HL Deb 15 February 1826 vol 14 cc407-8
The Earl of Darnley

alluded to a misunderstanding of what he had said a few days ago concerning the extension of the poor laws to Ireland, when a noble earl, not then in his place, had brought the state of that country under their lordships' consideration. What he meant was, that he should be sorry if the system of the poor laws, or rather of the abuses of the poor law system of this country, were transferred to Ireland, since they could produce only calamitous results. On the other hand, he thought it was not to be tolerated that, in a country boasting of civilization, it should be possible for individuals to die from actual want; yet he had read of a person dying in the streets of Dublin from starvation. He did not himself mean to bring the subject before their lordships, because there was a noble lord, not then in his place (lord Carberry), who had already moved for certain papers on the subject, and had pledged himself to bring it before their lordships. But if that noble lord did not, he was so impressed with the importance of the subject, that after the holidays he would call their lordships' attention to it. He knew that there were great difficulties in the way; that the poverty of the people was not to be cured by charity; that the only legitimate mode of relieving them was by finding them employment; but he thought it was worthy of their lordships' attention to consider whether or not some modified system might not be practicable.

The Earl of Limerick

rose to express his astonishment that any noble lord should stir a subject fraught with such mischievous consequences as a proposition for introducing the poor laws into Ireland. He was surprised, too, to hear the kind of reason which had been suggested for this extraordinary measure. His noble friend had read in an Irish paper an account of one person having died in the streets of Dublin for want; but, in spite of the poor laws of this country, he had also read in the English newspapers of persons dying from starvation in London. He knew what those laws were, for he had a small property in this country, and he would say, that a more mischievous, a more impoverishing, a more demoralizing system, never existed; and this system, these new projectors wished to extend to Ireland. It was like a man who was suffering under a violent disease, and obliged to have recourse to severe remedies, and who should persist in making some other person submit to the same remedies who was in health. One of the ablest writers on political economy, speaking of the mischievous effect of the poor laws in making provision even for the old and debilitated, had said, "It is impossible it can be otherwise, for it is quite evident, that to make such a provision is to hold out a premium to idleness and profligacy." Ireland was now suffering from an overgrown and unemployed population; but, if the English poor laws were to be introduced, and the people given to understand that all the children they produced would be provided for by the public, the increase of the population would be most alarming. The clergy certainly would profit by it, for there would be a general rush to the priest to get married. The noble lord who had suggested this subject was acquained with Ireland; but, if the information of that noble lord on the situation of the country had been as accurate as his own, he never would have started the idea. It had been said by somebody, that Ireland was used to acts of forfeiture; but he could assure their lordships that the introduction of the poor laws would be a general act of forfeiture of all property whatever. Why should the noble lord wish to throw more inflammable materials into the caldron which was now boiling, and might soon boil over?

The Earl of Darnley

explained, what he meant to state was, that he thought it would be worth their lordships' while to consider whether some modified provision might not be made for the poor of Ireland in certain cases.