§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
moved the first of the following Resolutions:—1. That the several Counties and Districts in Ireland, now liable to the repayment of sums advanced out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, in pursuance of two Acts for the Relief of Distress in Ireland, by the employment of the Labouring Poor (9th and 10th Vic, c. 107, and 10th Vic, c. 10), shall be exonerated from the repayment of one moiety of the sums so advanced for Works of a public nature.2. That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to direct the Commissioners of Public Works in England to transfer to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, out of the Funds standing to the account of the 73 said Commissioners of Public Works in England, any sum not exceeding 120,000l., to be applied by the said Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, for making loans under the provisions of any of the Acts authorizing the said Commissioners to make advances for the extension and promotion of Drainage and other Works of public utility in Ireland.3. That the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury be authorized to direct the issue, out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, of any sum not exceeding 250,000l. to be applied by the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland, for making loans under the provisions of any of the Acts authorizing the said Commissioners to make advances for the extension and promotion of Drainage and other Works of public utility in Ireland.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
wished to put one question with respect to the expenditure provided for by the statute. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there were now more than 1,400,000 persons in the hospitals of Ireland under the Board of Health. Now, if he understood it properly, the Act which regulated the appointment of the Board of Health and the hospitals provided that all the expense of medicine, nourishment, clothing—everything, in fact, except the salaries of the medical officers—should be defrayed out of the poor rate. He wanted to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether any rate had been levied for that purpose in Ireland; and, if not, from what fund all those payments were to be received?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he was not aware that any part of any rate had been actually collected in repayment of the sums advanced for relief in Ireland; but he was informed that some rates had been struck; and he believed that several were in progress of collection. [Sir J. GRAHAM: From what fund have these expenses been paid?] The right hon. Baronet must not suppose that there has been no collection of rates; although no sum has been collected in repayment of these advances, there has, in fact, been a considerable collection of rates within the last three months; but I am not prepared to say that there may not have been some advances made by the Government for the expenses of the fever hospitals.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
could not help expressing his surprise that no hon. Gentleman connected with Ireland had risen to express his opinion upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had represented Ireland as now being in a comparative state of felicity and happiness. He had described the condi- 74 tion of Ireland as though it were the happy valley of Rasselas; but he (Mr. Osborne) was sorry to say, that the accounts which he received from that country were of a very different character. He admitted that to a certain degree famine had been staved off; but if the measures of the Government had been successful in giving temporary relief, the people had been altogether demoralised by those measures. Those measures had completely broken down the classes above the labouring classes; and he was perfectly satisfied that neither the farmers nor gentry of Ireland could go through another year of similar distress. Last year's rents had not been paid; and the rates were so heavy upon the gentry that he believed it would be impossible to collect them. He looked forward to the next winter with feelings of the greatest horror and alarm, dreading, as he did, a widespread ruin, amounting almost to revolution, in Ireland next winter. He did not deny that the Soup Bill of the Government had succeeded beyond his expectations, through the wonderful exertions of Sir J. Burgoyne and the other officers employed; but he had received numerous representations—and, amongst others, one from a large establishment employing 1,500 men—which satisfied him that the demoralisation effected by such measures was very great. He regretted extremely the withdrawal of the Bill for facilitating the sale of encumbered estates; because he believed that without such a measure the state of society in Ireland must go on from worse to worse, and that until they adopted measures for the purpose of throwing encumbered estates into the market they could do nothing to ameliorate the condition of Ireland. He did not blame the Government for withdrawing the Bill; they might have been compelled by the pressure of business and other circumstances to do so; but he begged to warn the noble Lord not to be misled by the fair prospects held out by his right hon. Friend; for Ireland was now in a more desperate state than ever she had been before. He well knew that there was organized in Ireland a widespread system for resisting the payment of rates; and that even persons of consideration and substance were doubting whether they should not give in their adherence to the repeal of the Union. The fact was, that a feeling of despair and dismay reigned in the breasts of all classes in Ireland; and whatever party should happen to be in power next Parliament, they would find 75 that they must legislate for Ireland in a very different spirit from that which the present Session had witnessed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that the hon. Gentleman had entirely misunderstood, and, therefore, entirely misrepresented, the statement of his right hon. Friend. His right hon. Friend had not described Ireland as enjoying at present any peculiar degree of felicity; he was well aware that after all she had gone through during the past year, much of misery and suffering must still remain; but what his right hon. Friend did state was, that the efforts made by Parliament and the Government had been successful in mitigating that suffering; and that the latest measure for the distribution of food in Ireland had been the means of saving human life to a very large extent from the effects of famine, which, with pestilence, had been stalking through the land with fearful strides. That measure had effected those great objects—it had fed the multitude; it had saved human life by hundreds; and it had had the important effect of staying the progress of fever, so that the mortality had greatly diminished. But there was another point to which he wished to advert. The hon. Gentleman had repeated an expression which had been frequently used in the course of these debates; he had said, that whatever the Government had done to relieve the people, they had demoralised them; but there was a great fallacy involved in the use of that word. Looking at it by itself, it could not be denied that for a Government to undertake the employment or the feeding of immense multitudes of the people, and thus to interfere with the ordinary course of affairs, was calculated to produce great evils; but when the hon. Member spoke of demoralisation, he denied altogether that the measures of the Government, taken as a whole, had had that effect. Let the House look at their effect upon crime, and compare the month of June with the month of May in the present year, and they would find the number of cases in June smaller than the number in May by no less than one thousand; and he had the authority of Colonel M'Gregor, at the head of the police in Ireland, for attributing that decrease to the effect of the relief measures; at all events, he was sure that the House would agree with him, that whatever amount of practical evil might result from the necessary interference of the Government on an occasion of unparalleled calamity, it was not to 76 be compared with the absolute dissolution of society which would have taken place if the Government had not interfered at all. He was glad that his right hon. Friend had taken an opportunity, before the close of the Session, of laying before Parliament a collected view of the efforts which had been made to relieve the distress in Ireland; and he was satisfied that the country would think that if the calamity which had befallen Ireland was stupendous, the efforts which Parliament and the Government had made to mitigate it were on the same scale. Looking back at all that occurred, he was not prepared to say that there had not been some evils in the system they had pursued, but that, if it were to be done again, he would not pursue a different course. This, too, he would say, that no other course had been suggested to them by which an equal amount of human life could have been saved under the frightful calamity with which they had been visited. As one charged with a large share of the administration in Ireland during the past eventful year, he joined most heartily in the expression of thankfulness made by his right hon. Friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to the House at large, without distinction of party, for the disinterested support which it had given to Her Majesty's Government under these manifold evils.
§ MR. CALLAGHAN
said, that when the people of Ireland were able to consider more soberly than they had yet been the efforts of the Government, they would be more grateful than they now seemed to be. He could not so much blame them; for, from his experience of the state of society in his part of the country, he was convinced that people of all ranks were maddened by the extent and suddenness of the calamity with which they were visited. He was glad to hear that the appearance of the people generally was now in a better state than his private accounts would bear out; but he was unwilling to disturb the expectations of the House that such was the case, and, therefore, he would take the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement for granted. He suggested that, by way of provision for a failure of the potato crop this year, depôts should be earlier established, as the suddenness of the last visitation rendered those which were projected nearly useless. He prayed that there might be no fallure; but it was as well to be prepared. Rail as some people might about the potato crop, he contended that 77 it was one which suited the people of Ireland; for they got their land usually on credit, and they had time to cultivate it. It gave a larger quantity of food for the labour expended upon it than any other cultivation; but it was contrary to every theory he had heard to condemn a cheap produce because if they were dependent upon a dear one the people would exert themselves more. They were now on the eve of a general election; and when he considered how much depended on its results for good or for evil, he might be permitted to allude to the present condition of the farmer and labourer. He was not bidding for popularity, as he had no intention again to ask for a seat in Parliament; but he must press on the Government the importance of this subject; and whether the Bill brought in on this question by Mr. Sharman Crawford was objectionable, or whether it was not suited to the state of the country, he was convinced that a fair and equitable mode must be adopted to regulate the relations of landlord and tenant. He would assent to a law assimilated to the practice in England, which allowed a tenant a fair valuation for his improvements. He know a case in which a person under Lord Ken-mare was made to pay four times the amount of the original rent, in consequence of improvements made at his own expense, and by his own labour. In conclusion, he wished to remind the House that the landlords of Ireland, who had been blamed for not employing the people, were not able to do so. Their lands were let out to the farmers, and they would not employ one more labourer at the request of the landlords. That was the case nine times out of ten; but oven if it were not so, they had not this year the power, as the rents had been withheld, and the prospects of landlords and of owners of property were not better than his hon. Friend the Member for Wicklow had described.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
said: I can hardly sit still here and not protest against it being supposed that I concur in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, that if all this had to be done again, we should do again precisely the same. I do not concur in the assertion, that if all this relief was to be afforded again, it would be consistent with the dictates of wisdom to spend 9,300,000l. in the same way, after the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he has no expectation of an im- 78 mediate repayment of any part of it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has also informed us of the difference between two modes of relief—the one by means of soup-kitchens and cooked food, and the other by relief works; and that, while in one district 45,000 persons called on the Government for support when that support was given by relief works, only one-fourth of that number called on them for support when cooked food was given; and, consequently, one-fourth part only of the latter expense was incurred. 4,900,000l. is the sum which has been expended in relief works; so that, after that experience, I frankly confess that I should not be again inclined to make use of relief works, but that I should rather pursue the other plan of relieving the people by means of cooked food. But, Sir, when I bear in mind, that, after the Chancellor of the Exchequer had informed the House that of the 9,300,000l, there was but 1,270,000l. expended on works of utility, I think that of itself is a sufficient reason for attempting, if the whole were to be done over again, to expend as much as possible on works of utility. It is also worthy of observation that, of all the sums expended, it is only the 620,000l. granted for railways of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer informs us that there is not the least possible doubt of its repayment—that that debt is perfectly safe and certain to be repaid. And while I am on this subject, I may remark, that that fact is a triumphant answer to those who charged us on this side of the House with party clamour when we sought to divert more of this large sum of money—now nearly all irrecoverably lost—into this reproductive channel. It did seem that they were anxious that the relief of Ireland should be administered by one single mode—that which did it at the expense of the people of England; and were entirely opposed to any plan which would accomplish the same object, and cost the people of England nothing. There is one other point on which I wish to make a remark and ask a question. On that point alone the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not quite clear. He stated to the House that in the course of last year the Government established thirty-four large depots. I ask, were there not a hundred and six depôts abolished, or whether they established these thirty-four in addition to those already in existence? I rather think it will turn out that the thirty-four depots were the only ones 79 allowed to continue in addition to those private depots which he subsequently mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the supply of food as if he had met with opposition on that score from this side of the House. Certainly not. On our side of the House we said that these depots were not sufficient in the early part of the famine; that the Government was too late in coming forward with a supply of food for the people, because we held that this sudden calamity put the people of Ireland very much in the position of an army sent suddenly into a thinly populated or desert country. If an army were sent into a wilderness, it would best represent the condition the people of Ireland were suddenly placed in by this unexpected calamity, with no provision made by private enterprise to feed them. So far from complaining that the people were supplied by food from the State, our first complaint was, that the Government were not quite quick enough in the supply of those wants for which there was no machinery at the time by private enterprise to provide. And when the right hon. Gentleman congratulates himself on the improved condition and appearance of the country since the Government took the feeding of the people into their own hands more actively, he sets forth the best proof that the suggestions from this side of the House were perfectly correct; and if Government had moved early in the autumn and with more energy, there would not have been that tremendous mortality which I am now glad to find has ceased. It proves too, that leaving the people to help themselves, and to look for their supply from private enterprise in a country where nothing of the sort had ever occurred before, was in a great measure leaving them helpless in their greatest strait. I do not believe that such was the intention; but I do say that it was a great mistake on the part of Government not to have moved with more energy at an earlier period of the famine than they did. Afterwards, in the course of the spring, I have not the same fault to find. I do, however, say, that if they had exerted themselves in October to meet the famine as they did afterwards, we should not have heard of these terrible calamities, and we should have got over the difficulty with a much smaller loss of life.
LORD J. RUSSELL
said: The noble Lord has not correctly understood what was said by my right hon. Friend who sits near me. He did not say that he would take 80 the same steps exactly, or act in precisely the same manner as in the past year, but that on the whole we had no cause to regret our past conduct. One of the suggestions alluded to by the noble Lord was made by hon. Members who usually sit on this side of the House, that it was impossible to relieve a famine of this sort, and that any interference would only make matters worse. That was a course we did not think it wise or humane to accede to. Another was, that of the noble Lord opposite; that we should take upon ourselves the whole duty, send our line-of-battle ships to America, and ransack the world for food for the people of Ireland. [Lord G. BENTINCK: That was not my suggestion.] The noble Lord did not use the phrase "ransack the world," but he advocated sending our ships of war to America; and he has lately revived that idea. We did not think it wise to adopt that suggestion. We thought that by it a less quantity of food would be imported, and that the people would be worse supplied than if we opened our ports widely and encouraged commerce to undertake that supply. We took the course between the one extreme and the other; and endeavoured by measures, which changed, I confess, from time to time, to enable the people, suddenly left without food, to supply themselves. I will not, after the statements made by my right hon. Friend, recur to those measures. The noble Lord has also referred to his favourite doctrine, that we ought to have looked to works of utility. If we had confined ourselves to reproductive works, it would not have answered. If our object had been to invest money for the purpose of obtaining a good return on works of utility, and improving the general condition of Ireland, there is much to be said in favour of such a policy, and I should be the last person in the world to argue against its general principle; but where every village contained a population who were in want of food, there were not any works of a reproductive character within a reasonable distance which could supply them with immediate food. There were no works, railways, or any other of a useful nature to remedy the evil. And, Sir, the late Government came to the same conclusion as that to which we arrived, that there must be some mode of supplying the people with food adapted to a great calamity, and which did not hold forth an immediate or prospective return. Now I wish to say a word with respect to 81 a remark made by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. D. Callaghan), especially as I know how great his authority is among his countrymen. The hon. Gentleman spoke highly in favour of cultivating the potato in Ireland, and observed that he did not know what objection could be raised to such cultivation. Now, I confess I think the objections to persons living for the most part on potatoes are obvious and conclusive. In the first place, if you have a people living on wheat, and if wheat becomes scarce and dear, there are other kinds of food to which they can resort, and the man who is earning 10s. or 12s. a week may be enabled to find sustenance for himself and family; but if he be in the receipt of wages which can only supply him with the lowest description of food, of course it is clear he is unable, unless he gets an increase of wages—which unfortunately is not often the case—to supply himself with any higher description of food. Therefore it is that I object to that food which is of an inferior description, and which, being produceable by a small quantity of labour, is accessible to the poor man as compared with food of a better description, which is acquired by patient and continuous labour, and which brings with it some of the comforts, and what may be called the luxuries, denied to the labourer contented with an inferior kind of food. Another obvious objection to the potato is, that of wheat being a food which can be kept not for one year only, but for a great number of years—as has been proved by the cars grown from the wheat found in Egyptian mummies—whilst the potato is of so very perishable a nature that even in the most successful and fertile years, when September arrives the supply of the former year, even if abundant, cannot be found, and the poor labourer must depend for his subsistence upon the crops of the current year. These are reasons which, in my mind, make it a great misfortune that the food of a people should consist solely of the potato; and, great as may be the sacrifice—great as may be the expense to all classes of the people in making the exchange—I hope that, independently of this sudden disease to which the potato has been subjected, all classes in Ireland who have influence with their countrymen, especially members of the Agricultural Society, noblemen and gentlemen, their agents and the principal farmers, will rather induce the people to turn their attention to the cultivation of other crops, and not 82 continue to regard the potato as their chief subsistence.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am sure if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his prolonged and able speech, inadvertently made any observation by which he does not wish to be bound, my noble Friend the Member for Lynn does not wish to pin the right hon. Gentleman to it; but the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government accuses my noble Friend in this present instance of misrepresenting the statement of a Cabinet Minister. [Lord J. RUSSELL: No; misunderstanding.] Well, "misunderstanding" the statement of a Cabinet Minister, to the effect that if the Government were again called upon to meet a similar exigency, they would adopt the same policy which they have lately pursued. Now, Sir, I must assure the noble Lord, that having listened most attentively in his statement, my conviction, and I am sure it is the general conviction of the hon. Gentlemen who sit upon the benches near me is, that the opinion expressed by Her Majesty's Ministers means in effect that, on a general review of what occurred, they would again act in the same manner; therefore, without dwelling further on the point, I must take leave to tell the noble Lord that he was not justified in supposing that there was any mis-statement or misconception on the part of my noble Friend the Member for Lynn. The observation was certainly made, and we are not to submit to the imputation that we have mistaken the expressions of Her Majesty's Ministers, for upon reflection they must admit they were used. I am not one of those, who, when the noble Lord at the head of the Government takes a general review of the proceedings of the Session, and of the policy exercised towards Ireland, would come forward to criticise his conduct too closely; for it may be within the recollection of the House, that I took the earliest opportunity in my power to state that I thought the calamity which Government was culled upon to meet, was one of the most extraordinary, remarkable, and indeed I may say unprecedented circumstances which could occur in the history of a country, and that the conduct of Government with respect to it was beyond criticism. Although it is easy in July to moralise on the best means which might have been taken to mitigate and arrest the calamity, I believe the Government, in adopting the measures they did, exhibited great energy and ability, and have entitled themselves 83 to the thanks and confidence of the country. But if subsequent criticisms be made on the conduct of the Government, I think we are fairly justified in recalling to the mind of the noble Lord and his Colleagues the events which have occurred with reference to Ireland, and the policy which has been pursued. The noble Lord at the head of the Government says there were two courses which Her Majesty's Ministers might have adopted. The noble Lord said they might have done nothing: they might have acted on the principles of political economy; but those principles, I am glad to say, for his own sake, and for the sake of the country, the noble Lord has throughout repudiated when dealing with this subject. The noble Lord says that Her Majesty's Ministers might have acted upon that principle, or that they might have followed the line of policy indicated by the statement of my noble Friend the Member for Lynn, in which he urged the employment of the people on works of immediate utility and reproductive character. The Ministers acted according to circumstances, and having done so they say, "We may have been right or we may have been wrong in the way in which we acted, and you must be satisfied." I was prepared not to be dissatisfied; and I repeat that under circumstances of extreme difficulty they acted with an energy and ability that entitled them to the confidence of the country. The question might have remained there as settled. But what has occurred since? Her Majesty's Ministers pursuing that system did not pursue it with unfaltering spirit—they hesitated, reconsidered, and deliberated whether it was not necessary to decide whether a new course ought not to be pursued. My noble Friend the Member for Lynn brought forward his project, and stated his line of policy under circumstances which, it must be admitted, were by no means of an encouraging kind. And what was the gist of his measure? My noble Friend said that the great object of the country should be that in the expenditure of the public money works of a reproductive character should be prosecuted. That was the general policy of my noble Friend, in contradistinction to the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. It was in consequence of the Government faltering in their course that the principles upon which the government of Ireland should be conducted, was brought under discussion; and then we who were willing to support the Government if they had 84 continued in that line of policy were quite justified in giving our opinions and support in favour of the general line of policy which at all times and under under every form has been brought before the House and country with so much ability and perseverance by my noble Friend the Member for Lynn. Now, what has been the result? The noble Lord at the head of the Government admits that as far as practical results can guide us, the policy of my noble Friend was correct, and that the only secure and profitable investment is the one made on the principle laid down by my noble Friend. Therefore it is that now, when subsequent discussions have taken place upon the policy of the Government towards Ireland—though I will not shrink from the expression of confidence I gave to the Government, and though if there were a vote on that subject I would not join in a want-of-confidence vote—I feel myself at liberty to state my opinion with respect to the policy of my noble Friend. I think I may be justified in all these succeeding discussions, notwithstanding that general approval of the policy of the Government, to enforce the principles of my noble Friend, and to say that the result of the Session tends in a remarkable degree to confirm the discretion and policy of the views taken by the noble Lord, with respect to the course to be taken by this country in relation to, I hope I may say, the recent crisis in Ireland. Referrring, now, to a minor point, but one of some interest, when the noble Lord at the head of the Government drew a comparison between the two courses of policy proposed to the Government, namely, to employ a navy to import food, or not to import food at all, I must remind him that my noble Friend the Member for Lynn never brought forward the extravagant proposition of employing the Navy to import food to Ireland. I remember my noble Friend did say one night that we had a considerable squadron lying idle in the Tagus—and, by the by whether that squadron has since been employed in a manner satisfactory to the people of this country is another question—but my noble Friend did not recommend its employment in that service—he said, "You have nine ships in the Tagus. You have the Albion, you have the Queen, you have the Hibernia, and you have the st. Vincent, with others whose names I do not recall." Those ships, the tonnage of which amounted to 12,000 tons, were lying-idle in the Tagus, and the entire tonnage 85 entered into the ports of Ireland under the recent suspension of the Navigation Laws was only 8,000 tons. It is true my noble Friend recommended you to employ those ships in the transport of provisions; but I ask whether that simple suggestion justifies the noble Lord at the head of the Government in indulging in the surmise that my noble Friend intended to employ the whole naval force of the country in this service? It is very advantageous at the end of the Session, after so many discussions on the state of Ireland have taken place, to be favoured with the elaborate details of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has taken this opportunity to vindicate his course, and to make the most modest declaration possible, that the Government, after our six months' experience of their conduct, are satisfied that everything they have done is absolute wisdom; and that, if called upon again, they would retrace their steps with the most elaborate accuracy. And when the noble Lord at the head of the Government gets up to say, "We might have done nothing, or we might have done what the noble Member for Lynn recommended, but we have taken neither one course nor the other, and we have been wise in not following the policy of the noble Lord," I beg to remind the country, that the only part of your policy which you admit has succeeded is that recommended by my noble Friend. And when Her Majesty's Government tell me that they are right on the one hand in doing nothing, and correct on the other in not doing all they might have done, I leave them to the enjoyment of that golden mediocrity of which they are so proud.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that both the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken, had attributed to his right hon. Friend an expression that he had in fact never made use of—for it was he (Mr. Labouchere) that had used the expression to which the noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman had alluded. But what he said, he believed, was this, that, looking back to the course pursued by the Government, he retained the opinion he had before expressed, and believed that they could not have taken a very different course; that although partial errors might have been urged against them, they could not have taken a very different course; that he did not think it would have been wise at once to resort to a system of relief by rations; that they found, when they came into office, a system of relief by public 86 works; and that he believed that in the main they had not committed an error in the course they had adopted; but he believed he did not say that they should have again pursued the same course under the same circumstances. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman, that the result of experience proved that the policy of the noble Lord the Member for Lynn was correct. There were two main points in that policy: the one was an extensive system of railway operations; the other was a complete interference with the provisioning of Ireland. He maintained his opinion, that if those two courses had been adopted by the Government, they would have produced irreparable mischief, and entirely fail in the object of relief. To talk about free trade when millions of the people were starving, and to apply those doctrines to such a state of things, was an error. It was one thing to apply those doctrines when they were really applicable; but it was quite another thing to interfere with the provision trade of the whole country. That set the whole doctrines of free trade at defiance; and did the noble Lord suppose that they would not have suffered for it? He believed that if they had undertaken the provisioning of Ireland by importing food and then distributing it, the result would have been most calamitous; and, to use a phrase he had heard before in that House, "it would have been substituting the watering-pot for the shower." He believed that any such a course would have dried up the resources of trade in the country, and would have been a great calamity.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
observed, that neither the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the noble Lord at the head of the Government had answered his question with respect to the thirty-four depôts. He should be glad to know whether those depôts were opened in addition to the previously existing ones? He adhered to his opinion, that if the 330,000 quarters of grain had been distributed at an earlier period, it would have been very much more beneficial to the people.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was perfectly true that a number of small depôts were open in the course of last year, which were subsequently closed, as it was found more expedient to open others capable of holding the large quantity of provisions to be distributed through the assistance of the relief 87 committees and the local agents. From August last down to the present period, there never was a time in which food was not to be found in the Government stores on the western coasts of Ireland.
MR. STAFFORD O'BRIEN
wished to call attention to the doctrine laid clown by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland, namely, that the free-trade principle could not be adhered to under all circumstances. What would the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton—both members of a society whose great doctrine was that free trade was capable of working well under all circumstances—what would they think of such an assertion? A high authority—an important officer in a free-trade Government—had now admitted that the free-trade principle was not applicable to the present condition of the country, and that Government was obliged to fall back on the protective system. Like a great man who said he would live his life over again, if he could correct in the second edition the errors of the first, the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland fully approved of what had been done in the free-trade direction; but if the Government found the 9th and 10th of Victoria had worked successfully, why did they supersede that Act by the soup kitchens? The right hon. Gentleman took too much credit to himself when he stated that no suggestion was made to the Government as to the course they should pursue, and that they were entitled to all the credit due to any beneficial measures which they had introduced. He had had the honour of pressing upon the Government a system which was received with the greatest attention—he meant the townland system—a system which would give the proprietors and occupiers of the soil a direct interest in its improvement. He believed the Government were actuated by the best possible motives, and that in their desire to servo Ireland they had risked some English popularity.
§ MR. P. SCROPE
believed the Government would have acted wiser if they had expended the money voted for the relief of the Irish in reproductive works. Except the railway system, the noble Lord (Lord G. Bentinck) opposite could not take credit to himself for suggesting any system of public works of a reproductive character. The Government had, on the contrary, proposed several measures of a reproductive character, but those measures had been 88 dropped. The Waste Lands Improvement Bill and the scheme of arterial drainage promised in the beginning of the Session, had been altogether lost sight of, and 7,000,000l. or 8,000,000l. of money had been expended without any prospect of an ultimate return. He wished it to be borne in mind by the House and by Her Majesty's Government that such an expenditure could not bear repetition.
SIR R. FERGUSON
hoped a statement of what would be the requirements of the two unions in the county of Mayo, which were at present under the charge of the Government, would be laid before the House, and that Parliament would also be informed of how those requirements were to be met.
§ Resolutions agreed to, and ordered to be reported.
§ House resumed.
§ Adjourned at Ten o'clock.