The Earl of Wicklow
presented a petition from the county of Wicklow, agreed to at a meeting duly convened by the high sheriff, and attended by persons of all persuasions and parties in that county. The petitioners prayed their Lordships not to pass the Irish Poor Relief Bill. They stated, "that in adopting the workhouse system, the peculiar circumstances of Ireland had been overlooked; they objected to placing large masses of the population in a state of restraint, and they expressed their hostility to the powers proposed to be granted to the Commissioners, which, in their opinion, were much greater than ought to be intrusted to any body of men." He believed, that petitions of a similar nature would emanate from all the counties and from all parties in Ireland. He never recollected a measure against which there appeared such unanimity amongst all classes as prevailed with respect to this bill. But, at the same time, he must say, that there was so decided an opinion amongst all classes of people in the United Empire, that the period had arrived when some provision ought to be made for the Irish poor, that he thought it would not be right in that House to reject this measure, unless their Lordships were prepared to propose some substitute for the consideration of Parliament. Having paid more attention to this subject than he had ever bestowed on any other question, he must say, that the more he considered it, the more difficult he found it; and as, on his own part, he was bound to state, that he had no substitute to propose, therefore, he felt that he should not be justified in giving 898 his opposition to this bill. In Committee, it would, no doubt, receive many improvements; and its second reading should receive his support.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
had petitions to present from the grand juries of the King's County and the county of Westmeath, in favour of the principle of the bill.
The Marquess of Clanricarde
said, that as the opinion of the Irish grand juries on this subject was of so much importance, he wished the petitions to be read at length, in order that their Lordships might know what that opinion really was, and whether, in point of fact, they supported the principle of this measure. The principle of the bill, he contended, was the applying of the workhouse system to able-bodied paupers in Ireland; and he believed those petitions were against that principle.
The Marquess of Londonderry
agreed in what had fallen frem the noble Marquess (Clanricarde), as to the principle of this measure. He was astonished that the Government should, on this subject, go against the opinion of Mr. O'Connell, and yet take his advice in every other matter connected with his unfortunate country. The principle of the bill was most fallacious, and the measure would prove a curse to the country.
§ Petitions read and laid on the table.