was anxious to call 1328 the particular attention of their Lordships to three petitions of an important character, which were intrusted to him for presentation. They were signed by the High Sheriff and the whole of the grand jury of the South Riding of the county of Tipperary, and related to three questions which had especial reference to the present state of Ireland. The first had reference to the unrestricted sale of fire-arms in that country. The petitioners stated that they, in common with Mr. Justice Jackson, the Judge of Assize, viewed with unaffected alarm the unprecedented sale of arms in the towns of Clonmel and Thurles. They introduced into their petition the report of the constable of the district to his inspector, in which it was stated that fire-arms were sold, on market and fair days, in those towns, by dealers, at prices varying from 2s. 6d. to 30s.; that so great was the demand that the manufacturers in Birmingham were unable to make guns and pistols quickly enough; and that a very large proportion of those sold in the county of Tipperary were second-hand fire-arms, which were procured at the pawn-offices in London. It was also stated, on the same authority, that the purchasers were, in a vast number of cases, of the very lowest class, and that, in some instances, they were servant hoys and peasants employed on the public works. Private advices which he (Lord Stanley) had received from unquestionable sources, fully bore out those statements. One faithworthy correspondent assured him, that at an auction of fire-arms, which took place on a market day in the open street at Clonmel, the auctioneer handed out the arms as receipts in full for the last November gale, and warranted them to bring down an agent at 150 yards. [Laughter.] It really sounded ludicrous, and might provoke a smile, were it not that the consequences of permitting this unrestricted sale of deadly weapons might be most disastrous. The interference of the Government was called for, and could not be dispensed with on the plea of its being an ordinary case of interference with an ordinary traffic; for the traffic was an unexampled one, and its consequences might be in the last degree mischievous and calamitous. The petitioners declared their belief that the system was fraught with the most ruinous consequences, and that it was highly dangerous to the security of life and property. They begged that some enactment might be passed to prohibit the indiscriminate sale of fire-arms, and to 1329 prevent their falling into the hands of improper persons. The intelligence which he had received from private sources, he had again to state, was of the most alarming kind. He was credibly informed, that in a district with which he was very well acquainted, and where men were employed on the public works, some of the persons who were usually so engaged were found in the middle of a field practising with balls at a hat on the top of a spade-handle. Every hit they made was received with loud cheers. It should be remembered that the persons who were thus engaged were men who were receiving public pay upon the public works. The second petition he had to present was from the same body, stating their opinion that the introduction of railways on an extensive scale into Ireland, would be attended with the happiest results, and that they, therefore, earnestly recommended the measure to the consideration of Government. The third petition was also from the same petitioners, who recommended a grand and extensive system of emigration under the auspices of the Government. He was of opinion that, as an accessory measure to make practical and safe the great experiment in which the Legislature was engaged, emigration might be carried on for the relief of particular overburdened and pauperised districts; but he wished it to be understood that he was not by any means prepared to go the full length of the petitioners, because he was more fully aware than they could be supposed to be of the great difficulty of carrying the object into execution, and of the danger which would result to this country and to the colonies if the Government were to endeavour to carry into any of our dependencies an exorbitantly large amount of absolutely destitute persons. Local efforts for local emigration were all very well, and Government would do well to give all possible encouragement to proprietors who wished in this manner to relieve their estates from the surplus population. Government officers, both here and in the colonies, should do what they could to guide, counsel, and assist such emigrants on their arrival in the colonies; but the idea of relieving Ireland by a gigantic system of emigration under the auspices of Government was a delusive hope.
entirely agreed with the noble Lord who had just sat down, as to the absolute impracticability of a system of general emigration under the superintendence of Government. Any general 1330 depletion of the system, such as that referred to by the noble Lord with regard to Ireland, he did not believe to be possible. If there were any means of ascertaining the number of marriages that had taken place in that country during the last six months compared with the corresponding period last year, some light might be thrown upon this subject. He was apprehensive that if they took away a large number of the population as it was proposed to do, they would in a short time be found swarming just as thickly as at present.
wished to know whether there was any truth in a statement which had obtained publicity, that, in consequence of the vast influx of emigrants into the State of New York, it had been found necessary by the legislature of that State to impose a tax or fine on emigrants when they arrived there? If such a tax had been imposed, notice of the fact ought assuredly to be given to those who contemplated going out.
§ EARL GREY
believed the truth to be that a measure of the kind alluded to by the noble Lord had been submitted to the consideration of the New York legislature; but whether they had as yet affirmed or rejected it he was not in a position to say. The measure was first proposed in consequence of some abuses which had occurred in connexion with the number and quality of emigrants to that place, not from English but from German ports. Persons entirely destitute, and wholly unable to work, were thrown on the quays of New York in an utterly helpless condition, and the legislature he believed, had felt themselves called upon to interfere. But he understood that so far as legitimate emigration from this country was concerned, no obstruction whatever would be thrown in the way. At the same time he concurred with his noble Friend opposite, that if this country were to adopt any measure for the indiscriminate importation of large numbers of destitute persons to New York, such a course would be met there with prompt measures for restriction—measures in fact, of self-defence. The same thing would, no doubt, be done also in our own colonies. As at present conducted, however, emigration was felt to be a great blessing, both to the emigrant and to the place to which he emigrated. He had held much communication upon the subject with Lord Elgin before he went out to North America; and the attention of that noble 1331 Lord would be directed as much as possible to the arrangements for the reception of emigrants when they arrived, and to the development of the facilities which Canada possessed for the absorption of labour—a power which was increasing almost in a geometrical ratio, because many of the labourers who went out there became, after a few years, settlers on the land, and able to give assistance in work to new comers, so forming a constantly widening circle. He had no doubt that the measures begun by his noble Friend the present First Lord of the Treasury, when he filled the office of Colonial Secretary, and carried forward by his noble Friend opposite in the same office, for the systematic distribution of emigrants, would operate very advantageously upon the very large emigration of the present year, which, as far as it had gone, exceeded threefold the emigration of last year, and that the persons now going out would be able to establish themselves successfully and with advantage in the colonies.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
was disposed to afford greater facilities to emigration from Ireland than either of his noble Friends who had addressed their Lordships. If the Government could not bring food to the people, they should, at least, carry the people to the food. He was intrusted with a petition to their Lordships upon the subject of emigration. The petition proceeded from 1,500 of the poorest description of cottiers in a barony of the county of Monaghan. These persons might be called squatters—they sat themselves down upon a piece of land, and as long as the potato could be raised, they continued to drag on a miserable existence; but, now that the root had failed, they were left absolutely without any means of supporting existence. They, therefore, approached that House for the purpose of praying their Lordships to afford them facilities for emigrating to the colonies, and they represented that the cost of maintaining them and their families during the ensuing eight months would exceed the cost of their emigration. All he wished to impress upon the House and Her Majesty's Government was, that seeing great numbers were at present going out of this kingdom to our American colonies, great care should be taken to prevent the emigrants suffering any greater hardships on their landing there than could well be avoided, so as not to discourage the continuance of emigration in future years. He also begged to 1332 remark, that the number of emigrants which was permanently absorbed by Canada was comparatively small. The greater portion of them went westward, to Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and the other States bordering on the Mississippi, and which were at this moment sending Indian corn to feed the people of Ireland. It was a mistake to suppose that the State of New York would take any steps to prevent the landing of emigrants. He doubted if they had any power by law to interfere with the landing of emigrants, or with the importation of anything into the State whatever. What was done was, to oblige the captains who carried paupers over there to give security against their coming on the parish. Before he sat down he might also observe, that he thought there was little to fear from the increase of population in this country. On looking at the Registration Report for England, he found that the excess of births over deaths, on an average of the last three or five years, had not exceeded 150,000 or 160,000 a year. Now, admitting that there was a considerable absorption of persons born in this country into our colonies and dependencies, it was impossible that more than 100,000 of these could die out of this country, so that there was nothing in the facts brought out in the registration reports to lead to an apprehension of any great increase of population. The returns might be wrong, but such was the impression derived from them.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
wished to put a question or two to the noble Lord relative to the petition he had just presented. He understood the petition to come from 1,500 persons. Now, he wished to know if those were all heads of families? [Lord ASHBURTON: No.] He wished also to know if the noble Lord could give their Lordships any information as to the proportion which the whole number of petitioners bore to the total population of the district in which they lived? Also as to the average size of the holdings which they occupied. [Lord ASHBURTON: They are all cottiers.] He was aware it had been stated they were all cottiers, but they might be cottiers of a few acres or of many acres.
§ LORD ASHBURTON
said, they had no holdings at all. He could not inform the noble Lord as to the exact proportion of the petitioners to the population, but the number of families was 390.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
remarked upon the necessity of instituting a general system of registration in Ireland. Unless there was a census, which could only be had by a general registration of births, marriages, and deaths, the enumeration, must not only be incomplete, but worthless as a comparison of the population of one period with another. He trusted that Government and the Parliament would attend to this matter. He thought the observations of his noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley) would be extremely useful in setting this question of emigration in its true light, neither sanctioning an unreasonable estimate of its powers, nor discouraging a moderate appreciation of its utility. His noble Friend had done much to remove the delusions as to the vast scale on which a system of emigration might be conducted, which had been propagated through the country; and on the other hand he had impressed the importance of the subject upon those who were too little disposed to rely upon the efficacy of emigration in relieving the most oppressed districts. It was true there would be a great emigration this year—the greatest, he believed, ever known—but, at the same time, he (Lord Monteagle) doubted whether for the purposes which were in contemplation, the description of emigration now going on would be of peculiar efficacy. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, might go out; and he wished their Lordships to direct their attention to the character of the emigration now in progress unaided, as compared with that which might go on if encouraged. The emigration at present was that of parties possessed more or less of a given amount of capital. Now it was as plain a demonstration as any ever ventured upon, that if a given number of emigrants removed from a district a larger amount of capital than was proportionate with their numbers, the labour fund in the country they left would be diminished by their removal, and that the condition of the country, in place of being improved, would be deteriorated by their emigration, and, therefore, that what was called voluntary emigration, or the emigration of capitalists carrying their own money with them, was anything but a remedy. Whether the petitioners represented by his noble Friend opposite were connected with such localities he knew not; but there certainly were districts in Ireland in which the extent of the population was such that they could not undertake the slightest improve- 1334 ment of the land unless assistance were given for emigration from those districts. And that, he contended, had been the original intention of the framers of the Irish poor law, for it had been stated, by Lord Melbourne's Government, that they looked to emigration as a collateral resource to assist the working of that law. In meeting the present crisis in Ireland, he would not rely upon the free emigration now going on. He believed that more would be required than even the careful superintendence alluded to by the Secretary of State, and that more active assistance must be given in particular localities. It was of the greatest importance, with a view to the proceedings of next year, that some definite plan should be laid out—that people might know what they might rely upon in future—that the minds of the Irish people should be withdrawn from this subject of emigration if it was a prospect never to be realized; or, on the other hand, that it should be put before them in a proper and substantive form, if it were in any way to be depended upon.
hoped he would not be understood by anything he had said on this subject as having deprecated emigration. On the contrary, he considered it a matter of the utmost importance. He was not disposed to look with apprehension on any scheme of emigration, even under the circumstances of the present time, which could be promoted by the local exertions of landed proprietors, or by the poor rate; and he trusted, that in the Poor Relief Bill, at present before Parliament, some provision would be introduced for the encouragement of emigration. But what he wished to guard the House against was the delusive anticipation that the Government could interfere for the purpose of paying for the removal of such a number of persons as would produce a sensible effect on the population of Ireland. He felt certain that such an interference by Government would produce nothing but mischief.
§ The EARL of DEVON
presented a petition, proceeding as from the other half of the same barony, and signed by 1,400 cottier tenants, praying for the means of emigration. The noble Lord then stated, with reference to a statement made the other night by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Brougham), that half-a-crown a head had been paid to certain emigrants coming over from Ireland to Liverpool, and other places in this coun- 1335 try, that he (Earl Devon) had received two letters on this subject, one from an emigration agent, and the other from a gentleman very well known, representing that the half-crown in question was almost invariably paid to these persons by the emigration agents before they left Ireland, and that it formed part of a larger sum which the agent had to pay them.
§ The EARL of DEVON
No. He meant the agent of a private house. The agent said, that he had paid 7,000l. to different persons about to emigrate, and holding orders for sums from their relations who were abroad, and had invited these persons to go over, furnishing this money in aid of that purpose. The half-crown in question was a part paid to them, before they left Ireland, of the larger sum.
said, he had a letter from a gentleman of very high official authority at Liverpool, who had made inquiry into the subject. He said, that in many instances he found that the passage-money had been paid for the emigrants—of course in Ireland; that in others they had paid it themselves, and in no case whatever had he found any of the proprietors of steam vessels paying it—for that was one account. In the case of one ship 75l. had been paid for 610 persons, which would be about 2s. 6d. a-head. There were two classes of emigrants from Ireland to Liverpool, totally different from each other, as his correspondent, Mr. Rushton, wrote. One class paid themselves, and the others had it paid for them; the class of emigrants going to America would be paid by the emigration agents. He would add, that he thought this subject of emigration one of the very greatest importance. It was one of the most difficult questions to deal with in point of principle, speculatively or practically, in the whole range of political science; and he might go so far as to say that it was one of pressing importance in the present state of Ireland and our colonies, which were suffering from want of hands, and crying out for a supply of labour. He found that the amount of the emigration from Liverpool to America bore a very considerable proportion to that from Ireland to Liverpool. Nearer 8,000 than 7,000 emigrants had left Liverpool for America within a comparatively short period.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHEL
hoped Government would take up the subject. It should be recollected, that the cost of 1336 maintaining a pauper for one year at home would be as great as that of taking him out to the colony for which he might be destined, and settling him there.
§ The EARL of RIPON
agreed that the subject was of the greatest possible importance. He had no doubt whatever that this resource of emigration, managed judiciously, might not only very materially alleviate the pressure of existing distress in Ireland, but contribute to fix on a firmer basis the new system proposed to be introduced. In the United States there had been symptoms observable of a disinclination to receive emigrants from Ireland, which it was not likely would be lessened under present circumstances; so that it was probable facilities could not be found for carrying on a systematic emigration to any part of the world that was not under the control of the British Government. Whether as regarded Australia or the Cape of Good Hope, he feared the number that they might expect to see absorbed would be very small. The same observation did not apply to Canada, and he thought it an object of great importance that the attention of Government should be applied to establishing a well-regulated system of emigration directed towards that important colony.
§ Petitions laid on the Table.
§ House adjourned.