§ On the Question that the House go into Committee on this Bill,392
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that before Mr. Speaker left the chair, he wished to take the opportunity which, he believed, the forms of the House afforded to him, of expressing his opinion respecting the general policy—if, indeed, he could attach such a word to such proceedings—of Her Majesty's Government towards Ireland. Of this he was sure—having paid, as he had paid, great attention to the proceedings of the Government towards that unfortunate country, and having taken great pains to learn what the Government intended to do with respect to Ireland—the public money had already been expended there to a large amount. He had himself paid it, and they had all paid it, and now again they were called upon to expend money, through means of an appeal, that Ireland was in a state of distress. Ireland had been, he believed, in a state of distress of this sort for a period of three years. He did not speak of ordinary Irish distress, which was a thing that they had been always accustomed to; but he alluded to that remarkable description of distress which had arisen in Ireland in consequence of the failure of the potato crop. Some three years ago, the Government, he believed, of the right hon. Baronet opposite, the Member for Tamworth, had been informed that there was about to be a famine in Ireland, in consequence of the potato crop having failed, and of those who had lived on that root being no longer able to obtain subsistence. The right hon. Baronet, terrified at the prospect before him, proposed a repeal of the corn laws. He succeeded in that attempt, and if he had not done so, he (Mr. Roebuck) sincerely believed, that, instead of the peace and tranquillity which now reigned throughout this empire, and the comfort which was known in certain portions of the kingdom, they would have had to wade through those calamitous scenes of terror and revolution with which surrounding nations had been visited. After that providential proposal of the right hon. Baronet had been carried, the right hon. Baronet seceded from the post which he had then held, and the noble Lord the Member for the city of London succeeded to office? What did the noble Lord do? They should understand this clearly, for he had a right to enter upon it before his fellow-countrymen were compelled to pay an additional tax to a large amount out of their pockets. The noble Lord had a right to have considered the state of that country. What was that state, and how 393 was it brought about? It was brought about by the landed proprietors of Ireland having been long sustained in all their objects and wishes by that House and the legislation of Parliament. They had become expensive and wasteful in their expenditure—they had been accustomed to live far beyond the incomes that they derived from their property. They burdened their estates in order to maintain their vanity. They did one thing more; they allowed parties coming to them to offer the highest rents for small pieces of land. They divided their properties into small holdings, the better to carry out this system; and the persons so offering these enormous rents were only able to pay them by living themselves on the lowest species of food which the ingenuity of man enabled him to derive from the earth, namely, the potato. At length that unhappy accident arrived—the potato failed; and now the Irish proprietors found themselves in this condition, of having enormous populations on their lands who had been accustomed to live on the lowest sort of food, suddenly deprived of the means of existence by an extraordinary visitation of Providence. That was the state of facts for which the noble Lord had been called upon to provide a remedy. The evil was this, that a very large proportion of the agricultural population of Ireland were suddenly left without food. Now, if they had provided that population with food for a year, allowing them to apply their energies to the cultivation of land in the interim, there would have been a chance of an end being put to the distress in that time. Or if the Government had even required two years, by employing them in other labour, so as to save the people from that state of degradation and misery to which they had been subjected, he would not have objected. But what was the number of persons likely to have been subjected to that state? It was not everybody in Ireland that was in danger of perishing from the destruction of the potato crop. Everybody was not likely to suffer, though a large portion of the agricultural population was likely to suffer. But a general cry of distress went forth. He would not enumerate classes; but in what he was about to state he included all classes, from the highest to the lowest. He found that there was in all of them a desire to acquire without labour. [An Hon. MEMBER: What do you know about them?] We who pay for it, and not they, know this. But 394 what I say is, that the Government have contributed to foster that habit. It has extended to all portions of the population, and if I wanted a pretext to speak of the state of morality among the Irish people, I might take all the returns that have been laid before us, referring to the expenditure of the grants that Parliament has voted during the last three years for the Irish people. Who have we found receiving this money? Was it the poor? Not at all. The money of England was put as it were into a vast heap, and there was immediately a general scramble of Irishmen to get part of it. It was not the poor, for whom it was voted, that came for it, but the whole mass of the population, and they rushed as people do into an opera-house, each scrambling over the others, and all endeavouring to get the most they could of what was going on: that was a fair and not an exaggerated description of what took place on that occasion. And what was the effect? It fostered the habit of the people of Ireland to live on the produce of other men's labour. The people were not taught by the Government to live on their own labour—to be self-dependent, as in this country, where all were taught to depend on the labour of their own hands for their own subsistence. In Ireland every one looked to some external source for help. He never heard from any Irishman, either poor or rich, anything but the one cry of "somebody must do something for us;" but that somebody was never the person himself. [Mr. J. O'CONNELL: Hear, hear!] Did the "hear, hear "which he heard from one of the Irish Members answer his statement? He would repeat it in the face of his countrymen who were asked to provide for those who would not provide for themselves. He had heard it said that English legislation interfered with Irish interests; but there was no attempt made by Irish Gentlemen—for he felt that the noise made about him was from them, or at least from persons so calling themselves—to show that they were ready to do anything for themselves. He would maintain, that the call made upon the English people for the maintenance of the people of Ireland, was not a call bonâ fide for the maintenance of the Irish poor: he should be the first man to vote for, or to propose or second a proposition that the poor should be maintained. But he was not one of those who would agree to vote money, in order that it might be expended on Irish proprietors, whether they were proprietors 395 in name or in reality. There was something very Irish in the manner in which this term was applied. Irish proprietors were persons who had no right or title to the land they called theirs. They had no more right to live on the produce of that land than he had. He had watched whether the Irish proprietors would over hit the real blot in the Irish poor-law, but they never had. An Irish proprietor was supposed to be the proprietor of—say 10,000l. a year—but he had mortgaged his property to the extent of 9,000l. a year. The Irish poor-law subjected him to a tax for the 10,000l., instead of for 1,000l.; and it was one of the remarkable characteristics of the Irish nation that this point had never been fairly stated. He had hoard all sorts of complaints against the law; but he had never heard any man come forward and say, "I am nominally the proprietor of 10,000l a year, but I have really only 1,000l., and yet you tax me on the whole 10,000l." He had never heard any Irish Gentleman put that grievance forward, though it was well known to every one to be one of the real evils of the poor-law. The Solicitor General of England had, it was true, suggested a means of getting rid of that difficulty, by facilitating the sale of property so circumstanced. Every man had his own mode of suggesting a remedy for Ireland. The man who made shoes would defend the city by leather, the mason by stone walls. So it was that his hon. and learned Friend had a lawyer's mode of getting rid of all the difficulties of Ireland, simply by an alteration with regard to the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. The hon. and learned Gentleman had read them a lecture, which quite captivated his (Mr. Roebuck's) fancy, though it did not convince his reason. He had told them that if they passed his Bill they would hear no more of the troubles of Ireland—that they would have no more insurrections or discontent—because the people would be enabled to apply the powers of production in the country to the cultivation of the land. But his hon. and learned Friend totally forgot the political grievances of Ireland—the anomaly of the Irish Church never once struck him, the feuds of Celt and Saxon passed away from his mind, and all the other themes of discontent which agitators would still be enabled to make use of. By a lawyer's machinery he hoped to settle all the difficulties of the country. But even if those difficulties were got rid of to-morrow, could they suppose that 396 the Irish people would attain to that without which no hope could be entertained for them—namely, that passion, if he might so term it, or desire which actuated Englishmen, of living simply by their own industrious efforts? Any approach to this feeling in Ireland the Government had destroyed by the unheard-of way in which they had lavished the money of the English people in that country. What was the Bill now before them? It was a Bill to tax the English people in order to drain the lands of Ireland. They did not drain the land in this country, though it would be useful to do so. Nobody wanted the Government to do it here, though it was true that they had passed a somewhat similar Bill for England. That objectionable measure for England was the only justification that could be alleged for extending a similar Act to Ireland. He had, he would suppose, an acre, perhaps more, that he should like to have drained. The taxgatherer came in and put into his hand a bill. He asked what it was for, and he was told, "To drain the land for the Irish proprietors." "But I want to drain my own land," he would reply. "Oh, no, you must not drain your own land with your own money. The money must be paid into the Exchequer in order to be sent over to Ireland to pay the Irish proprietors for draining their own land." But the reply of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was, that the money was paid back. Granted; but what he contended for was, that that was no excuse at all, and that the public money should in no case be so applied. What was the principle that ought to govern them ordinarily in the application of capital, not only to land, but to everything else? Had he not heard, repeatedly, not only from the right hon. Baronet opposite, but from the present occupants of the Ministerial bench, that capital ought to be left exclusively to private enterprise, to private industry, and to private skill? If they undertook to show him a reason why they should deviate from that rule in a particular case, he would listen to it; but if they merely told him that it was a good thing to drain Ireland, to ensure the arterial drainage of Ireland, as it was called—for in these cases there was nothing like finding out fine sounding phrases—he at once admitted the truth of the proposition; but so would be a new mode of spinning two yards of cotton whore they now spun one; and yet who thought of asking the Imperial Parliament to ad- 397 vance money for such a purpose? The result in both cases would be good; but he begged to record his solemn protest against the system of applying public money for individual advantage, either in this country or in Ireland. But, said the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other night, "There is at present great distress existing in Ireland, and we want to employ the people in reproductive employment." This was a thing that was often spoken of. He thought he remembered having heard a lamented nobleman talk of expending sixteen millions in the construction of Irish railways, with the view of giving reproductive employment. The noble Lord was violently eloquent on that occasion; and yet to make roads through the country where they were wanting would no doubt be an admirable thing. Where, he would ask, in Heaven's name, was the difference between making roads through Ireland, and making channels through Ireland, to let the water off, excepting with regard to the relative amount asked for? Or rather, would it not have been better, instead of dragging on day by day, and week by week, and year by year—would it not have been better to propose a vast measure at once, like that brought forward by Lord George Bentinck? In both cases it was an application for the funds of the empire to individual enterprise; and if the money of the State were to be applied to private purposes, which he objected to, he would rather vote for a well-conceived scheme, like the general plan of that noble Lord, than for such measures as that now before them. But it was no answer to say that the money was paid back. The people of England, when they paid their taxes, were out of their money, and saw it no more; and on behalf of the people of England he would ask, what was the concerted scheme which the Government contemplated when they brought forward this single measure for the improvement of Ireland? He would ask, did any man suppose that this sum of 300,000l. would be of any real substantial use in employing the Irish people? Or was it not rather a measure by which it was intended, under the guise of seeking some support for the poor of Ireland, to provide a means for lending money to the proprietors of Ireland? He would appeal to the common sense of the people of England, whether they believed that lending 300,000l. to the Irish landlords would be any relief to the poor of Ireland? But he might be asked, what did he want to 398 have done? If this question were asked of the Irish Members, one got up and said that all the evils of Ireland proceeded from the area of taxation being too large. On one occasion an hon. Gentleman got up and talked on this subject for six hours by the clock. But when he heard of advances of money for Irish purposes, he could not but recollect a conversation that had taken place in the House the other night between two Irish Members. He would not repeat the words, as they were disagreeable to his car, that he had heard on that occasion, bandied about from one side of the House to the other. But, in the course of the recrimination, one of these hon. Gentlemen said to the other, "Did you not go with me to the Government to ask to have these people paid?" "To be sure I did," replied the hon. Member for Dublin—and there was a happy phraseology about the expression which he would not hope to realise, but which he could never forget—" To be sure I did; I wanted to have a pull at the Exchequer." But when the pull at the Exchequer failed, when they found that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not bite, one of these hon. Gentlemen thought that the corporation of Dublin was hound to pay. "Oh," said he, "won't the corporation pay?" "The corporation pay!" was the response. "Oh, ye are a set of cormorants; ye are a set of highway robbers." So long as the hon. Gentleman thought he could have a pull at the Exchequer, he was the abettor of those who wanted compensation; but then came the old story—he would not repeat the words—as to what honest men gained on these occasions. But they quarrelled among themselves. Then we were let into the secret of the whole affair, and they were told that it was the regular practice in Ireland to endeavour on all occasions to have in the first instance a pull at the Exchequer. But the debt was at once pronounced a dishonest one, as soon as the hon. Member was told that he would have to pay it himself. Now, he had taken a lesson on that occasion, and he was determined that, on the first possible opportunity, his countrymen should hear it. It was that Irish Gentlemen came there with the hope of being able to get what they called a pull at the Exchequer. The Bill on the table was nothing more than one of those attempts to get a pull at the Exchequer. That Exchequer was filled by the industrious labours of their hardworking countrymen, who toiled in their vocations with 399 an honest and upright spirit, and with virtue; and he might say it fully, with an indignant virtue, when they considered the demands that were thus made upon the proceeds of their industry, He declared it in the name of those hardworking men, whom he had seen, within the last few weeks, congregated in thousands, asking him whether there was not something wrong in the system which obliged them to pay so largely. In his answer, he told them that he knew they were often misled with regard to facts put forward by associations; but he well knew at the time, that the first voice that he would raise in that House of the Commons of England should be against the rapacious desires and selfish attempts of a wasteful and extravagant proprietary—that wasteful and extravagant proprietary being the landed gentry of Ireland. They were not in any sense of the term the proprietors of Ireland. Let them, therefore, get rid of the name, let them go abroad and earn their own subsistence. The land did not belong to them, and it was not to them, but to the mortgagees, that the rent ought to be paid. Let them act like men whose capital was in their bare hands. It was on these grounds that he entered his solemn protest against this Bill. He could see nothing in the policy of the Government to relieve them from constant taxation hereafter of a similar kind. He saw great numbers of the country gentlemen of England around him, and they should recollect that they would be called upon from day to day by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to relieve the poor of Ireland. As they came towards light, the darkness grew more dark, and so, as they approached the harvest, the famine would become more rife. When the months of June and July came, they might expect to hear still more dreadful stories of the horrors which prevailed. But was it not an afflicting thing to know that they had been for nearly four years in this state of terror, arising from the failure of the potato crop in Ireland? Would not a provident Government have enlisted the aid of all the intelligence of Ireland, and have divided the country into sections, in order to obtain an accurate list of those who were likely to require relief, and who might be employed in the profitable cultivation of their fertile soil? Should not the gentry have been told to make themselves the overseers of the poor? and above all, they should have been told to recollect that into that sacred fund they did not put their 400 hand. That would have been a most judicious thing to have said, and it would have been not only a virtuous but a most proper thing to have remembered. But it was not said. The admonition was not acted upon, and what was given for the poor was but too often seized by the rich, and that scramble took place to which he had before alluded. This had disgusted the people of England; and he would give an instance of the manner in which it had been carried out. A friend of his, a clergyman in the country, was told by a friend of his in Ireland, "We are in a starving condition—for God's sake apply to your parishioners, and try what you can get to relieve us," His friend set to work with all the energy of a young man—he preached charity, as he always did, and went from house to house, and gathered together what he considered as a little sum, but which ought not to have been considered as a little sum, considering the means of those from whom it came. He forwarded it to his friend in Ireland, and the reply he got was, "God bless you for your charitable donation; we are quite happy, all the rents are paid." His friend fell almost into a swoon on reading the letter. And was it that for which he had gone about among the poor English labourers, who were earning their 8s. and 9s. a week, to raise subscriptions? Was it for that that he went into the school, and to collect pence from the children? Was it to pay the rents of the landed proprietors that his rev. friend went from house to house asking alms? No! It was to relieve the poor starving wretches, and not to pay rents to their grasping improvident landlords. It was this, he repeated, which had disgusted the people of England, when, instead of being the almoners of the poor, they saw the landed proprietors of Ireland the rapacious receivers of those gifts which were intended for that poor. If the Government and Parliament did not stand forward and say, "We command and assist that the poor of Ireland shall receive the benefit of the charity of this country," they would drain up the source of private charity altogether, and he would be among the first to preach it. [Sir H. BABRON: Hear!] He heard an Irish proprietor cry "hear;" he wished he had an Irish peasant on the floor to meet that hon. Baronet. It was true they were all bound by the law; but there would be no private charity, unless the Government look to this, and enforced some rigid rule as to the mode in which 401 the charity of this country should be applied. If that were done, and the peasant labourers were employed in cultivating the land, they might within two years rescue the people of Ireland from the desperate situation into which they were now plunged. If you would only adopt something like order and system in the application of the funds, and not allow the Irish landlords to be the almoners, the English people would not fail you in the hour of need; but you would find them really and truly brethren in heart and hand to help you. But, he would repeat, if they allowed the Irish landlords to interfere with the distribution of English charity, they would not only have the source of that charity dried up, but they would make those whom the Union had brought under one united Parliament a separate and a hostile nation. It was only by the course he had pointed out that Government could achieve the good they sought to accomplish, and not by such a poor, and petty, and piecemeal legislation as that now before the House, and which would only be treated with scorn by the people whom it was intended to serve, and be regarded as a proof of the utter insufficiency and imbecility of the Government.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
Sir, the thunderbolt has fallen, and we are not crushed. The storm with which we have been threatened for the last week in the newspapers, and which has been gathering over us with accumulated intensity, has at last come with all its fury upon us, and enforced with all the grimaces of a mountebank, and the spite of a viper.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must inform the hon. and learned Gentleman that these expressions are quite unparliamentary.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
And I confidently appeal to you. Sir, whether, on any occasion when it was my misfortune to fall under your rebuke, I did not bow to it at once; and I am now ready to withdraw the expression. But, at the same time, I must submit to you, that the hon. and learned Gentleman to whom I refer, used such expressions as these—he spoke of persons calling themselves gentlemen. That Member—whatever he may choose to call himself—has, indeed, given a terrible account of Ireland, and he has taken care to include all Irishmen in his denunciations. He has accused us of immorality. Immorality! If I were to enter upon that charge—and I will enter upon it, because it is not right the these taunts or insults upon 402 my fellow-countrymen should be received with laughter and good humour by the House, and without any Member making the slightest remonstrance. I will ask the hon. and learned Member to compare the two countries with regard to their morality. Have we the system of poisoning infant children for the sake of getting their burial money, which prevails in the north, south, east, and west of England? Have we such a system of abortion-houses as prevails here in the metropolis? Have we in Dublin, as you have in London, a body of Guards, from which all Irishmen are scrupulously excluded, and who are so moral that the subject is not safe to go near them after nightfall? Have we any schools in which education is so wretchedly taught that the scholars are in ignorance of the name of the Redeemer, or of the great mysteries of salvation? Have we police reports informing us that the roads are insecure after dark? Have we professors of political economy, or writers in newspapers, under the patronage of Government, who blasphemously say that the people of Ireland are disproportioned to the capital of Ireland, and ought therefore to be starved down to the level of the capital, and that it would be interfering with the will of God to save them from starvation? No, we have no such persons in Ireland; and I therefore throw back with indignation the charge of immorality, and I ask, is it not cruel that the people who are perishing, without committing a single outrage, should be accused in this heartless manner? To be sure, this being spoken by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it does not matter much; but it has been spoken in this assembly—the first assembly in England; and it is not right that the people of Ireland, who are suffering so many accumulated evils, should here be accused of immorality, or subjected to the attack of slander in this House. The hon. and learned Gentleman complains that we come here and ask for money. If he will give us back the management of our own affairs, we will not ask for money. But you take from us the management of our affairs—you do not allow us to manage them for ourselves; and now, when we are starving in consequence of your mismanagement, you deny us relief, or you fling it to us, like a bone to a dog, with insult and scorn. The hon. and learned Gentleman has talked of the landlords of Ireland. I have often had occasion to attack the landlords of Ireland for their misdeeds; but let it be recollected, 403 that if the landlords of Ireland have been guilty of misdeeds, they were encouraged by this House in their misdeeds; and the Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland—put there by no popular appointment—declared two years ago that the legislation of the Imperial Parliament was of one uniform tone—to give power or to increase power to the landlords of Ireland over their tenants. Since, then, the landlords had been encouraged and fostered by the legislation of this House, it was too bad to turn round upon them now. If they blamed the landlords, they must blame this House still more. With regard to the grants, I hold that they will give employment, and, therefore it is well to have them. They will not feed the people, but everything which tends to give employment will tend to keep them alive. The House had shown itself very niggardly; for the Government, with all its faults, would have done more, but their exertions were crippled by the House, and therefore the accusations against the Government, like the attacks upon the landlords, ought to fall rather upon this House, who had shown themselves so very niggardly towards the distresses of Ireland.
§ SIR H. W. BARRON
would not follow the example of the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down, by entering into personalities, but he did regret that any English Member of Parliament should have shown such a bad spirit as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had done. But the hon. and learned Member had completely contradicted himself in the course of his speech. He told them that it was the duty of the landlords to undertake the drainage of their own property, and not come to this House for grants for the purpose. Now, as a general principle, that might perhaps be maintained; but the hon. and learned Member concluded by saying, that the Government ought to have organised the people for the purpose of improving the land and increasing the amount of human food: if the hon. and learned Member did not mean by that that Government ought to make grants for this purpose, he was at a loss to understand what the hon. and learned Gentleman could mean. But he begged to say that these were not grants at all. The House had maintained the principle, and acted upon it for the last twenty years, embodying it in Acts of Parliament still existing, with respect both to England and Scotland. By papers presented to Parliament within the last twenty years, it ap- 404 peared that the Parliament of Great Britain had advanced to England and Scotland loans to the amount of eight millions sterling for bridges, roads, canals, lunatic asylums, workhouses, parish relief, or other public purposes. The hon. and learned Gentleman complained of the landlords of Ireland having been benefited by the former grants to Ireland. He did not know how the hon. and learned Gentleman could make such an assertion, when it was well known that the landlords had remonstrated against the whole system as a wasteful and improvident expenditure of money. The whole operations were conducted by the Government, under the Board of Works. The landlords had no control over them whatever; and, therefore, it was a gross mis-statement to say that the landlords could have appropriated a single shilling of the money. It was notorious that the landlords of Ireland had this year spent 1,600,000l. in poor-rates for the support of the poor in that country; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently told them that the landlords of Ireland had paid up all their instalments on the loans received for drainage; and yet the hon. and learned Member had the hardihood to come forward and say that the money grants had been spent in such a way as only to benefit the landlords. He would emphatically say, it was spent for the benefit of the poor; and he believed many Irish landlords had imprudently borrowed money to improve their estates for the sake of relieving the poor. He gave his cordial support to the measure. The money was lent on terms which any Jew might lend it upon; and if the Jew got his pound of flesh he could not complain. The people were dying in thousands, of famine, the worst of all deaths. To say that this money was pocketed by Irish landlords, was an uncharitable and groundless taunt. He assured the hon. and learned Gentleman, that it was more in sorrow than in anger that he expressed his dissent from his bitter and unchristian speech.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
observed, that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield having been so long absent from the House might account for his evincing a much keener appetite for an Irish debate than hon. Members who had been present from the commencement of the Session were likely to possess; and it was because their hunger was so much abated by the large supply of this kind of food with which they had been furnished, that they had not enjoyed the speech of the hon. and learned 405 Gentleman with that relish which he probably expected they would do. It did not appear to him (Lord J. Russell) that the hon. and learned Gentleman had entered at all into the subject of debate, or that his speech had any reference to the Bill before the House; it was rather a string of reflections—a sort of moral lesson addressed to them on the subject of Irish distress and Irish prospects. The hon. and learned Gentleman's speech reminded him of the fable of the French horn, which, having been frozen up and dumb for a longtime, suddenly became thawed, and gave forth the most melodious sounds. He was glad to hear those sounds again in that House; but, certainly, he would rather the hon. and learned Gentleman had chosen some theme that had not been so repeatedly gone over as the one they were now discussing. He, certainly, should not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman, by entering into any defence of the Irish landlords; there were a sufficient number of persons connected with that body, both in that and the other House of Parliament, to undertake that duty. But with regard to the labourers of Ireland, he must say, that he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman had cast a very unjust reflection on them when he said that, either from the fault of the Government or from some other circumstance, they were unwilling to work and to depend for their subsistence on their own exertions and their own industry. He believed in many districts they were only too impatient to obtain work even at the smallest remuneration—a remuneration that would scarcely procure for them the barest subsistence. In some places, he understood the labourers were willing and anxious to work for their food only; and in others, men, with families to support, were only too glad to labour for 2d. a day. Therefore, it was not just to say that the Irish labourers required any lesson such as that which had been read to them by the hon. and learned Gentleman to induce them to embrace any means by which they might obtain, in exchange for their labour, not a living, but mere subsistence. The Bill before the House proposed that a certain sum should be advanced for the purposes of drainage: such drainage to be accomplished partly by the proprietors and occupiers themselves; and partly, where the drainage was of a more extensive character, by the union of several proprietors. This proposition, as it appeared to him, recommended itself on three grounds: first, the whole of the 406 money so advanced was to be expended in labour; in the second place, it was likely to improve the soil, and to increase the production of human food from the land; and, thirdly, that they were in a position to give to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his constituents the most satisfactory proofs that there was every prospect of the sums so advanced being fully repaid, principal and interest. The hon. Member for Waterford had said, truly, that in that country and in Scotland, within the last twenty or thirty years, large sums had been advanced for useful purposes of a similar character—which sums had been repaid—and by means of which many fields, which were previously of little comparative value, were now growing wheat and other crops in the most luxurious profusion; and large tracts of land had been brought into an improved state of cultivation by the draining and other improvements which the money so borrowed from the Exchequer had carried out. Such having been the result in England and Scotland, he did not think they would be adopting a just or a wholesome principle in saying that the same system ought not, under present circumstances, to be applied to Ireland. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke had said that they were driving a bargain with the Irish people that any Jew would be glad to make. That observation reminded him that there was another question to be brought before the House that evening, which he hoped would not be postponed longer than was absolutely necessary.
§ MR. HORSMAN
felt, and was sure the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, and every other Member of the House, must feel, that Ireland at the present moment had a strong claim upon our generosity. The people of this country had acknowledged that claim; and he had no fear that while the present awful destitution existed, the sources of well-regulated charity would be dried up. Hon. Members ought not to forget the fact that the imperial legislation of the past had tended to Ireland's ruin, and England's benefit; that the misfortune and burden of the connexion between the two countries had been borne by her, and that for years all the profit had been reaped by us; and if by a system of shortsighted and selfish policy we had destroyed her manufactures, annihilated her resources, impoverished and degraded the people, driven capital out of the country, rendered life and property insecure, and the people discontented and miserable, then they 407 must all feel, that even if for years to come they poured out their contributions much more profusely than they had done for the last three years, they would never make up for the poverty and wretchedness which their past legislation had entailed upon her. Such, he believed, was the feeling of the English people. He confessed he felt much sympathy for the landlords of Ireland at the present moment, knowing, as he did, that for three years past many of them had hardly received any rent, and that many of them had been making the most honourable exertions to struggle through the difficulties with which they were overwhelmed. But, if he understood the objections of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield rightly, they were not so much objections to aid the destitution and famine existing in Ireland, as to do it by a system objectionable in principle and pernicious in its results. He (Mr. Horsman) held in his hand a Parliamentary paper, which was laid before the House a few days ago, and to which he had referred in his speech on Friday night; and he bogged the attention of the House, and particularly of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, to some extraordinary facts which he found in that paper. The Government had admitted that their first duty was to preserve life in Ireland. Well, how had that principle been carried out? At this moment he found that the destitution and mortality were greater than ever—and he found, moreover, that destitution and mortality distinctly traceable to the Government not answering the demands of the Poor Law Commissioners for assistance. The Commissioners stated that, unless money were sent, starvation and death would be the consequence, and they desired to be absolved from the responsibility of such a result. On one occasion he found them asking for 18,000l, and the Treasury sending them 5,000l. On another occasion, instead of 10,000l., he found the Treasury sending them 4,000l. The Commissioners say—In the case of Bantry union, the Commissioners have to acquaint their Lordships that a report from the temporary inspector has been this day received, stating that in consequence of the advances last week having been curtailed, to the amount of 47l., the relieving officers were left without a shilling for the relief of any urgent cases of destitution, which leads to such cases being sent for food and shelter to the workhouse, and to the consequent overcrowding of the house; and further stating that the deaths in various parts of the union are daily increasing, and for the most part arise from want and exposure. 408 And the inspector further states, that he deems it his duty to impress it strongly on the minds of the Commissioners that any derangement either in the amount or the time of issuing the weekly relief to the people, must prove fatal to many; and he adds, that the relief at present given is, in itself, barely sufficient to support existence for the week; but that should eight or nine days elapse, the natural consequence must be starvation and death; and that the weekly estimates sent up are calculated on the exact amount required for food only for the current week, without including Is. in cash for urgent and pressing cases.And they further say—With respect to the Ennis union, the Commissioners desire to remark, that although they made application to their Lordships on the 25th ult., to place funds at their disposal to enable them to assist this union in case of emergency, no portion of the 6,000l. last received has been appropriated to this union, as there does not appear to have been an absolute stoppage of relief al-though carried on now entirely on credit, to an extent far beyond the means of the union to repay within a reasonable time. As an instance of the irregularities arising from the wants of the necessary funds to meet the engagements of the board of guardians, the Commissioners observe that at a recent meeting the guardians ordered the stewards on the outdoor works to be placed on the out-relief list for support, until the guardians should be in funds to pay them; and also with regard to such of the small contractors as should apply for assistance, that a like indulgence should be granted to them.The Commissioners now estimate that the sum of 12,000l is necessary to enable them to afford sufficient assistance to the distressed unions at the close of the present week, taking into account the deficiency in the amount now sent towards the requirements of the last week.The contractors (at least some of them) refused to supply food to the paupers who were on the point of death, because their bills had not been paid. There was no less a sum than 160,000l. due to those contractors, and the result of non-payment was, that some of the contractors themselves were obliged to go into the workhouse. They were also informed that no less than 20,000 persons were requiring relief without a shilling to feed them, and that if a remittance was not sent by return of post, the death of thousands by starvation was inevitable. To this last communication no answer was returned, nor, so far as appeared, was the least notice taken of it. Week after week did the Commissioners write to the Treasury that 20,000 or 30,000 persons, were in a state of destitution, and that many of them had been Friday, Saturday, and Sunday without any relief whatever. He doubted if the history of any country could exhibit a more awful statement than that such a state of distress should be officially communicated to the Government, and that no notice what- 409 ever should be taken thereof. In the face of Europe he would say that this was a spectacle more disgraceful than anything this country could patiently contemplate. He must say that a tremendous responsibility rested on the shoulders of those upon whom the relief of that destitution and the preservation of life depended; and, considering how generously the people of England had contributed to that object, and that they were ready to contribute generously still, he was surprised how those upon whom the responsibility of distributing the relief rested could sleep in their beds under such a state of circumstances as he had described.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the hon. Gentleman began, as he did on Friday, by complaining of the system of grants, and he then complained in the next breath that the Government would not give a sixpence to relieve Irish distress. He would say, in answer to the first charge, that under the circumstances in which some of the unions of Ireland were placed, the Government did think it necessary, though they differed from the hon. Gentleman, to appeal to Parliament for a limited sum, in mitigation of that distress. In answer to the second charge, that the Government had received repeated applications for pecuniary assistance, and that they had not sent sixpence in return, he told the hon. Gentleman now, as he told him on Friday night, that he spoke in utter ignorance of the facts of the case, for he (Sir G. Grey) could not suppose, if the hon. Gentleman knew them, that he would indulge in such misinterpretations, anxious as he appeared to be to throw upon the Government the undivided responsibility for the Irish distress. The Government sent to Ireland the further sum which had been placed at their disposal by Parliament; and when they saw the indisposition, the not unnatural indisposition, of Parliament to vote any additional sums, they proposed a Bill in which they inserted a clause that would enable them immediately to advance 100,000l. for the relief of distress; and against the third reading of this Bill—after the House had determined the question as between the mode of raising the money there proposed and an income tax—the hon. Gentleman voted. He recorded no unmeaning, empty protest as now, but he recorded his vote in favour of a policy which would have deprived Government of the means of doing that which the hon. Gentleman said they would not do. He would not further notice the 410 attack of the hon. Member, for it had really as little to do with the measure before the House as his attack on Friday had to do with the measure then before them. The hon. Member said he protested against the grant, being utterly unable to distinguish between a Bill for a grant, which might be looked upon as money thrown away, and between a loan secured on Irish property, with respect to which past experience showed that there was a reasonable prospect of both loan and interest being repaid. But as the remarks of the hon. Gentleman had no earthly connexion with the measure before the House, he would satisfy himself with this answer to the charge brought against the Government by the hon. Member for Cockermouth.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had charged him with having brought an unfounded accusation against Her Majesty's Government, in having said that they had not laid out sixpence beyond what Parliament had granted, to relieve the starving Irish people. What he had said was founded on what appeared in two letters, dated the 20th and 23rd of April, which were amongst the papers on the table of the House. In one of those letters, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman himself, it was stated that from 20,000 to 30,000 people were in danger of dying of starvation, unless some assistance were afforded them; and the right hon. Gentleman had allowed the observation to remain without any answer at all.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, he should remind the House that his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury had said, when the vote of the 50,000l. was before the House, that after it should be exhausted he would take upon himself to apply such further limited sum as might be required. He afterwards found that the 6,000l. which was advanced would be totally inadequate to relieve the urgent distress, and Parliament was called upon to advance the further sum of 100,000l. His noble Friend said he would not feel himself bound by the limita-of the 6,000l. and that he would apply such further sum as would be necessary. And he (Sir G. Grey) should now tell the hon. Gentleman, who sought to cast such an aspersion upon the Government, that since the 50,000l. had been expended, 26,000l. more had been advanced by the Government.
§ MR. W. KEOGH
hoped that as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield had 411 alluded to him during his absence, he would be excused for occupying the attention of the House for a moment. Though he had not the pleasure of hearing the hon. and learned Member, he had had the opportunity of hearing the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and he understood that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, after his usual custom, had indulged himself and a portion of the House by abusing every Member from Ireland—every person in that country, from the landlord down to the humblest peasant. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had not thought it necessary, in replying to the hon. and learned Member, to advert to those Irish landlords of whom he had on a former occasion spoken in terms of high praise for having made every exertion within the last twelve months to relieve the distress by which they were surrounded. Upon the other hand, the noble Lord had congratulated the House on the return of the hon. and learned Gentleman to Parliament, and said that he was highly pleased at hearing these melodious notes, which, by the way, had been heard three times since the hon. Member's return, and always in terms of censure and satire upon everything and every quarter of the House.Thrice the brindled cat hath mowed.The noble Lord, instead of replying to the hon. and learned Member, and the sneers he had thrown out against the Irish representatives, indulging in the same tone in which he had so often indulged before, had spoken of an Irish debate in terms of censure and disapprobation. He (Mr. Keogh) thought he could account for the reason why the House had so many Irish debates. If the question were justly considered and impartially weighed, it would be found that they had not originated from any desire on the part of the Irish Members eternally to obtrude the misfortunes and grievances of their country on the House; but that they were fairly deducible from the bit-by-bit and patchwork legislation which had proceeded from those in power. If the noble Lord had come down once and for all to the House, as he ought to have come down at the commencement of the last Session—as he might have come down at the commencement of the present Session, but as he was not likely to come down during any part of the Session—with a broad, concentrated, and comprehensive declaration of policy for Ireland, the Irish Members would not be compelled to lay 412 open those sores which it grieved them so often to be obliged to do, and thereby to expose themselves to the censure of others. Therefore, he respectfully said, that he thought observations ought not to be indulged in against Irish Members. He thought the Irish Members, whether they sat on the Opposition or the Ministerial side of the House, ought to be unanimous in rejecting them. He, for his part, would resist to the whole extent of his energy any person, whether he sat on the one side or the other, who assailed the Irish nation through the Irish representatives. So much for the congratulations of the noble Lord, upon the arrival of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He (Mr. Keogh) believed that there was no hon. Member in the House who had so often assailed the Irish representatives as the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. Now, one word to that hon. and learned Member. He (Mr. Keogh) trusted that when next he indulged his vein—his habitual vein—that green bitter vein which characterised every inch of his body—he trusted that when he assailed Irish Members again, he would have the courtesy, the manliness, to assail them in their presence, and not indulge in a spirit of severity and satire when those who ought to watch him, and would watch him, and were not afraid to reply to him, were not present to hear him. The hon. and learned Member had done him the favour to notice the debate which occurred in the House upon the last night; he had done so in his (Mr. Keogh's) absence. He now told the hon. and learned Gentleman that he was far from thinking that he represented the feelings of his English countrymen out of doors as regarded the Irish people. So far from thinking so, he remembered with gratitude the noble generosity with which the people of this country had come forward in the last two years to relieve the distress of Ireland. He recollected the unanimous feeling of sympathy they had evinced, and he preferred rather to look at their acts than to listen to the bitter words of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. But the hon. and learned Member was not so desperate a person, after all, as some Irish Members were inclined to think him—he was not so very dangerous. True, he had indulged in a sweeping attack on the measure now proposed, but he had wound up his attack without submitting any Motion to the House. Therefore, after all, the Sheffield blade was not so dangerous a weapon. 413 The House would judge of his motives, and the country would be able to distinguish between those who opposed and supported the present measure. The country would also he able to discriminate between what ought to be the honest indignation of a patriotic senator, and the bilious acerbity of a spiteful self-tormentor.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
sincerely hoped, that the very few words he should offer to the House, would have the effect of putting an end to the debate that had arisen. He would not have risen but for the extraordinary remarks which had been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, upon what had fallen from his noble Friend at the head of the Government. These remarks took him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) altogether by surprise. When the hon. and learned Gentleman said that his noble Friend had added to the sneers against the Irish landlords, and immediately afterwards said, that he had on a previous occasion done full justice to their efforts to relieve the distress of the people, the two expressions contradicted one another. His noble Friend said, that he would not then undertake to defend them, because it was utterly unnecessary. "But," said the hon. and learned Gentleman, "he sneered with the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield about lengthy Irish debates." Why, was it not an appeal of his noble Friend against the hon. and learned Gentleman renewing debates upon subjects that had been already over and over again discussed? What he begged and prayed of the Irish Gentlemen was, that when they (the Government) were carrying plans for the benefit of their country and themselves, they would not occupy the time of the House with discussions upon matters that were altogether irrelevant. He did not by these observations mean to interfere in the slightest degree between the hon. Members for Sheffield and Athlone. They might fight their question out between themselves. But he certainly could not avoid saying that the hon. and learned Member for Athlone had made a most unnecessary and uncalled-for attack upon his noble Friend.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, he was not going to make any observations on the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, but he would make a very brief remark on that part of the address of the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown, in which he accused the hon. Member for Cocker- 414 mouth of having voted against the rate in aid. He (Colonel Dunne) believed that most of the Irish Members had voted against that rate, and he thus publicly thanked the hon. Member for Cocker-mouth for having voted against it also.
§ MR. MOORE
regretted that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield should have raised a debate in which he had exhibited the worst passions and the worst feelings that prevailed amongst the worst classes of the people of both countries against their fellow-subjects. The charge against the Irish was, that they might share amongst them as they pleased the causes of their ruin—idleness and improvidence on the part of the peasantry; mismanagement, extravagance, and incapacity on that of the landlords. That was the showing of the question by their opponents. It reminded him of the fable of the man and the lion, who stopped before the picture of a fight between a lion and a man, in which the man was depicted as slaying the lion. "Ah," said the lion, "had the painter been a lion, I have no doubt he would have given a different version of the story." And so with the present case. As a Connaught man, he felt bound to say that there never was an assertion more unfounded in fact, nor one more unjust, ungenerous, and untrue, than that in which all the English Members appeared to agree, as a fair conclusion, with regard to the causes of distress in the west of Ireland. To say that the people had become wretched because they were idle and improvident, was an assertion which was worse than a perversion of the truth. And as to the landlords, the motto seemed to be, "Hit them hard because they have no friends." That was the cry, and hit they were by every one, from the killing candour of the Minister to the melodramatic enmity of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield. He (Mr. Moore) did not mean to say they were faultless. But they had only gone on pari passu with England; and when they were fairly swallowed up in distress and misery then England left them. Cromwell had driven the people in distress and utter poverty into Connaught. They were driven naked into the wilderness; and from that time forth the policy of England was to crush and rend them, to prohibit the Irish people on every point from rising in the moral scale. The landlords could not be fairly reproached with the consequences of the systematic policy of England for ages; and when at length England saw 415 her error, and relaxed her code of policy, the evil was too deeply rooted to he easily eradicated. When she felt her error she ceased, but slowly, to prosecute; but she lent no helping hand to redeem the folly of the past. He admitted that the landlords might he to blame for some portions—that they might have done a great deal which they did not. They did not sacrifice themselves to posterity. But England was more to blame than they. Let England show the good example. Let England, let the English people, now sacrifice themselves to posterity. They were responsible. Let them manfully bear the penalty. History would be their judge; and if history would not acquit the landlords of blame, neither would it acquit those who made the country waste and destitute originally, and kept it so for their own profit, and who at last, but not until after a long lapse of time, found out that they were but dividing their own house against itself. If the landlords were the cause of the present state of things, bitterly and grievously were they suffering for it. But let those who had so long ruled the country by a system of sectarian legislation, and who had brought it to the ruin now beheld, not expect to escape the penalty of retribution. As to the assertion of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, that the landlords received their rents in the west of Ireland, he could know nothing whatsoever of the existing state of things there, if he believed such to be the fact. It was notorious that not 25 per cent of the rents had been paid during the last year.
§ The House then went into Committee on Clause 1.
§ MR. HORSMAN
took the opportunity of repeating what he had previously said, to which Her Majesty's Government had not replied. It was very easy to bring charges of ignorance, and of drawing upon imagination. His charge was this—that on the 23rd of April Mr. Nash wrote to say, that 20,000 people were left on the relief officers, who had not a shilling for their support; that those people had been without food for three days; that many of them had died from want and exposure; and that no notice had been taken of that letter. His knowledge of this fact was derived from the official documents laid on the table by the right hon. Baronet; and, if he wished to say he (Mr. Horsman) spoke in ignorance of the facts, he might do so. If his stating those facts was unpleasant to the right hon. Gentleman, his extreme 416 sensitiveness was no proof that he had done his duty—it was a sign rather of a conscience ill at ease. He knew what the right hon. Gentleman's powers of debate were; but he should say, that his extreme sensitiveness was no proof that extraordinary powers of debate might not be found united with extraordinarily defective powers of administration.
§ SIR G. GREY
deprecated being led by the hon. Gentlaman into a long discussion upon various other Bills besides that before the Committee. The hon. Gentleman said, he would not be deterred by any fear of displeasing him (Sir G. Grey) from stating facts. But what he complained of was, that the hon. Gentleman did not state what were facts, but that he had drawn upon his imagination for charges against the Government that were unfounded. The hon. Gentleman charged the Government with dispensing grants of money in a way tending to do harm rather than good, and with spending double the amount that was necessary to do all that was effected. His (Sir G. Grey's) answer was, that they had applied the funds placed at their disposal by Parliament in the way they thought the destitution could best be relieved. They had done that which the hon. Gentleman said they had not done—they had expended the 50,000l. granted by Parliament, and 26,000l. besides. And they had been authorised by Parliament to expend 100,000l. more. And then the hon. Gentleman turned round and charged them with not having dispensed what Parliament had entrusted them with.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, if he were irregular at all, it was the fault of the right hon. Gentleman, who had charged him with ignorance, and drawing upon his imagination when he could not rise to give any reply. The right hon. Gentleman then repeated those charges. He now asked him in what had he drawn upon his imagination? He had stated from the papers that the people had no relief and were dying, and likely to die in thousands; that during Friday, Saturday, and Sunday the poor in one union workhouse had no food; that the papers showed that there were no funds to be obtained in some of the unions. And he wanted to know why the Government had hesitated to ask Parliament for a grant of the means to relieve that urgent misery. He said it was a libel and a foul calumny upon the people of England to say that they (the Government) would not obtain any amount requisite for saving the people 417 of Ireland from starvation. They might be assailed by some parties in the House, and blamed by others, but it was a calumny upon the generosity and charity of the people of England to say that they would refuse the requisite funds for such a purpose.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, he hoped the Chairman would allow him to say a few words in explanation of the remarks he had made in a former part of the evening. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had evinced very good humour in the way in which he alluded to him; and he was sure he (Mr. Roebuck) felt much obliged to him for the way in which he put his allusion to his return to the House. He had not the least objection to the joke. But the noble Lord had not answered his observations. His charge was this—that three years ago distress was produced in Ireland—that the Government knew the causes of it—and that they were called on to prevent its recurrence. The distress arose from a famine in consequence of the sudden disappearance of the potato. Now, the noble Lord had not met that destitution by a bold and well-considered set of measures. He (Mr. Roebuck) had said so, and he repeated it—that the noble Lord was frightened—terrified he might say; that he had no system, was governed by no rule, had listened merely to his own sense and sensibility, and immediately had recourse to the large Treasury of England—that, having so had recourse to it, and employed many millions of money, he had left the people of Ireland worse off than he had found them. That was his charge; and his assertion was, that the noble Lord had employed those millions improperly—not improperly in any sense which could affect the noble Lord's character in any way, but in a way which he considered an un-statesmanlike proceeding. He knew the noble Lord's ability—he knew he was powerful in debate—that he possessed perspicacity and generosity; but he (Mr. Roebuck) might say, without any of that asperity—even of manner—which had been 80 often laid to his charge, that the noble Lord had not met those difficulties in the spirit of a statesman—that he had exhausted the resources of this country, and had not relieved the distress of Ireland. That charge the noble Lord answered. He said it had nothing to do with the Bill before the House. He (Mr. Roebuck) thought it had. He thought that at every step of giving money he had a right to ask what 418 had been done with the money already given, and how Government had relieved the distress of the people of Ireland. The hon. Gentlemen from Ireland all got into a rage when he said a word—when he questioned the policy of the course, they all turned round and looked at that frail body of his. One said he was little, another that he was bilious, and a third that he made grimaces. To return to the debate before them, and leave those Gentlemen to what, he dared say, they called satire—the Gentlemen from Ireland themselves said the noble Lord had misapplied the money. When he asked them how the money should have been applied, every hon. Gentleman had his nostrum. But he found them all saying, the people had been deprived of the fruits of English liberality by persons not paupers engaging a large share of that charity. He did not bring that charge on his own responsibility—it had been the language of every newspaper, of every blue book—in every man's mouth who spoke truly in that House. Today's papers were full of it. There was a fresh misapplication of it in that sense; but he went further, and he said, when the noble Lord threw that money abroad with both hands, he did mischief in creating habits which it would be exceedingly difficult to eradicate; and in making, where there had been want of thrift, that want double now. When the noble Lord said all this had nothing to do with the Bill before the House, he could not understand him. The Bill was another mode of taking money for Ireland. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary told them by implication that he dared not ask the people of England for more money. What did that mean? That the people of England thought (for they did not care for the amount that Government granted) they had done mischief to the country, and no good to the people of Ireland, by the way in which they had laid out that money. It appeared, too, that the hon. and learned Member for Athlone had been pleased to make some remarks on what had fallen from him in the course of the evening. He said nothing more than that he had heard a dialogue of a very peculiar description between the hon. and learned Gentleman and an hon. Member. But the hon. and learned Gentleman having made those remarks, went on to accuse the Government of precisely the same thing as that of which he (Mr. Roebuck) had accused them—bit-by-bit legislation. It might be very 419 good for us, and when they came to legislate for all the various peculiarities of the English people, they must go step by step; but here Government had ten millions of money at their disposal almost in one day—they laid it out in one year. He asserted that by the employment of that sum properly, they could have set the people to work on their own fertile soil, and have replaced the lost potato by the produce of their labour. What had they done with the ten millions? They had flung them away in every possible manner. It was that which pressed on the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary, and not the amount of the sum; but that, largo as it was, had been expended so injuriously that it had left the people worse off than it had found them. Now, was there anything improper in his making that statement? Then he went further, and asked why the educated body of Irish Gentlemen had not stood forward and set the example of virtue in the appropriation of that sacred fund of charity? Why [said the hon. Member, turning to the benches behind him] could you not keep your hands out of it? I only asked your forbearance, and that you should have kept your fingers from that sacred fund.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
Sir, when I said the hon. and learned Member's speech had no immediate reference to this Bill, I spoke of his remarks as being applicable to the general measures which had been adopted for Ireland in the last four years alone; and I certainly surmised that, the House having heard many discussions on this subject, I could hardly obtain such a hearing as the hon. and learned Gentleman with seems to suppose if I entered with him into a general discussion with respect to what those measures had been, the events to which they had been applicable, and the general results of their application. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, again repeats his question, and forces me to go somewhat into the consideration of this question; but I observe, with regard to him, as in an equal degree with regard to every Irish Member, that he attacks the Government in this way—he very much admits the evils with which we had to deal; but then he asks. Why did you not apply remedies? Why did you not make Ireland prosperous? But at the same time he never supposes the magnitude of the calamity with which we had to deal. I shall not ask whether it was wise in landlords of Ireland originally to give leases by which 420 the land suffered—whether the farmers of Ireland did well to allow labourers to have patches of land to cultivate the potato, instead of paying them money wages—whether the labourers did well for their own interest in incurring and promoting early marriages, thereby keeping down the wages of labour, and increasing competition to such an extent that such wages as they did obtain, independent of their own labour, hardly afforded subsistence: whether these things were wisely done or not, is not now matter for consideration. We know they have been done, and we know the sudden stoppage of their progress by the decree of Providence was the calamity with which we had to deal. Could anything have been greater than that calamity? Say there have been three, four, or five millions—take any number you please—there was an immense population not required for the cultivation of the soil by the farmers and occupiers of the land. When the potato failed, was it likely they could obtain more employment? On the contrary, was it not evident they would obtain less? Those who would be called small farmers here, but who were large farmers in Ireland, were afflicted with the same calamity. Their means were diminished at the same time, so that they had less for their own support, or they would no doubt have given the people employment, or that charity which we know was so abundant in Ireland, as long as food was supplied by the harvest. When the calamity appeared in the first instance, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, then in power, proposed a total repeal of the corn laws. I think, with the hon. and learned Member, he proposed that measure wisely. I agree with him with respect to the results we are now reaping from it, as far as the great body of the people are concerned; but that measure, of course, was not a remedy for a great part of the evils which affected Ireland—it certainly was not any relief to those who had other productions of the soil to rely on, who had corn to bring to market, and whose prices for their corn had been of course diminished by that measure. Another year of famine appeared to be approaching. We then undertook to introduce a measure similar to those adopted in 1822; and in the beginning of 1846—a measure simple in its nature—not, as the hon. Gentleman now represents, of granting ten millions to prevent the people of Ireland from starving, but one by which, selecting the local bodies such as we were 421 told by authorities acquainted with Ireland were likely to administer those funds most usefully, we placed in the hands of those bodies the power of presenting for sums to be raised for the districts for which they acted, and to ask for advances on the sums so presented. In 1822 a similar measure was adopted, but no very large sums had been applied for; but in 1846, and the beginning of 1847, the calamity was so overwhelming as to produce consequences far exceeding those of any similar measure adopted in any former year. I am not now blaming the different parties concerned in that Bill, some of them connected with the Government, some individuals connected by property with Ireland; but the effect was this—those local bodies were alarmed, on the failure of the potato, at the prospect of suffering; they were alarmed by the menaces of a starving people; and the result was, that immense presentments were made. The Board of Works was called on to undertake gigantic operations far beyond their means, or the staff at their disposal. The hon. and learned Member is quite well founded in what he says as to the great abuse which arose in the application of the vast sums placed at the disposal of the baronial boards and the Board of Works; but they arose from the gradual increase of the evil—from the prospect that the people would starve unless employment of other kinds were given, and the conduct of the boards in presenting for immense sums for the purpose of those works. When we found those works had extended to such a vast amount, we undertook—certainly a very bold operation in itself—to reduce 120,000 of those workmen at one time, for the purpose of substituting another method of relief, which was, in effect, a charitable distribution of food, placed under a commission in Dublin, of which Sir J. Burgoyne was the head. Now, I don't tell the House that some other measure might not have been adopted if we could have foreseen the exact number of persons wanting food, and that some better application of those sums could not have been devised; but, in the first place, it was impossible for any Government to say what would have been the exact amount of food which would be deficient; and, in the next place, it would be impossible for us to say in what way the sums placed at the disposal of the local boards would be used, or to what extent the amount of applications would be carried. But this I say, that, though I do not stand up as the 422 defender of this system of relief—though I have heard many suggestions every year during the whole time of its operation, I cannot admit I have heard any in which there were not at least as great evils as in that we adopted. Take, for instance, the hon. and learned Gentleman himself. He would have set the people to work in reproductive labour on the soil of Ireland. How was this to be carried on, unless by saying Government should put itself in the place of all the landed proprietors and occupiers of land in Ireland? What proprietor or occupier would then have exerted himself? Who would have undertaken to plough or to sow? If we said every one in Donegal should have seed, and should be paid for ploughing his land, we should have similar demands from other counties, and not ten millions but thirty millions would have been the least required. But the waste of money, says the hon. and learned Gentleman, has been a small part of the evil. You took off persons who were delivered from distress by this mode of relief from the cultivation of the soil. No doubt we did so. But every species of relief, every species of charity, but, above all, compulsory relief by law, is accompanied with this evil, which tends to reduce that stimulus of want which urges men to exert themselves for the produce of food. That is an objection to all poor-laws—it is equally applicable to our own mode of relief. But, if all the ordinary operations of the soil should have been carried on in that way, we should have multiplied tenfold the want of industry, and would have increased almost beyond comparison the evils of which the hon. and learned Member spoke. As to other years, the hon. and learned Member seems to suppose the Government should have reasoned in this way:—In 1846 the potato failed; in 1847 there will be a less quantity of potatoes sowed, and the amount grown will, therefore, be very much diminished; a large part of this will also fail, and in 1848 there will be another failure; and that we should consider what would be our conduct under all these circumstances; but I humbly beg to say no Government could tell what would be the result of the harvest in three different years. We knew there must be severe suffering, but as to the exact amount of the harvest, and the productiveness of the potato, it was quite impossible any Government could have means to enable them to judge. I stated in 1847 the policy we adopted was this—that while we required 423 very large grants for that year, there should be an amended poor-law, by which the land should be made to support the people of Ireland. I thought it unjust that the charity which had been extended to the residents of Ireland should not be made compulsory on all persons, whether resident or not, and that regular support should by law be provided for the relief of the destitute poor. Now, how has that law answered? In the last half-year I find more than 1,000,000l. has been raised for the destitute poor in Ireland. When the hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the un-willingness of proprietors and occupiers in Ireland to afford relief, I beg to state that, with their diminution of resources, with all the reduction of fortune which individuals have suffered, upwards of 1,000,000l. has been raised in that short time to relieve the poor; and I say further, that while I think we were justified in imposing in this Imperial Parliament those burdens on Ireland by the mode in which the collection has been made, the—I cannot say willingness, but—obedience to the law which has induced the people to pay such sums for the purpose, has been highly creditable to those who have paid the rates, and should certainly diminish considerably that virulence of invective by which it is asserted Ireland is not willing to make efforts to relieve her poor. Another measure we introduced in 1847 was to facilitate the sale of incumbered estates, one of great importance, but at the same time of vast intricacy and difficulty. It was carried into effect in 1848, but after some period of experience we found it necessary to invigorate that Act, and to give further powers, that our object might be made effectual, and that the land of Ireland may, if possible, be held by persons who are able to lay out capital on the land, and to employ it for the maintenance of the people. On this subject the House has received suggestions, and the development of views of the highest importance, from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth, not now present. And if it be any degradation, or if it be any humiliation to a Government to receive from an opposite quarter, or to receive from a Member of the House with whom they are entirely unconnected, suggestions and developments of plans of the highest importance, which we are ready to adopt, I am quite ready to submit to that degradation, and to suffer that humiliation; and if I can receive from any person any addition to the plan the 424 right hon. Baronet suggested, I am quite willing to bear the taunts which may be thrown on us—that in this great calamity—in this great peril and crisis of Ireland, we have been forced to act upon the suggestions of others, and that not from our own wisdom, but from the borrowed plans of others, we have devised a remedy. Sir, I think it would be false pride if I were not to hold this language. The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to think—as many others think—that it is but a sorry result of all this labour that the people of Ireland are still more distressed than ever. But I have not heard any one say that there are plans so powerful, so omnipotent I should say, by which, when the crops which formed the main subsistence of the people had been blighted and destroyed in four consecutive years, an immense population created by that very food could be maintained, so that the calamity would not be greater at the fourth year than at the first. I know no such magical remedy by which you can prevent them suffering increased distress in the fourth year of their calamity. Undoubtedly, Sir, I believe this dispensation has been intended for the good of Ireland. That social state which has been matter of lamentation so long—which has been described by the Poor Law Commissioners of Ireland in 1833 in terms which must excite the pity and lamentation of every one who read them—will in the end be improved by the calamity which has of late years befallen it. That great sufferings must be endured, I think quite necessary to that end. If we have in any measure alleviated those sufferings, I certainly should be contented, but if beyond that we can pave the way for a better order of things—if we can, by any measures, well considered and applied to different objects, and carried out by various machinery, at length amend the social state of Ireland, I certainly shall be proud that such a result should be found to have arisen. But by all this calamity there is one effect I should like to see produced. I could wish that those who have influence on the public mind of Ireland would not represent those who are concerned in the Government and in the legislation of this country as insensible to the evils which affect that part of the empire. I hold in my hand a paper which I read to-day, and which is an address by the Most Rev. Dr. M'Hale, and published in the Freeman's Journal, praising, and very justly, certain contributions which have 425 been made for the relief of distress; but he goes on to say—While some of the contributors have withheld, as may be seen, their names, the truly Christian and patriotic sentiments to which they give utterance would not fail to read a humiliating lesson not only to Her Majesty's Ministers and other officials, by whom the sufferings of the people are looked on with the calmest indifference, but to those unfeeling disciples of the modern school of political economy, who would regulate all the impulses of benevolence, as well as all the duties of Christian morality, by mere arithmetical caculation.I wish to say, on behalf of Her Majesty's Ministers, that to represent us as looking "with the calmest indifference" on the sufferings of the people of Ireland, is a gross calumny. On the contrary, I beg to say that to us their condition has been a source of the greatest anxiety. We are well aware, on the one hand, that if we refuse relief, for many it will be a sentence to perish from the land. We are aware, on the other hand, that if we give that relief lavishly and indiscriminately, it will increase that apathy and that want of foresight which, unhappily, in that part of Ireland is already too common. Our object has been to steer between those two opposite evils. While dealing imperial resources with no niggard hand to calamity in Ireland, we shall endeavour to apply those resources so that they may in future years be the means of improved cultivation, of increased food, of habits of industry, and of general welfare to the people of that country. While bearing the taunts and reproaches, as well of those who say that we are lavishing the funds of this country on Ireland, as the invectives of those who tell us we are indifferent to or care nothing for the sufferings of Ireland, we shall endeavour to lay the foundations for a complete union of that part of the united kingdom with the other portions. We believe that greater and improved intercourse with Ireland will tend much to that end. Whatever may be the reproaches which were justly cast on Irish proprietors in former times, certainly my belief is that the majority of those proprietors are now only anxious to find the means by which they can improve that country, and provide for the subsistence and for the improvement of those around them. I trust that those who do not take that care—who within the last three years have done nothing for the improvement of their estates in Ireland, will be shamed into imitation, and that they will follow those who have set a glo- 426 rious example to their fellow-countrymen. For, however it may please Gentlemen in this House to lay all the blame on the Government—however much it may please others who say there ought to be domestic legislation, to lay the blame on the Imperial Parliament, my belief has been, is, and will be, that, unless there is harmony among the various classes in Ireland—unless religious bitterness is assuaged between different sects—unless the feeling so often prevailing between landlord and tenant gives place to a good understanding—unless all classes unite, from the poorest and humblest class of all, in endeavouring to elevate that country, it is in vain that the Government proposes measures—it is in vain that Parliament adopts them—we should only incur miserable failure by all those efforts. But believing, as I do, that the commercial jealousy which so long induced England to withhold from Ireland the means of advancing her own prosperity is now at an end—believing that that political ascendancy which during the last century made the governing class in England look to the support of only a minority in Ireland, has with the change of laws ceased to exist—believing that these circumstances will in time, and by the operation of natural causes, finally have their effect—I am persuaded that we shall at length see, and that our children will see still more clearly than ourselves, that the case of Ireland is not hopeless, and that the people of Ireland, who have been reproached with idleness and improvidence, and who have been beset by adverse circumstances, are as capable of labour, and as greatly endowed with all the physical and moral qualities which lead to eminence and make a people fit to bear the rule of empire, as the people of any other country.
§ COLONEL DUNNE
said, that he would give no answer to the foul charge of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield—that Irish landlords had put their hands into the sacred fund for the relief of the poor, simply because his answer would not be Parliamentary. His speech was most unfair and most inaccurate. The poor-law might be fitted for an ordinary state of society, but it was wholly unfitted for the present condition of Ireland. Giving the Government credit for the best wishes towards that country, he could not but think they were most unfortunate in their choice of measures.
MR. VERNON SMITH
asked whether the 500,000l. now to be voted would be 427 applied to the immediate employment of labour, or would, as had been the case with former advances, be spread over several years?
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
said, that the 900,000l., the remaining portion of the l,500,000l. not yet issued, would not be available for the employment of labour this year. But it was obvious that when a work was once commenced, it went on much faster than at the beginning; the great difficulty was in the beginning. After the first instalment was expended, the second and subsequent ones went much more rapidly. With regard to the 300,000l., part of the 500,000l., he did not see how it was possible to apply it in a way different from that in which former appropriations for the same purpose had been applied. He could not compel gentlemen to drain their land faster than it was ordinarily drained, nor to expend the whole of the 300,000l. in one year; for, were he to do so, they would come to him next year, arguing that, as they had given them the means for beginning, they must be enabled to go on. The whole would be required to be spent within a given time, but not in the first year. With regard to the sum for arterial drainage, the whole of that was to be expended in one year.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, that if he understood the right hon. Baronet correctly, the whole of the 300,000l. would not be applied this year, but only about 100,000l.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he found it stated in the evidence that some proprietors had obtained these advances without intending to use the money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said the other night that that money was allocated—not expended, and that he had no further power over it. Now, if there was a certain number of proprietors who had taken this money, and were waiting to see how things turned out before they commenced their improvements, he wished to know if the House had not the power either to make them expend it within a certain time, or repay the advance, that the money might be lent to others, who would make good use of it. There certainly ought to be some limitation of time, as in Railway Bills.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The answer to that is, simply, that what the hon. Gentleman says ought to he done has been done. I stated the other evening, that a great part of the 428 300,000l. had been advanced in that way.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Still, that is not the question. Have those gentlemen the power of keeping the money back as long as they like?
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
They have hot that power. I issued a circular not long ago, informing those gentlemen who did not choose to go on spending the money, that I should not grant them any more.
§ MR. B. OSBORNE
complained of the desultory nature of the discussion, and said, that reference to past grants was not apposite on that occasion. The past was gone by; and an hon. Gentleman was not justified, because he had been absent from the House some time, in coming down and renewing a discussion on the 10,000,000l. grant which had been disposed of last year. The sum now proposed was not a grant, but a loan, which he doubted not would be scrupulously repaid. If any grant at all were to be made to Ireland, it could not be better laid out than in advances for drainage. He had seen its excellent effects; he had seen cases where, had not the proprietors obtained these loans, the whole of the district around would have been in a state of starvation. He had also seen the good effects of this system on the agriculture of Ireland; and he must do the Lord Lieutenant the justice to say, that the sending of agricultural instructors into different parts of Ireland had been attended with the very best effects. For, in the midst of this horrible poverty and destitution, there was a manifest improvement in the agricultural districts. We were too apt to put down to Providence what had resulted from our own neglect. Ireland had long been suffered to remain in total dependence on the potato. The danger now was of rushing into the other extreme, and striving to supersede or abolish the potato. Should that take place, no legislation could possibly save the people from further famine; for this they had only to look to the resuscitation of the potato, to a certain extent and within proper limits. Hon. Gentlemen might theorise for ever; but nothing would ever convince him or the people of Ireland that a cheap and easily-grown food was a bad food. It might be cultivated to too great an extent, but they could never hope to struggle through their difficulties in Ireland without its revival to a certain extent. The potato had this year been cultivated to a greater 429 extent than for many years past; he trusted the result would be successful. Government could not pass any measure which would support the poor people; they erred, but with the best motives, in attempting to do that in the first instance. He would remind the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who had talked of liking to have money to drain his own farm, that it was perfectly open to make application for a loan, as these advances were not confined to Ireland, but were made both in England and Scotland; it was therefore invidious to hold up one country against the other in this respect.
§ MR. BANKES
wished to ask a question of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He by no means joined in the feelings of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, or sympathised with the bitterness with which he had expressed his hostile feeling towards the Irish Members—their conduct, as it appeared to him, had not merited any such censure—but when the hon. and learned Member said that the population of England looked with considerable anxiety to these votes, he said nothing but the truth. The House was aware that there existed in this part of the united kingdom very great distress; and it therefore became their duty to inquire where this grant of money was to come from. It was very well to say that it was a loan, and would be honestly repaid; but they were to advance the money, and he wanted to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer where it was to come from. When did the right hon. Gentleman intend to make his financial statement or budget? Already the Session had advanced to a period beyond which it would not formerly have been thought becoming to delay it. Looking at the distress which prevailed among the agricultural classes, and at the anticipated deficiency in the revenue—alleged to arise from the blockades in the North, and other causes—he thought he was doing nothing unreasonable in asking for answers to the questions he had put.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that in answer to the question where the money was to come from, he would remind the hon. Gentleman that he had stated, last Session, that expenses had been incurred for the Kafir war, and other matters, which had been defrayed out of the moneys in the Exchequer, and which it was necessary to replace. For that purpose, two millions had been bor- 430 rowed at the close of last year. This had placed the balances in the Exchequer in such a state that he trusted there would not be the least difficulty in advancing this money from the Consolidated Fund, without calling on the country to pay a single sixpence out of pocket. As to the annual financial statement, the usual period for bringing forward the budget was by no means past. He had been anxious not to make the statement at an earlier period—and for the reason which the hon. Gentleman had given. Had he done so, he should have been justified in making the statement more favourable than he should do at the present moment. The blockade of the northern ports, and the unsettled state of the Continent, had given a considerable check to that anticipated improvement of trade in which the commercial world had indulged in the month of January. These elements of uncertainty still prevailing, he had delayed making the statement; and he hoped the House would allow him some short delay further before doing so. Of course it was desirable he should make it with the greatest possible accuracy; he proposed to make it as soon as possible; but, had he made it in February, he should certainly have led the House into a misapprehension—not by any fault of his own—but owing to the financial prospect having been changed by circumstances over which legislation could exercise no control.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that certain gentlemen had recently been accused of "cooking a dividend;" he thought the right hon. Gentleman had been taking a leaf out of their book. He said the taxgatherer would not go round in consequence of this advance, because he had borrowed the money, and had in hand enough for the advance. But surely, like an honest man, he meant to pay his debts. Therefore, every farthing he had borrowed only went to postpone the pressure; and he was in reality, at the present moment, "cooking the public accounts."
§ MR. F. FRENCH
said, it was a mistake to suppose that every assistance to Ireland pressed unduly on the industry of this country. This assumed that Ireland was not fairly taxed; whereas he was prepared to show that she was more heavily taxed than this country.
§ MR. GROGAN
asked if a receiver would be appointed over the estates for the improvement of which these advances were made; also, as to the conditions on which the grants for drainage would be made, 431 particularly as it regarded what were called "second assents."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the definition of the word "owner" had been settled by the former Act, and this it was not proposed to alter. Whoever came into possession of an estate after the cessation of a limited interest, would have the benefit of the land being better drained than if the money had not been expended. As to the other case alluded to, where second assents were necessary in order to authorise a greater expenditure than 3l. per acre, there were some instances in which it might be desirable to dispense with those second assents: but, in general, he was not prepared to give the whole power to the Board of Works. He could not undertake to introduce Bills for amending these Acts. Recent experience of the difficulty of getting Bills on Irish matters through the House, did not offer any inducement to bring in amendments on existing Acts, which might lead to interminable discussions.
§ MR. J. O'CONNELL
said, as the noble Lord at the head of the Government had referred to the Archbishop of Tuam, he thought it his duty to state that that prelate, by his exertions, had secured an amount of subscriptions which had prevented great waste of life, and hundreds of persons owed their lives to him at this moment.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER
, in answer to Mr. Arkwright, said, he hoped to produce his financial statement within a month.
Bill passed through Committee, the blanks being filled up with 300,000l. and 200,000l. respectively.
§ House resumed.