§ The Order of the Day for the Second Reading having been read,
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said: My Lords, it has now become my duty, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to propose to your Lordships the 61 second reading of a Bill for extending relief to the poor of Ireland; and in requesting your Lordships to proceed with this Bill through its different stages, I am deeply sensible that I am inviting your Lordships to follow me in a path which is beset with difficulties and with danger, and that we are about to embark in a navigation in which, although it is clear to what port we ought to steer, yet that our arrival at that port must be through rocks and shoals, which it will require all the care of your Lordships, and all the care which the best exertions of Government can bestow upon the administration of this law, to steer clear of, so as to make it finally effective and secure. This law, I need not tell your Lordships, is founded upon the existence of a calamity with which your Lordships are become by this time but too well acquainted: and on a state of disorder and disorganization of society, following this dispensation of Providence, which, great as your Lordships were induced to think it when the subject was first brought under your consideration, has, during the months that have since passed, not diminished, but increased in intensity—a state of disorder and disorganization which has fallen with a degree of suddenness and intensity unparalleled in the history of nations upon a country unfortunately the least of all prepared to bear up against it—a country in which, whilst there prevails disorder arising out of a total deficiency of the means of ordinary subsistence, there at the same time exists a density of population without the usual resources, except in a very small degree, of manufactures; and without the usual resources, except also in a comparatively limited degree of commerce:—I repeat, my Lords, in that country there exists a density of population unparalleled even in those countries in which both manufactures and commerce flourish to the utmost extent. So that, deprived of those resources which, in other countries, are the best auxiliaries, and mutually support and assist each other, and deprived of the power of drawing upon other resources at home—because it is upon the cheapest description of food that they have heretofore lived—the people of Ireland are called upon at once to find means of subsistence which in the country itself do not exist, and to make preparations for the future, to do which requires a capital which the country does not afford. I think it right to state all the difficulties of the case in their severest colours to your Lordships, 62 although, in stating them, I may yet indulge the hope that there are some lights to relieve the picture, and that it is not without some consolatory topics that I am compelled to bring before you in all its intensity the magnitude of the evil, however insufficient the measure I am about to propose may prove in averting all its baneful consequences. Whatever variety of opinion may exist as to the means to alleviate the evil to be met, of this I am fully persuaded, that there prevails among your Lordships but one conviction as to its extent and intensity, and but one desire that it should be adequately met and remedied. But, my Lords, when I propose this Bill to your Lordships, I do not offer it as an adequate remedy for the distress that exists in Ireland; for a permanent remedy I do not conceive it to be. The permanent remedy for that distress must be looked for from other sources and from other means. The only ground upon which I have to ask your Lordships' assent to this Bill is, that it is an important, if not an indispensable palliative of an overwhelming malady; and it is a palliative which I believe your Lordships will be compelled to adopt, because I have neither seen myself, nor, discussed as this subject has been here and elsewhere by others, have I heard it suggested, by what other palliative than this the existing disorder in Ireland can be removed. Before proceeding to state to your Lordships what the measure is, I will state to you what it is not. In the first place, I think it material to state, after what I have heard in this House, after what I have heard elsewhere, and after what I have heard in this country, as well as from what I know to be apprehended in Ireland, that this Bill is utterly opposed to any general and permanent system of out-door relief in Ireland. It is not therefore what it has been described—a Bill tending to a confiscation of the property of Ireland. If the Bill had involved any such principle, I should be the last person to propose its adoption to your Lordships, because I feel convinced that whatever anticipation of preventing a recurrence of the existing calamity by the adoption of such a system, might, under misguided hopes and a blind confidence in the future, be suggested, any attempt to establish an indiscriminate right to out-door relief in Ireland must be attended with consequences fatal to that country, fatal to the property of that country, and, above all, fatal to the character 63 of the people of that country. My Lords, no such proposition is involved in this Bill. If any such right were attempted to be conferred by Parliament, its immediate effect would be to increase the number of consumers, already too great, and to diminish the number of producers, already too small; the effect of it would be gradually to withdraw capital from the country, instead of adding capital to it—to diminish the inducements to industry, instead of increasing them—to disorder the relations that exist between landlord and tenant, between producer and consumer; and thus, while everything that is an incentive to production is gradually diminished, everything that augments the pressure of consumption is gradually increased, until we arrive at that result when the produce of the country would cease altogether, and nothing would be found in it to meet the wants of the increased multitude of consumers. It is in fact a right which although your Lordships may enact it, it will be impossible to maintain—a right which you may confer in name and place upon your Statute-book, but which, to make it effectual for the object intended, you may be also able to do that which you cannot do—to compel people to produce. Because, if you interfere with the rights of property to the extent of creating a prior interest in production to that possessed by the proprietor himself, the inevitable result must be that the proprietor will cease to cultivate or produce at all: he will divert his industry to some other channel; and the poor of the country will be left with a gradually diminished produce instead of an improved one, and be thrown, after sharing that produce how they can, to a greater extent than ever on the charity of their neighbours. That, I believe, would be the inevitable result of an absolute right to outdoor relief; and therefore it is that I feel bound to declare myself distinctly adverse to the prayer of the petition which has been presented this night by my noble and learned Friend, and which, therefore, as my noble Friend, who afterwards alluded to it, truly characterized as being against the Bill now before them. It is a petition against the Bill: in what sense? Not because the Bill is too stringent, but because it is not stringent enough. The prayer of this petition is not that this burden may not be inflicted upon the property of Ireland, but that a much greater burden may be imposed upon that property—imposed to an extent which, as avowed by the petition- 64 ers, would make the condition of eight millions of starving people of Ireland, actually better than the condition of twelve millions of thriving English people. I think it the most preposterous proposition ever submitted to Parliament. I will again say distinctly that such an enactment is beyond the power of Parliament—that your Lordships will act unwisely if you attempt that which is so impossible to be carried out; but that you will, on the contrary, act wisely, to consider in all you do that you must act under the divine law, which prescribes certain conditions for the existence of society, which conditions are to be found in the principles of human nature. You will do well to recollect that great doctrine laid down by a pious French author, who emphatically said, "Remember that it is man that proposes, but that it is God who disposes." If you attempt to contravene those general laws by which the dispensations of Divine Providence govern the actions and regulate the whole system of society, you will soon learn to lament your rashness in adopting a course which will have proved a curse instead of a benefit to the country. I wish thus to state my own opinion openly and strongly on this occasion with regard to the evils of indiscriminate out-door relief. But, my Lords, if I am asked—having so great a jealousy and mistrust of that right of relief which would exist under a system of outdoor relief extended generally—"Why is it, if you think this so dangerous a principle, so dangerous to the labouring classes themselves, so calculated to divert them from the pursuits of honest industry, and to increase pauperism, so adapted to nourish and perpetuate the misery which is so peculiar to the character of the Irish, who are too much inclined to live in a state of indolent pauperism and destitution—if you see all these calamities, on what ground is it that you propose the modified adoption, in a qualified degree, of this very principle in the measure which you now bring forward?" My Lords, I am bound to answer this question; I am bound to vindicate the course which Her Majesty's Government are about to pursue. It is true, my Lords, that you will encounter a great degree of risk in any approximation with whatever qualifications towards the giving of outdoor relief in Ireland; but you are to consider on the other hand where the remedies are to be found for a state of things which may be expected to arise amongst a people so peculiar in their habits under a change 65 of system. There is no noble Lord who hears me—and most of us are well acquainted by description, if not practically, with the state of Ireland—there is no noble Lord who hears me who cannot but have come to the conclusion that there is no remedy for Ireland, that there is no safety for Ireland, but in a great, a radical, and a permanent change in the pursuits and habits and agricultural industry of the people of Ireland. To effect this, to promote this great change, to make it safe and innocuous, instead of being mischievous and dangerous, ought to be the great object which your Lordships should keep constantly in view. What, my Lords, is the nature and extent of the danger? The customary sustenance of the people is practically gone; the potato may continue to be cultivated; it may be sown for some years to come: but no man would be justified in saying that upon the potato the population of Ireland can in future depend—yet upon the potato they have hitherto depended. But I say that now the safety of Ireland requires that there should be a change in the habits of the people; that change must be extensive; it must be general; whole districts must assume a new character—whole districts of the country that up to this moment have been never touched but by the spade, must submit to the pressure of the plough—whole bodies of the people who have lived under the assumed character of farmers, and under that character eked out a miserable existence, dependent on the accidents of nature, without resources, and without subsistence if those accidents of nature failed them, and yet who, nevertheless, have an attachment founded on hereditary habits for that particular condition of life—whole masses of these people must undergo the discipline of learning that that condition is practically gone—whole masses of the people must learn that it is only in a new condition that they can earn a more honourable and a less precarious subsistence. But these extensive changes must not be confined to the lower orders of the people; the proprietors of the land, also, must submit to a great change. The same habits in the proprietor that have led him hitherto to indulge and to protect his tenantry in this species of lazy and careless cultivation must cease, and give way to a more improved, and more enlightened, and more active course in the management of their properties. I say this, although I have maintained in this House, and do 66 still maintain, that for the great evils now pressing upon Ireland, neither the Legislature nor the proprietors of Ireland are in any degree answerable. While I say that they are not answerable for the overwhelming evil which now presses upon the country, I know, indeed, that the proprietors might have prevented the occurrence of this contingency, if, in the exercise of their undoubted rights of property, they had, some years ago, discouraged the cultivation of the potato on their estates: but need I ask your Lordships, if they had attempted to adopt such a principle, would society have borne them out in applying it? Would not the very attempt—full of prudence, full of wisdom, and full of knowledge as it would have been—would not public indignation have stigmatized them throughout the country as tyrants, as innovators, and as destroyers of their species? and would they not have been held up, not only in Ireland, but even by some persons in the Parliament of England, who were not unwilling to embrace opportunities of attacking them, in the most odious colours? Therefore, I repeat, it was hardly to be expected from the landed proprietors of Ireland that they should have adopted that mode—the only one which could have been effectual—of preventing the recurrence of the present calamity. It is, therefore, only by creating a sufficient number of stimuli to the landed proprietors and to the peasantry of Ireland that we can hope to effect that great change which shall have the effect of substituting one state of society for another in Ireland, and of raising up a degree of prosperity by their exertions, aided by the exertions of the people themselves. Who is there among your Lordships old enough or wise enough to foretell how long a time must elapse before the dislocation of all the elements of society which so great a change must disturb, can be composed and set to rest, and a reformed state of things substituted? I will venture to say that it would be as wild and absurd for any man to attempt to state the exact number of years necessary for this purpose, as it would he presumptuous in a geologist, however learned he might be, to state what was passing under the surface of the globe, and what time would be required to effect any of those great physical changes which, under the laws of Providence, were continually and gradually in progress. It would be equally difficult to attempt to define by what period such changes as those to which I refer can be produced in 67 Ireland. I, therefore, appeal to your Lordships whether, during the time that this transition in the state of Ireland is going on, it is not necessary to provide for those perpetually recurring disorders which are to be expected during such a change? Supposing even that the peasantry should at once become more industrious, and that the farmers should be enabled at once to carry on great improvements and new kinds of agriculture—supposing all the elements of improvement to be set at work at once, there would still, in the preparation of society for a state altogether new, be from time to time thrown upon particular districts, and to a great extent, numbers of persons unable, without a certain degree of assistance, to support life. Where were such persons to find sustenance when those casual, but at the same time certain, disturbances took place? Some provision must be made for them, for the Government can never be insensible to the just claims of poverty. Your Lordships have seen the calamity of this year met by a degree of liberality which does honour to human nature—you have seen this calamity call forth a sympathy in Ireland and in this country, irrespective of the cause which had led to it, or of the character of the persons to whom it was extended. It has drawn forth relief from England with a liberal hand, without inquiry whether the recipient of the relief was of Irish or of English descent—whether he was Catholic or Protestant—whether he was of Saxon or of Celtic origin: it has gone forth without any of these considerations—of these vile and miserable distinctions, which I hope are fast dying away, despite the wicked efforts made even now to perpetuate them in the midst of the sufferings of the people and of the trials to which they are exposed, instead of the opportunity being taken to exhibit the people of both countries, or rather of the same united country, as brethren in affection and suffering in interest. But that exhibition of sympathy, let me say—and I rejoice to say it—has not been confined to Ireland and to England: it has crossed the Atlantic; and your Lordships have seen from that country where community of descent, and in some respect community of institutions, had kept alive reminiscences of Irish and of English feelings, a burst of generosity—amounting, as I believe, to millions of dollars—has been witnessed, and has resulted in the transmission of food to Ireland, simultaneously with the supplies sent 68 from this country, with the same benevolent object; and this amount of succour and sustenance has, as I have been informed during the past week, had a material effect already in many districts in the south of Ireland; and it is a gratifying circumstance attending the supply, that it has been intrusted for distribution to the body of persons called Quakers, who are always distinguished for their benevolence and activity in the cause of charity. It is also a circumstance worthy of notice, that the first vessel sent from America with gratuitous relief for Ireland was named after the place where the first building-was erected by the earliest settlers of English origin in that continent. But do your Lordships think that to such supplies as these, derived from the charity of this or other countries, the population ought to look for five years to come? My Lords, I say we must look to other means and other resources, and after carefully considering all the difficulties and all the remedies which have offered themselves, and none other have been suggested, though the most able and powerful minds have been directed to the subject; and after being so directed, and after ample opportunity has been given for forming an opinion, nothing has appeared better calculated to meet the difficulty than a qualified system of out-door relief, temporary in duration, and guarded, as it must be the wish of your Lordships to guard it, and as it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government, and of the other House of Parliament to guard it, from those abuses which I am ready to admit may be the concomitants of such a system. I therefore submit to your Lordships a Bill, which is based upon this principle, and which I trust will meet with the concurrence of your Lordships. This out-door relief is not to be given as a right to all persons; but, under the responsibility of an establishment in Ireland, of the Poor Law Commissioners of Ireland, and of the Government of Ireland, to certain districts for a certain time. I proceed shortly to state what the provisions of the Bill are; I will not go through them, but will mention the clauses of the Bill which appear to me at all important. You will find that by the first of these clauses it is provided that the guardians of the poor of every union in Ireland—Shall make provision for the due relief of all such destitute poor persons as are permanently disabled from labour by reason of old age, infirmity, or bodily or mental defect, and of such destitute poor persons as, being disabled by reason 69 of severe sickness or serious accident, are there by deprived of the means of earning a subsistence for themselves and their families, whom they are liable by law to maintain, and of destitute poor widows having two or more legitimate children dependent upon them; and it shall be lawful for the said guardians to relieve such poor persons, being destitute as aforesaid, either in the workhouse or out of the workhouse, as to them shall appear fitting and expedient in each individualease.It is left to the guardians, however, to apply what is called the workhouse test in every case. By the next clause it is proposed, that there shall be a power given to the Poor Law Commissioners, from time to time, to empower the guardians, on representation being made to them, in extraordinary cases of destitution in any particular district, to grant out-door relief to persons applying for it; but that power given by the Poor Law Commissioners to have force only for the space of two months. If necessary, it may be renewed at the end of that period; but in no case shall it continue beyond two months, unless by a renewed order issued by the Poor Law Commissioners. And, my Lords, it is directed most necessarily, and as one of the most important guards that can be applied to this measure, that this assistance shall be given in food only. Relief by payment in money has been tried in England, and it has been found to be an abundant source of abuse. It certainly has been urged that parties, if so inclined, may sell the food given to them, and so turn it into money; some security, however, is provided against such an occurrence in the proviso, that it shall be in the power of the poor-law guardians, when a person shall be discovered to have converted the food relief into money, to discontinue the giving any further relief to that individual. These guards having been so far provided, it has been resolved that out-door relief shall be administered, but only where the workhouses are full, and that the guardians shall at all times have the power, and that it shall in fact be their duty, if they do not see sufficient cause to the contrary, to require all persons applying for relief to come into the workhouse. It has been thought necessary to make this proviso, as the poor of Ireland have a great, indeed an almost insuperable, objection to enter the workhouse. Then, my Lords, as to the funds required under this Poor Law, it is proposed that they shall be provided by a rate to be paid in equal proportions by the proprietor and the tenant, except in the cases of the very lowest description 70 of farms—if, indeed, they can be called farms—I mean those under the value of 4l. annually. But in all cases where the value of the farm shall be 41. and upwards, the rate is to be divided equally between the landlord and the tenant. And I do hope, that whatever alterations your Lordships may make in this part of the Bill, it will not be that of throwing the whole of this burden, or the greater portion of this burden, upon the tenants; for I do think, that the proposal here laid down by Her Majesty's Ministers, is one that will he found most conducive to the interests of all parties in Ireland. But, besides the considerations in favour of these proceedings, arising from the great pressure to which I have alluded, and from that overwhelming necessity that induces me to look to that alone as the means of relieving that pressure, there is a consideration of a more political nature that had great weight with me in leading me to give my concurrence to this measure. It is well known that for years a complaint against the number of absentees not residing on their properties in Ireland, has been one of the favourite subjects of grievance in that country, and one of the favourite subjects of misrepresentation. I have more than once experienced the effect of that misrepresentation, arising from a feeling based on the very reverse of the truth—a feeling which exists, I will not say universally, but generally, and I will say not unnaturally, in that country. And how is it that that feeling is more likely to arise in periods of distress and difficulty than in any other? It is from a belief that the absentee proprietor leaves the pressure of the poor of the district to which he belongs, to fall only on those who are resident in that district. Now, I say it is a powerful political argument, that this proposed arrangement will put an end to that complaint. Why, my Lords, the cause of the complaint of absenteeism exists in other parts of the kingdom besides Ireland. There are counties in the north of England and in Wales, where there is as large an absence of the great proprietors as in Ireland; but you do not hear the same complaints from those quarters; and why? Because the absentee landlord is bound to contribute equally to the necessities of the poor with the landlord who resides on his estate. Make it so in Ireland likewise, and there will be an end put to this plausible subject of complaint.
The absentee pro- 71 prietor does pay his contribution in Ireland. He pays through his tenants—the tenant pays for all.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
He pays the rate through his tenants—that is true. But I am at present dealing with impressions; and I am sure my noble Friend opposite knows enough of Ireland to know that facts are valuable there only where they do not require to have their effects explained; but where they require to be explained, their most beneficial effects are lost. It is the impression upon the minds of the people that we have to remove; and I think it is most important that the impression regarding the want of contribution to the poor by absentee proprietors should be removed altogether, and that their real position should be made manifest to the meanest understanding in Ireland. But I suppose from the manner in which my noble Friend interrupted me, that he supposed I was applying myself to the question of the distribution of the rate between the landlord and the tenant, whilst I was really speaking only upon the system of giving out-door relief. My object in the argument I was pursuing, was to show that by establishing a qualified system of out-door relief by Act of Parliament, in the way proposed in this Bill, you will remove a common cause of complaint, and insure a much greater degree of harmony, and the likelihood of a better understanding between landlord and tenant. There is another very material point connected with the Bill. The relieving officers are to be empowered to grant relief in any case of urgent destitution at the moment. I know that that is a regulation which may be questioned, and that much must depend upon the careful superintendence that is exercised by the guardians and relieving officers; but I hope that by such a regulation carefully exercised, we shall be able to avoid the occurrence of such a casualty as death from starvation, because there is no one ready to give relief at the moment. Another provision of the Bill is the restriction, which, I trust, your Lordships will leave untouched. I mean the restriction which confines the class of persons to be relieved to those not possessed of any portion of land exceeding one quarter of an acre. That regulation has been introduced as a stimulus; people holding land should be stimulated to exertion sufficient to insure their maintenance: and if they should be unable to secure that, and should be driven 72 to seek relief, then I think it consistent with justice that they should give up their holdings. I will next direct your Lordships' attention to the 11th Clause, by which the expenses of the rating are regulated. By that clause, any expenses beyond 2s. 6d. in the pound becoming necessary for a particular district are to be charged and levied upon the union at large. When the proper time comes, I shall be prepared to discuss that subject candidly and fairly; but it may be as well for me now to state the ground upon which that distinction has been founded. It is most desirable that every sort of stimulus should be given to landed proprietors to improve their properties as far as possible; but there may be cases in which the proprietor can exercise no sort of control over the persons who hold the land; and if we were, by the provisions of the Act, to make the district responsible for the support of the poor within it, it may happen in many places, and especially in large towns, that their resources would be annihilated altogether. Another question involved in the provisions of the Bill, is the subject of emigration, the nature of which I will not now detail, because it is only a carrying out under another form one of the provisions of the old poor law. In the old law there is a provision by which assistance could be given to such of the poor who were willing to emigrate; but in the Bill before your Lordships, it will be enacted, that if the proprietors of a district will themselves advance two-thirds of the expense of sending out such of the poor as wish to emigrate, it shall be in the power of the guardians to raise the other one-third to assist in effecting the emigration. The only other provision is that which relates to the number of ex-officio guardians relatively to the number of elected guardians. That relative number is proposed to be increased by the present Bill, provided that in no case they shall exceed the proportion of one-half of the entire board, both ex-officio and elected guardians. There is a special clause relating to the schools attached to the Dublin unions. It is also provided that an auditor shall be appointed; and it is directed that every case of relief, after having been first recorded in the proceedings of the guardians, shall be reported by the auditor to the Poor Law Commissioners, to be subjected to the disallowance of the Commissioners if they should deem it improper. I have stated so far the provisions of the Bill; but I shall be sorry if I have led your Lord- 73 ships to believe that I think it would be expedient or desirable to pass it into a law unaccompanied by other measures. In my own opinion, other measures as concomitants to this Bill are indispensable. One of these other measures which I consider most necessary, has been introduced within the last few days into the other House of Parliament—I mean the Vagrancy Act. My Lords, I am sure your Lordships feel the necessity of giving every facility in your power to the exertions of Irish proprietors for improvement in the cultivation and improvement of their properties. With respect to that subject, a Bill has been introduced by my noble and learned Friend upon the woolsack, which is now upon your Lordships' Table, having been read a second time, the object of which is the facilitating the sale of encumbered estates—it being a great public object that the proprietors of encumbered estates upon which they can make no improvement, shall have both every inducement and means to sell. Besides these measures, there is a Bill for the reclamation of Waste Lands to be introduced into the other House of Parliament; and a Bill for the second reading of which I shall have to ask your Lordships' permission, as soon as the one before you shall have been disposed of, the object of which is to make advances to landlords to enable them to introduce a system of cultivation and of improvement, such as they have not themselves the means of carrying into effect. And, my Lords, I have the satisfaction to state, that even before this Bill has passed into a law, and in consequence of its announcement, there has been manifested, on the part of landlords in many parts of Ireland, an anxious desire to avail themselves of its provisions. Surveys, with a view to that end, have been made in many places, and improvements on a large scale projected, all in the expectation of this Bill being passed into a law. There are other measures beyond those I have mentioned, although they are only of a subordinate character; such, for instance, as the assistance given to the erection of weirs, and the construction of curing stations, which are being established in several parts of Ireland at the public expense. My Lords, when I say that those stations for the curing of fish are being established at the public expense, I must be permitted to add a curious and important fact: two of these stations which were erected so lately as the autumn of last year, have already paid for themselves—they have actually repaid their 74 cost; and by providing places for the sale and the curing of fish, a new species of trade was being opened along the coasts of Ireland. That these measures for the improvement of Ireland will be altogether sufficient, I am not prepared to say; but that they will go far to stimulate and encourage the resources of that country, few persons can doubt. I may here state to your Lordships, that it is also in contemplation to apply an important stimulus to the enterprise of the country. I refer to the amount of 500,000l. which it is proposed to supply in the way of loan to the most important trunk railway in Ireland, the Great South-Western Railway. Such an advance will be of great advantage, especially to the counties of Cork and Tipperary, which have suffered so heavily from the prevalent distress. That advance, it is believed, will lead to the accomplishment of that great work in less than a year. There have been also advances sanctioned to the Waterford and Kilkenny and to the Dublin and Drogheda Railways, though not to so large an amount; and the condition upon which these advances are to be made, being that 50 per cent of the capital should have been actually paid up by the subscribers, the public will have the very best security for their money. Her Majesty's Government have thus endeavoured to apply a stimulus to the industry of Ireland, but those advances can only derive their full effect from the zeal of the landlord proprietors; and it is to the corresponding exertions of those gentlemen that your Lordships must ultimately look for a happy future. To their exertions only, can we look for a prospect of—that happier hour,Which blackest clouds that dimly lower,And darken round our weary way,Gild with a gleam of distant day.But your Lordships may materially assist those efforts. I therefore pray you to adopt the measure which I have now to request your Lordships to read a second time—a measure which will have the immediate effect of preventing a certain proportion at least of that amount of calamity which presses upon the country and demands instant attention. While thus addressing your Lordships, I have been painfully reminded by the place in which I now stand, and I beg also to remind your Lordships, of the striking contrast which exists between this hall, glowing with all the colours of prosperity—the very type and manifestation of all the luxury, of all the wealth, and of all the power of the country 75 which it so faithfully represents—I have been, I say, painfully reminded of the contrast between this scene of imperial grandeur and the depth of that dark abyss of misery, the pains and suffering of which your Lordships are called upon, and which it is your duty, to alleviate. All that I pray is, that you may be enabled from these splendid heights to look down with a clear and undazzled eye upon those prospects of want and misery which in that portion of the kingdom for which you are called upon to legislate no one can doubt exist, and which, existing, entail the solemn necessity on your Lordships of endeavouring to provide for. I now move that the Bill be read a second time.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
I can assure your Lordships that I have not felt myself excused by the notice I gave of moving an Amendment upon the Motion just made by the noble Marquess for the second reading of this Bill, from the duty of following the noble Marquess through his speech, rather with the desire of being convinced by his arguments, than with the view of finding grounds of objection. I watched, however, in vain, for that which was to have been expected at this stage of the Bill, viz., a recommendation of its principle. The noble Marquess has certainly not in any degree attempted to recommend the principle of the Bill to your Lordships. On the contrary, he has admitted the dangers and evils to be apprehended from the Bill, the risk of which is only to be justified by the emergency which has induced Her Majesty's Government to propose it. My Lords, I cannot think that an emergency—a state of things that may be, and, it is to be hoped, will be, of very temporary duration—is any warrant for proposing a permanent measure fraught with so much difficulty, danger, and positive evil as that which the noble Marquess has just brought forward and explained to your Lordships. On the contrary, I am rather justified in the opinion I before entertained, that it is a Bill that your Lordships ought not to pass. I am far from desirous of throwing any obstacle in the way of a properly extended and complete system of poor law for Ireland. The part that I took on the question when it was first introduced into this House nine years ago—the pains I have since taken to bring the law into beneficial operation in the part of Ireland with which I am connected—and the labour which in common with several of your Lordships, I last year devoted to an inquiry into the working of the Act, 76 with a view to its improvement—are earnests at least that I am no enemy to the principle of making provision for the destitute, or indisposed to co-operate in making legal such provision as effectual as possible for its object. But, desirous as I feel, that a good and efficient poor law should be enacted, and most willing as I am to subscribe to the doctrine, that the destitute poor of Ireland should be provided for from Irish resources alone, although I think the destitution in that country is quite as much attributable to bad laws, and to bad government, as to any neglect on the part of the proprietors of land—I cannot but feel that the question is one that should be cautiously dealt with; that the inquiries which have from time to time been made as to the peculiar circumstances and character of the poorer classes of the Irish people, should be more carefully considered than they appear to have been, and compared with the results of poor law experience in this country; that no step should be hastily taken, no Act of such a nature as the Bill on the Table, passed as it were by surprise, least of all at a time when those the most interested in the question—those with whom the local administration of the law must rest, and upon whom the burden must fall—are so taken up with the onerous and very painful duties which the Legislature have recently cast upon them, that they can neither be consulted nor find time nor opportunity to consult together, so as to lay their views individually or collectively before Parliament. I ask your Lordships, is this a time when such a Bill as that now before your Lordships should be carried, I should rather say hurried, through Parliament? The haste with which the temporary relief Bills of the last and present Session have passed, was only justified by the pressing nature of the emergency; but the consequences of haste, even in a measure of temporary duration, have been severely felt in the experience we have had of the Labour-rate Act—an Act, be it recollected, against which Irish land-lands alone remonstrated. Millions of money squandered, the land mortgaged, for the purpose of raising the money, the communications of the country in many cases injured, the labourers demoralised, and the cultivation and improvement of the land neglected, at the very time when the protection of our home agriculture having recently been withdrawn, it was most requisite to stimulate the skill and aid the enterprise of the husbandman. We have yet to learn what will be the result of the Act 77 of the present Session: whether it will prove effectual in ensuring the diligence, order, and economy, so necessary in the distribution of food to the multitudes now dependent on public resources. Anxiously as the operation of this temporary Act must be viewed with reference to its immediate object, the preservation of life in the midst of famine, it is also interesting in another point of view, viz., as affording a practical illustration of that system of out-door relief in food which is embodied in the Bill upon the Table of the House. The Relief Commissioners in their report, recently presented to the Lords of the Treasury, express in a few words an opinion respecting it well deserving of consideration:—Your Lordships are aware that the relief we are now administering is not only of a temporary character, but necessarily of a nature contrary to all sound principles of policy.I shall not trouble your Lordships by discussing the abstract question of giving out-door relief to the destitute; the subject has been fully investigated by the most competent authorities. I, therefore, shall limit myself to reading, with your Lordships' permission, a short extract from the report I hold in my hand, of the Commissioners who inquired into it in 1834—a report which has happily led to the adoption in this country of the policy of abandoning a principle previously found to be injurious in its operation:—We have dwelt at some length on out-door relief, because it is the relief which is now most extensively given, and because it appears to contain in itself the elements of an almost indefinite extension—of an extension, in short, which may ultimately absorb the whole fund out of which it arises. Among the elements of extension are the constantly diminishing reluctance to claim an apparent benefit, the receipt of which imposes no sacrifice, except a sensation of shame, quickly obliterated by habit, even if not prevented by example—the difficulty often amounting to impossibility on the part of those who administer and award relief of ascertaining whether any and what necessity for it exists; and the existence, in many cases, of positive motives on their parts to grant it where unnecessary, or themselves to create the necessity. The first and third of these sources of maladministration are common to the towns and to the country. The second, the difficulty of ascertaining the wants of the applicant, operates most strongly in large towns.After quoting some evidence they proceed:—From the preceding evidence it will be seen how zealous must be the agency, and how intense the vigilance, to prevent fraudulent claims crowding in under such a system of relief. But it would require still greater vigilance to prevent the bonâ fide claimants degenerating into impostors; and it is an aphorism amongst the active parish officers, 78 that cases which are good to-day are bad to-morrow, unless they are incessantly watched.I consider it, my Lords, a very sufficient ground for asking your Lordships to reject this Bill, that it goes to introduce this objectionable principle into a permanent poor law for Ireland. As shortly as I can, I will now address myself to the consideration of what is likely to be the practical operation of the proposed enactments. If the principle of the Bill were good, the details would be comparatively unimportant; but the principle being condemned by the testimony of every authority worth consulting, the endeavour has manifestly been, and it is so admitted by the noble Marquess, to correct by the details of the measure the bad results to be apprehended from it. By the first clause in the Bill, workhouses are to be kept up as establishments that may be, but need not be, made use of, except for able-bodied paupers. The consequence of this will be that the able-bodied, in place of looking upon the workhouse as a place of refuge and succour in the day of want, will view it as a place of coercion, and add to the too great unpopularity that attaches to the system. Now, my Lords, as the option is given to the guardians of relieving all other destitute persons, if they so please, out of the workhouse, and as it is alike notorious that relief can be more cheaply so given in individual eases, and most certain that the destitute poor, in general clinging to those indolent and squalid habits which I regret to say characterize the uneducated poor in Ireland, will accept the mimimum of out-door relief in preference to subjecting themselves to the restraint of the workhouse, the consequence is obvious: these establishments will be for all, except the able-bodied, practically abandoned—a result indeed, that I, for one, should little regret if I believed that it would be for the advantage of the poor; but as by the testimony of the most competent witnesses, the discipline and regulations of the workhouses have been found to operate beneficially upon the health, morals, and habits of the inmates; and as they provide for the children of the destitute an education the best fitted to improve their condition, and to render them as they grow to mature years, useful members of the community, instead of becoming burdens for life upon the public—I sec with regret the probability that under the operations of this clause, which thus permits out-door relief, the comparative cheapness of giving it, combined with the willingness of the poor to receive it, may 79 check that which has been found beneficial in the existing law, and the country be betrayed into the general adoption of a practice alike demoralising to the poor, and fraught with eventual ruin to property. If, however, it should happen, that using the discretion given them in the Act, some boards of guardians, more wisely avoiding the danger of out-door relief, should apply the workhouse to its legitimate purpose of an asylum and refuge to the destitute, where the aged, the widow, the orphan, and the able-bodied, may be cared for in the manner most suitable to their several cases; while in other unions the guardians, prejudiced against the workhouse system, or greedy of the popularity that may be earned by abusing it, or looking to the saving that may immediately be effected, though at the sacrifice of the ultimate interest of the ratepayer, by giving out-door instead of workhouse relief, there would be that want of uniformity that could not fail of interfering with the economical working of the law; the vagrant or unsettled portion of the population, that is to say, those who have not, by continuous residence, become legally chargeable to any electoral division, would be induced to migrate into those unions where out-door relief prevailed, and thus would be created the greater discontent among the paupers in those unions where the workhouse system was stringently enforced. Such a discretion, if even it could be beneficially exercised by boards of guardians, should be withheld until the country becomes better settled, and its resources sufficiently developed for the population to be allocated and proportioned in the different districts, according to the means of profitable employment that might be found to exist in them. Another objection against vesting this discretionary power in the boards of guardians, is the injury it will do to the charities that are now upheld by private benevolence. The existing poor law was, at its introduction, much objected to as likely to extinguish the charitable institutions which, in proportion to the means of the gentry and middle classes, are found in most parts of Ireland; some in connexion with the Established Church, others in connexion with the Church of Rome, and others supported by persons of all religious persuasions. This apprehension was not well founded, while legal relief was confined to the workhouse. The relief of the destitute in the workhouse was an act of justice; without is the legitimate field for the exercise of private charity—the work- 80 house, in fact, comes in aid of it, by enabling the benevolent, where there might be danger of imposition, to leave the applicant to the resources which the law provides. But it was the province of such institutions as the Indigent Roomkeepers' Society, and others of the like kind to be found in most large towns in Ireland, to administer to the necessities of those whose circumstances it would be harsh to drag before the public, yet to whom relief was necessary. The provisions of this Bill, the extending of the powers of the guardians to relieve in their own houses the aged, infirm, and helpless poor, as it will in some degree supersede the necessity of longer upholding such charitable institutions, so it will do away with the voluntary contributions of the charitable, by which they were solely supported, and thus will be broken one of the most valuable bonds that link the poor and the wealthy together; and the formal and stipendiary services of the relieving officer will supersede the active benevolence of the unpaid agent. This is a strong ground of objection to the Bill, and rendered the stronger by the clause which excludes persons from relief who happen to be in the occupation of more than a quarter of an acre; for to these the loss of private aid will not be compensated by the acquisition of any legal provision. I cannot, my Lords, approve of the clause; it will, I fear, aggravate instead of lessening the evils of out-door relief. At present, the workhouse, besides operating as a test of destitution, and thus aiding the guardians in their selection of fit objects to be relieved, limits their powers by the extent of the accommodation it affords. The framers of this Bill appear conscious that without this aid the guardians will he liable to be imposed upon, or may be inclined to extend relief too widely; hence the proposed limitation. It would be an intelligible principle, and one of easy application, to lay it down as a rule that no one should be considered destitute who was in possession of rateable property; that, therefore, holders of land should not be admissible to relief as destitute persons. The necessity of parting with the land that was found insufficient for the support of the occupier, would correct the evil of small holdings, for it is unquestionably true that many are in destitution from the insufficiency of the land they hold to supply them with food; but if relief is to be given to these upon the condition that in each case no more than a quarter of an acre of land be retained, instead of correcting the acknow- 81 ledged evil of minute subdivision, you hold out a direct encouragement for it. A man may hold three or four acres of land, and through misfortune or incapability fall into want; if you give him relief only on the condition of his alienating his land, he probably alienates it; but, if allowed, he will prefer subdividing it. There is injustice as well as impolicy in the proposed restriction. Why is the poorest occupier of the soil, the tenant labouring to improve an acre of bog, to be excluded from relief, when the occupier of a quarter of an acre of good land is not? The acre of bog may be of much less value, and the occupier's need more urgent; but before he can obtain relief he must go through the process of reducing his tenement to one-fourth of an acre, parting with the remainder, and thereby adding to the pauperism of the land before he can make application to the relieving officer. With such consequences to be apprehended, sound policy requires that the line should be otherwise drawn. Either the judgment of the guardians should be unfettered, which would be dangerous, or the possessors of land or other rateable property should be absolutely disqualified. To the principle of the second clause in the Bill, I do not object; the physical wants of the destitute, when the workhouse accommodation is insufficient, must be otherwise provided for; and, under circumstances such as the present, the Government should have the power of requiring, for limited periods, the dispensation of such relief in food; but I would submit that wherever such eases arise, the fact should be looked upon as established, that there is a redundancy of population, which, with aid from national resources, and under Government care, should be enabled to emigrate. The fifth section appears to be a consequence of the system of out door relief. It will, of necessity, interfere with the medical charities, and might have been rendered wholly unnecessary, had these been, as recommended by your Lordships' Committee, placed upon a footing of proper efficiency apart from the poor law. The next portion of the Bill which I shall bring under your Lordships' notice is the 11th section, which will practically do away with the operation of the law of electoral division chargeability. This was a subject much inquired into by your Lordships' Committee of last Session; and the result of such inquiry was, to confirm the opinions of those who were in favour of it, and to alter the opin- 82 ion of one noble Lord, by whom a general rate had been advocated. The Committee were unanimous in support of the principle of the existing law; and observe, that "should it hereafter appear desirable to amend this portion of the poor law, it should be with a view of maintaining a principle calculated to create a direct local interest in the management of the poor rate, and to encourage the profitable employment of the poor." The provisions of the clause in the Bill are, I think, open to much objection, and likely to produce confusion in the accounts of the union; that, however, is a matter of little importance compared with the power and encouragement it would give to the lessors of cabins in the suburbs of any town to accumulate pauperism in them, which shall be made chargeable to the union at large. The proposed mode of rating the tithe rent-charge, as a separate hereditament, is, I think, likely to prove a hardship to the owners of such property. Under present circumstances, the rate-collector goes to the occupiers of the land for the rate. Under the proposed enactment, a rate may be imposed of 20s. in the pound; and the clergyman, though his rent-charge is in arrear, is compelled to pay the rate. This is a matter that will, no doubt, receive the consideration of the right rev. bench; the more so, as from the zealous devotion of the Protestant clergymen of Ireland at the present time to the duty of affording relief to the famishing poor of Ireland, they are precluded from giving attention to their own interests as they may be affected by this Bill. The 19th Clause of the Bill, for increasing the number of ex-officio guardians, is one that I confess I am much surprised at, and expected, but in vain, to have heard from the noble Marquess some reasons for its introduction into the Bill that might be satisfactory, or likely, in some degree, to compensate for the unpopularity of the step. I hog to observe, that although the subject was examined into by the Select Committee last year, such an alteration of the law was not recommended, neither was it called for, that I know, by any part of the Irish public, or even by the magistrates themselves. It has not even the merit of assimilating the measure to the English law, for as if in anticipation of a conflict between the elected and the ex-officio guardians, and with a view to fair play, it is provided, that the magistrates must in no case exceed the number of the elected guardians. The 83 reasons given in support of this clause are various. Sir G. Grey is reported to have said in another place, in reply to Mr. J. O'Connell, that under the clause less opportunity would be found for the exhibition of religious intolerance. The only excuse for so unfounded and injurious a reflection upon the Irish magistracy, if the report that has gone before the public be true, is, that the right hon. Gentleman is utterly unacquainted with the country for which he is legislating. There are undoubtedly to be found in every country persons more or less prejudiced and intolerant; but I deny that such is the characteristic of the educated classes in Ireland. Party spirit has, indeed, been fostered and called into action by bad laws; but that persons appointed to the commission of peace can, with any truth, be said to act in the spirit which the Home Secretary supposes, I emphatically deny; and if he were right in his opinion of them, the magistrates are most unfit to sit as ex-officio members of the boards of guardians. But what is the testimony of the Relief Commissioners, six in number, only one of whom was an Irishman, respecting the disposition of the gentry of Ireland?—Nor could we always apportion the nomination between creeds and parties. We consider, however, and have found, as far as we can at present judge, that these distinctions have become far les essential than was formerly the case, and that there is a spirit of social feeling generally prevalent now amongst the people of this country, that (laying aside exclusive motives) leads them anxiously to co-operate with each other for mutual support and assistance, as members of one community, and independent of any partial considerations.There is, therefore, upon the ground of avoiding the exhibition of religious intolerance, no necessity for the enactment. The other ground upon which this clause is elsewhere recommended, viz., that it will afford a more ample representation of property, is, I think, equally untenable. I am, I confess, surprised that the authors of the Reform Bill should have discovered that nomination by the Crown was preferable to election for the purposes of representation. So far from improving the working of the poor law, I think, this clause is calculated to interfere with the growing confidence of the public in the representative character of the boards of guardians, and with the beneficial influence upon the social condition of the people, which might be looked for from the stability of free institutions. There could have 84 been no objection originally to the formation of the boards of guardians in Ireland upon the English model; but now to propose an augmentation of ex-officio members of those boards, as a better security for property, implies a reflection upon the elected guardians, who, if they have acted unfairly by the proprietors of land, are not likely to be improved in their feelings by such an alteration of the law as that now under consideration. I have now stated my principal objections to this Bill. They were to have been inferred from the report I had the honour of presenting from the Committee of Inquiry last Session. They were also partly stated in a series of resolutions to which my name, in common with those of several Members of both Houses of Parliament, was subscribed, which was presented to Lord John Russell at the commencement of the Session. I have heard nothing either in the reflections that have been made against the so-called Irish party, or in favour of the out-door relief system, against which the resolutions were mainly directed, to make me regret having thus announced my opinions. Had I been in London at the time, I should have been glad, as hereafter at any time I shall be, to discuss with Irish Members of Parliament, irrespective of party prepossessions, those measures which most immediately affect the interests of Ireland. I think that by so meeting differences of opinion, referable rather to separate political associations than to reason, would often be avoided, and that the result would generally be a well-understood union in favour of measures of real usefulness, instead of that division upon nearly every subject, which leaves it to be practically decided by those who may have neither knowledge nor interest in the question at issue. Such meetings and discussions among Irish Members would not be the introduction of a party into either House of Parliament—not the establishment of separate interests, as between English and Irish, but the communication, through the constitutional channel of the more immediate representatives of that portion of the United Kingdom, of that advice upon Irish questions which ought to have weight in their decision, and might reasonably be expected to produce good results. I regret that the meeting I have alluded to, exhibiting as it did all but unanimity of sentiment, did not produce more union of action in reference to the Bill upon the Table. I do not think the answer of Lord J. Russell to the de- 85 putation that presented the resolutions, afforded any justification for taking a step in legislation so condemned by reason and experience; nor is it quite fair, without notice of such a question, to say, what measure do you propose in lieu of what you object to? It rather argues that due attention has not been given to the subject, and that very little attention is considered necessary. The present poor law of Ireland was much condemned at its introduction, as the work of a man who, though experienced in poor-law matters, had made but a short tour of inquiry in Ireland. It is reasonable to ask, upon what inquiry has this Bill been founded, and by whom it has been framed? It is certainly not the production of the Poor Law Commissioner for Ireland, for it is directly at variance with his opinions given in evidence. I know not whether it is the production of the Chief Secretary for Ireland; but if it is, able and respected as he is, your Lordships will please to look upon it as the work of one who, like nearly all his predecessors in that office, went over to Ireland a total stranger to the country, and ere he could leave the precincts of Dublin, must have been called upon to propound a law, than which none could be proposed more vitally affecting the interests of all classes of the population. Whether Mr. Labouchere be the author of the Bill or not, one thing May at least be observed, viz., that whoever drew the Bill up is distinguished by the independence with which he has done so, regardless of all the inquiries, the facts, and dear-bought experience which might and ought to have guaranteed Ireland against the infliction of such rash legislation. Instead of any deference to such authorities, the Bill is characterized by a marked disregard of them. I think that the reports which have of late years been laid before the House might have supplied the materials of sound legislation; but by this Bill it is manifest that, for the purpose of relieving the mere physical wants of the poor, and keeping them at home, the improvement of the moral condition of the population has been wholly overlooked. I will not trouble your Lordships by entering minutely into what might be done for the amelioration of Irish pauperism; but one object it is most important to keep in view, which is, to distinguish between poverty and destitution. The Bill before your Lordships makes no such distinction. All who are without land, and some who are 86 possessed of land, are qualified to be relieved under the same law; the labourer, the artisan—those who, humble though they be, form the largest and most important class in the community, are in no degree distinguished from the profligate and the mendicant; the same rule applies to the relief of all: sickness or misfortune, according to this Bill, place an industrious man and his family upon precisely the same level of common destitution and of claim to relief as the most loathsome objects whom it is still the duty of humanity to relieve. I have often urged upon public attention the importance of raising the condition of the working classes, and especially of the agricultural labourer. This, as a first step, can only be done by means of a sound system of national education, based, as in this country, upon the Word of God, and should be followed by other measures—by the encouragement of agricultural improvement, by the suppression of mendicancy, and by placing the medical charities of the country upon a proper footing of efficiency. Were the medical institutions supported, as they should he, apart from the poor law, there would then be afforded to the labouring man, when suffering from sickness or accident, that out-door relief in medicine and nourishment which he can receive without any feeling of degradation, and which would enable him, at the earliest period, to return to habits of active independence. Having taken up so much of your Lordships' time, I will only in conclusion beg of you to recollect that if there is a pressure upon you to enact a stringent poor law, it is not the fault of the Irish people, but of the Government and Parliament, that this has not been sooner done. In 1842, the present law may be said to have first come into general operation; its deficiencies were then first generally felt, and a meeting of gentlemen, headed by the Duke of Leinster, assembled prior to the Session of 1843, to pray for immediate inquiry, and the placing the law upon an effective footing: the Government did not accede to this application, but brought in a Bill amending the Act in some respects, but leaving it in most respects deficient. Repeated applications have since been made to Parliament to remedy these defects; but it was not till Liverpool and Glasgow began to feel the pressure of Irish destitution—it was not till they felt themselves aggrieved by the visitation of a starving multitude, suffering from a calamity ordered by the 87 will of the Almighty, which, by a like decree, may fall (though God forbid that it should!) upon this country in another year, and against which no human laws can afford a guarantee—it is not until these wealthy towns feel their interests touched, until their case is pleaded, that your Lordships are called upon and pressed seriously to take up the question of poor-law legislation for Ireland. It is certainly hard that these towns should feel, as they have done, so much pressure from the immigration of Irish poor; but if from their situation they are now necessitated to bear some portion of the burden of Irish pauperism, it should be recollected that to the same cause, viz., their vicinity to the shores of Ireland, they owe it that they have practically obtained the monopoly of the trade between the two countries, and become the emporiums of Irish as well as of English commerce with the rest of the world. Neither have they been altogether losers by the distresses of Ireland. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) has this evening noticed the impulse given to the provision trade. I must add that, to the shipowners, at least, great must have been their gain by the increased emigration, and the increased prices they have lately charged for the passage—greatly aggravated have been the sufferings of many poor persons by what I must call the inhuman act of raising the passage-money, when the very existence of many families depended upon their realizing purposes of emigration to a foreign land, in preparation for which they had sacrificed every resource at home. Thus to take advantage of the necessities of the emigrant at such a time as the present, appears to me like locking the door of a house that is on fire, and preventing the inhabitants from escaping. My Lords, I would entreat of you to consider in the measure before you, not the interest of particular English towns, but that of the country to which it relates; and I venture to affirm that you will thus best consult for the interest of the empire. Thanking your Lordships for the attention with which you have heard me, I now beg to move that the second reading of this Bill be postponed to this day six months.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
considered that the only new principle embodied in the Bill before their Lordships was, that which enabled the Poor Law Commissioners, under particular emergencies, to empower the boards of guardians to afford 88 out-door relief to the able-bodied pauper for certain periods. It had been argued, that such a measure as the present would increase the evils of Ireland by causing the degradation of the Irish peasantry; but, he would ask, was the position of the Irish pauper so satisfactory at present that he should dread the effect of such a change in his condition? If he (the Earl of St. Germans) thought that this measure would aggravate the evils of Ireland, he should be the last man to give it his support; but he anticipated no such result. He did not approve of indiscriminate out-door relief; he had witnessed the injurious effects of that system in this country; but it was unfair to argue from an abuse against a use. It was not at all probable that the Poor Law Commissioners would set aside the workhouse test, and direct out-door relief to be given indiscriminately. Reference had been made on a former evening to the very able report prepared by the Commission of Poor Inquiry of 1836, of which the most rev. Prelate opposite (the Archbishop of Dublin) was a member; and he remembered that a noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) had expressed his condemnation of this measure, because it was one which, it was said, had been thoroughly considered by that Commission, and pronounced to be inapplicable to Ireland. Now, he had looked through the report, and could find nothing to justify the interpretation which the noble Lord put upon it. If the report in question were worth anything as an authority, it rather made in favour of the Bill under consideration; at least, it was as good authority against the workhouse system as against a system of qualified out-door relief. After giving the subject the best consideration in his power, he had come to the conclusion that the measure would have a beneficial effect upon Ireland. It would tend materially to diminish the monstrous competition for land in Ireland, which was at the bottom of all the evils of that country. The poor people now felt they were without any resource whatsoever, and that the possession of a plot of ground was their sole protection from want and destitution; they consequently clung to the possession of the land with the most reckless tenacity; and he (the Earl of St. Germans) was under the impression that this measure would have the effect of inducing the owners and occupiers of land to find profitable occupation for the people. There was nothing novel in these views; for so long ago as 89 the year 1835, it was minutely inquired into by the Committee of which Mr. Lynch was chairman; and he (the Earl of St. Germans) begged to call the attention of their Lordships to the evidence of Mr. Griffith on the subject. It appeared that a great deal of waste land was now in process of reclamation: he was happy to think that a great deal of profitable employment would be afforded; and it was to be hoped that the people would be converted from miserable cottiers into prosperous and independent labourers. To bring about that happy result, must, of course, be the work of time. It was impossible to do it at once; and one of the main grounds on which he based his support of the present Bill was, that it was a measure calculated to provide against the miseries which, in all probability, would attend upon the transition state. The time had now come that the property of Ireland ought to be made applicable to the support of the destitution of Ireland. Was that the case at present? Let them now see what was the whole amount that was so applied. The amount of the poor rate for the year ending December, 1845. was 298,000l.; and for the year, up to 31st of December, 1846, 426,816l. That was the whole annual expense to which the property of Ireland was at present liable in respect of the poor law; and if he assumed the value of the property assessed to the relief of the poor in Ireland at 16,000.000l.—though he dare say the noble Lord opposite (Lord Monteagle) would hardly concede that point—he would scarcely allow that the actual value of the property rated for the poor in Ireland was so much; but if the noble Lord referred to the report of the Poor Law Commissioners in 1843, he would find the whole value of the property rated for the relief of the poor to be 13,200,000l. and odd pounds. That, as he (Earl St. Germans) believed, was assumed to be 20 per cent below the real value; but he would take it to be 13,200,000l. Suppose the total amount of rate to be 426,000l., and the value of the property assessed to be 13,200,000l., that would give about 7½d. in the pound as the charge to which property was liable in Ireland for the relief of the poor; and if the estimate of the supposed real value of the property were taken, the assessment would be reduced to 6¼d. in the pound. It might be said, that large sums were raised by voluntary subscription for the medical relief of the poor. He wished to state the 90 case as favourably as he possibly could, and he would therefore mention the sums paid for the support of infirmaries, dispensaries, and fever hospitals. In 1839 (the last year for which there were any returns on the subject), the assessment for infirmaries in Ireland was 25,252l., and the private subscriptions were 4,305l., making together 29,557l.; for dispensaries the assessment was 34,000l., and the private subscriptions 34,000l.; for fever hospitals the Parliamentary grant was 22,000l., and the subscriptions 7,000l. These sums made a total of 126,000 and some odd hundreds of pounds; and adding that latter sum to the amount raised for the direct relief of the poor, and supposing that the property of Ireland was not under-estimated at 13,000,000l., it would appear that the extent to which the landowners and land occupiers in Ireland were burdened on account of the poor was only 9½d. in the pound. There was a wide margin between that and confiscation. As to the working of the present measure, he had come to the conclusion that there was no disposition to extravagance on the part of boards of guardians; he rather thought they were inclined to be parsimonious and sparing in doling out relief to the poor; and he did not think there was any danger to be apprehended from the exercise of too much liberality on the part of those bodies; but, supposing that they were inclined to be extravagant, they could be controlled and restricted by the central authority, the Poor Law Commissioners; but he thought they would not allow any extravagant expenditure of the funds committed to their care. It should be recollected, that a portion of the charge must come out of their own pockets, and if they indulged in extravagance, it would be partly at their own expense. He would now look how the measure was likely to work practically. He believed the workhouse test was absolutely necessary for the efficient working of the poor-law system; and he could never bring himself to believe that it would be set aside by the Poor Law Commissioners. With regard to the clause having reference to the election of ex-officio guardians, what he was about to say was this—that the election of ex-officio guardians should, if possible, be avoided. For his own part he should not object individually to the introduction of all magistrates into the boards of guardians as in England; but there was a difference between the circumstances of England and Ireland in this respect; the 91 unions in Ireland were of much larger size; and there was a much larger number of justices resident in those unions. He happened to have a return, from which it appeared, that in nine unions the number of ex-officio guardians would exceed—if all justices were to be made ex-officio guardians—the number of elected guardians. He did not think there would be any harm in that. He thought they would use their influence very properly; but, as the noble Marquess had said in the course of his speech, they must consider the feelings and prejudices of the people, and they should not close their ears against the expression of the general feeling of the great body of the people. His noble Friend had said, there was a strong feeling on the subject; and he would suggest to the noble Marquess that it might be better to provide that all justices should be ex-officio members of the board of guardians, provided that in those particular cases where the number of the ex-officio guardians should exceed the number of the elected guardians, then that the Poor Law Commissioners should take measures to increase the number of elected guardians. He should next refer to the 9th Clause of the Bill, which enacted, that occupiers of more than a quarter of an acre of land should not be deemed to be destitute. The effect of that clause would be, to put the people in a worse position than they were in at present. Under the existing law, if a man in the occupation of land met with an accident, or was out of employment, the guardians might give him relief; but under the clause now proposed, however great might be his necessities, if he was in occupation of more than a quarter of an acre of land, it would be quite incompetent for them to grant him relief. It was perfectly true, that in England the board of guardians had a right to call on any person having property and applying for relief, to give up that property; but that right was not enforced in all cases; and he (Earl St. Germans) would be inclined to leave the matter in Ireland as in England to the discretion of the board of guardians. He hardly thought they would give a man relief if they conceived he could pay his way; and he called their Lordships' attention to this clause for the purpose of expressing his conviction that the clause should be omitted; that it should be left to the discretion of the board of guardians to grant or withhold relief, under the circumstances, as they thought proper. 92 He begged to express his earnest hope that their Lordships would not agree to au Amendment to which it was perhaps somewhat irregular then to advert; but which he believed it was intended to propose in Committee, on the subject of the payment of the rate, because he believed that the success of that Amendment would be entirely fatal to the operation of the Bill. He was quite aware it might be said, that all the rates and burdens came out of the land eventually; but the Irish small farmer did not understand this. The fact was, that the cases of England and Ireland were in this respect, as in many others, very different. In England there was not the same competition for land as in Ireland. In this country, if a tenant found he could not pay the taxes and rent, and leave a reasonable profit for himself, he would look for a farm in a different part of the country; but in Ireland land was a necessary of life. A man must have land or starve. Such was the disposition of the people of Ireland to acquire land that they would promise any rent. He did not mean to say that the Irish landlords charged exorbitant rents; but unquestionably the land was generally let according to the system known by the name of "cant," a sort of auction, by which they took the chance of getting as much rent as possible. He (Lord St. Germans) was of opinion, that the practical effect of such an Amendment as he understood was to be proposed, would be to throw the burden of the rate not merely nominally, but really on the tenant—at all events the tenant would think so, and the result would be an utter impossibility of collecting the rate; and, therefore, such an Amendment as the one to which he referred ought not to be inserted in the Bill. He would not trespass further on their Lordships' attention; but would conclude with expressing a hope that they would agree to the present measure, taking it as the noble Marquess had introduced it—as ancillary to other measures which had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government, and which it was their intention to introduce for the better cultivation of the Irish soil, and the general improvement of the country. If, however, their Lordships were irreconcilably hostile to the measure, it would, in his opinion, be very much better that they should reject it at once openly and manfully, because of the principle it contained, than that they should emasculate it by adopting amendments which would destroy its effects.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, he always listened to his noble Friend (the Earl of St. Germans) with great pleasure. He uniformly spoke with great clearness and effect; but he (Lord Monteagle) had never heard him with so much surprise as on the present occasion. His noble Friend, after having a full opportunity of looking into the various authorities on this question, had come down to that House, and sought to controvert the authorities which he (Lord Monteagle) on a former occasion relied on as unfavourable to the out-door system, by quoting a passage from the report of the Commission of which the most rev. Prelate on the right of the Chancellor was a member, and which was generally known as the Archbishop of Dublin's Report. If ever there was a document to which the opponents of the out-door system might confidently appeal as entirely substantiating their position, and entirely disproving the necessity and desirability of that system, the report in question was that document.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
would save his noble Friend the expenditure of much unnecessary energy, and their Lordships the waste of some time by a single word in explanation. What he had said, or at least what he had intended to convey, was simply this, that the report of the Commission with which the Archbishop of Dublin was connected, made as strongly against the workhouse system as against the out-door system. This being so, he had expressed it as his opinion that it was scarcely fair for the noble Lord to rely for the substantiation of his position on that report; he could not admit its authority in the one case, and reject it in the other.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
had still to express his surprise that the noble Earl should have cited passages from the report in question for the purpose of showing that a principle of out-door relief was inculcated in that document, whereas the very reverse was the fact. If a decisive and unqualified denunciation of the out-door system was to be looked for anywhere on earth, he should say that it ought to be sought in the pages of that report. But the noble Earl, though he had endeavoured to deal with several of the authorities which he (Lord Monteagle) had adduced on a former occasion, had totally omitted to allude to one authority—the last of all in point of date, and perhaps the most remarkable of all—namely, the report of their Lordships last year on the question of out-door relief—a report in 94 which it was expressly stated that their Lordships' opinions on the question were in entire consonance and conformity with the evidence and authorities which were relied on by the opponents of that system. The noble Earl was himself a member of the Commission from whom that report emanated, and a party to the declaration against out-door relief. Now, he would wish to ask the noble Lord one question, which was this—whether he thought that the report in question was fairly susceptible of any other interpretation than that which he (Lord Monteagle) put upon it.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS, having been so directly challenged, would say a few words in reply and in explanation. The passages in the report alluded to, were undoubtedly to be found there; but they were the production of the noble Lord himself (Lord Monteagle), and the report was drawn up at the close of a long, wearisome, and laborious Session, in the presence of but few Irish Peers, and of no English Peer but himself. He might dilate on the inconvenience and almost the impracticability of offering an opposition at such a period and under such circumstances; but on this he would not dwell. He would content himself with observing, that the unexampled emergency and pressure which made the present measure necessary, had no existence at that time; and he accordingly had not felt himself called upon to moot a question of such gravity and importance, on his own single authority, by then bringing forward a counter-resolution declaratory of the necessity of out-door relief. It was his noble Friend who had engrafted that opinion on the report; and he (the Earl of St. Germans) therefore left it to their Lordships to say whether there was any greater weight to be attached to that passage in the report, than to a speech of his noble Friend in that House.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
thought that his position was now made still stronger than before, for he had now the admission that the noble Lord, who had claimed the distinction of standing alone as the representative of all England in the Committee, in that authoritative character had not hesitated to give his sanction to a report condemnatory of out-door relief, which report had been agreed to on full deliberation. Most assuredly the report had not taken any of their Lordships by surprise; on the contrary, it had been printed and reprinted and circulated before adoption; nor had he until that night 95 heard from the noble Lord a single word symptomatic of doubt or distrust as to the opinion to which he had made himself voluntarily a party. The noble Lord pleaded, in justification of the present measure, and in defence of his change of opinion, his support of the fact that the pressure and emergency with which the country was most unhappily afflicted, had no existence when the report was adopted. No doubt it was so; but that constituted one of his (Lord Monteagle's) main objections to the Bill: he protested against their Lordships legislating permanently in a special emergency. If they were justifiable in taking this course, the noble Earl (Earl St. Germans') justification would be quite admissible. But he denied that under the pressure of a temporary emergency it was competent or discreet for them to decide on the case of Ireland, or to adopt a permanent system of legislation on the most difficult of all questions, the support of pauperism. He had given his cordial assent to the Temporary Relief Bill, because, as its name implied, it was designed to meet a temporary evil; but if they were about to make their permanent legislation dependent, not on those principles to which both science and experience taught them to look for the security and well-being of society, but on impulses derived from an emergency the greatest and strangest that had ever existed in the history of the civilized world, and from a social state disorganized and anomalous—if they were to frame their legislation in reference to such an emergency, and overrule the resolution they had adopted when there was a greater calmness and absence of excitement than at present—they would run the hazard of passing very bad laws. If there was an insurrection in the land which endangered the public peace, and rendered the suspension of the Habeas Corpus, and the enactment of other measures of repression or punishment necessary, would that, he asked, be a proper period in which to devise laws to affect permanently the liberty of the subject? He willingly admitted the ability of the speech made by the noble Marquess who introduced the Bill; but it was worthy of remark, that all his arguments in defence of the measure were founded on the present emergency; not one argument was adduced to defend the measure as proposed. The argument of his noble Friend the President of the Council seemed throughout to admit that it could not be rational that legislation devised for the purpose of meeting a tem- 96 porary emergency ought to be of a permanent character. He would not now anticipate the discussion in Committee; but he thought it as well to notify to their Lordships, that, in conformity with this principle, it was his intention to propose in Committee to limit the duration of the present measure. He would endeavour to convince the House that such a course was just and expedient; and he would take the sense of their Lordships on it. For the present it was scarcely necessary that he should do more than call their Lordships' attention to this fact, that although in a previous debate he had shown that the whole current of authorities, from the time of the Union to the present hour, were on his side of the question, neither at that time nor on the present occasion had even a shadow of an authority been adduced against him. It should also be remembered that the Legislature was at this moment in a very peculiar position. Rumour assigned but a brief duration to the present Parliament. With that, however, it might be said, perhaps, that the House of Lords had nothing to do: his motive for alluding to it was for the purpose of declaring his unqualified conviction, that if they were at the beginning of the Session, and had months before them, he could adduce in favour of his position an authority even more conclusive than all the reports and evidence he had hitherto pressed into his service. He could have appealed in that case to the conclusive authority of experience. Parliament had passed a Bill for the temporary relief of the people of Ireland, which to a certain degree contained the same principle of danger which was unhappily to be found in the present measure. To the temporary measure, neither he nor those who felt with him had offered any objection; they had been ready to run any risk; they had been ready to make any sacrifice; and to place at the disposal of the public under that measure the property which they held, admitting that their property was held by them not merely as proprietors, but, as trustees for the public good. That Act, passed as it was to meet a temporary emergency, would soon furnish experience of the working of the system of out-door relief. It would have afforded him unaffected pleasure, and would have relieved his mind from great uncertainty, if it had been possible for the noble Marquess to have declared that from the good working of the temporary measure, the Government were confidently assured that the operation 97 of the permanent measure now under discussion would be found to be salutary and beneficial. On this subject, however, his noble Friend had been ominously silent; and as no documentary evidence was furnished, any effectual reference to experience was, at present, out of the question. They could only refer to the opinions of those who wore the best possible authorities. on such subjects, and their opinions would be found to be uniformly adverse to the out-door system. Neither was English experience a very safe guide—at least, without much caution. The condition and circumstances of both countries were so essentially different, that it would be most irrational to assume that it was always wise to apply the same measure of legislation to both. Of 130 unions in Ireland, 19 varied in extent from 250,000 to 500,000 square acres, and 111 unions only were below the lowest of those numbers; whereas in England there were only two unions out of 600 which exceeded in extent 250,000 acres, while 582 were below that average. How, then, could they believe that the workhouse test would work equally in the two countries, where not only the state of society, but the order of things, were so essentially dissimilar? Without an immense addition to the number of workhouses in Ireland, it would become imperative to give out-door relief almost universally, if any relief at all were given. Under these circumstances, even if Parliament were introducing the proposed system of poor-law administration for the first time, without any disturbing causes arising out of the widely-spread distress, and the still more widely-spread relief works, they would have great difficulties to surmount; and he asked those who were most conversant with the operation of the English poor law, how it would be possible, even in England, with the advanced state of society in this country, that with such difficulties they could expect such a measure to succeed? How could the poor laws be administered in the workhouse ten, twenty, thirty, and forty miles from parts of the union? How could guardians fulfil their duties? In England, there were 600 workhouses, for a population of 16,000,000. In Ireland, for a population of 8,000,000, the workhouses were but 130. But there were other difficulties which would arise. The noble Marquess assumed that the manner in which the law under this Bill would be administered, would be the "wisest, discreetest, best"—that few would ask for relief who 98 had not a title to receive it—and that all who had such title would be rejected. He (Lord Monteagle) very much doubted this. Destitution would, no doubt, too often arise; but the excuse of destitution would never be wanting. As for the relieving officer, he believed it would be found that that personage would he wholly unable to do justice to the intentions of the Legislature. Let them look to the distance between the workhouses, and to the immense size of the unions, and to the fact that it was only proposed to appoint one single relieving officer in a union, and they would see reason to think that it would be impossible that the caution necessary for the administration of relief could be exercised. How could one solitary relieving officer, stationed in a remote part of Ireland, and subject to the popular influences by which he would be surrounded, be safely entrusted with powers such as this measure proposed to confer upon him? Could he exercise them freely? Could he administer them with personal safety? Did they think that any insurance office could be found to insure his life for a week, if he performed his duty? If there were no other objection, the vesting in a single officer these extraordinary powers, would render the Bill totally impracticable, and highly dangerous to the peace or the property of Ireland. He felt, too, that there would be the greatest difficulty in the selection of these very responsible officers under any arrangement that might be made; but it would be better to have them selected by an impartial Government than by the guardians of the unions. Then with respect to the workhouse accommodation. They had workhouse accommodation in Ireland at the present moment for 110,000 persons; but there were at present 120,000, or rather more, obtaining relief in those workhouses. How, then, were they to bring the workhouse test into operation? It was said some of the present inmates must be removed. How was this to be effected? Of these 110,000, upwards of 50,000 were children. Could these children be removed? That could not be done without depriving them of the education they were receiving there; and, generally speaking, the workhouse education in Ireland was going on remarkably well. Again, it was said that the Board of Works was giving employment on a great scale, 500,000 or 600,000 being engaged on the roads and drainages; I but there was a period beyond which that 99 employment could not be given; and when that period of the reduction of labourers arrived, they would have a flood of paupers to be relieved in the workhouses. The workhouses would be choked up, the workhouse test would cease, out-door relief without any test at all would be the alternative, and ruin to property and the degradation of the people the inevitable result. Therefore, he considered that the workhouse test in this Bill was a more fallacy. His noble Friend had informed the House that this Bill was to be accompanied by a measure for the suppression of vagrancy. That would be found a very difficult subject. He rejoiced, however, that the Government had considered it; but he took the liberty of stating to the Government, that they would find it difficult, if not impossible, to root out mendicancy from the rural districts of Ireland; they could not root out of the Irish heart that which was cherished, not only as a natural sympathy, but as a part of their religion, namely, that the administration of alms to the destitute was a moral and religious duty. But it might, perhaps, be said, that the people would be satisfied in this respect with paying their poor-rates; and that if they paid their rates they would think that was satisfying this duty. But this argument, too, was inapplicable; for it must be borne in mind that the great mass of occupiers of land in Ireland were exempt from all payment of rates, and therefore they could not set off rates to which they did not contribute, to excuse the non-compliance with an obligation which they felt it to be a duty to perform. Very few persons were aware of the amount of charity that was displayed in Ireland. He believed that very large amounts were collected for charitable purposes in the towns of that country; and, speaking of Dublin, which he mentioned the more readily because he was totally unconnected with it, he believed their Lordships would find that there was far more collected there, in proportion to its size and its wealth, for charitable purposes in connexion with religious duties and with education, than in any other city of the empire. If their Lordships were to be led away by the statement of his noble Friend (Earl St. Germans), they would have a most erroneous as well as a most miserable idea of the charities in Ireland.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
But what were the legal burdens? They were then speak- 100 ing of what was done for the relief of distress in Ireland; and if it were found that that consisted of voluntary relief in the shape of charity, it was entitled to be considered a charge and burden on the land. Were their charities to be the less considered because they were spontaneous, and not the result of coercive laws? With regard to what had been called the confiscation of Irish property, although he contended that this Bill would very seriously affect the interests of property in that country, yet he was willing to treat that question as a secondary argument, provided it could be shown that this measure was a safe and judicious mode of administering permanent relief in Ireland. If the Bill would tend to improve the moral and physical condition of the people—if it would open up new sources of industry—then he would admit that the money charge on land was the least part of the question. However, this much he must observe, in passing, that the argument respecting confiscation, though he would treat it as secondary and subordinate, was by no means undeserving of serious consideration. The noble Lord had talked glibly upon that subject; he had anticipated as a benefit a large change of property, and the passing of estates into new hands. But he (Lord Monteagle) would respectfully warn their Lordships, that this was not always an easy or a safe process. They could not abruptly tear asunder all the connexions that had existed for a long series of years in an old country, and attempt to rejoin them by artificial means, without running some hazard to the safety of the framework of society itself. The noble Marquess who opened the present debate, had expressed a hope that this measure would be the means of substituting the plough for the spade in the cultivation of the land in Ireland. But what would be the effect of such a change? It might increase the gross amount of the produce; but it would not increase the demand for agricultural labour. It might benefit the landlords; but there never was a greater fallacy than to contend that an improved system of agriculture would give the tenant-farmers greater power to employ labourers. More than double the number of agricultural labourers were employed in Ireland than in England; yet it was well known that agriculture—improved agriculture—would lessen, not augment, the demand for labour. This Bill would not increase that demand. It was against all 101 facts and experience to entertain such an expectation. He had already addressed their Lordships on the injustice of the proposition for extending the area of taxation from the electoral district to the union, when the rate in any town district should amount to 2s. 6d. This was intended to operate as a benefit to the towns by preventing paupers from crowding into them from the surrounding agricultural districts; but the effect, in his opinion, would be the very reverse. It would operate as a bounty on settling in towns. The proposal in this Bill was, that when the rate in the towns exceeded 2s. 6d., the excess should be levied generally upon the union. He would briefly show the danger with which the plan was pregnant; for his belief was, that it would, on the contrary, whilst it injured the rural districts, have a tendency to cause a large influx of pauperism into the towns. There was no person who had travelled through the towns of Ireland, who had not been struck with the long lines of cabins and hovels that were erected in their immediate vicinity. Now, if the owners of these cabins and hovels could make their poor tenants the recipients of out-door relief, out of which they might be able to pay their rent, was it not obvious that a facility would be afforded to those landlords who had a larger interest in receiving rents to their interest in keeping down the amount of the rates? A capitalist might expend 1,000l. in the purchase of a piece of land near a town; he might build upon it; his tenants might become recipients of the poor rates: which, according to this Bill, would fall not exclusively upon the town, but upon persons living twenty and thirty miles from the town, so soon as it happened that the rate amounted to more than 2s. 6d., because the excess of the rate would then fall upon the union at large. There would have been more reason to have enacted that the rate in the first instance should fall upon the union at large; but that, if there were an excess of pauperism in any particular part of the union, the burden of that excess should fall upon that particular locality. This would afford a motive for economy. It was said that this Bill would have the effect of preventing the immigration of Irish paupers into England. There was, in his mind, no delusion greater than that of attributing any such effect to the measure. Yet he could trace the origin of the Act, by much of the support it received, to this most fallacious expectation. 102 He did not attribute this selfishness to the House he was addressing. He would not attribute to their Lordships a disposition to do wrong to Ireland, in order to gain a possible good for themselves. Their nature would revolt at it; but undoubtedly there were some persons who were not guided by so high and generous a feeling as that which he presumed actuated their Lordships; and he certainly believed, from what he had read and heard, that not a desire to relieve Irish poverty, but the desire to check Irish immigration into England, was one of the chief motives with many for supporting out-door relief. That was not very generous, but it was likewise most unwise and illogical. Out-door relief could not have the effect of checking immigration into England, unless it raised the rate of wages in Ireland; but all experience had proved that the effect of out-door relief was to lower the rate of wages; if so, then the effect of a rate levied for out-door relief, instead of checking immigration, would be to increase it in the proportion that the rate of wages was lowered by its operation. For this statement he had ample authority. He had the authority of the experience of England. Where were wages lowest? In the southern, and some of the eastern counties. Where was the out-door relief of the able-bodied carried to the greatest excess? In those very districts. Where were wages highest? In the north, where no such abuse prevailed. In addition to this, he had the testimony of practical and enlightened men, as he would show to their Lordships by reading a passage from the evidence given in 1830, before a Committee of the House of Commons upon this subject. The noble Lord here read the following extract:—J. Musgrave, Esq., gave evidence—'Under a compulsory system of relief the immigration of Irish paupers into England would be increased, because many labourers who are now induced to remain at home in order to support their relatives, would be inclined to come over to England, where there is so great a difference of wages: as long as the difference of wages exists, there will be great inducement to labourers to come over.'The right hon. A. Blake said—'I have no doubt that a system of compulsory relief will augment the number of Irish labourers who come over to England. If the Irish found that their poorer relations who depended on them for support were sure of being provided for without their aid, they would feel less difficulty in seeking, as the phrase is, their fortune in England.'The late Mr. Eusor testified that—'A provision for families would be a husband to that 103 family whilst the labourer was abroad, and therefore he would soon be liberated to pass abroad.'General Bourke said—'If a system of assessment for the poor had the effect of lowering wages, as I conceive it would, the motive to immigration would be still stronger than at present, by making the difference of wages still more to the disadvantage of Ireland.'Mr. J. R. M'Culloch was asked—' How do you think the introduction of poor laws into Ireland would act on the immigration of the Irish poor into England?' And his answer was, ' I should think it would rather increase the importation of them into England.'If, then, any reliance was to be placed upon either general principles or upon authority, it was perfectly clear that whatever might be the other effects to be produced by this Bill, it was absurd to suppose that it would prevent the immigration of the Irish poor into England. He belonged to a much-reviled class, the landlords of Ireland; but he might say truly that the Legislature of Great Britain and of Ireland, and indeed the Legislature of the United Kingdom, were as much obnoxious to reproach as the landlords of Ireland. He was unwilling, however, to open that chapter, and to describe the vicious and selfish legislation of past times. It was not the burdens they were called upon to bear of which the landlords of Ireland complained; he, for one, and most of those he was acquainted with, not only thought they ought to hear burdens for the benefit of others, but were ready and willing to bear them. His objection to this poor law was not directed or limited to the amount of burden this impolitic Bill would cast upon the landlords of Ireland, but to the still more impolitic and mischievous appropriation of the fund which it was intended to levy upon Irish property. Nobody objected to a tax for the relief of the poor, who were impotent and unable to support themselves, and who had not persons bound to support them. No one objected to the most lavish expenditure for the support of medical charities. No one objected to contribute to the maintenance of lunatic asylums. Above all, he thought that a tax for the education of the people might be considered a fair burden upon the land. Their Lordships had been told by Her Majesty's Government that it was intended to educate the people in their proper pursuit, that of agriculture. If Parliament had thought of this before, their Lordships would not have seen what had taken place in Ireland, where the schemes of landlords for the 104 improvement of their estates had been entirely frustrated by the ignorance of their tenants. But the Government ought to have gone further than they had done by this Bill, and have devised a system of emigration. Without the aid of a large and well-considered system of emigration, it was vain to hope to deal with the calamities of Ireland. He would bring this proposition distinctly before Parliament at a future time; but, in the meanwhile, he gave notice of his intention, in Committee, to urge two propositions, of which he had given notice: one for the omission of the clauses of the Bill which introduced the principle of giving out-door relief to the able-bodied; the other, which had been practically supported by the arguments of the noble Marquess—a clause limiting the direction of a Bill which was admitted by its Mover to be founded, not on permanent, but upon temporary and partial causes.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
wished to correct a misrepresentation which had been made of his statements; he was speaking simply in reference to the apprehended effect of this measure upon the value of landed property in Ireland. The actual amount of legal charge upon that land at the present moment he had showed to be only 7½d. in the pound.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
hoped that his noble Friend (Lord Mont-eagle) would not expect him on that occasion to enter upon the subject of emigration or medical charities. He was glad to hear him speak so strongly in favour of improving the system of agriculture in Ireland, and supplying the farmers of that country with better agricultural instruction; but he had heard him with the utmost astonishment in an earlier part of his speech say that the introduction of an improved system of agriculture, instead of enabling the farmer to employ more men, would actually give employment to fewer. Why, did not every one know that, wherever they increased the resources and wealth of the country, they necessarily caused an increase in the means of employment of the people? They were compelled, under such circumstances, to give increased employment to the people, not only by direct but by indirect means also. The great argument of his noble Friend against out-door relief was made on a comparison with the state of things in England; but had he compared this Bill at the same time with the poor law that existed in this country, the comparison would have been much 105 fairer. The noble Lord had frequently, in the course of his speech, laid much stress upon the question of the unions to be created under the Bill, and the extent of poor whom they would have to relieve; but he appeared to forget that by the 20th clause, it was provided that, wherever it was found necessary, the unions might be altered, so as to meet the exigencies of the case. However, such questions were more fit to be discussed when the Bill had reached Committee. The noble Earl (the Earl of Clancarty) opposed the Bill because it would impose a national tax upon Ireland; and yet in a very few minutes afterwards he said that he should have no objection to see a national rate imposed upon Ireland in cases of emergency; that where in particular parts of Ireland the amount of pauperism became excessive, it was but fair that from the general funds of the State there should be supplied the necessary sum to relieve that distress. His noble Friend had, in his opposition to this measure, relied very much on the report which had been recently issued by the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Ireland. Now, he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) entirely agreed with the recommendations in that report; and he was glad to know that they had the support of the right rev. Prelate who then sat upon the woolsack (the Archbishop of Dublin) in proposing this measure. In the twenty-fifth page of the report which had been so often alluded to, there was a paragraph which ended by recommending that out-door relief should be given to the aged and infirm, to helpless widows, to young children and females, and also to casual destitution. And what did they propose by this Bill? Out-door relief to the destitute and infirm. His noble Friend, in alluding to the principle of outdoor relief, had spoken as if out-door relief to all persons was to be given under this Bill; whereas it was only under certain circumstances that the Poor Law Commissioners would allow the guardians to afford relief for a certain time to distressed applicants. His noble Friend had said that the destitute condition of Ireland could not continue—that it would increase in misery; then if that were so, he would ask their Lordships whether it was not of the utmost importance that the effort proposed by this Bill should at once be made to renovate the condition of Ireland? Had not they better risk this measure, dangerous as it was described to be by his noble Friend, rather than let Ireland remain in her present de- 106 plorable condition. His noble Friend had also said that the evils under which Ireland laboured were only the effect of a passing emergency, and that the Bill was founded upon such emergency; but he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) contended that the effects of that emergency would be lasting—and it was therefore absolutely necessary that their Lordships should adopt strong measures to relieve the effects of the calamity that had fallen upon Ireland. But he would remind their Lordships that it was the intention of the Government to have proposed a measure similar to this long before that calamity had happened. Why did Sir Robert Peel send forth the commission of which his noble Friend near him (the Earl of Devon) was at the head? It was because it was felt that Ireland laboured under evils which it was absolutely necessary to remove without delay; and he felt confident that if this measure had been carried into effect years ago, she would now have been in a much superior condition. If they intended to legislate properly for Ireland, they must look to the effects which the emergency which his noble Friend had spoken of had brought upon Ireland, which would undoubtedly be of a permanent character. They had heard much of the petitions which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) frequently presented from persons in Liverpool, and other towns in Lancashire, about the immigration of Irish poor into that county. He, for one, was not surprised at those complaints. He must acknowledge the pressure caused upon particular localities by such immigration; but at the same time he must say that those complaints were a little too loud, and that there was something of injustice in them. When they talked of the pressure upon particular localities in England, caused by the recent calamity in Ireland, they should recollect that at the time of prosperity Irish labour was of the greatest benefit to England. Those great towns which had recently arisen on the shores of the Mersey, and the great works which had been accomplished throughout Lancashire, and even in this very metropolis, were indebted to the supply of cheap labour from Ireland, which formed a sort of nursery for English capital, and by which it was enabled to fructify so rapidly. Whether the works were under ground, in mines, or above the ground, the great supply of labour came from Ireland. In agriculture, also, the same observation applied with 107 equal truth. He would ask their Lordships whether it was wiser that the poor of Ireland should he left to depend upon the voluntary contributions of the humane, or that proper legal regulations should be sanctioned which would compel all the proprietors of land in that country to contribute their fair share to the support of the poor? Was it not well that they should endeavour by such a measure as this to get the state of Ireland into a better order? Whether they passed or rejected this poor law for Ireland, it was absolutely necessary for the welfare, for the very existence, of that country, that some amendment should take place in her condition. He did not agree with the most rev. Prelate (the Archbishop of Dublin), whoso speech on a former occasion he had a right to refer to, because he had since given it to the world in the shape of a pamphlet—a speech which, it appeared, had made a sensation in Ireland and elsewhere which, in his (the Marquess of Clanricarde's) opinion it ought not to have made. He did not agree with him that the Irish labourer was so desperately improvident, or altogether so perverse, as he represented him to be. Looking at what the Irish labourer did out of Ireland, and looking to what he did in Ireland, according to the reports of the best civil engineers, and the persons who employed labour to the greatest extent in that country, with the best economy, he contended that the Irish labourer was found to be actuated, like every other man, by the soundest principles of economy as regarded himself, and that he was willing to work, and to work well too, when he was well paid. The most rev. Prolate had said that the effect of a poor law for the peasantry of Ireland would be to reduce them to a state of slavery; and he had said that in order to employ as many as he could, he did not give the highest wages to the best men.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
You say you prefer giving employment to a greater number at less wages with moral training.
The ARCHBISHOP of DUBLIN
Allow me to say I give them as good wages as they usually could expect to earn.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
If, in order to employ a greater number of persons, the right rev. Prelate lowered the wages, then he did that very thing which was considered the evil of the poor law. 108 It was undoubtedly an evil that, in Ireland, the people were employed, not because their employment was wanted; and, therefore, he must say that, considering the matter soundly and economically, such employment was not profitable. They were employed for the purpose of giving them relief; and that was in itself a species of labour-rate which had an injurious tendency. The price of labour was not regulated by the work to be done, but by the number of persons who wanted employment. It was said that there was danger of an out-door relief becoming the rule and not the exception, and that the tenant-farmers would be unable or indisposed to do their duty, and that in point of fact the poor law would not be carried out. Now, he was ready to admit that the laws of the land did not consist of parchment only, but that when they talked of law they meant the laws and usages of society; and there was no doubt that in Ireland much required to be done in the way of effecting a change in the habits and usages of the community. If, however, the necessity of carrying out the principle now introduced was not acted upon—if the farmers did not see their own interest clearly in the matter—if they did not act as they ought to do—they, above all men, would be ruined, partly by the operation of this law, but chiefly by the state of things to which that country would be brought. If, again, landlords would not countenance the efforts which were made in endeavouring to teach the people how this law should be administered, they would clearly fail in their duty. He would say, that the whole working of this Bill depended on the people of Ireland themselves; and if they did not do their duty, and consent to be guided by those who were able and willing to teach them, how was it possible to administer this, or, indeed, any other law under such circumstances? He would not believe, however, that such could be the case; he was convinced that the people of Ireland were pretty well alive to the duty which they had to discharge, and were prepared to discharge it with propriety. Objections had been taken to the ex-officio clause, but he regarded it as one of great value. He might state that two applications had been made to him by gentlemen in Ireland, requesting that he would recommend them to the Lord Chancellor to be put upon the commission as magistrates, because they wanted to be ex-officio guardians of the poor. This showed that the gentlemen of 109 Ireland were alive to the necessity of taking active steps towards the recognition and administration of the measure now before the House. He believed that the ratepayers of Ireland would soon find the pressure on them so great that if they did not introduce order and regularity into the proceedings connected with the working of this Bill, and attend to the paupers of the country, those paupers would become unmanageable on their hands. Looking at the state of society in Ireland, he thought that even if the passing of the Bill before the House would create the state of things apprehended that night, still Parliament should not be deterred from altering the state of things which at present prevailed in that country. He had confidence in the gentry, the farmers, and the lower orders of Ireland. He believed that they were governed by those feelings that regulated other men, and that they were really industrious where industry was profitable to them. He trusted and confidently believed that the evils which had been apprehended would be avoided, and that the Bill would eventually confer a benefit on Ireland.
The ARCHBISHOP of DUBLIN
said, he had no intention to occupy their Lordships' time upon the present occasion beyond a few observations, because he thought this was not the most suitable time for entering on the merits of the Bill, especially after what had been so ably said on both sides of the House. He rose merely to make a remark on an allusion to an expression in a former speech of his, which allusion was calculated to occasion a false impression. He was quite sure the noble Lord had no intention to misrepresent; but a very small difference in an expression would sometimes make all the difference between right and wrong. His (the Archbishop of Dublin's) expression occurred in a description of his own practice—ho was describing the fruits of his own experience—and what he had said was, that he did not give "high wages." That, of course, was a very indefinite expression; but he did not mean it to be understood by that that he was in the habit of giving lower wages than the best wages such workmen could earn anywhere else. By saying that he did not give high wages, he meant that he was not in the habit of giving such wages as he would wish to see an industrious able-bodied man earn—such wages as he would wish to see him bring home to his family to increase their comforts and well-being. He gave such wages as would not dis- 110 courage the man from finding employment elsewhere to the best of his powers, and such as would not draw labourers off from the ordinary pursuits of agriculture. But he (the Archbishop of Dublin) must take leave to draw a distinction which the noble Lord who spoke last overlooked. He did employ many persons; and so did several noble Lords present, and one in particular, who expended with great liberality a large part of his income in providing employment for labourers for whose services he had not actually any need; and he (the Archbishop of Dublin) thought that a legitimate and proper mode of conferring relief so long as it was done voluntarily, and secretly. He and many of his neighbours on certain occasions might say, "Here is such a one and such a one who are steady active men, and willing to work. Do not let us de-grade them by driving them to parish relief, but let us find work for them. I will employ John; do you employ Thomas; and let another employ Charley, and so on, for a few weeks, in order to enable them to maintain their families. I will level a ditch or a bank, or make a ditch or a road, although I do not much need it; do you do likewise, in order to keep them in work till a busier time of the year arrives." This plan had been frequently acted upon in England, as most of their Lordships were aware; and by that means proprietors frequently saved themselves cost in the end, and, what was of much more importance, they saved the character of the labourers. In that case, above all others, he should say, "You should not let your left hand know what your right hand doeth." When this practice was found to be so useful, it was frequently supposed that it would be a good plan to make it a regular compulsory thing, and that the labourers should be divided among the occupiers, who should pay a certain rate commonly called a "labour rate." But as soon as it was discovered by the labourers that they were employed to keep them from the parish—to keep them from being a burden on the rates—then the spell was broken, and the whole charm was destroyed; they felt themselves in the condition of paupers—as a sort of slaves—as persons who must be employed because you must feed them at all events. It was not his intention to detain the House with any full discussion on the Bill now before them; but, being on his legs, he could not but take this opportunity of expressing how much he felt the difficulties and embarrass- 111 ments in which Her Majesty's advisers were now placed. He was perfectly certain that various persons of different opinions were calling on the Government to perform impossibilities. Such persons were giving suggestions which could not possibly be acted upon, and censuring the Government for not removing the afflictions which Providence had sent upon us, and the removal of which was far beyond their power. He wished to take this opportunity of expressing his full concurrence in what fell from the noble Lord who opened this debate, in respect of the gratitude he felt himself bound to express in behalf of the Irish people for the great bounty and genuine liberality of the people of England, and he might add the people of America likewise, towards the Irish people. He had been made the channel of conveying to the people of Ireland a large portion of the contributions that came from America. He had received, not long ago, intelligence of the arrival of a large cargo of corn meal, purchased by the contributions of the people of Philadelphia, through the suggestion and instrumentality of Bishop Potter, a Protestant Episcopalian bishop, who announced to him the collection that had been made. He had received intelligence of the arrival of the first cargo, and was also informed that another was on the way. Those liberal contributors, both from the United States and from Canada, and other of our colonies abroad, had been entrusted to his care; and he had, therefore, taken the opportunity of returning thanks for them on behalf of the people of Ireland. He trusted he need not assure most of their Lordships that the distribution of those contributions was made in such a manner as would most effectually carry into effect the beneficent purposes of the donors. Various attacks had been made upon him in reference to his share in the inquiries made under a Commission of which he had bad the honour to be a member; and other accusations had been brought against him by various parties, in several quarters, for many years. But during the number of years that he had the honour of being a Member of their Lordships' House, he never troubled himself with any defence against them. The first time he had the honour of addressing their Lordships—now fourteen years since—he undertook to declare the maxim on which he acted—"That character that will not defend itself is not worth defending." With reference to the present measure, from what he knew 112 of human nature, he did feel that it was a perilous experiment to hold out the prospect of relief provided by law for all parties in want. He trusted he should not be conducting himself harshly towards the advocates of this measure if he called on them to consider how many rocks and shoals there were—as they themselves acknowledged—through which they would have to steer their way. In Ireland there was not the requisite machinery for carrying out the measure; there was not a rudder or compass to guide them through these shoals. There might be a very good chart laid down in the Bill; but there was neither sail nor tackling nor paddle-wheels to steer them through. That was the main ground of his objection. Owing to the faults of the lower classes of the people—the claimants of relief, and of those next above them, the distributors of that relief—for he did not mean to say that the higher classes in Ireland wore without their share of various faults, insurmountable difficulties, and irremediable abuses, might be expected to arise. The more faulty both classes were, the greater would be the danger of administering this most difficult system, and carrying it through safely. He would not detain their Lordships longer than to say, that it was a sense of the great hazard, the difficulty, and the extreme importance of the measure, and of the difficulty Parliament would find of retracing their steps, which induced him on a former occasion, and now again, to urge on the House to exercise the greatest degree of caution and deliberation before they passed this as a permanent law—a law which it would be both unpopular and dangerous hereafter to repeal, and still more dangerous to retain.
My Lords, I exceedingly regret the duty devolving on me of troubling the House with a few observations. I am, however, relieved, first, by the hope and confidence I entertain, that, after the discussion that has taken place, my noble Friend behind me will not ask the House to proceed to a division; and also because a great portion of that which I have to address to your Lordships has been much more ably addressed to you already by my noble Friend opposite, in almost all of whose arguments I am disposed to concur, although I am not prepared to run those arguments the whole length he does. I entirely concur with the right rev. Prelate who last addressed you, that the question is fraught with great 113 danger, and requires the most dispassionate deliberation, and that it is fraught with inconveniences much greater and more serious in their character than the pecuniary results, whatever they may he, which are likely to follow from the adoption of this measure. I think that there have been some difficulties in the way not understood by the noble Marquess who moved the second reading. I think that there has been some little misunderstanding in regard to this measure arising out of this emergency; and I think that probably this Bill would not have been brought forward at this period, if it were not for that emergency which forces on your consideration the affairs of Ireland in the most painful light. But, my Lords, I do not say, therefore, it is not necessary for us to deal with the question; for, although the present emergency is great and pressing, and may be of a temporary character, yet it will operate for many years on the social condition of Ireland; and the effect of the present emergency, caused as it has been by the destruction of the potato crop, will last for many years, and, for sonic few years at least, cause a serious alteration in the social condition of Ireland. I am prepared to admit the importance of legislating cautiously on a subject of this vast importance in a moment of excitement, when all our feelings of pity and commiseration are aroused, and when the feeling of alarm is too general and too wide spread to enable the Legislature to give to the condition of Ireland that dispassionate consideration which is called for; but at the same time, whatever inconvenience there may he in legislating on a subject of this importance, especially at a moment like the present, I may be permitted to observe that there are some circumstances which give facilities for well-considered change in the law regulating the relief of the poor in Ireland, which might not exist under other circumstances. All classes of society in Ireland are now prepared for great changes in their social condition. There is a general breaking up of many old habits and old customs, old feelings, and old prejudices. Stern necessity has forced upon the Irish people lessons which they have been slow to learn; and therefore it is I say that, under these circumstances, there are facilities for carrying into effect great changes in the social system of Ireland, which would not have been offered under circumstances of less aggravated pressure. But, my Lords, although the present time 114 unquestionably affords these facilities, it does not exempt Her Majesty's Government, neither does it exempt your Lordships, from the necessity of divesting ourselves of all personal feelings—of all individual interests—or of all feelings which may have the effect of warping the decision of our calm and sober judgments, so as to prevent the consideration of the peculiar nature of the emergency, or of the ultimate result of this line of policy which is proposed for our adoption. My Lords, it may be that by a hasty and ill-considered measure you may not in a temporary manner, but for a permanency, lay property low before an overwhelming mass of pauperism; and it may be, on the other hand, that by good legislation you may be conducted through this great danger—it may be that we shall be led, through great ruin to individuals and loss to ourselves—it may be that we shall be led, through great difficulties and dangers—to a sounder social state than Ireland has yet known—and it may be, out of this nettle, danger, we may happily pluck the flower, safety. These are the questions for your Lordships to deliberate upon; hut, whatever may be your decision, it is of importance, as the most rev. Prelate has warned you, that you should take no step which you can be called upon to retrace—that you should commit yourselves to no course which you are not assured is prudent—no course that does not offer the best chance of remedy. My Lords, I have before said, that in my mind the pecuniary consequences which must result from this measure are the least important; but I must say, that with regard to those considerations, the noble Earl on the cross bench (the Earl of St. Germans) appears to me to have inadequately estimated the amount of evil to be apprehended from them. The noble Earl spoke of 7d. and 10½d. as the amount of legal charges to be assessed on landed property in Ireland. All I can say is, that in the union in which some of my property is situated, I received information a short time ago that a rate of 6s. in the pound had been struck. But, my Lords, this is not all; for I know that there are more aggravated cases, and that at the present moment—I don't say permanently, God forbid that I should!—but I say that at present there are unions in Ireland in which a rate of more than 20s. in the pound has been assessed for the relief of the poor. Whether that state of things is to continue, I cannot say—whether it is to be modified, I cannot say—or whether it 115 is altogether to be done away, I cannot say; for it depends not upon the humanity, not upon the good feeling, nor upon the kindness of disposition, but on the wisdom and sound prudence of your legislation, under the awful circumstances of the present crisis. If this Bill had contained a provision for an indiscriminate out-door relief to be granted to the population of Ireland, there would have been no warmer or stronger opponent to the measure, so far as my power of opposition could have gone, than I should have thought it my duty to be; but, if I understand the measure aright, it is practically, so far from sanctioning, putting a negative on the claim to out-door relief. At the same time, there could be no doubt it was largely extending—and, as I think, wisely—the amount of relief which is to be offered to the destitution of Ireland from the public funds. As the law at present stands, there is no claim to relief on the part of a single individual in Ireland. But the noble Earl on the cross benches says that the guardians of the poor-law unions are bound to provide for the destitute. I think otherwise; and I believe that no person can go before a board of guardians in Ireland, and can insist, as a matter of right, upon their maintaining him at the charge of the union, wherever it may be. This Bill has this great claim, that it is no longer discretionary, but mandatory and imperative, upon the guardians to provide for the permanently destitute, the sick, and the infirm in the workhouse, or out of it, according to their discretion. My Lords, it goes further, for it authorizes assistance to be given to the able-bodied out of the workhouse, in certain cases. Let us for a moment look at the position of an able-bodied pauper in Ireland, as the law at present stands. He applies for relief; he is refused by the board of guardians; and he has no power to compel them to administer it. They exercise their discretion; they cannot relieve him; but they offer to take him into the workhouse. But it so happens that the workhouse is full; and yet they have no power to provide for him. By the proposed law, it is true, there is nothing imperative upon the guardians to relieve him; but the Poor Law Commissioners have the power to call upon the guardians, provided the workhouse be full, to grant to the able-bodied pauper relief for a period not exceeding two months, such relief to be administered only in food. I must say, that if this clause stood alone, I do not 116 think it is open to serious abuse; for the relief can be afforded only in food, and when the workhouse is full, the man absolutely destitute, and, above all, only for two months, and then under the orders of the Poor Law Commissioners. But, my Lords, we must not forget, when we talk of workhouses being full, that there is already a law empowering the guardians to hire temporary buildings and to increase the workhouse accommodation to any extent that may be deemed requisite; there is no limit placed to the extra accommodation so to be afforded; in point of fact, the guardians may order any amount of accommodation they please. There is, then, a great facility offered by this Bill, because the present inmates of workhouses are, not exclusively, but in a great measure, composed of that class for which power is given of providing relief in or out of the workhouse. In the event, therefore, of any great or sudden pressure on the resources of the union, the first and second step which would naturally be taken by a provident board of guardians should be, to make provision out of the workhouse for all those for whom they are authorized to make such provision—leaving the workhouse available for the able-bodied poor—and then to add to the extent and augment the number of the workhouses. Now, when I talk of powers for extending workhouses, I perfectly agree with my noble Friend opposite as to the utter inefficiency and inadequacy of the present workhouses in Ireland to meet the requirements made upon them. When we find one workhouse for a circuit of from 800 to 1,000 square miles, and perhaps distant from the pauperized districts some forty miles, I think it is clear that the workhouse test cannot be effectually applied in Ireland. This is a subject which requires the most careful and serious attention. It is true, the Poor Law Commissioners have the power to increase the number of workhouses, and to diminish the size of the unions; but remember, the power is not one of a compulsory nature. The size of the unions and the number of the workhouses which might be adequate to a limited system of relief, previously to the passing of this Bill, will be entirely insufficient when applied to the new measure. If, therefore, you are to make the workhouse test effectual, the increase of the number of the workhouses is a sine quâ non to the good working of the measure. But I go further, and entirely concur with my noble Friend, that if there 117 is to be any safety in the measure it must be by enlisting all classes of ratepayers and all the property of Ireland in one common interest, for the purpose of preventing lavish expenditure, and of guarding against an undue administration of the funds. It has been stated by a noble Lord, that there are not in Ireland the elements requisite to the local administration of such a measure. If this is so, your efforts are hopeless. If for one moment it could happen in carrying out the poor law in this country, that throughout you do not possess a local administration, with all the knowledge and all the will to develop its principle, the principle would break down under them in a trial of three months. My Lords, before I proceed further on the subject, I implore of you not to be led away by the false and vague denunciations which have filled the public press of late, and which have been repeated out of doors and in another place—denunciations against the Irish landlords for exercising tyranny and oppression against their tenants. My Lords, I must go further, and implore of you not to throw upon the property of Ireland, and upon the landlords of Ireland, burdens which in your conscience you know you could not yourselves bear. I must also beseech of you not to call upon them to do that which you could not effect yourselves. I must solicit you most earnestly to compare the authority and power which you exercise over your estates in this country, with the authority and power which the Irish landlords exercise over theirs in Ireland. It is the fashion now-a-days to talk of the unlimited powers of landlords over their tenants; but I think it would be more appropriate to say, with respect to the case of Irish landlords, that the power of the tenants over them is very much greater than the authority of the landlords over the tenants in this country. This I do not hesitate to say, though I am quite willing to admit that there are individual cases of landlord oppression, especially on the part of small proprietors. In point of fact, however, whatever it may be theoretically in law, it is in Ireland the tenant who has the power over the landlord, nor the landlord over the tenant. I, therefore, pray your Lordships to abstain from laying on the property of that country a burden to which it is unequal. God forbid that I should deny property has its duties as well as its rights; but it must be conceded its rights in order to perform its duties. I ask you, for that reason, not to 118 call on property, invested with rights inferior to those it enjoyed in this country, to exercise duties which, under similar or more favourable circumstances, you yourselves would be incapable of performing. My Lords, I am now about to refer to one provision already commented upon, and to a suggestion which has been made in the other House of Parliament. The one is, with respect to the extent of unions, and the other, to the question of the rate falling on the occupying tenant. I have already said, that your only safety is in enlisting in the control of the measure the interests of all who are concerned directly in the payment of the tax. Now, I must ask you first, with regard to the size of the union; and, looking at the inducements which they ought to offer to all concerned in the payment of taxes to curtail the expenditure by voluntary effort, what possible motive can any landlord have to make a temporary and great sacrifice—a sacrifice of present income for the purpose of placing his tenant in a more prosperous condition? What advantage can he gain from the improvement of his estate, from the employment of his people, and the suppression of pauperism, if, with all the charges that are to be brought upon him, he be reduced, if not to the condition of a cipher, to that of a mere item, in an enormous union exceeding 800 square miles, of which, perhaps, two or three square miles were his own property, and the remainder in the hands of other persons, not of the same provident character, not of the same kind and liberal disposition as himself, but who will be encouraged by this Bill to pursue a careless course, covering their land with pauperism, because, knowing that the charge would fall not on them, but on the man who conducted his affairs more economically? The evil and difficulty of those extensive unions are at present severely felt; and how much more severely will they be felt under the operation of this Act! Various electoral divisions at present comprise 10,000 acres; and I ask what motive will there be for individual exertion, when you will have extended those divisions to 150,000 acres? If this principle of enlarging electoral divisions be adopted, you will no longer make the charge conterminous with the bounds of property; and, by making the rate of the careless and indifferent manager of his property fall with equal burden on him who is judicious and careful, you will be laying the foundation of an ill- 119 directed, useless, reckless expenditure. I do, therefore, most sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government will reconsider the proposition of extending the area of taxation, for I am sure it will he found to work most mischievously. It has been suggested that the townland division should he the area; but such an area will, I consider, he much too small. To work the measure well, it will be necessary to increase the number of workhouses and the number of unions; but it will also he necessary to increase the number of electoral divisions in those unions, and to diminish the area of taxation in order to furnish a motive to individual responsibility. I now come to another question, which I deem to be one of the greatest importance. It is a question upon which the noble Marquess who opened this debate expressed the strongest opinion; and my opinion is equally strong in opposition to his. The question is, upon whom—not retrospectively or immediately, but prospectively and ultimately—is to fall the weight of this taxation? What principle will you lay down as to the class of persons who are to bear it? You know at present the charge is borne by the occupier with power to deduct from the landlord one half of the rate. That is the principle of the taxation, but the real result is that more than two-thirds of the rate are borne by the landlord, leaving scarcely one-third to be borne by the tenant. The result may be, that when you introduce out-door relief, and make the landlord wholly liable, the tenant will have an interest in causing a large expenditure of the rate for the purpose of maintaining some persons whom he might otherwise have to maintain himself. Even in England, my Lords, where the farmers are comparatively wealthy and intelligent, and where the farms are of considerable extent—even in England, I say, it would not be endured that a board of guardians, composed of farmers, should be able to deduct two-thirds of the rate from the owners of the soil. In this country the farmers commonly hold 300, 400, 500, and even as much as 1,000 acres, whilst in Ireland the farms—if such they can be called—are five, ten, twenty, or thirty acres; and yet it is upon a body of farmers of that description that you are about to confer the power of raising the rate. I tell you I look upon this provision of the Bill with the utmost dread and alarm. The noble Marquess opened his speech by saying, that the result of the present state 120 of things would be to diminish considerably the number of small holders of land. He looked forward with hope, as I do, to the time when the system in that country will be somewhat more analogous to the English system. I, too, look forward with expectation to the period when, as my noble Friend said, the plough shall he substituted for the spade—I mean as the spade is at present employed—and I must here say, that I do not agree with my noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) that the substitution of an improved mode of husbandry will diminish the demand for labour. On the contrary, I believe that the best chance for an increase of employment in agricultural pursuits, is the introduction of a more scientific system of cultivation. The noble Marquess said, the landlords must increase the size of estates, decrease the number of tenants, and employ the surplus labour. All this sounded very well, but it is exactly what the landlords cannot do; it is what the Government itself could not do, with all the power of the Crown, upon the model estate it held in its own hands. For sixteen years the Government has been engaged in vain attempts to dislodge one single tenant, and he a tenant-at-will! and not one of them has for years paid one penny of rent! They were put in as caretakers of the property, and they took very good care of it indeed, for they took such a liking to their charge, that they could not be induced to part with it. They locked their doors against the landlord, and refused either to give up their farms or to pay a single shilling in any capacity whatsoever. I should like to ask what has the Crown done for the improvement of that property? And when the landlords in Ireland are called to so severe an account for not having their estates in a better condition, and their farms better ordered—landlords, too, who are in the midst of a starving population and a turbulent peasantry, I think they may point with some sort of justice to this model farm, and also, my Lords, to the confessions of the Ministers of the Crown in their capacity of Irish landlords. I admit as willingly as any one that the system of small holdings in an evil—I admit that a diminution ought to take place; but how is that to be done? How, but by diminishing the motive which at present influences so large a proportion of the population to be holders of land—by making them feel the duties and responsibilities of landholding—by obliging them to contribute a fair propor- 121 tion towards the maintenance of the poor. As the Bill originally stood, there was not one of these holders of small farms that might not come forward and demand relief from the rates. The provision of the Bill prohibiting the giving of relief to a man occupying land, will go a considerable way in diminishing the attachment to the land in Ireland; but it is not enough; it will not produce any effect on the social condition of the country, the progress of agricultural improvement, or the employment of labour. If the occupier of a small plot cultivates it tolerably by the labour of his family, it is as much as you can expect; but he cannot employ labour, and he allows his land to remain half cultivated. The peasantry were content to remain half starved and half clothed, in habits of ease and indolence, until this alarming visitation of Providence came upon them. Do not let me be mistaken. When they have sufficient wages to stimulate them to exertion—when they are well fed and taken care of, and thoroughly well overlooked—they get through their work very well. They work hard in this country: why? because for a bad days work they would get no wages at all. They get full wages, but must give full work. In his own country, the habits of the peasant and his mode of labour are quite different; nine-tenths of the labouring population, as they are called, prefer receiving 6d. a day for six hours' work, to 1s. 6d. a day for twelve hours. The only chance, I say again, for the welfare of Ireland is in the diminution of the number of the small occupiers of land, and in the multiplication of the number of independent labourers. We must endeavour to multiply that class which has the power to employ labour, and extend the area over which such a class will have influence. It is ridiculous to expect that the landlords can employ the surplus labouring population. I do not mean to say but the landlords may afford some relief in the parishes in which they reside, by employing a greater quantity of the surplus labour than they absolutely require; but, as a rule, the labourers must be employed by the occupier, and not by the landlord. It would be ridiculous, if it were not so lamentable, to indulge the fatal error that the owners of the soil can employ the surplus population, when all their estates are subdivided into portions of ten and fifteen acres each, and held by men who have not the means of occupying a single labourer; and the landlord would be resisted to the 122 death who sought, at his own expense, even to run a straight division between two holdings, if one of the tenants thought he should get half a "cow's grass" the less by the change. Then, my Lords, what I say is, compel the occupier who takes the land to bear the responsibility of it. Do I say, throw a heavier burden on the occupier than he at present bears? I mean no such thing, my Lords; and I wish to guard against misrepresentation upon this part of the subject, of which there has been already too much. What I mean is, that when the tenant is about to bargain with the landlord for his farm, the latter should say to him, "Now, recollect, I let you my land on condition that you pay the poor-rate;" and from that moment the tenant would have a direct interest in keeping down pauperism by enlarging the field of employment, and his interest would be identified with those of the landlord. But it is a vain, a foolish, a visionary expectation, to suppose that the substantial farmers will employ additional labourers for the purpose of diminishing the rates which are paid by the landlord. I do not object to out-door relief, guarded as it is in this Bill by proper restrictions; but to the two great points I have described I entreat your Lordships to give your most careful consideration. But, my Lords, let me warn your Lordships not to be led into the fatal error of legislating against "impressions." The noble Marquess has spoken about "impressions"—I wish he had not used the phrase. Do not be led away, my Lords, by any such delusion. You are about to make a great, a dangerous, and it may be a fatal experiment. I entreat of you not to make it more dangerous, more fatal, by being led away against your better judgment in order to adapt your legislation to impressions. Exercise your free and unfettered discretion; and recollect that you are better judges of what will be ultimately advantageous to those to whom the law is intended to apply, than those persons themselves. If you do not give to the owners of property greater means of improvement—if you do not give encouragement to improve those lands nominally theirs—if you do not give to them greater facilities of obtaining (by fair means undoubtedly) that land which has been mismanaged by small occupiers—above all, if you do not give the occupiers themselves an interest in keeping down the rates, depend upon it that the introduction of this Bill will be one of the most fatal boons 123 that ever was conferred by England upon Ireland. Again, my Lords, I entreat you not to be led away by any desire to yield to these impressions. Enter upon the great task as statesmen—as provident, foreseeing, and bold statesmen—bold, because convinced of the truth of the principles by which you are actuated. Do not be deterred from doing what is just—do not stop half way—do not throw upon the land burdens which you know the land is unable to bear—do not think to confer a been upon the occupier by leaving him in possession of all those motives which now influence him to withhold the possession of that land which he cannot till. I entreat you, my Lords, to weigh well these most grave and important questions, and not to be carried away by the impressions of the moment, but to be swayed by calculations of the future. I believe, if the Government boldly face the difficulties—and difficulties of the most serious kind they will have to contend with—that they will be assisted to the utmost in the endeavour to overcome them. They will have to encounter no factious hostility, no party opposition, no political manœuvres, no paltry desire of triumph; on the contrary, they will have every party in this and in the other House of Parliament cordially engaging in cooperating with them in bringing this scheme to a successful issue. Do not be led away by impressions—do not be guided by what may be popular for the moment; but seriously consider what is the safest, or I should rather say the least dangerous legislation—what measure will ultimately lead to a state of society better organized, more harmonious, more closely knit together, more prosperous, than ever existed in Ireland up to this day, or than ever can whilst the present subdivision of land exists in that country. It will not do to bring one of the elements of prosperity into operation. There must be a combination of the three—of land, labour, and capital. At present there is a surplus of labour beyond the power of demand. Emigration has been suggested. My belief is, that you must provide for the expatriation of a portion of the population. I do not share in the alarm so freely expressed, that it is only the possessors of capital who are emigrating. I have before stated in this House, and I now repeat my belief, that the middle classes of the people, even the small farmers of Ireland, are far from being destitute of capital; and what I say is often proved in the transactions between 124 the man who disposes of his interest in a farm to another, as well as upon other occasions. I believe there is abundance of capital, but the cultivation of the land cannot be advantageously carried on according to the present distribution. There must be a class of people created who will have the will as well as the ability to employ the population; and whose interest it will be, not to encourage pauperism, but to repress it—not to promote turbulence and disorder, but to put them down. I was about to speak of the large and, I think, dangerous powers which are given to relieving officers; but at this late hour of the night I will not further trespass on your Lordships. My Lords, I may say in conclusion—and I believe that in saying so I represent the feelings of most of your Lordships—that we do not grudge the Government the credit of framing and bringing forward a scheme which, if successful, will be most important, and most useful indeed; we freely take our share of the burden of deliberation, and are willing to use all our exertions in assisting the Government to carry it through Parliament—we tender our suggestions with frankness—we state our objections openly, and not captiously—we shall spare no pains to bring it to a successful issue; and our earnest prayer is, that this most perilous measure may, by our joint efforts, our acting harmoniously together, listening with patience to the arguments proceeding from either side, and guided only by the voice of reason, ultimately lead to the social reconstruction of Irish society, and the permanent improvement of that portion, and, if of that portion, of the whole united empire.
The EARL of DESART
expressed his gratification at the noble and disinterested conduct of the people of England, and strongly reprobated the language used by agitators and fomenters of discord in Ireland, whom he beseeched their Lordships not to regard as representing the sentiments of the people. The noble Earl (who was heard but indistinctly) was understood to express an opinion, that the only means of remedying the evils of Ireland would be to furnish employment for her surplus population, whom it would be idle to think of supporting by means of any system of out-door relief.
said, that having recently declared his opinions fully with respect to this question, he felt it to be unnecessary to trouble their Lordships with 125 many observations at that moment. He differed from those who thought that the present pressure of circumstances afforded a reason for adopting the measure; he thought it a reason for not legislating on such a subject. In his opinion, the opportunity was taken to carry the measure, which but for some such extraordinary pressure of circumstances, no one would have dreamt of proposing. To meet a temporary pressure, they were about to impose a permanent burden. He hoped that, at least, the operation of the Bill would be limited to one year, and from then to the end of the next Session of Parliament. Still they would be sinning against principle in passing the measure at all; and, having once given it a temporary existence, it would be found very difficult, if not impossible, to repeal it. It would be desirable to throw the burden upon the occupier, as in this country; but it was impossible to do so. Great as would be the responsibility of the Government, and great as would be the risk to the public peace, if they were to do nothing in this matter, that responsibility and that risk would be a mere jest compared with what they would have to encounter if a Bill should be sent over to Ireland which would impose the burden, even prospectively, upon the occupier. It was absolutely and hopelessly impossible to do any such thing. The consequence would be that the occupier, who was the person that ought to control the expenditure, would have no interest in doing so, because he knew the money would come out of the landowner's pocket. The whole course of that night's debate had more and more thoroughly convinced him that the Bill would be found incapable of execution, from the want of the machinery to work it. The diversity of opinion which prevailed on the subject, confirmed him in his opinion. Every noble Lord who had spoken that night had taken a perfectly different view of almost all the essential particulars of the plan. Indeed, one noble Lord, who had spoken from the cross benches, was so enamoured with poor-law relief, that he expressed great indignation because the owners of land could not obtain relief under the provisions of the Bill. The noble Lord did not care whether the owner or the occupier of the land paid the rates; but he wished the landowner at any rate to come in for his share of relief.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
would give his vote for the second reading of the Bill, on the broad principle that he thought that 126 in every civilized and Christian land care should be taken that no person should perish from destitution, or should be without a regular legal provision in case of distress. But that was not the case with Ireland at present; the poor there had absolutely no claim to relief; it was in the discretion of the guardians whether they should give relief or not; but the two first clauses of this Bill conferred upon every one in Ireland a right to relief—to the aged and infirm, and those of the able-bodied that were in casual distress; the relief to the latter class to be given out of doors. But while he urged as strongly as he could the principle that it was their duty to provide moans of relief for the poor, he thought it but right that they should fix the manner in which that relief should be given; and he, therefore, only supported out-door relief on this principle, that when the workhouses were full, relief might be afforded outside the workhouses. To that extent he supported out-door relief for Ireland.
§ Bill read 2a.
§ House adjourned.