§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE moved that the House resolve itself into Committee, when
The EARL of RODEN
said, that in a question so deeply affecting the interests of the country in which he resided, he felt that it would be wrong if he were altogether to remain silent. He had listened with very great attention to the speech of the noble Marquess opposite by whom this measure had been introduced; and he had heard with great satisfaction the clear, candid, and eloquent statement which the noble Marquess had made on that occasion. 428 He had also heard with considerable satisfaction the expressions made use of by the noble Marquess in enforcing what he might term the great feature of this Bill, which he at one time feared would prove detrimental to the best interests of his country; but he heard with great satisfaction the statements of the noble Marquess, that the provisions for giving relief to the destitute poor did not give a right to any man to claim relief under the provisions of this Bill, but that they were intended by the Government to confer a power upon the Commissioners of the Poor Law and the guardians to give out-door relief under the most cautious circumstances, whenever it should be found necessary. He felt great satisfaction when he heard the noble Marquess make this statement; and he confessed it had relieved him from many serious apprehensions he had previously entertained as to this part of the Bill. He had listened also with great attention to the speech of the learned Lord, and to the speeches of other noble Lords who had addressed the House with great eloquence and power upon this subject. But there was one circumstance which characterized all their speeches—that it did not appear to him that any of them were agreed as to any other measure which might be proposed as a substitute for this Bill which was now before their Lordships. At the same time he believed there was no one who would undertake to say what would be the effects of the working of this measure in Ireland. He believed that even the noble Marquess would not hesitate to admit that for good or for evil it must be attended with very serious consequences. But the circumstances in which the country were placed, the events which were passing before their eyes every day, seemed to be the grounds on which the noble Marquess founded his justification for introducing this Bill. It was indeed impossible for any man who had been thirty years resident in Ireland, as he had been, and who had consequently become well acquainted with the circumstances and the peculiar siuation of the country, not to have long foreseen that there were evils existing there which must sooner or later have brought matters to a crisis; and that the evils existing in that country, though they might for a time lie hid, would ultimately burst out as they had now done. He knew he was addressing many noble Lords who were unacquainted with the circumstances of Ireland, though 429 they, with the generous feelings of their countrymen, had shown the deepest interest and sympathy with their sufferings, and had given the strongest possible proof of this that they could give, by subscribing largely to its relief. Still he could not but remember that Ireland was a part of the British empire, as much so as York or Lincoln; and as in the body human so in the body politic, it was impossible for one member to suffer without all the members suffering with it. He considered it was fortunate for the interests of Ireland that there was at the head of the Government during the present crisis a noble Lord whose courage, whose determination, and whose single-mindedness prompted him to take immediate and decided measures, whether right or wrong, for the relief of that distress. And he could not but think that in no case had that noble Lord shown his wisdom in dealing with the affairs of Ireland more than in appointing the present illustrious individual to the office of Lord Lieutenant; and he wished to take this opportunity to bear his humble testimony to the government of Lord Besborough, who, by his knowledge of the country, by his anxiety for its welfare, and his attention to everything that was likely to forward its interests, had gained the affections of all classes of the people. He (the Earl of Roden) had been opposed to that noble Lord for a great length of time, on many occasions and on a great variety of subjects; yet in spite of that opposition he had always found the noble Lord ready to listen to whatever suggestions he (the Earl of Roden) presumed to offer. He feared that the career of the noble Lord was too nearly run, and that it would not be long till his country would lose him. Yet he was the more anxious to make this statement, because he felt that one of the greatest evils connected with Ireland was, that persons were sent from England, whether as Lords Lieutenant or as Secretaries, men of intelligence they might be, men of worth, but yet totally unacquainted with the condition of Ireland, altogether ignorant of its circumstances, having so much to learn and so much to unlearn, that by the time they began to see their way, and to act for the true interests of the country, they were in the course of things recalled. So much was this the case, that it was very common for an individual after six or seven months' residence to fancy that he knew all about the country, and to propose measures which his situation gave authority to, but 430 which were found to be deeply injurious to the true interests of the country. This also gave rise to a constant reference to the Home Office, never thoroughly done away with, except by the illustrious individual to whom he had referred, on points where there the head of the Home Office, however able in other respects he might be, was totally unfit to advise. This had been the cause of much misery and much evil in the sister country; and he, therefore, trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would follow up his first appointment, should it unhappily be necessary to do so, by appointing a successor well acquainted with the circumstances of Ireland, and able, without reference to other quarters, to administer the laws and government of the country. With regard to the measure now before them, he agreed with a noble Earl, who, on a former occasion, recommended that it should be limited in its duration to a period of three or four years, so that if it were found to work injuriously it might be revised. Having thanked their Lordships for the patience with which they had heard him, he would not further detain them.
§ House in Committee.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE moved as an Amendment the insertion of words limiting the Bill to the 1st of August, 1848, and to the end of the then next Session of Parliament. He said that he brought forward the Amendment for the purpose of raising the important question whether this Bill should be made a permanent or a temporary enactment. He would not for the present enter upon the consideration of whether one, two, three, four, or five years' limitation was to be preferred, as the issue on which he wished to take their Lordships' opinion was rather on the general question whether there ought to be any limitation to the duration of the Bill, or whether it should be of a permanent character. He would proceed to explain why he thought it necessary to raise this question on the first clause; the period would be more properly discussed when the clauses came before the Committee. It was because this was the first time that the principle of granting out-door relief to the able-bodied, as well as to the aged and infirm, had been applied to Ireland. If he had proposed to suspend the whole of the Bill, he should be recommending the suspension of the provisions respecting emigration, workhouses, ex-officio guardians, and other parts of the Bill to which he had no ob- 431 jction, considering them amendments of the permanent law already in existence. The only clauses he proposed to make temporary were those which introduced for the first time a new principle of relief. In order to show that it was desirable to make the Bill temporary, he need only refer to the speech of his noble Friend in introducing it to their Lordships' notice on the second reading. His noble Friend on that occasion, with the candour which always characterized him, admitted the experiment to be a perilous one. That was an admission in which there were few who would not concur; and in fact he might ask whether there was one noble Lord on either side of their Lordships' House who could say that he felt no doubt or hesitation with respect to the future working of this measure. Was not this, then, an argument for making it temporary in its duration in the first instance? He would ask those who were most friendly to the Bill to consider the mode in which it had been discussed, the circumstances attending its introduction, and the time at which it had been brought forward. Objections had been already raised, and were admitted to be well founded, as to the danger of permanent legislation in a time of great and unusual danger and distress. He was himself in a position to call their Lordships' attention to some few facts, showing the danger that might attend any attempt to make an experiment such as they were called upon to sanction, of a permanent character. As to the amount of charge under this Bill, much had already been said; but though he was disposed to regard the amount of the charge or burden which would be inflicted on the country under its provisions a secondary consideration, he thought it at the same time a point which was by means to be overlooked. He had seen it put forward in a most able public journal, that this Bill was to be regarded as a sort of new confiscation of the landed property of Ireland. If that was so, it was very different from all former confiscations; because, on former occasions, what was taken from one man was given to another, whereas if the character given to this Bill were a good one, property was to be taken from one party, not to be given to another, but to be treated in a manner which would totally destroy the whole basis of property in that country. If the probable charge under this Bill was to bear any proportion to that under the Temporary Relief Act at 432 present in operation, some idea of the extent to which it might be expected to reach could be formed from the burdens to which property in Ireland was now subjected. From the province of Munster, with which he was more immediately connected, he had seen a return, in which the estimate made for the support of the poor for three months was 11s. in the pound on the three months' rating, which would make the amount of the charge on the annual rating, supposing the same expenditure to continue, no less than 44s. in the pound. Even in the province of Leinster, which was a more favoured part of Ireland, the result of the working of the Temporary Relief Act was such as ought to open their Lordships' eyes. In many districts in that province, the rate for the three months was said to be 10s. in the pound, or 40s. in the pound for the year. One of his correspondents stated in a letter to him on this subject—"One gentleman whom I have just met, says that the rate is 10s. in his district, which is in the county of Dublin and in the immediate neighbourhood of the metropolis;" and he added—"But, considering the Irish character, is there room to anticipate lighter rates in future, after they have begun to expect to be fed without work?" He would beg to direct their Lordships' attention more particularly to that latter sentence. It was possible that property might recover from the effects of such a pressure upon it; but no such hope could be entertained as to the injury done to the character of the people. The evil thus done would be permanent; and need he say how ruinous would be the consequences of a permanent degradation of the character of the people? A gentleman writing to him from Tipperary said, in reference to his efforts to revise the labour lists, that "from the enormous extent to which they reach, it is almost impossible to arrive at the truth. All are most anxious to enrol their names for a share of what is going. They have no shame, no self-respect—the demoralisation seems complete. The writer proceeded to refer to the terror which prevailed as to the consequences of turning off the people employed, and said that the Roman Catholic priests with whom he was acting were unable to step the torrent. Under such a state of society, he did not venture to propose to their Lordships the rejection of this Bill; but he would ask them to pause before they made it permanent. He would ask the Government, who 433 of all others must be certain that this was a perilous experiment, and must feel anxious as to its results, not to persevere in seeking to put it on the Statute-book in a permanent form. It might, however, be asked, where was the difference between enacting a permanent and a temporary law? It might be said, that surely Parliament had it in its own discretion to repeal the law at any time, if it found it to be attended with bad effects. He could not agree in the propriety of viewing the question in that light. In the first place, the principle of enacting a law by way of experiment, when its operation was not sure, was not at all a new principle; and on this point he might observe, that he trusted they would hear from Her Majesty's Government what was the duration which was proposed to be introduced in the modification of the new Poor Law Commission, to which they were entrusting a power of unexampled extent over the property of the people. He wished to know if it was not intended that that Commission should be temporary? The original Poor Law was passed, if he was not much mistaken, as a temporary measure. But as regarded the Bill before them, were there not, he would ask, peculiar reasons why it should be passed as a temporary Bill? Such measures as that before them were not to be considered merely within the definite bounds of their provisions. They were to be considered in reference to the expectations which they would create in the country, quite as much as in reference to the actual enactments which they contained; and their Lordships should, therefore, bear in mind that by passing this Bill as a permanent measure, they held out to the whole people of Ireland the expectation that they were to be entitled permanently to relief. In submitting his Amendment for the decision of their Lordships, he would remind them that in supporting it no noble Lord pledged himself against the principle of the Bill. As to the other Amendments on the Paper of a like tendency, he would not refer at present to them, as he thought the great question to have decided was, not whether the Bill should be limited to two years or to three years, but whether it ought to be passed as a permanent or as a temporary enactment.
§ LORD ABINGER
said, that he felt very deeply on this question. He agreed with the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) that if the present Bill were suffered to pass into law, the whole available resources of Ire- 434 land would be spent, not in improving but in deteriorating the condition of the people of that country. How hard had it been found, even in this country, where it might be said there was continued commercial prosperity, to endure a Poor Law, and how many changes and modifications had they not been obliged to adopt? In England, besides, there was a substantial class of yeomanry and tenantry, standing between the landlord and the labourer, and anxious to keep down the rates and to discourage pauperism; but in Ireland the reverse of all these circumstances might be said to exist. If the proposition of his noble Friend did not receive the assent of the House, he would propose another Amendment which he thought would be serviceable, namely, to enact that after the passing of this Bill no person who entered into the state of matrimony should have any right for themselves or their dependants to outdoor relief. Those who heard him seemed surprised; but really he knew no other proviso which was likely to be so effective or so successful. If their Lordships had the courage to adopt that proposition, he thought it would be found most useful, and the enactment would not take away a right at present possessed from any one. The noble Lord was further understood to say that the Roman Catholic clergymen were at present interested in promoting marriages, in consequence of the fees they received for marriages being their principal means of support; and a great deal of the misery which occurred among the lower classes in Ireland, even before the present crisis, was owing to the habit of imprudent marriages by the peasantry. He would not further detain their Lordships.
The EARL of WICKLOW
was aware that the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle) had a perfect right to bring forward the Amendment which he had proposed for rendering the present a temporary measure; but, when it was considered that there were on the Paper a number of Amendments to be brought under the notice of the House, it appeared to him that it would be more judicious and expedient if their Lordships were to defer coming to any decision as to the permanency of the Bill till they had enjoyed the advantage of hearing the discussions and knowing the amendments which might be made upon the measure. The principal argument employed against the permanency of the Bill by the noble Lord, was founded on the proposal to give out-door relief; yet the very next Amend- 435 ment on the Paper was one by his noble Friend to remove that proposal from the Bill. Now, it might happen that this or any of the other amendments, if agreed to, would alter the opinion which their Lordships entertained on the question of permanency; and hence the propriety of these being disposed of first. He (the Earl of Wicklow) meant to propose that the Bill should last for three years; but his reasons were very different from those given by his noble Friend, who wished to limit it to a year and a half only. His belief was, that whether they passed it for one year or for three, this must be a permanent measure; and his object was to ensure at the end of three years a full discussion of the subject before Parliament. If it was then found to have defects, these could be removed; and if it proved a beneficial measure, then there would be good grounds for renewing it. He would suggest to his noble Friend that he should now withdraw his Amendment, and let the Bill pass through Committee, after which he could have an opportunity of taking the sense of the House upon his proposal.
, seeing the noble Earl (the Earl of Wicklow) had tendered an advice to the noble Lord who had moved this Amendment, he would give his advice also to the noble Lord, and it would be, not to adopt the advice which had on this occasion been given him. He thought that instead of being an injudiciously contrived Amendment, it was the most judicious that in the circumstances could have been brought forward. If he were a friend to the Bill, no doubt he would strenuously object to such an Amendment. He would be committing the most blundering thing in the world if, being in favour of the Bill, he were to support this Amendment; but, not being friendly to the Bill, he thought the Amendment of the noble Lord ought to be passed. The noble Earl (the Earl of Wicklow) said, that if this measure passed at all, it must be a permanent one; and yet his own Amendment was, that it should be passed for three years. He was disposed to approve of the Amendment before the House, because it would mitigate the pressure of an impolitic measure, and because, at the end of the time specified, it would give Parliament an opportunity of reconsidering that measure. He was decidedly opposed to the passing of any permanent measure under the pressure of a temporary necessity. In 1834, when they passed the Poor Law Amendment Act, 436 they did not avow that it was more than an experimental measure, though it was based on the best and soundest principles. The question now before their Lordships was simply "permanent" or "temporary;" and in that view of the question ought the decision of every Member of the House to be given.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
was very glad that he had had an opportunity of hearing the sentiments of the noble Lord (lord Brougham) before he rose to deliver the very few words which he was now about to address to the House. In the first place, however, he would say that he thought his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) who proposed this Amendment was perfectly justified in doing so at the time he had selected; but at the same time it could not be denied by any one that it was an inconvenient course to pronounce an opinion as to whether a Bill should be permanent or temporary, without knowing what the Bill really was. The noble Lord (Lord Brougham) had stated that he supported the Amendment, because it would injure the Bill, which he thought a bad measure. In other words, he was calling upon the House to form a deliberate judgment without having the means of forming that judgment laid before them. His noble and learned Friend announced that he took the course of supporting the Amendment because he thought it would defeat the Bill.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
"Limit!" Yes; but his noble Friend said he would support the Amendment because he was opposed altogether to the Bill. Now it was not so with his noble Friend on the bench below (Lord Monteagle) for he approved of a part of it. He had heard his noble Friend more than once state, that to one part of the Bill he offered no opposition whatever, and that the most prominent, in its character, of the whole Bill, being the clause which provided that out-door relief should be given to the sick and disabled, and to all those who were specified in the clause. Now, it could not be assumed by that House, before they came to the end of the Bill, that the Bill might not be reduced to that one clause; and if it were so, the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment would be to prevent that becoming a permanent measure. He agreed with the proposal of the noble 437 Earl (the Earl of Wicklow) that the House should see in what shape they framed the Bill before they decided whether it ought to be permanent or temporary. The objection he made to the Amendment was in perfect consistency with the opinion he entertained, that it was advantageous to give the measure the form of a permanent Bill. He contended, that in a measure of such importance, requiring new machinery in Ireland, and the concurrence and support of the people of that country, the very circumstance of its being held out that it was only to be temporary, was in itself calculated to deprive them of that which was essential for the carrying out of the measure. To give a temporary character to the Bill, would be to insure its defeat when it came to be put in force in Ireland. He, therefore, asked their Lordships not to hold out to the public of Ireland the idea that this was only to be a temporary measure, and thereby do that which would naturally tend to defeat its object.
My Lords, this question lies within the smallest possible compass; but I cannot abstain from expressing the strong opinion that I feel upon it. The noble Marquess, in the observations which he has just addressed to your Lordships, has failed to answer the ground on which my noble Friend opposite has made his Amendment. In point of fact, my Lords, the noble Marquess has not denied that which is the groundwork of my noble Friend's proposition. He has not denied that this is in itself a very hazardous measure. He has not denied that this measure does introduce a class of relief different from any given before; and that a different class of persons, subjected to very different authorities and under different control and management, to an extent hitherto unknown in Ireland, will be entitled to relief; and that it will impose upon the resources of Ireland a burden which it will be almost impossible for those resources to bear. What, then, under these circumstances, does my noble Friend propose? I am sure that I shall expose myself to the attacks of my noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham), whose movements are so rapid that I can hardly take notice of them. I shall, I say, no doubt expose myself to the charge of blundering by my noble and learned Friend, in supporting the Amendment of my noble Friend opposite. Now, my Lords, I am not hostile to this Bill. I have supported the second reading of this Bill. I think 438 that the circumstances of Ireland are so critical, and the danger of non-interference is so great, that I think Her Majesty's Government have done rightly in advising your Lordships to take this measure into your serious and calm consideration. But, my Lords, it is not inconsistent to support the principle of the Bill, and at the same time to assent to the proposition of my noble Friend opposite. The noble Marquess admitted that this Bill is an experiment; but he also said, that if they dealt with it as an experiment they would counteract the efficiency of the measure. I, my Lords, do not concur in that view. I think, on the contrary, that the very knowledge of the measure not being a permanent one, the knowledge that every subject in connexion with it will be scrutinized by the Legislature with the utmost strictness—that the knowledge that the manner in which it shall be carried out will be watched with the greatest attention, will induce the landed proprietors of Ireland to work out its provisions with greater circumspection and energy than would be exhibited if they deemed its measures essentially permanent, and that they had only the chance of errors and defects in the administration being detected and remedied by future legislation. My Lords, I think, on the other hand, that if it be passed merely as a temporary measure in the first instance, the circumstances under which it will be carried into operation will be far more favourable than if it be carried as it now stands. My Lords, I certainly do not very well understand the principles which are contended for by the noble Earl (the Earl of Wicklow) on the back benches, who has given notice himself of an Amendment for limiting the operation of the Bill to a year and a half. [The Earl of WICKLOW: No, no; for three years.] I do not see why he should oppose the Motion of my noble Friend, which says that the operation of the Bill ought to be limited to some definite period, in consequence of the very hazardous nature of the measure. [The Earl of WICKLOW: I did not say I should oppose his Motion; I support it.] Of course I beg the noble Earl's pardon for having misunderstood him. I was judging from the character of his speech. I am very happy to see that it is not the noble Earl's intention to oppose the Amendment, which I hope my noble Friend intends to press to a division. For my own part, I certainly will cordially support that Amendment, although, as I have already told your Lordships, not in any 439 spirit of hostility to this measure—not with any desire to prevent its being tried, and not with the least desire to prevent its being safely worked as an experiment—but because I firmly believe that if it is at once to be adopted as a permanent measure, Parliament by so doing will materially impede its being effectually carried out. If, after a certain period, it shall prove to be a desirable measure, but requires to be perfected, we can then, if possible, attempt to perfect it, and then, when all its hazards are removed, I believe that it will work a deal of no inconsiderable benefit to Ireland.
The ARCHBISHOP of DUBLIN
would state the grounds on which he intended to support the Motion made by the noble Lord. He wished it to be understood that he did not consider the vote he proposed giving ought to imply any hostility to the measure. It was very true that he did not entertain so much hope as, and that he did not entertain much greater fears than, many noble Lords respecting the working of this Bill; but he begged to state, most solemnly, that had he entertained much greater hope and felt much less fear than he did, he, nevertheless, should have supported the very same Amendment. He would support the Amendment, inasmuch as it had been admitted by all parties, even by the promoters of the Bill, that this was a hazardous experiment; and not only was it not denied that it was a difficult and dangerous experiment—that they would have to steer their way through rocks, and shoals, and over quicksands, but it was granted also, that the occasion of bringing forward this measure was a very great and pressing emergency—one likely to confuse men's judgments and lead them to rash conclusions. It was also universally conceded, that the Bill was of a character which could not insure success, as the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) had remarked, without a very zealous and cordial co-operation by many different persons, in different situations, of different classes and descriptions, in Ireland; and unless there was among all these zeal, uprightness, and public spirit. He confessed, as he had taken the liberty of observing a few nights ago, he felt great apprehension—more, perhaps, than some noble Lords did—as to the successful working of the machinery by which this Bill was to be carried into operation. It was admitted that there were required a number of registers 440 which as yet they had no proof existed, and of which, if they did exist, they had made no kind of trial. Had, however, all these facilities of which they were in want been at hand, still he did protest most solemnly that he should have advised caution in so hazardous and important an experiment, and should have supported such an Amendment as that put forth by the noble Lord. He was told, that predicting there would be such and such abuses, was not to be considered as offering arguments against the proper use of the measure, because the intention of the promoters of the Bill was to avoid all such abuses. He was aware of this; he gave the House and Her Majesty's Government credit for the best intentions and designs, and he readily admitted that such and such were abuses, and were not to be considered as anything else; and that every maladministration of a law was not to be confounded with the principle of the law. At the same time, the probability was not to be forgotten; and, in considering the administration of the law, they ought not to lose sight of the liability to abuse. When, therefore, they had so momentous an experiment to try, and so heavy a responsibility on them, and when there was so much uncertainty respecting the machinery by which this Bill would work, it did behove them to keep clear of all suspicion, and not rashly to pass, as a permanent measure, that of which they had not yet had a trial, and of which they could not be adequate to judge without having made trial.
The EARL of ROSSE
supported the Amendment. Many and great as had been the complaints of the people of Liverpool of the hardships to which they were subjected by the vast immigration of Irish poor, they knew very well that the establishment of that Poor Law in Ireland would not prevent the Irish labourers from coming over to seek employment. In Glasgow the inhabitants suffered still more than the people of Liverpool from the immigration of Irish poor; and he had presented a petition from the inhabitants of Glasgow a short time since, complaining of the hardships they were suffering from the influx of Irish paupers; but whilst they prayed the House to establish a provision in Ireland for the aged and infirm poor, they expressed a strong opinion that it would not be well to introduce a provision for the relief of the able-bodied.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
was satisfied that no Poor Law, however wisely 441 formed, could have been effectual under the present calamity which prevailed in Ireland. There was no doubt that many landlords had done much for the relief of the distress; but still much more was requisite than depending upon that description of relief; therefore, some measure like the present was absolutely necessary. Entertaining this opinion, he felt that whether the Bill was for good or for evil, it would be infinitely aggravated by the adoption of the Amendment. Nothing would do more to disarrange the machinery of this measure than holding it out to the people of Ireland that this Bill was only to be of a temporary nature. The Bill was not one, as had been described by the most reverend Prelate, for the establishment of indiscriminate out-door relief; for it was intended that such relief was only to be given at the discretion of the boards of guardians: to make it temporary might raise an impression that out-door relief must be given under it, while they ought to be led to consider it as the steady, regular law of the land. No doubt the present temporary emergency had something to do with the bringing forward this measure; but they were also called upon to legislate for a permanent object. There would always be a number of cases of destitution for which accommodation could not be afforded in the workhouses for want of room; and if there was no out-door relief, such persons would be exposed to starvation. It was for this class that outdoor relief was chiefly intended. Was it to be said, that, at the end of three years, they would return to the lamentable state of things which had that night been so painfully described, and again leave the poor on the brink of starvation? If this was only to be regarded as a temporary measure, neither the landowners nor the tenantry would zealously address themselves to carry it into effective operation. If they adopted the Amendment, they might very reasonably be told that they were about to pass such a bad measure that they feared to make it permanent.
The MARQUESS of WESTMEATH
felt called upon to support the Amendment, as he considered the Bill to be only an experiment.
The EARL of HADDINGTON
was satisfied that that portion of the measure having reference to out-door relief should only be temporary, as it was desirable to see how the principle would work.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that his ob- 442 ject was to make only that part of the Bill which referred to out-door relief temporary, and he thought that it would be better to limit its operation to a year and a half, rather than three years. What he wished to secure by his Amendment was, that at the end of a certain period the Bill should be open to revision. If a Bill was brought in which would affect England, as he and others believed this measure would affect Ireland, he was satisfied there would be no hesitation on the part of the Government or the Legislature to take it as an experiment, and enact it only for a limited period.
§ EARL GREY
was surprised that this Amendment was treated as a matter of comparatively small importance. The noble Lord said, that his object was to make the principle of out-door relief temporary; and while other parts of the Bill were to be made of a permanent character, that portion of it relating to out-door relief was only to be enacted for a limited period.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
explained, that he had given notice of two Amendments; the second of them was the omission of the clauses authorizing out-door relief to the able-bodied poor. But when he came to consider the provisions of the Act, he found they contained two series of legislative measures; one consisted of a number of clauses amending the present Poor Law Bill, very advisable to be adopted; the other included the relief clauses, creating a system of relieving officers, and authorizing the giving of money and relief out of doors. His proposition was to make all these relief clauses subject to revision at the end of one, two, or three years, leaving the other portions of the Bill permanent.
§ EARL GREY
thought the noble Lord had exactly confirmed his argument. The noble Lord had proposed to leave one portion of the Bill permanent; but that part which extended the administration of relief to classes to which it had not been hitherto given, he proposed should only be temporary. And what had the noble Lord also told them? That, if he could, he would induce their Lordships to reject the principle of out-door relief altogether. But, despairing of prevailing in that, against the almost unanimous sense of this country, he called on their Lordships to accomplish by a side-wind and indirectly what he could not do directly. If he dared not altogether reject the extension of relief in Ireland, he would damage and injure the administration of that relief to the utmost extent. 443 That was the view he took of the noble Lord's Amendment, which the noble Lord (Lord Brougham) had truly said, it would be a gross blunder in any friend of the Bill to vote for. The effect of the Amendment would be this, to compel the trial of a great experiment under every possible disadvantage. What could be gained by it? If Parliament should have reason to think it had committed an error, it was perfectly in its power to retrace its steps. But, if they adopted the Amendment, they would try the experiment under a legislative confession that they had no confidence in its success—under a Parliamentary declaration that they expected it to fail. They were aware of the state of opinion in Ireland on this subject. It was impossible to deny there was in that country a great indisposition to grant relief—that boards of guardians had sometimes to be compelled to do their duty—and that they did not discharge their duties like boards of guardians in England. It would be in vain to attempt to deceive themselves. With those feelings existing, they must not alter the law in such a manner as to declare it, in the opinion of Parliament, to be a dangerous and inefficient one. He knew it was said there were precedents—that the English Poor Law was only passed for a limited time; but it was only the most unimportant part of that Bill which was made temporary. The more dangerous and critical was this experiment, the more firmly he was persuaded of the impolicy of not trying it under every possible advantage; but the great principle they were about to employ was not one of experiment or doubt; it was one on which his opinion was entirely made up; it was the principle that property should be compelled in one shape or another to provide a subsistence for the distressed classes of the community. That great principle had been recognised for 300 years in England; and he was prepared to recognise it, not for three years only, but permanently, in Ireland. The noble Lord mistook the opinion of the people of England on the subject. It was the opinion of the people of England—and he conceived it to be a just one—that the right of an Irish pauper to out-door relief ought not to commence when he landed at Liverpool. What was the state of things now existing? An Irish pauper when he landed at Liverpool was legally entitled, under the description of a casual poor person, to be relieved out of the workhouse if relief could not be afforded within the workhouse. The 444 people of Liverpool, and the people of England generally, thought it was very hard that the legal obligation to maintain the poor of Ireland should commence only when they landed in this country. Whilst they remained in Ireland, and the workhouses continued full, they had no legal claim to relief. It was desirable that all parts of the empire should be placed on the same footing as regarded the maintenance of the poor. It was impossible to leave the law in its present state, and at the same time permit unrestricted intercourse between Ireland and England.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
said, that his noble Friend who had just addressed their Lordships had favoured them with a gallant and hearty defence of the measure; he certainly seemed to be troubled with none of the doubts and fears which characterized the address of the noble President of the Council on a former occasion, and induced him to describe it as being a perilous experiment. His noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies appeared to be determined to pass the Bill as it stood, whatever might be the consequences. He admired his noble Friend's courage and heartiness; but he would advise him to deal with so momentous a measure as that under consideration in a spirit of prudence and moderation, rather than of zeal and inflexibility. He dissented from the correctness of his noble Friend's statement, that the Bill would establish in Ireland a state of things which had for three centuries existed in England. The Statute of the 43rd of Elizabeth did not bear out the proposition, for it merely enacted that the inhabitants of parishes should set their poor to work, and levy a rate for the payment of their wages. He positively denied that it was the intention of those who framed the 43rd of Elizabeth, that the burden of maintaining the poor should fall upon the land; it was intended that each inhabitant of a parish should contribute the burden according to his means, whatever they might consist of. Now, it was very well known that whatever burdens were placed upon the inhabitants of the different districts in Ireland, they would all fall ultimately upon the land itself. He thought that his noble Friend had done right in moving the Amendment that was then under their consideration—and he had done right in placing that Amendment in the front of the battle. The simple object of the Amendment was this: that Parliament should not bind it- 445 self to the permanent establishment of the principle involved in the measure of the Government. It was in that spirit he was acting, when he was supporting the Amendment; and he contended that there could he no danger in legislating in that spirit. The noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, in opposing the Motion of his noble Friend, asked them whether Parliament would be deprived of the power of legislating at any future time, if they found the measure imperfect? Of course, Parliament had at all times the power of retracing their steps, or of taking cognizance of this measure; but there was a very great difference between the repealing of the Act, and the continuance of it. If they passed this Bill as a permanent measure, they would, in a great measure, be putting it out of their power of effectually legislating upon the subject at a future time.
§ The EARL of DEVON
observed, that it appeared from reports on the subject, and finally from the report of the Commission with which he had been connected, that a large portion of the population of Ireland were, for a considerable portion of the year, exposed to the greatest wretchedness and misery, depending for their subsistence merely upon temporary and casual relief. That subsistence, miserable and uncertain as it was, had depended hitherto upon the cheapest food that could possibly be procured. The case of these unhappy beings was, however, now aggravated to a most frightful extent by the loss of the potato; and they could not maintain their subsistence unless they purchased food of a much dearer quality. The means of procuring this food could only be obtained by affording the people adequate employment. It was stated as an argument against affording out-door relief, that it would teach the people to rely upon eleemosynary assistance; but he would ask, was it possible for the peasant in Ireland to obtain by his own efforts in many parts of the country the subsistence necessary for his support? It was only possible by every person who could give employment exerting himself to afford it. He considered the measure would be useful that was likely to induce the landlords and occupiers to unite together and give that employment to the people; and if this Bill passed, in case they did not give employment to the people, they must maintain them in a state of idleness. As the law now stood, the person requiring relief could only claim to be relieved in the workhouse. Now, suppose 446 there were ten persons who were unable to procure employment, and that it became absolutely necessary for them to apply for relief; and suppose five only of them could be admitted into the workhouse, and the other five were told that the workhouse being full, they could not, under the law, get relief, he did not think that was a satisfactory mode of proceeding. It was said that this would be a fearful experiment; but it was to be apprehended that much more danger would result from not making it permanent, and that the danger would be greater if, after giving the people of Ireland the right to claim out-door relief for three years, they then turned about and said, "This cannot be, we must repeal that law, and not give out-door relief." He believed the measure to be one of justice and necessity, and supported the Bill.
§ The EARL of RIPON
observed, that on that occasion, however willing he might be under other circumstances, he would not enter into a discussion of the main principle of the Relief Bill. From the actually acknowledged condition in which Ireland was and had been for years, he should say that he considered the permanent out-door relief clause a most essential part of the measure; and therefore it would not be possible for him to consent to the proposition of the noble Lord (Lord Monteagle). If that part of the Bill were so essential, it necessarily would lose all its value by the limitation of its operation for two or three years; and the administration of legalized relief would be thrown into such a state of confusion that the measure itself, which was one of great magnitude, could never be fairly tried. Under these circumstances, and without going into a consideration of the details of the measure, or examining the proposed mode of administering outdoor relief, or even the nature of that relief, he should feel it to be his duty to vote against the Amendment.
The EARL of SHREWSBURY
said, that after what had fallen from the noble Marquess on the Ministerial benches, as well as what had fallen from the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies, he should infer that the Bill under consideration gave the right of out-door relief to all destitute persons in Ireland. Now, he begged to ask, in the first instance, whether the Bill proposed to give that right to relief in every case of destitution? because, if it did, he feared that for the next two or three years—for thirty weeks in each year—so many cases of dire necessity 447 would present themselves, the operation of the Bill would be found to extend to half the population of the country, in which case it would impose burdens on the land which it neither could nor ought to bear. If, on the other hand, the Bill did not give the right to relief, for what purpose was it brought forward and sought to be enacted but with the view of provoking persons to say that it was a Bill to legalize the destruction of the people? In England the law gave the right to relief in every case of destitution; the overseer, in the first instance, and the magistrates in case of their refusal, were empowered to dispense it; that right was imperative, and not conditional or discretionary. Why, then, subject this measure for Ireland to conditions? Why say that in England no man could legally die of starvation, but that in Ireland the claim of the destitute must be subjected to the discretion of the relieving officers and of the guardians? As the Government had not proposed any other measures, but as they had even withdrawn one of the promised measures that were to accompany the Poor Relief Bill, and as he had not heard more of those measures which were to follow, it appeared to him there was no other alternative but to adopt the Bill with all its imperfections on its head, than which none, in his opinion, could be greater than an uncertainty of interpretation. There-fore it was that he begged to ask if the Bill proposed to give the right of relief in every case of destitution? If he were told that it did not, then he should observe that it seemed to him a most extraordinary code of legislation. Christianity left the poor to the charity of the rich; but by the Bill before their Lordships, as he understood it, they promised the poor man relief—they left him under the feeling that they gave him relief by law, but at the same time they refused him the right to that relief. Under these circumstances and those difficulties, he thought, on the whole, that he would be more inclined to vote for the Motion of the noble Lord below him.
§ House divided:—For the Amendment 61; Against it 50: Majority in favour of the Amendment 11.449
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Leven and Melville||Exeter|
|Haddington||Monteagle of Brandon|
|Delawarr||Middleton (V. Brodrick)|
|List of the NOT-CONTENTS.|
|Earl of Lonsdale||Earl of Zetland|
|Lord Grantley||Lord Arundel|
|Earl of Charleville||Duke of Bedford|
|Marquess of Exeter||Earl Spencer|
|Duke of Beaufort||Marquess of Anglesey|
|Lord Wynford||Lord Bruce|
|Lord Willoughby de Eresby||Earl of Effingham|
|Earl Tankerville||Lord Vivian|
|Marquess of Ailsa||Viscount Falkland|
|Viscount Beresford||Earl Roseberry|
|Earl of Munster||Lord Portman|
|Lord Southampton||Duke of Roxburgh|
|Earl of Orkney||Lord Byron|
|Duke of Newcastle||Lord Beauvale|
|Lord Sondes||Lord Sudely|
|Earl of Sandwich||Karl of Camperdown|
|Duke of Manchester||Earl Ducie|
|Lord De Lisle||Lord Crewe|
|Lord Colville||Lord Langdale|
|Earl of Cardigan||Lord Leigh|
|Lord Brougham||Viscount Sydney|
|Lord Feversham||Lord Glenelg|
§ On Clause 2,
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
urged on their Lordships the propriety of acceding to an Amendment, the object of which was, that all classes of destitute females should be admitted to relief, as well those having illegitimate as those having legitimate children. He had not thought it necessary to give notice of his intention to bring forward this Amendment, because it was one which appeared to him to be dictated by considerations of common humanity, and which therefore demanded but little deliberation. The punishment of death, which was the just reward of crimes of the greatest atrocity, had already been abolished except in the case of one offence, and yet the operation of the present Bill, as it now stood, would be to make death the punishment of a woman's incontinence. He would strongly recommend their Lordships to introduce into the Bill a provision qualifying destitute females with illegitimate children to be recipients of relief as well as females having legitimate children.
The EARL of WICKLOW
contended that there was no one who was acquainted with the stale of society in Ireland who would not object to give relief under such a measure as the present to the class of persons alluded to by the noble Earl.
The BISHOP of EXETER
was of opinion that the effect of the noble Earl's Amendment would be to release the profligate father altogether.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
thought that a distinction should be taken between the children of false marriages and children avowedly illegitimate. A provision should be introduced into the Bill in favour of the former class. If a woman imagined that she had been validly married, or had been tricked into a false marriage, it would be cruel to debar her and her children.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
explained that the supposititious case put by the noble Duke was already provided for in 450 the discretionary power vested in the guardians.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
objected to the principle of out-door relief. There was little or no difference between destitution and poverty in Ireland; and the effect of the out-door system would be to place the recipients of relief in a better position than the independent labourers. The passing of any measure providing for out-door relief would prevent many poor families, who wore now supported by the labour of an individual member, or by the charity of their friends, who might not wish to see them have recourse to parochial assistance, from continuing to receive such aid.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
intimated his intention of withdrawing the Amendment for the present. He still adhered to the opinions he had already expressed, but thought it the more convenient course to propose the Amendment on the bringing up of the Report.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
The EARL of WICKLOW
suggested that in Clause 2, line 12, after the word "Commissioners," these words should be introduced—"with the sanction of the Lord Lieutenant."
§ EARL GREY
said, that a Bill had been already introduced in the House of Commons, which was printed on the 26th of February. That Bill would create a new Board for the administration of the Poor Law in Ireland, consisting of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, the Under Secretary, and one paid Commissioner: that would place the administration of the Poor Law completely in the hands of the Irish Government, and he thought, therefore, it would not be expedient that any such Amendment as that of his noble Friend should now be pressed.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
observed, that if such a Bill wore coming up from the Commons it would be better to postpone that part of the present Bill till the other reached the House of Lords.
§ Motion postponed.
The EARL of DESART,
pursuant to notice, moved in Clause 2, after the words—'By order under their seal to authorize and empower the guardians of such union' be inserted to 'build or hire additional houses for the reception of such destitute persons, or to administer,' &c.; and after the words 'on the receipt by the guardians of the union of any such order authorizing' be inserted 'the erection or hiring of such houses, or relief,' &c.: also that after the words 'shall be given in food only' be inserted ' to be in all cases distributed from a store to be provided 451 by the guardians for that purpose, save as hereinafter,'" &c.With regard to the first alteration proposed, the noble Earl admitted that the Bill as it stood allowed any sum not exceeding 400l. to be appropriated for the purpose of building new workhouses where they were required; but that, he contended, was not sufficient. He rested his case on the Poor Law Commissioners' reports; and from the evidence there taken, he found that on the system of erection the report recommended, the cost of a building to accommodate ninety people would come to about 2l. per head; while the cost of the workhouse construction was 14l. per head; one-seventh more than the provision he proposed to be made. He contended that increased provision for the application of the in-door test ought to be made, as there was great reason to dread evil from the maladministration of the new Poor Law, judging from the fact that the most flagrant abuses were committed by the administrators of the present system. The indoor test, whenever it was possible, ought to be applied; and to give the Commissioners greater means of applying that test, he would invest them with the power of ordering the guardians to build such houses as he had alluded to for that purpose. He wished to do this the more, because the relief of a proportion of the population of England and Wales that are annually recipients of relief both in-door and out-door, would involve a tax of 17 per cent on Irish property; while in England and Wales it only involved a tax of 5 per cent. Thus, while it was one-twentieth of the rental in England and Wales, in Ireland it was nearly one-sixth. This showed the entire impracticability of working the new Poor Law in Ireland as a remedy for the present state of things, unless it were accompanied by large and extensive measures, by which employment could be given to the population. With regard to stores, he wished the able-bodied paupers who were relieved out of doors to have to walk to the store daily for their relief, and not have it taken round and distributed at their houses. That would be a sort of test in those cases in which the workhouse test could not be applied. Those alterations did not invade the principle of the Bill. All he asked the Government to do was, to give the Commissioners the power to order these houses to be built. He did not think that would meet all the maladministration they might expect to find; but if it had 452 any tendency of that nature the Government ought to agree to it.
§ EARL GREY
said, that the only objection he saw to the Amendments was, that they were wholly unnecessary, the Commissioners having full power under the Bill. It gave the Commissioners power, from time to time, to erect or hire additional workhouses, if the present were found insufficient; and, though they were restricted to not going beyond the former extent of 400l. without the consent of the guardians, yet the clause as it stood authorized the Commissioners to empower the guardians to go beyond that amount. With respect to the second point, as to stores, it appeared to be carrying legislation beyond its legitimate point; and it had better be left to the discretion of the guardians.
said, that he entirely concurred in the Amendments proposed by his noble Friend. However, as the Bill already gave power to build to the amount of 400l., and as their Lordships had just decided that the measure was to be only a temporary one, it might, perhaps, be as well to ascertain by experience whether the sum of 400l. might not be sufficient. With regard to the latter part of the Amendment, he understood it to be levelled at the system of indiscriminate relief, and of sending round and distributing that relief at the doors of the recipients. His noble Friend said, let that relief be distributed at stores appointed by the board of guardians, and let the able-bodied who said they were in a state of destitution come daily for relief. If the able-bodied pauper found it was necessary to walk five or six miles to receive his day's supply and then to walk back—it was not intended to apply to sick or infirm-persons or women—he would think twice whether he could not obtain better employment, and with almost as little labour earn a larger pittance. Under circumstances which prevented their poor having a perfect test, his noble Friend wished to have this subsidiary or supplementary test, an inferior one, but still a sort of test. He hoped his noble Friend would not press the first part of his Amendment; but if the latter part were carried to a division, unless some cogent reason to the contrary was urged on the other side of the House, he (Lord Stanley) would vote for the Amendment.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
thought both parties had best be left to the discretion of guardians, as they Would be the best judges. He agreed that the 453 carrying of the relief to the door of the recipient ought to be guarded against; but the remedy for that was in the hands of the Poor Law Commissioners, who had power to give directions how the relief should be distributed.
§ The EARL of ST. GERMANS
said, ample powers were already given by the Bill to the Commissioners, to secure the object of the noble Earl in the second part of his Amendment.
The EARL of WICKLOW
would not consent to take from the guardians any power they now enjoyed, and therefore he opposed the Amendment. To establish stores, in the present state of the country, would be only to hold out temptations to plunder.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
did not see how the distribution of food over so large an area could be provided for without some such powers as this Amendment gave.
§ EARL GREY
said, there was ample power of establishing stores provided in a future clause of the Bill; but it would be a serious inconvenience never to give food except from a store established by a board of guardians. Cases might arise in which it would be more economical that a contractor should undertake to deliver stores at a certain point. He could not concur in the Amendment.
§ After a few words from the MARQUESS of WESTMEATH,
§ The EARL of CLARENDON
objected to the clause, which would entail great expense on boards of guardians. A single family in one extremity of the union might require relief in food; but by this Amendment, before the board of guardians could give them relief for one week, it would be necessary to build a store and to till it. He thought the guardians, who had an interest in economizing the funds, might safely be left to make these arrangements for themselves.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
, as the measure was only temporary in its operation, would recommend his noble Friend to withdraw the Amendment.
The EARL of DESART
said, that as it appeared to be the general wish of the House, he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Clause 3 agreed to without Amendment.454
§ On Clause 4,
rose to propose an Amendment. He hoped their Lordships would not think him too severe against Ireland, if he said that it was incumbent upon them to take greater precautions against jobbing on the part of boards of guardians in that country than in England. There was no point upon which Irish boards of guardians were so likely to display personal favouritism as in the choice of very inefficient subordinate officers to perform the duties of the new law. Now, an immense power was proposed to be vested in the relieving officers of Ireland. A great disproportion existed in the size of the electoral divisions and unions in Ireland, as compared with those of England. He thought all their Lordships who were acquainted with the working of the Poor Law would admit that, if there was an error in respect to the size of unions in England, that error was not on the side of their being too small, but of their being inconveniently large. If that was the case in England, let them inquire what was the general average of unions in regard to size so as to show the proportion between the extent of acreage and the amount of population in the poor-law unions of England and Ireland respectively. In England the average population of each union, as appeared from returns upon their Lordships' Table, was 24,845 inhabitants; in Ireland the average population of each union, assuming the population of the whole country to be 8,500,000, which he thought was nearly the truth, would be no less than 65,384 persons. Then what was the area of the 620 and odd poor-law unions in England? In England there were only two unions above 200,000 acres in extent, and only forty-three above 100,000 acres; and below 100,000 acres there were 541 unions. Now in Ireland there were, he thought, 130 unions; of these there were above 200,000 acres no less than eighteen, instead of two as in England; above 100,000 acres, instead of forty-three in England, there were in Ireland 104. Below 100,000 acres, instead of 541 in England, there were in Ireland twenty-six only. This general average he thought a much better mode of bringing before their Lordships, the difference between the size of unions in England and Ireland, than by taking certain instances of great discrepancies; but he more especially noticed the fact for this purpose—to point out to their Lord- 455 ships, that if in England it was found to be exceedingly difficult to collect the members of the boards of guardians together at their weekly meetings, owing to the great distances that many of the guardians had to come; and if the consequence was, that the board of guardians had to devolve on the relieving officer attending the board much of the discretion and responsibility of giving and withholding relief, that difficulty and its consequences would be infinitely aggravated in Ireland where the unions were so much larger, and where it would be much more troublesome to collect the guardians at the weekly meetings of the board. Now in this Bill they were introducing for the first time the principle of granting out-door relief; and, from this difficulty of collecting the guardians at meetings of the board, in practice they were about to assign the administration of that out-door relief to the relieving officer. In doing so, he did not hesitate to say, they were about to throw on the relieving officer a duty which it was almost impossible for him to perform. Between the weekly meetings of the board of guardians, the relieving officer would have the discretion of granting relief in food to persons who pressed on him. Now, taking one of these unions, would their Lordships, who were acquainted with Ireland, believe that a relieving officer would have the firmness to refuse relief, or to give only that amount which it might be discreet to give to a person who pressed him, at a place, perhaps, where three or four roads met, such person being supported by a body of six, or eight, or ten able-bodied persons? If they wanted to give additional motives for corruption on the part of the relieving officer, to be winked at by the corruption of the board of guardians, they would give to that board, formed, as it mostly would be, of the small farmers of the district, the appointment of these relieving officers to act under them. It was well known to what an extent persons in Ireland canvassed and made interest for situations of a very inferior character; and if they gave to the guardians, constituted as they were in Ireland, the power of distributing this patronage, they would find selected for relieving officers, small farmers, the relations of the guardians themselves, and, in many cases, the close connexions, if not relations, of the very persons they would have to relieve. He was convinced that there was infinitely more chance of these duties being properly performed, if they gave the selection of the 456 relieving officers not to the guardians but to the Poor Law Commissioners. In the one case the relieving officers would be the servants and dependants of the boards of guardians; in the other case they would be the servants and dependants of the Crown; and in that case the board and the relieving officer would mostly be a check on one another. That, he thought, would be a very material amendment of the enactment, and therefore he moved as an Amendment on the 4th Clause, that the appointment of the relieving officers be vested in the Poor Law Commissioners.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
was understood to submit to the noble Lord, whether the evil results he apprehended were not guarded against by the power given to the Poor Law Commissioners by another clause in the Bill, of dismissing at any time any relieving officer who did not do his duty to their satisfaction?
§ EARL GREY
said, that the Amendment of the noble Lord was entirely opposed to the principle of local government, for its tendency was to throw the whole administration of the Poor Law in its details, not upon the boards of guardians, but upon the Commissioners, and through them upon the Government. If the boards of guardians were allowed to choose their own officers, and if these officers did not discharge their duties, then of course the guardians could not shelter themselves from responsibility by saying that things did not go on well because the Commissioners gave them bad officers. The noble Lord's proposal, if it were adopted, would hold out a positive inducement to the boards of guardians and the relieving officers to be constantly at variance with each other. The Commissioners had at present a power of dismissal for misconduct; but that power was only meant to be brought into exercise when the board of guardians failed to do their duty. They had in fact been already told that there had been bad relieving officers, bad masters of workhouses, and bad rate collectors; but that the fault of this was with the Commissioners, who had attempted to coerce the guardians in the performance of their duties. Now he would ask, if there was any statesman who had not remarked that one of the most crying evils 457 of Ireland during the last fifty years had been the disposition of the people to throw everything upon the Government—a disposition not to help themselves, but to have everything done for them by the Government authorities? What then was it most necessary to teach the Irish? Every statesman who had studied the condition of that people would admit that it was to teach the Irish people to manage their own affairs for themselves? Why was it that parochial affairs were managed well in this country? Simply because in England the whole detail of local matters was managed by the parties locally interested and concerned; and the Executive Government interfered very slightly and rarely. On the other hand, there had been in Ireland, unfortunately, a want of local organization—a want of the means by which the people could manage their own affairs. He had no doubt that the boards of guardians might in some cases appoint worse relieving officers than might be appointed for them by a board of commissioners; but even if this were the case, he considered it was most desirable that the power—and with the power the responsibility—of choosing their own officers should be thrown upon the boards of guardians in Ireland. He believed that no small proportion of the abuses complained of in that country arose from the circumstance that the parties had been spending money advanced to them by the Treasury, which he feared they had very little intention of ever repaying. He had no doubt that when they came to spend money raised by rate upon themselves, much more care and strictness would be displayed in its administration. He considered that their Lordships would make a most injudicious change in the provisions of this Bill, if they threw the appointment of relieving officers upon the Commissioners in Dublin, instead of upon the boards of guardians.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
thought the noble Earl who had just spoken had made a most unjustifiable attack upon the boards of guardians in Ireland, in imputing to them the honesty of borrowing public money without any intention of repaying it. He agreed with the noble Earl that it was of the utmost importance to establish a system of local self-government in that country; but he thought the Government ought to give their Lordships some information as to the number of relieving officers it was intended to appoint, and the salaries it was proposed to give them.
§ The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH
said, no one was more desirous than he was to see the internal government of Ireland conducted by local administration. But he felt satisfied that if their Lordships were to proceed on the supposition that they could import bodily into Ireland all the de-tails and principles of the Poor Law of England—on the supposition that the same law, working on a dissimilar state of society, would produce similar effects in Ireland as in England, then they would create for themselves innumerable inconveniences and dangers; and they would postpone for an indefinite period the realization of their hopes of seeing an effective Poor Law established in Ireland. He deeply regretted the necessity of this Amendment of the noble Lord; but he felt that it was necessary; for he was confident that it was impossible to apply the details of the English Poor Law to Ireland in the present condition of that country. He had read with the deepest pain, regret, and dismay, the accounts of the state of Ireland contained in the books now on their Lordships' Table. He saw more to apprehend from those books than even from the present state of destitution; and the impressions they made, upon him were such as almost to deprive him of all hope for the future regeneration of the country. He saw a spirit of intimidation pervading all classes, from the highest to the lowest; with a few, though certainly with some brilliant, exceptions. Therefore, in appointing a relieving officer, they must have a man who was devoid of all local influence; and a man, besides, who was not afraid to be shot at every day. In fact, the administration of relief was now confided to the officers of the Army and Navy, because in them only were to be found those qualities of firmness and courage which were so necessary for carrying the law into effect. If their Lordships were determined to leave the appointment in the hands of these guardians, who, generally speaking, would be constituted in an inferior manner to the relief committees, of which so many complaints were now made—if they asked them to administer this law, depending only upon the tardy justice and retribution of the Pool-Law Commissioners, then they might depend upon it the law would fail, and the country would become disgusted with its failure; attributing that to the law which was attributable not to the law, but to the instruments by which it was to be carried into effect. He knew nothing so ruinous 459 or so contemptible in legislation as to have an object which they were earnestly desirous to obtain, and yet to shrink from the means, where those means would be morally justified, which alone would ensure its attainment. If their object was to relieve the poor, let them look all the difficulties fairly in the face, and take all the means that might he necessary to secure their object. It might be that this Amendment involved a principle opposed to the system of self-government; but they must remember that Ireland was not England, and if they legislated for Ireland on data supplied by this country, they would only increase the dangers and the calamities of that unhappy country.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, Government had looked the difficulties and the dangers of this measure fairly in the face, and they had not shrunk from proposing this measure as a means of relieving the poor, though well aware that it was to a certain extent a perilous measure. They had adopted it upon this principle—that if it were determined to relieve Ireland by means of the resources of Ireland, it must be done by the co-operation of the upper classes of Ireland; and it must be obvious to the noble Earl that Her Majesty's Government were determined to carry out this Bill in the spirit in which it had been proposed, namely, that of effectually relieving the necessities of the people of that country. The noble Earl who had just sat down had drawn a formidable picture of the duties and dangers of a relieving officer, and if these ideas prevailed generally, he did not wonder that noble Lords were alarmed at the probable expense of the rates; but his idea was, that the duties of the relieving officer would be light, particularly when he remembered that even at the present period of existing distress the workhouses were not filled. It might be satisfactory to noble Lords to know, that even by the provisions of the Bill as it now stood, no appointment of a relieving officer could be finally made without having received the approbation of the Commissioners; but the Amendment now proposed would take away the responsibility from those who now had the appointment, namely, the guardians, and would, in fact, render the Bill a perfect nullity.
§ The MARQUESS of WESTMEATH, in a few words, supported the Amendment.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, the powers entrusted to the Commissioners should only by exercised in extreme cases. He pre- 460 ferred the Amendment to the Clause as it now stood, for the Commissioners had the power of making out-door relief compulsory. But his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies seemed to think that the power of the Commissioners would be but rarely exercised, and that, in fact, there would be no occasion for it, because they had been comparatively so under the Poor Law which the Legislature first established in Ireland; but he would call the attention of the House to the stupendous fact, that in the South Dublin union, where the number of paupers receiving relief under the first Poor Law did not exceed, on an average, 2,000, yet, under the temporary system of out-door relief lately established, the number of applicants had increased to 40,000. Under these circumstances, it would be necessary to have a man of firmness for a relieving officer, and he preferred the Amendment to the Clause as it stood.
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
supported the Amendment. He thought the powers vested in the boards of guardians by the clause of a nature rather calculated to injure than to serve the constitution of these boards. The relieving officers should be men not liable to be influenced by popular excitement. The Catholic priesthood had great influence over the guardians; and the relieving officers would, if their nomination was left with the boards of guardians, be, in many instances, the nominees of the Roman Catholic priests. Again, if the relieving officers were men selected in the neighbourhood in which they were to act, the ill-disposed there would seek, by threatening notices and other species of intimidation, to frighten them into their views; and, upon the whole, thinking this power would detract from the utility of the boards of guardians, he would vote against the clause in its present shape.
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, that if the Amendment were adopted, and the appointment placed in the hands of the Commissioners, they would probably, in making the appointment in any union, apply to the chairman of the board of guardians, or to the gentlemen constituting the board. In this case, the appointment would really be with the board, though indirectly; and he thought it better to give the board the appointment directly, and thereby fix them with the responsibility of making a proper choice. He, therefore, trusted that the suggestion of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would be adopted, and that the Committee would not divide.
The EARL of ROSSE
supported the Amendment, because he believed that it would be better to take the patronage as far as possible from the boards of guardians. The elections gave rise to a great deal of party feeling among the boards of guardians, and had militated much against the working of the Poor Law. The difficulty had been started, that if the boards of guardians did not appoint, the Commissioners would be ill fitted to do so from their want of local knowledge. The assistant poor-law commissioners, however, would have that responsibility resting upon them, and were well qualified to make the appointments.
The EARL of CLANCARTY
wished for some more full and precise information on the subject of the payment of the relieving officers, and various other particulars connected with the appointments. Was their remuneration to be by salary, or otherwise? and would the Commissioners have the power of vetoing the appointments of the boards of guardians?
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, it was quite impossible to state all those particulars beforehand; but there was no doubt that the guardians and Commissioners must take care of the public interest in that respect. With regard to the clause, if it were carried, it was his intention to propose the insertion of the words "with the approbation of the Commissioners," which would give a security that no person would be so appointed of whom the Commissioners did not approve.
§ Committee divided:—For the Clause 59; for the Amendment 53: Majority 6.
§ House resumed.
§ House adjourned.