HL Deb 26 March 1847 vol 91 cc418-88

, in proposing the resolution of which he had given notice, for the appointment of a Select Committee on this subject, observed that it was not in any common-place acceptation of the phrase that he declared that he was oppressed by the magnitude of the subject, and by his sense of the vast responsibility which must of necessity attach to any one who should undertake to bring such a question under the consideration of their Lordships. He was painfully sensible of the delicacy of his position; but it was some satisfaction to him to reflect that he was free from many of the difficulties which encompassed a subject of this kind; he was free from any possible imputation of being swayed or influenced by any party views in discussing the question. The opinions which he maintained were different from those which were supported in the measures of Her Majesty's Government, and no man could feel deeper sorrow than he that such difference should exist; but it only amounted to a difference in reference to this one question, which was a question in respect of which freedom of judgment might fairly be claimed on the part of any individual Member of Parliament in that House, but more especially on the part of such Members as were connected by birth and residence with that country whose interests would be directly and in a peculiar manner affected by these measures. He was sorry that any discrepancy of opinion should exist between him and the Government; but his regret would not tempt him to swerve from the course which he felt it to be his duty to adopt. There was another difficulty, from which he was exempt—that which attached to the supposition that he might in any way be swayed by a desire to gain popular favour by his Motion, on one side of the Channel or on the other. From this he was totally exempt, for the doctrines which he held in reference to the present question were not such as were likely to recommend themselves to popular favour, either in this country or in Ireland. In England there had been an extent of clamour and excitement on the subject, which precluded due deliberation, and threw very great difficulties in the way of sobriety of decision; and if this was so at this side of the water, was it not evident that still greater embarrassment and perplexity must be experienced in Ireland, the country in which the operation of the contemplated measure would be practically experienced. At the suggestion of the Government, their Lordships had already considered, and had already cheerfully given their sanction to, certain measures intended to meet the immediate emergency and the pressing danger of Ireland's present distressing position. There might have been differences of opinion with respect to some of the principles involved in those measures (with respect to those principles he felt such difficulties himself); but Parliament, with little hesitation, and without a division, had passed the measures; they had done so in a spirit of the most generous alacrity; and if he might venture, without presumption, to speak on behalf of their Lordships generally, he would not hesitate to express his conviction that any measures conceived in the spirit of humanity, and intended to meet the pressing exigencies of the present great emergency, would have received their earnest consideration and undivided support. But they had no longer to do with temporary enactments. They had now come to a measure of a totally different character—a measure which would affect the permanent law of the land—a measure which was, for the first time, but for all time to come, to be engrafted on their statutes—a measure which was to become a permanent institution, and by which the future destinies of the country were to be influenced. This being the case, it would not be consistent with his principles on the present occasion that he should make use of any arguments derived out of the present exigency of affairs, in dealing with the proposition he was about to bring forward. If the measures of temporary relief already passed were not sufficient, let others be introduced in addition—he, for one, would support them; but if they sought his assent to a law essentially permanent in its provisions, he, in considering whether he should give or withhold his assent, would not be ruled by principles which were applicable only to a case of particular exigency. He was bound to regard the principles of the permanent measure itself, and the principles on which it was right that the interests of his country should for the future be regulated—the temporary emergency being left altogether out of the question. The question of the Irish Poor Law was one with which he had been long and intimately acquainted, which must plead his apology for his apparent presumption, in taking on himself the office of bringing this subject under the consideration of their Lordships. He had been chairman of two Committees of the other House, appointed to investigate the question; and the subject was altogether one to which he had felt it his duty to devote especial attention for a long series of years. He was given to understand, or rather he heard it rumoured, that an objection would be taken on the part of Government to the raising of this discussion at the present moment, and in the manner which he proposed to adopt. He begged of their Lordships to consider whether that objection was well founded or not. They knew to their cost, and his country knew to her cost also, the great difficulty which arose out of discussion and legislation by reason of the late period of the Session at which Bills from the other House were frequently presented to their Lordships. Never did they suffer more inconvenience from that evil than last Session, for the most material Bills were sent up to them in the very last week of that Session, when it was utterly impossible that they should give them anything like due deliberation. The difficulties with which their Lordships had to contend in this respect were greatly increased by the technical rules established between the two Houses of Parliament, respecting Amendments made in Bills which came before either of them; and their whole experience of the process of legislation inculcated how desirable it was that their Lordships should avail themselves of a favourable opportunity for discussion as soon as that opportunity presented itself, and not leave everything to the last moment; they should look before them when they were about to enter upon a career of important legislation, and examine the principles of the measure they would be called upon to sanction before the Bill itself was brought under their consideration. This excellent practice they had already adopted this Session in the case of the law of settlement, with respect to which they had appointed a Committee of Inquiry before the Bill itself had as yet been brought up. Again, if his present proposition were to be delayed until the Irish Poor Law Bill should come up from the Commons, and he were then to bring forward his proposal for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the principles and probable consequences of the measure, it would be charged against him with some show of plausibility, that the proposition was only made for the purposes of delay, and to get rid of the Bill by a side-wind. He did not wish to leave himself open to any such imputation. He did not want to endanger the course of the Government measures; but he implored of them carefully to consider the principles on which those measures were founded, while opportunity for consideration was afforded. Let them be calmly considered, and viewed by their own merits; and if they were so investigated, he, at least, would be no party to delaying or frustrating them by having recourse to what were termed Parliamentary tactics. His proposition was not for an unlimited Committee of Inquiry; for their Lordships knew very well that to examine into such a subject as the state of the Irish poor, might occupy them longer than till the conclusion of the present Session: all he required was a Committee to inquire into and report on the recommendations which had been made by the Committees and Commissions which from time to time had been appointed to take this great question into consideration. The question was not a now one. It had already been frequently discussed and considered; it had been the subject of frequent debate; and what he begged of them was, that they would cast their eye backward on those debates, and on the recommendations which had already been made from quarters of the highest authority on such a subject, and deliberate well upon them before they committed themselves on a subject so critical, so difficult, and so vitally important. He asked them to give their attention to the recommendations contained in the various reports on their Table. Would it be said it was unnecessary to do so? Would it be said that the suggestion merely implied that they had not already done their duty in this case? If any such argument were to be used, and that reference to the reports were in consequence to be refused, he put it to their candour to say how many of their body were likely to vote on the Irish Poor Law without being masters of the information necessary to lead to a sound conclusion — the information already on their Table? Did they know the recommendations which had been made on this subject by the various Committees and Commissions which had investigated the question? Did they attach any importance to those recommendations? There was evidence to act on; and could they before their country, and before the sister kingdom, declare that they were aware of those facts, and rejected the evidence of the reports as not necessary, because they were already properly informed on the subject? Other questions, not perhaps more important, but of a more pressing character, had called their attention from it; and he was confident that, though a majority of their Lordships might refuse to accede to his proposition, on the ground that the evidence to which he was desirous of directing their attention was antiquated and unnecessary, they would be too frank and honourable to pretend that they did so because they were already acquainted with it. He did not mean to suggest that they were bound by the Parliamentary evidence; on the contrary, they were bound to reject it if they did not approve of it; it was not to control their judgment, but to guide it: but if they wished to do justice to this great question, and justice to that country which was an integral portion of this empire, and which he hoped no rash legislation on the part of the English Legislature would ever so affect as to warrant a doubt whether it ought to continue an integral portion, he implored of them to cast an eye backward, and to consider what lessons the experience of the past furnished to guide their course for the future. Then, if they were resolved to strike, they would at least strike after they had heard. In dealing with this subject, he wished to guard himself against the misrepresentation to which all Irish Members taking part in this question were likely to be exposed—that of its being imagined that he was influenced by one or other of two motives, either of which was equally base and equally worthy of being denounced. The first of these imputations was, that his object was merely to protect his own selfish interests, and the number of acres which, as an Irish proprietor, he might happen to hold from the Crown; the second was, that he only wanted to get from the Imperial Parliament and Treasury a larger amount of the public revenue. He disclaimed both insinuations. It was, he believed, impossible to destroy one class in society without injury to others; and if anything could be done permanently and effectively to promote the welfare of Ireland and her people by the sacrifice of any class, he would not stand up to speak on behalf of any class, but would himself cheerfully submit to his portion of the sacrifice. There was no sacrifice which the Irish proprietors would not willingly submit to, if by their doing so the Irish people could be raised in prosperity to something like a level with the English, and be equally happy and prosperous. But his view of the question was this—that the contemplated measure, so far from benefiting the popular classes in Ireland at the expense of any other section of the community, would ruinously affect the other sections, and be at the same time positively and deeply injurious to the popular classes. With respect to the second imputation, it was not true that he had come there to obtain a larger amount from the public revenue. He deplored many of their gifts; many of them, having been made unadvisedly, had been productive of evil rather than good to Ireland. He had always employed that language. He opposed in the House of Commons the remission of that million of money which was squandered so lavishly with respect to Irish tithes; and last year he resisted quite as strenuously the yet more lavish and yet more unpardonable exercise of Parliamentary bounty, whereby five millions sterling were granted in order to relieve the Irish counties from the support of the police and constabulary force, in Ireland. He wished for no further gifts. All he wanted of them on the present occasion was, that they should consider their steps, and pause to think what would be the effect of such a measure as the present on the social position of Ireland—on the civilization and refinement of her people — on their commercial prosperity—on the security of property amongst them—and on their national character. His Motion was for a Committee to consider the previous Parliamentary inquiries on the subject, and to report thereon—a Motion similar to one for a search in the Journals for precedents. He would refer them to an analogous case. For upwards of twenty years, from 1806, Parliament instituted inquiries upon the subject of education in Ireland. Committee after Committee, and Commission after Commission sat, and reported on the subject, until the shelves of the Parliamentary libraries groaned under the cloud of blue books which proceeded from those tribunals. During the Government of the noble Duke now sitting at the Table (the Duke of Wellington), he brought the subject under the notice of the House of Commons, by moving that all the reports which had issued from the Commissions and Committees should be referred to a Select Committee. The Motion was agreed to: the Committee sat only three days, and in their report brought under the consideration of the House, in a condensed form, the whole of the recommendations contained in previous reports; and on the report of that Committee the present national system of Irish education was founded. He asked their Lordships to take a similar course on the present occasion. He did not want to impose upon the Committee the duty of examining witnesses, though if any Member should feel desirous to have the benefit of oral testimony, he should not object to the proposition. He would not propose it himself, because he was aware that, if he were to do so, he would be charged with a desire to lead their Lordships into an interminable investigation, with a view to frustrate the Government measure. It being understood that his Motion was to be opposed by the Government, he must, of necessity, enter into some detail, which he would have avoided under other circumstances: he would, therefore, constitute for the present the House into a Committee, and appeal through them to the British public upon a question on which the destiny of Ireland depended, whether in 1847, with the experience of half a century before them, and knowing as much as they did of the state of Ireland and the character of her people, they would sanction an experiment of introducing into that country, for the first time, a system of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor of Ireland. The greatest authorities on the question—men whose knowledge of Ireland and the Irish was such that their recommendations and opinions could not by possibility be overvalued—had unanimously protested against the measure. It was not until after 1804 that any effort was made to direct the attention of the Legislature to the improvement of the social condition of the Irish people. In 1803, Sir John Newport, than whom a better or an abler man it would be extremely difficult to have found, was returned to the Imperial Parliament; and in the year following he moved for a Committee to examine and inquire into the state of the Irish poor. Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Warton Pitt, and other Gentlemen who were intimately acquainted with the working of the English Poor Law, were members of that Committee. Their report was in favour of giving relief to the aged, the infirm, the debilitated, and the sick; but with respect to the general application of the principle, their resolution was as follows:— Resolved—That the adoption of a general system of relief for the poor of Ireland, by the way of a parish rate, or in any similar manner, would be highly injurious to the country, and would not produce any real or permanent advantage even to the poorer classes of the people themselves who must be the objects of such support. For many years after 1804 the foreign relations of England occupied by far the greater portion of the attention of the Legislature; but the present great question, after the lapse of some time, was again renewed. In Ireland the question had forced itself upon their attention in consequence of other most distressing calamities. In 1819, one of those periodical visitations occurred; and in 1822, in Dublin alone, with a population of between 200,000 and 300,000, the number of persons passing through the fever hospital exceeded 60,000 in the course of less than a year. That was a state of things that could not remain unobserved, and consequently a Committee was moved for and Bills were passed, and he begged the House to observe that in those Bills no new principle had been introduced; but the old principle of the law of relief had been persevered in. A Committee had been appointed in 1819, and they reported that— For the evils of mendicancy and vagrancy in Ireland it was difficult to devise a remedy that would not lead, in consequence, to the establishment of a system of poor law, producing in a country like Ireland incalculable evils to every class of the community. He had now brought them from 1804 to 1819, and he found the same concurrence of authority expressed in the same strong and unqualified language. In 1822, another case of distress occurred; and after it had terminated, he (Lord Monteagle) proposed to the Government of that day the appointment of a Committee for the purpose of considering the state of the Irish poor; and the Government were kind enough to consider the proposition as just and reasonable, and they threw no difficulties in the way. A Committee was, therefore, appointed, upon which some of the most eminent Members of the House of Commons sat—among them Mr. Abercromby, now Lord Dunfermline, and the late Mr. Ricardo. Their Lordships would see whether that Committee deserted the old sound principle of relief, and adopted any new one to meet the exigency. That Committee reported, that— Any system of relief, however benevolently intended, leaving the peasantry to depend upon the interposition of others, rather than upon their own labour, cannot but repress all those exertions of industry which are essentially necessary to the improvement of the condition of the working classes. Now, all those Committees had before them the notion of extended relief for the impotent and permanently disabled; but all alike had deprecated the idea of extension of the principle of out-door relief to the able-bodied. He had already said that in 1817 this question had been brought by Mr. Sturges Bourne before the consideration of a Committee as regarded England; and what was the opinion of that Committee upon the grant of out-door relief as regarded the administration of the English Poor Law? Why, that the administration of out-door relief was not the intention of the Statute of Elizabeth, but had been engrafted upon it by the Legislature doing that against which he wished to guard their Lordships, viz., in a moment of exigency deserting a true principle, and adopting a permanent system of relief under the pressure of temporary circumstances. That statute of Elizabeth, to which so many were fond of referring who had never read the Act in their lives, and would be incapable of understanding it if they had, never contemplated the relief of the able-bodied out of the workhouse. ["Hear, hear!"] Would his noble Friend the Secretary of State, who cheered, maintain that by the Statute of Elizabeth an order for the relief of the able-bodied out of the workhouse would have been valid in law? If so, he (Lord Monteagle) would say in reply, that one of the best lawyers in the country, and one peculiarly conversant with the question, he meant Sir James Scarlett, had given his opinion that such an order for out-door relief would be actually invalid, and that under the Statute of Elizabeth there was no right of giving an order for relief to the able-bodied poor out of the workhouse. The question between the noble Lord and himself was this—whether the system of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor was or was not introduced by the Statute of Elizabeth, or whether it was not rather an offshoot of a Statute of 1795, giving the magistrates power of directing relief to the able-bodied poor out of the workhouse? He (Lord Monteagle) maintained that the latter was the case; but, be that, as it might, it was quite certain that Mr. Sturges Bourne's Committee, in 1817, condemned the system of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor. [The noble Lord here quoted a portion of Mr. Sturges Bourne's report, to the general effect that the workhouse system prevented persons from throwing themselves indiscriminately on the parishes for relief, and induced them to struggle to maintain themselves; and that the principle had been broken in upon by two modern statutes, which gave justices the power, under certain conditions, of ordering relief to be given out of the workhouses; and that the number of persons to whom relief was so given far exceeded the number the workhouses would contain, so that the system had, of necessity, as well as by law, been relaxed.] In 1824, the subject was again brought under consideration, by a Motion of the noble Lord now at the head of Her Majesty's Government, and a Committee was appointed to consider the state of the wages of labour in England. To the report of that Committee, known as Lord John Russell's report, he begged the attention of the House. [The noble Lord here read an extract, to the effect that by the system of out-door relief, assistance was afforded to the idle as well as to the industrious, to the profligate as well as to the sober and honest; that all incentive to industry and to maintain a good character was taken away; that the taxpayers and paupers were alike discontented; that crime advanced; and that the part of the country where the system prevailed, was, in spite of the terror of gaols, filled with thieves and vagabonds.] That was Lord John Russell's report. Then came the Poor Law Amendment Act of Lord Grey's Government; and, speaking of that Government as only a subordinate Member of it, and therefore as a witness of its triumphs, rather than as a sharer in them, he would say that he thought the greatest of their triumphs was the reform of the English Poor Law. In their other triumphs there were great political considerations mixed up; the Reform Bill, for instance, was the great triumph of the Whig party: but the reform of the Poor Law was the triumph of the principle of good sense as compared with the principle of maladministration; and, so far from popularity having attended the improvement of the Poor Law, the popularity was all the other way—it was done at a sacrifice of popularity—it was benefiting the people against their own wishes; it was done, not only without thanks, but amid many reproaches; but this reform, which was begun under Lord Grey's Government, and concluded under Lord Melbourne's, was, he considered, the greatest glory of any Government in modern times. That measure was carried mainly by the promulgation of the evidence on which it was founded: that evidence opened the eyes of all rational people, and laid the grounds of successful legislation. He asked their Lordships to give the question of the Irish Poor Law the same benefit which was given to the English Poor Law; let them give to the world the evidence already taken on the subject. What had been the evil most complained of by the Commissioners conducting the inquiry, upon which the improvement of the English Poor Law was founded? The first thing they reported was, that the great source of abuse was out-door relief to the able-bodied poor, whether given on account of the paupers themselves, or of their families, and whether in kind or in money. Out-door relief to the able-bodied could not be given without affecting the wages of the able-bodied poor; and the moment they meddled with the wages of labour, what happened? Why, the two great mischiefs which were most common in Ireland—he meant, combination and intimidation to keep up the rate of wages. Take the case of the county of Sussex. Look at the confusion and disorder which formerly reigned there; to the incendiarism, to the meetings for raising the rate of wages, and for regulating the allowances to the unmarried and the married poor. If Parliament assumed the responsibility of meddling with wages, that very instant the labourer would have a light to turn round and claim the performance of it in a way very far from pleasant. Labour must be left to the operation of supply and demand, the state of the market, and of trade; and the Legislature would repent passing its legitimate bounds, whether for the purpose of regulating wages or limiting the hours of work. In this question of out-door relief, two distinctions had been drawn—one between out-door relief given in money and in kind; and that which was given in exchange for labour. Now, with respect to the first, the Poor Law Commission to which he had referred, justly placed them in the same category as differing somewhat in degree, but the same in principle, whether the relief was given in money or in food. When the late Lord Spencer brought the question under the consideration of the Poor Law Commissioners, their answer was as conclusive against the applicability of labour as a test for relief, as the authority of the various Committees he had quoted was against out-door relief to the able-bodied poor. The Commissioners said— Under the labour-rate system relief and wages are utterly confounded. All the wages partake of relief, and all the relief partakes of wages. The labourer is employed not because he is a good workman, but because he is a parishioner. He receives a certain sum, not because that sum is the value of his services, but because it is what the vestry has ordered to be paid. Good conduct, diligence, skill, all become valueless. Can it be supposed that they will be preserved? We deplore the misconception of the poor in thinking that wages are not a matter of contract, but right; that any diminution of their comforts, occasioned by an increase of their numbers without an equal increase of the fund for their subsistence, is an evil to be remedied, not by themselves, but by the magistrate; not an error, nor even a misfortune, but an injustice. Unless that argument were good for nothing, the idea of relying upon a labour test or labour rate in the matter of outdoor relief was utterly fallacious and absurd, even if the conclusive evidence which was afforded by the events of the last six months in Ireland was not before them. Was there a man who would not pronounce, especially as regarded Ireland, that labour as a test of destitution, and the hope of a return in labour under such circumstances at all in proportion to the amount paid for it, were not among the most fallacious imaginings that ever entered the mind of man? Why, to give relief without exacting any return at all in labour, would be better than mixing up the question of wages and relief, and degrading the labourer into a pauper. He had been asked by many persons, "Can you resist the application to Ireland of the same principle which already exists in England?" He wanted to know first, what were the relative circumstances of the two countries—for this was a most material clement for consideration; because, if they proposed to apply the same thing to two different countries, in order to be perfectly persuaded of what the result would be, he must have an analogy in the condition of the two countries. And then he should have to ask, whether the principle really did exist in the English Poor Law at all? He contended that, whatever the practice might be now, it had been introduced since the principle of the original Bill had been departed from. The original intention of the Bill, and the principle upon which it was founded, was to depart as soon as possible from out-door relief, and to adopt as the governing principle relief in the workhouse:— Out-door relief appears to contain in itself the elements of an almost indefinite extension, which may ultimately absorb the whole fund out of which it arises. Among these elements are the diminishing reluctance to claim an apparent benefit; the difficulty of ascertaining whether any necessity for relief exists, and the disposition to grant relief when necessary. In every district the discontent of the labouring classes is proportioned to the money dispensed in poor rates. The able-bodied unmarried labourers are discontented from being put to a disadvantage compared with the married. The paupers are discontented from their expectations being raised beyond the means of satisfying them. In Newbury and Reading the money dispensed is as great as could be desired by the warmest advocate of either compulsory or voluntary relief; and yet, during the agricultural riots, many of the inhabitants in both towns were under strong apprehensions of the rising of the very people amongst whom the poor rate and charities are so profusely distributed. The violence of most of the mobs seems to have arisen from an idea that all their privations arose from the cupidity or fraud of those intrusted with the management of the fund provided for the poor. Let it be observed, too, that in the first draft of the Poor Law Bill there was an entire exclusion of out-door relief. The state of things described by the Commissioners was produced by the violation made in 1795 of the sound principle of relief; and the Government of Earl Grey, desirous of restoring that sound principle as soon as possible, provided for the transition by allowing an immediate stage of relief out of the workhouse; and by no one had the same principle been more eloquently avowed and defended than by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) in 1834. And so down to that year, 1834, he found that in all inquiries relative to the poor law the principle of out-door relief for the impotent and permanently disabled had been countenanced and approved of, while the principle of out-door relief to the able-bodied, as exemplified in the administration of the English Poor Law, had been condemned. He had shown also that in the English Poor Law itself the principle of out-door relief had been condemned, and only tolerated for a time. In 1836 a Commission of Inquiry was instituted with respect to the state of the poor in Ireland; and a Most Reverend Prelate near him (the Archbishop of Dublin) was a Member of that Commission. They had before them the light of experience arising from the management of the English Poor Law; they had been directed to inquire into the whole question—and to what conclusion had they come? Had they negatived the result of former inquiries? In the Third Report of that Commission, he found a passage he would now read to their Lordships:— The rental of the country goes to feed commerce, to give employment directly or indirectly to profitable labour, and to keep society in a healthy state. If any considerable portion of it were devoted to the support of unprofitable labour, it would be in a great degree consumed without being reproduced. Commerce must decay, and the demand for agricultural produce and all commodities, except potatoes and coarse clothing, must immediately contract. Rents must therefore diminish, while the number of persons out of employment and in need of support must increase, and general ruin be the result. As the parish of Cholesbury became to other parishes in England, so would very many of the parishes in Ireland be to the residue at the end of a year from the commencement of any system for charging the land indefinitely with the support of the whole labourers; and as these parishes must bring down all others to their level, the whole of Ireland would soon have to lean on Great Britain for support. Thus instructed, we cannot recommend parochial employment or out-door relief for the labourers of Ireland. We cannot recommend a system which offers bounties on improvidence. But the Committee further dwelt upon the deterioration which it would occasion in the character of the labourer; the idleness, ignorance, and dishonesty which it would render chronic. In that day's letters he had got but too lamentable a proof that such results might be anticipated if a system of out-door relief were permanently established. The relief under the Labour-rate Act was of the character of out-door relief. The present calamity had not been unattended by good consequences; he rejoiced at the union of different classes it had produced, of Protestants and Catholics, of owners and occupiers. He had sat on a relief committee by the side of one of the most intelligent and respectable farmers of Ireland—a man who had raised himself to that position by his own energy and industry. That farmer felt it his duty to reject the claims for labour upon the public works of persons who were not entitled to be put on them. What had been the result of his conscientious conduct? By a letter received that morning, he (Lord Monteagle) was informed that that farmer was now a corpse: he had been shot for the performance of his duty—in the administration of a system of out-door relief he had fulfilled his duty; and that had been the consequence. Let not any man say that that was a consequence peculiar to Ireland. Look at what had occurred in Sussex, where they endeavoured to impose a labour test; and the supervisor and overseer had been driven from the works under a threat of being drowned. The consequences flowing from the application of a bad principle were not peculiar to this or that country, but were universal. The report, then, of his most reverend Friend had equally condemned the principle of outdoor relief. But the Government, wishing for further inquiry, had employed Mr. Nichols to investigate the state of Ireland. That gentleman had already been engaged in the administration of the poor law in England; he made his report in 1836. In 1837 he visited the north of Ireland, to collect further evidence; and in 1838, being desirous of still further knowledge on the subject, he went to Holland and Belgium. What had that gentleman reported as the result of his inquiries and experience? To guard against the abuse and traces of evils which have universally attended the unrestricted distribution of out-door relief (that is, of relief administered either in money or in kind) to parties out of the workhouse, or at their own homes, I further propose that in Ireland no relief should be given except in the workhouse. This limitation should be specified in the Act, in order to protect the central authority from the pressure which is not unlikely to occur in this point, and which would otherwise be at times possibly too great for it to stand up against if not so supported. The strict limitation of relief to the workhouse, may possibly be objected to on the ground that extreme want is found occasionally to await large portions of the Irish population, who are then reduced to a state bordering on starvation, and ought, therefore, it may be asserted, to be relieved at the public charge, without being subjected to the discipline of the workhouse. This, however, is an extreme case, and it would not, I think, be wise to adapt the regulation of poor-law administration in Ireland to the possible occurrence of such a contingency. I do not therefore propose to make any exceptive provisions of out-door relief in any shape, not even in kind. But I recommend that in Ireland relief should be limited strictly to the workhouse. Mr. Nichols went on to say that the evidence collected by the late Commissioners of Poor Law Inquiry in England had established the conclusion that out-door relief was inevitably open to great abuses, and entailed consequences prejudicial to the labouring classes and the whole community; and that to establish out-door relief in Ireland would be to act in direct contradiction to English experience, and to the spirit of English law. These were the views of Mr. Nichols, who retained the same opinion after visiting Holland; yet they were now called upon to retrace the whole of their steps—to undo all they had done—and to overthrow all the authorities on this subject. In 1837, after all these inquiries, the Crown recommended to Parliament, not simply to pass an Irish Poor Law, but a poor law guarded by such prudent regulations and precautions against abuse as experience and knowledge of the subject might suggest. These were general terms, such as were frequently inserted in a Royal Speech, to escape from the difficulties of a specific recommendation; but there was in this case no difficulty in knowing what was meant, because the speech of the noble Lord now at the head of the Government, in introducing the Bill, put it beyond all possibility of doubt, and not only showed what was meant, but explained the reason of his convictions. Lord J. Russell, in proposing his measure for the introduction of poor laws into Ireland, in February, 1837, stated— It was a long time before any considerable mischief was found to arise from the English Poor Law. * * * But there arose about the end of the last century, from circumstances which occasioned a great scarcity of provisions, a notion that all persons, whether deserving or undeserving, were entitled to be maintained by the parish funds. It was impossible that such an opinion of the law could be carried into effect without occasioning the greatest evils. This led to the new poor law, the principle of which, like the 43rd of Elizabeth, was to place the pauper labourer who should apply for support in a situation more irksome than that of the independent, industrious, and successful labourer. The means by which this is accomplished are by offering all such persons a, residence in the workhouse. It is to these principles and experience that we must look very much as a guide in forming any poor law which we wish to introduce into Ireland. A question arises, whether you are to afford relief in any other manner than it is now given in some of the improved districts in England; that is, by in-door relief to the paupers? The Poor Law Commissioners have expressed a very strong opinion on this subject, and they give reasons which I think are conclusive. They are of opinion, and I think with them, that the administration of out-door relief would lead to a most pernicious system, mixing up mendicancy and charity with labour—a system of persons partly obtaining support by labour, and partly relief from the public purse; and if we were at once to adopt this system, I certainly do think that not only would those evils take place in Ireland that existed in England, but I believe that those evils would be very much greater, and that out-door relief would absorb a much greater part of the profits of the land. He had also the authority of his noble Friend the present Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Grey) on the same side, for, incidentally to that inquiry, the question of emigration was touched upon in the House of Commons. His noble Friend said, that he objected to systematic emigration on the ground that it was a species of out-door relief which would give occasion to all manner of abuses. The declaration of Lord J. Russell at that time was precise and distinct; and up to last year not one word had been spoken by any Member of the Government in favour of out-door relief, nor, so far as he was aware, by any Member of the late Government. Yet now it seemed Parliament was called upon to adopt the measure without examination. In the Committee upon the Bill to winch he had referred, a specific proposal was made to grant out-door relief by Mr. W. S. O'Brien, which was opposed by Lord Morpeth, whose name could never be mentioned without respect by those who knew what his nature was — who felt the benevolence, kindness, and charity, that belonged to his disposition. That noble Lord stated— I must give my most direct opposition to this proposition, thinking, as I do, that the worst clauses in the English Poor Law Act, and those which tend most to mar its beneficial progress, are those which extend the right of out-door relief. If Parliament once consents to open the door to out-door relief in Ireland, there would hardly be a family which would not take advantage of it, and throw themselves on the fund. Here was a distinct declaration, made by that Member of the Government who was more immediately charged with the interests of Ireland. When the Bill came up to that House, the notion of out-door relief was condemned by the late Lord Fitzgerald, who knew Ireland well; by his noble and learned Friend opposite, who knew everything well. [Lord BROUGHAM: Proper to be known.] His noble and learned Friend's sentiments might be seen from the following extracts of speeches delivered by him on May 21st and 28th, 1837:— The main point was, whether relief should be limited, or be extended according to that accursed law of Elizabeth, which had ruined the character of the peasantry of this country, and from the effects of which we were now emerging, and able-bodied poor be thereby converted into unwilling workmen, though able to work." "Let the House beware how they neglected the experience of the past, and before they attempted to apply that principle (the relief of the able-bodied), let them recollect that England had hardly yet recovered from the evils which resulted from the system of unlimited relief. He implored their Lordships to profit by experience, and to avoid the ruin in which the system of indiscriminate relief had nearly involved this country, to confer on Ireland the blessing which the Scottish system of limited relief had bestowed on Scotland, and to save her from the curse of the old English Poor Law. He need not say that he quoted these passages without any other purpose than that of strengthening his own case. Hitherto he had dealt with opinion; now he wished to ask their Lordships' attention to the subject as a matter of experience. They had seen the consequences of the system which had been established in England, and by these they might judge of the results which would follow, if the principles on which the English Poor Law had been framed were to be extended to Ireland. What happened under that Act? They had some pregnant and important facts on that subject, to which he prayed their Lordships' attention. In the Sixth Report of the Commissioners for 1840, he found the following statement:— The deficiency of the potato crop of 1839 produced great alarm and distress. A scarcity of fuel was likewise apprehended, and the necessity of giving out-door relief was urged on the Government and the Poor Law Commission. Under these circumstances a Minute was passed, from which the following are extracts, Dec. 5, 1839:—'It has been represented that the law might be modified, so as to authorize out-door relief as a temporary measure, to meet the expected exigency of the times. This would open the whole question of out-door relief, on which the deliberate sense of the Legislature has been so recently recorded, that it can hardly be considered a question for discussion. The Legislature has deemed it most safe and expedient to prohibit all relief, except in the workhouse; and after every variety of opinion had been weighed and discussed during two Sessions of Parliament, it was finally resolved not to invest the Commissioners with a power of permitting or directing the administration of relief in any other way. Thoroughly convinced of the sound policy of that resolution, and having regard to the deliberate solemnity with which it was enunciated, the Commissioners cannot in any way sanction or encourage an application to Parliament having for its object the abandonment of that resolution.' The Commissioners then proceeded to discuss another proposal, namely, that the guardians should be permitted to distribute private subscriptions, collected voluntarily, in out-door relief; on which the Minute proceeds to observe— This proposal, though well intended, is open to such objections that the Commissioners could not entertain it. If adopted, it would entail all the mischievous consequences of out-door relief in its worst shape. The guardians and other officers of the unions would find that they had created a number of pauperized dependants, similar to the pauper classes in England under the old system, whom it would be exceedingly difficult afterwards to restore to a reliance upon their own unaided exertions for support. The Commissioners afterwards describe the result of their abstinence from interference:— We have reason to think, likewise, that the dread of scarcity which prevailed so generally during the latter portion of last year, and the early portion of the present year, has influenced the people to be more careful and economical in the use of their stores than they would otherwise have been; and thus, by an exercise of timely forethought, they will have succeeded, it may be hoped, in averting distress to any serious extent. This same question, as their Lordships would recollect, had been discussed last year; and he might claim for the view which he urged on their adoption the authority of a statesman who would certainly owe much of his fame with, futurity, though in our own time he owed much of his unpopularity, to the steady and honourable course which he had taken with respect to the poor laws. In discussing last, year Mr. Sharman Crawford's proposal for outdoor relief, Sir James Graham said— Had such a proposition, rendering out-door relief compulsory in Ireland, and extending it only to the aged and infirm, formed part of the Bill as originally introduced, the measure would not have received the sanction of the Legislature. This I say, even if the proposition had referred only to the aged and infirm; but the hon. Gentleman now goes further, and asks, under the pressure of temporary circumstances, to extend out-door relief to the able-bodied, by means of a compulsory rate. We have had experience in this country of the danger even under temporary pressure, of giving out-door relief to the able-bodied. It constituted, in fact, a payment, out of the rate in aid of wages., and led to a system of relief, now called in England the labour rate, which, of all the noxious offshoots of the poor law in this country, proved to be the most dangerous and the most injurious. We have had experience in this matter in England, and having that experience, I cannot for one moment entertain a proposition which, even upon a general view of policy in reference to Ireland, I seriously and deliberately believe would introduce a most perilous and noxious system. Under the late Administration, a Committee was moved in that House by a noble Earl connected with the county of Galway (the Earl of Clancarty), to which the noble Duke at the Table gave his assent, on the state of the Irish Poor Law. That was the last Parliamentary examination on the subject. The Committee had an opportunity of examining all the men connected with the administration of the law in Ireland; they acted without the slightest feeling of party, and only endeavoured to discharge their duty well. They examined Mr. Cornewall Lewis, Mr. Senior, Mr. Twisleton, Mr. Gulson, and Mr. Clements. From the evidence before Lord Clanearty's Committee, in 1846, he took the following passages: Mr. George Cornwall Lewis having been asked, "What is your opinion with regard to giving out-door relief?" makes the following answer— My belief is that the introduction of a system of out-door relief in Ireland, similar to that which obtains in England, would be a most disastrous measure; I believe that in a few years, however carefully guarded the law might be, and however trustworthy and intelligent the administration of the relief might be, it would absorb all the surplus produce of the soil; and I think it would in a short time deteriorate the condition of the persons for whose benefit it was introduced. I think it would impoverish the rich without improving the condition of the poor. Mr. Senior was asked— What do you conceive would be the consequence in Ireland if to the existing poor law were superadded out-door relief? His answer was— I believe that all the evils produced in England in 300 years would be produced in Ireland in 10. Would you conceive that in such case a poor law so operating would be a heavy burden on the land of Ireland?—Answer: It would be an entire confiscation.

Mr. Gulson ,

on being asked whether anything in the shape of out-door relief would not rather aggravate than diminish the evil of mendicancy, replied— Certainly; I have no hesitation in expressing my decided opinion that anything approaching to out-door relief in Ireland would very soon swamp the whole property of the country. The opinion of Mr. Twiselton, who has had experience in England and in Scotland, gives a more detailed but equally decided judgment:— I conceive it would be a fatal step to introduce any system of out-door relief for the unemployed population of Ireland. The labourers are principally agricultural, and I believe it to be morally impracticable to devise a system of out-door relief for an agricultural population receiving low wages which should place a pauper in a worse condition than that of the independent labourer. In a workhouse you effect this by the test of restraint. A destitute able-bodied man applies for relief: you give him food and lodging, but deprive him of his natural liberty as long as he continues dependent upon you. Though he might get better food and lodging in the workhouse than at home, he will not go into the workhouse as long as other means of subsistence are open to him. But when you endeavour to employ simple labour as a test of destitution for an agricultural population, and to place the pauper by this means in a worse situation than that of the independent labourer, you are met by all kinds of difficulties. If there is a regular system of out-door relief for work, that work would be certain to the pauper employed, whilst the work of ordinary labour is uncertain. If there was a system of work as a test, a considerable number of labourers would prefer going to the work which was certain, to working for farmers, which is uncertain. I see no satisfactory way to get out of the difficulty. To give lower wages than the ordinary rate of wages, would in the long run rouse the feelings of the country. Cases would be brought forward of labourers with large families receiving wages apparently insufficient for their subsistence, and it would be found impossible to resist raising their wages. As for making pauper labour harder than agricultural labour, I doubt whether any general system will produce this result. You will fail in the attempt, though you stationed a corps of engineers and taskmasters specially educated for the purpose. This applies to a population living wholly on wages; but in Ireland, where many do not live wholly on wages, but on the produce of their little holdings, and any work of the kind would be pure gain, it is perfectly impracticable to devise any test but that of the workhouse which would put them in a condition inferior to that of the independent labourer.

Mr. Twiselton

is confirmed by Mr. Clements, who, being asked his opinion of out-door relief, says— That he could not have failed to turn his attention to this great question. I think," he adds, "the advocates for out-door relief in Ireland have very little knowledge of the inextricable web of difficulties that they would get into, if such a law were passed. I cannot contemplate the possibility of obtaining the funds for general out-door relief in Ireland. He was then asked— If the demand on the local funds were such as you suppose, would it not have the immediate effect of materially diminishing the means of employing labour; and would it not consequently in proportion as it extended relief to pauperism, diminish the labour-fund on which the industrious rely? The answer given is— Certainly." "The Committee concur in the opinion thus given by Messrs. Lewis, Senior, Gulson, Twisclton, and Clements, and do not hesitate in expressing their decided opinion that the introduction of any system of out-door relief would be dangerous to the general interests of the community, and more particularly to the interests of the very class for whose well-being such relief was intended. In August, last year, he (Lord Monteagle) had protested against the Bill for organizing the public works system in Ireland, on its coming before that House; and had stated that he anticipated from it many of the evils which it had produced, and that it would lead to out-door relief. On August 26th, 1846, he (Lord Monteagle) stated— That he had another and a more fatal objection to this Labour-rate Bill, and that was, that it practically involved the introduction of the principle of out-door relief for the poor of Ireland. Whether that principle was right or wrong, he would not at the present stop to inquire; but he did say, it was the greatest social change ever made in any country; no change in the social economy was ever proposed so great as Parliament was now taking blindfold. He defied any noble Lord to distinguish the principle this Bill laid down from out-door relief. It was out-door relief, and nothing less."—"Lord Lansdowne denied that the Bill would lead to the adoption of a system of permanent out-door relief. He was as much opposed to the introduction of such a system as his noble Friend could be. He fully concurred with him, that it was a system of a vicious character, and one which, if adopted, must lead to the complete confiscation of the property of Ireland. Now, he would ask, if he had not laid good grounds for those of their Lordships who did not come there with their minds previously made up, to support his proposition. But he did not ask so much as that. There was not a man who was favourable to the Ministerial scheme but might not, if he felt faith in his own doctrine, he at liberty to vote for his proposition. Let them take the evidence, not of Irish landlords, or of persons accustomed to Irish abuses, but of the witnesses before their own Committee. He had further evidence to tender to their Lordships, and the more important in its nature as not arising from Ireland. He called on them to consider the case of Scotland, as detailed in the reports now on their Table, and to see what were already the indications in Scotland of the consequences of applying the new poor law to that country. When he objected to that law, far be it from him to say that the state of the Scottish poor did not require great amelioration. No man who knew what had been the state of the lunatic poor in some parts, as in the island of Arran, could deny that it required amendment. But what was the result of the new law? Let any one road the documents appended to the first report. They had the authority of Sir G. Sinclair, a former Member of the other House, in favour of the workhouse test; and the same view was shared by Mr. Dempster, of Skibo, a gentleman well known for his great improvements in the county of Sutherland, as would be seen by the following extracts:— Speech at Thurso, Oct. 1, 1845.—The new-system had already excited a kind of civil war in the parish, and the mutual good feelings which had subsisted between the rich and the poor were rapidly disappearing; private benevolence had been nearly superseded by the compulsory provision, and both payers and receivers, though from different motives, appeared equally dissatisfied, the former thinking they paid too much, the latter that they received too little. Numbers, too, of individuals, notoriously able to work, came unscrupulously forward and claimed to be supported by others. March 19, 1817.—Unless some plan be devised to prevent the spread of this evil, which I agree is far more destructive than the failure of the potato, I fear that before many years have elapsed, the whole rental of Ireland and of Scotland will be absorbed, and all the rich impoverished, without any improvement in the condition of the paupers. I am quite disheartened by what I see going on about me. Letter of Mr. Dempster, of Skibo, 14th September, 1845:— We are, I may say, quite decided upon having at least two poorhouses in the county. Our reason is simple: in the workhouse test lies the only chance of preventing a mass of hopeless and lethargic pauperism pervading the country… If we give a pro tempore out-of-doors allowance to all whose wants we admit, we shall only perpetuate and much increase the evil and our own difficulties. Sir George Sinclair said, 2nd December, 1845— I consider a workhouse expedient in order to prevent idleness, check insolence, and avert ruin. The rate here already exceeds 800l., with every prospect of increase, especially as in this, and I believe every other parish, there are incendiaries at work to stir up the paupers against the payers, and lead them to imagine that none should take less than 6d. a day for each, more than many of them ever earned by labour, if that sum were given to both the parents of every family, besides an allowance for children. In the course of a very few years, unless some plan be taken to prevent it, the greater part of the rental and means will be absorbed in the maintenance of pauperism, as, besides new applications, there are great numbers on the roll who ask increase. There was one argument used on this subject which he was conscious could not affect their Lordships, though he believed that at the present moment it had great effect out of doors. It was said by many of the petitioners who had approached their Lordships, that by applying an efficient poor law in Ireland, for the purpose of keeping the Irish poor out of England, a great object would be attained. Relieve, it was said, Irish poverty by Irish property, and protect us from the influx of starving paupers from that country. He (Lord Monteagle) grieved that the overflow of Irish poverty should be productive of evil to the labouring classes of this country. He had, on former occasions, endeavoured to discriminate between the two cases of the Irish labourers who came for a time into this country, and whose assistance was most useful, and the Irish labourer who came to settle, who, without raising his own condition, lowered that of the working classes of the district in which he settled. But he prayed those who attached any weight to this selfish argument, to consider whether the introduction of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor would produce the effect they expected from it, or one diametrically opposite. He would take on himself to say he would prove that the introduction of out-door relief to the able-bodied poor would produce a greater immigration of Irish poor into this country than had over yet taken place; and just as out-door relief extended, would the immigration of the Irish poor also extend. Look to the experience of England, and compare agricultural counties with other agricultural counties. It was perfectly notorious that those counties of England in which wages were lowest were the southern counties from Kent to Dorset, where the system of out-door relief was most lavish and indiscriminate. In many of the northern counties, on the contrary, the simpler and wiser habits had resisted this abuse; and in Westmoreland and Cumberland, Northumberland and the North Riding, the rate of wages was highest in the latter class of counties. The wages were lowest in the pauperised, degraded counties in the south—Kent, Sussex, parts of Hampshire and Wilts, and, above all, Dorset. He did not say that because these two features were co-existent, they must necessarily he cause and effect; but he said that in those counties where there was least out-door relief, the wages were highest. What reason had they to imagine that the effect produced by this system in Ireland, would be different from what it had been in this country? Were they so prudent, so sensible, so averse to jobbing there, that what was unsafe in Kent or Sussex, would be perfectly safe in Cork, Kerry, or Limerick? And what was the cause of immigration? Evidently the difference of wages in the two countries. If you lowered relatively the wages in Ireland, as compared with those in England, it was perfectly clear that you would have a great increase in the immigration. Mr. Sturges Bourne's report in 1817, was quite decisive upon the principle; and the report upon Labourers' Wages settled the question of fact as to the wages in different parts of England, and showed the places where the parish payment began when the labourer had a single child, wages being so low that a wife and child could not be supported without parish assistance, the outdoor relief system leading to the allowance system, and thus destroying all check and keeping wages low. Before the Committee in 1830, Mr. Musgrave, Mr. Bates, and other witnesses, showed also that a system of out-door relief must lower wages. The argument, therefore, that you could not remedy the evil of immigration by the out-door relief of the Irish poor, was the most absurd, illogical, contradictory to all experience, ever attempted to be palmed upon the credulity of mankind. But if this did not ward off the evil, would their Lordships consider whether it was not most likely to produce it? If you reduced a neighbouring country, within a few hours sail, containing 8,000,000 of people, to poverty, misery, and destitution, was it not natural that they would flock to any spot where they saw a chance of bettering their lot? Now, would not the complaints of Liverpool or Newport be increased, if the time should come when labour in Ireland was deprived of its own reward, when security for capital no longer existed, and all was reduced to one miserable, dreary waste of poverty and destitution? What was to be the next step? An agrarian law? Divide and distribute the whole property among the millions by an agrarian law, and you would not even pass from the elephant to the tortoise; you would not get to the solution of your own question; you would only create accumulated suffering. Unless we came to that remedy which was once suggested—but not seriously, for a Letter man than the late Sir Joseph Yorke did not exist—scuttling Ireland and leaving her for twenty-four hours under the sea, we must have the pauperism of Ireland reacting upon England; and just in proportion as Ireland was degraded and debased, in that very proportion, throughout the length and breath of the country, in its metropolis and its cities, as well as in their Lordships' halls, they would have to suffer for the misery they inflicted. There was one other question on which he would say a few words before he sat down—the proposed extension of the rated districts. He reckoned upon it as a certain fact, that this could not be done without the utter destruction of property in Ireland. As to the proposition for union rating, or town-lands rating, he believed them equally objectionable, and was satisfied the former would be entirely destructive to Irish property. To make one landlord responsible for the poverty or the property of another landlord, who might live fifteen or twenty miles away, would be contrary to all justice; it would make the well-managed estate responsible for the ill-managed estate. Before he concluded, he would remind their Lordships that all his arguments referred to the adoption of these measures as a permanent system, and not to their temporary employment in a time of famine. In the course their Lordships would take, whatever it might be, they ought not to disregard all experience on the great question before them: of all the social experiments ever tried in any country, that which their Lordships were about to make, blindfold as it were, was surely the most awful. He called on the Government to place before the House the reasons which induced them to adopt it, and to lay before their Lordships all the materials of information they possessed, that they might ponder over them during the Easter recess; and he called on the Government to show their Lordships why they had taken such a step as the present. Let it not be said that he was opposed to making Irish property responsible for Irish poverty. Let the House impose a property tax on Ireland of 10, 15, or 20 per cent, if they pleased. What he claimed was, not protection for his land from taxation, but the protection of his country from the misapplication of the money which would be raised by taxing her. It was against degradation to the people, and against the destruction of the social system, that he protested infinitely more strongly than against the amount of taxation they might be disposed to put upon Ireland. Let them wisely and carefully extend all over the country a liberal system of medical relief to the sick poor—let them extend their asylums for the relief of every evil under which humanity suffered—and if the insane, the blind, or the aged required assistance, let them have it. Let them double the workhouse relief, if they would; but let it be remembered, that in Ireland the land was now paying, in proportion to the rental of the country, as large a contribution to the poor law as property in England. The poor-law assessment of Ireland would amount to 700,000l., which, with the local taxes under the same head, would amount to 800,000l. There were other steps which might be taken for the improvement of the country. They could go much further than they had yet gone with the education of the people; but above all with respect to emigration, not only could they but must they make much greater advances. It was impossible to meet the contingency in which Ireland was placed without going infinitely further than Her Majesty's Government had as yet gone in taking steps for the emigration of the redundant population. The noble Lord concluded by thanking the House for the patience and attention with which they; had listened to him, and by moving— That a Select Committee be appointed to consider and to report on the Recommendations of the several Parliamentary Committees and Commissions on the State of the Irish Poor, as relating to the Expediency of introducing permanently the System of Out-door Relief for the able-bodied Labourer: and on the Effect of such a Measure on the Well-being of Ireland, the Interests of the Poor themselves, and the Immigration of Irish Paupers into Great Britain; And also to consider and to report on the Effects of enlarging the present Electoral Divisions, for the Purpose of raising and levying the Assessments under the Poor Law.


said, he could assure their Lordships that it was with very great regret that he felt himself under the necessity of asking the House to refuse its assent to the Motion of the noble Lord, which, in whatever light he considered it, appeared objectionable to him. He really did not know what was the noble Lord's real object in making this Motion. He knew not whether the Motion was really meant for the purpose of inquiry of a practical and useful nature, in directing the future deliberations of their Lordships; or whether, on the contrary, it was intended to induce their Lordships to express by anticipation an opinion unfavourable to a particular clause in a Bill which would shortly be brought up from the other House for their Lordships' consideration; and which clause had been carried in the other House by an overwhelming majority, not made up entirely of English Members; for, excluding from consideration the English Members who voted on either side in the division, there still remained a majority of Irish Members in its favour. He would ask their Lordships, who had listened to the speech of the noble Lord, was the real object of the present Motion inquiry, or was it the condemnation of part of the measure which would shortly be brought under their Lordships' consideration? For his own part, he confessed that, having listened very attentively to the whole speech, he was in great doubt as to which of these two objects his noble Friend sought to effect. In either case, he considered the Motion objectionable. If his noble Friend meant a real inquiry—if he proposed that they should now enter upon an inquiry which was to be of practical use in guiding their future deliberations—then it was clear that what his noble Friend proposed would have the effect of delaying legislation on a subject which, beyond all others, was most pressing. His noble Friend disclaimed the intention of wishing to cause delay, and no doubt he did so truly; but if they opened the door now for inquiry—if a Committee once began such an inquiry—it would not discharge its duty unless it sat many months in carrying on so large an inquiry. His noble Friend, in proposing this Motion, complained of that House being called upon to investigate important subjects at a late period of the season. And what was his noble Friend's remedy? This Bill to which his Motion had reference, would be passed the first day after the recess, in the other House. It would then immediately come before that House. They might be discussing the clause to which his noble Friend objected, in Committee in the middle of April; whereas, if his noble Friend's Motion was carried, they would not be discussing it till the month of August or September. What, then, would be the object gained by a Committee? They would learn that which they had been told in Committees and Commissions without end. Was it the object to have a digest of what had been reported by former Committees? Why, that duty had already been performed, in one sense, by his noble Friend. They had from him a complete digest of all opinions that could be urged against out-door relief. Then, what else would be gained by a Committee but delay? for hearing vivâ voce evidence must inevitably lead to delay. The fullest information that could be gained had been already collected, and all that now remained to be done was to pronounce a judgment; and that was a function Parliament could delegate to no Committee. If the noble Lord meant that his proposed Committee was merely to make a digest of other reports, he (Earl Grey) saw no utility in such an elaborate method of adding another pamphlet to the number already written on the subject. He thought that every man had now the materials at hand to enable him to make up his mind on one or other side of this important subject. It was then the time for them to pronounce their judgment, and that, he said, was a duty which belonged to both Houses of Parliament, and that they could intrust to no Committee that they might appoint. He therefore thought that his noble Friend had failed to show any sufficient grounds for his Motion, if it were really intended as one of inquiry. But, viewing the Motion in what he believed to be its real aspect, and regarding it as a Motion asking the House to condemn part of a measure about to come before their Lordships, he thought it even more objectionable in this point of view than in the other; and he confidently appealed to their Lordships to reject such a Motion, on the ground that to render legal relief for the poor in Ireland really effective, was one of the measures most required for the improvement of the condition of that unhappy country. For himself, he had no hesitation in expressing his firm persuasion that an alteration of the existing poor law for Ireland, which should make the property of that country really and effectively liable for the maintenance of the truly destitute there, was of all the measures of legislation which their Lordships had to adopt, one most essentially necessary. His noble Friend had implied—and this was a point on which he wished his noble Friend had spoken out clearly, distinctly, and intelligibly—that Her Majesty's Government had brought forward this measure, not in consequence of a sincere conviction of its necessity, but in consequence of a pressure from some other quarter. He was totally unable to guess what was the quarter to which his noble Friend alluded. He asked his noble Friend who was to be responsible for this measure but Her Majesty's servants? What did his noble Friend mean when he said that some other persons were responsible, and not Her Majesty's servants, for bringing this measure before Parliament? But whatever his noble Friend meant, this he could say, that Her Majesty's servants were one and all persuaded of the necessity of such a measure; and he (Earl Grey), for his part, entertained the strongest conviction to the effect that the measure which was now passing, and, he was happy to say, with such large majorities, was one absolutely necessary for the welfare of the sister kingdom. He did not deny that it was a perfectly legitimate and Parliamentary mode of proceeding, to ask that House by implication to express an opinion on a great question of policy before the Bill which raised it came under their Lordships' consideration; but he must add, that he thought it an extremely inconvenient course; and, in this particular instance, the speech of his noble Friend afforded a strong proof of the inconvenience. Throughout the whole course of his speech, his noble Friend had been fighting a chimera of his own creation. He had been attacking one measure, while that which their Lordships would have to discuss, was something very different. His noble Friend had throughout been treating the question as if it were one adopting, as the general and permanent system in Ireland—as in the ordinary course of things—a system of outdoor relief to the able-bodied. He would venture to tell his noble Friend, that not that, but something very unlike it, was proposed. He would state what the real proposition was. The poor law in Ireland at the present moment made the grant of relief entirely discretional. The boards of guardians were empowered, but not required, to relieve the totally destitute. It was now proposed by the Government measure, and he thought not without grave reasons, that in future the boards of guardians should be not only empowered, but required, to relieve the really destitute; and it followed, if that principle of legislation were adopted, that when any particular workhouses were full, some other means must be provided by which those entitled to relief should obtain it. Accordingly, in the Bill now before the other House, it was proposed to be enacted that when any particular workhouses were full, or when from another stated cause they were not available, then, and then only, under a temporary order from the Poor Law Commission, strictly limited in point of time, but renewable as long as the necessity existed, relief out of the workhouses should be granted to the able-bodied. That was the proposition which was really submitted to Parliament by the Government; though the speech of his noble Friend was calculated to lead those who had not actually read the Bill to a very different conclusion. The whole speech of his noble Friend consisted of an argument founded on the abuses of the English Poor Law. He {Earl Grey) was not going to deny the existence of such abuses—still less would he assert that the system which allowed those abuses to grow up was a good one. The noble Lord had contended, that a system under which relief was afforded in such a manner as to render it a matter of indifference to the poor man whether he maintained himself by honest industry or existed on the parochical allowance, would sap the very foundations of society, by destroying all stimulus to industry. The noble Lord had also denounced the mischievous effects of allowing relief in aid of wages; but it appeared to him (Earl Grey) that his noble Friend's arguments were totally out of place, because the noble Lord seemed to forget that if the abuse of the poor law was to be strongly condemned, an effective poor law, which provided that property should be responsible for maintaining the really destitute in case of extreme need, was of the utmost value and importance to society. Such a measure would enlist in favour of those laws upon which the security of property depended, the feelings of persons who did not possess property, as well as of those who enjoyed it. When society declared that, so far as such an event could be prevented, no man should be left to die of hunger while the means of subsistence were at hand, they gave to that great mass of the people who were compelled to trust to labour, rather than to accumulated property, for their subsistence, an interest in maintaining those laws upon which the security of property rested; and by so doing, he believed, they obtained the very first essential for creating a rich and prosperous community, and gave an impulse to industry and improvement of every kind. He believed this would be the result of the measure which was now before the other House of Parliament; for wealth had accumulated with marvellous rapidity in this country; and he would ask, from what period was this progress to be dated? From the very time when a law was passed by the English Parliament providing that the really destitute should not be left without the means of relief in the extremity of their misery. From the very moment when that Act was passed, the state of society in England began to improve; security was established; property began to accumulate; industry to flourish; and year after year, and century after century, this great country had advanced in wealth and prosperity to the high point which it had now attained. But our experience on the other side was no less instructive. What was the great cause of the misery of Ireland? Every man who had considered the subject would reply, that Ireland was poor and miserable on account of the insecurity which prevailed in that country—that industry did not flourish, and capital did not accumulate, because there had hitherto been no security that those who were industrious would enjoy the fruits of their industry. Whence, then, had this insecurity arisen? He thought the inquiries instituted of late years by Commissioners and by Parliamentary Committees, confirmed as they had been in their conclusions by private inquiries, which had contributed so much additional information, combined to show, that the great cause of that insecurity had been the feeling on the part of the population of Ireland that they must cling to land at all hazards as the only means of existence: the people felt, that if they allowed themselves to be deprived of their land they might be left to perish upon the dunghill without relief; they regarded the possession of land as the one sheet-anchor to which they must look in every extremity, and at all hazards they determined to maintain it. It was this deep-rooted feeling which gave rise to the systems of combination and to the midnight legislation of Captain Rock; and the unhappy state of things to which it had given rise, was the cause which rendered improvement in Ireland most difficult, if not impossible. Political causes, undoubtedly, had greatly contributed to produce these results; but he did not believe that among those political causes there was any one which had been so powerful in its operation as the absence of any security, even for a mere subsistence, to the man who in Ireland was ejected from his small holding of land. His noble Friend, then, had omitted to point out, that, if the abuse of a poor law was a great evil, the existence of a well-regulated poor law was a great blessing to society. Would it be contended that an effectual poor law could not exist without abuse? The simple answer to such an argument was, that a period not far short of 300 years had elapsed since the system of relief for the destitute was commenced in England; and the abuses which the measure adopted by Parliament a few years since was intended to remedy, were not of more than forty or fifty years standing when that law was passed. It must be remembered, also, that there were many districts of the country in which those I abuses did not prevail to any considerable extent. In fact, experience had clearly proved, that a system of effectual relief might be maintained without those abuses which his noble Friend would represent as a necessary part of such a system. He (Earl Grey) must correct an error into which his noble Friend had fallen when he stated, that under the 43rd of Elizabeth relief could not be legally given to an able-bodied poor man out of the workhouse. [Lord MONTEAGLE: Without work.] Oh, that was quite another thing. His noble Friend certainly said, most distinctly, that under that statute no relief could be given to the able-bodied poor out of the workhouse. Now, his noble Friend would find, when the Bill, which was at present in another place, came under their Lordships' consideration, that it did not contain one word rendering it necessary to give relief without work. That Bill allowed the administration of out-door relief under extraordinary circumstances, and guarded by great precautions; but such relief was only to be afforded under such regulations as the boards of guardians might think proper to establish in order to prevent abuse. He (Earl Grey) was of opinion, that if a workhouse was full, a board of guardians, in sanctioning relief in kind to the able-bodied poor, would do well to require work from the persons relieved as a test of the reality of destitution; and there was nothing in this Bill in the least inconsistent with such a principle. He had been about to say, in answer to the statement he had understood his noble Friend to make with reference to the 43rd of Elizabeth, that he believed there was not a single workhouse built in England within 100 years after the death of Elizabeth. He (Earl Grey) contended, then, that in establishing an effective system of poor relief, they might adopt such regulations as would prevent the occurrence of abuse. His noble Friend had said, that out-door relief was liable to such extreme abuse that even the test of work was altogether useless; and in support of his statement the noble Lord referred to the experience of the last six months in Ireland. He (Earl Grey) would, however, suggest to his noble Friend, that there was a little difference in point of economy between those who administered their own money, and those who administered the money of other people. He thought those who had carefully read the blue books upon the Table would see that the extreme abuses which had taken place in Ireland within the last six months, had arisen from its having unfortunately been believed in that country, that a very small part, if any, of the money expended would really have to be repaid by the parties who authorized its disbursement. If these sums had been raised at the time by rate, by the parties who distributed the relief, he had a strong persuasion that there would have been a greater severity observed in the manner of administering it, and that the abuses complained of would not have occurred. He (Earl Grey) was bound to say, that, as far as he could judge from what had passed, he was afraid the boards of guardians would rather fall short of giving enough relief, than afford too much. He would refer their Lordships to the extracts of correspondence, relating to union workhouses in Ireland, recently laid before the House, in order to show what was the state of things with which they had to deal. The only mode in which relief could now be given in Ireland, under the law, was in the workhouses; and he would ask whether, under the pressure of distress last year, so large an amount of relief had been afforded us his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) seemed to think was the case? He would take the union of Castlebar. The date of the last rate for the relief of the poor struck in that union, notwithstanding the unexampled distress which had prevailed in the country, was September, 1845. The union workhouse, which was capable of accommodating a very large number of paupers, was three parts empty; under a frightful pressure of distress numbers of unhappy creatures had prayed to be admitted, but the board of guardians declared their inability to provide for them. What, then, was the amount of rate imposed? Was it very enormous? He found, that in the electoral division in which the rate was highest, it was 2s. 6d. in the pound; and in the division in which it was lowest, it was 1s. 3d. He had the curiosity to compare what had been done in this country, in seasons of far less pressure, with what had been done under the extreme distress now existing in the Castlebar union. Early in 1843 he had occasion to bring raider the notice of the other House the great distress then prevailing in England; and he was furnished by his then constituents with some very remarkable documents showing the efforts which they had made to relieve the distress in Sunderland. He found that in 1841, in the township of Monkwear-mouth-Shore, a rate of 2s. 3d. in the pound was made on the 14th of January; another rate of 2s. d. on the 8th of April; a third rate of 2s. 3d. on the 12th of July, and another rate of 2s. on the 30th of September; making a total rate of 9s. in the pound during the year. The guardians of this district had levied their rates properly, instead of leaving half the amount uncollected, as had been the case at Castlebar.


observed, that one of the rates struck at Castlebar ought to have produced 1,100l., but only 35l. had been actually obtained.


He found that in the township of Monkwearmouth the total amount of rates levied was 3,232l. 7s., the sum outstanding only amounting to 216l. 10s. 7d. In 1842 the distress became still more severe, and rates were then levied in the township he had mentioned, amounting in all to 13s. 3d. in the pound; and it was instructive to observe, that during the period of this distress the rated value upon which the rates were collected was progressively diminishing, for, in consequence of the pressure of the times many houses were unoccupied; notwithstanding this circumstance, however, his then constituents exerted themselves in a manner truly honourable to them, and raised the large sum he had mentioned. He thought, then, looking at the amount collected in Ireland, that there was no reason to apprehend that any extremely lavish relief would be afforded by the boards of guardians in that country. He (Earl Grey) must also observe, that the Irish peasant was notoriously most unwilling to avail himself of the workhouse; and this most important safeguard was adopted in the Bill now before the other House—that out-door relief should not be afforded till the means of indoor relief were exhausted. The unions of Ireland were at liberty to increase their workhouse accommodation to the utmost extent they might think desirable; and, as long as they had workhouse accommodation available, the law would not admit of any out-door relief being given to the able-bodied. He (Earl Grey) regarded this as a complete security against abuse. It was clear, from the returns which had been laid before the House, that, till the distress had become very severe, even the existing workhouse accommodation in Ireland was more than sufficient for the paupers. He believed, that scarcely any workhouse in the kingdom was more than half full, and many of them contained very few inmates. The Bill before the other House provided that relief might be given out of the workhouse to the infirm and impotent poor. He (Earl Grey) had not heard his noble Friend express any objection to that provision, and he believed it had met with general approval; but it was clear, that by this arrangement the amount of accommodation available, in order to test the reality of distress among the able-bodied poor, was very largely increased. The system which it was proposed to establish in Ireland would resemble that which existed in well-regulated unions in England. In ordinary times the workhouse would be sufficient to meet the demands for relief, and the able-bodied poor who applied for relief would obtain it in the workhouse. In extraordinary times, during periods of unusual pressure, after the reality of want and destitution had been ascertained by the tender of the workhouse in numerous cases, when the workhouse became full, relief would then be given out of the workhouse to those to whom it could not be otherwise afforded. Surely this was a system which, if the boards of guardians did their duty, afforded ample means for obviating abuse. In well-managed unions in England, relief was never given out of the workhouse to the able-bodied under ordinary circumstances; but the moment a period of severe pressure arrived, there was a suspension of that rule. A few years ago, when great distress existed in Nottingham, this system was acted upon. The workhouse was used to test the reality of want in all suspicious cases, and as it was clear that a great number of persons were unable to obtain subsistence, those who could not be accommodated in the workhouse were employed out of doors, and were paid partly out of the rates, and partly out of large contributions which were then raised. That was precisely the system which they now wished to be adopted in Ireland; and that was exactly the security which they ventured to tender against abuse. He know it had been said, less frequently than he had expected by his noble Friend in the course of his speech, that the number of destitute persons in Ireland, particularly in some of the counties on the western coast, was so great, that it would be found utterly impossible to provide for them profitable employment. That was an argument which seemed to him to have followed from very erroneous premises. He admitted that if they looked to particular districts in that country, they would find themselves in the presence of persons by a great deal too numerous to be profitably employed; but if they looked to Ireland as a whole, he denied that that was the case. They could not doubt if they looked on Ireland as a whole, that there were means of profitable employment sufficient to sustain her entire population. If the people of Ireland were, as they were said to be, ill fed, ill clothed, ill housed, it was owing incontestable to this fact, that their labour was not called forth as it might be, and that when it was called forth it was improperly directed. He was convinced that it was the misdirection of the labour of Ireland at this moment, which was the cause of the present fearful distress. When they looked to the extent of land capable of being reclaimed, and hitherto neglected; if they looked to the extent of land which had been cultivated, and which was capable of being still farther improved; if they looked to the mineral wealth of Ireland, as yet untouched, and to her immense water power and her fisheries; they could not hesitate for an instant in granting that, if the labour of Ireland was properly applied, and judiciously directed, it would be sufficient, unaided, to maintain the people, not only in a condition superior to that in which they had so long existed, but in comfort and happiness. Certainly the change they desired from the contemporary state of things could only be gradual; but no law which Parliament could pass would more contribute to hastening the metamorphosis than that law which should provide effectual relief to those who were really destitute. And this law would act as an inducement, the strongest and most powerful, to individual exertion. The labourer would not voluntarily throw himself into the workhouse; and the alternative which such an enactment would leave to the landlord would be, either to maintain the poor in idleness, or to employ them in a manner which add to the value of landed property. Such a measure as this would compel the proprietors of the soil to develop its resources; and he (Earl Grey) was satisfied, if they exerted themselves as they were bound to do, that the population would find ample employment, and that the employer would be amply repaid. The assistance of this country must be given to facilitate the change, and that aid it was disposed to offer. Their Lordships would remember that this was not the only measure before Parliament, introduced with the object of sustaining Ireland in that transition-state through which her progress was now so painful. There were, before the other and that House, Bills to enable the proprietors of incumbered estates to relieve themselves of the responsibility, to promote the investment of capital, and so employ labour, to encourage fisheries, and to reclaim waste lands; and these measures all proceeded with equal steps, and would be applied to the same purpose. The Irish people, too, were themselves making great efforts. An enormous stream of emigration, great beyond all anticipation, was setting out to our own colonics and to the United States. The Government, therefore, had a right to expect that, by degrees and gradually, an extensive improvement would take place in the condition of Ireland. While he expressed this confident opinion in favour of these measures and of their results, let him not be misunderstood as not looking forward to the future of Ireland with the utmost anxiety and apprehension. It was impossible for any man to view what was going on in that country without experiencing feelings of the deepest alarm. Though the measures which Parliament might pass, seemed to him to be the best which could be devised, in which he placed the firmest trust, and which, as he considered, were as well calculated as any their Lordships' wisdom could suggest to ameliorate the circumstances of the country, still he was sensible that nothing they could adopt, nothing short of a miracle, could effect a sudden and immediate improvement in evils of so long a standing and of so inveterate a character. It was surprising to hear his noble Friend declare, that so far from doing that which he (Earl Grey) prophesied, this measure would reduce the people of Ireland to pauperism. Reduce the people of Ireland? Why, was it possible to reduce a people supposed to be in the extreme of misery and destitution? That was the description which the Commission of 1836 gave of Ireland; such was the correct description of Ireland at this moment; and that being the habitual state of things, his noble Friend told them to go on as they had begun, and refuse to adopt that system under which England (formerly in a position somewhat similar) had risen and flourished—under which industry had found its reward, diligence its profit, capital its return—and under which the evidences of wealth and the proofs of prosperity had been spread on every side of them. His noble Friend told them to reject that system, lest they should reduce Ireland even below its present condition. That was an extraordinary argument: any other might have have plausible; but that could have no weight with any man. His noble Friend had adverted to the opinions which, in former years, had been expressed by himself (Earl Grey) and his noble Colleagues. He denied that there was any difference between the principles they had then, and the principles they now, professed. In the year 1838, it was true, they proposed a measure for the relief of the poor in Ireland far less extensive than that which was now under consideration. He thought, even with the experience he had had, he should, under the same circumstances, have again taken that course. He confessed, considering the greatness of the change, it was above all expedient that they should proceed cautiously and gradually. At the same time, he fully admitted that he had expected from the measure of 1838 an effect far more beneficial and powerful than that which had really been produced. The principle, however, in conformity with which that measure had been introduced, he regarded as precisely the same as that he had now laid down, viz., that in Ireland, as in England, they ought to provide by the law for the relief of extreme necessity. They then said that, without that principle being acted upon, they could not establish the security under which alone a country could prosper. He had then, however, ventured to think that relief within the workhouse would have been sufficient: that expectation had been disappointed, and the principal reason was that the local authorities to whom the administration of the law had been confided, had not applied it with that vigour which was desirable and requisite to ensure success. He also, in part, attributed the failure of that enactment to the circumstance that, as his noble Friend was aware, it had been intended to accompany it with other measures; and that, from unavoidable events, those measures had never been brought forward. From the experience they had since had, not changing that principle on which they based the original measure, and, not varying that policy which they first recommended, they found that it was necessary to proceed further in the same direction. He would only add, that while undoubtedly he felt the greatest apprehension as to the future, he still saw nothing in the condition of Ireland which should lead them to despair. She possessed still all the elements of wealth if she would be but true to herself. If she exerted herself, as he trusted and believed she would, and as be thought the Bill under discussion would tend to induce, he saw no reason why she might not emerge from the present dark season of adversity to a state of greater happiness and prosperity than she had ever before enjoyed. That she might do so was his most earnest wish.


could have wished that some one more immediately connected with the sister kingdom should have addressed the. House. The subject under discussion was the most important, and he would say the most alarming, that he remembered seeing brought before Parliament since he had been a Member of the Legislature. He did not use the words rashly or inconsiderately, though they were used in reference to every question that came under notice: that was his deliberate conviction. He would not—notwithstanding that he was tempted by the examples of the noble Lords who had preceded him, and he did not wish to—enter into the details of a Bill not yet before the House. He desired to avoid debating generally the principle of a provision for the poor; but he could not help expressing his opinion on what he considered to be the unhappy course in which they were still persevering and persisting. He was not discouraged so far as to think it hopeless that he should ever prevail upon their Lordships to abstain from going further in that course, by the total failure which had attended every attempt he had made in that direction from the beginning of the Session. He had on the first night of the Session entreated their Lordships, while in the midst of that calamity under which it had pleased Providence to decree that we should labour for a season—and he hoped only for a season—while in this crisis of our affairs, which, as he trusted, was but a crisis, temporary and terminable—that they should draw a broad and deeply-marked line of distinction between the two classes of measures; the one, measures of a temporary nature, of an extraordinary description, formed, and calculated, and framed to meet a temporary crisis, and to bear us up under extraordinary circumstances—a passing and fleeting pressure; and the other, a class of measures to which the subject before them unhappily belonged—permanent measures, of a general application, and going permanently to alter the whole policy of the empire. He had implored their Lordships that they would avoid the latter class of measures; and that if they needs must deal with the former, they should fairly give their aid and assistance, so far as they could, consistently with paying respect to the principle of being beneficent as well as benevolent—that was to say, consistently with taking care that they did not injure rather than benefit—when their object only was to do good. He had pointed out how necessary it was, when the question came to be that of altering the whole policy of the critically circumstanced and difficult to be dealt with portion of the empire—the sister kingdom of Ireland—that they should do nothing rashly, nothing in the dark; that, in the storm in which the passions were now placed—pity on the one hand, and passions of a less laudable and less amiable nature on the other—they should wait until the calm had succeeded, and until they could coolly and deliberately and fairly exercise their legislative functions. If they took this step, they did that which they could not afterwards remedy. They might safely do a little in order to do more; they might legislate within narrow bounds, so as to meet a temporary emergency, and then wisely wait to see if they were required to go further; but when they adopted such a measure as this, they would find it less easy to stop than necessary to go on he might approve of those temporary measures which had been introduced, because they were not irrevocable; they only operated to a limited extent, and if on trial it was found expedient, there was no difficulty in retrograding; but it did not follow that he must vote in favour of the establishment of a principle which, if once sanctioned, could not afterwards be gainsaid. Once pass a poor law like this for Ireland—for any country inhabited by millions of men—and they could not retrace their steps. Volat irrevocabile verbum; once say that Irishmen shall be fed, as they would be by this measure—not because they were entitled to it by their own exertions, but because they were located on an estate, and because the proprietor of that estate was bound to find them food, and, if he liked, could find them employment—and they would at once enact that the peasant and the landlord had opposite interests, and were to be treated by the State as enemies to each other. In declaring his disapprobation of such a measure, he repudiated the idea that he had any inclination to legislate for one class to the injury of the other; with the one, both politically, and as a member of the same class, he felt, in the circumstances in which they were now situated, the liveliest sympathy; but he sought the interest of the other as a man who saw nothing alien to him that concerned humanity. Once pass a law of which such would be the effect, and naturally one class was ruined because the bulk of the property would be sacrificed; the other would be still more irrevocably ruined by the destruction of character, independence, and industry; and until this occurred—until this was consummated—they could neither retrieve nor retrace the step they would shortly be called upon to take. It was not a question like the repeal of the Union, on which a very small minority might be expected; for on that question the smallness of the minority was not a proof that it was not well considered and disposed of: the question was, whether they should pass a poor law for Ireland like that which, if it had not been enacted by Elizabeth, men would pause and think long before they passed it in England? And if that law was bad for England, it must be ten thousand times worse in Ireland. It was a clear case, it was self-evident, what must be the effect of a poor law in Ireland; yet how many Members of the House of Commons voted against the clause by which the principle of out-door relief was I given? Thirty-six. And how many of them were Irish? Thirty-two. So that upon this great, difficult, and, in the eyes of many, frightful question, there was so much deliberation, so little pressure from without, so little influence of feelings roused by the cruel calamity under which their fellow-men in Ireland were suffering, pining and dying, that just four English, Scotch and Welsh Members were found to vote against the clause, to the 180 or 190 who voted for it. Could he have a more convincing proof that this was not the deliberate decision of the Commons of England in Parliament assembled?—that this was not the time at which such a decision ought to have been taken? It was a jest to talk of a permanent system of poor laws affording any relief in the present pressure upon Ireland. If that was the case, ought they to adjourn for a fortnight at Easter? Ought the first reading of the Bill in that House be deferred to the 1st of April, or at least the first day after the recess?—for the 1st of April would be an ominious day to read such a Bill on; they ought not to have adjourned even over the fast-day, because mercy was better loved than sacrifice; they ought not to have fined the people of England 300,000l. or 400,000l., which, by depriving them of one day's wages, was really the case—more than all the amount that had been given in charitable subscriptions; but if the object of the Bill had been to meet the temporary crisis, they ought not to have adjourned for a single day, but to have passed it as hastily as the forms of Parliament allowed. It did not require a moment's argument, however, to show that the Bill could have no material effect in meeting the present crisis. He had many other serious objections to granting a poor law to Ireland; he could not find the machinery in that country capable of well executing that law, and there was no reason to expect the existence of that machinery; he could not trust to the authorities in whose hands the law would be placed. He spoke it with all respect to his brethren and fellow-citizens in that part of the United Kingdom: but he was not disposed to trust the powers of this Act to any Irish functionaries at all. The noble Earl (Earl Grey) had very great doubts whether relief would not rather be too stingily given than too lavishly. From a reference to documents and returns, he should be disposed to share those doubts; but they knew the Act would not be allowed to remain a dead letter; if the present machinery would not do, another must be found. They could not repeal the Act, because there was no machinery to work it; they decided that the people had a right to relief out of the workhouse. That would be known and greedily accepted by the poor of Ireland, and they must needs find machinery to carry the law into execution. They must have Government officers of some kind and a large force, whether civil or military he did not inquire. Look at the Castlebar union; there they had 1,100l. in rates due; only 35l. of that was collected. Why? Because it was not wanted? No such thing; the union at that time was 400l. or 500l. in debt; but they could not collect any more than 35l. He feared the same difficulty would be found elsewhere; he feared, too, the great increase in the amount to be collected would not lessen that difficulty. If there was one thing more disagreeable to the Irish mind than another, it was the payment of direct taxes. He spoke with a fellow-feeling—he know himself it was a disagreeable operation—one very difficult to get executed in Ireland. There was no other reason for not applying to that country the income tax, the land tax, and the assessed taxes. The forbearance arose from no want of good will; the nature of Chancellors of the Exchequer was not of that soft, and malleable, and tender kind, that from mercy the sacrifice of Ireland to the income tax and the assessed taxes had never been insisted on: it was because there was never any hope of being able to get them—the expense of the collection would be so great, that the net revenue would hardly be worth receiving. This would be the case with the rates. See what a state Ireland had long been in. The pamphlet of Mr. Canning described the destitution and starvation of that country, and stated the number of medicants at 2,000,000. What was the date of that pamphlet? Not 1817, but 1842, five years ago. Such was the habitual state of that unhappy portion of the empire, for there had been no particular pressure in that year. They were sallying forth on an expedition to feed a country which was habitually in this unhappy state. Its mendicants numbered 2,000,000; he would not overstate the case—he was satisfied with that number—they would find the workhouse test inapplicable to Ireland; in order to house 2,000,000 of paupers they must have 3,000 workhouses; that was perfectly out of the question; what would be the consequence? The moment there were more persons claiming to enter the house than the house would hold, out-door relief became the law of the land. The Commissioners must issue an order to the guardians to furnish two months' out-door relief. If the guardians did not take care that the house was filled to overflowing, the 2,000,000 would; they would take care to go and demand entrance, and all the more when it was found that the house would not bold them; and then, if there was one more claiming admission than the house would hold, out must come the order for out-door relief; and this they would do again and again until out-door relief became a part of the ordinary law of the land. The industry of the Irish people was not very exemplary; but the mere prospect of out-door relief would be enough to induce to walk to the workhouse, and over-whelm the guardians, a greater number than it would hold. He had said he could not trust the Irish authorities with the execution of this law; in proof of that position he would remind the House of the correspondence respecting Captain Wynne and the Members for Clare. When they saw respectable Members of Parliament charged with quartering on the highways their own voters at elections, and their own comfortable tenants, as stated by Captain Gordon and Captain Wynne, how could they be quite sure that the functions of poor-law guardians would be much more fairly, strictly, or disinterestedly exercised? He would remind them of the class of persons that would require relief. They were the peasants—they were in their nature a joyous and gay and clever people as could be—they were a warm-hearted and innocent-minded people, and a charitable and humanely-disposed people;—there was no character could be more amiable than that of the Irish peasant. And there was another circumstance that increased his admiration of them. Notwithstanding their distress in Liverpool and Manchester, and that they had come over there in thousands, there had been no increase of offences, there had been no disorders or tumults—there had been no breaches of the peace—there had been no increase of common offences—of pilfering and stealing—in consequence of that increased multitude of houseless, homeless Irish that were flocking to their shores. But, on the other hand, he must admit that, with all his admiration of the good qualities and character of the Irish, and their humane and charitable disposition, he must say he thought there was one vice in their character, which was that of improvidence and dislike to continue at hard work; and they were the last people in the world to be entrusted with a provision of the nature of this poor law. It had proved to be bad in England, and it was proving to be bad in Scotland, with all the prudence, pride, and independent spirit of the Scotch; and it might be more fatal to the welfare and industrious habits of the Irish people. In their own country, when they were not at work, they were not so peaceable as in this country; they were excitable, easily incited to tumult, and did not much mind how far they broke the Queen's peace. There were not persons, it appeared, wanting to incite them on. The correspondence to which he had referred, proved that they were hallooed on to acts of tumult against a road inspector, because in the discharge of a painful duty he refused to put improper persons on the roads. It was an awful experiment they were about to make, and had this additional feature, that it was not experimental but final, until such results had arisen from it as were frightful to contemplate. He could not enter into the large subject of the poor law, upon its tendency to destroy all feelings of kindness between the upper and lower classes, its tendency to make that, which ought to be a charity deemed a right, or its tendency to make the pauper call himself, and act as if he believed himself, the prior mortgagee on the land of the country; that feeling went to sap the very foundation of society, by shaking the corner-stone of the social system, the sacredness of property itself. It mattered not whether that was done at once, per saltum, or was gradually eaten down and worked into by a perpetual canker. The tendency of the system was to diminish the stimulus to exertion even in an industrious people; it had an equal tendency to substitute improvidence and want of circumspection even in a prudent and naturally provident people like the Scotch, and to put an end to that spirit of independence which alone made men worthy to be called by the name of men. When the noble Earl told them to look back on the glory and the fame of England, asserting that its great wealth, glory, and fame, had been achieved since the Poor Law of Elizabeth, and therefore he supposed in consequence of it, did they not know that the law of Elizabeth was for a century a dead letter, and that out-door relief was hardly ever administered? Then came the Acts of Charles II. and William III., which led to the abuses which were corrected by the 9th of George I., which was the first Act which really applied to the workhouse test. Then followed the 35th Geo. III., and the 40th and 41st Geo. III. There were two seasons of great scarcity, and under the pressure of that scarcity Mr. Pitt unhappily lent himself to bringing in those two measures; and since that they were going down the hill at the greatest speed that was possible for national economy to go down the hill. The character of the peasant, the relation between the peasant and the landlord, the character of the country, and the state of the land revenue of the country, were going at such a frightful race to ruin, that at length it became necessary in the year 1834, to pass an important Act for retracing their steps; and that they could not easily retrace them was an illustration of the evils of going one step too far in a wrong direction. He really looked with great consternation at this measure; it was against all principle; he was certain, pass it when they would, and execute it how they would, a supplemental power would be absolutely necessary to enable; them to levy the rates, and other restrictions would be necessary that those rates should be with ordinary safety administered. Whether the relief was given in money or in food, made absolutely no difference with regard to the inevitable effect of a poor law—its inevitable effect would be to lower the rate of wages, as the experience of this country too fearfully showed. Then, as regarded the convenience of Government, or the sound principle of Government not taking upon itself what it could not manage; why, to feed 2,000,000 of paupers, the Government must become great provision merchants, as well as great employers of the poor. But it was said, they were only to be fed if they found work for them; but it would be impossible to get work for them, for if they came on their hands the reason was there was not work for them; and if there was any work for them, they would not come within the description of persons requiring relief. For the reasons which he had mentioned, and which he certainly should not have stated at such length if he had not found they were not sufficiently attended to in that House or elsewhere (he alluded to a statement which he had made at the beginning of the Session), he called upon them only to do what the absolute necessity of the present emergency required, and no more, and to defer until a more favourable opportunity the passing of some Bill (if some Bill were necessary) for the permanent arrangement of the poor law in Ireland. If they did not adopt this suggestion, he feared that they would have painful reflections some few years hence, and that then they would wish they had postponed it. They would not find it an easy matter to wean those hundreds and thousands of people who were taught to look for support out of other funds than their own—they would not find it an easy matter to wean them from the habit they had got into of looking away from themselves, and trusting to other hands to feed them. They would find it no easy matter to wean them back, even if they did not pass this measure. But if they did, and told him one of their reasons was, that they did not know how to dispose of those hundreds of thousands, his argument was more strong against such interference, and made him regret still more the pernicious course which (with the best possible intention, he admitted) they were pursuing. He should refrain from bearing his testimony to the excellent conduct of the people of this country, the admirable humanity they had shown, and the way in which that feeling was represented. Whatever might be the representation of their feelings in other respects on this subject, their feelings were admirably represented in the House of Commons. He asked, was this the time, when so much excitement was produced, to propose so great a change of policy? They were now taking it up at the end of a Parliament; and in some measure, he believed, in apprehension that the cry raised out of doors, by the whole people of England, in favour of a poor law for Ireland, would be echoed at the hustings. That apprehension should be kept in view, and should form an additional reason against bringing forward a measure such as this at the end of the Session. He by no means intended to blame the people of this country for calling for an Irish Poor Law. They had been driven to it by two circumstances—by the vast number of Irish coming over here, which was a tangible fact that struck all men's imaginations, when they found that about 80,000 persons, in the course of a few months, added to the poor of Liverpool and Manchester, and spreading over the neighbouring districts—that struck all men's imaginations: they said it never would do for the English to have a poor law, and that Ireland should have none, whereby the Irish paupers came over to feed on the English rates. And the other circumstance was, that the people of England were not satisfied with the manner in which the Irish landlords were performing their duties on the present occasion. And so it always happened, that the exception has been taken for the rule; and persons having been selected out as behaving ill, it was said that every landlord acted improperly. The feeling was prevalent throughout England that an Irish Poor Law would meet the evil; but he (Lord Brougham) did not partake of that feeling, and he thought it his duty, not with a view to seek popularity, but, on higher grounds and from purer motives, to state his opinion.


* Although your Lordships have been already addressed by far more practised debaters and abler speakers than myself, yet. I feel myself called on not to give a silent vote on this occasion, on account of the peculiar connexion I have had with the subject now under discussion—a connexion not courted by myself, but I may say in a manner forced upon me by the public voice. I was, as your Lordships will recollect, one of the Commissioners appointed several years ago for inquiring into the condition of the Irish poor. I was appointed to that office not at my own desire, but purely by the spontaneous selection of the then Government of the country. That Ministry may, perhaps, have considered that the experience I had had in England, as one of the governors of a poor-law union, might in some degree qualify me for inquiries * From a pamphlet published by Fellowes. of that kind. But whatever qualifications they may have expected, or may have found in me, they certainly did me no more than justice if they believed that I would devote mysely most heartily and zealously to the business of that inquiry. It is not for me to eulogise or to vindicate the members of that Commission. That is rather the part of the Ministry which appointed them. But this at least I may be permitted to say, that a body of Commissioners could not have been selected less likely to agree in any one erroneous view than those who were appointed. If your Lordships look to the names signed to our report, you will find Roman Catholics, and Protestants of various denominations; Englishmen and Irishmen; clergy and laymen; lawyers, ministers of religion, and country gentlemen. They were as different from each other in the modes of their education, and in their subsequent habits of life, as any men could be; and they were likely, therefore, to differ in the prejudices and mistakes to which they might be liable. It was most improbable, I repeat, that we should concur in any one erroneous notion. Yet all of us whose names appear appended to that report, fully agreed in deprecating such a system of poor laws for Ireland as was subsequently introduced into that country. A difference of opinion existed between Ministers and the Commissioners, as to the recommendations of our report. This was not perhaps to be wondered at: for of all questions that ever were debated by man, those relating to a poor law are precisely the very class on which we may anticipate the greatest amount of difference of opinion between one who has devoted a considerable share of attention to the subject, and one who has studied it much more attentively, and made much fuller inquiries. There is no subject on which first impressions are so likely to be corrected or modified by further investigations, and more mature reflection. Mr. Nicholls, who was subsequently employed by Government to make a new inquiry, and whose report was adopted and acted on, had devoted to that inquiry some considerable time; namely, about half as many days as the previous Commission had weeks. He came to very different conclusions from theirs; but he fully concurred with them, and so did the then Ministry, in decidedly deprecating any system of outdoor relief to the able-bodied. As to the poor law then introduced, and now existing in Ireland, there was some difference of opinion among the Irish. A few approved of it; a very large majority of all classes and descriptions were adverse to it. But all agreed in deprecating the introduction of a system of relief out of the workhouse. Those who hoped favourably of the law, founded their hopes on the complete and permanent exclusion of out-door relief. That system they all concurred in regarding as ruinous to all parties, as a measure amounting to confiscation: and the same sentiment was expressed, not long since, in the very same language (as appears by the reports of the debate) by a leading Member of the present Administration. Those, on the other hand, who dreaded the effects of the poor law—that large majority, of whom I was one—regarded as one of the principal objections to it, the danger of its leading to that result—the out-door relief of the able-bodied. The experiment of introducing a poor law such as now exists, I regarded all along as a most hazardous one. I never expected that law to produce the beneficial effects anticipated by many; and subsequent experience has confirmed my opinion; but the greatest apprehension of all that I felt was, that its inadequacy to the desired object being proved by experience, a remedy would be sought in such an amendment of the law as is now before the other House. The noble Lord who has lately addressed you on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, was remarking that the workhouses have not afforded so great an amount of relief as had been expected. Till lately, a large proportion of them have been nearly empty, and many others only half filled. But in truth it was the extreme reluctance of the poor to enter the workhouse, that has hitherto been the pricipal preservative of Ireland from utter ruin. For it could never be expected that there should be just such an amount of able-bodied paupers applying for relief as would exactly fill the workhouses, and that the application would then stop. What I always dreaded, from the very first, was, that when the workhouses should be filled, there would be a clamour for out-door relief; just such as has now arisen. This was to be expected, under the pressure of a period of severe distress; such as (in a minor degree) has been again and again experienced. And here I may be permitted to advert (though reluctant to dwell on my own proceedings) to the watchful care with which I have endeavoured, in my own neighbourhood, to make the best of the existing law. I felt myself called on to assist—of late, almost to maintain—a large proportion of the inhabitants of a populous village where I reside, near Dublin. I have always made it a point to encourage the people to exertion and to self-reliance, and to cherish, in all except the infirm and helpless, the aversion felt to the work-house. I have always endeavoured to put able-bodied in a way to find employment, by which they might feel that they were earning their own subsistence. I left nothing undone to keep up their disinclination to enter the workhouse; because it appeared clear to me, that if once this disinclination were generally overcome, the multitude of distressed poor, great even in ordinary times, but in seasons of scarcity most deplorable, would swamp the workhouse system altogether, and call forth the present disastrous proposal of domiciliary relief. Such being my views, I was accustomed to employ labourers on my own grounds beyond the number that were actually wanted, or that could bring in a profitable return; but always on the understanding that they were to do a real day's work for their wages, and that otherwise they would be discharged. I was led subsequently to employ in this manner a greater number than formerly, because some persons in the neighbourhood who had been accustomed to provide employment for a part of the able-bodied poor during the most trying seasons of the year, now, being burdened with the poor rate, refused this aid, and referred all applicants to the workhouse. But to me nothing appeared so dangerous as to overcome their aversion to the workhouse. I was anxious to keep up in them the feeling of labourers earning—or at least believing that they were earning—their own bread, instead of being paupers maintained by the rates. Accordingly, I did not give large wages; both because I preferred employing a greater number at moderate wages; and still more, because I was anxious not to disgust them with the rate of wages, necessarily low, which the neighbouring farmers could afford; and thus to draw them off from profitable employment. But the situation of men thus labouring under an employer who engages them of his own free choice, and who may discharge them if they neglect their work—this situation would be totally changed, if they were paupers legally entitled to relief, working under an overseer, who is to compel them to perform their tasks. If any one holding such an office, were, in the discharge of his duty, to enforce resolutely a satisfactory amount of labour, I do not believe that his life would be safe for a day. Not only would a great proportion of these pauper labourers refuse to do any reasonable amount of work themselves, but they would not even permit others, who might be so disposed, to do a fair day's work. Some persons have spoken of the proposed measure as likely to lead to, or to be accompanied by, "a system of well-directed labour." But I do not hesitate to say, that nothing more chimerical than such an expectation ever entered the mind of man. The labour exacted of the paupers will not only not be "well directed" in the sense of being profitable labour, but it will not even be well directed, so far as to be an adequate test of destitution. An Irish labourer has been accustomed, unhappily, to work for a very small pittance, and to be content with the bare necessaries of life, and to be, as it were, always on the brink of ruin. This is a deplorable condition at the best; but if you give him a legal right to support, independently of industry and good behaviour—if, in return for such nominal work as he will do under an overseer, you give him that bare subsistence (and less you cannot give) which he has been accustomed to be contented with—you ruin his industry and independence of character for ever, and sink him, permanently, into the lowest degradation, physical and moral. Even to the English labourer it is very injurious to be reduced to the condition of a pauper. But the case of the English labourer is far different from that of the Irish, and far more favourable. He is, for the most part, accustomed to something beyond the mere necessaries of life—accustomed to many of its comforts, and some humble luxuries—accustomed to see his family decently clad, and to live in such a cottage, and with such furniture, as exceed the Irish labourer's almost as much as they fall short of the accommodations of the gentry. A man so circumstanced may be one on whom you may make with safety the experiment of affording him, during a time of severe pressure, a bare subsistence in exchange, for labour little more than nominal. It may be hoped that he will not yield to the temptation of sloth, but will embrace the very earliest opportunity of returning to real vigorous labour, in order that he may return to that more comfortable style of living he has been used to. But not so with the Irish labourer. Inured to hardship—accustomed from his earliest days to privation, the proffer of that bare subsistence which he has been used to be content with as the reward of his industry, and not always to be obtained, even so—the proffer, I say, of this, legally secured to him, in return for a mere pretence of work, will be so great a boon, that you must expect it to attract not only the superabundant, but almost the whole labouring population; and that they will be, not a temporary, but a permanent and a perpetually increasing burden on the resources of the country. It will be utterly vain for you to enact that the claimants of relief shall be compelled to do a full and fair day's work in return for a day's support. The rule may be laid down; but it cannot be enforced. The greater part of them will determine neither to work hard, nor to allow any of their companions to do so. And nearly the whole of the Irish poor will rush to this so-called labour, and throw7 themselves upon the poor rates, leaving the land unfilled. At no distant period, you will have a pauper population in Ireland, amounting not to a million and a half, or two millions, but to three, four, or five millions; while farms are lying as desolate as the deserts of Arabia. You will have a continually increasing demand upon supplies continually diminishing. It is not from a special regard for Irish landlords—it is not from a wish merely to spare them from a confiscation of property—that I deprecate this measure. I am prompted to do so yet more by my regard for the people. These will be thrown into a state of far greater destitution than ever, when the entire rental of Ireland shall have been swallowed up by the poor rates, as was the case with the parish of Cholesbury in England, where no one would undertake to occupy the land, rent free, burdened with the payment of the rates; and where, consequently, the whole was left uncultivated, and the paupers were maintained by rates in aid, levied in the adjoining parishes. Of the first rate that will be levied in Ireland, under the proposed system, half, or perhaps two-thirds, will be collected. Then there will be a second and a heavier rate levied, to meet both the subsequent expenditure and also the arrears; of the second rate a smaller proportion will be collected; of the third rate, probably nothing will be collected. That such will be the course things may be expected to take, under the proposed poor law, abundant evidence, I am confident, would be produced, if the Motion for a Committee of Inquiry should be acceded to. When then we shall have reached this point, there will be no resource left but to appeal to Government, in each case, for a rate in aid; first, from the neighbouring districts, and ultimately, when these also are exhausted (as they soon must be), from the funds of the united empire. For, as in the case of a commercial bankruptcy, the failure of one house causes the failure of several others connected with it, and these again bring ruin on others connected with them; so, in this case, the insolvency of one district will lead to the insolvency of another and another. The ruin will spread like a conflagration through the whole of Ireland; till at length the united empire will be called on to meet the evil, after an incalculable amount of additional misery has been endured, and at a cost far greater than that which the people of England have been so impatient of bearing, and the desire of escaping which has chiefly occasioned the popular clamour for the measure now proposed. I do not wonder that the people of England are weary of being called on to relieve Irish destitution, and of being burdened with a heavy expenditure for Ireland. I do not wonder that they should wish that the land of Ireland should support the Irish poor. And I do not wonder that those who are as ill informed as most are, of the facts of the case, and in many points misinformed also, and who have inquired little, and reflected little, on the subject, should imagine that nothing more is needed than to pass a law which shall make the landlords support all the poor. I heartily wish that this were possible. I should rejoice to see the land of Ireland supporting in plenty the whole population, without debasing permanently the character of the peasantry, even though this should be effected at the cost of reducing all the landowners to poverty. But this cannot be. In the first place, it is physically impossible. It may seem almost ridiculous to speak of a physical impossibility as one among the objections to any proposal. But in truth, in the present case, it is only one out of several; others of which would operate, even if that impossibility could be removed. Supposing even that no deterioration of character—no discouragement of industry—were to result from the proposed measure, even so, the actual amount of destitution is such (as might be easily established by numerical demonstration before a Committee of Inquiry), that the whole rental of Ireland would be insufficient to relieve it; and the land would consequently be soon thrown out of cultivation for want of occupiers, even if offered rent-free. A very large and very poor population has hitherto been scantily subsisted on the coarsest and most abundant kind of product that the earth could be brought to yield. A great failure in that kind of product has reduced a large proportion of them to destitution. Can we, by an Act of Parliament, make the land support, on a less abundant kind of product, the same population? Can we decree that a portion of that product—the portion which has hitherto formed the landlord's rent—shall supply all deficiencies? These considerations would alone be decisive of the physical impossibility of what is proposed to be attempted; even supposing that the now surplus population were alone to be thrown upon the poor rate; that no deterioration in the habits of the rest were to take place. But in addition to this, we have every reason to expect that the pauperizing effect of such a law would be much more extensive; that the industry of the people would be greatly diminished by the promise of subsistence independently of industry; and that, consequently, the cultivation of the land, and its productiveness, would be greatly impaired. And thus the existing distress would not only be perpetuated, but would go on indefinitely increasing. Far better would it be, that Government should at once avowedly confiscate—confiscate, without first destroying—all the land of Ireland, and take possession of it; granting the owners, for the rest of their lives, as much as might be thought a reasonable allowance for an Irish proprietor. The land would then have been forfeited before it had become desolate for want of cultivation. But if Government should thereupon undertake, as proprietor of those lands, to maintain all applicants without limit, and employ them as paupers, in compulsory labour, it would soon find the lands to be a "damnosa possessio," a property bringing with it incalculably more expense than profit. Under such a system, both the debasement of the character of the people, and the burden of supporting them, have a tendency to go on continually increasing to an indefinite extent. We have, on this point, the lessons of experience to guide us. We know to what an alarming state the English Poor Law had brought us, when the continual and rapid increase of its evils, physical and moral, alarmed us into a vigorous measure of reform. Now, if England is the "green tree," Ireland will be "the dry." Reference has been made to the high authority of Mr. Senior, who declared, when examined, his conviction that "the mischiefs which it had taken three centuries to bring about in England, would, in Ireland, be effected in ten years." I myself believe he might safely have said, "ten months." Every disadvantage—every conceivable circumstance that can make such an experiment doubly hazardous—all is to be encountered, in the greatest degree, in Ireland. To advert to only one of those circumstances—the character of the persons themselves who are to be the recipients of relief; it is admitted by all—even those who estimate the most highly the good qualities which certainly are possessed by the Irish people—that they are improvident to a greater degree than most others, and remarkably prone to throw aside self-dependence when they have a promise, or a hope of support from without, from a liberal patron, from Government, from a parochial, or any other institution. I will mention one instance which came under my own knowledge, as illustrating in a remarkable manner this readiness to throw themselves entirely on any resource that may be provided for them, and to lay aside, in their dependence on this, all forethought and all exertion. A number of fishermen, resident near the Cove of Cork, were accustomed, till of late, to take large quantities of fish, on certain banks ten or twenty miles out at sea. These men have latterly been living at home idle, or nearly so (taking only occasionally a few fish close to the shore), and with their families in great destitution. Their case was brought under my notice by a clergyman in the neighbourhood, with whom, as well as with one of the principal landed proprietors, I am well acquainted. It appeared that these poor men were unable to victual their boats for the voyage, as was requisite when they went so far from land. It occurred to me that an effectual and permanent relief might be afforded them, by fitting them out, once, for the fishery they had been accustomed to; giving them to understand that they must not look for further assistance, but, by the sale of the fish they should take, must provide for each future trip, as they had been used to do. I proposed, therefore, to provide food, and also fishing-tackle, for such as were insufficiently supplied with it. And I trusted that in this way they would be enabled not only to maintain their families in comfort, but also to be the means of bringing a considerable supply of food into the country. But the friends above alluded to, after the most careful inquiry, were compelled to come to the mortifying conclusion that no permanent relief could in this way be afforded. The fishermen would, they were convinced, consume at home the provisions that might be supplied to them, instead of going out to the fishing-banks, and then trust for the future support of their families to the soup-kitchens, and other such establishments, which had hitherto supplied them with a scanty pittance. Even if induced actually to embark with the food on board, they would, my informants fully believed, re-land it in the night, and consume it in idleness at home. In short, having been once used to depend on anything besides their own exertions, they could not be trusted even with a loaf of bread, but abandoned exertion altogether. Many other instances might be given to show how much even charitable relief tends, unless distributed with the most vigilant care and discretion, to paralyse industry, and destroy habits of forethought and self-reliance. But make relief compulsory—give men a legal right to outdoor relief, and they will, to a man, be thrown into a state of destitution. Give them relief in return for compulsory work when they are out of employment, and men will be out of employment to the amount of the entire labouring population. Millions of them will be thrown on the resources of this country; and, in one year, the entire rental of Ireland will be swallowed up, and the pressure upon the people of England will be more severely felt than ever. The present time is one of severe distress, and one in which sacrifices must be made, as well as distress endured; but for this very reason, I maintain, that a worse time for making such an experiment could not possibly be selected. When the workhouses were some of them nearly empty, and some of them only partially filled, if this Bill for the extension of out-door relief had been then passed, on the understanding that it was to come into operation when the workhouses should be filled, there would, perhaps, have been something in it to recommend it, or, at least, to mitigate its evils; though, for my own part, I confess I should greatly deprecate it under any circumstances. There would have been, however, some protection. The ditch would have to be filled before the fortress could be assailed; that is, a great many persons would have to submit to enter the workhouse before any out-door relief could be obtained. But when the measure is introduced at such a moment as the present, when the workhouses are already crowded, there is no ditch to fill, and we are left completely at the mercy of a law which will at once subvert the whole social arrangements of the country. The out-door system, as contemplated by Her Majesty's Government, must come at once into operation. But something, after all, it is urged, must be done for Ireland; and the question is, what can you recommend? I will tell you what I recommend—I simply recommend inquiry. I recommend you not to take a leap in the dark. I would implore your Lordships to accede to this application for a Committee of Inquiry, and not to shut your eyes to the real circumstances of your situation; unless, indeed, it be that you are conscious that the matter is one which will not stand inquiry. Those who think that the measure can be supported upon good grounds, should court inquiry; and those who hold a different opinion, should be permitted the privilege, that they may have an opportunity of proving that their views are just and reasonable. I recommend inquiry, therefore; and that we should have an opportunity of considering whether any measure may be devised for the Irish people less liable to objection than this. For my own part, I hesitate not to express it as my conviction that the experiment will prove the most fatal ever tried. It is not an experiment which you can try, and then give over, if you do not find the results satisfactory. It is one from which there is no retreating; and therefore one which should not be taken except under the pressure of extreme necessity, and with the most cautious deliberation. Even if more beneficial results were to be expected from it for the mitigation of present distress, than can be fairly anticipated, the experiment is one of the most tremendous importance: and you should not commit yourselves to it unless after the most careful and deliberate consideration. For these reasons I would implore your Lordships to pause before you fling yourselves into this facilis descensus, from which there is no retreating. Give a right of out-door to every destitute ablebodied man out of employment, and every poor man will throw himself out of employment, and thus acquire a legal qualification to relief—a relief which before long it will be found impossible to afford, and yet most unsafe to refuse. For the disastrous consequences of the measure will not stop after all the rental of Ireland has been swallowed up. You will have a Jacquerie insurrection; you will have, outrages and turbulent rising's of the Irish people; and with shame and sorrow you will have to retrace your steps at the expense of more misery and cost than you are seeking, by the enactment of this most perilous measure, to avoid. But, at any rate, do not shrink from inquiry; do not refuse to listen to evidence, if it be but to guard against the reproach of proceeding inconsiderately; of adopting a measure which is by most persons regarded as at least hazardous, and which none can deny to be unprecedented and highly important, without the utmost precaution and the most dispassionate investigation.


did not entertain the doubts which the noble Earl (Earl Grey) did as to the object of his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) in making the Motion. His object in submitting the Motion was, to enable him to make the very able and eloquent speech which he had done, and to induce their Lordships to express, by anticipation, their opinion on the measure likely to come before them. It was his misfortune to differ on this occasion, not only with his noble Friend who had brought forward the Motion, but with a large portion of the noble Lords who were connected with Ireland, who undoubtedly understood the subject as well, if not better, than himself. It was his fate, when the Irish Poor Law Bill was introduced, to be placed in a similar position; but he must say, that, after all he had read and heard, and the experience he had since acquired on the subject, he could not bring himself to think that they could be justified in refusing to give to their Irish fellow-countrymen that species of provision for relief which they gave to the poor of England. It was impossible to look upon the present as a single or isolated measure. Their Lordships must look at it as one of a series propounded by Her Majesty's Ministers for the relief of Ireland under existing circumstances. But he begged their Lordships not to suppose that when he used that expression he referred merely to the distress in which, by the visitation of Providence, that country had been placed during the present year: when he spoke of the circumstances of Ireland, he meant the circumstances of her social system, which had grown up during the last fifty or sixty years, which had existed before the recent failure of the potato crop, and would continue to exist after it should please Providence to release Ireland from her present pressure. It was undoubtedly the failure of the potato crop which had been the cause of the present great distress; but the cause of Ireland's misery lay much deeper than the failure of the potato crop. Of all the measures which had been devised for the relief of Ireland, he believed that the extension of the poor law was one of the most indispensable, and that, taking this measure in combination with other measures of the present Government, it was a measure, not only of justice, but of policy, and well calculated to promote the regeneration of Ireland. The noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) had spoken as if out-door relief were the main object and principle of the Bill which was likely to come before their Lordships, and as if the whole population were to come under its provision. The noble Lord seemed to have overlooked all possibility of exertions on the part of the landowners and land-occupiers to find employment for the people. The noble Lord and the right rev. Prelate had both proceeded on the assumption that every person able to work would throw themselves on the rate, and would claim out-door relief. He (the Earl of Devon) knew the great difficulties with which the question was surrounded. To these no man could shut his eyes; and it was not to be supposed that those who recommended the measure were blind to them. But there was a circumstance which had occurred during the debate which was worthy of notice—not one of those noble Lords who disapproved of the principle of out-door relief, had ventured to make a suggestion as to the measure they would recommend, not for the present distress, but for the permanent amelioration of the social state of Ireland. He had collected from the speeches delivered, that objection was made to the principle in question because it was deemed more just and sound that the Irish labourer should rely on his own resources; and they went upon the assumption, of course, that, if he did exert himself, he would be able to save himself from the destitution which it was proposed to save him by the measure now proposed. Now, could any one acquainted with Ireland really believe, that, with, the proportion which labour now bore to the extent of the country—with the proportion which the supply of labour bore to the demand—the utmost exertion on the part of the labourers, either now or for many years to come, would be able to find for themselves remunerative labour? He the (Earl of Devon) could not bring himself to think so. One great benefit of this measure would be, that the landlords would be driven by it to make exertions for the employment of the labourers—and that they would do so he firmly believed—and as to that class, he must say, that the present generation had, in general, done their duty, and were doing their duty; but of them it might be said, Delicta majorum immeritus lues. It had been assumed that the workhouses would be soon filled by the able-bodied poor, and that there would be a large surplus requiring out-door relief. It was the duty of all connected with the land to do their utmost to give employment; and unless the landlords were wanting to themselves, the effort would be made. As the law now stood, the poor-law guardians were authorized to provide additional workhouse room wherever it was wanted; and the ratepayers would be neglecting their own interest if they did not see that workhouse accommodation was provided sufficiently ample to enable the guardians to test, in combination with work, the fitness of those able-bodied persons who applied for relief, to be relieved. The noble Earl then referred to the recommendations which had been given in some of the reports presented on the subject of Ireland, and showed that many of them had been attended to and carried into effect. He supported this measure of Her Majesty's Government as one of a series of measures which they had introduced for the improvement of the country. As far as individuals were concerned, he knew that many of them would suffer, and most undeservedly; but the State had a right to look at the subject with a different eye: the State and the public had a right to see whether or not the land did its duty, and if it did not, to take steps which would enable those who possessed the land to fulfil the obligations which belonged to them, or to part with the land if they could not.


agreed so cordially with the sentiments of his noble Friend who had just sat down, that he should not have considered it necessary to trouble their Lordships on this occasion if it had not been repeated more than once, that Her Majesty's Government had been acting under some extraordinary pressure, arising either from the misfortunes of the country, or from some other less creditable cause, and had brought forward the measure which was now before the other House of Parliament without due deliberation. Now, he would undertake to say, that nothing could be less founded than this assumption. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), who had spoken some time before, and who, as was his "custom of an afternoon," after he had spoken, had left the House—[Lord Brougham came from behind the Throne]—His noble and learned Friend he saw had returned to his place; but he feared that anything he might say would not induce his noble and learned Friend to change his opinion, or to give the Government the benefit of his vote. But his noble and learned Friend had stated that the Government was acting under a pressure.


I said, not that the Government was acting under a pressure, but that men were voting for it under pressure.


Yes, and his noble and learned Friend had founded an amusing argument upon the unanimity displayed on this subject in another place. He said, that of a House of 658 Members, only 36 voted against this principle; and that, said his noble and learned Friend, proved compulsion on the part of those who voted. He was inclined to draw a different conclusion. If, indeed, the House of Commons had been much divided in opinion, that might be a reason for caution; but when there was so much unanimity, it showed that the public mind was made up. For himself, he was ready to admit that he had not originally been in favour of the present poor law. He was rather inclined to agree with the most rev. Prelate who had spoken in this debate, and who had recommended the adoption of the Scotch in preference to the English system of the Poor Law. But Parliament had adopted the system of the English Poor Law, and it had now been in operation for ten years—it was part and parcel of the law of the laud; and he said, that having gone so far, Parliament could not stop there; if there were 2,000,000 paupers in Ireland, Parliament could not, consistently with its duty, allow such a mass of pauperism to exist, without endeavouring to apply a remedy; they must now determine to give a really efficient poor law to Ireland. The more they improved the property of Ireland, the greater was the necessity for their taking this step. It was plain that most of the noble Lords who supported the Motion, had not read the Bill. It was plain, for instance, that the most rev. Prelate had not seen it; for he talked all through of the right to relief. He and other noble Lords had talked of the right to out-door relief. The noble and learned Lord had warned them against adopting the principle of this Bill, because, he said, if they once took a step in advance, they could never afterwards make a step in retrogression. But his noble and learned Friend forgot that the Act of 1834, in which he himself took a conspicuous part, was a great retrogression—an immense lowering of the rates.


I said we would not make a retrogression, except at a great crisis.


But the year 1834 was not a time of great crisis; they were not in half the danger thou that Ireland was in now. It was a monstrous exaggeration of the Bill to say that the permanent and ordinary operation of this Bill was to give the able-bodied a right to out-door relief on a large scale. That certainly was not the object of the measure. And as to the dangers to be apprehended from the amount of destitution in Ireland, he certainly did not think that was any argument against the measure. It had been said that there were two millions of paupers in Ireland. Supposing this to be true, bow, he asked, were these paupers supported now? Were they not living upon the property of the country?


They are living upon English capital just now.


Yes, but his noble Friend seemed to forget that the half of that must be paid back again. They were living, not perhaps as they ought to be, upon the capital of the rich, but they were certainly living upon the capital of the poor. The operation of this Bill, therefore, would not introduce any new burden, but would rather place the existing burden where it ought to be. Therefore, in point of fact, all the objections to this measure resolved themselves into this, that the law would not be properly administered. Of course, its operation was surrounded with many perils; but he thought that when their Lordships saw the Bill, and the checks and precautions that were taken to prevent abuse, they would see that every precaution which could be suggested had been had recourse to. But they could not conceal from themselves—and particularly there ought to be no delusion on the subject in Ireland—that the working of this measure for good or for evil, depended mainly upon the people themselves. If the different classes of the people would not combine and co-operate together for their mutual good, there could be no doubt that by badly working this Bill, they would hasten on that ruin which, whether this measure were carried or not, must in that case come upon them. But he had a higher opinion of his countrymen than to suppose that that would be the case; and he had the satisfaction to find that the people had co-operated together under the existing law to a far greater extent than he had before expected. True, that was not the case in all parts of the country, but it must take place now. It would not be doubted that this measure was, at least, more safe than to leave the country in its present state. He had only further to express his hope that his noble Friend would not press this Motion to a division.


supported the Motion. If the Motion had been for a Committee of the extended kind which had been supposed by the right rev. Prelate, to summon evidence from all parts of England and Ireland, then he should be of opinion that at this stage of the Bill the appointment of such a Committee would not have been advisable. But the Motion was merely for the appointment of a Committee to bring, in a condensed form, before the House the solemnly recorded opinions of the Committees and Royal Commissions which had investigated this subject. It was proposed to bring forward, in a condensed form, those opinions, which he very much doubted whether half a dozen out of sixty or seventy Peers present would seek for themselves in the folios which were upon the shelves of their library. When the new Poor Law for Ireland passed, he had been struck with some surprise that the course of their legislation should have been in a direction so entirely different from that they had followed in England. As far as his own experience went in Ireland, the law had not been attended with so much evil as he anticipated. It seemed it was only intended as a prelude to something further; for his noble Friend now said the Bill at present before Parliament was a necessary corollary from the law passed several years ago. He wanted to know when the corollary of the present measure would come? It seemed that those who had introduced it were afraid of their own measure, for they heard of many guards by which it was fenced round. First, they were told that it was an unfounded charge that this measure introduced out-door relief, for that it would not be granted except when the workhouses were full; but when the Poor Law Amendment Act for England passed, Parliament was told there was to be hardly any relief except in the workhouses; and that rule had been relaxed, necessarily relaxed, for the strict principle could not be adhered to. Was there any man who now heard him who believed that relief in Ireland would be restricted to relief granted in the workhouses? He did not believe it; nor did he suppose the authors of this measure believed it, and that on account of the "guards" they had introduced in it. If they really anticipated the possibility of confining relief to those in the workhouses, where would be the necessity of those "guards?" The first guard was that no out-door relief was to be administered except in food. He should like to see the relieving officer climbing up the sides of a mountain to the scattered cabins, or trudging on the edge of a beg. How many days' purchase would be given for the life of a relieving officer under such circum stances? He feared that his noble Friend and his right hon. Friend in the other House were legislating on this subject with English opinions and feelings exclusively, and English information, or rather misinformation, regarding the condition of Ireland. No one believed it possible that out-door relief could be prevented except when it was in the form of food. But there were to be more "guards" introduced. The fear of this Bill having a confiscatory character had evidently begun to impress itself upon the authors of it. There was to be the guard, for instance, by which no man was to be entitled to relief who was in possession of a given portion of land, he believed half an acre; he wished to know how this clause was to be drawn up in a manner to be effective? He anticipated great evil from it; he saw the possibility of boards of guardians conniving at the possession of land by persons who would be otherwise desirous of abandoning their land and betaking themselves to a better occupation elsewhere. Then came the last guard, that of requiring ex-officio guardians to be always equal in number to the elective guardians. This was one which, he believed, might be in some degree effective, but would be attended with very great evils in the administration of the law, and with very great social evils in Ireland. If the authors of this measure had found it necessary to introduce so many guards for the purpose of nullifying their own measure, it would have been much better if they had taken the advice of calm and sensible men from Ireland, who were for the most part averse to the measure. Let their Lordships figure to themselves what would be the condition of the country if this law had been long in existence. Was there any one who believed that the calamity would have been less fearful, that fewer lives would have been lost, or less suffering endured? If he could believe there would, he should have supported the measure; but even so, he thought it should be only temporary, and in the nature of an experiment. He thought it a most dangerous thing for Government to legislate permanently on this subject, when under the pressure of the feelings which were excited by the present state of Ireland. It was under the pressure of those feelings that Government and the other House of Parliament were acting, and he would conclude by hoping that their Lordships would adopt a more dispassionate view of the question.


would offer but a few observations in support of his vote against the proposition of the noble Lord. He understood the interpretation put upon it by the most reverend Prelate to be repudiated, and that the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) was, without any arriere pensée or intention of delay, simply desirous of submitting to their Lordships a digest of the opinions of previous Commissions and Committees. Still he should vote against the noble Lord's Motion. He did not think such a digest would be very serviceable to their Lordships; the reports in which those opinions were contained were accesible to all the Members of their Lordships' House; and they would not very materially assist their Lordships' consideration, and for this simple reason, that these investigations took place under a very different state of things. They were made before the passing of the present poor law, by which it had become clear that one of the first measures to which they must look as an infallible consequence of it, was a complete change in the present tenure of land in that country. There was then no failure in the potato crop; and he believed that if the Irish cottier had hitherto obtained sufficient to maintain life on an inferior quality of food, he could now no longer place reliance on his produce; and as a necessary consequence, he must become dependent, not on his small spot of ground, but on his labour. This was a totally different state of things from that with which previous Committees had to deal. He did not believe it impossible that profitable employment should be found for the peasantry; and certainly any stimulus that would induce landlords to find employment would do great good in that country. Another consideration was, that until you gave a right to relief, you could not do anything to repress that worst of all evils in Ireland, the system of vagrancy and medicaney. He regretted being called upon by anticipation to discuss a measure which was not on their Table, and would reserve his observations on its provisions until the proper time. The most reverend Prelate said he would propose nothing himself, but he said two millions of people were starving, and seemed to imagine that perhaps a Committee of Inquiry might suggest some better scheme than the Government measure. But whatever evils, miseries, or costs might be produced by its adoption, he would say they shrunk into insignificance when compared with those which resulted from leaving things in then-present position. What was to be done with the mass of the wretched population? One noble Lord said they must have an Act for removing these unfortunates from their native land; and the noble and learned Lord seemed delighted with the suggestion. He (the Earl of St. Germans) did not think he should be justified in giving his support to any measure which would have the effect of postponing indefinitely a measure which he believed to be necessary.


presumed he must have expressed himself incorrectly, probably through his little habitude of Parliamentary debate; he had no intention to propose a different sort of inquiry, but merely to support the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle).


observed that though the reports which had been referred to might describe a different state of things, they had the considerable advantage of being drawn up at a period when there was no excitement; and he thought that those who drew them up must have at least had in contemplation the possibility of a similar occurrence to the famine of the present year. He did not think the Government had shown sufficient grounds for opposing the Motion. If a Committee were appointed, many documents would necessarily be printed, and thereby be rendered accessible to the public, who were, he believed, uninformed as to the leading features of this subject. No doubt, to a certain extent, by taxing property, pauperism might be relieved; but there was one limit to the amount of rate, which in Ireland would soon be attained, and that was the extent of land in cultivation, and it would be found that a much smaller rate than would be sufficient to throw the land out of cultivation in England, would have that effect in Ireland. A considerable portion of land in that country was uncultivated, and likely to remain so; and this circumstance would of course affect the amount of rate over the surface of the country. Both in and out of the House charges had been frequently made against the landed proprietors of Ireland. He had always understood it was the duty of Government, when charges were made against large classes of persons, and when it was possible to make a fair defence for them, to step forward and adopt a legitimate mode of defending them, such as would be afforded by this Committee. It so happened, however, that the Government were not about to try this experiment on Scotland, though it was much more suited for it than Ireland; and the only ground for this exception was, that the landed proprietors in Ireland had not done their duty as well as the landed proprietors of Scotland. If the Government, therefore, had defended the conduct of the Irish landlords, they would have cut the ground under their own feet; and in the absence of any aid from them, it behoved every person connected with property in the latter country to defend themselves. Whatever way they turned they would find this difficulty—the amount of rate was limited by the extent of cultivated land, so that it could not rise beyond a certain sum. If the workhouses were full, and the number of poor beyond the means of the rate, there would always remain an immense mass of destitution un-provided for. Instead of adopting such measures as those proposed by Government, it would be much better to arrange some system of colonization at once, because he was convinced that a certain portion of the expense of such a system would be repaid, and that it was the most safe, wholesome, and natural way of providing for the present difficulty; while it was evident that whatever was spent at home in giving relief to the destitute was completely lost and could not be repaid.


briefly supported the Motion.


shortly replied.

House divided on the original Motion:—Contents, 12; Not Contents, 39: Majority against the Motion, 27.

House adjourned.

The following Protests against the appointment of a Select Committee on the Irish Poor Law were entered on the Journals:


  1. 1. Because, when it is proposed to legislate in opposition to the principles which, during the last half century, have been uniformly admitted by all writers of eminence as well as by all Parliamentary authorities, the refusal of inquiry implies a most culpable rashness.
  2. 2. Because the proposed measure is confessedly one of vast importance to the permanent welfare and safety of a large portion of the empire. It is a measure which even its advocates admit to be a great and hazardous experiment, and which is regarded by many as involving nothing less than a general confiscation; and the adoption of such a measure appears to us to call for the most accurate previous examination of all such reports and public documents as may throw light on the subject, in order that the Legislature may stand clear of the charge of a reckless and wanton disregard of the rights and happiness of our fellow-subjects.
  3. 3. Because we feel convinced that the proposed inquiry would have elicited easily, in a short time and conclusively, solutions to the following three most important questions—solutions which ought to be brought fully before the minds of those who shall have to decide finally on the proposed alteration of the Poor Law:—1. Whether it be, or be not, physically impossible (even with the best dispositions in all the parties concerned) that it can at all effect the proposed relief; 2. Whether the attempt will, or will not, have the effect of ruining both the owners and occupiers of land, and putting an entire stop to cultivation; and, 3. Whether it will not by demoralising the mass of the people, and permanently destroying the habits of industry and self-dependence, increase to a frightful extent the amount of pauperism and crime in Ireland, and ultimately exhaust the resources and endanger the safety of the United Kingdom.
  4. 4. Because, when it is proposed, on a sudden, temporary, unusual, and alarming emergency, to introduce, not a merely temporary but a permanent legislative measure, and that too a measure which it will be peculiarly difficult and dangerous to repeal hereafter, it behoves the Legislature to examine with a doubly scrupulous and anxious care the grounds on which such a measure is recommended, and the consequences to which it may 487 lead, lest Parliament should incur merited reprobation as having augmented by such procedure the calamity which it is sought to remedy, and perpetuated and rendered incurable evils which would otherwise have only been temporary.

1. Because the danger of permanent legislation under the pressure of a temporary emergency can only be averted or diminished by the most careful reference to past events, and that for such purpose a review of the evidence taken and the recommendations given under circumstances admitting the exercise of a calm, deliberate, and impartial judgment, becomes of the highest importance in guiding the deliberations of the Legislature.

2. Because the dangers of permanent legislation in a case like the present, when a great portion of the British empire is reduced to a state of unexampled destitution, are strikingly exemplified by the measures so unfortunately passed by Parliament, under circumstances strictly analogous, in 1795 and 1800—measures which produced calamities difficult to remove, and from the consequences of which England is still suffering.

3. Because an examination of the history of the past becomes the more necessary, when the Legislature is called on to abandon and overrule—1. The opinion of the Parliamentary Committee which, in 1804, resolved "that the adoption of a general system of relief for the poor of Ireland would be highly injurious to that country, and would not produce any real and permanent advantage even to the poorer classes, who must be the subjects of such support." 2. The opinion of a subsequent Committee, which reported in 1819, "that the establishment of a system of poor law would produce in a country like Ireland incalculable evils to every class of the community." 3. The opinion of the Committee of 1823, which stated that "any system of relief, however benevolently intended, leading the peasantry to depend upon the interposition of others rather than upon their own labour, could not but repress all those exertions of industry which are essentially necessary to the improvement of the condition of the labouring classes." 4. The experience of English Poor Law administration, as exemplified in the reports of the House of Commons Committee of 1817, and of the Commission of Inquiry of 1833, and which led to the amendment of the Poor Law of England in 1834. 5. The deliberate judgment of a Royal Commission appointed specially to consider the condition of the Irish poor, and which reported in 1836, that if any "considerable portion of the rental of a country were to be devoted to the support of unproductive labourers, commerce must decay, and the demand for agricultural produce and other commodities must contract, the; number of persons out of employment and in need of support must increase, and general ruin be the result." 6. The recommendations of Mr. Nicholls, on which the King's Government of 1838 introduced, and Parliament passed, the Irish Poor Law Act, in which recommendations it was expressly stated "that no relief should be given except in the workhouse, and that this limitation should be specified in the Act, in order to protect the central authority from the pressure which is not unlikely to occur on this point." 7. The express declaration of the Ministers responsible for the framing and introduction of the Irish Poor Law, and which announced "that the administration of outdoor relief would lead to a most pernicious system, mixing up mendicancy and charity with labour; a system of persons partly obtaining support by labour, and partly from the public purse, and which would not only produce in Ireland the evils which had existed in England, but evils very much greater, till out-door relief came to absorb a much greater portion of the produce of the land." 8. The evidence of Mr. Cornwall Lewis, Mr. Twiselton, Mr. Gulson, and Mr. Clements, all of whom had recent practical experience in the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland, agreeing in a conviction of the danger and ruin which must attend the introduction of out-door relief in that country; a judgment adopted by the Select Committee of the Lords in the last Session, which expressed "a decided opinion that the introduction of any system of out-door relief would be dangerous to the general interests of the community, and more particularly to the interests of the very class for whose well-being this relief was intended."

4. Because we consider it the more rash and unwise to set aside and overrule this unbroken series of Parliamentary judgments without the most careful and deliberate inquiry, as no attempt has been made in debate to impugn or to deny their force, or to meet them by conflicting authority or evidence, and that, by the rejection of the Motion for a Committee, an inference is justly raised that no such evidence can be produced, or is producible.