The EARL of GLENGALL
said, after the very full discussion the measure had undergone upon a former occasion, he should not trouble their Lordships with any lengthened observations. He feared that the measure would prove a failure at the very outset. It proposed to raise a sum of 330,000l. by means of a sixpenny rate in aid. Now it had been ascertained that at the present time the amount of 638 rateable property in Ireland did not exceed 9,000,000l. sterling, and it was evidently impossible that the sum proposed could be raised by means of a sixpenny rate. Besides, there was another Bill which had been brought forward by Her Majesty's Ministers in another place, the object of which was to place upon the great majority of the unions in Ireland a rate of 2s. in the pound. It appeared to him that both these Bills should have gone together, and formed one measure. He had a return before him of the amount required in thirteen of those distressed unions, and he believed that the sum proposed to be raised would not be found sufficient. Taking the sum expended in those unions in 1848, and including the amount of grants, loans, and contributions, it would be found that those thirteen unions would sweep away the whole of the 330,000l., and still leave a deficit. Their Lordships had heard a great deal of the opposition with which the measure was likely to be received in Ulster in the event of its being passed into law. The state of feeling in Ulster with regard to it was, he believed, a very dangerous one indeed, and he thought it would be well if their Lordships would take that matter into consideration before they finally gave their assent to the measure. But, however much Ulster might have to complain of the operation of the Bill, it was nothing in comparison with the complaint which Munster would have to make. It was stated that the majority of the unions in Ulster were taxed about 4s. 6d. in the pound; but he had received a statement from a noble Friend of his, who had recently visited the north of Ireland, and who stated that the average was considerably higher, averaging 5s. 6d. in the pound. Now, few of the unions in Munster were rated so low as 5s., and he happened to know many in the neighbourhood of Cork in which the rate was as high as 9s. 10d. and 11s. in the pound. But suppose 5s. was the average of the rating in Munster, 2s. 6d. more would raise it to 7s. 6d., and whatever right, therefore, Ulster would have to complain, Munster would have a still greater right, as it had already paid more. But there was another point to be considered—out of 130 unions in Ireland, 86 owed last Michaelmas a sum of 268,000l., and were unable to pay off any portion of it, and yet these were what were called solvent unions. In many of these unions there were numbers of the paupers actually dying for want of a suffi- 639 ciency of food, and yet it was proposed to extract from those unions additional sums of money when they were actually unable to maintain their own poor. He had before stated to their Lordships the perfect impossibility of a country so poor as Ireland being able, after three consecutive years of famine, to support its own poor; and he was justified in making that statement when he found that men whose authority was of considerable weight, and who had advocated the introduction of poor-laws into Ireland, had stated that it never entered into their computation that Ireland, when affected by famine, would be called upon to maintain her own poor. With a superabundant population, and a loss of the staple food of the people, none but the merest theorists could have supposed that she would be able to support her own poor. With regard to the present Bill, it was a very curious one. It was a Bill which proposed to work three miracles, and he would venture to say it would break down in all three. In the first place, it proposed to maintain the poor in these 22 or 23 bankrupt unions. He (the Earl of Glengall) maintained that it would do no such thing. The next thing it proposed to do was, that any advances that were made up to a certain amount, to relieve those distressed unions out of the Consolidated Fund, should be repaid through the medium of the sixpenny rate. He doubted that very much; he did not think they would ever see a fraction of it repaid. But the most extraordinary of the three miracles was, that a clause was put into the Bill, which contemplated the possibility of its being a remedy for one of the greatest evils of Ireland—namely, its superabundant population. It purported to aid and assist in emigration, which was one of the most expensive, although one of the best, means of relieving the country of that superabundant population. He ventured to assert that it would not do that. He, for one, was not disposed to object to any reasonable proposition for the relief of the poor of Ireland from the resources of Ireland; but the present measure was altogether a fallacy. Their Lordships would bear in mind that a majority of the Irish Members in the other House of Parliament, and a majority of Irish proprietors in that House, had voted against the measure; and that alone, he thought, justified him in taking the course he meant to submit to their Lordships before he sat down. A noble Lord, whose proxy was generally in 640 the hands of the noble Lords opposite, had, in a letter which he had recently seen, stated that the measure was calculated to peril the existence of the Union between the two countries, and sever the British connexion. He (the Earl of Glengall) wished now to touch briefly upon one or two points connected with the actual condition of Ireland. The landlords—that class which was best abused by those who knew them least—the landlords of Ireland for the last three or four years had not received one half their rent—they had had large quantities of land thrown upon their hands—the most solvent of their tenantry had put their rents into their pockets and had emigrated to America, and that system was unfortunately progressing. The solvent were going out of the country, and the destitute alone remained—a change which rendered the state of the country truly alarming, as the unfortunate persons who had been supported from the poor-rate for the last two or three years, with one allowance of meal per day, had their constitutions so broken down, that the physicians who attended the workhouses thought that multitudes of them would never be in a fit state to labour again. Nor was it to be wondered at that the farmers were leaving the country, looking at the prices which they were about to get for corn and their stock. Sir R. Peel said, in introducing his free-trade measure, that however England might be able to bear them, he very much feared Ireland would be in a very serious dilemma. Never were truer words spoken. In the west of Ireland there were magnificent flour-mills, but they were now standing idle, and had turned off all their hands. The trade with England in flour had employed 100 hands, whereas it now only employed ten. Their Lordships were all aware that the time was when Ireland had a noble trade in provisions. In consequence of changes which had taken place, it was now gone. They used to supply salt beef to the Navy, and enjoyed a colonial trade in that and other articles of her produce; but this was now at an end. Farmers might drive their stock to market, but no one asked the price. The Irish pork trade once produced 1,200,000l. a year, but between the famine and free trade, that trade was also at end; the returns from Liverpool last week stated that Irish bacon and pork were perfectly unsaleable, from the great influx of American pork. The same might be said of the butter trade. Her Majesty's Go- 641 vernment certainly took a most extraordinary view of the condition of the country; for when their own commissioners told them that the country was already overtaxed, the main remedy which they proposed was to increase taxation. This really reminded him of the system of Dr. Sangrado, who, when he was told his patients were dying from overbleeding and hot water, replied that the reason why they were dying was because they had not had hot water and bleeding enough. The only way in which he could account for the conduct of the Government was, that they were acting under the pressure of the Manchester school, who went about preaching that no more advances were to be made to Ireland. The consequence was that the Government said, "We will get rid of this very awkward question by bringing in a measure to tax Ireland. We cannot extract blood out of a stone, but we will bring in this Bill, and when it fails we will come down to the House of Commons and vote for money." If such was not their intention, they were passing sentence of death on the starving poor. He thought he could place this question in a point of view in which nobody had ever put it before. He considered that this was as much, if not more, an English manufacturing question as as Irish one. Ireland, as it was well known, had no manufactures of her own. For many years previous to the famine, Ireland had been in the regular habit of taking between 10,000,000l. and 12,000,000l. worth of manufactures from England yearly. She was, therefore, not a bad customer to this country. He admitted that there were exports from Ireland very much to the same amount in the shape of provisions. There was real freedom of trade and reciprocity between the two countries, and Ireland was doing remarkably well until she was struck down by famine; nay, he firmly believed that there was not one country under the sun which had made more rapid strides than Ireland had during the ten years before the famine. Every article of manufacture used in Ireland came from England, from a steam engine down to a paltry nail. Everything manufactured from iron, copper, tin, silk, cotton, leather, glass, woollen, and earthenware was supplied by England. From the drawing-room of the Peer to the cabin of the Connemara, peasant-English manufactures were indispensable; even the iron pot in which the peasant boiled his potatoes came from England—if there was a 642 shoe among his family, it came from England also. And who, he would ask, was the loser at this moment in consequence of the distress to which Ireland was reduced? Was it not the English manufacturer? Judging from the returns which he had seen for the last year or year and a half, he was afraid that, instead of 10,000,000l., not more than 2,500,000l. or 3,000,000l. worth of English manufactures had been consumed in Ireland during that period. Let the Manchester school recollect that their free-trade system had destroyed the Irish market. They had no manufactories in Ireland, and one reason was, that she had to thank a British Legislature for taking away her manufactures. From the time of Oliver Cromwell down to 1782, the Statute-book was loaded with Acts of Parliament prohibiting Ireland from bringing her manufactures to England—nay, prohibiting them altogether, and cutting them up root and branch. In 1782, when there was a Parliament in College-green, England was compelled to repeal those laws; but it was too late, and the manufactures of Ireland never recovered from the blow which had been dealt to them. These were mere truisms; but if any noble Lord had any doubt upon the subject, he would bring down to the House the names of all the different Acts to which he had referred, and prove that Ireland was not only treated as a colony, but as a conquered country. And then newspaper writers, and theoretical writers who travelled through the country, and got their information from waiters and hostlers at inns, abused Ireland for having no manufactures. The Government had brought forward another measure, a Bill to facilitate the transfer of lands in Ireland, and proposed to place all the property of Ireland in the hands of those triumvirs. He considered it a Bill for the confiscation of landed property in Ireland; but he was not surprised at it, for from the time of Henry II. downwards, nothing but confiscation had been going on in that country. Complaints were made against the Court of Chancery that it was too slow. Slow! of course it was; and God forbid that it should be fast in destroying the interests of widows, children, and remaindermen. He ventured to say, that at present the courts of equity in Ireland were presided over by two lawyers of first-rate eminence, whose judgments gave perfect satisfaction to the country, and those courts were as well conducted as the Courts of Chancery 643 in England. A very deep scheme had been laid to prevent the Government from making advances for Ireland, and it was intended by those who were at the bottom of it, when the land had, by these means, been brought down to a very trifling value, to purchase some portion of the land themselves, and sell it again. If the Legislature wished to facilitate the transfer of land in Ireland, the best mode would be to make some alterations in the proceedings of the Court of Chancery. He recommended their Lordships to keep their eye on this Bill, for they might rely upon it that if the small end of the wedge were now inserted, it would finally uproot the power of the landed aristocracy of England. He called this a measure of confiscation and spoliation—a measure which must separate Ireland from England—a measure which must drive 8,000 Anglo-Irish from the soil, the very men who last year were called the English garrison, and who were the mainstay of the Protestant Church in Ireland. The day that measure passed, their Lordships would, in his humble judgment, destroy the Irish Protestant Church. There were some other points on which he wished to touch; but as he did not wish to fatigue their Lordships, he should do so very briefly. Something had been said about emigration, which might do some good, and he alluded to the subject because the workhouses in Ireland were actually choked with young persons under eighteen years of age. He believed that there were 70,000, 80,000, or 90,000 persons about seventeen years old in the workhouses of Ireland. Then, again, the fisheries in Ireland ought to be encouraged. Drainage, improvements in land, and railways ought also to receive assistance. To show that the people of Ireland had not neglected the duty of self-reliance, he might mention that the city of Waterford alone had raised 100,000l. to forward a railway in their neighbourhood. Many hundreds of thousands of pounds had also been expended in promoting railways in Ireland; but he was sorry to say that they were now at a stand, because no assistance could be given to them from the Exchequer Loan Fund. He should be glad to see agricultural schools established in every barony, and very great good might be done by allowing the proprietors of entailed estates to raise money on their property for the improvement of farm buildings. At present the landlords had no such power. He would conclude by expressing a hope 644 that in bringing forward the measure to which he had alluded, the Government would not induce the people of Ireland to think that England had seized the opportunity of Ireland's distress to injure and deteriorate the property of that country. He moved as an Amendment that the Bill be read a third time that day three months.
§ LORD CREMORNE
declared his intention of voting for the Bill, not because he thought it a good one in itself, but because he considered it the best of the two alternatives which had been offered. It was a measure of vital importance to the existence of the western population; and noble Lords who opposed it took upon themselves a very serious responsibility: were they prepared to offer any substitute? The noble Earl who had just sat down had not proposed any substitute for the rate in aid, though an income tax had been talked of in another place. Now he had no doubt that a rate in aid could be collected all over Ireland at a shilling in the pound; but how was it possible to estimate the cost of collecting the income tax? In proportion as Ireland was a poorer country than England, the cost of collecting the tax would be greater. He thought, therefore, that it would be a small consolation to the agricultural interest in Ireland, when they succeeded in imposing an union tax upon the monied classes, to find that the additional income derived from that tax would not relieve the agricultural interest or the poor, but would go into the pocket of the tax collector. Besides, why, he would ask, should their Lordships suppose that there would be less objection in Ireland to an income tax than to the proposed rate in aid? Only 17 out of 105 Irish representatives sanctioned the principle of an income tax by their vote: he thought then that it would have been useless for the Government to press it on the consideration of the Legislature. That being the ease, there were only two alternatives: either their Lordships must pass this Bill, or permit the population of the distressed unions to perish. He had felt a degree of reluctance in urging these views in opposition to the opinions entertained by many of their Lordships who were connected with Ireland; but he felt that he was bound candidly to state the reasons which induced him to vote in favour of the Bill.
The EARL of DESART
said he could not think that their Lordships were called upon to find a substitute for that measure, 645 if they should think fit to reject it. It was the business of Her Majesty's Government to propose to Parliament the means by which it would be desirable, in their opinion, to meet any national emergency; and it was the duty of their Lordships to reject their proposals if they should believe them to be unjust or inadequate; while they could not be held responsible for the consequences of their having discharged their duty. He was surprised to hear it said that they might as well take one tax as another for the purpose of meeting the existing distress in Ireland; because one tax might be unobjectionable, while another might be open to various objections. He believed that the proposed rate in aid was a most unjust and impolitic measure; and, indeed, if he had had any doubts upon the subject, those doubts would have been removed by the speeches of those noble Lords who had supported the Bill on a former occasion. Those noble Lords had all admitted that the measure was contrary to all sound principles, and had only attempted to justify it on the ground that it had been devised for the purpose of meeting an emergency which made a departure from all ordinary modes of proceeding not only expedient but inevitable. But those noble Lords themselves had confessed that the Bill would be inadequate to the attainment of its proposed object. His noble relative, the noble Marquess opposite, had frankly admitted its inadequacy. Now, he (the Earl of Desart) could understand the conduct of a physician who, in a case of great emergency, should administer a dangerous medicine which might be productive of beneficial consequences; but he could not understand how any physician could administer a dangerous medicine when he was himself aware that it could lead to no good whatever. He certainly could not approve of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with the great crisis which had arisen in Ireland. He found that after three years of that crisis they were then called upon to meet the distress of that country by a measure which, according to the admission even of its supporters, was objectionable in principle, and would in its results be inadequate; while they had brought forward no measure for effecting one of the most desirable of all improvements in the Irish Poor Law, by limiting the area of taxation. The Bill then before their Lordships would, on the contrary, extend the area of taxation to the utmost limits of the island. By doing 646 so, this Bill would, he believed, reduce the industrious and prosperous districts of Ireland to a level with those who were suffering such fearful distress and ruin; and it would render those now in a state of degradation and misery unwilling to exert themselves to improve their condition; and he should therefore feel it his duty to support the Amendment.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHEL
felt that it was a duty which he owed to his country to speak out fully his opinions at this stage of the measure. After hearing the evidence of the various witnesses who had been examined before the Committee of their Lordships, who stated that in their opinion the measure would not work—that it would not produce the amount required—that it would be productive of the most evil effects upon the country—and that it would lead to passive and in some cases to active resistance; and while, on the other hand, no evidence whatever had been adduced in favour of the Bill—he confessed that he was perfectly astonished at the conduct of the Government in pressing forward a measure which by the great majority of the Irish representatives in both Houses of Parliament—which the Irish press of every shade of politics, and the Irish people of every class and from every quarter, no matter of what politics—was considered to be so injurious and so detrimental to the welfare of Ireland. Upon the division on the Bill in one of its previous stages, every noble Lord connected with Ireland, and independent of the Government, had voted against the Bill. There was no precedent for the adoption of such a course either in this or any other country. He would, however, tell their Lordships of two precedents, which might, perhaps, be considered of importance. It was a fact that in Egypt one of the pachas, who was a despot, had imposed a heavy land tax over the whole of Egypt. He found that some parties were unable to pay the tax, and he tried the experiment of compelling those parties who had paid to make up the deficiency. The result was, that instead of the dissatisfied part being benefited, the previously flourishing part fell into a state of decay; the whole country had been impoverished, and the tax had become inoperative. A similar case occurred in India. The East India Company imposed a heavy tax upon cultivated land in that country, and it was then found that in some particular parts the cultivator of the soil was unable to pay the 647 amount of taxation. The East India Company compelled the other districts to make up the amount, and the same result followed, and the whole country had gone to ruin. Those were the only precedents he could find for the course now pursued by Her Majesty's Government, and for which they were now so restlessly endeavouring to obtain the approval of Parliament. Her Majesty's Government themselves knew that this measure would not meet the wants of even the twenty-one distressed unions for whose relief it had been principally framed; and they had it from the mouths of their own witnesses that there were numbers of other unions which were upon the very verge of destitution, and which were struggling hard to maintain their own paupers. The effect of imposing a rate in aid upon those struggling unions would of necessity be to increase the list of the insolvent unions, and to add to the distress of the country. It had been said in the course of this debate that there were 100 unions in Ireland in a state of difficulty. Now there were but 131 unions in the whole of Ireland; and the result of passing this measure would consequently be to throw the rate in aid upon thirty-one of the unions. He did not think that there would be found to be even so many as thirty-one unions able to pay the rate in aid. He was the more convinced of the inadequacy of this measure when he remembered the extreme distress which prevailed in many of the Irish unions. In the workhouse of the union of Fermoy, with which he was connected, there had been, since the 1st of January of this year down to the present time no less than 1,225 deaths. A large portion of the rates which had already been struck could not be collected. In spite of all the efforts of the guardians they found themselves perfectly unable to meet the destitution which existed in that union. There were upwards of 3,000 in the workhouse, and if they could find accommodation for 6,000, it would scarcely be sufficient for the people. When they considered this state of things—and this union was but a fair sample of the others—to what conclusion could they come, but that this measure would prove most disastrous? In many of the unions of Ireland they were perfectly unable to collect the present amount of rates. The Government might impose upon them additional taxes to any amount they pleased—10s. or 20s. in the pound, if they pleased; but they would never be able to 648 collect them. The measure was nothing more than a delusion practised upon the English people, for they would never be able to collect the proposed rate. He could assure their Lordships that although they might order that a further rate should be struck in Ireland, that rate could never be collected in many districts, as there was no money with which to pay it. The failure of the potato crop in several successive years had, in fact, reduced Ireland to a most prostrate condition. He believed the amount of that failure might be fairly estimated at 60,000,000l., oven though each stone of potatoes were only valued at 2d. He believed that upwards of a million of tons of human food had been imported into Ireland, for which hard cash had been paid, so that the total loss to that country caused by the failure of the potato crop could not be estimated at less than 90,000,000l. sterling. The fact at present was this, that money had disappeared altogether from that country. One hardly saw a sovereign in circulation. Even the silver was disappearing, and the amount of the circulation of the bank notes also, thanks to Sir Robert's Peel's Bill of 1844, had become considerably lessened. The circulation of the country had fallen from 7,000,000l. to 4,000,000l.; and indeed there was not enough of money afloat to meet the wants of a population of 8,000,000. How then, he would ask, were poor-rates, or rates in aid, to be paid, if there was not a sufficient circulating medium in the country? Formerly, a farmer might settle with his labouring man by letting him a small cottage, or a piece of ground, and allow his rent for wages; but that was not the case now. The farmer was now obliged to pay his labourer in the English way, and the consequence of the present state of things was that he was totally unable to give any employment, because there was no money in circulation in the country. The result of all this was, that the lands were going out of cultivation; credit was destroyed; no man could get credit now, no matter what number of acres he possessed; the solvent part of the population and the small farmers were all leaving the country, and in a short time there would be only two classes of people left in Ireland—the landlords and paupers—and there would be hardly any ratepayers left. He had opposed that measure before, and he would oppose and protest against it still, because he firmly believed it would be a total failure.
§ LORD STUART DE DECIES
said, that the question before their Lordships seemed to resolve itself into an extremely narrow compass. It was simply this—whether the poor of the bankrupt unions of Ireland were to be preserved from starvation; and if so, what description of taxation or fund could be raised for that purpose. Many of their Lordships had been particularly lucid in pointing out the defects of this measure, hut none of them had pointed out a better mode; and the obvious inference from that was, that they had nothing better to propose; and if that were so, they were bound to support the measure now proposed by Her Majesty's Government. The noble Earl near him (the Earl of Wicklow), had, however, proposed a substitute, in an income tax. The same proposition was, he believed, made in another place, by some of the Irish Members. The noble Lord at the head of the Government took them at their word, called a meeting of them, and positively offered the alternative of a rate in aid or the income tax. When, however, the alternative was left to them, they begged leave to consider the proposition at a more convenient season. Having recently arrived from Ireland, he could confirm the account of the state of the country, and of the terrible destitution referred to by the noble Earl at the commencement of the debate. The present distress of Ireland was infinitely greater than it had been at any former period. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Glengall) had referred to the utter want of all business as furnishing a decisive test of the existing destitution. A better test could not, in his opinion, have been adopted. The farmers who were in the habit of attending the fairs with their stock could not find purchasers for it, and consequently could not pay their rent; and the tradesmen complained generally of the total stagnation of business. So far, however, from this being an argument against the measure, he believed that exactly in proportion to the amount of distress in the country, was it necessary to select that measure which promised to throw the least possible additional burthen upon the resources of the country; and he would state fearlessly, that the measure now proposed by Her Majesty's Government was caculated to throw a much lighter burden upon the people of Ireland than the one proposed by the noble Earl. It was stated in the course of the debate upon the second reading of this Bill, that in the event of this Bill being thrown out, 10,000 persons 650 would probably perish in the next few weeks. He did not believe that number to be exaggerated; on the contrary, he thought that there would be even a greater number than that, who would perish in consequence; and he, for one, was not prepared to share the awful responsibility which would attach to a vote that should produce such disastrous results. He would, however, throw out one observation which he thought it would be worth while for Her Majesty's Government to take into serious consideration—which was, that they should show a little more forbearance in demanding the repayment of advances under the Temporary Relief Act, than they had hitherto done. He had the honour of being connected with an union in the south of Ireland, in the county of Waterford, which was indebted in the sum of 12,000l. The demand made for repayment amounted to two-thirds of that sum; if that demand had been enforced, they would have been compelled to close their workhouse, and to discharge some 4,000 or 5,000 paupers. He believed that if the repayments were spread over a great number of years, it would give greater satisfaction to the people, and perhaps tend to disarm a little of that hostility which was felt generally throughout the country against this measure.
The EARL of WICKLOW
said, that the noble Lord who had just sat down had entirely misunderstood his position in reference to this measure. It was quite true, that in conjunction with the opinions of every man with whom he had conversed upon the subject of this measure, with every Member of the Administration, with the private statements of individual Members of their Lordships' House who had voted in favour of the measure, he had in that House condemned the measure which Her Majesty's Ministers had proposed, and he had endeavoured to suggest to Her Majesty's Government other means by which they could have raised a fund in a more constitutional and satisfactory mode, for the purposes for which this measure was intended, than that proposed by this Bill; but he never ventured to propose to their Lordships that they should adopt an income tax as a substitute for this measure. An income tax for the relief of the poor would be received in Ireland with equally as much odium as the present proposition. What he did suggest, and what he repeated, was, that in order to prevent this dangerous experiment being carried out—this innovation upon the principle of law—this new system of taxation, condemned even 651 by those who proposed it—they ought to act upon a fair, honest, and legitimate principle—they might impose an income tax for the purpose of equalising the taxation of the two countries, and then if they were to have a rate in aid, that it should be one levied upon the whole revenue of the united kingdom, and not upon any one particular portion of it. The English representatives in the other House refused to sanction that principle, because, as they said, Ireland did not contribute her fair share of taxation as compared with this country. Whether that assertion were well founded or not, he would not then stay to inquire. There were persons, however, who were more intimately acquainted with the subject than he was, who entertained a totally different opinion. He would, however, undertake to say, that if their Lordships had had an opportunity of examining the evidence recently given before a Committee of that House, they would find that the assertion that Ireland did not contribute a fair proportion of revenue to the State, was totally and entirely erroneous. He would, however, admit that Ireland, not being subject to the income tax, and that tax having been imposed upon this country since the period at which the calculation of the proportion of revenue to be paid by Ireland had been made, it was his opinion that the income tax having been introduced into England, should also be introduced into Ireland. Let them first impose an income tax upon Ireland for the general exigencies of the State, but not for the relief of the poor, and then adopt the fair, honest, and proper principle, to which no person could object, that if any part of the united kingdom was in such a state of destitution as to require the necessity of a rate in aid, such rate in aid should come from imperial resources. It was upon those grounds alone that he made the suggestions to Her Majesty's Government; but so fully was he persuaded that this measure would work badly, that even in the last stage of the Bill, he would conjure Her Majesty's Government to pause before they proceeded further with the measure. The noble Earl who moved the second reading of this Bill, appeared to support it only upon the grounds that the amount proposed to be received by the measure was a small one, and that its duration would be but for a short period. The noble Earl evidently calculated upon remaining in office, so as to be enabled by his influence to prevent the renewal of the Bill at the expiration of the; 652 two years for which this measure was to remain in operation. But could the noble Earl depend upon that? If the free-trade principles adopted by the present Ministry were to prevail, could they count upon any long tenure of office? Suppose they were to have a Cobden Ministry—he did not suppose that Mr. Cobden would at present have the honour of a seat in that House; but suppose my Lord Roebuck, as Secretary of State, getting up and proposing the continuance of the rate in aid for two years more; and suppose that proposition to be supported by some Members of the Manchester school, of whom they had heard something to-night from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Glengall), how would the noble Earl receive that proposition? One thing, however, he did not consider absurd, which was, that whether his noble Friend should or should not be in the Administration, the renewal of this measure would, two years hence, be propounded; and he believed that it would not be in the power of the Government to relinquish the measure, as the Bill now passing through its stages in the other House would, in his opinion, render its continuance unavoidable. Upon the discussion on that Bill, it was reported in the public papers that a question was put to the First Lord of the Treasury, asking what the Government intended to do after the maximum rate of 5s. and the rate in aid of 2s. were exhausted. What was the answer? The answer was, "We will fall back on the state of things before the poor-law existed." What was that state of things? In the first place, the country then was comparatively wealthy; and it was more than wealthy—it was the most charitable country on the face of the earth. But where is the charity now on which to fall back? They must fall back on the utter destitution of the country, and be driven to renew their rate in aid. If they should find the Commons of that day—two years hence—(seeing they had already succeeded in throwing the burden off their own shoulders) as ready to perform the same service for their constituents again, the result must be starvation in Ireland, or the renewal of the rate in aid. His noble Friend the Postmaster General had told their Lordships that if they did not pass this Bill, 10,000 persons would starve; but that was utterly impossible—it was an argument ad captandum, and the noble Lord could not have reflected much on the subject; but, at the same time, it was utterly impossible that Parliament could separate 653 before passing some measure of relief for the people. The measure which he (the Earl of Wicklow) had pointed out, was the most effective that could be framed; and he trusted and hoped that even at the eleventh hour they would reject the measure before the House, and give to the Government an opportunity of introducing a measure more consistent with sound principles and their own opinions of what was just.
The EARL of ROSSE
thought it was no light thing to pass a measure which was likely to produce in Ireland—the north of Ireland especially—a feeling of disaffection to Her Majesty's Government. The people of the north had been always amongst the most loyal subjects in the country, and had evinced their determination, on a recent occasion, to aid the exertions of Her Majesty's Representative in Ireland. It would be utterly impossible to explain to the farmer in the north of Ireland the justice of inflicting this tax upon him; and were it not for the strong feeling of loyalty by which that body is actuated, it would have been almost utterly impossible for Lord Clarendon to have got through the difficulties he had surmounted. The noble Lord who spoke last but one had adverted to the great calamity by which the people of Ireland had been visited; but were they therefore to destroy the state of things that now exists in the north of Ireland? That state of things was created by the frugality and industry of the people; and it was impossible to expect that men who had produced their present prosperity by the exercise of those eminent qualities should make a provision for the rest of Ireland. Acquainted as he was with men in the north of Ireland, he could not consent to give a silent vote on this occasion.
§ The EARL of CARLISLE
having had an opportunity, by the indulgence of their Lordships, of making a very lengthened statement of the reasons which had induced him to support the present Bill, and of stating very fully the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government urged this measure upon their immediate consideration, he felt it would not now be necessary for him to occupy much of their attention. And as it appeared to him that the proposition to which he now asked their assent rested on a very simple basis, though one, at the same time, of most irresistible urgency, he felt he could do nothing in this last stage of this, if unusual, yet, as it appeared to him, most indispensable 654 measure, hut declare (while fully admitting its unwelcome character) his conviction of its absolute necessity. With respect to the objections that had been urged, both on a previous occasion and during that night's discussion, to the measure before them, they had not sought to deny the faults which, to a certain extent, attached to it. His noble Friend the President of the Council had stated to their Lordships that it was the opinion of himself and his Colleagues, that this measure could only be justified by what they considered a serious, unprecedented, he might say unparalleled, emergency; but he added that it would be followed by other alterations in the existing poor law, and that the operation of this measure should be strictly limited to the period assigned to it in the Bill. The noble Earl who spoke behind him had hinted at the possibility of his noble Friend the President of the Council not being, when that period arrived, a Member of Her Majesty's Government. He (the Earl of Carlisle) could only say, that if by any misfortune they should be deprived of the assistance of the noble Marquess in the Government to which he was so much a strength and an ornament, he trusted that their Lordships would remember that the same announcement of the same determination respecting the duration of the measure had been made in terms as explicit by the head of the Government elsewhere. The noble Earl had held out to their Lordships the terrible prospects that might follow the destruction of the Administration, and had shadowed forth the sort of persons that might succeed them; but he (the Earl of Carlisle) could not think that visionary and farfetched apprehension could be matched with the awful certainty with which they had to deal. Her Majesty's Ministers asked the sanction of their Lordships on the final stage of this measure, on the ground of its urgent, awful, and unsurmountable necessity—he could not qualify it with words less strong. It might be said that they might go on as they were now going on, issuing sums of money; and, what sounded still more strangely to his ears, they had been told that the scruples about advancing money without the authority of Parliament (the House of Commons being at the same time in full Session) was mere constitutional twaddle. How the shade of Rockingham would be astonished at the suggestion! But as the matter had been referred to, he would state explicitly, and his Colleagues in the House of Commons 655 had already said enough to render it unnecessary for him to do more than to repeat his former declaration of opinion, that it would be inconsistent with the duty which the responsible advisers of the Crown owed to the country, if they were to have advanced money under any other than a full understanding that the Bill now before the House was, with the least possible delay, to become the law of the land; and now, until it should become law, he did not think that the Government could safely proceed a single step in the advances necessary for the poor of Ireland. For himself, he must be permitted to say, that although he could not consciously abandon a large number of his fellow-countrymen to all the horrors of starvation, he still did not see his way very clearly how that appalling result could be prevented, if the Bill now before their Lordships were to be rejected. A noble Earl had referred, in the course of the discussion, to an income tax; but no one seemed inclined to further that proposition. The noble Earl had stated with perfect truth that his view of a substitute that might be suggested, was not to propose a property tax for the actual relief of the poor in Ireland, but that with a view to equalise the taxation of the two countries a property tax should be levied in Ireland, and paid into the Consolidated Fund, and that the relief of Irish poverty should be provided for by issues from the imperial exchequer. There was nothing unfair in that proposition, and it was one the Government would not be averse to entertain, if they thought they had a prospect of carrying it through with any success. But even supposing the objection to the imposition of a property tax in the present circumstances of Ireland could be got over—admitting there was time in the remainder of the Session to pass the Bill—he would put it to their Lordships whether now, when the other House of Parliament was engaged in the anxious consideration of other measures deeply affecting the permanent prosperity of Ireland—when they were engaged in discussing the alterations it might be proper to adopt in the poor-law, and whether any regulations could be made to facilitate the transfer of land, a subject alluded to in terms of alarm by the noble Earl who commenced the discussion that night, and who uttered a solitary expression of disapprobation against that measure—when the other House of Parliament was engaged in the consideration of other important subjects, tending, he trusted, to a salutary solution of the 656 state of distress in which Ireland is involved—would it be wise, or would it be prudent, to throw before them such a bone of contention as the propriety now, for the first time, of imposing a property tax on Ireland? With regard to the efficiency of the present measure to meet and counteract the distress of the Irish people, he could only say that the Government had brought it forward with the hope that it might be effectual; but as to declaring that this measure, or any other measure, could be pronounced to he adequate for the distress of Ireland, it was impossible for any human foresight to make that calculation. It must depend on a great variety of circumstances, on the nature of the general harvest, particularly the nature of the potato harvest in this and the next year. There were circumstances to which he need not call attention, which in one mode or other must disturb such anticipations or calculations. It might be affected one way or the other by the amount of emigration, or, in a more painful way, by the prevalence of disease and by the rate of mortality. The noble Earl who had opened the night's discussion said that they proposed to effect three miracles by means of this Bill; but he could assure him that Her Majesty's Government did not attribute any miraculous powers to the measure; and so far from expecting that it would be brought into operation as a miraculous agent, he should feel no surprise even though all the probable results should fail to be realised; but they had brought it forward with an honest intention, as the readiest means at hand, to meet an appalling emergency. In that hope they proposed it as the best measure that under the circumstances they could hope to carry, or hope, when carried, to bring into effective operation; and he would put it to the humane consideration of their Lordships not to shut the door to any measure of relief that was ready furnished to their hands. The noble Earl who spoke opposite, had borrowed an illustration from Egypt, more recent than the times of the Pharaohs, and said that when two districts in Egypt were much impoverished, the Pacha called upon the third to supply the deficiency; but if the doctrine had then been carried to the full length which the opponents of the Bill now demanded, the whole of the Ottoman empire would have been taxed for the relief of that single Egyptian province, because Egypt was held to be an integral portion of the Turkish dominions. Another noble Earl opposite had told them that Her 657 Majesty's Government were responsible for the proposition of the measure; but those who opposed it were responsible for the decision they came to. The proposition of Her Majesty's Government was caused by the existence of distress of a most appalling character; and upon their Lordships would lie the responsibility of opening the door of relief, or rejecting this measure. Let it not be thought that he wished to use the language of threat in their Lordships' House: very different was his intention. During the debate upon the present question they had heard much said on the subject of the poor-law generally. At one time there was an objection to the administration of the poor-law—at another to the extension of outdoor relief. Accusations were made sometimes against the Government, sometimes against the Poor Law Commissioners, sometimes against the priests, and sometimes against the people. He had no doubt that all those parties might have fallen into errors, and he lamented the mistakes that had been committed; but in the present case, at least, there could be no doubt that every effort of legislation and government proved almost powerless—that the events taking place in Ireland seemed to depend upon a higher agency and a more powerful control than that of man. As in "the tale of Troy divine," where these pregnant lines which attribute the fatal course of events to divine control, may be lawfully transferred to what, under a true faith, we now impute to the immediate interference of an overruling Providence:—Non tibi Tyndaridis facies invisa Lacœnœ, Culpatusve Paris; Divum "—he used the reading of Dr. Bentley, almost as much inspired as the original:—Divum, inclementia Divum,Has evertit opes, sternitque à culmine Trojam.It was in the face of this Heavensent calamity, this blight of nature—this suspension of the usual productive qualities of the soil, which, however increased by other causes or aggravated by other symptoms, had reduced Ireland to a state of suffering and despair that never before was exhibited even in her own disastrous annals—it was under those circumstances that while he admitted the undue amount of pressure that was thrown upon the other districts of Ireland—while he did credit to the laudable exertions which for the first time under the new poor-law she had been called upon to make—he would call to their mind that to meet this sudden desolation 658 the Imperial Treasury had already poured out advances amounting to 10,000,000l. sterling—that private benevolence had supplied 1,500,000l. more—that there was not a dependency or colony of the British Crown that had not given contributions—and that even foreign countries had swelled the stream of golden bounty to relieve the distress and suffering of Ireland. Under these circumstances he did not think it could be a permanent source of ill-will or hostility in the Irish mind that in such a state of things they should call upon the more favoured districts of Ireland to contribute 6d. in the pound—to contribute a sum with respect to which one of the complaints was, that in the whole period of two years it was not likely to amount to more than one-half a million—to contribute this limited sum for a limited time, with a promise not to renew it, in aid of their famishing fellow-countrymen, and for the relief of a calamity for which they had received such general and universal sympathy from every other possible quarter.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
supposed that it was because Her Majesty's Government were unwilling to excite hostility and dislike in the Irish mind, that they did not venture to suggest the infliction of a property tax on Ireland. His noble Friend rejected the idea—he trembled at the idea of imposing a property tax on Ireland; his noble Friend chose rather to incur that dislike which is present and active, and to endeavour to impose, not upon the property of Ireland but on the poverty of Ireland, this rate in aid. Their Lordships would recollect that the property tax would be levied on property alone, but the rate in aid now proposed to be levied would be levied upon poverty as well as upon property. Did not his noble Friend know, or if he did not know, there were others who could inform him, that amongst the humbler class of ratepayers in Ireland, there were many persons in as deplorable a state as those receiving relief? And yet from such persons as these it was expected by means of the Bill now before them to extract a sum of 320,000l. But then his noble Friend told them that the measure was only to last for the next two years; but his argument merely came to this—his noble Friend used it as an inducement to pass this Bill. But what would this Bill do? It only professed to produce 320,000l. in the present year; and yet his noble Friend, at the same time, told them that no human being could anticipate what the demand would be that they would be called 659 upon to meet. His noble Friend told them that the necessity of the case was urgent and imperious, and no doubt it was; and if he (Earl Fitzwilliam) thought there was no other alternative, why then he would be undoubtedly driven, under this dire necessity, to vote in favour of this measure. His belief, however, was, that if this Bill did not pass, not a human being more in Ireland would perish. His noble Friend had said that hundreds and thousands of persons were at this moment perishing from want, notwithstanding the poor-law; and he (Earl Fitzwilliam) thought they would perish notwithstanding the rate in aid. The effect of the measure would be, that instead of relieving the distressed unions, they would reduce all the unions in Ireland to a common level, whatever that might be. Whatever might be the general rate necessary for maintaining the poverty of Ireland, the effect of the Bill would be to reduce the whole of the country to the same rate of payment. That would be a very great evil, and have a great tendency to prevent the due administration of the law. In many quarters in Ireland the law is now administered in different degrees—in some it is well administered, in many it is moderately administered; but the effect of this measure must be to cause a common level of pressure all over the country. Many thought that the effect of this measure must be to throw all the unions of Ireland under the administration of paid guardians, and he was not going to dispute the fact. It might frequently happen that the substitution of paid guardians instead of the original guardians might be attended with benefit; but though he admitted the substitution of vice-guardians, in many instances, had been an improvement in the administration of the law, he was still of opinion—and he apprehended that everybody connected with Ireland would agree with him in the opinion—that it would be a very great misfortune to the administration of the poor-law, if other portions of the country were to be thrown into the hands of vice-guardians. The system of appointing vice-guardians was rather an unconstitutional one. The noble Lord was very much shocked at the notion of advances being made without the consent of the House of Commons; but he (Earl Fitzwilliam) begged leave to say that hereditary constitutionality was quite as much shocked at the idea of those vice-guardians, having no connexion with the country, but sent down from Dublin by the Poor Law Commissoners, being empowered 660 to determine the amount of rate, and to levy the rate, and, in default of payment of the rate, to distrain the person that ought to pay the rate. That was as unconstitutional on a small scale as it would be unconstitutional on a large scale to give money without the will of Parliament. He always thought that taxation and representation should go hand in hand; but were that the history of the present Bill, where was the representation? Out of the 105 representatives from Ireland in the Imperial Parliament, no less than 80 Members voted against this Bill. There was, therefore, taxation without representation. There was another alternative referred to, which was not taken into consideration; he alluded to that which had reference to a property tax. When in the Committee that was appointed to consider the Irish poor-law, he had moved a resolution pointing out that it would be better to impose an income tax on Ireland; a considerable majority of the Committee voted with him; but he was a little surprised when he found that his noble Friend now sitting at the table was one of those who voted against the proposition. He (Earl Fitzwilliam) begged leave to say, that when the alternative was between one mode of taxation and another, or rather when there were two modes of taxation suggested for the purpose of relieving the destitution of the country, the odium of opposing the second alternative was much greater than that of opposing the first. He would oppose this Bill because there was another alternative; but if this Bill were thrown out, he would then most undoubtedly feel himself bound to support some other alternative. He would put the matter in this way. Suppose they were first called upon to discuss the question of a property tax or starvation, and that the House had thrown out the measure for a property tax, why then the case would be very different. It would be a question whether, under the circumstances, their Lordships would be justified in opposing the rate in aid; but it is now the first alternative proposed, and they felt there was a better alternative; and if the House should reject this Bill, they Would be prepared to support what they considered to be the better alternative. If his noble Friend would try the experiment, he would find that there would be very little opposition to the second proposition. He (Earl Fitzwilliam) had not the slightest doubt that if his noble Friend were to withdraw this Bill at the eleventh hour, a substitute would be 661 found, and that substitute none of their Lordships would feel themselves justified in opposing. He would take the resposibility of voting against this measure, with confidence, in so doing, that he would not risk the life of one single person in Ireland; for if the measure were rejected, a week would not elapse when Her Majesty's Government, cast upon their own resources, would very easily find a substitute to which no man could make any objection.
§ On the Question that "now" stand part of the Motion:—Content 37; Not-content 29: Majority 8.662
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|The Lord Chancellor.||BISHOPS.|
|Shaftesbury||Say and Sole|
|Strafford||Stuart de Decies|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS.|
|Earl of Yarborough||Earl of Enniskillen|
|Earl Fitzhardinge||Lord Sandys|
|Earl of Effingham||Earl of Waldegrave|
|Bishop of Durham||Lord Rossmore|
|Lord Portman||Lord Egmont|
|Archbp, of Canterbury||Lord de Freyne|
|Earl Spencer||Earl of Ellenborough|
|Earl of Zetland||Viscount Lorton|
|Earl of Scarborough||Earl of Sandwich|
|Lord Poltimore||Earl of Wilton|
|Earl Cornwallis||Viscount Beresford|
|Earl of Suffolk||Viscount Gage|
|Earl of Sefton||Earl of Malmesbury|
|Duke of Devonshire||Marq. of Londonderry|
|Lord de Mauley||Lord Southampton|
|Earl of Lovelace||Lord Grantley|
|Lord Sudeley||Lord Stanley|
|Viscount Ponsonby||Earl of Selkirk|
|Lord Colborne||Earl of Ranfurly|
|Viscount Clifden||Lord Brougham|
|Viscount Hardinge||Viscount Combermere|
|Earl Fortescue||Lord Redesdale|
|Lord Montfort||Lord Colchester|
|Earl of Cawdor||Earl of Bandon|
|Earl of Morley||Lord Downes|
|Lord Elphinstone||Earl Nelson|
|Marquess of Donegal||Earl of Cardigan|
|Lord Crewe||Marquess of Abercorn|
|Duke of Bedford||Earl of Eglinton|
§ Resolved m the Affirmative.
§ Bill read 3a accordingly, with the amendments; further amendments made.
§ Bill passed.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.