§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
then rose and said: I rise in pursuance of a Notice which I gave to move for the production of certain Papers relating to the Distress which at present prevails in Ireland, including the Correspondence which has taken place between the Board of Works and the Commissariat Department, and certain Officers engaged in the conduct of the arrangements which have been made with a view to the alleviation of that distress. My Lords, the Motion which I have now to make is one with respect to which I anticipate no opposition; but nevertheless I should not think it respectful to your Lordships, or suitable to the importance of the subject, if I did not avail myself of the earliest opportunity of laying before this House the actual state of things with relation to which I am about to make this Motion—to the measures to which the Government have had recourse for the purpose of mitigating the distress in Ireland, and the measures which, instructed by the experience of the past, and made more and 356 more aware as the season advanced of the magnitude of the calamity, Her Majesty's Government propose to submit to your Lordships, in the hope that there will be only one feeling of anxiety to administer, to the utmost extent that shall be safe and practicable, every remedy that can be presented for that unfortunate part of the kingdom. I am fully aware, that in the statement which I have to make, I cannot fail to weary your Lordships; or if I should not be wearisome, it can only be caused by the deep and melancholy interest which every one of your Lordships must take in the subject of this Motion. It is useless, my Lords, for us to deceive ourselves with regard to the magnitude of the evil which we are now called upon to meet: that evil has been, unhappily, placed before us in colours too clear and distinct to leave room for doubt; and whatever flattering hopes your Lordships may have indulged in at an earlier period of the season, I have no doubt that when this calamity and its extent have been thoroughly sifted and examined, it will be found by your Lordships to be the greatest calamity with respect to that part of the United Kingdom which has ever fallen upon any country described in the history of civilized Europe. We have read of such calamities in oriental countries, the descriptions of which are almost poetical; but within that period of history with the facts of which we are accurately acquainted, there is no account of the means of sustenance of a people having been so generally destroyed, so entirely withdrawn from them, as that which we have witnessed in Ireland. It is as useless and as unwise for us to attempt to deceive ourselves with respect to the magnitude of the calamity with which we have to contend, as it would be in case of a war to underrate the force, the numbers, and the power of the enemy by whom we might be threatened; and I will therefore state to your Lordships what, according to the best calculations, is the amount of loss in money value which the country has sustained from the recent failure in the crops in Ireland. Taking the rent of the land in Ireland for potatoes at 10l. an acre, and for oats at 3l. 10s., the deficit in money from the failure of the crop would be 11,350,000l. in potatoes, and 4,660,000l. in oats, or about a total value of 16,000,000l., which has fallen on a country, which, if it cannot be said to be the poorest, is certainly not one of the richest in the world; and in weight between 8,000,000 and 357 9,000,000 of tons—a loss equivalent to 1,500,000 acres of arable land. Two considerations must arise in your Lordships' minds on the bare simple statement of these facts—that this is a calamity which is a dispensation of Providence to which we must submit, and that it is one which we are bound to endeavour as far as it is practicable to alleviate; but that it is, at the same time, one to which it is impossible to apply a complete and adequate remedy. There is another consideration which cannot fail to impress itself on your Lordships, so many of whom are acquainted with the history and state of society in Ireland—and it is this, that great as such a calamity as this would be in any country in the world, there are circumstances in the habits and situation of the people of Ireland which aggravate its weight and pressure on them, and deprive them, in a greater degree than would be the case with any other people, of other means of relief, by taking refuge in different means of subsistence or different habits from those to which they are accustomed. One conviction, then, will arise in your minds, and I hope also in the minds of all persons in this country as well as in Ireland, viz., that whatever disposition there may be to affix blame in particular quarters, there is no person or body of persons who can with any degree of justice be charged with having produced the weight of this calamity. I state this because I know that many persons say that they think there has been that in the conduct of the landlords of Ireland which has contributed to produce the calamity with which that country is afflicted. I have already stated this belief, that whatever blame may attach (as must be the case in all societies) to particular individuals or classes, or whether or not more blame may attach to the landlords of Ireland than to the same class in any other country, for a greater degree of negligence or remissness, yet I venture to say that there is nothing that is within their reach to perform, that there is no effort they could have made within the past ten years, that could in any degree have averted that great calamity from Ireland. I have heard it said in some societies, why did the landlords of Ireland allow this population to depend for their subsistence on so wretched, uncertain, and perilous a produce as the potato? Why, it would be quite as reasonable and just, if three-fourths of this great city of London were to be destroyed by fire, to ask those 358 by whom the houses were built, why they did not build them of marble or Portland stone? The answer would have been, London would not have been London if that condition had been applied to its building. And so, in like manner, the answer would be, that Ireland would not have been Ireland, or its population what it is. It may be much to be lamented that the production of the potato should have increased to the extent it has; but there have been no means in the power of those who possess the land of that country, or in the power of the Government, but means of the most gradual description. Those means have, I believe, been applied to a certain extent to industry and agriculture in Ireland, and the cultivation of that country has been of late years assuming a character of greater utility to the people than before. This has been effected by the introduction of science and capital. But those means are in their nature slow; and if the proprietors of land in Ireland are charged with not effecting a great alteration suddenly in the social economy of the country, let it be remembered that if they had endeavoured to do so, they could only do it by means of exercising the powers which belong to the rights and privileges of property—powers which in full no man would wish to exercise under the present circumstances of Ireland, and which, if they had been exercised, would subject them to reprobation and blame—by doing that which would have been undoubtedly most effectual in an economical point of view, but which, by the general clearing of estates, would have been attended with an amount of misery, crime, and unhappiness, which I do not believe those persons who suggest that mode of proceeding, because they believe that in its ultimate results it would be beneficial to the whole country, would have themselves countenanced; while they would not have abstained from condemning every person who might take on himself to pursue it, and by so doing sport with the lives and the happiness of persons who were living on his land, for the sake of obtaining an ultimate economical benefit. Such economical advantages can only be arrived at by slow degrees; and it is while a better system has been going on in many parts of the country, that Ireland has been subjected to that overwhelming affliction to which your Lordships' attention is now called. My Lords, if this has been the case with regard to the proprietors of the soil—if they have not been enabled by any efforts 359 of theirs to ward off so sudden and heavy a blow—equally is it true that it was impossible for any Government to prevent the calamity which has fallen with such weight on the unhappy population of that country. My Lords, we must recollect what is the nature of the evil with which the Government and society have had to deal; that it has been a question not of money, as many have supposed it, but a question of food; and that whatever efforts the Government might have made—whatever sums it might devote to the object of guarding against a calamity of this description—whatever might be effected by any poor law that exists, or any poor law that might exist in that country for providing against destitution, neither of these systems of relief, whether administered centrally by the Government, or locally by boards of guardians, would be able to do what was necessary to avert such a calamity, namely, to create food. It is in the power of Governments to abstract food from one part of the country or of the world, and to convey it to another—it is in the power of the poor law to take money out of one man's pocket and put it into another man's; but neither can produce that which is wanted in the present instance—a supply of food adequate to the wants of millions of persons who have been deprived of the lowest description of food, which is that to which they have hitherto been accustomed. My Lords, supposing it had been a question of money, I am quite prepared to say that there is no sum which it would not have been the duty of Government to have proposed to Parliament, for the extinction, if by such means it could be extinguished, of so great an evil. But if Government had applied ten millions to that purpose, would that have been adequate? Do those persons who state this as their opinion of what the conduct of the Government should have been, recollect that the very act of the Government in this direction, the instant it became known, added inconceivably to the difficulty, and that even where the result of such extraordinary interference was the production of an artificial plenty for the moment, it led, in the very next week or month, to increased scarcity? If ten millions had been applied to that object, before those ten millions could have been taken into the market to have purchased food, whatever the price of corn might have been at the time, prices would have risen, and you would have been told that twenty millions were wanted. Before the twenty millions 360 could have been applied, forty millions would have been wanted, because at every moment the action of the Government would be felt in the markets of England and of Europe; they came into the markets known to be the most powerful purchasers, and the effect would be the invariable rise of price, and that no other purchasers would be able to contend against them. By coming into the markets and making biddings higher than the biddings of other countries, undoubtedly they might have obtained corn for the moment; but the effect would be that prices in those markets would be raised, until the scarcity would become infinitely greater than before. It is universally admitted that Governments are the worst of cultivators, the worst of manufacturers, and the worst of traders. But does the fact of a thing being much wanted at the moment convert Government into the best of traders? On the contrary, their action is then more felt than ever; and the consequence of their interference is more injurious. And I must say with respect to the late and to the present Governments, that nothing could have justified their going into any market at all, but the extreme reserve and prudence with which they have conducted their operations—a reserve and prudence which have enabled them to go into the different markets of the world without exciting, by their caution and the limited extent to which their operations have been confined, any particular degree of attention and alarm which would be likely to divert the natural current of trade; on which alone you can depend, either in times of prosperity or of adversity, for the supply of any country. I have now, my Lords, to state what has been the course taken by the Government, with the view of mitigating the distress when it arose, and for the purpose of still further mitigating it, when, towards the close of the year, the extent and nature of the distress became still more apparent. I shall then state what are the immediate measures which it is the intention of the Government now to propose, with a view to the utmost practical amelioration of the condition of the people of Ireland. Your Lordships will recollect that at the close of last Session, and at the commencement of the alarm respecting the distress which prevailed in Ireland, Her Majesty's Government did not think fit to allow Parliament to separate, without providing what they thought might prove a considerable mitigation of the distress which it was apparent 361 was approaching. The measure then passed has proved, I believe, to the extent of which it was capable, an alleviation of the distress, though I am ready to admit at the same time, from the very magnitude of the evil—from the growth of the machinery necessary to meet that evil—from the very extended operation of that Act in many parts of Ireland, that it has been attended with many evil consequences; and consequences which your Lordships will do well to weigh, in determining on those measures to which you shall now have recourse. But at the time your Lordships adopted that measure, you adopted it with the view of making what was then only thought necessary—a bridge to pass over to another year—until the harvest time, and certainly without any expectation—an expectation which no man could then entertain—that the harvest would have proved a failure to the extent of three times the failure of the preceding year. In such circumstances you adopted that measure, in order to ensure a certain amount of labour and relief during that period, in which it was presumed there would be a great deficiency of food in Ireland. It was intended only to meet the urgency of the moment, and was founded on principles which no man could have defended as a permanent measure. I, myself, when it was introduced, stated I conceived it to be unjustifiable in principle. I stated it was subject to the evils of a labour rate, though in my opinion it was not so bad, not so vicious in principle, as a labour rate; but I did not disguise from myself or from the House, that though Her Majesty's Government, and though the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who sat by my side at that moment, and whom your Lordships knew to be so intimately acquainted with the state of that country and of society in it, were persuaded that it would afford a temporary mitigation of the evil to be apprehended; yet, I say, I could not disguise from myself, nor did I state the contrary to the House, that it was not calculated for anything like a permanent remedy. That measure was immediately acted upon in Ireland; it was founded on an attempt to unite relief and employment. I believe it has always been found, that wherever that attempt has been made under any system in any country, the effect has been injurious either to labour or to relief; the relief is impaired by the work, and the work is impaired in its efficacy by the consideration of the relief. 362 Nevertheless, that was the object of that measure, as it has been the object of many other measures which have been at different times and in different countries attempted to be applied to the social system in periods of scarcity and want; and, my Lords, I now believe, if the extent of the calamity had not proved to be so great—if the consequent alarm had not been of such a magnitude in Ireland when that scarcity came to be felt, that a very great number of people might have been relieved, and a very great amount of good might have been effected by that measure. I stated at that time that I did not at all look to the application of that relief to what were called "useless works." I apprehended at the time that there would have been a field of labour opened up in Ireland for making public works, such as might have afforded very great relief; and yet that none should have been entered on which were not of a permanent useful character. Had it been possible to have confined the operation of that measure to such works, I believe its operation would have been eminently beneficial; but, my Lords, from the moment that, owing to the state of alarm that prevailed in that country—from the moment that, owing to the disposition to call for assistance and advance of public money, that public money was applied to other than permanently useful works—from that moment the operation of that measure ceased to be of a useful character. Your Lordships have probably not forgotten, that in the month of September the alarm respecting the impending scarcity of food in Ireland greatly increased: in October it increased again: and the consequence of that alarm was, that presentments were made for public works, in, I must say, a most unparalleled manner, and betraying a spirit of recklessness likely to be productive of the very worst results. It required positively an army of persons to superintend the operations. I will just state to your Lordships the number of persons employed by the Board of Works, not only to give your Lordships an idea of the efforts that were made to meet the evil, but also of the difficulties of carrying that measure into effect, and of the impossibility of continuing to persist in such a system. I find that there were employed by the board down to last year 385 surveyors and engineers, 2,832 check clerks, 6,894 overseers, 132 general clerks, and 491 pay clerks, making in all 8,000 or 9,000 persons employed by the Commissioners of 363 Public Works, and employed too, all of them, in offices of trust. Now, I would ask your Lordships whether it is possible, with such a system, to exclude the occurrence of a great amount of abuse? I say it was altogether unavoidable, owing to the extent to which that system was carried. Of the Board of Works itself it is impossible to speak without the utmost respect—not with respect merely, but with gratitude. They were men who, with universal approbation, were selected at the time for their experience, their knowledge, their integrity and impartiality; and I am bound to say, that of the possession of all those qualities those gentlemen have given the most undoubted proofs throughout the whole course of those works. But it must be remembered that the Board of Works were obliged to operate upon the mass of the population through the instrumentality of others; that they were not always able to select the instruments whom they would prefer; that they were compelled to act under the pressure of circumstances, to confide in parties not always worthy of their confidence, and to place constant reliance upon local assistance; which local assistance, I am sorry to say, was not always forthcoming to the requisite extent, though in many cases it was readily conceded. However, the inevitable consequence of the measure has been, that, from the increased demand for labour for objects of a nature which could not be effectually controlled, a bounty was created for the indolent, the idle, and the profligate, to take advantage of that relief which was intended for the needy and the poor. Such a system, my Lords, when it came to exhibit itself as offering something like a premium on idleness, and consequently began to withdraw persons from useful occupations, and their habitual pursuits, called forth all that was bad, and all that was vicious, and all that was false, such as is to be found lurking in the bosom of all societies:—Et dolus, insidiæque, et amor sceleratus habendi.All those passions which are found existing in all societies, and of course existing in this, are brought into vitality and life by the immense extension of these establishments. To a fearful extent were those sources of evil augmented. Many were there amongst the people of Ireland who were not exposed to the degree of want which has been somewhat inconsiderately predicated of the whole population; those 364 men quitted their own possessions for the purpose and with the intention of getting employment from the State, in a manner neither advantageous to themselves nor the country. My Lords, I have fairly stated what I think were the vices of, and at the same time the reasons for establishing that system, and for maintaining it up to a certain extent. Beyond that extent, however, in autumn last, it undoubtedly went; and I, for one, felt no surprise, and feel none now, at the general sentiment which in autumn last was expressed in Ireland, that the money which was being advanced for the purpose of relief should be extended to advances for the purpose of effecting useful private works when there were no useful public works on which the people could be employed. Incessant applications were made to Government to that effect; and the Government of Ireland, with the sanction of the English Government, did, under the authority of Mr. Labouchere's letter, authorize advances for that purpose. That extension was sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government, for they had very little difficulty in coming to the conclusion, that where proper security for repayment was given, money might be advanced to the electoral districts at the instance of the parties principally interested. The Government judged that that mode of relieving distress would be amongst the most effectual, and they acceded to applications made under Mr. Labouchere's letter. It was opened to the parties concerned to make those applications; they did make them to a considerable extent; and under the operation of both systems a great amount of relief was given to the people of Ireland. Under the operations of these two systems—I mean that constituted first by the Act of last Session, and by the extension afforded by Mr. Labouchere's letter—a great amount of relief has been afforded in Ireland, though undoubtedly such relief has not been attended with such beneficial consequences as to leave the country in a greatly improved state. But, my Lords, the attention of Her Majesty's Government was not confined to those measures only, and to their endeavours for carrying them out. Relief committees were also, with the concurrence of Her Majesty's Government, established in every part of the country; 950 of those relief committees have been put into operation, and every one of them has in a greater or less degree received not only countenance but pecuniary assistance 365 from Her Majesty's Government. Although at the same time it would have been, for the reasons I have stated, most impolitic and unwise of Her Majesty's Government to have become traders in human food, or to have interfered with the steady current of private supply and of private enterprise; yet, whilst they have fulfilled the engagements made last summer with the city of London, and with the mercantile interests of the country, not to interfere with the foreign trade, they have still been active in purchasing, where it could be done quietly and safely, and without breach of faith or other injustice, such an amount of provisions as might enable them to establish depôts in particular places; and they have accordingly provided such an amount as I cannot exactly state, but an amount which has been sufficient to produce an effect in particular quarters, more particularly in very remote places, difficult of access, where the ordinary means of relief could scarcely have been brought into operation. My Lords, they have also furnished all the assistance that could be furnished by means of public mills, which have been incessantly employed in grinding the corn which had been brought to Ireland for the relief of the suffering poor; and, though the Government have not interfered to regulate the supply of food, yet the efforts that they have made were necessary, and have been attended with success. Her Majesty's Government have also employed—anve I am glad to state this, because a question was asked in this House, whether the means which the Admiralty had at its disposal, had been properly employed—why, my Lords, the Admiralty could not interfere with the regular course of foreign relations; but as far as related to the distribution of food, the efforts of the Admiralty have been incessant, effectual, and successful—and I trust they will continue to be so employed. I hold in my hand, my Lords, an account of Her Majesty's shipping which have been so employed in the service of provisioning the people. I will not fatigue your Lordships by following the example of a noble Earl the other night, who enumerated all the ships that might be employed in such a service; but I may state, that I hold in my hand a list of those vessels, which I could, if I pleased, enumerate. I find that forty vessels have been actually incessantly employed in that service, and that five more are on the point of being engaged, and probably will be so next week.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
Will the noble Marquess state how much has already been distributed for the relief of the poor?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
continued: Upon reflection, I am sure that the noble Earl will see that is a question I should not answer. Instead of reading over a whole list of those vessels, I think it will be most satisfactory to your Lordships that I should inform you of their number, as I have already done—that their tonnage amounts to 28,232 tons—and that the power of the steamers is equivalent to that of 8,373 horses. By these means a certain amount of good has been effected in those parts that have been the most distressed by the pressure of the calamity. These details may appear insignificant and trifling; but it must be satisfactory to your Lordships to know that nothing has been omitted by the Government to make up the deficiency which would be created by the increasing price and demand for grain. But even beyond the statements which I have thus thought it my duty to lay before the House, further and other efforts have been made—soup-kitchens have been established in every part of Ireland. Not only has that been done by a system of donations to a large amount; but everything that could be found in the shape of boilers, iron pots, and vessels of that sort, has been made available; and any stores of that description that could be found in the military departments of the country have been placed at the disposal of the Government of Ireland, and are already beginning to produce a beneficial effect. Many grinding mills also have been prepared, and have been sent over to facilitate the grinding of corn. I think, my Lords, I have now stated what has been done up to the present moment with the view of meeting this deplorable calamity. And now I have to state what Her Majesty's Government are convinced must be the true principles on which all future remedies can be advantageously applied. My Lords, to continue upon its present extensive scale the whole of those works which have been commenced in Ireland, and which have been projected, and to add still further to their number, as it would undoubtedly be necessary to do if no other source of employment could be supplied, will, I am sure, upon reflection appear to your Lordships, if not absolutely impracticable, at least unwise, and likely to be attended with the most mischievous 367 and unfortunate consequence of permanently diverting the people of that country from engaging and persevering in their usual pursuits, by accustoming them to look to employment from the Government as that from which more is to be obtained than from the cultivation of the soil, or from their customary occupations. I believe in many cases the consequence of those works has been, that the most fertile soils have not been cultivated; that the greatest encouragements to cultivate them which have been held out by the proprietors have been found to be useless, on account of the extraordinary preference given by the labourers to the employment of the Government. The ill-working of the system at first led to the adoption of task-work; but even the adoption of that mode of work, though it had for a great time the advantage of causing a greater amount of work to be done, was yet not without its attendant evil. Its evil was this—the best workmen were those who naturally got the best pay, because they could perform the most work; and its consequence was, that the best workmen became quite inaccessible to the proprietors of the land, who were obliged to put up with the refuse workmen, whilst the Government works were monopolising the best workmen. The result was, that the cultivation of the land was neglected, though the cultivation of the land was the real remedy for the evils under which Ireland now labours. My Lords, all these reasons will, I am convinced, weigh with your Lordships, as they have with the Government, in coming to the determination that those presentment works shall cease—not suddenly, on the instant — but as speedily as possible on the completion of such useful works as may be at present engaged in: that the works shall be useful must necessarily be the foundation of any good measure to be proposed. Then, my Lords, as soon as it was foreseen that it would be necessary speedily to escape from a system which was never intended to be a permanent one, there arose the necessity for securing a large demand for labour in Ireland. And, my Lords, I confess I have throughout felt, as I believe every one must feel upon consideration of the papers which will be laid upon the Table of your Lordships' House, that that demand for labour in Ireland is to be found through the medium of individual proprietors, assisted for that purpose by the Government. My Lords, there is every advantage 368 to the country as well as to individuals in works being so carried on and so directed. The individual proprietor is the best judge of what works ought to be done — the individual proprietor is the best judge of the means by which they should be carried on — the individual proprietor is the best able to select the labourer, and the tools, and the machinery, with which they should be carried on—the individual proprietor is the one that has the deepest interest in their ultimate success. In proportion, therefore, as you can, through the medium of the individual proprietor, call a great amount of activity, exertion, and labour, into existence, to that amount do you really benefit and increase the prosperity of the whole country. And if, as I am sanguine enough to hope, by the measures about to be proposed, every individual proprietor in Ireland will be placed in a situation—as he will be placed, if he choose—to give a very great amount of employment in the mode most beneficial to himself and to the country at large; then I trust your Lordships will see, not only a temporary amelioration—not only an occasional remedy—but something like a permanent, lasting remedy to the evils of that country; for it will secure, not only for this year, but for years to come, a steady, regular, constant, and well-understood application of large sums of money for the purpose of promoting the industry of the country. With this view a Treasury Minute was made on the 1st of December, and subsequently extended by another statute, which, though in part it carried out a previous existing statute, another Act of Parliament would be required for giving effect to the intention of the Government. Her Majesty's Government now propose that every landed proprietor in Ireland who thinks proper to carry on any system of improvement — be that improvement what it may, so that it is a substantial improvement — shall receive a loan, for which he shall pay no other interest than 3½ per cent, for the next twenty-two years. Upon entailed estates the life proprietor will be enabled to obtain that loan upon the same terms as the proprietor in fee-simple. They will not only have the opportunity of obtaining the loan for 3½ per cent for twenty-two years, but they may return the principal by instalments, and during any period of that time, choosing their own times; or they may pay 6½ per cent, and so return no principal. Further, 369 if they prefer relieving themselves of a charge so incurred for enabling them to improve parts of an estate, the life proprietor may, in the case of entailed estates, be permitted to sell portions of them in order to relieve the remainder. This is a measure which, I think, will have a most certain, and, I venture to anticipate, a most rapid effect in ameliorating the condition of the people of Ireland. But Her Majesty's Government do not confine themselves to that alone. I should have said, having adverted in the earlier part of my speech to the works undertaken under Mr. Labouchere's letter, it will be deemed but an act of fairness, that many who have undertaken works, from a desire for the public welfare, shall have the facility afforded them of accepting the more advantageous terms which this Act will give them; and they will thus place themselves in the same position as those who apply for, and receive, loans under this measure. There is another description of works which will remain very much upon their present footing, except that greater facilities will be afforded for their execution than under the Acts of the late Session of Parliament; I mean drainage works, to be undertaken for the proprietors, but by the Board of Works; all individual works—I mean all works of a minor character—for the improvement of estates had better be left in the hands of individuals. But on private estates, or on combinations of private estates or of proprietors, there are many instances in which the operations for the benefit of those estates, particularly when connected with such works as drainages, embankments, water-courses, and outfalls, might be much more effectually carried on under the superintendence of the Board of Works, than of the individual proprietors. It is proposed for all these things, independently of the loan to individuals at 3½ per cent to carry on such works as they shall specify, that, by giving 4 per cent, any proprietor, or knot of proprietors combining, may obtain assistance, and thus be enabled to co-operate in the carrying forward of reproductive works; the Board of Works superintending such works, for the purpose of compelling those proprietors whose assistance should not be obtained, from their being out of the country, or otherwise, to co-operate in and bear jointly the charges of those works. The general result, then, of these two measures, taken together, would be, that there was not one proprietor in Ireland, from one end of the 370 country to the other, be his circumstances what they might—be he in the situation of what was called rich, or being comparatively poor — who would not be enabled, if he thought proper, to set in active operation an amount of labour, profitable to himself and advantageous to the country. And, my Lords, I do not think so ill of the proprietors of Ireland as to believe that with all these facilities made accessible to them in every shape, and made attainable in every mode, and with every incitement to adopt them, derived from the events which the last six months have produced, and which, I am sorry to say, are in prospect for years yet to come, they will not universally, or with very few exceptions, avail themselves almost immediately of them, and that at no distant period the country will exhibit a scene of active labour and employment from one end to the other, the effect of which will be to supply a demand for labour which it is evident there is not at present the means of providing by the ordinary modes, or by perseverance in what have hitherto been the ordinary habits of the island. I must freely state to your Lordships, that, in my own opinion, this is the most important measure that Her Majesty's Government could propose. It is one in which, individually, I have long felt the greatest personal interest. There are undoubtedly other measures which it is hoped may also contribute to ensure the great object of effecting an alteration in the habits of the people, by creating a demand for labour. Before I enter upon those measures, I should state that it is conceived, that in the changes which will be operated through the country, a change will also take place between the employment of labourers under the Relief Act, and that of labourers upon works conducted under the Board of Works; that in passing from one state to the other, under the present unfortunate circumstances of a scarcity of food, and the difficulty of procuring it, there will naturally be a state of considerable difficulty, in which some public relief must be afforded—relief which can only be afforded upon temporary principles, without making the measure a permanent law. It is supposed that, as these public works drop, and before the others are, to the fullest extent, pursued, there must be a considerable number of persons dependent upon public charity for support—upon charity which it is impossible, in the present condition of Ireland, to expect individuals to give. A Bill, 371 therefore, will be introduced to effect a distribution of food to persons only who are indigent, destitute, and evidently unable to procure sustenance. This measure is to be accompanied with what has been justly and appropriately called the workhouse test. No person is to be admitted to have this food that can be admitted into the workhouse and receive sustenance and support there; but in cases where the workhouse test cannot be applied, where persons are absolutely destitute, and are proved to have no means of employment, it is proposed, for a limited period, to distribute food in the form in which this kind of relief has hitherto been found most effective. From what I have learned I believe this distribution will be found most beneficial through the medium of soup shops in every part of Ireland; and for this purpose newly constituted relief committees will be provided, whose particular duty will be to superintend the relief so afforded to destitute persons who cannot be admitted into the workhouse. It is proposed to confine the means of procuring this relief to a rate to be levied upon the places: only one half to be levied upon the place, and the other half to be supplied by the country. This, I repeat, is only a temporary measure: it is intended only for places where, more or less, there is misery and destitution—which misery and destitution, it is hoped, will subside as all the works to which I have alluded are brought into play. It is also intended, my Lords, to furnish a loan of another description. One of the objects of the greatest importance in the present state of Ireland is to secure to the utmost extent consistent with the inscrutable designs of Providence the proceeds of the approaching harvest. Very great apprehensions—I am afraid not unfounded apprehensions — are entertained that in some parts of the country due measures have not been taken with this view. In some respects this has arisen from an unaccountable indisposition on the part of labourers to cultivate the soil; but it has also risen, in many instances, from poverty—the poverty of small landowners and farmers, in not being able to furnish the labourers with the means of subsistence while engaged in that task, and not only that, but unable also to procure the seed necessary for the purpose. Now, my Lords, it is proposed, independently of the general loan, and of the permanent measures to which I have alluded, that there shall be a Government loan in connexion with the 372 relief committee, and that certain sums of money shall be advanced, at the rate of 3½ per cent, to be repaid at the end of the present year (that is, at the end of the harvest) to such proprietors as require it, upon no other security than that of the growing crop, for the purpose of enabling them to secure it. Of the importance of some assistance of this sort, and of the necessity of making these advances, I shall convince your Lordships, by reading a few words from a letter from one of the most intelligent officers employed in Ireland, who has had most extensive means of observing the state of things in different countries. This letter was received only this morning, and it will convince your Lordships of the infinite importance of attending to this particular subject, and of applying to it all the stimulus and assistance which we have the power to give. The writer says—The people cry out in their agonies against high prices, but they never think of the extent to which prices very soon will be affected by the present inactivity of the agricultural classes. Now I believe that what would tend more than large importations of grain (be they ever so large) to the reduction of prices, within a short period, would be, that of now making ample preparation for the wants of next year. Although the people themselves do not look far forward, they must consider that the mercantile classes do, and that they necessarily speculate, not only on what is the present value of grain in hand, but on what will be the future value of it, if immediate efforts are not made to show, by the end of May next, a promising state of things for next harvest.I am sure, my Lords, that the good sense of these observations cannot fail to address itself to your Lordships' minds. You will feel with the writer, as I feel, the necessity of endeavouring to provide for the future, as well as to render present aid, by stimulating and assisting the people to procure the amount of seed necessary to secure next harvest. In saying this, I do not mean the Government ought to engage, as has been sometimes said, in the supply of seed themselves, for the same reason that they ought not to engage in the direct supply of corn. Such a system would have a bad effect; and it is infinitely better, on every ground, that seed should be procured from those channels which are open to all. I have thought it right, after stating to your Lordships the measures which I think will be of great benefit to Ireland, by employing labour in that country, to mention these temporary measures, which will be applicable during the course of the change; and now, my Lords, I beg to resume the consideration 373 of measures of a more permanent character. Here I must venture to call your Lordships' attention to one which has frequently been the subject of inquiry of committees and commissions, and long a subject of observation for speaking in both Houses of Parliament, but which has never yet been brought forward in a tangible shape; I mean what is called the reclamation of waste lands. It has been again and again stated that there exists in Ireland, to a far greater degree than in any other country, an amount of waste lands uncultivated, which might be brought into profitable occupation. I confess myself to be one of those who believe that the amount of these waste lands has been exaggerated. I confess, for one, we do not hold out any hopes, founded upon that statement, of any large or decisive effect; but at the same time, considering how many persons there are convinced, as they state, from personal observation, that there are lands capable of being so reclaimed and cultivated, it is thought right to introduce a measure, the effect of which will be to enable Government to purchase at its value a certain amount of the reclaimable wastes, and to dispose of them again, in some cases, to persons who may be willing to bring them into cultivation, and in others to retain them for public works, for the employment of labour, in the same manner as is done with Crown lands. This I am ready to admit is a measure which ought to be received with infinite caution; and among other reasons for the greatest caution is the necessity of preventing land so reclaimed and settled from becoming the re-formation of the cottier system, and of increasing the number of persons requiring relief and assistance. It will be for your Lordships hereafter to judge whether this particular evil can be duly guarded against. By reclaiming these lands, and dividing them into small farms (by "small" I mean farms comparatively large), and afterwards letting them upon such terms as to guard against any possible subdivision, this evil will be guarded against, and employment will be afforded to a great mass of persons. Such a Bill, my Lords, as this will be introduced, and it will be for your Lordships, and the other House of Parliament, candidly and calmly to consider how far it is applicable to the great object of making an additional market for labour in the cultivation of the soil, and for giving a stimulus to industry by the example which land so cultivated, on 374 the largest and most scientific principles, is calculated to produce. At the same time, I admit my wish to be, that all these objects should be attained to their full extent by that individual enterprise to which I have alluded, and in which I believe that, ultimately, if it can be effected in this way, I hope no assistance will be required from any other source; and the superabundant population of Ireland will not need to look to the restoration of the potato, but to other means of subsistence. There is also another measure, the subject of which has been very much discussed at various times, and which is a question of much importance; I mean the subject of emigration. This subject has engaged the serious attention and consideration of Her Majesty's Government. I wish it were in my power to state any plan which could be safely adopted by which a large impetus could be given to that disposition which exists in all parts of the kingdom, but more particularly in Ireland, to seek employment on the other side the Atlantic. But, my Lords, after much consideration of this subject, it has been thought almost impracticable, without interfering with the current of emigration which now exists, to give any stimulus or any assistance to it in this country; but, on the other hand, we are disposed to think very great attractions might be afforded to emigrants in the shape of some security, when they had crossed the Atlantic, of being immediately placed in a situation to earn their living. The very small sum of money which has been placed at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government for that purpose, small as it is, has been attended with a great and beneficial effect. It is proposed considerably to increase that sum, to increase it to an extent so that any emigrant, to whatever extent it can be proved or presumed emigration will take place in its natural course, after providing due precautions against fraud, may at once upon landing be at the end of his labour, and at the term of his toil—that he may be furnished at once with the means of going to such situation as he shall find, together with his wife and family. On this subject it is not expedient that I should at present enter further. I will, however, state to your Lordships an instance to show, even without any assistance or facilities at all, the natural disposition which there is to emigrate, particularly in Ireland. I find that in the last year 32,000 emigrants landed in Quebec, and 9,700 at St. John's, 375 two-thirds of whom were Irish: and that as compared with the previous year, the increase had been 29 per cent—the total number of emigrants was 110,000. But of course it is in our own colonies alone that we propose to undertake to give, on landing, the great facilities of being immediately sent to their destination and provided with employment. There is, my Lords, another step in the design of improvement, which has frequently been a subject of consideration in Parliament—I mean that of fisheries. Her Majesty's Government have given particular consideration to the subject of fisheries, and in the course of the last few weeks, availing themselves of the means at their disposal, have established upon the coast of Mayo and the adjoining counties three curing stations, with the view of affording the poor fishermen there the means of curing their fish upon the most advantageous terms. We have reason to believe these stations have been attended with very beneficial effects; and it is now proposed to extend them round the whole of the west and southern coasts, so that upon no coast will the fisherman be obliged, as at present, to carry his fish to a great distance before he can find the means of curing it. Nor will our assistance be confined to the establishment of these curing places. It is proposed, for the specific object of promoting fisheries and encouraging fishermen, to give them the means of procuring boats, the necessary tackle, by lending to the landlords small sums for the specific purpose, these sums to be repaid. No person acquainted with Ireland can hesitate to believe there is a large field for the improvement of fisheries, of which the proprietors have not hitherto availed themselves; and without venturing to say to what extent these measures will become a source of benefit, I may venture to predict that they will be of considerable advantage. Before I sit down, I may state, because I wish to put your Lordships wholly in possession of what is proposed by Her Majesty's Government, that Her Majesty's Government are of opinion, looking at the permanent state of Ireland, at the unfortunate effects which will remain long after the pressure of the present year has passed away, and at the changes which we not only expect, but which we must desire to see in the state of society in that country, there should be some addition made, as far as it can be made with safety, to the means of providing against destitution. 376 For years to come, my Lords, I apprehend that in many parts of the country the relief administered in the workhouses will be found unequal to the amount of possible destitution. I am aware that any attempt to provide for this, must be attended with difficulty and danger, against which your Lordships are bound, by every means in your power, to guard. Above all, you know that such a measure, in the nature of what is called out-door relief, would be utterly unsafe: that any general system of out-door relief in that country would be, in other terms, a general confiscation of property there; for the experience of the last few months has demonstrated that the people would have recourse to public charity in preference to making any efforts to obtain their own support, and would use for that purpose unlawful means, which it would be impossible for the local authorities to control. But, my Lords, there are a class of persons for whom, in the event of their not being received into the workhouse in the present state of society, something should be done to secure relief; I mean the aged, the sick, and the infirm. It is proposed that if they cannot be admitted into the workhouse, from its being full, there shall be authority given to the guardians to give them sustenance from the workhouse, in the manner most beneficial to themselves. Connected with this, there must be provision for particular cases of extreme destitution, amounting to the hazard of death; these must be relieved by an officer appointed for that purpose, who should have power to afford relief for the moment, and the guardians should afterwards deal with the case. This subject requires much more attention than it can receive while those other and more pressing measures are under consideration. Nevertheless, I thought it but right to inform your Lordships that such an intention is entertained; the more so, because I believe a great many persons, who might otherwise be disposed to vote the large sums of money, or to make the large advances which I believe the present state of Ireland requires, and which will, so far as respects the future improvement of estates, be repaid, would feel an unwillingness to make those advances unless assured that permanent measures for the improvement of the condition of the poor were devised, and proposed to be carried into effect. Advances have been made to a large extent, and there will be a supplemental advance in the shape of 377 the rate for relieving present destitution to the extent of one-half. There is undoubtedly great pressure, not only upon the poor, but upon every class in Ireland, at the present moment; and, contemplating the further pressure during the change which is about to take place, it appears perfectly impossible to call at once, or at any time, for the repayment of the whole of the large advances already made; and it is proposed to relieve the parties from the repayment of half the moneys so advanced, and to provide that the instalments for the repayment of the other half shall be extended in its commencement from the next spring assizes, and shall not begin till the next summer assizes. I believe that, with relief to that extent, and with the other measures which will be provided, we may anticipate the co-operation of the proprietors, and that ultimately the public will reap the benefit in the easier repayment of the difference, and in what is far more important, promoting the prosperity and the welfare of the country. There is one more measure which I may now refer to, as having been much called for by the proprietors of Ireland, to which it does not appear to me any possible objection can be made. Your Lordships are aware that, in a great many settlements that exist in this country, and possibly in Ireland, there is a power of selling for the purpose of discharging mortgages and incumbrances. It is not an uncommon case, but it is not to be found in all settlements. It has been very much pressed upon the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, to enable parties who have mortgages on their estates to sell their property for the purpose of extinguishing the mortgage. To this request we are prepared to assent; and I hope that Parliament will also accede to a power to enable persons having mortgages or incumbrances on their estates to sell a portion for the purpose of extinguishing the mortgages, and relieving themselves from an incubus which, in the present state of Ireland, creates a great check upon the exertions which the proprietors of Ireland have made for relieving the wants of their neighbours, and improving the condition of the land. This is the last of the measures, of the scope and character of which I am desirous of putting your Lordships into early possession. No person can feel more deeply than I do, that, whatever confidence I may have of the abatement of many of these evils, whatever may be my confidence in the 378 ultimate effect of many of the measures I have enumerated, I can only look with anxiety to the efforts of the proprietors in that country. The Government cannot, for the relief and for the restoration of that country, make themselves the principals; they may indeed show the greatest anxiety, but it is only through the power of the proprietors that any hope of future prosperity can be entertained. The nation can assist the suffering and the afflicted; but it must be to the vigour of their own constitution, and the vitality of their own body, that they must look for permanent success and for permanent relief. The arm may be extended to support the tree which is bending its head to the temporary blast; but it is only to the vigour in the roots of the tree, and to the vitality which it has in itself, that we must look for its permanent restoration, aided for a time by the efforts of a united kingdom; and if we only find a corresponding feeling established elsewhere — if there be a vigorous following up of every means which will be now afforded for adding to the number of labourers, for the employment of labourers, and for creating a race of independent labourers, which hardly now exist in many parts of that country—we shall insure the improvement of the people; and I entertain a sanguine hope, without dissembling the rude and the severe trial through which they must pass, that we shall see an improved state of society, and the establishment of peace and prosperity in that country. It will be my duty to answer any questions which may arise upon these measures. I have candidly explained them; and I trust that in a spirit of patriotism and of unanimity, as far as can be done, your Lordships will turn your minds to these various, important, and, in their nature, most urgent measures. The noble Marquess concluded by moving—That there be laid before this House Copies of Correspondence or Extracts from Correspondence with the Board of Works, relating to Distress in Ireland; and also Copies of Correspondence or Extracts from Correspondence with the Commissariat Department, relating to Distress in Ireland.
It is not my intention to interpose between the statements of the noble Marquess and your Lordships' attention for more than a very few moments. After listening to the very able and clear speech of my noble Friend, I adhere even more strongly than I did before to the opinion which I have previously ventured 379 to express—that any attempt to discuss in detail the great and extensive measures now submitted for your Lordships' consideration by Her Majesty's Government, would not only be premature upon the part of your Lordships' House, but that those who, for the first time, hear a large and an extensive plan, composed of various parts, bearing upon each other, and combined with each other for general effect—those, I say, who, for the first time, hear such a plan, must be utterly unable to discuss the merits of the plan as a whole, or to consider in what manner each and every one of the measures may bear upon the others, and upon the general state of society in Ireland. Therefore, my Lords, I do not pretend to enter upon the discussion of all, or any, of those important questions which have been submitted by the noble Marquess. I think, my Lords, the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government—I mean with regard to the manner in which these questions have been submitted to Parliament—is at once a fair and a proper course; they were fully and impartially stated, and in a manner to afford opportunities for such suggestions — offered, I trust, in no unfriendly spirit—as in the course of this discussion may occur to any of your Lordships, and more especially such as those noble Lords who are cognizant of the affairs of Ireland may bring practically to bear upon the subject; and I am certain that there is no Member of your Lordships' House, or of the other House of Parliament, who will not fully appreciate the extent and the magnitude of the calamity that has been so ably and so powerfully described by the noble Marquess in the commencement of his speech, and in which magnitude of the case with which we have to deal rests not only a justification, but a prominent reason, for sinking in the consideration of this question all idea of party strife; so that we shall, one and all, look to the effect which measures of the kind proposed may have on the state of society in Ireland, and on the one object, and the one object alone, that should first engross all our attention—that of devising for the grievous results of that calamity, as far as may be, a present remedy, and of preventing for the future the dangers with which Ireland is threatened on account of it; and at the same time of restoring to a better state the condition of the people of that country. My Lords, I confess—although I do not desire to refer to what has been done already—I cannot 380 avoid feeling that the noble Marquess, in the statement which he has just made, has candidly, and most fully, and most unsparingly, exposed the abuses that have attended the interference of Parliament last Session in this matter—I mean the abuses that have attended the practical application of the Labour-rate Act of last Session—an Act which, as the noble Marquess truly said, has had the effect of withdrawing a great portion of the labouring population of Ireland from profitable occupation, to place them, not merely on unprofitable, but, in many cases, on mischievous work; they have been withdrawn, by the offer of an easy and unlaborious kind of employment, from the laborious description of labour in which they had been heretofore engaged; and this of itself would be almost sufficient condemnation of the measure; but its evil effects have been heightened by the fact that it has been necessary, in order, not to prevent—for that the noble Marquess admitted would be impossible—but to palliate the abuses to which this state of things led—it was necessary to have an establishment of somewhere about eight or nine or ten thousand Government functionaries, nominally to superintend the employment of the people, but who in reality afforded no efficient supervision; and in many cases, I fear, had made away with the money entrusted to them, and employed that money, not to the best advantage, most undoubtedly, but in many cases for their own individual benefit.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, no such circumstance had reached the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government.
I rejoice to hear that the circumstance which I mention has not occurred; but I beg to say that I received a letter the other day from a gentleman in Ireland, in which he stated that under the Act of last year, they were very actively employed in doing mischief on useless roads, under the superintendence of Government employés, and at a heavy expense; and that there occurred not unfrequently the disappearance of pay-clerks, treasurers, and other public officers. But I do not intend to enumerate the abuses that have taken place under that Act, because they have been amply admitted by the noble Marquess; and for my part, I fully admit with him that the sooner these enormous abuses come to an end, and more especially as far as the return of the people to their original and regular employment is concerned, the better it will be for the 381 prospects of the country. I perfectly concur with him in feeling that the difficulties and dangers arising under the present system, are for the present moment comparatively as nothing when we look to the probable effects that are likely to accrue from the abandonment of the cultivation of the soil; but, at the same time, I must admit that I do not take the same view of the extent to which this evil has already gone, which has been taken by some noble Lords. A noble Lord the other day talked of the latest period for sowing oats being the commencement of February. That is certainly new information to me, because I conceived that, in Ireland especially, the latter end of March, and from that down to the end of April, and even to a later period, was the period for sowing that crop. It must appear to one not acquainted with Ireland, who finds that none of the crop has been sown as yet, that agricultural labour was very backward and remiss at this period of the year; but noble Lords should not compare Ireland with England in this particular, because in Ireland the greater portion of the corn is spring corn, and not autumn corn as in this country; and in Ireland the greater part of the cultivation of the land is not expected to take place now, but rather in March and April and down to the end of May, these latter being the months when employment in agricultural works should principally take place. I took the liberty to express a strong opinion the other day, that Her Majesty's Government would have done better if they had sacrificed their adherence to the principles of political economy by furnishing corn in the more distressed districts; but what I then stated, the noble Marquess has now confirmed. He says that the question was not a question of money, but a question of food—that there was not food available in many districts of the country, even if money had been forthcoming—that ordinary speculation and enterprise had failed to reach some remote districts—and that where corn and provisions had been collected in these districts, many of which were fifteen or twenty miles from any large markets, they were in the hands of some petty speculators, by whom the corn of the country had been bought up, and who had been making exorbitant profits by the sale. Now, with all respect for the principles of political economy, that is a description of persons with whom, in my judgment, Her Majesty's Government ought not to have altogether abstained 382 from interfering. What I took the liberty of suggesting the other day was this, that in those districts in which ordinary traffic does not exist, there should have been depôts of provisions established by the Government, which, from the conviction that would go abroad, that in them provisions would be sold at rates not lower than a proper investment of capital would require, would, in my firm judgment, have had the effect of drawing forth stores that are now hoarded up, not for the purpose of extravagant consumption, but for the purpose of bringing into the market supplies that can be afforded to be brought in; but which are now withheld, not for remunerative profits, but in the expectation of famine prices. I was told, that this course was not considered to be consistent with the principles of free trade which Her Majesty's Government took upon themselves to adopt. I did not concur in the sufficiency of that answer; but I concluded that the view taken by Her Majesty's Government had been acted upon by them. To-night, however, to my great astonishment, the noble Marquess comes down, and instead of defending the non-interference system, he said the Government had been pursuing, and intended to pursue, a system of interference fully to the extent which I had ventured to express an opinion that they ought to have done. The noble Marquess tells us that they have established depôts in different parts of the country where they had thought them necessary; that they had established 950 local committees; and that to every one of these committees they had afforded assistance. [The Marquess of LANSDOWNE: Not in food.] The noble Marquess says, the relief was not given in food, but in the means of purchasing food; but I confess, it appears to me, that, in places where the difficulty to be met did not consist so much in the want of money as in the want of food, it is a question whether it would not have been better to send what was not there, namely, food, and that a supply of provisions would have been a more beneficial and economical mode of relieving the distress, than furnishing grants of money where money was not of use. But then, again, the noble Marquess, and my noble Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, in answer to a noble Earl, a noble Friend of mine on this side of the House, stated, that they had deliberately considered the question aye or no, whether they should employ Her Majesty's ships of war in carrying provisions 383 to the distressed parts of Ireland, and that they had come to the decision that it was unnecessary to do so, because there was abundance of tonnage to be got without employing Her Majesty's ships of war. To my mind that answer seemed inconsistent with the other measure to which your Lordships unanimously gave your assent this evening, namely, the Bill for suspending the navigation laws. But, from the answer given by the noble Marquess to-night, it appears that Her Majesty's ships of war and steamers have been, and are, actually employed in carrying provisions from port to port, and thus interfering, undoubtedly, with the ordinary course of trade—introducing a system of interference on the part of the Government with the ordinary course of commerce, which, no doubt, has worked beneficially, but which is clearly contrary to that principle of non-interference which, as I said before, I took the liberty of stating the other night Her Majesty's Government had, in my judgment, carried to an undue extent. I will not, as I have already stated, enter at present into a consideration of any of the great questions to which, as permanent measures, the noble Marquess adverted, as likely to be brought forward by Her Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess does not lay any great stress, as far as I can perceive, on the practical co-operation of the landlords; and it appears, that, though Her Majesty's Government did not feel it to be their duty to interfere with private enterprise, they are to become, in themselves, purchasers of land in Ireland, for the purpose of again selling it or letting it to other persons on lease, with the intention further of controlling the terms on which these leases are to be permitted. To every degree, and in every district, they are about taking on themselves the duties of landowners on the one hand, and of land speculators on the other. As to emigration, I entirely concur with the noble Marquess in thinking that it is exceedingly difficult to introduce any plan of extensive emigration, by aid given in this country, which would have any practical or tangible effect on the extent of the population of Ireland. I shall not enter into that question, at present, very largely, though it is one that I have very often and very extensively considered, as it was my duty to do. I am aware of the advantages attending the advancement of small sums to persons after arriving in Canada, for the purpose of assisting them to proceed to the spot which 384 they wished to occupy; but I must remind the noble Marquess, that the degree of success attending the measure, has arisen from this, namely, that the sum applicable for such purposes was known to be of limited amount; and that it was never to be employed except in case of known and absolute destitution; and, even then, that it was to be applied only for the purpose of assisting them in going to join their friends, whom they had made previous arrangements for reaching before leaving their own country. But from the moment that it becomes known that any individuals arriving in the colony shall have a claim upon the public purse, from that moment, I fear, the claims will be increased enormously; and that no person, or, at least, hardly any person, will go out on their own resources. I am afraid that the extent to which increased emigration will be carried on under this system, if it be adopted, will be by no means commensurate with the expense which we shall have to pay for it. Again, with regard to the poor law and to the fisheries, both most extensive questions, I will also abstain from offering any opinion at present; but, I believe, that of all the measures enumerated by the noble Marquess, that which is likely to be an efficient and working measure is the last to which he referred, and on which he laid much less stress than on the others—I mean that by which it is proposed to give facilities to landed proprietors in Ireland to relieve their estates by the sale of such portion of their lands as may be necessary to clear off incumbrances upon them. I believe that the object sought to be effected by this measure is one of the utmost importance, because the effect will be not only to relieve existing calls on landlords in Ireland, but to produce a result which must be admitted to be the most important for Ireland at the present moment—namely, the drawing of a greater amount of capital into Ireland, by bringing upon large properties two unincumbered proprietors, instead of one proprietor so incumbered as to render him unable to discharge his duties on half, still less on the whole, of his property. There is one of the proposed measures on which I think the noble Marquess has, on the other hand, laid more stress than I think it is fairly entitled to. He appears to expect a very great and almost an immediate effect to be produced by the measure under which money is to be offered to landlords for improvements at 3½ per cent. I do not at all doubt but that 385 if such an offer were made to the landlords of England—that if the landlords of this country were offered advances of money at lower rates, whatever they might be, than they were able to command on their own individual security in the money market—it would be very likely to be found a valuable boon; but there are circumstances which I think ought to be borne in mind, which I fear place Irish landlords not in the same position as the English landlords, as I took the liberty of stating to your Lordships the other day. If a landlord in England lays out money in the improvement of his land, whether that land be in the possession of tenants at will, or tenants holding under lease, he is in the first place perfectly certain of the co-operation of the tenants, and he feels no difficulty in obtaining from them an increase of rent corresponding to the amount of money laid out in improvements; or else if the tenant at will refuses to pay such increase, the landlord would find no difficulty in obtaining the support of public opinion in getting rid of the unimproving tenant, for the purpose of substituting an improving tenant in his place. That, however, is not the case in Ireland; and the landlord in that country who is induced to borrow money from the Government for the improvement of his estate, will, I fear, find, in too many cases, no part of his estate so much under his own control as to enable him beneficially to apply the money with a prospect of recovering the interest of it in the shape of an increased rent. I do not refer merely to cases where the tenants hold under leases, but where they are nominally tenants at will; and who, if they are offered the money, or to have the work done for them on the condition of paying an increased rent, will tell the landlord that they beg to decline the offer—that they are quite willing to have the work done for them, but on this condition, that as long as they choose to remain on the land, remain they shall, and that as to paying more rent, they will not. I speak from experience. I know that such is the state of things in which some landlords, who are most desirous of giving assistance to their tenants, are placed. On these grounds, therefore, I fear that there is reason to think that we should not entertain over-sanguine expectations of the results of improvements to be effected under the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government. I have not heard, in the Government plan, any reference made to one circumstance that ought to be borne 386 in mind in every measure intended to advance the improvement of landed estates in Ireland—I mean the cases in which lands are held under old leases by occupiers under a middle-man, where, in point of fact, the owner of the soil is deriving little or no benefit at present from his property, and where any improvement to be effected would not go to the benefit of the head landlord, but of the middle-man, though on the head landlord, as it appears to me, will rest the responsibility of maintaining and supporting the poor peasantry belonging to the estate, and brought there against his will by the promise of exorbitant rents to the middle-man. Your Lordships may say that this is a state of things resulting from improvidence. It is so; but it is of very old date. I am myself labouring under such a state of things, having property under leases granted as long ago as the year 1780; and during the whole of the time that has since elapsed, the middle-man having the original lease has been stocking the estate with a race of paupers. It might be said that a provision against sub-letting might have been made in the lease; but in point of fact, nothing is so difficult as to carry into operation effectually any provision against this practice; and as an instance that such is the case, I will mention a case that has occurred to myself. A tenant of mine was desirous of handing over a farm to another person. I demurred; and on reference to his lease, it was found that there was a positive prohibition against assigning the farm. I took the opinion of counsel on the matter; and on the examination of the lease these were the words contained in it: "The tenant is debarred from selling, alienating, assigning, or otherwise than by will disposing of his farm." Now, it was clearly the intention to prevent the tenant from parting with his farm; but it was the opinion of the counsel that there was nothing in the lease to hinder the tenant from cutting up the whole farm and sub-letting it to paupers, without any possibility of interference on my part. Under these circumstances, I need hardly say, that I made no further objection to the highly respectable man to whom the tenant wished to dispose of his farm. But I only mention this to show the exceeding difficulty of guarding against dangers which in England it would be very easy to remedy—of providing against having a population on your property over whom you have no control, and 387 yet the whole of whose maintenance is thrown upon you. I hope Her Majesty's Government, in considering the means to be adopted in placing additional burdens on Irish property, for the purpose of improving that property, will take into consideration what portion ought to fall, not only on the head landlord, but on those who for a very considerable time will derive the whole benefit accruing from such improvements. One more caution I wish to impress upon the Government. It being agreed that one object of all plans for the amelioration of Ireland is the introduction of fresh capital into the country; and another object, that the people should be diverted from the system of petty holdings, with a view of raising up a set of men who should be dependent on wages entirely, and not accidentally and occasionally, for their permanent subsistence; and another object, that assistance should be given to the landlords to lay out capital on the land: I agree with the noble Marquess that we ought to do what we can through the present proprietors, and by encouraging and sustaining them, by advances if you please, to improve the land; but I think it ought to be the object of the Government to facilitate the introduction of additional capital on sufficient security, namely, by advances to such bodies as may be enabled to devote it to the employment of the people. I speak of railway companies; and, looking to the present state of Ireland, and to the difficulties attending investments in Ireland, from the political insecurity of the country, I think that advances ought to be made by the Government on indisputable security, to these companies. There is no more legitimate mode of conveying the Government assistance to that country; for it would be a measure which, in the first place, will assist and facilitate the introduction into Ireland of large masses of private capital which would be expended in such undertakings only of which the proprietors entertained good hopes that they would prove reproductive; and in the next, these companies would have the power of supervising and overlooking the expenditure of the capital entrusted to them in a manner which no Government employés could effect, as the latter would not, as the others would, be desirous of obtaining the most work possible for their money. I must say I think this plan is practicable, and if practicable that it is desirable for the Government to take it into their consideration with a view to find out whether they 388 could not beneficially offer loans to such railway companies as had already been sanctioned by Parliament, as well as to such as might be hereafter sanctioned by the Government Board for the supervision of railways. I believe that a measure of this kind—not proposed for the purpose of adding to the capital of those companies, but for the purpose of calling more immediately into effect that capital, and bringing it sooner to bear upon the condition of the country and the increase of the means of employment, and in order to encourage those companies to employ a greater amount of labour than otherwise they would employ—I believe that such a measure would tend greatly to diminish the temporary difficulties of Ireland, and would not ultimately be attended with any loss to this country. I do not pretend, on the occasion of bringing forward those measures, to offer any different plan to that of the Government; but to this I would call their attention, as being one to which they might most wisely and beneficially look for the introduction of additional capital into Ireland—and capital which would furnish additional employment—which would be most important, particularly at this time, when they were withdrawing the present means of employment; and which would not have the effect of taking the people from agricultural employment, on the ground of the work being either less laborious or better paid. I will not go further into the question. I think that the noble Marquess has taken the most beneficial course in the manner in which he has stated the whole plan of the Government; and I can, I think, assure him that when these measures come to be discussed they will be received with no disposition to find captious objections, but with every desire to give them a full and fair consideration.
hoped the noble Marquess would state what number of millions sterling he expected would be wanted for this service, for the soup kitchens namely, the out-door relief, the fisheries, the loans for all parts of the plan, in short, except what he thought by far the best part of it, namely, for setting free settled estates in Ireland. He wished to know the amount of the loan that it would be necessary for the Government to contract, in order to meet this vast expenditure, and also how they proposed to furnish the interest of it, and whether that interest was to be paid by the people of this 389 country by an increase of the taxes already bestowed on them by their Government, and whether the property tax was to be increased? He had heard that morning an estimate, stating the amount that would be required at 15,000,000l. sterling. He quite agreed with the noble Marquess, that the Government ought not to be corn dealers or corn speculators, or corn millers, or corn manufacturers; but then he went further than the Government, and said they ought not to be loan contractors nor lenders of money. If in any capacity a Government was more disagreeable to the people than another, it was as a creditor. Government was generally a debtor, as most people knew, but he knew what Government being a creditor meant; it generally ended in an extent in the Exchequer. Now, the people of this country were to raise all this money to lend again, but they had not got it themselves; they must go to the Stock Exchange to their brother lenders, to the Jews, their rival profession; and whether the Irish landlords would pay back the loan he knew not, but this he knew, that we must pay it. How to pay it was then the question. Indirect taxation had reached its limit; directly as more was put on in one department, the revenue fell off in another. Nothing but direct taxation was left. It was now admitted that the Labour-rate Act had failed, and worse than failed, for it had proved to be a negative quantity, decidedly injurious and perfectly mischievous. He had heard, two days ago, the case of a gentleman who, when he was assessed for the improvement of a road which he had leading from the high road to his house, and wholly within his own grounds, asked what was the amount at which he had been assessed; and on being told 180l. immediately wrote a check for the money, preferring to get rid of the matter in that way rather than to have his road improved. The Labour-rate Act of last Session was totally inadequate to the purposes for which it was passed, and excessively mischievous, for under it there were employed, in order to superintend some 300,000 labourers, 10,000 Government servants, all more or less engaged in the act of jobbing.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
begged to assure the noble Lord that he was misinformed. There were 400,000 persons 390 employed. The noble Lord should recollect that the numbers had increased since the returns to which he had alluded had been made.
admitted that they might have increased. Of course they had increased, and of course they were still increasing from day to day. But, at all events, they were employing one functionary to superintend every thirty or forty labourers—to superintend the labour of men who were engaged improving (as was called) the property of men who would willingly pay large sums to have those improvements left undone. The Labour-rate Act had worked very mischievously. But they should take into account that numberless persons must be employed to prevent abuses under the plan for granting loans, in order to avoid the danger of fraud. That would form a new staff in addition to the 10,000 before employed by Government; and the Government, besides, was to become a land jobber as well as a money jobber. Another evil consequence would arise out of the land jobbing part of the system, which was, that when the Government, with its long purse, would come into the market, the lands would rise in value, unless, indeed, they were prepared to fix a maximum price beyond which they would not go. They would make the same havoc with the land as they had made with the roads. And they would be obliged to have a staff of bailiffs soon, as they had a staff of overseers now. It had been too much the fashion to quote as the happiest condition of a country the timeWhen every rood of land maintained its man.But it was the curse of Ireland that every half rood of ground had been maintaining its man. With regard to the question of the poor law, he should like to see extended to Ireland a good and efficient poor law—not the abused poor law of England, for against the introduction of that he had fought the battle night after night in that House, even when it was attempted to introduce it in a modified system. To introduce or allow to be introduced into Ireland the present system of the English poor law, would be more injurious to the sister kingdom than to any other country under the sun. Let their Lordships look to the dreadful consequences of the present condition of the poor law in those countries. Let them look at the flood of Irish destitution poured in upon some of the communities of England. What was the condition of Liverpool? 391 Within five days there were 2,056 women and 897 children landed there from Ireland, and the total number of paupers from Ireland landed there during those five days was 5,200 odd; not, he should beg to observe, brought over, as a noble Friend of his had stated the other night, as a speculation to obtain freights for the vessels, but as seekers for relief from the operation of the English poor law, for one of the vessels that brought some of those poor persons had 178l. of freight on board. One vessel from Sligo brought over and landed in one day 750 paupers. The consequence had been most lamentable to Liverpool, and they were groaning under the infliction in that once flourishing town. By a return which he (Lord Brougham) had received on Friday, it appeared that on Monday last 18,095 Irish paupers were relieved by the poor-law officers of Liverpool, in addition to the poor of the town. On Tuesday there were 19,200 and odd. On Wednesday there were 19,400 odd; and on Thursday last, the day before his correspondent, who was an official person, addressing him (Lord Brougham) in his official capacity, had made the communication to him, there were 22,095 Irish paupers, in addition to the permanent paupers of Liverpool, who received relief. The consequences were alarming in another point of view, besides the present hardship to the locality. People feared that the present would form no exception to the rule, that pestilence follows in the wake of famine. He could not speak in terms of too much warmth regarding the exertions used by the poor-law guardians of Liverpool. But that town was not the only sufferer. Glasgow was represented as being in a still worse condition. When their Lordships looked at these facts, and weighed their consequences, they would agree that some regulation was required, and should be made, for the purpose of throwing the Irish poor upon the resources of Ireland for support, so as to prevent the abuses of the English poor law. He began to bringing mind most reluctantly to the belief that the mischief should be met. But it must not be "Ireland for the Irish," whilst there was anything to be fed upon, and "England for the Irish," when there was none—that would be burning the candles on both ends. No, no, gentlemen should make their election. They could not have it both ways. He had the deepest sympathy for the suffering, for the destitute poor; but there was one class of persons 392 for whom he had no sympathy. They were the place-hunters—the staff inspectors, the supervisors, the public work inspectors, the private work inspectors, the state farmers, and all the numberless host of well-paid and willing functionaries, whose private profits rose up to their imagination the moment those great public measures were spoken of. They were about to apply millions to the relief of the sister kingdom. If the interest of the money to be raised was to be paid by additional taxation, he hoped that the sister kingdom would have some regard to her sister England, and that the property tax, the assessed taxes, and the income tax, would be no longer for the English only. He did not approve, either, of the system of exempting the man of 140l. a year from the income-tax. It was quite absurd to put forward the smallness of income or of property as a rule for exemption from taxation. It was as if the man who had an income of only 140l. a year should not pay for its protection at least in the same ratio as the man of thousands. He hoped that the distinction would never be taken again. He hoped that the line of exemption from taxation would not be drawn down the middle of the British Channel, or at an income of 150l. per annum. As to the measures proposed, the more distinct they kept the temporary ones from those that were intended to be permanent, the better. As to the permanent measures, they need not be brought forward with the same haste as the temporary, which were demanded to meet the pressing exigencies of the occasion. There was no need for pressing forward the permanent measures this year. But the second caution he should give them was, that they should take care and not make the effects of some of their temporary measures permanent by inducing, through them, bad habits that would outlive the time of their adoption. They should take care not to induce a demoralising principle amongst the landlords of Ireland; but, by taking good security for the money advanced, and so far ensuring its repayment, it was to be hoped that those landlords, upon freeing their property from the mortgages about to be raised upon them, would not mortgage them again. There was one mode of improving the condition of the Irish people which he thought deserved most serious attention. He meant the fisheries. When they recollected that on the west coast of Ireland there was, wasted and unprofitable, ready to be brought into immediate use an unlimited supply of food, 393 infinitely more nutritious than the potato; he should say that a better mode of exertion could not be made, nor could a better mode of outlay for the money about to be advanced be pointed out, than the giving assistance to the fishermen. The mode in which they could be aided more than by any other method would be, besides lending to them nets and tackle, by sending amongst them skilful fishermen, whose example might be useful. He had seen in the Mediterranean examples of the incapacity of some of the people on the coast to take advantage of the abundance of fish in their vicinity; but the moment the Genoese fishermen made their appearance amongst them, the supplies to the markets became abundant, and they swarmed with the finest fish. It was the superior skill of the Genoese that caused the difference; and he feared that there was a want of skill amongst the fishermen on the western coast of Ireland in the modes of taking fish, and an ignorance equal to that of those unskilful Mediterranean fishermen of whom he had before spoken. He should, therefore, advocate the sending amongst them of some skilful men who might induce them to improve their mode of fishing; he did not mean fishing for the purpose of curing or salting, but merely for the purpose of supplying fresh fish to the markets. Before sitting down he would beg to recall their Lordships' attention to the great point which should form the most prominent feature of their deliberations at present—the want of food. It was food that the Irish people wanted most of all immediately. The effects of the measures proposed for their future benefit would not be visible for a year or more at the nearest, but in the meantime they should be supplied with food. They were dying by thousands. They were dying daily, and food should be supplied for them. There was one measure which he recollected had been adopted in the year 1800, when there was severe distress and famine. It was a solemn league and covenant entered into amongst all consumers of bread, fish, flesh and vegetables to consume as little bread as possible. He perfectly recollected when the loaf used to be brought to the table, but no one was allowed to cut it but the master of the house, who cut a very small portion for each individual.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
observed in a low voice across the Table, that the people had then potatoes in abundance.
admitted it, but still he thought it possible for such another league to be formed, and a bond entered into that consumers of fish and flesh should use as little bread and potatoes as possible, and no ornamental dishes of pastry whatsoever during the continuance of the distress; for ornamental pastry wasted a large quantity of flour that was needed for bread for the poor. He was quite sure that were such an agreement entered into, all the money given by them in subscriptions would do little, compared with the good that would arise out of it. The price of bread would be, he would not say lowered, because that was scarcely to be expected, but it would be kept from rising higher than it was at present. It would, by putting the wealthier classes upon short allowance, avert the coming of famine. There was another part of the agreement entered into in the year 1800, which was, that none but stale bread should be used. The agreement was, that no bread should be used under any circumstances until twenty-four hours after it had been baked. Very great advantage had been derived from the plan, and he begged leave strongly to recommend its adoption. In conclusion, he begged again to put the question with which he had commenced to his noble Friend (the Marquess of Lansdowne), whether he had made any calculation as to the amount of supplies which would be required for the purpose of carrying into effect the measures proposed for the relief of Ireland? His noble Friend had, probably, no means of ascertaining the fact, and, in that case, he, of course, did not wish to press it unnecessarily.
The EARL of DESART
(who was very imperfectly heard) agreed with the noble Lord near him (Lord Stanley) that it was impossible to give any decided opinion respecting the measures after so brief an attention paid to them. He rose merely to state to their Lordships some facts, the truth of which, and the painful scenes passing in his country, he could vouch. If he spoke of some of the measures of the Government with any reprehension, he did so with regret; at the same time, he must express his sense of the evils of some of these measures, without denying the anxiety of the Government to relieve the present condition of the Irish. When the calamity was first heard of (in August)— 395 when it was known that the food of three millions of the Irish people was totally destroyed, some provision should have been made by the Government to relieve their distress. He was far from saying that the Government should have ransacked the world for provisions, or that the Government should have turned merchant; but he was prepared to say that, by a cautious and prudent mode of proceeding, they should have collected grain, and established depôts of food where scarcity was most apprehended and there were no stores. If this had been done, he should not have had to read to their Lordships a letter from Skibbereen—in one of the most distressed parts of Ireland—of a most painful character. The letter was from a noble friend of his, who had taken upon himself to ascertain the perfect truth of the statements. [The noble Earl read the letter, which drew a lamentable picture of the heartrending scenes at Skibbereen, arising from want of food, scarcity of employment, lowness of wages (8d. a day), disease, and wretched lodging of the people.] No one would believe the extent of the horrors at this place who did not see them, yet they could be verified upon oath; and he did think that the Government of a country like this, with such resources at its command, ought to have made some provision for arresting such a calamity. The state of the people with regard to labour was lamentable. There were, at the lowest, 350,000 families who had been used to drag on a sort of scrambling existence almost without money, and without being a burden to the landlords. They lived in this manner: each family scraped as much manure as they could, sufficient to manure one or two roods of land, for which they paid no rent, and they planted this small piece of land with potatoes enough to support the family during the winter. Meantime, they contrived to scrape together money sufficient to buy a pig, which they fed with the refuse potatoes. Thus they went on from year to year, dragging a miserable existence. But this year all their potatoes were cut off, and 350,000 families, making at an average of six persons to each family, 2,100,000 persons, were left destitute. Reckoning the loss of these 350,000 families at 20l. each, the loss would be 7,000,000l., which was thrown upon the small landlords. Now, what was the condition of the landlords? With resources diminished after the calamity of the preceding year, they were called on to meet 396 this crisis, to bear this enormous additional burden. They would have to support not only their usual amount of labourers, but also many of the small farmers, who would act as a double drain—diminishing by nonpayment of the rent the very incomes taxed for their support. This was manifestly enough to exhaust their resources, and they therefore had to look for fresh means to enable them to meet this enormous charge of 7,000,000l. on the rental of a country valued at from 12,000,000l. to 13,000,000l. For this purpose they turned their attention to any facilities that might be offered them for borrowing money for useful improvements, affording a fair prospect of providing a fund for its repayment. Their efforts were frustrated. The provisions of the Million Act were declared not to apply to life interest. Other Acts were calculated only for extensive works, such as deepening rivers and streams, which could not be carried on at this season, and they were ultimately compelled to have recourse to public works, useless and ruinous as they were. There was indeed an attempt made to mend the Act by the famous letter of Mr. Labouchere. This came out late in October—presentments were made under its provisions throughout the country in the beginning of November; but a circular from the Board of Works published in December (why the delay?) announced that all these presentments were informal. Fresh sessions were called, and other presentments made, many of which were now being carried out, though the expenses of the staff, and in many cases the inefficient way in which the work was carried on, seemed likely to cat up all the profits. This measure, however, worked very unequally and injuriously. Suppose A and B were joint proprietors of an estate, and a baronial assessment was made for 1,000l.; A took 500l., but B said, "No, I will have nothing to do with the other 500l;" A would have to pay on 500l. and 250l. of the other 500l. These difficulties made this letter to a great degree inoperative, and insufficient to supersede the unproductive system of road-making. The public works there still proceeded, and frightful were the mischiefs they occasioned. They tended to paralyse labour, ruin the fisheries, and demoralize the people. He had known instances of fishermen drawing up their boats upon the beach, and declaring that labour on the roads was more profitable. Farmers found it advantageous to discourage labour on 397 their land, and to send the people to their works, and in some instances they positively refused to employ labourers: there was a kind of struggle for English money. Let not their Lordships think for a moment that he asked them to give money to Ireland. England ought to be generous; but, anyhow, Ireland should be honest. As far as they could, the landlords of Ireland ought to make repayment; but if England, regardless of their protection, heedless of their remonstrances, did, with injudicious liberality, make advances of money, and applied it to useless works, England owed them a fair reparation. Looking from the past to the present and the future, the landlords were ready to co-operate with the Government; and he felt that the Government were anxious on their part to redeem Ireland from its social misery, and he was gratified to see Englishmen turning their attention to the social condition of Ireland. The proposed measures would go to the root of many of the ills of that country. He thought altogether they were calculated to do a great deal of good. All the landlords asked was that they should be protected, not from their fair share of the burden, but from being utterly swamped by paupers, and ruined by useless labour. If the landlords were ruined, the property would not be confiscated, but annihilated; and Ireland, deprived of her natural proprietors, and covered with a race of squatters, would be more miserable than she was at present. "As for squatting," (continued the noble Lord,) "I consider it one of the very greatest evils of Ireland, and no Englishman can appreciate the difficulties of its prevention. If in estates well cultivated, and immediately under the landlord's eye, it requires the utmost vigilance, as it does, to prevent divisions of land, and erection of new houses; to do so becomes next to impossible in the more remote and wilder districts where such close supervision is impossible. I will mention a plan merely as a suggestion—that in cases where a constable shall see the commencement of one of the mud hovels usually erected by this class of people, he shall be empowered to demand a certificate, showing permission on the part of the landlord or agent, and on failure of this to stop the work. Before concluding, I wish to say one word on an expression which fell from the noble Lord opposite, concerning the proposed extension of the poor law—I mean out-door relief. Whatever the Government 398 do, let them beware of offering a bribe to unprofitable idleness among a people too willing to avail themselves of it." The noble Lord concluded by thanking their Lordships for the hearing they had given him; it was one of the many proofs he had seen that night, that they were really anxious to grapple with the evils of Ireland; that they considered the Irish question in the light of a national question; and that England must suffer in the suffering and degradation of the people of Ireland.
§ The EARL of DEVON
said, that, on hearing the observations of his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), he thought that his noble and learned Friend was totally forgetful of many things that had passed under his own eye, and with his own concurrence. Any person hearing his noble and learned Friend, and not knowing anything of the previous legislation for Ireland, would imagine that Her Majesty's Ministers were for the first time proposing an unheard-of remedy for the assistance of Ireland. But what were the circumstances under which the assistance was now proposed? As his noble Friend (Lord Desart), who justly spoke the feelings of all honest landlords in Ireland, had said, they admitted that the obligation rested upon the land to provide for the people that lived upon the land, and that the landlords were ready and willing to discharge all the duties and obligations incidental to their position. But the difficulty was, that the landlord did not always represent the land; and the question was, how to fulfil this obligation that existed upon the land. In former years, under the Government of Lord Grey, of which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) was a member, the Board of Public Works was first established. It was then thought desirable to enable the landlords of Ireland to fulfil this obligation to which he had referred, and to advance them money for the purpose, when, in consequence of their position, and of having a limited estate, they could not borrow money themselves. When the first Public Works Act passed, the object was to enable landlords to borrow money for the very purpose for which it was now proposed to extend those loans, viz., for the improvement, the reformation, the embanking, draining, or other permanent improvement of land. That was the principle which the Parliament of that day had adopted at the suggestion of the Government of which his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) was a member. 399 He (the Earl of Devon) could only say he thought his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had shown on this occasion a want of that industry which he generally applied for the purpose of understanding the subject on which he was speaking. He had laid down certain propositions with reference to which they did not much differ; but he had shown an ignorance of the actual circumstances and facts of the case upon which they were called to decide. His noble Friend who had just spoken (the Earl of Desart) had stated to them the situation of a large class of the poorer people of Ireland, and he (the Earl of Devon) need not repeat the statement. It was hardly credible to Englishmen, or to those who did not know the exact position of the different classes occupying land in Ireland—they hardly could understand in what manner the failure of the potato affected all classes in Ireland. In the dealings between the labourer and the farmer, money scarcely ever passed; the potato was the whole means of barter, and the land producing the potatoes. The farmer who was called upon to pay money to his labourers, or not to cultivate his land, would choose the latter alternative; the Irish farmer had, not merely now, but at all times, a great aversion to laying out money in paying labourers: he had not arrived at the knowledge of how remunerative well-paid labour on the land would be to him. He was not now able to pay the labourer in the way he had been accustomed, and, consequently, large masses of people were this year thrown out of employment, who in former years had employment. The farmer himself having sold his crop, would rather place the money in the savings' bank than pay it away in labour, and that might account for the fact, not otherwise very intelligible, of the deposits in those institutions being so very large at the present moment. There were many instances in which the farmer had received the money for his crop, which he had well sold, had placed the money in the savings' banks rather than pay for the labour he wanted, and afterwards had thrown himself on the public works. But much as the Labour-rate Act of last Session had cost himself; abused, and justly, as it might be; he (the Earl of Devon) could not, for one, join in the general outcry that it had been of no use. On the contrary, he believed—passed as it was under peculiar circumstances, and at a moment when some immediate step was 400 necessary—that it was of very great use. In speaking on this subject, he could only speak of that which had fallen under his own observation — others of his noble Friends could state what they had seen; he (the Earl of Devon) could only speak of what fell under his own observation. He was not answerable for taking any part in the passing of that Act, for he had gone to Ireland before it was introduced; but he did not find on the records of what passed on the discussion of that Act, that there was any great opposition made to it, or that any person who now perceived so strongly the evils arising from it, had then made any suggestion as to what should be done. At that time what was the position of the Irish landlords, and in what state was the country? A great number of persons required employment. At that time the demand was not so much for food as for employment by which the people might be enabled to buy food. By the Labour-rate Act the landlords were enabled to borrow money, if they pleased, to execute work on their lands; but it was thought that beyond that something further was necessary, and that was employment at some works which individual landlords could not afford to undertake. The works had been called mischievous; but why were presentments for such works made? There was a district with which he was connected, and he did not believe that one hundred perches of useless road had been made in that district, because the individuals at the sessions had taken infinite pains to select the works. He (the Earl of Devon) held in his hand a letter from a most intelligent agent who resided on that property, in which he stated to him that he attributed the tranquillity that existed there very much to the opportunity he had of placing in employment, immediately after the passing of the Labour-rate Act, a very large number of the unemployed population of that district. He (the Earl of Devon) did not think it fair to state so positively as had been stated that the Labour-rate Act had been altogether a useless measure. He was quite confident it was not altogether useless; and he felt that without some measure of that nature at the particular moment, much more disastrous consequences would have ensued. He begged to make one suggestion to the Government. It had been explained, that if one person could take up the whole taxation for productive works which fell upon an electoral division, he might do so, 401 and be called upon for nothing further. But these electoral divisions were too large for such purposes, and he would recommend that a smaller electoral division should be taken, and that if two or three persons living in the same townland agreed to bear that portion of the baronial cess which belonged to such townland, then that they should be exempted from further taxation. He happened to know how it was this proposition had at one time been received by Her Majesty's Government with a great deal of distrust. But some gentlemen in Ireland had to answer for it, because the proposition that was addressed by one class of persons to the Government was of a very different nature. The proposition was, that if they employed and paid for the employment of persons resident on their own townlands, that they should be then exempt from further taxation. That was a different thing from what he had mentioned, for that would be a premium to the man who had cleared his land, and who, therefore, would have only a small number to employ. That was not the proposition which he (the Earl of Devon) now made, and to which he hoped Her Majesty's Government would not refuse to assent; and in any future arrangement, when an assessment was (suppose for 10,000l.) to be laid on a barony, and that 1,000l. of that should belong to certain three or four townlands, part of that barony, that he, or two or three with him, might take that proportion of the assessment on them, and that then they should not be called upon to pay any more, and that they should apply to the townland the same principle that Mr. Labouchere's letter proposed to apply to the electoral division. It was said that the proposition with respect to the waste lands was one not likely to be accompanied with good results. He (the Earl of Devon) was rather more sanguine. He had some experience on the subject, and he knew that the application of capital to waste lands might be usefully and profitably made. There was a way in which he conceived the process could be better carried on than by the interference of the Government. It was suggested that it was desirable for Government to make loans of money to railway companies; and it might or might not be desirable to do so; but if there were any persons of responsible character willing to risk some of their own capital in the reformation of waste lands, he suggested that assistance should be given to them by the Government, 402 on proper security. That would be a more economical and efficient way of laying out money than if the work were undertaken on the part of the Government itself. The great cause now of the distress was the failure of the potato crop; but they took a superficial view of the question who did not look deeper than that. The failure of the potato crop was a great and enormous aggravation of the evils of Ireland; but there was an evil under which, more or less, at all times Ireland had suffered, and that evil was the inadequacy of the employment, or the supply of employment, to the demand. There had been a greater supply of labour than any demand the country could afford. Undoubtedly many of the measures now in contemplation would tend to create a much greater demand for labour; but he doubted much that to the full extent it would effectually meet the evil. As to the question of emigration, he concurred in the propriety of the view taken by Her Majesty's Government. He thought that any attempt to give assistance by advancing money here to take persons out would lead to abuse; but, unquestionably, any assistance they could give in preparing a location for persons when they arrived abroad would be most useful. If assistance were given for emigration in that way, the landlords of Ireland might find the means to make it more like colonisation than emigration—that is, to enable persons of various classes to emigrate together; and persons of different grades and classes of society might go out with the certainty that when they got at the other side of the Atlantic, they would meet in a sphere in which their respective energies might be usefully employed, and where they might obtain that livelihood which they were unable to obtain in their own country. There was great room for exertion on the part of the Irish gentlemen themselves on that subject, and he hoped it would be taken up by them. With respect to the poor law, it might be much better that it was not much discussed while they were suffering under the present pressure. But they must be prepared to have such a poor law as would provide the means of rescuing from want those persons who could not, under any other circumstances, provide for themselves. The law must be plain, and the landlords of Ireland must be prepared to submit to the law; and he (the Earl of Devon), for one, should certainly give his best attention to the details of any measure of the description. 403 He could give his testimony to the propriety of the measures, so far as he could understand them, which the noble Marquess had propounded. It was said that all labour had been drawn to public works; but measures were taken to prevent that, which in many instances were successful, namely, the refusal to employ any persons on public works except at task-work. There were some persons who at first were very angry, and determined not to work by task, who afterwards, however, took the task-work. He was not one of those who regarded with so much alarm the non-cultivation of the land up to the present time. His own experience of the country warranted him in saying that in the months of December and January the Irish peasants were almost always totally idle; during those months but very little agricultural labour was attempted. The operations of agriculture were actively carried on during the three months immediately succeeding—February, March, and April; and if during those months the peasantry were to continue this year in a state of inaction as far as the soil was concerned, the consequences would, no doubt, be most disastrous; but as yet there was no cause for alarm. On the whole, he would say, that he was far from taking as gloomy a view of the state of Ireland as some noble Lords were inclined to adopt. He knew the perils and difficulties by which that country was unhappily surrounded; but he was sanguine in the expectation that the Legislature would be able to weather the storm, and that it would hereafter be seen that they had given to the Irish cultivator of land an improved system, the fruit of which would be of great and permanent advantage.
The EARL of RODEN
The proceedings in their Lordships' House would infallibly create the greatest interest in Ireland. Since the opening of the Session, that night had been looked forward to with the deepest anxiety, and as one who felt the most sincere solicitude in everything that affected the welfare of that country, he felt himself in candour called upon to acknowledge how great was the gratification he had experienced in witnessing the anxiety, the industry, and the good intention with which the Government had taken in hand so important and difficult a subject as that which now engaged their attention. All he lamented was, that any combination of circumstances should have prevented the immediate application of relief. 404 He did not concur with the noble Earl who had just resumed his seat in the modified views he took of the disadvantages resulting from the Labour-rate Act. He looked upon that measure as a most unfortunate error. Not only had it been inoperative of all good, but it had been positively detrimental and decidedly mischievous, by withdrawing the labour of the peasant population from its legitimate function, the tilling of the land, to works which did not in any important degree promote the convenience of the public. It was not to be supposed that peasants who could earn 2s. a day on the roadside, would undertake in preference agricultural labour at a much lower rate of remuneration; moreover, it was well known to every one conversant with the state of things in Ireland, that labourers would very much prefer working at the public works, even at lower wages, than to undertake agricultural labour in the service of private farmers, who took care that they should work vigorously. As for the promised Ministerial measures, he would only say of them, that, as far as he could judge of them from the speech of the noble Marquess opposite, they were boons to Ireland for which he was sure Ireland would be grateful.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
observed with regret the absence of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham) who had edified their Lordships with so eloquent and diversified an address. Had the noble Lord not left the House, he (Earl Fitzwilliam) would have ventured to offer one or two observations in reference to various passages in his address; but it was very much to be lamented that it had become a habit with his noble Friend, after making a long speech de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis, suddenly to vanish no one knew where. He went off something like guncotton, and disappeared as completely. There were many things in the noble Lord's address of which he (Earl Fitzwilliam) approved most cordially; and he felt particularly grateful for the suggestion which he threw out at the close, namely, that they should do everything in their power to restrain the consumption of farinaceous food. The recommendation was an excellent one, and was eminently deserving of their Lordships' most serious consideration. There was another admirable passage in the noble and learned Lord's address, for which he, as an Irishman, thanked him warmly—that in which 405 he enforced on their Lordships' minds this unquestionable fact, that the evil under which Ireland was suffering was an imperial question. He trusted that this fact would sink deeply into the minds of the English people, and more especially of the inhabitants of Liverpool and Lancashire generally. He was particularly anxious that it should be properly understood and appreciated in Liverpool, where the pressure on the rates for the relief of the Irish poor was so severely felt; for he knew how much and how naturally public opinion was influenced in this country by the opinions held and the conduct pursued in that great town—the second capital, so to speak, of England. With respect to the Labour-rate Act, he admitted that it had not, in all respects, worked as well as its promoters could have wished; but he still thought that too severe charges had been brought against this measure. He would ask those who censured it unqualifiedly, what would the position of the country have been had it not been for that Act? It was intended as a test to the landowners of Ireland, to whom the alternative of providing private employment for the people, or of submitting to taxation for public works, was offered; and in this sense it had failed; but it was undeniable, notwithstanding, that it had been productive of great benefit to the popular classes. The works which were undertaken under its provisions were not as great, nor as beneficial, nor as national, as he could have wished; but, notwithstanding all this, he was decidedly of opinion that very great benefit had been derived, in the mitigation of popular distress, from the operation of the law. With respect to the Ministerial measures opened to their consideration that evening, he would only say, that, on the whole, they did as much credit to the wisdom of the Government, as to their kindness of heart. He spoke thus, in general terms of approval, because, although there might be some features in the scheme to which he might, perhaps, be inclined to take exception, still, he thought, upon the whole, that they had, to a certain extent at least, fairly grappled with the evils under which Ireland laboured. But on behalf of that calumniated body of men, the Irish landlords, he must put in a plea. He must, on their behalf, take the liberty of saying, that if it was intended that the regeneration of Ireland, and the bringing of that country and its rural population into a healthy state, should be cast upon one 406 class of the Queen's subjects, and that one class the landholders of Ireland, the people and Legislature of this great empire would be guilty of a gross injustice to that class. Supposing that this great task were to be imposed upon Ireland alone, were there no other classes in that country besides the landowners so wealthy and so prominent in position as to be called upon to undertake this great and expensive work? Assuredly there were many. But he would go further, and contend that the task ought not to be cast on Ireland alone. Why was Ireland in her present condition? Why was her rural population what it was? He asked wealthy London—he asked wealthy England, why Ireland was poor? What had been the cause of the poverty and misery of Ireland? He would answer, England had been the cause of all those evils. Yes, it was the original tyranny of England, and her subsequent misrule for centuries, that had reduced Ireland to degradation and destitution; and if this were so—and that it was so history attested—why should it be said that Ireland was to be rescued from her present distressing position by Irish means alone? The people and Legislature of England must assist. When they heard that 22,000 Irish paupers had become chargeable on the poor rates of Liverpool alone, they could not continue to think that the task of regeneration was incumbent on Ireland alone. The wise course would be for Government to grant loans to the landowners, and otherwise to assist them in the performance of the great work. Although he approved, as a whole, of the great scheme which the Ministers had propounded, he confessed he hoped that even more than they as yet contemplated would have to be done in order to satisfy the requirements of the present dreadful emergency. There was one part of the plan to which, perhaps, some exception might be taken. He alluded to the course proposed to be adopted in reference to the reclamation of waste lands. This was the only part of the scheme in which the Government appeared; and yet, he was very much inclined to think, that this public operation was the very one of all others from which Government ought most cautiously to abstain. At all events, the question was one which should be handled with extreme delicacy and ability; for the idea of placing the Government of England in the position of a body farming Ireland, was a thing very much to be deprecated. There was one particular reform which he was very anxious 407 to see introduced into Ireland. The entire system of railways ought to be in the hands of the Government. Certain he was, that in Ireland, if they were to look to the construction of railways, those works should be undertaken by the Government. Very little indeed had as yet been done in that way; and, therefore, nothing that had heretofore occurred in Ireland could be pleaded as barring the Government from the adoption of a course so wise and judicious. In conclusion, he would merely remark, that the only means for producing the regeneration of Ireland, and founding her prosperity on a permanent basis, was to bring about a great moral revolution in the character of the rural population of Ireland; and to the accomplishment of this great object the Government should devote their best and most earnest energies.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
said, that the noble Earl opposite had asked what were the causes of those evils which afflicted Ireland? He would refer any one who put that question to the whole history of Ireland: from the days of Henry II. down to the present period, the rule of England had always been baneful to Ireland. England had always had its petty jealousies, and had always treated Ireland as a half-conquered country, and had always made her the victim of her manufacturing jealousy. She had invariably exercised her power to prevent the extension of Irish trade, her commerce, and her agriculture. The noble Earl then instanced Poynings' Law, and other Acts, for the purpose of showing that England had unfairly and improperly limited the power of the Irish Parliament. Since the Union, many Acts of a similar tendency and conceived in the same spirit had been passed; and the alterations which had been made in the glass and excise duties had stopped some flourishing manufactures in Ireland. There was, however, one question which at that moment was of paramount importance: it was this—could the Irish landlords support the poor? He would submit to the House a short statement, which would show their Lordships the nature and extent of the resources which the landlords possessed, and then the House might judge for itself of their ability to meet the present emergency. Mr. Griffiths, by desire of the Government, valued the whole of Ireland; that gentleman estimated the entire rental of the country at 12,715,000l. per annum. But, for facility of calculation, let it be taken 408 at 13,000,000l. The land which yielded this rental of 13,000,000l. was to be saddled with these heavy expenses. Now, the amount of judgments, mortgages, and other bond debts which incumbered the landed estates in Ireland, might be calculated to amount at least to eight years' rental—that is, eight times 13,000,000l., which would be 104,000,000l. He would put down the interest upon 100,000,000l. at 5 per cent. Some of the land, however, paid 6 per cent, but some only paid 4½ per cent, so that he would put it down at 5 per cent on an average. Then for agency and collection he would put down 1s. in the pound, which made 650,000l.; law expenses, say about 1s. in the pound, which would make 650,000l.; jointures, one-twentieth of the income; marriage settlements, &c., amounted to about 4,000,000l.; interest, 2,000,000l. per annum; proportion of tithe rent-charge, 1,500,000l.; making a total amount of 10,450,000l., which, if deducted from the whole rental of 13,000,000l., would leave only a balance of about 2,500,000l. for the landlords. It was then very easy to see how much the landlords of Ireland had at their disposal after paying all these charges. He had no objection to have his calculations sifted to the bottom, but he pledged himself that they were rather under than over the mark. Was it possible, he asked, with the money actually at the disposal of the landlords of Ireland, to support the present population upon their estates? According to the poor-law reports, there were 3,000,000 of persons every year—even in the common years—who could not procure employment. The average support of each person in a poorhouse amounted to about 1s. 6d. per week. This would require a sum of about 12,000,000l. a year for the support of 3,000,000 of persons. To expect, then, that the Irish landlords could possibly meet this large demand with their limited resources, was entirely out of the question. He suggested, as a temporary measure of relief to the landlords, who had been brought into their present difficulties by no fault of their own, but merely by the pressure of the times, which had prevented their tenantry from paying their rents, that a Bill should be passed preventing the foreclosure of mortgages for three years, upon payment of 3½ per cent out of the rental. The landlords of Ireland were accused by persons in this country of exacting too much rent from their tenants. 409 It was right that it should go abroad that this was altogether false. The mistake arose from confounding the Irish plantation acre with the English statute acre, which were quite different, the former being 1½ acre and 19 perches of English measure. In the division of the profits of land it was generally understood that one-fourth should go to the landlord, and three-fourths for the support and repayment of the labour of the tenant; and he would assert that if this calculation were brought to the test as regarded Ireland, there would not be a single instance in which the landlord obtained one-fourth of the profits. He believed the frequency of early marriages had been one cause of the minute subdivision of land, and these early marriages were encouraged by the Roman Catholic priests, where derived the greater portion of their incomes from the fees arising from them. If to that was added the over population and want of capital, they would arrive at what were the leading evils of Ireland. To show how much property was subdivided in Ireland, he would state that the entire number of farms was 619,000, and of these there were no less than 310,000, which did not exceed five acres; there were 152,000 above five and not exceeding fifteen acres, 79,000 above fifteen and not exceeding thirty acres, and only 47,000 which exceeded sixty acres in all Ireland. One great cause of the absence of all preparation for the ensuing harvest was, that the labourers were themselves without potatoes, and the farmers, who were in the habit of employing them, were also without potatoes. When they offered to work for the farmers, the farmers were unable to provide them with food, and the consequence was they were obliged to go upon the public works. He entreated the earnest attention of their Lordships to the disastrous state in which that country would be placed next year if no arrangements were made for providing seed for the farmers and labourers. A supply ought to be at once sent over to Ireland for distribution in the various localities: if that were not done, and without payment where the means of purchasing it was not to be procured, a great portion of the land must remain uncultivated. The people were at present dying by hundreds, and if some measures were not taken the country would be depopulated altogether next year, if not by famine, by the cholera, which was already making its appearance.
The MARQUESS of WESTMEATH
would take that opportunity of expressing his admiration of the tone and manner of the noble Marquess who had opened the debate, towards Ireland. He wished to recall to their observation that under the measures proposed by the Government, the Irish landed proprietor would be enabled to borrow money for the purpose of employing the people. He hoped that would be distinctly understood, and that it was not, as had been stated by the noble and learned Lord who had left the House, for their own individual advantage. He understood that they were merely the responsible medium for borrowing the money. He feared, however, that in many cases these measures would be inoperative. Where a proprietor possessed extensive estates which were burdened with a large population, it would be impossible to make any arrangements which would enable him to meet the destitution that existed; and he feared their Lordships knew little of the relative position of the landed proprietors and the tenantry in Ireland. As a landed proprietor, he felt that the law was on a radically wrong and improper footing as regarded the occupation of land in Ireland. In England if a tenant committed waste, there would be no difficulty in obtaining an injunction to restrain him; in Ireland that was almost impossible, and it amounted to nothing less than a denial of justice. In 1844, he (the Marquess of Westmeath) had stated before Lord Devon's Committee, on his oath, that if there was not a new arrangement relative to the occupation of land, in less than five years the whole population of Ireland would be obliged to fall back upon the State for food. A noble and learned Lord had expressed a wish that no Peer of Parliament or Member of the House of Commons who voted on these measures, should avail himself of any share of the money. He was perfectly willing to meet the noble and learned Lord in his objections. All that he asked was that his property might be placed in his own power. He denied that the law did it—give him that, and they should never hear him or any proprietor in Ireland refuse to assist the people in their distress. He had had some correspondence with some of the highest legal authorities in Ireland, and they all agreed with him that the power of granting a writ of injunction should be vested in the assistant barrister, and the expense of it reduced to next to nothing; 411 but he had been unable to attain this object. The noble Marquess had referred to the subject of emigration: he regretted that there was no other fair outlet for the population of Ireland; but they had no right to charge that upon Ireland, unless they passed such laws as were fit for the condition of that country. The Irish proprietors were not the authors of their misfortunes. He was quite willing to consent to any amount of taxation to relieve the distress which pressed upon Ireland; but let them know what they were about, and not let them go on with this system of borrowing money without knowing the consequences.
§ EARL GREY
would not occupy more than a few moments of their Lordships' time; but there were a few remarks which had been made in the course of the debate, which ought not to be allowed to pass without some notice from that side of the House. He agreed with what had been said by many noble Lords relative to the Act of last Session, commonly, but incorrectly, called the Labour-rate Act. The great majority of the noble Lords who had spoken had pronounced the strongest sentence of condemnation upon that Act; and certainly, it must be presumed from what fell from those noble Lords, that the impression which must have been made, implied a grave censure on the Government, for want of common prudence and foresight in the matter. After what had passed in the course of last Session, he saw scarcely any ground for that censure. The noble and learned Lord had said that the Labour-rate Act of last Session had been passed in a great hurry; but he would remind him that it was but a renewal of one passed in an early period of the Session, after full consideration and discussion, and when other measures had been brought forward for the relief of the distress existing in Ireland. Among those the most effective under which relief was afforded to meet the distress arising from the partial failure of the potato crop of 1845, was the measure authorizing presentments for public works: the existing Act was but a renewal, with some particular exceptions, of that measure. That Act gave power to the baronial sessions to make presentments for public works, the whole amount for which was to be advanced by the Government, one half of the expenses being repaid by instalments by the presenters, the other half being borne by the Treasury. That measure was brought in in January 412 last; it passed both Houses of Parliament, and was brought into extensive operation. The relief committees in Ireland made very good use of this measure for the purpose of meeting the existing distress. Presentments to the large amount of 1,300,000l. were made, and so far from complaints being made at the time of presentments of useless works, in some districts where no distress existed presentments were made, in order, as they candidly avowed, that the district might have, what they called, its fair share of relief. That was a great abuse. These were not the measures for which the money was granted by Parliament, but it was so applied. Abuses of the grossest kind were practised; persons who had no claims whatever on account of destitution were employed, and works were carried on which were altogether unnecessary. This was a painful subject, and he would not further dwell upon it. But this he would say, that the measure proved perfectly effectual. Of the 1,300,000l. granted, only 300,000l. had been issued up to the time those works closed; yet that amount, small as it was, had been most effective in relieving Irish distress up to the time that the Bill, which afterwards passed, was introduced into Parliament. The Government was in possession of evidence to show that under this Bill the Irish people in the early part of the summer of last year were not only well off, but better off than they usually were. He had evidence in his hand, that up to quite the end of the summer there was every sign of more than usual prosperity; the revenue was increasing, and the deposits in the saving banks were greater than had been known for some time previous. He knew also, on the evidence of the Catholic clergy, that there was less fever in the county of Clare, one of the most wretched parts of Ireland, than in ordinary years. In spite of abuses, therefore, the measure had succeeded in relieving the distress which existed. Under these circumstances the Government, at the end of June, succeeded to office. Early in August it was first known that the potato crop, which up to that time had been most promising, and even luxuriant, was suddenly blighted, and in a great measure destroyed. Under these circumstances he asked their Lordships, was it unnatural or unreasonable that the Government, finding a Bill had been passed, which, though liable to some objections, had yet greatly succeeded in the main object of relieving the distress 413 which prevailed, should consider it would be the best course they could adopt to renew the measure, with such modifications as appeared necessary? Then, what modifications did they make? Under the former Act one-half the money only was to be repaid; and the Government, thinking that that arrangement was the chief cause of the evils and abuses that had prevailed, determined to charge the whole amount levied, and to exclude private works. Accordingly, the Bill was so amended, and in that state it passed. Now, he said the Government had a right to expect assistance and co-operation; and he would ask, if the measure had failed, was its failure fairly attributable to error in the provisions of the Bill, or to the manner in which the powers granted by the Bill had been exercised? The noble Lord mentioned, among the abuses that prevailed, that works were presented which were not only useless but mischievous. Now, why was this? Was it that no works of a more beneficial nature could be found? He lived in not the most unimproved county in England, yet many useful works could be found in that county; and he did not believe that in any part of England they could find a district so much improved that no really useful works could be projected. He believed, therefore, that if proper care had been taken, really useful works might have been found. But the error arose from this—that they ordered a great many more works to be done than ought to have been done. It was their business to give their works to the really destitute, and to none other. It was their business, and not that of the Government, to see that the relief was confined to the really destitute; yet, as the noble Lord himself stated, they employed persons on these works who were not in the least need of assistance. The noble Lord said the fishermen had drawn up their boats, finding it more profitable to go upon the public works, thus not only depriving the people of one species of food, but at the same time increasing the public burdens. Let him ask who put them on those works? Who issued the work tickets to these fishermen? It was the gentlemen of the locality. It was painful to say these things, but it was necessary for the House and the country that the truth should be known. Another reason why the works were not so useful as they ought to have been was, that they were brought into operation prematurely. The Government had a right to expect, that so long as the 414 harvest lasted, there would be no pressure. Instead of this, in the month of August or the beginning of September, there was so great a pressure on the Government to continue or commence works, that it was found impossible to resist it. He would mention one or two instances. A deputation came from Westport to the Castle, declaring that the necessity for undertaking works in that district was so urgent that they could not possibly be postponed; yet afterwards the Government received authentic information, that at that very time the crops of corn in that neighbourhood were actually suffering for want of hands to cut them. Again, a large number of labourers were withdrawn from the works of the Shannon Navigation, and put upon the relief works. Whose fault was that? Was it not the fault of those whose business it was to take care that the claims for relief were properly tested? When he said this, however, he could not conceal from himself that while he was throwing considerable blame upon the gentry of Ireland, at the same time he was bound to make great allowances for the position in which they were placed. He admitted their difficulties, and he assured them that he most deeply sympathized with them. He knew that in England we had the advantage of the co-operation of an intelligent middle class, who assisted their superiors in sifting the claims that came before them; and he was aware that, to a great extent, the Irish gentry were without this assistance. It was the great and grievous misfortune of that unhappy country that this middle class did not exist; but this misfortune could not be attributed to the Government; and had any other plan been substituted for the relief of the Irish people, precisely the same want of adequate machinery for carrying it into operation would have produced similar disappointment. But when those most interested thus abdicated their functions, no Government could be prepared to undertake them. He held in his hand the Report of the Board of Works, which put this in a strong light. This report, after stating the principle and theory of the Relief Act, stated that, in practice, the sessions presented without previous local inquiry; they exercised little or no discrimination, so that the board had to perform its duties and those of the sessions in addition; it had to ascertain the amount of destitution in different localities, and incur the odium of rejecting many presentations; it had also to select the names 415 from the list returned as destitute. The Board of Works and its officers had thus duties thrown upon them it was physically impossible they could perform, and which Parliament never meant them to undertake. It was his firm conviction, that if in the working of this Bill the Government had received proper co-operation, it would have been successful. He was compelled to say this much in defence of the Government. He was sorry to say that, if necessary, he could have carried the statement much further; but he thought he had said enough to enable their Lordships to account for the non-success of the measure. But he had also to observe, that it was expected other measures would have been passed, and that more efforts would have been made to increase the amount of private and profitable employment. He confessed his rooted conviction was that really advantageous employment of industry could only take place under private superintendence. They knew that the Million Act, which had not succeeded in Ireland, had succeeded in Scotland. The proprietors in Scotland, under the same circumstances, had applied for and obtained a large sum of money, and applied it to the permanent improvement of their estates, at the same time that they had supplied the population with profitable labour. He would speak of only two more points. It was said the Government ought to have established depôts of corn, and furnished supplies of food to the people. There were returns on this subject preparing, and when they were furnished their Lordships would see the Government had done quite as much as it was prudent to do. The Government were reproached with not having provided a larger amount of supplies; but it must be remembered that the Government could only obtain these supplies by purchase, which must infallibly have had the effect of enhancing prices. Government could not purchase in Ireland or abroad. As it was, the amount of grain of all kinds, including Indian corn and flour, entered for consumption, exceeded 4,800,000 quarters; and the quantity imported, though less, exceeded 4,000,000 quarters. Consider what gigantic transactions this implied; that our merchants had in every quarter of the world agents buying wherever they could to advantage every quarter of corn—in the Mediterranean, on the Danube, in Southern Russia, on the Baltic, in America, and, in fact, in every part of the world. If the Government had attempted to buy in these 416 markets, it would have been necessary to substitute for this voluntary, unpaid, and effective agency, an agency on the part of Government most expensive and ineffective. It would have been a policy absolutely suicidal to have attempted to interfere with the course of trade. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) thought that Government ought to have come forward and established depôts in places where small dealers were making large profits by dealing in grain. This appeared to him the very worst advice which he had ever had the misfortune to hear given to their Lordships. If there was one thing more essential than another with a view of improving the condition of Ireland, it was the creation of a class of small dealers; and he could conceive no greater injury to that country than to check the growth of this infant trade. The only other point to which he would advert was emigration—a subject more immediately connected with his own department in the Government. Having most anxiously considered the subject, he had come to the conclusion, and the Government had thought fit to adopt his views, that to undertake on the part of the Executive Government to find the means of carrying across the Atlantic those who might wish to emigrate, would be to undertake a task in which it would be utterly impossible to expect success; instead of doing good they would do mischief. He found that the emigration to North America from these kingdoms in the last ten years had been no less than 687,000. During the past year 110,000 went to the United States and the British North American colonies, the vast proportion of whom were Irish, amounting to no less than from five-sixths to six-sevenths of the whole number. The far greater number of these belonged to the labouring class, for out of 32,750 who arrived in Canada, there were only 600 cabin passengers. The former went out at a very low cost, and no doubt endured very great hardships; but under the new provisions it was very seldom that abuses occurred, such as to endanger life or health; and if such cases ever occurred now, it was from infractions of the law, which in almost every case were visited with certain punishment. The journey was mostly performed in the summer. They emigrated by means of assistance which they received from their friends to a very large amount, From information which he had received, and on the accuracy of which he could rely, it seemed that those who went out to the 417 United States or British North America were in the habit of remitting to their friends whom they had left behind the money necessary to enable them to emigrate also. It was estimated that from Liverpool alone, in the course of the last season, no less a sum than 37,000l. was sent in remittances of this kind. From the example afforded by the relief system in Ireland they might very fairly assume that, if the Government were to undertake to provide the passage of emigrants who had no means of finding their own way out, a very small proportion indeed would find the means. These sacrifices would be no longer made; these remittances, now so valuable a resource in aid of emigration, would cease. But more than that; if Government furnished the means, expectations of a very different kind, as regarded accommodation, would be entertained, from those with which emigrants would set forth relying on their own means. If Government were to carry them out, the expense could not be less than 5l. a head, whereas the cost to the emigrants themselves was certainly one-third less. The only object which could influence the Government in taking such a step must be to increase emigration; but without any such interference it would be found that the tide of emigration would set much faster than before, and he should not be surprised if the number next year doubled that in the present. These were some of the reasons which induced him to concur with the noble Lord who had preceded him in his present office in thinking that it would be impossible for Her Majesty's Government to undertake the conveyance of emigrants across the Atlantic. They would, however, be able to do much for the emigrant when once landed on the other side. True, they could not find him employment, but they undertook to give him full information as to where employment was to be found, and to put him in the way of getting in the cheapest manner to the market for his labour. Under this system, at a small expense, they would be able to show that emigration had proceeded most satisfactorily. Last year 32,750 emigrants landed in Canada from this country; and the reports of the emigration agent, together with the despatch of Lord Cathcart, stated that out of that number 28,000 and upwards had actually settled in the colony, and were, up to September, all in employment, and all well to do in their circumstances. Such having been the results of 418 the present system, Her Majesty's Government had not thought it advisable to adopt any of those projects which had been recommended with the view of adding to the facilities of emigration from this country to the colonies.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that he would not then have trespassed upon their Lordships' time, but from some statements which had been made by the noble Earl (Earl Grey) which, in his opinion, called for some observation, not only at his (Lord Monteagle's) hands, but also at the hands of all those who, in common with him, felt an interest in the welfare of Ireland. The noble Earl had seemed to imagine that there had been an imputation cast upon the Government by the remarks offered in reference to the Labour-rate Act, and in this belief the noble Earl had indignantly repelled the supposed imputation. But he (Lord Monteagle) could not see that, in this debate, there had been any of that vituperative or violent language, or severity of censure, which could have called from the noble Earl such a defence. It was not to be supposed, because noble Lords or persons out of doors attacked the Labour-rate Act, that therefore they attacked the Government. That was a measure with which they had had to deal as it had been presented to them; and it was just, legitimate, and defensible, that they should express their opinions of its evil working without any Minister of the Crown being required to tell them that thereby they were involving the question of an attack on the Government. The defence of the Act was, that when passed in August last, very few of their Lordships being present, it was only the renewal of a former Act; and that Act had been found to work well, with some exceptions. Now the circumstances of Ireland, in respect to the working of the former Act and of the present Act, were totally different. When the first Bill was introduced, they had not had the experience of the state of Ireland in reference to such a system to enable them to deal with such a question, as, before the close of last Session, both Government, and Legislature, and people, had acquired. His noble Friend said that there were abuses in that Act, and that its evil working was exhibited just as was that of the present Act. The evil effect in the first case had been, that the inducements which had been held out to attach themselves to the public works, had induced labourers to desert their natural, ordinary, and necessary 419 occupations; and this was precisely the complaint which the working of the second Act had elicited. That inconvenience had been shown in the working of the previous Act; and the observation of that inconvenience should have dissuaded his noble Friend from following the example of which he was the first to show the evil consequences. The state of Ireland under the working of the first Act, was nothing in comparison to the distressed condition in which it was at present. If that Act, which was found pregnant with evil, was the Act which the Government was called upon to renew, it behoved the Government and Parliament to pause before they adopted it. His noble Friend said that the present Act was effectual for the purpose for which it was designed, by keeping the people alive in Ireland, and saving them from starvation. But as to the two measures, there was no analogy with respect to their remedial tendencies. The Act in operation had given to the Government the greatest power that had ever been vested in the Government for the last hundred years, for it had given them unlimited command of the power of the purse; it was the only Act by which the power of using the public purse was given over without stint or measure to the control of the Government. And was it in reality effectual for the purpose for which it was enacted? Let them look at Skibbereen, and other parts of Ireland, and see what was taking place there at that moment. It was not effectual for any good purpose, except in districts in which the making of roads was an advisable and profitable work. His noble Friend seemed to understand neither the Act, nor the working of the Act. One would imagine, from the arguments of his noble Friend, that it was left open to the sessions in Ireland to select works of a useful character, as freely as such works might be selected in the county of Northumberland, should they ever be needed there. But the fact was, that the Irish landlords were bound up within the four corners of that Act, and limited by it to such works as might be presented by the grand juries. For instance, building was not within the Act, and therefore they were necessarily driven to making roads, according to the express opinion of the law officers of the Crown in Ireland, who, he believed, were consulted on the point. Perhaps the noble Earl did not know that of all parts of the Queen's dominions, Ireland was that part in which were to be seen the best devised 420 roads, the best engineered, and supplied with the most durable materials; and yet, under this Act, the only species of labour which could be called into operation was labour applied for making roads, or that species of labour which was least wanted. He condemned the Labour-rate Act from the bottom of his heart; but the noble Earl defended it with an intense devotion. If, however, the Act was so good a one, why was Mr. Labouchere's letter written, which was an absolute repeal of the statute, and the substitution of another and different scheme in its stead? Why were they now called upon to set it aside, if it deserved the encomiums of his noble Friend? His noble Friend (Earl Grey), however, felt that it was impossible to deny the failure of the Act; and then he said that the failure of the Act was not attributable to the law—to the Board of Works, or to the working man—but altogether to the non-co-operation of the Irish proprietors. He was sorry that such an imputation should have been sanctioned by the high authority of his noble Friend. He was prepared to prove that whatever the state of society had been into which they had introduced such a measure, or enactments like it, which stood as a disgrace upon the Statute-book, whether in Ireland or in this part of the empire, improved as it was beyond the condition of Ireland, they could not safely have introduced the machinery of this Act, under circumstances like those under which it had been introduced in Ireland. Let not the noble Earl try the public spirit, the morality, the virtue, or the resoluteness of the county of Northumberland, by such an Act—should the state of that county ever require the application of any remedial measures of the kind. The noble Earl said that improper presentments had been made, and that a lavish expenditure of public money had taken place. He was quite ready to admit that the expenditure was extravagant, and, further, that at the same time that these extravagant rates of wages were given, being double and treble the ordinary rates, people were dying in great numbers, in the same districts, of absolute want. But the fact was, there could be no adequate machinery for the execution of such an Act. Still there were abundance of checks; there must be, after the presentments, the approval of the Lord Lieutenant, the approval of the Board of Works, the approval of the Treasury, and therefore, if extravagant presentments had been made, 421 the blame ought equally to be shared by those authorities. As to the selection, it was the duty of the Government officers who were sent down into the different districts of Ireland to make the selection. The Act expressly stated, that the selection of works was not the duty of the landlord. How was it possible for magistrates at the presentment sessions to judge of the works sent in to them, unless they were aided by professional officers sent down by Government? The noble Lord, after describing the mode in which presentments were made in Ireland, and the small amount of deliberation permitted to the magistrates, craved the indulgence of the House while he said a word or two on a matter personal to himself. He did not desire to impute malignity to the great medium of public opinion in which a misrepresentation of his conduct had appeared; but he did attribute malignity to the quarter, wherever it was, from which the information was derived. He was chairman of a special sessions in the south of Ireland, where presentments were made out of a nature infinitely beyond their power to master. They applied to the officer of the Board of Works, who requested them to consider the applications, and report upon them to the board, from which, he stated, they would receive the best consideration. Accordingly, at the instance of this officer, the sessions were adjourned for ten days, to give him an opportunity of considering the nature of the works. When the adjourned meeting took place, he (Lord Monteagle) was in the chair, and proposed to go through the works in succession, first obtaining the report of the public officer. When the officer was applied to, however, he said he had been unable to examine them, using these remarkable words: "If my body had been made of cast metal, and my brains of quicksilver, it would have been impossible for me to have discharged this duty." He at the same time entreated them to send all the works up to the Board of Works, stating that there they would be examined, and a selection made. Much to his (Lord Monteagle's) regret that proposition was agreed to; yet he had been charged with having sent up an immense mass of presentments, though that course was followed at the request of the officer of the Board of Works, and, indeed, at his direct recommendation. He would not have referred to this had not his conduct been made the subject of great misrepresentation; for, in point of fact, the proposal he 422 made was overruled by an amendment, and the course which was followed was that suggested by an officer of the Crown. The noble Earl had expressed his astonishment that the landlords of Ireland had not availed themselves of the other measures last Session, and he referred to the Drainage Act. It was rather too hard to allege this omission as a direct charge, when the Drainage Act was well known to be in its nature so defective and inapplicable that it was intended to be amended in the present Session. The last topic to which he should refer was most important, and he rejoiced that Her Majesty's Government had undertaken it. He meant the question of emigration. He did not look upon the emigration of millions as applicable to the circumstances of the country either in point of humanity or of expense; but in particular districts of Ireland, where the population had got into a state of congestion, it was difficult to deal with it in other way than by applying the topical remedy of emigration. He had always felt that the application of this remedy was beneficial to landlords as well as tenants. It was not universal, but local, emigration that was contemplated. The great difficulty upon this subject was to avoid the substituting public money for that which would go on without it; for if the public aid were substituted, the public money would be wasted. What Her Majesty's Government should seek to attain was that sort of emigration which would have a tendency to cause the poorer sort of emigrants to migrate; and in order to accomplish which great care should be taken, and great discrimination used, in the class of persons to whom assistance was to be given when they reached their destination. The assistance to be given on their reaching the other side should not be given to the emigrant who carried capital with him, but only to that class which might be stated as, though not the pauper, yet the poorer class of emigrants. He had not intended to say one word in the course of the debate that night, and would have been willing to allow the Labour-rate Act to have withstood the objections that assailed it on every side; but he could not prevent making some observations when the failure of that Act had been attributed to the landlords of Ireland.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
admitted, that the Labour-rate Act gave rise to much dissatisfaction; and that, in a considerable degree, it had failed in its effect. He thought, however, that the 423 noble Lord who had just resumed his seat had mistaken the purport of the observations of his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies. Considering the manner in which the Bill had been attacked, his noble Friend had said, that it was right that the House should consider the circumstances under which the measure had been brought forward. Had the proprietors of Ireland acted differently, the result of the Act might have been different. It was never intended that the Bill should have been one for feeding the Irish people; and, although it had been so fiercely attacked tonight by a noble Peer, whom, as he had left the House, he might name, the Earl of Roden, he could not but remember, that a week after the Bill had been introduced, that noble Earl had come down to their Lordships' House, and expressed his hope that the measure would be effective in relieving the evils it was intended to alleviate. The fact was, that, upon their accession to office, Her Majesty's Government had found the Bill in question, and the alterations which they had made in it were merely designed to remedy what they considered to be the faults of their predecessors. He admitted that the Million Act had failed, but principally owing to a legal defect, which prevented it from being applicable to tenants at will. It was to remedy that defect that Mr. Labouchere's letter was issued. Let him, however, remind their Lordships of the great difficulties by which they were surrounded. Those who found fault with the Government measures had not suggested others. No man thought at the close of last Session that the famine which was hovering over Ireland would have overtaken it in so brief a time. He anticipated that the measures proposed would speedily work great good; more especially that respecting emigration.
§ Question agreed to.
§ House adjourned.