree; but we must recollect that this decrease in population has led to a most remarkable decrease in crime. While the decrease in population has been at the rate of about 12 per cent. the decrease in crime has been actually at the rate of upwards 849 of 400 per cent. In 1851 the population was 6,552,385; in 1861 it was 5,764,543. The number of indictable offences tried at the assizes in the former year was 24,681, whereas in 1861 it was only 5,586. In 1851 the number of murders was 118; in 1861 it was only 30. In 1851 the attempts to murder were 14; in 1861 they were only 4. In 1851 the conspiracies to murder were 10, in 1861 they were none. In 1851 the number committed for riot was 1,827; in 1861 it was 449. The number of attempts to rescue—an offence which strikingly indicates a disorganized state of society—was in 1851 1,915; in 1861 it was 224. These figures show, that while the decrease of population was about 12 per cent, the decrease of crime was upwards of 400 per cent. They also clearly show this—that crime and poverty are inseparably connected. If the present season prove favourable, if the prospects of the spring and early summer are fulfilled, I have every hope that we shall seethe prosperity of Ireland reach that condition of development of which it gave so much promise in 1859. In conclusion, I have only to express a hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be satisfied with the interesting debate to which his Motion has given rise, and not press us to a division.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
The Motion made by my hon. and gallant Friend is one that affects the interests of the kingdom. It has been met by two Ministers of the Crown—the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. The right hon. Baronet has been furnished by the heads of Departments with bundles of papers, for which I give them much credit; and having perplexed himself by a study of those papers, he has endeavoured, I am sure unintentionally, to puzzle the House. He tells us that there has been extensive emigration from Ireland. We were aware of that. He says that Ireland is a rainy country. No doubt of it. He observes that wheat will not grow to perfection there. Some will say "ay" and others will say "no" to that. He remarks that the cultivation of flax has increased in Ireland. I think he makes that statement on the authority of a gentleman who wrote a pamphlet to prove that all the facts stated with respect to Ireland by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech were wrong. The Chancellor 850 of the Exchequer was complimented on his statement by my right hon. Friend who has just sat down, and that, no doubt, is part of the duty of the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. He said that the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was conclusive, and I have no doubt that in his mind that reply was conclusive. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was impossible for a gentleman constituted as he was to feel like an Irishman. Well, I quite agree with him, for I think it impossible that a gentleman of his philosophical and placid temperament could feel like the natives of that classical country. As I gathered it, the burden of his speech was, that we should submit patiently to the taxation imposed upon us, and should make no complaint. He said that the Parliament of England is not unjust. I agree with him, and it is because I believe that the English Parliament is not unjust, that I think the facts suggested by this Motion demand and deserve inquiry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that fiscal inequality between two independent kingdoms was a bad thing. But, in my opinion, he forgot the terms of the Motion, which are, let me remind him, "to bring before the notice of the House the present depressed condition of Ireland,"—and this is a question of fact—" together with the amount of taxation imposed on the country, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the causes of such depression and the effects of the taxation she now bears." The fallacy of the Chancellor's statement consists in assuming that my hon. and gallant Friend the mover of the Resolution wishes to establish a system of fiscal inequality between the two countries. Now, what my hon. and gallant Friend demanded, was that the principles asserted at the Union should be respected, and that seems to me a very just demand. But the distress being admitted, the inquiry is to be into the amount of taxation, and there are two modes of getting redress—one according to the suggestion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, by establishing inequality in the taxation of the two countries, and another by a general reduction of the taxation on both kingdoms. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there is a great difficulty, no matter what may be the pressure upon one part of the kingdom, in contending for a different system of taxation, as regards that part of the kingdom. But it is reasonable to inquire whether Ireland or Sco- 851 tland is able to bear, in the present position of either kingdom, the amount of taxation imposed upon it, and then to inquire whether the taxation might not generally be reduced as regards the whole Empire. It would be an important result of this Motion if the representatives of Ireland were obliged to look into the general taxation of the country, and seek for a common remedy by a diminution of the common burden. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, he would clear the ground of general topics, and he disposed—very fairly, I admit—of the topic of absenteeism. Now, we must allow that it is beyond the power of the Government to effect a change in that respect, though in former times laws were imposed by strong-minded Sovereigns in repression of absenteeism. King Henry VIII. locked up in the Tower any absentee who had an estate in Ireland, whom he caught wandering in England, and who did not go home and mind his business. But I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that at the present day it would be impossible to propose any tax on absentees. We can only regret that they do not return to their own country, the climate of which would have a good effect upon them, though it does sometimes rain in that part of the world. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, that the people of Ireland resembled the people of the Ionian Islands, and that they were very perverse, because they wished that any little taxes which might be raised amongst them, should be spent in their own country. According to the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on this subject with peculiar means of knowledge, this was one of the delusions which prevailed in the Ionian Islands. But I venture to think that those delusions will soon be dispelled by the new Government, and that some Greek Chancellor of the Exchequer will soon arise, who will teach the inhabitants of the Ionian Isles the principles inculcated this evening—that nothing is so fertilizing, nothing so improving, as the increase of the burden of taxation. The next assertion of the right hon. Gentleman is, that we ought not to inquire into the distress in Ireland, because this distress is only temporary. Now, if he had proved that proposition, his argument would have been conclusive. But that the House may understand that we are not altogether without grounds for this Motion, let me read a few words spoken by the Chancellor of the Exche- 852 quer in bringing forward the Budget. His description then produced a great impression in Ireland, and it is no use for the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant to bring down bundles of papers sent him by the clerks of the different offices, because here, in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget speech, is really the ground for this Motion. After stating that the value of four items—the oats, wheat, potato crop, and one-third of the actual value of the live stock—in Ireland was, from 1856 to 1860, on an average, £39,437,000 per annum, the right hon. Gentleman continued:—In 1860–1 it fell to £34,893,000, a decrease of £4,544,000; in 1861–2 there was a further fall to £29,077,000—a decrease of £10,360,000. In 1862–3, low as was the point previously reached, it descended yet lower, and fell to £27,327,000, from the former average of £39,437,000; thus showing a decrease of somewhat above twelve millions sterling. This amount equals nearly one-half of the total estimated value of the agricultural products of the country, as measured on the principal items or constituents of agricultural wealth. It falls not very far short of the full amount of the established annual valuation of the country, which is £13,400,000." [3 Hansard, clxx. 208]Now, there is proof of the depression in Ireland; and if this depression is to go on much longer in the ratio pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman, there will be nothing left to inquire into, which will very much simplify the labour of the Ministry. Sir, we submit to the justice of the House that the startling facts here stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer make out a case, not for the introduction of any crude principles of taxation, but for a serious inquiry into the causes which have led to such results.
As to emigration, there is something very awful in the statements which have been made upon this subject. The results shown by the census of 1861 would mislead any hon. Gentleman who relied upon them, though even these show a diminution in the population of 2,000,000. But that is all changed now, for the emigration lately has been as large as ever it was. A Roman Catholic gentleman in Clare told me recently, that if there was not a good harvest, there would be from the south and west of Ireland, not an emigration, but an exodus. Another gentleman, to whom I mentioned that statement, said, "Oh, he is wrong. If it is a bad harvest, there will, no doubt, be a considerable emigration; but if it is a good one, the people will go off with the proceeds, and 853 the emigration will be much greater." We are just now placing a King over a kingdom where he will have about a million of subjects, and let us not forget the startling fact that within the last few years twice that number of subjects have been lost by emigration to Her Majesty the Queen of these realms. Although the emigration has been more extensive from the west and south than from the north, that is no reason why a man who looks to the general condition of the country should not direct the attention of Parliament to facts of so awful a character. Well, then, these are the circumstances upon which we base a demand for inquiry.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said we were quite mistaken as to the expenditure, and that, looking at, various items, and at the cost of the constabulary, more money is expended in Ireland than in Scotland. Now, I do not know how that may be, but I have always had the impression that the Scotch take pretty good care of themselves, and get a fair share of whatever is going. I say, however, that it is fair matter of inquiry whether justice is done, not in a particular case, but as to the general expenditure in Ireland. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave us consolation, and told us, as balm in Gilead, that we had the income tax. He assured us that in Ireland we have certain allowances in respect of the income tax over and above those enjoyed in England; but I doubt that fact, and would like to have it ascertained. Altogether, I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed much philosophy in dwelling upon these small points when dealing with so grave a subject as that which was brought before him. I remember, when Earl Russell was a Member of this House, that he alluded to a Report which was laid on the table from a gentleman who was sent as a Commissioner to inquire into the cost of administering the Poor Law in Ireland. That cost was estimated at £300,000, but the Poor Law was scarcely imposed before it mounted up to £2,000,000 a year. That has been borne; and if you look to the general charges imposed on the country, my hon. and gallant Friend will, I think, be found to be substantially right in what he has asserted. We do not want to escape our proper burden; but we say that the facts which have been stated, and which cannot be controverted, demand investigation from the wisdom of this House. 854 The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the people must bear their share of burdens, and favoured us with several other political truisms on this question; but, I ask, what is the value of his statistics and of his political knowledge—what is the use of his political ability and of his position in the country, if the right hon. Gentleman can only sum up the taxis we pay, and tell us to be thankful? I do not think he made a single suggestion or held out a single hope. I could understand a Minister saying that an inquiry may be long or discursive, and that at this period of the Session we ought not to undertake it. He did not say that Committees of Inquiry have not been granted upon less important subjects. He did not say that it was not, right to send a Commissioner into Lancashire to find out means of employment for the people there; nor do I, because I think the exemplary conduct of the operatives demands our utmost, efforts to relieve their sufferings. Put I want to know, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer opposes the Motion, ought we not to have expected some hope, some suggestion—not in the shape of public money given as a boon, but as a principle of policy by which the resources of the country might be opened, and its prosperity encouraged? Put neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Chief Secretary seemed to have half an idea upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman quoted Returns about the sums deposited in the savings banks in every year except the two last years, which are the important periods, he talked about the increase of the growth of flax, but he suggested nothing. As the Minister has nothing to propose in the face of this important statement, verified by his own speech, what can we do but submit the case to the House, and ask whether a diminution in the population of two millions and a half—a rapidly increasing diminution, and a statement of figures such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has laid upon the table, do not deserve inquiry? A mere mention of taxation not pressed upon Ireland is no answer. You must regulate taxation according to the ability of the country to bear it. It is unwise to oppress the energies and exhaust the resources of a nation. I have now only to refer to two points brought into the discussion by the hon. Members for King's County and Kildare. The hon. Member for King's County finds the true source of the difficulty in the law of landlord and tenant. I think that is 855 a very small view to take of a very large question. He said that no Bill had been brought forward upon that subject, but scores of Bills of that kind would not lessen the existing distress. Then comes the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan), who has his nostrum, as the hon. Member for the King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien) has his crotchet. The hon. Member for Kildare always starts the Church question, and says, "All will be right if we get rid of the Church." ["Hear, hear!"] I hear that cheer, but it is no argument. One hon. Gentleman has his crotchet about the law of landlord and tenant, and the other starts this crotchet of the Church. Now, there are a great number of acres of land belonging to the Church. I wanted to ascertain how many tenants of the Church had been able to save money enough to buy the fee simple of the land they rented under a wise Act of Parliament giving tenants of Church lands a right of preemption. Will the House believe that nearly two-thirds of the land has been bought by the tenants upon equitable terms? Will any hon. Gentleman who declaims against the Church give his tenants the benefit of the same just principle? I am sure that the tenants upon the remaining one-third of the Church land, if they could be questioned upon the subject, would implore the hon. Gentleman not to start up with that attack upon the Church. Now, we have heard of the grievance of the tithe rent charge. Two calculations have been sent to me of the amount paid by the Roman Catholic gentry of Ireland, one shows the amount at £30,000, and the other £27,000. What does the House think of that as a grievance? If the charge were remitted, no tenant would gain the thousandth part of a farthing, and certainly upon the question of Irish distress the subject is out of place. I am sorry the hon. Gentleman thought it necessary to introduce that question. He seems to think that we should apologize for being Protestants. ["No!"] He said, "You must not call us a Church, because the nation to all intents and purposes is Roman Catholic." That is a mistake. ["No!"] Well, that is a contradiction. I have had an opportunity of ascertaining the substance of the classification Returns of inhabitants and professions, which are not yet presented, and the Protestants are in a majority of two to one. A leading manufacturer in Ulster told me that in the whole 856 province there was not one employer of labour who was not a Protestant. But were the Roman Catholic labourers worse paid? No. The capital and skill of these men were employed to develop the resources of the whole country. I think, as the Roman Catholic gentry of Ireland have all that they can fairly ask for—they have a great majority of the bench, the whole administration of justice is in their hands, they being in a minority of one-third—it is not fair nor generous to represent to the Parliament that they are suffering under a grievance. If you were to expel from Ireland all the Protestants, as some wish, you would have a very curious country left. Hon. Gentlemen should not say that they, the Roman Catholics, are exclusively the nation. No doubt the peasantry are mainly Roman Catholics, and no one laments more than I do that there is suffering among that class. Because Ulster is more prosperous, I do not shut my eyes to the distress in the west. You cannot have a prosperous country where one portion is flourishing and another is depressed. But although we are Protestants, and you cannot change us, still we mean well for our country; we have as great a stake in it as you Catholics have. It is because we wish well to our country that we desire to have an investigation into its condition conducted by impartial English Members, and therefore I think the matter of this Motion is deserving of the consideration of this House.
§ MR. MAGUIRE
I do not intend, Sir, nor is at all necessary, that I should enter into the general question so ably brought under the notice of the House by my hon. and gallant Friend. It has been already so well dealt with by him and by other hon. Members, that it would be waste of time for me to do more than incidently notice one or two points in reference to it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to represent that Ireland was relieved from a large amount of taxation which is imposed upon England. But the land tax of England has its full equivalent in the quit rents of Ireland; and the inhabited house-tax and the assessed taxes, if imposed on Ireland, would not produce more than about £50,000 each, or £100,000 on the whole. We are told by the same high authority that we obtain something like £1,500,000 a year from the Public Treasury. But £700,000 of that goes to the support of the Irish Police, which may be considered a force established as much 857 for Imperial as for local purposes—in fact, a local military force, taking the place of so much of the regular standing army. Now, one of the principal grievances of which Ireland has to complain, is this—that no portion of the public money is expended in that country. Why, for instance, is there not a naval dockyard in Queens-town. During the Crimean war, a sum of £800,000, or indeed nearly £1,000,000 was spent on Government works in the private dockyards of England and Scotland, while Queenstown was totally neglected, notwithstanding a promise made at the time of the Union, and repeatedly renewed afterwards, that a dockyard should be established there. It is not be much the pressure of Imperial taxation of which the Irish people complain as of the fact that her people have no share whatever of the public expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland appears to labour under the impression that the hon. Member for Dungarvan had become convinced that the statements repeatedly made by him as to the distress which he on several occasions represented as existing in various parts of Ireland were exaggerated and inaccurate; but the hon. Member for Dungarvan begs to assure the right hon. Gentleman that he is not impressed by any such conviction, and that, on the contrary, he has been sustained by sufficient evidence as to the truth and accuracy of every statement which he made to the House. I believe that in all cases I was justified by the existing facts, and borne out by the strongest evidence. Take, for instance, the description which I gave of distress in the Union of Skibbereen. The statements I made were contested, and the distress denied; but I was afterwards fully vindicated by the official report of Mr. Horsley, the Poor Law Inspector. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), in referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan), sought to misrepresent the feelings of the Catholics of Ireland towards their Protestant brethren. I, as an Irish Catholic, assert that the Catholics of Ire land entertain no feeling of ill-will and no feeling of jealousy towards the Protestants of Ireland. No doubt, I wish that all my countrymen were of the same religion as myself; but knowing that I cannot change Protestants into Catholics, I only beg am implore of Protestants that they will leave Catholics alone. The Catholics of Ireland would be quite satisfied to live in perfect 858 amity with the Protestants, if the Protestants—or rather a certain number of them—would not avail themselves of every miserable and wretched pretence to insult the feelings and attack the faith of the most helpless portion of the community. The right hon. Gentleman declared that he would not sacrifice or surrender a single iota of his opinion. I honour him for that declaration. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland made the same statement, adding that it was not because he had assumed the office which he now holds that he was to surrender his religious opinions. Now, Sir, no one in Ireland wishes in any way to interfere with the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, or with the fitting expression of those opinions. He may hold any opinion he may please, without challenge or inquiry. But the right hon. Baronet ought to remember the delicate and responsible position in which he is placed, by his taking on himself a most important and critical office without having had any great experience of public duties. Having assumed that office, so full of responsibility, he was bound to be the more careful not to commit himself by any unhappy impulse. The conduct of the Irish Secretary is not one of the causes of the distress from which Ireland suffers, but it is one of those insults which is certainly an aggravation of her misery. As the Established Church has been referred to, I will only say this much in reference to it:—I do not believe it is the cause of the misery and wretchedness of Ireland. If I believed so, I should be an idiot. But I do say, its existence is a standing insult to the Catholics of Ireland, and a gross violation of the principles of civil and religious liberty. The right hon. Baronet the Irish Secretary, who attended the meeting of an aggressive body—a body aggressive to the religious faith of the Catholics of Ireland—says he went only to listen to what was to be said, and that he was impelled to go by his admiration of a work—Good News from Ireland. I assert that that pamphlet of the Rev. Mr. Garrett, which so charmed our Irish Secretary, is a mere trap for the religious credulity and fanaticism of England. I solemnly believe the whole thing a gigantic sham and humbug. I believe that a few men with white chokers find it to their advantage to keep up the delusion; and I deeply deplore that one of my countrymen, holding such a high position, and possessing such distinguished ability as the right 859 hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin, should give his countenance and the prestige of his name to so miserable and contemptible an imposture. I shall read a passage from the account of the meeting of yesterday, as given in the Morning Advertiser of this day, that the House may judge of the harmless and innocent character of the society and the impartiality of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who virtually and really presides over the affairs of a country which, according to the last census, contained 4,500,000 of Roman Catholics—The Rev. Mr. Garrett (the author of the pamphlet so much admired by the Chief Secretary) read a statement containing an account of the progress of the Church in West Connaught, and upholding the necessity of maintaining the warfare at present waging against the Church of Rome.The right hon. Baronet went to listen, but was induced to speak; and he took that fitting place and occasion of expressing his views upon this interesting topic. The right hon. Baronet made no reference by name to the Church of Rome. Not at all. But his allusions were not altogether a mystery. For instance, he contrasted the weapons used by the society, which he applauded, with those used by some other Church not mentioned. Weapons! Why, Sir, the weapons employed by this and similar societies are those from which every honourable mind shrinks with disgust—the weapons of force and corruption, and employed against the starving peasant to extort from him a nominal adhesion to a Church which in his inmost soul he abhors and detests. I would ask the House, and also the right hon. Baronet, what was the meaning of this allusion—The weapons with which the society fought were not forged for the purpose of encroaching upon human thought, of usurping spiritual power or of defending ecclesiastical claims inconsistent with the interests of mankind.I ask, is not this the true cant style in which allusion is made to the Church of Rome? I do not object to any Gentleman holding that opinion of the Church of Rome; but I do not think it is manly in the Secretary for Ireland to hint his antagonism in that fashion to that Church, or to say afterwards that there was no allusion made to it. When first the right hon. Gentleman came to Ireland, he was guilty of more than one gross blunder. But the Irish people, who are a generous and for giving people, were forgetting and forgiving those blunders; and surely it is not a 860 wise and prudent course for the right hon. Baronet to back up, by the weight and authority of his official position, this aggression upon the feelings and faith of the Catholic people of the country. The hon. Member for Kildare is right in holding that a matter of this kind is one that affects the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, and the right hon. Baronet and his colleagues ought to have appreciated the grave indiscretion of which an Irish Secretary has been guilty, through the marked and impressive demonstration of indignation that came from the hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, who have been the consistent supporters of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin says we cannot change the Protestants into Catholics. Let that be admitted; but neither can Catholics be changed into Protestants, and therefore the best and wisest thing which each can do, is to respect the faith and honour the fidelity of the other. I do appeal to English Gentlemen, and say—if you tax us, allow us at least to enjoy our religion free from these shameful encroachments—do not bring the power of English gold and the aid of organized fanaticism and hypocrisy for the futile purpose of endeavouring to undermine the faith which is deeply implanted in the heart of the humblest peasant who treads the soil of Ireland. I will say to my own countrymen also—let them abandon and discountenance these wretched proceedings, as the only and true means of establishing Christian peace, and knitting together the hearts of all men in amity and concord, whether they kneel at different altars, or adore their God with different forms. I may add that it is my intention to bring before the House on the 23rd inst., a Motion upon the tenant question, when I undertake to prove that the miserable condition of the agricultural classes is the main cause of the misery of the country. In conclusion I beg to thank my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Queen's County, for the care and trouble he has devoted to the subject which he has brought with such ability before the House.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he would also support the Motion, not for the reasons stated, but because the reasons alleged had been so clearly and distinctly answered. He thought it desirable to give the promoters of the inquiry, in the calmness and quiet of a committee-room, the opportunity 861 of proving their statements, so that the Committee might arrive at some result that would guide the deliberations of that House. It was the height of absurdity to attribute the misery of Ireland to the existence of the Protestant Church in that country. Since he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had never uttered a word offensive to the religious feelings of the Roman Catholics, but what he had ever contended for was that it was most anomalous and improper that this great Protestant kingdom should contribute pecuniarily and otherwise to the support and encouragement of a religion which its members believed to be opposed to the constitution of the country and dangerous to freedom. He thought that every possible effort should be made to reclaim Roman Catholics, not so much from their religion, but to their allegiance to the sovereign, because it was his conviction that the teaching of the priesthood in Ireland was wholly inconsistent with that loyalty which the Irish, as a portion of the United Kingdom, owed to her Majesty.
said, he did not wish, in the slightest degree, to deny the existence of distress in Ireland. No one knew of its existence better than he did. The class of small farmers never were poorer than at the present moment. For the last three years their distress, poverty, and suffering had been very great; but he could not see how the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry at that period of the Session could have any effect in relieving that distress. The question was a very large one, the inquiry must necessarily be conducted in a very hurried manner, and could only hold out false hopes. He agreed that the whole question of relative taxation as regards England and Ireland deserved inquiry and revision; but they had acted for a great number of years on the principle that equality of taxation over all portions of the United Kingdom should be the rule. If, therefore, they proposed to reverse that rule, they must consider the very complicated question of the whole financial policy since the Union. Such an inquiry at that period of the Session would be perfectly futile. He did not see that distress was indissolubly connected with taxation. The two questions were distinct, though both deserved inquiry. He should have voted for the appointment of the Committee if it had been moved at the commencement of the Session; but if pressed to a division, he must vote against 862 it, because, although he believed that distress was very great in Ireland, and that that country was undergoing a severe trial, he did not think that anything the Committee could recommend would have the effect of mitigating the distress, but would rather give rise to hopes which could not be realized.
said, he rose to protest against the introduction of the religions element into a discussion on Irish distress. That subject had always been the bane of everything connected with Ireland, and therefore he thought the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the religions element into that discussion had incurred a heavy responsibility. If it was necessary to discuss that question, it should be properly introduced, and he trusted that he should be able to adduce good reasons—at least, they were satisfactory to his own conscience—to show that it was for the good of Ireland that the Irish Church should be maintained with its temporalities. The name of the Chief Secretary for Ireland had, he understood, been introduced into the discussion as having attended a religious meeting, but he thought the explanation which his right hon. Friend had given on the subject was perfectly satisfactory. He had himself received an invitation to attend that very meeting, which he had declined, as he must say he lamented the existence of such societies as that with which it was connected. They did, he thought, infinite mischief to the country, and, he had no hesitation in saying, prevented and would prevent, in his opinion, the advance of Protestantism in Ireland.
in reply, said, that as a Committee appointed at that late period of the Session could scarcely be expected to be productive of any very useful result, he should, upon that ground, not press his Motion to a division.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.