§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said: I rise. Sir, to move for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the Acts for the more effectual relief of the destitute poor in Ireland. I have not proposed to the Committee now sitting on the Irish poor-law to come to any decision on the measure I am about to submit to the House. That measure I propose entirely on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government. There are several points upon which the Bill I am about to introduce does not touch, but which are points requiring further consideration, and 861 upon some of which it may be advisable that the House should legislate in the course of the present year. The first and most important alteration which I now propose is the introduction of a maximum, both with regard to the rate upon each separate electoral division, and the rates upon all the electoral divisions of an union. It must be admitted that these provisions are contrary to the general principle of the poor-law as understood in this country. It is always assumed that, whatever may be the amount of pauperism, it must be relieved first by means of a rate for the purpose of providing for the infirm poor, and in the next place by setting to work the ablebodied poor. But, in putting that principle into operation in Ireland, at a time of very great distress, and when great scarcity prevailed in that country, there has been such a pressure upon the tenant-farmers and upon the property of the country as to create very considerable alarm, and to be an obstacle to the due cultivation of the land. Now, it is obvious that if there is this difficulty with regard to the cultivation of the land, the pressure of the poor-rates would thereby be increased, and in two ways: first, from there being a want of the means which have hitherto existed to supply the wants of the poor; and, secondly, from the increased number of labourers unable to find employment, who would consequently become paupers. It was therefore considered by Mr. Twisleton, as the head of the Irish Poor Law Commission, and by Her Majesty's Government, whether it would not be advisable to propose a maximum rate, and it was thought by them that a maximum rate should be enforced. What I have now to propose, is, that the rates in any electoral division shall not exceed the amount of 5s. in the pound in any year, and that what may be further required shall be levied on the other electoral divisions of the union to an amount not exceeding 2s. in the pound for the year. Supposing, therefore, that in one electoral division expenses have been incurred to the amount of 7s. in the pound, that electoral division will first pay the rate of 5s., and then it, with the other electoral divisions of the union, will pay an amount not exceeding 2s. in the pound, in addition to the ordinary rates which may be necessary in those divisions. With regard to the present state of the electoral divisions in Ireland, I have a letter lately received from a farmer in an union in Tipperary, who states that in his electoral division 862 the rates amounted to 7s. 6d. in the pound, while in two electoral divisions in the neighbourhood scarcely any rate whatever was necessary, there being no surplus of labour, and consequently very few persons requiring relief. I have been told, as an objection to my proposal, that it will be an inducement to electoral divisions to expend to the amount to which they are limited by law, in order to obtain the aid which which will be given by the additional rate of 2s. upon the other electoral divisions. I cannot think, however, that that will be the ease, because it is obvious that if an electoral division could support the poverty which belongs to it with a 4s. rate, there is no inducement to it to it to increase its rate to the amount of 7s. in order to obtain some aid from other electoral divisions. Still less could it be the interest of those electoral divisions which at present are lightly charged—which pay 6d. or 1s. in the pound—to increase their charges for the purpose of raising the whole amount of the rates. Now, some persons are of opinion that it would be advisable to lay a rate upon each electoral division which should not exceed a certain amount, but that it is not advisable to call in the aid of other electoral divisions. I am afraid that if that proposition were adopted, the result we wish to arrive at would not be attained; because, while some of the electoral divisions might incur an expenditure greatly exceeding 7s., there might be other electoral divisions whose expenditure might be much below that amount, and the electoral divisions charged with the 7s. might have an amount of pauperism they could not support, while they could obtain no aid from the union. It appears to me that the guardians, having a general control with regard to the expenditure of each union—and being forced by the necessity of contributing to the aid of any electoral division when the guardians or managers are disposed to be wasteful to look narrowly into that expenditure—would, therefore, exercise vigilant control over the expenditure of each electoral division. This is a totally different case from any general rate in aid, for if you made a general—an indefinite—rate in aid over the whole country, demands might be made upon that rate in consequence of profuse expenditure in particular electoral divisions; but that objection will not apply to my proposal, because the guardians have a general supervision of the charges and expenditure of the electoral divisions which require aid. Another 863 objection to this proposal is, that there may be, in certain unions, as we have found has been the case in past years, a total inability to defray the expense of maintaining their poor, and that in consequence of this measure no more than a 7s. rate can be collected from all the electoral divisions in such unions. But, on the other hand, the main question appears to me to he to enable the unions as far as possible to support the pauperism in their own districts. We have found that not only were many unions unable to raise a rate amounting to the 7s., or 10s., or 12s. that might he required, but that a rate of 3s. or 4s. has been the utmost collected in years of very severe distress. I do not think, therefore, that this measure would at all disable unions from affording aid to the necessitous, while it would give security both to occupiers and owners of land that their rates should not go beyond a certain limited amount, and there would therefore be an inducement to occupy and to cultivate laud, which is now wanting in the more distressed districts of Ireland. I have also to propose several further provisions with respect to the amendment of the poor-law. One proposal is that the Poor Law Commissioners shall have the power to settle the past liabilities of certain electoral divisions, in contemplation of a new division of unions and electoral divisions. Upon that subject a report has been made by the boundary commissioners, who were appointed last year. It is impossible now to go into that report, and the principles upon which it is founded; but all I say at present is, that I propose to adopt the general views of those commissioners, and to enable the Poor Law Commissioners from time to time to carry their reports into effect. I am, however, prepared to say, that having considered the question with regard to workhouses, and the opinions that have been given by various persons with respect to that subject, I am disposed to assent to the opinion which I find is generally entertained, that it would not he useful to make a further division of unions, unless at the same time some provision is made for new workhouses. I think it would be better to defer for a time the carrying into effect of a new division of unions; but at the same time whenever there is a new division of unions, that new workhouses should be erected. There will be a clause in the Bill, therefore, enabling the Commissioners to make these arrangements. Another provision 864 of the Bill is one to which I referred on a former occasion—namely, that the owners who pay the poor-rate according to the present law, should have the power of deducting a portion of that rate on account of the jointures and rent-charges by way of life annuities which are chargeable upon their property. I would make this alteration on the principle that these jointures and family settlements were made in contemplation of a state of the law totally different from that which now exists. It was then supposed that the rent of the landowners would not be charged with the poor-rate, to which it is now subject; and I therefore think it is just that the change in the law affecting such property should be taken into consideration. In the case of any future settlements it will, of course, be in the power of persons executing them to make them in accordance with the existing law, and to make jointures larger, because the poor-rate is chargeable upon them. There will be no difficulty, I think, with respect to future arrangements, the only difficulty being with respect to settlements already made. I propose, also, to make an alteration with regard to a very important provision of the original Poor Law Act, in respect to the deductions made by the tenant from the owner in reference to the poor-rate. It was intended that half of the poor-rate should be paid by the occupier and half by the owner; but it was stated that there were in many cases very high and exorbitant rents payable. It was provided by the original Act that the tenant should be allowed to deduct not only half the rate he paid, but half the rate on the amount of rent he paid. There was a survey to make valuations, which were made a good deal below the actual fair rents paid, and in that manner many occupiers have transferred from themselves to the owners the liability intended to be placed on themselves; and I propose for the future, as the best way of avoiding this difficulty, that the tenant should have the power of deducting half the rate he paid, but should not have the power of making any further deductions; and therefore the deduction would have no reference whatever to the rent he was liable to pay. I shall propose, also, to insert in the Bill a provision with respect to agricultural improvements, which may be effected either by drainage or improvement of land, or by farm buildings. I think it impossible—at least we have not found that we could frame any provisions by 865 which, without a great deal of inconvenience, the land should be free from increased valuation on account of certain improvements. There must have been an inquiry as to what those improvements wore, at what period they were made, and whether the party was fairly entitled to have his claim allowed to have his valuation not increased; and we felt it not possible to frame any provision to that effect which might not give rise to great disputes, and questions to be brought perhaps before a court of law, and causing considerable litigation. Consequently, what we propose is, that for a certain period there should be a fixed rateable value—namely, that for a period of seven years agricultural improvements should not be valued at an increased amount. The obvious effect of such a provision would be, that persons might undertake improvements without any fear that during seven years they would be liable to increased rates on account of the value of those improvements; for hon. Gentlemen are aware that there has been great complaint made in petitions and memorials that no sooner did a landed proprietor or occupier increase the value of his property, by laying out any great sum of money on works of improvement, than his rates were increased, and consequently great discouragement was thereby given to effecting improvements. Another arrangement which I propose to make is, that civil-bill decrees for the recovery of rates shall be removable into any of the superior courts in Dublin without writ of certiorari, and when duly filed shall have the force of a judgment of such court; thus making them judgment debts against the property, which may be sued out by the usual process of law. A question which has been much agitated and disputed is that relating to the sale of land for the purpose of paying arrears of poor-rates. There exists very great difficulty on that subject, owing to the necessity of solving the question, who is the person liable for the payment of such poor-rate, and who is the person having the interest in the land? Of course it would not be just, if one person were liable for the poor-rate, and another were the owner of the land, that the land should be sold for the payment of the arrears of poor-rate; and I have therefore requested my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General to insert in his Bill provisions which I think it possible to make with respect to the sale of land for the arrears of poor-rate—that being one of the points with 866 which his Bill proposes to deal, and I desiring to confine myself, in the present measure, as much as possible to the amendment of the poor-law itself. I propose, however, that on the non-payment of rates, the lessor may have the power of proceeding by civil bill in respect to them, and may oust the tenant for the non-payment. I have not included in this Bill several provisions which it may be desirable to introduce after further discussion shall have taken place. I have introduced those amendments which it seems to me will tend to the improvement of the poor-law, and calculated, I think, to stop that alarm, or rather panic, which has prevailed in some parts of Ireland as to the inability of the present occupiers and owners of land there to pay the poor-rate. The great increase of the poor in Ireland during the last year, has led many persons to suppose that the burden will be so great that it will be impossible to cultivate the land with any profit; and if that opinion were to spread through the country, it would prevent persons from cultivating it. Now, I do not think that there is any such extent of pauperism in Ireland as may not be relieved by rates which, in ordinary years—not speaking of occasions of extreme famine—the cultivators might be capable of paying. I own that I was surprised to find that the number of ablebodied labourers who, with their families, sought relief from the poor-law in June and July last in Ireland, was not greater than 70,000; whereas the number in England amounted to 90,000. The question, after all, is, whether, supposing there is not a very great scarcity, it is not possible for Ireland to go on supporting her poor by a poor-law made as efficient as possible for that purpose? My belief is, that, omitting extraordinary years, it is possible for Ireland to bear the burden, and that, so far from the country being pauperised by the poor-law, the land is, on the contrary, much more likely to be cultivated if there should be some security for the support of life under a poor-law, than it would be if the country were left without a poor-law at all. The noble Lord concluded by moving for leave to bring in a Bill for the Relief of the Poor in Ireland.
§ Mr. STAFFORD
Sir, the noble Lord has stated that the rates for the maintenance of the poor in Ireland could be collected—all his arguments proceeded upon that assumption; but, over and over again, he had called attention to the fact, 867 that the famine in Ireland, cease when it would, would not leave Ireland where it found it, in possession of all her resources. The great error of the poor-law was its tendency to render wider the distance between capital and population. Thousands of lives had been lost, still the capital of Ireland was being swallowed up. In one whole quarter of Ireland, the resources of all were wholly and completely exhausted, and it was by extraneous means alone that the lives of the people could be preserved. It was with great regret that he saw the Government coming down with such piecemeal legislation. It would have been far better to have embodied the whole of the alterations they intended to propose in one Bill, so that the people of Ireland might know the amount of change they had to expect, at least for one year. The Committee nominated by the noble Lord upon the poor-law had not concluded their proceedings, it was true; but he was at a loss to know for what more evidence the noble Lord was waiting from them, or why he had selected the present from among the many other subjects which their inquiries embraced. The noble Lord said he was not prepared to go into the question of the sale of land for arrears of poor's-rates. That was a subject upon which considerable evidence had been taken by the Committee, and upon which great anxiety existed in Ireland. [Lord J. RUSSELL: I said, not in the Bill for the amendment of the poor-law.] But that is the only Bill we have before us. [Lord J. RUSSELL: Yes; but not the only Bill that is promised.] Then it would be convenient if the Government would state to the House what other subjects their policy was intended to embrace during the present Session. It would tend to set at rest vain fears as well as vain hopes, which were worse, upon certain subjects, which were entertained in the country. To fix a maximum rate was one of the most difficult matters they had to deal with. He did not understand that the Government had irrevocably fixed upon a 5s. electoral division and a 2s. union rate. But the noble Lord had not told them what was to be the case when the rate exceeded 7s. in any electoral division. Whence was the poverty of the district to be supported when that maximum had been reached? The Rate in Aid Bill was avowedly to last only two years; from what fund then was the money to come? The conclusion at which the people of Ireland would come would be that the money 868 must come out of the national exchequer. Did the noble Lord mean that the 5s. rate was to be merely struck, or was it to be really and truly collected? If they contented themselves with merely striking the rate, and suffer a large portion of it to remain uncollected, and then proceed to lay the 2s. rate, he could assure the noble Lord it would not work, and he might as well give it up. Make a 6d. rate if they pleased, but whatever they did impose let them see that it was actually collected. The noble Lord said he proposed to adopt the report of the boundary commissioners; but, so far as he understood that report, it did not much matter whether he did or not, for it contained nothing. But he could assure the noble Lord, that unless the area of taxation was made much smaller than that proposed by the boundary commission, that commission would have achieved very little good in the working of the poor-law. He wished them to bear in mind that unless they rendered the poor-law a stimulant to labour, they would swamp the property before they found relief for the poverty of the country. Now, with regard to the size of the unions, the noble Lord had stated that he could not consent to the alteration of the size of the unions unless new union workhouses were raised. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had stated 1,100,000l. were owing for union workhouses in Ireland; that none, with the exception of Newtownards, had attempted to pay back by instalments what was advanced; but when they found they were the only persons that were doing so, they discontinued paying. It ought to be recollected that union workhouses were built without reference to the local authority on the subject. In the Limerick union much of the money that was received would have been repaid if it were not necessary to spend it in enlarging the workhouse. How were they to exact the workhouse test when the workhouse was overflowing? They had in Limerick actually spent in building and repairs more money than would have repaid the money borrowed from the Government. If now, then, the union workhouses were to be built, he asked where was the money to come from? He thought that when boards of guardians had conducted their own affairs through difficult times, they should be permitted to retain the boundaries of their own unions as they were. Let the English Members, he said, look to this, that it was proposed that 869 twenty-one new workhouses should be built, and that all must be built from the funds of the national treasury; and let those who were satisfied with the payment of the past loans recommend another. In Committee it was his intention to propose a clause to the effect, that unless in the case of boards of guardians that had been dismissed, the opinion of the board should be taken, and, unless the board of guardians should consent to the proposed altertion, the boundaries of the union should remain as they were. In Ireland the moment a new union was proposed, it was immediately acceded to, as with a new union there would be a new staff, a now clerk, &c., and all the other machinery for jobbing. Then, he said, to prevent this, it should be understood that, where a new workhouse was to be raised, the board of guardians would have to pay for it, and that no loan or grant would be made from the treasury on account of new workhouses in Ireland. He understood from the noble Lord that the incidents of rates were henceforth to be equally divided between the owners and occupiers of land—that there was no reference made to the rent which the tenant paid. As he understood, of every shilling of rate—sixpence was to be paid by the occupier, and sixpence by the owner. In England, the whole rate fell upon the occupier; in Scotland, half was paid by the occupier, and half by the owner; so that, in point of fact, the noble Lord proposed to assimilate Ireland and Scotland in that respect. He thought that there was another course which it would be wise to adopt on this subject, and that was that when the holding was above a certain value, the whole amount of the rate should fall upon the tenant, so that there would be thus an inducement to the occupier, the only person who could give employment, to afford it. He knew of instances in which this would have a beneficial operation. Then, when there were arrears of rates, the noble Lord proposed to place a summary power in the hands of the landlord of ejecting the tenant from the land; that the tenant should be ejected by a civil bill; that, in point of fact, the landlord should be an instrument in the hands of the poor-rate collector, and that he should have more power for collecting for another than he had for himself. Another difficulty on this subject would be—what was proposed to be done with family settlements? He did not know from what date the noble Lord meant to but those whose settlements 870 were dated from the year 1838 would have less reason to complain than others, but it would remain for the noble Lord to show that it was impossible to exclude those who had mortgages and other charges on property from such a proposition. He had hoped that there would be a clause which would give further facility for emigration, and modify and amend a clause that passed in 1847, and that clause the noble Lord would find had been wholly inoperative. There was required the Poor Law Amendment Act facilities for the application of funds, and for permitting electoral divisions to levy an emigration rate in addition to other charges. He hoped the noble Lord would take this subject into consideration. He had read in an able weekly periodical, the Economist, with which he believed the hon. Member for Westbury was acquainted, an article in which the principle of the narrowing the area of taxation was the main foundation of all improvements. He knew, within the last month, of a number of persons being ejected, and when the agent was asked why he did not emigrate them, his reply was, that if he did so, it would cost him twelvepence in the shilling, whereas by putting them into the workhouse he had only to pay fourpence in the shilling, as two other persons having property there had to contribute equally with himself. He must remind the noble Lord that Mr. Twisleton stated that the point on which he was most urged by those whoso opinions were entitled to great weight, was narrowing the electoral divisions. That which he desired should be an instruction to the boundaries commissioners would be to assimilate the electoral divisions in Ireland to the size of the parishes in England. He spoke of the whole of Ireland generally; but where there was mountainous land he did not desire it. What he asked, and what he insisted upon, as absolutely necessary for the fair working of the poor-law in Ireland was that, for poor-law purposes, the electoral divisions should be assimilated to the parishes in England; whereas, if the Government insisted upon a large area of taxation, he was convinced that all their labour would be vain. He did not underrate the difficulties which the noble Lord had to contend with, nor was he, nor those who acted with him, disposed to increase those difficulties by any conduct of theirs. The same feeling that had hitherto influenced them, should continue to actuate them; and when he felt it to be his duty to press particular topics upon the attention 871 of the Government, they might rest assured that his only reason for doing so was, that he felt convinced they were absolutely necessary for the salvation of the empire.
§ MR. W. FAGAN
said, he fully agreed in the proposition that the ratio between population and capital in Ireland was daily becoming more distinct and marked; but, with regard to what had been said about the operation of the Irish poor-law, he should like to ask how they would have preserved the peace and the lives of the people of that country during the period of famine without such a law? He therefore protested against the practice of attributing the misery and destitution of Ireland for the last three years to the working of the poor-law. It was not fair to attribute the condition of Ireland, after three years of famine, to the operation of the poor-law. With reference to the limitation of the area of taxation, it was true that such a measure might be a stimulus to employment; but on the other hand it was admitted by all who had well considered the question, that it would also be a stimulus for clearances, and that it must be accompanied by a law of settlement. That was the opinion of Mr. Power, the assistant poor-law commissioner, and also of Mr. Twisleton, and others who had turned their attention to the subject. The noble Lord would allow him to express his regret that he had not taken into his consideration the peculiar position of the cities and towns, particularly the seaport towns, of Ireland. The city of Cork, for instance, was very much oppressed by the working of the poor-law. One of the greatest difficulties that the framers of the original poor-law for Ireland had to deal with was, how to meet the circumstances of the position of places like Cork; and to meet those circumstances a general union rating was adopted by this House, which, however, was changed into an electoral division rating by the House of Lords. But those who were the best authorities upon the working of the Irish poor-law, were of opinion that a general union rating would be a much fairer system, particularly as affecting the cities and towns. If those cities and towns were oppressed by the present system of rating—if they now complained of the inundation of paupers from a distance—if the corporation of the city of Cork had been obliged to grant, as they had recently done, the sum of 100l. for the employment of a police force to prevent strange paupers from coming into the city, then he would tell the noble Lord, that with 872 his proposed new Bill this state of things would be materially aggravated, and the oppression become still greater, inasmuch as by reducing the maximum rate, the amount of the influx of paupers in periods of distress or famine, like those which the country had lately passed through, would be considerably augmented. In his opinion, the cities and towns which were liable to be thus inundated with pauperism, should have some assistance given them by the noble Lord's measure. Either a portion of the rate in aid should be allocated to them for the support of those strange paupers, or some other means adopted to do justice to them. He observed that the noble Lord did not contemplate making the landlords, who received rents from public buildings, liable to the payment of the rate; but if the existing poor-law were to be amended at all, that was an amendment which ought most certainly to be adopted; for as the law at present stood, the landlord of the custom-house at Cork, who received, 800l. a year rent, did not pay a single farthing towards the support of the poor.
§ VISCOUNT BERNARD
said, that he did not entertain the extreme opinions supported by some persons with regard to the diminution of the area of taxation; but he thought that they had, at all events, a right that the area in Ireland should be assimilated to the English system of parochial divisions. The working of the Labour-rate Act had convinced him of the impolicy of entrusting local authorities with the expenditure of money chargeable over a large extent of district, because, in that case, it was admitted that there had been an extravagant expenditure, by the granting of indiscriminate relief, merely because the money was to be drawn from the public exchequer, and not from the barony alone. A strong feeling existed on this subject in Ireland; and bethought that the public had a right to know at once what it was Her Majesty's Government intended to propose. It was his painful duty to preside at a meeting convened in the town which he represented, for the purpose of bringing under the notice of Her Majesty's Ministers the alarming distress of the western districts of Cork, Bantry, and Skib-bereen. At that meeting, the agent of the Earl of Bantry stated publicly that the Earl of Bantry and his son had applied for 12,000l. under the Loan Improvement Act, that they had taken 2,300l of that amount, but were unable to take the rest, because, from the way in which the electoral divisions 873 were at present framed, the spending of that money in land improvement would in no degree diminish the amount of their poor-rates. If, however, the area of taxation were reduced, the Earl of Bantry's agent stated that they would be at once prepared to undertake the charge of all the paupers upon their property, though that property was one of the poorest in the district; but other parties would not cooperate. With regard to the non-payment of the advances for the erection of workhouses in some parts of Ireland, he believed that the objection to the payment arose solely from a feeling of indignation at the shameful manner in which the money had been expended. There was one difficulty with regard to the taxing of annuities and jointures for the relief of the poor, on which he wished to hear some explanation. Annuities and jointures were generally chargeable on the whole property, which might happen to be situated in several electoral divisions; and as the poor-rates often varied considerably in adjoining electoral divisions, he wished to know by what rule the portion of the rate payable to each out of an annuity was to be fixed. He regretted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not stated how he intended to meet this difficulty; and he also regretted to find that the noble Lord had not alluded to the subject of emigration. The evil that was now complained of was, that parties were emigrating to America who belonged to a better class of life than that of the labourers—unfortunately, the very people they could least wish to spare were going to America. Under the present system, the amount applicable to emigration was not sufficient to take out any material number of the population. In the union where he (Viscount Bernard) presided as chairman, he had proposed during last year to strike a rate for promoting emigration; but the project had to be abandoned, because it was found that they could not send out a sufficient number of the paupers to afford any relief to the union, as the vacancies that would be created in the workhouse, would be at once filled up by new applicants. He thought that the project of a maximum rate and a 2s. union rating was involved in considerable difficulty. Thus, in his union, a 2s. rating would yield 12,000l., and therefore any reckless electoral division, having expended its own 5s. rate, would be at liberty to claim 12,000l. additional from the union at large. In conclusion, he wished to express 874 his conviction that no alteration in the poor-law would effect any permanent benefit, unless accompanied by auxiliary measures. He believed that one of the most important aids in the amelioration of Ireland would be the construction of railroads. The two most successful unions in the county with which he was connected, were those of Bandon and Mallow, and both had been greatly assisted by the extensive railway works carried on in them. He trusted that the Government would adopt some measure for the construction of railways through those parts of Ireland that were not provided with them.
§ MR. POULETT SCROPE
wished to say a few words before the Motion was agreed to. The improvements proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government involved merely the shifting of the burden of taxation as regarded the ratepayers; but what he (Mr. P. Scrope) wished to see was some improvement in the law as regarded the poor themselves, for whoso benefit the law professed to have been passed; and he could perceive nothing in the noble Lord's plan at all relating to them. With regard to the outdoor poor, he hoped the noble Lord would take into consideration the propriety of allowing something in the shape of lodging-money for the houseless poor, and also of providing them with some sort of clothing, so as not to leave them, as they were described, in the reports of the inspectors, to be wandering about the country without shelter, and almost naked. He wished to know if clothing and shelter were not as much wanting to preserve life almost as food itself. So much for outdoor relief; but with regard to indoor relief, immediate change was equally necessary. The union workhouses in the distressed districts were described as being at present absolutely pest houses. One gentleman, the chaplain of the Kenmare workhouse, had described the inmates as being crowded together four and five in a bed, and without any means of changing the wretched and filthy clothing that they were when entering the House. Again, in the Ballinrobe and the Ballinasloe unions, the mortality was described as averaging 100 a week. The poor people saw the workhouse managed in such a way that 100 burials went forth from it every week, and naturally preferred remaining to die out of doors, or if they did apply for admission, it was merely with a view of being provided with a coffin after death. There was one 875 other point which he wished to impress on the noble Lord, and it was with reference to the responsibility of the poor-law officials. It appeared that numbers of paupers died of want, after having in vain applied to the relieving officer for assistance, and yet no responsibility attached to the official who was thus guilty of their deaths. The Poor Law Commissioners stated, he believed, that they would dismiss any relieving officer who was reported to them to have misconducted himself; but surely that was not sufficient protection for the safety of the public. Where such negligence on the part of the officer was followed by death, he ought to be indicted for manslaughter; and he was convinced that the example would have a most salutary effect in preventing the recurrence of the abuse, if criminal proceedings were taken in some proved case of this sort. Now, with regard to the powers of the poor-law guardians, he would ask the House to allow the Irish boards the same privileges that were allowed to the English boards. He would state an instance in point, as to the difference between the two countries. The Sheffield board of guardians, finding themselves likely to be overburdened with ablebodied poor, had taken on a long lease a piece of waste land, about six miles from the town, and employed their ablebodied poor in reclaiming it. They had taken fifty acres, which was the most the law allowed; they had erected upon it a subsidiary workhouse for the residence of those who were employed on the land; and when it was reclaimed and improved, they intended to sell this portion, and lease fifty acres more, and so on till several hundred acres were reclaimed. As yet, their proceedings had been eminently successful. Now, he could not see why the Irish proprietors should not have the same power. In framing the Irish poor-law, the noble Lord seemed to have confounded two things which were altogether distinct—the humane provisions of the 43rd of Elizabeth, which authorised the giving employment to the ablebodied poor, with that corruption of the practice which had crept in in modern times, of allowing a labourer in full work to obtain relief if his children exceeded a certain number. That abuse had very properly been put down by the 4th and 5th of William IV.; but there never was so great a mistake as to confound the two things together, and equally to prohibit both. With regard to the question of small areas of 876 taxation, he should wish some of its supporters to define what they meant by it. [Mr. H. HERBERT: The average size of an English parish.] It was notorious that wherever a parish was in the hands of a single proprietor, their attempts at clearances were most generally seen. What was the opinion of the Rev. Mr. Lilly, who had been brought up from the south of Ireland to give evidence before the Committee in favour of small areas of taxation? On being asked, what was the cause of the numerous evictions that had taken place, he answered that he believed they had been caused by the anticipation of the landlords, that in a short time a smaller area of taxation would be resorted to, and they were preparing for that by getting rid of the poor. With regard to the Economist newspaper, which had been referred to that evening, he regretted to say, that he had read in last Saturday's number a furious attack against the principle of a poor-law altogether, whether English, Scotch, or Irish; and his regret was increased by the rumour that that article had been written by one of Her Majesty's Government. He should conclude by again expressing his opinion that the Bill would not provide a remedy for the pauperism of Ireland.
§ MR. H. A. HERBERT
thought that he and his friends had a right, to a certain extent, to complain of the conduct of those who were opposed to a small area of taxation. When a Gentleman found that the arguments used on his (Mr. Herbert's) side of the House were unanswerable, what did he do? Instead of attempting an answer, he put into their mouths arguments which they never used, and statements which they never made, and then he turned round and demolished the case which he had himself raised. Thus the hon. Member for the city of Cork stated that the hon. Member for Northamptonshire attributed the miseries of Ireland entirely to the poor-law. His hon. Friend had said no such thing. Still less was it their wish to say, as had been represented, that Her Majesty's Government had not had great and tremendous difficulties to contend with—difficulties which, the more he reflected on them, and the more he knew the circumstances of the country, the more he saw their magnitude. But what he and his friends did say was this—that these difficulties had been increased and aggravated by the poor-law—by the large electoral divisions; so much so, that even in the distressed districts 877 one of the poor-law inspectors had given his opinion, that if the small area of taxation had been adopted two years ago, the difficulties of Connaught would have been much less, and that, even now, though most part of Ireland was sinking into the abyss of despair, yet the distress would be much alleviated if the small area of taxation were adopted. The hon. Member for Cork city had also stated that it was admitted by every one that the small area of taxation tended to clearances, thus throwing upon them the odium of advocating a system which they knew would lead to clearances. He totally denied that such was the tendency of the system if it were guarded by a law of chargeability, which would not be difficult to work. How could they say that the system would tend to clearances, when it was notorious as day that clearances were now going on—when the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, that in one union alone—the union of Kilrush—13,000 persons had been evicted? If any man would examine the subject, he would find that in proportion as the area of taxation was large, so was the number of evictions; and in proof of it, he might state, that in the union of Kilrush, where evictions had been carried to such an extent, the electoral districts averaged 11,000 acres each. With regard to the amendments which the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown had introduced, he must say, that he would much rather have the Bill as it stood at present. He did not say that the amendments did not contain much good; but, with regard to the 2s. union rating, he must say, that, if there was one thing wanting to prostrate the spirit of industry in the rural districts of Ireland, it was that. Take the case of two electoral divisions in one union, which contained at present an equal amount of pauperism, and which required a 7s. rate each for the maintenance of their paupers. Suppose that the proprietors and occupiers in one of these districts should combine, and give employment to the poor, and thus reduce the rate to 2s., while in the other division nothing was done, and the rates continued to amount to the maximum; could anything be more unfair than to come upon that division which had already made such sacrifices for the employment of its own poor? He thought the noble Lord underrated the magnitude of the difficulty he had to deal with. The noble Lord said, that by the returns there were 70,000 ablebodied persons entitled to relief—
§ MR. HERBERT
said, that was what he wanted to show; because he wished to show the utter fallacy of relying upon returns in a question of this kind. That return did not represent the whole number of able-bodied poor; for, in fact, the poor-law guardians were, in all cases, most unwilling to resort to the system of giving outdoor relief to the ablebodied poor; and, rather than do so, they in many cases put down men as infirm who ought to be considered as ablebodied; and, indeed, such was the emaciated state of the people at present, that the boards of guardians were justified in so classing them.
§ MR. GRATTAN
complained that this Bill did not bring before them the whole question of Irish pauperism; for the noble Lord at the head of the Government had told them that there were some points which would be provided for in another measure, to be afterwards brought in. He thought it was better that they should have the whole case before them; for, otherwise, not only was the measure incomplete, but it excited suspicion. One part of the noble Lord's speech had given him hope—where the noble Lord said that this measure would meet the difficulties of Ireland in ordinary times: but what was to remedy the present emergency? Some hon. Members talked of emigration; but when did they read in the history of any country, that where there were 14,000,000 of acres, 4,000,000 of which were lying waste, they sent away the best part of the population, and retained the weakest? What, then, did they mean to do? They talked of being Christians, and yet they suffered the poor to die and to remain un-buried, leaving the corpses to be torn to pieces by dogs, or to have the eyes picked out by the fowls of the air. Hear that, Gentlemen of England! Shut your eyes you may; shut your cars you ought: it is a misfortune to us; but it is a disgrace to you. The true remedy would be found in sending the Irish landlords back to do their duty in Ireland. The Romans would have done that; the Greeks, with all their republican notions, would have done it; but you have not the courage to do it because your pocket gains by it. But now the day of retribution has come, and I rejoice that, in the decree of Eternal Providence, you are called upon to support the poor Catholic whom you have oppressed. I rejoice 879 that there is a God in heaven who has punished you at last. England took the money of Ireland, and then grumbled because she was required not to let that country perish. In Ireland insurrections were conveniently got up to hide the distress of the country. A body of officers had been sent over to Ireland to spy out the nakedness of the land, under pretence of distributing Indian meal; but, nevertheless, 170,000 of the best men of the country were obliged to leave it. How hon. Members from Ireland could support an income tax of 7½ per cent for a perpetuity, while they rejected a rate in aid of 6d. in the pound for a couple of years, passed his comprehension. The single question was, whether the Union with Ireland was real or fallacious. The people of Ireland had been driven to other countries, from whence their sons would come back with rifles on their shoulders—so, at least, it was said—but he trusted it would be otherwise. Many plans had been proposed for Ireland; but that of the right hon. Baronet, as well as that of the noble Lord, was a total failure. He had a letter from a lady whom he never saw, who said that all her rents went to pay the ablebodied poor, who had shot several of her servants, and therefore she would not go to live there, not she. But who were those new comers to be who were to supersede the old landlords of Ireland? Were they to be chosen upon the plan of James's settlement of Ulster, or of Charles's plantation? The ruin of the country was laid at the doors of the Irish landlords of Ireland; but it was not a matter of recent growth, nor was the gradual decay confined to estates that were encumbered. He knew of one estate which had been purchased a few years ago for 89,000l., which he was offered lately for 50,000l. And one cause of the depression was, that, after a long course of bad legislation, the English gentry, and the press of England, had represented the people of Ireland as incorrigible. They had damned the Irish people as lazy and idle, and irreclaimable; and after having run them down, they turned upon the landlords, all of whom they classed in the same category; and now they came forward, after they had beaten down the value of the land to fourteen years' purchase, and, giving them the same choice that had been given under the former settlement of Ulster, they left them to go to Connaught if they liked, or to hell if they preferred it. Their tenure of Ireland 880 was, consequently, not of love, but of 40,000 armed soldiers, and 14,000 policemen. They had complained of the rebellious spirit which existed there; but what else could be expected? They talked to the Irish about the gratitude they owed to England. They talked about English benevolence to Ireland. The Irish did not want their benevolence. They wanted justice, and it was no justice to take away their gentry and their nobility—to drive into another land their middle classes and their farmers, and then to turn round and shut the doors of their national exchequer. They had asked for a small sum to relieve the distress of the Irish people a short time ago, and the hon. Member for Montrose, who was in other respects a very excellent man, refused, with true Scotch economy, to vote for it. Money would be freely taken for a Caledonian canal, but it could not be advanced to relieve Irishmen from starvation. Those petticoat Gentlemen had no hearts, as they had no breeches pockets. He saw no cure for the condition of the people of Ireland, but the restoration of their native Parliament, and allowing them to legislate for themselves. A great change had come of late over the minds of the gentry of Ireland upon the subject of the native Parliament; and he asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government, had not the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland come over to this country lately, and recommended the experiment of rotatory Parliaments? They had discovered now that their coercive policy in the late trials for treason and felony had been mistaken. He (Mr. Grattan) told the Government, when they introduced their Treason Felony Bill, that they would risk the obtaining of verdicts altogether by such a course of legislation, and his prophecy had been fulfilled. They had made Mr. Duffy not only a martyr, but a victor. It was high time they tried a different course. He knew landed proprietors in Ireland who did not owe a single shilling in the way of encumbrance or mortgage, yet whose estates were daily regularly diminishing in value. He know an estate in the county Monaghan, the property certainly, he should say, of an absentee, which produced, up to the year 1846, a clear rental of 1,200l. a year; in 1846 it diminished to 1,000l.; in 1847 it fell to 700l; in 1848 it came down to 600l.; and in 1849, reckoning to the 1st of January, it produced only 566l.; having thus fallen, in the course of five years, 881 more than one-half. He knew of another estate, in the county Longford, which produced, up to the year 1845, 1,500l. a year; in 1846 it fell to 1,200l.; in 1847 it produced only 1,000l.; and in 1848 it came down to 868l.; and those were only specimens of a regular, general, and national sinking. He asked the House, did they remember when Mr. Loader, the then Member for the county Cork, said, many years ago, that they mistook if they thought the evils of Ireland were of a temporary nature. He said, "There is a general sinking of the country; trade after trade, and manufacture after manufacture, is falling, and will go altogether unless something he done." And they had lived to see the prophecy fulfilled. There was an estate in the county Cavan, which, in 1844, produced 1,170l.; in 1846 it produced 940l.; in 1847, 600l.; in 1848, 500l.; and in 1849 it had fallen to 400l. Let the noble Lord not go to sleep whilst he was stating such frightful facts. Those plantation men of Ulster were beginning to be aroused. The propositions of the Government were violently opposed to their feelings. The landlords were already heavily taxed. He knew instances in the province of Leinster whore the landlords, after having paid the rates imposed upon them, and after having besides taxed themselves for the relief of the poor, were now assessed to poor-rates to the amount of 11s. in the pound. With such a condition of things they were called on to pay more. He hoped the noble Lord would not be allowed to follow a course which was calculated to excite disaffection and rebellious feelings, and that there would be Irishmen found who would still preserve the connexion between England and Ireland in spite of the Government themselves. He called upon the noble Lord to come forward, not with those miserable expedients, but with some comprehensive measures, not mixed up with national hatred and religious hostility, but calculated to rescue the country from its present miserable condition, and the Irish people from the jaws of famine and of death.
§ SIR R. PEEL
I am exceedingly sorry at having heard the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath. I am exceedingly sorry that it was my misfortune to have been present during that speech. I am most unwilling that any impediment should be thrown in the way of the hon. and learned Gentleman the 882 Solicitor General bringing forward what I believe to be a measure of the deepest importance to the welfare of Ireland; namely, a measure for facilitating the disposal of incumbered estates in Ireland; otherwise, I think the House would permit me to have some opportunity, before these Irish debates close, of rectifying some great misconceptions which have taken place with respect to the suggestions which I recently offered—suggestions which I offered in no spirit of party feeling; from no wish to embarrass Her Majesty's Government—suggestions which I offered from the deepest sympathy with the suffering condition of Ireland, and from an earnest hope of contributing something to ameliorate her condition. Of all the misconceptions which have taken place, however, the only one which I shall now notice is the one which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath has fallen into—a misconception of the utmost importance—which is calculated to excite the deepest feelings in Ireland—which it is impossible for me to listen to and to remain silent, for fear an inference might be drawn that, having been present, and having heard it, and remained silent, I acquiesced for one moment in the justice of it. The hon. Gentleman seems to suppose that I made some proposition, in a sectarian spirit, for the purpose of depressing the Roman Catholics and driving them out of their present holdings, with the view of substituting a Protestant population. Now, Sir, the very last thing that would enter my mind would be to injure the Roman Catholics by substituting a Protestant population in their stead. My object was to elevate the Roman Catholics, to improve their condition, and not to gain any paltry advantage by introducing in their place the members of any other faith. When did the hon. Gentleman hear from me the proposition that, in case there should be a redistribution of property, the Protestants should have the advantage? Was I not aware that the Roman Catholics had a large amount of capital which found no vent in the purchase of landed property? Did he think I was not aware that it was stated by the Commission over which the Earl of Devon presided, that one great evil in Ireland was, that there was a large amount of accumulated property in trade and commerce which found no opportunity of investment in land? Does the hon. Gentleman suppose that, in case of facilities being granted for the purchase of land in 883 Ireland, I wished to exclude the Roman Catholic merchants of Cork and Waterford from having an opportunity of making an investment which they cannot now make on account of the barbarous tenure of laud? The hon. Gentleman says, I wish to drive the noblemen and landed gentry out of Ireland. [Mr. GRATTAN: I did not say that, but that such would be the result of your scheme.] No, Sir, you attributed this motive to me. I said no such thing. I wish to drive out no man; I wish to do no violence to the rights of property. But, what I say is, that if there are nominal proprietors who have no real interest in the land, who derive small incomes from it that are frittered away, not in the improvement of the land, but in law expenses in Dublin; that if I can give them facilities for rescuing themselves from their embarrassed condition, and transferring their estates to others who will perform the duties incumbent upon those who hold land, I am not injuring them; I am, in fact, doing them a benefit instead of an injury, and I am at the same time conferring an advantage upon the country, by enabling men with new capital and new hopes, new feelings and new aspirations with respect to its application, to occupy, to the extent which they can occupy, consistently with the maintenance of the rights of property, the incumbered and vacated soil. Injure the Roman Catholic peasantry by the measure I proposed! Why, Sir, did I not hear the other night the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that, after four successive years of famine, in one union 15,000 persons were driven from their homes helpless and friendless? Is that a state of things which the hon. Gentleman would wish to retain? I ask now, if there is in Algiers, or in the Punjab after your successful military operations, or in any other portion of the civilised or barbarised world—will you show me a country, I ask, in which 15,000 people have been driven helpless and homeless from their houses, and exposed to the inclemency of the weather? And yet here is one union in which that has taken place, I confess, that ever since I heard it, I have dwelt upon it in the hope of hearing that it was untrue. Just consider for a moment what is the case—that the strength of the people having been diminished by four successive years of penury and privation, there should be, not in ten, not in twenty, but in one union, 15,000 human beings, driven out by evictions, ejectments, and legal processes, from their houses, helpless and 884 friendless. When I offered my suggestions, my main object was to remove from the minds of the people of England the prejudice which might remain, after the great expenditure which had taken place. I was afraid that after expending 9,000,000l. or I0,000,000l. in rescuing Ireland from her difficulties, they might be unwilling to contemplate the magnitude of the subject—and my object was to remove their prejudices; and, above all—for I cared not about my plan or my suggestion—to impress upon the House of Commons that, notwithstanding the past expenditure, it was your real interest, in point of justice and policy, as well as in point of pecuniary consideration, to apply yourselves to the condition of Ireland, in respect to which I believe every other consideration to he subordinate—that so far as Englishmen are concerned, looking to the prospects of the future, there is no question—not the navigation laws nor any other—that approaches it in point of importance. What I said was, that if I can, consistently with justice to the nominal proprietors who are encumbrancers upon the estates, facilitate the transfer of their land to others who have the means, and who will enter upon it with new views and new hopes, I shall not only benefit those who are in this miserable condition on account of the encumbered position of their estates and the existing legal difficulties as to their transfer, but I may possibly lay the foundation—not for immediate improvement—that I never contemplated—but the foundation ultimately of a better order of things. After careful reflection I retain my deliberate conviction that all your other measures, the rate in aid, the alteration of the poor-laws, the advance of money for railways, will all do positively nothing, unless you can remedy that which I believe to he the great social evil of Ireland—the difficulty of effecting the transfer of land to the possession of those who are competent to discharge those duties which the possession of land involves. When I spoke of the settlement of Ulster I knew perfectly well the construction that would be placed upon the reference. I knew perfectly well there would be persons who would say that I was proposing in the 19th century that which might have been tolerable in the 17th. I knew it would be asked, "What does he propose to do? Does he propose to drive the Roman Catholic inhabitants to Con-naught, or to hell?" Not to Con-naught, certainly, for that is the district 885 with which I proposed to deal; and as to the other, it is the last which I should intend. I said that I was aware that it was a fatal blot upon the plan of James I. that it made religious distinctions—that it gave religious preferences—that it desired to expel the Roman Catholic inhabitants, for the purpose of introducing others upon whose allegiance there was a greater claim. I said this for the purpose of preventing the possibility of my being subjected to the charge which after three weeks has been preferred, that it was my object to expel the Roman Catholics. I have no such object. What I wished was, by creating a demand for labour, to give the Roman Catholic peasant an opportunity of maintaining himself in independence. My object was to secure to the Roman Catholic labourer, if possible, 8d., or perhaps Is. a day—for that must be the foundation for all improvement in Ireland. I never believed the doctrine by which some have attempted to relieve themselves of the obligations belonging to them, that there is any inherent inability or indisposition to work on the part of the Irish labourer. I ask any English gentleman, who has met an Irish labourer on the road, and has entered into conversation with him, as I make a habit of doing whenever I meet one, whether he has not left him with an admiration of his acuteness and his natural politeness, and with an impression that Nature never intended him for a serf? It is sometimes supposed here, that the Irish peasants are a turbulent class of men, whom no law can restrain, and no cultivation improve; but I ask those who have seen them in the counties of England, whether it is possible to see men more obedient to the law, more patient and forbearing under much provocation, more industrious, more desirous to remit small sums to their friends out of the proceeds of their severe labour, for the purpose of paying their rents or keeping their families out of the poorhouse? I therefore repudiate the doctrine that there is some inherent slothful-ness or inactivity or want of enterprise in the Irish peasantry. At the moment when the hon. Member was charging me with a desire to expel the Irish landlords, and introduce English ones, I was engaged in reading a letter I had received—one of the many I am receiving every day—which gives an account of an English company, their application of capital to Irish property, and the consequences of it. It is an account of the proceedings of the Drapers' 886 Company, who are entitled to a large estate in Ireland under the settlement of James I. The Drapers' Company proceeded for a long time in giving a lease constantly renewable to a single family. In 1817, however, the lease fell out, and the company refused to renew it to the Rowley family, the lessees. This company of English merchants and tradesmen residing in London, with no intimate knowledge of Ireland, but influenced by the spirit of Englishmen, and by the sense of justice of Englishmen, determined to make an inquiry about their property. The state in which they found it is described in the first report of a deputation which they sent over to Ireland in 1817:—' The bulk of the holdings would be inconsiderable in point of quantity, even if entire, but when subdivided are very small. There is a cabin, and sometimes two on each holding and subdivision of holding. These cabins are mere mud huts, covered sometimes with straw, at other times with reeds, or swards, and are but rarely water-tight. The natural soil is the floor. Sometimes there is a hole in the roof to serve for a chimney, at other times the door serves as the channel for the exit of the smoke, and generally, but not universally, there is a partition between that part which is devoted to the use of the family, and that part which is applied to the use of the cow, the horse, the goat, or the pig.' And their course of husbandry is thus described:—' They grow nothing but oats, potatoes, and flax, and the course in which they follow each other seems rather to be accidental than regular; the same piece of land is frequently sown two years successively with oats. The small quantity of manure which is made upon the farm is applied to the potato crop; fallows are never made. The land is sometimes said to be laid down in grass, but no grass-seeds of any sort are ever sown. None of the leases contain any covenants or stipulations as to the course of crops or cultivation of the land; in every respect, every lessee is as much at liberty thereon as if he was the owner of the fee. It would not be literally true to say that there is not a hedge or a tree upon the estate, but there are so few that no advantage can be derived from them.' Such was the condition of the Drapers' estate in 1817. The company, however, were not discouraged. They went to work with the zeal, energy, and perseverance, honesty of intention, and singleness of purpose, the characteristic qualities of the British merchant; and such has been the success of their labours that not a trace remains of the condition of the estate as described in the above report. Comfortable, neat, and substantial farmhouses and cottages, with suitable offices, have been substituted for the smoky cabins. The farms have been enlarged and fenced, an improved system of agriculture has been introduced, the subdivisions of farms prohibited, leases have have been made on the most approved plan of English farm leases, with covenants for making and maintaining improvements, and for enforcing a proper rotation of crops, and these covenents have been rigidly enforced. Wild, and previously impenetrable districts, have been opened by judiciously 887 formed roads, extensive plantations of timber, as well as ornamental trees, have been made, and are now in a flourishing state. Moneymore, the principal village on the estate, has risen from a poor hamlet into a prosperous town.Did this company, however, proceed in a sectarian spirit? Did these Protestants, deeply attached, no doubt, to their own religious views, neglect the fair claims of those who differed from them? No—A handsome church and Presbyterian meeting-house have been built in it at the sole expense of the company, and liberal contributions made for the improvement of the Roman Catholic chapel, and an annual salary is paid by the company to each minister of those respective places of worship. There has been also built in the town by the company an excellent, and now much frequented hotel; and the trade in it has increased so much as to require the establishment of a branch from one of the Belfast banks.The example thus set by the Drapers' Company has been followed, I believe, by the Fishmongers and other companies. I confess that I look to great advantages arising from the introduction of new capital and new views into Ireland; and my firm conviction is that the relation of the Roman Catholic to the soil will be greatly improved thereby. As I happened to be reading the letter from which I have just read an extract to the House when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath attributed to me those views, with respect to the banishment of the Roman Catholic population, I could not resist the temptation of replying to the hon. Gentleman and rectifying his misconception. I trust I have now satisfied the House that it would be my last object to injure the Roman Catholics. As I am unwilling to prevent the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General from stating the views of the Government with respect to the measure they contemplate, I shall not attempt to notice any other misconceptions; but I could not be present and hear this misconception without removing what, if justifible, must have created, among the great mass of the population of Ireland, a most unfavourable and unjust impression.
§ MR. GRATTAN
said, he had made no such charge at all as the right hon. Gentleman imagined. He had merely stated what he believed would be the result of the right hon. Gentleman's plan if it were carried into effect. But he never thought of charging him with having any such intentions.
§ SIR R. PEEL
said, that the hon. Gentleman had alluded to certain periods of 888 history which would lead to the supposition that something of a similar kind to the course then pursued would be adopted were his (Sir R. Peel's) plan to be carried into effect.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, that whatever might have been the misconception upon the mind of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Meath, he believed the Roman Catholics of Ireland laboured under no such mistake. The general opinion in Ireland amongst Roman Catholics was favourable to the plan proposed by the right hon. Baronet. Sharing, as he did entirely with the right hon. Gentleman, the desire to hear the details of the measure about to be proposed by the hon. and learned Solicitor General, he should not detain the House further upon the subject than to say that he did not think, with his hon. Friend the Member for Meath, that the right hon. Baronet's plan would tend of itself to increase the abominable clearance system in Ireland. The noble Lord proposed to tax jointures, but such a step would be the infliction of a great grievance upon a defenceless class. If they intended to embark in this method of taxation, why not interfere with mortgagees, and prevent them from foreclosing? He hoped, too, that the quarter-acre clause would be suspended. What they wanted, however, was, that Ministers should speak out, and give the country some insight into what they intended to do. There was one great scheme before the House, that of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth; and he wanted to know whether the Government intended to propose any great and comprehensive plan in opposition to it. As matters at present stood, there was nothing of the kind brought forward by the Ministry—their paltry and peddling plans standing in disgraceful contrast with the great and bold measure of the right hon. Baronet opposite.
bogged to assure the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth that his proposition had been received by all classes, rich and poor, and by the clergy of every denomination in the western part of Ireland, with the greatest possible favour, and that when it was brought forward in a substantial form, as a matured plan, it should receive his best support. He regretted the amendments in the poor-law had been brought forward by Government before the report of the Committee had been presented to the House, and thought that such a course was 889 unfair, at least to those hon. Gentlemen who composed it. It was with great disappointment he perceived the noble Lord at the head of the Government had not come forward with some large and comprehensive proposition to remedy the present state of Ireland. He (Mr. 0'Flaherty) spoke from that (the Opposition) side of the House for the first time. He should continue to do so, for he found he could no longer sit on the Ministerial benches. He had waited patiently to the eleventh—he might say indeed to the twelfth—hour, but he could wait no longer; and, unless the noble Lord changed his proceedings, he should refuse him his support, and give it to any one who came forward with a proposition for the service of his country. Ireland had been deluded on all sides of the House. Whenever any proposition for coercion was brought forward, Whigs, Tories, Protectionists, and every other party, were pretty sure to vote for it; but they never proposed any generous measure for the relief of the evils of Ireland. He, as an independent Member, would support any party who introduced such a measure by all the means in his power.
§ MR. BRIGHT
was of opinion that the hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, had done the House some injustice. He (Mr. Bright) however admitted with him that coercion had been the rule rather than measures of real justice towards Ireland. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had that night fully admitted, though not in so many words, that much of the present evil of Ireland was attributable to bad laws. All who had taken office, and all who held office, might take some blame to themselves in this matter. The right hon. Baronet was doing now what was calculated to atone in some measure for that share in the mischief which he had in his long political life been instrumental with others in inflicting; and he (Mr. Bright) believed that the noble Lord at the head of the Government—who, on the other side of the House, had promised a great deal, and who, on that, the Ministerial side, had not done much, was now convinced that a more energetic course of action than had before been adopted was now rendered necessary for Ireland. For himself he could say that although he believed he had found as much fault with the House as any hon. Member in past times for its legislation with regard to the sister country, and especially with reference to 890 land, he was willing now to forgot past differences—to lot bygones be bygones—and he hoped one side of the House would not waste time in blaming the other, but that they would one and all leave party squabbles alone, and proceed at once to an honest consideration of this highly important subject. If he were disposed to find fault, he could retort, not upon the hon. Gentleman the Member for Galway, perhaps because he was a young Member of the House, but upon the Irish Members generally, because, though they had been prone to find fault with everybody, they had been so unfortunate in those propositions they had attempted to submit to the House, that they were not agreed amongst themselves with respect to the propriety of them. This was one of the greatest misfortunes Ireland laboured under; and he attributed it, in a great measure, to the state of the representation in that country, for the Reform Bill as regarded Ireland had been a sham and nothing more. And though the Irish Members at present in the House were excellent in their way, yet he thought that if there was a free and full representation of the people of Ireland, the condition of the Irish representation would then be very considerably improved. On several former occasions he had spoken to the Irish Members on this subject. They admitted that they had not been successful in proposing measures to the House. Even this Session they were divided. He thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gal-way need not to have gone over to the protectionist side of the House for the reasons he had stated, because when good measures emanated from either side, he (Mr. Bright) hoped that he should be always ready to support them, irrespective of party. He thanked the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth for the speech he had delivered on a former occasion, and also for the speech of that night, for, though there was nothing absolutely now in what he said before or now, yet truths the most common, if they were stated by the right hon. Baronet or by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, possessed an influence not only in Ireland, but in Great Britain, and throughout the world; and the whole world, under such circumstances, were inclined to believe that which men of their character were disposed to recommend. He confessed that in his opinion, now, they had passed the time of difficulty with regard to Ireland, and that in future they would have a more sensible 891 species of legislation adopted for that country.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, there was one course which might have been taken by hon. Members, and which had, indeed, been followed by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, namely, the somewhat inconvenient course of discussing, without seeing the Bill before them, its several provisions, and of pointing out the merits and defects of the various provisions of the measure. There was also another course open to them, which would have been, without discussing the merits or defects of the present Bill, to have allowed him (Lord J. Russell) the opportunity of bringing in his Bill; to have deferred the discussion upon it to some future stage; and to have heard his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General state the several provisions of the measure he was about to introduce. But the third course was that which seemed to please hon. Members the most, and it was to attack the Government and all its Members for not having introduced measures of the nature of that which his hon. and learned Friend was about to introduce. Now, that he certainly could not think a very reasonable course. The long speeches in which some hon. Members who made those complaints had indulged, had hitherto prevented the explanation of the measure of his hon. and learned Friend. As hon. Members did not wish to discuss the provisions of his Bill for the amendment of the poor-law, he did not wish to enter upon its provisions, as he admitted it would be an inconvenient course. It would be, therefore, far better to allow him to bring in his Bill, and then to allow his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General to explain his measure to the House.
§ SIE H. W. BARRON
would not have troubled the House with any observations, had it not been for the extraordinary attack which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester had thought proper to make on the Irish Members. It was said that they did not care for these attacks; but yet they were published in the newspapers, and blazoned forth to the world; and it was because he wished that the antidote should go forth with the poison that he now rose to address the House. Did the hon. Gentleman imagine that the Manchester school was to guide the British nation, and lecture the Irish Members? Man-cheater doctrines might be very agreeable at Manchester, or at other places in the north of England, where the hon. Gentleman 892 was in the habit of congregating with his friends; but he would tell the hon. Gentleman that there was not more division amongst the Irish Members than he could point out amidst the English Members. Without going further than the bench under him (the Treasury bench), he would ask, were the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who occupied seats thereon, agreed on matters of public policy? He wanted to know if the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty agreed with the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the Irish Church Appropriation Clause. He wanted to know if the hon. and learned Member for Hull agreed with the right hon. Member for Taunton on the navigation laws? and he wanted to know if the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth agreed with the hon. Gentleman who sat next him—the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire—with regard to one of the main questions of the House, the question of free trade? These were matters of great public policy; and when an attack was made on Irish Members for their want of unity, he wanted to ascertain the amount of difference which existed between them and the English Members. Never was there an accusation more absurd than that which had been made by the hon. Member for Manchester. It was. part and parcel of the Manchester school to taunt the Irish Members; but he would retort on the hon. Member, and tell him that it was because they themselves were self-sufficient—that it was because they thought themselves superior to the rest of the world—that they taunted all who dared to differ from the Manchester school. He would tell the hon. Gentleman that it was the policy of that school which had brought Ireland to ruin and to misery. England possessed her manufactories, her riches, and her capital, by aid of which she could survive the shock; but Ireland was solely an agricultural country—the sole dependence of her inhabitants was the land and its produce. There they had no manufactories to fall back upon—and there had they landlords, tenants, labourers, all become involved in the ruin brought on by the Manchester school.
Leave given. Bill ordered to be brought in by Lord John Russell and Sir William Somerville.