HL Deb 29 January 1847 vol 89 cc597-602

said, he had observed on the other evening, that a great impression had been made by the statement of his noble and learned Friend who sat opposite (Lord Brougham), of the great number of Irish poor who had recently been relieved in Liverpool. He was sure that their Lordships must be aware that those poor who had recently arrived in Liverpool had not stayed there. They were not resident there. Therefore let not noble Lords, who were connected with Lancashire, imagine that they could get off scot free. They would go on to Manchester; they would go through the East Riding on to Lincolnshire and to Norfolk, and the landlords of Suffolk would not escape the infliction. Let them, therefore, not imagine that the evil was removed from their doors. This Irish distress was not a local one; it would affect the whole empire; and there was no way, he imagined, in which he could more strongly display the evil than by moving for an official return on it. He would, therefore, move for a return of the number of persons, distinguishing men, women, and children, who had been relieved as casual poor in the town of Liverpool, from the 1st January, 1847, distinguishing also the English, Scotch, and Irish, and with respect to the Irish, distinguishing those resident at Liverpool from those who had recently arrived. He moved also for a similar return from Bristol.


And Glasgow and Greenock. Glasgow is much worse than Liverpool.


Say the ports on the Clyde.


And the ports on the Clyde; also a similar return for the corresponding period of 1846.


said, since he had last addressed their Lordships upon this painful subject, he had received a letter from a gentleman at Liverpool, named Horsley, a large wholesale warehouseman there, in which he stated that from the reports in the newspapers he had seen that some observations were addressed by him (Lord Brougham) to their Lordships upon the subject of the great influx of Irish paupers to Liverpool. He stated in his letter that the number of persons relieved on Thursday, the 22nd, amounted to 22,640. What, the writer went on to say, would be the fearful increase, might be easily conjectured. The poor rate at present levied was 2s.d. in the pound, and he himself paid 900l. for his portion of the poor rate. A tabular statement was also enclosed, showing the amount of the relief from the 18th to the 26th inclusive. He would not trouble the House with the details of each day, but the total number amounted to 173,538. Soup rations amounted to between 7,000 and 8,000. The amount of out-door relief was also considerably increased. The increase at present amounted to 400l.; of this, 378l. had been expended upon Irish paupers. This would give their Lordships a pretty tolerable index of the proportion of Irish paupers in Liverpool. The result was, that nineteen-twentieths of the pauper population were Irish paupers. This was a subject which required great delicacy in its management. If they were to go on month after month relieving the people at this rate, what would be the result? He had seen a letter that morning from a friend of his who had received it from his bailiff in Ireland, stating that it was quite impossible to go on with the cultivation of land, as at that moment he required 100 labourers, and could not get them, they being all too anxious to obtain employment on the public works, because they well knew that they could get good pay for it, while the value of their work was not worth 2d. It was clear that the Irish pauper did not like work. He (Lord Brougham) regarded with apprehension the State giving money by millions to the people for these useless works. He knew it might be said, how cruel not to give the public money to these starving people for doing nothing. It had been said that men were exceedingly generous of two things—other people's money and their own advice. This adage applied very well to these sentimental people, who were so fond of blaming persons who were opposing this squandering of the public money. They were, however, the best friends to the labourers themselves, who told them not to support a system which was calculated to make them mendicants upon the British public, and take away from them all self-reliance upon their own exertions. He had one subject to which he would briefly allude. It had been stated in the report of his speech of last night that he had said that there was a society engaged in the work of proselytising the Catholic paupers in Ireland. He (Lord Brougham) said no such thing; what he said was, that a letter was written by a reverend gentleman, whose name he would not mention, in which it was stated that it would be an excellent opportunity for members of Protestant churches to subscribe a sum of 20,000l., to be expended in a mission to promulgate the tenets of Protestantism. The reasons why the rev. gentleman considered the present a favourable opportunity, were, as he had stated, that the Roman Catholic peasantry had had their feelings conciliated, and their prejudices removed—no doubt to a great degree by the generous relief which had been afforded so promptly, in the time of their severe distresses, by the Protestants of England. He had no doubt that the proceedings of the rev. gentleman were well intended; but he should try at the proper time, when the circumstances were more favourable to overcome, what he (Lord Brougham) considered the grievous errors — political, moral, and religious—of Popery, by the introduction of the principles of Protestantism, and the circulation of the Scriptures. He objected, however, to the present opportunity being taken advantage of, in order to forward the Protestant faith.


said, that unless the relief committees of the district from which the letter referred to by the noble and learned Lord, acted in a different manner to what the relief committees did elsewhere, he did not see how the evils complained of could arise to any great extent. If a proprietor or farmer wanted labourers, and could not get them in the ordinary way, and applied to the relief committee, there was no doubt that they would discharge as many from the public works as would be required for that purpose. There was no doubt that the labourers preferred employment on the roads to the ordinary employment, as the rate of wages was higher, and the labour much less; still the relief committees had the power of regulating this to a great extent. He had received a letter from one of the bailiffs of his estates in Ireland the other day, from which it appeared that the wages paid by the farmers was 8d. a day. The wages paid by his bailiff was 1s. a day, while the relief committee paid from 13d. to 14d. a day; so that the labourers preferred his (Earl Fitzwilliam's) employment to the farmers', and the relief committee to both. He was not much alarmed as to anything that had transpired up to this period, as little had been going forward in the cultivation of the land; but as February and March were the principal months for cultivation, if this state of things continued, he would have great apprehension that there would not be sufficient labourers found to cultivate the soil.


was of opinion that a Select Committee on the operation of the law of settlement should be appointed by their Lordships, as well as the one which had been appointed by the Lower House. He thought this was necessary, as the most erroneous impressions prevailed as to the operation of the law of settlement passed last year.


wished to know how far the question of the noble Lord had been replied to, and how far it was the intention of the Ministry to amend the Labour-rate Act of last Session. By that Act it was competent for the farmer to apply to the Board of Works for any number of labourers he might require. By that Act the labourers were under the direction of the Board of Public Works, and if any farmer required labourers, he had nothing to do but to apply to that board. But what was the fact of the case? Supposing a farmer wanted labourers on his farm, would he apply to that board? He might do so; but if he lived in a lonely part of the country, or if he resided in a thatched house, he never could depend upon his life being safe for an hour, should he employ any labourer who was not patronized by the secret associations. He thought that the Government ought to be warned by the extent of the effects to which this Act went, and he trusted that some measures would be taken to amend its provisions. One thing of which he had to complain was, that occasion had been taken to sow religious jealousies. It had been stated, that a hope was entertained that this visitation would be beneficial in promoting the Protestant faith, and thus knitting the interests of that country with this. One of the greatest advantages, as he conceived, derivable from the calamity, and one of the greatest consolations, arose from the fact, that all religious differences were sunk in the common cause of charity. The calamity existed, and they could not hinder it; and the union of political and religious feeling — the greatest consolation that any one could possibly enjoy under the infliction—was the feeling that existed on this point. If they spent thousands upon thousands they would not prevent it; and he regretted, therefore, the more on those two accounts, that the reverend gentleman had been alluded to by the noble Lord who had just sat down, without that respect to which he was entitled. It had been stated that this was a good opportunity for uniting Ireland with England, and making converts to Protestantism. The best answer to the attack on the reverend gentleman, was the history of his life. There was not a man higher in the estimation of those with whom he had to deal; not one whose conduct under that difficulty would have been more worthy of praise; not one whose character more combined the character of the gentleman and the clergyman, than that of Mr. Bickersteth. His character was fully established in this country; and no one would regret more than that gentleman, at a time when all religious differences were sunk under the sufferings of the common calamity, if his observations should serve as a cause of difference between the two countries.


said, that he would exceedingly regret if a few words of his were to be considered as originating any attack upon the excellent clergyman to whom his noble Friend alluded; for he felt convinced that any observation such as he had been represented to have made, would only be a cause of increased misery in Ireland, and lead to a greater breach beween the professors of the two religions than now existed.

Returns ordered.