§ LORD G. BENTINCK
rose and said: Sir, often as I have experienced the undeserved 774 kindness and patience of this House, I never felt that I had so much, need of them as on the present occasion, when, for the first time, I am going to introduce a measure in which the interests of my country are deeply concerned. Sir, it is not that I feel any want of confidence in the intrinsic value of the measure which I am going to introduce to the House, for in it I have confidence the most enthusiastic; but it is because I fear, lest through the feebleness of the advocate, a measure which, so far as its value goes, must depend on its practical machinery, and which has had the care and anxious solicitude of men of far superior intellect to mine—a measure which has been prepared by men whose time may be measured by minutes and valued in gold, should suffer from such weak advocacy as mine. Sir, when I say that my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of York (Mr. Hudson), and Mr. Robert Stephenson, and last, but not least, Mr. Laing, have patriotically sacrificed their entire time to the preparation of this measure, I think the House will feel with me that there have been the soundest and most powerful understandings applied to the considerations which are connected with railroads in Ireland. But, Sir, whilst I say that my right hon. and learned Friends are entitled to all the praise and all the merit for any good that shall be found in the measure which I am going to introduce to the House, if, on the contrary, there is nothing good in it, and in its principle it is so hostile to the constitution of this country, or in its details so injurious to my own country; if it is so contrary to sound policy, and altogether so bad that it is not entitled even to a hearing in this House; if it deserves to be condemned and altogether rejected, contrary to usual practice, as I am told that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Ministers to attempt to do with it, then I say that for all that is bad in principle and in policy, I alone am responsible; and it is my privilege, as the leader of a great party, to claim for myself the right to incur the exclusive blame and to bear the undivided responsibility of it. It is not my intention to make a very long preface, or to enter into any general discussion as regards the state and condition of Ireland. Suffice it for me that this great fact stares us in the face, that at this moment there are 500,000 able-bodied persons in Ireland living upon the funds of the State; that there are 500,000 able-bodied persons 775 commanded by a staff of 11,587 persons, employed upon works which have been variously described as "works worse than idleness," by the yeomanry of Ulster as "public follies," and by the Inspector of the Government himself, Colonel Douglas, as "works which will answer no other purpose than that of obstructing the public conveyances." Sir, I say that I feel with others that a great calamity is overhanging Ireland; but at the same time I cannot say that I look with any despondency at the present state of affairs. Sir, I do hope that we, who in former times have arisen from difficulties far greater than these, shall not be appalled at a calamity which consists in the loss of property to the value of 10,000,000l. sterling; that we, who at one period of the war were expending, upon an average for three years, 103,000,000l. sterling a year, will not be downhearted at having to provide for a deficiency and for a disaster that may be estimated at 10,000,000l. On the contrary, Sir, I look with confident hope that good will rise out of evil, and that so far from lying down and weeping over our misfortune, like children lost in a wood, we shall have the spirit to look our difficulties fairly in the face, and to be resolved to exercise a firm determination to overcome them. Sir, I cannot forget that England has had her bad days as well as Ireland; that we have known the time when the counties of England have been ravaged by the fires of the incendiary; that we have seen the time in England when the Sovereign dared not go into his own city of London. I cannot forget that in later times, so little while ago as the year 1842, England, though not supporting, as now she and Ireland together are constrained to support, 2,000,000 beings in idleness in the latter country, did support, by her parish rates, 1,427,000 persons; that of these no less than 83,000 adult able-bodied men were actually confined within the walls of the workhouse, and that 407,000 adult able-bodied labourers were sustained by the parish. Well, then, it does seem to me, that, when we come to estimate the condition of Ireland, and compare it with that of England in no very distant times, there is not so great a difference between the present state of Ireland and that of England in the years 1841 and 1842 that we need despair of finding the means to overcome our difficulties. Well, Sir, 1841 and 1842 were years of great distress and of difficulty to England; and 776 what has occurred since to change the face of affairs in this country, and to restore England from a state of distress and poverty to a condition the most prosperous and most affluent that ever was known in the annals of her history? Sir, I am aware that there are some who ascribe all this improvement, and all this prosperity, to the operation of those measures of free trade which were commenced in the year 1842. There are some, I know, who have expressed it as their opinion that the reduction of five-sixteenths of a penny of the duty on cotton, the free introduction of some 27,000 head of foreign cattle, the admission of foreign timber at reduced duties, and last, but not least, the free admission of goose feathers, are the causes of all the prosperity which we now so happily experience; but, I for one, am more disposed to ascribe it to that enterprise—that railway enterprise—which arose about that period of our history. And when I recollect that in the last three or four years something like 13,000,000l. sterling a year has been spent in wages to the native industry of this country in the construction of railways, and that for their construction 200,000 able-bodied labourers, receiving upon an average 22s. a week, have been called from the parish and the workhouse to execute them, I think that it requires no conjurer to discover that the change which has come over the circumstances of the country arises not from any political changes that have taken place in the commercial policy of the country, but that it has arisen from that mighty enterprise which has given employment to so many people, and at the head of which stood my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of York. Sir, I shall not go back to investigate all the recommendations that have been made by the various persons in authority, and by various Committees of this House; but this I think I may venture to say, that there has been no inquiry made by Parliament, in which the result has not been the recommendation that the difficulties of Ireland should be sought to be overcome by stimulating the employment of her people. Sir, in the year 1836 there was a Commission appointed by Her Majesty to inquire into the advantages of railway communication in Ireland. The result of that inquiry was a report from those able Commissioners, recommending that a system of railways in Ireland should be carried out, and that this should be done by assistance of funds from 777 the Government. Sir, I will not travel over the old beaten ground with respect to the reasons which they so ably gave for making this recommendation. I will not repeat to the House the many proofs which they gave of the wonders which easy communication had performed in Ireland, or of the perfect success which had attended every grant made by Parliament for improving roads and communication in Ireland. But, Sir, that report was followed up by another report, which was the report of Lord Devon, and he confirmed all the recommendations of the Railway Commissioners. In his report he pointed to the opening of communications and to assistance by loans from the Government as the best means of finding employment for the people. Well, Sir, this brings me to the existing state of railway enterprise in Ireland. Sir, I find that there have passed Acts of Parliament for 1,523 miles of railway in Ireland, and though some of these Acts have passed so long as eleven years ago, up to this time 123 miles only of railway have been completed, and I think that only 164 miles more are in course of completion in the present year. This must prove to the House that there is some weakness, some debility in Ireland, which prevents them from carrying out those enterprises which, in England and Scotland, have caused the completion already, I believe, of 2,600 miles of railway, and have caused new Acts to be passed for constructing 5,400 miles more—8,000 in the whole. Well, then, Sir, is it that the circumstances of Ireland, that the poverty of Ireland, and the state of her population, make hers a condition that is not likely to prove advantageous to railway speculators? Far from it. By a report, for which I am indebted to Mr. Stephenson, I find that the population of Ireland and the population of England and Wales are as nearly as possible upon a par. In England, it appears, by the last census of 1841, that there is for every two acres and one-fifth of land, one individual of the population; whilst in Ireland the population amounts to one on every two acres and a quarter. And in this comparison, let me tell you that the 7,000,000 acres of waste bog and of water on the surface of Ireland, are taken into consideration. Therefore, if you compare the cultivated acres of England and of Wales with the cultivated acres of Ireland, you would find the balance in favour of Ireland, and that Ireland is more densely inhabited 778 than England and Wales. Now, Sir, perhaps you will tell me "that this may be a very good argument as far as population is concerned; but what is the use of population if they have no money to pay for their conveyance by railways?" Sir, my right hon. Friend who sits beside me (Mr. Hudson), will tell you that in all railway speculations population is held to be the first element of their success; property second; and if you tell me that the population of Ireland is incapable of travelling from want of means, I must answer you with the assertion of this fact, that it is not so; for by a return that I have got here, and for which I am indebted to the industry of Mr. Laing, I find that the number of passengers who travel upon Irish railways, as compared with the number who travel either upon the Scottish or English railroads, is exceedingly greater. The House may be surprised to hear it; but the fact is this, that while upon the Scotch and English railways the average number of passengers who travel is but 11,800 per mile per annum, upon the Ulster Railway the number who travel is no less than 21,790 per mile per annum; and on the Drogheda and Dublin line the number is 18,250 per mile per annum. But, Sir, I am not going to take only these two Irish railroads that have already been completed, and one of which, the Ulster Railway, is looked upon as the London and Birmingham line is regarded in this country; but I will venture to take the bull by the horns, and to contrast the Ulster Railway with our own London and Birmingham, and I find that in the year which has just passed the Ulster Railway and the Dublin and Drogheda Railway, consisting together of fifty-six miles only in length, have carried 1,111,442 passengers against 1,008,000 passengers carried by the London and Birmingham Railway, which measures double the distance. Well then, Sir, I think that if it is to be objected to my plan that the poverty of Ireland, the poverty of her people, will make railroads in Ireland a ruinous speculation, and that it is impossible for England to advance money to Ireland with any just expectation that the debt will be repaid: I say that the practical experience that we have of the few railroads already constructed in Ireland gives a fiat denial to any such argument. Then, Sir, I may be asked if this be the case, and if there is this promise of profits in Irish enterprise applied to railways, how is it that private 779 speculators do not come in to the market? Sir, I am unable to answer that question satisfactorily; but the fact is so, that English capital will not come forward to invest itself in Ireland. There is a feeling of distrust towards all Irish speculations, and there is an ignorance of that country in England, which prevents English capitalists from venturing their money in these concerns. And if any proof of this is wanting, I could instance the case of the North British Railway, and compare it with the Great Southern and Western Railway in Ireland. There are already completed of the Great Southern and Western Railway fifty-six miles. That railway is but just completed, is opened only for passenger traffic, and is not open for goods. And there are completed of the North British Railway and its branches seventy-two miles, which are partly open for goods traffic as well as that of passengers. Now the traffic upon the Great Southern and Western (Ireland) amounted in the last week to 1,028l. upon the fifty-six miles completed; while upon the North British Railway, which cost 26,300l. per mile against 15,000l. a mile which the Great Southern and Western (Ireland) cost, the amount of traffic exceeded that of the Great Southern and Western by only 339l., its gross traffic having been 1,367l.; and though according to all common sense the Great Southern and Western Railway (Ireland) should be the most profitable concern for speculation, yet such is the feeling in the money market of England, that the worse railway of the two is at 40l. premium, while the better railway is at 2l. discount; that is to say, the North British is at 40 per cent premium, while the Great Southern and Western (Ireland) at the last sale was, I believe, at 2l. discount upon the 50l. shares. Well, then, I think I have shown you there is something in fashion, something in confidence, which occasions the unwillingness of English capitalists to vest their capital in Ireland. But if I look to another part of the question, I must remember that many of the railway proprietors in Ireland, are the landlords and tenantry of that country; and the presence of the very calamity which now impoverishes and afflicts Ireland, affords an adequate reason why the local proprietors of Ireland should not be able to meet their calls; and the consequence is, that some of the best speculations in Ireland are now what is commonly called "stuck fast" for want of 780 money. I take the railways in the southern parts of Ireland, and this is the report which we have received from two engineers (Mr. Bidder, jun., and Mr. Smith) who have been travelling in Ireland investigating this question of Irish railroads for us, and they say of the railway from Thurles to Cork, which is sixty miles in length, that it will be commenced as fast as the land and money can be obtained; that the branch to Limerick, which is twenty-five miles in length, will be completed by the time the main line is open to Tipperary, and that that event must depend upon the supply of money; of the Killarney Junction, which is forty miles in length, they say it is advertised, but that there is no money to commence. They say of the Cork and Fermoy line, which is sixteen miles in length, that the works are stopped for want of funds; of the Limerick and Waterford, which is fifty miles in length, that it is stopped also for want of money; also of the Cork and Bandon line, which is sixteen miles long; the Cork and Waterford, which is ninety-seven miles in length; and the Cork line to Passage and Blackrock, which is six and a half miles long; that all these are stopped from the same cause—want of money; making, in those seven counties in the southern parts of Ireland, 290 miles of railway which are stopped from want of money. Of the Dublin and Mullingar line, it is reported that the company are prosecuting their works with vigour, and that they have 3,000 men employed—that is, more than sixty men per mile; but that a great many more would be employed if the company had sufficient funds; so that it is evident the company is disposed to prosecute their works with the greatest vigour. Why is it, then, that they cannot accomplish their works with the quickness they desire? It is because there is a general distrust in the English market respecting Irish lines, which is an effectual bar to their getting money on reasonable terms, and it is my proposition that the Government should come to their aid; and the proposition I have to make to this House is, that for every 100. properly expended upon railways, 200l. should be lent by Government, at the very lowest interest at which, on the credit of the Government, that amount can be raised. It may be said that this is lending to the companies at a lower rate of interest than money has been heretofore lent. It may be said, also, and, of course, will be said by opponents of this 781 scheme, that this is insufficient security. But I hope, with the indulgence of the House, to be able before I sit down, to satisfy the House that under the restriction I propose to put upon this proposal, the money so expended will be amply secured. I have long, often consulted anxiously upon this point, with one who is the chairman of companies whose railways extend 1,700 miles in length, and who has the control of 45,000,000l.; and he is prepared to pledge his commercial reputation and character to the country, that the State shall not lose one single farthing by the proposition. My right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of York (Mr. Hudson) will tell you that the worst railway that is under his direction, would afford cent per cent security to Government; and I shall be prepared to show you that of all the railways that ever have been constructed in this country, in Belgium, or in Scotland, the worst would afford ample security to Government. I am speaking, of course, of passenger lines; for the question here is entirely of passenger lines, and not of mineral lines. Well, I have said that my proposition is, that Government is to lend at the interest for which it can be borrowed; and though the interest at present would be 3l. 6s. 8d. per cent, yet I will assume it to be 3½ per cent—that Government is to lend at that interest, and take the security of the whole railway. Consequently, a line paying 7l. upon 300l. expended, would afford ample security for 200l. lent by the State at 3l. 10s. percent; and I am, therefore, prepared to prove that a line which paid but a dividend of 2l. 6s. 8d. per cent would afford perfect security for the interest of the loan lent by the Government. But, Sir, I will show you that there is no line that would not do far more than this. The line in the empire of which the gross traffic receipts are the lowest, is that from Arbroath to Forfar. The gross receipts upon that line, which cost 9,000l. per mile, were in the first year but 468l., while the cost of working the line was 202l. per mile, and yet upon that line, even at that low amount of traffic, the Government would have 3½ per cent interest, leaving 2 per cent over to the shareholders. To show what the Arbroath and Forfar line was, I must tell the House that all the traffic that existed between the two towns previous to the formation of this railway, was of only that amount that it was carried on by one horse and a light cart, which travelled between the two towns three days a week. 782 The population of those towns is only 8,707 and 9,620 respectively, and there are only a few intermediate villages; and yet the number of passengers now carried by the railway amounts to 90,000 a year, or 247 per day, yielding an average amount of receipts of 150l. to 200l. per week, which was a profit of 5 per cent upon the whole of the expenditure, that being 145,000l. Having selected the worst line in the empire, taken, too, in its earliest infancy, and shown that the security to the Government will be sufficient; I have now to show to the House the grounds upon which I conclude that the passing of this measure would have the effect of stimulating English capital, and that it would forthwith set to work English capitalists to complete the railways in Ireland. Before I go on, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hudson) reminds me that I ought to have stated that this security of 100l., properly expended, for every 200l. of loan, is not the only security to be had. We propose to make the Railway Commissioners, of whom you formed last year a board which is responsible to Parliament—to make them a board for the purpose of dealing out these loans to the public. We propose to throw the entire responsibility upon this board; and unless they shall report to the Commissioners of the Treasury that the railway which applies for a loan is likely to be beneficial to the country, and to afford profitable employment, and it offers reasonable and sufficient security to the Government, that the State is not to be called upon, even where the share-capital of the company has been expended, to advance any money to that railway. But I was going on to show in what position my proposition would place the shareholders; and whilst it would be at once clear to the House, that under my proposal a line that pays 4 per cent upon its entire cost—that is to say, 12l. upon every 300l. laid out—would pay to the share-capitalists 5l. interest, after repaying the Government 3l. 10s. upon every 100l. lent; so a line which pays 5 per cent upon the entire cost of the railway, would, after paying 7l. interest for the 200l. lent by Government, leave 8l. for the share-capitalists. While that is clear to the House, I will show to you what effect my proposition would have upon the railways which are now in existence, and are stopped for want of money. I will take a concern, in which the largest number of shareholders are Irish proprietors—the Waterford and Limerick railway. The position of that 783 railway is this; the cost of it was estimated at 750,000l., but a power was given to borrow 250,000l. more; and from the experience of all railways constructed in this country and in Scotland, I think I should not be safe unless I estimated the entire cost of that railway at the amount, not of the estimated capital, but also of the loan the company has power to raise; therefore I will assume that this railway shall cost 1,000,000l. before it is completed. The company have already expended 324,000l. upon the construction of the line, and are now stopped for want of money; the consequence is, that though 27l. 10s. has been paid up out of each 50l. share, these shares are at from 12l. to 14l. discount, or, in other words, 50 per cent discount; so that, in point of fact, the market value of the 324,000l. so expended upon that railway is worth only about 162,000l. Now under my proposition it would not be necessary to make any further vain calls upon the shareholders; they would be entitled at once to demand from the Government a loan equal to 648,000l., which would, as nearly as may he, complete the line. What would be the effect of all this? Why, it was estimated that the traffic of the railway would admit of a dividend upon 750,000l. of 6¾ per cent; but considering that the true expenditure would be, not 750,000l., but 1,000,000l., it would give 5 per cent as the probable dividend on the whole cost of the railway. But if the Government lent them two-thirds of the required capital at 3½ per cent, the effect would be that upon the 324,000l. share-capital already expended, there would be a fair and early prospect of 8 per cent dividend being divided; and the simultaneous effect would be that the shares of that company, instead of being dead in the market, and at a discount of 162,000l., would instantly rise to a considerable premium, and the landed proprietors and the tenantry of Ireland, now unable to meet their calls, would be enabled to get rid of their shares at a premium, and employ the money so obtained in the improvement of their estates and of their farms, thus giving fresh employment to the poor of Ireland. Thus my proposition would have a doubly beneficial effect: it would instantly set to work a great number of persons, and it would enable the landed proprietors who are now shareholders in the concern to make use of their money for the improvement of their estates and the employment of the people. This line, which is a most important 784 one, passes through three baronies in the county of Tipperary, and one in Kilkenny; and in a letter which I have received from the Earl of Glengall, his Lordship informs me they are prepared to set at work 60,000 men in the counties of Kilkenny, Limerick, and Waterford; and that those four baronies which I have mentioned have been paying 4,000l. apiece for some months since in employment upon these public works, with every prospect of those demands being continued upon them for the next eight months; and all this expended upon those useless works of which the only results are to spoil the roads and obstruct the public conveyances. Sir, I may be told that within these three or four days some magic influence has come over Her Majesty's Government, and induced them to allow money for the earth-works on this Waterford and Limerick Railway to be advanced upon the security of the baronial sessions' presentments. But I think this is a clumsy and cumbrous way, and one not altogether just, for it is not just that the land should be burdened for the support of the railways. I think it is much simpler that the loan should be made directly to the railways, and not upon the security of the land. This process of lending to the railway through the instrumentality of the land is a proposal that was made to this House in the year, I think, 1839; and though when it was first proposed it was carried by a majority, yet the Ministry of that time foresaw that it could not be carried, and finally abandoned it. It is utterly impossible to assess upon the landowners any rate by which they can be called upon to contribute in any fair ratio to the maintenance of railways. The land which is close to a first-class station may be increased in value 1,000 per cent, while the property abutting upon the old channels of communication may actually suffer depreciation. Therefore, my idea is, that these advances should be made in a plain and simple way at once to the railways themselves. And, Sir, when I am on the subject of these railways in the southern districts of Ireland, I have not only to tell you that this one company (the Waterford and Limerick) are prepared to employ 16,000 men on these works, but I will take the liberty of reading to the House an application made by the chairman of the Southern and Western Railway to Government last May upon the same subject. On the 22nd of May, last year, 785 Mr. George Carr, chairman of the Great Southern and Western Railway, addressed this letter to Sir R. Peel:—I have consulted the principal contractors on our line, and I find that, in case we had at once a sum of 500,000l., they would undertake to give immediate employment to many thousands in distress, now destitute and unemployed. By a simultaneous action the employment would be distributed judiciously along the greater part of the line; and, the wages being paid in cash, and with the most scrupulous regularity, the disbursement of such a considerable sum through the labouring classes must alleviate, if not entirely remove, all apprehensions of suffering from want and idleness.Again he says—The Government has now an opportunity of affording the greatest extent of relief, with the certainty of a punctual repayment of every shilling borrowed.And he encloses a copy of a letter that he himself had addressed, through their Secretary, Mr. Brickwood, to the Exchequer Loan Commissioners in Ireland. In that letter he tells them that—The whole line is a trifle short of 200 miles in length; that the dense population of the towns along the line—Thurles, Templemore, Tipperary—has long been notorious for its turbulent and discontented character, now aggravated by famine.He justly says—There appears no way of averting the impending calamity, but by giving full and active employment to the peasantry.And he adds—This most desirable object the railway company confidently undertake to effect. All the works at this stage are of that description that can be executed by the ordinary labour of the country; and, with a certainty of obtaining the aid now sought, I may safely assert, that 50,000 poor fellows, now starving and idle, will be placed in a condition to earn such wages as will render them and their wretched families comfortable and independent during the two most trying months of the year, July and August, when the old crop is exhausted, and the new not ripe.Now can any one for a moment reflect on this offer by the Great Southern and Western Railway Company thus to employ 50,000 labourers, and not come to the opinion that true wisdom and true economy were concerned in making the required loan of 500,000l. to them? I ask whether the effect would not have been, so far at least as those counties through which these railways would pass were concerned, that England would not have been called upon to pay one-half the expense of their presentments for the maintenance of their poor? Sir, in addition to these communications, we have one from Mr. 786 Dargan, the great contractor, in Ireland, who has contracted for 300 miles of railway there, and who says that he is stopped, as regards 102 miles, partly from being unable to get possession of the land, and partly from want of money; but that if he were at liberty to proceed, he would the next day put in employment 30,000 men upon these 102 miles. It may, however, be said that my proposal will only affect those counties through which these railways pass; but I beg leave to tell the House, that of the 1,340 miles of railway for which Bills were passed in 1845 and 1846, and those previously passed, the result is, that there are but four counties in Ireland that would not be traversed by railway. These are, I think, the counties of Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, and Galway; but there are already in Parliament Bills for an extension railway from Athlone to Galway, with an extension to Mayo, which will traverse the end of Roscommon, and go through the centre of Galway, and which those intelligent men, Mr. Bidder and Mr. Smith, employed by Mr. Stephenson, assure us is the line of all others of the greatest importance to the welfare of the country, and would certainly pay 5 per cent. Sir, there cannot be a doubt, if this measure were to pass, that another branch, the Great Midland and Western Railway, from Longford to Sligo, would also be carried out, passing through the iron and coal mines of Sligo, and thereby opening to us iron which, according to the report of the Railway Commissioners in 1837, is of the finest description—of the richest and most brilliant ore, with excellent coal for smelting purposes, as well as limestone quarries at hand, but which cannot be worked successfully for want of railway communication. Another line, for which I think a Bill is now before Parliament, would be carried out also to Cavan; and then there would not be a single county in Ireland which would not be traversed by railways. There have already passed Acts of Parliament empowering railway companies to complete 1,522 miles of railway; there are before the House, at the present moment, Bills for 150 miles more; and there are lines from Limerick to Tarbert, a branch to Castlebar, a branch to Roscommon, a branch to Loughrea, a branch to Ennis, and others which will certainly be made if this Bill passes, and railway speculators are thus assured of assistance by the Government. These lines, in length 268 miles more, make altogether 787 1,970 miles; of which 123 are completed, and 164 in progress, leaving somewhere about 200 miles of margin for railways which might be disallowed by the Railway Commissioners. Now, Sir, in introducing this measure to the House, it has not been my wish to bring forward any proposition either of hostility or rivalry to the Government of my noble Friend. I have assured the House publicly and privately— I have pledged my honour to my noble Friend, the First Minister—that I seek no advantage from the carrying of this measure; and that it is my anxious hope that we may come to the consideration of it as if it were a great private Bill, and we were all selected members of the Committee to inquire into its worth. With regard to the measure itself, though the idea of it originated so far back as September, at the house of my hon. Friend Sir J. Tyrell; and though the Bill was drawn so far back as November last, yet until I had given notice of the measure in this House, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich (Major Beresford), who enjoys our full confidence, we had studiously avoided communicating our secret either to any Irish Member, or to any English or Scotch Gentleman connected with Irish railways or with Irish property. We thought, as it was a measure which called upon England for a large advance of money, it would be more becoming that no jury should sit upon it but one consisting exclusively of English Members; and I therefore trust the Irish Gentlemen will not think that we exercised any discourteous discretion when we forbore to consult them before introducing this measure to the House. I felt, amongst other considerations, that there were those out of doors who were disposed to raise a clamour against every proposition for assistance coming from Ireland; and that it would be more consistent with the dignity of the Irish Gentlemen, and with their true interest, that this measure should be above the suspicion of being what is called an Irish job. It may be said that this proposition is one more favourable to Irish railroads and Irish proprietors, than that which they have themselves proposed. My Friends have considered, with me, their proposition, and on the best consideration we could give to it, we came to the opinion that the measures proposed by the Irish Gentlemen themselves, though they might have the effect of completing, after some delay, the best lines, would not have the 788 effect chiefly desired; and that is, to stimulate and promote the profitable and immediate employment of the people on a great scale. My right hon. Friend, who has never undertaken any railway enterprise that has not ended in success, and who is perhaps the best judge of this matter, was of opinion that although such encouragement as the Irish Gentlemen asked might in the course of a few years, and by slow degrees, cause railway enterprise to be carried out in Ireland, yet it would not have the effect of immediately stimulating the execution of them. Without this, half our purpose would be lost. In this, then consists the grand distinction between our plan and that of the Irish noblemen and gentlemen. The great question now arises, and it is this: How many men can you, by your scheme, find employment for? We know by experience—at least I know by information received from Mr. Stephenson, the engineer of the line—that the London and Birmingham railway employed 100 men per mile in its construction for four consecutive years. The London and Birmingham line, however, was one far more expensive in its works than the Irish lines, of which the outside average cost is estimated at 16,000l. per mile. The estimate of Mr. Stephenson is, that, taking one line with another throughout Ireland, to execute the whole of them would require the services of sixty men per mile for four consecutive years. Sixty men per mile for 1,500 miles would give constant employment for four consecutive years to 90,000 men on the earthworks and line alone; but it is estimated that the employment given to quarrymen, artificers, and others, not actually engaged on the line of road, would occupy six men per mile for the whole number of miles under construction. This would give 9,000 men more; to which is to be added—that which experience teaches is the fact—that when a new railway passes through a country, the new fences to be made, the fields to be squared, the new drains and watercourses to be cut, and the new roads to be constructed, also occupy at least six men per mile, which will give 9,000 men more, making altogether a total number of 108,000 men. But there are other miscellaneous employments to which the expenditure of so large a sum of money necessarily gives rise, and it is thought to be putting the number very low when we estimate the able-bodied men required to be employed at high wages, in order to accomplish 789 1,500 miles of railway in Ireland at 110,000, representing, with their families, 550,000 persons. Then, Sir, if, as I have shown, without cost to this country, and in the end adding greatly to the wealth of this country, we could, by such a measure as this, for four consecutive years, feed, by means of good wages to the heads of families, 550,000 of the population of Ireland, it must be admitted that we should go a great way in assisting my noble Friend to carry out his new Poor Law Amendment scheme for Ireland. But by this proposition we expect not only to be able to give subsistence to 550,000 persons, but we seek to provide also for the comforts of these poor people in the course of their employment. We have not forgotten the interests of the labourers: following out the recommendation of the report of the Railway Labourers' Committee, we have inserted in our Bill clauses obliging the companies to see that their contractors pay the wages of the labourers once a week, and that in hard cash. We have provided that if the contractor or subcontractor fail to do so from Saturday to Monday, there shall be a summary process against either at the choice of the labourer, and that he shall be obliged to pay double the amount of wages for every day's delay. But this is not the only point in which we consider the interests of the railway labourer, and this suggestion comes from my hon. Friend, Mr. Stephenson. It is, that the companies shall be required, on the demand of the Railway Commissioners, to construct decent and suitable dwellings for the labourers before they commence their works. Nothing can be stronger than the language used in the report which lies on the Table on this point. It states truly, that it is in vain to think of improving the morals of the people, except you begin by improving their social condition. In practice, however, it has been found that railway labourers have been generally crowded into dwellings and put in places not fit for pigs. Some may think this measure an interference with free trade in the construction of railways; but I understand, from all the best contractors in the kingdom, that it is cheaper to them in the end to consult the convenience and comforts of their labourers. Experience teaches that if a man is uncomfortable at home, he will go to the public house, and that where the labourers cannot be comfortably provided for, and have no 790 opportunities for bringing their wives with them, they will get tired of their work, and desert it altogether. But, Sir, there is also another advantage attending this arrangement, and it is this—that it will afford to the poor-law guardians in Ireland additional means of providing for the labourers in their own parishes who may be out of employment. It might be in vain, without this provision, for the poor-law guardians to say to an idle labourer who asked for relief, that he might get employment on a railway thirty or forty miles off; for his answer might fairly be, "Where are my wife and family to live?" But now I think that with justice, and mercy, too, it will be in the power of every poor-law guardian to say, "Here is an order for a spade, a pick-axe, or a shovel, on this or that railway where they want men; go there and you will get employment, and will find a decent dwelling too; get you gone, you have no longer a claim for relief upon us." I therefore think, Sir, that we shall thus furnish my noble Friend with great facilities for carrying out his Poor Law Amendment Act, greatly assisting the workhouse test. Sir, I will now come to consider what will be the effect upon Ireland of the construction of railways in that country; and in doing so I think I may appeal to the testimony of Mr. Smith of Deanston, as to that of an able as well as an impartial witness. The House will, no doubt, expect to hear, if Mr. Smith of Deanston is asked what measure of all others would be the one most calculated to improve the condition of Ireland, that his answer would be, "drain the bogs." Mr. Smith, however, being asked before a Committee of this House what measure he would adopt for such a purpose, replied at once, "Advance the construction of railways, and then agricultural improvement will speedily follow." Mr. Smith of Deanston was then asked what would be the value of railways to an agricultural population—that being the gist of the examination by the hon. Member for Montrose, who put the question—and he answered—That the improvement of the land for one mile only on each side of the railway so constructed would be so great that it would pay the cost of the whole construction.These were his words—I think it will ultimately prove to be a most important benefit to that country. In my opinion 791 there are few districts in which railway communication could be introduced, where the value of the country through which the railway passed would not be raised to an extent equal to the whole cost of the railway.Arguing on an area of 640 acres for every square mile, after deducting the land occupied by fences, roads, and buildings, he entered into a calculation of the gain derivable from the mere carriage of the produce of the land, and the back carriage of manure, coals, tiles, bricks, &c., and estimates the saving through those means on every square mile to amount to 307l. 2s. 6d., or 614l. 5s. a year on 1,280 acres, abutting each mile of railway, this being the difference of the cost of carriage under the old mode of conveyance as compared with the new. Following up this calculation, he says ten miles of railway at twenty years' purchase would give 1,220,850l.; carrying it on to fifteen miles, it will be seen, he says, that 1,500 miles of railway will improve the land through which it passes to the extent of 1,920,000 acres, at the rate of a mile on each side. This, taken at twenty-five years' purchase, will equal 23,033,625l. sterling in the permanent improvement of the land of Ireland. But he says, "I'll give you a practical proof by referring to the case of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway." He says the land through which the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway passes was let on an average at 5s. per acre previous to the construction of that line, and now it is let at from 30s. to 40s. the acre. Take, Sir, however, not 25s. or 30s. as the annual improvement, but 10s. per acre as the amount of the improvement of the land in Ireland through which these railways will pass, and then calculate the increased value of 1,920,000 acres. The House will find that it equals a capital of 24,000,000l. sterling. The effect, therefore, of carrying out the system of railway construction in Ireland, would be to add 23,000,000l. or 24,000,000l. sterling to the value of the land in that country. But, Sir, the only advantage of the plan does not consist in this. When you employed the labour of Ireland on those works of idleness which you began last winter, and continue to this day—when you employed 83,000 men so far back as last July upon 3,809 miles of road, you spoiled the old lines of communication through the country; and when you made new ones, you diminished the 792 quantity of land available for the production of corn and food in general by so much. You also permanently burdened the country less for their repair and maintenance. Far different, however, is my scheme. I purpose to relieve the country of a cess for the maintenance of 550,000 people at unproductive labour—of people practically in a state of idleness, with one hand; while, with the other, I do not oppress you with any equivalent charge by way of compensation. The land on which the 1,500 miles of railway stand will occupy 15,000 acres, and will pay poor-rate in each parish through which the railway passes. Now, Sir, the average charge for the poor rate on the English lines amounts to one and a half per cent on the gross traffic; I assume the gross traffic on the Irish lines to be, on the average, 1,000l. per mile. On all the English and Scotch railroads now in operation, the average amount of the gross traffic is 3,500l. per mile. But I take the traffic of Ireland to be equal to two-sevenths of the traffic of the English lines for my present purpose: this would give 15l. per mile, occupying ten acres of land, that is, 30s. an acre poor rate on 15,000 acres, amounting to 22,500l. a year. Of all the railways opened in Ireland up to this point of time, none have paid so little as 1,000l. gross traffic per mile; on the contrary, those which three years ago only paid 950l. per mile, now pay 1,600l. I therefore leave it to you, Sir, to say whether I am overstating the case. I ought now to explain to the House what, in my opinion, will be the effect of this proposition. A gross traffic of 622l. per mile, after deducting the cost of working the line, would exactly pay the Government interest, leaving nothing for the shareholders. The ordinary estimate of the cost of working a line is 40 per cent on the gross traffic; the first year of its being in operation the Arbroath and Forfar Railway was worked at the low cost of 202l. per mile; the greater the traffic, the greater, of course, is the cost as well as the gain, there being a greater necessity for increased plant within certain limits. Well, then, Sir, this is the calculation I have made; taking 1,600l. a mile as the average cost of calculation—the Arbroath and Forfar Railway cost, as I have stated, only 9,000l. per mile—but taking 16,000l. per mile as the average cost of construction of all the railways in Ireland, it will stand as follows:— 793
This, Sir, would at once call forth the capital of the country; and there cannot be a doubt that, that if a Bill were passed this Session to the effect that I have suggested, there would be enough capital subscribed within a week to construct all the lines of railway sanctioned by the Legislature for Ireland. And thus, Sir, you would not only have 110,000 labourers employed upon productive works, but you would have, under the present circumstances of the country, the promoters of these undertakings pressing on the works for the purpose of availing themselves of the present redundancy of the labour market, and I cannot doubt but that above 200,000 labourers would be instantaneously employed. But, Sir, I have not as yet detailed all the advantages of this measure. The land to be bought—say 1,500 miles, at the rate of ten acres per mile—for the construction of these railways, would give 1,500,000l. for the purchase-money. The land for the railways already constructed, cost, on the average, 170l. per acre; so that the House will perceive I do not exaggerate my statements. Of this sum 20l. per acre will have to be paid for tenant rights to those in occupation of the land; and assuming the land to have been purchased already on 300 miles, 1,250,000l. will remain to be paid to the landlords for their property. At 170l. per acre, the sum will be equal to 2,040,000l., of which 240,000l. would be divided among the occupying tenants, in number, probably, amounting at least to the number of acres entered upon. These large sums would be thus put at the disposal of the landlords and the occupying tenants; and would be expended by them on the improvement of their land, and the employment of the people of Ireland. I now come, 794 Sir, to the bearing of this measure upon the public revenue. I hear it whispered about that to raise the 16,000,000l. of money, which is my proposition, on the security of 8,000,000l. for the completion of 1,500 miles of railway in Ireland, would knock down the money market, and put the screw on the commerce and trade of this country. That, Sir, however, I do not believe. I cannot conceive that to raise a sum of 16,000,000l., spread over four years, at the rate of 1,000,000l. for every three months, would have any, the slightest, effect upon the money market, or upon the commerce of this country. Sir, I have consulted several experienced persons upon the subject—persons of great ability as well as great experience—among others, the hon. Member for Westmorland, a Director of the Bank of England (Mr. Alderman Thompson), and I shall tell you shortly what is their opinion as to the effect of such a proceeding—it is that it would have no appreciable influence upon either. But, Sir, have we no experience in our own knowledge on this subject? Did we not in 1835 raise a sum of 15,000,000l. to pay the slave compensation money; and what was the effect of that proceeding upon the public funds of the country? Did it kick them down, as it has been objected to my plan, or screw up the trade and commerce of the country? Quite the contrary, as the House will perceive from the following facts: The Slave Compensation Act, 3 & 4 William IV., cap. 73, received the Royal Assent August 28,1833. The average price of Consols at that period was 89l. The loan of 15,000,000l. was contracted for on the 8th August, 1835. The contractors were to receive for every 100l. subscribed 75l. Consols, 25l. Reduced, 13s. 7d. Long Annuities, which would make the price as follows: Consols, 88l. 13s. 4d., Reduced, 90l., Long Annuities, 16s. 4d. The average prices on the day of contract were—Consols, 90l. 2s. 6d., Reduced, 90l. 12s. 6d., Long Annuities, 16s. 4d. During the whole of the year following this contract the price of Consols averaged about 91l., and the premium on the loan ranged from 2⅞l. to 4¼l. So that the contract price for that loan was taken on the whole at an average premium of 1l. 4s. 6d. for the 15,000,000l. Did that kick down the funds, or screw up trade and commerce? Far from it; it had no perceptible effect whatever upon the market then or thereafter. If this was the effect upon that occasion, were there any 795 grounds for alarm even to the most timid on the present? But even if we had not this experience of the loan of 15,000,000l. for the slavery compensation payment, I should have felt the fullest confidence that the money would be raised, seeing that it is to be spent in the country, not out of it. Money spent on productive labour, and in the promotion of native industry, is not likely to depress the public funds of this country; that, Sir, I believe every person will admit. Lord Bacon says that "money is like muck: the more it is spread the more it fructifies;" which is true, so it be money spent upon national and productive enterprise. Send money out of the country, however, as you have done—to the extent of 70,000,000l. a year—for the purpose of supporting a foreign war, the whole of that sum to be spent abroad, and you will unquestionably oppress the money market, and injure the trade of the country. Send money out of the country as you did in 1825—invest 7,000,000l. and upwards, as you did on that occasion, in Peruvian and Mexican silver mines—sink your capital, as you did then, in Bolanos (silver), in Bolivar (copper and scrip), in Cata Branca, in Conceiçao, in Caudonga (gold), in Cobre (copper), in Colombian, in Copaiba, and in no less than twenty-three different foreign mining companies, which the speculators of this country took in hand because they had no railways to make, and then when your gold goes, never to come back to you, of course the funds will go down, and trade and commerce will be correspondingly paralysed. Send 13,000,000l. to Portugal, and 22,000,000l. to Spain, to be swallowed up in Spanish Actives and Spanish Passives, and Spanish Deferred, and the funds will fall of course. Send, as you did in 1836, millions to Ohio for the construction of canals, and millions to Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Virginia for the same purpose, to be invested in bonds of these and the other States, the borrowers of which sums set out with the determination to turn public swindlers, and the funds will certainly fall, and trade and commerce be distressed. Spend 100,000,000l. in this manner, and it will lead to commercial distress; but it will be otherwise when you come to spend your 100,000,000l. on the employment of your own distressed people in productive labour. And if the money is applied to works in this country, just judge of the good effect that will be produced by looking at the way my right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor of York has extended the enterprise of the 796 country; and mark the fact, that while he has enriched himself and the companies, he has added still more to the happiness and prosperity of the people. But, Sir, I beg leave to say that whilst I am calling on the country to lend to Ireland 16,000,000l. sterling at such an interest as we can borrow the money at, without any charge for expenses of any kind, I must at the same time beg leave to state that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer lends this money to Ireland—when he advances a loan to be employed on public works—he does not stand in the same position with the private capitalist. The private capitalist is restricted to the bare interest for what he advances, and he has no profit beyond this; but this is not the case with the State lender; when we look back at the last four years, and reflect on what the expenditure of 13,000,000l. in railroad enterprise has done to increase the revenue, by an increase of customs and excise duties—the enormous consumption of beer, of malt, and of spirits; of tea and tobacco; all of which are articles of peculiar consumption to the railway labourer—you must be of opinion with me that, indirectly, the State will be a sleeping partner in the concern; that while the State lends really nothing but its credit and its name, it will reap from the expenditure—not of 16,000,000l. only, but 16,000,000l. lent by the Government with 8,000,000l. share-capital added, making in the whole 24,000,000l. in Ireland—an enormous amount of increased revenue. We have it stated by Messrs, Grissell and Peto, who are constantly employing 9,000 labouring men on English railways, that in order to promote habits of sobriety, it was thought advisable to restrict each man to one gallon of strong beer a day. Now, a gallon of strong beer brewed from malt and hops, pays 4d. duty; so that each railway labourer, setting aside what his family consumed, and what he pays on the other articles, such as tea, tobacco, and sugar, actually pays the sum of 5l. 0s. 4d. per year in excise on beer alone. Let us see, then, how this calculation may be worked out. On looking at and comparing the amount of excise paid by the Irish people, with the amount of excise paid by the Scotch, we find that the Scotch, in the excise duty alone, paid 1l. 0s. 2d. per head on the whole population; whilst in Ireland the amount was only 3s. 10¾d. per head. This, after excluding and deducting the soap and brick duties, not paid in Ireland, showed a difference 797 in the amount of excise duties paid by Irish and Scotch of 16s. 3¼d. per head. Now, Sir, I am not going to say that this calculation would be entirely correct, as regards the entire population of Ireland; it was, however, made by Mr. Stanley, of the Board of Works, about ten years ago; nor do I mean to state that the effect of making 1,500 miles of railway will be to raise the entire population of Ireland up to the level of the population in Scotland. But I think I may say, and not overcharge the case, that that population of 550,000, represented by 110,000 labourers, will be raised to the average level of all Scotland. If, then, we calculate what 16s. 3¼d. per head will come to on 550,000 persons, we shall find an additional yearly amount to the revenue to the extent of 447,448l., and this at 3½ per cent interest will represent a capital of 12,784,000l. Well, then, there are the customs' duties; and I think when we are constructing railways, it will not be unfair to assume that the customs will be as much increased as the excise. I am aware there is a great difficulty in getting at the exact amount of customs' duties paid by Ireland and Scotland, so large a portion of those duties being received in this country; but from an estimate made, not by myself, but either by Mr. Porter or Mr. M'Gregor, in official finance accounts, I find the gross amount of customs in Ireland shows an average of 5s. 8d. per head, Scotland 13s., making a difference between Ireland and Scotland of 7s. 4d. per head. This difference would represent a sum of 202,000l. a year, representing, at 3½ per cent interest, a capital of nearly 6,000,000 sterling. If it were fair to calculate on this employment continuing after the railways were completed and in full vigour, it would be right for me to say there would be an increase of revenue to the State for ever of no less than 649,000l. per year, representing a capital of more than 18,000,000l. sterling. But taking the amount even at half, the result will give you a capital of 9,000,000l.; or, at one-third, it would still represent a capital of above 6,000,000l. Now, Sir, there would be good grounds for thinking that the execution of 1,500 miles of railway will employ as many people hereafter as when in the course of construction. It is admitted by all those who have a practical knowledge of the subject, that the working of the railways when opened will absorb a great portion of the railway labourers employed 798 in their construction. It is a fact, that ten men per mile are required on the permanent way, and for the maintenance and repair of the engines and the plant of the railway. There will also be many men required as artificers, engine-makers, and coachmakers, to attend to the construction of the new engines, carriages, and trucks, continually required to recruit the old plant—indeed, not fewer than six men per mile will be required on this account; together with those for whom new occupations will be created all along the new lines; so here are sixteen men per mile, at the least, that will be absorbed. We may further look at what railways have done in this country. Look at the towns that have grown up on the South Western Railway, Kingston-on-Thames for instance. But, look still more at what has been done elsewhere, at the southern terminus of that line, at the docks and buildings, which have grown up at Southampton. We can easily imagine that the South Western Railway has absorbed labourers at the rate of sixty men per mile: why should not the Irish lines when made absorb a like number? If I look at the English railways, I see towns have grown up, and improvements have been made on every side; and will not this be peculiarly the case in Ireland? I take, for instance, the railway to Valentia Harbour. We have the evidence of Mr. Walker, the Admiralty engineer, to this effect, "that sooner or later Valentia Harbour must be the American packet station for the whole of the empire." We have the testimony of the late Lord Liverpool to the same effect. The late Lord Liverpool said, in 1826, "that Valentia Harbour must eventually become the point of departure for all Europe for the Western hemisphere;" and who could doubt, if 195 miles of railway were constructed in that direction, that the workmen originally employed in constructing the railway, would forthwith be called upon to raise the houses, towns and docks, the construction of which would necessarily follow. Take another division of the country — open the road to the Sligo mines by means of a railway, and the result will be that a mining population will grow up like the mining population of Staffordshire and Wales. And while I take the lowest estimate of increased revenue — namely, 215,000l. a year, or thereabouts, representing a capital of 6,000,000l.—I think I offer to the country a plan which not only will give ample 799 security for all the moneys advanced or guaranteed, but which will, by the indirect profit that must be afforded, give an immense increase to the revenue of the State, and add to the capital of the country. Sir, it may be said, as it has been said by some, if Irish enterprise cannot help itself, or walk without crutches, Irish enterprise must be allowed to fall. This is not my opinion, or the opinion of my Friends. I beg leave to say, in answer to this, that I have received this day a message from Mr. Moss, one of the earliest promoters of the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, to this effect—
Traffic per Mile per Annum, required to pay the following Dividends, supposing Railway to cost 16,000l. per mile, and to be worked at 40 per cent, cost. Interest on Two-thirds of the Capital advanced by Government at 3½ per cent. Dividend on One-third Share Capital. £. 622 3½ 0 711 3½ 1 800 3½ 2 888 3½ 3 978 3½ 4 1066 3½ 5 1154 3½ 6 1245 3½ 7 1333 3½ 8 1412 3½ 9 1501 3½ 10If it had not been for a loan of 100,000l. advanced by the Government of that day, he doubted whether the Manchester and Liverpool Railway would ever have been made.Well, Sir, but there will be another argument used against my proposal for a loan; it has been used, not in this House, but elsewhere, that a loan made to Irish landlords and Irish interests will never be repaid. Sir, grosser injustice and grosser ignorance of history was never displayed than is displayed by those who make such unfounded statements. True, it may be, that when a million sterling was advanced to pay the tithes due to the Protestant clergy of Ireland, that loan was never repaid; but the religious feelings of the great majority of the people were concerned and affected in that matter. But, on the other hand, we have the authority of Lord Devon, that, as regards loans to Ireland, so far from those loans not being repaid, the truth is, it has been the custom of England to lend her money to Ireland at usurious interest; and, out of the profit made by the usurious interest on loans, Ireland has repaid one-third, or, I may say, two thirds, of all "THE GRANTS," as well as the loans, made to her. But, with regard to the good faith of the Irish people, there are repudiators in America, but none in Ireland. A circumstance has come to my knowledge in support of this fact, which I will relate. The Agricultural Bank of Ireland, which had its head-quarters at Cork, failed; and when its affairs were wound up, it was found there was about 900,000l. out at interest on notes, the joint notes of two tenants, or of a tenant and his landlord; and the greater part of this amount was for sums not exceeding 20l. When the affairs were wound up, such was the good faith, the honesty, of the people who gave these notes, that hardly a shilling was lost. Another instance of the 800 good faith of a still lower class in Ireland I have from Mr. Prosser, an engineer. Mr. Prosser is an Englishman, and two or three years ago had in his employment between 3,000 and 4,000 men. He says, when he first commenced, it was necessary, if an Englishman was employed, to have two policemen to attend and protect him. He wished to work a sawing machine to cut wood, for the purpose of constructing wooden rails for a wooden railway on which he was engaged. At first, there was a disposition on the part of the people to use violence towards his sawyers. He soon found, however, that with the Irish rioters he had only to speak kindly, and to reason with them, and to reason and kindness they speedily listened; and being satisfied he was come not to injure, but to employ and benefit them, they quickly sought his service. These poor fellows, so Mr. Prosser informed me, upon their first appearance, proved to be pretty much in the condition of "Brian O'Linn," who, as the old ballad runs, as you know, Sir, "had no breeches to wear;" yet very soon they learned to like and to appreciate the Englishman's comforts, and, instead of working only three or four days a week, as at first, they soon desired to work hard every day of the week; and next they got to ask for little loans of 20s. or 30s. to purchase clothes, that they might go to church decently, and improve the furniture of their cabins. Mr. Prosser assured me he never refused them, and that in no one instance was a breach of faith committed by these men towards him. Every farthing of the loans was honestly worked out and repaid. And, therefore, when it is said out of doors, that we shall not be repaid if we lend the Irish people our money, I say, here is a complete refutation of the charge; and that the charge is a scandalous calumny upon an honest people and an entire nation. I will now say how I propose the repayment of the loans to take place. It was originally my intention that the repayment should commence seven years after the railway had been in operation, and that the whole sum advanced should be repaid by instalments in the course of twenty years; for I held, and still hold, that a debt on which full interest and some profit is made, is no debt at all to the State; and, in my opinion, it would not matter how long the repayment of the loan was deferred. But, on consulting the moneyed interest on the subject, I was told that repayment by instalments would make 801 such confusion in the dividends of the railways, that common persons who held shares would not be able to tell how they stood, and would not be able to calculate and understand to what dividend they would be from year to year entitled. As it appeared, therefore, to be desirable to name a definite period in which the whole sum advanced should be paid, I decided at once to name thirty years. We have put that period in the Bill. Sir, I have heard it said, at different times, that there is a danger of an outbreak in Ireland. We have heard this story a thousand times repeated, and as often refuted, "that the starving peasantry of Ireland are purchasing arms with which to commence an outbreak in that country." Sir, I do not believe one word of any such representation. I can only express my great surprise, that with a people starving by thousands—with such accounts as we have read during the last two days—of ten dead bodies out of eleven found lying unburied in one cabin; of seven putrid corpses in another; of dogs and swine quarrelling over and fighting for the dead carcases of Christians; of the poor, consigned coffinless to their graves, and denied the decencies of Christian burial, that the price of the coffin saved might prolong, for a few days, the sufferings of the dying — I, Sir, for one, look with amazement at the patience of the Irish people. I see it not in my own country; we see it not in France. We have heard of seven villages in France burned by the peasantry in the course of last autumn; and, seeing this, I think, with regard to the Irish people, we ought to look with admiration on the patience they have displayed. Talk of discontent—talk of sedition—talk of outbreaks—let me, I say, which I will do if this Bill is allowed to pass, fill the starving bellies of the Irish peasantry with good beef and good mutton—with good wheaten bread and good strong beer; and their pockets with English gold, wherewithal to purchase for themselves the blankets and broad cloths of Yorkshire and of Wiltshire, and the fustians of Manchester; and, for their wives and their daughters the printed cottons of Stockport; and may be the ribbons of Coventry; and I, the Saxon, with my head will answer for the loyalty and the honour of the Irish people. Yes. Sir, I, the Saxon, will lead them through their wants fulfilled, their wishes gratified, their warm sympathies and grateful hearts not to sever, but 802 to cement, the union with England. Sir, I have now done; and it only remains for me to thank the House, with my whole heart for the unmerited kindness, patience, and indulgence with which they have for the hundredth time listened to me. I move, Sir—That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the prompt and profitable Employment of the People, by the encouragement of Railroads in Ireland.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said: Sir, I can have no hesitation in offering my tribute to the patriotic feeling which has induced my noble Friend to bring forward this Motion—to the ability which he has displayed, both in forming his plan, and explaining it to the House—to the zeal which he has shown for the benefit of the people of Ireland, and on behalf of that sympathy which, as he truly asserts, must be the best cement of the union of the two kingdoms. Sir, while I do not hesitate to pay that tribute to my noble Friend, I wish that his plan had been such that I could have at once agreed to his proposition, and adopted it in aid of the measures which have been brought forward by Her Majesty's Government on behalf of Ireland; because I can assure my noble Friend that I entirely believe in the sincerity with which he asserted that his plan was intended to aid and assist, and not to hinder Her Majesty's Government; and entirely believing in that sincerity, no absurd or petty feeling on my part, that the plan was not originally proposed by Her Majesty's Government, but by a member of a different party, would induce me to refrain from adopting it. Sir, this matter, though not the plan brought forward by my noble Friend, has been for some time under the consideration of Her Majesty's Government; and we were obliged therefore to look at it in its different aspects, with a view to the adoption of some plan with respect to railways which might be useful to the country, or which might be suited to the present state of destitution and want, I am afraid to say famine, which prevails in Ireland. Sir, in considering such a plan, I would say but a few words with respect to its fitness as a plan suited to the general state of Ireland. My noble Friend near me, the First Commissioner of Woods and Forests (Lord Morpeth), some years ago proposed a plan with respect to railways, which I thought, and still think, would be of essential benefit to Ireland; but that plan proceeded on a totally different principle from that proposed by my noble Friend. It contemplated the 803 formation of railways by the Government, to be conducted under the direction of persons to whom these railways should be let, producing 4 per cent interest; and any additional interest was to be applied either to the extension of railways or the diminution of charges. According to that plan, the object would have been gained which many persons still think very important—namely, a Government control over the railways of that part of the United Kingdom with respect to the Post Office, with respect to the conveyance of troops and stores, and with respect to the directions of the lines and the places to which they ought to go. In all these respects the Government Commissioners thought it would be advantageous to place the lines under the control of the Government; and many persons were of opinion that the French system is far superior to that which has been adopted in this country. But that is a plan not at all resembling that which has been brought forward by my noble Friend. In the course of some years Bills for lines have been passed, the execution of which would require a capital of 15,000,000l.—lines extending over several hundred miles of country; and of course any such plan could not be applied as it might have been if no railways had been commenced. Then, speaking as a general plan of the proposition of my noble Friend, I should say that it is not advisable for Her Majesty's Government to step out of its usual course to interfere with the general application of capital to railways, and to favour one set of companies having set on foot particular railways, rather than another. The very instance which my noble Friend has adduced of the North British Railway being at 40 per cent premium, and of the Southern and Western in Ireland being at 6 per cent discount—[Lord GEORGE BENTINCK here made a remark which was not heard in the gallery]—the exact amount does not signify, but the illustration shows how inexpedient it would be for the Government to interfere in the matter. There is a rate of the market—there is a rate at which people laying out their money think it expedient to value the shares of different railways. Now I think it must be obvious that for a Government to come in to raise the price of shares, and thereby to give them an advantage in the market, thereby to divert some of the capital which would be given to other railways which had no Government assistance, but which stood entirely on their own merits, and the advantage 804 of having private capital given to them—that in itself, in ordinary circumstances, would be a departure from the functions of the Government, and an undue interference with the application of capital, favouring certain parties to the detriment of certain other parties, both of which might be equally deserving of the protection of the Government. But, Sir, the present case is brought forward, and I think its whole merits rest, upon its application to the present distress in Ireland. It is therefore with a view to the present distressed state of Ireland that we have looked at the question. Some time ago—perhaps two months—the railway companies of Ireland had a meeting in Dublin. They made a representation to the Lord Lieutenant, and the Lord Lieutenant transmitted that representation to me. It was to this effect, that supposing that the Railway Acts which had been passed during the year 1845 and 1846 required 15,000,000l. in order for their completion, the Government should in the course of three years advance 5,000,000l., the railway companies engaging to advance the other 10,000,000l. That plan was not so complete as the one proposed by my noble Friend; but it evidently rested on the same principle. I inquired what the effect of such a proposition would be; and let me observe that we stood in the position of having before us the expenditure of large sums of money, partly by loan, partly by grant from the Treasury of the empire, in order to alleviate the extreme distress which prevailed in Ireland. We could not, of course, suppose that there was a boundless mine of wealth at our disposal. We were bound to consider, seeing that the demands must be very large, in what manner they could be applied to the relief of that distress which was the most urgent and the most pressing. Now, my noble Friend can have no difficulty in agreeing with me, after the horrible scenes to which he adverted at the end of his speech, that the most pressing want is the want of food amongst the most destitute, and in the most remote parts of the country. But, Sir, the application of money for the formation of railways by railway companies does not appear to me calculated to promote that particular object. It may be, and indeed it is true, that a railway is a great advantage to the country. Without entering into the calculations of my noble Friend—and those calculations I should not dispute when he has had such assistance 805 as that of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Hudson), Mr. Stephenson, and Mr. Laing—assistance than which none more able or competent can be found—without entering into those details, I shall not dispute my noble Friend's calculations as to the ultimate benefit to be derived from railways. But the question we had to consider was, how the application of a large sum of money from the Treasury could best relieve those who were immediately oppressed by destitution. And it is obvious that the first thing which railway companies do—and upon that point I examined some of the members of the deputation who waited upon me—the first thing they do, when a railway is to be constructed, is to apply to certain contractors to contract for certain parts of the line. I asked further, what these contractors did, and whether the companies had any control with respect to the persons whom they might employ? They said they had no control — that these contractors went to sub-contractors, who take smaller parts of the line, thus removing two degrees from themselves the persons who would have to employ the labourers. I inquired what conditions they made with these parties? They replied that the conditions were, that when a man is an able-bodied labourer, and after he has been learning his trade as it were for two or three weeks, not less than 1s. 6d. a day would be paid him—that they made that agreement with them, but that further they made none whatever. Therefore, the Government was to advance money to the companies, the companies were to engage with the contractors, these contractors with the sub-contractors, the sub-contractors engaging the labourers for the line. Of course these sub-contractors would first engage only the most able-bodied men—those who were the most able to do the work. In the next place, they would engage them at the times when they were wanted, and at the places where their services were required. If there was a village in great distress, at some distance, of course they would not trouble themselves with the distress and destitution of that village. If there were a number of old men whose labour was not of great value in the market, even although they might be starving, the sub-contractors, having to perform the work for a certain sum of money, would not consider it their business to give them employment; they would naturally employ those persons only whose labour was well worth the money to 806 be paid for it. Therefore, it appeared to us that the plan was not calculated to relieve the present distress or the most pressing destitution—first, because the kind of labour to be employed would not be that which tends most to the relief of the existing distress; and in the next place, on examining the map which was brought to me, I perceived, what, indeed, was natural to expect, that the counties through which these railroads are intended to pass are the least distressed counties in Ireland—those counties in the east and the north in which the smallest number of cases of distress have been witnessed, which generally are the most flourishing, and which in times of destitution suffer the least. Therefore the railroad labour did not apply to those parts of the country which are peculiarly distressed, and to which, in the first place, our attention ought to be drawn. Sir, the question of assisting railways has been under the consideration of the former Government, and in the papers which were presented last year I find the minute of an answer given by the Lords of the Treasury, in April, to an application which had been made by a railway company. They said—Acquaint the parties that my Lords do not consider it advisable to make special advances to railway companies who have undertaken to make railways on private account, exclusively for individual advantage; that it is open to those companies to raise money by calls on their subscribers, or by loans; and that on the application to the Commissioners for Exchequer Loans, their claim to receive a loan from the public funds on the same conditions and securities as the undertakers of the works of the same description, will be duly considered.I believe the late Government had occasion, as well as the present, maturely to consider the application. I understand from the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it had been considered, and no doubt the reasons which influenced them must have been not very different from those which I have stated to the House. It did not appear to them that furnishing these railway companies with money was the manner in which the relief of the distress could be best effected. Now, with respect to the distress at present existing in Ireland, my noble Friend's calculations have been generally accurate, and I think he could hardly promise there would be such a duration of employment as he imagined, when he supposed that each of the 1,500 miles of railway would employ sixty men during the whole time of their construction. Of course many of these railways, or at least parts of 807 them, would be soon finished. [Lord G. BENTINCK was understood to say that sometimes 200 would be employed, but sixty was the average number.] The difference is, I think, immaterial, with respect to particular districts. Great inconvenience has sometimes been experienced in a district from the railway works having altogether suddenly ceased, to suit the convenience of the railway company or the contractors, without reference to the destitution which such a stoppage to the works may occasion. It is therefore, quite impossible that persons in the greatest distress, who are spread all over the country in the south and the west, could be relieved or even derive any material benefit from expenditure of this money. What is necessary for them is food. You may call public works useless if you will. They may be useless, except for the purpose of giving wages to those who are without food, as the means of supplying their wants. The system now proposed for you to adopt is a system to give food to those 480,000 persons employed on the public works (who represent 2,500,000), or to give them the means by which food may be purchased. The present emergency is such that it appears to me that giving them food is the chief object at which you ought to aim, and that object will not be accomplished by the railway system. There are other permanent objects which may be accomplished hereafter; but the present object is to endeavour to do as you do by the poor rates in England in a time of great distress. When great distress exists in England, and there is a great pressure on the poor rates, you do not consider whether they are doing any useful work, or employed for any purpose; your object is to distribute food, and by that means enable them to maintain themselves until more prosperous times. On that distress which is the more pressing, I say the railway project of my noble Friend will have little effect. Now, with respect to the general improvement of Ireland, I agree generally in the picture which my noble Friend has drawn. I agree with him in thinking that the establishment of railroads in Ireland would be of immense benefit; and I do hope to see railroads established in that country; nor do I say altogether that in every case public assistance ought to be refused. But this I say, that having a case of real destitution before us, I do not think it will be wise at the present time to devote 16,000,000l. of the public money 808 to the promotion of railroads. I do not believe that it would be a wise expenditure; and seeing the vast demands upon us, I think if we did so, we should be obliged to check other expenditure which is more immediately necessary. I do not wish to enter further into this question. I shall not oppose the introduction of the Bill. I understand from the Speaker that, in point of form, no objection exists to its introduction, provided it does not introduce those money clauses which would require a previous Committee. But, Sir, when I say that I do not oppose the introduction of the Bill, let my noble Friend understand me, that I may not be accused afterwards, as I trust I never shall be accused, of practising deception. My opinion is, that it would not be wise for the Government to adopt the scheme of my noble Friend. When we go into Committee for the purpose of voting the money, I think there will be but two courses for the Government to pursue: either to adopt the scheme entirely as their own, to make themselves responsible for it, and carry it out as their own; or, on the other hand, refusing to be any parties to it, to refuse their assent to its being carried on by my noble Friend. When a vast grant of public money is proposed, the confidential servants of the Crown are obliged to take a decided line.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
supported the principle of the Bill. He thought it would have been more consistent with the courage for which the noble Lord at the head of the Government was remarkable, if he had boldly refused to give his assent to the introduction of the Bill, rather than give his consent to that stage for the sake of conciliating certain support in Ireland, while he at the same time notified that he would oppose the measure in Committee. The noble Member for Lynn deserved more of the gratitude of Ireland than any party in that House, for he was the only one who had brought forward a great plan for the redemption of that country from her misery. The noble Lord at the head of the Government mystified himself, and contradicted his own statements, for in one part of his speech he protested that it would be anything but fair or proper to give a preference to one railway company over another, and yet in the very next sentence he admitted that he did not see any serious objection to the practice, and he even went so far as to say that it was not impossible that at some future time he might himself adopt it. But there was no 809 time like the present. If the proceeding was one that ought to be sanctioned under any circumstances, surely there was no moment at which those circumstances existed so palpably and pressed so urgently as at the present. He could wish to have seen the Government coming forward with some great comprehensive and statesmanlike project similar to that which had been introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn; but it was deeply to be deplored that not only would they not bring in any such measure themselves, but that they would not permit such a measure to be promoted by any one else. The speech of the noble Lord at the head of the Government would produce deep dissatisfaction in Ireland. The Irish people would not be content to see their representatives pat them on the back, and bring in for their relief nothing but paltry, insignificant measures. That description of legislation would not do. They expected that the Government would have been prepared with some great comprehensive scheme, and that they would not have contented themselves with filching the little measures of individual Members. In conclusion, he had to reiterate the intimation of his surprise and regret at the conduct pursued by the Government; and again to express his unqualified admiration at the bold, statesmanlike, and comprehensive scheme of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that, in common with the hon. Member for Wycombe, he too had to express his surprise and regret at the course pursued by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord had, in distinct terms, given the House to understand that he had an insuperable objection to the Bill of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and yet he so far sanctioned it as to permit its being read a first time! Why had that been done? If it was an improper proceeding to adopt the Bill at all, why did the noble Lord permit it to go out to the world with the sanction even of a first reading? He (Mr. Roebuck) objected to the Bill in limine, and he would tell the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and the House, why he did so. The noble Lord proposed that this country should employ some fifteen or sixteen millions on a certain description of speculation in Ireland, namely, the construction of railways. In ordinary cases the application of capital was left to private enterprise, private speculation, private energy, and all the responsibilities which were necessarily incurred 810 by private individuals in expending their money. In ordinary cases capital thus obtained was obtained from the rich; it was procured out of the surplus wealth of the population, and was applied by those who collected and supplied it under all the responsibilities to which he had alluded. But what did the noble Lord the Member for Lynn propose? He did not ask the rich to come forward; but he modestly requested the noble Lord at the head of the Government to tax the people of England in order to apply their capital to Ireland. His objection rested on that ground. He objected to the people of England being taxed for the purpose of employing the capital of the country in any speculation at all. Tax the people of England by all means for the purposes of Government; but let them not be taxed for such purposes as these. Had he not a right to appeal to every English Member who represented an English constituency in that House, and to ask him whether he were prepared to suffer his poorer constituents to be taxed for such purposes as these? The noble Lord at the head of the Ministry told them that he should be obliged to expend 9,000,000l. in relieving the distress which existed at the present moment in Ireland. By a report, which was then lying on the Table, it appeared that presentments to the amount of 2,500,000l. had already been made in Ireland; and a Bill had been brought in by the present Administration, and was that moment awaiting the decision of the House, the object of which was to allow the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the Treasury to sanction still further presentments, to the amount of 2,500,000l. But this was not all. The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown acknowledged to 9,000,000l. [Lord J. RUSSELL intimated dissent.] The noble Lord had expressly stated that seven millions of money would be wanted between this and August for the relief of the distressed poor in Ireland. Then, he said, that 2,000,000l. had already been appropriated for the same purpose, thus making 9,000,000l. If, besides that, 2,500,000l. were to be added by way of presentment, the sum total of money required for the exigencies of Ireland would be no less than 11,500,000l. 11,500,000l. were ready to be called for; and now the noble Lord the Member for Lynn had the heroism to come down and ask for 16,000,000l., making the total of moneys to be applied by Government for the relief of Ireland 26,000,000l. 811 55,000,000l. was the ordinary sum they could collect every year. Of that sum more than one-half went to the payment of the national debt; so that they had eight millions of people now demanding from the Government more than one-half of the actual revenue of the State. It was all very fine for hon. Members to talk of "great comprehensive schemes;" and it was very easy to apply the charges of hard-heartedness and cruelty to other Members who had some consideration for their overtaxed countrymen. Such conscientious Members might be, and no doubt would be, accused of malignity and mendacity, or of gross ignorance, when they made statements such as he now was making; but it was yet to be seen what the world out of doors would say, and what their constituents would say, when they would come to be taxed. He had been told by the mayor of the town which he had the honour to represent, that such was the distress prevailing there, that poor women were obliged to strip their children of the poor clothes that covered their nakedness, and to tear them up and sell them for twopence a pound, as rags, in order that they might procure the means of purchasing food. When things of this kind were told of Ireland, there were great manifestations of sympathy; but when the same things were told of Somersetshire, there was marked carelessness, philosophic indifference, and hon. Gentlemen smiled as if at the exaggeration of the description. And yet there was no exaggeration. He had it under the statement of the first city officer, and from the tax-gatherers themselves, who told him that when they went to the dwellings of the poor to collect taxes not paid in Ireland, the assessed taxes—let that be marked—the women were obliged to take the wedding-ring from their fingers to satisfy the demand. And yet they talked of "comprehensive schemes," and inveighed against the hard-heartedness of all who did not fall into the strange vagaries of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. The noble Lord talked about his willingness to sacrifice his head, which he valued very highly himself, though what value other people might be inclined to attach to it was quite another matter, in the event of his scheme failing, were it adopted, to fill the bellies of the Irish people with good mutton and nut-brown ale. The men were to be comfortably clad in the cloths of Manchester, and their wives to be bedizened with the ribbons of Coventry; 812 and in addition to all this, they were to have English gold in their pockets. English gold in their pockets would be the commencement and the end of that halcyon state. But there would be no more gold in the pockets of the English—no more broad cloth on their backs—no more ribbons on their wives—no more ale—no more mutton. Was not the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, in the House that night, a sad exhibition to be made by any man who knew anything of the state of the English people? Was it to be borne that a man should get up and declare that he was about to produce, by some kind of necromancy, the extraordinary effect of feeding the people on mutton and ale in Ireland, when England was herself at that moment in such a condition of distress that large bodies of her people were never in the habit of tasting either mutton or ale? If, in the same spirit, any one were to stand up and, representing that large numbers in Scotland were suffering from distress, were to insist upon it that the people of Scotland should be maintained out of the English Treasury; and if those who resisted the application were to be accused of malignity and mendacity for not accepting the proposition, to what a pretty pass would not things soon come? And yet they might come to that pass too at the rate they were going. If they once departed from the simple and wise rule of allowing private enterprise to govern all the transactions connected with the application of capital, where would they end? As a representative of a portion of the people of England, he too would come down to that House, and demand a sum of money for England as well. [Mr. OSBORNE: Only fair.] He was glad to hear the hon. Member for Wycombe say it was only fair. It was clear, therefore, they had come to a general scramble for property. If they were to make a general collection for purposes like these, and to carry out the principle fairly, they were throwing property into a hodgepodge, and having a general scramble for it. The noble Lord opposite had based his proposition on one or two things. He either thought it was a good plan as a matter of mere speculation, or that it was merely good as an expedient for relieving the distress in Ireland. Now, the last of these pretences he would take first, and direct the noble Lord's attention to the fact, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had expressly and 813 emphatically declared it to be his opinion, that the scheme would be totally inoperative of good as a remedy for distress. The noble Lord had shown most satisfactorily, that as an expedient for relieving the present distress it would be absolutely useless. No; it was simply taking advantage of the present distressing state of Ireland, to press the ordinary demands of the Irish landlords, and of persons in that House connected with Ireland, on the people of England. ["No, no!"] Yes, let it go forth that hon. Gentlemen connected with Ireland cried out in that manner against a statement which they knew they could not combat; but they might rest assured that if ever a bill of appropriation of that sort were to be brought in, there was one clause which he would take especial care to introduce into it, namely, that no Member of either House of Parliament should be permitted to share in the proceeds. He hoped the hon. Member for Wycombe would second his Motion. But if the scheme was not one for the relief of the distress in Ireland, what was it? Just what he said—an attempt to take advantage of the present state of Ireland, in order to force on the English House of Commons a plan of that kind for the advantage of the landlords of Ireland, and that too in addition to loans already made for the draining of land, the making of roads, and all the other projects. It appeared to him to be one of the most marvellous propositions that had ever been made within the walls of that House. He was sorry there had not been a division on the Bill. He was anxious for it. The course that had been adopted was an easy way to get out of a difficulty. Leave was given to bring in the Bill; but when it would come on for second reading, the noble Lord at the head of the Government would quietly stand up and say he could not sanction it, and to the ground it would drop at once. But the people would not understand what their constituents would have done in the event of the question being brought to a division. The whole thing had gone quietly out. Already it was amongst the things that were. The noble Lord the Member for Lynn had all the glorification of having devised a most magnificent plan for making railways in Ireland. Government would courteously declare their regret that they could not sanction the magnificent plan; and the magnificent plan would accordingly go out like the snuff of a candle, and they would hear no more about it. He defied the 814 noble Lord to take a step in advance after that. The consent of the Crown would not be given, and there would be an end to the Bill. It was really a little too hard that the noble Lord should have consumed three hours of the public time in making a speech on a Bill which every one in the House knew would not be permitted to be proceeded with. The noble Lord had made a very grand speech, and got a great deal of glory, and there was the whole sum and substance of their senatorial proceedings that night. It appeared to him that they would have been much better employed in considering the Government's proposal for a new poor law, and in accelerating the enactment of feasible and rational measures for the immediate mitigation of distress. He sincerely hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would not for the future sanction any measure like the present, even so far as to permit its being read the first time. It would have been much more in accordance with the usual straightforward policy of the noble Lord, that he should have at once declared that the Bill was one of which he could not consistently with his duty approve. However, though this had not been done, as it was morally and physically impossible that the noble Lord the Member for Lynn could take another step in the matter, it was just as well that the House and the public out of doors should at once understand that the responsibility of the refusal of the Bill rested on the head of the Government. The House of Commons could express no opinion whatever on it. The whole responsibility of its rejection rested with the Administration, and nobody else.
§ ALDERMAN THOMPSON
thought that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would have taken a great responsibility indeed, if he had refused permission to bring in the Bill. He would have been treating the country very improperly after the able, bold, and practical exposition delivered by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. The hon. and learned Member for Bath was very much mistaken in supposing that the noble Lord proposed by that measure to tax the people of this country to the extent of sixteen millions. If he understood the noble Lord aright, he had not contemplated anything of the kind. He did not propose to tax the people of this country one shilling. All he asked was, that there should be lent on the national credit of the country, upon ample and sufficient 815 security, 16,000,0000l. for the promotion of railways, and the relief thereby of the people. The public, he was sure, would be much more dissatisfied on learning, that instead of the noble Lord's plan being adopted, 7,000,000l. or 8,000,0000l. was to be given to Ireland, there being no prospect of receiving back more than 10s. in the pound. A strong feeling to this effect was gaining strength abroad, notwithstanding the unquestionable existence of a sentiment of sincere sympathy for the sufferings of the Irish people—a sentiment which was nowhere felt more acutely than among those connected with the moneyed interests. The reason why there was no private enterprise just then in the promotion of railway projects in Ireland was, that the majority of the railway proprietors were Irish gentlemen, who had subscribed in anticipation of receiving rents which they had never received. He did not concur with the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown in the opinion that the plan of the noble Lord on his left would not be operative of good in relieving distress, for though it might be quite true that the railways would run through the least distressed districts, those of the east and north, the relief committees in the south and west, when able-bodied men applied to them for relief, would no doubt display great alacrity in transferring them to the railways in progress in the east and north.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
did not agree with the hon. Member for Bath in thinking that the time of the House had been wasted in listening to the speech and the very well-arranged plan of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. He thought, on the contrary, that the answer that had been given to him by the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury would prove to those who had paid attention to his argument, that at all events—even supposing the noble Lord below him to be correct in his dislike of the proposition — that at all events the arguments were not so overwhelming on that side as the hon. Member for Bath seemed to suppose. Therefore it was desirable that the arguments on the other side should be fully laid before the Legislature and the country, with a view to the consideration of their applicability to the present extraordinary circumstances of the country. He thought the noble Lord had exercised a sound discretion in not refusing to entertain this Bill. He owned that it appeared to him possible that it might be made to dovetail in very admirably with 816 that scheme which the noble Lord had laid so ably before the House. So far as he understood it, he believed it to be (in spite of what the hon. Member for Bath had insinuated that night) a good scheme when considered with reference to the distress in Ireland, and the chronic misery that had so long prevailed there. He felt it was impossible to allow Ireland to go on any longer as she had been going on, and that a great effort must be made on her behalf. He was of opinion that that effort must be made by the combination of as many great resources as they could by possibility combine, only supposing them to be applicable to the circumstances of the case; that no one measure was sufficient; that they must have a combination of great and extraordinary measures if they entertained any hopes of success. He for one had been alluded to as having for some years advocated one of those measures, and he was told that he had put it forward as the panacea and nostrum that would do everything for Ireland. That was contrary to the fact: he never thought that the introduction of a larger poor law for Ireland, even to the extent of the English poor law, could effect the beneficial objects they had in view, unless it was accompanied, as the noble Lord had said it should be accompanied, with a great series of invigorating measures, having for their main object the development of the resources of Ireland by the employment of her population. The hon. Member for Bath had talked to them of not interfering with ordinary industry and the commercial principle and enterprise; but he maintained that the principle which guided them under ordinary circumstances was not applicable to the present condition of Ireland. He believed that they could not cure Ireland by the application of the commercial principle; for what was the present state of that country? Would any person take up any of the blue books that had been laid before them within the last few days, and glance at them, and then tell him if such a state of things had ever before occurred? It appeared that they were spending at the rate of about 1,000,000l. a month in that country on (more or less) unproductive works. The proposal of the noble Lord was to put an end, as soon as he could, to unproductive expenditure, though it could be done but by slow degrees, and to substitute a scheme of relief which, so far as he understood it, was to distribute food to those in want of it, without securing any return in the 817 shape of labour. He did not understand how the noble Lord was to have security for return of labour by the able-bodied to whom the food was given. It was necessary that they should adopt large and extensive efforts for the employment of labourers, and it was suggested that they should leave it to capitalists and Irish proprietors to employ them; but he thought it was absolutely necessary that the Government of the country should take the initiative and set the example. Under ordinary circumstances, the capitalists of England, from the expectation of those large profits which the noble Lord held out to them that night, might be induced to embark in railways and other schemes that would cause the employment of capital in Ireland; but the circumstances in which the commercial principle could alone exert itself, or would safely develop itself, that first principle was wanting in Ireland. That condition was the security of personal property. They had not that security at present; and until they obtained it, private capital would not find its way into Ireland, to the extent that was required to set in motion the enormous amount of labour that was now unemployed. And how could they expect it? He dare say the House would recollect, in the report of Mr. Nichol, in 1837, an argument which had made, he believed, a considerable impression on the public. It appeared that capital would not go freely into Ireland because of the insecurity of personal property; that property was insecure there from the want of employment; and thus the circle was completed. The question now was, how they would break that circle up. The Government, to some extent, proposed to do this by their scheme. So far as he understood, the noble Lord intended to employ a large portion of the public money in some system of arterial drainage of the country. He proposed the further plan which he, for one, would be glad to see them executing; he alluded to their intention of commencing the reclamation of a portion of the waste lands in Ireland: but he thought it would not be an unwise addition to the list of measures of the noble Lord, if he took into consideration the propriety of extending his aims to railway enterprise, now at a standstill in Ireland. If there was any truth whatever in the calculations brought forward that night by the noble Lord, he could not believe the money would be so unproductive. Even if it were wasted, and even if it were not repaid, why, to 818 what extent must they expend money in raising Ireland from her present condition, and for feeding millions of her population that were now sinking into pauperism and misery? How could they feed them without a large expenditure? and no one, he believed, wished to leave them in their present condition. The voluntary employment that was given to them by landlords, would not absorb all the labour of the country; and he could not but think that a great scheme of railroads, somewhat in the way of the proposition of the noble Lord, would be a beneficial adjunct to the other elements of the comprehensive schemes introduced by the Government. He did not wish to intrude upon the House, but he could not help putting forward this statement. He considered that the proposition with reference to the commercial principle, and leaving capital to introduce itself into Ireland, was not applicable to the present unprecedented position of the country; and if they acted upon that proposition, they would, in ten months hence, find themselves in the same position as they did now.
COLONEL THOMAS WOOD
observed, that the measure before the House had been described as a proposition for lending the credit of the country for the promotion of railways in Ireland. They knew that the credit of the country was indefinite, and that it was impossible to say to what extent the credit of the country might be involved in those speculations. He regretted the course taken by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on this occasion; and he must say he was not true to himself in taking that course. They had evinced every disposition to do everything that was just and necessary for the relief of distress in Ireland; but he believed they were not prepared to undertake the completion of those railways. He was disposed to assist the Government in the measures they had brought forward for the relief of Ireland; but he did not think the noble Lord had done well in waiving the forms of the House to permit the introduction of this Bill—forms that were made to prevent Bills of this kind (containing money clauses) being thus introduced; and without the money clauses of the Bill it would be mere waste paper.
§ MR. HUME
knew there was but one feeling in that House, to relieve Ireland if possible; but there must be at the same time those considerations for the other parts of the empire, to which the hon. 819 Member for Bath had referred. He thought it would have been better for the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) at once to have taken the opinion of the House on this question. He did not think the noble Lord had done himself justice in not stating to the House the reasons assigned by the Government that preceded him for not acceding to this demand, which had been represented by Mr. Trevelyan as the reasons why the late Government had refused to accede to it. He should have stated to the House, in the plainest way, the objections to do so which were contained in the letter of Mr. Trevelyan to Mr. Labouchere, on the 6th of October, 1846. In that letter, Mr. Trevelyan appeared to give the true reasons which induced Sir Robert Peel steadily to resist the solicitations pressed upon him to make advances to Irish railways. Mr. Trevelyan said—I will now perform my promise to the best of my ability, and give you the reasons why Sir R. Peel and his Government wished to suppress the introduction of railways into Ireland.And then went on to state, that were they introduced, they would not be of any assistance to "relieve the destitute labourer, but be the means of putting money into the pockets of the speculative shareholder." In the next paragraph, he said—The only portion of the expenditure incurred in the construction of railways that is applicable to the relief of general distress is that incurred by earth-works, and that constitutes on an average but one-third of the whole work; the rest of the expenditure is appropriated to the purchase of land, the erection of buildings, parliamentary and legal expenses, &c.Here were the reasons assigned by Mr. Trevelyan as those which had influenced the late Government. He wished the noble Lord had made use of this argument, which was so forcibly put, and which to his (Mr. Hume's) mind was perfectly unanswerable. Would any hon. Gentleman, in the present state of distress in England and Scotland, incur that responsibility? for Mr. Trevelyan afterwards stated, if those railways were not productive they would become a charge on the taxation of the country; and that was a question the Chancellor of the Exchequer was bound to look to. He was one of those who undoubtedly regretted that railways were not introduced at an earlier period into Ireland. He was one of those who had at a former period strongly supported the proposition for the introduction of railways into Ireland. He thought the making of the trunk lines would lead to considerable expenditure, which would be 820 productive not only to the labouring classes, but to the commercial classes of the country, and he supported the proposition; but he found the country gentlemen of Ireland were the principal opponents of the measure. He did not say that ought to prevent them on the present occasion from giving assistance if they could see a fair reason for giving it; but looking to the reasons which Mr. Trevelyan had so ably put before them, he did not think they should. And also from other information he had received, he did not think that those railways would pay the interest of the expenditure. He asked whether the hon. Member for Stroud was right in saying the commercial principle ought not to be adopted? He would state what he meant by the commercial principle, and he wished the noble Lord at the head of the Government to take the question into consideration. He was informed by several Irish gentlemen, qualified, as far as he could judge, to give an opinion on the subject, they being anxious to employ labour, that all that was requisite to employ labour, was to give individuals who had capital the land that lay there waste, to till; to remove restrictions against the sale of land; to modify, if not to remove, the entail; to remove the burdens that were spread over property in Ireland, and to allow those who were anxious to pay their debts to have a portion of their estates sold for the purpose. He had alluded to the subject on a former evening, and since then he had obtained more correct information. It appeared that there was land waste and unproductive now, and if the Government attempted to improve it, the attempt would be attended with loss and ruin; but let that land be free, let it be sold—and it could be sold to any extent in portions of from 300 to 500 acres, for twenty-eight years' purchase. There would then be the immediate application of the capital of the purchaser to the improvement of the land, and that would take place all over Ireland. One of the first measures that should be introduced to give instantaneous employment, was to allow the commercial principle to operate. The man who bought land should be allowed to apply his own capital to that land. It would give instantaneous employment to labour in every part of Ireland, and be one of the best ways of regenerating that country. He thought the noble Lord ought to be more distinct than he had been in the expression of his opinion, and should not have held out anything like a hope, for the result 821 would be an expectation on the part of Ireland that the Government would come forward with its money. The country gentlemen would then do as they had already done, namely, expect the Government to do all that was necessary. The time was come when the Government should tell them, that unless they undertook their duty, and acted as they ought to do, it was impossible for any assistance to save their country. He regretted to see that by any Bill before the House, the Lord Lieutenant was to do this, and the Lord Lieutenant was to do that. There were committees appointed by law to regulate and manage the money of the poor; and why should they not now be called upon to take the entire charge? But instead of that, nothing was to be done without the Lord Lieutenant. It would be much better to remove the Lord Lieutenant, and allow the measures to go from the Treasury without any intermediate interruption.
§ MR. H. GRATTAN
complained of the gross exaggerations which appeared in the newspapers respecting Ireland and the Irish Members. He expected to see an exaggerated account of the proceedings of the Irish Members with respect to this proposition. For instance, he should not be surprised to see it stated, that last night a meeting of Irish Members was held in the neighbourhood of Westminster, and there was present a person who had got off the Bath coach, who presented a brass blunderbuss at those attending it, but which fortunately missed fire, whereupon the villain went off. The hon. Member for Bath, who had indulged in such vituperation and abuse of the Irish landlords, had complained that a charge of mendacity and malignity had been brought against him. He had made no such charge. But what right had the hon. Member to charge the resident Irish landlords with the neglect of their duty, which was an unfounded accusation? What were the facts of the case? The countrymen of the hon. Member went to Ireland to rob and plunder the country, and he had now the audacity to bring such charges as he had indulged in. What right, therefore, had the hon. Member to attack Irish Members who remained in Ireland in discharge of their duty? The hon. Member did not know what was the duty of Irish landlords, or what were their interests. They had never asked for a gift of money. But what had really occurred? The Government of this country borrowed money at 3½ per cent, which 822 they got five per cent for from the Irish, people. The hon. Member had said that the money advanced to the Irish landlords had not been repaid; but what was the fact? Of 350 loans lent to Ireland, considerably more than three-fourths had been paid back, with five per cent interest. Out of 700,000l. lent, only 131,000l. was unpaid. The hon. Member complained of English gold being sent to Ireland; but when there was a surplus of Irish gold in the Irish Exchequer, who took it? Did the Irish landlords or the Irish people? No; but the Sovereign of the country of which the hon. Member was a representative. When the hon. Member complained of the amount sent from this country to Ireland, he would ask what had become of the English money which was sent to Ireland? Was it to be expended for purposes of virtue, or honour, or honesty? No such thing. It was sent there to buy and bribe the majority of the Irish House of Commons to demoralize, degrade, and destroy their country. This country was now reaping the consequences of such proceedings. He rejoiced that there was a God in heaven who would punish and avenge such crimes: "Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, and I will repay." He rejoiced that that House had at length been brought on its knees before those Irish beggars whom it had reduced to that condition. The hon. Member alluded to the large exports of Irish produce to England. Was he to be told that his country was benefited by the exportation of Irish cattle and sheep? Every ox taken out of the country threw thirty men out of employ. The hide was taken from the tanner, the hoofs and the horns from the turner and other manufacturers, and the victualler and the Salter were also thrown out of employ. The object of the exportation of cattle was not to benefit the people, but to pay the rents of absentee landlords, who came over to this country to spend it. He held in his hand a list of absentees, and the amount drawn from the country by them. He found that the brother of an hon. Member who had just taken his seat, drew, as an absentee landlord, not less than 7,000l. a year from one county in Ireland. In Wicklow, 50,000l. a year was paid to absentee landlords, and in Waterford 40,000l., and in other counties the amount was in an equal ratio. Was he to be told that no injury was done to his country by these individuals? Government had thought fit to say that the present calamity was a visitation. 823 It was so. But it was not the loss of some millions which could have reduced his country to its present state of abject misery. Since the Union down she had dropped: she had dropped from the sky of prosperity to the lowest state of adversity. It had taken away the nobility and gentry of Ireland, and had left the people to their own unaided resources. When this country had to pay not merely ten, but twenty or thirty millions, she would send the Irish landlords—not as Cromwell did, across the Shannon, but—across the Channel. Their children would have to rue the consequences of their misdeeds, as the present generation did the injustice of their progenitors. He wished to caution Irish Members and the Irish people against the insidious and artful advice of those who would lead them to destruction. The hon. and learned Member for Bath, in attacking the gentry and the people of Ireland, had indulged in what he (Mr. Grattan) would not call satire or calumny, but what he would call the dripping poison of a shrivelled adder. The Irish Members had never forgotten their loyalty to their Sovereign in the worst of times. In 1778 and 1796, when on neither occasion were there more than 6,000 men in the country, they had shown their devoted loyalty. On one occasion, when they had the most just ground of complaint for a wrong done their country, they were addressed by a Member of that House in the most seditious language, but they disregarded the advice then given them. For language much less seditious, persons had in Ireland been sent to the gallows or transported. The hon. Member to whom he alluded stated, on the occasion in question—If the Members for Ireland would take his advice, they would leave that House at once and for ever, as it was plain Ireland could not look for justice from an English House of Commons. If the opinions of Parliament were to be judged of by the opinions and votes of its Members, justice never could be done to Ireland, and the sooner she was separated from England the better. The people of America having much less ground than Ireland had now to complain, had fought nobly for their independence, and had put down till then the indomitable pride of England. Unfortunately, Ireland had not followed so glorious an example, and the consequence was that she had suffered oppressions unequalled in any other country in Europe, with the exception of Poland. Irishmen had become the slaves of the despotism of England, and if they wished to continue so, instead of fighting manfully and boldly by every means in their power for their independence, they would passively give way to the provisions of the most iniquitous measure that had ever been brought 824 forward, and they would deserve the execration of every honourable man.Was not this seditious and traitorous language? He asked who was the traitor? Was it an Irish Member? No; it was the hon. Member for Bath who used those words in the debate on the Irish Coercion Bill in 1833; and he cautioned Irish Members and English Members against taking the counsel of such a man. He felt satisfied that the greatest calamities had been inflicted on Ireland by following such advice as that of the hon. Member for Bath. He would now leave this piece of sedition, and come to the common-sense view of the matter. He trusted that the Government would not neglect the advice of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn on this subject, as embodied in the proposed Bill; for if it were acted on, it would give employment for five years to 550,000 persons. All that he would ask, if this measure was refused, was to send the Irish Members back to their country to legislate and make laws for themselves. If they were sent back in this way, they would no longer want money from this country, or loans borrowed at 3½ per cent, and charged to them at 5 per cent; and the result would be successful, as they would be enabled to combine the common-sense of the people of England, the economy of Scotland, with the sterling honesty of the people of Ireland.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
regretted that, in the present awful state of destitution in Ireland, a single day should be lost in proceeding with the measures for the relief of that country. The Government appeared to be most earnest and anxious to push on their measures of relief. They exhibited the most earnest sincerity in their endeavours to carry into effect the measures proposed by them. The plans proposed by the noble Lord opposite, the Member for Lynn, might be good, or they might be bad—there certainly was much speciousness about them; but he called upon the noble Lord not to press them on at present—not to interfere with the Government in the progress of their measures. He begged of him not to forget that the Government had a great responsibility upon them; and he entreated him, in Heaven's name, not to remove from them that responsibility, and throw it upon his own and the Irish Members' shoulders. Let them, under any circumstances, do immediately what was necessary to avert the famine. Much of that night had been already lost. Much 825 intemperate and uncalled-for language had been spoken. One hon. Member, who had upon other occasions made himself unfortunately conspicuous, had again indulged himself in a most intemperate strain. He (Mr. J. O'Connell) should think that if that hon. Member's head was right, his conscience could not be easy. What was the meaning of his coming forward and throwing the torch of useless discord into the debates of that House, whilst the people of Ireland were perishing by thousands? Of what use was it to taunt the Irish Members with all the moneys spent upon their country — to taunt them with such things as gifts—they who were firmly impressed with the belief that their country had been wronged instead of benefited — grievously wronged; yet who had, nevertheless, shown no disposition to discuss such subjects there? He asked, had the Irish Members shown any such disposition since the commencement of the Session? Had they not, on the contrary, come forward freely to give every assistance in their power to the progress of the measures proposed by the Government? And yet vituperation was poured upon them; and the hon. Member for Bath was allowed to vent upon them, not his splendid virus, but his sordid bile. He asked the hon. Member for Bath to forego for the present his attacks, and wait until the pressing measures for the relief of the starving people should have passed the House. Let him allow the Government to pass their plans; and then, let him give notice of his intention to appoint a day upon which he would pour out all his bile, all his taunts, all his animosity, all his slanders upon the Irish, and they (the Irish Members) would be ready to meet and to refute them. At that very moment there was a paper of the year 1845, which had been moved for by himself, which showed the amount of moneys remitted from Ireland to England since the Union; and by that paper it appeared, that the balance was 20,000,000l. in favour of Ireland—that 20,000,000l. had been drawn by England from Ireland between the time of the Union and the year 1845; for to that year only did the return extend. But they talked about payment — the chances of repayment. What did the returns connected with loans made to the three countries show? Why, he had found that 18,000,000l. and upwards had been advanced by way of loan to England and Scotland, of which just 6,200,000l. had 826 been repaid up to the time of the last report furnished. The same report showed that 9,000,000l. had been advanced to Ireland, out of which 7,000,000l. had been repaid; so that, whilst they (the Irish) had repaid 7,000,000l. out of 9,000,000l., England and Scotland had repaid only 6,000,000l. out of 18,000,000l. He asked the hon. Member for Bath, if that were the case, if his speech were not a mere ebullition of a temper certainly not suited to the House of Commons, nor, indeed, suited to any place of public discussion? Was it not a temper only fit for schoolboys to indulge in? If there were anything manly about the hon. Member, he asked the hon. Member to abstain from those insulting, unfounded, intemperate attacks upon Ireland and Irishmen. When the measures before the House should have been disposed of, they might be able to afford to throw a night away upon a discussion of the charges made against them; and if they (the Irish Members) did not fully refute them, they might then be deemed to be the shameless, abject creatures the hon. Member for Bath had represented them to be.
§ MR. HUDSON
regretted that the hon. Member for Bath should have introduced the subjects he had into the debate, and expressed his approval of the suggestion made by the hon. Member who had just sat down. It was really much to be desired that the hon. Member for Bath would take to himself an evening on which he could exhaust himself upon Irish subjects. But to turn to the question before the House. He begged to observe, in answer to the hon. Member for Middlesex, who had blamed the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury for giving an assent to the introduction of the measure of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, that the hon. Member ought to be aware, from his own knowledge of the forms of the House, that in accordance with them the noble Lord the Member for Lynn had a right to introduce his Bill, and lay it before the House, in order that it might undergo investigation; and he trusted that, as the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury had suggested, the House would give it a patient and a calm consideration. He begged the House to consider that the plan proposed by it would not only give employment, but immediate employment, to a large portion of their suffering fellow-subjects; and that it would, at the same time, lay the groundwork of the future prosperity 827 of the whole Irish people. He thought that not only the House, but the country, I would feel much indebted to the noble Lord for the manner in which he had acted. The measure was one entitled to full and mature consideration; and although the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) might be then rather opposed to it, he trusted that he would, upon mature consideration, alter that opinion. As to the statements made by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, and the figures which he had used in stating the advantages and profits of railway communication, he pledged himself to their accuracy. He pledged himself that they would all he borne out. And as for the mode by which those works were proposed to be carried out, he begged the House to recollect that they (the supporters of the Bill) were not going to introduce any new principle of giving Government aid to the advancement of such works. He appealed to the hon. Member for Montrose, who surely would remember the Caledonian Canal. The country from which that hon. Member (Mr. Hume) came, was not backward in asking for a share in the division of the good things to be had from that House. But if there were one principle in the Bill under consideration which more than another induced him to favour it, it was that which made him say that in his conscience he felt satisfied that the Government would not lose one sixpence by the measure. It was strictly, as had been stated by the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), that the House was about to lend its credit for the benefit of one portion of the kingdom. It was not a question whether private enterprise was to be suspended or prevented from executing those works in Ireland. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) might have as yet some strong objections to its apparent tendency; but he trusted, and he thought, those objections would not be strong hereafter. There was, in fact, no great chance of those works being carried out by private enterprise. He believed that any one who understood the position of those railway companies and of private feeling, must know that there was little chance of capital for their prosecution being found in Ireland, unless the aid of Government were given; and their object was merely to obtain the assistance of Government to private enterprise. Let them look abroad; did not France lend her money for the execution of such work? And although some might find fault with the principle, were not their advantages 828 evident? He had had considerable experience in the consequences attendant upon the making of lines of railway. He had seen how fruitful the adjoining country had become. He had seen the spread of improvement. He had uniformly seen social intercourse very much promoted by those undertakings; and he did not see why similar results should not occur in Ireland. But it had been objected that the measure would be for the benefit of the Irish landlords. Surely, if they benefited any important class in the community, it followed as a matter of course that they should benefit the entire body. He trusted that those attacks upon the landlords of Ireland would cease. If the system of introducing railroads into Ireland were a good and a useful measure, let them at once look for the best means of carrying it into effect. And he contended, that where there existed a difficulty in obtaining the necessary capital by subscription, the best inducement there could be held out was the offering of some collateral security. He had had an instance in the difficulty attendant upon obtaining the means necessary for the construction of the line of railway north of Darlington; and the plan which he adopted was to call upon five or six other railway companies, and got two or three of them to join in securing 5 per cent interest upon the capital subscribed. The result was the immediate subscription of the full amount required. As to the utility of the lines proposed to be made by the assistance of the loan, there was now in existence an efficient Railway Board, to which all plans were obliged to be referred, and they could decide upon their merits after a careful examination of the circumstances. Let the plan be adopted, and people would be found to subscribe willingly, knowing that for every pound they paid to forward the undertaking, the Government would pay two. He repeated that it was no new principle. The only thing novel about it was its application to the construction of railways; and it would be as well if they were to lay down at once some plan for regulating the advance of public money for such purposes. But let it not be said that they were thus making gifts to Ireland. They were no gifts. And was not Ireland a part of the kingdom? Let the Government give assistance to the prosecution of those works which would be of benefit to the people, who were in a state of want. The noble Lord had stated as an example, that if some assistance had 829 not been given by the Government to the construction of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, it would not have been made—at all events so soon as it had been. But would any one get up in that House, and condemn the conduct of the Government of the day for having given that assistance? Surely not. But the construction of railroads was then in its infancy, and little understood; now they had reduced it to rule and certainty; and he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would, when they got to the second reading of the Bill, give the arguments in its favour the consideration which he (Mr. Hudson) felt strongly they deserved. And if he should not then give to the plan suggested by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn that support which he (Mr. Hudson) trusted he would, he hoped that he would propose in its stead some other more conformable to his own views of the question. He should not detain the House longer, but he should conclude by expressing his cordial concurrence in the plan proposed by his noble Friend; and he trusted that in any future discussion hon. Members would abstain from those personal altercations and that venting of calumnies which could tend neither to raise them in the opinion of the people of England, nor to facilitate the transaction of the business of the House.
§ MR. WARBURTON
saw no occasion for asperity in discussing a question of the kind before the House. The question really was, whether the sober, industrious, people of England would approve of a scheme for advancing sixteen millions of money for the construction of railroads in Ireland. He entirely approved of the decision come to by the Government, that they would not, on the present occasion, engage in a scheme for the advancement of that sum. There was no occasion for the House to consider or debate whether under any circumstances the Government should do so. Occasions might occur when, for military purposes, or for purposes of police, it might be expedient for the Government to pledge the credit of England for the completion of those railways. But when would such an occasion arise? Why, when the barns were full of corn, when there was a sufficiency of eatables and drinkables in the possession of the people, and when, besides having the capital necessary for supplying the agriculture of the country, there was so large a surplus remaining that they could safely divert it to 830 undertakings that were not likely to be immediately productive. What were the circumstances, however, in which they now found themselves? They found that nearly half the food of Ireland was gone, and that if the Irish people were to be at all employed by the Government, it should be in producing a supply of food at the next harvest. He asked, would the turning up of the soil on a number of railroads produce barley, or oats, or wheat, for the consumption of the Irish people next autumn, and for the whole of the ensuing year? It would not; and how then could they ask for the investment of sixteen millions of money at a period like the present, when the works for which it was demanded would not be immediately productive. He would say that the Government would be destitute of common sense if they engaged in an undertaking of that sort. He would admit, if they pleased, that there was a surplus of capital in this country; but at a time when so much of that surplus was required for the maintenance of the Irish people—when such extraordinary demands were made on the English public for feeding the Irish people, not only for this year, but perhaps for years to come—if there were a surplus of capital existing, it was clear that such a surplus should be expended in a manner that would produce the largest return possible, in order to meet these demands; whereas, according to their own account, it was necessary to borrow money for Irish railways at as low a rate as possible, because they would not be very remunerative. It was for these reasons that he was entirely opposed to any employment of Irish labour with English capital on works that could not be immediately productive.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Although there are many topics that have been introduced in the course of this debate, on which I should be glad to make some observations, yet as I rise principally for the purpose of making an appeal to those hon. Gentlemen who have shown a disposition to prolong the debate, and to request them to abstain, as far as possible, from so doing, I think it necessary to set them a good example in that respect; and I will, therefore, refrain from making any remarks on those topics. The noble Lord opposite, in the course of his very able speech, detailed the plan which he proposes; and my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) stated in his speech the course which he thinks it advisable to take, not 831 only on the present, but on future occasions when the question may come before the House. As, therefore, no possible question can arise previous to the noble Lord laying his measure on the Table, and as the noble Lord will, of course, remember that we have a measure standing for this night, which is for the practical and immediate relief of the Irish people, I would appeal to him and to hon. Gentlemen to allow this discussion to close now, and to waste no farther time and interpose no farther delay in the way of a measure which all admit to be requisite, in affording immediate relief to the pressing necessities of that country.
§ MR. GOULBURN
did not rise for the purpose of prolonging the debate; but as the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down stated that the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government had distinctly announced the course which he would take when the Bill came before the House again, and as he understood from some hon. Gentleman near him, that the course to be taken by the noble Lord was by no means so distinctly known and understood as the right hon. Gentleman supposed; he thought that before the debate closed, it was most essential for the House to be further informed on the subject, which, though understood by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was, he believed, not understood by the House generally. He said this because it appeared to him that, leaving a question involving such large pecuniary interests, and which might lead to great speculations that were likely to be affected by the proceedings in that House on this measure in uncertainty, was a course that was open to the greatest possible objection both as regarded the speculations to which it might lead, and as regarded the interests of the very works that were intended to be promoted by the measure; for who would advance his money for such works, or even continue to conduct them, under present circumstances, without a distinct knowledge of the course which the Government would take regarding that Bill? The sole object, therefore, that he had in rising was, to call on the noble Lord to make that clear which to some hon. Members in the House appeared to be obscure, by exactly explaining the course he was prepared to take on a matter so intimately connected with the pecuniary concerns of great interests, as well as with the general welfare of the country.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I will at once 832 answer the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, by restating what I said before, though I fear in a manner which was not perfectly understood by him, and some other hon. Gentlemen near him. I stated to the House that I thought it was respectful to my noble Friend—and certainly I am confirmed in that opinion on reflection—to allow him to introduce his Bill; but I stated that on a further stage of the measure, when my noble Friend had introduced his Bill—when, according to the forms of the House, it would be necessary that the House should go into Committee for the purpose of approving of the advance of money, in order to carry out the provisions of the Bill, that on such an occasion, it would be, I thought, incumbent on Her Majesty's Government either to take on itself the duty of carrying that plan into operation, or at once to put our negative on the proposition. I did not think it would be fair or right for the Government of the country to stand by, to give a mere formal sanction to the measure, and allow my noble Friend to proceed with his Bill. I stated further, that I was not prepared—whatever may be the course which Her Majesty's Government might take with regard to railways, that I was not prepared—to carry that plan into effect which my noble Friend proposed; and that when he applied to the House for the purpose of receiving its authority in the manner I mentioned, I should, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, refuse my consent to it.
MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that not an hour should be lost in considering the Bills fixed for Committee that night; but at the same time he could not see that any part of the time occupied in the debate of that evening had been wasted. The hon. Member for Bath, in his plan for remedying the present misery in Ireland, robbed the hon. Member for Stroud of his peculiar plan; while on his own part he wished to impose a property tax in Ireland, in order to give them relief there, while the third measure which he recommended was one that passed through Parliament two years ago. As to the Motion before the House, he should express his surprise at the course taken by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London, in refusing to lend the credit of the Government—for it was nothing else—to the extent of sixteen millions, being at the rate of four millions a year, when 833 the object to be attained was of the utmost importance; and when the political opponent of the noble Lord was willing to come forward and to give all his support for carrying that and the other measures of relief that were considered necessary. It appeared that no measure of relief was to be applied to Ireland unless it was known to be utterly unproductive. The noble Lord said, he did not care what the effect of his measures were on Ireland, as his object was solely to feed the people. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: No, no.] He was glad that he had misconceived the noble Lord; but he would like to know how the 500,000 labourers were to be fed? What happened with the county with which he was connected? The landlords and ratepayers were unanimous in thinking that railways should be undertaken in preference to road-making. They saw that their money was about being expended on unproductive works, and they said, "Let us take charge of railway works ourselves, and take our chance hereafter of obtaining the assent of Parliament to sell them." There was not a landed proprietor in the country who was not ready to give his land on these terms; but when the matter was submitted to the Treasury for their approval, the reply was, "Oh, no, we must have unproductive works." If the terms which the landlords and ratepayers proposed had been accepted, they would very willingly have paid the entire amount advanced to them back. Whereas the Government were now willing to forgive them one-half, and yet this was what was called "economy." The noble Lord said, that the money advanced for railways would not support the destitute. Undoubtedly the railway labourers would not be the old men, or—as he saw in Clare—the young women, who were employed on the roads; but he asked, would it be no advantage to have 110,000 able-bodied labourers taken off their hands to be employed on profitable and productive works without any expense to the Government or to the country? The Government which would give support to the people, and would save them from starvation, was the Government that would and ought to be supported by the people of Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he could assure the House that it was with the utmost reluctance that he interposed for a single moment to protract the conclusion of that debate, because he quite agreed with his right hon. Friend the Chancellor 834 of the Exchequer, that it was exceedingly desirable a subject of such a nature as a discussion on railways should be terminated as soon as possible, in order that they might pass to those measures that were calculated to provide an immediate remedy for the destitution of Ireland. But the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, having made some statements of the most extraordinary character, he felt that it was impossible to leave them without making a few remarks on what the hon. Gentleman had said. The hon. Gentleman stated, that his noble Friend the Member for the city of London had said that his principle was to encourage no works in Ireland except those that were of a useless and unproductive nature. Why, could it have escaped the recollection of the hon. Gentleman—he was sure it could not have escaped the recollection of the House—that the main measure which his noble Friend had brought forward, and on which he and the other Members of Her Majesty's Government looked as likely to be productive of the greatest advantage to Ireland at the present moment, and on which they were ready to advance the credit of England for the benefit of that country to an extent of no less than one and a half million, was a measure to enable the landlords of Ireland to give support to the people, and to alleviate the immediate distress, while it laid the foundation of a supply of food at the next and future harvests? He thought it required a power of mis-statement the most extraordinary, to allow the hon. Gentleman to state, under these circumstances, that it was the object of Her Majesty's Government, and of his noble Friend, to encourage none but useless works in Ireland, or that they were not ready, where they could do so on safe and solid grounds, and with a confidence that the money would not go into the hands of speculators, to give reasonable encouragement to works of a productive nature. But the hon. Gentleman made another statement which was extremely calculated to mislead the House. The hon. Gentleman said that in his own country the Government refused to sanction railway works that were presented for at sessions. The hon. Gentleman, however, forgot to tell the House what the circumstances were under which that refusal took place. He would ask the House, could the Government feel itself authorized to make advances of the public money to allow the hon. Gentleman and his neighbours 835 to construct a railway for which no Act had ever passed that House, and for which no Act of Parliament existed? He thought it would be inexcusable in the Government to do such a thing; but the hon. Gentleman did them wrong in saying that they were not willing to allow the earthworks of railways to be made on advances of the public money in all cases. The course to be pursued in such cases was distinctly laid down in a Treasury Minute issued on the 16th of October, 1846, which was now on the Table of the House. It commenced as follows:—Transmit copies of these memorials to the Commissioners of public Works, and state that their Lordships are prepared to give their sanction to baronial presentments for the execution of railway earthworks, as relief works under the Act 9 and 10 Vic., c. 107, subject to the following conditions.He would not delay the House by reading all these conditions, but one of them was, in substance, that the money should be advanced to execute the earthworks of such railways only for which Acts of Parliament had passed. He thought it would be a most unjustifiable act on the part of Her Majesty's Government to give its sanction to the expenditure of the public money on any other conditions, or to take it upon themselves to say where a railway ought to be made, when no plan for it had been sanctioned by the Legislature. Such a course would have led to so much confusion, that he thought the House would perceive at once that it was impossible they could have taken it. He had to ask the pardon of the House for trespassing upon their time even so far; and really nothing save the statement of the hon. Gentleman would have induced him to come forward at all, for he believed the House would agree with him, that as little delay as possible should be thrown in the way of measures that were of immediate necessity.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
said, it was not his intention to delay the House. He confessed that for his part he did not think that railways in general were an unmitigated good. He believed that they had their evil as well as their good points; but, at the same time, he thought that if ever there was a country where all the benefits and but few of the evils attending on railways was likely to be felt from their construction, that country was Ireland. He also thought that if ever there was a time when it would be beneficial to introduce them into that country, that time was the present. He might add, that if he ever 836 had any doubts on these points, they had been removed by the able and clear statement of his noble Friend the Member for Lynn. He believed the principal objection of the noble Lord the Member for London to the measure was, that it would not supply food to the people; but he thought they ought to endeavour, not only to remedy the present evil, but to prevent, as far as possible, a recurrence of it in future.
§ MR. MUNTZ
would answer the question of the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Warburton), as to the time when the money of England ought to be applied to the service of Ireland. It was when our poor fellow-subjects in that country were starving, and literally dying for want of food. Extraordinary difficulties required extraordinary remedies. Though it might not be in strict accordance with the doctrines of political economy that money should be advanced by the Government, as urged by the noble Lord opposite, it would be better, in his opinion, to deviate from the principles of political economy in order to feed the people. Charity in that House, and in the country, seemed to depend upon the colour of the skin. How long was it since twenty millions had been voted for the emancipation of the negro slaves? That money had not been lent, but absolutely given; yet, now, when four or five millions of poor Irishmen were dying, literally perishing of starvation, the Government were pleading the strict letter of political economy, urging the closest point of expediency, and considering whether the interests of the country, in a pecuniary sense, were not superior to the health or the death of hundreds and thousands of individuals. This was not a question of giving; it was a question of lending: and the only point to be guarded against was an excess of railways. An excess of railways would not only be an injury to Ireland, but to England. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said he wanted to feed the people. This was a very proper feeling; but would the noble Lord's plan feed all the people who wanted food now? Would not the noble Lord be throwing the whole summer away? How many millions had already been disposed of, and were still to be disposed of? According to the confession of all, many millions would be lost; but here there was a plan which would feed millions at once, by employing them; and at the same time promote the permanent improvement and prosperity of the country.
§ MR. W. R. COLLETT
thought that the most immediate way of giving employment to the Irish people, and relieving them in their present distressing condition, was by the encouraging the making of railways, which would prove to be far more beneficial than either draining or poor laws. If the Government would only express their approbation of such a proposition, he would engage to have 50,000 able-bodied Irishmen, who represented on an average 200,000 persons, removed from off the roads carried on by the Board of Works by Monday next, and placed upon the Irish railways. He was free to admit that the Government had devoted much attention to the subject of Irish relief, but still they were obliged to appeal to the united wisdom of the Legislature for its advice. The Legislature now gave them its advice by supporting the present proposition. He did not care for being taunted for his advocacy of railways. He could only say that all those in which he was interested would be carried out without the assistance of the Government. Although they could take five years in their formation, the Government would cause them to be done in one year. He would take this opportunity of thanking the noble Lord the Member for Lynn for his exertions upon this subject; and he would state this fact to his credit, that although there was no person in the House more directly interested in Irish railways than himself, and none from whom (without boasting he would say) he could gain more valuable information, yet the noble Lord had never mentioned his intentions to him until he had actually brought forward his Bill. The country, however, would not fail to appreciate his motives. He did not know any speech that would be read so generally, and with such intense interest in Ireland, as that of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn. Some hon. Members might screen themselves from the obloquy of opposing the present measure, by saying that they would be no party to speculation. Why should such an excuse be permitted to interfere with such a grand measure as this? Those railways should have been undertaken years ago. But that was no reason why they should not be undertaken now. If they were bad boys, why should they be bad men? It was not too late for Government to do with the Irish railways as had been done by the Governments of France, Belgium, and elsewhere. He might be told that he was a great Irish railway proprietor. 838 Why he should be perfectly willing to hand over to the Government at par all his shares in the Irish lines. The noble Lord at the head of the Government said that he did not wish to interfere now with those undertakings. The noble Lord should not hesitate in giving the Irish railways the support of the Government, for he could buy them all up at par. As far as he was concerned, so far from connecting himself with them as mere matters of speculation, he could assure the House that he did not hope to derive any profit whatever from them. He was connected with numerous Irish undertakings, not with the view of profit, but from a solid conviction of the security of his capital and the fertility of the soil. If the Government would but say that they were ready to appoint a committee and officers to work a great Irish railway, he (Mr. Collett) could afford them one in Tipperary. Let them try their hands at that work, and they would find how much better they would be acting than by cutting and destroying roads in Wexford, Limerick, and other parts of the country. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government would only consent to such a proposition as was now before the House, he would write over forthwith to Mr. Darby his instructions to take 50,000 men from off the shoulders of the Board of Works on Monday next. He would have 5,000 of them placed upon the railway from Dundalk to Enniskillen, 7,000 upon the Belfast Junction line, 5,000 upon the Drogheda line, several thousands on the most distressed parts of Cork and Tipperary, and 2,000 or 3,000 in Carlow and Kilkenny. Careless of deriving any profit by them, he would still stand by the Irish railways, whether the Government sanctioned them or not. And he would say, like Sir Hugh Middleton, after he had lost all his fortune by the undertaking with which he was connected—he did not care if he benefited the country.
§ MR. M. GORE
was anxious to call the attention of the Government and of the House to one point materially connected with Irish railways, whatever system it might be the intention of the House to sanction. He thought that they would constitute a material means to promote the fisheries in Ireland, and thereby the essential welfare and prosperity of the country. He had a letter from a Roman Catholic priest, in a place in Galway, stating that the population consisted of many hundred persons, who were at 839 the present moment totally destitute of employment; and he believed that the extension of railways in Ireland would tend to the employment of the population by opening regular and good markets for the fisheries, which markets at present, from the want of proper internal communication, did not exist. In conclusion, he expressed his gratification at the speech of the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck), feeling confident that a policy founded on the sentiments expressed towards Ireland by the noble Lord would tend strongly to cement the union between the two countries.
§ MR. GROGAN
said, that as the right hon. Secretary for Ireland had referred to the Treasury Minute, he wished to state why that minute had proved a dead letter. In its substance it was very good; but there were so many qualifications and restrictions attached to it that it was rendered totally inoperative.
MR. M. J. O'CONNELL
said, that after what had passed that night, he feared it was doubtful whether there would be any opportunity of discussing the proposition now brought forward hereafter; and he deeply regretted that the Government had not given a more fair consideration to the proposal. If he thought the proposition would endanger the finances of the country, he should be as unwilling to press it on the House as any English or Scotch Member, under such circumstances, could be; but he believed that, with the safeguards with which the noble Lord had fenced his proposition, all danger to the finances of the country would be avoided. The revision which the noble Lord proposed over the works rendered the payment of the interest of the loan as certain as the payment of any interest could be made. With respect to the observations which had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Bath, he would say, that though the Irish Members might feel indignation whilst listening to his attacks, that feeling soon afterwards yielded to one of pity. The hon. and learned Member seemed to think that his only chance of being listened to consisted in attacking somebody, or everybody. Thersites was listened to among the Greeks because he assailed all persons; and the hon. and learned Member had the consolation of being listened to by the House when he made bitter speeches; but those who might at first feel resentment at his attacks were afterwards more inclined to compassionate them.
§ MR. GEORGE A. HAMILTON
said, 840 he was unwilling to occupy the time of the House. But the subject was one of great importance to Ireland, and the measure, he believed, more calculated than any measure yet proposed to render a permanent benefit to that country. He must confirm the statement made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Grogan) with regard to its being almost impossible for companies to take advantage of the Treasury Minute, authorizing advances on the credit of presentments for the earthworks of railways. At his (Mr. Hamilton's) instance a large presentment had been made for the earthworks of a railway between Drogheda and Navan—for a railway for which an Act had been obtained: the company and the county were most anxious to take advantage of it; but on conferring with the engineers and contractors, and persons the most conversant with such matters, they had been obliged to abandon it. The conditions were such as could not be complied with. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Which of the conditions?] Why, in the first place, the condition which exacted pauper labour. Then it was required that the company should give security to the barony, which security the company had no power by law to give. Perhaps these conditions were necessary, but they rendered the Treasury Minute delusive. He (Mr. Hamilton) was the more unwilling to take part in this debate, because he entered very fully into the considerations which had prompted the noble Lord near him to refrain from consulting any Irish Member in reference to his measure, for fear of its being regarded as what was called an Irish job. He (Mr. Hamilton) wished he could express adequately how revolting it was to the feelings of honourable men who were connected with Ireland, whenever any proposition was brought forward, with regard to that country, to find themselves accused, as the hon. Member for Bath accused them, of being actuated by selfish and mercenary motives. He did not know by what standard the hon and learned Gentleman judged of the honour, and integrity, and independence of others; but he must say, when he talked of proposing such a clause as that which he had spoken of, that no Irish Member should receive for his land any part of the money proposed to be lent to railways, he imputed to them that which was inconsistent with honour, integrity, or independence. The measure of the noble Lord was founded upon the principle of working the resources 841 of Ireland, by the aid of English credit available for the improvement of Ireland. For himself he must say he had urged the adoption of the principle long ago upon the Irish Government. More than a year ago, when the first appearance of the failure of the potato crop was detected, and its consequences foreseen, he (Mr. Hamilton) had waited with a deputation from the Royal Irish Agricultural Society upon Sir Thomas Fremantle, then Secretary for Ireland, and had implored the Government to take means in time for the profitable employment of the people. He, therefore, and those with whom he acted, had at least done their duty. The hon. and learned Member for Bath, as appeared to him, had totally misunderstood the plan of the noble Lord. He had accused the noble Lord of proposing to add to the taxation of England. Why, the measure of the noble Lord would have an exactly opposite effect. It was the object of the noble Lord, as he understood him, to save the people of England from taxation on account of Ireland. It was the only measure yet proposed which would have that effect. The House should recollect that there was at the present time an army of 500,000 men employed in Ireland, paid in a great degree by the State. It would prove more difficult than hon. Members were aware to disband that army. The measure of the noble Lord would have that effect. No doubt the Drainage Act, and other measures of Government, were useful; but in six weeks from this time, the period for drainage would be over. What was to be done with this army then? And even with regard to the tillage of the land, it was stated in the report of the Poor Inquiry Commissioners, in 1836, that there were five agricultural labourers in Ireland, for three in England. This extra number was usually employed in the cultivation of the potato; but that cultivation being now at an end, some extraordinary employment must be provided for them. The measure of the noble Lord was eminently calculated to afford that employment; and the noble Lord did not propose that the credit of England should be lent otherwise than on good security. He threw the whole responsibility of the security upon the railway companies. The noble Lord had dwelt strongly upon the effect which this measure would have upon the condition of the Irish peasantry. He (Mr. Hamilton) would ask the attention of the House, while he read some extracts from the evidence of a 842 most eminent engineer, fully conversant with Ireland, who had charge of most of the railways in that country—he meant Sir John Macneill. It was upon this very subject. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Bath had given, a few nights ago, a fearful picture of the ordinary condition of the Irish peasantry. Now hear what Sir John Macneill says with regard to the effect upon that class of great railway works. It was usually objected to railway works that the people employed on them were not the people of the country. Sir John Macneill, in his evidence before the Land Commission, says—In England there are few instances of farming labourers going on railway works in their immediate neighbourhood. In Ireland the case is different: every man runs to the contractor to get his name on the list. It is extraordinary the aridity with which they seek to be employed. When they come to work they are generally in great distress—badly clothed and fed. Wherever the works are carried on, the people improve—they see the manner in which works are carried on in a legitimate and regular way, besides the habit of being obliged to eat better meat and drink (and they cannot work as required if they do not) improves their condition; they try afterwards to go on in the same way, and will save in other things to get better clothes and meat.Sir John Macneill is asked—Do you find an improvement in their habits, corresponding with their condition?—Yes, decidedly so; as soon as an Irishman gets a little better in his circumstances, and gets out of the state of misery they are generally in, they commence to get clothes, and when tolerably well dressed, they become totally different characters, and they are men you can trust and depend upon; few quarrels then take place among them. Is it your opinion that the power of bettering themselves by those public railway works, creates the strongest desire for improvement?—Yes, the strongest. It is visible in their cottages; they make them better and more comfortable. They are better clothed themselves, they clothe their children better. Among those that have learned to work better, do you detect anything like listlessness or carelessness?—No; nothing of the kind. An Irishman is the most active fellow possible if remunerated for his work; there is no idleness among them, if they can turn the work to a fair remuneration. Do you attribute that improvement to the stimulus of increased wages?—Yes; that is the true cause: it is also the effect of a man feeling a little independence—he is anxious to continue to improve his condition and that of his children. No man will do more, or undergo more hardship, for the sake of his children than an Irishman.This evidence, coming from a man of the known character and experience of Sir John Macneill, would prove he (Mr. Hamilton) thought, more strongly than anything he could say how rightly the noble Lord had judged, and how well calculated his 843 measure would be to raise and improve the social condition of Ireland.
§ CAPTAIN HARRIS
approved of the proposal made to the House, as likely to facilitate the progress of manufactures and promote the prosperity of Ireland.
§ MR. P. BUTLER
trusted the Government would reconsider the subject. In his own locality, if railways were not proceeded with, 2,500 able-bodied men would be thrown out of employ in less than two months. The measure, whether brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), or by Her Majesty's Government, should have his most unqualified support.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
thought it right, after the observations of the hon. Member for Bath, to say, that it was the intention of the noble Lord, and of the Gentlemen who were acting with him, to persevere with this Bill. He did most sincerely and earnestly trust, that, should this House of Parliament pass, by a majority, the second reading of the Bill, Her Majesty's Ministers would not think it incumbent upon them to interpose the prerogative of the Crown, and prevent this measure, which the Irish people, and, he believed, the English people, regarded as a great boon, from becoming the law of the land.
§ SIR H. VERNER
expressed his approbation of the proposition which had been laid before the House. In reference to the operation of the Drainage Act, he begged to state that at a presentment sessions he had undertaken to expend 600l. towards draining land upon his own property under the conditions of that measure; but having applied on the 4th of November, he had not yet got any satisfactory assurance from the Board of Works to enable him to commence operations.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ On the Question that Lord G. Bentinck, with others, be appointed to bring in the Bill,
§ MR. ROEBUCK
requested the House to listen to him for not more than five minutes while he gave an answer to some observations which had fallen from several hon. Gentleman; and he addressed himself, first, to the hon. Member for Kerry. When that hon. Gentleman sat down, he (Mr. Roebuck) took the liberty to turn round, and said, "May I take the liberty of asking, whether you heard the speech I made this afternoon?" "Some of it," replied the hon. Gentleman; "but I confess I took the greater part of it on credit." 844 So all the compassion, all the feelings the hon. Gentleman had for him was, "on credit." That was precisely the sort of way in which all Gentlemen were accustomed to deal with others, who were, he was afraid, careless in their modes of assertion. He appealed to the House to recollect the manner and language of his address. He had a very strong objection to the employment of money in the way proposed by the noble Lord. He had stated his reasons for that opinion, saying, that he sincerely believed it would be doing mischief to the people of England, and no good to the people of Ireland. He had gone on to say, what he sincerely believed, that Ireland had suffered immense injury from appealing to the generosity of that House, instead of trusting to herself; and he could not help feeling that, as no immediate benefit could arise in the way of immediate relief to the poor of Ireland, this measure could only have a beneficial effect upon the landed proprietors of that country. He had stated his opinion, as he now did, plainly, simply, and without circumlocution, as was his habit, without one harsh phrase or one harsh word. [Mr. OSBORNE: You said you would propose to put a clause in the Bill.] He considered it of the greatest importance for the dignity of that House that its Members should be entirely above suspicion, and that none of the money intended for the people of Ireland should be partitioned among persons having a seat in that House or the other. In regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Meath, he was not accusing the hon. Gentleman of running away; but if he wanted, in a word, to characterize the hon. Gentleman's speech properly, he should say that it was a "frantic" speech. He asked the House whether he had employed a single phrase that could possibly warrant the wholesale vials of wrath that had been poured over his head. He now repeated what he had said then, that he had a duty which he owed to his constituents. He had been reproved for not doing his duty as a Member of that House to Ireland; but he had also other duties towards those whom he represented. The hon. Gentleman had accused him of malignity, and had at the same time styled him a "shrivelled adder." The hon. Gentleman had condescended to expend his sarcasms upon his (Mr. Roebuck's) unfortunate form—a thing that he should be ashamed to do in return. Yes, the hon. Gentleman had called him "a shrivelled adder." Was that not "a 845 frantic exhibition of impotent indignation?" The adder could bite and sting, and the poor ox that he did sting felt the small reptile to be a very dangerous enemy. But the sting of what he had said had not been in the sharpness of his phrase, or the mode in which he had chosen to put it, but in the truth of his assertions. He had always found that when he wanted to drive anything sharp home, when he wanted it to bite, he edged it with truth. That was the way to make it hang, and he felt that he had hit the white mark on this occasion, because certain hon. Gentlemen felt it so strongly, and became so angry.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
could assure the hon. and learned Gentleman, that this was not a time when words like those to which he had given utterance could be expressed with impunity. Such words were very dangerous. It was not in the United Parliament, and before the assembled Commons, that the Irish representatives should be addressed in language, or have such language applied to them, as they had heard that night. As to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kerry, who had been referred to, not having heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, but having taken it partly on credit; he could tell the hon. and learned Member that he, for one, had imparted his impressions of the speech of the hon. and learned Member to the Member for Kerry. He had not been himself so fortunate as to catch the Speaker's eye; but if he had, he certainly should have given utterance to the strong feelings of indignation with which he had heard the words addressed to, and the aspersions cast upon, the Irish Members by the hon. and learned Member for Bath. He asked whether Gentlemen with hearts within them could hear themselves, as such proprietors, accused of an intention to put public money in their pockets; and that this intention was to be defeated by the hon. and learned Member for Bath introducing a clause into the proposed Bill, by which no landed proprietor should appropriate any of the public money to his own purposes. Was there anything ever said more insulting than this? and, under the circumstances of Ireland, could anything be more dangerous? He was very sorry to hear such expressions; but it was not the first time the hon. and learned Member had said that which was dangerous. It was not the first time the hon. and learned Member had said that which was dangerous to England; for he had 846 heard, and he mentioned it with all due respect for the House, that the hon. and learned Member for Bath was strongly suspected of having been the hired advocate for rebels—["Order!"] He was ready to submit if he was out of order.
§ COLONEL RAWDON
said, he was sorry if he had transgressed the rules of the House, and resumed his seat.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
observed, that the hon. and learned Member for Bath seemed to have benefited considerably by the discussion that had taken place. That beneficial effect was demonstrated in the alteration of his tone. He could assure the hon. and learned Member, that if his allusions to Ireland were for the future to be in the tone and temper of the speech in which he had lately addressed the House, then he would find that he himself would, as far as the Irish Members were concerned, have nothing to complain of.
§ MR. H. GRATTAN
did not mean to say that the hon. and learned Member for Bath might not feel that he did but that which was his duty; but then he asked whether it was the duty of one hon. Member to charge another with the intention of putting public money into his pocket? He might well say that no public money had come into his pocket, nor was it likely to do so, whatever might occur. He remembered to have heard Mr. Tierney charged by Sir Francis Burdett with having his pockets stuffed with public money. He rather thought that the predecessor of the Speaker called Sir F. Burdett to order on that occasion; and he remembered Mr. Tierney afterwards attacking Sir F. Burdett in his place, and giving him a very good "jobation." And now he must say, that he thought the hon. and learned Member for Bath ought for his attack on the Irish Members to get a good "jobation." He hoped, after what had occurred, that the hon. and learned Member for Bath would not renew these idle discussions. Such childish nonsensical matters might do for Bath, but were not fitted for the House of Commons.
§ Bill brought in and read a first time.