§ Earl Grey
having moved the suspension of the Standing Orders 26 and 155, for the purpose of passing the Consolidated Fund Bill, previously to the recess,
said, he wished to make a few observations, which he believed would be strictly in order, as he was disposed to consider this case as analogous to that of going into Committee of Supply in the House of Commons, when it was competent to any Member to make such general observations as he might deem 50 expedient. As this was probably the last time their Lordships would meet in any numbers, and for the despatch of business, previously to the recess, he availed himself of the opportunity to express his regret, that the noble Earl at the head of the Government should have thought it necessary to render the interval between their adjournment and next meeting so long as was intended; at the same time he admitted it was not unreasonable that the Ministers recently called to the public service, should desire as much time as possible to mature the measures which they had announced. Still he could not but regret the length of the adjournment, more particularly when he looked to the present state of the country, and thought of what it might become previously to the period fixed for their re-assembling. Their Lordships must observe with regret, that it had been considered necessary to make an example of some of those found guilty of violating the laws of the country by late acts of disorder and violence. Now, he wished that whatever measures his Majesty's Ministers had in contemplation for the relief of the distress of the country (out of which the recent insubordination had, at least in part, grown) should follow as quickly as possible upon those necessary examples, in order that the country might see, that as Government was prepared to put down acts of violence and insubordination, so also was it ready to follow up the requisite course of vigorous resistance to lawless outrage, with such measures as might tend to relieve distress, and remove the pretext for acts of disorder in future. So much with respect to this country; but he also regretted the length of the adjournment, when he looked at the state of Ireland, to which he considered it necessary briefly to call their Lordships' attention. In the existing state of Ireland, it would have been advisable, if possible, that some measures calculated to impart confidence to the country, and remedy pressing evils, should have been originated previous to adjourning for a period of seven or eight weeks. He thought it not improbable that those seven or eight weeks might be of great importance to that country; but he would not attempt to divine the future. He did not wish to renew the discussions that had taken place there and elsewhere, relative to the late appointments in Ireland; he should only say, that no man would rejoice 51 more than he, if the fears expressed in consequence of those appointments should turn out to be perfectly unfounded and erroneous. As no measures of improvement had yet been brought forward by Ministers with respect to Ireland, he thought it desirable that the noble Earl at the head of the Cabinet should make some statement on the subject of the measures which he contemplated. He was not so unreasonable as to expect the noble Lord to enter into any minute details on the subject, but he thought it would be advisable, if the noble Lord could hold out any expectations calculated to calm the agitated feelings of the people of that country, that he should now make a statement of what he contemplated. He did not think that the noble Earl could have a better foundation for his measures than was afforded by a paper for which he (Lord Farnham) had moved—he meant the report of the committee appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into the state of the poor of Ireland. He regretted that the length of that report, and of the evidence on which it was founded, was so great that it had not been as yet laid upon their Lordships' Table, but he hoped that it soon would be, and he strongly recommended his Majesty's Ministers, and noble Lords generally, to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded by the approaching holidays to pay attention to that valuable report, and the copious and instructive evidence which constituted its foundation. He offered this recommendation, because he thought that a great number of their Lordships must be, at least in some degree, ignorant of the true state of Ireland, and also because he though that the body of evidence of persons' of various classes and descriptions, which was attached to the report, could not fail to afford the Legislature considerable light when, upon its re-assembling it should be called on to consider the measures to be brought forward on the subject. Having referred to the report, he might observe, that the committee had recommended the adoption of nineteen measures, with a view to benefit and improve the condition of Ireland. All those measures were referable to some six or seven subjects, the first of which embraced a consolidation of all the laws relating to charitable institutions, in six of the proposed measures. The second point dealt with by the committee was the local taxation 52 by Grand Juries, amounting to a million and a half sterling, of which above half a million went for the repair of roads, public buildings, &c. He offered no opinion as to the propriety of continuing or discontinuing the system of Grand Jury taxation, but regretted that the public objects in question had not been pursued upon scientific principles. He thought it desirable, assuming that Grand Jury taxation was to be continued, that the expenditure of the public money for such objects (which was also intrusted to the Grand Juries) should be put under some scientific control, in order to ensure the public money not being wasted, as he believed it had frequently been, under the existing system. The next object suggested by the committee was one of great importance: it involved a question as to the expediency of affording public aid, with a view to advance certain works in Ireland, to be undertaken for the ultimate benefit of the country, and to enable the population to obtain the means of subsistence. He was aware that the doctrine of the political economists was against a forced application of capital in such a way as this, but (without undertaking to decide the question) he might be permitted to doubt the invariable correctness of the dogma. The committee referred to the advantage to be derived from enabling parties to undertake the drainage of some of the waste lands of Ireland (of which there were thousands and thousands—he might say millions of acres.) Such a project was certainly opposed to the principle of the economists, who, among other arguments against the prosecution of undertakings in the way referred to, objected, that a forced employment of labour for a time had the effect of producing aggravated distress at its termination among that very class which was relieved by it for the moment—a distress greater than that which previously existed, in proportion to the new hands brought into the market, and subsequently left without employment. But this objection did not apply to the relief afforded by drainage, which would be permanent, inasmuch as the new land thus created would continue to employ in its cultivation the labourers originally employed, and called into the market by the process of reclaiming it. He was aware that it was the fashion to say, first produce tranquility in Ireland, and capital will flow in; but be was for 53 introducing capital with a view to the production of tranquility. To keep men out of mischief, it was necessary to employ them. He was glad to see held out in the report the principle of giving employment to the Irish poor, because he thought the adoption of it calculated to promote the cause of good order. The report adverted to amendments of the Subletting and Vestry Acts, and to an amendment in the administration of the law generally; but to those objects he should not now direct the attention of the House. With regard to the subject of education in Ireland (a subject rather hinted at than dwelt upon in the Report), he regretted to be obliged to differ in opinion from the committee, but he should not now go into the question. Having thus glanced at the principal points of the Report, the noble Lord proceeded to allude to the bill prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco in Ireland, which he censured in strong terms, as highly injurious to the interests of that country. If their Lordships knew the benefit conferred upon the poor where tobacco was cultivated,—its cultivation affording employment to persons of different ages, from children of five years old, up to individuals far advanced in life,— they would see that the bill in question was one which materially affected the interests of Ireland. As to the idea, that because the growth of tobacco was prohibited in England, it must also be prohibited in Ireland, he scouted it altogether, —the facts of the case afforded a short answer to the assumption. By the 12th Charles 2nd, the growth of tobacco was prohibited in England and Ireland, for the purpose of prompting the prosperity of the American colonies; but these had long since passed from the Crown of Great Britain, so that the motive of the prohibition no longer existed. In the 19th of George 3rd an Act was passed, exempting Ireland from the prohibition on the ground of affording encouragement to the trade and commerce of that country, therefore Ireland had been upwards of fifty years in possession of the privilege of growing tobacco, of which it was now meant to deprive her. He was aware that the bill prohibiting the cultivation of tobacco had been originated by the late Ministry; but he would tell the noble Earl, that he did not like it a bit the better for that. In conclusion, he thought the noble Earl would, do well to consider whether it was 54 worth while to persevere in this bill of prohibition. He thought the article, if allowed to be cultivated, would bear a moderate duty. The difficulty of collecting it might be considered an objection, but he did not see how the collection would be more difficult than the collection of the duty on hops; and when it was considered how beneficial the growth of tobacco might be rendered to Ireland, he trusted the bill would be abandoned.
§ Earl Grey
would not complain of the noble Lord for having taken this opportunity to state his opinion upon such questions as he pleased, simply contenting himself with the observation, that perhaps it would not have exceeded the usual courtesy adopted towards Ministers in that House, if the noble Lord had given him some previous notice of his intention to introduce upon this occasion so many different subjects, in reference to which he should then, perhaps, have been better prepared to return an answer. First, with respect to the recess, of the duration of which the noble Lord had complained, all he had to say at present was, that the precise length of the Adjournment was decided upon by his Majesty's Government after a very mature consideration of the state of public affairs; and he felt assured that the results would fully justify the propriety of that Adjournment. He hoped that not only would no inconvenience be experienced in consequence of the length of the recess, but that its effect would be, by enabling Ministers to prepare and properly mature their measures, greatly to expedite the transaction of business, and that eventually the country would derive very considerable advantage from it. It could not be expected that he should follow the noble Lord through all the topics of his speech; still less that he should attempt to develop measures which it would require time and consideration to mature. In reference to Ireland he might observe, in passing, that he should be at all times willing and anxious to receive advice from a noble Lord so conversant and well acquainted with the affairs of that country. The noble Lord had referred in considerable detail to the report made by a Committee of the House of Commons on the state of the labouring classes in Ireland, but not having had as yet an opportunity of looking attentively into that report, the noble Lord could not expect him to go into a discussion of 55 it, even if the present were the proper opportunity for doing so. He was aware, however, that the report contained much valuable information, and believed it referred to many measures connected with Ireland, which might be found useful hereafter, when the subject came regularly under consideration. But as to particular measures contemplated by his Majesty's Government, of which the noble Lord desired an outline, it was impossible for him to say more at present, than that it was his anxious wish to adopt all measures which, on examination, might appear calculated to promote the prosperity of Ireland and of England, and this with as little delay as possible. At the same time, it was fair to inform the noble Lord, that the relief to which he looked for an alleviation of the distress more or less prevalent in both countries, was grounded on the expectation of a natural return of prosperity, to be introduced by the adoption of a good system of government, rather than on anything else. The noble Lord had alluded to a great variety of topics in the course of his address; among other points, following the report on the state of the Irish poor, he adverted to the system of charitable institutions in Ireland, which was, no doubt, well deserving of attention, and it might be of modification, at a future period. The noble Lord also mentioned the local taxation and application of the public funds exercised by Grand Juries—a system, parts of which had been long complained of, and he hesitated not to say, also requiring attention, and perhaps correction and improvement. The report, as stated by the noble Lord, embraced the subject of education,—a matter which also required consideration, and to be taken up with a view to the adoption of such a system as would prevent the rise of all further animosities between individuals of different persuasions on account of religion—a consummation, than which nothing could conduce in a higher or more important degree to mutual good will between man and man, to tranquility, good order, and prosperity. As to other general measures recommended in the report, —such as advances of public money, with a view to the improvement of the country, and the employment of the labouring classes,—to this, as a general principle, the noble Lord admitted that there existed considerable objections, at the same time he was not prepared to say, that 56 there might not be exceptions to the general rule he was disposed to lay down, nor whether the instance referred to by the noble Lord constituted one of the exceptions, and if so, how far it might be expedient to act upon the recommendation of the noble Lord; all this was well deserving of consideration. But more than this it was not necessary for him to say at present. The noble Lord had alluded to some recent appointments in Ireland, and in doing so the noble Lord had stated his anxious hope, that the fears entertained by some individuals on the subject might turn out to be unfounded, and that the appointments would be found to produce those effects which his Majesty's Ministers anticipated. Now, his anxious hope, and he might add confident belief, was, that each of the persons holding the appointments in question would (as was the duty of all in their respective spheres) assiduously labour to put an end to the dissensions which operated to pervert the peace and prosperity of Ireland. He thought all persons possessing influence, of whatever kind, ought to endeavour (as was their bounden duty) to contribute to the accomplishment of that good work, by avoiding and discountenancing all attempts at inflaming passions, which, if allowed to continue and augment, would, eventually, be found dangerous to the peace, if not to the very existence of the country. He did not think it necessary to add any thing further in relation to the subjects introduced by the noble Lord. The measures which his Majesty's Government had to propose would properly come under consideration when they should be introduced into that and the other House of Parliament.