LORD J. RUSSELL
moved the Order of the Day for the House again to resolve itself into Committee on the Destitute Persons (Ireland) Bill.
was understood to say, that in the first of the Irish Bills which had been submitted to the House—namely, the Indemnity Bill, he heartily and entirely agreed. Much had been said against the Labour-rate Act, but he thought unjustly. That Act had been of immense advantage in many baronies in Ireland, especially in the west, and many of the works effected under it had been exceedingly useful. It had not been of so much use in other parts of Ireland, he believed, where such public works were less wanted; but where they 943 were necessary it had been very useful. The next Bill was the one for affording temporary assistance to the labouring poor. He could not say he entirely approved of that measure; but he should vote for it nevertheless, as he was ready to support any Bill which would afford one additional means of relief in the present calamity. The next Bill was one for the relief of the destitute poor in Ireland. He was afraid the House was not sufficiently aware of the extent of the misery; he did not think the Members were sufficiently impressed with the horrors of the situation of the people of Ireland; he did not think they understood the miseries—the accumulation of miseries—under which the people were at present suffering. It had been estimated that 5,000 adults and 10,000 children had already perished from famine; and that 25 per cent of the whole population would perish unless the House should afford effective relief. They would perish of famine and disease unless the House did something speedy and efficacious — not doled out in small sums—not in private and individual subscriptions, but by some great act of national generosity, calculated upon a broad and liberal scale. If this course were not pursued, Parliament was responsible for the loss of 25 per cent of the population of Ireland. He assured the House most solemnly that he was not exaggerating; he could establish all he said by many and many painful proofs, and the necessary result must be typhus fever, which in fact had broken out, and was desolating whole districts. It left alive only one in ten of those it attacked. This fearful disorder ere long would spread to the upper classes; the inhabitants of England would not escape its visitations, for it would be brought over by the miserable wretches who escaped from the other side of the Channel. The calamity would be scattered over the whole empire, and no man would be safe from it. He repeated that two millions of human beings would be destroyed, if relief were not speedily and effectually afforded. It had been asked why the rich Irish did not relieve the poor? They had relieved them. It would be seen by the reports already before the House, that a large body of the Irish people were always on the verge of starvation. Another report, more recently made, had confirmed this statement, and established that in ordinary years great numbers were in destitution. But the destruction of the potato crop had occasioned a positive anni- 944 hilation of food, and the people were starving in shoals, in hundreds — aye, in thousands and millions. Parliament was bound, then, to act not only liberally but generously—to find out the means of putting a stop to this terrible disaster. It was asserted that the Irish landlords did not do their duty. Several of them had done their duty—others had not; and considering the extraordinary exigency of the case, his plan was to arm Government with more real power, to apply to the purpose all the sums they deemed necessary. They ought instantly to carry out the mode of relief they thought necessary, responsible indeed to the House, but not fettered by the strict letter of the law. He wanted to see the House generously confiding in Ministers, let them be chosen from which side of the House they might. The facts, as he well knew, were more terrific than they had been yet stated—the necessity was more urgent. He had not said one word to produce irritation—he had not uttered one word of reproach—and without doing so, he called upon Parliament to appoint Commissioners to make inquiries in all parts of Ireland into the circumstances of those who were able to give—to specify and to name them, and to assess them for so much as they ought to contribute. A decisive measure of that sort should have his hearty support. Let every man's means he ascertained, and let the tribunal he would erect have the power of inflicting taxation. To inflict taxation without representation, had not been unusual in Ireland, and the grand-jury system was one of taxation without representation. The patience of the people of Ireland could not be too much admired. It had been exhibited on all occasions, and the forbearance of the lower orders, considering their almost intolerable privations, was wonderful. It was, however, possible that they might be driven from misery to madness; and, as to the levying of rates, it was at present impossible. As to the reimbursing of England for her advances, he contended that she would be no loser at the present crisis, any more than she had been on former occasions. He maintained that England had been a gainer by her loans to Ireland. He again assured the House that the lamentably destitute condition of the people, afflicted with poverty and visited by disease, was insupportable; and he called upon Parliament to interpose generously, munificently—he would say enormously—for the rescue of his country. Recollect how in- 945 cumbered was the property of Ireland; how many of her estates were in Chancery, how many were in the hands of trustees. She was in their hands—in their power. If they did not save her, she could not save herself. He solemnly called on them to recollect that he predicted with the sincerest conviction, that one-fourth of her population would perish unless Parliament came to their relief.
SIR. B. HALL
thought, that when Her Majesty's Ministers came forward and proposed that they should advance large sums of money by way of loan for the relief of distress in Ireland, the House ought not to forget the existence of distress in this country. In the parish of St. Pancras alone, out of a population of 130,000, 8,000 were, at present, receiving outdoor relief, and 2,000 in-door relief. The deaths, also, within the bills of mortality had greatly increased of late. He did not wish to say anything offensive to the Irish landlords; but when those Gentlemen came to that House and said, "Our people are in great misery, distress, and destitution; famine is stalking through the provinces, and carrying off hundreds and thousands, and we hold the Legislature responsible for this state of things;" he (Sir B. Hall) must say, that he thought a fearful responsibility rested on those landlords themselves. They came forward with the statement that there was severe distress, that famine prevailed in the country, that death was stalking through the provinces; but the responsibility for that state of things rested on them. They anticipated the failure of the potato crop, but had not made proper provision for the consequences resulting from it. The responsibility did not rest on the English, but on the Irish landlords. He saw by the report lately presented to the House, that in a large union in the county of Mayo, Mr. Otway said the rates were not paid; and that gentleman added, that in such a case "it was unjust and absurd to call on the Government to make loans for the support of the workhouse." Now, here was a gentleman officially employed, and worthy of every credit, who stated that there were people living in such unions who were capable of paying rates, and who refused to pay them. And when it was said the consequences of such refusal rested with the English people, he insisted that it did not rest on them, but on the Irish landlords. Suppose one of the guardians in the Principality, where he resided—suppose he were 946 himself—to refuse to pay his rates, and that he could not go out of his own demesne without meeting unfortunate beings living in hovels in which no one with any kindness in his nature could consent to place his dogs; what, in such a case, would be said of him? Why, he should be an object of scorn and execration to every man in the country. Let it not be supposed that he was for refusing all assistance to the Irish people. If the people of England could make up their minds that those who had the best interests in Irish prosperity had spared neither thought, nor time, nor industry, nor pecuniary means, in making the resources of the country available for the support of their fellow-countrymen—if he could believe that everything had been done by the Irish landlords to develop the resources of the country—he said for himself, and he might add, he thought, for every member of the United Kingdom, they should be ready heartily to come forward in such a case to supply any means that were found wanting to help them out of their distress. The case of Ireland was quite different from this; and when he was informed that there were people of large property who had not paid their rates, he must say such persons ought to be held up to public indignation. In Castlebar there were gentlemen of large property who had refused to pay their rates; and here he would say one word on that most wretched district in Ireland, of which they had all heard so much—he meant Skibbereen. More wretchedness was found there than in any other part of Ireland, and there too rates were not paid. If any gentleman would look into the larger of the blue books which had been presented, he would see that Sir R. Routh stated that in Skibbereen the rental was 93,000l. a year; and that in the immediate neighbourhood the rental was 50,000l. a year. Sir R. Routh gave the names. He stated there was one property, belonging to Lord Carbery, of 15,000l. a year, another property of 10,000l., and another of 4,000l., with several of 1,000l. a year. Sir R. Routh accompanied this account with a question which he should like to hear answered by some Irish Member, "With such resources as these, ought such destitution to exist?" He must say he thought the real foundation of such misery as existed in that district was the conduct of the Irish landlords. There was no use in saying they were not responsible for their conduct; they were responsible, and 947 ought to be made to feel their responsibility. He was extremely glad to hear the hon. and learned Member for Cork give in his adhesion to the Poor Law Bill proposed by the Government, for he must confess he feared that much opposition would be given to it by the Irish Members. The sentiments of the hon. and learned Gentleman must be considered most important on this head, for he was the organ of the feelings and opinions of the great mass of the people of Ireland. He saw, however, a report of a meeting of Irish Members and Peers, held on Saturday, at which Lord Monteagle presided. It was stated that one of the resolutions passed at that meeting condemned, in the strongest terms, that clause of the new Poor Law in which temporary relief was directed to be given at the expense of the union. Now, he should be glad to know at whose expense was it right it should be given. It was useless to quibble on the subject: laws must be passed to compel the Irish landlords who could afford it to maintain the poor of Ireland. Another resolution was passed at the same meeting condemning the clause in the Bill which authorized the granting of out-door relief to able-bodied paupers. It was evident that the Irish landlords did not approve of a permanent poor law for their country; but that was the very thing which the people of England wanted them to have, and which the Parliament must make them have. The other night, when the hon. Member for Dundalk intimated that the Irish landlords had no great desire to relieve able-bodied paupers, the hon. Member for Montrose very properly asked—"Who is to support them; are we?" That was a question which the people of England were asking of each other. It was bad enough to see the aged and infirm obliged to make application for relief; but the most pitiable object in God's creation was to see an able-bodied man willing to work, but unable to obtain employment. One of the greatest benefits which legislation could confer upon the country would be the enactment of a law to compel Irish proprietors to support their able-bodied poor, for he believed that as soon as they found themselves under that obligation they would give the labourers work. An hon. Baronet who represented a Scotch constituency had informed him that two or three weeks ago 230 persons were receiving relief in the part of the district which he represented, and that only six of those 948 persons were Scotch, the rest being Irish. That was an extraordinary state of things. The people of this country did not refuse to extend relief to their distressed Irish brethren; but it was unjust in the Irish landlords to drive their people into this country, instead of endeavouring to maintain them. It would be a matter of regret to him, if, in the course of the observations he had made, anything had fallen from him which was offensive to the Irish Members; but, as the representative of one of the largest constituencies in the empire, which, as he had stated at the outset, was at present suffering deep distress, he had felt it his duty to express, not only his own feelings, but the feelings of those who sent him to that House. He did not wish to stint the Irish poor; on the contrary, he would gladly join in assisting them with loans, or even with grants of money, if he thought there were not resources in Ireland which ought to be applied to the support of the destitute people of that country, but which were at present perverted from that object. The people of England would afford all necessary assistance to their Irish fellow-subjects; but it must be clearly understood that the responsibility of the present state of Ireland was not to be thrown upon this country; it rested upon the shoulders of those who had an immediate interest in the soil of Ireland.
§ MR. M. MILNES
said, if he wanted any confirmation of the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, that that House did not appear to take in the whole extent of the present state of Irish distress, he should find it in the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone; for valuable as were some of the hon. Member's remarks, and true, and over true, as many of his assertions in regard to the landlords in Ireland were, he could not think that the hon. Baronet fully comprehended what the state of Ireland was, when he said he should not wish to stint the Irish poor. This was no case of stinting, it was a case of starving. There was no case whatever to compare chronic English distress with chronic Irish distress. It was a case in which the English Parliament and nation had cause to intervene in one of the most singular calamities that had ever befallen any country during the last three centuries, and for which it was in vain to draw arguments and conclusions from the ordinary course of measures. He might presume to speak of the state of the 949 country more readily than others, inasmuch as he had himself, with his own eyes, witnessed it in certain parts of the country. He said certain parts because it should be borne in mind that the distress was not spread over the whole surface of the country, but was confined to certain districts. The remedy, therefore, should not be general, but partial in its operation. He should recommend the most careful consideration with regard to the introduction of the English poor law. On the right solution of that question, the future prosperity or adversity of the Irish people would depend. He prayed them, then, to consider that the present state of that country was one of a peculiar and pressing nature. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that it could not be doubted that twenty-five per cent of the population were being swept away by famine and pestilence. Now, he did not wish to make a comparison of things that could not be compared; but if a pauper died of starvation in the streets of London, the public press would take the matter up, leading articles would be written upon it, and the case would be put forth in the strongest manner to excite public sympathy and awaken public horror. Was the mere distance between London and Skibbereen—the fact that the Irish Channel and about 200 miles of land interposed between the two places—to make them forget that the Irishman who called out for relief, was just as much their fellow-countryman, as much bound to them by sympathy and nationality, as the poor pauper who might die in the streets of London? It was perfectly true the Irish landlords had not habitually done their duty; but was the misconduct of the land-lands to be visited on the paupers of Irelands? Because Sir W. Beecher had not contributed as much as he ought to the support of the poor in Skibbereen, were they to be allowed to perish to an extent that would not be allowed in any city of France or Germany? He must take the liberty of saying, that this was not a time for bringing forward such exceptional cases as those referred to by the right hon. Baronet. It might be there were workhouses in the union, for supporting which no rate had been paid; but let the hon. Gentleman compare the number of those cases with those of unions where the workhouses were groaning with the load of misery and pestilence which now threatened to overwhelm them. It was the same thing as to the abuses of the Labour-rate Act. 950 Some farmers of twelve or fourteen acres might be employed on the works; but the only difference between them and the others was, that they were on the brink of famine, and the others over it. In the same way he must say of the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, this Session, though many of them were able, it was not decent on such an occasion to objurgate the landlords and people of Ireland. Great misery was ever sacred in the eyes of honourable men, and it was not fair to treat the calamity which had befallen Ireland in the way in which the hon. and learned Gentleman had done. He had to apologize for taking up so much of their time; for he declared every moment that these measures were delayed, an injury was done to the people of Ireland. He must say, in conclusion, that he thought he expressed the sentiments of all generous and good Englishmen, when he protested against having such exceptional cases as those alluded to by the hon. Baronet taken as a true picture of the conduct of the landlords throughout Ireland.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
said, that he did not understand the hon. Member for Marylebone to argue that the Government should not interpose between the Irish people and destitution. All the hon. Member had urged was this, that the people of England were already more heavily taxed than the Irish, and that before fresh burdens were imposed upon them for the relief of the Irish, it was necessary to ascertain whether property in Ireland had discharged its duties. That was not urged with the view of objurgating the Irish landlords, but to ascertain whether they might be depended upon for the discharge of their duty; and if not, it would be incumbent on the Legislature to establish a compulsory system of relief in Ireland, and thus secure the English people against being periodically called upon to maintain their Irish brethren, either by loans or gifts, to be made good by additional taxation upon themselves. That he understood to be the tenor of the hon. Member for Marylebone's argument, and he perfectly concurred in it. The people of England were regarding the proceedings in that House with great interest; and they would not be content to have laws passed for advancing large sums of money to Ireland, unless security should be taken that, for the future at least, the property of Ireland should be made to maintain the poor of that country. The rental of Ireland was estimated 951 at 13,000,000l. in the poor-rate returns; and Mr. Griffith had declared that that was very much below the letting rental. It might, therefore, fairly be concluded that the actual rental of Ireland was 15,000,000l, The exports of Ireland amounted to 17,000,000l., the greater part of which were food. In addition to these things, no one disputed that the resources of Ireland were enormous, and, indeed, that the country was capable, if the landlords would set about the work of improvement with energy, of maintaining three or four times the present amount of population. It appeared to him that the hon. Member for Cork had, in the course of his short address, unjustly referred the misery of Ireland to the Union. If, during the last fifteen years, the hon. Member had advocated the necessity of taxing the property of Ireland for the maintenance of the poor, he would have done much practical good to his country; but, instead of that, the hon. Member made it a matter of boast, a few years since, that he had stood in the gap to prevent the introduction of a poor law into Ireland, and, instead of wishing to make the landlords responsible for the maintenance of the poor, he endeavoured to support the repeal of the Union, by telling them that, if they did not join him, the jealousy of England would compel them to pay a poor rate! It was his firm opinion, that if some provision for the permanent maintenance of the Irish poor by Irish property should not be introduced into one of the measures before the House, there would be no security against peculation and gross partiality in the distribution of the funds.
said, that he had been requested by the chief magistrate of the city which he represented to confirm the statement made by his hon. Colleague on a former evening, upon which the hon. Member for Pontefract seemed to be inclined to throw some doubt; namely, that his constituents were in the lowest state of distress. Notwithstanding their distresses, they would manfully do their duty, and would not permit a fellow-countryman to die unrelieved at their doors, and they called upon the Government to see that those who possessed property in Ireland did all in their power to alleviate the distress which under Divine Providence had visited that country. He hoped some Irish Member would be able to rise in his place, and deny the statements contained in the blue book which had been laid upon the Table of the House. For his part, he thought 952 some of the statements contained in that volume were of the most appalling character. He requested the attention of the House to an extract from the observations of the medical officers on the neglect to which the inmates of Castlebar workhouse were exposed:—On the 19th of December, the sick in hospital for whom bread was prescribed got no food from five o'clock the previous day to seven o'clock this evening.No. 367. Anthony Leonard, aged 31 years, had paralytic affections for ten years before admission into the workhouse; was then very infirm; got diarrhœa on the 15th of November, of which he was cured, but died of exhaustion on the 23rd of December, 1846.No. 769. James Lyons, aged 72 years, died of diarrhœa and infirmity on the 20th of December, 1846.For the week ending January 2, 1846.—On the 27th of December the sick in hospital did not get the diet prescribed for them; on the 28th of December, the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them; on the 29th of December the sick in hospital did not get the diet prescribed for them; on the 30th of December the sick in hospital did not get the diet prescribed for them; on the 31st of December the sick in hospital did not get the diet prescribed for them; on the 1st of January, 1847, the sick in hospital got no food till after ten o'clock; on yesterday, the 1st of January, the sick in hospital, as well as the other inmates of the workhouse, got but one meal; and on this day, the 2nd of January, they have got no food up to this hour (twelve o'clock).For the week ending Jan. 9, 1847.—On the 4th of January the sick in hospital, as well as the other inmates of the house, have not got breakfast up to this hour (half-past 3 O'clock); on the 5th of January the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them; on the 6th of January the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them; on the 7th of January the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them; on the 8th of January the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them; on the 9th of January the sick in hospital did not get the bread prescribed for them.It was also said in this report, that in many cases the payment of rates had been refused, and that such names as those of Lord Lucan, Sir Wm. Beecher, Sir S. O'Malley, and Lord Kilmaine, were found amongst those who had not paid the rates to which they were liable. Mr. Otway, the Poor Law Commissioner, expressly stated that there was more difficulty in getting the rates from the better class of landholders than from the poor ratepayer. Now, that was far different from the conduct of landlords in this country. In the northern part of the kingdom, at least, they had done their duty, and in the vicinity of Paisley, where they were paying a rate of 3s. in the pound, they had in addition got up a subscription of 100l. a year 953 for the poor. He trusted the gentlemen of Ireland would feel the necessity of having their rates paid up, and would come forward and repudiate the cases alluded to, which were, he trusted, exceptions to the general rule. If they did so, he was convinced his countrymen and constituents, though they paid many taxes from which Ireland was exempt, would willingly assist her in the moment of distress; but he trusted they would not be asked to contribute more than they could. With respect to the accusations against Irish landlords, he begged to call the attention of the hon. Members for the county Clare to what had been said of them. He saw they had been accused of putting tenants of theirs, who were paying 60l. a year rent, on the public works to the exclusion of others. He trusted those hon. Members would be anxious and able to clear themselves of those charges.
§ MAJOR MACNAMARA
Sir, as a Member for Clare, I pledge my honour to this House that every sentence stated in Mr. or Captain Wynne's correspondence is a malicious falsehood. There is not one penny of rate due in that part of the county Clare in which I reside.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, he was unwilling to continue the discussion, and if he rose to say a few words, it was because he felt surprised that hon. Gentlemen connected with land in Ireland had not thought proper to say something in defence of themselves, and in reply to the remarks of the hon. Baronet (Sir B. Hall), and of the noble Lord the Member for Bath (Lord Duncan). He had no disposition to say anything with respect to the question raised by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. P. Scrope); this, however, he would say, that the poor law might be good or might be bad, but that he could not think that hon. Member justified in getting up a discussion on it on every subject which was started in the House. He thought when the hon. Baronet the Member for Marylebone (Sir B. Hall) came forward and lectured the Irish landlords in the strain of the daily papers, for the better part of his speech was taken from the Times of last week—and when he quoted the cases of the Ballina and Castlebar unions, which were the stock in trade of orators of his description, just as the Keighley union was the stock in trade of an hon. Member near him—he ought to make himself acquainted with the facts. Now he (Mr. B. Osborne) would make 954 bold to say, that as a body, the Irish landlords (who were not represented in that House—and he might again express his surprise, that none of those who did sit there had risen to defend themselves) had done and were doing their duty in their particular unions and districts. The hon. Baronet had no right to infer, from the cases of neglect he had quoted, that it was the rule in Ireland. He could tell the right hon. Baronet—he begged pardon—the hon. Baronet (and he was glad, indeed, that he was not right hon. and was not speaking the sentiments of Government), that there were cases in which the boards of guardians had hired houses for the poor, and were supporting 2,000 paupers, where the workhouses had been built for 600 only. The hon. Baronet and the noble Lord had thought fit to deal in aspersions on Sir W. Beecher and Lord Lucan, to whom it would have been at least fair to have given notice of their intention; but had the hon. Member and the noble Lord read the whole of the blue book? [Viscount DUNCAN: I have read the whole of it.] Was he aware that in a letter dated January 26, 1847, Lord Lucan positively denied those statements respecting his conduct? Lord Lucan says—I am unprepared positively to contradict Mr. Otway, when he states that two-thirds of the arrears are owing by immediate lessors, amongst whom he names Sir S. O'Malley, Mr. Kearny, and myself.Let hon. Gentlemen listen to what follows:But I totally disbelieve that they are really due by any of us.He had no acquaintance with the noble Lord who wrote that letter, but he knew from his own experience that the rate-books were often fraudulent. Moreover, the noble Lord stated in that very letter that he had been keeping the workhouse open at his own expense for three months; and Lord Sligo, to whom a similar reference had also been made in that House, was doing the same at Westport, and was supplying funds out of his own pocket for the workhouse. He most positively asserted that Ballinrobe, Ballina, and Castlebar, were the exceptions, and not the rule; and he moreover asserted that if Irish landlords had neglected their duty, their conduct was the result of the legislation of that House, in treating Ireland as an English colony. There was one hon. Gentleman in that House, the hon. Member for Paisley, who was in the habit of objurgating in private the Irish landlords. He dared that hon. Gentleman 955 to stand up in his place in that House, and do it. He did not go to the length of saying that the Union had created this state of things; but he maintained that if they had legislated for Ireland in a different spirit, they would not now have those complaints to make of the Irish landlords. He called on the Irish Members not to sit still under the aspersions which had been thrown out broadcast against them, but to stand up in their places and say that they had been and were now doing their duty.
§ MR. HASTIE
said, he hoped it never would be a charge against him, that he was in the habit of saying in private what he would not repeat in public; and if the hon. Member could bring a charge of any private conversation against him, he would be ready to defend himself. With respect to such conversations, all he could say was, that he had stated nothing in reference to the conduct of the Irish landlords which had not appeared in the books before the House. Any one reading those books, and seeing the accounts given by honourable men—the officers of the Government—of the obstructions which they met with, and of the neglect of the landlords, could not help stating that the Irish landlords had, as a body, neglected, grossly neglected, their duty to the poor of the country. That he had stated privately, and in the hearing of the hon. Member for Wycombe; and he was glad of that opportunity of stating in public what he felt to be true from the evidence before the House. He wished before he sat down to make a slight comparison between the duties of the Irish landlord, landholder, and farmer, under the circumstances in which the country was placed, and between their actual conduct. They must have been fully aware, that a large failure of the potato crop was about to take place; but instead of forming themselves into committees for the purpose of ascertaining the extent of the failure, the number of inhabitants in each parish who would be left destitute—instead of ascertaining what food there was in each parish, and the quantity of wheat, oats, and meal which would be required to feed the people, and of informing the Government of these facts—what had they done? None of these things. They had done nothing but sit down and howl for English money. It was on account of this conduct, and for the want of method, arrangement, and honesty of purpose, that he said they alone were responsible for the evils that had taken place. He had further to state that the 956 landlords of Ireland ought, in order to place themselves on a footing with the landlords of England and Scotland, to subscribe the same proportion to the support of the poor. The rental of Ireland should be taxed for that purpose to the same extent as that of Great Britain, and at least 1,500,000l. or 1,800,000l. should be raised from the landlords of Ireland. From the poor-law returns and other authentic documents as to the value of property in Ireland, it appeared that the rental assessable to the support of the poor could not be less than 15,000,000l. a year. In England the rental was taxed 10 per cent for the poor rates. When, therefore, the Irish landlords raised 1,500,000l., and thus placed themselves on an equality with this country, they had a right to come to this country and ask for their assistance, but not till then; and if, as a body, the Irish landlords would rise in that House and faithfully say, that whatever money was advanced they would do their best to repay, and would give such security as they could, he did not believe there was a single man in it would vote against such assistance being granted to them.
SIR D. NORREYS
said, he thought it due to Sir W. Beecher to state, that within the last six weeks or two months the thanks of the relief committee of his district had been given to him for his conduct. As far as the general remarks of the hon. Member for Marylebone were concerned, he could not help thinking that he was pandering to a very vicious feeling prevalent in this country. He had taken great pains to make out his statement of neglect; but had he done so honestly? The hon. Member had taken the cases of four unions in Ireland. Did he know how many there were in that country? There were 136 unions in Ireland. Had the hon. Member ascertained whether in nine out of ten the workhouses were not overflowing? In the south, at least, every possible effort had been made by the landlords to relieve the poor; and the guardians were willing to extend the provisions of the Act, and give out-door relief, when the Poor Law Commissioners stepped in and prevented them. He felt confident that as much exertion had been put forth by the Irish landlords as could have been expected under the panic of the times; and it must be recollected that the landlords were themselves the sufferers by the failure of the potato. The loss, which had been estimated at 15,000,000l., must and would 957 react on the landlords. With respect to the observations of the hon. Member for Paisley, he must say he believed the Irish landlords had adopted the course he had suggested, and that it had been on their representations Government brought forward the Labour-rate Act last Session. Whatever the Irish landlords were, it was that House had made them so. He was as much opposed to repeal as any man; but he believed that Ireland would now be in a far different position but for the selfish legislation of this country.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
agreed with his hon. Friend who had just spoken, in all his observations with respect to the conduct of the landlords and guardians in his (Sir W. Barron's) county. He could firmly assert that the rates had been paid in every case. It was, then, disgraceful for men who knew nothing of the subject, to bring forward the most mendacious charges against the unions and boards of guardians of Ireland. Out of 136, they could only find four that had apparently neglected their duty. He thought that the hon. Baronet had acted most uncandidly in reading a document, as if it were a resolution of the noblemen, gentlemen, and Members of Parliament, who met on Friday last in Palace-yard. What would hon. Gentlemen think when he told them that this document, which was read by the hon. Baronet as if it were a resolution of the meeting, was taken from the John Bull newspaper, which had no reporter there! It was a most unfair, indecent, and mendacious report. The hon. Baronet (whom he believed incapable of wilful misrepresentation) should have informed the House that it was not the resolution of that body. He did not charge the hon. Baronet with making use of what was false; but what were the facts of the case? The hon. Baronet stated that the resolution had been proposed with the concurrence of Lord Monteagle, and that it was to the effect that the able-bodied poor should not be supported by the unions. It was a pity that some gentlemen would talk of resolutions they knew nothing about. Let him explain how the case really was. In Ireland the poor were supported by the electoral divisions. The mere mendicants and wandering outcasts were supported by the unions at large. The Bill before the House meant that all these people were to be supported by the unions at large; and what the meeting wanted was, that the out-door relief of these people should be 958 charged to the electoral divisions, and not to the unions at large. That was the real meaning of it; but the hon. Baronet got a cheer by saying, that the resolution was to the effect that the unions should not maintain the poor. If the hon. Member for Paisley knew anything of Ireland—and he knew nothing of it—he would have been aware that the Irish landlords had taken the very course he had suggested. But these statements answered a purpose. The fact was, that some English capitalists wanted an opportunity of putting their money into Irish estates. He could trace the whole outcry against the Irish landlords to a low cunning, and to a disgraceful feeling, to crush people in order to make money of them, and to force them to sell their estates, that others might buy them. He believed that feeling was at the bottom of this outcry, and from the organs which had raised it, he was the more persuaded of its truth. Now he would tell the House and the country that the Irish Members took it as their right, so long as they were a portion of the British empire, to come to that House and ask of them, as representatives of the great British people, in a voice that could not be misunderstood, to do their duty, and protect Ireland as they would protect Yorkshire or Scotland. If they were not to be considered as aliens, they had a clear right to protection. Was not the British Exchequer the Irish Exchequer? Were not Government the Ministers of Ireland as well as of Great Britain? Let him not bear the taunt about English capital, English money, and English taxes. Did not Ireland pay customs, excise, and taxes, as well as England? Nay more, he believed that if inquiry were made, it would be found that Ireland was overtaxed in proportion to the other countries. He hoped Parliament had honesty enough not to be led away by such accusations against the landlords of Ireland, who had done their duty in the most exemplary manner. There might be some exceptions; but it happened that in two out of four cases of neglect, the persons accused of it were supporting the poor people at their own expense. With respect to the charge against Lord Lucan, that he had not paid his taxes, he would explain that, according to the system in Ireland, the landlord was accountable for the taxes of tenants rated under 4l. a year. Such was the irregularity of the books, however, that where there was a vast number of small tenants, as in Mayo, 959 it often occurred that the landlord was charged with the taxes due by the tenant or middleman. Similar cases had occurred to himself, where he had been applied to for his tenants' taxes. But for Lord Lucan the workhouse of Castlebar would have been shut up, for it was impossible to collect the rate: many of the small farmers had not one shilling of money, and were obliged to purchase necessaries on credit at an exorbitant rate, so that it was impossible for them to pay any rates whatever. They had neither money nor credit, and some people expected the rate to be paid as if it were in Middlesex or Marylebone. As to the statement of the hon. Baronet respecting Sir W. Beecher, it was perfectly notorious that a better resident landlord, or a more excellent and charitable gentleman than he was, could not be found; and that was the man who was held up as deserving the execration of the House. If those mendacious attacks were made, and if the Irish landlords were vilified in this way, the natural consequence would be that the charity of the benevolent people of this country would be closed up. They shrank with horror from the contemplation of such heartless men, and said they would leave them to themselves; and so far from Gentlemen being right in making such statements, they were deserting their duty to the people of England, and raking up animosity and rancour between the two countries.
LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, I hope the House will not prevent me now from proposing to go into Committee with a view to relieve the distress of the Irish people, by a measure which, in the opinion of the Government, is best calculated to effect that object. I hope the House will not entirely forget what are the circumstances of the case at the present time. I do not wish to say anything more on this subject, especially as two or three hon. Members who are themselves Irish landlords have defended the conduct of that class; and it is useless to prolong the discussion. But my hon. Friend who has just sat down, not satisfied with defending the Irish landlords, thought fit to attack gentlemen who certainly are and ought to be very dear to me—my constituents in the city of London. It is on account of their being connected with the moneyed interest that these attacks are made; and it is said that there is much low cunning shown in wishing to got hold of the Irish landlords' estates by that moneyed interest. I do not think that any 960 general statements on this subject carry much weight; but I may tell my hon. Friend that about a month ago some dozen gentlemen connected with the city of London, having no connexion with Ireland, no property in Ireland, and, I believe, not wishing to have any there, but only carrying on their business in this metropolis, met in order to raise subscriptions, and made subscriptions, several of them to the amount of a thousand pounds, and other large sums. Not satisfied with doing this, but occupied as they are every morning, from an early hour till four o'clock in the afternoon, they went every afternoon, after their business was over, for the purpose of receiving subscriptions and attending to the correspondence, in order to transmit the funds thus subscribed, in the manner most safe and efficient. With respect to the public funds and the Exchequer, which my hon. Friend likewise calls upon us to draw upon, I will beg him to recollect, that whether the sums have been wisely awarded, whether the act was a wise one, and whether it has been properly administered or not, there is this fact to be noticed, that within the last month I believe not less than a million of money has gone from the Imperial Exchequer for the purpose of relieving Irish distress. And since Parliament has met, though I have heard much discussion, I have not heard any one deny that in a great calamity, such as is at present existing in Ireland, whatever mode may be best for its relief, yet it is not an extravagant use of the money of the Imperial Exchequer to devote that money to a very large amount to the relief of distress. I believe, when the whole accounts come to be presented to the House, it will be shown, though that calamity has been unprecedented and appalling, the sums granted and advanced by the public for the purpose of relieving that distress are likewise unprecedented; and that there will be no reason to complain of a want of sympathy towards the distressed. For my part, I wish to throw no blame on the Irish landlords. Much of their difficulty, I know, is an inevitable difficulty. I think in the present case the best part we can perform is to go into Committee for the purpose of relieving by this Bill all immediate distress. When the other questions come under consideration, whether for advancing money for the improvement of waste lands, or for the poor law, this House will no doubt be ready to discuss them, and we shall see whether we can prevent recurrence of such 961 calamities pressing upon Ireland for the future.
MR. VILLIERS STUART
wished, notwithstanding what had been said by the noble Lord, to denounce the charges which had been brought against the Irish landlords. He was one of that body, and he should consider that if they were guilty of the charges brought against them, they would be unworthy of seats in that House. But those charges were far from being true; and he would venture to say that to any party who made the least inquiry into the matter, it would be evident that unjust or harsh landlords in Ireland were but exceptions to the rule. He himself had attended the meetings of the guardians of the poor of Kilkenny, and he could assure the House that the landlords of that district had exerted themselves in the most praiseworthy manner for the relief of the poor of their district; they willingly taxed themselves for the relief of their distressed neighbours. During the last month 100l. weekly had been received by the guardians in the shape of poor rates. He had no doubt that 1,000l. at least had been contributed by the landowners of the district in question for the relief of the poor. A fever hospital that had been erected there for the accommodation of eighty-five only, at present contained one hundred and sixty; in some cases there were four in one bed. Had the directors of the hospital been able to give relief to any more, they would have been glad to do so, as their great object was to mitigate, as far as possible, the sufferings of the people.
§ MR. S. CRAWFORD
would be very sorry to detain the House from going into the Bill before them, but some observations had been made in the course of this debate, that he could not allow to pass altogether unnoticed. He felt deeply the position in which Ireland was placed at the present moment. They found the Government telling them that the people were starving, and they also found some hon. Members, who were Irish landlords, coming forward and saying that assistance should be given entirely by the Government to relieve the distress of the people. But he did not admit that the Government was liable to any such responsibility. He believed that rates ought to be levied on the land of Ireland for the purpose of supporting the poor of Ireland; and he also believed that there would be little difficulty connected with the enforcement of payment of those rates if the matter were 962 properly taken up. As an English representative in that House, he did not feel that he was entitled to vote away the British money without being satisfied that such money would be repaid, for the property of Ireland could be made to pay it. He had a double duty to perform. He called for assistance for Ireland, and he asked the British people to give that assistance; but he would not call upon them to render any aid unless he was levied to the last farthing of his property for the purpose of repaying the sums that might be advanced. Under the present poor law in Ireland, the tenant was required, in the first instance, to pay all the rates assessed on his land, not only his own, but those assessed upon the landlord. But the landlord's rate ought to be separated from the tenant's, and the rates of the landlord ought to be levied from the landlord. He had that day week given notice of his intention to bring in a Bill for amending the law of rating in Ireland, and he was anxious that the hon. Members for Ireland should understand the object of that Bill. It was to provide that the landlord's share of the rate shall be separated from the tenant's rate in the rating book, and that the collectors of the rate should be compelled to recover the rates from each in a separate manner, and that the guardians of the poor in Ireland should be empowered to apply to the Court of Chancery to compel the payment of rates. Under such a law he had no doubt that all the rates would be paid. He thought that it was the duty of the House to show the British people that they were willing to compel the repayment of moneys advanced for the assistance of Ireland. Irish landlords got up in that House and charged the British Legislature with the ills of Ireland; but he believed that those ills were owing to the relation of landlord and tenant in that country. But at present he would refrain from entering upon that question, because he hoped to have an opportunity of doing so on a future occasion. When Irish landlords got up in that House, and throw all the responsibility of the wrongs of Ireland on the British Legislature, he was compelled, as a landed proprietor, to say, that if the British Legislature had acted wrongly towards Ireland, it had done so in this way—it had unduly favoured the landed proprietors of Ireland, and neglected the interests of the Irish people. He must admit that the body to which he belonged—the Irish landed proprietors—had been 963 the most favoured class in the British dominions. The confiscated lands of Ireland had been given to them without any responsibility being imposed upon them for the natives of Ireland. They got all power, political as well as civil. They got all power that they asked for with respect to the collection of rents; they had got in fact every power which they asked from the Government of this country; and, therefore, if he blamed the Government at all, it was because of the unjust privileges which they had from time to time conferred upon the Irish landlords, to the ruin of the Irish people. He was perfectly convinced, however, that the Irish landlords were at present desirous of doing the utmost in their power to alleviate the sufferings of the people of Ireland; and he hoped that the British Parliament would not hesitate to make such advances as might be deemed necessary for the same object, taking care, at the same time, that security be had for the repayment of such loans.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
begged leave to concur in the eulogiums which had been expressed in reference to the conduct of Sir William Beecher. He could assure the House that the assertions of the hon. Member for Marylebone were entirely groundless; and in fact the assertions which had been made as to the cruel and unfeeling conduct of the Irish landlords generally during the present calamity were shameful calumnies. The Irish landlords, as a body, were as high-minded as any men in the country; they were men of as high personal character, of as untarnished private and unblemished public honour as the landlords of England.
was prepared to give his support to this Bill; but he could not do so without saying that he thought the people of this country were justified in asking for ample security for the advances to be made under it. The Government was deserving of the greatest praise for the efforts which they had made, and the anxiety which they had evinced, for the relief of the distressed Irish people; but he was quite sure that the Members of Her Majesty's Government did not and could not shut their eyes to the disadvantages which must attend measures of this sort, unless ample security were given for the repayment of the advances that might be made at as early a period as they could be collected; and he therefore called upon them to propose strong and stringent measures, which 964 would not only encourage but compel the Irish landlords to do their duty, and to provide for their own poor. He had no wish to throw any aspersions upon the Irish landlords, but he did wish to insist upon their being compelled to bear the burden of supporting their own poor. So far from desiring to "filch" the estates of the Irish landlords, he would rather assist them to bear their burdens. The people of this country would be satisfied with nothing short of the insertion of strong and stringent clauses in this Bill, for the purpose of compelling the landlords to do their duty to the poor upon their estates. He hoped that this Bill might pass without delay, as he believed that such a measure was absolutely necessary for the saving of the people of Ireland from starvation.
§ Mr. J. O'BRIEN
trusted he should be pardoned for expressing his surprise at the unwarrantable charges made in reference to the meeting at Ennistimon, founded on a record of the proceedings which imputed to the members of the committee conduct of which they were incapable. He had attended the meeting in question, and was at a loss to conceive what could have tempted any official person to commit himself by such extravagant assertions. There was some noisy discussion, and some discontent shown at the delay in making presentments; but he entirely denied that what was termed protection, which, in the ordinary acceptation of the word, involved the supposition of personal violence, was necessary.
§ Order of the day read. House in Committee on the Bill.
§ On Clause 12,
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
in reply to Mr. Smith O'Brien, said, that its object was to provide that in times of extraordinary pressure, such, for instance, as had occurred at Skibbereen, the charge of feeding the poor should fall on the whole of the electoral divisions of Ireland, because if the district in which such severity might happen were compelled to relieve the poor without the assistance of any other district, it would, to use a common expression, be "completely swamped."
§ COLONEL CONOLLY
was most decidedly of opinion that this clause would lead to the greatest carelessness and lavish expenditure. From experience, he knew that to make each district support its own 965 poor, was the most practical and economical plan.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
concurred in the observations of his hon. and gallant Friend who had just sat down, and when the question came to be discussed at a future period he would find him disposed to give him his support; but he thought that the fairest and the wisest course for the Irish Members to pursue with this temporary measure was to permit it to pass, and wait until the permanent one was proposed.
§ MR. ROSS
was also in favour of allowing this measure to pass as it was proposed for the temporary relief of the Irish people; but he did certainly hope that it would not be turned into a precedent. He was decidedly opposed to the merging of the electoral divisions, because he had seen the evil effects of such a system in his own neighbourhood.
hoped that Her Majesty's Government would take care to provide for the repayment of the money to be advanced under this Bill, after the disclosures which had been made on Friday night by the noble Lord the Member for Lynn (Lord G. Bentinck), and the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, to whom he was quite sure that the people of this country would feel themselves very deeply indebted for the manly and honourable manner in which they came forward and expressed their convictions, founded, he had no doubt, upon as correct information and as much knowledge of the country as any gentleman connected with Ireland. He was quite aware that that part of Ireland to which the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Crawford) belonged, would punctually repay every farthing of the money that might be advanced under this Bill; but such sum would be very insignificant as compared to the advances to be made to the other parts of the country which were in a more deplorable condition. He hoped that Her Majesty's Government, in justice to the hard-working people of this country, from whose industry and declining wages the taxes were to be taken from which this money would be supplied, would take care that the Irish landlords were made accountable for the repayment of the money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had stated, in reply to him at the close of last Session, that only 3,000l. had been granted towards the relief of Ireland, and it was not expected that any more would be required for that purpose; but by the Bill before them the Government had, 966 without the sanction of Parliament, expended in relieving the distress in Ireland 355,000l. He was not opposed to their affording assistance to Ireland; but he did insist upon the repayment of the money advanced to her. Although much had been said as to the harsh expressions of the hon. and learned Member for Bath (Mr. Roebuck), he was quite sure that that hon. Gentleman had expressed the universal opinion of the people of this country.
§ MR. MORE O'FERRALL
(interrupting): Sir, I wish to call your attention to a point of form. The hon. Member has addressed himself to the fourteenth clause; but at present that is not really the question under discussion, and it is quite out of order for him thus to waste the time of the House.
was speaking in defence of his constituents. This Bill proposed to make large advances of money for the relief of Ireland; that money would come from the Exchequer, and he had a right to demand that they should be guaranteed repayment of those advances. He must express his astonishment at the hon. Member for Kildare interrupting him in the way that he had. He was speaking about the security to be given for the repayment of the proposed advances, and there was a securing clause in the Bill. The question was, whether the money was to be repaid by unions or electoral divisions. He had no desire to impede the proceedings of the Committee; and he thought that hon. Gentlemen from Ireland had no right to state that an English representative was wasting the time of the House, if he stood up in defence of the rights of his constituents.
§ MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
could easily forgive the ignorance displayed by the hon. Member for Coventry in respect to the relation between landlord and tenant in Ireland; but the hon. Member seemed to be equally ignorant of the very principles of the Bill they were then discussing. The hon. Member inflicted a long speech on the House without having read the Bill itself. The question now was, not between unions and electoral divisions, but as to the amount of discretion to be vested in the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His opinion was, that it was better to leave the poor law as it at present stood, and to omit the clause altogether. He must own that he was in favour of small territorial divisions, if for only one reason, that, by narrowing the circle, the responsibility of the landlord 967 was increased. He preferred leaving the machinery of the existing poor law as it stood; and seeing the present clause interfered with it, he moved that it be altogether expunged from the Bill.
§ MR. M. O'FERRALL
said, if the present Bill were to be permanent, he would be disposed to agree with the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, and if such were the case, the powers which it proposed to vest in the Lord Lieutenant would be excessive, and ought alone to rest in the Crown; but as the Bill was only of a temporary character, designed to meet an exigency, and to expire with that exigency, and as the circumstances which called it forth were of a most extraordinary and unparalleled nature, he thought Parliament would act wisely in passing it into a law. In some parts of the south and west of Ireland, it was easy to suppose a case in which where the electoral division was small, the whole rental would be insufficient to meet the demands of pauperism. In such cases, were the proposition of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire adopted, there would be no alternative but to have recourse to the public treasury; and it would not be right to apply there until the whole means of Ireland were exhausted. Under these circumstances, therefore, he would recommend the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the Amendment.
SIR DENHAM NORREYS
could not agree with the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, and thought it would be impossible to carry out the objects of the Bill, if the clause were to be expunged. The powers of the two bodies, the relief committees and the boards of guardians, were perfectly distinct. He would not now go into this matter at any length, and he trusted the Amendment would not be pressed to a division.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
said, he had studiously abstained from taking a part in this debate from the deep conviction that it was most important, in the present unfortunate circumstances of Ireland, that the measures for its relief should be carried through the House as speedily as possible; and that in order to accomplish this desirable object, no unnecessary topic should be introduced. But he felt that the point which they were now discussing was one of great importance, not only as regarded the present measure, but from its incidental bearings on a question still more important, namely, that permanent measure which would be hereafter brought under their notice. He 968 would observe, in confirmation of what had fallen from an hon. Member who had preceded him, that the original Irish poor law had undergone several material changes since 1843, when he had the honour of introducing a provision in that measure which had for its object the assimilation of the law in that country, to the law of settlement in England; and on that occasion he was supported not only by a majority of the House, but by a majority of Irish Members. It was then provided that no person not occupying a tenement for twelve months out of eighteen, or not sleeping a certain time in a particular place, should be entitled to relief from the electoral district, but that relief should be given at the expense of the union at large. In his opinion it was necessary, both for the sake of perspicuity in arguing this question, and with a view to arrive at a speedy decision—it was necessary to maintain the distinction between permanent and temporary. Reserving for future discussion the question whether the burden of relief, under all circumstances—extended, with restrictions, to the able-bodied out of the workhouse—should fall on the union or on the electoral division, it was most desirable to confine the discussion to the nature and amount of relief to be afforded by the guardians of the poor, and by those whom that Bill was, for a temporary purpose, about to create. The Bill authorized the formation of certain committees, composed of persons who were to be nominated by the Lord Lieutenant to distribute relief; and the members of such committees were not controlled by the board of guardians nor by the Poor Law Commissioners. Such powers were, no doubt, novel and large; but the circumstances were likewise extraordinary, and the calamity extensive. But there was one question connected with this matter, upon which he would wish to be informed by a Member of the Government. It appeared, if he were not mistaken, that under the present system of electoral divisions, the burden of the poor rates fell in many instances, with almost overwhelming pressure, on certain small districts. This was especially the case in small and densely populated villages which were contiguous. If that had been so in former years, with what accumulated burden would these rates fall, upon such an occasion as the present! and if the rating were confined to a small electoral division, instead of being extended over the union at large, it would be oppressive in the extreme. Before 969 sitting down, he would advert to another matter. 580,000 men were at present employed on public works exclusively. The money which paid them was advanced by Government, out of loans which were to be repaid by future levy. He thought it was most advisable that such advances for such a purpose ought to cease at once, for those 580,000 were, in point of fact, the tillers of the soil in Ireland. The period of the year ought to be considered. The season for sowing corn was somewhat later in Ireland than in this country: but yet the ground must be prepared as soon as possible for the spring sowing, which took place in March or April. They were now in the middle of February, and unless those 580,000 men resumed their accustomed agricultural occupations, he dreaded that the calamities of the present year were only the prelude to calamities still more awful. He hoped that if the measures of the Government were successful, the men now employed in public works would return to cultivate the soil, so that provision for an improved and an increased means of sustenance might be seasonably made. Considering that this was only a temporary measure, apart from the question of the poor law—remembering that its machinery was altogether different—he was disposed to adopt the opinions of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, to support the clause as it at present stood, and to resist the Motion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire. He would at present give no opinion upon the permanent measure about to be brought in; and he begged to say that his observations in reference to electoral divisions and unions, and the preference of the latter for the purposes of rating, were entirely connected with the temporary character of the Bill now before the House.
§ MR. SHAW
said, that under all the circumstances, he would recommend his hon. Friend (Mr. Stafford O'Brien) not to divide the House against the clause. He (Mr. Shaw) agreed with his hon. Friend in the principle of desiring the smaller territorial district to be charged with the rate; and in the discussion of the permanent Poor Relief Bill, he would to the utmost of his power assist his hon. Friend in giving effect to that principle; but seeing that the present Bill was only for the temporary relief of a great and pressing emergency—that the Government thought it important the power the clause conferred should be given—and that much must necessarily, in such a case, be left to the discretion of the Go- 970 vernment —it was not worth raising the question upon that temporary Bill; and he (Mr. Shaw) thought doing so would prejudice the decision which he hoped would be come to in favour of the electoral division, in preference to the union rating, upon the consideration of the permanent Bill. Moreover, it was a great object to avoid delaying the passing of the measure. Irishmen, above all others, should not obstruct its progress; and it was that feeling alone which restrained him (Mr. Shaw) from rising during the preliminary discussion, before the Speaker left the chair, when the landlords of Ireland had been so unjustly, unfairly, and unfeelingly attacked by some English Members on the other side of the House, as had lately been too much the habit in that House. He only wished some of those Gentlemen could witness, as he had done for the last few months, the assiduity and devotion with which the landlords and the resident gentry of Ireland generally had applied themselves to the alleviation of the distress and suffering that surrounded them. He would not then impede the progress of the Bill by stopping to defend them; but on no fitting opportunity would he shrink from that duty.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that with reference to what the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) had stated, he must agree with him that in many of the electoral districts the amount of rateable property bore a very small proportion to the destitution in such such places. That was the case even with regard to unions; and he agreed with the right hon. Baronet that the only remedy was to spread the taxation over a larger surface. He would not now protract the present discussion, as it was most desirable it should be brought to a speedy termination, but would observe, that no hon. Member, by voting in support of the present clause, in any way pledged himself to any future measure in reference to this subject.
§ SIR W. VERNER
had received several letters from Irish ratepayers requesting him to oppose the clause, on the ground that it would bring ruin upon them in its operation.
MR. DILLON BROWNE
supported the clause, because, if the smaller divisions were adopted, the rates would press with intolerable severity on the ratepayers 971 residing in these narrow electoral districts.
SIR R. FERGUSON
hoped the hon. Member for Northamptonshire would withdraw his opposition; but he gave the Government notice that, if advances were to be made, they ought not to be made on the union at large, for in such cases there would be great difficulty in collecting them.
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
wished to know whether the Government had considered the effect which this rating clause would have upon the subscriptions that were now raised throughout Ireland, and upon the efforts that were made by the Irish landlords to employ the poor that were resident on their own estates. They were bound to take care that they did nothing which would in any way impede the performance of those private duties which they had a right to expect from the Irish landlords; and he feared that the practical tendency of this clause would be to throw such impediments in their way.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he did not conceive this clause would have any effect such as the noble Lord had described.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
entirely agreed with the noble Lord that the effect of this clause would be to stop the subscriptions that were now raised throughout Ireland, and to render the Irish landlords entirely apathetic. He regretted that the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire had agreed to withdraw his Amendment, as every hon. Gentleman who spoke was in favour of its principle.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 13 to 15 were agreed to.
§ On Clause 16,
§ MR. G. A. HAMILTON
took that opportunity to express in public what he had formerly said in private. When forming one of a deputation to Government on the subject of relieving Irish distress, he said that there would be no indisposition on the part of Irish landlords to repay, and that promptly, the sums that might be advanced By the Government for the relief of the existing distress. As one step towards this, he begged to suggest that words should be inserted in this clause allowing the relief committees to require payment of such advances by instalments, as he understood the clause in its present state.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was exceedingly glad to hear from the hon. Gentleman in his place in Parlia- 972 ment what he had before stated as a member of a deputation, that there was no unwillingness to allow the property of Ireland to be taxed for the present distress. With reference to the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman, he had to state, that it was proposed to raise the sum required by subscription; and if the subscriptions did not come up to the full amount required, the deficiency was to be made up by a rate, and it would be for the amount of that deficiency that the rated districts would be liable.
§ VISCOUNT CLEMENTS
was astonished at hon. Gentlemen speaking of these moneys being repaid. "You may," said the noble Lord—You may call spirits from the vasty deep,But will they come when you do call upon them?He could not, as an honest man, sit still and hear that Irish property was to be pledged for the repayment of these loans; for he held that that was utterly and physically impossible. For himself, he was ready to toil—he was ready to labour—he was ready to do anything that the Government wished him; but he was not ready to repay those loans. If they must repay them, Government must give them the means. Do not let them misunderstand him: he was not one of those who asked for money; but he insisted that they should have legislative means of repayment—by the landlords being invested with power over their own estates, which at the present time, in too many instances, they had not.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, they were now arrived at a stage in which he had a right to call upon Her Majesty's Government to deal with the House of Commons in the way in which the House of Commons was accustomed to be dealt with. Hitherto they had been disposing of the means by which they were to apportion the relief that was about to be granted; but they had not yet come to the relief itself. They were now approaching that most important of all subjects—the subject of money, and he was, therefore, justified in calling upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give some explicit explanation of what they were about to do. For it must be evident to everybody that hitherto they had been acting totally in the dark. They were told they were to do something; but what that something was they did not know. Now, he would put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he hoped, for the honour of the Ministry, that the right hon. 973 Gentleman would give him an explicit answer. By this Bill it was provided that certain loans were to be made. The phrase was, that a sum or sums of money was to br raised by way of impress — to what amount? [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: That is mentioned in the resolutions of the House.] Ay, by the resolution of Committee, passed the other evening, a sum of money not less than 300,000l. was to be raised. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Not more than 300,000l.] He begged pardon—not more than 300,000l. But, then, by the 17th clause, certain other grants were to be made. Now, he wanted to know if it was in the recollection of any Member of the House—he did not care how old he was in his experience—the hon. Member for Montrose, or the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goulburn), he wanted to know if ever, in their experience, a Chancellor of the Exchequer had come down to the House, on a great occasion like this, to demand money from the House of Commons, without explaining first what he thought was a rough estimate of the claim; and, next, the mode in which he proposed to raise the money so demanded? This was a most important question. He knew, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew, that if he were to say within the next ten minutes that he were to raise the money by an increase of the income tax, would not that raise a flame from one end of the kingdom to the other? ["No!"] Not, perhaps, in Ireland, where it was not to be paid. But he knew that it would throughout England and throughout Scotland. If, again, he were to say that he meant to raise the money by loan, would not that produce an important effect throughout the country? Well, then, how were they going to do it? They could not do it by magic. The right hon. Gentleman was to get money, He wanted to know how; and, he thought, in justice to the people of England, they ought to be told how; particularly when they heard one hon. Member get up and pledge the honour of Ireland that these loans would be repaid, and another get up and beg them not to trust to the honour of Ireland, as it was impossible they would be paid. But, at any rate, they must be paid by the people of England; and, therefore, in justice to the country, he had a right to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not with a view to bind him to any specific sum—but the right hon. Gentleman must have made 974 some calculation; no one in his position would dare to come down to the House without making a calculation — he must know, by a rough calculation, how much he expected would answer the present pressing exigency. He would put it, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman again and again; he wanted to know the sum he expected to raise. It was a fair question; he wanted an explicit answer. He pressed for it—he expected it—what was more, he demanded it. He was not to be put off to the budget; a fortnight was too long to wait; they had been very patient already. He wondered — he was astonished—nay, more, he was at a loss for a phrase which would express the state of his mind—the perfect astoundment he felt at the patience of the hon. Member for Montrose. That hon. Gentleman had, indeed, put the question to Ministers, but in so very mild a form that really the Chancellor of the Exchequer had only to turn round and say that he would tell him some other day. He wished the hon. Gentleman would show some of the vigour of his former days, and insist upon an answer. He hoped Ministers did not intend to play with the people of this country. They occupied their present seats, and they enjoyed the honours and the gains attendant thereupon; but he wished they would show that they felt some of the consequent obligations, and deal fairly by the House. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer meet the question of these difficulties fairly. It was his duty, as a servant of the country, to come down to the House and say, "This is our difficulty; here are the sums which I propose to raise, and these are the means by which I propose to raise them; and, if you don't agree with me, say so, and I shall not go farther." But it was not dealing fairly by the House to lead them on step by step—to engage them in petty arguments as to the details of the Bill—while the great argument of all had not once been brought before the House since it met. They had talked much of the evils of Ireland; but they had never been told how the expense of meeting those evils was to be met. He now demanded an answer to his question.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman had put a question to him in a very pointed way, as if he had been disposed to evade or to deny giving an answer. Now, he begged to say, that the hon. Gentleman had never put that question before in any way whatever. He did not think that his conduct, 975 while in office, called for the mode of interrogation adopted by the hon. Gentleman; and he was now ready to give such an answer as, under the circumstances, he should be justified in giving. It was very true that this question had been put to his noble Friend at the head of the Government on a former occasion; to which the noble Lord gave the only answer that at that time he was justified in giving; and he would say, further, that he did not think he could or that he would be justified in stating to-night what would more properly form part of the statement which his noble Friend had promised either he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) or his noble Friend would make in the course of the next fortnight, as to the sums of money that would be required during the year, and the mode by which they were to be raised. He did not think that he ought to anticipate the annual financial statement by answering the question which had been put by the hon. Gentleman in such an unusual tone. In fact, he had a difficulty in stating it. He could state very well the expense of moneys that had been already issued. He might state, that the sum issued from the Exchequer, from the 1st of September up to the end of January, was two millions sterling. But he had better state the whole amount of the expenditure from the beginning of last year. The advances for the grand-jury presentments from the 1st of January, 1846, up to the 1st of September, were 125,800l. The presentments from the 1st of September were 1,372,000l., of which 463,000l. had been sanctioned by the Treasury up to the 30th of January. The presentments under the 9th and 10th of Victoria amounted to 6,127,000l., to be levied in Ireland, being presented by the gentry of Ireland themselves; and the amount that had been accepted by the Treasury was 2,500,000l. As he had already stated, 2,000,000l. had been advanced from September to the 1st of January. What sum it might be necessary to advance between this and next August, it was, of course, impossible to say to a nicety. It would clearly be necessary to advance some millions of money. There had been a million expended in the month of January; but that expenditure, he expected, would be considerably reduced, as the labour would be absorbed in field cultivation, and as the system which they were now about to substitute for the Labour-rate and for public works would make a still further saving, as under it much of the 976 former temptation to abuse would be taken away. With regard to the amount to which the House was pledged, he would state that the House was pledged by this Bill to advance a sum not exceeding 300,000l. from the Consolidated Fund; and he meant to propose that other sums should be voted from time to time, in Committees of Supply; and he could assure them that the House would never be pledged to more than it voted. At the present time the House was pledged to a vote of 300,000l., and no more. When they came, in Committee of Supply, to vote a further sum, it would be necessary that the House should be pledged to that vote, and to no more. He did not think it was necessary that he should say more as to the sums that were to be provided, or as to the mode in which they were to be raised.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
could assure the right hon. Gentleman that he had no intention of doing anything unusual or offensive in the slightest degree to the right hon. Gentleman. He had asked merely what would be the probable expenditure under that Bill, the Bill which was then under consideration. They had nothing to do with the Presentment Bill at present. The right hon. Gentleman had answered that the intention was to limit the expenditure to 300,000l.; but the clause said that the Commissioners were to have the power of expending "any sum or sums" under such regulations as the Commissioners of the Treasury should impose. He was well aware that the House had voted 300,000l. for the purposes of this Bill; but that was not all: there were grants to be made out of the Consolidated Fund; and what he wanted to know was, whether the Government had made any calculation of the probable cost to the people of England of maintaining the people of Ireland so long as this Bill should continue in operation. Now, that question the right hon. Gentleman had not answered; for he knew that it must be much more than 300,000l. The right hon. Gentleman had given him a technical reply, which would not satisfy the people of England. The House of Commons was about to vote money in the dark; they were not in a condition to decide upon this question; and he hoped that there were some Members in that House representing the people of England who would be found to resist that course, in spite of all the declamation of hon. Gentlemen opposite; in spite of all their declarations as to the closeness of that union which at other 977 times they were so anxious to dissolve—declarations made in time of want, in time of starvation, by hon. Gentlemen, who afterwards would be found in Conciliation Hall talking loudly of the advantages of separation. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Smith O'Brien) had certainly stuck to his text; but as to the hon. Member for Cork, it was easy enough to see what was his view of separation; it was clear that he would be willing to create any despotism, however great, which would take from England as much as England would give. The Government were now asking the House of Commons to vote an indefinite amount of money; and it was clear that they had not made any calculation as to the probable extent of their demands; or if they had, that the sum was so large that they were afraid of declaring it to the House.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that after all the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken as to the clauses of the Bill; and if he had been a little more regular, and had waited until the clauses were brought up, he would have fonnd that his supposition was incorrect. He (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was going to bring up a clause which would limit the advances to be made under this Bill to the 300,000l. which the House had voted. If the hon. Gentleman had waited, instead of interrupting the progress of the Bill at the 16th clause, he would have relieved both of them from the necessity of making two speeches on the subject. The 2nd clause, which was about to be brought up, gave the Commissioners the power of making advances out of any grants voted in Committee of Supply. He hoped he had now made himself clearly understood. He repeated that the House of Commons would not be pledged beyond the sum which each time might be voted, and that the clause would only give to the Commissioners a general power of applying the money from time to time as it was voted; but he was not prepared at that time to anticipate the financial statement which would be made a fortnight hence.
§ MR. SMITH O'BRIEN
thought it unjust that one particular class of property should bear all the burden of the rates to be imposed by this Bill. He wished also to know what was to be the end of this unproductive expenditure? He could understand the proposal of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn, who said that he would take off 100,000 men from the unproduc- 978 tive works in which they were now employed; but he saw nothing in the Government measures to put a stop to the present system. If it were continued, the expense would be greater next year than this; and though it might be a great grievance to England to have such a drain upon her resources, it was even a greater grievance to Ireland.
§ MR. F. FRENCH
said, that if the present system were not effectually checked, he admitted it would completely exhaust the resources of the country; and it was most desirable, therefore, that the agricultural interest should have information on the subject mooted by the hon. and learned Member for Bath; but it was impossible that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer could at present give any satisfactory answer, because the expense to be incurred under this Bill must depend upon the effect of the auxiliary measures proposed by the Government.
§ MR. M. O'FERRALL
proposed that some facilities should be given for the immediate collection of the rates; and that they should be collected in the first instance from the landlords.
§ MR. E. DENISON
wished to ask a question upon a point which would excite some attention in that House and the country. He alluded to the Poor Law Bill. He had hitherto sat in anxious and wondering silence during these debates. They had heard the question of rating adjourned till the Poor Law Bill came into operation. They had heard also a great deal of very significant remarks on the subject of that Bill. The English and Scotch Members had acquiesced in, he would not say approved, the measures of the Government, on the distinct understanding that an efficient poor law was to be enacted for Ireland. The Irish Members had acquiesced in the same measures, because to some extent they considered that they met the exigency of the case, but with an understanding amongst themselves that the poor law could not pass as it was now framed, and must be strongly resisted. He therefore wished to ask, was the Poor Law Bill to have the substantial support of the Government, and was it to become law? Before they proceeded further with the Government measures, he thought that that question ought to be distinctly answered.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, that the hon. Gentleman had asked a very extraordinary question, because the Bill to which the hon. Gentleman referred had been ordered to 979 be brought in, and had been brought in by the First Lord of the Treasury, the Secretary for Ireland, and himself, three Members of the Government. That Bill would, therefore, of course, be supported by the Government: and having been read a second time on the Motion of his noble Friend, it stood for Committee on an early day; and until the hon. Gentleman asked the question, he did not know that there had been even a surmise that the Government had any intention of abandoning it.
§ MR. SHAW
The hon. and learned Member for Bath is very dictatorial in his tone, very fond of asking questions and demanding explicit answers. Now I beg to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman one short question—what does he want? What does he mean by his present course? Is it that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot exactly calculate the sum that may be required—and that, assuming the landlords of Ireland to be as bad as he (Mr. Roebuck) describes them—that therefore the people of Ireland shall be allowed to starve? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer declares most truly that it is impossible to estimate the precise cost of such an unusual emergency. The right hon. Gentleman at the same moment informed the House, that the landlords of Ireland, so far from being the selfish and niggardly beings they are accused of in this House, had actually charged themselves within the last few months with a sum of more than six millions of money for the relief of the present distress. That might have been reckless in some cases; for some of the baronies were assessed beyond the value of their entire rentals; but at all events, it was not heartless, as was imputed to them. In the barony I reside, I was a party to assessing it with 10,000l. for the relief of the distressed; and there it was as sure to be repaid as if imposed upon the barony or parish in which the hon. and learned Gentleman resides in England. But suppose the landed proprietors of Ireland were as insensible to their duties as the hon. and learned Member unjustly and untruly represents them to be, is that any reason why the people of Ireland are to perish of want? [Mr. ROEBUCK: NO.] Yes; but while you are talking they are starving. Do you disbelieve the well-authenticated accounts which daily arrive from the remote districts of that country, that hundreds of the population are dying from starvation? If not, then, for God's sake, 980 put off your bickerings and your bitterness to a more decent occasion, and no longer interrupt this measure for their relief. I feel night after night ashamed, and, as an Irishman, degraded, to hear English Members boasting of their own generosity, and upbraiding Ireland with her present poverty and affliction. With all my heart, I had desired and hoped up to a late period of the awful visitation with which it has pleased Providence to afflict us, that we could have sustained ourselves independently; but it became too heavy to be borne by any one part of the United Kingdom. It assumed all the character of a national calamity; and are we to be reproached because the Government ask this House to let it fall upon the national resources?
§ MR. ROEBUCK
The hon. Gentleman is a judge. He said he would ask me one question; he has asked me three. He has asked me a question with an inuendo: he asked me, "Do you want the people to starve?" Now, do you consider that an honest question. [Mr. SHAW: Quite so.] Then I suppose that is the way you act when you are a judge. You insinuate that I mean to say that I wish the people of Ireland to starve. "Hear," says one; "Yes," says another; and this one says, "It's a proper question." The hon. and learned Member then proceeded to say, that he would tell the hon. Member what he wanted: he wanted the Government of England to devise effectual means to prevent the people of Ireland from starving; but in so doing, to pledge all the property of Ireland to the repayment of the debt. And when the hon. Gentleman talked of common prudence, and said that the gentlemen of Ireland had presented more than in prudence they ought to have done; why, he thought that they had been told throughout these debates that the present were uncommon circumstances, and that uncommon means were required to meet them; and certainly the gentlemen of Ireland had taken uncommon means, for they had presented works which would cost 600,000l., and then they had come to England to ask her to pay for them, as though he should say, "Lend me 500,000l., indeed I can't repay you; I can present the demand, but common prudence will not justify me in paying it;" and common prudence would not suggest that the man should lend the money. ["Hear!" and "Oh, oh!"] It was unfair that he should be exposed to those interruptions. He had 981 not a hundred mouths nor a hundred ears; but he had one mouth which should be heard in that House whilst, he was standing up, as they well knew out of doors that he was standing up, for the honest and industrious artisans of his own country, as opposed to the landlords of Ireland. He was not opposing anything like a full and generous provision for the Irish people; he wanted a generous provision for them, and not only at the present time, but hereafter. He wanted to mortgage Ireland for its poor; and in doing so he did not care one farthing what became of the landlords of Ireland; he did not care what the Irish landlords might say of common prudence; he had a right to protect the hard earnings of his own countrymen; and although it might be very well for those hon. Gentlemen to come and say, "Give us your hard earnings," he would not give them except to the Irish people. He was supported by every English Member in that House, and they would make generous provision for the Irish poor; but they would not for the Irish landlords. Nobody directly claimed it; but very significant statements were constantly made in that House. When hon. Gentlemen spoke of a national calamity to be met by a national tax, what did they mean? But he would not only provide present relief, but he would have the Irish people placed in such a position that it should be worth the while of the Irish gentry to attend to their own affairs—to see to the management of their own property—and he pledged himself that the present Session should not go on without strenuous exertions being made to introduce a stringent poor law into Ireland; and he knew that no measure could be more distasteful to the Irish landlords. He hoped that he had now given a full and specific answer to the question of the hon. Gentleman. He did not want the Irish people to starve; it was an insult to him and to the English people to make such an insinuation; he wanted a full and generous provision to be made for them; but he also wanted to pledge the whole property of Ireland to the repayment of the money now advanced, and to the future maintenance of the poor.
§ MR. BELLEW
looked to the other measures of the Government, rather than the present, for the greatest amount of relief. He believed that a great many Irish landlords had behaved very well; but he also thought that some had not fully discharged their duty on so trying an occasion. He, for one, would not oppose a poor law, or 982 any other measure, however stringent, which would provide for the future maintenance of the poor. He did not think that the money advanced could be repaid in many parts of Ireland; but the Bill to which he looked especially as the great measure of relief was that for facilitating the sale of incumbered estates. Whatever temporary measures they might resort to, they must ultimately come to a change of property. At present, however, he asked, with the hon. and learned Recorder, what was to be done? Admitting that part of this money never could be repaid, was that a reason why the Imperial Government should refuse to afford any relief to the Irish people?
§ MR. HUME
regretted very much the angry tone in which this debate had been carried on. His hon. and learned Friend had merely asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what he (Mr. Hume) considered a very proper question, and one not by any means unusual, whether the Government had at all calculated the amount which would be required under the present Bill; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given to that question as distinct an answer as he could be expected to give under the present unusual circumstances of the country. 300,000l. was the estimated expense for a month. He understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the expenses would be reduced so as to bring the estimate to 300,000l. a month. Viewing it, then, in the most favourable light, he should like to know in what state matters would be by the month of October? His own opinion was, that matters would be worse then than now, because, according to the admission of men of all parties, the outlay already incurred had been productive of mischief instead of good. ["No, no!"] Well, some little good had been done, but a great deal of mischief. ["No, no!"] Let him (Mr. Hume) not be told that such was not the case. Why, the reports of public officers, who had no interest in stating anything but the truth, had established his position beyond the power of contradiction. His hon. and learned Friend was, therefore, quite right in following up his second question, and asking what other measures, if any, were to be adopted for stopping the present waste of money? To that no answer had been given; and he was convinced that Government were going on from step to step in incurring expense, without making up their minds as to what measures should be 983 adopted for stopping the drain of money. He was of opinion that the people of England would not allow such a state of things to go on much longer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised that in fourteen days the financial statement should be made; but before then measures for the radical and permanent cure of Ireland's disease ought to be introduced, and not one of them had yet been laid upon the Table: 2,500,000l. had already been expended; and if to this were added the 300,000l. voted for the purposes of the Bill now under consideration, the total was 2,800,000l. He would enter his protest against the temporising policy adopted and adhered to by Ministers. Some general comprehensive plan for relieving the immediate wants of Ireland ought to be adopted, in conjunction with measures calculated to bring about the permanent regeneration of Ireland.
§ LORD J. MANNERS
wished to impress upon Irish Members the fact, that the disparaging language which had been made use of by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, had not been sanctioned by the English Members who sat on his side of the House; and that the little support which had been given to that hon. and learned Member on that and other evenings, had been derived from Gentlemen professing the same political principles and sitting on the same side of the House with himself. He was bound to confess that, multitudinous as the hon. and learned Member's speeches had been, he had been unable to understand what measures he was himself prepared to propose. He had failed to enunciate one practical proposition; and, with all respect for the hon. and learned Gentleman, he must say that he thought the people of Ireland would not derive much benefit from his labours. The effect of his efforts had been to impede the progress of measures, while nothing to supply their place had been produced. He was disposed to think that the people of England would not enlist under the banners of the hon. and learned Member. He believed, on the contrary, that the English people were, under present circumstances, ready to administer to the people of Ireland the means of relief, rather than examine into the past conduct of Irish Members or Irish landlords; and that while for the future Irish property must be made answerable for Irish obligations, the people of England were not now inclined to wait and hesitate till every tittle of blame was meted out, while the 984 Irish people were dying of starvation. Such was the feeling of England; and he begged Irish Members not to believe that the hon. and learned Member for Bath fairly and truly represented the feeling of the English people.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that a large censure had been dealt out by the noble Lord on many Gentlemen sitting on his (Mr. Roebuck's) side of the House; but he thought he had heard opinions similar to those he had himself expressed proceeding from Members who sat on the same bench with the noble Lord, but a little farther up.
§ DR. BOWRING,
like the noble Lord, was anxious to forget the past, and to apply himself, like the hon. and learned Member for Bath, to the future. From the honest declarations of the Irish Members, he confessed that he had gathered a great deal of information. They had told the House that with respect to the grants there must be no delusion, for a great portion of the money would not be repaid—that a great portion of what was advanced, no matter in what shape the advance might be made, could not be repaid. This state of matters called for the serious consideration of English Members, in so far as protective legislation was concerned. In connexion with the non-payment of the money, it had also been honestly allowed by many of the Irish Members, that, in spite of what was now doing and of what was intended, Ireland's sufferings would continue. Was not that a serious question? And did it not show the necessity of English Members proceeding to consider what ought to be done under such circumstances? He, for one, was prepared to deal liberally with that country, and to concede to her people all the benefits of the Union. But would the measures proposed by Ministers accomplish that object? If Session after Session the same course was to be pursued—if important discussions were mixed up with personalities—and if an hon. Member could not express his sentiments freely without drawing down upon himself a heap of animadversion and recrimination—he could not anticipate the continuance of such a state of things without alarm. Hon. Members on his (Dr. Bowring's) side of the House were as anxious as hon. Members on the opposite to vote money for relieving the immediate sufferings of the Irish people; but were those hon. Gentlemen as ready to do justice to the Irish people as were those on his side of the House? 985 Were they ready to give full effect to the expression of Irish opinion? Were they prepared to deal with the grave and all-important question of the Irish Church? These hon. Gentlemen complained of the result of English legislation, and referred in illustration to the distress and discontent which prevailed; but were they ready to meet the evil, and concede Ireland's just demands? He did not wonder that there should grow up in that country a desire for local legislation, looking at the manner in which the claims and interests of Ireland had been neglected by the Imperial Parliament. For his own part, he thought that in many respects it might be advantageous to allow Ireland a greater degree of self-legislation in local matters than she at present possessed.
§ SIR C. NAPIER
said, that with respect to the question as to whether the Irish landlords had done their duty, he could not pretend to give an answer; and, more than that, he believed that many of the Gentlemen who had said so much on the subject, knew as little about the matter as he did. If the Irish landlords had not done their duty, why did not former Governments force them to do so years and years before the present extraordinary calamity occurred? He would ask if English landlords had done their duty? Had those landlords who had immense properties in Ireland, and who lived in England—had these men, he would ask, done their duty? He thought that in the extraordinary circumstances which existed, these landlords ought to leave the pleasures and comforts of a London life, go to Ireland, live on their estates, and administer to the wants of their poor dependants. It was not enough to tell him that the agents of these men were doing this or that. Everybody knew how beneficial the presence of a proprietor was upon his estate. Let them look to the injurious consequences which arose to the mechanics and others employed on an English estate, when the landlord left his property for a length of time, and entrusted the management to agents. Let the House suppose that the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and other large proprietors, went to Ireland, lived there, and administered to the wants of their tenantry, would any one tell him that no more benefit would be derived than was at present enjoyed by means of agents? He would say, however, that the House were called upon to relieve Ireland. How could any Christian hear of men, 986 women, and children dying in ditches, of starvation, when he himself was living in comfort and eating his warm dinner, without doing something to relieve the distress of his fellow-creatures? Much as he should rejoice to see the Irish landlords do their duty, still as a Christian man he was prepared to go the utmost length in carrying out measures for the relief of the starving Irish.
§ VISCOUNT CLEMENTS
explained that he had not the slightest doubt of the will and inclination of the Irish people and Irish landlords to pay their debts; but what he said was, that it was necessary, in order to enable them to do so, that more vigorous measures to draw out the powers and capabilities of the country should be adopted, than any that had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government. He held in his hand a return, stating that there were 519,248 persons in Ireland rated at 4l. and under, and whose rates were paid by the immediate lessors; and in a country destitute of manufactures, how was that vast population to be supported, unless Government adopted some measures calculated for their permanent relief?
§ MR. BERNAL
was sorry that his hon. and gallant Friend should have been un-guardedly betrayed into the utterance of a sentiment calculated to excite, in the present exciteable times, a feeling of odium and animadversion towards a respectable body of gentlemen—the absentee proprietors of Ireland. He asked his gallant Friend with what degree of justice he could utter the censure he had done? He (Mr. Bernal) would assert, that the larger portion of the absentee landlords were doing their duty in every sense. He knew many of them who spent the whole of their incomes for the advantage of their tenants and the improvement of their property. He might speak of one case, where the rental amounted to 30,000l. a year, and where all that was realized was expended for the benefit of the tenantry. He would not name the gentleman to whom he was alluding, because he was already well known, and because he had no authority to particularize him. He deemed it unjustifiable to charge the absentees with any want of charity or liberality towards their tenants. He thought the speech of his hon. and learned Friend near him (Mr. Roebuck) was misplaced; many opportunities might arise in which it might be spoken with much advantage. Did his learned Friend deem the Bill necessary, or 987 did he not? If he deemed it necessary, why did he not allow it to go on?
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Remaining clauses of the Bill agreed to.
§ House resumed. Bill to be reported.