§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate 69 on Amendment proposed to be made to Question (26th March), "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words, "upon this day six months."
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. NAPIER
, in rising to oppose the second reading of this Bill, said, a more important question had not, for a long time, been submitted to the consideration of Parliament, whether in regard to the principle involved, or the feeling excited by the Bill among the most intelligent portion of the Irish people. He wished, in the first place, to consider it as a question of principle, and it was his intention to divide the argument into two branches; and, first, to consider the question as a question of rating; and, secondly, as a question of taxation—two entirely separate questions. With regard to the question of rating, the principle involved in the Bill appeared to him precisely this—whether a rate should be imposed on the rateable property of one union in aid of the rates of any other union, however distinct or however disconnected. He warned English Members that this was a principle which, if carried with reference to Ireland, might soon be established against the people of England. The Bill conflicted with every system of poor-laws as yet introduced into Ireland. If he rightly understood the argument, the Government attempted to establish their case by making out an analogy between this Bill and the statute of Elizabeth; and he was quite willing to be bound by the principle of that statute. They maintained that the Act of Elizabeth had provided a rate in aid, which was to be levied on the vicinage. This argument, however, required examination, in order to see where the vicinage ended, and whether its limits were circumscribed by some capricious, arbitrary boundary, or whether it was determined upon some fixed principle. If he had read the statute aright, a clear and rational principle was laid down; following which in the present case, all cases of rating would be excluded beyond the limits of the poor-law union, unless they were prepared to go to the extent of converting all Ireland into one poor-law union. The right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department had referred particularly to the statute of Elizabeth, and he begged, therefore, to call the attention of 70 the House to its provisions. That statute found the parochial system at work, and the object of it was to make use of the existing machinery in the country, and by legislative enactment to compel the performance of that which might be fairly considered a moral and religious duty. They then engrafted the poor-law upon the parochial system, and it was enacted that two of the justices of the peace, in conjunction with the churchwardens and householders, should work out the principle of the poor-law. The principle of local control and local superintendence was thus steadily kept in view. Then, if the parish was unable to support its own poor, power was given to apply to another parish within the hundred, and if the hundred was unable to meet the demand that was made on it in behalf of the poor, the justices at quarter-sessions were empowered to impose a rate upon the county at large. The House would, then, see that all the local machinery that could be obtained was brought into full power and operation in the carrying out of this law, so as to prevent injustice being done to any parties, and to secure the right appropriation and expenditure of the public money. Now, he asked, was it common sense to apply that to the case of all Ireland, and to say to the union in the extreme north they must contribute a rate in aid to supply the necessities of a union in the extreme south, and to compare such a principle with that of the statute of Elizabeth? He argued that this statute of Elizabeth supplied him with the principle which utterly defeated the principle which was sought now, for the first time, to be recognised in the measure before the House; and he would observe, that this principle was well stated by the Boundary Commissioners in their report upon going into the question of districts for the purposes of poor-law administration. One of the arrangements entered into for the protection of property was, a provision for the helpless and infirm, and those who were occasionally destitute. This arrangement was carried out in a most equitable and advantageous manner—the provision for such being a general contribution levied upon property in land; and to avoid imposition, every local discretion and control were afforded, by dividing the country into distributary districts. There was no principle more important than to preserve to those who pay the rate the efficient, real, and substantial control over their 71 funds, as regarded both the amount and the expenditure. There was no principle that harmonised so much with the very spirit of the British constitution. He thought he might say that the law of Elizabeth, when contrasted with this Bill, was directly contrary to it in principle. It had been said that the sum sought to be raised was one of a very trifling amount. That, he submitted, was no justification at all for such a measure; for if it were wrong in principle, they had no more right to levy 1d. than they had to levy 1,000l. They should also beware lest they formed a precedent, by affirming such a principle, which might be brought against the people of England at some future period, and which would take from them that local control and superintendence over their poor-law which had existed since the time of Elizabeth. When the law of 1838 was passed for Ireland, they would perceive that the same principle was recognised, but in a somewhat different manner; and it was important also to remember that the Act of Elizabeth being passed immediately after some years of famine, the enlightened statesmen of those days accompanied it with provisions for the employment of labour in reproductive works. In Ireland, there was no perfect parochial system; and there had been no reproductive works worth mentioning. The injustice, however, of making one union contribute to another arose also from the variableness of the valuation of property. The guardians were entrusted with the valuation, and the standard, consequently, was different in almost every one. There was one mentioned the other night in the north of Ireland, where the valuation was far below the rent value, while all around were much higher. He had accidentally discovered that in that union there was only one ex-officio guardian, and that might account for it. The area was also a great element in the consideration of this question. The law of 1838 had not the same machinery which the law of Elizabeth found existing in England. What did this law of 1838 do? It did not carry out a principle that was supposed to lie dormant in the country; but it had to carry out a new principle, which went to the very base of the poor-law. They had since sought to engraft upon that system a new principle that was considered most ruinous to the interests of the country. This law of 1838 provided for the case of unions. It formed a number 72 of these unions, and provided a certain machinery in these unions analogous to that parochial machinery that was found to exist in England, and was taken advantage of under the law of Elizabeth. The House would see at once that if it were deemed necessary to go beyond the limits of the union to meet the wants of the poor, they were only empowered to go to the neighbouring union. The administration of relief was placed under the control and management of certain guardians, with the other machinery of relieving officers, overseers, &c., to assist them in carrying out the powers of the Act. Would it not, then, be monstrous injustice to make such officers in one part of Ireland liable for the conduct of others in an opposite part of the country, of whom they knew nothing, and over whose acts it was impossible that they could exercise any control, or could check any lavish expenditure of the property which they were forced to entrust into their hands? So far from there being any principle of analogy between the Act of Elizabeth and the measure under consideration, he would remind the House of the practical wisdom of the Duke of Wellington, who, when the Poor Law Bill for Ireland was under discussion in the other House, introduced certain clauses for the avowed purpose of reducing the liability as much as possible within the limits recognised by the English law. Instead, then, of extending the liability beyond the unions, the principle that was generally recognised was to reduce that liability. This was first confined to landlords; but the Act of 1843 extended the principle to all cases. They could, therefore, under this latter Act, reduce the area of liability in cases where there were several town-lands—being common property—to only one townland. He wanted thus to show them that neither the law of Elizabeth nor that of 1838 gave the slightest encouragement to any responsibility whatever outside the bounds of the union. So far from doing so, the object of those Acts was to secure the utmost co-operation and control, by confining the liability within the narrowest limits possible. He was here reminded of one point, which he thought was very much misunderstood by many. It was thought by some that the system of clearances would be greatly encouraged by reducing the area of responsibility. Why, so far from this being the case, the reduction of the area of responsibility was well calculated to prevent it. If they looked 73 at the policy of the Act, they would find that it was to reduce the area of responsibility, for the purpose of securing better and more complete co-operation, control, and unity of purpose, and to render conterminous with this, so far as it was possible to do 90, the legal and moral responsibility. Let them come now to the poor Law Extension Act, for the purpose of seeing whether there was anything in that Act which went to effect a change in this principle. That Act introduced what has been thought by many a most dangerous principle, namely, a provision for outdoor relief. Now, having contended that neither the law of Elizabeth nor that of 1838 recognised the principle of responsibility beyond the limits of the particular union, he would also submit that this Poor Law Extension Act, in enacting the outdoor relief system, did, à fortiori, recognise this limited responsibility; for the evils consequent upon this system of outdoor relief could only be neutralised by the great energy displayed, and vigilant superintendence carried on, by those parties who were specially interested as honest men in the proper expenditure of the public money, and in improving the condition of the country. He thought, then, that on the principle of analogy, as well as upon that of reason and justice, they could not extend the liability of any ratepayer beyond the limits of the union or division in which his property was situated. This principle seemed, too, to be recognised by another passage in the report of the Boundary Commissioners, where they spoke of the smallness of the unions, and which bore upon the present question materially:—Still the advantage of the smaller union was not so sensibly felt as it now is, until the Act of 1847 extended relief to paupers out of the house; because the number of infirm or helpless persons in a given community is tolerably constant, and, as a test of destitution, the workhouse is less essential; nor is so rigid a personal and local scrutiny by the guardians so indispensable. As soon, however, as it became necessary for the guardians to control the administration of outdoor relief, and more especially when the necessity for such relief was increased beyond all permanent conditions, by the pressure of severe, and, yet more, of successive years, of famine; following also the immense extent of gratuitous relief administered under the Act of 10 Vict., c. 7, the better state of the northern and eastern unions became very apparent.In regard to Ireland, he should say that the size of many of the districts appeared to be larger than those in England. Now, the very reverse should rather be the case; 74 for in proportion as the social condition of the country was better, so they might with the more safety enlarge the extent, the area of liability, and management. Remembering the actual state of Ireland, when there were so many causes for the introduction of social divisions and discontent, he thought that it was a most mistaken thing to have such extensive districts. There was, no doubt, in many parts of the north of Ireland, much general co-operation and control; but still, some of the unions in which the burden of poor-law taxation could be better borne than in others, strange to say, were, according, as he supposed, to a principle of Irish perversity of much smaller dimensions than others. In this view of the general principle of the Acts to which he had referred, it was entirely against the endeavour to fasten any liability outside of the limits of the particular union. The measure of 1847, it should be recollected, was forced upon Ireland against the remonstrances of almost every person that had an interest in and a knowledge of the country. The present Archbishop of Dublin had then predicted everything that had since occurred respecting that law. In the report of the Commissioners in 1834 in respect to the English poor-law, and on the subject of outdoor relief, were the following observations:—Such a fund applied to purposes opposed to the letter, and still more to the spirit, of the law, is destructive to the morals of the most numerous class, and to the welfare of all That the great source of abuse was the outdoor relief afforded to the able bodied, on their account, or on that of their families, given either in kind of in money.Now, that was what the' Commissioners said in 1834 in respect to the law in England. When the Act of 1838 passed, there was no provision made in it for outdoor relief; but when the measure of 1847 came before Parliament, that principle of outdoor relief was then recognised, and was forced upon Ireland in accordance with the Ministerial policy of that time. If, then, they forced their Imperial poor-law into Ireland, he thought it too hard of them to ask the Irish people to pay a provincial price for the injuries, that had thus been inflicted on them, He denied the principle of rating property for outdoor relief outside of the union. He had, so far, argued the case upon the general principle of its reasonableness and practicability. He would go now to the question of the peculiar application 75 of this measure to Ireland. He took two grounds of objection to it: first, its injustice; and, secondly, he said it was an injurious and unwise policy to apply to Ireland, as they considered it in reference to the general interests of the united kingdom. First, then, in regard to its injustice. He thought that there was this remarkable difference between the English and the Irish poor-law. In England, they had a poor-law which had been established centuries ago. Every person who purchased property in the country did so with a full knowledge of its liability; and therefore there was no clashing between his interest and the rates of the poor. But in Ireland they superinduced a poor-law upon property for the first time in 1838, and they should have made every interest in that property, according to its rateable value, contribute to the support of the poor. That was so far a principle of equity and justice. But what was the exact contract made with the landed proprietors of Ireland in 1838? He wished to draw the particular attention of hon. Members to this point, in consequence of what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth in the reference which he made to the repayment of the workhouse advances. Mr. Nichols estimated the poor-law expense to the country at 345,000l., which included the advances for the building of the workhouses. He estimated this workhouse system as a permanent one. He also reverted to the special casualty of a famine, when he said—The strict limitation of relief to the workhouse may possibly be objected to, on the ground that extreme want is found occasionally to assail large portions of the population of Ireland, who are then reduced to a state bordering oft starvation, and ought, therefore, it may be asserted, to be relieved at the public charge, without being subjected to the discipline of a workhouse. This, however, is an extreme case; and it would not, I think, be wise to adapt the regulations of poor-law administration to the possible occurrence of such a contingency. * * * * The occurrence of a famine, if general, seems to be a contingency altogether above the powers of a poor-law to provide for.The contract that was then made with the proprietors of Ireland was such as he had just described. The Poor Law Commissioners, before the passing of the Act of 1838, recommended the adoption of certain measures, by which the people would be generally employed. The Earl of Carlisle did the same in 1838; and the Marquess of Lansdowne since that time said, that "if ever a solemn pledge had been 76 given, it was given by their Lordships during the discussion that took place upon the Irish poor-law—that their Lordships would by every means in their power encourage the employment of the labouring poor in Ireland." And in respect to the public works that were carried on, the noble Marquess said, that he would not ask any better security for the money that had been advanced than those afforded, for already had about two-thirds of such money been repaid, and the reason why the remaining one-third was still due was, because the whole of the works had not then been completed. He thought it right to say thus much with reference to the conduct of the landed proprietors, because he considered that they had, as far as lay in their power, fulfilled their part of the compact. But he must say that, in his opinion, there had not been such a fulfilment of the compact on the part of the Government, as if it had been entered into between private individuals. It was his most earnest desire to promote a knowledge of the advantage of a mutual interest existing between tenants and their landlords, and between the proprietors of the soil and the Government, all of which he thought were essential to the prosperity of any course of policy towards Ireland that might be adopted. He wished to cement a real union of sentiment upon their common interests. Let them look to the circumstances in which Ireland was placed. The landed proprietors' estates were encumbered: there was a deficiency of capital in the country, and a surplus population. Now that was a state of society, the evils of which it was not easy to grapple with. It was well known, that the staple article of food in Ireland had failed to supply the wants of the people, and that thousands of persons had perished in consequence. But although, as he said, many had perished, yet the rights of the poor Were not forgotten; they were upheld to the utmost by those who in Ireland possessed the power of supporting them. England had lent her helping and powerful hand, and Ireland was, he believed, grateful for it. A large sum of money had been voted by Parliament, with the view of creating employment for the labouring population of Ireland, but the good it had effected was problematical. The works upon which the labourers were employed had benefited few of those persons upon whom it was proposed to charge the present rate in aid; The parties whom the tax would peculiarly 77 affect had already borne heavy burdens on account of the distress which prevailed in Ireland, and they had, in consequence, been compelled to contend against other difficulties; and if their pecuniary resources were again pressed upon, ruin would, in a majority of cases, be the consequence. It was thought by those best acquainted with Ireland, and who most attentively considered the present state of that country, that the present plans of Her Majesty's Ministers were not likely to prove successful; theories like theirs must be shivered at once in such a place as Ireland; the land was heavily encumbered, capital was deplorably deficient, the surplus population was excessive, and the cottier system generally prevalent. How, then, could plans applicable to England be made to work in Ireland? But, recently, a famine came, which gave the opportunity, while it pointed out the necessity, for comprehensive measures; yet for those they had still to seek; though the dispensations of Providence had forced the Government to do something—they "saw the light indeed, and were afraid; but they had not yet hoard the voice." The present measure of the Government afforded no hope—there was no justice in it. The tenant farmers would derive no advantage from it. It would not benefit the clergy or the landlords. The people might be kept alive by it, but nothing more. By it the people would be more demoralised than ever—not that he meant to say anything to the disparagement of his poorer fellow-countrymen, for he regarded them with feelings of the deepest compassion; and he was not without hope that in England feelings of compassion would be vividly awakened. England ought to have a high ambition with reference to Ireland. He hoped she would soon feel that the state of Ireland ought not to be a matter of money and finance, but that, as regarded that country, she had a great mission to fulfil. If by a rate in aid they merely kept Ireland from starving, they would shut out all hope of better days; and he must say, that if the money spent in relief works had been applied to emigration or other useful purposes, Ireland would now be in a much better condition than she was. Private energy had not boon stimulated; the compact with respect to the tax of 345,000l a year was broken; and starving millions were thrown upon the country for support. True, the difficulty and distress which had occurred could not have been foreseen; they arose from circumstances 78 over which human power had no control; and some who had the moans of alleviating them were not forward in doing so. The misfortune lay not at the poor man's door—he was not to blame. Providence willed it. And England had a high mission to perform—a high duty to discharge—inasmuch as there was a communion of interests between herself and Ireland—these two countries were bound together by the closest tie—England had, he repeated, a high mission to perform and a high duty to discharge, in relieving, as far as her great resources would allow her, Ireland from that state of destitution in which she was unfortunately placed, and which was almost unparalleled in the circumstances of Christian countries. But instead of attempting to relieve her, the Government of this country were about to fetter her already crippled resources. In what position was she placed at present? Her soil was smitten with sterility, and moreover that protection to her agricultural industry and improvement which existed when the poor-law was first enacted, had been withdrawn from her since. ["Hear!"] He would not farther enter into that part of the question, but he did not think it unfair to advert to it. But he asked whether it was wise, just, or generous for this great country, whose resources and power enabled it to throw down the gauntlet to the rest of the world in defiance, to fasten upon a few parties in Ireland the burden of this rate, who had already been almost exclusively taxed under the poor-law for the support of the destitute in their island, which was an integral part of the British empire. The calamity under which Ireland was suffering was providential, and the charge consequent upon relieving her from it ought to be borne by the kingdom generally. The system of relief proposed gave no hope for better days. Perhaps the House would permit him to read an extract from a letter addressed by a noble Lord to himself, which put the point of forcing the rate in aid upon Ireland, at the present moment, very clearly:—I am very anxious that the results of experience in this, the Ballinasloe poor-law union—one of the largest and most populous in Connaught—should not be altogether overlooked by your committee. For seven years up to September, 1817, the poor-law of 1838 was here in beneficial operation, with regard both to the interests of the poor and the social improvement of the district. The destitute always found relief, and none others applied for it. Idleness, except under the Temporary Relief Acts, found no encouragemant; and agriculture steadily improved under 79 the auspices of a district agricultural society, originating with the board of guardians. Under the Poor Relief Extension Act the same guardians have spared no exertions to administer the law beneficially; but although their labour has been excessive, all they have been able to do has been to mitigate in some degree the evils inseparable from any Act holding out to the uneducated poor of Ireland the belief that they may be fed without working for their bread. All the unions around us are under paid guardians, by whom outdoor relief is lavished and in fact cannot be controlled. The ruined and hopeless state of those unions you know from the papers that have been laid on the table of the House. They have been brought to their present state of insolvency, and are now to become a burden upon the rest of the country, through the operation of that very Act which is now to be uphold by a rate in aid. Though heavily taxed, we are capable, I trust, of maintaining ourselves, but certainly not in a condition to bear any new burden at present. We have saved ourselves hitherto by returning to the principle of giving relief only in the workhouse, except where the relieving officers are authorised to give it otherwise in cases of urgent necessity; the consequence is, that the cultivation of our lands is more attended to, and the population is better disposed to habits of industry. The bad example, however, of the adjacent unions, and the knowledge among the poor that the guardians may, if they please, order outdoor relief, operate most injuriously, and prevent that return to settled habits of self-reliance which are so necessary to be encouraged.That letter, it would be perceived, came from the west of Ireland, where many of the landlords had performed their duties in connexion with the relief of the poor. The effect upon the landlords had been most disastrous; many of them had been dragged altogether down to the dust, and those among the best and most active agriculturists of the country. He would mention as an illustration Colonel Jackson, who had been so utterly ruined that he had been fain to seek the position of poor-law inspector, in fulfilling the duties of which he caught a fever and died. Returning, however, to the immediate question before the House, let him be allowed to assure them that this measure was most impolitic as it regarded Ireland, and he humbly requested of them not to take any narrow views upon questions between the two countries. Upon a matter of this description and magnitude they ought to take a large and comprehensive and wise and generous view of the course of policy to be pursued. There were three things Ireland wanted in order to promote her welfare. The first was repose, a cessation of political differences, and angry feelings and disputes; secondly, capital; thirdly, the exertion of private individuals for the purposes of agricultural improvement! Any policy that 80 would ensure even one of these three things, ought, in his opinion, to meet with favour on the part of the House; and any course of action which was likely to have a contrary effect ought to be discouraged. Now, let him for a moment test these three subjects by the feeling of the people of Ireland; and a large proportion of them were perfectly capable of forming a judgment upon them. The House must be already aware that the majority of the Irish people had expressed opinions unfavourable to the measure; and that in some instances threats had been held out with respect to obedience to the law. His own hope was that if the Bill should pass, its provisions would be quietly obeyed; but at the same time he was of opinion that obedience might be purchased at a very dear price. From the opinion which was known to prevail upon the subject of the measure, he thought that it would tend to weaken the affections of the loyal portion of the people of Ireland towards England, and that it would engender feelings of animosity towards British legislation. And would this contribute to the repose of the country? On the contrary, it would, he was convinced, lead to that system of agitation, and of setting class against class, which had already operated so banefully in Ireland, and which, as the Earl of Clarendon bad mentioned in his letter, had scared away that capital which would otherwise have been beneficially employed in that country. With regard to the question of capital, if it was considered advisable to make advances of the public money, could they not be made under ordinary circumstances, and not by diminishing the shattered remnant of the capital which remained in the country? The constant system of taxing property in Ireland it was that deterred men who had capital from employing it, and thus private enterprise was paralysed. If this measure was carried, it would have the effect of reducing Ireland to a condition the result of which would be certain ruin. Did hon. Gentlemen recollect the celebrated prediction of Mr. Senior, who stated that if the system of outdoor relief was adopted in Ireland, it would, in the course of ten years, accomplish the ruin of the country. The advocates of free trade argued that all difficulties might be battled successfully against by the application of capital. But no one was to be found to invest capital in Irish property. He was surprised that the Government should attempt to risk so much 81 as this Bill involved for such a paltry consideration. Even during the present Session Her Majesty's Government had come forward with a demand for a grant from the Consolidated Fund, which they had obtained; and the plea they put forward for that demand was, that if the money were not given, the people must he left to starve. That demand had been opposed by some hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House, upon the ground that sooner or later the people of Ireland must be necessitated to depend upon their own energies, and that the sooner the experiment was entered upon the better; it was supported by others on the plea of necessity. The money must he had, and the question was, from what fund was it to be taken? For the purposes of discussion he would admit that the money must be raised; but he could not admit the right of the House to take it from a fund merely because it would save trouble. Suppose he saw a person starving, it would be very proper that he should relieve him; but in order to do so he had no right to pick another's pocket. He was bound to act upon some principle, and look at the question, and say whether a rate in aid was what, as a Member of that House, he had a right to agree to in order to relieve the admitted distress. The question was—and they could not avoid coming to a decision upon it—was it to be considered on imperial or upon Irish grounds? He was aware that there was much feeling abroad upon the subject both in this country and in Ireland; but he would endeavour to deal with the subject in a fair and impartial spirit, because he was perfectly aware how deeply important it was what answer should be given to the question by that House. If Ireland was an integral portion of the united kingdom, he could not understand, if he was right on the question of local rating, how they were to stop short the moment they got out of the union—why were they to be stopped by the sea, if Ireland was an integral portion of the united kingdom? He valued the Union, and he claimed all its privileges, because he found himself bound to submit to all its liabilities. Until he repudiated those liabilities, they were not in a position to deny him any of those privileges which the Union conferred. Suppose, as they had done last year, they were to send a special commission into some of the counties of Ireland, would they not pay the expenses out of the Consolidated Fund? Would they, for a moment, 82 think of demanding them from any peculiarly Irish fund? He knew it was said that Ireland did not contribute fairly to the Imperial Treasury. They paid all they were asked to pay, therefore it was not their fault if their contributions were not in proportion to those of England. They had an Imperial poor-law. Even during the present Session the Government, the House consenting, had applied to the Consolidated Fund for the purpose of carrying out that law. If Ireland did not pay enough to the Imperial Treasury, why take the 50,000l. from the Consolidated Fund for the purposes of those distressed unions? He believed that at the time they made that demand, the Government had not the slightest notion of a rate in aid—he believed that it was altogether an after-thought. It was only when they found that a strong feeling against any further grant was raised in England—it was only when they were made aware of the fact that they could get no more money out of the Consolidated Fund for such a purpose, that they said they must turn upon Ireland. The Government thought they could get the English Members to go against Ireland—Ireland, which was already staggering under great difficulties must be borne down. They said to themselves, "Money we must have—Si possis, recte; si non, quocunque modo rem;and accordingly the rate in aid was taken up and pressed, first upon the Committee, and subsequently upon the House. He was perfectly willing that Ireland should bear any burden which the Legislature might think it right or just to impose upon her; but if, as he had a right to assume they had, they had imposed as much of taxation on Ireland as they thought she could bear, or should justly pay, they had no right to turn round and put a tax upon the land which was unjust in character. What was the language used by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tam-worth on the occasion when Mr. Roebuck moved to extend the property tax to Ireland. He said—What you are now called oh to decide is this, whether Great Britain, being subject to the pay-ment of a tax upon income derived from land, or income derived from office, or profits of trade, and an income derived from all occupations to which salary is attached, you will determine that in Ireland, land—and land alone—shall be liable to this tax. So that the Lord Lieutenant would be ex-jempt, whilst land alone is to bear the burden. I cannot see the justice or the equality of the principle. 83 I say at once, taking a large and comprehensive view of the state and condition of Ireland and the Irish people, I advise you, strenuously, to relinquish such a small advantage. Now the House must remember that under existing circumstances, if an Irish landed proprietor be resident in England, he is liable to the income tax; and the tax therefore operates upon him as a powerful incentive—one more powerful I fear in some cases than the obligations of duty—to reside in Ireland. The hon. Gentleman proposes that land—and land only—shall be subject to the impost. If he had said, as another hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Williams) did, 'offices;' I think there is something plausible in that proposal; but I don't mean to adopt it. The hon. Gentleman says—' There are certain public servants with large salaries—let us tax them.' There really is something extremely captivating in that to those who share in the hon. Member's prejudices against public servants. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath does not propose that offices shall be taxed; so that the Lord Lieutenant would be exempt—whilst land alone is to bear the burden. I can't see the equality or the justice of the principle of the hon. Member for Bath. I am therefore on the whole strongly in favour of the original proposition—that after mature consideration I did—on the part of the Government—propose to the House. I willingly admit that on the first view of the case justice would suggest the policy of applying this tax to Ireland—I admit that; but I must also say that subsequent consideration has confirmed our original views—and that to them we must adhere.With regard to the financial argument in respect of Ireland—if it were the real sound feeling of England—not that unhealthy feeling which induced a desire to shift a burden from their own to other shoulders—if the sound feeling of this country were that Ireland ought to bear any additional taxation, he would not put forward a mere financial argument against such a feeling, because he was very anxious that there should be good feeling on both sides—ill-feeling on either or both sides could only be injurious to both countries, therefore, he thought it both unwise and Ungenerous to press such a measure. There ought, in common justice, to be either local rating and local taxation, or, that failing, then the appeal for aid ought to be to the Imperial Treasury. In the same debate, the noble Viscount the Secretary for Foreign Affairs stated, in the course of the debate to which he had just alluded—You may no doubt increase the revenue by imposing this tax on Ireland; but in my opinion it would be extremely disadvantageous and impolitic to impose it. If you will give to Ireland as much relief from taxes as possible—if you follow out the principle of exonerating her from many taxes which now press and formerly pressed on this country—if you will do what you can to sail forth the resources of that country, and to 84 pour a larger share of capital into it-you will do that which is best calculated to promote her prosperity. But taking the matter in the narrowest and most selfish view—to make Ireland most conducive to the general prosperity of the empire—I am persuaded the best plan you could adopt would be—not to apply to it this income and property tax which you are now going to continue in this country.He (Mr. Napier) contended that it never was intended—never contemplated, that the taxation of both countries should be the same. When England took Ireland into partnership, she was by far the richer country; and that distinguished man, Mr. Burke, strongly pointed out in one of his letters on Ireland, the deep injury that would be committed if they imposed the same burdens on the two countries. They ought to know that the strength of a beam was the strength of its weakest part, and if by their legislation they brought down an important class in Ireland—a class which must bring down others along with them—they might depend upon it that they would bring a great and a heavy burden upon England and her resources. They claimed the Union with all its privileges, and those privileges they could not object to give upon the plea that Ireland did not pay proportionally towards the Imperial Exchequer, at a time when the Government and the Legislature were not prepared to impose upon her additional taxation—were not prepared to extend the income and property tax to Ireland, on the ground that she could not bear it. If England thought Ireland was taxed suffciently, then they had a just claim upon the Imperial Exchequer—if she was not, it was not her fault, but the fault of England, and English Members had no right now to impose an unjust burden upon the land of Ireland for a fault of their own. He would now come to the suggestions thrown out for the amelioration of the state of Ireland by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth. His own honest opinion, and one which he did not fear openly and honestly to avow, was, that whatever was necessary for supporting the life of the people in the distressed unions ought to come out of the Consolidated Fund—and let the House impose any taxation upon Ireland which they thought would be just or fair. The right hon. Baronet had suggested that the west of Ireland particularly was in that condition that must prove wholly ruinous if it were allowed to continue; and, therefore, some bold, vigorous, and comprehensive 85 measure was necessary to avert that ruin. One thing in that suggestion struck him as being erroneous. The right hon. Baronet took it for granted that if they could get a new class of proprietors, men possessed of wealth, that would be sufficient to get the country out of its difficulties. He felt much diffidence in opposing his opinion to anything which fell from the right hon. Baronet; but in his honest opinion he did not believe that that would prove a sufficient means of meeting the dlfficulties of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had said, that if the plan he had sketched out could be carried into effect without any Government interference with property, he thought it would be wise that it should be tried. Now, it was to be borne in mind that many of those in possession of the land were merely nominal proprietors—that the real proprietors were the incumbrancers; but the merely nominal owners were the parties who were rated as the real owners—they were the parties who were made to pay the poor-rate, therefore it was a hard measure of justice to turn round upon them, make them liable for the faults of legislation, and turn them out of possession, putting in the real owners after the maximum of a poor-rate had been laid down. He was aware of the many difficulties which surrounded the question, in consequence of the law of 1838. The principles of valuation laid down by that law were most unjust, for no provision was made for deducting anything in respect of incumbrances, and the clergy were rated for their gross incomes without being allowed to make any deduction whatever, the only instance in which property was charged to the rate at its full amount. The consequence of such a state of the law was, that the nominal proprietor, from the failure of the potato crop and from other causes, obtained but little of the rent of his land; and, being compelled to pay the poor-rate, as well as to meet the demands of the incumbrancer, he had sunk under the burden. Was it either just or generous, then, to come down upon him now, and put the incumbrancer in possession in such altered circumstances? He admitted that the mere removal of such merely nominal proprietors would be an important step; but he contended it would not alone set the country up again. He would take the case of a union in the south, a large portion of the property in which belonged to a nobleman of high character, of great liberality, and everything which could make a landlord 86 amiable to his tenantry. He alluded to the Marquess of Lansdowne, whose property lay in the union of Kenmare, where the tenant-right existed. The noble Marquess had effected many improvements; he had got rid of middlemen altogether; he had made an abatement of 20 per cent upon his rents during the last year, and in every way was a good landlord. But what was the result to the union in which the estate was situated? There were two neighbouring proprietors who employed the whole of their poor upon their estates; but still they were compelled to contribute towards the maintenance of the paupers in the workhouse, three-fourths of whom were from the estate of the noble Marquess? What was to be done in such a case? Were they to have a change of proprietors? Were they to get rid of the Marquess of Lansdowne? The noble Marquess had got rid of the middlemen, but he was not hardhearted enough to dispossess the small holders on the estate, and the consequence was as he had stated—so that in order to cure the evil they must commence at both extremities, and while they removed insolvent landlords they must also remove insolvent tenants; and any measure of that kind ought to be fenced round with well-considered measures of emigration, in order that the resources of the country might not be wasted by a too dense population. In the north, by their manufactures and by their great industry, the people had been enabled to support themselves; but now, from the failure of the potato and the introduction of the poor-law, labour had gone down, and even the energetic people of the north found that they could not support themselves upon the small farms—they were selling their tenant-right, which had been depressed to two-thirds of its value. The farms were getting larger, and unless they were stopped by an unjust impost being laid upon their industry, the people would soon get right of themselves. But in the south, matters were very different. There they were possessed of no manufactures—the people clung to their small holdings—improvident marriages were too frequent, and consequently the population were in a state of misery. There was a cry for such labour in the colonies—why not then save them from eviction, by a wise system of emigration? Many were now leaving the shores of Ireland, but they did not belong to the smallholder class. The people looked to emigration as the natural cure for the evils 87 with which they were oppressed. They ought, in his opinion, to give a well-considered system of emigration. They ought then, he said, all to co-operate, with one heart and one mind; and in so doing, they might he the means, under God, of saving their unfortunate country. He considered that many things might be done to aid Ireland. The poor-law, for instance, might he amended; and one thing was universally admitted to he most desirable—namely, reducing the area of responsibility. The charge of excess upon districts at a distance could not he attended by any other than disastrous results. There might, too, he some means of advancing money, on well-approved security, for the purpose of improving the agriculture of the country. In connexion with this subject, he could not avoid saying that he found great satisfaction in co-operating with many gentlemen from whom he differed both in religion and in politics. He was sorry that what he had said on a former occasion should have been mistaken by some hon. Gentlemen—that they should have supposed him to have said that Protestant Ulster would not like to pay for Con-naught, because it was Catholic. He should be sorry to say or to think so. The charities of life were not attached to the dogmas of any creed, but they belonged to their duties as Christians. In such a time as this, he addressed all in the words of Cicero:—Quare videte, num dubitendum vobis studio studio ad id opus incumbere, in quo gloria nominis nostri, salus sociorum, vectigalia maxima, fortunæ plurimorum eivium una cum republicâ defondantur.
SIR. R. PEEL
As, in the course of the very able and temperate speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman (a speech on which I will pass this eulogium, that it was worthy of his own high character for ability and moderation), he has frequently done me the honour of referring to opinions expressed by me, and as I wish to take the opportunity of making some observations, rather with reference to the general social condition of Ireland, than to the particular enactments of the measure now under consideration—I cannot, perhaps, rise at a more opportune time than the present to address the House. I gave my vote for the proposal of the rate in aid, rather for the purpose of expressing an opinion that we had a fair claim to call upon Ireland for separate and independent exertion, than of pronouncing a decision in favour of the 88 particular merits of that proposal, as compared with other proposals that might he made. I still think, notwithstanding the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that we have that claim on Ireland for such separate and independent exertion. My opinion is founded on more than one consideration; partly on the consideration of the great and noble exertion willingly made by this part of the empire for the relief of Ireland, and partly on the consideration that Ireland has not done her duty in respect to the repayment of her pecuniary obligations to the Imperial Treasury. I allude to certain advances connected with the operation of the Irish poor-law. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "that Ireland has paid all she has been asked to pay." It is because I totally differ from him on that point, that I think we have a fair claim upon Ireland, on the present occasion, for separate exertion. We asked Ireland to pay 1,300,000l. which had been advanced from the Imperial Treasury to enable her to build the union workhouses. Money was advanced to this part of the empire, for the same purpose. I have not heard that England declined to pay those advances, but I am afraid that Ireland, generally speaking, has repudiated the debt. The answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman, on this head, is far from satisfactory. There was a clear pecuniary obligation, which ought to have been discharged by Ireland. I regret she has not discharged it, because the refusal operates as a discouragement to consider her case tinder circumstances when similar aid might be required. I voted, also, for the measure before the House; because I entertained a confident belief, that if Ireland willingly consented to make a separate and independent exertion, she would induce Great Britain the more readily to co-operate with her in those efforts which are indispensably necessary for her welfare. I did not give my vote for this measure because I considered it any sufficient remedy for the evils under which Ireland labours. The House is totally mistaken if it believes that the last 50,000l., or the present 100,000l., or any rate in aid which you may impose on Ireland, are measures at all commensurate with the evils that afflict that Unhappy country. In many parts of the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman I concur. So far am I from being inclined to raise any prejudices on the part of Great Britain against Ireland, that I concur with 89 him in opinion that injustice has been done to Ireland. With respect to the operation of the poor-law, I think that Ireland has made a great exertion to meet the obligations imposed on her. England ought to boar in mind that she is circumstanced, with respect to the poor-law, in a manner totally different from Ireland; that the poor-law was a new and unexpected imposition, with respect to Ireland, in 1838; and that the argument used in favour of the equity of impositions of that kind—namely, that the property was inherited or purchased subject to the pecuniary obligations which had endured for centuries—did not apply to the case of Ireland, which was called on to bear the expense of a poor-law, although all the engagements as to property had been made under another state of things. In the midst of unparalleled affliction, Ireland bore a burden last year of not less than 1,600,000l. for the support of the poor. I think that a great exertion. I hoard it said the other night, by some hon. Gentleman, "Why should we support the poor of Ireland—since, after having supported them, Ireland rebelled against the supremacy of the Crown?" I believe that charge to he utterly unfounded. Ireland did not rebel. The people of Ireland, generally speaking, did not yield to the temptations held out to them, at a period of great excitement. We were enabled to suppress the rebellion with such comparative ease—without the loss of a single man, either of military or police, because Ireland did not rebel, and because the people of Ireland, suffering, as they were, from severe calamity, and with the example before them of revolt in many other countries, did remain, generally speaking, faithful in their allegiance to the Crown. I state this for the purpose of attempting to propitiate this part of the united kingdom towards that unfortunate country. I speak, I own, almost overwhelmed by a sense of the calamity which Ireland has sustained—and of the fearful magnitude of the present crisis. My appeal to these more favoured portions of the empire is an appeal, not merely on the ground of justice—not merely on the ground of the natural sympathy which we ought to feel with the miseries and sufferings of our fellow-subjects. Those appeals to justice and natural sympathy would, I am confident, if separately urged, prevail with this country; but my appeal to Great Britain is upon another ground—upon the 'manifest consideration of her own true interest 90 in attempting to mitigate the affliction under which Ireland is suffering, and to find a remedy for the dreadful evils which are in prospect. With the permission of the House, I will remind them of the situation in which we stand now in entering upon this discussion. I will remind them that, in the course of last year, we found it necessary to commence the Session with a Coercion Bill; and to conclude it with the Suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. I gave ray cordial support to Her Majesty's Government in the introduction of those measures. I believe those measures were forced upon them by a stern necessity—that all the evils of Ireland would have been aggravated if they had not been passed. I refer to the passing of them, not for the purpose of reflecting upon Her Majesty's Government, but for the purpose of reminding the House of the unhappy condition of that part of the united kingdom, and of impressing upon them the conviction that it is in vain for England to hope that by indifference or neglect she can relieve herself from the burden, if there be no remedy for Irish distress and disorder, which will press upon her with intense force. At the moment at which I am speaking, you have not loss than 30,000 of the regular Army in Ireland; at the close of last year you had a force of 32,000 men. In addition to that military force, you have about 5,400 pensioners; and, in addition to these, you have a force of constabulary of 12,000 or 13,000 men, the expense of which is now borne not by Ireland—it is not a local charge upon Ireland—it is borne by the Imperial Treasury. The whole of the charge for that military force, therefore—the constabulary, the pensioners, the regular army, a force of not less than 47,000 men—is borne, not locally by Ireland, but by the Imperial Treasury. Whatever reduction you can make in the amount of that force by the improvement of the social condition of Ireland, is a pecuniary gain to this country, if, indeed, in regard to a question of this kind, any such consideration as that of mere pecuniary gain were worth adverting to. Now, with that amount of military force and with these coercive laws, what is the social condition of Ireland? I presume that the statement I have here—I read from a newspaper—is an accurate account of that which took place at the last assizes at Clonmel. It is stated—The assizes for one division only of the county of Tipperary, and that the most quiet one (the 91 southern), commenced this day at 10 o'clock, before Judge Jackson; and your readers may judge of the disorganised state of the country when it is mentioned that there are no less than 279 persons for trial, and of these 18 are charged with arson, 4 with attacking a police barrack in arms, 3 with burglary, 4 with conspiracy to murder, and 42 with treasonable practices; 14 are charged with highway robbery, 21 with the awful crime of murder, and 14 with shooting at with intent to murder. The prison, which has only 225 cells, has in it no less than 668 persons, including 20 persons already under sentence of transportation. No wonder that Judge Jackson designated the calendar as one of the most awful he had ever known. I did not hear yet if the treasonable cases will be disposed of, but the murder cases are very heavy, and several men are to be put on trial for the brutal butchery of three bailiifs in one night, merely because they were keeping some corn distrained for poor-rates.Have I not stated enough earnestly to recommend to the consideration of this portion of the empire the social condition of Ireland, to lead us to address ourselves to the state of Ireland in that spirit of forbearance and conciliation which the hon. and learned Gentleman so powerfully and justly recommended? The portion of Ireland within which the greatest distress prevails, which chiefly comprises those unions that are generally called "the distressed unions," because they require extrinsic aid, is included mainly in the provinces of Munster and Connaught. To those provinces I wish to add the county of Donegal, because, from its geographical position, it partakes more of the character of Con-naught, and of parts of Munster, than of the province to which it is immediately attached. Now, the population of Munster in 1841, when the last census was taken, was 2,396,000; the population of Con-naught amounted to 1,418,000; that of Donegal to nearly 300,000. The total population of that vast tract of country including the counties of Donegal and the district bounded by the sea, and by a line drawn from the town of Donegal to Water-ford, exceeded 4,000,000 in 1841. So far, therefore, as numbers are concerned, their interests and their welfare must be objects of the deepest anxiety. Now, before I refer to the condition of Ireland as it exists at the present moment, influenced by recent causes, and mainly by the failure for four successive years of that species of food upon which the Irish people rely, I wish shortly to advert to her condition in years antecedently, when no such causes were in operation. I will revert to a period, not only before the influence of famine was felt, but a period—and I do it purposely 92 —when Ireland was in full possession of that agricultural protection, the withdrawing of which the hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think has aggravated her condition. In the full possession of this protection, what was the condition of the labourer in Ireland? and what was the condition of landed property? Till very recently, when wheat was at 60s. the quarter, the duty upon the import of foreign corn was not less than 26s. per quarter—the duty on the import of other grain was in proportion. That duty was reduced in 1842; but at the period of which I am speaking, so far as protection conferred benefit on Ireland, the law in force between 1828 and 1842 was the law by which the agricultural state of Ireland was affected. Now, before the influence of famine was felt, and before extreme protection was removed, what was the condition of—I can hardly call them the labouring poor—rather the unemployed and destitute poor of Ireland? The report of Lord Devon's Commission is dated February I, 1845. I wish to rely not upon observations of my own, but upon the testimony of men connected with Ireland—men of the highest character—men conversant with the social condition of Ireland. That Commission included the names of the Earl of Devon, Mr. Redington, Mr. Wynne, Mr. G. A. Hamilton, and Sir R. Ferguson; and it would be impossible to name gentlemen whose testimony is more entitled to consideration from their high character, and from their local knowledge. They observe, that although agricultural improvement was rapidly advancing—We regret, however, to be obliged to add, in most parts of Ireland there seems to be by no means a corresponding advance in the condition and comforts of the labouring classes. A reference to the evidence of most of the witnesses will show that the agricultural labourer of Ireland continues to suffer the greatest privations and hardships; that he continues to depend upon casual and precarious employment for subsistence; that he is badly housed, badly fed, badly clothed, and badly paid for his labour.In the second volume of a very useful digest of the evidence taken by the Commission, there is a reference to a remarkable document, which was prepared by those who made out the census in 1841. They divide the houses of Ireland into four different classes, the fourth class consisting of "mud-cabins, with only one room;" and thereby the proportion of the inhabited houses of Ireland being of that fourth class. Now, observe, this account could have no 93 reference to anything posterior to the 1st of February, 1845. It is stated that "it may he assumed that the fourth-class houses are generally unfit for human habitation;" and yet, it would appear, taking the best circumstanced districts in this respect, in the county of Down, 24 7–10ths per cent, or about one-fourth of the population, lived in houses of this class, whilst in Kerry the proportion is 66 7–10ths, or about two-thirds of the whole; and taking the average of the entire population of Ireland, as given by the Census Commissioners, we find in the rural districts about 43 per cent of the families, and in the civic districts about 36, inhabiting houses of this fourth class. But I should wish particularly to take the proportion of such houses in the counties which principally include those distressed unions that are now depending for the support of a great number of the inhabitants upon the pecuniary relief you afford them. I find that in Donegal the houses of this class were 47 per cent of the whole number; in Leitrim, 47 per cent; in Roscommon, 47; in Sligo, 50; in Gal way, 52; in Limerick, 55; in Cork, 56; in Clare, 56; in Mayo, 62; and in Kerry, 66. Such was the condition of the poorest class before Ireland was visited with that dreadful calamity, the first appearance of which was in the autumn of 1845. Now, what was the condition of Ireland with regard to landed property, and the tenure of landed property? There was laid upon the table of the House a short time since a return from the registrar's office of the Court of Chancery for certain years. I am now speaking of the position of the landed proprietors. I will not take the years 1845, 1846, or 1847, but I will go back to a time when there were heavy duties upon the import of foreign corn, and when Ireland was in the full enjoyment of whatever advantages protection of domestic produce could bestow. What was the condition of the landed proprietors, or at least of several estates in the nominal possession of landed proprietors? I will take the year 1844. The number of estates under the management of the Court of Chancery in that year was 874, their yearly rental being 748,000l; the arrears, when the receivers were first appointed, were 34,500l.; when they had last accounted, the arrears had increased to 380,800l; the law costs paid by the receivers were 17,340l. Out of that yearly rental of 748,000l., what do you think was the sum annually expended in improvements 94 upon the 874 estates?—2,572l! With regard to estates under the management of the Court of Exchequer, I am obliged to take the aggregate of years 1844–45–46–47, because the returns for those years are given collectively, and not for separate years. The number of estates under the management of that court in those four years was 448, their yearly rental being 155,400l.; the arrears when the receivers were first appointed, were 61,700l.; when they had last accounted, the arrears were 171,800l.; the law costs paid by the receivers were 38,037l.; the amount expended in improvements was absolutely—nothing! At least, in the division appropriated to the statement of the amount expended in improvements, I find no return whatever; every other column is duly filled up, but there is a blank there. Now, are Gentlemen aware what is the condition of an estate managed by the Court of Chancery or the Court of Exchequer? ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] Do you know what the term "managed" means? I had—I can hardly call it good fortune—I had the misfortune to hear an account of the process of "management" from a most intelligent gentleman, given by him when a Member of this House, the late Mr. Guinness. He certainly spoke with authority, for he was himself a receiver under the Court of Chancery; but he was not influenced by any partiality to his employer to give testimony unduly favourable. Mr. Guinness was receiver under the court for an estate in Cork and Tipperary, the rental of which exceeded 2,000l. a year; it had been under his care for twenty-one years; it was partly in that county respecting which I have already given a melancholy detail of crime; in the course of the twenty-one years not one shilling had been expended to improve the condition of the tenantry. Mr. Guinness gave an account also of an estate in Mayo, of which he was the receiver. The rental was 4,500l. a year; the estate had been nine years under his management, and 168l. was all that had been expended to improve that estate. There was another estate in Westmeath, the annual rental of which was 10,600l. That estate had been ton years under his management; he had received from it more than 100,000l., and out of that sum not 600l. had been expended in improvements during the whole period. But what effect did even that 600l. produce? Nothing had been expended till within the last three years, in 95 each of which there had been 200l., laid out, and that paltry outlay enabled Mr. Guinness to recover 2,600l. of old arrears on the estate, 600l. in the first year, I think, and 1,000l. in each of the other two. I have referred to the state of things before 1844, for the purpose of suggesting this inquiry—whether such a condition of landed property can be of any benefit either to the owner, the encumbrancer, or the country? It was in this state of things in Ireland—in this state of things with regard to the great mass of her population, and with regard to the condition of much of landed property, that there supervened almost the greatest calamity which in the history of mankind ever visited a country—the failure in four successive years of that species of subsistence on which the great mass of the people of Ireland lived. What influence had that great calamity upon the condition of the people? The following appears to me a graphic and faithful description of the condition in which the first year of famine found the people in the west and south of Ireland:—Clustered in villages, a plot of ground attach-ed to their cabins, and a portion of a field hired by conacre for potatoes, as their means of living, in the best of times their existence was but a wretched one; and when the famine came, and the only root they had been accustomed to cultivate for food became a mass of rottenness, with no employment, no manufactures to fall back upon, they were left without subsistence and without resources, fit objects for the aid provided by the bounty of the empire, the charity of the benevolent, and the law now in force for the relief of the poor. Such form a numerous class of the recipients of relief.That is a description of that portion of the poor who lived in villages. There was another class a little higher in the social scale, consisting of those who had small holdings of land, to the extent of three or four acres:—Another class consists of those who had a small holding of land, two, three, or more acres, or who, with several others, had a small farm in joint tenancy (the rundale system), the allotments being checkered, a patch here and a patch there without a fence, a slight difference in level being made to distinguish the plots. Holding in common, so all their operations were in common; none tilled his land before his neighbour, and on certain fixed days the work of the seasons began. The tillage was of the rudest description; green crops were unknown; a crop of potatoes, then of oats, potatoes again, oats, perhaps barley, and often two or three grain crops in succession, was the course pursued, except near the towns. A cow or two and some pigs formed the stock; the potato produce fed the family, the grain paid the rent; the former was swept away by the blight, but aid 96 by public works and the succeeding measures of relief enabled many of the poorest to struggle on for a time.Now we come to 1848:—Some of the potatoes which did not decay were hoarded for seed, and planted; the next failure was partial, the potatoes would grow again. Courage was acquired at the thought; and, in 1848, the most extraordinary efforts were made to put down a crop. Potato seed was sought for with avidity, and high prices paid for it. It was a last effort. In some cases the cow and every available article were sold to put a crop in the ground. Many staked their all on this cherished root, and lost—the blight came, and more withering ruin than before.Such was the condition of a vast population. "They staked their all on the cultivation of the potato;" "the blight came, and more withering ruin than before." Now, what has been the influence of the successive failures of the potato that have taken place, combined with the operation of the poor-law, upon the landed property of Ireland? All the encumbrances existing in 1844 have been aggravated by the inability to pay rent, and also by the imposition of the poor-rate. The account of the condition of landed property in 1844 which I have read to you would but faintly depict the condition of that property at the present moment. Estates have sunk still more deeply under encumbrances caused by the arrears of rent, and also by the arrears of sums due for the support of the poor. What is the present condition of a great part of Ireland? In addition to the twenty-one unions so often referred to in this debate, there are at least ten more hovering on the brink of insolvency. The twenty-one unions, comprising an immense district and a great population, are in the financial condition which I shall presently describe: in eighteen of the twenty-one you have been obliged to supersede the local authorities. Their affairs are now administered not by the natural local functionaries interested in payment of the rate, and in checking abuse in the expenditure, but by vice-guardians, who, I believe, are discharging their duties most zealously and most faithfully. In the twenty-one unions, the aggregate expenditure for the year ending the 29th of September, 1848, was 468,101l; the net amount of debt on that day not provided for was 123,985l.; there being, therefore, for that year, including the expenditure and the outstanding debts, a sum of 592,000l to levied relief of the poor. How was that demand to be met? Was it possible to meet it by their own unaided efforts? I believe not; 97 and you wisely contributed to meet it. Wisely, I say, because wahtever might be the objection to such a course in principle, it was better rather than suffer any portion of the Queen's subjects to starve, that they should be saved by an advance, partly from private benevolence, and, when that was exhausted, from the public Treasury. The rate collected was only 199,000l. The amount supplied by the British Association and by the Treasury was 256,800l. The funds of the British Association are, I apprehend, by this time expended. You have not now that source to rely upon, whatever be the demand; for by extrinsic aid the Treasury is the only source from which that aid can come. Such is the general condition of the twenty-one unions. Allow me to refer to the state of one or two of them in detail. Take the Castlebar union. The population of this union is 61,000, and the maximum of persons who received relief in 1847 was 46,600. Hero is an account of the condition of that union:—Successive years of famine have told fearfully on the circumstances of all classes. Amongst the highest rated immediate lessors are the names of no less than nine proprietors whose estates are under the supervision of the Court of Chancery, and managed by receivers. The encumbrances and improvidence, perhaps, of former years, accumulating upon the difficulties of the last three seasons, appear to have rendered extrication hopeless in these cases.Take next the Clifden union. That union presents the extraordinary fact, that whilst the net annual value of the land is 19,986l., there has been land thrown up to the landlords to the net value of 9,448l., and by occupiers, without any moans whatever, to the net value of 1,673l.; the total value of land thus thrown up being no less than 11,121l. a year; three-fifths of the whole net value of the union thrown up in consequence of inability to meet the demands for poor-rate, and of unwillingness to incur future charges. A memorial to Her Majesty has recently been presented from the grand jury of the county of Cork, in which it is said—The grand jury should not conceal from the Government their solemn conviction that the county is not able to pay this money; that this inability is attested by the fact that there are in this county thousands of acres of land thrown out of cultivation, and wholly waste at this moment; that two of their baronial rate collectors threw up their appointments at last assizes, and that one barony, containing 89,986 acres, is without a collector from that time to the present, it being impossible to get any one to undertake the collection, 98 the entire barony being alleged to be waste.Now, if these statements be true, what are our prospects for the future? Observe what is the new condition of solvent landed property with reference to insolvent since the passing of the poor-law. Previous to the passing of the poor-law, each property, whether solvent or insolvent, stood alone. The insolvent property, however neglected and mismanaged, did not immediately affect the solvent estates in its neighbourhood. It did in its consequences visit them indirectly through the contagion of mismanagement and misfortune; but no immediate direct pecuniary burden was thereby imposed. Now, however, under the poor-law, the solvent estate becomes responsible for the default of the insolvent estate. I am speaking to Englishmen who are not so familiar with the details of this question as the Irish Gentlemen, to whom I am obliged for the patience with which they listen to statements which to them have nothing of novelty; and I ask those who are connected with this part of the empire what they think of the coming future? Is it true, that in one barony they are unable to appoint a collector because the lands are waste? Is it true that of land to the annual value of 19,986l. in one union, an amount to the extent of 11,000l. has been thrown up? Is it true that there are in another union nine large properties "managed" by the Court of Chancery, in the condition which I have described to you, on the authority of Mr. Guinness? Why, if these statements are true, the blight of insolvency will go on extending till all the solvent estates are merged in one common ruin. Then what is the position of the poor? Every acre of land thrown out of cultivation is doubly aggravating the evil. It is diminishing the means of future subsistence, and curtailing the means of employment. What will be the position of that barony of the county of Cork, which has 80,000 acres lying waste? You may no doubt have an abundant potato harvest in 1849. If you have, there will be an improvident reliance placed on it, and the spring of 1850 will exhibit a more determined effort to perpetuate the cultivation of that root. Every expense that can be spared will be avoided for the purpose of collecting seed and providing subsistence from the potato for 1851. In this way you may go on for a time; but after the warnings we have had for four successive years, can we have any 99 reliance that the potato will afford anything beyond a temporary relief? My belief is, that it will only perpetuate the vicious system so long followed. It may possibly for a time diminish the demands on the Treasury; but I doubt if anything but future evil will be the result of a prosperous potato harvest in 1849. The truth is, we are now deliberating and acting on one of the most extraordinary crises in the history of a nation. It is absolutely necessary to consider—we shall be forced to consider—what is to be done in regard to a not distant future, unless we make up our minds to travel over again the vicious circle in which we have so long moved—unless we are prepared to trust to the potato, instead of endeavouring to bring about the gradual introduction of cereal crops as a substitute. You are now feeding thousands and tens of thousands in Ireland—I know not the exact number. You bewail the loss of protection; but you are enabled to feed them, because you have removed every impediment to the introduction of food. If that law, which in 1846 I was enabled to repeal—if even the law of diminished protection of 1842 had been now in operation, there would have been a duty of 10s. a quarter on the introduction of Indian meal. That Indian meal is the substitute for the potato, by which you are now enabled to keep body and soul together, at an expense to the Imperial Treasury of 1d. a day for each man. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hardly so much.] The great problem you have to solve is this, by what means will you provide for the substitution of a higher and more certain description of food than the potato you have hitherto relied upon? What course will you take during the long interval that must elapse before cereal substitutes can be introduced? The quantity of land that will produce potatoes sufficient to support a certain number of persons, will not support half the number if sown with grain. Greater care will be required for grain in the cultivation of the land, exhausted as it is by potato culture, and in its present state unfit for the substitution of cereal crops. If you are to substitute a cereal crop for the potato, no person holding a farm under five acres can support his family by mere agricultural labour. I see in these papers the mention of a single estate—and the case is not a rare one—on which there are 180 tenants occupying land of not more than five acres. They have grown corn enough to pay the 100 rent, and the family has lived upon the potato; but they can do that no more. What is to be the future lot of these 180 families? They, remember, are not the most destitute. Their lot hitherto has not been that of helpless poverty. Can we resist the conclusion, that some decisive effort must be made to prevent continued reliance on such precarious food as the potato; and yet that in making that effort, we are purchasing future security—by a great increase of present suffering. To mitigate that suffering—to lay the foundation for a better state of things—measures of no common place and ordinary character are requisite. In the carrying out of these measures. Great Britain must unite with Ireland; and, as I have before observed, one of my chief reasons for voting for this rate in aid, or rather for sanctioning the principle of separate exertion on the part of Ireland, was the belief that other parts of the empire would more readily undertake their share of the inevitable future burden. It depends on the course we now take, whether that burden shall be an unprofitable one—promising no other return than the mere consolation of having rescued a given number of the destitute from absolute starvation, or whether made conducive to the introduction of a better state of things. If I offer any suggestion for the attainment of that latter object, the last thought that will enter my mind will be a wish to cause embarrassment to the Government in any attempt they may make to solve the problem before them. Something surely may be done, some decisive course taken, for the purpose of dealing with those distressed unions. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier) misunderstood me, if he thought that I said a mere substitution of one proprietary for another would solve the difficulty. I had no such intention. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not hear the account I have been giving of the management of landed property in Ireland. If he had, he would have been convinced that it is my opinion that the condition of landed property there, especially that placed in the Court of Chancery and the Court of Exchequer, is such as to demand some vigorous efforts to relieve landed proprietors, whether new or old, from the liability to any such evil as the management of their estates by courts of equity. I feel as much convinced as any man, that no single measure will be sufficient for the purpose of redeeming Ireland; 101 but some immediate course with regard to the superintendence and management of those districts of Ireland which are most distressed, is, I think, imperatively required. In the greater part of those unions, you have already superseded the natural local authorities in the duty of superintendence. Eighteen of these unions are already governed by vice-guardians. I suggested, the other evening, the appointment of a Commission for undertaking the general charge and superintendence of the affairs of those unions. Subsequent reflection has induced me to think that that is the best course you can now pursue. I would attempt to bring the affairs of all these unions under one general controlling authority. I would have a Commission appointed by the Government—having the confidence of the Government—composed of men on whom they can rely—and deriving their authority from the Government; being no imperium in imperio, but acting in concert with the Government. It should be their province to apply themselves, without delay, to the condition of these unions. That Commission should discharge its duties on the spot. There would be the greatest advantage if you could, as I have no doubt you could, prevail on men of high character and great experience of the management of estates in England, who are politically connected with you, and in whom both you and the country would have confidence—to devote themselves to the consideration and to the discharge of the duties that would necessarily belong to a department of that nature. If they went to Limerick and saw the state of things with their own eyes, entered into personal communication with parties on the spot, judged for themselves, and not through the intervention of others, they would be able to submit to the Government measures which I have no doubt would be well deserving of your consideration. I would place under the charge of that Commission all the various measures which have been suggested for the mitigation of this great calamity, in order that they might enforce some combined and concerted system. You have grants of several descriptions placed under the control of the Board of Works. There are grants for fisheries, for the improvement of the land by draining, and for the execution of public works. It appears to me that the application of those grants in these distressed unions should be made upon some system; that there should be entire 102 concert between the Commission which I suggest, and the vice-guardians and the Board of Works—not that the Commission should supersede the Board of Works, but that the application of the grants to these different districts should be made with a view to one great object—namely, the laying of a foundation for a better state of things. The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong in supposing that the only measure contemplated by the Government with which I acted in the early part of the year 1846, was the importation of food. In 1846 we proposed, and the Government that succeeded us were enabled to pass into law, a Bill to authorise the advance of public money to promote the improvement of land in Great Britain and Ireland by the application of drainage. No less a sum than 2,000,000l was granted for Great Britain, and 1,000,000l. to Ireland, for that purpose. It appears to me that this Commission should also take into consideration the policy of diminishing the pressure of distress by means of emigration. We have the greatest colonial empire on the face of the earth. In several of our colonies there is a great demand for labour. In Ireland, on the other hand, there is an excess and a superfluity of labour, continually counteracting all your exertions for her improvement. Might you not by some well-conceived measures mitigate this evil by emigration? I place less confidence, I own, in the efficacy of this course, than many. I am quite aware of the enormous expense attending it, and of the necessity of great caution in the application of such a remedy. There is, however, one answer constantly made to any proposition of this kind, which I do not consider to be entitled to all the weight that is generally given to it. It is said—" Do not call in the agency of the State in this matter; consider there is a vast amount of voluntary emigration, and beware lest, by encouraging emigration on the part of the State, you interfere with this voluntary emigration." I should certainly be unwilling to interfere with voluntary undertakings, at the expense and under the direction of those proprietors who feel an interest in them, and who try to relieve their estates by engaging in them. But, at the same time, before we admit the conclusive force of the argument drawn from this tendency to voluntary emigration, let us inquire who are the voluntary emigrants. Many of them are men who are taking capital away, suffering under 103 the apprehension that the increase of the poor-rates will involve them in the common calamity under which the insolvent unions are suffering. Now, every man that you lose from Ireland, who takes away more capital than he does paupers whom that capital would employ, is a dead loss to that country. The comfortable farmer, fearing the growing burden of this poor-law, who is possessed of 40l. or 50l. capital—who sells his tenant-right holding in the north, and transfers his capital to the United States or to Canada, confers no benefit on Ireland by emigration, but he is withdrawing capital which might he usefully employed in his own country. There is another class of voluntary emigrants in whose expatriation we have no right to rejoice—all that class of helpless paupers who go out in a state of weakness and disease, the consequence of starvation at home, and who inflict a positive evil on the colonies. I believe you have in many respects remedied some of the great evils attending the emigration of that class—that many useful precautions have been adopted in respect to the means of preserving health, of securing well-built and safe passage-ships. More particularly have you done this within the last year. But a more painful account of this voluntary emigration cannot be given than that which I find in a letter of no later date than the 30th of November, 1847, bearing the signature of Mr. de Vere, which letter has been adopted as a public document by the Colonial Office. This is the account which Mr. de Vere gives of the voluntary emigration of the destitute. In no records of the sufferings on board a slave-ship is there anything to be found much more distressing. Mr. de Vere took his passage in the steerage of an emigrant ship, in order that he might become acquainted with the condition of the emigrants, and he remained on board nearly two months. He says—Before the emigrant has been a week at sea, he is an altered man. How can it be otherwise? Hundreds of poor people, men, women, and children, of all ages, from the drivelling idiot of 90 to the babe just born, huddled together without light, without air, wallowing in filth, and breathing a fetid atmosphere, sick in body, dispirited in heart, the fevered patients lying between the sound, in sleeping places so narrow as almost to deny them the power of indulging, by a change of position, the natural restlessness of the disease; by their agonised ravings disturbing those around, and predisposing them, through the effects of the imagination, to imbibe the contagion; living without food or medicine, except as administered by 104 the hand of casual charity, dying without the voice of spiritual consolation, and buried in the deep without the rites of the Church. The food is generally ill-selected, and seldom sufficiently cooked, in consequence of the insufficiency and bad construction of the cooking places. The supply of water, hardly enough for cooking and drinking, does not allow washing. In many ships the filthy beds, teeming with all abominations, are never required to be brought on deck and aired; the narrow space between the sleeping berths and the piles of boxes is never washed or scraped, but breathes up a damp and fetid stench, until the day before arrival at quarantine, when all hands are required to 'scrub up,' and put on a fair face for the doctor and Government inspector. No moral restraint is attempted, the voice of prayer is never heard; drunkenness, with its consequent train of ruffianly debasement, is not discouraged, because it is profitable to the captain who traffics in the grog.Such was the account, so lately as the close of 1847 of voluntary pauper emigration! Such a system of emigration is a positive disgrace to this country, with its great colonial empire, and great colonial resources for the people. Though the removal of such a class of emigrants may bear apparent immediate advantage to the proprietors of the estates from which they are sent, yet those who send out such persons do the greatest disservice to Ireland, because on the arrival of the wretched emigrants in the United States, or Canada, they so disgust the people of those countries that they are induced to throw impediments in the way of emigration, and thus is prevented that sound and healthy emigration which might otherwise take place. Therefore, from the advantages of that voluntary emigration which you wish to encourage, you must deduct the removal of those who carry with them capital more than sufficient to support the persons they take with them; you must also deduct all those voluntary emigrants that do nothing but bring disgrace upon your system of emigration. Without, therefore, entertaining too sanguine expectations from emigration conducted by the Government, I cannot but think that having a superintending local authority acting in concert with the Government, conferring personally with the proprietors of estates, capable of seeing in what part of the country there is, if I may so say, a congestion of the population—for from those parts your emigrants ought to be drawn—I cannot, I say, help thinking that by such means you might greatly facilitate wholesome voluntary emigration. There is a great impediment to such emigration from the want of full information on the part of the people 105 who emigrate. Just consider a poor man leaving Ireland, and seeking a now abode 2,000 or 3,000 miles from borne—what comfort could we not give him by imparting to him a little information as to the country to which he is going, and perhaps by giving him some slight pecuniary aid besides? Yes, I would not deny him Government aid. I think it would be politic to incur some expense for the purpose of facilitating emigration, under certain conditions. You tell us what has been done in Ireland by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and by other benevolent and provident landlords. You tell us that they have reduced the amount of the poor-rates on their estates by a well-regulated system of emigration, that they have thereby increased the demand for labour, and have restored prosperity and content among the people on those estates. You tell us, moreover, that large sums have been remitted from the United States and Canada by those who have emigrated, for the purpose of promoting emigration on the part of their friends and relations in Ireland. Well, Lord Palmerston might be able to do this; and, notwithstanding any difference of political opinion, I most willingly admit that the exertions which that noble Lord has made to relieve his property from the misery with which it has been visited, do him very great credit. But how many gentlemen may there be in Ireland willing to make the same exertions, who, if they had assistance and advice, would gladly follow the noble Lord's course! By giving that assistance and advice, you might increase this voluntary emigration, and encourage further remittances from emigrants in the United States and Canada to their friends in Ireland. This is the emigration without alloy—which might, as it appears to me, be facilitated and encouraged by such a Commission as that to which I have referred. I come now to another point to which I adverted the other evening, and in regard to which I still entertain a very strong feeling. In my opinion all these measures will be ineffectual—all your measures of drainage, of local improvement, of increase of fisheries, of emigration—all will be ineffectual, unless you can cure in some way or other those monstrous evils which arise out of that condition of landed property to which I adverted the other night. If estates with a rental of 800,000l., with arrears annually accumulating, are not to allow more than 2,000l. to be applied 106 to the permanent improvement of the land—if there are certain principles and forms of equity sanctioned by the Court of Chancery which throw obstacles in the way of any improvement in that respect, you may feel assured that all your other exertions will be ineffectual. It would be an inestimable advantage to every insolvent nominal owner, and to every incumbrancer who is receiving nothing—it would, in short, be an advantage to everybody except the receivers under the Court of Chancery, and the lawyers who are dividing the proceeds of those estates amongst themselves—if by some process, consistent with the principles not of technical but of real substantial equity, you could relieve those estates from the control of the Court of Chancery, and permit them to be possessed by men of capital who would embark in their cultivation with new hopes and fresh vigour. In my opinion you would do more by that act for the ultimate advancement of Ireland, than by any other that can at present be adopted. I will just contrast with the hopeless condition of some parts of Ireland—hopeless on account of the extent of encumbrances, arrears, and legal complications of all sorts—the case of a very small property, an account of which I have before me in a letter which I will read to the House. It is a letter from a very humble man, giving an account of what he has done in Ireland, although having no connexions in that country, undertaking a settlement in a remote part of Ireland, and bringing capital enough for the cultivation of the land. It is written in a simple style; but it will enable you to judge what may be effected, if you will devise measures to enable persons to follow, safely and securely, the cultivation of land in Ireland. The letter is from a Lancashire man. It is dated the 23rd of March, and gives an account of an undertaking to which he had been a party on the west coast of Ireland. "He had taken on perpetuity a lease on the west coast of Ireland." ["Hear, hear!"] Well, I am recommending that you should give facilities to those who have capital to obtain a permanent interest in the land. He says—He had taken on perpetuity a lease on the west coast of Ireland. He had planted four of his sons there. To encourage habits of industry, one is buying all the stockings brought to him to send to England; another has purchased a hooker of 25 tons, and is endeavouring to encourage fishing on the coast; another was employing upwards of 100 labourers daily last year, but on account of being heavily taxed for his improvements, turned 107 them off with the exception of ten or twelve. In-closed in his letter to me is one received by him from him fourth son, dated the 16th of March, 1849.This is the account which the son gives of his proceedings in this adventure in a part of Ireland which we suppose to be so wild and savage, that it is impossible to live in it with any profit or advantage. The son says—The more I see, the more am I convinced that this country has the best prospects of any place I know of. There is every desideratum for the enjoyment of a contented and prosperous life.He is writing this in the midst of all the misery of surrounding properties:—I see no reason why persons should not support themselves entirely upon the produce of their land here. Of beef, mutton, pork, an almost inexhaustible supply can always be had. Flour, oatmeal, &c., should all come from off the farm. A chandler's bill should never be known, for we have already manufactured more than a winter month's supply from the slender means we had. In fact, I think that rent, groceries, with some extras for clothing, &c., should be the only expenditure of a person in this country, when once properly settled. For the yearly sum of 5l. enough fuel may be obtained, even to superfluity; and, as for vegetables, any plant that comes under that denomination will flourish here with ordinary care.Now, contrast this man's management with that of the estate yielding 10,500l., and which, out of 100,000l. received, had allowed only 600l. towards its permanent improvement; and then I ask which is the best means of increasing agricultural prosperity? I suggested the purchase and the management of property to a certain extent by the Commission to which I have alluded. Now, no man has less confidence than I have in the economy of such an undertaking on the part of a Government. So far from advising this Commission to enter upon the employment of unprofitable labour, I think it ought to have for its main object the reverting to the principle of the Bill of 1838, which makes the workhouse the sole test of destitution in Ireland. I cannot believe that there can be any other effectual test. I have not the slightest confidence in a labour rate or any such projects. I certainly concur in the policy of encouraging local improvement where there is reproductive labour; but I have not the least confidence in making labour the test of destitution; and I believe that if all the funds of Great Britain were applied to support the destitute in Ireland, attaching labour as a condition of relief, you would do the greatest mischief to Ireland; that your test would 108 not be effective, but that there would be such an interference with the ordinary labour market as to involve all in one common state of destitution. But the crisis is an extraordinary one. If we desire to take any valid security against the recurrence of similar misfortunes, we must solve this great problem—by what means can we substitute for the precarious supply of food on which millions have hitherto relied, the means of subsistence more certain, more capable of preservation from year to year? And seeing what difficulties you have to encounter in effecting the substitution of a cereal crop for the potato crop, I should not be adverse to an attempt on the part of Government to 'show what might be done by an improved method of agriculture. I am told that the Lord Lieutenant has done great good by encouraging the delivery of agricultural lectures. Why not do this on a greater scale? But to revert to the practical example of an improved system of management. There are in one union 4,000 able-bodied paupers receiving gratuitous support. If I had 4,000 ablebodied men whom I must feed, and if I could employ them to open a road to an inaccessible part of the country, I think it would be better than to make them break stones, or let them do nothing. I admit, most distinctly, that there is no test you can rely upon except the workhouse test; but I am assuming that you must give temporary support to the ablebodied; and while that absolute necessity exists, I do not see the objection to the employment of those whom you must feed in reproductive labour. Some Gentlemen ridicule the idea of managing estates by a Government Commission. But what did you do in the case of the forfeited estates after the rebellion of 1745? You appointed a Commission for their management. It was a very cumbrous Commission. The members consisted of a different class of persons from that which I would recommend to be employed for the management of estates in Ireland. But the principle of that Act was a wise one. Those estates were subject to heavy incumbrances. It was not a case of a simple forfeiture of estates, and the Crown taking unincumbered possession. The estates were subject to heavy mortgages and other charges. The trustees were directed to pay off the mortgages and the other burdens, and were instructed to manage the estates with a view to their improvement. The Act under which this was done is the 109 25th of George II., chap. 41 (1752), and is entitled—An Act for annexing certain forfeited estates to the Crown in, inalienably, and for making satisfaction to the lawful creditors thereupon, and to establish a method of managing the same, and applying the rents and profits thereof to the better civilising and improving the Highlands of Scotland, and preventing disorders there for the future.That Act provided, first, for the satisfaction of the creditors, so far only as the value of such lands. It next empowered the Commissioners to grant leases, and, where estates comprehended whole parishes, to divide the same into more parishes, and grant competent provision to the new ministers. It also authorised them to erect schools on the said estates for instructing young persons in reading and writing, and in the several branches of agriculture and manufacture, and to supply schools with the materials for agriculture and manufactures, and for the raising of flax. Now, why should not schools he established in the west of Ireland for the purpose of instructing the youth in agriculture? Why should not encouragement be given to the raising of flax in Con-naught? Why despair of the ability of Government, by direct intervention on a limited scale, to set the example of improved culture, and introduce new demands for labour?
But there is another question, quite separate from that of the acquisition and management of property by the Commission—namely, this—Can such a Commission be instrumental in promoting the transfer of property from one class of proprietors to another? I would advise no rash proceeding in this respect. I sec no advantage in throwing into the market an immense quantity of property simultaneously, and thus unduly depressing its value. I would, therefore, advise the recourse to no such proceeding. But the question is, whether such a Commission might not facilitate the voluntary transfer of property. Last year you admitted the principle. You passed an Act for the purpose of promoting the transfer of encumbered estates. By that Act you gave power to the owners of such estates to sell—you gave power to a single encumbrancer to sell, with the consent of the Court of Chancery—you admitted the advantage of such a system as I am now advocating; but what I greatly fear is, that the mechanism of your Act was so cumbrous that it will not be able to effect your design. Since you have decided, then, 110 upon the principle that the retention of many of those estates is of no advantage to the owners—that they are of no advantage to the encumbrancers—that they are a positive evil with respect to the solvent proprietors in their neighbourhood—that they are eminently prejudicial to the public interest—what I now recommend you to consider is, whether you ought not still further to facilitate the voluntary transfer of encumbered estates. I am convinced that if you rely upon the cumbrous process of the Court of Chancery, you will not give effect to your own design. I know that I am rendering myself liable to the charge of disregarding the established rights of property. I know that it may be said that unprofessional men, in their attempts to secure the advantages of the introduction of new capital, are apt to overlook the rightful claims of vested interests. But I confine myself within the limits sanctioned by the highest equity lawyers. I am speaking now, not of details, but of the principle. It was said by the present Lord Chancellor (Lord Cottenham)—and no judge that ever sat in the Court of Chancery is of higher authority in matters relating to the principles of equity—it was said by the Lord Chancellor, with respect to the principle of facilitating the transfer of Irish estates—Unfortunately for Ireland, the landed property there, to a large extent, was in a situation not only detrimental to those who had an Interest in the land, but also most injurious to the community at large. A very large portion of it was heavily encumbered by mortgages, charges, and other interests; so that the ostensible owner could hardly be said to have any estate in the land at all. When a man was really the owner of an estate, he had both the means and the motive for improving it; but it was impossible for a landlord whose income arising from his landed estate was intercepted by mortgages and other charges, to discharge those duties which a landlord should discharge. This was a most infamous state of things.Another Lord Chancellor—an Irish Lord Chancellor (Lord Campbell)—speaking of the tenure of Irish property, said—Titles in Ireland were in a most deplorable condition. In Ireland the registers were exceedingly bad; and instead of clearing up titles, and making them more certain, often involved them in inextricable confusion,Lord Langdale, Master of the Rolls, said—The interference in such a case as the present is of the same sort and character as all the other legislative interferences with private property for public purposes; and because this interference is intended to secure the payment of debts, or the performance of private obligation, which 111 would not otherwise be performed, it is not more, but somewhat less, objectionable than the interference with private property and contract which is authorised by Acts for railways, docks, or other public works.Now, the principle which those high legal authorities contend for is, that you may, without violation of equity, require that property, useless to its nominal proprietor, shall he transferred to those who can discharge the obligations which the possession of property implies. You attempted to facilitate the sale of encumbered estates in Ireland, as I have said, last Session; but I very much fear that the Bill then passed will not be effectual; and my fears are confirmed by what was stated at the time by the Master of the Rolls, who thus prophesied with respect to the Bill:—I entertain considerable doubt whether the cautious provisions provided by the Commons to prevent sales for less than their value, are not only move than are necessary to effect their object, but so stringent as to impair the efficiency of the additional process which the amendments are intended to provide. Considering the caveats, the notices (sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to serve), the valuations, the five years to elapse before a perfect and unimpeachable title can be obtained, the liabilities as for breaches of trust, and the powers given to redeem, it is manifest that the obstacles to sales under these provisions are very great. Perhaps they may, in their application, be found so great—in many cases where there is considerable complication—as to make the additional process impracticable, and to leave to him who desires to have the benefit of the Act that particular mode of obtaining it which was at first provided by your Lordships.What is that benefit? Alas, to go into the Court of Chancery! You substituted a principle which you thought more simple, but which Lord Langdale prophesied would be so cumbrous that it would not work, and would drive the unfortunate persons who desired to have the benefit of the Act to the mode originally contemplated for securing it—a suit in Chancery. Well, it is not for me to speak irreverently of that benefit. I would not say a word inconsistent with respect for the Court of Chancery; but when the Master of the Rolls says that he fears the new process will be ineffectual, and that parties must in the end resort to the benefit originally contemplated, I may be allowed at least to refer to the present Lord Chancellor for an account of the benefit which is likely to be derived from resort to the court over which he presides. This, then, is the Lord Chancellor's account of it:—He had been himself familiar with the practice of the Court of Chancery for many years past, and he well knew the great benefits which 112 it conferred upon the public; but at the same time he would own that he would not willingly enter that court as a suitor, nor would he advise any of his friends to do so, if they could, with propriety, keep out of it.The Lord Chancellor, it appears, is quite willing to enter the Court of Chancery as Lord Chancellor; he is quite aware of the inestimable benefit which the court confers upon the public; but it is his settled resolution never, if he can help it, to enter the court as a suitor—it is his earnest advice to his bosom friends to keep out of the court, if they have any decent pretext for doing so.
I was afraid that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Napier), with his legal acuteness, was going to throw some difficulties in the way of my proposed facilities for the transfer of land. But I was happy to find that he spoke like a statesman rather than a lawyer, and admitted that great benefit would accrue from increased facilities for such transfer. I know it would be easy for any lawyer to get up and demonstrate the impossibility, according to the established rules of proceeding, to afford any relief. I could not stand before them for a single instant on the ground of precedent of equity practice. But if you admit the principle that it would be for the benefit of all parties that there should be some simple process of facilitating the transfer of estates in a hopeless state of incumbrance, why be deterred by legal difficulties and the chicaneries of a Court of Chancery from effecting this great object? In the case of the Land Improvement Act, you were not afraid of the Court of Chancery. That is one of the best and simplest Acts I ever read. I am only astonished how it ever passed through the House of Lords—I mean that fatal objections were not urged to the summary process which it provides. By that Act (the 10th and 11th of Victoria, c. 32) the Treasury was enabled to advance money for the improvement of an estate, and to fix a rent-charge upon the estate for the repayment of the same. If such rent-charge were in arrear for the space of two years, the Paymaster of Civil Services might apply for an order for the sale of all or a competent part of the lands so charged; and the Court of Chancery was authorised to direct the Paymaster of Civil Services, without any further process, writ, or other proceeding, to raise by sale the amount of rent-charge due at the time of sale, and to pay the surplus to the owner, or to the Accountant General of the Court of Chancery, for the 113 benefit of parties interested. It was provided that the purchaser should not be hound to sec to the application of the money; and that any conveyance executed by the Paymaster should be binding and conclusive, and convey all estate, right, and title. That is the way to solve a difficulty, when you have made up your mind to solve it. Why can't you apply the same rule to the arrears of poor-rate? The noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) seems inclined to propose that the arrears of poor-rate on defaulting estates should be remitted. I hope he will not remit them. I do not see, if there have been arrears for the poor-rate for a certain time upon the estate, why the estate should not be liable to those arrears—why power should not be given to commissioners to sell such portion of the estate as would cover the arrears, and at the same time to give the purchaser a clear simple title against all the world. By the present law the poor-rate is a prior lien on the land, and consequently you have a perfect right to require that the arrears of the rate shall not be permitted to accumulate indefinitely, but shall be provided for by the sale of a competent portion of the land on the estate. If you consent to take the course which I earnestly recommend—if you invite new capitalists to undertake the cultivation of the land—do not permit the transfer of estates from one insolvent proprietor to another: if you do you will do no good; but enable small proprietors to follow the example of the Lancashire man I mentioned—to cultivate their own vegetables—to live upon the produce of their farms, and to write home to their friends that there is no country in the world which has better prospects than Connaught. I cannot doubt that such a Commission as I suggest would facilitate the amicable transfer of land—would bring parties together, and convince the present owners and creditors that there was no advantage to them in maintaining the present state of things. I believe that those who have land to dispose of would find not only individuals, but companies, in this metropolis, disposed to follow the example of the great companies of London in the time of James I.—disposed to do so not merely from the hope of gain, but from the desire to co-operate in the improvement of Ireland. But one thing is essential—a clear indisputable title to the property. These are my suggestions—to seek the relief of the present distress by encouraging draining and improvement 114 of the land, by opening up roads through inaccessible districts—by erecting piers for the accommodation of the fisheries—by promoting emigration, without interfering with voluntary emigration—above all, by facilitating the transfer of property from insolvent to solvent proprietors, and by abandoning the present injurious system of giving gratuitous relief, whether in exchange for labour or not, and reverting gradually to the wiser principle of the Act of 1838, of applying the only effectual test—the workhouse test—as a proof of destitution. I make these suggestions, particularly as regards the transfer of property, with the utmost hesitation—being an unprofessional man. I am deeply sensible of the necessity of a remedy, and of the difficulty of providing it; but, if you are as convinced of the evil as I am, then, I trust, that you, who have the command of the best advice, will not be deterred from applying a remedy by any legal technical difficulties. I at once say that, rather than the present state of things should continue, I would see the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery ousted altogether. In many preceding cases, when great difficulties were to be solved, when there was an urgent necessity for despatch, you have appointed a special tribunal of men of high legal authority to decide according to the principles of equity, without being trammelled by technical rules and precedents. I trust we should be aided by such men as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Napier), and the hon. and learned Member for Newark (Mr. Stuart), who foresaw the difficulties of the Bill of last Session. I trust they would aid us in reconciling a summary mode of proceeding with the principles of equity.
Reject this proposal if you will, but propose some other. If you can propose a better, there is no man in this House who would give it a more cordial support than I shall. I make this proposal without adventitious party aid. I know not who agrees with or who differs from me. I make it solely under the influence of sympathy for an unfortunate country, and with the conviction that some decisive measure is necessary for the relief, not only of Ireland, but of this country. Let us remember that it is impossible to free ourselves from the connexion with Ireland. I have mentioned the expense of maintaining a military force of nearly 50,000 men. I have mentioned the miserable condition of 115 Ireland, as shown by the events of the last Tipperary assizes. Only think in what manner the destitute of Ireland affect the condition of the labouring classes here by that immigration into this country which you can neither prevent nor control. There may be difficulties with respect to emigration to other countries, but just consider how the labouring poor hero are affected by the sweepings of Ireland being poured into this country. If you could direct a useful emigration to other countries, it would immediately benefit not only Ireland but England and Scotland also. Such an incursion of poverty into this 'country has a tendency to reduce your population to a condition not much superior to that of those who are so added to its numbers. Recollect the position of that part of the empire to which I refer. I speak of its geographical position. Recollect that while, on the one hand, it may be the source of your strength, it may, on the other hand, be the source of great peril and weakness, in the event of war, and the hostile combinations of powerful States against this country. That great man to whose authority I referred, who offered his advice to James I. with respect to the plantation of Ulster, thus speaks of the effects which he anticipated from that measure:—The third consequence is the great safety that is likely to grow to your Majesty's estate in general by this Act; a discomfiting all hostile attempts of foreigners—which the weakness of that kingdom hath heretofore invited.It is now above 250 years since that observation was made. The population of those great provinces, Munster and Connaught, now consists of 4,000,000 of people. Of those, 95 parts out of the 100 are Roman Catholic. Loyal subjects, I think, they have proved themselves, during the temptations to rebellion which were held out to them by men of property and influence, during a period when the severest distress at home was combined with universal excitement and successful revolt in many foreign countries. Still between you and them there exist no great natural sympathies: that connecting link which was supplied by the possession of property in the hands of great landed proprietors, is greatly weakened by the desolation which now prevails, by the condition of these landed proprietors, in consequence of the operation of the poor-law and of four successive years of famine. Lord Bacon, speaking in the reign of James I., observed, that the weakness of 116 that kingdom has hitherto invited the hostile attempts of foreigners. We have had the happiness to be exempted from the miseries which other countries of Europe had undergone from actual invasion. But recollect that during the last century, on three different occasions, since the year 1759, the attempts of France have been directed towards that very part of the united kingdom to the social improvement of which I am attaching so much importance. In 1759 an invasion of the west coast of Ireland, by a very formidable armament, was only defeated by the destruction of the French fleet under the command of M. de Conflans by Sir Edward Hawke. In 1796 a great effort was made by France to invade that part of Ireland in which one of the most distressed unions is situated. The descent on Bantry Bay was defeated by storms which dispersed the fleet of Prance. Again, in 1798, on the shores of another of those unions a landing was effected. The first town seized by the French after landing in the Bay of Killala was the town of Ballina. The small force which then landed, consisting of not more than 1,100 men, maintained their position in Ireland for seventeen days; and the town was in the possession of the French and rebel force for thirty-two days before they were finally expelled. I mention these facts for the purpose of reminding you that peace may not always be preserved; that you may have formidable combinations directed against you. We cannot conceal from ourselves—experience shows us—that this west coast of Ireland is the weak part of our empire. If we can by any decisive measures promote the happiness, contentment, and welfare of its inhabitants, we shall not only be promoting the internal peace and advancing the prosperity of Ireland, but, as Lord Bacon said, we shall be taking security that the weakness of that kingdom shall not, as heretofore, invite a foreign enemy to invasion. It was observed, by that same great authority, still speaking of the social condition of Ireland—And in the natural body of man, if there be any weak or affected part, it is enough to draw rheums or malign humours into it, to the interruption of the health of the whole body.If those "malign humours" and "rheums," to quote that emphatic language, do continue, it will be to the interruption of the health not only of Ireland but of the whole united kingdom. In evils which afflict the natural body, there may be the means of 117 relief by violent remedies. If an unprofitable member offend you, you must cut it off and cast it from you. If a tree be unfruitful, and cumbereth the ground, you may cut it down. You have no such remedy for the evils that afflict the social system. You must cure the diseased part, or boar with it—though its evil influence should affect your vital energies. You have no such remedy as excision—no power to cut off and cast from you the offending member of the social body. It is in the growing conviction that its weakness will be our weakness, its disease our disease, that I sec the faint hope of a decisive remedy. It has pleased God to afflict us with a great calamity—which may, perhaps, be improved into a blessing, if it awakens us to a due sense of the danger which threatens us: without this warning, we might have gone on from year to year, with little thought of the future; still trusting to one precarious root for the subsistance of millions—those millions badly and insufficiently fed in the years of abundance, and doomed to starvation in the years of dearth. Let us now profit by this solemn warning—let us deeply consider whether "out of this nettle, danger, we may not pluck the flower, safety"—and convert a grievous affliction into a means of future improvement and a source of future security.
MR. SHAFTO ADAIR
confessed that he never approached the consideration of any question beset with greater doubts and difficulties than was the present. But before he undertook to comment on the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Napier), he would beg to offer his tribute of admiration to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, for the bold, comprehensive and statesmanlike views he had propounded; and, if in the course of his own address, he went still further than that right hon. Gentleman in his views, he trusted he would give him the benefit of his suggestions, and great practical experience. He rose to address the House, as one representing an English constituency—as one who was intimately connected with both countries, and who would not designate himself, as an English, or as an Irish, but as a British subject. As one, moreover, intimately connected with that portion of Ireland, in which an active opposition was evinced towards the rate in aid, he should implore the House to consider that they were now approaching one of the 118 most important subjects which could come under their consideration. With regard to the measure before the House, he thought the rate in aid followed, as a necessary corollary to the poor-law; and when the poor-law of England was transferred to the sister country, it appeared to him that the rate in aid must follow. He would then ask, how a rate in aid could be levied on neighbouring parishes in the present circumstances of Ireland, when distress pervaded not alone whole unions, but whole counties, almost whole provinces? He would ask, whether it was not as much the interest of the several portions of Ireland to assist the distressed, as it would be in England the interest of a hundred to assist in relieving the distress of a neighbouring parish? If this rate in aid were not carried, he should not insist on the present repayment of the loans for workhouses already advanced, on the principle of mutual forbearance, and because it would appear to be an after-thought, unworthy of the British Legislature. He considered it to be no more than just that the landlord and the immediate lessors who possessed the interest, should bear the burden; and he was prepared to support his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. M. J. O'Connell) in any proposition to that effect, although he could not agree with him as to imposing the rate upon mortgagees. He thought that the fact of a valuable consideration having been given for the charge on the property, precluded such a course; for a mortgagee is always supposed to obtain perfect security, and the increased value of the pledge there from does not benefit him? Again, the borrower does not say "Lend me 1,000l. and I will pay you 6 per cent if I can?" And, moreover, there is an implication against taxing the mortgagee for the present purpose, under the 4 & 5 Wm. IV. c. 29, which permits the investment of trust money in Irish securities. He could not, therefore, agree to that extent with his hon. Friend. But when the landlord and immediate lessor were liable to the burden, they were entitled to some safeguard that it should be properly applied, and that, as the money would be taken from a public fund, it should be administered to the satisfaction of the public by a public officer. The money raised by a rate in aid should be administered by vice-guardians; or if by local guardians, at least a paid guardian responsible to the Government should be associated with them. He had no desire 119 to displace local guardians, for he could bear testimony, from practical experience, to the services they could render. As to the question of a maximum and a minimum rate—a principle which was now for the first time introduced—if that were adopted, he would suggest that no portion of the rate in aid should be taken until the maximum of the rate was paid as well as levied. He also considered—and he believed he had the high authority of the right hon. Baronet for the correctness of the opinion—that these advances should be made only on the security of the land; and that if the arrears should remain unpaid, the land should be sold. Much had been said on the inefficacy of the rate in aid to meet the exigencies of the case; but he was not inclined to think that the probable sum to be raised might not prove sufficient to meet all purposes. Hon. Gentlemen would see, that in the event of a good harvest, a very considerable reduction might be expected on the sum required to make good the deficiency on the poor-law returns; and it might be calculated that a good harvest would materially diminish the number of applicants for relief. So many points in the speech of his hon. and learned Friend had been answered, as it were by anticipation, that he would not detain the House by reply; but he must refer to one substitute which had been proposed in place of the rate in aid. He meant an income and property tax. He did not see how the substitution of an imperial for a local tax could be effected, so long as the question of local and imperial taxation remained unadjusted. He differed from the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin as to the probable effect the persevering with this measure would have on public opinion in the north of Ireland. From his knowledge of the loyalty of the people in that part of the country, he was confident that no agitation of a treasonable nature, or by which the public peace would be endangered, would occur. But there was a further safeguard which Ireland was entitled to demand of the House. It had been argued that this measure would not be merely of a temporary character. If he thought for a moment that it would extend beyond the two years, he would not support it. But he thought that the House, and the supporters and opponents of the rate in aid, and the country at large in Ireland, were entitled to some assurance from the Government, that some measure would 120 be undertaken by them, which should prevent the necessity of continuing the rate in aid for a longer time than was now proposed, and greatly alleviate, if not remove, the pressure entailed thereby. For his part, he should vote for the measure as a temporary expedient necessary for giving breathing time to the Government and Parliament to prepare and carry measures which should be effectual in preventing the recurrence of such evils for the future. The right hon. Baronet had given some useful information as to the state of the unions in some of the more distressed parts of Ireland, but he had not lifted the whole veil. The proposal of the right hon. Baronet was, in many of its features, exceedingly appropriate; but it did not go far enough. A measure more general, even than his, was necessary, indeed inevitable. The right hon. Baronet had referred to twenty-one unions, but he had not told the House what was the general condition of the eleven counties in which these unions were situated, or the gradual absorption of real property to unproductive, or not directly productive, outlay, which should be devoted to the labour fund of those districts. He (Mr. Adair) would endeavour to supply what was deficient, by the following details; and his impression was, that the House would agree with him in thinking that some plan still more extensive than that proposed by the right hon. Baronet was needed. It would be found that the district extending from Lough Foyle to Waterford, through Donegal, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Leitrim, Roscommon, Clare, Limerick, Kerry, Cork, and Tipperary, had been specially marked by the visitation of famine; and the proportion of the population employed on the relief works in 1846–7, that in Donegal being the lowest, at 7 per cent, varied from 10 per cent in Cork and Roscommon, to 21 per cent in Clare. Finding that these were the districts over which the twenty-one insolvent unions were scattered, and wherein the ten other unions were situate, which might yet require additional relief, he had made an estimate of the assets and liabilities of each, collectively and individually, for the purpose of showing to the House that a more general measure than that submitted by the right hon. Baronet was inevitable. He had divided the eleven counties into three groups. The first comprised Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Galway; the second comprised Clare, Limerick, and Kerry; and the third, Cork 121 and Tipperary. He assumed that under the heads of rents of estates in Chancery and Exchequer, poor's-rates, grand jury presentments, and annual payments for labour rate of 1846–7, 71,749l. had been withdrawn from the directly productive labour fund of Donegal, 55,583l. from Sligo, 67,457l. from Leitrim, 218,295l. from Mavo, 117,028l. from Roscommon, 230,090l!. from Galway, 180,978l., from Clare, 220,188l. from Limerick, 189,122l. from Kerry, 356,748l. from Cork, and 302,112l. from Tipperary. The value of the property in the first group was 1,995,199l., and the liabilities were 580,202l The assets of the second group were 1,174,112l. and the liabilities 590,228l. The assets of the third group were 2,147,962l., and the liabilities 658,860l. The poor-law valuation of the whole eleven counties was 5,317,273l., and the demands upon them for unproductive labour were 1,829,350l. But as one-fourth more must be added to the liabilities of 60 per cent, to allow for the decrease of present value, as compared with that of the land under the original valuation, the entire rental of the country would be expended on unproductive or not directly productive labour, and 40 per cent would remain to the landed proprietor. The amount of incumbrances and mortgages had to be deducted from this balance; and, according to the most approximate calculation he could make, the interest on mortgages paid in Ireland came to between 3,000,000l. and 4,000,000l. He had taken it at 3,500,000l., which, at 6 per cent, the usual rate of interest in Ireland, would represent a capital of 58,000,000l. Then taking the proportion which the valuation of real property in these eleven counties bore to the valuation of all Ireland, it would appear that the interest on the eleven counties represented a capital of 22,305,000l., for it would amount to 1,338,000l. It would be necessary therefore to add an additional sum of 25 per cent to the charges on the rental according to valuation of these eleven counties, which would amount to a charge of 85 per cent on the property therein valued to the poor-law. If these estimates were correct, he asked, with the right hon. Baronet, what was to be done? Granted that his calculations were above the mark; hut let the House recollect that it would not before long be found an over-estimate, because matters in the west of Ireland were rapidly running down the course of destruction. 122 Was, then, the measure of the right hon. Baronet adequate to meet the emergencies of the case? Rather was it not the duty of Her Majesty's Ministers to propose some great system, to call upon the country to make some great efforts which, securing the interest of the public, should at the same time re-establish the balance between capital and population, and aid in raising the landlords and tenants of the western counties of Ireland to a British level. He felt so sensibly for the sufferings of their fellow countrymen in Ireland, and the danger with which such a continued state of distress threatened the empire, that even at the risk of being looked upon as one animated by a mere foolish enthusiasm, he would, with the view of elevating the suffering classes in those districts, venture to call the attention of the House to a project which was not without precedent, and which had succeeded admirably in other countries placed in circumstances somewhat analogous to those of Ireland. The right hon. Baronet had adverted on a late occasion, when he had the moral courage to propound his great measure, to the proscription and persecution which had driven whole generations out of Ulster, and to the wise measures then proposed by James I. and his Minister. He would adopt an analogy from the last century, and from a different country. He (Mr. Adair) would refer to the plan adopted in another European kingdom in regard to a district desolated and suffering from war. When Frederick the Great turned his mind to the consolidation and improvement of his hereditary as well as of his recently acquired territories, he found the population in a state which his sagacity was not slow to perceive must not be permitted to continue. He advanced about one million of pounds sterling to the nobles of Pomerania, to assist them in redeeming the debts on their estates; but as that naturally rather produced indolence than activity, and, as he believed that relief ought not to be given to encourage idleness, he established, on the advice of a Prussian merchant, what were called "provincial mortgage banks." On the establishment of these banks, the first of which was in Silesia in 1772, estates were hypothecated, and their proprietors received certain sums in advance, in notes bearing interest, and secured upon all the estates hypothecated to these banks; and, in the event of any irregularity of payment of interest, the estates were to be 123 sold. The banks charged 1 per cent interest higher than the notes bore, to cover the expenses of management, and to form a sinking fund for the redemption of estates. The plan was so successful, that the interest was very shortly reduced from 5 to 4 per cent. Three-fifths of the notes thus issued went into the hands of capitalists, and the remaining two-fifths served as a paper currency. In 1839, the amount of the loan had increased from 2,000,000l. to 12,000,000l., the interest was reduced to 3½ per cent, and they had been subject to less fluctuations than almost any other securities in Europe. He had derived his knowledge of these important details from the Edinburgh Review, and he recommended the plan to the earnest attention of the House. Now, adopting this analogy, let the House consider whether this plan could not be applied to Ireland? The right hon. Baronet would establish a commission to administer conjointly, he presumed, with the boards of guardians the affairs of the twenty-one unions in which distress was the greatest. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet in thinking that a commission conjointly with the board of guardians ought to be appointed; but might it not be possible to carry that project still further? He should propose that a commission be established with even greater powers than those the right hon. Baronet had advocated, for the purpose of creating despatch in the settlement of titles, of giving titles, and of meeting the emergencies of unions in cases of arrears. He thought the commission should effect exchanges by an easy process between the proprietors of estates, as in consolidating estates into electoral divisions. He would give them a power to intervene, at the request of the Poor Law Commissioners, in matters connected with the poor-law. He would authorise them to sell for the arrears of rates, and to facilitate the exchange of small portions of property in the electoral division of a union. In estates mortgaged to their full value, the commission should, on the application of the parties interested therein, have the power of examining into their titles—of selling and of transferring them. Nor was the power of thus summarily deciding on questions of title, without precedent, or unknown to the English law. After the great fire of London, many disputes on title having arisen, Chief Justice Hale prepared the Act 19 Car. 11, c. 3, by which 124 the Justices of the King's Bench and Common Pleas, and Barons of the Coif of the Exchequer, or any three of them, were authorised to "hear, and finally to order and determine the same," (disputes on title) "in a summary way of proceeding, and without the formalities or ordinary course of proceedings used in any of the said courts," of which Act Bishop Burnet observes, "that the whole city was raised out of its ashes without any suit of law." He would therefore invest the Committee with an equitable jurisdiction to inquire into and decide upon the estates thus incumbered. But there were many estates in Ireland not mortgaged to their full value, and he thought it a question worthy of consideration whether it would not be for the interest of this country to advance money on the security of those estates. Now, referring again to the eleven counties of which he (Mr. Adair) had spoken, he would repeat, that the yearly interest payable on mortgages on Irish property may be taken at 3,500,000LJ. This at the old rate of interest would represent a capital of 58,000,000l. The valuation of real property in the eleven counties, being 5–13ths of the whole, would give 22,305,000l., as the gross amount of mortgages therein, the interest on which would be 1,338,000l. per annum—precisely the proportion of 25 per cent which had, by a previous calculation, been subtracted from the labour-fund of those eleven counties. His third proposition, then, seeing the failure of the Encumbered Estates Act, was to give to the commission the power to inquire into the circumstances of such encumbered estates, to form a schedule of the mortgage and judgment debts thereon, and to report as to their capabilities of improvement; so that if, upon mature deliberation and advice, it should appear that the public would be safe in making advances upon those estates as security, he would unhesitatingly recommend that such advances should be made. He would remind the House of the loan (subsequently converted into a grant) of 20,000,000l. to the West Indian proprietors. He did not ask for a grant; but he thought it might be advisable, with due precautions, to make the advances he had stated. But a question would arise as to raising the necessary funds for such a purpose, whether by loan-notes, by debentures, or by Exchequer-bills. He thought, partly by Exchequer-bills, and partly by notes. He was aware that in recommending such 125 a course, he was running counter to the declared opinion of the right hon. Member for Tamworth on a convertible currency; but inasmuch as the circulation of such notes would be confined to Ireland, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would wave any objection on that score. He would next call the attention of the House to the fact that there had been for the last four or five years a falling-off, on the average, in the circulation of the Irish banks of from 1,500,000l. to 2,000,000l.—a fact which argued a great diminution in the domestic exchanges and commercial transactions of that country. But should his proposition be acceded to, business would be so increased as to require an additional currency, and for that purpose he would make use of the notes of the banks of mortgage on the hypothecated estates. He would not propose that repayment should be made, as had been suggested to him, in fifteen years, but on the arrangement upon which the advances were now made under the Loan Improvement Act. A proprietor who would be unable to pay off a permanent charge, even at 4½ per cent, would lose all hope; but when he saw that by availing himself of the opportunity of improving his estate, he might anticipate, that even under the greater burden of 6½ per cent, the entire debt might be discharged, if not by him, at least by his children, the motives for exertion would be redoubled, and the discipline would be most salutary. By the adoption of this plan, the proprietor would have at least the prospect of paying off the advances at the end of twenty-two years. He had ventured, at the risk of no small unpopularity in Ireland, to advocate the rate in aid; but he believed that the general objections would be much lessened by the modifications he had suggested; and it was his intention to propose or support a clause in Committee by which the occupying tenant should be relieved from the incidence of that rate. He had, moreover, supported this measure, because it was the only alternative which the House had left to the Government, whereby to rescue the people of Ireland from misery to which he, speaking from experience of the great famine of 1846, would not expose a human being for a single hour. He hoped that hon. Members would dispassionately consider the suggestions that had been thrown out on that evening, remembering that no more important task was ever assigned to a Legislature 126 than this—of calmly and patiently investigating into the condition of Ireland, with the determination of contributing, as far as human power and will could go, to the regeneration of that country.
§ MR. BATESON
said, that, representing a county which had always been justly celebrated for its loyalty, and which had ever stood the firm friend of British connexion, he should fail in his duty if he did not come forward and protest against so unjust, impolitic, and unconstitutional a measure. He would remind those hon. Members who had sneered at the "sixpenny loyalty" of Ulster, that there had been such a thing as a "farthing a week, penny a month, and shilling a year" disloyalty. Would those hon. Members give him an account of the sums collected from the miserable dupes for whom they now proposed to tax Ulster? Could they tell him how much was spent in guns, pikes, and the munitions of war, which were afterwards used at Widow Cormac's house, or on the hill of Slievenamon? Lot him ask whether there was not, at that moment, a rate struck, even in the bankrupt unions, in aid of his Holiness the Pope; and were not those payers of Peter's pence the very men for whose benefit they were now levying this rate in aid? Few had had the hardihood to defend the principle of that Bill, and almost every Member who had expressed his intention of supporting it, had admitted it to he bad and unjust. Nobody but a disciple of Louis Blanc could defend the communist doctrine, that industry must support indolence—that the industrious, peaceable, and hardworking portion of Ireland was to pay for the idle, the improvident, and the turbulent. The author of the Organisation of Labour only affirmed that the State is bound to provide work for its labourers, and pay them for their work; but the noble Lord at the head of the Government went further, and said that Ulster must support those bankrupt unions in Connaught and Munster, whether they worked or not; and not merely the destitute, but men who were well to do in the world, and yet had been receiving outdoor relief—in fact, robbing the unions. And what was the pretext upon which the noble Lord attempted to justify this most oppressive and arbitrary measure? "Because," forsooth, "high rates are manifest obstacles to the cultivation of the land, and Mr. Twisleton has given his opinion in favour of it." And so, according to the 127 noble Lord, the industrious farmers of Ulster were to be taxed at the beck of a Poor Law Commissioner. But it appeared that the noble Lord was premature in announcing Mr. Twisleton's approval of the scheme, who, so far from approving of it, had manfully thrown up his appointment in consequence of the conduct of the Government. But he (Mr. Bateson) objected to any poor-law official—one who did not contribute a penny out of his high salary to the support of the poor—having the command of the purse-strings of the ratepayers of Ireland. It almost appeared as if the noble Lord wished to see but two classes in Ireland—the paid official and the paid pauper. In 1838, the noble Lord saddled the Irish people with a poor-law which was unsuited to the circumstances of the country, and which was opposed by nearly all Ireland. In 1847, although warned of the consequences, the noble Lord recklessly passed a measure authorising outdoor relief. The scheme had failed—miserably failed—and, instead of boldly remodelling the whole system, the noble Lord now endeavoured to bolster up for a time the present vicious state of things by his tyrannical rate in aid. To Scotland—a richer and more prosperous country—a different and more suitable poor-law was given; but why were the people of Ireland treated otherwise? When the rates in Buckinghamshire were 20s. in the pound, did they then propose to levy a rate in aid on Yorkshire? No, they dared not. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary taunted them (the Irish Members) with not having proposed any substitute for his precious measure. That was the first time he (Mr. Bateson) had ever heard that it was the duty of the Opposition to provide measures for Her Majesty's Ministers. It rested with the responsible and paid Ministers of the Crown to originate measures, and independent Members had a right to propose their rejection, if they considered them bad, without finding a substitute. Several hon. Members supported this measure, because there was no income tax in Ireland. Were these Gentlemen aware that the greater part of the proposed burden would fall upon persons who would not be liable to income tax? It was the small farmer who would suffer by the rate in aid. Instead of taxing fundholders, mortgagees, and the incomes of highly paid officials, these were let off scot-free; while they crushed the miserable, struggling occupier, 128 who is rated to the poor above 4l. per annum. He would remind the House, that in 1842 it was admitted that Ireland could not bear an income tax, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth, made an alteration in the stamp duties which he stated he considered an equivalent. If such was then the case, how much less able were the Irish people now to bear additional taxation. Since then they had been visited with three years of famine, fever, and distress. One would really imagine, from the tone of the speeches of Her Majesty's Ministers, that the Destroying Angel which passed over the fields of Connaught and Munster, had spared the crops of Ulster. No such thing. The farmers of Ulster had suffered most severely, and were still staggering under the blow; and, in addition to the loss of the potato, they were now suffering from the fatal effects of free trade. But they had put their shoulders to the wheel, and struggled nobly against their misfortunes; they supported their own poor—only a small item of public money had been expended amongst them, and they were prepared to repay it honestly, although it was lavishly squandered. They were willing to contribute to the national expenditure according to their means; but they would not submit to a tax on their industry to meet the defalcation in the bankrupt unions. If money must be had from an extraneous source, it must come from the imperial treasury—that is to say, if the Act of Union is still in force, and be not a dead letter. The passing of this measure would necessarily cause the dissolution of every board of guardians in Ulster. Paid guardians must then be appointed, and thus the Government would go on in their blind infatuation until they had driven the last remnant of industry and prosperity from the land; and when they had converted the whole country into one monster bankrupt union, teeming with destitution and despair. English Members must bear in mind that their turn will come, and then, as in Pharaoh's dream, the lean kine of Ireland will swallow up the fat kine of England. But, instead of taking this course, let him tell them what they wanted in Ireland. They wanted a firm, vigorous, and honest Government—security for life and property—protection for the farmer and the manufacturer, and a fair and just poor-law, with a law of settlement. They wanted the Government to make individual properties, as much as 129 possible, responsible for their own poor; and if a property could not support its own poor, why the sooner it changed hands the better. The whole poor-law must be remodelled; then, and not till then, would they be able to regenerate Ireland; then, and not till then, would capital flow into the country, or the country be able to support itself without calling on the imperial treasury for assistance. And now, he would warn the Government against the consequences of their injustice. They had hitherto been in the habit of playing with agitation in Ireland, and that agitation had enabled them to retain their seats upon those benches. Their object had been, never to let the fire die out, but to keep the cauldron constantly simmering; and if, perchance, some bubble rose sputtering to the top, they had always some snug place into which to bottle off the refractory element. The standard of rebellion was unfurled, and they suddenly became aware that the safety of the country depended solely upon the men whose loyalty they had despised, and whose religion they had trampled upon. They found that the loyalty of the men of Ulster was the same through evil report and through good report, unchanged and unchangeable. Though deeply conscious of their wrongs, they came forward nobly to support their Queen and their constitution, and enabled the Government to crush the rebellion without bloodshed. And now, when the storm is supposed to have blown over, and the danger to be past, they turn round upon those men, and treat them with contumely, with insult, and with injustice; they were again lighting up the torch of agitation, and evoking a spirit in Ulster which augured ill for the peace of that province. He entreated them, ere it be too late, to allay the spirit of disaffection they had unjustly conjured up, and to refrain from wilfully, madly, striking a blow which must tend to sever the connexion between the two countries. God forbid that the loyalty of Ulster should ever be shaken! God forbid that they should ever see a Parliament sitting in College Green, or that the descendants of the noble defenders of the walls of Derry should ever be found arrayed in the ranks of repeal! Let him remind the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that it is the last drop which causes the cup to overflow; and let him remember that the cup of Irish sorrows was already 130 full of gall and wormwood, without the need of any fresh infusion. Let him remind the noble Lord, that there is a limit to human forbearance. If he sowed the wind, he must expect to reap the whirlwind; and if he, by his oppressive measures, succeeded in uniting, for the first time in Ireland, men of all parties, all sects, and all religions, from the Giant's Causeway to Cape Clear, in open hostility to the Government and the law, upon his own head be the sin and the responsibility. He would urge upon the noble Lord to change his mind, while he had yet time—and it would not be the first occasion he had shown that second thoughts were best. It was not very long since he hearkened unto the voice of false prophets, who went about crying "Peace, peace, when there was no peace." At their suggestion, in an evil hour, he gave his order to reduce the Army by 10,000 men—an Army which, they said, had become useless and superfluous; but, lo, one short fortnight elapses, and a change comes o'er the spirit of his dream. An order is suddenly issued to stop the discharges; but it is too late. How could any good be expected from a Government which blows hot and cold in the same breath—a Government which has successively played fast and loose with agitation—pandered to the repeal faction, and which is now tied hand and foot to the chariot-wheels of the millowners of Manchester? But, what is one man's meat is another man's poison, and it was just possible that they might look upon their past political existence with pleasure and complacency; and if, to yield to unconstitutional pressure—to fawn upon men whom, in their hearts, they despise—to cringe to the bullying of agitators—be a theme of honour and glory—then, indeed, have Her Majesty's Ministers reason to be proud of their present position.
§ MR. GRATTAN
said, that the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth was one which deserved the serious attention of the House. There was scarcely an Irish Member who would not express a degree of gratitude to the right hon. Baronet, not, however, unmixed with surprise at the late period at which he had announced his plans, seeing the many opportunities which had previously been afforded to him for bringing them forward. The right hon. Baronet had paid a compliment to the Irish people, for which he, on their behalf, thanked him. There was no person, perhaps, who, during 131 the time he was Secretary for Ireland, had made fewer enemies in that country than that right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Baronet having chaunted the dirge of Ireland, had then proceeded to hold out to her, as the means of resuscitating her vitality, a cheap and easy mode of Chancery process. But, supposing the plan to be a good one, it was evident it would take a long time before it could develop any very perceptible good result, and during the delay in carrying it out, the people would, in the meantime, be perishing by thousands. Therefore, something else must be done more suited for the nature of the emergency. The case of Ireland was a most anomalous one. According to the report on the table, Mr. Larcombe, in 1847, estimated the production of that year to have been 16,000,000 of quarters; and the average consumption of the population of England was one quarter for each individual. So the total produce of Ireland in that year was sufficient to give two quarters to every individual of her own population. How was it, then, that so many of the people died from destitution? If Ireland had a Parliament of its own, it would, at all events, never have allowed the people to perish of hunger; it would have drawn a cordon round the estates of the absentee proprietors, and taken care that the people should have been fed. Mr. Power had shown the Government that the poor-law had utterly failed in Ireland. And they were now about to irritate the people of the north, whilst they were expatriating the people of the south; and many who were leaving the country ran away without paying their rent, although they had plenty of money to do it with. The late Mr. O'Connell had said, with great truth, that, if this poor-law were passed, they might build a wall round Ireland, and inscribe on it "the workhouse," and Ireland would now very soon be in that condition. Mr. Barlow had said that the poor-law had utterly failed. Mr. Twisleton had resigned his place, because, he said, the rate in aid was a failure. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth had referred to the case of nine distressed unions, having more than 142,000 persons to support, and all the money raised for that purpose last year, by the vice-guardians and local guardians, was 94,000l. The Government calculated that 25,000l. would be sufficient to maintain 150,000 persons for five weeks, although all that the officers 132 had been enabled to raise was only about 94,500l. What was this but consigning the people to a slow but certain death? There were between five and six hundred thousand individuals likely to require relief in these distressed districts, and it would require no less than 2,400,000l. to support them. He submitted, then, that the plan of the Government had utterly failed. It was only just that an accidental calamity like that which had befallen Ireland should be relieved from the Imperial Exchequer, unless, indeed, the union of the two countries was merely a nominal union. The right hon. Baronet had attached great importance to the sale of estates. Now, what would be the effect of the rate in aid upon these sales? Why, in the county of Down, an English company had lately undertaken to purchase an estate there; but since they had heard of the rate in aid they had sent an individual to say that such reduction in the value of the property would be made by that tax, that they must withdraw their offer, and could not conclude the bargain. This is a proof that the estates would not sell if they went on putting these burdens upon property. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that the right hon. Baronet's plan would be successful, what was to become of the existing landlords and tenants? Were they to emigrate? The present landlords were daily becoming more and more depressed, and had been as great sufferers from the recent calamities of Ireland as any other class. He regretted that he could not support this measure, because he regarded it as unjust, unwise, and unconstitutional; but, whatever might be the result, he hoped the English Members of that House would turn their serious attention to the state of Ireland, and endeavour to correct the evils that had arisen from a long course of maladministration in that country.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, as it appeared to be the wish of the House not to continue the debate any further that night, he would now move its adjournment.
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.