The EARL of DESART
said, that in bringing forward the resolutions which he proposed for their adoption, he must entreat their Lordships to allow him to remind them of the vital importance to Ireland of the question of outdoor relief. 1146 It was a question upon which hung, not the prosperity of any one class or interest of the people of Ireland, but the very existence of all interests, ay, and of property and of life. In order to lay clearly before their Lordships the ground on which he proposed the resolutions for their adoption, it would be necessary to take a brief retrospect of the causes of the terrible state of some parts of Ireland, which had been truly described in the petition from Ballinasloe, which had that evening been presented by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), and of the legislative blunders which had accelerated the catastrophe. When their Lordships met in 1847, an unexampled calamity pressed upon the united kingdom, of which the noble Marquess opposite had said—in the most able speech which he then delivered—that, since the period of authenticated history, he could not remember any calamity falling upon a civilised country so great as that which had fallen upon Ireland. The measures then passed were of a temporary nature, and he would not dwell upon them. Disastrous as they were in some respects, he would not allude to the Public Works Act and others then passed, with a view to the immediate though temporary relief of the people, but proceed at once to that which was permanent, the most fatal of all, under which, not one particular interest, but all Ireland was now groaning—he meant the extension of the Poor Law. That law had been originally passed when it was supposed the country was in a sound social condition; and had that been so, it would have done no harm, and, had it been worked well, would have originated no abuses. But it must be remembered, that it was passed without the contemplation of outdoor relief; nay, there were most stringent provisions against it. Their Lordships would remember that it was passed with the universal concurrence of all parties; but it was agreed with equal unanimity, upon the experience of England herself, that outdoor relief was a most expensive, a most unmanageable, and a most objectionable system, and that all its evil would be aggravated a hundred fold if it were introduced in Ireland. Notwithstanding this, in the summer of 1847, when the country was still smarting under the great calamity which had shaken every interest and had annihilated many—when in some districts the existence of any poor-law at all was a doubtful problem—when the state of the country called for different 1147 and far more comprehensive measures, and a more active and energetic legislation, the system of outdoor relief was inflicted upon Ireland. Did their Lordships consider for what they brought these dangers upon that unhappy country? Did they calculate that, while they passed a measure which must increase in every respect the danger and difficulty of the struggling unions, they were passing one which was totally inadequate to meet the crisis? Did they incur these great dangers without the hope of any satisfactory result? How could they expect at that time, with tenants destitute of capital, and deprived even of their own sustenance by famine, and enervated by the idle and demoralising effect of the public works—with landlords with tenants that could pay no rate, and with their lands charged with an accumulated load of debt—that either could come forward and save the country? The consequence of this fatal experiment had been a total and entire failure, and he would prove it a failure throughout the country—a more gradual failure in the struggling districts, and a miserable and immediate failure in the distressed districts. He trusted to be pardoned for troubling the House with a few facts, gleaned from papers which had only been laid on the table two days. He thought they would give ample proofs that the warnings of those who were connected with Ireland, honestly conceived and strongly urged, ought to have been more listened to. He would mention, first, that in the statistics laid on the table—and which, he must say, he had expected, from what had at different times been hinted by noble Lords opposite, would have worn a different aspect—there was but one fact from which the most sanguine could derive any cause for hope, and that was the fact that there was a small decrease in the number of persons who had received outdoor relief. In the year ending September, 1849, there were 99,000 fewer people than in the year ending September, 1848, receiving outdoor relief; but in the same period there were 30,700 more who had received indoor relief. The latter fact, in his opinion, completely annihilated the former as a ground for hope in any improvement in the condition of the country, and he would show them why. In his own union, when they were enabled to put 700 persons additional on the indoor list, the outdoor relief list was immediately reduced to the extent of 6,500. The reduction of 99,000 1148 was therefore fully explained by the fact, that 30,000 more were compelled to become indoor recipients. While, therefore, this reduction afforded no real grounds for congratulation, every other portion of the statistics suggested the most desponding feelings. The total expenditure for the support of the poor in the year ending September, 1849, was 2,097,000l., while in 1848 it was only 1,800,000l. There were, besides, enormous debts, owing to contractors for supplies of food, and to private creditors for establishment expenses, leaving out of consideration altogether the heavy debt due to the Government. He found this debt, in 1848, was only 268,000l., while, in 1849, it was 513,000l. But, what would their Lordships say when he told them that, in 1848, the total number of unions in debt was but 49, while, in 1849, the number was swelled to 105l That showed that the amount of debt was not only increased, but that all those unions had been sunk from the level of solvency to that of the unions in debt. These figures were bad enough, but they did not give those unacquainted with Ireland a sufficient idea of the depths of misery to which, for the most part, she was sunk, and the utter destruction and annihilation of capital and hope which reigned throughout the country. They did not show the poor-rate collector going from house to house, and seizing, not produce, but capital; going from cottage to cottage, and taking away the poor man's cow, his horse, his pigs, or even his seed, and oftentimes wringing from the peasant the last great which he had to sustain himself and his family. Was this a prosperous state of things? And yet this was what was done in the most prosperous districts of Ireland. He would not now select the union of Kilrush, the miseries of which were in everybody's mouth; but he would take the first in the list, which happened to be the largest union in Ireland, Ballina. In 1848, when it was in a comparatively flourishing state, its expenses were 52,700l., and to pay this there was collected only 10,000l., and the deficiency in the former year was 3,600l. The union had then been assisted by Treasury advances to the amount of 36,000l. Was that state of things improving? The accounts of this union were but too faithful a reflex of most others in Ireland. He found that in September, 1849, the balance in the bank was 5l. 1s. 1d., and against this was—due to contractors, prin- 1149 cipally for bread, 12,030l.; salaries due, 1,549l.; establishment debts, 4,785l.: making a total of debt, 18,364l., exclusively of a debt to the general Bank of Unions of 221,866l.; and to pay this 18,364l. they had a balance of 5l. 1s. 1d. This would give some idea of the hopeless condition of these unions. He found that in the week ending the 22nd July, the balance to meet the expenses of twenty-two unions was 0l. 0s. 0s.—[A laugh]—and the amount of expenditure authorised that week was 15,059l. It was, for these twenty-two unions, in the weeks ending August 21, balance, 4l.; authorised expenditure, 14,750l.; August 28, balance, 4l.; authorised expenditure, 14,933l. What could be done? What hope was there for the rest of Ireland with these plague-spots existing in her heart? How could they expect capital to be invested, or even emigration to be less from these districts? If a man had been fortunate to save anything from his small pittance, he would fly from the land, and would that help to maintain the miserable and half-starving, demoralised population that were left? This was a gloomy prospect; but he could prove that it was a true one in every respect. He knew the difficulties were great, but he regretted most deeply that more decided steps had not been taken. They proceeded on a right principle when they said that every district should support its own poor; but he (the Earl of Desart) was more consistent than they, because he said that every district ought to support its own poor, and the poor of no other district besides. Districts ought not to be called on to support the pauperism of other districts over which they had no control; that would only sink those who were solvent to the common lot of bankruptcy. Gloomy, however, as were these prospects, the difficulty must be faced, and boldly faced. But how? There were three classes of districts in Ireland with which they had to deal—the solvent, the struggling, and the insolvent. The first two might be regarded as oases, in which only was there any hope of contending with the sterility around. He implored the Government and the House to do all that they could to assist the struggling districts, and to consider solemnly whether it was possible they could contend successfully against the system of outdoor relief, but rather whether it would not drive capital from them, render their exertions futile, and overwhelm them with difficulties. 1150 They should do their utmost to encourage improvements by arterial drainage, and by any other means which would give employment to the masses of pauperism now living upon the poor-rates. He had had a letter that day from a house in the City, saying that it was next to impossible to borrow money on any Irish property; and the Government, while it took for itself such security of the land which it considered safe, should offer its collateral security to the capitalist, or no money could be obtained to expend in drainage, or any other employment of the poor. He must turn to a darker side of the picture yet. How were they to deal with the insolvent districts? What did these require? What must they have? They required the direction of their labour, now employed only in receiving its dole out of the English treasury, into some productive channel, and by the emigration of those who were unwilling to assist by their labour in the regeneration of their own districts. It had been proved by experience that no private individual would risk his capital, and the Government must, therefore, step out boldly with some offer of security. If they would not, they might fold their arms at once, and see Ireland sink into a land of pauperised desolation. There was one circumstance of great aggravation, respecting which he could not refrain from expressing his opinion. By their prices being reduced, and the only market for their own staple being destroyed by foreign competition, the last ounce had been put which broke the camel's back. The recent commercial legislation had reduced the prosperous to despair, and annihilated the struggling. They were told that, by these measures, nothing was contemplated but plenty and cheapness; the result had been, that they had the labourers as paupers to support on their sixpenny worth of Indian meal, instead of their getting their own livelihood by their labour. If such were the results of cheapness and plenty, he would willingly forego their benefits. He simply called upon the House by their resolution to echo the opinion unanimously expressed by their own Committee last year—merely to confirm that, by their voice, which the experience of England and Ireland had proved, namely, the mischief of outdoor relief; and by pledging themselves to that opinion, to give hopes to the people of Ireland of some great and comprehensive measure to meet the distress that pressed upon them. He hoped they would not consider this a ques- 1151 tion of party, but look merely to the facts which he had laid before them. The system had continued three years, and having been found most disastrous, he wished the House to pledge itself to the consideration of such new measures as the extraordinary and increasing distress of the country seemed to require, and therefore begged to move the following resolutions:—1. That under the Provisions of the existing Poor Law, the Resources of many Districts have been found utterly inadequate for the Support of the Population; and that while the Act has thus failed to accomplish its Purpose, it has produced Bankruptcy and Ruin in some Districts, has driven Capital out of the Country, and has enfeebled and paralysed the Efforts of both Farmers and Landlords.2. That it is the Opinion of this House, that these Mischiefs have resulted from the Extension of the Poor Law of 1838, and the Adoption of a System of Outdoor Relief, at that Time not contemplated; and it is further their Opinion that no permanent System for the Relief of the Poor can be carried out in Ireland safely and beneficially to Receivers or Payers, without a Return to the Principle of the original Law, by a strict Application of Indoor Relief to all Classes of Paupers.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
said, the noble Earl had, in distinct terms, and certainly not at greater length than the importance of the subject deserved, proposed two resolutions, which, however, it would be his duty to oppose. He would state the grounds upon which that opposition would rest. The object of the resolutions appeared to be simply to condemn the adoption of the principle of outdoor relief. He would, in the first instance, re-call to the recollection of the House that on every occasion when the poor-law had been the subject of discussion, both previously to its introduction and on the various Bills for amending and extending it the admission of the principle of outdoor relief had been always justified upon no other ground than that of inevitable necessity. He at least had never justified it upon any other ground. The noble Earl had stated there were other more vigorous and comprehensive measures which had been suggested in its place; but as he had not specified what those vigorous and comprehensive measures were, he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) was at a loss to know by whom they were suggested, or in what quarter they were to have been looked for when Parliament adopted what he admitted was a hazardous expedient in a country so situated as Ireland. The noble Earl had done him the honour to refer to a speech of his delivered some years ago, in 1152 which he described various measures that were, at that time, in the contemplation of Her Majesty's Government to be proposed to Parliament; but the noble Earl must also do him the favour to recollect that in opening those measures, he expressly stated there were only two of them, upon the beneficial effects of which he himself placed any confident reliance. Those two measures had since been adopted, and he felt perfect confidence in their successful results. One was for making advances for the improvement of land, and the other the measure for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates. After the experience of three years, he had not then any occasion to retract any of the opinions he expressed at that period; for, fortunately, he was prepared to state that the first had already had a most beneficial effect in laying the foundation for various improvements in many districts of Ireland; and the other, the Act for facilitating the sale of incumbered estates, was only just coming into operation; but he was persuaded that its effect would be, notwithstanding what the noble Earl had said, to attract capital to Ireland, and to excite a spirit of enterprise and speculation which would be highly beneficial to that country. The noble Earl might say, "Why, then, did you incur the hazard of admitting the principle of outdoor relief?" The only answer he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) could give, was the necessity of providing for the preservation of human life, and the desperate circumstances of the case. What other plan but outdoor relief could they have adopted? Ireland was then like a ship in a tempest, as unexpected as it was violent; and there was no other resource but outdoor relief. Hundreds of thousands of people would have perished under its effects, beyond those who actually fell victims to the famine, had not outdoor relief been resorted to; and he was not prepared to say, even with all the abuse which had attended its administration, that he should have been content to purchase exemption from that abuse by the actual destruction of hundreds and thousands of lives. At the same time he admitted it was the duty of Parliament and the Government to watch the operation of a principle so pregnant with danger; and, so far as means had been provided for that purpose, watchful care had been exercised. But it was impracticable to do so effectually without the operation of the workhouse test; and the application of the workhouse test, to the extent required 1153 among so vast a population, was impossible. Without that test in a population so extensive, so scattered, and, he was sorry to say, so habituated to deception and fraud, as that of Ireland, no degree of vigilance could prevent persons who were not entitled to relief from obtaining it. But he had, within the last few days, received a letter from one of the local inspectors, Captain Clarke, who stated that in twelve out of the fourteen unions in his district outdoor relief had ceased. In twelve unions it had been extinguished, and in two it had never been adopted. He had also the satisfaction of stating, that no order for outdoor relief was now in operation under the sanction of the Commissioners. It had often happened, he believed, that guardians had not exercised a sufficient degree of vigilance in the administration of outdoor relief, and that there had been frauds committed in consequence; and it might also happen, when the system was extinguished, that in particular districts some sort of indirect relief of this kind would be given. But the Poor Law Commissioners would call the attention of the guardians to it hereafter, in order to prevent that species of fraud from being practised. He had now, however, the satisfaction of stating that outdoor relief as well as indoor relief had been materially diminished in Ireland. Not only had the amount of outdoor relief decreased, but the number of inmates in the workhouses had diminished. Since the last returns were made, there had been a great, he had almost said a marvellous, diminution in the numbers receiving relief. He would state how the country stood in this respect up to the very last moment at which the account could be received from Ireland, namely, the 2nd February. He would take the week ending Saturday, February 2, with the corresponding week in the year 1849. The numbers of persons relieved in the week ending February 2, 1850, were 124,621; in the corresponding week in 1849 they were 546,407. This account included outdoor as well as indoor relief, and it showed a diminution in favour of this year of more than three-fourths. How, then, stood the question of expenditure? In the same week in 1849, the cost of relief all over Ireland was 14,081l.; in the same week this year, 1850, it was 2,673l., making a difference for the better of more than four-fifths. The noble Earl would admit that this was not only a very great change as regarded the present, but also as regarded 1154 the prospects of the future. It might be said that this was a sudden diminution, and therefore not to be depended upon. He felt the force of that argument, and, in order to guard against it, he had referred to the returns for the months previous. From these returns he found that from the month of October there had been a progressive diminution in the expenditure, as compared with the corresponding months in the previous year. For example, in October last, the expenditure had decreased 18,000l., in November it had decreased 40,000l., and in January, 70,000l. It appeared also, from the documents in his possession, that the mortality both in and out of the workhouses had greatly diminished; there was more of comfort and health among the people; and whilst these great objects had been effected, the number of persons requiring relief was infinitely less than it had been before. There was another view to be taken of this subject, which was equally satisfactory. The part, of all Ireland, in which this progressive improvement was most marvellous, was that very part which had most intensely excited the commiseration, and almost the despair, of those who had been called upon to deal with its misery—he meant the province of Connaught. Frightful indeed had been the desolation among the inhabitants of Galway, Sligo, and other places in that district; but a rapid amelioration was going on in every quarter. He held a statement in his hand, comprising returns from eighteen unions in Con-naught, from which he found that the monthly expenditure was reduced in those unions from 33,000l. to 17,000l.; the number of persons receiving outdoor relief had fallen from 98,000 to 11,000; and even the numbers in the workhouse showed a diminution from 37,000 to 34,000. The total numbers receiving relief in Con-naught had been diminished altogether from 136,000 to 46,000. Such had been the salutary effects of the exertions that had been made. With regard to the administration of the poor-law, he assured the House that no measures had been adopted by the Commissioners without great consideration. It was considered indispensable to its successful operation that in the first instance a sufficient number of workhouses should be provided; and he was glad to say they had been aided in meeting that necessity by Her Majesty's Government. But in this respect great opposition had to be encountered. Many 1155 charitable persons were disposed to discountenance expenditure with this object; and the Roman Catholic priests, who preferred outdoor relief, had opposed the erection of workhouses. One of these, a very intelligent person, from whom he differed in this respect, Mr. O'Sullivan, the priest of a parish in which he had considerable property, was, he knew, amongst them; and, having mentioned that gentleman's name, he might be permitted to say that, having had occasion to complain of an erroneous statement respecting himself, made by him before a Committee of the House of Commons, he had shown the greatest readiness to admit and to explain the error, which he was persuaded was accidental; and he was desirous of adding that Mr. O'Sullivan was a highly respectable and instructed person, who had been intrusted with large funds for the relief of the poor, which he had ably administered. But since the necessity for them had been seen, Her Majesty's Government, the Poor Law Commissioners, and every intelligent guardian in the country, were satisfied it was to that principle alone they were to look for the future exemption of the administration of the law from abuse. He trusted, then, the House would be satisfied that a very great step had been taken towards the extinction of outdoor relief. It did not exist at present under the second section of the Act; but there must always be some outdoor relief under the provisions of the Act, which enabled relieving officers to relieve parties in cases of emergency. He would not, however, deceive the House. He expected that up to the 1st of June there would be many unions in which the Commissioners would be obliged to give what was called their sealed orders to this effect; but they would only be given under such circumstances as rendered it necessary. Under these circumstances he saw no advantage to be gained by their Lordships' adoption of a positive resolution, in a form to which he always entertained objections, even when not disposed to offer serious opposition—a resolution binding the future conduct of Parliament, and laying down principles to which it might be impossible to adhere. He should object to such resolutions even when he agreed in the principle on which they were founded; but he had no desire that, by rejecting the Motion, countenance should be given to the opinion that Parliament was favourable to the system of outdoor relief. There were certain parts of the resolution, too, 1156 in which he could not concur. He could not concur, for example, in that part which expressed censure upon the past proceedings of Parliament, for Parliament had only yielded to the pressure of overwhelming misery. He trusted, therefore, that before moving that their Lordships proceed to the Order of the Day, he had succeeded in convincing the House that no efforts would be spared until the original principle of the poor-law could be had recourse to, and until the principle of outdoor relief had been checked by the strict administration of the law. In conclusion, he hoped that every Member of Parliament connected with this part of the united kingdom was now in a position to see that the true progress which a country could make, was being made by Ireland herself, and that she was raising herself by her own exertions against the greatest calamity that had ever assailed any country upon the face of the earth. The noble Marquess then moved the previous question.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that in the discussions on the Poor Law Extension Act two years ago, he had contended that the introduction of the principle of outdoor relief as a permanent principle would be fraught with inconvenience and danger, and, therefore, he had urged that it should be adopted only as a temporary measure. That view was acquiesced in by a majority of their Lordships, but by the influence of the Government it was subsequently and unfortunately overruled. Yet having been, that year, one of a Committee, including five Cabinet Ministers, which united in condemning the system, he had this night the further satisfaction of hearing the judgment of the noble President of the Council expressed in the same sense, and on finding that it was not intended to meet the present resolution by a negative. He complained that the House was not put in possession of perfect evidence to enable them to judge accurately upon this question; and he must also grievously complain that information and even public documents had been withheld, or at least had not been furnished, which were essential for a proper understanding of the case. He had been assured, on the part of the Government, at the close of the last Session, that when Parliament again met, the fullest information should be laid on the table; but he regretted to say, that up to the present moment that information had not been produced. It would have been as easy to give the figures up to the 21st of Septem-, 1157 ber, or to the close of the past year, as to give them up to the 29th of the September preceding. The latest information had been withheld from the House by the Government; and yet his noble Friend was in possession of these very documents, and had endeavoured to prove from their contents that there had been a great diminution in the expenditure and in the number of persons receiving outdoor relief, and had thence argued that the condition of Ireland was improving. He feared that his noble Friend was in a state of self-deception. He (Lord Monteagle) had been himself in Ireland during the autumn and winter, and was bound to say that he had not been able to observe any of those indications of returning prosperity to which his noble Friend had alluded, He (Lord Monteagle) would undertake to prove from the facts relied on that the inference drawn by his noble Friend was altogether fallacious. He would refer to the statistical returns from the unions of Scariff and Kilrush; and, comparing the number of persons receiving outdoor relief in those two unions at the present moment, and at the corresponding period last year, he had no doubt that a very considerable reduction would be exhibited. This, according to his noble Friend's argument, would be an unquestionable proof of improvement. But he must ask him to pause, and to examine the cause of this reduction. He believed that their Lordships would find that the reduction which had taken place was owing exclusively to the exhaustion of the resources of those unfortunate unions. They had not one single farthing left at their command to support the outdoor poor, and it appeared that Her Majesty's Government were either unwilling or unable to make any further advances to them for the purpose. In one week in one of those unions he understood that 11,000 persons had been struck off the outdoor relief list, and not one farthing had been applied to their support. Could this be relied on as a lessening of pauperism and reduction of rates which were an indication of returning prosperity? In the month of February last year, 26,000 persons were on the outdoor relief list in Scariff, and in the same month of the present year only 15,000; in Kilrush, at the former period, there were 25,800, and at the latter only 19,900 receiving outdoor relief. He believed there had been a total reduction from 52,000 to 35,000. This, which was the effect of ruin, was referred to now in proof of pros-. 1158 perity. The reduction, however, arose alone from the exhaustion of the means of those unions. He was aware of several instances in which bonâ fide reductions had been made by striking off persons not justly entitled to relief. This he believed to be solely attributable to the exertions of the Irish country gentlemen; and it suggested the inference that the Irish country gentlemen were more prudent and more successful in the administration of the poor-law than the paid vice-guardians of the Crown. But it was a total fallacy to suppose that these reductions were any evidence as to any improvement in the present state of Ireland. If the noble Marquess thought there were new prospects of improvement in that country, all he (Lord Monteagle) could say was, that the noble Marquess could see what the resident proprietors could not. It was true, that in some parts of Ireland farms on estates belonging to landlords like the noble Earl on the bench above him (the Earl of Lucan), were far better cultivated than they had been formerly; but let their Lordships take the number of acres in tillage, and the average amount of produce throughout Ireland at the present time and twelve months back, and they would find, he believed, a lamentable falling off. Of this the following return from his own county gave the most unquestionable evidence. He held in his hand, extracted from the official report made to the Government, the area cultivated under wheat and oats in the years 1847 and 1848, exhibiting a formidable diminution:—
§ Thus in twelve months there had been a reduction in the area of land under wheat and oats of 34,700 acres, and a reduction in produce of 553,000 barrels. This, it should be remembered, was in one of the principal corn districts of Ireland. He had the honour of travelling through the south of Ireland during the summer and autumn months, in company with the Lord Lieutenant, and he had been unable to detect any signs of improvement. He had passed through a wide pastoral valley between 1159 Cork and Mallow—a valley several miles in length, and having a gentle rise on either side, admirably suited for grazing purposes. How many head of cattle did their Lordships think were grazing in that valley? Why, from one commanding position he had not been able to discover more than ten head in all; and if this were the result of casting the eye over so wide a district of the country, it was impossible to avoid coming to the conclusion that the produce of the land was small, and the live stock miserably reduced, compared with the quantities produced in former years. Within the last forty-eight hours, it had been stated, upon the very highest authority, that of Sir George Grey, in the Commons, that the rateable property in England had increased since the year 1813 to a great amount; that in that year the value of the rateable property taxed amounted to 51,898,423l., while in 1849 the rated property of England and Wales exceeded 91,000,000l. sterling. It was also stated on the same authority that the amount of taxation had greatly lessened during that period, and that the increased property of 1849, being 91,000,000l., bore a diminished burden of taxation as compared with the 51,000,000l. in 1813; and they were told with great triumph—and certainly just triumph—that a burden which in 1813 amounted to 12s. 8d., to every inhabitant, was reduced to 6s. 6d. in 1849. Yet, when this was compared with the present state of Ireland, could it be said that we were advancing? The value of Irish rateable property, computed at 13,000,000l., had fallen below 30 to 40 per cent. It did not exceed 9,000,000l. and the poor-rate alone had augmented fourfold. In 1844, the valuation of Ireland exceeded 13,000,000l. It did not now exceed 8,000,000l. The poor's-rate levied in 1844 was 271,000l.; in 1849 it had reached 1,671,000l. But, even this enormously increased collection did not supply what was required. In addition to this, 97,000l. had been advanced for Munster, 202,000l. for Connaught, the private debts due to contractors had swelled to 513,000l., and the expenditure had exceeded the rate collected by 435,000l. This was not the whole amount of the local burden. Far from it. To this were to be added the county rates, and the repayment of relief advances. Taking the whole together, the condition of parts of Ireland would best be illustrated by the union of Newcastle, which 1160 exhibits the following results; to which may be added that its aggregate burdens amount to 15s. 2d. in the pound:—
|Augmentation of rate||1s. 0½d.||11s. 2d. in £1.|
|Augmentation of paupers||5½||31 per cent.|
|Reduction of rated rental||£109,303||£75,301.|
An important paper has this morning been distributed, which will enable the House to compare, or rather to contrast the burden of poor's-rate in North Britain and in Ireland. The population of Scotland is taken at 2,600,000; the valuation at 9,319,000l.; the rates assessed at 405,000l., the average poundage of rate no more than 10d., and the percentage of paupers to the population 5½ only. But this paper raises some collateral and most important inferences; whilst the Scotch rates are generally moderate, the rates at Port Patrick have risen to 4s. 4d., those of Stranraer to 4s. 7d., and at Old Luce, 11s. Though without local knowledge, he ventured to surmise that these rates were attributable to Irish pauperism, which, if left to increase as at present, and indeed stimulated by bad laws, would spread eastward, and would extend its desolating influence still further. If he went to the sources of the suffering—if he ascended to it through the details of official documents, he could not avoid finding that it was connected with outdoor relief; neither he nor the most strenuous opponent of outdoor relief felt at all afraid of any great abuses that were likely to accrue in well-managed workhouses. The evidence of every witness examined, the authority of last year's poor-law report, of the report of the Select Committee, condemned the present law. It was on this score that he urged upon the House the expediency of abandoning, as soon as possible, the whole plan of outdoor relief. The resolutions before the House, as he understood them, amounted simply to a condemnation of outdoor relief, and a pledge to abandon it, not at once or wholly, but as speedily as humanity and expediency would permit. The House is called on to affirm that the system should be temporary in its duration. Now, he would remind the Government that the proposition affirmed in the resolutions of his noble Friend was identical with that carried last year in Committee on the suggestion of their own Lord Steward. The mode of working out this proposition would be by the repeal of
the first and second sections of the Act for the Relief of the Poor, and the enactment of a provision that during a period of one or two years the guardians should have a qualified power of giving outdoor relief to the aged, the sick, and impotent. They might exercise that power under sealed orders from the Commissioners, the power being temporary and limited to the particular case. That appeared to him the mode in which times of emergency might be encountered. But, in discussing this question, he must once more come hack to the exhausted state of the country. In the electoral division of Castle-town, out of 6,000 acres there were 3,000 out of cultivation, in consequence of the poor-rate and the other charges upon the land, which in Castletown exceeded 20s. in the pound, whilst in Clefden 11–19ths of the land lay waste. As to the discretion of the Poor Law Commissioners, he (Lord Monteagle) was not inclined to place reliance upon it. Their own report of last year showed with what discretion, or rather indiscretion, they had exercised their power of issuing orders for relief. One avowed object of the supporters of the poor-law was to prevent the influx of paupers into England; yet the Commissioners had actually issued several sealed orders granting special relief to the wives and families of men who had gone over to England, leaving their families burdensome. Not trusting to the attraction of high wages only, the Poor Law Commissioners actually tempted the poor man to leave Ireland for this country by the certainty that his wife and children would be supported at the public charge during his temporary absence. Here was a direct bounty given to the desertion of children by their fathers, and of wives by their husbands. There was another order to the effect that outdoor relief should be given to the wives and families of those who were in prison. It was thus proclaimed by authority to the poor of Ireland—not once or twice merely, but in many different forms, and at different times and places—that if the head of a family committed a crime, all the other members of that family should be entitled to receive outdoor relief; whereas, if he obeyed the law, he would be deprived of that relief which was reserved for the benefit of criminals—a most extraordinary lesson to be taught to the Irish people by their governors, and this a board of which the Chief and Under Secretaries to the Lord Lieutenant were members. Instead
of correcting the indiscretion of others, the Poor Law Commissioners evidently needed correction themselves. By another order, it was declared that the mothers of illegitimate children should be entitled to relief; to the prostitute was granted what the virtuous matron could not claim. By another order, relief was ensured specially to those whose children were attacked with the hooping cough. Why this preference for one disease—why was the small pox, why were the measles, excluded from official favour? For his own part, he confessed that he preferred good statute law to the discretion of the Commissioners; and he believed that a good system would never be established until the Legislature reverted to the sounder principle of the law adopted and defended by the Government of Lord Melbourne—a law which prohibited all outdoor relief, but admitted to indoor relief all classes of the destitute poor. The House had been compelled to retrace its steps on many other points; they would have to do so on this likewise, for there would, he believed, be no safety for the country unless they retraced their steps with respect to the grant of outdoor relief. Let it not be said that the question was one which affected only the interests of property. His noble Friend had defended the administration of outdoor relief, by stating that it had led to the preservation of human life. He should hesitate to affirm that it had averted mortality, even confining himself to the evidence taken before last year's Committee. He held in his hand the testimony, not of an Irish landlord, or of a poor-law guardian, but of a person who belonged to that very class which his noble Friend had stated to be the most inclined to favour outdoor relief, and the most opposed to a restriction of relief to the inmates of the workhouse. It was the testimony of a Roman Catholic priest of Galway, which he was about to read. That gentleman said—
Under the operation of the present poor-law, in relation to outdoor relief, the people have died in thousands; and they have suffered calamities that it is utterly impossible for any gentleman here to conceive, unless he was in the immediate locality, and had witnessed that destitution. I have walked through the streets and roads through living corpses. I have seen the people lying along the roadside dying at the moment, notwithstanding all this, and they have dropped dead at the very door of the workhouse. My private opinion is, that more would scarcely have died had there been no relief afforded; and I am quite convinced there would have been less hu-
man misery, even though the people had died more quickly. As to the effect on the morals of the people, it is the most destructive system that can be conceived. You will see on the day of distributing relief probably 900 or 1,000 people standing round the place of distribution from morning till night; women, old men, and miserable creatures, cursing, swearing, pushing, and putting each other out of the way; everything that is disgusting is going on, arising from the habits of idleness, idle talking, and intercourse—there is every dissatisfaction that can be produced. The effect of the system is, that the people are altogether reduced to ruin and destruction.
§ Worse than this the state of the people could not possibly be, even if outdoor relief had been denied to them. He felt satisfied that the only safe principle with respect to outdoor relief was that of excluding it ultimately altogether. If it were not excluded from the Statute-book, it would, in some form or other, continue in operation, and the whole of remedial legislation, whether in respect to encumbered estates, draining, or to other measures, and so on, would be rendered nugatory, by reason of the evils resulting from outdoor relief. The diminution of the numbers of those who were then receiving outdoor relief, afforded facilities for putting an end to the system at the present time; but the resolutions did not pledge the House to any precipitate step, and therefore, if his noble Friend went to a division, he should vote for the Motion.
The EARL of WICKLOW
did not differ with his noble Friend who had just sat down as to the facts which he had adduced, as he knew that his noble Friend had paid great attention to the subject. He, however, could not come to the same conclusion as his noble Friend, that, because he had supported certain resolutions in the Committee upstairs, that therefore he was bound to support the resolutions before the House. There was, however, a material difference between the resolutions before the Committee and those now proposed, for the latter part of the second resolution of the noble Earl declared distinctly that no permanent system for the relief of the poor can be carried out in Ireland safely and beneficially to receivers or payers without a return to the principle of the original law, by a strict application of outdoor relief to all classes of paupers, which went beyond the resolution proposed in the Committee. The resolutions before the Committee were prospective, but those now before the House condemned the existing system altogether. He believed the evils 1164 which had resulted from the poor-law had arisen from the abuses of the system, and not from its direct operation. He was fully persuaded, if the poor-law had never been introduced at all, and if Lord Melbourne's Bill had never been enacted, or the measure for its extension had never passed, the existing evils would be as great as they now were. He believed the evils so much complained of had arisen from the visitation of Providence. His noble Friend had said that persons had died from starvation under the poor-law system; but he (the Earl of Wicklow) believed the state of things would have been much worse without it, for all the relief given had been in mitigation of the evil. The country must be made to provide for the relief of the destitute, for it could not be expected that the Legislature would continue to give aid without the greatest exertions being made in Ireland. His noble Friend had praised the former poor-law; but under existing circumstances it became absolutely necessary that there should be an extension of it. He could not vote what he did not believe to be a fact; he therefore could not support the resolutions before the House.
§ LORD ABINGER
said, he felt deeply convinced that the calamities of Ireland had not been exaggerated; at the same time he thought remedies might have been applied which would, to a certain extent, have alleviated the calamity without the infliction of the many evils which, under the existing state of things, had resulted. With regard to the resolutions before the House, he should consider it his bounden duty to vote in favour of them, because they tended to the limitation of a system which would be ruinous to any country. Though he should stand alone in his declaration, which he thought would not be the case, he would yet adhere to the conviction that the sooner the poor-law system was discontinued, not alone in England, but in every other country where it existed, the sooner might they expect the return of prosperity. He felt deeply convinced that the operation of the poor-law was as injurious as regarded the application of capital to agriculture, as it also was in its demoralising effects upon its recipients. By the poor-law the wages of the labourer were reduced, as well as the enterprise of the capitalist seriously affected. It might be said that with a poor-law England had long, and still continued to flourish; but she flourished in despite of that law, and not in consequence of it. Suppose the poor-law 1165 to be abolished, what would be the consequence? Why, the six millions now paid over under that law would not alone be saved; but that amount, he might say twice that amount, was certain to be invested in agricultural improvement, and the very paupers who at present were degraded and reduced to a condition worse than serfs by the receipt of their wretched dole, would be elevated to a condition of industrial prosperity and comparative independence. He therefore should support the resolutions of his noble Friend, because he believed that by adopting them they would be taking the first step towards ameliorating the present disastrous state of affairs.
The EARL of GLENGALL
said, after the very able speech of his noble Friend, Lord Monteagle, he would not have thought it necessary to address their Lordships; but being an Irish representative Peer, and being extensively acquainted with the operation of the law in Ireland, and having attended several meetings in Ireland, particularly one where the gentry, landholders, merchants, and other classes, were all unanimous that, unless something were done to amend the existing system of poor-laws, there was no chance whatever for improvement in Ireland—he therefore felt it necessary to address a few observations on the present occasion. The noble Marquess observed that, in his opinion, there was a progressive improvement in the condition of Ireland. He (the Earl of Glengall) wished he could think so, or that he could see the improvement. Having spent lately several months in Ireland, and travelled through and resided in considerable districts, he must confess he could not bring his mind to believe that the country was progressing. No man could be more truly or sincerely desirous than himself, to say that the day had arrived when matters were really improved in Ireland. He assured them it would be his warmest wish and desire; but he did not think the moment had as yet arrived. It was true, as had been stated by the noble Marquess when quoting from his statistics, that the numbers receiving relief in 1849, as compared with 1848, were considerably diminished; but to argue prosperity there from would be most fallacious—the difference being in numbers some fifty thousand less in December, 1849, than in December, 184 But then it should be remembered that 1848 was a year of the most unparalleled distress and misfortune in Ireland, In 1166 1848 they raised 186,000l. additional under the poor-law, whilst in 1849 no less than 2,000,000l. were raised, and that in the year of so-called improvement. What was the consequence of raising that enormous sum in two years? The consequence, as might easily be foreseen, was most calamitous. The valuation on which the poor-rate was struck in Ireland was a rental of about 13,000,000l., and it was clearly proved that the fall in the value of property in Ireland amounted to no less than 25 per cent. Now, would any man deny, or, rather, would any man contradict him (the Earl of Glengall), when he said that these 13,000,000l. rental were reduced by the famine, the free-trade policy, together with the other misfortunes that afflicted them, to 9,000,000l. or 10,000,000l.? Yet, upon that diminished rental, they had raised the enormous taxation just mentioned. He could assure their Lordships that the taxation at present levied in Ireland was paralysing and destroying the country; and if they should have another bad year like 1848, it was impossible they could go on raising such an enormous amount of taxation in the shape of poor-rate. In many districts in the south of Tipperary the taxation amounted to 27s. and 20s. per acre; and he wished to know how it was possible for persons to carry on agricultural operations under such an excessive load of taxation? Why, a considerable portion not only of bad land, but even of good land, way lying idle and useless; tenants could not be found to take up the farms which had been abandoned. In Ireland, at the present moment, men avoided land, particularly in the west, where there was no hope of improvement as compared with the south. In consequence of the immense taxation—principally resulting from poor-rate—the farmer who was possessed of any capital was driven to emigrate to America. The amount of poor-rate paid by them was heavy enough; but the undefined amount that might be expected in future years completely terrified them. They struggled through 1848 in the hope of better times; bnt seeing 1849 bring no sensible reduction of taxation, they emigrated to America in numbers that could find no parallel save in the case of the boors of South Africa. Men of capital were also frightened out of the country, and with them went large sums of money. The demoralisation amongst the farming classes, caused by the pressure of taxation and free-trade policy, was very great. They converted their crops 1167 into money, and then cheated the landlord, cheated the cess collector, the poor-rate collector, cheated their creditors, and he-took themselves to America. Excessive taxation had brought everything in Ireland to a positive scramble between the tenant, the landlord, the county-cess and poor-rate collector, as also the several creditors who came with their decrees from quarter-sessions. The moment anything appeared above ground, or on the ground, the scramble commenced between all these parties; and, in fact, the rule was, first come first served. As they might imagine, the tenant took care to be first in the scramble, and carried off, almost invariably, the larger share. In consequence of an Act of Parliament, the effect of which was not alone to instruct but also to facilitate the tenant in cheating his landlord, crops were cut and disposed of on Sundays in despite of the landlord, which system had lately obtained to a fearful extent in Ireland. It had been said, "why not farm the lands in Ireland?" but to what avail with such enormous taxation? Again, if the farmer turned his land into pasturage, he had not stock to graze on it. So that in any case the land was compelled to go unproductive. A traveller might go from Dublin to Cork and see nothing on his way in the shape of stock feeding, if he excepted the goats in some localities. However, on Sundays, certainly, something might be seen; for those who had stock allowed them to creep out, because on that day the rate collector could not touch them. Altogether, however, there was so small an amount of stock in the country that it was not worth speaking about. One of the most fearful features in the picture was the awful condition of the labouring population. The cultivation of land, as corn ground, being given up, the labourers were thrown out of employment. He had been informed that in many districts the labourers were working for their diet without wages. Formerly in September and October months, the labourer received from the farmer six or seven shillings a week, with his diet, in the shape of wages; but during the last harvest they were obliged to be content with 2s. a week and their diet. Now, the case of the mercantile community in Ireland was almost as had as that of the agricultural class, because, in point of fact, both classes were so intimately connected that they rose and fell together. The principal merchants in the south of Ireland dealt in corn, and were the pro- 1168 prietors of flour mills, which were as extensive as the factories in England. These gentlemen bought up large harvests at very low prices; but, notwithstanding, they found they could not effect sales in the English markets, owing to the immense importations of foreign flour, especially French, which had driven them out of the market, and they consequently could not dispose of the harvests they had purchased, except at a very heavy loss. These facts being known throughout the country, deterred persons from cultivating corn. The shopkeepers were in an equally bad condition. Formerly, a considerable trade existed between the ports in the Bristol Channel and Ireland in the article of flour; but at present these ports were supplied from Nantes, to the exclusion of the Irish traffic. It was really melancholy to see the numerous stores formerly occupied by merchandise at present converted into auxiliary workhouses, the Irish merchants having no use for them, and being glad to let them on any terms. To show there was no improvement in the country, he could state the circulation of money had decreased, and the deposits in savings banks also materially fell off. No business was doing in the towns. The shops were closed or unfrequented, and the importation of English manufactures, which formerly amounted to eleven millions annually, at present did not exceed four millions. It had been said that in Connaught matters were improving. Now, the evidence of Captain O'Neil, poor-law inspector, taken in May, 1849, stated that he had been urging the collectors of poor-rate to distrain those who had not paid, and their reply was, that "the small ratepayers, in many instances, had nothing to be seized on." Another inspector, Mr. Quigley, declared that, in many instances, the small ratepayers had not known the taste of milk for upwards of twelve months. He also added that on market days the only stock he saw offered for sale consisted of goats, and that a cow, formerly worth 5l., would not bring half that price at present. They had also evidence to show that the state of things in Kilrush was so awful, that many persons, whose terms of incarceration had expired, refused to leave the gaol, having no means of obtaining food outside; and when forced out, they committed crime to get back again. Certainly, if 1850 brought about each a state of affairs as 1848 and 1849, all hope might reasonably be given over; and he (the Earl of Glengall) felt certain that if they did 1169 not alter the outdoor relief system, positive and certain destruction would result to the whole country.
§ The EARL of DEVON
allowed that it was difficult to deny the state of distress existing in many parts of Ireland, of which the noble Earl who had just sat down had drawn an extended picture; but it appeared to him to be extremely difficult to say that the necessary conclusion from such an admission was that their Lordships ought at once to resolve to undo that provision of the law which enacted that persons suffering from destitution should be entitled to outdoor relief. He quite concurred with those who thought that the granting of outdoor relief was a measure which nothing but necessity could justify; but the very provisions of the law pointed out the mode by which relief should be afforded, namely, according to the discretion of the Commissioners. The noble Marquess had made some remarks on the progressive improvement of Ireland. He himself could only speak from private information, and his observations would apply only to a small locality; but as his noble Friend who had spoken on the other side of the House had referred to the Newcastle union, he had the satisfaction of stating that in many parts of that union the rates had materially diminished, and great improvement was going on. He stated that from his own knowledge, and from certain information. That union had suffered much from an unjust decision of the Poor Law Commissioners in the arrangement of the electoral divisions; but of late there had been an alteration in that respect, and, so far as his information went, it did not justify the gloomy picture which his noble Friend had drawn. [A PEER: Castletown?] He did not speak of Castletown, as he did not know what was the case there. With regard to the allegation that the distress existing in Ireland was attributable to the discretionary power possessed by the Poor Law Commissioners, he could not say that he agreed in that view of the case. And did anybody believe that the House of Commons would concur in providing from any other source that relief which kept a large portion of the Irish population from starvation? He could not think that the vice-guardians had done all the mischief which had been ascribed to them, believing, as he did, that the occupiers who resided on the spot had had something to do with it. The chief mischief had arisen from the mismanagement of local authority, 1170 but that was not a sufficient reason for condemning by these resolutions the system of relief now in force, with the object of getting rid of it as soon as possible.
§ The EARL of CLARE
said, that the noble Earl who had just sat down, seemed to forget that he (the Earl of Clare) had, not very long ago, presented a petition from the ratepayers of the Newcastle union, complaing that the rate collected was 15s. in the pound, and that it increased by the amount of 10,000l. up to the end of last February. If this were true, he was at a loss to understand on what ground the noble Earl could say that the union of Newcastle was in an improved condition. The petitioners further added that they saw only one hope of recovery, and that lay in the establishment of new and small electoral divisions. He could himself say that the Newcastle union was in as impoverished a state as any union in Ireland. He concluded by stating that it was his impression that they would commit a gross error by forcing a country like Ireland to bear a burden which she was unable to bear; and they would only add to evils which their legislation was intended to remove.
The MARQUESS of CLANRICARDE
said, that no one could deny that parts of Ireland were suffering at the present time under poverty; but the same extent of destitution which had existed during the last two years no longer prevailed. On that subject his noble Friend had quoted documents which it was his intention to lay on the table of the House; and he would ask their Lordships whether it would not be highly inexpedient to decide on a supposititious state of things when they had documents which would exhibit a different position of affairs from that which had been put before them by the noble Earl who had proposed these resolutions. About the poverty of parts of Ireland, and the tremendous pressure of local taxation in certain districts, there could be no difference of opinion; but was it wise to pass these resolutions, which were intended peremptorily and in every case to put a stop to outdoor relief? He agreed with the arguments used by the noble Earl against the system of outdoor relief; but even the noble Earl did not propose that they should immediately put an end to it. The noble and learned Lord over the way (Lord Abinger) had favoured them with a discourse on political economy. Now, he was one of those who concurred with the 1171 doctrine that all poor-laws were contrary to sound political economy, and he held that opinion as strongly as any man; but no man would now wish to abolish all poor-laws in the present state of Ireland. What would they do, he would ask them, if they passed these resolutions? Why, they would first excite agitation in Ireland, and would disquiet the minds of men who were most anxiously occupied in administering the poor-laws, with rigorous and vigilant economy, while the Poor Law Commissioners were aiding them in their efforts. They should take care not at the present moment to create an agitation which might render the continuance of that strict economy impossible; and if they attempted to narrow the limits of the operation of the poor-law, they might produce a reaction which would be unfavourable to the interests of the landlords, of the ratepayers, and of this country in general. On these grounds he thought that it would be very unwise to carry these resolutions. The present oppressed state of Ireland was not attributable to the existence of the poor-laws in that country, but to that awful calamity to which it had been subjected, not only to the potatoe failure, but to the bad harvests generally of the last few years. He called upon their Lordships, on the grounds which he had stated, not to adopt these abstract resolutions, which could do no great good, but which might do an immensity of harm.
said, that if it had been the wish of his noble Friend (the Earl of Desart) to obtain a declaration of hostility on the part of that House to the principle of outdoor relief in Ireland, he thought that his noble Friend must be amply satisfied, whatever might be the decision of their Lordships on the resolutions. There had not been one noble Lord who had spoken in the course of the debate who had not admitted that outdoor relief was in principle wholly indefensible, and that its temporary continuance could only be justified by absolute necessity. Except its first and last sentences, he had never heard a more able, powerful, and convincing speech than that of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Lansdowne) in support of the views of his noble Friend. The only ground on which noble Lords opposite refused to sanction these resolutions was, that it was desirable not to suddenly put a stop to the system of outdoor relief. But his noble Friend proposed to do nothing of the kind; he proposed nothing more than was agreed 1172 to by a unanimous resolution of a Committee of their Lordships' House, reckoning among its Members five Cabinet Ministers, namely, that no system of poor-law ought to be adopted as a permanent system in Ireland which embraced the permanent continuance of outdoor relief. He did not wish to say anything against the management and control of the Poor Law Commissioners; but he must say that he had heard a statement that night which he thought would sound odd in the ears of Englishmen, and one of his noble Friends was so incredulous, that he would hardly believe his ears, or even his eyes, when he read the order of the Poor Law Commissioners. The classes in whose favour the Poor Law Commissioners had departed from the principle which had be enlaid down, were precisely the parties against whom, in England, the exception would be made. Women with illegitimate children—women whose husbands were in prison, and whose husbands were known to have left the country and gone to England—these were the special classes selected by the Poor Law Commissioners, who thereby gave a premium to that description of poverty which it was desirable to discourage and check. He had some little doubt, therefore, whether it was safe that Parliament should leave in their hands a discretion saying how outdoor relief should be limited, or of deciding when it would be a convenient time to depart from the present system of outdoor relief. He had heard, he must say with considerable surprise, one statement which had been made by the noble Marquess who had just sat down. He had warned their Lordships not to disturb men's minds, and so add to the difficulties of the local guardians; when, as everybody knew, the unions were so immense that the guardians, with the best intentions possible, could not exercise a proper control. He should have thought, therefore, that instead of a mischievous agitation, they could have nothing so much in their favour as an absolute enactment on the part of Parliament, forbidding them to do that which they had at present the greatest difficulty in refusing to do, though they knew the parties receiving relief were not entitled to be recipients. He would go further than the local guardians, and apply these resolutions in aid of the Poor Law Commissioners. Their Lordships were told that the Poor Law Commissioners were anxious to diminish outdoor relief to the uttermost; and if that was the feeling by which they 1173 were actuated, could they have a greater moral support against those who were claimants on the bounty of the State than the affirmation of the principle, that it was absolutely necessary to revert to a sounder system of poor-law relief? He would not enter into the questions which had been so well discussed by his noble Friends; but these few observations he had felt it his duty to make to the House before giving his vote, as he certainly should do, if his noble Friend divided the House, in favour of the resolutions. He was glad to find that Her Majesty's Government did not intend to meet these resolutions with a negative, which would be fatal to all hopes of prosperity for Ireland, but only with the previous question. Still, as he thought that no inconvenience could result from the success of the Motion, and that there would be a great advantage gained by showing the Poor Law Commissioners and the guardians that the House of Lords had reaffirmed the principle asserted in the last Session, that outdoor relief could not form any part of a permanent system for the relief of the poor, he should give his vote for the resolutions.
§ EARL GREY
had not heard any argument in favour of the resolutions, though he had heard a great deal which went to prove that a system of outdoor relief was a dangerous and impolitic system. He had always held that, in Ireland as in England, this system was attended with the greatest possible danger, and that outdoor relief ought never to be granted to the ablebodied, except when every other kind of relief was impracticable. He thought also that even in the case of the aged and impotent, outdoor relief should be administered with caution and discretion; but he saw no reason why in Ireland more than in England the impotent and aged should be excluded from outdoor relief. But, holding that opinion, was there anything to induce him to vote for the resolutions before the House? He could hardly believe that their Lordships had read the resolutions. The first resolution affirmed that—Under the provisions of the existing Poor Law the resources Of many districts have been found utterly inadequate for the support of the population; and that while the Act has thus failed to accomplish its purpose, it has produced bankruptcy and ruin in some districts; has driven capital out of the country, and has enfeebled and paralysed the efforts of both farmers and landlords.He totally and entirely denied the truth of the proposition which it laid down. He ad- 1174 mitted that Ireland had suffered a great calamity; but to say that the poor-law was the cause of that calamity was contrary to common sense. He thought, on the contrary, that the poor-law had greatly mitigated that calamity; and if, knowing what had since happened, their Lordships were in a situation to be called upon to pass another poor-law, he should vote for that measure again. He would maintain that it was a just and right principle of legislation, and one which every man of feeling and humanity and justice must approve of, that landlords who, under the old system of potato culture, had received so very large an income from their land, should, when their tenantry were reduced to a state of starvation, be required to contribute towards their support. Rut they were not required to provide the sole relief. Parliament came to their assistance, and voted enormous sums of money, which were advanced in aid of the calamity which had fallen on that country. But the resolutions which the House was called on to affirm were not true in point of fact, and the arguments brought forward to support them had failed to do so. They were told in the resolution that the poor-law had "driven capital out of the country;" but where Was the evidence of that? A noble Lord, who was a large landed proprietor in Mayo, had told them the other night that it was not the rates that prevented him from letting his land, because he had guaranteed the payment of all rates above a certain amount, and yet had failed to obtain tenants for some large, well-circumstanced farms. But it was stated in the second resolution—That these mischiefs have resulted from the extension of the poor-law of 1838, and the adoption of a system of outdoor relief at that time not contemplated; and it is further their opinion, that no permanent system for the relief of the poor can be carried out in Ireland safely and beneficially to receivers or payers without a return to the principle of the original law, by a strict application of indoor relief to all classes of paupers.Now, he should wish to hear from the noble Earl what practical effect he expected would be produced by affirming that proposition. The noble Lord knew as well as he did that it was the duty of the Poor Law Commissioners not to be influenced in the slightest degree in the administration of the law by any resolution of either House of Parliament. They were bound by the law of the land, and not by any resolution that either House of 1175 Parliament might come to. And, in his opinion, the great evil of such resolutions as these was, that it condemned the law, which there was no intention to alter. He denied that the principle of the law required alteration. The law declared that outdoor relief shall not be granted except in cases where it was not possible to afford workhouse relief. How did he know but that circumstances might possibly occur again, as they had occurred before, under which it would be impossible to afford indoor relief to all who were in absolute want of assistance? In no other case could outdoor relief be administered; and if, therefore, they could not alter the principle of the law, he would ask, was it prudent or expedient for their Lordships to lot it go forth as their recorded opinion that the importation of capital into Ireland, or improvements in the cultivation of the soil, could not safely be attempted, while a law existed which there was no intention of altering? If their Lordships contemplated an alteration of the law, he could then see the policy and prudence of affirming the resolution; but he believed that there was not one Member of their Lordships' House who believed it likely that any such change would receive the assent of Parliament. He would therefore again tell them to beware, for the sake of their own interests, how they passed resolutions which tended to discourage the importation of capital from this country into Ireland—a matter which he believed was destined, at no distant time, to work great improvements in that country. He had not intended entering into this question, and he would not trespass further on the time of their Lordships; but there was one observation more which he wished to add. The noble Lord had pointed out what he considered maladministration in the law. Now, if such maladministration existed, it was a fit subject for inquiry. He was not aware of the orders to which the noble Lord had alluded, and he confessed that, on hearing them, they did appear to him calculated rather to startle English ears; but that was a totally different question from the resolutions before the House. If they thought the administration of the law erroneous, they could bring it forward, and the House would be then able to obtain the reasons of the Commissioners for what they had done. He was willing to admit that the Government were bound to see that the poor-law was administered in a proper spirit; but that could be no reason 1176 whatever for adopting the resolutions which their Lordships were now called upon to affirm.
The EARL of LUCAN
said, that he was not so much surprised at the strong opinions expressed by the noble Lord, as at the fact that, when entertaining such views, the noble Lord had not thought proper to bring them forward before the Committee of last year, of which he was a Member.
The EARL of LUCAN
said, the noble Lord appeared to stand alone, even among his own colleagues, in his views upon this question. The noble Lord had alluded to a statement made by him with regard to the depressed value of land in Ireland. What he had stated on that occasion was, that the land had been first depreciated by the poor-law, and that the subsequent lowness of prices caused by free trade had prevented its recovery. He did not wish, at that late hour, to enter into the question at large, but this much he might be permitted to add, that the acts of maladministration of which they complained had been committed principally by the vice-guardians under the sanction of the Commissioners.
§ LORD BEAUMONT
said, that if it had not been for the speech of his noble Friend below him (Earl Grey), he should have given a silent vote for the previous question; but after that speech he could not do so, lest his vote should be misinterpreted. He differed as completely from his noble Friend as his noble Friend appeared to differ from all who had preceded him; and he, therefore, did not wish it to be supposed that, in voting for the previous question, he would do so on any of the grounds which his noble Friend had put forward. Until his noble Friend rose, he did not imagine that any one could for a moment have supposed that the operation of the poor-law, combined with other causes, had not tended to create ruin, bankruptcy, and distress among the owners and occupiers of land in Ireland. The receivers and payers of rent, or rather they who were entitled to receive and bound to pay, had been suddenly called upon to maintain a dense population from whose hands they received no labour in return, and by whose location on the land the very resources of 1177 the soil were diminished. The burden swallowed up the whole profits of cultivation, and neither landlord nor tenant could meet their other liabilities. When the Extension Bill passed through their Lordships' House, such a result had been anticipated by others as well as by himself; but still he felt that the choice lay between two evils, the other being the utter annihilation of thousands. He had foreseen that the effect of granting outdoor relief would be to create great injury to the landowner and the occupier, but he did not hesitate between that evil, great as it was, and the still greater responsibility which would rest upon them of not taking every means in their power, even at so great a risk, to save the lives of perishing thousands. They had, day by day, proofs before them that ruin and desolation had been caused by the pressure of the rates, and until his noble Friend addressed the House, he thought the fact had never been questioned by any person Even in England, as was well known, the same result had taken place on a small scale in one or two places in former times. His noble Friend had denied that the pressure of the poor-rates had driven capital out of Ireland; but that he, of all men, should not know the fact was strange indeed—he who had the Colonies under his care, must he not have known that thousands had emigrated to them from this country? Was there not, in the office presided over by the noble Earl, documentary evidence of both the numbers and the superior class of the emigrants from Ireland? Was it not the small capitalist, and not the pauper, who had left the shores of Ireland? And, in fact, had not his noble Friend himself told them on former occasions that a vast proportion of these emigrants were capable of paying their own passage, and were carrying out sums of money with them? His noble Friend must also have been aware that enormous sums of money had left the country in the same manner to the United States, and, if such were the case, could it be denied but that capital was driven out of the country? If that were so, must not the paralysing of the efforts of both landowners and occupiers for the cultivation of the soil have followed as a matter of course when an enormous increase of taxation had been put upon them? If a man had 20s. to expend in improvements, and if they deprived him of 19s. of the amount, was it not clear that the remaining shilling must produce less effect than if they had left the 1178 20s. to the person? and yet this was what his noble Friend attempted to deny. He was the more astonished at the speech of his noble Friend, because it was so contrary to all those that had preceded it. The speech of the noble Marquess he regarded as a most powerful exposition of the soundest principles of legislation on this subject, and as an emphatic repudiation of the doctrine of outdoor relief. He would add that if no other circumstance had followed from this debate than the fact that attention had been called to the abuses in the administration of the law, he thought they were sufficiently rewarded for the inconvenience of sitting to that late hour. If the charges made were true, be thought it was necessary that strait jackets or some other restraints should be at once provided for the Commissioners to prevent them from continuing toPlay such fantastic tricks before high Heaven.What could the House think of a sealed order which gave indiscriminate relief to the wives and families of all the men who had migrated to England for the harvest, and who were at the time receiving the very highest wages of agricultural labour; or of an order which made the having illegitimate children a sufficient claim to outdoor relief; or of an order which entitled to relief all wives and children whose husbands or parents were committed to prison? He believed that with the exception, perhaps, of his noble Friend alone, there had been no second opinion in the Committee as to the necessity of going back to the sound system of indoor relief alone; but lest the resolutions might raise expectations abroad that their Lordships intended immediately to resorting to that alteration of the law, he could not give his support to the resolutions at the present moment.
The EARL of DESART
replied: He said, that with the exception of the speech of the noble Earl, which had been so ably answered by the noble Lord who had just sat down, there did not appear to be a single dissentient to the proposition of putting an end to outdoor relief. He did not ask for any immediate abolition of the existing law, but merely for the affirmation of the principle that the system of outdoor relief should not permanently continue. As, however, there appeared to be a strong feeling against passing the resolutions at the present moment, he would beg leave, though he did it unwillingly, to withdraw the resolutions.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.