§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Main Question [15th February]—[See page 98.]
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR
said, that the Amendment he had placed on the 1039 Notice Paper was almost identical with that which the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) intended to propose, but for the strategy of the noble Lord the Leader of the Government, which obtained for him an easy victory, but one of which he ought not to be over proud. The Amendment was as follows:—Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that the state of distress among the population of many parts of Ireland; the inadequate machinery of the Land Act, and its partial and imperfect character, especially with regard to leaseholders, the right of tenants to their improvements, the purchase system, and the condition of the agricultural labourers; the unsatisfactory operation of the Arrears Act; the state of the Law of Parliamentary and Municipal Franchises in Ireland; and the condition of Local Government in that Country, are all questions demanding the urgent attention of the Legislature and the Government; and that the absence of any undertaking to legislate on any of these questions, or on any question affecting the welfare of the Irish People, must tend to promote discontent and intensify disaffection in Ireland.To anyone reading Her Majesty's Speech it would be obvious that the most striking point connected with it was the total absence of any reference to the state of Ireland, or any promise of remedy for the crying evils and grievances in that country which pressed for immediate legislation. In the first place, it was a matter of notoriety that dire distress existed in certain districts; and so extreme was that distress that, in spite of the unwillingness of the ordinary channels of information which disseminated the prejudiced views with regard to Ireland that were generally prevalent in this country, it had forced itself on the notice of the people of England. For instance, there appeared in The Times of to-day a remarkable report of Dr. James Ferguson, medical officer for the district of Gweedore, county Donegal, relating to the condition of the poor in that district. Dr. Ferguson said of the children—I am sorry to have to report that poverty and destitution are too clearly evident in their appearance, and that the diarrhœa and influenza which largely prevail among them are the outcome of insufficient, low, and unvaried diet, and the general use of seaweed, which I noticed in course of preparation for the principal meal of the family in every house I entered. In almost every house there is a sick patient, especially among the old folks, for whom medicine is utterly useless, the only thing needed being nourishment. Entering the schools, I was sadly disappointed, seeing nothing but 1040 weary and dull eyes and languid faces, betraying weakness of strength and deep depression of spirits. More than once I heard the distressing sound, repeated here and here among the children, of sickly coughing. I noticed, too, the insufficient clothing of the children in the schools and in the houses, and the dreadfully shocking sleeping accommodation which their houses supply.The Chief Secretary, who had been in the district, would be able to judge of the worth of such a report; and he would learn on inquiry that a similar report might be made from any of the 20 or 30 Unions in the seaboard counties on the West Coast of Ireland. Now, with regard to the inadequacy of the Land Act, he thought the majority of the House would admit, and that the Government would admit, that it was of a most marked character, especially with regard to leaseholders. The Government he thought recognized—the majority of the House at any rate admitted, judging by private conversations he had had—that the Land Act in this respect required amendment. The right of tenants to their improvements was admitted by hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House who had the harshest views with regard to the Land Act. That the Arrears Act required amendment, he thought, was also admitted; and as to the agricultural labourers, the landlords themselves had been interested in them in a manner which was very satisfactory, but which, he thought, was never exhibited to a very marked extent until recently. He was not at all surprised at the way the Arrears Act had turned out in its working. When it was introduced to that House, he never anticipated that very great advantages were likely to accrue to the poorest portion of the people of Ireland. Some advantages, no doubt, were to be anticipated—for instance, it was to be expected that, to a certain extent, some of them would be relieved from the crushing debt which prevented them from peacefully working their farms, or discharging either their obligations to their landlords or to their neighbours, and which, if they had the means, they would only be too willing to have discharged. He looked upon the Act, however, as of great value, for the sake of the two principles which it embodied. In the first place, it laid down the principle that when a system had been found to work only to the advantage of a class, and to the disadvantage of the commu- 1041 nity, the latter had a right to interfere, and say—"We will take from you that which you have improperly used. We will protect those who, under the system which at present obtains, are unable to make, either for themselves or the community, homes or comfort, or to obtain that well-being which, under other circumstances, they might secure." The second principle was that the community so interfering should make a limited compensation to those whose interests were disturbed. This principle, once undertaken and acted upon and properly developed would, he was confident, be fruitful of great advantages to the people. With regard to the Parliamentary and municipal franchise mentioned in the Amendment, he would remind the House that when the Government were in Opposition the Home Secretary declared that this question was of the foremost political importance. In the first year of the existence of the present Ministry a Franchise Bill was introduced for Ireland, but it was abandoned; and although they had the assurance of the Home Secretary and the noble Lord that it would be re-introduced, it had not again been brought forward, notwithstanding repeated promises. This gave some idea of the value of Ministerial assurances. It could scarcely be expected that Members from Ireland would fail to seize that and every other opportunity of urging on the Government and Parliament that Ireland should have equal rights with the other parts of the Empire. The want of local government was the next head of their complaint. In the Speech from the Throne in 1881 they were assured that such a measure would be introduced for Ireland, and that it should be such a measure as would secure to the people of that country the local authority, power, and control over the expenditure of the public money. They were further promised that it would be of such a nature that it would develop habits of local self-government amongst the people. That Bill had never been introduced, and that promise seemed to have been entirely forgotten in the present Session. The worst and final complaint in the Amendment was with regard to the absence of any undertaking of legislation on any of these questions, or, indeed, upon any question affecting the welfare of the Irish people, and the probable effect upon the feelings 1042 of the people of such an omission; but he did not know that there was any very great reason to complain of the absence of any assurance in the Speech from the Throne on the part of the Government, or that indicated that there was no intention to take up one or other of the questions. Such a deduction, by no means followed, nor was it a safe indication of the intentions of the Government, for it was not to be concluded that they would not find it necessary, or at any rate advisable, to introduce after a little while a measure which at present they had no intention of bringing forward. He would remind the House that in 1880 his hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) moved an Amendment to the Address with reference to the Land Question. His reasonable proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority, and yet, before the Session was half-way through, the Government realized the necessity of introducing a measure, which, before 12 months were over, became law, with reference to the Land Question. Under these circumstances, he was inclined to think that before the Session was over they might have some further measures upon Irish affairs, of which no inkling or suggestion had reached them from the Treasury Bench. They had had an indication that the affairs of England and Scotland were to command the undivided attention of Parliament. Strange as it might seem, they had now been sitting nearly a fortnight, and yet, with the exception of Egypt, there had been only mention of Ireland; but, although this had been so, the Irish Members had certainly not done anything which might fairly be described as any attempt or indication of a wish to force unduly upon the House the affairs of Ireland. The attention which Parliament had already given to Ireland had arisen from the necessities of the situation, and announcements from one side or the other, and not from any preconcerted arrangement or any proposals emanating from those Benches. If this was to be taken as an omen of what would take place, they must anticipate that a very considerable portion of the next five months would be devoted likewise to the affairs of Ireland, whatever were the present intentions of the Government. In spite, then, of the absence of any assurance upon the matter, in spite of past expe- 1043 rience as to the want of significance of such absence of assurance, the Irish Members could not be expected to trust to chance for bringing under the notice of Parliament Irish grievances. It must and should be their endeavour this Session to bring before the House and the United Kingdom those grievances which he had referred to in his Amendment, and every one of which they would try and induce Parliament immediately to take in hand. He would remind the House that if they insisted upon that Assembly being the only Assembly for legislating upon Irish affairs, if they insisted that English and Scotch Members should have an overwhelming vote in regard to affairs pertaining to Ireland, and if they refused to give them any facilities which they felt to be absolutely necessary properly to deal with the rights of that country, then, in common justice, they were bound to make arrangements so that those interests should be safeguarded, and that measures for the amelioration of the condition of the people, for the development of the resources of the country, for the equalization of the rights of the Irish people with those of the other subjects of the country, should be passed. If, however, they were not disposed to initiate measures having those objects in view, then it would be for the Irish Party to take the matter into their own hands, and do what they could on every occasion, and by all the means at their disposal, to bring before the House and the country those things which they knew to be of vital importance, and with regard to which they should be wanting in their duty if they did not urge upon the Government.
To insert, at the end of the 10th paragraph, after the word "Executive," the words:—"Humbly to assure Her Majesty, that the state of distress among the population of many parts of Ireland; the inadequate machinery of the Land Act, and its partial and imperfect character, especially with regard to leaseholders, the right of tenants to their improvements, the purchase system, and the condition of the agricultural labourers; the unsatisfactory operation of the Arrears Act; the state of the Law of Parliamentary and Municipal Franchises in Ireland; and the condition of Local Government in that Country, are all questions demanding the urgent attention of the Legislature and the Government; and that the absence of any undertaking to legislate on any of these questions, or on any question affecting the welfare of the
Irish People must tend to promote discontent and intensify disaffection in Ireland."—(Mr. Arthur O'Connor.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, he did not wish to go over the same topics as those touched on by his hon. Friend, and would confine his remarks entirely to the question of the distress in Ireland. That was the question which pressed most on his mind. He would not enter into any details as to the extent of the distress, for he was perfectly contented to accept the statements made by the Chief Secretary during the Autumn Session, and more recently by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington). There were some Unions in each of the counties of Donegal, Sligo, Clare, and Mayo where the distress was very alarming. There was distress elsewhere, but it was not of an exceptional character; but when he came to the estimate of the power of the Poor Law, as at present contained in the Statute Book, to cope with this distress, then he regretted to say that he was entirely at issue with the Government. The Local Government Board had obtained Reports from their Inspectors. Those Inspectors were gentlemen of the greatest experience, humanity, and intelligence, and he did not wish to say one word against them. Their Reports were truthful, so far as the extent of the distress; but they measured the capability of the Poor Law to deal with it by the workhouse test. They said—"Is such a workhouse full?" But it could not be forgotten that in the autumn and winter of 1879, when the distress was much severer than it was likely to be at present, similar Reports were made and acted upon. It was said that the workhouses were not half full, and no other methods were adopted from November, 1879, to February, 1880. It was found, however, that the workhouse system did not work. The distress was most acute, and immense charitable efforts had to be made to keep the people from starving. There were several reasons why the workhouse system was inadequate. The most important reason was the invincible repugnance of the Irish people to enter the poorhouse. The Local Government Board pointed out that recipients of relief could not dictate the mode they should receive it. This was a thing which was open to 1045 argument; hut it seemed to him that the Board should deal with facts as they found them, and with this repugnance as it existed in Ireland. They all knew the strength of family ties. Two and three generations sometimes lived together, and once the workhouse was entered those ties would be rudely broken, and the different members of the family separated one from the other. The people who received assistance in Donegal, Mayo, and a large portion of Sligo were small occupiers, holding their little bits of land from five acres to half or quarter of an acre. The Local Government Board had assured them that by entering the workhouse they would not forfeit their interest in the land; but everyone who knew what sort of cabins these poor people lived in, the kind of roof they had, and their general condition, would know that to shut up these poor cabins for three months, and to allow a neighbour's cattle to run over the small holdings, would be as effectually to destroy the tenant's interest as if the surrender had been made a condition of obtaining relief. It might be a very desirable thing that these people should not cherish such a dislike of the workhouse as that which distinguished them, but they did. They would suffer privations, and the worst sort of privations, and would allow those near and dear to them to suffer privations, only stopping short of starvation, rather than go into the workhouse; and he could not blame them, because he knew that if they went into the workhouse they became hopeless and helpless paupers for the rest of their lives. He wished in this matter that the present Government had done what their Predecessors had done. It would have saved untold misery and other bad effects. When they found that, in spite of their Circular to the Local Government Board, the distress was mounting up to an extraordinary pitch, they instituted Baronial Sessions, and authorized the Guardians to borrow money on very moderate terms; but so rooted was the prejudice in the minds of the administrators of the law, and in the minds of certain theorists in England, that they did not, until the distress had been existing for three months, relax the workhouse test. What were the shortcomings of the Administration of 1879–80? Why, these were amongst the number—outdoor relief was three months 1046 late, and in the meantime the country was covered with a network of charity organization. Unfortunately, however, charity was substituted for the Poor Law, instead of, as in the case of the Lancashire Cotton Famine, as an adjunct to it; so that during all that trying period the average rates never exceeded 1s. 6d. in the pound, though a large number of people were living upon charity. Then the terms upon which money was lent to the Guardians should have been the same as in the case of the owners of land; and, further, the Guardians should have been employed to superintend the relief works, so that the works might have been used as a real test of the honesty of those applying for relief. He would have suggested in October, and he did suggest now, that the Government should, in the distressed districts, forego the workhouse test. That was the first thing to be done, and without they did that whatever else they did was worth nothing. He would then propose that money should be lent to the Boards of Guardians, on perhaps more favourable terms than they could get it now, for the purpose of providing outdoor relief for sanitary work. There was hardly a village—certainly not a small town—in Ireland where money could not be spent advantageously in giving work to distressed people—that kind of work which could be brought near to their homes. In addition to that, the Secretary to the Treasury might advance loans to small occupiers, and persons might be sent down from the Board of Works to inspect the various holdings, in order to see what amount of money had been spent upon them; and the same persons might be empowered to give the first instalments of the money. That would be a useful mode of surmounting the present distress, though he did not make light of the other schemes that had been proposed, such as emigration, migration, arterial drainage, and the like. But, at the present moment, the best mode of relieving the prevailing distress was by outdoor relief. But there were not wanting prophets of evil who said that foregoing workhouse relief would lead to waste of money. Day after day they told the Government—"Do not relax the workhouse test—once open the doors to outdoor relief and you will flood the solvent Unions." His con- 1047 tention was that they were entitled to judge the present and look at the future in the light of the past. In the past the Guardians had been possessed of those powers, but they had made use of them in a niggardly spirit. On the whole, in 1881, which represented the expenditure of 1880, there was only £182,000 spent on outdoor relief on a valuation of £13,000,000, and really that could not be said to be an excessive sum, or show any waste of money. The total number of able-bodied people relieved out-of-doors did not amount to 225,000; the rate over the whole of Ireland was on the average only 1s. 5d. in the pound. The preliminary and indispensable condition of any reform of the Poor Law system involved Union rating. Without union rating it would be impossible to carry out a system of outdoor relief, and as to the system of outdoor relief leading to waste, reference to the statistics in Thorn's Almanac would show that such was not the case. With the exception of four or five Unions in the county of Mayo, where the circumstances were exceptional, the highest rate in Ireland was 3s. 6d. in the pound. But it might be objected that in the last year extravagant sums were given away without due inquiry as outdoor relief to the families of' 'suspects'' and evicted tenants. That might be perfectly true. But what did the number of those instances amount to? There were, perhaps, five, 10, or 20 people in a whole Union who, in the case of evicted tenants, had received relief for one month; and in the ease of "suspects" for, perhaps, six or eight months. After all, it should be remembered that the Guardians of the Poor were ratepayers and occupiers of land, who had to pay half the poor rate, and who, in the next very few years, would probably be paying the whole of that impost. It was not to be supposed that they would be ready to shovel out and waste their own money and that of their fellow-ratepayers; and even if they did waste it for one year, why should they be kept in leading strings by the Government? The ratepayers would have the remedy in their own hands, and could turn the Guardians out at the next election. Again, the effect of the claim to outdoor relief in Ireland would be to stimulate employment, and, accompanied by Union rating, to stimulate economy, also making it the interest of every person, whe- 1048 ther landlord, tenant, or shopkeeper to give as much employment as he could himself to keep people off the rates. It would stimulate the energies of the Guardians in their corporate capacity to find work for the people. The Guardians in Ireland now possessed powers of borrowing money on very favourable terms for sanitary purposes, but they scarcely ever used them. Dr. Handcock, a statistician of the greatest authority, who had argued, in season and out of season, in favour of assimilating the Poor Law system in Ireland to that of England, had pointed out the impolicy of the Imperial Government standing, as it were, as a buffer between the Guardians and the poor in Ireland, and preventing them from relieving the necessitous with their own money. Such a proceeding was also especially inconsistent on the part of a Liberal Government, which proposed at the proper time to extend the municipal and Parliamentary franchises in Ireland. He certainly could not understand it. He had searched in vain for a reason, and he could only attribute it to this—that there was a certain number of persons in England, political economists, who had found, or thought they had found, that the rigid inelastic Irish system was more consonant to the dictates of political economy than the more liberal, the more elastic English system would be, and that the influence of this class of persons found an echo and a voice in some of those charged with the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland. But he would ask his right hon. Friend if he himself was one of those who considered that the Poor Law in England was too elastic, too liberal, in the administration of outdoor relief? He would ask him, was there any public man in England, any Member of Parliament, who dared stand upon the hustings and propose his wish to have the Poor Law in England amended in the sense of the Irish Poor Law? No one dare say so. If that was the case—and it was the case—was there any good reason, then, for refusing an assimilation of the Irish Poor Law to that of England in this respect? Was there anything to be said for keeping up that inequality to the detriment of the poorest and most helpless class in the community? He could not think there was. He therefore hoped that in that discussion his right hon. Friend, without prejudging 1049 the question of a general assimilation of that law, would, at least, announce his intention to relax that cruel and fallacious workhouse test.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said, he had much pleasure in supporting the Amendment. He expressed his personal thanks to the hon. Member for the Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) for the very prompt manner in which he flung himself into the breach, and took up that Amendment, which, owing to a peculiar action on the part of the Government, was taken out of his (Mr. Justin M'Carthy's) hands. He had listened with great interest to the speech of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst). It showed great practical knowledge of the subject, and very manly feeling. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) only hoped that the appeal made to the Government by one who supported them consistently throughout would have all the weight and influence to which it was most certainly well entitled. The Government could not in this case say they had not had ample warning of the emergency they were very likely soon to be called upon to meet. Most hon. Members in that House would remember a remarkable discussion which took place on this very subject during the Autumn Sitting. He thought it was the first occasion on which, under the New Rules, a Member had to get the support of 40 Members to raise an important question at an extraordinary time. A Motion for the adjournment was made by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and the whole prospect of distress in Ireland was then carefully and fully gone into. The Government were warned that they must expect an emergency of a very grave and serious kind, and they were warned that the worst pressure and pinch of the emergency would come about the end of February or early in March. At that time, he confessed, he was under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was well acquainted with the gravity of the situation, and was well disposed to meet it as it ought to be met. Almost every Member who took part in the debate impressed on him the necessity of not allowing himself to be too rigidly bound and compressed by official rules and by routine. If he remembered rightly, the right hon. and 1050 learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) impressed on the Government the necessity for being liberal and generous and un-trammelled in their mode of meeting the emergency. It seemed to him at that time that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was prepared to meet the appeal in a liberal spirit, and was equal to the occasion. He left him (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) certainly, and many others, under the impression that this appeal to him had not wholly failed in its effect, and that some good would come of the efforts they had made. There were two points that were specially urged for his particular attention. One was the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County, the necessity of meeting this case by relaxing that stringent hidebound rule which in Ireland forbade the giving of outdoor relief, or relief of any kind, until the workhouse was filled. It was pointed out again and again to the right hon. Gentleman that that system always must be a failure in an emergency. It was only waiting until sickness set in before they took the measures which might have prevented the sickness—it was only waiting until the utmost poverty was reached before they gave relief which, coming in time, might have prevented poverty. The proceedings of the House had hardly been over when the Government issued the Circular to which the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County had referred. In that Circular the Lord Lieutenant announced that he intended to rely on the operation of the Irish Poor Law in its most restricted sense. He announced that outdoor relief could not be given in any Union to able-bodied men unless the workhouse was full, or, by fever or other infectious disease, was unfit for the reception of poor persons; and then followed a sentence which he should like to read to the House—Her Majesty's Government are fully aware of the great objection entertained by many persons to go into the workhouse; but it cannot be contended that persons who are unable to procure for themselves the necessaries of life should be allowed to determine the manner in which public relief is to be afforded.He did not know whose hand drew up that sentence. He was perfectly certain that the graceful pen whose productions they all so much admired, that 1051 of the Chief Secretary, never was guilty of writing anything like that clumsy sarcasm. They asked for bread and the Lord Lieutenant gave them a sneer. What was needed was some sort of system of reproductive works, by which the poor people might have earned bread for themselves. Kindly help was needed; the help that decent men could receive honestly, and not the alms of the pauper flung with a contemptuous remark. Time went by and the outdoor relief was not given, and the distress began more and more to deepen and to widen over the country. It was at its worst in part of the North and North-West, and even going down to Kerry and some part of the county of Cork; it had, to some extent, swept over the whole of the country. He did not mean to say that famine spread over the whole of the country, or that famine in its worst sense prevailed as yet in any part of Ireland; but an amount of distress prevailed in some districts which was only by a very thin line divided from famine. Under these circumstances, a movement was got up in London for the purpose of making an appeal to public beneficence in favour of those suffering from starvation and poverty in Ireland. It occurred to some of his friends that the appeal should be made from the Mansion House, and that the Lord Mayor should be invited to assist. He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) presided over a meeting which was called for that purpose. He might say, perhaps, that he did not now feel particularly proud of the part he was then induced to take. He was not fond of carrying round the hat in any way for the relief of Irish distress. He began to grow, he confessed, weary of the incessant appeals to the charity of the world to assist a country which, under fair and just conditions, would be able to maintain herself. He did not expect that very much would come of this particular appeal. Still, he thought at the time that if there was the slightest chance of doing any good, everyone ought to be quite content to put aside any personal sentiments that he might have. They held their meeting, and nothing came of it. His hon. Friend the Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) made a speech, in which he made some historical allusions. Because his hon. Friend talked history—ho supposed he talked it at the wrong place—the 1052 Lord Mayor of London held that there could be no sympathy in this country with Irish distress. Ireland was punished for the historical allusions introduced by the hon. Member for Dungarvan. But the attempt to get up a meeting and to get up this appeal produced a certain amount of good. They got a great many statements from authoritative persons describing the condition of things in Ireland. They were able, by means of these letters, to make it clear to everyone what the nature and extent of the distress was for which they were anxious to make their appeal. With the permission of the House he would read a few extracts from the communications that had been received, giving an account of the state of the country and the distress that prevailed. The Most Rev. Dr. Duggan, Bishop of Clonfert, writes from Loughrea that—In certain districts of the country distress of harrowing intensity prevails. The pressure of hunger is mostly felt in the small towns of the West of Ireland, whither thousands of the poor evicted from the neighhouring properties to lay down the land into pasturage have been driven to huddle in outskirt hovels without employment. In simple truth my life here is a miser listening to tales of distress which I know to be true; but that distress I am utterly unable to alleviate.He contends that there are ample opportunities for reproductive works within easy range, and he condemns the Government for their rigid adherence to the workhouse test, and for their policy of the emigrant ship. The Rev. P. S. M'Hugh, of Kilglass, Eniscrone, Sligo, writes on February 15—I had no conception of famine until now. I am bewildered at the appalling state of the people Fuel. …. is absolutely more required than even food, and as yet I have only got a few pounds to relieve the distress of over 200 families.Later still he writes to say that the distress is intensified. The Rev. Mr. Hughes, of Kilgain, County Sligo, writes—The people have positively nothing to live on, and fever of a very virulent kind has broken out.The Rev. James Duncan, P.P., of Bangor-Erris, County Mayo, writes on the 20th of January—The potato crop last season in this district was a complete failure, scarcely worth the digging out. The storm of last October totally destroyed the cereal crops; in a word, the people 1053 this year have neither means nor money. I assure you they are at present without food or raiment, and how they are to weather over the spring and pinching summer Providence alone knows.The Rev. Mr. Flynn, of Kiltyclogher, County Leitrim, writes on February 1st—The famine here is daily growing wider and deeper. The people are without fuel, without cattle, food, or credit. I am on all sides besieged by starving people, asking even for a few pounds of Indian meal.The Rev. Canon Lyons, Spiddal, County Galway, at a very recent date, says—I am fearful of the next few months, because at present the people are in a dreadful condition. They are living on seaweed, which will rapidly cause widespread sickness. We want employment, not charity, and in this district money might be advantageously laid out on reproductive public works.The Rev. Mr. O'Fadden, of Gweedore, Donegal, writes—The distress is spreading with fearful rapidity, and increasing day by day. "Within the last fortnight it has reached every village and hamlet in this district.He also speaks of seaweed being used as food—No meal, no potatoes, nothing really to support life. The misery of the people is unmistakably pictured in their countenances and eyes, in their dress and their wretched bed clothing. I longed for night to shut out from my eyes the terrible sights; but they haunted me as I walked through the lonely glen to my home, and they haunt me still, and will do so for many a month to come.Mr. Johnson, of Kanturk, County Cork, writes—The poor people have neither fuel nor clothing—a Siberian winter; Indian meal 12s. a cwt., no potatoes, and the oat crop practically worthless.Mr. Redmond, High Sheriff of the City of Waterford, says—The poor are in a desperate condition, and I very much fear they will be even worse, as the distress is intensifying, and the winter extremely severe.Mr. O'Rorke, of Tralee, County Kerry, writes—The poor are starving, and it is greatly to be deplored that the Government have shut their eyes to their sufferings, as I find from a letter sent through the Secretary of the Local Government Board to the Tralee Union yesterday, in which the Guardians are asked to place all unoccupied wards in good and habitable order for the reception of those looking for relief; "and he adds," God help the poor!1054 He (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had not read those extracts from the numerous letters he had received for the purpose of finding fault with the Government for what they had failed to do. His purpose was' to direct their attention to the future. He wanted the Government to do something before it was quite too late. The burden of all the letters he had received was that the distress was great; that it was growing, and that the worst had yet to come. During the next few weeks the worst phase of the crisis would have arrived; and if within that time some generous effort should not be made, then the Government would have to encounter an amount of distress which might very well be described as famine itself. The daily papers—even those least inclined to be sympathetic with the Irish poor—contained most strong and earnest testimony from their correspondents as to the extent, the intensity, and the growing nature of the distress in the West of Ireland. He would not weary the House with those reports. He could only enforce the appeal just made to the Government by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cork County. He would urge upon the Government not to lose the time which yet remained, and to relax that rule which would not be endured in England, under which a man suffering from temporary distress could not obtain relief, but must go into the workhouse. Experience showed that people who once went into the workhouse seldom emerged any more from a pauper's position. It would be far better, far cheaper—putting it on the very lowest ground—to afford outdoor relief, and to enable those people to tide over their distress, than to offer them the odious test that they must take the risk upon their consciences of allowing themselves to starve, or else come down from their previous position as industrious people, and become paupers for a time. Becoming a pauper for a time meant becoming a pauper for life. He strongly urged the Government to give to-night some assurance that they were not rigidly bound to their so-called economy. Let the Chief Secretary give an assurance that his influence would be brought to bear upon others, so that a generous effort might be made to grapple with the distress. There was no occasion 1055 now for his going into the various other points mentioned in the Amendment. He endorsed every word the Amendment contained. It was a simple axiom to say that while the defects mentioned there continued to exist there must be discontent and disaffection in Ireland. The Irish Party would in the most practical way give the Government opportunities for remedying those defects. Bills embodying all the reforms they claimed would be brought before the House. It would then be for Her Majesty's Government to say whether they were prepared to deny or to grant those reforms. He might say with regard to the defects of the Land Act that the Government had admitted them. The Prime Minister had again and again stated with regard to the Healy Clause that the meaning in his mind was similar to the meaning in the mind of the hon. Member who moved the clause. There, then, was a clear instance in which, by mere mistake or mischance, a measure failed to give effect to the intention of Parliament. He should not go over all the matters spoken of in the Amendment. He preferred to lay the greater stress upon the poverty and hunger that existed in Ireland. That was a grievance over which one moment could not be lost. It had been suggested that no more time could be given to listening to Irish complaints, or to endeavouring to redress Irish grievances. He thought that was not a position which the English Government or the English Parliament could maintain. They had taken upon themselves the responsibility of governing Ireland, and, having taken that responsibility, they could not avoid considering the grievances of the people. There might be English questions which, in the ordinary course of things, would have good right to be carefully examined. Most willing would he be to hear that all English reforms had speedy chance of success. But not one of them was so urgent as the grievances of Ireland, and while Irish grievances existed the English Parliament could no more escape from them than could a man escape from his own shadow. When the roof leaked, that must be mended before any decoration of the walls was attempted; when a limb was wounded, it claimed the first thought; and in the same way the grievances of Ireland should receive 1056 the first attention of that House. The responsibility of removing them was a burden which they must bear, who had assumed and insisted on retaining the task of governing Ireland.
§ MR. CHARLES RUSSELL
said, he thought this a convenient opportunity for reminding the Ministry and the House that the sole function of government in Ireland was not repression and the detection and punishment of crime. Hon. Members had made the debates on Irish affairs in this Session the opportunity for delivering attacks upon various parts of the past remedial policy of the present Government. The debate had had given to it a personal character, which he thought could not serve any useful purpose, and which certainly would not tend to allay the feeling of irritation existing in Ireland. He confessed that he listened with anxious expectation to the speech of the Chief Secretary; but he must also confess that that speech was to him (Mr. C. Russell) of a somewhat disappointing character, and he would tell the House why. He fully recognized the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman's utterances, but he should have liked to hear a healthier ring about them. While his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary was laying down with great vigour that the primary duty of a Government was the protection of life and property and the maintenance of order, he should have liked to have gathered from that speech that he considered it a function of Government at least equally important to look after and redress, with equal urgency and equal care, admitted grievances. Though he (Mr. O. Russell) did not perceive it in the speech of the Chief Secretary, he found that healthy ring in the speech of another right hon. Member of the Government, the President of the Board of Trade; and he remarked that, whereas the speech of the Chief Secretary was received with unstinted applause by the Opposition, the speech of the President of the Board of Trade received but small approbation from those Benches. He would like to remind the House of some extra-Parliamentary utterances of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). In his recent speech in the Rotunda, the junior Member for the University of Dublin—not, indeed, by any indirect or roundabout insinuation, but 1057 by direct charge—had practically laid at the door of the Prime Minister the charge that to his (the Prime Minister's) recent remedial policy towards Ireland was largely to be attributed the state of things existing in Ireland; and, at the same time, he lavished praise upon the Chief Secretary. In his speech, also, on the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) was this expression—I regard the Amendment as a correct historical narrative of the past policy of the Government, and as an exhortation to them to desist from pursuing in the future the path now universally condemned.But he (Mr. Gibson) also told the House on that occasion that they must not expect that a man whose house was on fire would regard as his guardian angel the man who came to put it out, when he believed it was the same man who had set it on fire. What did that all mean, except this—that he (Mr. Gibson) was lauding the Chief Secretary at the expense of his Colleagues in the Government? That was praise to be looked at with some qualification and suspicion, for the only part of the policy of the Government which the right hon. and learned Gentlemen showed that he wholly approved of was that part which related to the rigorous execution of the law. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in labouring to show that a great part of the existing evils in Ireland was due to the past remedial policy of the Government in that country, urged that the Government should desist from bringing in any further remedial measures. He humbly but earnestly protested against that doctrine, and he protested that it was at least as much the duty of the Government zealously and carefully to search out and make itself acquainted with what were the grievances, and apply the remedy, as it was vigorously but justly to insist upon the maintenance of law and order. There were matters which had been pointed out which called for the urgent attention of Parliament; and how was the demand for attention met? It was said—"We will have no more legislative redress for Ireland until Ireland is quiet." That was one way in which it was put. Another mode was—"There are English claims which press upon popular attention, and Ireland has already received a largo share of the time of Par- 1058 liament." As regarded the last of these arguments, he admitted its perfect justice as coming from Englishmen. He admitted that Ireland had received—and Members from Ireland ought to acknowledge that Ireland had used—a large share of the time of Parliament; but he would point out, at the same time, that that was an argument which must be very carefully used, because every time it was put forward in answer to a legitimate demand for redress it would strengthen enormously the claims of those who said that England could not legislate for Ireland. As to the other ground of objection, he confessed he was a little surprised to hear it pressed in that House. Was nothing more to be done for Ireland because Ireland was in a state of disquiet? Why, it was as if they were to say in the case of a fever patient that they should place him in a strait-waistcoat until he was reduced to a state of subjection before proceeding to give him remedies. That was an illustration in homely language, it was true; but he thought it fitted the occasion. Was it not notorious that, although they might not always be able to trace the connection between crime and the absence of legislative redress, yet that between the existence of crime in a country and its political and social condition the connection was certain? In the first place, the absence of remedial legislation created a sympathy with offences against the law, which meant protection for those who offended against the law by immunity from punishment. To those who said that there should be no legislation for Ireland until she was quiet, he said there would be no quietness until remedies for grievances which undoubtedly existed were found. Hon. Members opposite said that it was a concession to lawless agitation and violence. He knew that was said; but they must not forget that the House of Commons had taught the Irish people the bitter lesson that their best chance of legislation was by showing a spirit of disorder and disquiet. They had that upon the authority of the right hon. and learned Member for Dublin University, for he told a different audience in the Dublin Rotunda that there would have been no such Land Act as that of 1881 but for what he described as "a lawless agitation." What were the 1059 matters that were now pressing? Ono I of the matters most urgently in need of the attention of the Government was the distress. He warned the Government not to delay in taking measures to relieve the distress which existed; and he warned them also not to try and break down that feeling of horror and abhorrence—call it prejudice if they would—which the Irish people always felt against entering the workhouse. He did not intend to enlarge upon that question, for he would find it exceedingly difficult to supplement the account they had had from the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Arthur O'Connor), and particularly from the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst); but he joined with them in warning the Government not to be too late in taking steps, although only of a temporary character, in that matter. Primary among the other questions which demanded attention was the amendment of the Land Act. If the House should be disposed to resist the pertinacity with which this matter was brought under their notice, let him remind the House and the Government that there was not one point now brought under their notice that was not again and again insisted upon and pressed upon the House by him (Mr. C. Russell) and others at the time when the Bill was being passed into law. The points on which the Land Bill required amendment were summarized in the resolutions passed at a most influential meeting of farmers recently held in Belfast, delegates from all parts of the country, a body of men entitled to be heard and to have their demands weighed with attentive consideration by any Government. They bad insisted on the amendment of the clause called "Healy's Clause"—that no rent should be chargeable on the tenant's own improvements. That point ought to be made clear. It had been confessed by the Prime Minister that the interpretation supposed to be put upon that clause by the Appeal Court in Dublin was contrary to the intention of the Legislature when the Bill passed, and was certainly contrary to the intention of the Government. Another point of importance bearing on the matter was that the decisions in regard to fair rent should be retrospective to the date of the application, and not operate 1060 merely from the date of the decision. The expectation of the Prime Minister that rents would be largely settled by agreement had not been realized. It would still be years before the adjustments were completed; and it was absurd that the man who got his case tried early should be in a better position than the man who applied as soon, but whose case was heard later. The exclusion of leaseholders from the Act was also a burning and a pressing question. He (Mr. C. Russell) would ask, were the Ulster farmers, loyal and peaceable as they were—were they to be told that their just and legitimate demands were not to be dealt with in a fair manner and promptly? That was a serious question for the Government. Another of equal, if not of greater, importance was the state of the magistracy in Ireland. That was a question which, without legislation, might be largely dealt with; it was a question, indeed, which came home to the daily lives of the people; and it had assumed greater importance of late years, owing to the large increase of stipendiary magistrates, who were part of the Executive rather than judicial officers. Therefore, it became important to draw attention to the fact that in many parts of the country there was a want of magistrates in whom the people had confidence. It was necessary not only that tribunals should be fair, but that the people should feel that they were fair. He had no hesitation in saying that the state of the magistracy in a great part of Ireland at present was such as did not command the full confidence of the people. Beyond the questions of the existence of distress, the amendment of the Land Act, and the state of the magistracy, there were others which were urgent and pressing—for instance, the question of County Government Boards and Provincial Councils, in regard to which Ulster was in complete and full accord with the other three Provinces. Notwithstanding the censure which had been passed on the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Herbert Gladstone) for a speech which he recently delivered at that place on the necessity for remedial legislation in this direction, all he (Mr. C. Russell) could say was, that if those utterances were, in the opinion of hon. Members in that House, premature, they were, nevertheless, wise and statesmanlike. ["Oh, oh!"] 1061 He (Mr. O. Russell) thought so sincerely. He did not mean to say that he expected the Government to take up this question in the present or even next Session; but he did say that it was one which they must take up, and soon too. They would have to do so, because they wanted in Ireland a moral force behind the Government. At present, the people were practically divested of any voice in the management of their affairs; and what the Government would have to do, if they desired to be successful in restoring peace and contentment, and in ruling the country, was to place on the people themselves a Dense of responsibility. No condition of things would over evoke the sympathy of the people on the side of law unless they gave them that sense of responsibility which came from the knowledge that they had an active part in governing and controlling their own affairs. His (Mr. O. Russell's) principal objects in rising were—first, to warn the Chief Secretary to beware of the insidious laudations of hon. Members opposite—and next, to insist upon the principle, which appeared to him to have been last sight of in the course of the debate, that it was not the only function, nor the greatest function, although it was the primary function, of a Government to repress, to detect, and to punish crime. It was the nobler, it was the wiser, it was the more important function to get at the sources of disaffection, which was the parent of crime. A Government might for years, without the sympathy of a people, and against the wishes of the people, repress and keep down a people and call it government; but it was not government in any true sense of the word; and they could not permanently govern the country at all, in any true sense, unless they enlisted the sympathies of the people, founded on the confidence which they could repose in the just administration of the law, on the contentment which sprang from that just administration, and on the fact that they felt that their just legislative demands for redress were attended to.
SIR, JOHN HAY
said, that the condition of affairs in Ireland was such, that North of the Solway they were beginning to get sick of the Irish Question. They found that all that had been done by the House and by the country had failed in any sense to give any satisfaction to Ireland. [Mr. CHARLES RUSSELL: No, no!"] 1062 He was delighted to hear any expression of dissent from that remark from any Irish Member; but, so far as he could see, the efforts of Parliament had not been received as they ought to have been. The dissatisfaction existing on this matter North of the Solway was, in his opinion, justified. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) spoke just now of decent and independent men, of whom he considered Irishmen principally consisted. At the present moment, if they looked at the Returns, they would find that the contribution of Scotland to the Imperial Revenue was nearly three times as large as that of Ireland, notwithstanding that the population of Ireland was 2,000,000 greater than that of Scotland; and he might say that the Scotch people were not at all inclined to contribute to the maintenance of this population of decent and independent men, who could not pay their way with regard to the Empire. At the present moment they had in Ireland over 5,000,000 of people—2,000,000 of whom could not exist there. It was utterly impossible, on physical conditions, that they could live in the wretched tenements on which they were placed, even though they had them rent free and farmed the land well. It was absurd that this country should endeavour to introduce, by legislation or by any other means, contentment among such a population. He would venture to say that the cheapest thing the Government could do was to hire 250 transports and send away once a month 1,000 persons in each of the ships, and if this was done for one year they would send away 3,000,000 of persons, and the condition of Ireland would thereby be greatly benefited. He said, truly and sincerely, that he believed that was a process by which Ireland could be reduced to a population and a condition with which they could have contentment and happiness. There was this fact to ponder—that in Scotland, with a population of 3,734,000, and Ireland, with a population of 5,159,000, there was, if they excepted the potato crop, a produce in the former of £33,000,000, and in the latter of only £32,000,000. If the potato crop came to maturity in Ireland, it was valued at £15,400,000, but it never did; and in Scotland not more than £1,500,000 worth of potatoes were ever grown; but when it failed in Ireland 1063 there would inevitably be starvation, and the people of Scotland were to be called upon to help support this poorer population, so many of whom the hon. Member for Longford called decent and independent men. So long as that state of affairs lasted, he believed the House had no chance whatever of bringing contentment to Ireland. There were two great statesmen in this country—Sir Thomas Wentworth and Oliver Cromwell—one on one side of the House, and the other on the opposite side, and both recognized, only with a harsher and sterner view, the right mode of governing Ireland; and he said what he believed to be true when he declared that the best thing for Ireland would be that at the next Dissolution the Writs should be suspended for that country, except for the learned constituency of Dublin University, which returned excellent Members. If that were done, and our best General—who, he believed, was an Irishman—was sent to govern the country, they should have in 10 years a contented and happy Ireland. Let them reduce the population by 2,000,000, and govern it satisfactorily, and they would have no more eloquent speeches from the hon. and learnod Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), and the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy). endeavouring to persuade the House that, by some mean3 or other, Ireland might be governed by legislation. No system of legislation would govern a country of paupers, who were determined to be disloyal and discontented.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, he did not propose to enter upon the topics introduced by his right hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay). They did not lie within the circle of practical politics. He had listened to the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) with the discomfort and apprehension with which one listens to criticism of one's conduct from a friendly source. But he was glad to hear it said that crime was to be punished in Ireland until the criminal population had learned that crime was criminal. But he thought that to say that repressive measures would fail unless accompanied by remedial legislation argued a confusion of mind. The Government meant to keep the question of crime and that of 1064 reform absolutely distinct. He would not insult Irish Members by mixing up the two. Englishmen or Scotchmen would feel outraged at the suggestion that crime could not be put down unless the central authority ceased to interfere with the finances of counties, and any Member who made such a suggestion would be rejected by his constituents. His hon. and learned Friend seemed to think that it was the duty of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and for the Government, to indulge in vague generalities and pledges. But he thought a handful of meal better than a bushel of chaff; and that one Bill, whose title and details could be named and recommended, was better than a million of fine phrases about remedial measures. He would name the measures which were already drafted, or as good as drafted, which the Government intended to introduce in connection with Ireland. One dealt with electoral divisions and unions; another was intended to introduce an improvement with respect to the law of lunatics at large, and with the law of the poorer lunatics in Ireland. Another would enact that Boards of Guardians should be elected by ballot. The Government had also a Bill for the Sunday closing of public-houses. He was not speaking with the pride of an inventor, for many of those measures were well known; but they would be none the less useful. They intended also to deal with fisheries, and to extend the advantages now possessed by a few districts in the way of borrowing for the improvement of fisheries to certain maritime counties. They had, too, a Bill for the better registration of Parliamentary voters; and another more of an administrative than of a legislative character by which Ireland would enjoy the same advantage with respect to the training of elementary teachers which were already possessed by England and Scotland. With the assistance of the Irish Members they might be enabled to carry those Bills, and some good would be done; but without their assistance, or with their hindrance, he feared little could be done. He listened with some perturbation to the hon. and gallant Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst), because, important as the debates of the last few days had been, there was no subject that had exercised the Government of Ireland as the question of distress and the way 1065 to meet it. He advisedly used the word "distress," though it might appear to convey an admission that distress existed. The very essence of the situation, in the opinion of the Irish Government, was that distress always existed in certain parts of Ireland, and always would exist, unless the Irish Government ventured to face the situation with a courage which, he believed, was greater than that required to deal with assassination and outrage. What was the present situation in Ireland? The current year had not been, by any means, a bad year for Irish farmers with tolerably sized holdings. Grain had been a very valuable crop, though somewhat short. The price of cattle had been exceedingly high. One gentleman told him of a certain farm he had on his hands of which the rent was £800 a-year, which brought him a net profit of £1,400; and, taking into consideration the condition under which gentleman farming was conducted, that was a very fair balance. The potatoes, undoubtedly, had been bad on good sized farms where the farmers had not charged the soil for that exhausting crop. They had been worse than bad on those miserable patches which the peasants were obliged to continue working for generations and centuries. A certain portion of the population of Ireland lived under conditions not realized in this country, and more deplorable, perhaps, than under which any people lived in any part of civilized Europe. There were 67,000 holdings of between one and five acres in Ireland—he did not count those below one acre—as they were not, properly speaking, agricultural holdings. There were 164,000 holdings of between five and 15 acres, many of which, in the more mountainous districts, did not afford more than two, or two and a-half acres of arable land. In these small farms the ground was dug year after year for potatoes until the soil was completely exhausted. In Donegal he made careful inquiries, and he learnt from the people that in an ordinary year an acre of their land yielded not more than 90 cwt. of potatoes, instead of from six to nine tons, which would be the yield of good land properly farmed. In bad years the crop was almost worthless. The Reports which they had received from those who best knew the poorer districts of Ireland were that the population was at present in a state of social 1066 and financial crisis. Three years ago, when the crop of 1879 was known to have failed, and when the effects of the failure began to be felt, the shopkeepers refused to give credit. But when they began to give credit anew the great flood of Government aid and private charity also came to the assistance of the people. The Duchess of Marlborough's Committee expended £130,000; the Mansion House Committee £174,000? and considerable sums were expended by the Land League Relief Fund, The New York Herald, and other American relief funds. A sum of £1,500,000 was allocated from the Irish Church Surplus, and about £1,250,000 of it was apportioned out in loans and grants. For two years these districts were bolstered up and kept going by artificial and external aid, and in the third year there was an unusually large crop of potatoes. There was also another source of revenue for the small farmers in that year, for they very generally withheld their rent. But it was not only in that year, but for some years past, that this rent was withheld, a proof of which was the extent to which the Arrears Act was resorted to in the districts in question. From Mayo came 20,396 applications; from Donegal 13,650; and from Galway 12,559. In that year also there was an unusually large crop of potatoes. This year, however, there were none of those favouring circumstances. Potatoes were bad, and, in some cases, worse than bad. A year's rent had to be paid in order that the advantages of the Arrears Act might be obtained, and the process of getting that year's rent had in some districts been an exceedingly painful process. The fact now was patent—and the country and Parliament must face it—that the holdings on the West Coast of Ireland were too small; the people could, not live on the land without running into debt; credit could not easily be obtained, and the people were dependent on their own resources, which were insufficient to support them, or soon would be. It might be asked—"How could they ever have lived upon their poor holdings?" They had been able to do so because their style of living was formerly much simpler than it had been lately. They used to live on potatoes and meal. They bought absolutely nothing but a certain quantity of meal, and they dressed in home-made flannel or frieze. Some 1067 years ago, however, they began to drink tea, to use a good deal of flour, and to buy dresses at stores and shops. Their savings went, their debts grew, their land got less and less productive, until, at present, it was utterly unable to support them. They recognized this state of things very well themselves, and if left to themselves would be willing to accept the only remedy. In Newport Union 1,844 persons had expressed a desire to emigrate; in Oughterard Union 1,556 had done so; in a Union in Gal-way 1,821 had expressed the same desire; and in Belmullet, out of a population of 16,000, no fewer than 3,000 had applied. The Inspector had informed the Government that if these 3,000 people were to go, a very appreciable difference would be made in the comfort of those who would be left behind; but that if they were given any hopes of extraordinary relief they would be induced to stay at home. If that relief were made permanent it would be merely perpetuation of the evil, and they would in a few years be as badly off as they were before. Would the Government, he asked, be justified in proposing measures of relief for the purpose of perpetuating the state of things which he had endeavoured to describe? He would first consider the question from a humanitarian point of view. He had himself visited the most distressed district in one Union in Donegal. The circumstances of that visit illustrated curiously one of the minor difficulties of the Irish Government—namely, the constant misrepresentation, not only of their motives, but of their words and actions. His visit to the West of Ireland did not suit the purposes of certain people, and so they set the story going that he drove about in a carriage with the blinds down, and that story was made the basis of an extraordinary number of bitter articles and speeches, some of which were delivered by Members of that House. As a matter of fact, as soon as he had reached the border of the distressed districts, he and his party drove about in an open car, and they were well rewarded for doing so by the interesting lessons which they learned. They entered a great number of cottages, and questioned the inmates closely and systematically. The lessons which he learnt he should never forget. For a part of the time he had the advantage of the 1068 company of Father Callaghar, and for the rest of the time he was accompanied by Mr. Hamilton, one of the most experienced of the Poor Law Inspectors. He then saw for the first time—and when one saw for the first time it was with truer eyes than people who were accustomed to it—a great number of human beings living with the pigs, with the fowls, and actually with the cattle, in one miserable room, with a floor not of boards, but simply of earth. He saw family after family in which the eldest children were in rags, and the two or three youngest had simply some wretched little shirt on, which was only a name and a pretence for their being dressed at all. It was bad enough, and it was sad enough, that such a state of things should exist; but it was worse still that the taxpayers of England and Scotland, who, in many cases, had enough to do to keep their own modest homes over their heads, should be called upon, year after year, and Parliament after Parliament, to contribute the money, either directly or indirectly, for the purpose of maintaining that state of things, which was a perfect scandal.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
In the first place, the English taxpayer lost every halfpenny he contributed at the time of the Famine; and, besides that, they had to consider what the English taxpayer was now asked to contribute, and that was the practical question. But he would come to that point more fully later on. If it was for the benefit of Ireland, then they might have something to say for it—they would be willing to give very large sums; but it was in order to perpetuate what was the greatest misery of Ireland; and if it was objectionable on the ground of humanity, it was much more objectionable on the ground of social morality. The utter destruction of the self-reliance and self-respect of the people by the policy of 1879 and 1880 was perceivable on every side. The moneys of the charities were given in large quantities at first, and when the distribution of the charitable funds ceased, the people did not wish to return to labour, and outdoor relief was largely granted by the Guardians. He would take the instance of the Union of Strokestown, in the county of Roscom- 1069 mon. The Guardians took the matter out of the hands of the relieving officers in February, 1880. They appointed committees of clergymen and others, and distributed outdoor relief. These committees began to distribute relief to the amount of £250 or £300 a week; the sums expended were handed in in loose sheets, and the chairman signed those sheets. The numbers of out-poor relieved rose from 421 in the week ending the 7th of February, to 7,459 in the week ending the 6th of March, and to 9,794 in the week ending the 13th of March, 1880. And what did hon. Gentlemen think was the population of that Union? Very little more than 20,000. That Union was, of course, an exception; but other Unions were so rapidly becoming overburdened, that the Boards of Guardians had to be dissolved, Vice Guardians appointed, and this ruinous system had to be checked and the Union saved, as it were, by fire. There was another result to the ratepayers from another form of this aid. In certain parts of Ireland the Guardians and borrowers of seed were led by unauthorized statements to believe that repayment of the loans would not be rigorously pressed for by the Government, and consequently the extravagance in some places was awful. In one Union the issue of seed was made to tailors, shoemakers, and all the idlers in the streets. Nothing more disgraceful than this jobbery was ever known, and no less than £25,000 was owed at this moment by a wretchedly poor Union in Ireland to the Imperial Exchequer for Reed thus thrown broadcast away. The Government could not be a party to entering again upon this course, with the more serious disadvantage that, whereas in 1879 the country was not demoralized in this manner, it was now found to be demoralized already. The Government had determined upon reverting to the machinery of the Poor Law as applied between the years 1849 and 1879. What the effect of the workhouse test had been during that period was well known to everyone who had studied the social history of Ireland. In July, 1879, there were 784,000 persons receiving outdoor relief in Ireland, and until the workhouse test was applied the number showed no symptoms of a decrease. After the test was applied, in the course of three months the number 1070 fell from 784,000 to 120,000, and it never ceased falling until, in the year 1855, it reached 685. The Local Government Board in Ireland were not of opinion that it was necessary to relax the workhouse test in times of exceptional distress. A Report had been presented by Mr. Longley to the Local Government Board on that subject, which Report had been adopted by the Board. In that Report Mr. Longley stated that it was not too much to say that all Poor Law administration since the Poor Law Amendment Act had been successful in proportion to its approach to the system of the workhouse test, and it had not been found that such conditions as locality, trade, or population interfered with its applicability. That was the principle upon which the English Poor Law authorities acted.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that in England the people were not asked to go into the workhouse, but the Local Government Board found it necessary to apply the test. The extent to which the workhouse test had been applied in England, and the result, might be shown by a few figures. In the year 1871, £1,524,000 was paid for the maintenance of the poor in the workhouses; in 1881, £1,838,000 was so expended; but in the former year £3,663,000 was spent on outdoor relief, and in the latter year only £2,660,000. The figures showed that by spending an extra £300,000 in maintaining the poor in workhouses the country had saved £1,000,000 in outdoor relief; and the entire cost of maintaining the poor was £700,000 less in 1881 than in 1871, notwithstanding an increase of 3,200,000 in population. And the saving in self-respect and self-reliance might be estimated from the fact that, in 1871, as many as 880,000 persons were in receipt of outdoor relief, while in 1881 their number had fallen to 607,000; and the totals showed that, by the workhouse test, the rate per 1,000 of paupers in England had been reduced from 46 to 30. He would take the case of a single Union. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Cork County (Colonel Colthurst) had quoted a letter from a clergyman in the East of London; and he would now cite the case of a single Union where the test 1071 had been put into operation. In August, 1872, 720 paupers were in the workhouse in question; in the same month, in 1873, there were 803; but in 1872, there were 2,584 persons on outdoor relief, and in 1873, only 1,366, the result being a net saving of £2,900 a-year. In Scotland the results of the change were the same; the indoor paupers had increased from 14,000 to 15,000, but the number of persons on outdoor relief had greatly diminished; and, as was well known, the decrease had not, for the most part, been among the able-bodied paupers. In England and Scotland, then, the tendency was towards the more rigid enforcement of the workhouse test, with notoriously good results. What was the case in Ireland? In Ireland the figures showed that the tendency was the other way. In 1861, £9,600 was spent in outdoor relief; in 1871, 69,000; and in 1881, £182,000. Well, then, were they to relax in Ireland the principles which they were rendering more conspicuous every day in England and Scotland to the immense advantage of these countries, and ought they to allow the ratepayers of Ireland to be 'overburdened to the disadvantage and general harm of the population. If they relaxed the system of relief, the result would be that that would happen all over Ireland which had happened in one Union in Mayo. He noticed that hon. Members sometimes spoke of the Local Government Board as if it stood between the people of Ireland and the intended shower of comfort and prosperity. Still, as all that comfort and prosperity came from the pockets of the ratepayers, it was necessary to provide against its being poured forth too lavishly. "But," argued some Members, "there are the Guardians. In England the Guardians represent the people, and they are not allowed to do what they please with their own." Well, the Local Government Board in England, in the majority of cases, enforced a prohibitory order. The same thing might be done in Ireland. It had been done in some poor Unions like the Swinford Union, where £25,000 of debt had been run up almost in a single day. It was contended that it was only in such Unions that there was distress, as it was in the case of such poor Unions that the Government were asked to relax the 1072 order. He could only say that the money spent by the Guardians in those years was not exactly the money of their constituents, nearly all of whom might be fairly said to be under the £4 valuation, the rates being paid by others; and it would be a gross injustice to allow the Guardians to play ducks and drakes with the money of people who were not, in fact, the people who elected them as Guardians. The present view of the Government was contained in a letter addressed by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland to the Poor Law authorities in Donegal, for the purpose of being read, if asked for, by those gentlemen who had great influence with the people of the district, including the Rev. Father Gallaher, who had shown great affection for the people. There was one paragraph in that letter which he thought he ought to communicate to the House. The Lord Lieutenant said—The Government have already, in the most unmistakable and distinct terms, announced that their policy is to rely solely on the administration of relief through the ordinary channel provided by law; and the true friend of poor persons in want of the necessaries of life is not the man who encourages false hopes that, if they hold out long enough, relief will he afforded in the more acceptable shape of relief works, but the man who uses his influence to overcome their repugnance, which would otherwise be honourable, to enter the workhouse.The accommodation in the workhouse was ample, and arrangements had been made, by increasing the number of workhouses, to increase the means of relief. The fact was it was the case in 1847, and it would be the case again, that when the first pinch of distress came, the people would, lose all their indisposition, which was never very serious, to avail themselves of the workhouse. In 1847, when the people began to feel the pinch of starvation, they went most readily into the workhouse. They did so also in 1879, and they would do so now if they were not advised to do otherwise. He should have liked to make a few remarks on another point kindred to this; but he thought he had detained the House quite long enough. He would, therefore, only call the attention of hon. Members to the fact that this distress existed almost entirely in overcrowded districts—those districts in which the population had not been diminished. In the prosperous districts of Ireland—the 1073 prosperous districts of Munster, Tipperary, and Cork—the diminution had been very large indeed, sometimes 80 per cent, down to 50 and 40 per cent; whereas, in the poorest districts, the diminution since 1841 had been scarcely perceptible. In the opinion of the Government, it would be a cruel kindness to go on expending the public money upon a system which was neither advantageous to the Exchequer nor to Ireland. They thought they would do much better by encouraging in the Irish people greater self-reliance at home, and if they gave assistance, without exercising compulsion, to those who wished to go elsewhere and seek a home. This policy might be considered cruel to some. He was sorry it should be so considered; but, in the opinion of the Government, it was the only kind and wise policy, and, therefore, the Government thought they would do very wrong if they did not carry it out.
§ Mr. GIBSON and Mr. O'DONNELL rose together.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, he wished to make a very few observations on the Motion before the House. The Motion was one framed with various intentions; but the debate had turned only upon one aspect of the subject. The Motion dealt, no doubt, with a variety of matters, which might be divided into two heads—one that the legislation suggested might have been tried; and the other topic was the distress. He did not propose to deal with the speech of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell), who had alluded to him (Mr. Gibson) in the course of his speech; but as his hon. and learned Friend did not think it proper to reply to him upon the previous Motion, he would take the liberty of passing over the speech of his hon. and learned Friend now simply with an expression of cordial thanks to him for the kind way in which he (Mr. Gibson) had been referred to. He would, however, make an allusion 1074 to the speech of his right hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Sir John Hay). He had listened to that speech with attention; but he was unable to look at the question from exactly the same point of view as his right hon. and gallant Friend, because, after all, whatever hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway might say, he was an Irishman, and, therefore, he must look at the question from an Irish point of view. He should be sorry to think that the remedy for Irish distress was to be anything at all in the shape of a forcible deportation of the people. He should be glad to think that Ireland could be made a happy, peaceful, and loyal home for a substantial peaceful, and tranquil population. He hoped that the future of Ireland's happiness would not be found in very violent or drastic remedies. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was one which went fully into both of the topics raised by the Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman passed by, as almost all previous speakers passed by, any details dealing with the suggestion of legislation. The debates had not dealt largely, nor in any detail, with that topic at all. The right hon. Gentleman, however, used some expressions which he (Mr. Gibson) thought it would be well should be constantly borne in mind upon this subject. The right hon. Gentleman, alluding to Ireland and Irish affairs, said that it would be unwise and unstates-manlike to indulge in any vague generalities, and to give vague promises and pledges. He said that it was a great deal more the part of a true statesman and a true friend of Ireland to give a list of the practical measures intended to be submitted for Ireland, and not to indulge in vain and dangerous phrases about possible future legislation. Those words, he hoped, would be considered and pondered over by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade before he next made another remedial speech to the House. The way in which the question of distress had been presented to the House was a matter calling for a very different observation. Everyone must regard that topic as one of extreme importance, and they were bound to consider it with an anxious desire to arrive at the truth. They were further bound to consider the disclosures that 1075 were made with sympathy. He thought everyone must be conscious, who listened to the interesting speech of the Chief Secretary, of this point, whether they agreed with his conclusions or arguments—that he had, at all events, considered the subject fully. It was essentially the duty of the Irish Government to consider and to weigh this great difficulty in their path, because the responsibility rested broadly and mainly on their shoulders. It was impossible for any man to deny that there was at present substantial distress in several parts of Ireland. Everyone must admit that. It was a painful fact. It was of no use to attempt to extenuate or deny it, or to attempt to exaggerate it; but once the question was looked at, and once it was understood, and once the Government admitted and showed that they realized the fact, then at once they admitted and assumed the responsibility which rested upon them, and which the Irish Members in that House had a right to believe they would assume. In considering the question, the debate had unnecessarily touched upon the causes of this distress. Whether the causes were temporary and exceptional, or inseparable from the permanent condition of the country, he did not propose to discuss. It was unquestionably impossible, in the face of the great statistical fact of the number of small holdings to be found mostly in the West of Ireland, not to expect the repeated appearances of great distress. It had been repeatedly pointed out that even if the poorer tenants on the small holdings had no landlords at all, and had to pay no rent, and got constant outdoor relief, it would not keep them from occasional periods of almost famine. Then the distress should be dealt with in such a way as to prevent, not only the extremity of famine, but the acute pressure of suffering in occasional times of distress. The Government stated that they were prepared to undertake this responsibility by the agency of the Poor Law. A great variety of the figures which had been presented to the House were well worth attentive consideration; but the matter could hardly be gone fully into in an incidental debate like that. Then, again, emigration had been suggested as a remedy. He had no doubt that it was a remedy which, if presented in such a way as not to wound the susceptibilities 1076 of the people, might afford a large amount of relief. But if emigration was suggested to the people, as if they were anxious to get rid of them—if emigration was suggested to the people in a way that would wound their susceptibilities, treating them as mendicants, always asking for alms, it would not bring about a satisfactory state of things, from a people, who, with all their faults, had pride—great and just pride—and had always shrunk from the possibility of falling into pauperism. Emigration, if considered from a sympathetic standpoint, as it was suggested now by many agencies in Ireland, and notably by a gentleman whom he did not know, except by name—Mr. Tuke, who must be held in the highest praise in Ireland for the way in which he had devoted his time and money to that country—might be productive of much good. Mr. Tuke had suggested agencies by which individuals might be relieved in groups and in families, and taken to places where they would find themselves not deported, friendless, and unassisted, but where they would find companions, new homes, and the prospect of future happiness. If emigration were brought to the minds of the people, and they were made acquainted with it, and it were made an important supplement to the judicious working of the Poor Law, it might do much towards preventing the possibility of a future return of distress. There was one point in connection with this subject which he desired to mention, and it was a matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary referred to—namely, the Arrears Act. He (Mr. Gibson) had received many complaints as to the working of the Arrears Act. He had been told that in many cases where the tenants had lodged their year's rent, and where the landlord and tenant had practically agreed, neither party was a bit nearer to a settlement, as the landlord had neither received the money the tenant had lodged, nor the money it was arranged the State should pay. He had received this statement from gentlemen of the highest character who were on the best terms with their tenants, and it had been agreed that bygones should be bygones. The tenant had been told to lodge his rent; he had done so; but yet neither landlord nor tenant was one whit the better off. A large proprietor 1077 in Ireland, who had allowed arrears to accumulate, told him yesterday that although the tenants had lodged their year's rent, and there was no question whatever in dispute, he had not yet received 1s. of the money, and he could not find out when he was to receive it from the Land Commissioners. All this placed the relations between landlord and tenant in the greatest confusion. The tenant considered that by the fact of payment and the landlord being willing to accept payment, he was entitled to a receipt in full up to the last day; but the landlord had not yet been told by the Land Commissioners when the matter was going to be settled, and everyone was kept in the greatest uncertainty. As to the distress, the Government were fixed with the distinct responsibility of watching over it, and with the grave responsibility of seeing that the machinery of the Poor Law was adequate to deal with it. They were fixed further with the responsibility of seeing that all judicious and humane schemes of emigration were fairly assisted and encouraged by them. It was the duty of the House to watch and see fairly and firmly that the Government discharged these grave duties, which, indeed, they appeared to recognize in reference to the present existence of distress in Ireland.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he was very glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down was prepared to support any measure that might be devised for the purpose of remedying the great evil of over-population in certain districts of Ireland, and which did not involve necessarily the deportation of large masses of the Irish people. Certainly, he (Mr. O'Connor Power) hoped that before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sat down, he would give some indication of what the remedy was by which he desired to carry out that desirable object. He had been as much disappointed with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's speech as he had been last night in listening to similar observations made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin), who repudiated the idea that the Conservative Party sought to govern Ireland by repression alone, and gave a catalogue of the measures which he said the Conservative Party would be 1078 glad to pass in order to improve the condition of Ireland. The hon. Member spoke of emigration as one remedy, of migration as another, and the encouragement of industrial pursuits in Ireland. He was not going to comment upon the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincoln (Mr. Chaplin), which were made upon another question; but he wanted to call attention to the fact that they were very often favoured from that side of the House with suggestions as to what might be done, but he was sorry to say that when they asked for a distinct proposal their Conservative Friends invariably took refuge in unbroken silence.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
confessed that he did not know how to estimate the right hon. and learned Gentleman's interruption. The right hon. and learned Gentleman deplored the poverty of the Irish people, and admitted the miserable condition in which they were. Then, what was to be the remedy? If it was an economic fact that they could not feed and clothe the Irish people at home—if that were the admitted fact, it was a hollow and false sentiment to shed crocodile tears in lamenting the past and present, and still refuse to find a remedy. He (Mr. O'Connor Power) was not in the habit of recommending a policy to the House without suggesting something in the nature of a remedy, and he hoped he would not be guilty of occupying the attention of the House without saying something as to the practical remedy in this case. He would, in the first instance, call attention to an interruption he had made during the delivery of the speech of the Chief Secretary. He was surprised to find that the right hon. Gentleman gave new life to a wretched Parliamentary common phrase in talking about the relief of Irish distress in connection with the money of the British taxpayer. He had heard that phrase used constantly in the House during the last few years, and he hoped to be able to drive a nail in it before he sat down. When the right hon. Gentleman was discussing the subject, he (Mr. O'Connor Power) felt un- 1079 able to restrain himself, and accordingly he interrupted the right hon. Gentleman by asking what the British taxpayer had given towards the relief of Irish distress? The right hon. Gentleman said he would refer to that matter before he got to the end of his speech; but the right hon. Gentleman closed his speech without dealing with that part of the subject. If the Chief Secretary and his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay), who spoke for all Scotland a short time ago, had not got the facts and figures of the subject, he (Mr. O'Connor Power) had. If they repudiated figures of speech in dealing with Ireland, he wished to point out that they were dealing with figures of speech alone when they referred to the money of the British taxpayer having been expended in the relief of distress in Ireland. They had had in the year 1880 two Acts passed for the purpose of relieving distress in Ireland. The first Act was introduced and passed by the late Government shortly before the Dissolution of the late Parliament; and that Act authorized, not a grant of money out of the Imperial Exchequer for the relief of Irish distress, but an advance of money to the extent of £750,000 out of the Irish Church Surplus Fund. What had the money of the British taxpayer to do with the Irish Church Surplus Fund? Why, in this hour of their humiliation, should the people of Ireland be subjected to the additional humiliation of being falsely charged with levying taxation on England and Scotland towards the relief of their distress? Another Act was passed in August in the same year by the present Government and Parliament; and by that Act the sum of £750,000, authorized as an advance out of the Irish Church Surplus Fund, was increased to the sum of £1,500,000. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen would say now, at least, they touched the Consolidated Fund; but the money authorized to be advanced did not come out of the pockets of the British taxpayer, but out of the same Irish Church Surplus Fund. The only Act he could find in recent Acts of Parliament in which there was any trace of the application of the money of the British taxpayer—and he supposed that Ireland was included in that generic name of British taxpayer—was in the Arrears Act, by which the Board of Works in Dublin was authorized to make a grant of £100,000 in aid of 1080 Irish emigration. If the Chief Secretary would tell him what proportion was paid by the British taxpayer of that sum of £100,000, which the Board of Works in the late Arrears Act was authorized to grant in this grand scheme of Imperial transplantation, in which the right hon. Gentleman professed to have so much faith, then, as far as he could do so, he would give him a Parliamentary receipt for the paltry amount. He was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should say a short time ago that it was really too bad that the British taxpayer should be called on to relieve this intolerable load of Irish distress. It was quite time that this fallacy should be exposed. The right hon. Gentleman, when he (Mr. O'Connor Power) had ventured to interrupt him by his question, fell back on the great Famine of 1816. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman invited him or the Irish Members to enter into a discussion on that part of the matter. He had no desire whatever to shirk it, if this were the appropriate time and the appropriate occasion. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary opened his speech in a manner which indicated that he realized the magnitude of the evil. The right hon. Gentleman had certainly relieved him from one obligation under which he felt himself at an earlier stage of the discussion. He had felt thoroughly convinced that the time had come when, by some effort, a vivid picture should be presented to the House and the people of Great Britain of the frightful misery in which thousands and hundreds of thousands of the population of the South and West of Ireland had been steeped. He was glad the Chief Secretary had relieved him of any attempt at pictorial eloquence in giving that description, because he believed that when the speech of the right hon. Gentleman came to be carefully studied, it would show that in five or six of the Western counties—and, unhappily, the county which he (Mr. O'Connor Power) had the honour to represent—the county of Mayo—was one of them—there were tens of thousands of tenants, and at least a hundred thousand people, in a condition which was not only a reproach to the Government, which, as a Government, was responsible for the management of Irish affairs, but a reproach to their common humanity. When he looked at this large 1081 amount of suffering humanity in the West and on the South-West Coast—when he looked at Ireland, with its population of 5,000,000, as a poor country, and contemplated the wealth, and power, and greatness of the people of England and Scotland, with their 30,000,000 of population, and their great capacity of doing an act, in the name of humanity, with the object of relieving distress, and when he recollected, at the same time, that their Irish fellow-citizens and fellow-countrymen, within so short a distance of them, were in such an unhappy condition, he felt that if the people of Great Britain could realize that picture, they would say at once—"We will take measures, without delay, to put an end to it; and we will not be slow, if necessary, to recognize that this is an Imperial danger and an Imperial necessity; nor shall we be reluctant to employ Imperial funds in applying the necessary remedy." The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland had referred to some Unions in his (Mr. O'Connor Power's) county, and also to the Union of Swinford, and another Union, in the adjoining county of Roscommon, and he had deplored the insolvency, or the repudiation of indebtedness, of which those Unions were guilty. The right hon. Gentleman alluded indirectly, and therefore he could not say to whom the allusion referred, to certain persons who had led the Board of Guardians and ratepayers to believe that if they held out long enough, and refused to pay the loans advanced for the relief of distress, the time would come when the Local Government Board in Ireland would get tired of the matter, and give a receipt. He did not know to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he recollected very well in the town of Ballina, the largest town in his county, during the progress of an election contest, he was asked by an enterprizing Poor Law Guardian whether, in the event of being returned to Parliament, he would promise to secure the remission of the seeds loan, and in the presence of from 8,000 to 10,000 persons he distinctly refused to give any promise of the kind. So far as he knew the feeling of the country, and so far as he 1082 had read the speeches of his hon. Friends near him—the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) and others—he did not know that any such promise had been made or any such dishonourable encouragement held out. He had ventured to ask the Chief Secretary a few questions the other day touching the distress in the West of Ireland. In the Autumn Session of Parliament they found some difficulty in discussing the question of advances to tenants for the improvement of their holdings; and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway (Colonel Nolan), in putting a Question to the Secretary to the Treasury, was met by the reply that a difficulty would arise in many cases on account of the expense attending the necessary inspection of the holdings, and also that other circumstances had to be taken into consideration before advancing any loan. It was said that there would be a difficulty on the part of tenants under a £10 valuation in finding security, and he had himself suggested that tenants under the £10 valuation should be allowed to make a joint application for loans on the joint security of their tenant right. It must be borne in mind that since the passing of the Land Act of 1881 the tenant's property in his holding was a distinct, tangible, and realized thing. It was not a vague amount; it was something which, in the majority of cases in some parts of the country, was already determined by the judicial rents fixed on the holding, consideration being given to the interest which the tenant had in his farm. He had asked the right hon. Gentleman last Thursday what decision had been come to on that important question. He had written to the Treasury on the subject as far back as the 4th of last December. He had written to the Chief Secretary a few days later, and he had received from the right hon. Gentleman—he thought on the 18th of December—a letter in which the right hon. Gentleman told him that the subject was under the consideration of the Lords of the Treasury and the Irish Government. But up to this moment, notwithstanding the elaborate speech the right hon. Gentleman had delivered, not the slightest reference had been made to one of the most important questions connected with the resources of the country. What was the use of mentioning loans in connec- 1083 tion with a Vote of Parliament? Hon. Members heard a certain buzz outside the House upon different matters. They heard the question raised of the reclamation of land; they heard the question of emigration talked of, and it was said that something must be done with regard to it; and next they heard of Irish distress and some talk about guaranteeing a loan of £100,000. To his mind, that was simply trifling with the gravity of the question. The diagnosis of the disease was the first step to be taken; and this was the true diagnosis. But the right hon. Gentleman, when he came to the remedy, had no remedy at all but the rigid application of the Poor Law, which, in the opinion of economists, had done more to impoverish and demoralize the people of Ireland than any other known system of relief ever devised. He thought it was time the House should realize, notwithstanding the army of Inspectors and clerks with which the authorities in Dublin surrounded the Executive, that they had not yet obtained a true conception either of the distress in Ireland or of the true remedies yet to be applied, and which were constantly being suggested by the powerless and despised Irish Representatives. There were difficulties in the way, of course. After the description which the Chief Secretary gave of the magnitude and gravity of this evil, it was idle to suppose there were not. But it was the business of statesmanship not to sit down and repine under those difficulties; and if the Government could not master them, then he said they were not qualified to administer the affairs of the country. He would like to know whether it was not possible, considering that four-fifths of the tenant farmers in the distressed Unions in Ireland could not be reached by those provisions of the Land Act which contemplated the advance of money for the purpose of enabling tenants to improve their holdings? He would like to know, if the rule limiting the advances to tenant farmers with holdings of £10 rental and upward were not relaxed, whether something could not be done to enable tenants of lower valuations to make application for loans on their joint security? As to the remaining portion of the seeds rate which was due in the Union of Swinford and other Unions the position taken up was this. It was said not to be an 1084 extravagant demand, recollecting that the advances were made to the people under the Relief of Distress Acts, and recollecting that those advances, though made out of the Imperial Exchequer, were made to meet a national calamity, and an emergency, the burden of which should fall equally on all parts of the United Kingdom.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, that up to the present time £10,000,000 had been written off on account of Ireland by the Treasury.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, further taxes were imposed upon Ireland, by which she lost more than the amount written off; and he had yet to learn, with regard to the Famine of 1846–1848, if the people of Ireland were really brought face to face with the horrors of that period caused by a great national calamity, that the people of England refused to acknowledge any responsibility. Why, not a year elapsed without the Lord Mayor of London opening funds for calamities in all parts of the world; but it now appeared from the statements of the right hon. Gentleman that he invited his countrymen to express regret only for their own misfortunes. His (Mr. O'Connor Power's) contention was that no grants had been made to Ireland in relief of the recent distress, and as it had been said frequently in that House that Ireland was dependent on the British taxpayer, it was time to contradict that statement, and to show that it had no foundation. The Chief Secretary had accounted for some of the distress which now prevailed in Ireland by saying that a change had taken place in the habits of the small tenant farmers, and he attributed it in some part to their families drinking tea and wearing cotton dresses, instead of the frieze and flannel formerly manufactured in their own looms. He did not think he could endorse the description of the right hon. Gentleman—on the contrary, he was afraid that the clothing and diet of the people they were mainly considering in reference to the present distress had undergone very little, if any, change during the last 30 or 40 years. He admitted that the better class of farmers had improved in this respect. He ad- 1085 mitted that the various Land Acts which had been passed had brought some amount of relief to this class; but he denied that they had ever brought relief to those who most needed it—namely, the small farmers of £4 and £5 rentals in the Western districts. Those who were best qualified to speak as to the condition of Ireland—namely, the representative men living in the distressed localities—had already approached the Government upon this question, and on Thursday last he had directed an inquiry on the same subject to the right hon. Gentleman without receiving any satisfactory reply. He had asked the right hon. Gentleman what decision had been arrived at in reference to the proposals laid before His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant by the deputation of Catholic Bishops who waited upon him, on the 9th of January last, and who made certain suggestions with the view of remedying the existing distress and permanently improving the country? Well, he had looked in vain for any reference to this subject in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. The deputation, which included the Archbishop of Tuam and three other Bishops, stated that the people in many districts were short of food, destitute of money, and hopeless of credit. To meet that serious situation of affairs, the Prelates suggested that loans should be advanced by the Board of Works to all holders of land for the improvement of their farms. But there was not the slightest reference to that suggestion in the speech of the Chief Secretary to which they had listened that evening. Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, they did not believe in the adequacy or efficiency of the Poor Law system as it at present existed—on the contrary, they said that the existing Poor Law arrangements were wholly inadequate to meet the present distress, and that, to insure any permanent relief to the vast districts in question, it would be necessary to establish a system for the reclamation of waste lands, and to open up railway communications. The Prelates, he was informed, made several other suggestions, but he only quoted those mentioned in the paragraph before him. Let it be supposed that the only way to benefit the congested population of the various districts of Ireland was emigration. He asked the Government whether they believed in that 1086 remedy, and, if so, what steps had they taken to see it effectually carried out? They had authorized a paltry grant of £100,000, if somebody reported, after many inquiries, that this sum would be used for the purpose of emigration. If the right hon. Gentleman could not profit by his suggestions he asked him respectfully to listen to some figures bearing on this subject which had been furnished by Mr. Tuke. That gentleman went into facts and figures with the greatest possible care, and although he could not bind himself to endorse every proposal made by him, he heartily reechoed the praise bestowed upon him by the junior Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), and was sure his benevolence entitled him to the respectful consideration of every patriotic Irishman. Mr. Tuke calculated that at least 20,000 families, or 100,000 persons, must be removed from their present holdings, and because of the difficulties which he said were inseparable from any scheme of migration he thought the only way was to proceed by emigration. But he also pointed out that the cost of moving 20,000 families, equivalent to 100,000 persons, at £7 per head, was £700,000, or an annual sum of £140,000 for five years. He said, moreover, what would naturally suggest itself to any person of a practical turn of mind, that if this plan was to be carried out, it must be made the business of some persons to see that it was done, and he suggested that Commissioners should be appointed specially for making arrangements for the reception of the families who were to be emigrated in the country to which they were sent. He said, further, that if a Government grant were obtained, it might be placed at the disposal of a Commission for the purpose of allocating the fund to the different Unions on some general principles to be laid down for their guidance, and having regard to the population and taxation therein. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary must have seen Mr. Tuke's Circulars, and the figures he had quoted; and, that being so, he was surprised that the Government had not availed themselves of the valuable suggestion of this gentleman to make it the business of some properly constituted body to carry out a system of emigration, if emigration must be resorted to.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, the Government had appointed two paid officers for the purpose, and were now considering the appointment of a third.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, a special Commission was wanted for the purpose; but he was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman was doing something in the matter. At the same time, he would remind him that people in Ireland were of opinion that the wheels of the Government coach moved very slowly. If the right hon. Gentleman thought the question one of magnitude, he must say that he had not realized the magnitude of the remedy necessary to cope with it. He (Mr. O'Connor Power) was reluctant to see large masses of the population leaving Ireland; but he would rather see the distressed populations emigrated than see them remain steeped in their present misery, and he would hail, as a wise and beneficent act on the part of the Government, to appoint a properly constituted body to see that they were emigrated on proper conditions. The Chief (Secretary said that the value attaching to emigration consisted in the fact that the departure of some would relieve those who remained. Well, if the right hon. Gentleman thought that emigration, as at present conducted, in face of the figures supplied by Mr. 'Take's Committee and his agents, would permanently relieve the condition of the distressed Unions, he ventured to tell him that, as far as his information went, he was mistaken. When the Government had emigrated families from their holdings, did they intend to prevent those holdings being subsequently re-occupied? He hoped to be able to obtain from Mr. Tuke—who was then in Mayo—an answer to a few questions which he had ventured to address to him through an hon. Friend. His first question was—"What becomes of the holdings from which the families are emigrated?" Were they consolidated, were they permanently cleared, or were they subsequently re-occupied? If the latter were the case, it was nothing more than a process similar to that of letting water into a pipe at one end, and letting it run out at the other. He contended that if emigration was to be scientifically applied to the relief of Irish distress, a great deal more remained to be done than had yet been dreamed of by Her 1088 Majesty's Government. But then the hon. Member for the City of Cork wished to know what was to become of the people who remained. Well, he should say that if by any process you sufficiently cleared a district, it would enable you to make by consolidation farms of sufficient size to afford a livelihood to their occupiers; but this he believed could not be done by means of the machinery proposed by the Government. He came now to the proposal which had always been favoured by the bulk of Irish Members as a means of remedying the evil of congested population. They had always preferred to advocate a system of migration, because they had never admitted, and he was not prepared to admit, that Ireland, as a whole, was over-populated. They had always spoken of the condition of Ireland in this respect as one of congestion, not of over-population; and he said now that in all the districts referred to by the Chief Secretary where there was a surplus population, if the Government could not meet it by a scheme of migration, if they could not take possession of unoccupied lands elsewhere in Ireland, and advance the tenants sufficient money wherewith to build houses and cultivate their holdings, why, then, of course, the only alternative was that of emigration. For his own part, he would like to see the Government bringing these two proposals of emigration and migration to the test of practical operation. Not only would he wish to see power given to Commissioners to advance money to enable persons to emigrate, but a Commission also appointed to consider the existing distress having power to present the alternative of migration to those who had no wish to emigrate. Upon that subject some valuable suggestions had been made before the Richmond Commission, and had been from time to time laid before the Government from other sources. He referred to Professor Baldwin, who had collected evidence upon the subject which appeared in a small book recently published, and which he ventured to say should be in the possession of every Member of Parliament who wished to understand the real remedies to be applied in Ireland. Professor Baldwin said, that, if they went before the people of Ireland with a proposal for emigration alone, that proposal would never be carried into practice, 1089 because the public feeling was so strong against it, but that if they went with the alternative remedy of migration, fully one-half, and in many districts the larger majority of the people concerned, would be prepared to accept emigration. If that were so, For Majesty's Government had the opportunity of bringing the two plans to the test of practice. Considering what had happened in Ireland side by side with the increase of population—what had happened side by side with the increased area of land, waste and out of cultivation, he thought it would be a pity if the Government confined themselves solely to the attempt to get the people to emigrate, without doing anything for migration and the reclamation of land. His own opinion was, therefore, in accord with the scientific knowledge and experience of Professor Baldwin. He said that in Mayo alone—and he was supported by Dr. M'Cormack—there was sufficient land that could be purchased for a small sum to accommodate with farms of a respectable size the whole of the surplus population in the county. The same statement was made by him as to Galway and Donegal, and some step might be taken to test the accuracy of these statements. Whether it was right or wrong, it was, at all events, a proposal which came before this House in the name of the overwhelming majority of Irish Representatives, and which was, so recently as January last, solemnly laid before the Lord Lieutenant by four Bishops who lived in that part of the country and were in daily contact with the masses of the people. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) had dealt with this question of migration during the Recess, as also had done several other right hon. and hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman had fallen into the mistake of saying that migration was impossible for the reason which he mentioned. He said that they had heard a good deal of the cry about migration instead of emigration. He believed that to be impossible. They could not go to other districts in Ireland without taking away the land from those who already occupied it. But that was not the fact, as was shown by the figures in regard to unoccupied land, or land over which the landlord had the slightest hold, where the tenant sometimes might have the run of the moun- 1090 tain side, but possessed little or no tenant right. He (Mr. O'Connor Power), therefore, thought he was justified in contradicting the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The reason why this question of migration ought to occupy the attention of the Government was this. Turning to the eight years which had elapsed between 1874 and 1882, what did they find? They found that as Ireland decreased in population the area of the waste and uncultivated land increased. In 1874 the area of waste land was set down at 4,250,621 acres. In 1875 it was 4,255,525 acres; in 1876 it had risen to 4,278,214 acres; in 1877 it went up to 4,572,216 acres; in 1878 it went up to 4,651,524 acres; in 1879 it was 4,653,551 acres; in 1880 it seemed to have been stationary. In 1881 it rose to 4,680,059 acres, and in 1882 it rose to 4,787,275. So that in the space of eight years over 500,000 acres of Irish land, which had been previously cultivated, had gone out of cultivation and become waste. What did that show? If it showed anything at all, it showed a want of the employment of labour under proper conditions in the cultivation of the soil. He agreed with Professor Baldwin—whose name he had mentioned, and whose suggestions he hoped they would have some subsequent opportunity of discussing—that a better system of migration would bring about a better system of farming, which they might hope for if they had proper agricultural schools and proper technical instruction bearing upon agriculture imparted to the people in various parts of Ireland. He did not like to weary the House by going further into these matters at this particular time. He could only regret that the subject had not been brought before the House on the very first night of the Session. During the last eight or nine years he had had the painful experience of seeing that the great Parties in that House were more interested in the political aspect of questions than in their economic or industrial utility, and that it was only by sheer perseverance, and by the exercise of that quality which some people might characterize as obstinacy, that Members who held strong views on these matters and advocated reforms of this nature could produce any serious impression on the House. He must express extreme regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the 1091 Lord Lieutenant, in the speech he had made that night, had lent himself to a gross fallacy. He regretted that the only remedy the right hon. Gentleman could offer the people of Ireland for the terrible evils he had described was to be found in a rigid application of a law which had hitherto proved to be lamentably inadequate, and which bore, on every trace of its operation, the marks of a humiliating and disgraceful failure.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, that, on behalf of himself and others who were working with Mr. Tuke, he must entirely reject the view that they had experienced any want of full support from the Government.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, he had spoken of the amount of money granted by the Government. He had no doubt that any amount of sympathy had been lavished upon Mr. Tuke and his Committee.
§ MR. RATHBONE
said, he was not speaking of sympathy, but of money. They had had as much money placed at their disposal as they would be able to use in the present year. The question was not so much one of money; but they could not throw a number of Irishmen on the coast of America, to find no homo or place ready to receive them. That was the real difficulty—that was the limit to their work. If any attempt were made, such as that proposd by the hon. and gallant Member opposite, to throw hundreds of thousands of Irishmen on the shores of America, without places having been provided to receive them, they would all be sent back on their hands. The Committee were determined not to send unsuitable parties to America. At that time of the night (12.50 a.m.) he would not go fully into the matter; but there was just one point he should like to answer, because it was one which occurred to everybody who approached the subject. An hon. Member asked—"How are you to secure that when you remove men from these congested districts, their places are not very soon filled up by individuals of the same class?" They had the principle of self-interest to guard them to a large extent against that. Formerly when, in years of distress, a large number of the population were removed, as soon as prosperity returned to the country the places of those who had been removed were filled up by people from neighbouring 1092 districts, for the landlord had an interest in allowing it. The landlord, under the system of divided tenancies, could secure a far higher rent from his tenants than he could possibly get if he let out his land in large farms, or in farms on which the tenants could live decently. The Land Act, however, had done away with the state of things under which the system of divided tenancies flourished. Now, the landlord could got no more from the tenant of a small farm than from the tenant of a large one, whilst he knew that directly a period of distress recurred, his rent disappeared altogether. Therefore, it was perfectly clear it was to the interest of the most selfish landlord to prevent the filling up and re-division of holdings, if once they could relieve the most congested districts of some portion of their population; and though, no doubt, Mr. Tuke's estimate was correct as to the total amount of relief, in the first place, they could not proceed without great caution. He hoped that emigration would take place at an increasing rate, and he was sure it would do so if places were provided to receive the stream of emigration as it arrived on the other side of the Atlantic. The Emigration Committee found by experience that almost every emigrant who went out to the United States became himself an agent for emigration, drawing other emigrants to him. It was found that people sent to certain districts communicated with their friends, giving a flourishing account of the places in which they were located, and of their prosperity; and the number of people who were induced to go out by representations of that kind was most extraordinary. This year they found that many families in the congested districts were anxious to go out to exactly the same places as those to which they had sent families last year. He had stated, he thought, enough to show hon. Members that what they were doing was not limited by any niggardliness on the part of the Government, but that they were only proceeding with consideration, which in the end would prove more effectual than if they were now to attempt a more rapid progress.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, the speech of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant was of such importance that it would be utterly impossible at the present moment to reply to it. It contained such a mass 1093 of figures, that hon. Members had found it impossible to take them down while the speech was being delivered. There were some 17 or 18 hon. Members who wished to explain their views on the subject. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members seemed to receive that statement with disapprobation; but this subject was clearly of importance to many of the Irish Representatives. There was no subject that would come before the House that Session which was of such first-rate importance, not only to Ireland, but to the whole of the United Kingdom; and he ventured to say the House would agree with him that, for this reason, it would not be improper to ask thorn to adjourn the debate. He begged to move the adjournment.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Molloy.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he had hoped, and he thought the House had hoped, that it might have been possible to have concluded the debate on the Address to-night; and it was very much to be regretted that, owing to the delay in the preliminary proceedings, there was now no likelihood of that result. He perfectly admitted that the subject debated during the last three or four hours was infinitely more important and deserving of the consideration of the House than some subjects which they had discussed upon that Address, and, therefore, he need not offer opposition to the proposal. He trusted, however, that the hon. Member who had just spoken was mistaken in thinking that it would be necessary for so large a number of Members to take part in the debate to-morrow, and he earnestly hoped that they would be able to bring the discussion to a close in the course of that day, and that it would not be necessary to take a long discussion on Report. To-morrow he would move—That the Orders of the Day be postponed until after the Order of the Day for resuming the Debate on the Motion for an Address to Her Majesty, and the further proceedings thereon.If the Address was disposed of before 6 o'clock, he should ask the House to proceed with the Report, and he earnestly hoped that it would be the will of the House to go on and finish that stage at once. The urgency for Supply was be- 1094 coming very great indeed. The length of the Session before Easter this year would be very short indeed—very much shorter than usual. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told him that unless they were able to obtain Thursday and Monday next, and Thursday in next week, for the Votes in the principal branches of Supply, the House would be placed in a position of great inconvenience, and it would be necessary to resort to the extremely objectionable practice of Saturday Sittings, or else the House would be compelled to sit so late as Thursday in Passion Week. Either of these courses would be extremely inconvenient to the House, and he trusted, therefore, that some attempt would be made to make progress with the Address.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he had only one remark to make. The noble Marquess had taken the course he was expected to take on this important matter. The discussion could hardly have been concluded to-night; but if he was not out of Order in just making this one suggestion, he would point out that it would help the House very much in the consideration of the matter if some Member of the Government—perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland—would, in the course of the debate tomorrow, give them the last information obtained by the Government as to a possibility of a considerable increase or not in the distress between now and the next harvest. That seemed to him to be the practical matter with which they had to deal; and, most interesting as was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, it did not appear to give them information on that point.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he thought it would conduce very much to the convenience of the Irish Members generally, if the Chief Secretary would tomorrow bring down, for the use of those who wished to see them, a number of copies of the Memorial presented to him by the Archbishop of Tuam and the three Bishops who accompanied him as a deputation to the Castle. In that Memorial they had the official statement of the four Bishops who belonged to the distressed districts. It was not an official Report, but an official statement of the most trustworthy representatives of the distressed districts 1095 in Ireland. Some private promise had been made on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman he was aware; but he would ask for a public statement. He would also express his surprise that the Chief Secretary had not referred to the celebrated letter of the Rev. Mr. Gallagher, who accompanied the right hon. Gentleman through Donegal. This letter was important, because, if the statements made in it were true—and they had not been contradicted—it endorsed officially other Reports that they could not get at before to-morrow.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out that the hon. Member is not confining himself to the Question before the House—namely, that this Debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. CALLAN
I will merely ask, is the statement true that the sad condition of the districts referred to exceeds everything that has appeared in the Press?
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.