The Marquess of Londonderry
said, it was not his intention to take up their Lordships' time by entering into any discussion either of the principle or of the details of the bill in its present advanced stage; but he thought it was highly desirable that those noble Lords who, like himself, were opposed to the measure, should have an opportunity of recording, by a final vote, their opinions in regard to that most important measure. He considered the bill, after the full consideration which their Lordships had given it, and notwithstanding all the amendments which had been made in its various clauses, to be still highly objectionable; and, indeed, he thought, that the amended bill was worse than the bill which had been sent up to them from the other House of Parliament. Entertaining such sentiments, and persuaded that the bill, instead of being productive of good, would be productive of the greatest evils, he felt bound to give it every opposition in his power; but, at the same time, he felt that it would be in extremely bad taste, after the discussion which the measure had already undergone, and the attention which their Lordships had given to its details, to take up their time on the present occasion. Ireland was almost unanimous in its opposition to this measure, and every class of persons looked to the passing of the bill with the greatest alarm. Both landlords and tenants, as well as the poor themselves, were opposed to the bill; and he deeply regretted, that his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) had not adopted a different course, and given his decided opposition to the measure. Feeling that the measure was pregnant with evil, and not calculated to yield any advantage to Ireland, he begged leave to move that the bill be rejected.
The Earl of Limerick
also opposed the bill. No person had petitioned the Legislature to pass such a measure, and Ireland was almost unanimous in opposing the bill. Almost all the grand juries had petitioned against it, and every person of 12 influence was opposed to it. He could tell their Lordships, that Ireland was at present in a state of ferment on the subject of this bill, and if it were passed, he feared, the greatest evils would result in consequence. He called upon the Irish landlords in that House, to oppose this highly objectionable measure, and he entreated them not to allow themselves to be swayed by party feelings, or to give their sanction to a measure which could not be attended with any beneficial effects. In the other House of Parliament, a large majority of the Irish representatives had given their votes against the bill, and as the people of Ireland, were almost unanimous in their opposition to the measure, he trusted, that time would be afforded for its further consideration, and that it would not be pressed through the House at that period of the night, and at that advanced period of the Session.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
wished also to record his disappointment that the measure had come out of the Committee as bad as before it went in. The bill was a complete poor-law; all the benefits, if they would, of a poor-law, and all the evils, if evils there were, were to be found in it; it was a complete and perfect poor-law, settlement and all; and he objected to it, because it was a bad law to introduce into a country where it did not already exist, for it was held by the best authorities, and by the most practical men, that a poor-law—he did not allude to medical or other charities—was detrimental to the moral, the social, and the physical, condition of the people among whom it was introduced. He objected to it also because if it were introduced at all, the taxation ought not to be limited exclusively to one class of property; and, moreover, he objected to it because it conferred powers on the commissioners with which the servants of the Crown in this country, even in good times, were never invested, and which it was unwise now to give to any persons in Ireland; and those powers were more especially objectionable there, because the people of Ireland, with very few exceptions, were against the system altogether. They had been told, that the bill would work, and noble Lords had spoken with confidence of the machinery for working it; but it was not to be worked, like a watch or a steam engine by certain fixed machinery, 13 it was to be worked by the people, and it would never work well, or effectually, unless it were taken up cordially by them. Their Lordships could not expect to see it succeed when the people of all classes—both the common people who were to receive, as well as those who were to pay, the rates, and who had a direct interest in the well-being of the labourers—were united in reprobating this bill. Against it, therefore, he would vote, though he did not trust or believe, that in that the last stage, they would be able to stop a measure which was bad, not only for what it did, but also for what it would prevent being done. It would put an end to all public improvements on a great scale. It would be considered as a full measure of relief to the poor, and for the next four or five years no more assistance would be furnished than was provided by this bill.
The Earl of Mountcashel
protested against this dangerous and destructive measure, which he believed would bring rebellion and revolution upon the country, and he called upon the House to pause before it passed a bill fraught with such serious consequences. The bill was disapproved of by all classes in Ireland, and with the enormous amount of pauper population existing there, it would be impossible to carry it out in the spirit of its enactments. The farmers in that country were so poor, that they had only the value of the labour of their own hands; they could not, therefore, pay rates, and the effect would be, that the rates would fall on the landlords; but how could the landlords pay them? Many of them now had barely sufficient to maintain themselves. The landlords then objected to the bill, and not only the landlords, but all classes in Ireland, objected to it; the lower orders were as much opposed to it as the higher. It was, in fact, an English bill, and forced by the English upon the Irish landlords. They could not thank noble Lords for it, neither would Ireland thank them for it; and when the Irish thought upon the measure, their feelings would be less kind towards England than they now were. The poor-law commissioners, indeed, stated, that the population, unable to obtain subsistence by work for thirty-two weeks in the year, amounted to 2,385,000; and their relief, at 3l. a head, would take more than the 14 whole rental of. Ireland. Besides this, there were to be the expenses of building the workhouses, of furnishing them, the salaries of the officers and of the chaplains, the expenses of witnesses, and a rating for the purposes of emigration and of surveys. The building of workhouses alone would amount to upwards of a million; and, the commissioners, he believed, admitted, that the whole amount of expense incurred, would not be less than four millions. He would conclude by repeating, that if ever there were a question brought forward by Parliament likely to produce rebellion, this was that measure. The radicals and the Conservatives, the rich and the poor, in Ireland, were all opposed to it; and his only consolation was, that as the people and the priests united—although opposed by the landlords, yet assisted by Mr. O'Connell, had been successful in their opposition to tithes—they would equally succeed now, when not only the priests and the people, but also O'Connell, the Conservatives, and the Protestants of Ireland, were united under such circumstances, he might defy her Majesty's Ministers to bring the bill into successful operation in Ireland. There was no country where they better knew the use of passive resistance; there was no country in which agitation was so well understood; both these means would be brought into full play, and if their Lordships passed the bill, he was convinced that it would have no effect. Meetings would be held, the people would not elect guardians, passive resistance would be resorted to, they would show England that she could not impose such a bill on Ireland, and even if the army were doubled it would not be able to keep the peace.
had so often had an opportunity of discussing this question, and he had now so little of the hope which cheered the noble Marquess (Londonderry), and had so little assurance of doing anything effectual in that stage, that he had hesitated, whether it were worth while to give his Lordship the discomfort, or himself the labour, to touch upon the various heads, however shortly, upon the present occasion; nor would he at all have ultimately made up his mind to say a few words on that stage, unless he thought that he might seem, by his silence, to have altered his opinion, or to have abated one jot of his objection to the bill, 15 or that the alterations or amendments which had been introduced in the committee on bringing up the report, or even on the third reading of the bill, had at all mitigated his aversion. In order to avoid such a construction, he would shortly state, that he still entertained the same rooted objections to the bill which he felt when it was first broached, which all subsequent consideration, and the arguments which had been used in its favour, had only tended to confirm, not only his individual objections, but the objections entertained all over Ireland; where the repugnance and dislike, were not at all abated. He greatly differed, however, from a remark which his noble Friend had thrown out in one of the interlocutory conversations in which, during the passing of the bill, as well as in the regular debate, the measure had been discussed, and in which his noble Friend seemed to undervalue the merits of the poor-law commissioners in England. Their selection of functionaries under the English bill, founded an additional claim on the part of the board in England, to the gratitude of the public; for the selection of fit and proper persons to fill the offices in the State, was of the utmost importance. But as it was said of a great princess, "it was never found"—in answer to some one who had said, that by great good luck she had been served by able Ministers—"it was never found, that a weak prince was served always, although by chance he might be once served, by able statesmen." The choice of a proper public servant conduced more than one-half towards good government, and in the choice of Mr. Gulson, and indeed all the assistant commissioners, were, more or less, well chosen—all had, more or less, well discharged the duties of the important office—had done credit to the English commissioners, and had added to their claims upon the people. The whole country acknowledged, that no men had a more difficult task to perform, considering the nature of the case, and considering the multitudes with whom they had to deal—multitudes enraged by misrepresentations, with their minds so perverted by slander and by inflammatory topics urged at public meetings, as to leave the judgment no scope—than this difficult and most delicate of all the tasks intrusted to the hands of the commissioners, and of all the powers conferred upon them. But by the judgment they had displayed, tempered as it 16 was with firmness and discretion, and above all, characterised by uniform moderation, by their long suffering under the attacks to which they had been exposed, not recoiling from those attacks, and yet not running forward; for it was as bad in such matters as in the field, to rush forward before the time for operations began; they had never been shaken in their intentions, they had never stirred before the time when it would have been criminal to have longer remained inactive; they had lived down, and acted what slander; and they had obtained, what they were from the beginning entitled to, the uniform, the general, the almost universal approbation of their fellow-citizens. Having thus referred to the commissioners, he would advert to the subject of the bill itself. And first, he objected altogether to the analogy drawn from England to Ireland; and if he wanted a proof that this analogy did not hold, he would appeal to the noble Lord opposite, who had stated, what indeed other noble Lords, and in his own communications had confirmed, that the highest and lowest ranks of society in Ireland, that all persons without distinction of politics, without variation of sect, Catholic and Protestant, layman and Priest, Radical and moderate—if, indeed, in Ireland there could be, which he humbly begged leave to doubt, such a thing as a moderate party—Radical and Whig, orange and green, and not only those who depended upon labour, but the poor themselves, objected to this pretended boon; one class, because of the burthen, which they considered a curse, and the other class because they considered it a sham and a pretence, and anything rather than a remedy for the evils of their situation. What, on the contrary, was the case in England? The new poor-law here was unpopular with one class—with the jobbers in the vestries and the jobbers in the workhouses, who naturally objected to suffer loss. It was disliked by the idle, the lazy, and the dissolute, who could work, and who could obtain work, but who would rather live on the charity of others than support themselves. It was passed, indeed, against the wishes, the apprehensions, the squeamish opinions, and the perverted tastes of these classes, for labour was not unnatural to man, it was the result of the original curse; but, in man's fallen state, it carried its sweets along with it, and it was a per- 17 verted taste rather to live on the labour of others than to work for bread. With the exception of these classes, limited in numbers, and with influence almost nothing, and with the exception of some few organs of the public press, who pandered to the feelings to which he had adverted—with these exceptions, the English bill was approved by the judgment, it was sanctioned by the experience, it was adopted as the result of deliberate inquiry, and it was pleasing as well to the honest, the virtuous, and the laborious, as it was to the upper and middle classes in the State. Above all, that bill found an uniform, a steady, and a cordial support from all classes to whose hands the practical execution of the measure was necessarily intrusted. Was that the case in Ireland? Nothing of the kind. The majority of the men to whom the execution must be intrusted were banded together against it: they abjured, they abhorred, they detested it. They said, "Give us any thing but this bill, if you mean to do good to Ireland." For the purpose of his argument, these persons might be wrong; this might be all a delusion, a fallacy—nay, it might be a string of fallacies and a succession of dreams; but unless they showed him that the nature of the Irish character was such that one month or six months of firm reflection would alter their strongest feelings, or warp their preconceived notions—except they showed him something in the Irish mind, and not only in the Irish heart, as well as in the understanding, some proneness to a difference from the more steady men in the north (although he did not believe that there was such a material difference between them), that the mere passing of the law, that the mere utterance of the words La reine le vent," would all at once convert these opposers, he would not say into active co-operators, but into calm and indifferent spectators, and that it would prevent resistance unless they showed him all that, though he anticipated no such miracle, the bill could never successfully operate. They talked of mechanism and of machinery, of springs and of checks, of similies (as was well observed by a noble Lord) drawn from mechanics; they talked as though, by the royal assent, they would get the steam-engine, but they forgot that they had not got the wheels and the piston and the regulator, unless, indeed, the commissioners were to act as the governor or regulator, and that the motive power 18 would nevertheless be the feelings of men, men actuated by the prejudices and the feelings of human nature, and these men Irishmen, who, he would say, following the noble Lord and his own sources of information, were like one man bandied together against the execution of the measure. The structure of the machine, however, seemed to have been doubted by the engineer, for he found in the bill the celebrated 26th section, in which, after the previous regulations for the election of guardians, power was given to the commissioners to be used without any control; and here an observation or two might be made, only that they were so many that they would not be able to see the wood for the branches of the tree, that he was indisposed to enter upon them. The commissioners were trusted with the unrestrained power of appointing at their discretion as many paid officers as they pleased, provided that they were only to be in office for one year. If they wanted guardians, the commissioners might order a new election; and if that order were not complied with, they might exercise an unlimited power of appointing an unknown number, and of apportioning an unstinted salary. He had heard it stated, that there had been upwards of 7,000 applicants for appointments under this bill in Ireland already. Heaven help the unhappy commissioner who had to proceed to Dublin to have the whole power of the board intrusted to his hands, and to make these appointments at his good will and pleasure! He could not figure to himself a more awful scene than the levee of that gentleman in Dublin, as soon as the 26th section should be about to be put into force. He could imagine nothing more awful than beholding that Gentleman surrounded by these 7,000 cormorants for office. To attend to the working of the bill? To receive and attend to the instructions from Somerset-house! To read the bill even! He could not conceive the commissioner to do anything of the kind, for he would not have anything else to do for a time, than to answer these applications. The first thing required of him would be to put the 26th section into force. He would most likely, however, put up a notice stating, that it was not his intention to put that section into force. Then would follow an universal uproar all through Ireland to call it into action. In the meanwhile persons would not meet to 19 make a choice of guardians. This would arise partly from a dislike of the bill, and partly from a liking of the patronage. The 7,000 applicants would very soon increase to 10,000, and the retreat of that 10,000, would no doubt soon have to be recorded. So that between the two causes operating, the consequence would be, sooner or later, that the floodgate would be opened, the 26th section would be put in force, and the appointment of stipendiary and paid agents would take place almost all over Ireland. It had been uniformly stated, by all the friends and advocates of this measure, that its success entirely depended on its becoming agreeable to the people of Ireland, by the aid of whom alone it could be carried into execution. The subject had undergone many discussions in both Houses of Parliament: many able speeches, though not very convincing ones, had been delivered, and many spirit-stirring and effective appeals to the passions had been made in its favour; much had been written for it; and, above all, the authority of Parliament in many divisions had been interposed in support of it. There was a great difference between England and Ireland in this respect; namely, that in England, the effect of a large majority on a division in either House of Parliament, and more especially in the representative House, was at once to put down a very strong popular feeling, and to give currency to the opinion of those who composed that majority. That was the case in England; but it was not so in Ireland. The mute eloquence of numbers had no more weight in Ireland than the vocal eloquence of the tongue had had in swaying the feelings, or than the argumentative efforts of the supporters of the bill appeared to have had in persuading the reason and leading the judgment of that portion of the United Kingdom. He believed, from the latest information he had received, that there was a more strong, a more decided, and a more general opinion against that measure, and a greater repugnance to it now than years ago, before one speech, one debate, one argument, or one division had been made or taken upon it. He, therefore, looked upon it as hopeless of obtaining fit instruments for its proper and due working in that country; for the people of Ireland were much less likely to turn round and change their opinions upon the subject, seeing that those opinions were 20 right. As to the workhouse system, to which he had on a former occasion adverted, it was still his opinion that that system would be as strongly opposed by the people in Ireland as ever it had been in this country. It had been said, that there was to be no out-door relief. But he believed nothing of the kind. He did not see how it was possible, as long as men were men, for the commissioner—above all, the guardians, whom he did not expect to see working, or the paid officers, whom he did expect to see covering and blackening the land—to resist the feelings of natural kindness, by the almost necessary compunction of which they would be impelled, if not compelled, to break through the principle of the bill, and give out-door relief. He had said somewhat of the state of Ireland, and of the character of that people, and had alluded to the evidence which they had of the extreme hatred which was borne by them to this measure. God knew, he had but little knowledge beyond that of hearsay of their character, and he confessed he ought to speak with still more distrust of his information and of his opinion with respect to their feelings in reference to this bill, than even of their character as a people; for never did he know a more puzzling, a more bewildering case than almost everything; in point of fact, relating to the circumstances and situation of this system. Upon all other subjects, one day assertions the most positive, the most specific, and made with the most undoubted and unhesitating confidence, were brought forward as to the state of Ireland; another day, and from the same quarter, to make it the more puzzling, statements diametrically the reverse, were put forth. One in whom he was led to confide, with all their Lordships, had said, that there never had been a state of tranquillity so complete—never prosperity so unbroken—never so little crime—never so few outrages—never such undisturbed peacefulness, as reigned over the kingdom of Ireland during the administration of his noble Friend, the present Chief Governor of that country. How were his praises—and how justly—sung forth by eloquent tongues out of doors, and by yet more eloquent tongues within the walls of both Houses of Parliament. Grateful to him it was, to hear those praises; and he felt still higher gratification in joining his voice in chorus with 21 those on all sides of their Lordships' House. But what was his astonishment to receive such a letter as that which he now held in his hand, coming from one of the most strenuous supporters of the Government! What a different story did it tell! It mentioned, that while upon all other subjects, there existed many different opinions; upon the subject of the poor-law, there was only one opinion. Upon that question, there existed no doubt; no discrepancy, no difference of opinion whatsoever. The writer declared, that he was quite disheartened and disgusted with the present state of the country, and was astonished at the change since he last visited it two years ago. Men, formerly peaceable, had become organized and dangerous assassins against whose outrages the law was perfectly powerless. It was wonderful (the writer observed), that the majority of such and such houses should be so ignorant of the real state of Ireland, and should indulge in the idle dream of pacifying that country by a poor-law bill. Why, if they were to add a municipal bill to that, and to a municipal bill, a bill for the total abolition of tithes, it would not have the smallest effect upon this poverty-stricken country. The writer proceeded to say,—One can scarcely be aware of the dreadful state of this country. No man's life is worth an hour's purchase. The reign of terror is established, which every man feels and acknowledges. I recently saw so and so, who told me of—being attacked in the middle of the day, two miles from the capital of this county, and on the mail-coach road, and of being so cruelly and barbarously beaten, that his life is despaired of.He was aware, that it might be said, that nothing was more absurd than that of arguing from a letter; but he had received other letters from other parties. What puzzled him was, that those letters so materially differed from the returns laid before their Lordships. He was aware, that private letters were the more unlikely to be correct, still they showed what was the general impression in Ireland. He should not, however, have taken any notice of these statements, if totally opposite accounts of the same things had not come from one and the same quarter. The hon. and learned Gentleman, who was the very first to cry up, and most justly so, the exertions of the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, to promote the peace of that coun- 22 try, had recently given a very different description of the state of the people there. If he were to disbelieve the private letters he had received, and were to say, that Ireland was tranquil, and that all was well and peaceful there, he should be running down Mr. O'Connell, who was the great authority upon that subject. He did not think, that any man knew Ireland better than, or so well as, that hon. and learned Gentleman. Yet that hon. and learned Gentleman, contrary to his own testimony for the last three or four years—whose influence in Ireland was one of the most extraordinary circumstances in the state of that country—and whose sway there made him the very last man in all the world to say one word against the peaceful state of its inhabitants, unless the admission were extorted from him by the overwhelming presence of facts; even Mr. O'Connell had said, within the last ten days, that Ireland, never since he knew it, was in so dangerous a state as now. What, then, was he to believe? Was be to believe the statement made in their Lordships' House six months ago, or was he to believe the statement which had been made only six days ago? Was he to believe that, in Ireland, all was tranquil; or that Ireland was never in a worse or more dangerous state?—that it was in such a state that you could not be sure, at any one moment, that there might not, in the next moment, be somebody who, by holding up a finger, might create a revolt of a hundred thousand men? That was a most awful state of things. One moral he drew from it was, that very little in general could be confided in of what was described as the real state of Ireland. This, however, he thought was clear, that there was but one opinion prevailing throughout that country on the subject of the poor-law, and that that opinion was one entirely adverse to it. No man could stand up in that House and say, that this bill was not most unpopular in Ireland. Was it, then, safe or prudent, when Ireland was in such a state, to apply only such a remedy as this? He had always been of opinion, that great changes were necessary in Ireland to make the union complete. He was always of opinion, that the abolition of the office of Lord-lieutenant was one of those changes. It was essential, in order to consolidate the two countries in all respects, and making no more difference between Yorkshire and Ireland 23 than between Scotland and Yorkshire; Ireland having no more occasion for a viceroy than Yorkshire or Scotland. If he erred in this opinion, he erred, at least, in the company of great men. He erred in company of some who were at present living—he meant, among others, his excellent and hon. Friend, than whom there was no better historian, and none better qualified to give an opinion upon the subject—he meant Sir Henry Parnell. That sentiment had been avowed by his hon. Friend, not only in his writings, but in the motions which he had made in his place in Parliament. He erred with the venerated authorities of past times; with the authors of the Irish union; with Lord Grenville most distinctly; with Mr. Pitt, as he had good reason to know. He had erred with those of their followers, whom many of their Lordships had trusted more than, perhaps, he was disposed to confide in them. He erred with Lord Liverpool, who had matured a plan for abolishing the Lord-lieutenancy of Ireland, and thereby completing the union. He erred with other men who, in his mind, deserved to be well remembered, men who upon any Irish question, could never be kept secret or concealed for their merits, and who had at all times, from their earliest day, when they originally were the advocates of Irish emancipation with Mr. Grattan and his coadjutors, down to later times, when they still adhered to the doctrine of Catholic emancipation—having been originally the advocates of the greater emancipation of the Irish—their independence—he meant the breaking the shackles of Ireland by repealing Poyning's law—but being of late, also, the advocate with Mr. Pitt of Catholic emancipation—they had never ceased, in and out of office, to urge, whenever they deemed that it was possible to urge that great measure, and to urge it even before it was possible to carry it, that, at all events, while upholding the viceroyalty, the administration of Irish affairs, both of Catholics and Protestants, should be in all respects treated upon an equal footing. He erred with Lord Wellesley, to whom he had now alluded. He it was of whom he had now spoken; and the noble Lord would forgive him if he was mistaken in believing, that he erred also with another of the greatest and best of governors that ever held over Ireland with equal hand the balance of her fate—he meant the present 24 Lord Anglesey. If, then, that should not be the panacea—he did not give it as such—but, if it were not a mitigation of the evils of Ireland, at all events it ought to be attended to as necessary to accomplish and finally consolidate the union. That was the belief he had ever held, and in holding which, he had the authority of all those names which he had mentioned to their Lordships. He believed, that this poor-law would not be a remedy for the existing evils, if there was anything like truth in these late representations of the perilous state of the country. A very great measure with respect to tithe was necessary; and he had no hesitation whatever in stating, that until they made a provision for the Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland, every other thing that they might do or attempt to do, were it in the Church, or were it in the State, would be entirely labour thrown away: it would lead to nothing but disappointment. If every priest in Ireland were to tell him that they would not take the money—if every agitator were to attack it—if every meeting were to vote against it, and every address were to pray the Crown not to sanction it, and if every petition were to deprecate it—if he should hear these authorities combined say, "We tell you we won't receive your money, we won't take the provision at all," he should go on in his course unmoved by all this array of petitions, deprecations, speeches, repudiations, and should enact the measure, and should provide a fund, and should then say, "Gentlemen, you do not want to take the money; it is not your fault that the enactment is made; you have resisted to the utmost; keep the profit of that resistance by retaining your consistency, namely, the confidence of your flocks, and have the glory of refusing to barter your independence—your spiritual independence—for Government gold; keep the glory; keep your influence; we grudge you neither; preserve your character; but here is the money—100l. for you, 150l. for another, 250l. for another, 350l. and 450l. for another." Now, he did not like to prophesy—it was a dangerous thing; but if ever he thought he could safely risk a prediction it was this—that the protestors, the dissenters, the deprecators, the speakers, the addressers, the petitioners against this measure would, before many months, take their portion and be thankful. Believing that the bill 25 then before them would afford no substantial relief to the poor of Ireland—believing that it would effect much harm and no good, he begged leave in that, its last stage, to enter his serious, solemn, and conscientious protest against it.
§ Viscount Melbourne
said, the pervading topic and ruling argument which ran through the whole of the noble and learned Lord's speech, was the extreme unpopularity of the bill in the country to which it was intended to be applied—the reluctance, nay, the utter detestation with which it was regarded by all classes of the community. He knew that many petitions had been presented against it; he knew, that many speeches had been made against it, both in that and the other House of Parliament; but he very much doubted whether there was such a strength of feeling against it—such a general repugnance and opposition to the bill, as would in any way justify the sweeping condemnation of the noble and learned Lord. He knew, that there was a pretty general feeling against the bill in the minds of the Irish gentry—a feeling which made him doubt whether the measure had been fairly represented to those humbler classes for whose benefit it was intended. If fairly represented to the poor, he did not believe, that they would entertain such sentiments with respect to it as had been stated by the noble and learned lord. He admitted, that there was a vast difference in the condition of Ireland as compared with that of England; he admitted, too, that the measure then before them was one that they that would probably be attended with much difficulty in its first application; but he saw neither in the difference between the two countries, nor in the difficulties by which the bill might at first be attended, anything that made him despair of its ultimately working to the great advantage and improvement of the destitute poor in Ireland. The opposition that had been raised to the bill did not convince him either that its principle was bad, or its machinery inefficient. It would be remembered that a similar outcry was raised in both Houses of Parliament against the English Poor-law Amendment Act; but now that that bill had been in operation for several years, he believed there were few in either House who would be bold enough to state that that measure had not operated most beneficially. It was admitted on all hands that 26 it was necessary to do something for the relief of the poor in Ireland. By the present Bill it was proposed to give that relief in the only shape in which it was supposed it could be safely administered; and he thought their Lordships would hardly be doing their duty if at that late moment of the Session they were to cut the measure short, and to refuse to give to Ireland the advantages which might fairly be expected to flow from it. He could not persuade himself that a bill which promised so much good to the poor of Ireland could be so extremely unpopular throughout the whole of that country because it would impose some additional charges upon the landlords. He believed, on the contrary, that the bill would be well received, that it would produce very beneficial effects; that it would introduce habits of order; that it would raise the character of the people, and lead to the gradual discouragement of vagrancy and begging, without encroaching upon or vitiating or corrupting the feeling of charity which was so honourable to the country. It was upon these grounds that he advised their Lordships to pass the Bill. He was not insensible to the difficulties which might attend its execution. Mr. O'Connell said, that Ireland was too poor for a poor law. A noble Earl opposite said, that the Irish gentry would be totally ruined and destroyed by a poor law; and several noble Lords had said, very significantly, "Ireland will not raise a poor-rate." These were serious arguments; but he did not believe, were sufficient to outweigh the advantage which he was satisfied would result from the bill. Therefore he recommended it most earnestly to their Lordships' adoption.
said, that he did not pretend to promise that the bill would have all the good effects which were calculated on by those who supported it. Still, he was prepared to maintain, that it would do some good. He believed, that the bill would do great good, for it would aid in relieving the misery of the poor of Ireland. He conceived that at this moment Ireland was in a state of tranquillity, and he said this, notwithstanding the opinions to the contrary, which had been expressed by those who had assailed the Government, and yet who never had ventured to bring these charges against the government to a distinct motion.
The Earl of Roden
said, that if the misery of Ireland could be relieved by the measure before the House, he should be the first to vote for its passing into a law; but he believed, that a contrary effect would be produced by it, and that the result of its operation would be to increase discontent without alleviating distress. It was unjust in its principles, and it was unjust in its details; therefore it could never prosper. It would only injure those who had always supported the poor, and stood by the ship in its hour of need, while it would give anything but satisfaction to the class whom it was intended to relieve; and one of the worst results which, perhaps, might be calculated on from it, would be the encouragement of a feeling for an independent domestic legislature among those who were always heretofore adverse to it. He never could give his assent to a measure which would inflict a certain injustice in order to effect a supposed good, a result which this bill would never accomplish. He had lifted up his voice against it when it had been introduced, he had voted against it, and he would still avail himself of his privilege as a Peer to oppose it to the last, feeling as he did, that it was calculated to inflict serious injury upon the country, and that it would never succeed in effecting those advantages which were anticipated by its supporters. He could not sit down without alluding to the observation of the noble and learned Lord opposite, to the effect that Ireland was at present in a state of tranquillity. Where had the noble and learned Lord resided, that he could have formed such an opinion? Where had his eyes and his ears been, that he could have entertained so erroneous an idea? Had he read the accounts of the large sum which was lately offered for the apprehension of those concerned in a dreadful murder lately in Ireland, without having the effect of obtaining the slightest clue to those who were concerned. The tranquillity of Ireland was a fact which he could not ascertain how any person who knew the country could credit. He should oppose the bill because he did not think it calculated to effect any good for Ireland, whilst it was certain to inflict much injury.
The Earl of Glengall
had already expressed his opinions upon this measure, and he now rose to say, that he could not agree with what had been stated by the 28 noble and learned Lord with respect to the tranquillity of Ireland. It appeared, that in 1836, 23,891 persons were committed for offences, and in the year 1837, 27,396 were committed; spewing a considerable increase, and certainly no proof of the increased order and morality of the country. In the class of homicides, between 1836 and 1837, there was a very considerable increase in the number of offences committed by firing at persons with intent to kill; and as to the number of crimes committed in attacking houses, there had been an increase of from 300 to 500. Then again, looking at the returns of the rewards and convictions, the sum of 13,000l. had been offered in two years for rewards, and of that sum only 500l. had been claimed. He believed, that 521 distinct rewards had been offered, 19 of which only had been claimed. With respect to the murder of Mr. Cooper between 5,000l. and 6,000l. had been offered for the apprehension of his murderers, and no clue had yet been obtained which would lead to their detection. So much for the tranquillity of Ireland.
said, that this measure was a bill of pains and penalties against the landed interest of Ireland. He hoped the noble Marquess would bring the question to an issue, in order that he might have an opportunity of recording his opinion on this bill, one of the most obnoxious and unjust that ever was concocted.
§ Their Lordships divided on the question that the bill do pass—Content—present, 69; proxies, 24: 93. Not content—present, 23; proxies, 8: 31—Majority, 62.29
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Vaux of Harrowden||Derry|
|Say and Sele||Salisbury|
|List of the NOT CONTENTS|
|Wellington, Duke||Clanricarde, Marquess|
|Petre, Lord||Fitzgerald, Lord|
|Carlisle, Lord||Clare, Earl|
§ "First—Because the introduction of a Poor law into Ireland being confessedly an experiment, and to be tried in a country presenting difficulties to the accomplishment of such a measure greater than any other, a bill introduced into Parliament for such an object, imperatively called for the utmost degree of caution and discretion in all its enactments.
§ "Secondly—Because the, bill now passed goes to establish at once, in a country in which no poor-law has hitherto existed, an entire system of poor-law nearly as extensive as that in force in England, against the opinion of the great majority of the proprietary, as well as of all other classes in Ireland, as is plainly proved, not only by the numerous petitions which had been presented to Parliament from all quarters of that country against such an extensive measure, but also from various other sources of information.
§ "Thirdly—Because that in all those petitions there was an expression of willingness to cooperate in carrying into effect such a measure 30 of poor-laws should be suited to the condition of Ireland, with reference to its pecuniary ability, and other circumstances peculiar to it; but, from inattention to the prayer of those petitions, and a neglect to avail of that favourable disposition which would have combined the efforts of all for the attainment of a useful and practicable measure, it is very much to be apprehended that apathy and discontent, if not more serious consequences, will follow the present measure, instead of that good will and zealous co-operation, which would have given efficacy to one adopted to the circumstances of the country.
§ "Fourthly—Because the state of Ireland for some years past, agitated and distressed as it has been, ought to have suggested to the mind of a statesman measures which might tend to conciliate, not to excite—to produce concord, not collision—where the whole frame of society has been shaken, where outrage and violence, in their most abhorrent form, have disgraced the land, their perpetrators setting the laws at defiance, it would have seemed a wiser policy to endeavour to restore tranquillity, and to establish security for life and property, gradually inducing, by conciliatory means, a respect for and obedience to the laws. Internal peace and good order being once fairly established, other improvements would follow, and even a poor-law might be carried into effect with the concurrence of all. But in the present state of Ireland to adopt a measure the success of which must be admitted to be, at least problematical, if not still further hazarding the tranquillity of the country, already too insecure, is alike unwise, impolitic, and dangerous.
|July 9, 1838||CLONBROCK|
§ "First—Because the proposed Poor-law Bill can never effect the object laid down in the preamble, namely, the support of any great portion of the poor of Ireland. It can, therefore, afford but partial relief. And although Mr. Nicholls, in his report, points out with great truth the bad effects of mendicancy, no clause has been introduced to check so great a nuisance. Because it is intended by the present measure to afford relief to no more than 100,000 destitute persons, whereas the commissioners in their third report, p. 5, to Parliament, compute the number at 2,385,000. Thus scarcely one out of every twenty-three wretched beings will have a chance of obtaining assistance during that period of the year when labour cannot be had, and the price of potatoes their only food, is exorbitantly high.
§ "Secondly—Because the poor law commissioners are by this bill given unlimited powers over property of almost every description, which they may tax and mortgage to any extent. 31 If to the expenses of purchasing lands, buildings, and furnishing poor-houses, salaries to paid officers, chaplains, and surveyors, there be added the maintenance of the destitute poor, it must be evident to all acquainted with the distressed circumstances of the Irish landlords and tenantry, that they will be unable to bear the burden now for the first time imposed upon them.
§ "Thirdly—Because a measure more impolitic and fraught with mischief never was devised. It is enacted contrary to the wishes of all classes and denominations of the Irish people. It will meet with resistance. It will endanger the union with Great Britain. It will produce agitation and outrage, and it may ultimately lead to a rebellion.
|July 9, 1838.||on the third clause.|