§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [27th February] proposed to Main Question [15th February.]—[See page 98.]
And which Amendment was,
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 again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MOLLOY
said, that he had no desire to prolong the debate one moment beyond what was necessary; but the speech made last night by the Chief Secretary for Ireland, he regarded as a very important declaration, and reading over the report of it this morning, he thought it even of greater importance. He could not, therefore, allow it to pass without remark. That speech, he felt convinced, would have an exceedingly bad effect when it came to be read in Ireland. He did not deny the courtesy and the kindly feeling of the Chief Secretary, and also his honesty of intention; but still he did believe that the right hon. Gentleman's speech of last night—a speech not of a practical statesman, but of a doctrinaire indulging in a literary effort—would be the cause of very grave dissatisfaction in Ireland. There was nothing in it to indicate what the Government policy would be. There was nothing in it to give the least satis- 1099 faction to any person concerned in the question of distress in Ireland. It was simply and solely a literary success. The Chief Secretary spoke as if distress in Ireland was something that was already past, and he did not seem to realize the fact that, instead of being passed, the disease was only now beginning. The Chief Secretary then went on to discuss the comparative success in England and non-success in Ireland of the system of Poor Law relief, which was really outside the question; and the only practical attempt at a suggestion which the right hon. Gentleman made was in the reference to emigration. The House, however, would remember that although the Chief Secretary dealt with the question of emigration, he did not, at the same time, tell them by what methods the Government intended to carry out their intentions with regard to it. For years that question of emigration was being debated in that House, and the Irish Members, who at least might be supposed to know something of the wants of their own country, and what was most likely to satisfy those wants, had invariably opposed this idea of emigration, and they had stated invariably that it was a proposition that was contrary to the wishes of the people, and contrary to their prejudices. The Irish Members, as an alternative, had advocated from time to time what was known by the name of migration, and migration resolved itself into this—that whereas the Government desired to transport the people of the poorer parts of Ireland to a prosperous home, 4,000 miles away, the Irish Representatives desired that they should be removed to a home equally prosperous in their own country. Migration was a matter which, it appeared to him, was never clearly understood by the Government. They always preferred emigration, which they seemed to think the easier, although the more cowardly, way of getting rid of a people, the real difficulties in connection with whom they had never the courage to face properly. Notwithstanding all that had been said in that House on the subject of migration, the Chief Secretary, in his speech of last night, appeared to treat the matter as if it were something new, and as if this proposition to populate the rich waste lands of Ireland with the surplus people of 1100 the poorer districts were a sort of obstructive Motion, brought before the House to embarrass their proposals. Now, what was the real history of the migration question? By whom was it first introduced? He would inform the House. In the year 1842, Sir Robert Peel obtained from Parliament a grant of money for the reclamation of 1,000,000 acres of waste land in the West of Ireland, and that money having been granted by the Government, it passed under the administration, or rather he should say the domination, of Dublin Castle. What was the result? So far as it was possible, the intentions and policy of the Legislature were strangled by the officials of Dublin Castle. Out of the grant for the reclamation of 1,000,000 acres of land, which that House passed after a long consideration and a long debate on the subject, on the suggestion of Sir Robert Peel, only 270,000 acres were ever reclaimed, and the money for the reclamation of the other three-fourths was dispensed in some extraordinary manner that he could never discover, and it was still a secret in the pigeonholes of Dublin Castle. Now, with regard to that scheme of migration, for migration was nothing more or less than reclamation, it necessitated reclamation. It might be suggested that the non-success of what was done in the reclamation of 270,000 acres proved the uselessness of proceeding with the whole scheme. Such, however, was not the case. Amongst those 270,000 acres they would now find some of the richest land in Ireland. The accuracy of that statement he could vouch personally for. He had the good fortune, or perhaps he might say, in these days, he had rather the misfortune, of having an interest in land so reclaimed. That land before its reclamation was utterly worthless, whereas it now supported a comfortable population, and parts of it paid the owner 25s. an acre. Nor was there a trial, a successful trial, of the policy of migration. It would appear that the full effect of that trial was strangled almost at its birth by the red-tapism or what not of the administrators in Dublin Castle. Again, in 1849, Sir Robert Peel brought forward this subject, and in a speech then delivered by him in the House he said that it was the duty of the Government to consider every means by which a better state of things 1101 might be introduced into Ireland, and, amongst other matters, he suggested the further reclamation of waste lands and the appointment of a Commission of men of the highest character, who would devote their time gratuitously to carrying out a scheme of reclamation; and then Sir Robert Peel added—I look to the West of Ireland in perfect despair if the present state of things is to continue to exist.And, further, he said—The West of Ireland afforded opportunities for improvement which no other part of the world appeared to give.That was a prophecy made in 1849, and had they not the fulfilment of that prophecy on the present day, These were the words of an English Statesman, not of an Irish Member; and here they were now, because of the intervention of Dublin Castle, because of the manner in which it strangled the scheme passed by Parliament in 1842—here they were now, in the present day, discussing the fulfilment of a prophecy made by Sir Robert Peel so far back as 1849. Well, there was another extract which he would like to read on this subject. It was from the pen of a man who was, perhaps, the greatest authority on the question of land in Ireland, Professor Baldwin; and this extract stated that there were in Ireland 1,000,000 acres of worthless land, because it was surcharged with water, and that land would, in his (Professor Baldwin's) opinion, by judicious drainage repay the outlay upon it in a short time. Further on, Professor Baldwin added, that, with a mixed system of husbandry in the land reclaimed, the gross yield would be three-fourths. Now, for these statements they had the authority of a man who had made Irish agriculture a life study, a man to whom there was scarcely a part of Ireland which was unknown, who had been into nearly every cabin in the West of Ireland, and what that authority proposed was exactly what Irish Representatives had been for years pressing on the House of Commons, and what the Irish Bishops were pressing on the Executive in Ireland; and yet, notwithstanding all these combined efforts to press these matters on the attention of Parliament, they were now met with nothing more than what he could not help describing as the cowardly 1102 attempt of the Government to avoid the real difficulties of the question. Now, the Chief Secretary, in his speech last night, complained that some newspapers described him visiting the distressed districts in Donegal in a close carriage, with the blinds pulled down; and then he proceeded to say, in the most jubilant tones, that the accusation was wrong, for he had spent three days driving through the country on an Irish jaunting car. Well, let that be admitted; but was the experience of three days on an Irish jaunting car an experience equal to the life-long experience of Professor Baldwin? Did the Chief Secretary presume to say that the experience he derived from a ride for three days on an Irish jaunting car was sufficient to rebut the proposals made by Sir Robert Peel in 1842 and 1849—the proposal of Professor Baldwin, the proposal of all the Bishops of Ireland, time after time repeated, and the proposal the Irish Representatives were continually pressing on the attention of the House? Was it not heartbreaking that a doctrinaire, because he had the experience of a three days' drive on an outside car in the county of Donegal, should on that account set up his opinion against the accumulated opinions of the men who knew Ireland best, and who could say best what should be done on this question of distress? For himself, he could not understand the Chief Secretary coming forward with such an explanation, and the only moral he could derive from it would be this—the utter condemnation of the whole system of government, as it was called, in Ireland. It was a farce rather than a Government which existed in Ireland in the present day. It might be said that it was not the duty of the Government to undertake the works proposed; but he would say that it was the duty of all Governments to undertake whatever was necessary for the welfare of the people they ruled, and he would place no limit on their duty in this respect. If they would ask for examples of Governments that had so acted, let them look to Holland and elsewhere. Holland, because of its reclamations, had a prosperous population living where a few years ago ships were sailing; and, forsooth, this rich Empire was not able to undertake a similar reclamation in Ireland, even for the purpose of saving 1103 starving people there. Again, Prussia reclaimed 1,000,000 acres and planted it with trees for the benefit of the people; but though Prussia was not as rich as England, yet Prussia had statesmen, which England never had, at least in regard to questions connected with Ireland. Three days on an Irish jaunting car was all, it would appear, that an English Statesman required to solve the difficult problem of the reclamation of wasteland. He had only to say, again, that he regretted very much the speech of the Chief Secretary. The courtesy, the good feeling, the kindliness of heart of the Chief Secretary he would admit; but he felt bound to say that his speech, doctrinaire as it was, useless as it was, proposing nothing, solving nothing, had done, he was sure, when road in Ireland that morning, more harm than all the speeches for which men wore now suffering in Irish prisons.
said, that neither in the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, nor in those of his supporters, had a single suggestion been made which would have the effect of relieving any of the distress prevalent in Ireland. The first and more important question was, how could that distress be alleviated; and the second, what was the cause of the distress? Outdoor relief might be at once dismissed as a remedy, because its effect would be to utterly demoralize, and in a short time to ruin, the whole agricultural population. He, therefore, dismissed that system from consideration. Many people thought the Government ought to institute public works; but public works could be set going only in a very few districts, and not where the greatest destitution existed. Nor was it likely that the Government would set about draining bogs and undertaking the reclamation of land, which would require an enormous expenditure to bring into and keep up anything approaching a condition which might be called arable. Public works would only give partial and transient relief. He could never bring himself to have anything to do with Reclamation of Waste Land Bills. People seemed to forget that the soil of the country had been occupied and tilled for generations, and, therefore, that it was almost certain that there was not a spot which could be grazed which had not been found out. By waste land, he 1104 understood land of which the present occupiers made no use; and, even supposing it were taken from the occupiers, they would insist upon compensation, and another result of dispossessing them would be to plant upon some of the most wretched land in Ireland a race of cottiers living in a state of abject poverty. Of the many impracticable proposals of which he had heard, he had never heard any so impracticable as what was called migration. It was never heard of until it was stated by Mr. Parnell, and he never heard that the Bishops or the people of Ireland were in favour of it. Migration could not be carried out without the dispossessing the present owners of the land. If they put people on bad land, they would not be able to exist. If they attempted to take good land, the result would be civil war. He still believed that if occupiers had good terms and security of tenure, cultivation of the land would follow naturally. The Land Act of 1881 gave occupiers all they could reasonably expect; and, no doubt, within a comparatively limited time every available acre in Ireland would be brought into a state of profitable cultivation. His own suggestion for the relief of distress was suggested by its cause, and the cause furnished the justification for the remedy he would apply. Want of employment was the cause, and the necessity for emigration rested upon the undoubted fact that there was not the remotest probability of that cause being diminished in any appreciable degree. He would enable everyone in the agricultural districts who desired to emigrate to do so, provided they were not disqualified by mental or physical disability. He could understand the people of England and Scotland being opposed to emigration as a measure for the relief of distress, because in those countries distress was never more than temporary in its character; but he could not comprehend their being opposed to it if no one could see a chance in the future of the cause of the distress being removed. No one would go away who saw the remotest prospect of lives of even tolerable comfort; but only those who saw before them the prospect of semi-starvation. Multitudes in Ireland were desirous to emigrate, and would bless the Government that sent them out. Hundreds of people in Killarney district had applied to him with regard to the question, 1105 thinking that the Land Act of 1881 provided for emigration, and they had expressed to him their disappointment, if not amazement, that the patriots thought it better they should remain at home, half-starved, and wait for political changes which they might never live to see. It was said by these patriots that "if we had the management of our own affairs, there would be no necessity for emigration." He never knew whether to attribute this observation to ignorance, or silliness, or sheer audacity. The fact was, if the theories of some of their great patriots were to be carried out, the almost immediate result of Irish legislative independence would be to bring Ireland down to one dead level of pauperism. He desired to see a better state of things, but he know the improvement must be gradual; and he would like anyone to indicate by what immediate political changes the people of Ireland were to be placed in a limited period in positions of comfort. He regretted the Government had not acted in this matter with their usual thoroughness and energy. They appeared to have listened to the theories which were in vogue on this side of the Channel against emigration, and to have been afraid of clamour on the other. All that had been done at present with regard to emigration had been absolutely useless. He hoped that now they would take some systematic action in that respect, and would give the thousands of suffering people of Ireland the only possible escape from lives of misery.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, that he should never have accused the Chief Secretary of going through the country with the blinds of his carriage down, and it was quite evident from the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that he thoroughly realized the condition of the people. He did not think any Irish Member would quarrel with the description which the right hon Gentleman gave; only when he talked of people sleeping with their pigs and their fowls, and even their cattle, he forgot to add that many of the people now had neither fowls, nor pigs, nor cattle. It was quite evident from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, as well as from the correspondence which had taken place between the Local Government Board and the Poor Law authorities, what the policy of the Government was to be. During 1106 the last Recess he attended the meetings of the Board of Guardians in his neighbourhood, of which he was a member, and he knew the train of thought which ran through ail those communications, and the speech of the Chief Secretary only further carried out the spirit of those letters. The policy of the Government, he was sorry to say, was this, that they wanted they people to emigrate, and were ready to use this distress as a means of furthering emigration. He did not say that the right hon. Gentleman rejoiced at the distress; but the Irish Government seemed to rejoice at the want which hurried on this emigration. The same thing had been done before. He remembered reading of a man at a public meeting who said that good had been brought about by the Irish Famine in encouraging emigration; whereupon one man in the room called out, "Three cheers for the Irish Famine." The speech of the right hon. Gentleman might almost be said to be in that spirit. It was as much as to say that the country would have to be worse before it was better, and that this extreme want would force the people to emigrate in large numbers. He had no objection to the Government encouraging emigration in every possible way, and he believed that the emigrants ought to be well looked after when they got to their destination; but what he did object to was, that present and future distress should be used to hurry on emigration and to force people to leave the country in very large numbers. That he believed to be the policy of the present Government—a policy so cruel that when the Prime Minister got back he would not enforce it, but would try and adopt some other remedy. He agreed with the hon. Member who spoke last night (Mr. Rathbone) that there was a great danger in taking too many people out at once, for emigration to be effective should be perfectly natural. He agreed, too, with the Chief Secretary that the workhouses in Ireland were large enough to meet any demands that might be made upon them; but, on the other hand, the people would endure great privations, would even die of diseases contracted by want of food sooner than go into those workhouses. He could not quite agree with his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Colthurst) that the relaxation of the workhouse 1107 test would meet all the difficulties of the case.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
What I intended to convey was, that the abolition of the workhouse test was the first step in any system of reform.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
Although in a short time such a step would undoubtedly become necessary, yet the extension of outdoor relief would load to a largo number of people being pauperized. It was the opinion of a very large number of ratepayers that if they had to pay 5s. or 6s. as the pound-rate they would be driven upon the rates themselves. There had been a great change in the Land Laws of Ireland, and he thought the Government ought to let the country go on for three or four years, and so try their own measure, and try to tide over the present difficulties. The whole mass of the population were not very poor at the present moment. There were a large number of the people who had got only small holdings, or no land at all, and these men were in abject poverty or on the verge of starvation, because there was no employment. He thought, therefore, the Government ought to come forward with some scheme of public works. They need not be of a very expensive nature, and if the money were advanced in the form of loans there would be very little absolute loss. The question of railways and tramways might be gone into at once, and the Government should inaugurate a few schemes on the system adopted in France. If they threw themselves with any energy into the matter, a large amount of public work of a remunerative and necessary character would be at once provided. Emigration had, in fact, become necessary only because no employment was given. Another class of work that might be undertaken was the reclamation of waste and flooded land, work which he believed no one but a Government could properly undertake. They could appoint officials in districts where drainage was required, for the present system, under existing local public bodies, was only permissive, and therefore inadequate. The Government itself—and when he used that term he meant Government for the last 15 years or so—were to blame for a good deal of the distress which existed. It was all very well to say that Ireland was better suited for 1108 grass than anything else; but it must be remembered that land in grass required very little labour and very little management. The reasons why he thought the Government to blame were two—one simple, and the other more complex. The first reason was that until the Land Act a landlord had a good many legal advantages by keeping his land in grass, and the natural consequence was that a great deal of land tolerably suited for tillage never got cultivated at all. The present Land Act placed grass land on somewhat different terms; but as it only applied to new lettings, and as now lettings were very few, it would take a long time to operate. The second reason was that grass land, giving the owner less trouble of management, it was the more easy for the landlord to spend all his time out of the country, more especially as no advantages were offered to tempt people to reside in the country. It was true that small holders went to the other extreme; but there were vast tracts in the counties of Galway, Roscommon, and Mayo entirely given over to grass. In his opinion, however, it would be much better for the country if more land "was tilled, although he admitted that it was improbable Ireland would ever be a great corn-growing country. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt very much last night on the point that English taxpayers were asked to pay money to keep the Irish people. If that were so, he (Colonel Nolan) would feel a sense of humiliation; but for the last 10 years the Government had been repeatedly challenged in that House to produce an Irish balance sheet, and they had never done so. He believed the taxpayers in Ireland contributed altogether about £7,400,000 or £7,500,000 a year. The cost of the Army and Constabulary—he did not include the weapons and the expenses of training, but the actual cost of maintenance alone, together with the several other things, such as education—did not amount to more than £3,000,000. There was another £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 spent in extra military force, which would not be required in a happier condition of the country. All the Irish people asked for was a loan of £2,000,000 for three or four years, on the security of the resources of the country, until the Land Act had had time to work. That was a very moderate request. But then the English 1109 people would say that Ireland ought to contribute to the expenses of the general policy of England, inasmuch as she shared in all the advantages and the glory of foreign victories and foreign arrangements. But he did not think they ought to be asked to pay for the military victories of England, many of which were undertaken for commercial purposes in which Ireland had no interest. At any rate, they ought not to be asked to pay for them until they were in a bettor position. It was true that outdoor relief and charitable funds could not be administered without a certain amount of demoralization; but a system of useful public works which paid, or very nearly paid for themselves, would not produce that evil, and it was to this matter that the Government should turn its earnest attention.
§ MR. CORRY
said, that, as an Ulster Conservative Member, he desired to place his views before the House. He could not at all agree with the hon. Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy) that the speech of the Chief Secretary last night would have a bad effect upon Ireland. On the contrary, it would show those who were waiting for outdoor relief and schemes for public works, that they had nothing to hope from the Government. He (Mr. Corry) believed that the speech would do a great deal of good, especially to those who had the real interests of Ireland at heart. The distress in Ireland was a subject which must occupy the attention of everyone who, like him, had lived all his life in the country. He could not but feel, when the Chief Secretary was speaking of the wretched hovels he had visited in Donegal, that he himself had precisely the same impression made on his mind the first time he travelled in the West. One thing struck him, however, and that was the healthy appearance of the children. If the Chief Secretary had gone into some of the districts in Donegal on a Sunday and seen the people going to their places of worship, he would have been struck with the difference in their appearance from that presented on his recent visit. With respect to the measures enumerated by the Chief Secretary as forming the Irish Programme of the Session, they were not likely, on the whole, to be productive of any great conflict of opinion; but there was at least one of them which 1110 would provoke considerable criticism. The system of outdoor relief such as was advocated by popular Members, as they called themselves in Ireland, he felt very strongly would be the ruination of Ireland. He had had some experience of a relief fund, and he must say that even in Belfast, without a test, it was almost impossible to prevent the absolute demoralization of the people. From the statement of the Chief Secretary he was pleased to notice that the Government were taking the right step, that nothing was to be expected from them in the way of extending outdoor relief, and that the workhouse test was the right test that should be imposed. The instances given by the Chief Secretary of how local government was understood by Boards of Guardians in Ireland would show the House that any extension in that direction at the present time would be disastrous. The fact that in some cases the Board of Guardians had had to be dissolved and administrators appointed by the Local Government Board was not a hopeful augury of the success of any such scheme for the extension of local self-government. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) had stated that loyalty was no better in Ulster than in the other parts of Ireland; but he (Mr. Corry) knew that if it had not been for the loyalty of that Province the government of the country would be even more difficult than it was at present. It was the self-reliance and industry of Ulster that made it so different from any other part of the country; and while it was a fact that many of the manufacturers there could employ more hands at their works, those who lived on the shores of the Atlantic were not fitted for that kind of work. He should like to see industries scattered over the country; but until they had some guarantee that capital would be safe they could not look for this being done. If the Government gave assistance by way of loans in promoting railways and tramways, it would be of great advantage to the country. The Treasury had been too stringent in its regulations with reference to some of these loans, and they could not do better than relax them somewhat.
§ MR. BLAKE
said, he regretted that the four Representatives of maritime constituencies—County Cork, County Mayo, County Galway, and Tralee—had 1111 not mentioned the means of employing the public money which would be most advantageous to that part of the population of Ireland who lived near the sea coast. Nothing was more desirable than that the expenditure should be, if possible, of a reproductive character, and no expenditure he believed would be more remunerative than that which was devoted to increasing the fishing capabilities of the country. The Reports of the Fishery Inspectors showed that there was great need of increased harbour accommodation for the fisheries, and that very good results would follow from an outlay for that purpose. A Committee had reported upon the eligibility of 70 sites, and great hopes were entertained that the Government would make a substantial grant. It had now, however, been announced that £3,200 only would this year be applied to harbour extension. That was but a drop in the ocean; about £200,000 sterling was required at the least. With respect to emigration, he agreed with the hon. and learned Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), that if emigration was to do any good the holdings from which families had been removed must be consolidated and prevented from again being sub-divided. There were several causes to account for the depressed state of Irish agriculture. In the first place, Ireland suffered from want of sun fully as much as any other part of the United Kingdom. According to an eminent astronomer, a hole had been burnt in the sun since the creation, into which ten worlds at least could be thrown. If this went on, it would some day, like the moon, become a burnt-out cinder. When that change should have been effected the inhabitants of the earth would either be frozen or drowned. The power of the sun was really decreasing very rapidly, and the yield of crops was insufficient in consequence. Another factor to be taken into account when considering the gloomy prospects of Irish agriculture was American competition; and we were threatened with competition from a fresh quarter—namely, Canada. The Pacific Railway would soon bring within the reach of civilization millions of fertile acres. One most fertile belt of land to which that railway would give access was 1,000 miles long and 300 miles broad. When the resources of Canada should be fully developed, it would be 1112 difficult to measure the loss to the agricultural population of Ireland. At the present moment in Connemara, Mayo, and other districts, the people were in such a hopeless state of misery that if land were given to them for nothing they could not support themselves properly. In the districts to which he referred the misery of the people even in good times was more hopeless than anywhere else. Thousands of people during the greater part of the year never tasted a drop of milk and existed on bad potatoes. What that meant would be better understood when it was remembered that physiologists laid down that in order to obtain sufficient nourishment out of potatoes a man must consume 14 lbs. of them per diem, but that it was impossible for any man to consume more than 5 lbs. in that time. He was now about to say something which he knew would be received with dissatisfaction in Ireland. He had said many things in the past to please his constituency; but he was now under notice to quit, as the hon. Member below him (Mr. Richard Power) knew uncommonly well, and he intended unhesitatingly to speak the truth. As long as he was a little popular, he was to a great extent tongue-tied, but he did not intend to be so any longer. His advice to his countrymen who intended to emigrate was that they should emigrate to British America. He had been over the whole of the United States and over the whole of Canada, and he had found that in the latter country the Irish were treated with infinitely more consideration than in the former, both by the Government and the people. In the United States, Irishmen who were unwilling that their children should receive the State education, which, in the opinion of Roman Catholics, was a godless education, were nevertheless compelled to pay the education tax. In British America the case was very different. If they did not avail themselves of the State education, they were allowed the tax to educate their children as they pleased. There the Dominion Government took great care of emigrants. In the United States the contrary was the case, and but for the association over which Mr. Tuke presided, and similiar societies, emigrants would often be placed in very difficult positions. Nothing could be more absurd than to put poor emigrants from Sligo, Kerry, or Roscommon, into possession of 1113 land immediately upon their arrival in America. He had himself seen some 30 or 40 families who were each given 160 acres of land in Minnesota, and who did not know what to do with it. The land, in fact, was a white elephant to them. One of these settlers told him that at home he spent half his time in idling outside his house door, and the other half in fighting with the landlord. What could such men know about farming? The Canadian Government, seeing the disadvantage of giving land to emigrants immediately after their arrival, proposed to convey them to Ontario, where work would be given them, for which they would get £40 a-year and their maintenance, and after some time, when they should have acquired Colonial experience, each man would be given 160 acres of land in the Great West. Exaggerated ideas prevailed about the inclemency of the weather in the West. It was true that it was very cold there, and at one time this year the thermometer stood at 50 degrees below zero. But the dryness of the atmosphere rendered the country healthy, and as a proof that it was so he might state that the descendants of the settlers who went there at the instigation of Lord Selkirk many years ago were some of the finest people whom he had ever seen. A great number of emigrants had told him that they preferred the climate of Manitoba and the West to that of their own country. In Manitoba the people were compelled by law to be total abstainers, and many physicians had told him that, in spite of the cold, they had never even had occasion to order their patients to take alcohol medicinally. For the reasons which he had stated, he trusted that in future a fair number of emigrants would be directed to British America; and, in conclusion, he desired to lay stress upon the fact that it was a great mistake to suppose that all emigrants ought to be provided with land as soon as they landed in America.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
said, he felt very great pleasure in supporting the Amendment under the consideration of the House. It was quite true that the distress in Ireland did not prevail generally; but it was well known that the people of Donegal, parts of the County of Cork, and parts of Kerry, were in very great distress; in fact, it was as bad as in 1879. He was astonished to hear the right 1114 hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary say in his speech on the previous evening that he had no remedy to offer for the distress except the workhouse. Bad as the Conservative Party were, he did not think they would allow the people of Ireland to die of starvation, which many of them would undoubtedly do rather than enter the workhouse. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he knew very little of the feeling of the people of Ireland on the subject of the workhouse test, or he would not have made that statement. From his (Mr. O'Sullivan's) experience, he could assure the House that there were widows and children who would have starved together in their miserable hovels rather than become paupers. The right hon. Gentleman had no idea of the pride of the people of Ireland in this matter of the workhouse. The right hon. Gentleman had no idea of the spirit of pride which these poor people had, or their hatred of becoming paupers. Had the right hon. Gentleman any experience how children reared in workhouses turned out, and what bad members of society they became? Surely, had the right hon. Gentleman known the demoralizing effect of the workhouse on Irish children, he would not have encouraged the idea of workhouse relief to children as he had done on this occasion. The right hon. Gentleman was afraid, if he gave additional powers to Guardians, he would increase the tax on the rates. He found that, as a general rule, the majority of Guardians were reluctant to relieve even the worst cases. If the right hon. Gentleman would not give the people relief, he might at least give them employment. There were many ways of doing so. There was the reclamation of waste lands. Let the Government give the power to Boards of Guardians to make advances by way of loans of such an amount of money as they might see fit for the purpose of reclaiming waste lands. They would see the great amount of good that would do in many ways. It would give employment to the people, it would reclaim waste lands, it would ultimately make additional homes for the people who had no homes at present. There were many parts of Ireland with thousands and thousands of acres lying waste at present which, if planted with trees, would repay the outlay threefold. Then there 1115 was another way in which the right hon. Gentleman might give relief. If the Government would grant loans to small tenants under £10 valuation, they would be enabled to improve their land, and it would give employment to themselves and their families as well as improving the general wealth of the country. Many things would be done with these loan3, and there would not be the slightest danger of their not being repaid. The Government might also do something to forward arterial drainage, which was so badly wanted in many parts of the country. In Ulster there were thousands of acres going to waste for want of £20,000 or £30,000. He was quite sure if the Government would lend that sum on easy terms, it would bring in £7,000 or £8,000 a-year to the farmers, and in a few years the capital and interest would be repaid. This was only one of the many ways in which employment could be given to the people without any loss to the Government or ratepayers. Then there was the amendment of the Land Act. Not a word had been said by the Government as to the amendment of that Act, though it was so urgently wanted. That part of the Act dealing with leaseholders was very badly in need of amendment. Anyone who knew Ireland could not be unaware of the dissatisfied condition of the leaseholders. A, B, and C, simply because they had no leases, might have their rents reduced from 20 to 30 per cent, while another man, because he was industrious and had more capital, was obliged to pay largely in excess of the value of the land in the district. There was nothing more calculated to make the people dissatisfied and disloyal than this. He knew many leaseholders who could not have paid their rent had it not been for the aid they received from other sources. In the county which he represented and in the County Cork, there were many poor tenants who had given notice to the Court for a re-valuation of their land nine and even 12 months since, and the cases had not yet boon heard. These people were satisfied that they would receive a reduction of from 30 to 40 per cent, and yet they had to live into the second year since the passing of the Act at a rack rent owing to their cases not having been decided. He thought one remark in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary ought 1116 not to go uncontradicted. The right hon. Gentleman said that the taxpayers of England had on many occasions come forward to relieve the poor of Ireland. He had been nine or ten years in the House of Commons, and he did not know any occasion upon which the English taxpayers had been called upon to assist the people of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the Seeds Loan; but he omitted to tell the House that the Seeds Loan had to be paid back again. The right hon. Gentleman had the right to tell the House that the English taxpayer was relieved by the Irish Church Fund, and by the Maynooth Grant; so that the case lay the other way. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that he saw misery in many parts of Ireland; but, in spite of what he saw, he admitted that he had no remedy to propose except the workhouse. He know the poor people of Ireland, and he knew that thousands would die of starvation in their miserable homes sooner than accept the shelter of the workhouse.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that he had voted against the two Amendments which had already been proposed on this subject to the Address; but he had extreme pleasure in supporting the Amendment which had now been brought forward. He believed it to contain matter which might well, indeed, be debated in the House, and he could only regret that the time occupied in debating those previously moved had not been devoted to the debating of the Amendment now before the House. The Amendment might be divided into two or three parts. It pointed out that no allusion was made in the Speech on the subject of local or county government, and on the subject of amendments to the Land Act. The matter of distress had been so fully and ably alluded to by the Irish Members on both sides of the House, that he did not think it was his duty to occupy the time of the House in speaking upon it, except, perhaps, to allude to what fell from his two hon. Friends opposite. He listened with a great deal of interest to the hon. Member for the County of Waterford (Mr. Blake), and was delighted to hear him declare that from that time forward he meant to speak the truth in the Houso—not that he meant to insinuate for a moment that he had ever heard him say anything which was not true—and he 1117 only alluded to the matter for the purpose of saying that he, too, intended in future to fearlessly speak the truth in that House. If the Government, from the remarks which had been made in the course of that debate, saw their way to instruct an officer of the Local Government Board to come forward with a scheme for the relief of the distress, or if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury could see his way to bring forward a loan, he would respectfully impress upon the Chief Secretary for Ireland that he did not think the money could be hotter spent or devoted to a bettor purpose than to the purpose so well advocated by his hon. Friend—namely, in the erection of fishery piers around the coast of Ireland. He did not altogether agree with the speech which had been delivered by the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Corry); but there was one part of it which he would like to emphasize if he could. It was, that if there were more confidence in some parts of Ireland, there was an abundance of capital in England and Scotland—he would go further, there was an abundance of capital in Ulster itself—to promote industries in the other parts of Ireland. If there existed in England and Scotland, or in Ulster, a little more confidence that a fair commercial return for capital invested would not be interfered with by agitation, he believed that capital would be forthcoming. Knowing something of the state of trade in the North of Ireland, he believed hon. Gentlemen would bear him out in saying that they had not too many workers at the present time to conduct that trade. There were two ways of supplying the want of the workers—one was to bring the workers to the work, and the other was to take the work to the workers. He believed that under the special circumstances of the linen trade, and knowing that sheltered valleys, away from large towns, with water power, were pre-eminently suited for the erection of linen-weaving factories, considerable capital would be distributed throughout Ireland in the erection of factories, if the hon. Gentlemen who professed to be leaders of the people would sternly and boldly say—"We must have no agitation directed against trade." In a speech which some of them might have read, the American people had been asked to 1118 "Boycott" Irish linen. He did not suppose that the Americans "Boycotted" the linen; but still it showed the tone and temper of some people, and such a suggestion would have the effect of preventing English or Scotch capital flowing into Ireland. He would like to direct the attention of the House to the subject of the amendment of the Land Act. The right hon. and gallant Member (Sir John Hay) stated, on the previous night that he was sick of the Irish Land Question. He heard that statement without the slightest surprise. He was not surprised that English and Scotch Members were sick of the Irish Land Question, and he could assure them that they were not as sick of it as the Irish Members themselves were—at least, on his side of the House—and on the Benches occupied by Conservative Members. They would gladly allow the question to rest; and he should be content to retire to the Back Benches to listen to the racy humour with which Scottish subjects were always discussed. But their duty to their constituents compelled them to continue bringing it before the attention of the House. All that the tenantry in the North of Ireland required in the amendment of the Land Act was that what he believed was the intention of the Prime Minister, and what he believed was the intention of the Liberal Party, should be carried into effect. He would not read any extracts from the Prime Minister's speeches, because the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) always kept every one of his pockets stuffed with the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman; but the Prime Minister made a very remarkable simile in introducing the Land Bill in 1881, to which he would refer. It was this—he likened the Land Bill to a policeman, who should be within reach of every person who was in danger—of unfair rent; and all they asked at the present time was that every tenant should really be brought within reach of the Act. At the present time two classes of men were within hail of it, but they were not within reach of the Court. One of them was the class of leaseholders. A very large and important class of those men, he submitted, deserved the consideration of the House. What was the position in which they found themselves? A man, on account of continued good character, 1119 and on account of being a favoured man, and with a desire to protect himself against a change of policy on the part of a future landlord, had taken out a lease in perpetuity at £100. Owing to the altered state of the law, he found himself for ever tied to pay £100 a-year, when his neighbour, with not so good a character, and who a few years ago would not have been favoured as he was, had his rent fixed at a fair calculation of £75. But the leaseholder found himself in a worse position still. If further facilities were given for the purchase of property by tenants—and, seeing that a scheme of that kind had been mentioned by right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Bench, he thought it probable that some further legislation would take place in that direction—a direction tending to create every occupier an owner—where would the perpertual leaseholder find himself? He would find himself in this position, that at the end of 52 years he would have paid £5,200, and remain still a tenant; whilst the man who had not taken out a perpetual lease obtained his holding, got his rent reduced immediately, paid a less rent, and at the end of 52 years became the owner of his own property. Having regard to that state of things, he was not surprised that the leaseholders should look to the House for redress. He must say that he was disappointed with the speech of Lord Carlingford in "another place." There were two Bills to be brought in for the amendment of the Land Act this Session—one from the Ministerial side of the House, and one by Irish Members sitting opposite He should have frequent opportunities of expressing his views on the subject, and would not, therefore, detain the House. Before sitting down, however, he should take that opportunity of impressing upon the Government the desirability of rounding off the corners of the Land Act. In view of a large number of Home Rule candidates being returned at the next General Election, he would suggest to the Government the necessity of amending the Land Act, so that there would be nothing but sentimental grievances to agitate over in Ireland.
§ MR. M'COAN
said, he thought the whole subject of this Amendment had received a very incomplete measure of attention from the Government, and one 1120 of the points he specially referred to was the relief of distress. Although that had been the principal topic to which hon. Members had addressed themselves, yet he did not think that the real urgency of the question had been sufficiently pressed upon the Government. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary had so completely proved the existence of very severe distress along the Western Coast of Ireland, as to dispense with need of any further argument or evidence about the fact. But, while he recognized that the Chief Secretary made out that case to demonstration, he regretted deeply that the right hon. Gentleman had thrown out no hint as to the intention of the Government to take immediate steps for the relief of the distress. The right hon. Gentleman had dealt with some of the arguments of previous speakers, and showed that there was much to be said against a system of outdoor relief; but he seemed to confine his own view of the possibilities of what might be done to the sole remedy of emigration. He (Mr. M'Coan) was not one of those who had an insuperable objection to a well-regulated scheme of emigration. He thought it might be tried usefully and with great advantage to the people themselves, because they all knew that if many of the suffering peasantry of the West of Ireland had their small patches of land for nothing, they were not sufficient to support them. Little or nothing was to be done by migration—that he regarded as an impracticable method; so that there only remained emigration, which he thought would afford greater and ultimately more adequate relief than any other remedy that could be applied. So far as he understood the speech of the Chief Secretary, he had not attempted to grapple with the fact—that there was existing starvation in the country which it was the first duty of any Government to relieve and prevent. There wore two primary obligations of a Government—to relieve famine where it existed, and to suppress and punish crime. As to the extent to which the Government had discharged its obligation in the latter regard, he confessed it had his approval and would have his support; and if the Crimes Act were again before the House, he would give it his vote; but he regarded it as an obligation of equal force to press upon the Government to afford 1121 relief to such distress as now unhappily existed in the Western counties of Ireland. It was idle to talk of theories of indoor relief and outdoor relief, when they had the fact before them that there were thousands of families sustaining life on seaweed and such like garbage. Such a state of things was not only a scandal to the Government, but an outrage on our whole civilization; and it was the duty of the Government, in the teeth of any and every economical law, to at once put its hand into its pocket and give the necessary relief. They had had a promise from the Chief Secretary during the Autumn Session that if the ordinary Poor Law did not meet the distress, the action of the Government would be found adequate to the occasion. But although in December and January the distress had become much accentuated, yet they had not heard that a shilling had yet been advanced, either in the shape of free grant or in the way of loan. The distress was now worse than ever, and he felt that it was the duty of the House to force upon the Government recognition of the fact that its primary duty was to deal with this distress. The duty of devising the form in which the relief should be given lay upon the Government; and it was not for any mere private Member of the House to take the responsibility off their shoulders by suggesting this or that plan. But certain it was, if they did not do so, they would lay themselves open to the censure, not merely of Parliament, but of the nation. He would take lower ground, and say that it was a course suggested by considerations of mere policy, which he recommended; for if it was not done, it might and would fairly be said that while the Government could sternly enough administer Coercion Acts, they could do nothing better towards relieving distress than throw out suggestions of shipping off the sufferers to the United States or Canada. The House, however, was quite familiar with methods of relief other than those through the Poor Law Guardians. The Government were not asked to put their hands into the Treasury and make gifts, but by making loans at low rates of interest the difficulty would be partly met. He did not profess to be familiar enough with the counties of Munster and Connaught to be able to say how far the accounts given of the distress were, or not, exaggerated; 1122 but from all he had heard, he was convinced there was great need of reclamation works, which, if promptly begun, and carried out on a large scale, would afford such relief as was now needed, and, at the same time, do much permanent good to the country.
§ MR. BERESFORD
said, that the great want of Ireland was capital to employ the surplus population on the Western Coasts. But why was there no money in the country? Why did people not go and spend their money there? It was because of the perpetual agitation which had been carried on during late years, and which had driven every shilling away, and frightened everybody who had money from investing it in the country. He resided in Armagh among a peaceful and prosperous people. The acreage of Armagh was 328,000, its valuation £420,000, and its population 168,000. The neighbouring county—Donegal—had an area of 1,197,000 acres and a population of 260,000. Armagh was thus able to support in comfort, relatively to its size, a population double that of Donegal, whose inhabitants were in a state of chronic poverty. The cause of the difference was that in Armagh the people had ample occupation and ample capital. He considered the state of the country, though better than it was two years ago, was not improving as one would wish to see. There was a great under-current of agitation still in the country. He would like to see the people attending to their industries; but, excepting the North, where the agitation had not gained a footing, the people were not settling down as they ought, but they appeared to be on tiptoe for new legislation in their favour. Going South—say to Cavan—he observed a great change from Armagh and the North generally. The cause that there was no employment for the labourers except what the farmers gave was that there were no resident gentry. In the parish where he resided, for instance—a large one—he was the only person who gave any sort of employment, and he only employed some 16 or 17 men on a farm of 150 acres. The farmers generally relied as much as possible on the labour of their sons. Consequently there was hardly any employment in the country for the surplus population. It appeared to him that the Government was now called upon to depopulate the 1123 country in a great measure by emigration; but, on the other hand, he believed that if they could see their way to employ the people permanently either by encouraging manufactures or making railways, and improving the resources of the country, it would tend more to produce peace and quiet than any other Act that could be passed. The hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) said that the Province of Ulster was no more loyal than the Province of Munster. He emphatically denied that. The Province of Ulster was essentially loyal, and its inhabitants were loyal to the Constitution of this country, and were determined to show their loyalty, and their determination to preserve the Union, no matter what the sacrifice might be.
§ MR. R. POWER
said, he rose principally to express his deep regret at the speech delivered the previous evening by the Chief Secretary, and also to disagree with some sentiments expressed by hon. Members who had spoken in this debate. Of the three Amendments placed on the Paper in connection with Irish affairs, this he thought was the most important, and he was sorry it had not occupied the first place on the Paper. This debate had had one good effect—it had induced the hon. Member for the County of Waterford (Mr. Blake) to speak the truth in reference to an Irish question. To a certain extent he agreed with the last speaker that capital would not come into their country because of agitation, and he regretted that agitation should exist. But if they wanted to kill agitation they must remove its cause. So long as there were grievances in Ireland, so long would they have agitation. If the people resorted to agitation it was because they had been taught to believe in it by right hon. Gentlemen on the front Treasury Bench. The last recruit to the Liberal Party, Lord Derby, in a recent magazine article, had told the Irish people that anything they had gained up to the present time was by agitation, and that it was not likely they would thank the Government for legislation which their agitation had forced from Parliament. He should not dwell on the danger of teaching such doctrines; but he wished that those who accused the Irish people of agitating would first bring home the charge to the Government. Something had been said during 1124 this debate about the Land Act, and he would admit that it had done a great deal for the farmers. But there remained, he was sorry to say, a great deal to be done for them still. The question was by no means settled. His hon. Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Sullivan) had adverted to the question of leases. He was in favour of including leases within the principle of the Land Act. But one thing ought to be remembered. During the period of the Irish Famine, when the landlords were in many cases driven towards bankruptcy, leases at low rents for long terms were offered to tenants in consideration of heavy fines. No records existed of the money paid in that way, and there was great danger, if leases were broken, of the farmers having to pay largely increased rents. However, that was a question for the farmers themselves to consider. His hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Blake) had referred to the question of fisheries. He quite agreed that money could not be more wisely spent than in encouraging the fisheries on the West Coast. There were, however, certain difficulties in the way. There was an incompetent, negligent, and unpopular body in existence known as the Irish Board of Works. In one case a pier was wanted, and a local contractor offered to do the work for £3,700. The Board thought the estimate too high, and gave the work to a contractor from a distance, who agreed to take the contract at a cheaper rate. But the first storm destroyed the pier, and it was found that the work had been scamped, and all kinds of rubbish used instead of mortar. The hon. Member for Waterford seemed to put faith in the two systems of emigration and consolidation of the holdings. He (Mr. R. Power) maintained that if the people emigrated, it would be the interest of the landlords to consolidate the farms, and there could be no fear of its not taking place. The difficulty he felt with regard to emigration was this—the Canadian or any other Government was prepared to do certain things for able-bodied persons, but not for the infirm or aged. It would be all very well if the people were taken like herrings in a barrel—mixed—but there would be no advantage in having the able-bodied removed and the aged and infirm left to be supported by the rates of Ireland. At the present moment the 1125 price of labour had risen in Ireland to an extravagant extent, particularly in Waterford and many parts of Cork and Limerick; and if this beneficent scheme of emigration was carried out, labour would be made scarcer than ever. It might be said that farms should be laid down in grass; but everyone knew that thousands of acres in Ireland were totally unfitted for that purpose. The hon. and gallant Member for Gal way (Colonel Nolan) had pointed out that wholesale emigration would also have a serious effect on recruiting for the Army. For his part, he had always opposed emigration, and he always should; he looked upon it as one of the greatest curses that could be inflicted upon the country. No doubt, in the "West, in Mayo and in Gal-way, there was a congestion of population; but the evil could not be cured by sending the able and strong men away and keeping the aged and infirm at home. The Chief Secretary, in a speech to which he listened with feelings of very great pain, said that in certain parts of Ireland there was always distress. That, no doubt, was true. Ever since the connection of Ireland and England there had been distress in certain parts; but the difficulty now was that there was hardly any part of Ireland free from distress. In his own part of the country the other day 400 or 500 able-bodied men sought from the Board of Guardians, not charity or relief, but work. The Guardians had no power to give them employment; and when the Irish Members came to that House, and asked that these men, and thousands of others, who were able and willing to work, should have employment, the right hon. Gentleman, who was supposed to be a beneficent Chief Secretary, said—"If they want work, let them go into the workhouse, or upon the emigrant ship." That was not the way to grapple with the Irish difficulty. If they wanted to remove the Irish discontent, and, he admitted, the Irish disloyalty, do not let the Chief Secretary speak in that way to a sensitive and high-strung people. They had had bitter experiences of the workhouse; and they distrusted very much Government schemes of emigration. Of the thousands of his countrymen who had gone to America, many had, no doubt, risen to eminence; but hundreds had been lost in iniquity—the great majority, indeed, especially the men who 1126 loitered about the cities, had gone to utter ruin. He gave the Chief Secretary credit for the best motives; but if he failed in his efforts to bring peace and quietness to the country, it would be one of the strongest proofs of how utterly impossible it was for any Englishman, however gifted, to administer the affairs of Ireland. Emigration had always been the cure. Lord Carlisle propounded it when he went to Ireland, he was followed shortly afterwards by the Earl of Kimberley, who also advocated it, and said that Ireland ought to be turned into a sheep farm for feeding the manufacturers of England. It was, indeed, a sad thing that after 800 years of connection with England, and after 80 years of their legislation and misrule, Ireland should now be in as great a crisis of distress as could visit any country, and English statesmen should come forward and say—"The only thing we can do is to send you into the workhouse or abroad."
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, that, as an Irish Member, he could not but regret the valuable time that had been wasted during the last 10 days, and that some really practical consideration had not been given to Irish affairs. He agreed that the question was of the greatest possible importance, and should have been discussed before subjects which had wasted the time of the House. There was no doubt that the real difficulty lay in the congested districts of Mayo, Donegal, and the West of Ireland; and how these places were to be relieved was the difficult problem which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) had to solve. As regarded it, he (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had no hesitation in saying that that difficulty would not be surmounted by any system of Poor Law administration in the shape of outdoor temporary relief, nor even by filling all the workhouses of Ireland, while he thought it would be unwise and impossible to force emigration. At the same time, he thought the Government were bound to hold out and give every possible facility to people who wished to emigrate from the congested districts in order to try their fortunes in a foreign land. With regard to migration, that, he thought, on a certain scale, might be made useful. There was plenty of room in Ulster for 10,000 or 20,000 families; 1127 and such a migration would be of the greatest benefit, if those families were settled satisfactorily around the large manufacturing towns of that Province; and it was only by permanent measures, by judicious migration and emigration, that the people of Ireland could possibly be lifted out of the chronic and hopeless state of distress into which they had fallen. But what was to be done with the miserable holdings from which people were taken? It was said that landlords would consolidate them and make large farms; but he (Mr. T. A. Dickson) thought the probability was rather the other way, as the largest amount of rent was obtained comparatively from small holdings; and, unless the Government put some barrier in the way of the small holdings thus vacated being again occupied, emigration and migration would be no solution of the difficulty. He fully concurred with the suggestions that had been made by the hon. Member for Belfast (Mr. Corry), as to the granting of loans for the extension of the railway and tramway system of the country. That was a subject that had been pressed on the Treasury by them year after year. He had no hope for Galway until Connaught had been opened up by railways. There was no use in talking about developing fisheries unless they could provide railway accommodation. Fish were around the coast in abundance—in fact, when captured, were lying on the shores; but there was no means of bringing them rapidly to market, and they had to be sold below their value. He knew of no way by which the Government could so quickly civilize the whole of the Western counties as by promoting a system of narrow-gauge railways, and not leaving it to private enterprize. Every shilling of money that was invested would find its way back to the Treasury; but the Government had not encouraged railway extension in Ireland. The Treasury, through the Board of Works, placed all the difficulties they could in the way of the development of Irish industries, and the result was that the Board of Works was one of the most unpopular institutions in the country. Although it was called "Irish Board of Works," it might as well be in London. It was entirely under the control of a few officials at the Treasury, and could neither inaugurate nor carry out any great 1128 scheme in connection with Irish enterprize. A proof of that would be found in the Return placed in the hands of hon. Members during the last few days. That Return showed that the entire amount advanced to Irish railways was only about £700,000, and in these figures there was ample proof of the obstruction which had been offered by the Treasury and the Board of Works to the extension of railways in Ireland. He knew of one railway, that from Ballymena to Larne, which had benefited the North of Ireland to an enormous extent, and for which the hon. Member for the County Antrim (Mr. Chaine) deserved credit for expending his capital and incurring an enormous amount of trouble and risk. That hon. Gentleman obtained a loan of £45,000, but at what interest? Five per cent. Last year a deputation waited, on the Treasury, and asked them to reduce the interest to 4 per cent; but the Treasury promptly refused; and now the Government were in this position, in connection with this Irish enterprize—that as debenture-holders they were paid 5 per cent, whilst the shareholders were only getting 2 per cent. He certainly thought that the small reduction asked for should have been granted by the Treasury, without hesitation. Other railways in Ireland had money at 4 per cent, and not near so well secured. He was sorry the hon. Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney) was not in his place, as he was anxious to put to him some questions. The Belfast Central Railway had a loan of £100,000 at 4 per cent. Why was not that loan included in this Return; and why should not the Ballymena and Larne Railway have their loan also at 4 per cent? He knew the strong feeling that existed on both sides of the House as to the rate of interest; and he could only tell the Chief Secretary for Ireland that if this question came before the House in another shape, hon. Members on both sides would, if there was no redress, move the adjournment, and have the matter fully discussed. He was sorry that there was in Ulster the deepest disappointment at the programme of the Government, especially at speeches delivered by a Member of the Government in "another place" to the effect that this Session there was to be no amendment of the Land Act, and no reference to County Boards for Ireland. He 1129 must be allowed to express the hope that when the Prime Minister returned, and realized the state of feeling that existed in Ulster and all over Ireland, he would inaugurate legislation upon these questions, and remedy the defects which he himself admitted existed in the Land Act. The Government might rest assured that from the Land Question, while the Land Act remained without amendment, there was no escape. The Act must be amended sooner or later, and the longer it was delayed the House would find that the more extravagant would be the demands. It was impossible that 120,000 leaseholders could be left out as at present. They must be brought within its scope. The working of the Act also was much too slow. When the House passed the Land Act, it had no idea that its benefits would take two, three, four, or five years in reaching the tenants for whom it was passed. For instance, the vast majority of tenants in Ulster would not have its benefits for two or three years more. Out of 6,000 applications in Tyrone, only 1,000 had been decided in the past year. Thus it would take five years to dispose of the balance; and during all that time the people were to pay the old rent, under which they utterly broke down. He wished to correct the statement of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Beresford) that all the capital was going out of Ireland. It was not so. As savings banks and bank returns showed, the capital in Ireland was every year increasing. The hon. Member for Armagh blamed the present condition of the country as the result of the land legislation of the present Government. He (Mr. T. A. Dickson) had only to tell him that the present condition of the country and agitation had been brought about solely and entirely by the misgovernment of the Tory Party and his Friends in the past.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that, in rising to speak to the Amendment, he was conscious that he was at a disadvantage in speaking to a House that was weary with the discussion of Irish questions, many of which ought never to have been raised. The speech of the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), a few nights ago, which occupied about two hours in delivery, would do more mischief than the two years' Irish administration of that right 1130 hon Gentleman as Chief Secretary—[Cries of "Question!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is now debating a matter which is not before the House.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that, if he had erred, he had simply followed the example of hon. Members who should have known better. He would not pursue the matter further; but he desired to speak of the policy of the Government in general as regarded Ireland. He wished to raise his voice against the policy of suppressing opinions in Ireland, because they were abusive of the Government. While he sympathized with the efforts of the Government to put down crime, he hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not class together ordinary crime and political opinions. Two Members of Parliament were now in prison for expressing their political opinions—[Mr. TREVELYAN dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head. However, the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Healy) was in prison, for opinions expressed by him at a meeting at which he (Mr. Macfarlane) was invited to attend. He had been permitted to address a meeting of his own constituents; but the police and a Government reporter attended, and that was an indignity against which, and the policy it indicated, he protested. It was the policy of suppressing opinions because they involved abuse of the Government. The Chief Secretary for Ireland argued in this roundabout manner—abuse of the Government would bring the Government into contempt, and contempt of the Government would produce excitement, and excitement would produce crime, and therefore it must be stopped. In The Times, he (Mr. Macfarlane), warned the Government that seditious opinions were made dangerous by prosecution; and that was illustrated by the unopposed return for Westmeath of Mr. Harrington, who put forward as his only qualification that he had been prosecuted by the Government. Yet the Government, with a perfect absence of decency, sent the prosecutor of the hon. Member for Mallow (Mr. O'Brien), to oppose his election to that constituency. The House had seen the result. Tall talk was thoroughly well understood in Ireland; it would be forgotten in a day unless the Government put it 1131 under a microscope and magnified it. Instead of being a preventive of violent speeches, the presence of police and of a Government reporter at public meetings in Ireland was an incentive to violent speeches, for violent speakers became anxious to show the mob that they did not care a fig for the Government. There were reasons why more violent language might be tolerated in Ireland than in England. The crowd at an Irish meeting might cheer it, but it passed out of their memory almost immediately. Violent speech was the only thing which did, as a fact, influence the Government, either in Ireland or in England. A leader of public opinion in England went into the Cabinet, while a leader of public opinion in Ireland went into a prison. And yet the Government were surprised that there should be agitation and violent language in Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Opposition Benches told the Irish people, as if those people were blind fools who never gained anything by experience, that they must be quiet, or they would get nothing. Why, they had got nothing by silence in the past. He spoke without national prejudice, not being an Irishman; but he could not refrain from saying that there was no enactment on the Statute Book in regard to Ireland which had not been forced from the House by violence. There was only one way of removing agitation in Ireland. When the Government themselves confessed that certain reforms were requisite, and yet would not grant them, what could they expect but popular agitation and violence? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department had just refused inquiry into an alleged Scotch grievance until the law had been vindicated. Three of the insurgents started from their homes in Skye to go to Edinburgh—perhaps to make an assault upon Edinburgh Castle—but, however that might be, they allowed themselves to be arrested in Glasgow. That rebel army was arrested by one policeman, who found them drinking toddy in a public-house in Glasgow. More or less violence was necessary, or people with grievances would not be listened to. If Irish questions had lately absorbed the time of the House, it was because they had been for years before neglected, while 1132 Irish measures had been ignominiously rejected by the other House. He was afraid it was almost impossible that great agitations could be carried on without more or less of turbulence or crime, in which he did not include the atrocious assassinations that had disgraced Ireland. It was now admitted' that the Land Act required amendment; why, then, did not the Government amend it? If all were agreed, it need not take two hours to do it. The English measures to which precedence was to be given wore nothing to the Irish people. It was of no use talking to a suitor about other causes; it was his business to get his own cause brought on. If the Land Act was amended by the Government, and two or three things more done, then they would have peace, quietness, and contentment, and they would be able in that way to get at the bottom of crime and outrage.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. CHILDEES)
Sir, I am not one of those who deprecate the length of the debate on the present Amendment; but I think it would not have been without advantage if it had preceded some of the other debates, and if we had been able to approach this very interesting question without the little heat which was raised during the earlier Amendments to the Address. I, at any rate, do not approach this question with the least wish to do anything but what would contribute towards the solution of the very interesting and important questions connected with the present and future welfare and comfort of Ireland. I shall abstain from all political controversies, because I think it much better to agree to discard those considerations, which confuse the real issues, and prevent us judging, as calmly as we could wish, of the practical and economic questions arising out of the proper dealing with distress in the country. Feeling very strongly what I have just said, perhaps I may add this. I am not one of those who would shrink from strong measures for the relief of Irish distress, if I saw my way to such measures being of permanent, and not merely temporary, utility. The great difficulty we have to deal with in this matter—for debates on Irish distress are periodical—is that we so often merely look at the present emergency, and fail to see what ought to be done, and what might be done, to put the social and 1133 economic conditions of Ireland on such a footing as would prevent the recurrence of such distress. Therefore, I think that I can speak for myself and for every Member of the Government when I say there is nothing that we shall desire more than to plumb to the bottom of this recurring difficulty of distress, especially local distress, in Ireland, and do the best we can to remove it. Having said that, will the House now further allow me to say a word as to what we have done, and possibly indicate how we might move? I think both sides of the House will recognize that my right hon. Friend and the Irish Government are doing their very utmost to get at the real facts of the case. I have listened to the greater part of this debate, and I must say that there is so much doubt as to the facts, and as to the exact details of the question of distress, that it is not difficult to indicate accurately what should be the first duty of the Irish Government. The first duty of the Irish Government—and a duty which my right hon. Friend and Lord Spencer are most thoroughly discharging—is to ascertain the facts of the present distress, its extent, and its origin. I know, from the perusal of the Papers the Irish Government have collected, that their duty is being thoroughly performed in that respect. The Government in this respect have chosen a good path, and one which will lead to advantage. The next point to consider is, so far as we have gone, how do we agree as to the nature of the present distress? I listened with great attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Water-ford (Mr. E. Power), and I thought he stated very fairly some respects in which the state of Ireland was satisfactory and was unsatisfactory. He made two—I will not call them admissions—but statements on the satisfactory side of the question. In particular, he said that, so far as the grazing and cattle interests of Ireland are concerned, we have been passing through a period of considerable prosperity. He said also one thing which struck me as very important—that there never was a time in which wages were so high in Ireland. To Englishmen that means a great deal, and it is a circumstance which ought to be borne in mind. If the condition of things in Ireland is such that wages are high, you have, at any rate, a very healthy sign; for whenever we were 1134 talking in former years about distress, especially agricultural distress, the first question always asked was—What is the condition of the labourers; are wages high or low; and are large numbers unable to find employment? Now, at any rate, we know this—that, speaking of Ireland generally, wages were never so high. I take it fairly to represent the present state of things that throughout the grazing districts generally there is considerable prosperity; and that throughout many of the agricultural parts of Ireland there is also very fair prosperity, although it is true that the latter has suffered from the recent rains. Probably Ireland has not suffered more than England from excessive rains; but, on the other hand, there are again, as there have been in previous years, three or four congested districts, particularly in the West of Ireland, where the population, in a bad year, never has been able to live satisfactorily, but had to fall back upon the rates, or some other method of relief; where the holdings are so extremely small that it is practically impossible for a man, much less for a family, to live upon them. What we are asked to do is to find some satisfactory way of dealing, not for this year, but permanently, with the condition of those districts. I am bound to say, so far as I have heard and read the proposals emanating from different parts of the House, and great authorities outside—and I do not exclude from those the Roman Catholic Bishops of the West who have approached the Government—that there seems to be the greatest possible difference of opinion, as to the best method of dealing with this question. We have had, first of all, to set against each other indoor and outdoor relief. So far as I have been able to collect the opinion of the Roman Catholic Bishops, whose authority has been put forward, they are not in favour of returning to a system of outdoor relief. Again, the proposal has been made, and made with great force this day, that we should return to the system of public works, and that, in distressed districts, the Government should initiate and revert to a system which, no doubt, saved many lives in former years, whatever may be its economic advantages. To that, also, I am bound to remind the House that the Bishops are as strongly opposed. They look forward to the in- 1135 troduction of such a system as mischievous. So that on both questions there is great difference of opinion. My hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Dickson) said he thought the English authorities were very much to blame for not making more liberal advances towards the construction of Irish railways. I am much obliged to him for calling our attention to the subject, because it was one in which I took great interest when, 17 years ago, I was Secretary to the Treasury. The greater part of such loans was, I think, granted under a measure which I had the honour to introduce; so that it is a question in which I have no prejudice against the view of my hon. Friend. On the other hand, we must remember two things—one, that, for the good of Ireland, it is most important that, if possible, these advances should be made by private capitalists, instead of by the Government. On that ground the Government are obliged to carefully consider the question of any advance from public money. Again, as to the rate of interest. If the Government has been receiving 5 per cent interest upon particular loans, I must remind the House that railways at the present time are able to raise debentures at 3½ per cent; and it is a serious economic—it is even a political question, whether a state of things might not be brought into Ireland by which capital could be again attracted to that country. I think it would be far more for the benefit of Ireland—I say this most sincerely—if the economic condition of Ireland was such that she could go into the market and borrow, as she could, on debenture stock at 3½ per cent from private individuals, instead of 5 per cent from the Government. We ought to do our best to raise Ireland to such a condition as would enable her to obtain capital from private persons, so that, instead of money flowing from Ireland, it should flow into it. Everyone who has acted as a trustee, or in any other capacity, and had experience of mortgages in Ireland lately, must know that money is flowing from Ireland, and not into it, and that there are many public bodies who will not advance money on Irish security, however ample. I take it that the abolition of that state of things, and the restoration to the more healthy state of things which prevailed a few years ago, is of far more importance and benefit to Ireland than many of 1136 the proposals, good as they may be in themselves, which we think would put an end to the Irish grievances. I hope, therefore, hon. Members from Ireland who sit on the other side will do their best to restore commercial confidence in Ireland. I do not believe, from knowledge of a good many years, that there is naturally objection on the part of English capitalists to invest their money in Ireland. I admit also that it is reasonable that, within proper limits, some assistance should be given from the Treasury, when every other power of granting money fails. But others ought not to fail. I should like to say a word or two on the subject of emigration. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) pointed out, with considerable force last night, what the advantages of emigration in Ireland were. On the other side, we have heard to-day some of the difficulties with which those who wish to promote emigration in Ireland find themselves met. I have always felt that there is great force in these difficulties. It is undoubtedly true that there is an objection—not an unnatural objection, I may venture to say not an unfounded objection—on the part of those who are responsible for the religious education of the Irish people, to large bodies of people going to distant and foreign parts of the world, where they were apt to fall into temptation, and lose the advantage of their earlier religious teaching. I think, with any system of administration with which the Government might be connected, it is necessary to bear that in mind. But in dealing with the question of emigration, I think the House ought to know what are the real facts in connection with the actual emigration from Ireland which goes on at the present time. This debate has been carried on almost as if there was no emigration from Ireland, as if it was wrong, and something never heard of before; and those who have spoken very strongly on the subject have imputed to the Government some terrible plan—a novelty in Irish history—of deporting to foreign countries vast numbers of Irish subjects. That is not the case at all. I find that the emigration from Ireland, begining in 1856, was at the rate, up to 1860, of over 100,000 persons per annum. Up to 1865, the number was about 140,000 a-year; and up to 1870, about 130,000. These figures referred 1137 to statute adults, so that the number would be still larger. In 1875, the number was from 60,000 to 70,000, and since that they have fluctuated until, in 1880, the number of emigrants from Ireland reached 93,000 statute adults, or about 120,000 souls, and in 1881, 76,000, or probably 100,000 souls. The peculiarity of this emigration—and this, I think, is a point to which the attention of the House ought to be called—is that whether to the United States, or to Canada, or other Colonies, it has occurred not because the people had elected those countries rather than others to which to go, but because they had received from their friends and relations already established there the money wherewith to join them. That process has reached such a point that I find, from this last Return, that about £1,500,000 sterling has been remitted from America and elsewhere for emigration, and from friends who had themselves emigrated to that part of the world. The argument I draw from that is this—emigration, so far, has been on such a scale that if it had been applied to those particular districts it would have been ample to relieve the distress. But the emigration has not taken place from those districts, because those congested districts have not already sent a large body of emigrants who could remit money home to take out their friends. It is from other parts of Ireland that the emigration has gone on, and the very fact of certain districts being congested is the reason why they continue congested, because no one leaves them so as to be able to assist friends who may be left behind. What I have said points to this—that if we could more systematize the emigration, so that it should relieve particular districts, we should be able to relieve the condition of these small congested localities, without at all adding to the aggregate amount of emigration, and without being obnoxious to those particular objections raised in the debate. I cannot think that the emigration of 100,000 or 60,000 a-year is at all excessive, and it would be the greatest benefit to the Irish people if it were done upon a system, so that those particular districts would be relieved. Let me add the necessity, so far as I can judge—for I have seen a good many of these most congested districts—the absolute necessity of some system under which, if you have re- 1138 lieved the superfluous population, the district should not lapse back again into its former condition. I would illustrate this by a case I have investigated in a district in Donegal with a very large population, where the land was held in small holdings of an acre or an acre and a-half. Large numbers of emigrants went from this district after the Famine, and it was hoped that the small holdings would be consolidated, and a more satisfactory state of things would result in the future. But it was not so, and I believe the small holdings now are as small as they were then; so that, unless you take some precaution, you would have the same process happening from generation to generation. Therefore, if we are to engage in any plan of this sort, it should be systematized, so as to make it not merely relief for the moment, but for a considerable time to come. There is one other point I should like to touch upon. A good deal has been said about the importance of making advances to small tenants below the line at which, at the present time, such advances are made; and a suggestion has been brought forward in debate that the difficulty in making those advances might be obviated if the small tenants formed themselves into clusters, and became jointly responsible for the repayment. I may be allowed to say, with great deference, that I do not think the question has been studied so fully as it requires to be. I want to remind the House of what we have done, and the difficulties which, in some shape or other, we must overcome. In earlier arrangements for advances to tenants it was made a condition that the tenant to whom the advance was made should obtain the collateral security of others, so that there should be a reasonable security for those who made the advances. The objection was advanced at that time that, if security were demanded, people would not apply for assistance; and that was based on the argument that a man having only a small holding, who had no benefit from the advance, if his brother tenant who had received benefit should fail, would feel himself greatly aggrieved by being called upon to make up his neighbour's deficiency. If that was a sound objection in the one case, is it not a sound objection in the other? If seven or eight small tenants combined together to obtain an advance, and if some of 1139 those who had the least benefit, and possibly no benefit, were called upon to make good what had been advanced to their neighbours, shall we not have precisely the same objection that was raised to the former plan of surety, and will not the whole thing end in disastrous failure? I make these suggestions for practical reasons, and not on any mere doctrinaire grounds. I may add that what we want to do is what is most beneficial to the people of Ireland. We want to elicit on such a question as this the opinion of those who are well conversant with the question; and in that, as in other matters, I am bound to say there would be greater advantage to myself as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to the Government, to have practical suggestions in carrying out the details of the Acts of the last two Sessions, so that we might honestly be enabled to give effect to the policy which the Government believe will be, in the end, of great advantage to Ireland. In conclusion, I would express the hope that we may be able to bring this debate to a close before very long, so that there may be no difficulty in the way of getting into Supply.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he quite agreed with much of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Childers)—but he must also say that the speech had evidently been made with the desire of making things pleasant all round—that this question should not be approached in any narrow or Party spirit, but with a sincere desire to help in alleviating the distress now so prevalent in Ireland, and which, he ventured to say, was one of those things the Government was bound to deal with. He had listened attentively to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to capital. There could be no doubt that if capital would only return to Ireland in the way suggested, the position of that country would be a most fortunate one. Ireland would then be on a par with this country, both as regards tranquillity and prosperity, and that was what everyone wished to see in Ireland. But the question now was the distress in the Western parts of Ireland. No man who did not know what that distress was, and who had not seen it, could picture to himself the miserable condition of the people in the Western portion of 1140 Ireland. It was his (Sir Walter B. Barttelot's) sad fate, during the whole of the first Famine, to be in that part of Ireland; and he would venture to say that from that time to this chronic distress had existed there; and, although from starvation, emigration, and other causes the population had greatly decreased even in those parts, and though great efforts had been made at different times to relieve them, yet, at the present time, they were in precisely the same condition as in 1846, while no great effort had been made by either side of the House to permanently relieve that distress. He was delighted to know that they had in the present Chief Secretary for Ireland a man of few words, who was determined to do that which he held to be in the best interests of Ireland. No one could deny that the condition of things in the West of Ireland, taking Donegal, Mayo, Galway, and even a portion of the counties of Limerick, Clare, Kerry, and Cork, required the utmost attention of the Government, and a determination that such a state of things should no longer exist. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer talked as if this was a new question, and said the Government were making inquiries so as to ascertain the best and most permanent remedy. The real condition of things was this—that the Government knew perfectly well that in the West of Ireland existed all those materials which had led to all the disasters that had occurred in the country, and unless the existing state of things was remedied they would have a continuance of those disasters. These were the portions of Ireland which the Government should, if it could, render contented and happy, for they would prevent agitation. Let it be borne in mind, however, that it was not from the poor creatures who were suffering distress that the agitation came; it came from others; but the deplorable condition they were in was the means which gave opportunity for agitation. Until the population in those parts had been dealt with seriously and determinately, no good would have been done for Ireland. He was glad to hear that the Chief Secretary for Ireland had made up his mind to deal with the question; but whether he was going to deal in a right way with it he was not now going to stop to consider. The hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor 1141 Power) said there were three ways of dealing with the question—one was migration, the other emigration, and the third was the workhouse for the able-bodied poor. With regard to migration, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would remark that the hon. Member did not propose, for one moment, that you were to migrate men on to those lands now in good condition, but to migrate on to the 600,000 acres which had gone out of cultivation for want of people to till them. With regard to that proposal, he would only say that if there were lands of that kind not tenanted by the Irish people, and that could be re-occupied again, and made useful, it would, indeed, be a beneficial thing for the people of Ireland, and of England too. If those lands could be again tilled and made to pay, that was the great consideration, even if money were taken from the English Exchequer to lend a helping hand for that purpose; and he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) asserted that the English Exchequer would willingly advance a portion of the money for such an object as that. Then came the question of emigration. That must be dealt with, with a determined hand. Those people must be got rid of. The Government must not blink the question. They must be moved, if the Government wanted Ireland to be peaceful and happy. Year by year the people were being reduced to absolute starvation, and the only way to deal with that was to remove the people in a systematic and judicious way. After that care must be taken that others did not return to these miserable holdings that could not support them. What was wanted was a larger class of holdings, and until a scheme was proposed which should realize that little would have been done to solve this problem. He was opposed to the spending of money on impracticable experimental schemes; but what he maintained was, that if this question were not dealt with determinately, and at once, there would never be peace and quiet in Ireland. Then there was the workhouse test. He differed from a great number of hon. Gentlemen with regard to that test. He believed the Chief Secretary for Ireland was absolutely right, when he said that able-bodied people, when asking outdoor relief from the Union, and from people hardly better able to pay than themselves, should not receive 1142 that form of relief. If outdoor relief were granted, the people would be made perpetual paupers, and would never be disposed to earn an honest living. The right hon. Gentleman was therefore right when he said he would not allow outdoor relief to increase in Ireland. It used to be the pride and boast of Ireland in olden days that it could do without outdoor relief, while it was necessary in England; but the condition of things was now altered. Still, he would strenuously oppose the granting of outdoor relief to able-bodied persons in Ireland, believing that it would be most prejudicial to the interests of the nation. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) knew the condition of those places. He had seen them from one end of Ireland to another. He believed if those people were made to feel that they were fairly dealt with by the Government, and a reasonable scheme of migration as well as of emigration was put at their door, the Government would have solved the most difficult problem they had ever had to deal with. But unless that was done it would be for those who came after them to deal with crime and outrage, and besides to feel the disgrace that people were dying of starvation a short distance from our shores.
§ MR. O'SHEA
said, that he had heard with great pleasure the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. His hon. and gallant Friend opposite who had just sat down (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) had described that speech as "making things pleasant all round;" but, dealing with a very useful subject which had been referred to in the speech of the hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Dickson), with regard to the terms on which funds were to be in future advanced for the construction of Irish railways, he (Mr. O'Shea) intended to bring the matter to a practical test in a few days, when the West Clare Railway, which was in a very advanced state as regarded its share capital, would be brought under the notice of the Treasury. They would then see whether the right hon. Gentleman's speech was merely for the sake of "making things pleasant all round." The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of the advantage it would be if those lines could be constructed out of money borrowed in the market through the ordinary sources; 1143 but he could assure that right hon. Gentleman that while it was quite possible to raise money in this way on the Great Trunk lines, it would be impossible to get it for the construction of small branch railways. For instance, the 5 per cent debentures of the Waterford and Central Railway, although the line paid a small dividend on its share capital, were not quoted above 104 to 106. There was no doubt, however, that the important subject for immediate discussion was the state of destitution of certain districts of Ireland, and he quite agreed that it was divided into two parts—the temporary and the permanent; but the question which was most important now was the temporary question. They were told that the Government were making the deepest and most serious inquiries into the state of affairs. He thought they were doing quite right; but although he should be the last to maintain the proposition that poverty had any right to the assistance of the State, yet he held that destitution had an absolute right to that assistance. Now, destitution absolutely existed in certain districts of the constituency which he had the honour of representing. This destitution would not wait for statistics. That was perfectly clear, and the consequence was that it was useless to deal with it by the Reports—the very excellent Reports, no doubt—of the Poor Law Inspectors as to the future. The matter must be taken up immediately. The actual state of affairs was this—that in large districts in several of the Unions of the County Clare and another county with which he was well acquainted—the County Mayo—the destitution was such that, although he had no doubt that his right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland was perfectly correct in saying that there was no record of any death having occurred by starvation, yet that it was so great that there was a physical and moral weakness coming over the people, that might develop at any moment into serious sickness. And they must look at the matter in another way. If destitution had an absolute right of claim on the State, it was clear that everyone who was destitute had that right, and amongst them there were the children. There was no doubt that in a number of places in the West of Ireland the state of the children was extremely serious, and alto- 1144 gether different from that in which they were in the year 1879–80, when, owing to the charitable organizations, the children were extremely well-fed. There were no charitable distributions at the present moment. It would be answered that in dealing with this destitution the family must be taken as a unit and dealt with as a whole—that the children could not be taken from their parents; but what was the effect of the workhouse test? That directly the families got into the workhouse, they were, to a great extent, divided; and that was one of the greatest difficulties which they had to contend with in inducing the people to go into the workhouse; and if the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland could devote a little time to look into the matter of workhouse reform in that way, and to see whether a system of workhouse policy could not be brought in with greater consonance with the feelings of the Irish poor, he would be doing a very good work. With regard to emigration, the Government had over and over again foreshadowed a scheme of emigration; and he believed there would be no difficulty with the Irish people, if such a scheme were elaborated, and if the Government were prepared to make an estimate for it. He might remind the House that one of the most advanced of the Irish Members opposite had, only a few months ago, acknowledged that he could not oppose such a scheme. But at the present moment the emigration was simply haphazard. The matter could not be taken into consideration until the people had first tided over the temporary destitution now prevailing. As the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Rathbone) had pointed out, it was not so much money that was wanted as a fitting place to which to send the emigrants. Another question was, what would become of the present holdings when deserted by their former occupiers? Thirty tenants would always pay more rent in the aggregate than one tenant for 150 acres of land in the West of Ireland. A further question was, how were the large tracts of land which were formerly in cultivation, and were sown with grass after the Famine, to be treated? They were now rapidly becoming covered with furze and rushes. With regard to the Land Act, he thought its amendment was perfectly safe. Ulster had spoken out. The burn- 1145 ing question of the day was that of destitution; and he sincerely hoped that nothing would prevent the Government from dealing with that question, as it was one of death from starvation, or starvation fever, among the people in certain districts in the West of Ireland.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, that every person appeared to admit that they were now face to face with severe destitution in the West of Ireland; and yet, so far, no intimation had been given by the Government as to what course it intended to pursue to meet the distress. They were told that the Government were ascertaining the facts; but what need was there for ascertaining the facts? Were they not patent to every person? Had not the Boards of Guardians throughout the country been calling attention to the matter, and asking the Government to take some steps; and what necessity was there for the Chief Secretary for Ireland's tour in Donegal on an Irish jaunting car? The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Government should refuse to grant the Guardians power to grant outdoor relief. But he (Dr. Commins) was strongly of opinion that relief in some shape was required and should be given, and he thought it was outdoor relief that should be given. Was the right hon. Gentleman aware of the fact that a family in the workhouse would cost three times as much as if there was an allowance made to it in outdoor relief. But though the outdoor relief system was the cheaper, the Chief Secretary for Ireland would insist on the poor people breaking up their homes, and going into the workhouses, and losing the position of respect which they held amongst their neighbours, thereby demoralizing them, as they would ever afterwards be branded with the name of pauper. He agreed that it would be better that the people should emigrate from the congested districts in the West than that they should live on subject to constantly recurring periods of starvation, if the recurrence of those periods could not possibly be avoided. As a matter of fact, however, there was no absolute necessity for the removal of the people to another country. How was it that those poor people came to occupy their present miserable holdings? The reason was that they were driven by a pernicious system from the rich tracts of grazing land in the interior 1146 to the wild mountain districts to eke out a miserable existence. That system was now, once and for all, put an end to by the beneficial operation of the Land Act; and he hoped when it came fully into operation that it would enable the poor people to return to their former homes. The speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland last night had not given them any hope to carry home to their constituents. The Guardians of the Unions of Carrick-on-Shannon, Boyle, and Strokes-town had all asked to be allowed to relieve the distress in a way that was in harmony with the feelings of the people, and would not deprive them of their self-respect, and they said that they would do so with their own money. But nothing had been done except to send round Inspectors to tell the Local Government Board what the Board already knew as well as the Inspectors. He thought he was not going too far when he said the speech of the right hon. Gentleman would cast a gloom over Ireland; and, looking at the speech, they would say that the Government looked upon the present distress as a Godsend to enable it to expatriate a very considerable number of their countrymen. They had heard of congested districts. The fact was that the density of population in Ireland was less than in Russia, being 153 in the one case and 157 in the other to the square mile. In Roscommon, where there was some of the richest land in Ireland, perhaps in Europe—the plains of Boyle, from which the people had been cleared off to make room for the large sheep farms—you might travel 20 miles without seeing a labouring man's house or a village, and the country seemed as thinly populated as the prairies of America. Two, three, or four weeks of outdoor relief would be quite sufficient to enable the people to tide over the distress. The right hon. Gentleman had promised that nobody should be allowed to die of starvation; but he had not kept his word, because no steps had been taken, and verdicts of death by starvation had been returned. He implored the Government to do something to prevent the wholesale misery and almost despair which were likely to come upon the people of Ireland. If they really desired to relieve the distress, they must at once take steps to meet the difficulty with which they were now face to face.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he very much regretted that at the opening of the House the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Trevelyan) had not, in answer to his (Mr. Callan's) request, made for the information of hon. Members, placed upon the Table the Memorial presented by a deputation of the Irish Bishops. The Bishops of Ireland during late years had kept outside the arena of politics; but urged by a clear sense of duty, arising out of the great distress existing in their dioceses, they felt it necessary to wait on the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the guise of humble suppliants, and press upon him the necessity of taking some steps to relieve the distress existing in the country at the present time. Their suggestions, however, were disregarded; and he (Mr. Callan) trusted, therefore, that it would be the last time that the Irish Episcopacy would be found going as suppliants to any English Minister in Dublin Castle. He did not believe that any hon. Member of the House heard the speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland last night with deeper sorrow and disappointment than he had done. Had the right hon. Gentleman read the letter of the Rev. Father Gallagher, who accompanied him on his tour through Donegal, and who was spending all he had in the world to save his starving people? Silence gave consent. He supposed he had the letter, or else he would have contradicted it. Well, what did that letter state? It stated that in all the cabins the right hon. Gentleman visited there was not a scrap of food to be found, except in one, where they found the family eating seaweed; and he stated also that the people said that they would rather die in their cabins than go into the workhouse. Well, what was the right hon. Gentleman's answer to that? "You may die there," was what his speech last night said. At the time, however, the right hon. Gentleman said that what he saw exceeded in misery all that he had read of concerning the distress in Donegal, thereby endorsing the writings of the special correspondent of The Freeman's Journal, who was calling attention to the dreadful destitution amongst the people in the columns of that journal. When he got back to Dublin Castle, however, all was changed. The iron appeared to enter the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman the moment 1148 he entered that building, and he came forward now there in the House of Commons, the exponent of a cold-blooded policy towards Ireland. He was bringing back to the memory again the evil memories of 1848, when another of his name was a cruel and remorseless administrator in Ireland. He (Mr. Callan) must say he was surprised that one of the Members for Donegal (Dr. Kinnear), a brother clergyman with the Rev. Father Gallagher, and belonging to the same town, had been dumb upon the question. He supposed the rev. Gentleman thought he owed allegiance to the Government rather than to those who sent him to the House, and who had sent him for the last time. [Cries of "Divide!"] He heard a Scotch Member (Mr. Buchanan) say "Divide!" He supposed the hon Gentleman did it at the instance of the Government, as he was the Member who seconded the Address to the Crown, and represented a city with no sympathy for Ireland. He (Mr. Callan) demanded to know why the Memorial of the Irish Bishops was to be suppressed. Until the cruel and heartless speech of the right hon. Gentleman on the previous evening, in which he stated that he was determined to carry put a harsh policy, the Irish Representatives had accorded him every indulgence, because they believed he would rise superior to the traditions of Dublin Castle; but in this they had been greatly mistaken. He would ask him whether during his four days' visit to Donegal, he did not see exceptional distress there, and challenged him to deny the truth of the Rev. Mr. Gallagher's letter.
§ And it being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned till To-morrow.