HL Deb 09 February 1849 vol 102 cc465-96

then rose to move for a Select Committee on the operation of the Poor Law in Ireland. The noble Marquess said, that if any proof were wanting that an inquiry on the subject were necessary, he need only refer their Lordships to the two petitions which had been presented in the course of the evening, one of which prayed for inquiry into the operation of the Irish Poor Law, while the other had stigmatised that law altogether as a bad law. Would these petitioners, while thus condemning, in this sweeping manner, a measure passed under the peculiar circumstances which attended the poor-law for Ireland, desire to revert to the state of things which had existed in that country prior to legislation? Their Lordships would hardly expect him to take up the time of the House by making out what was called a Parliamentary case for the inquiry he proposed, inasmuch as it was a case so notorious, and was founded upon circumstances with which they were all so familiar, and of which they had a great knowledge. If even the poor-law had succeeded in Ireland under ordinary circumstances, he believed that some inquiry would have been rendered necessary into its operation, in consequence of the extraordinary circumstances under which it had been introduced. It was a law not brought forward after years of careful and deliberate consideration, but introduced under the pressure of great difficulty and of a great emergency arising out of the existence of a famine. He had had no hesitation in recommending the adoption of that law, but he had recommended it only as a great experiment, an experiment full of difficulty, and fraught with danger—danger to be guarded against in every way that human ingenuity could suggest, but against which it was impossible to guard effectually and absolutely, without some experience, some guide, and some practical experience of the results of the experiment they were about to make. He was not surprised, therefore, that on the first operation of that law difficulties should have arisen, or even that those difficulties should have proved great as regarded many important points; and still less was he surprised that, with respect to some points in particular, those difficulties should have been almost overwhelming. It was a law for which the country had not been prepared, which individuals in that country had had no experience of as regarded its operation. But no man could have foreseen the circumstances under which that law had been introduced; no man could have foreseen that there would suddenly occur a pressure arising out of the heavy infliction which it had pleased Providence to visit upon the land in the form of famine, and which should render the application of such a law imperative. He was not, therefore, surprised at any obstacles or difficulties that had arisen; and those extraordinary and unhappy circumstances must be taken into account. But while he admitted that in some parts of Ireland this law had not had the beneficial operation it was desired to have; yet, on the other hand, he asserted that in other parts of that country the operation had been in a great degree successful—he might say wholly and completely successful; and had it not been for circumstances fresh in the recollection of every one, the objects of the law might have been more fully carried out. But much was to be laid to the account of that which no man could foresee; and, which, even if foreseen, it was difficult to say how it could have been guarded against. That famine, and that failure of the harvest of the country, which it was hoped might be only occasional, had occurred again and again; and in the course of the past year it had, unhappily, occurred under most aggravated circumstances, in those very parts of the country the population of which depended most upon the potato, and were, consequently, suffering the greatest destitution by reason of the failure of the crop. The total failure of the crop, and the general poverty which prevailed, deprived the people of the food, and the landlords and farmers were without the means of procuring food from other places. The state of these particular districts was one most painful to contemplate; but the Government had laid it before their Lordships on undoubted authority, and in an accurate and comprehensive shape. Without going into minute details, he might observe that, taking Ireland, generally, the average amount of the poor-rate during the past year had not exceeded 2s. 9½d. in the pound. There were particular districts in which it had amounted to 7s., to 10s., and to 20s.; and he had now before him a return by which it appeared that in one union—that of Clifden—the amount was 2l. 3s. 1d. in the pound. This was a state of things that required the attention of Parliament, and was one of the reasons why he moved for the appointment of this Committee. He was not prepared then, at the moment he was proposing the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the administration of the Irish Poor Law, to offer any suggestion as to specific alterations and amendments to be adopted. Their Lordships must not, however, on that account, suppose that Her Majesty's Government were indifferent to the subject, or that they had been inattentive to the various representations which had been addressed to them on the subject by official personages and individuals with respect to the working of the poor-law in Ireland; those representations would receive due and deliberate consideration in proposing or making any alterations in the provisions of that Act. An opinion had been entertained in that House that it was unwise to disturb the electoral boundaries as they existed before the poor-law. All that Parliament could do at the time was to avail themselves of the best existing divisions. But a Commission was appointed for the purpose of revising the electoral boundaries, and at the head of it was placed Major Larcom, a very able officer, who had since made a very clear and detailed report on the subject to the Government. That report, however, had been sent back to Ireland for the purpose of having some additions made to it; but he hoped very shortly to lay it before Parliament in a complete state, when the Committee would have the advantage of its contents to aid them in their deliberations and conclusions. There were other matters to which the attention of the Committee would of course be directed. One of these would be how far it would be desirable to renew the appointments of vice-guardians in some districts, and under what circumstances that should be done, in preference to having recourse to the old system of electing guardians. He would abstain, as he said before, from laying down any rule for the guidance of the Committee, but he trusted that they would divide the general question submitted to them for consideration into parts, and make each part the subject of an early and separate report to the House. He proposed that the Committee should be composed of noble Lords connected with Ireland, who had a practical knowledge of the working of the poor-law in that country, and of certain English Lords who had given their attention to the operation of the law generally throughout the United Kingdom. The noble Marquess concluded by moving— That a Select Committee be appointed to Inquire into the Operation of the Irish Poor Law; and the Expediency of making any Amendments in its Enactments.


said, that if on the present occasion he had followed the dictation of his own inclination, he should have been disposed, notwithstanding the opinions expressed by the noble Marquess, rather to have referred to the prayer of the petition from Limerick than to the petition presented by his noble Friend near him from another part of Ireland, calling upon their Lordships to appoint a Committee to inquire into the operation of the Irish Poor Law, in order to show that a remedy for the evils existing in that law was immediately required at the hands of Parliament. But, if, in deference to the opinions of those who anticipated more practical advantages from the appointment of this Committee than, he confessed, he was able to anticipate—if in deference to their opinions he abstained from offering any opposition to the Motion of the noble Marquess, he could not refrain from expressing the deep dissatisfaction he felt upon hearing the speech of the noble Marquess. His conviction was, that the appointment of this Committee would tend to a postponement of the consideration of the Irish Poor Law to an indefinite period, and thus defer the application of remedies to an acknowledged and most urgent evil. It was, in his opinion, a question which ought not to be delegated to a Parliamentary Committee. It was a question which more properly belonged to the Executive Government to determine; it was their duty to determine it, and to submit a measure upon the subject for the consideration of Parliament. He considered that there were many cases, in which, previous to the alteration of an important law, inquiry by a Committee was desirable. If any Member of the Legislature, unconnected with the Government of the day, was desirous of proving to the House and to the country, and more especially to those through whom the amendment of the law could be effective, the mischievous operation, or the dangerous working of a particular law, be could conceive no mode in which the end could be more properly attained, or judiciously aimed at, than the appointment of a Committee, by which the opportunity was given of bringing before the Government and the public those facts with which they were imperfectly acquainted, and upon the perfect knowledge of which legislation should be based. At the time of the introduction of the English new Poor Law in 1834, the Government, contemplating a great and extensive amendment of an important law of the land, thought that, previously to introducing that amendment, it was necessary for them to enlighten and instruct the public mind, and to convince the people, not only of the magnitude of the evil, but of the applicability and fitness of the remedy they were prepared to administer. In that case, and in other cases also, the conduct of the Government of the day, in proposing a preliminary appointment of a Committee—preliminary he meant to the introduction of the legislative measure—was a wise, judicious, and perfectly proper course; but in the case now before their Lordships, there was no new information to be obtained. The facts were plain, palpable and notorious; notorious to every man who had the misfortune to be connected with a great portion—he was not speaking of the north or east, but of the south and the west of Ireland. The facts were notorious and palpable, in fact, to every man who had taken the trouble to inquire into the subject; they were to be mot with in the most alarming form in the papers which Her Majesty's Government themselves had laid upon the table of the House. The Government were in a position to obtain information in reference to this important subject, of far more value than any information that could possibly be collected by the most impartial Committee. Her Majesty's Government required nothing to guide their judgments, except the power of their own minds for making those minds up upon the facts before them; and he could not help thinking that they were shifting upon a Committee that which they, as the responsible Ministers of the Crown, ought themselves to undertake—it was their undoubted province to undertake it, and, possessing the information they did on the subject, to submit the case for the consideration of Parliament. That was the course which ought to be pursued. A Committee might be useful for the purpose of investigating details, but any great principle upon which a law was to be amended ought to originate with the Government, to which was confided the responsibility of conducting the affairs of the country. He had already said that he was not referring to certain parts in the north and east of Ireland, but as regarded that part with which he was best acquainted, personally,—and be believed that the remark was equally applicable to the whole of the south and west—ho did not hesitate to say that, making every allowance for the circumstances to which the noble Marquess had properly adverted, such as the difficulties thrown in the way of the administration of the poor-law by the unhappy famine and failure of the crop of the people's food which had prevailed during the last two or three years, and making every allowance for additional obstacles arising out of such a state of things, he declared that the poor-law in the south and west of Ireland had broken down, and had proved a failure from first to last. And if he wanted to prove that the poor-law in these districts, and in many parts of Ireland, had been a failure, he should refer, not to what the noble Marquess had alluded to—that upon the whole rated property of the country the burden had upon the average been only 2s. 9½d. in the pound; for although the rating might be only. 3s., or 4s., or 5s. upon the whole rated property of a union, yet the amount levied—he had almost used the word extorted—from those unable to pay, yet willing to meet a just demand to the utmost of their ability, and holding a very small proportion, indeed, of the whole property of the union—upon those who were able and willing to pay, the real amount levied had been more than double, and in many instances treble and fourfold, what had appeared on the papers. He would take this case. There was one union mentioned in these papers, 11–19ths of the lands of which was waste and desolate, yet these 11–19ths were taken into consideration when a rate was levied. The whole rate was charged on the 11–19ths, while it was paid by only the 8–19ths of the union, and consequently, the 11–19ths were included when they spoke of the amount of rates levied on the union, although this enormous portion of it had not contributed to the rate at all. He found ample evidence of the failure of this law, in looking into the statements which appeared in the papers that had been laid on the table within the last two days by the Government—he found by those papers that there were 130 unions, of which there were 117 in debt beyond the means of meeting their engagements. He found that the debt of these 117 amounted to no less a sum than 252,000l., exclusive of every amount of assistance, of whatever sort or kind, derived in the shape of loans or advances from the Government or the British Charitable Association. He found that the amount of these loans over and above this debt was 241,000l. more—making together nearly 500,000l. of debt beyond their means of meeting. He found that even that amount did not measure the whole of the liability, or rather of their inability to meet their obligations, which this poor-law had cast upon them; for even with that enormous amount there was excluded from their consideration the amount of food and clothing—the 200,000 children in the schools who were supported independently of this money who were brought up by the British Charitable Association. He found a further proof of the failure of this law in the fact that there were 28 unions that had received amongst them an amount in the way of assistance of 190,000l. There were 20 unions which were confessedly by the report of the Commissioners themselves in a state of bankruptcy. He found that there were ten more in a state fast approaching to bankruptcy. He found that there were 21 unions the valuation of the property in which amounted to 422,000l., and yet they had paid no less than 220,000l., for poor relief, being after the enormous rate of 10s. in the pound, or 50 per cent on the rental. Their Lordships would see how largely the proprietors in these unions must have been made to pay, over and above the contributions to which they had been fairly assessed for their respective properties, to make good the deficient means or the neglected liabilities of others. It remained for him to add that of the unions where the law had proved so signal a failure in its operation, only 48,000l. had been actually received out of assessments raised within them; the remainder of the rates which had been declared had been supplied either by advances from Her Majesty's Treasury, or from the contributions of private and charitable sources. He did not mean to argue that any doubt could be entertained that much of the disability or disinclination to pay the rates assessed under the poor-law must have arisen out of the unexampled distress, the famine, and the misery under which Ireland had been so recently and so severely suffering. But what answer had Her Majesty's Government to make to this assertion, to which he believed he might challenge contradiction, namely, that out of 131 unions in Ireland, Her Majesty's Commissioners had been compelled, practically, to abolish the system of the poor-law in that country in 36? Now he, for one, did contend that the electoral system, upon which the board of guardians, appointed to watch over and be responsible for the due administration of the assessments for the relief of the poor contributed by the ratepayers, were by those ratepayers elected, was the fundamental and vital principle of the general amended poor-law that Parliament had passed in 1834. To supersede these boards of guardians by commissioners appointed by and acting under instructions from the Government, was a manifest and a fatal infraction of that principle. For what was the constitution of the board of poor-law guardians, as contemplated by that Act? This—namely, that it was to be a body of individual ratepayers of the district, clothed with the power of taxation for certain defined and limited objects, but wholly independent of the Government of the Crown. To replace them by a body of commissioners directly under the control and appointed by the nomination of that Government, was utterly to repudiate the electoral principle, essential, as he would again contend, to the very elements of the poor-law of 1834, and all other measures founded on its objects. In truth the Irish poor-law had been so completely vitiated by proceedings of this nature that he ought rather to say the poor-law as it practically exists in England is inconsistent with the sort of poor-law practically administered in Ireland. It was a fact beyond dispute that in two-sevenths of all the unions of Ireland, Her Majesty's Government had been under the positive necessity of superseding the whole machinery and action of their new system of poor-law for that part of the empire. No further argument, surely, could be necessary to show that, with regard to a very large portion of Ireland, the further administration of the existing Irish Poor Law was found to be impracticable. He pressed this on the attention of noble Lords, because the fact justified his predictions of the fate of this measure. There were those both in and out of their Lordships' House who were well qualified to speak to such a point, and he had repeatedly told noble Lords, when the Irish Poor Law was first submitted to them, that it must fail from the want of the adequate physical, and he would even venture now to add the moral machinery necessary to ensure its efficient practical administration. Yet Her Majesty's Government had persisted in introducing this poor-law into Ireland, utterly regardless of the wide difference between the state of society existing in England from the state of society existing in Ireland. The condition of society in England alone, he would fearlessly state, had made it possible to administer the present poor-law here. In Ireland the condition of society rendered the practical success of the working of such a measure hopeless. Let them only look at some of the elementary differences on the very surface of the social aspects respectively presented by the two countries, and noble Lords would find that it was not at all surprising that any poor-law should have proved a failure in Ireland, with whatever success it might have operated in England. In England, for example, as he believed, the numbers of small properties in fee-simple—although he was aware that there might be a greater class of large owners of such property here than in Ireland—much exceeded the numbers of small proprietors in fee in Ireland. In England, again, in every union there was a considerable number of such small proprietors in fee. All of them had—as he himself and every noble Lord who heard him must have had opportunities of remarking—a considerable and a direct interest in the well-being of the labouring poor within the areas of such unions. The whole framework and action, indeed, of the new poor-law depended on the harmonious co-operation of the landlords themselves, and the occupiers, not only in properly cultivating the land, but in keeping labourers employed upon it. Our poor-law could not subsist for one moment without this union of action between the landlord and the tenant, the proprietor and the farmer. When noble Lords spoke, therefore, of landlords and tenants in England and in Ireland, they spoke of two very different classes of men. In England they had the assistance in the administration of their poor-law of a considerable body of tenant-farmers who were possessed—who had once been possessed—of competent capitals—most of them employers themselves of agricultural labour, and most of them, he believed, chargeable in their own person, as occupiers, with the poor-rate assessed on the properties held by them; such rates being of course in proportion to the good or bad cultivation of their lands, and the number of heads engaged in that cultivation. There was another significant distinction to be taken in noting the differences between the same classes of persons in the two countries. In England the landlord was the real possessor of the land. He was not only responsible for the demands of the law upon it, but he had the power of enforcing the rights of his property. He spoke not of physical, but of legal rights; and in England a landlord, so far from being complained of for venturing to enforce them by law, whilst he discharged his own duties to his tenant, would be complained of only as wanting in his duties to himself and to the public at large, if he did not compel the occupier to look after the due cultivation of his land, and the employment of agricultural labourers upon it. That could scarcely be said to be the case in Ireland. The English landlord, above all, could compel the tenant to the employment of so much labour as was necessary to the proper cultivation of the soil occupied by such tenant. More than this—however punctual the tenant might be in the payment of his rent, yet if he failed in this contract of proper cultivation, and the employment of the labour required thereby, no man in England would feel a moment's indignation, if the landlord, finding his land growing out of heart, for want of being properly attended to, were to give such negligent tenant notice to quit, and in due time replace him by some other who would be more able and willing to do justice to the land, and put the proper number of labourers upon it. Now this was the state of the law—this the practice pursued in England. You begin by arming the landlord with sufficient power to compel the due cultivation of his property; you may make him responsible through those who occupy under him for the assessments upon it; and you practically conclude by making it the common interest of landlord and tenant, proprietor and occupier, to lighten the burden of unoccupied pauper labour, and to watch over the due assessment and administration of the funds levied for the relief of the poor. But in Ireland their Lordships would find the fee-simple of property in few hands, comparatively speaking; the fee proprietors generally very much embarrassed; their lands ill cultivated; and most of the landlords (he himself must plead guilty to being often one of this class) absentees—or habitually non-resident on their estates. Under those circumstances there could be no effectual co-operation in the objects of such a law as this between the landlords of Ireland, generally, and their tenants, or those who occupied rather than cultivated the land. In fact, as a rule, there was not to be found in that country those classes which we had in England, the existence of which was so essential to the due and practical administration of the poor-laws. There was not between the capital and labour of the country that class of persons to be found in Ireland which was represented by the substantial tenant-farmers in England. Between the landlord and tenant in Ireland there was in the great mass of cases a class that was called here by the name of a mere cottier tenantry—something above the class of labourers. And, from the strange notion of dignity that was attached to the possession of land, these persons would prefer to have three acres of land under their own immediate control, than habitual employment as labourers, although in intelligence or substance they were not one step above those labourers—he was going to say whom they employed—but whom from the poverty of their circumstances they were wholly unable to employ. This class of persons occupied such minute subdivisions of land as to render the proper cultivation of the soil impossible, either by themselves, or any one else. Now observe the difference here between the state of society in both countries. While in England the occupier was chargeable with the rates, in Ireland the rates were imposed by the occupier, but the burden of them was borne, not by the occupier, but the landlord. Now recollect this, whatever might be the abuse of property with which an Irish landlord might be justly charged, whatever faults might be alleged against him, the landlord, in the south and west of Ireland, at all events, was no more than the chief renter upon the property he held. In these small holdings it was not possible for him to exercise the rights of a landlord, nor was it possible for him to turn out the most lazy, disgraceful, and improvident tenant, even for the purpose of securing the proper cultivation of the land, by placing a man of industry and capital in his stead. He stated this fact as principally applicable to large portions of the south of Ireland; and he was convinced he should be borne out in the truth of this statement by the testimony of many of their Lordships who were now listening to him. Under these circumstances what hope was there that the law would ever be practically carried out? He recollected many material alterations that had been made in these laws. It was prophesied both in this and the other House of Parliament that the result of these alterations would be that the tenant would find it to be to his interest to employ a large additional amount of labour. He had taken the liberty of showing the fallacy of those anticipations. He had stated that this class in Ireland would not only not employ an extra number of hands, but they would actually diminish the amount of the labour that they had engaged. The result had proved the accuracy of that declaration. They not only had not employed such extra labour, but their circumstances did not permit them to employ as much as they were accustomed formerly to do. The landlord had not the real possession of his land in Ireland. The tenant was unable to employ labour himself. Under such circumstances how was it possible that there could be an increased amount of labour. That which was the mainstay of the English poor-law—combined exertion for the purpose of advancing their common interest—was wholly wanting in Ireland. That this was a true picture of the condition of a great part of Ireland, he should be borne out by many noble Lords who heard him in asserting. Under these conditions, he believed it would be thought little matter of wonder that there should have been found no practical working for the present poor-law in Ireland. This result had been clearly foretold by the best authorities in both Houses of Parliament when that law was first brought forward. The only improvement it would be possible to effect in the condition of the landlords would be to guarantee them the means of compelling the employment of labour on their property by their tenants. But who would suppose that such a measure was practicable in the existing condition of society, and of the relations between tenant and landlord in Ireland? But the poor-law having proved a failure, what were Her Majesty's Government prepared to substitute for it? The only substitute he could think of would be, if it were possible, to individualise labour and responsibility among landlords and occupiers. Their Lordships' Committee might inquire into the state and working of the poor-law in Ireland, though he could not imagine what practical good could result from such a course in the face of the facts on that subject already reported to the House, and showing the incompatibility of such a law with the state of such a country. But any such proposition as he had hoard of for altering the limits of the existing electoral districts of unions, individualising responsibility, and remodelling assessments, on a principle not hitherto acted on—noble Lords might depend on it that all their attempts to botch up a law so radically defective in all the elements of practical working would terminate in utter failure. He had heard many complaints of the extent of the Irish unions, and he was disposed to think that in many instances they were too large—inconveniently, and even oppressively large; but, considering the large amount of capital already expended in Ireland on their organisation, and that there certainly was great economy in centralising as much as possible their areas, he was disposed to consider that it might be advantageous rather to adopt new centres for such unions, radiating to smaller circumferences, than those now in existence, but without abandoning the old ones, to which more contracted areas might, perhaps, be conveniently adapted. But he begged to impress upon the noble Lords the consideration that, after all, the size of the areas of unions, though not an unimportant feature in itself in the details of the working of the law, was of no consequence, no weight, or relation to the importance of reinstating the electoral principle in the constitution of boards of guardians. The noble Marquess said, that there would shortly be laid before them a report, by an able officer, upon this subject, of the diminution of the area of taxation, or a new arrangement of the electoral divisions. He (Lord Stanley) had no doubt whatever that that gentleman, Major Larcom, would most ably and punctually execute the instructions given to him. But what he wanted to know—and this must be decided by the Government—was this: upon what principle was this remodelling of the electoral divisions to take place? He cared not for minor details, provided he knew the exact principle upon which the Government proposed to act in respect to this matter. He wanted to know, was it to be upon that principle which he conceived to be so necessary—namely, that of individualising responsibility? If it were not upon this principle, it would be worth nothing. But they had also heard great remonstrances on the subject of the extreme inequality between the assessments levied on one tenant and those levied on another. They were now told that the principle of those assessments should be as much as possible equalisation of population and property. The noble Marquess had said that this was no new principle. Now he (Lord Stanley) wanted to know in what way this principle was to be carried out. He wished to know whether Her Majesty's Government had issued instructions as a whole—not as an individual suggestion for an isolated case, but as a general ride; and whether the noble Marquess meant to say, by equalisation, that all the properties within one and the same district should be assessed on their respective assessments to the general property, or rental of it after one and the same rate. Let him explain himself by supposing a case: that, side by side, there should be two properties; the one administered under an embarrassed, needy, reckless landlord, care-loss of the state of the land, reckless of the condition of his wretched tenantry: the other, administered by an active and careful proprietor, who, for twenty or twenty-five years, has devoted unremitting attention to the improvement of his property, and the bettering the condition of his tenantry, providing employment for them, and expending his capital upon the improvement of the land and all upon it; not with a view to raise his own immediate rents, but to prevent, as far as in him lay, the accumulation of paupers on the estate, and the consequent burden their support must entail on the district; and to insure the comparative happiness of those engaged in various labours upon it. If, by the effect of his own exertions to maintain tills improved condition, it were found that the levy or assessment for poor-rate was but small; whereas, in consequence of the same want of management and attention, the other and perhaps larger property was assessed at the same time to a much larger amount, owing to the greater quantity of paupers or unemployed labourers upon it, or any other such cause—in such a case, was it meant to be said that the better landlord, because he had been hitherto more lightly rated, not in consequence but in spite of the proximity of the worse—that because his assessment amounted to, say but 1s. in the pound, and the negligent landlord's to 5s. in the pound—should henceforth be rated at the heavier assessment, on no other ground than that by reason of neighbourhood his property should pay to the general assessment of the district equally with the others? Why, this would be a monstrous proceeding; and yet he inferred from the statement of noble Lords opposite that it was to be enforced, on the ground of "economy," against the better landlord. If he rightly understood, that the new principle in contemplation was thus to equalise rates on populations and properties, he could only say, that they would effectually discourage all attempts to retrieve the miserable condition of Ireland by "equalising" the liabilities of good with those of bad landlords. He could imagine no proposition more replete with gross injustice and with gross impolicy. But, after all, let the faults of the landlords of Ireland, as a class, have been what they might, they had been severely punished, and were still dearly paying for them; and they were faults for which they themselves were neither directly nor altogether indirectly responsible. There were men among them labouring honestly and most strenuously for the improvement of Ireland, and men who were actuated by that generous devotion to her best interests the consciousness of which alone could have sustained them under the cruel reverses against which they had had to contend. Convinced as he was of the utter hopelessness of any attempt to persist in the endeavour to work the present Poor Law (Ireland) Bill, he cautioned noble Lords to beware how they further legislated for the relief of the poor in that country without taking into their most serious consideration the very great difference between its condition and the possibility of finding the machinery necessary for such a law, as compared with the condition of England. The cost of that machinery and the abandonment of the great electoral principle of the new poor-law for England, condemned this law. It did not work—it could not work—it ought not to work. To persevere on the new principles, however, to which he had been addressing himself, could only lead to this result—their new Irish Poor Law must sink in the general ruin which had over-taken the most reckless of the Irish landlords, all those who might have been or still were most disposed to exert themselves for the amelioration of the domestic condition of Ireland. Her Majesty's Government had not yet stated what the objects specifically were in the contemplated alterations to which they were prepared to give their support, or what the nature of the amendments they desired noble Lords to sanction in the existing Act. However undesirable he might think it for Her Majesty's Ministers to delegate the recommendation of such amendments to a Committee, and throwing the whole onus of the responsibility for the Committee's recommendations on their own shoulders, he yet felt it his duty, as a Peer of the realm, here, in his place, and as an Irish proprietor, than whom no Irishman in that House or elsewhere could be more deeply solicitous than he was for the welfare of so important a portion of the empire—he felt bound to say that this poor-law might have been expected, from the first, to fail—as it had failed—by persisting in the course upon which they had attempted to carry it out. The point for which he contended was, that the principle of any amended measure ought to be—to give to the proprietors of the soil a direct personal interest in the careful cultivation of the land, the employment of labour in their own districts, and the administration of the relief funds—not to unite in the same category such landlords with those who were as unwilling as unable to accomplish these great objects, by subjecting them to one and the same scale of assessment. They had been told by a noble Lord that at the rate of increase which the poor relief assessment was now proceeding on in Ireland, the whole rental of that kingdom would soon prove unequal to supply the fund for such assessment. If this opinion was well founded (he heartily trusted it was not), nothing of course remained to the unfortunate Irish landlords but to fold their arms in despair, and await the disastrous issue. But he (Lord Stanley), for one, did not think the problem of Irish re-establishment impossible, even now, to be solved. The means, however difficult to be found, might consist in diffusing the relief assessment over the whole property of Ireland, to accelerate the progress of social improvement—to encourage its farming industry, and to improve the condition of the relations between landlord and tenant. As an Irish proprietor he would say, that if he could secure by any means such objects to be accomplished, if he could be secured from being held responsible for others, he would willingly consent to be responsible—in consideration of the boon they would confer on his own and all other Irish property—to take on himself the entire charge and responsibility of all paupers on his estate. But he was not prepared to pay assessments for such a purpose on the iniquitous principle they had heard advanced of equalising property and population in the new rating. Let him only have the security that such should be the object, and such the application of any tax or rate; and for such a boon, he repeated, he would gladly contribute—say an additional 6d. or 1s. in the pound, on his own assessment, towards a fund in aid. He cared not to what imputations he might expose himself by such a proposal—he knew what were his own intentions in making it. If he was told that there were insolvent unions involved—say to the extent of 500,000l.—a rate of this amount on all the rental of Ireland would more than pay their involvements off. To such a rate, then, or even a much heavier one, he would cheerfully assent, for it would tend, not to his benefit alone, but to that of Ireland at large. There was no English Member of either House of Parliament who was more profoundly interested than himself in the welfare of that country, and he should say some such system was quite practicable. In the thirty-eight unions which he had referred to, it had been found necessary to supersede the boards of guardians by paid commissioners nominated by the Government. Whatever his objections to this arrangement, his own impression was, that Government would be obliged to continue, and even to extend, the plan. His great object, however—and one in which he was sure every landed proprietor in that House would concur—was, that the principle of contribution to poor relief should be carefully considered and distinctly stated—not loft to the application of those new propositions of equalisation to which he had referred. It was all important to maintain, if possible, the electoral principle, and the liability to control in the application of the assessments. His next proposition would be, that, supposing such a fund in aid of involved unions as he had suggested could be raised from advances, it should be made for their relief under the sanction and direction of the board of guardians; that such advances should be limited to cases where the rates had risen to such an excessive scale as 5s. or 7s. in the pound, or upwards; and where, consequently, it must be assumed that anew state of things had arisen in the district differing from any which it was ever contemplated the board would have to deal with. In reference to this scheme, too, it would be highly necessary that the paid commissioners should be replaced by elected guardians; but, in any case, it would be for the Government to devise all necessary securities for the due application of such advances. There was no doubt that electoral guardians would not be so attentive to the discharge of their duties, or so generally active, as guardians appointed by the Poor Law Commissioners, and paid for their services. And then it might be asked, how, if you appoint paid guardians, can you possibly reduce the amount of expenses in those districts? It did not at all necessarily follow that the expenses should be kept up in consequence of paid guardians being employed. In many instances it was a matter of unavoidable necessity, but then it did not always entail increased expenses. In one case which he could mention, so great was the improvement in the management of the district, that the expenses were reduced from 690l. to 60l. or 70l. a year. It might be said, an isolated instance would not justify a general principle; and it might be asked, what changes could be devised for the permanent relief of those pauperised districts. Then they should perhaps be driven to the necessity of looking to those moans of general relief, with respect to which, although each was totally different from the other, and calculated for very different purposes, there was more diversity of opinion—more contrary and discordant views, than with respect to any other two subjects whatsoever. Each of those means had warm supporters and zealous partisans, some right in many of the reasons they assigned in support of their views, and others of course egregiously wrong. He need hardly say, he alluded to the two important subjects of emigration and the improvement of waste lands at home. These two remedies, for the relief of such general and deplorable distress as existed in Ireland, were in no manner inconsistent. The papers upon their Lordships' table showed that two cases did exist at that moment, for the relief of which each of those two measures, separately, would be for each form of distress the most appropriate mode of applying relief. Emigration might be resorted to when the population became so superabundant that the soil was incapable of supplying them with sufficient food, and home colonisation when the population was barely sufficient for the cultivation of the soil, but superabundant for the extent of capital employed upon its improvement. People were heard to argue against emigration and in favour of home colonisation, as if one was inconsistent with the other. He admitted that there were many districts in Ireland where emigration might be, and perhaps was, the only mode of leading to permanent improvement in the land. On the other hand, there were districts where the reclamation of the extensive tracts of waste lands, of which so large a part of Ireland consisted, might be properly made the means of relieving and employing the labouring population. As to the cost of emigration, he presumed that the expenses of carrying out an emigrant to one of the British North American colonies could not greatly exceed 3l., or at most 4l. a head. Some three years ago, 4l. was considered a fair average charge per head for carrying an emigrant to any of our American colonies. In the papers before the House it would be found that 1s. 3d. per week was the average cost per head for the maintenance of paupers in Ireland. It therefore appeared that the cost of maintaining a single pauper for one year, being less than 3l. 10s., would be very nearly sufficient to relieve the union altogether from the burden of his maintenance, and enable him to go to another part of Her Majesty's dominions, where he would in all probability be more prosperous, God forbid he should suggest any undue compulsion, or anything of the sort! He did not advocate any extensive system of colonisation or emigration; but where the expenses of transferring a pauper to one of our American colonies so very little exceeded the cost of even one year's maintenance, he thought it would be of advantage to many of the unions to consider the question. He believed it was the opinion, generally speaking, of the paid guardians, who, no doubt, turned their serious attention to the matter, that the removal to another country of a large portion of the poor people of Ireland, instead of increasing the rates, would very considerably reduce them. But then there were districts in which the people might find employment at home. It was a very singular and lamentable feature in the present condition of Ireland, that in many unions there were large districts lying waste and totally uncultivated—not land never brought into cultivation before, but waste and desolate, as an unavoidable consequence of the present unfortunate state in which the country was. The labourers, the tenants, and in many instances persons of some consideration, had collected together the whole of their property, and, without the slightest reference to the claims of the landlord or their other obligations, had, after selling it, emigrated, leaving the landlord large portions of his estate in an abandoned condition, and charged with a large arrear of poor and other rates. What was to become of lands so situated? How could they be let? If they were let to a solvent tenant, his stock would be instantly distrained, and all his property found upon such lands would be seized and sold for the payment of that arrear. The lands would therefore remain waste, and unless something was forthwith done to remedy the evil, it would be perpetuated to such an extent that no remedy could remove or palliate it. He knew of one union, that of Clifden, in which eleven-nineteenths of the land, which was the only source of food for man and beast in that district, were not only lying wholly waste and uncultivated, with large arrears of rates due upon it, but must so be under the penalty that the first man who took any part of that land would of course have his stock immediately seized upon and sold for that arrear. Again, in the union of Ballina, in the county of Mayo, he would refer to a case which might show the condition in which that district was; he meant the case of a Mrs. Bingham, who, although holding a considerable quantity of land, had no means of paying her rates, and had nothing to live upon, being almost in a state of destitution. A portion of the land which was left uncultivated having at length been let to a solvent tenant, the tenant immediately had his whole stock seized upon for the arrears by the Poor Law Commissioners; and that statement was received with much approbation in another place, as a proof of the extraordinary diligence and activity with which the collectors of the poor-rates in Ireland discharged their duties. No arrangement between landlords and their tenantry could obviate that new difficulty. It was not only a dangerous, but a growing, a daily increasing difficulty, and productive of the worst possible consequences. It would greatly increase the number of people who were unable to pay rates—it would render the land less valuable year after year, and entail innumerable disadvantages, not only upon the proprietors and occupiers of land, but upon all classes of society in Ireland. The question was, how could such a difficulty as that be properly met? He was opposed, upon principle, to the proposition of the Government, upon their own responsibility, taking into their possession, or taking into their own hands, the management of large districts of waste lands for the cultivation or improvement of them. He thought such a course was in itself a dangerous thing. In such unions as Kilrush, for instance, where the bulk of the population was not larger than would be necessary to cultivate the land properly, but where there was a large number of paupers and labourers half employed, and consequently on the verge of pauperism, it might be proper to purchase tracts of land, or allow and encourage the landlords to lease it to the Poor Law Commissioners, or to the paid guardians of unions upon certain terms. It might, for example, be proper to permit the guardians to hold their lands free from the payment of rates, that they should be authorised to let them, and that their lessees should likewise be exempted from the payment of rates. That was one mode in which the present alarming obstacle to the cultivation of land in Ireland might be got over. Suppose 100 acres of land now lying waste, and likely to remain so, from the circumstances he had mentioned, were properly cultivated under some arrangement such as he had suggested, would not the advantage accruing not only to the poor-law unions in general, but to the people employed, the proprietors, and the inhabitants, he very considerable? The paid guardians might be at liberty to employ the paupers of the union in the cultivation of the land, or they might be empowered to let it to others free from the present arrears of rates, the payment of which prevented solvent tenants now from incurring the risk of taking it. It might also be arranged that whatever rent was reserved to the landlords should be retained by the guardians for a reasonable time if necessary, and he made available for such rate as the landlord or proprietor in fee should be properly chargeable with, respecting any other portion of his estates. That would in a great measure remove the present obstacle to the cultivation of the soil, and it would greatly facilitate the collection of the rates; because the guardians might apply the rent of such lands as they obtained leases of, to the discharge of rates due upon any other part of the landlord's estates situated within the union, while many solvent persons, who now object to encounter the enormous arrears due, would readily become tenants upon the condition that they should be exempted from the payment of that arrear. He did not say that this mode of meeting the difficulty to which he had adverted was not open to objections; but, at all events, it was susceptible of improvement. It was the only mode he could conceive of bringing the area of Ireland into cultivation, and permanently improving the condition of the people, by employing them. He owed many apologies to the House for having trespassed so long upon their Lordships' patience. But the state of Ireland appeared to him to be so alarming, and the total absence of any fixed principle with respect to the poor-law was so objectionable, that he felt it to be his imperative duty to lay before the House, valeat quantum, the plans which appeared to his mind best and most practicable. He had heard a great deal said about saddling mortgagees and all incumbrancers upon laud in Ireland, with poor's rates; but he thought such a course would be most unjust and impolitic. The consequences would be, that mortgagees would instantly institute proceedings to raise the amount of their mortgages, expensive proceedings would be resorted to, the proprietors of encumbered estates would be crushed or ruined, and no relief whatever would be obtained by such a measure. Whatever might be said with respect to the taxation of rent charges, dowers, annuities, and other charges upon laud created by family settlements in many instances, there was no doubt, if rates were imposed upon such incomes, they would far exceed the whole of the proceeds of many estates in Ireland. He did not wish to express any positive opinion upon the subject, but he thought the suggestions he had made worth consideration. Every one would admit the wide distinction which existed between mortgagees and such incumbrancers as he had previously mentioned. He did not intend, as he had already stated, to offer any opposition to the appointment of the Committee, although he should confess it appeared to him to be a very hopeless mode of meeting the question. The appointment of a Committee—launching them upon such a sea, without rudder or anything else to guide them—was, in his opinion, of no use whatever. It was of the most vital importance that some remedy should be administered—some decisive step taken immediately to arrest the progress of the evil, so that those who still laboured in Ireland to keep their heads above water, in the hope that practical and decisive means would be adopted for their assistance, might know whether they were to be assisted or left to their impending ruinous fate. Above all, he implored their Lordships' co-operation with the landed proprietors of Ireland, who were sinking deeper every day in the scale of society. Their Lordships would expect in return that the landlords of Ireland would use every effort of which they were capable; but impossibilities ought not to be required of them. They were the natural guardians of their tenantry; and if they were suffered to fall—if their influence was paralysed the interests of the people generally must be affected.


had no intention of trespassing on their Lordships at any length; but he should deem himself an unworthy listener to the able speech of his noble Friend who had just sat down, if he failed to offer his humble testimony to the truth of the statement of his noble Friend with respect to the state of Ireland; and he felt confident that the views thrown out by him, when they became known in Ireland, would enhance the high position in which the noble Lord stood in that country, both as a landlord and as an individual. What he (the Marquess of Londonderry) complained of was, that Her Majesty's Government on so important a subject should have proposed no definitive plan. The difference of opinion on Irish matters was so great that the result of appointing a Committee would be, that they would never arrive at any conclusion at all. It would be impossible to devise a remedy for the evils in one part of Ireland which would be equally applicable to others; evidence would be heard from all quarters—different remedies suggested; and the consequence would be that nothing would be done. As a friend of a well-administered system of poor-laws in Ireland, and one who thought that measures might be framed which would remove many of the evils which at present existed, he protested against delay, and implored Her Majesty's Government, especially those who were Irish proprietors, to put their shoulders to the wheel, and bring forward such a measure as would enable landlords who were anxious for the prosperity of their tenantry to make it their own business to superintend and improve the condition of their estates.


had heard with great satisfaction the declaration of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley), that it was not his intention to oppose the appointment of a Committee; and, in fact, if he (the Marquess of Clanricarde) had entertained any doubt as to the wisdom of the course pursued by the Government, that doubt would have been removed by the speech of the noble Lord. The noble Marquess had told them that it would be impossible for a Committee to arrive at any conclusion, in consequence of the difference of opinion which prevailed as to the remedies which the state of Ireland required; but the noble Lord who preceded him, in censuring the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government, certainly had said nothing to induce them to believe that any other course which they might have proposed would have met with his especial favour; and in speaking of remedies to be applied, with all that skill and ability which belonged to him, there was hardly one topic on which he touched on which he would not find a greater difference of opinion than on the proposal of the Government. He differed from the noble Lord in the view which he took of the constitutional duties of a Government. To him (the Marquess of Clanricarde) it appeared no part of the duty of the Executive Government, on every subject concerning the welfare of the country, to propose changes of the law. He knew not where the noble Lord had got that doctrine; and certainly did not think he would find it supported by the best authorities. Undoubtedly where great principles of policy were contested, he agreed that it was quite right for men possessed of that influence in the legislative assembly derived from office, and identified with the advocacy of certain principles, not to shrink from carrying out those principles by means of the support and influence which they enjoyed. But on a question of this kind, where no such principles were involved, he denied that it was the duty of Government to propose special laws to Parliament. The noble Lord had referred to the question of the area of taxation, without, however, pointing out the exact course which he would wish to recommend. He (the Marquess of Clanricarde) denied that the Government had failed to pay attention to that subject. A report had been made on the subject, to which the attention of the Committee would be immediately drawn. He agreed with the noble Lord that it was desirable to stimulate individual exertion in order to provide employment for the people; but it might be carried to excess. He denied that the poor-law had totally failed in Ireland.


said, he had referred only to that part of Ireland with which be himself was connected, and had not alluded to the north of Ireland.


begged the noble Lord's pardon for having given too extended a bearing to his observations; but he felt compelled to say, in spite of all the prejudice which he once felt against it, that the law had worked well in other parts of Ireland besides the north. In the west of Ireland, in 1845, the poor-law was working very smoothly and well. Until the famine came, there had been no just complaint of any extraordinary pressure from the law.


It was not the same law.


But it was the extraordinary circumstances of the country that had rendered the change necessary. He believed that if the Government had proposed that they should at once proceed to legislate on the subject, they would delay instead of expedite its settlement; and he had no doubt but that a Committee would, in that case, have been called for, in order to inquire into many of the alterations which might be submitted to Parliament. He also felt persuaded that any amendment of the law which it might be desirable to adopt, would be more easily carried after the Committee had concluded its labours; and he was, therefore, glad to find that the Motion was to meet with no opposition.


said, that he agreed entirely in the opinion expressed by the Lord President who had last addressed their Lordships, as to the necessity of appointing this Committee. He did not think that Parliament could proceed to legislate effectually without this inquiry; for unless they succeeded in carrying the convictions of the English people with them, he despaired of any effectual legislation upon the subject. In relation to the present state of public opinion, he was far from thinking that they would meet in the opinions of the people of England anything but a kindly feeling towards the people of Ireland; but, at the same time, he regretted to say, they had to struggle against an entire ignorance, on their parts, of the actual state of the facts, and of the law as it had produced that state. He knew that it was very generally said by the people of this country, "We pay our poor-rates; we have our poor-law; we support our poor; and should not the people of Ireland do the same?" This, however, assumed that the state of the two countries was alike, and that the poor-laws of both countries were also alike. Any person who supposed this to be the case, must be as misinformed of the state of the facts as of the state of the law in both countries. Caught by the mere similarity of words, they were led astray from the actual truth. He believed that, if the state of the law as to rating in Ireland were introduced into England, the English Poor Law could not exist one calendar month. He was not prepared to contend that the English law, exactly as it existed in this country, was necessarily applicable to Ireland; but he did contend that it was most illogical to infer, that because the same law might be applied to both countries, two wholly different laws must likewise. The Irish Poor Law and the English Poor Law were the same in name only. If the system of rating adopted in Ireland were introduced into England, the English Poor Law could not last a month. In England, the rates were paid by the occupier; in Ireland they were paid by the landlord when below 4l.; and in other causes were divisible between the landlord and tenant. When the rent and the valuation coincided, the rate was then equally divided; but if the guardians, exercising their power of altering the valuation from time to time, rated the land not at its real value, but at a lower, say a half valuation, the effect of that would be, to throw the whole burden of the rate upon the inheritor or proprietor. But even without a fraudulent reduction of the valuation, the same consequence followed with rates greatly and rapidly rising as at present, the principle being, to deduct the amount of rate from the actual bonâ fide value of the land; so that if the rate rose from 5s. to 10s., the whole burden of the rate was cast upon the landlord alone. In England, the law was so entirely different that no comparison could be instituted as to its operation in the two countries. In Ireland the rate would soon fall exclusively on the proprietors, who were few in number. They would be administered by the many, who would also share in their distribution. If he thought that the appointment of this Committee would lead to any prolonged examination, or that it would relieve the Government from any responsibility in bringing forward some proposition on the subject, he certainly should not have been favourable to its appointment. The first duty of the Committee would be, to ascertain the fact which had been assumed throughout the speech of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), namely, the failure of the present system. This would not require much evidence. Was it possible for any sane man to affirm that it had answered the purpose for which it was passed? It had been said that the measure had failed because of the famine. He admitted that the famine had necessarily severely tried the principle of the measure; but the famine had in this case only placed additional impediments in the way of a law which must of necessity have found difficulties even under the most favourable circumstances; and, for that matter, we should remember that it was the famine which had alone procured the passing of the measure in its present form. He was far from saying that no poor-law was required for Ireland; he would not enter into any such indefensible crusade as to endeavour to obtain the repeal of the Irish Poor Law: but he demanded as an act of justice such amendments in the present measure as should adapt it to the wants and capabilities of his country. He would remind the House that it could not be said this Bill had failed in consequence of any want of local co-operation on the part of the Irish landlords. It should be remembered that the law had been entrusted to the irresponsible control of three vice-guardians, armed with despotic authority, without local bias, and indeed often unacquainted with the character of the parts of the country to which the law was to be applied by them, and having no connexion or interest in the country. He did not, however, mean to make any complaint on this particular head; for he was quite ready to admit that, under the circumstances of Connaught and parts of Munster, that despotism had been attended with beneficial results. But this, equally with all the other features of the measure, required careful investigation. He did not conceive that the failure of the plan could be attributed to any want of local aid in its development. He was disposed to attribute much of its failure to the circumstance that it raised too high in the minds of the people the expectations of the relief to be derived from the measure. There had spread over Ireland an impression that by the operation of this Act all persons who chose to seek relief, under whatever circumstances, were entitled to have it. In fact, the supporters of the measure had practically tended to generate those very theories of socialism and red republicanism, which very many of them held in such utter abhorrence. We condemn these principles in France. We have adopted them against all warning in Ireland. La nation garantie le travail, said Louis Blanc. But this did not mean mere un-recompensed work—it meant wages, and wages affording the necessaries of life. Therefore socialism and red republicanism contemplated the guaranteeing to every member of the nation food, clothing, house, fuel, whenever such member thought fit to apply for these things. This we condemn and ridicule as an impossibility and as a wicked absurdity. But he should be glad to know wherein the guarantee held out, or supposed to be held out, by the Irish Poor Law, differed from the socialist guarantee? The simple truth was, that, in this measure, Parliament had entered into obligations towards the population of Ireland which it had not the means of fulfilling. The promise was a cheat and an imposture. The effect of this law on the population, in a moral point of view, had been most pernicious. Colonel Clarke, one of the assistant inspectors, had, in his report, distinctly stated that throughout his district the clear impression was, that no man need work unless he chose, and that every man had full right to be maintained by the State—an impression fast creating a further impression wholly incompatible with the security of property. His words were as follows:— The doctrine has been publicly preached that a man has no occasion to work unless it so pleases him, but has a right to support for himself and family in the workhouse. Colonel Clarke adds— All principle of right and decency appears to have vanished since the outdoor relief commenced, and the assistant barrister declared from the bench that he had never witnessed such profligacy or wilful perjury as had been exhibited. The noble Lord opposite urged with great force the principle of individualising responsibility; in that principle he (Lord Monteagle) quite concurred; and his view of the objects contemplated by the Boundary Commission was, that they deserved the most serious consideration as involving a practical explanation of this principle. Another point to which the attention of the Committee could not be too earnestly directed, was the injustice now so constantly practised upon landowners, of making a revaluation of their property for rating purposes immediately after large sums of money had been expended upon its improvement. Sound policy, quite equally with justice, required that every encouragement should be given to the men who, perhaps at a heavy sacrifice, applied their capital, their credit, and their energies, to the amelioration of the condition of their country. As it was, so far, being so encouraged, all they got in certain cases by their outlay was, to have their rating augmented in even a greater proportion than the profits arising from that outlay. In order to show the injurious operation of the present system, he needed only to inform their Lordships that a friend of his, possessed of an unencumbered estate, but surrounded by overpeopled and pauperised estates, had given constant employment to between three and five hundred labourers; that there was not a single claimant, still less a recipient of the poor-rate, upon his own demesne estate; and that he was employing his neighbour's poor. Yet he was at this moment paying 10s. or 11s. in the pound for poor-rates, in addition to the amount he was expending on labour; and he had already paid between five and six thousand pounds as rates, over and above what he had paid for labour. It was impossible that this could last. He begged, in the next place, to call their Lordships' attention to the question of emigration. Without emigration, their Lordships might depend on it, and emigration on a greater scale, the frightful problem of Irish distress could never be solved. But it was no less true that the emigration which was at present going on was not at all likely to benefit the country. The movement was chiefly amongst that class of the population which it was the most desirable to retain—the possessors of capital. In that class were included not only those persons who were described as taking away that money without meeting the just demands upon them; but also persons who took away considerable capital after the due performance of their engagements. He was passing through Dublin the other day, and visited one of the emigration offices in that city connected with Liverpool, and in that single office he found, on inspection of the books by the agent, that (independently of the sums taken out in coin, which were so considerable as to attract the notice of the statesmen of the United States) the amount taken out in bills on Boston and New York by emigrants was at the rate of 25,000l annually. This, it should be remembered, was after the cost of passage and outfit, and represented the necessary remittances from one single office. But important consequences followed this emigration. The land which had been held by those emigrants was suddenly thrown upon the landlords' hands; and how were they to make it productive? Their resources were already destroyed by the poor-rate. The labour fund was in their case abortive. Even if it were not so, the case would be much the same. Suppose that the best managed estate in the best part of England—for example, the estate of his noble Friend (Earl Grey), in Nor thumberland, which, as he understood, was a perfect model of what an estate ought to be—were so circumstanced; suppose that all the farmers were to throw the whole of their farms on his noble Friend's hands, and that at a time and under conditions which rendered it impossible for him to get other tenants to occupy them, would it be possible for his noble Friend, from his own resources, to undertake the cultivation of the land in his own person, and at his own cost. It was wholly impossible, on the part of proprietors, to supply the farming capital necessary for the cultivation of deserted lands. Every day the quantity of unimproved and untilled land in Ireland was increasing, and with the diminution of the cultivated land the poor-rates would become larger, and the resources out of which rates could be levied would diminish. It was said by some persons, "Oh, sell the Irish lands, and let them pass into the hands of better men." This was much more readily said than done. To sell, you must find a purchaser as well as a vendor. This was rendered difficult by the existing law. When a Bill was introduced by his noble Friend on the woolsack, to facili- tate the sale of encumbered estates, what had been the result? Though it had passed the House of Lords on the high authority of the Lord Chancellor, his learned Friend's bantling was subsequently changed at nurse, and came back to them another Bill. His noble and learned Friend was, however, kindly willing to accept the paternity, and to take charge of the child. But though it had been thought that the Lord Chancellor's Bill was a despotic anomaly, it was discovered in the Commons that it would not be effective enough to attain the great object of revolutionising the whole state of landed property in Ireland, and extirpating the present proprietors as a useless race, in the hope of substituting gentlemen of capital, intelligence, and power. The Bill was therefore remodelled with this intent. With what result? He asked, what sales had been effected under the Encumbered Estates Act? It was often complained in Parliament, when returns were called for, that delay was produced in consequence of the length and complication of the papers required; but he ventured to say, that, if a return were ordered to be made of the number of estates sold under this Act, no such objection could be made—no delay need take place. He predicted that the return could be furnished by the expenditure of a single sheet of paper, bearing as an inscription upon it the three emphatic letters "Nil." That was all they had obtained from the mighty efforts of the combined wisdom of both Houses of Parliament; and he understood that parties had been equally unsuccessful when trying to sell property without the intervention of the Encumbered Estates Bill. Those of their Lordships who expected to produce by changes of ownership any large and effective deliverance from the calamity which now threatened to overwhelm Ireland, would certainly be disappointed, unless some change were made in the present poor-law. The present state of affairs was certainly fearful. The great bulk of the gentry in the distressed parts of Ireland were actually crushed; day by day habitations which had once been the centres of kindliness and benevolence, the pride and ornament of the country, and which men had been accustomed to regard as proofs of an increasing civilisation, were closing up, or becoming auxiliary workhouses for the increasing pauperism. The time was coming when the bench of justice would be deserted, when there would be no magistrates to administer the law, and no gentry or proprietary to stand between their Lordships and the pauper population; and when the distressed parts of Ireland would, in fact, be converted into one general den of pauperism, governed only by paid officers, acting under the despotic control of the central power. And let not the possessors of property in the more favoured parts of Ireland, imagine that they could long escape. They might struggle against the evil for a time, but the plague-spot would become part of the permanent system, and would extend to all parts of Ireland. England, too, must suffer; for, if not immediately, yet eventually, but most certainly, was the Irish Poor Law an English question. Irish paupers would persevere in their endeavours to find subsistence in England. Their numbers must rapidly augment. All attempts to check this by sending the Irish back to their own country, would only accelerate their arrival, facilitate their journey, and increase their numbers. After earning all they could in England, they would remit what they had saved to their own country, by means of a bank or post-office order, then they would render themselves chargeable, in order to return at the public expense. In conclusion, he must declare that, while he should cordially vote for the appointment of the Committee, it would be by no means with the intention of shielding the Government from the responsibility of propounding such measures as were required by the public interest.

On question, resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned to Monday next.